Bolas (Spanish for “balls”) are throwing weapons made of round weights tied to the end of interconnected cords. Hunters use them to bring down animals by entangling their legs. In 1994, UMMAA curator emeritus Jeffrey R. Parsons purchased this example, made by a Huarpe Indian whose name was not recorded, in Mendoza, Argentina. The two balls and handle are made of stones wrapped in leather. They are joined together by twined leather thongs about one meter long. These objects are often associated with Argentinian gaucho cowboys, but they actually have a long history in South America. Researchers have found archaeological examples in sites in Patagonia, and the Inka army is reported to have used bolas in war.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.