X-RARE Northwest Coast RAVEN Grease Bowl 1800s Pacific NW, WA
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X-RARE Northwest Coast RAVEN Grease Bowl 1800s Pacific NW, WA:
Ancient Art, Antiques, & FineCollectibles
Raven Clan Grease Bowl
Pacific Northwest Coast Native American
Find Location: Bainbridge Island, WA
I certify that this antique, Native American grease bowl was reportedly found on Bainbridge Island, WA, with the owner's permission in the 1800s.
This ancient Native American artifact is legal to buy/sell/own under the U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and it is guaranteed to be as described.
NOTE: As a Member of the Authentic Artifact Collectors Association (AACA) & the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), and the Smithsonian Institution, I fully respect Native American tribal rights to protect their heritage. That is why I offered to donate these items to a Native American museum and to a Seattle University museum in Washington State, but both entities have sadly refused to add it to their collections.
Native American Raven Grease Bowl
Estimated Date: 1750—1850
Find Location: Northwest Coast, USA, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WA, 19th Century Find
- · Length: 9.20”
- · Width: 3.80
- · Height: 2.23”
- · Weight: 9.3oz. (265 gr)
This incredible Grease Bowl has the powerful Northwest Coast clan figure of a Raven carved into it. Several Native American tribes in the Pacific NW believed that animal figures like the Raven carved into objects made the bowl itself come alive with protective powers against evil spirits who were thought to dwell everywhere. The fierce, open mouth of the Raven was purposefully carved to protect and empower those who used this bowl from evil spirits. It is a very powerful and spiritual piece!
On the inside of this grease bowl, there is a four-legged animal crudely carved into the side with what appears to be a knife. The animal is about 2” long and perhaps may be a fox or coyote, as he appears to have a long, bushy tail. Look carefully at photos # 4-5 and you can see the image of the animal running to the left with four legs.
There also appears to be a name or symbol carved into the underside of the base. It is possible that the non-native owner carved his/her name into the bottom during the 1800s. See photos 10-11.
During feasts and celebrations, dried fish dipped in grease/oil was considered a delicacy. The edible grease/oil mixture was held in small bowls like this one made of wood or sometimes of mountain sheep horn specially carved and shaped for this purpose.
This very early, 19th century Grease Bowl is rather crudely carved and still shows the deep chisel marks that are typical of very early of antique bowls that were created from 1750—1850. Very old examples of grease bowls are EXTREMELY RARE and only a few are known to exist in Native American museums and fine private collections.
This fascinating wooden Grease Bowl carved into the shape of “The Trickster Raven” came from a very old Pacific Northwestern collection of artifacts from the Puget Sound area. The entire estate collection was obtained decades ago from the late Mrs. Henrietta Swanson’s relatives, whose family had early Seattle / island connections.
This Raven Grease Bowl effigy shows a fierce, open-beak Raven at one end, with his curled tail along the opposite end. Inside the open beak, there are still remnants of dried grease. There is a single hole that was drilled from the mouth of the Raven to the inside of the bowl. The Raven’s shows ware on his lightly discolored, almond-shaped eyes and snout. His gaping, open mouth gives this piece a fierce and rather creepy perspective, as the Raven was thought to scare away Evil Spirits.
On the inside of this grease bowl, there is a four-legged animal crudely carved into the side with what appears to be a knife. The animal is about 2” long and perhaps may be a fox or coyote, as he appears to have a long, bushy tail. Look carefully at photo and you can see the image of the animal running to the left with four legs.
This incredible Grease Bowl has the powerful clan figure of a Raven carved into it. Animal figures like the Raven carved into objects made the bowl itself come alive with protective powers against evil spirits who were thought to dwell everywhere. The fierce, open mouth of the Raven was purposefully carved to show the Raven protecting and empowering those who used this bowl from evil spirits and harm. It is a very powerful and spiritual piece that is museum quality!
The carvers laboriously worked native cedar into the elegant shapes of grease bowls. Totemic design of a Raven’s head and tail were then carved onto the exterior surface of the two ends. This grease bowl is very thick and robustly carved.
Northwest Coast Grease Bowls
Grease bowls were made by the early tribes that inhabited the Great Northwest Coast. They contained edible oils that were used as an accompaniment to the dried fish or meats that were served during feasts and potlatch celebrations on the Northwest Coast. Grease is an adopted English word used to indicate eulachon or candlefish oil, rendered in large wooden vats from small river-run fish in the early spring, or seal oil, rendered from the thick blubber that insulates the various coastal species of seal from the cold northern Pacific waters.
