- an inventory of string figures mounted on card, string figures on film, string figure photographs, and recordings of string figure songs
Compiled by Martin Probert
Other Archives with String Figure Artefacts
Survival, Origin and Mathematics of String Figures
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY
Acknowledgements: I wish to thank Alex Pezzati, Archivist, William Wierzbowski, Assistant Keeper of the American Section, and Adria Katz, Keeper of the Oceanian Section, for their considerable help in both checking and supplying accession numbers, for supplying catalogue descriptions and historical details, for supplying copies of catalogue cards, and for bringing additional artefacts to my attention.
Eskimo string figures (75) mounted on card
- Accession numbers: 29-158-1 to 29-158-75.
- 75 string figures collected in 1908. The source for the collection is lost: on one of the registrar's cards it reads "perhaps gift of Dr. Judson Daland". The following descriptions are taken from the cards on which the figures are mounted.
- Float, made of seal skinned whole; on whale line.
- Soapstone lamp with flame.
- Whale head, spouting.
- Two deer.
- Two eyes.
- Fish (Sculpin).
- White whale.
- Polar bear.
- Black bear, an evil spirit which devours the dead.
- Woman bringing in two pails of water.
- House in autumn, partly of rocks, covered with old tent.
- Two deer.
- Intestines of two bodies.
- High hill or mountain, with ponds at base.
- Two birds that eat eggs and small birds.
- Two persons pulling each other's hair.
- Two fawns.
- Two mice.
- Two mice burrows.
- House in autumn, made of ice cakes with old tent over the top. Later when snow packs, snow house is built.
- Man dancing with drum, Kiliuk, in hand.
- Two wolverines.
- Child's pants and boots.
- Anticock cheering on a man to renewed effort.
- Seal breathing in crack in ice.
- Two stars, rising just before daybreak in late December and early January. Deer meat is offered to them to pray them to make the weather warmer and keep the sun from going away altogether.
- Two ponds.
- Chopping tray or wooden dish.
- Head. Walrus head.
- A fabulous being that steals children and puts them in a bag on his back.
- Uck clar. Ghoul leaving his home in search of dead bodies (see No. 10). There is a bear found in Labrador and around Coppermine river, also at Lake Baker, which passes in the markets as a grizzly. It is known to the Eskimo as Uck clar.
- Ribs and chest bones.
- Two arms, each with stone sling.
- An old woman (she can be made to run to the other hand by loosing one finger).
- Two musk oxen.
- Man crawling on the ice after seal.
- Sled (with dogs). The maker of the figure says: "Come you, go on the sled". The other is supposed to be seated on the sled, when the lower left hand loop is let go and dogs and sled break apart into next figure.
- Sled and dogs separated.
- A native.
- Uck clar. Black bear, evil spirit grave robbers. Young Uck clars in the middle. (See Nos 10 and 42).
- Tug-of-war; parties pulling on two ropes.
- Eskimo at play, swinging on tight-rope.
- Eskimo at dance with drum.
- Intestines and kidneys.
- Big door.
- Woman's breeches. Told to throw them away: then they appear as in figure 61.
- Woman's breeches after throwing them away.
- Scoop for clearing ice chips from hole cut in ice. Pond ice freezes 6 to 7 feet thick and scoop handles must be long.
- Lamp. Flame. Stone lamp with flame.
- Bear with large mouth.
- Fire: flame of lamp.
- Anticock whose spirit is about to leave the body to visit the Eskimo goddess to find out the cause of sickness among his people. He usually returns to say some woman has erred. If she confesses all recover.
- Continuation of No. 66. Shows the anticock's spirit ascending from earth.
- Race by two Eskimo who each run around a hill.
- Woman's deerskin coat, showing the white stripe in front.
- Lamp with flame and trimmer stick laid across the lamp.
- Wolf with broken back.
- Woman with long hair. She is told that her uncle has killed a whale and she must jump over it.
- Woman with long hair makes the jump, with hair streaming.
- Land-mark: a common thing to erect on prominent places: upright stones with other stones on top.
