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Pendants & Gorgets

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  • Pendants -and- Gorgets

    Pendants and Gorgets
    Bill Koup, Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Personal adornment has always been an important pursuit of mankind. The wearing of specialized adornments for the purpose of appearing more attractive or to signify an individual's rank, wealth or status has been documented with great regularity throughout the entire scope of mans' history. Even the scarification and tattooing of skin has frequently signified great wealth or high status with particular societies. The use of various forms of jewelry and other decorative embellishments to the body or clothing has long been and probably always will be a popular and significant form of personal expression for nearly all humankind.
    The prehistoric peoples of North America were in no way different to other societies in this regard. Literally thousands of artifacts including pendants and gorgets have been recovered that have no apparent use other than to enhance the owner's personal presence. Some of these artifacts are most certainly akin to jewelry. Many of these items were worn to please the owner and to perhaps impress others of their personal wealth or sexual attractiveness. Certainly, there were many other types of adornments other than pendants and gorgets made and worn for the express purpose of signifying status within their respective societies. Perhaps a good anology would be the various patches and insignias worn by military personnel to designate rank, service and prestige. Another anology would be pins, watches, money clips and other items that have been awarded to individuals for their distinguished service at their place of employment. Even designer clothing with specific logos may be considered late 20th century manifestations of the desire for people to adorn themselves in ways to exhibit wealth or status.
    So, are pendants and gorgets merely items of personal adornment worn to impress others or to signify status or wealth? Although no one at this time can be absolutely certain of the specific meaning of pendants and gorgets, chances are pretty good that is exactly what they are. Unlike many other artifact types whose specific purpose and use is highly speculative, pendants and gorgets appear to have been used as items of status, societal affiliation and certainly for personal adornment. Indeed, there is a significant body of documented archaeological evidence illustrating the fact that pendants and gorgets were worn as items to be proudly displayed on the body or clothing of the owner.
    Pendants and to a lesser degree gorgets, have been discovered in nearly all areas of North America and among nearly all prehistoric cultures. They have been located in controlled archaeological excavations and on the surface as isolated field finds. Although most areas of North America had at one time supported pendant and gorget producing people, the Midwest and South seem to be centers for the production of these interesting forms.
    Indeed, the Glacial Kame, Adena, Hopewell, Ft. Ancient and Mississippian cultures from Ontario,Canada, throughout the Great Lakes areas down the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys all produced various distinctive pendant and gorget forms. So distinctive and stylistically similar are many of these forms that it has become relatively easy to identify them as having been produced by a specific culture. It is even possible to identify some types of gorgets and pendants as being either early, middle or late in the scope of a particular society's existence.

    The Glacial Kame people were prolific gorget makers. Numerous styles and types exist and all are very interesting in their variety. Take for example the magnificent gorget illustrated here and on the cover. Although there are very few Glacial Kame Constricted Center Gorgets found in collections, the type is so distinctive in its shape and immense size as to be immediately recognized for what it is. Giant gorgets of this type are nearly always made from black cannel coal. This particular gorget was found in the early years of this century along with the surrounding flint artifacts in Allen County, Indiana. It is now in the collection of Ken Simper of Hamilton, Indiana. It's always risky to make this kind of statement, but this cannel coal gorget is certainly one of the largest prehistoric gorgets ever discovered.
    Midwestern collectors are capable of culturally typing many other pendant and gorget forms due to the numerous examples that have been found along with well documented, controlled archaeological research. Adena gorgets whether biconcave or quadraconcave or expanded are particularly distinctive and readily identifiable. Pendants are also easy to type culturally due to their distinctive shapes. Whether it is a Woodland Anchor Pendant, Hopewell Shovel Pendant or Mississippian Rattlesnake Gorget, the styles are so distinctive and their numbers are great enough to be recognized as a definite type from a particular culture.
    Yes, pendants and gorgets can be found in a multitude of shapes, sizes and materials. The beauty of their forms has long been seen as high artistic expression from prehistoric Americans. It is hoped that as you study the photographs found within these pages, you too will be impressed with the pleasing designs created by prehistoric Americans. After all, wasn't impressing their peers with the wearers' status, wealth or sexuality what they were created for?

