College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Native American Artifacts on Display at UM

Exhibits at Barnard Observatory, J.D. Williams Library include pottery, tools and decorative items

JULY 25, 2016  |  BY 

Artifacts dating back to the 1400s offer a glimpse into the life of Native Americans in Mississippi through multiple exhibits over the next month at the University of Mississippi.

Barnard Observatory is housing an exhibit of “The Davies Collection: Mississippian Iconographic Vessels,” which features 15 ceramic vessels recovered from the Walls site in northwest Mississippi by physician Julius Davies in the early 20th century.

The items are part of the UM Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s Davies Collection, which includes about 270 items. The full university collection contains about 1,300 boxes of artifacts.

“These Davies vessels are unique because of their iconography, which show religious symbols of Native Americans who lived during the Mississippian period in the Southeastern United States,” said Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology.

Visitors can see these items in from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays in Barnard Observatory until mid-August.

Many items in the collection have been used for continuing research of Native American culture in the Southeast.

“These artifacts are in need of a proper curation facility, so we can use them to their fullest extent and share with researchers across North America their research potential,” she said.

Meyers also added original drawings and photos of these artifacts taken by Calvin Brown, an amateur archaeologist and professor and chair of the Department of Modern Languages in the 1920s, to the exhibit.

Additionally, similar items are on display in the J.D. Williams Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections this summer and fall in conjunction with the university’s Common Reading Experience. Native American author Sherman Alexie wrote this year’s featured book, “Ten Little Indians.”

The exhibit, which is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays through the fall semester, displays artifacts that offer a sneak peek into the breadth Native American ethnographic collection. It includes Alaskan Inuit objects such as a scrimshaw, harpoon hooks and wooden sun visors, a Southwestern Zuni pot, baskets from Northern California Indians, beaded work, moccasins and blankets made by Lakota Sioux and Cherokee in Oklahoma, and items from the Southeast, such as ceramic pots from the Walls site, stone tools and toli sticks used in games of stickball.

Meyers said all these items likely date to the 1920s, when they were procured.

“These items have the potential to contribute greatly to educating the public about Native Americans in our state,” Meyers said. “We hope these two exhibits give the UM community a sense of what rich resources we have.”