Turtle Effigy Bottle

Engraved/appliqued/punctated bottle, shell-tempered pottery, red pigment
Caddo (historic), 1400-1500
Provenience unknown
Hodges 77-1 / X-187

The ancestors of the Caddo people who lived in southwest Arkansas sometimes made pots in the shape of animals. These “effigies” of animals may have been symbolic or just aesthetic.

This vessel is unusual because of its design and shape. The ridge along the back, the tail, and the long neck of the pottery vessel all suggest a representation of a snapping turtle. Snapping turtles are found in Arkansas and live near bodies of water. Animals that move between water, earth, and air may have represented Native beliefs about a layered universe with a Below World, Middle World, and Above World.

For more information on Native Americans and their ideas about the cosmos, see the “Indians of Arkansas” website.

3D model created by Teka McGlothlin and Sarah Shepard, text by Emma Adams and Mary Beth Trubitt.