Southeast Animal Effigy Club
Southeast Animal Effigy Club
Region / Tribe: Southeastern Woodlands – a tentative attribution made to the Seminole / Creek
Circa: Late 18th / Early19th Century
Material: Wood, hand forged steel blade,
three hand forged iron plugs to secure the
blade, and two distinct red pigments - mercury vermillion(?) in the mouth and eyes and a distinct red on the body of the club and the blade with a sheen suggesting a mixture of pigment and varnish.
Dimension: Overall L. 22 1/2”
Condition: Excellent, deep rich patina, no restoration
Collection History: Published and Illustrated in the Wellington Collection book: Pleasing the Spirits, Douglas C. Ewing, 1982, p. 365, #450.
Southeastern Woodlands, Seminole, C. 1850?
Wood: trade blade: red paint
L. 58 cm. ; 22 3/4 in.
Note: while the origin and function of this object are conjectural, the length of the blade and the carving of the alligator’s head on the handle strongly indicate this attribution”
Comments: The alligator effigy may be a specific reference to the owner’s clan or personal totem. The ferocious nature of the creature’s mouth suggests this predator attribution. Beneath the chin of the elongated mouth are long, finely incised red pigmented delineations suggesting this specific animal’s physiology.
Although the Pleasing the Spirits description quoted above suggests an “Alligator Skinner” that explanation of the club’s function is likely incorrect. The red coloration in Native color symbolism clearly indicates the association with warfare. The blade itself, although now partially worn away, retains evidence of having been completely pigmented red. Both sides of the blade have been filed to a razor sharp edge. The perforation at the wrist position clearly suggests the original presence of a wrist strap or warrior appendages such as feathers or a trophy scalp.
The overall symmetry and balance of the club reflect the dynamic quality of a carefully conceived and executed weapon. The long hard wood grain follows the pronounced curvature of the haft to the club head, providing maximum strength. The hexagonal haft expands seamlessly to the downward curved bulk of the club head.
We know of no extant hand weapons from the Southeast. Early engravings of Southeastern warriors from the 16th through early 18th century depict bows and lances and rarely clubs. De Bry in 1591 illustrates in an engraving titled “Killing Crocodiles” a
massive creature with fierce open toothed mouth. In the background are warriors wielding crude ‘oceanic’ style clubs. A woodcut by Du Pratz in 1758 depicts a warrior with bow, a quiver full of arrows and a scepter form ball club (for both references see Funderburk, Southeastern Indians-Life Portraits, fig.26 and fig.100). The only other hand clubs depicted are either iron headed trade tomahawks or European steel daggers or swords.
We consider this Wellington collection club to be an exceptionally rare early example of a once highly stylized form.