Figure 34. Common motifs.

  1. Barred oval: Used by Kings Hagler and Frow to sign documents. Common motif for plain smoking pipes.
  2. Cross: Used by some Catawba to sign documents. A reflection of the four cardinal directions and the four logs that feed the sacred fire.
  3. d. Swastika: Used occasionally by King Hagler to sign documents. Common Catawba motif in the pinwheel version.
  4. Feather: Favored motif among the Catawba potters. Used to decorate bonnets on Indian head pipes, a common motif on the peace pipe; in this century the motif has evolved to appear more like a fern than a feather.
  5. Crosshatch: Used most commonly in conjunction with other motifs. Not a stand-alone motif.
  6. Zigzag: Not a common Catawba motif. For the most part appears on vessels that display a multi-motif usage.
  7. Ladder: A popular motif often used to make a simple line treatment more intricate.
  8. Sun circle: A common motif that utilizes the other motifs in a wide variety of combinations. This motif often appears in orthodox forms that reflect the Southern Cult. This is especially true with the peace pipe.

serve to further embellish these core motifs, such as the crosshatch, zigzag, straight lines, and curves (Figure 34). All of these markings seem to be a direct reflection of the Mississippian period's love for body decoration, a fact that has been recorded among other southeastern groups. The designs either originated from or developed simultaneously with the art of body painting or tattooing. The snake in Catawba art and culture is included here because it was integral to body art and, as such, its meaning can be interpreted with some degree of accuracy.

We know the Indians of the region decorated their bodies with designs similar to those employed by the Catawba potters today. The designs also show strong Mississippian traits. The problem is we can only document the use of such motifs from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There seems to be a gap in motif use between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Whether this absence of information can be filled by archaeologists working in the field remains to be seen. While art historians wait for such information to come in, from all appearances the designs seem to be ancient and are very much a part of an aesthetic now almost entirely lost to the Catawba.

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