New York City Travel
Zuni Indians artifacts and culture in the Brooklyn museum. Collections and Galleries.    



The Avery collection of Chinese cloisonne enamels, considered to be the finest collection of its kind in the United States, is included among the exhibits of the Department of Ethnology of the Brooklyn Museum and is arranged in a series of cases at the south side of the central portion of the hall.

The distinguishing feature of cloisonne enamels is that the vitreous pastes are separated by partitions formed by soldering thin upright ribbons of metal to the metal ground, the sections between the partitions holding enamel of different colors, laid on in the form of paste and fused by firing. The art was practiced by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and handed on by them to the Byzantines, from whop) it was borrowed by the Chinese in the fourteenth century, its later development being practically confined to the Chinese and Japanese.

The four halls comprising the western portion of the main floor of the Museum, reached from the Avery collection by ascending a few steps to the west, contain the collection from the Indians of Southwestern United States, Central and Northern California and the Northwest Coast.
The first of these halls of the Brooklyn Museum (Room 4 on plan) is devoted to exhibits illustrating the customs, arts and industries of the Indians of the Southwest, and of these the Zuni, an agricultural tribe occupying the pueblo, or town, of Zuni in western New Mexico, have been selected for particular attention, as being in many respects representative of all.

All the exhibits on the left (south) side of the hall are drawn from these people. Those on the north side are from tribes adjacent to the Zuni: the Navajo, Apache, Hopi and the prehistoric cliff-dwelling Indians from Canon de Chelly in Arizona. The collections consist of masks, dolls, weapons, ceremonial objects and musical instruments used in the ritualistic dances which form an important part of Indian life; implements used in the various industries, games, costumes, ornaments, pottery, snares and weapons of the chase of the Zuni indians.

At the east end of this hall of the Brooklyn Museum, a map of the ancient Spanish province of Cibola, which includes the Zuni country, is exhibited over the entry. In 1648, a mission was established by the Spaniards among the Zuni, and they dwelt for many years under Spanish influence. Many exhibits illustrating this influence, as distinguished from those of purely Indian origin, will be found on the south wall, including relics from the old Spanish churches, wooden door and window frames, mallets, shovels, bow and gun racks and iron tools.

The first of the large floor cases on the left side of the hall exhibits carved wooden columns from the old Spanish church and specimens of adobe brick from which the church and some of the houses in Zuni are made; also fetiches and charms and a collection of masks worn in dances. These ceremonies are designed to secure rain, produce crops or achieve healing. In them the priests of the various secret societies personate the gods, each god requiring a differently made or painted mask and costume. The masks are of five general types but exhibit great variety. Similar masks are found among the Hopi, Keres, Tewa and other pueblo tribes of the Southwest, in representation of the same gods. The same mask may be used in different dances, being painted, however, according to the requirements of each. Firearms have superseded the primitive bow and arrow, club and shield of the Indians, which are now used only in ceremonial dances.

At this end of this hall of the Brooklyn Museum is a model of Montezuma's Well near Cape Verde, Arizona, a circular depression with naturally perpendicular walls, in which are several cliff dwellings. It is one of the most interesting sites of Indian habitation in the Verde Valley, and is claimed by the Hopi as the home of their ancestors.
The representations of Zuni altars, shown among the masks in two of the cases, and the labels referring to them and to Zuni secret societies, should be studied in connection with the color sketches of shrines on the south wall and with the bells obtained from shrines shown in cases farther down the hall.
The Zuni have thirteen secret societies, to one or the other of which the greater part of the population belongs.
The chief object of these societies is to heal the sick and produce rain. They meet in different houses in the large ground-floor living rooms, the walls of which are symbolically decorated with animal paintings. Reproductions of the painted walls of two of these fraternities are shown in these cases. Each society has one or more shrines on the mountains near the town, and prayer sticks, made by the members at their various festivals, are deposited in them.

Tools, dies and materials used in Zuni silver working are shown in a case opposite the portrait of Mr. Cushing in the middle of the south wall. This is a comparatively recent art learned from the Mexican Indians or from the Navajo. The tools exhibited belong to the Zuni smith, Lanyati, who learned the art from a Navajo Indian. An exhibit of Navajo silverwork is shown in a case on the south side of the hall immediately opposite and forms an interesting comparison. Proceeding down the hall, dolls and musical instruments are the important features of the cases next following.
Zuni dolls are made to represent the variously grouped and masked personators of the gods in the religious ceremonies, and are presented by the dancers to the girl children among the spectators, the idea being to impart religious instruction. The dolls exhibited represent the entire range of Zunian mythology.

The principal musical instruments of the Zuni are flutes, rattles and drums. Two kinds of flutes, with and without holes, are used, the latter only as dance flutes. Rattles are of seven kinds, gourd, shell, deer hoof, duck, tortoise shell, bangle and deer bone. Gourd rattles are used in all dances and the others on specific occasions. Drums are of three kinds, jar drums, wooden and sheepskin drums. Examples of each are exhibited.

Turquoise pebbles and beads and other ornaments in which turquoise is used are shown in an adjacent case, followed by an exhibit of stone implements, pottery paint, implements for making shell beads, samples of corn and other food seeds and implements used in games. Games are important in the life of the Zuni, and, like most of their occupations, are sacred. Their four principal games, two chance games with dice and two guessing games, are sacred to the Twin War Gods, and the implements used in them are annually sacrificed on their shrines. The principal athletic game is the kicking billet. Quoits were also used, derived from the Spaniards.
Zuni decorated pottery, shown in the next case, is made only by the women in summer. The method of making it is outlined in the attached labels.

Fetiches and charms mainly compose the next exhibit of the Brooklyn Museum. Small images of stone and shell in the form of animals and called wemawe, or "prey gods," were made by the Zuni and treasured as charms. Naturally occurring concretions or petrifactions were especially valued and believed to have magic power. The six regions of the world were supposed each to be guarded by a presiding animal, and the animal fetiches kept by the priests were valued as mediums between them and the creatures represented.


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