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date: 30 March 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Similarities between the earliest Northwest Coast art and ethnographic art are traced regionally from 2000 bc into the late nineteenth century. The earliest known figural art is in the Fraser River–Gulf Islands region and consists of human and animal images with ribs and backbones, joint marks, and protruding tongues, and masks. These motifs are present on ritual spoons used for feeding the dead, probably as part of an early form of the memorial potlatch, and are related to beliefs in human–animal transformation, regeneration from bone, spirit power, and shamanism. These same motifs are found later in adjacent regions as parts of ritual objects, tools, and utensils. Art declined in the late pre-contact period in the region where it is known earliest, but fluoresced later on the lower Columbia River, particularly on the northern Northwest Coast where the late classic interlocked style developed and has continued to evolve today.

Keywords: Northwest Coast, art, ethnographic art, shamanism, masks, figurines, regeneration, potlatch

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