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Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933) by S. A. Barrett and E. W. Gifford


ABALONE PECTORALS

The shell of the red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) was obtained at the coast. The Central Miwok designate both the shell and the pectorals made from it as ha'ssunu. Its rough outer layer was ground off and the bright, pearly inner layer cut into pieces for pectorals and other ornaments. A stone saw was said to have been used for the cutting. Pectorals were worn by the chief at fiestas or ceremonial gatherings.

At Knights Ferry in 1923 rectangular pendants were being manufactured by an old man. He was employing modern tools: cleaver, file, and grindstone. These rectangular abalone pieces were worn as pectorals and used as money. Usually six pieces formed a pectoral (tewe, C), or if the pieces were exceptionally large, five sufficed. A set of five large pieces was worth eight or ten dollars, while a set of six smaller pieces was worth six dollars. Anciently a rabbitskin blanket was valued at one pectoral. The Field Museum has some exceptionally large pectorals (70209, 70210) consisting of 17 and 15 disks, respectively, from the mountains of Central Miwok territory. Other pectorals (70213, 70214) from the same place have 19 and 20 smaller disks, respectively.



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