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Native Southern California Sandstone Bowl


BMCA#23
Bowl, n.d.
Southern California Native, possibly Gabrieliño, Luiseño or Chumash
Sandstone; 10 H x 20 in. Dia. This massive bowl, or mortar, was one of the first objects donated to the Bowers Museum. Masterfully carved with a flat rim, smooth finish and exact proportions, the stone bowl is truly a work of art especially when considering the bowl was made by hand. Several other stone mortars are found in the collection, but none exist in such perfect condition - most show signs of breakage and repairs. Speculations made about the exact use of large mortars include grinding and preparing large amounts of food, mixing hallucinatory drugs or, other ceremonial purposes (it is not uncommon to find the bowls submerged in coastal waters and scholars are unsure if this placement is deliberate or not). Bowls like this are found throughout Southern California’s coastal areas including the Channel Islands. This particular bowl was found here in Santa Ana in 1903 and this short article from the following day’s newspaper recounts the discovery: "Evidently Santa Ana was an old-time stamping ground for the Indians of who knows how long ago. An interesting relic was unearthed yesterday, not far from the heart of the city, which goes to prove this. John Rudolph, an employee of the city water department, while engaged in making a water tap at the corner of Third and Ross Sts, encountered a hard substance some twenty inches below the surface. Uncovering enough to see its shape, he was led to finish the excavation more carefully and uncovered a massive stone mortar such as were in use by the Indians for grinding maize and other grains. The mortar, which is in a perfect state of preservation, without a crack or chip, measures twenty inches across, and is some ten inches deep, and weighs over 160 pounds. It is in perfect circular form, three or four inches thick at the bottom, and the sides tapering to an inch in thickness at the top."
All images and text under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. Information subject to change with further research.
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Friday, 27 January 2023

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