    Top Photo — Various gorget forms from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Left column, top to bottom: Warren Co., Ohio; Licking Co., Ohio; Franklin Co., Indiana; Sandusky Co., Ohio; Medina Co., Ohio. Center column, top to bottom: Hematite gorget, unknown provenience; Adams Co., Indiana; Indiana. Right column, top to bottom: Knox Co., Ohio; Summit Co., Ohio; Tippecanoe Co., Indiana; Fleming Co., Kentucky; Richland Co., Ohio. Lower Photo — A variety of pendant forms and one gorget from Ohio and Indiana. From left to right: Keyhole, Indiana; Pentagonal, Summit Co., Ohio; Anchor, Franklin Co., Ohio; Trapezoidal, Huron Co., Ohio; Anchor, Geauga Co., Ohio; Biconcave, Tuscarawas Co., Ohio; ConcavoConvex Gorget, Hancock Co., Ohio. Collection of Bill Koup, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
      Used by permission of William S. Koup
    Duplicated from the “Resources” section of and reproduced with permission.

    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

  • #2
    World's Finest Anchor Pendant
    Earl C. Townsend, Jr.
    In 1978, when I was much younger, I got word that a silver trophy would be awarded at Chillicothe, Ohio, to the collector who brought the finest anchor pendant to the show. Believing that I had the finest anchor pendants in the world, I drove through the snow to a motel near Chillicothe on the Saturday night before the show, carrying the seven anchor pendants shown in the illustrations.
    They were the finest out of the Ed Payne and Dr. Bunch collections so I was pretty confident and felt that I had never slept in a better bed. None of my dreams foretold the tragedy the next day would bring. My beautiful anchor pendants lay in the case in front of the three judges. When I submitted them for the contest they assured me there could be none submitted for their scrutiny that could equal my poorest.
    I was decked out in my finest sport coat and wore a necktie so I'd look good when my picture undoubtedly would be taken when I would be presented the beautiful trophy shown in the photograph (with the word pendant misspelled on it). No matter the mispelling - no one would notice as the dazzling beauty of the trophy caught the eyes of its admirers.

    Beautiful silver trophy awarded to Garry Mumaw at the 1978 Chillicothe, Ohio show for best Anchor Pendant.
    My hearty breakfast of bacon, sausage and eggs was well accepted by my digestive process and I drove to the motel where the great show was beginning to set up.
    I had brought along a piece of thick red velvet on which I laid out my prize anchor pendants and the three judges voiced their immediate approval of their admission in the contest as anchor pendants.
    After I had laid my anchors out for judgment and display, Earl Mumaw put up for judgment the arrow pendant shown in the picture below. The judges immediately rejected it as not being an anchor pendant. Mr. Mumaw did not accept that immediate rejection and began to explain to the judges that it was "in the class" of anchors.

    A superb Arrow-shaped Anchor Pendant awarded the silver trophy as best Anchor Pendant. Collection of Garry Mumaw, Versailles, Ohio.
    As other collectors were entering their "anchors" in the contest and laying them out for judging, it was noticeable that Mr. Mumaw was still arguing with the judges about the admissibility of his arrow pendant in the contest. I could hear him contending vociferously - "It's in the class." Finally, when he said "It belongs to my little boy, Garry," the judges relented and agreed to admit it in the contest and Mr. Mumaw laid it out on blue velvet in the most prominent place on the display table, pushing several of my anchors to one side.
    I was amused but thought "Oh well, it will please the child."
    But the day was yet young! Mr. Mumaw had just won the right to have the arrow pendant in the contest. Immediately he started a vigorous campaign to win the beautiful trophy. Fat chance, I thought, as I rearranged my seven anchors which Mr. Mumaw had pushed aside. I went on over to my table on which I had laid out some relics for sale and trade.
      Duplicated from the “Resources” section of and reproduced with permission.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.


    • #3
      Examples of Spineback Gorgets:

      photos provided by Clovisoid
      Searching the fields of Northwest Indiana and Southwestern Michigan