Smaller bowls of this kind were often personal property, used by individuals or family groups on a daily basis, while the larger ones were used for bigger gatherings as serving vessels, from which these oils were ladled into smaller bowls.
This bowls represents a raven’s head with a wide-open mouth, the interior of which leads to the inside of the bowl. There are a small number of other bowls with this basic image, though few of these appear to be as early as this example.
The roughly hewed wood suggests this bowl was executed in a very early style, indicating a date of origin that could span from circa 1800 to well back into the eighteenth century. The broad, thick form-lines and deep, carved-out bowl are typical of objects that are documented to the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and many of those were undoubtedly created well before their documented date of collection by Euro-Americans—in this case in the late 1800s.
This archaic-style design work is usually attributed primarily to the Tlingit and it's very likely that this group was the original source of the bowl. However, in the very early historic period, northern Northwest Coast design styles had much more in common than they did in the mid-nineteenth century, after many decades of artistic evolution.
Numerous examples of archaic-style objects collected from the Tlingit, Haida, and other cultures exist to indicate that this style was common in their area in the early years of the contact period. The form-line designs on this bowl appear to represent the head of the eagle on the upper-beak end and the tail feathers and handle on the other end. This dual-representation or punning style of imagery is very common in the Northwest Coast tradition.
The bowl is believed to be carved from Sitka spruce, a common forest tree on the northern Northwest Coast, but one that is almost never mentioned in the ethnographic literature as a carving material. Once one learns to recognize the appearance of this wood, however, it becomes apparent that there are a great many carved objects, many of them very early examples, that were carved of this material in the historic period. It was commonly used for bowls in the early contact period and before, as well as for war helmets, canoe paddles, and such works as combs and other small objects.
The grease bowl is a very early example, as evidenced by the style of the design work as well as the darkness of the patina and the volume of dark, oxidized oil that has saturated the entire vessel. The image of a seal was often used for grease bowls, in part as an homage to the spirit of the creature that was hunted as the source of the oil. Seal bowls made after 1900 are often up-swept at the ends, which echoes the shape of a seal that stretches out in the sun while resting upon wave-swept rocks. This bowl has no appreciable rise to the ends, which is consistent with the early style of the carving and design work in the vessel and suggests this bowl was made in the early 1800s or before. Later grease bowls made after about 1900 often tended to exaggerate the curvature of the up swept to both ends and were usually worked to a fine, smooth finish.
Northwest Native American Raven Mythology
The Raven is a culture hero of the Northwest Coast and Alaskan Athabaskan tribes. He is a revered and benevolent transformer god who helps the people and shapes their world for them, but at the same time, he is also a trickster character and many Raven stories have to do with his frivolous or poorly thought out behavior getting him into trouble.
In the mythology of many Northwest Indian tribes, Raven is honored as a culture hero. He is a revered and benevolent transformer figure who helps the people and shapes their world for them, but at the same time, he is also a trickster character and many Raven stories have to do with his frivolous or poorly thought out behavior causing trouble for him and the people around him. Raven is noted for negative traits such as gluttony, greed, and impatience as well as for his heroism and great deeds.
Ravens are also used as clan animals in many Native American cultures, particularly those of the Northwest Coast (such as the Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Kwakiutl, Nisgaa-Gitksan, and Salishan tribes) and the northern Athabaskan tribes (such as the Tanaina.) Raven is an important clan crest on the Northwest Coast and can often be found carved on totem poles, bentwood boxes, and other traditional northwestern art.
Estimated appraised sale value for this Raven Grease Bowl with provenance to Bainbridge Island, WA, is $250,000--$275,000.
The Spirit World, by the Editors of Time Life, 1992, pgs. 36-42.
Spirit Faces: Contemporary Masks of the Northwest Coast, by Gary Wyatt, 1998.
The Coppers of the Northwest Coast Indians: Their Origin ..., Volume 79, Carol F. Jopling, pgs. 117—119.
Understanding Northwest Coast Art: A Guide to Crests, Beings and Symbols, Cheryl Shearar,
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X-RARE Northwest Coast RAVEN Grease Bowl 1800s Pacific NW, WA: