frontlets

Frontlet (Amhalayt)
Tsimshian (Northwest Coast, British Columbia)
ca. 1880
Painted wood, abalone shell
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

4

How do you wear Pre-Columbian nose, ear, and lip ornaments?
What are the artistic connections between the cultures of the ancient Americas?
What material did the Incas consider to be more precious than gold?

We’re calling for questions from you! 

Kim Richter from the Getty Research Institute and Joanne Pillsbury from the Met Museum, the curators of Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas, and Emma Turner-Trujillo, the project’s research assistant, are going to answer questions on The Getty’s Instagram.

Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas
explores the development of luxury arts from 1200 BC to the beginnings of European colonization in the sixteenth century. Made of precious metals and other substances esteemed for their color and luminescence, these works were imbued with sacred power by the people who created and used them.

In the ancient Americas, metals were employed primarily to create objects for ritual and regalia rather than for tools, weapons, or currency. The use of gold, transformed into objects for gods and rulers, provides the central narrative and trajectory of the exhibition, from Peru in the south to Mexico in the north. 

However, other materials were often deemed far more valuable. Jade, rather than gold, was the most precious substance to the Olmecs and the Maya; and the Incas and their predecessors prized feathers and textiles above all.

These works were often transported across great distances and handed down over generations, making them a primary means by which ideas were exchanged between regions and across time. Crucial bearers of meaning, luxury arts were especially susceptible to destruction and transformation; thus the works in the exhibition are rare testaments to the brilliance of ancient American artists.


Leave your questions in the comments on this Instagram post, and we’re looking forward to getting them answered!

Originally posted by fuzzyghost

Photo of the Day – The Maroon-bellied Parakeet (Pyrrhura frontalis) is a small parrot found in south-eastern Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina. The name frontalis is a reference to the dark maroon frontlet – a separating feature from most similar species.

This photo was taken by Forrest Rowland

(Early Mesolithic, c. 8000 BC)

Worked red deer antler frontlet. Made from the skull of a large stag. Lines of cut marks made by flint tools show that the skin was deliberately removed from the skull.. The bones forming the top of the nose were then broken off and the edges of the remaining skull part trimmed. The rim of the brain case has been smoothed and interior projections cut and scraped smooth. The antlers were also broken off and the remaining stumps thinned down and trimmed around the base. The two holes in the back of the skull, one through each of the parietal bones, were made by cutting and scraping away bone on both sides. The holes would probably have been used to tie the modified frontlet onto the head. 

Found at Star Carr, Eastern end of the Vale of Pickering, five miles south of Scarborough, Yorkshire

Joyas Voladores

Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird’s heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird’s heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird’s heart is a lot of the hummingbird.Joyas voladores, flying jewels, the first white explorers in the Americas called them, and the white men had never seen such creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only in the Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than three hundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaring in hummer time zones nine times removed from ours, their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear if we pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.

Each one visits a thousand flowers a day. They can dive at sixty miles an hour. They can fly backwards. They can fly more than five hundred miles without pausing to rest. But when they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, or when they are starving, they retreat into torpor, their metabolic rate slowing to a fifteenth of their normal sleep rate, their hearts sludging nearly to a halt, barely beating, and if they are not soon warmed, if they do not soon find that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, and they cease to be. Consider for a moment those hummingbirds who did not open their eyes again today, this very day, in the Americas: bearded helmetcrests and booted racket-tails, violet-tailed sylphs and violet-capped woodnymphs, crimson topazes and purple-crowned fairies, red-tailed comets and amethyst woodstars, rainbow-bearded thornbills and glittering-bellied emeralds, velvet-purple coronets and golden-bellied star-frontlets, fiery-tailed awlbills and Andean hillstars, spatuletails and pufflegs, each the most amazing thing you have never seen, each thunderous wild heart the size of an infant’s fingernail, each mad heart silent, a brilliant music stilled.

Hummingbirds, like all flying birds but more so, have incredible enormous immense ferocious metabolisms. To drive those metabolisms they have race-car hearts that eat oxygen at an eye-popping rate. Their hearts are built of thinner, leaner fibers than ours. Their arteries are stiffer and more taut. They have more mitochondria in their heart muscles – anything to gulp more oxygen. Their hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight. The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures more than any other living creature. It’s expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.

The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons. It’s as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around in it, head high, bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon. This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long. When this creature is born it is twenty feet long and weighs four tons. It is waaaaay bigger than your car. It drinks a hundred gallons of milk from its mama every day and gains two hundred pounds a day and when it is seven or eight years old it endures an unimaginable puberty and then it essentially disappears from human ken, for next to nothing is known of the mating habits, travel patterns, diet, social life, language, social structure, diseases, spirituality, wars, stories, despairs, and arts of the blue whale. There are perhaps ten thousand blue whales in the world, living in every ocean on earth, and of the largest mammal who ever lived we know nearly nothing. But we know this: the animals with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries, their piercing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.

Mammals and birds have hearts with four chambers. Reptiles and turtles have hearts with three chambers. Fish have hearts with two chambers. Insects and mollusks have hearts with one chamber. Worms have hearts with one chamber, although they may have as many as eleven single-chambered hearts. Unicellular bacteria have no hearts at all; but even they have fluid eternally in motion, washing from one side of the cell to the other, swirling and whirling. No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end – not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.



by Brian Doyle, “Joyas Voladores” is from the Autumn 2004 issue of The American Scholar

Words: C

Cache a hidden store of provisions, weapons, treasure etc.
Callimastian having beautiful, well-shaped breasts
Callithump a noisy, boisterous band or parade
Calumny the malicious utterance of false charges or misrepresentation
calumny        KAL-um-knee      a slander or false accusation
Canaille the masses; a mob, rabble
canard         kan-ARD      a fabricated story (French=”duck”; morte canard=dead duck)
cant      kant      insincerity
Capacious capable of holding much
Celerity swiftness, speed
Chaffer haggle, exchange, barter
Chamfrain the frontlet of an armed horse for a feudal knight, often engraved with designs
Chanteuse a female singer of popular songs, especially in a nightclub.
chimera        ki-MEER-ah   (not: chim-er-ah)      Originally: a mythical beast; any unreal thing; foolish fancy      (adj=chimerical     ki-MEER-a-cal)
Clinomania (n): “an obsessive desire to lie down.” Example: Without adequate sleep, you’ll suffer from more than clinomania.
cloy      to grow sick from an abundance of something
Cloyer a pickpocket’s accomplice or the one who intrudes into a bunch of thieves to claim a share
Colloquy a formal conversation or conference
comitatus      com-a-TAY-tus      loyalty to one’s band or group
Concatenate to link together in a series or chain
concatenation       con-CAT-a-nation      things linked together or joined in a chain
Congruous being in agreement, harmony or correspondence; conforming to the circumstances or requirements of a situation; marked or enhanced by harmonious agreement among elements
Contemn to view or treat with contempt; scorn
copacetic      “going just right”
Coruscate to give off or reflect light in bright beams or flashes; sparkle
Coruscating to emit sparkles of light; sparkle
Cosh a small cottage, hut
cosseted       KOS-a-ted     pampered
Coterminous having a common boundary
Coven a meeting of witches
Crapulous marked by intemperance especially in eating and drinking; sick from excessive indulgence in liquor
Croodle to creep close; a faint humming, the low music of birds
Cuckold a man whose wife has committed adultery
Cupidity inordinate desire for wealth; avarice, greed; strong desire; lust
cupidity       que-PID-a-tee      greed; avarice
Cyclopean having the kind of masonry used in preclassical Greek architecture, characterized by large undressed blocks of stone
cynosure  SIGH-na-shore      (from the Greek: “dog’s tail”)      center of attention; point to which all eyes are drawn.  (Really? From “dog’s tail”? Yes. The “dog’s tail” appears in a constellation, locating the North star, which rivets the attention of sailors at sea. Thus:     center of attention.) (see also: sinecure)