Deer Effigy Bowl
Engraved/modeled bowl, grog- and shell-tempered pottery
Caddo (historic), 1350-1500
W.I.#3/Crowe/Cook site (3HS105)
Hodges 77-1 / 10-1
With its triangular head and pointy ears, the head on this effigy bowl appears to be in the form of a deer. The tail on the opposite side is broken. Effigy vessels were meant to be representations of either humans or various types of animals. In the Hodges collection, there are a variety of vessels that seem to be shaped as fish, birds, turtles, and bear.
Animals were often key figures in Caddo legends. Many traditional Caddo stories featured animals with human-like characteristics, and sometimes even the ability to talk. Other stories reflected the importance of animals as resources or explained their behavior or appearances.
Deer play a central role in one story, “The Origin of Day and Night,” told by Wing, a Caddo man living in Oklahoma in the early 1900s. In the beginning, everyone lived in darkness. They soon grew tired of this however, and wanted light. A prophet told the Caddo people that there were five types of deer roaming the earth: yellow, black, spotted, half-spotted, and white. To achieve both day and night, they would need to kill both the black deer and the white deer. Doing this would cause the day to be white so that they might hunt, and the night to be black so they could rest and sleep in their homes.
You can read traditional Caddo stories collected by George A. Dorsey in Traditions of the Caddo (1905, Carnegie Institution of Washington).