Mysterious Plaques: Can You Solve the Riddle?

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1 Mysterious Plaques: Can You Solve the Riddle? People of the Water: The Belle Glade Culture Historical Society of Palm Beach County

2 Mysterious Plaques: Can You Solve the Riddle? Grades 3-5 Student Target: LACC.3.RI.1.1, LACC.3.W.1.1, LACC.3.W.4.10, LACC.4.RI.1.1, LACC.4.RI.2.4, LACC.4.W.1.1, LACC.4.W.2.4, LACC.4.W.4.10, LACC.5.RI.2.4, LACC.5.L.3.4, LACC.5.W.2.4, LACC.5.W SS.3.A.1.1, SS.4.A.1.1, SS.4.A.1.2, SS.A.2.1, SS.5.A.1.1. Materials: Teacher: artifact analysis worksheet, art motifs of the Native Americans, tablet/plaque examples, Design your own tablet sheet, Identify parts of a tablet activity worksheet. Student: pen/pencil, copy of artifact analysis worksheet, art motifs of the Native Americans, tablet/plaque examples, Design your own tablet sheet, Identify parts of a tablet activity worksheet. Warm-up: In this lesson, students will look at art created by the Belle Glade Culture. Students will gain an understanding Native American symbols used in art. They will draw upon their critical thinking skills to complete this activity. Art and Cosmology Native people believed that natural features such as the sun, moon, and certain animals had corresponding deities that directed earthly events and individual fortune. Representations of certain animals were often depicted on artifacts such as pendants and pins in an attempt to gain the powers and protection of those animals. Shamans were a vital part of the cultural life of the People of the Water. Shamans were able to travel through realms others could not through the worlds of the animals, across the skies, under the earth and water, and between the worlds of the living and the deceased. It was believed that they had the power to heal the sick. They were consulted about ordinary events such as hunting and fishing, and could predict the future. The Spanish reported that the Tequesta, neighbors of the Belle Glade people, believed that a person had three souls. One soul was located in the eye, another in the reflection, and the third in a person s shadow. Solve a mystery: Symbol badges found at Fort Center are made from silver, but similar artifacts made of other materials are found throughout south Florida. Scholars have a few guesses but no one really knows what they symbolize. What do you think? Match wits with the scholars: submit your ideas to us and include your contact information. The striking art created by the People of the Water was not produced for art s sake alone, but arose from the spiritual impulse to represent natural and supernatural forces. Elegantly fashioned animals reflected keen observation and the artist s ability to craft from the rudimentary materials available images of their world. Archaeologists have found few representations of humans. If, as some scholars think, creating an effigy was an act of empowerment that imbues one with the spirit of the subject, then perhaps capturing human spirits was best avoided. The beauty and power of these wooden effigies leave us with regret that the finest Belle Glade art was made of material that decomposes rapidly, leaving few surviving examples. Vocabulary: Motif: a decorative design or pattern. Shaman: A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world and who practices magic or sorcery for purposes of healing, divination, and control

