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Detail of a 19th Century Iroquois Wampum Belt ("kaswénhta")

This is a close-up of the "Lewis H. Morgan Belt," made of shell wampum beads and bound with blue and pink silk damask on each end. There are nine open white diamonds and one open square on a purple background. It was made for Morgan at the Tonawanda Reservation, using beads he bought from the daughter of Joseph Brant. The white and purple shell beads known as wampum had great ritual value among the Iroquois. Wampum was presented as gifts on special occasions such as funerals, and might be used as reparation for crimes such as murder. Wampum belts were used to commemorate important events such as treaties; their designs relayed messages related to the particular event. The word wampum is not of Iroquois origin. . . . It was first known in New England as “Wampumpeag, “ from which its Algonquin [Algonquian] derivation is to be inferred.
Courtesy of The New York State Museum: The University Of the State of New York
citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/images/image.php?name=MMD2446