Argillite black slate

DEFINITION

Argillite is a fine-grained black silt stone found in only one deposit, in Slatechuck Creek on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). It was first carved by the Haida around 1800 to make pipes for tobacco rituals performed at funerals. Among the favourite images carved on the pipes were mythical heroes such as: the Raven and Bear; European ships and sailors; indigenous tobacco plants; and dragonflies and butterflies, which were believed to transport the souls of the deceased. Sailors from ships engaged in the maritime fur trade on Haida Gwaii, from the 1820s on, purchased argillite carvings as mementos to take home to New England and Europe. As the fur trade dwindled, the Haida developed a wide range of platters, cups and miniature totem poles embellished with crest designs that appealed strongly to Victorian tastes. In the late nineteenth century, the village of Skidegate produced famous argillite carvers such as Tom Price (Chief Ninstints) [see AskART], John Robson (Chief Giatlins) and John Cross. Masset was home to Charles Edenshaw (Chief Tahayren) [see AskART], the most famous argillite carver. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, artists did not sign their works. Today, many argillite carvers carry on the tradition in both villages. Submitted by M.D. Silverbrooke, West Vancouver, Canada.Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/tresors/treasure/270eng.shtml

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