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


CLAM SHELL BEADS

Clam shell beads (howoku, C), made of Saxidomus nuttallii, reached the Central Miwok from the north or northwest and were believed by them to grow thus on the rocks at the ocean shore. Howoku were counted when sold in small numbers. Otherwise the string of howoku was measured, but never by winding around the hand. The unit of measure was the lua. A lua of clam shell beads, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, was worth ten dollars. At the end of each lua of clam shell disks was placed a large red cylinder, which was white inside. This would seem to have been a glass bead. It was said to come from the ocean, perhaps actually from ships. Possibly it was a magnesite cylinder, such as the Pomo used. A string of large clam shell beads about one inch in diameter, and measuring a motuku ana or half ana (the distance from the middle of the chest to thumb tip of the outstretched arm) was valued at thirty dollars. Why the small sized clam shell beads were measured by the lua and the large sized beads by the half ana is not clear, especially since the two measures are not very different, a lua exceeding a half ana by only a few inches.

One Central Miwok woman living in the mountains, who possessed sixty dollars worth of clam shell disks, was regarded as exceptionally wealthy for that region. She possessed also four abalone pectorals.

Clam shell beads were used as terminal ornaments for wooden ear sticks about three inches long, worn in the lobe of each ear. They were also attached to the headband made of flicker feathers where their whiteness contrasted with the bright color of these feather shafts.

Another object, cylindrical in form, called howobu (C) would appear to be the magnesite cylinder made by the Pomo, judging from the informant’s description.



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