The Swastika: The Earliest Known Symbol & its Migrations
The Cross Among The American Indians
much superior work upon the more usual delineating surfaces, such as bark and skins. The examples here shown have been already experienced decided changes
through the constraints of
the ceramic art, but are the most graphic delineations preserved to us.
They are free-hand products, executed by mere decorators, perhaps by women,
who were servile copyists of the forum employed by those skilled in sacred
A third illustration from the same
group of ware, given in fig. 259 [fig. 332 of the present paper] shows,
in some respects, a higher degree of convention. * * *
important individualized or well-defined agencies of convention. First,
and most potent, may be mentioned the enforced limits of the spaces to
be decorated, which spaces take shape independently of the subject to
be inserted. When the figures must occupy a narrow zone, they are elongated;
when they must occupy a square, they are restricted longitudinally, and
when they occupy a circle, they are necessity coiled up. Fig. 265 [fig.
333 of the present paper] illustrated the effect produced by crowding
the oblong figure into a short rectangular space. The head is turned back
over the body and the tail is thrown down along the side of the space.
In fig. 266 [fig. 334 of the present paper] the figure occupies a circle
and is, in consequence, closely coiled up, giving the effect of a serpent
rather than an alligator. * * *
I present five series of figures designed to illustrate the stages through which life forms pass in descending from the realistic to highly specialized conventional shapes. In the first series (fig. 277) [fig. 335 of the present paper] we begin with a, a meager but graphic sketch of the alligator; the second figure, b, is hardly less characteristic, but is much simplified; in the third, c, we have still three leading features of the creature --- the body line, the spots, and the stroke at the back of the head; and in the fourth, d, nothing remains but a compound yoke-like curve, standing for the body of the creature, and a single dot.
The figures of the second series (fig. 278) [fig. 336 of the present paper] are nearly all painted upon low, round nodes placed about the body of the alligator vases, and hence are enclosed in circles. The animal figure in the first example is coiled up like a serpent [fig. 334], but still preserves some of the well-known characters of the alligator. In the second example 'fig. 336b] we have a double hook near the center of the space which takes the place of the body, but the dotted triangles are placed separately against the encircling line. In the next figure the body symbol is omitted and the three triangles remain to represent the animal. In the fourth there are four triangles, and the body device being restored in red takes the form of a cross. In the fifth two of the enclosing triangles are omitted and the idea is preserved by the simple dots. In the sixth the dots are placed within the bars of the cross, the triangles becoming mere interspaces, and in the seventh the dots form a line between the two encircling lines. This series could be filled up by other examples, thus showing by what infinitesimal steps the transformations take place. * * *
We learn by the series of steps illustrated
in the annexed cuts that the alligator radical, under peculiar restraints
and influence, assumes conventional forms that merge imperceptibly into
these classic devices.
Professor Holmes's theory of the evolution of the cross from the alligator and its location in Chiriqui is opposed to that of Professor Goodyear, who, in his "Grammar of the Lotus," ascribes the origin of the cross to the lotus and locates it in Egypt. I file what in law would be an "interpleader" --- I admit my want of knowledge of the subject under discussion, and leave the question to these gentlemen.