Copper Plate (Human Figure)

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Illus. front cover and Fig. 1, p. 150 in Townsend, Richard F., Robert V. Sharp, and Garrick Alan Bailey. 2004. Hero, hawk, and open hand: American Indian art of the ancient Midwest and South. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago. Figure caption identifies it as "Copper repousse plate depicting Birdman, one of the two so-called Rogan plates, ... 13th century [A.D.], copper, h. 27.9 cm .... This heirloom copper repousse plate is of Cahokian origin but was recovered as part of the regalia of an Etowah chief. The image incorporates the Birdman theme with specific symbols of the cultural hero Red Horn (note his long braid of hair, a symbolic horn), He-Who-Is-Hit-with-Deer-Lungs (note the bilobed-arrow headdress); the hero is also named Morning Star in various accounts. As the figure dances in triumph, he brandishes a mace in his right hand and dangles a trophy head from his left. This plaque would have served as an emblem of office awarded a chieftain, and would have accompanied him as a sign of his strength among the ancestral spirits." It is also noted on p. 156 that the Birdman motif is identified as Morning Star in the essay in the book "The Cahokian Expression: Creating Court and Cult" by James A. Brown, pp. 105-123. Illus. Fig. 93, left, p. 94 in Krech, Shepard. 2009. Spirits of the air: birds & American Indians in the South. Athens: University of Georgia Press. Identified there as copperplate depicting being with human and bird attributes, repousse sheet copper, ca. AD 1300 - 1375. Representation of other-than-human being or important man who has appropriated avian attributes, this individual displays a forked motif at the corner of the mouth and wears symbols of office and power around the neck and body, or on the head, or holds them and trophies in their hands.
This object was on display in National Museum of Natural History exhibit "Objects of Wonder", 2017 - 2021. Exhibit label identifies as a Copper repousse plate of falcon dancer, Mississipian, Etowah mounds, Georgia, 1300 - 1350. "The dancer's wings and distinctive forked eye pattern represent a Peregrine Falcon, a symbol of the sky world of spirits and ancestors. The mace and trophy head reflect prowess in battle."
Record Last Modified
5 Aug 2018
Specimen Count
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Accession Number
USNM Number
John P. Rogan
Donor Name
Bureau Of American Ethnology
Site Name
Cartersville, Bartow County, Georgia, United States, North America
NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
Object Type