Fish Effigy Bowl
Appliqued/modeled bowl, shell- and grog-tempered pottery
Caddo (historic), 1500-1700
Hodges 77-1 / X-32
Viewed from above, a fish with head, tail, and fins can be seen on this effigy bowl. While most ancestral Caddo pottery has abstract decoration, this unusual example shows representational imagery. The fish depicted on this bowl is probably the buffalo fish (genus Ictiobus), a large food fish that is abundant in Arkansas rivers. Buffalo fish are suckers, and the smallmouth buffalo is characterized by a downward-facing mouth and a humped back. During the spring, buffalo fish move into shallow waters for spawning. Buffalo fish have been caught for food for millennia. Buffalo fish bones have been identified from archeological sites in southern Arkansas, George Hunter and William Dunbar caught buffalo fish in the Ouachita River during their 1804-1805 expedition, and buffalo fish were important in commercial fisheries through the twentieth century.
For more information on the Ouachita River and suckers, see the “Encyclopedia of Arkansas” website.