3 over natural events. Lesson: Solve a mystery: Symbol badges found at Fort Center are made from silver, but similar artifacts made of other materials are found throughout south Florida. Scholars have a few guesses but no one really knows what they symbolize. What do you think? Match wits with the scholars: submit your ideas to us and include your contact information. Show students different art from ancient south Florida archaeological sites. Then show and discuss different symbols used by ancient artists. An unusual object created by ancient Belle Glade artisans was the ceremonial tablets or plaques. These were made from wood, stone, and contact era metals. Archaeologists do not agree what they represent or the different symbols on the tablets. Different theories of what they could be include relation to Christian symbols, spider and Southern Native American cult imagery, to a relation of Olmec were-jaguar imagery. Theories about the use of these tables include Calusa badges of conquest, to a suggestion of some connection between Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and the 16 th century Calusa. It has also been considered that the symbols on the tablets are zoomorphic, with shapes and design elements of eyes and other facial characteristics found on metal, bone, shell, and wood artifacts that represent animals. The majority of these ceremonial tablets have been found in the Belle Glade Cultural area and most are made of metal. The metal is from salvaged Spanish/European metal objects or coins. The metal items would have been brought to villages around Lake Okeechobee where artisans then hammered and shaped them into the ceremonial tablets. Since the tablets are made from European metal objects or coins, these tablets date to the beginning of the early17 th and early 18 th centuries. The tables are all very similar in design even though they are made from different materials. Each one has an upper part and a lower part with many separated by a hinge. Some may have a suspension loop at the top for possibly wearing it as a necklace. Both upper and lower parts have some sort of carved designs or motifs. Handout the Artifact Analysis Worksheets and the tablet examples. If you have students work as groups, be sure to handout a different tablet to each group. In groups of individually, have them analyze the tablets. After the class has completed the worksheet, have them discuss their findings. Ask them to speculate what they think these tablets are or represent, and why they came to their conclusion. There is no right or wrong answer to this. List the ideas on the blackboard then have the class vote on the top three. Submit these ideas with your contact information to the Curator of Education, Historical Society of Palm Beach County, PO Box 4364, West Palm Beach, FL or These will be forwarded to the Lawrence E. Will Museum. Reflection: Handout the blank tablet sheet and have students draw their own tablet using Native American symbols. Assessment: Completion of worksheets, drawing their own tablet, sharing their findings in class. Enrichment: To learn more about the Native Americans who lived around Lake Okeechobee, visit the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum to see the special exhibit, The People of the Water: The Belle Glade Culture.

4 1. PHYSICAL QUALITIES OF THE ARTIFACT Artifact Analysis Worksheet Describe the material from which it was made: bone, pottery, metal, wood, stone, leather, glass, paper, cardboard, cotton, wood, plastic, other material. 2. SPECIAL QUALITIES OF THE ARTIFACT Describe how it looks and feels: shape, color, texture, size, weight, movable parts, anything printed, stamped or written on it. (not all of the above will apply) 3. USES OF THE ARTIFACT A. What might it have been used for? B. Who might have used it? C. Where might it have been used? D. When might it have been used? 4. WHAT DOES THE ARTIFACT TELL US A. What does it tell us about technology of the time in which it was made and used? B. What does it tell us about the life and times of the people who made it and used it? C. Can you name a similar item today? Designed and developed by the Education Staff National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC

5 Different art motifs used by ancient Native Americans Cross Sun Circles Bi- lobed arrow Forked eye Open eye Barred oval Hand and eye Death motifs (from A Prehistoric Ceremonial Complex in the Southeastern United States, American Anthropologist, 47(1): 2)

6 Mysterious Plaques/Tablets: Can You Solve the Riddle? A metal tablet/plaque from Fort Center.

7 Tablet/Plaque Examples Calusa, Key Marco, wooden tablet (from The Florida Anthropologist, vol. 53, no. 1, March 2000)

8 Calusa, Mound Key, metal tablet (from Ryan J. Wheeler. Ancient Art of the Florida Peninsula: 500 BC to AD Unpublished dissertation, University of Florida, 1996.)

9 Belle Glade Culture, Fort Center, metal tablet (from Ryan J. Wheeler, Ancient Art of the Florida Peninsula: 500 BC to AD Unpublished dissertation, University of Florida, 1996.)

10 Fort Center style, metal table (from Ryan J. Wheeler, Ancient Art of the Florida Peninsula: 500 BC to AD Unpublished dissertation, University of Florida, 1996.)

11 Calusa metal tablet (from Ryan J. Wheeler, Ancient Art of the Florida Peninsula: 500 BC to AD Unpublished dissertation, University of Florida, 1996.)

12 Design your own tablet using Native American symbols

13 Group Activity: Metal Tablet/Plaque from Fort Center Fill in the blanks for the different parts of the tablet. Try to guess what the symbol or parts of the tablet might represent.

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