Zuñi (New Mexico) string figures (7) mounted on card (Stewart Culin collection)
- The entire Stewart Culin collection was collected in 1902 on a trip through the southwest for the museum.
- 22606 Lightning
- 22607 Brush House
- 22608 Brush House
- 22609 Cross Beam of Ladder
- 22610 Sling
Navaho string figures (13) mounted on card (Stewart Culin collection)
- 22712 Lightning
- 22713 Nis star (given as Big Star in String Figures, CF Jayne, 1906)
- 22714 Many Starts (given as Many Stars in Jayne)
- 22715 Twin Stars
- 22716 Horned Star
- 22717 Pleiades (there was no native term for this constellation)
- 22718 Two Coyotes Running Apart
- 22719 Owl
- 22720 Snake
- 22721 Lizard
- 22722 Poncho
- 22724 Hacking the Wood.
Isleta (New Mexico) string figures (4) mounted on card (Stewart Culin collection)
- 22730 Star (not 25730 as quoted in Jayne, page 307)
- 22732 Lightning
Photographs (5) showing Venezuelan children with string figures
- Photographs of Macoa children from the Sierra de Perija, Venezuela, showing off string figures they had made.
- Taken by Theodoor de Booy during his 1918 expedition to Venezuela.
- "...a favorite boys game is the making of string figures with a cord, very intricate designs being produced. Our expedition photographed and classified a number of these figures...." (Theodoor de Booy, p 200 in "The People of the Mist", 1918, The Museum Journal, vol. IX, nos 3 and 4, pp 183-224).
- 27205 Boy making string figure Tuakarcha... which, according to the Indians, probably represents the lappe or the raccoon.
- 27234 Boys making string figure Pekapa... which, according to the Indians, represents a small hammock.
- 27235 Boy making string figure Kampok... which, according to the Indians, represented the conventionalized figure of the belly of the peccary.
- 27236 Boy making string figure Opay-Nakarno... the Indians had either forgotten what it represented or else I could not discover what they wanted to explain to me.
- 42538 Macoa boy making string figure Kurw-kiyashak... which, according to the Indians, represented a conventionalized figure of the anteater's belly.
String used for string games
- Accession number: SA2575.
- From Theodoor de Booy's expedition to Venezuela (1918).
Hawaiian string figures (15) mounted on card (Stewart Culin collection)
(Dashes --- indicate omission of a string figure name to avoid website blocking by filtering software.)
- All figures are noted on the catalogue cards as having been made in the museum in 1898/9.
- 21449, 21450, 21451, 21497, 21512, and 21514 are missing from the collection.
- 21449 Pump
- 21450 Saw
- 21452 ---
- 21492 Ace of Diamonds
- 21494 See-Saw
- 21495 Darkness
- 21496 ---
- 21497 Bird House
- 21498 Net
- 21513 String Puzzle
- 21514 String Puzzle
- 21526 Ace of Hearts
- 21527 Ace of Spades
Australian string figures (8) mounted on card (made by D.S. Davidson)
- Eight string figures made in 1942 by Daniel Sutherland Davidson, author of the excellent "Aboriginal Australian String Figures", Proceedings of the American Philosophical
Society, Vol. 84, No. 6, August, 1941, pages 763-901. Dr Davidson was Assistant-Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, and University Museum Curator.
- 85-5-1 Two Turtles on a Log
- 85-5-2 [label missing]
- 85-5-3 Python
- 85-5-4 Four Blackfellows
- 85-5-5 One Blackfellow
- 85-5-6 Waterhole
- 85-5-7 Two Kangaroos
- 85-5-8 Bamboo
Australian string figures (6) mounted on a display board (made by D.S. Davidson)
- Accession number: 85-5-9.
- One Waterhole
- Two Turtles on a Log
- One Blackfellow
- Blackfellow Steals a Lubra
- Two Waterholes
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Other Archives with String Figure Artefacts
The Mathematics and Origin of String Figures
Copyright Martin Probert 2002