M.A. Theses: John G.R. Hannah, 1996

Seated Human Figure Bowls: An Investigation of a Prehistoric Stone Carving Tradition from the Northwest Coast

The following thesis concerns itself with a collection of 64 stone sculptures commonly known as seated human figure bowls. This prehistoric stone carving tradition from the Strait of Georgia/Puget Sound and Fraser/Thompson river regions was reviewed with an eye towards addressing three fundamental issues. These were: i) to provide a thorough, up to date overview of the subject, including a history of the research conducted, descriptive information and a current catalogue of the collection; ii) to construct a bowl typology in an attempt to bring some spatio-temporal order to the data, and; iii) to investigate elements of meaning/function in the seated human figure bowl form using morphological, archaeological and ethnographic information.

Through library research and the study of museum collections, the goals of this thesis were successfully achieved. A current and complete catalogue now exists for these carvings. The typological analysis establishes three bowl types as well as a hypothetical evolutionary sequence for the tradition. Many issues of temporal and spatial dynamics are highlighted for further research. The hypothesis that these objects were generalised objects of shamanistic power, or "medicine bowls", is offered and justified through various lines of morphological, archaeological and ethnographic evidence.