A Batak manuscript from Sumatra, Indonesia. Date: Late 19th–early 20th century AD. Asian Ethnology, Bartlett Collection. UMMAA 48503.

Between 1918 and 1927, U-M botanist Harley Harris Bartlett traveled to Sumatra, Indonesia, to conduct botanical research for the University of Michigan and the Smithsonian Institution. During his travels, Bartlett visited settlements of the Batak peoples of northern Sumatra. There he conducted important anthropological research, documenting and publishing on Batak ritual practices, music, lifeways, and writing systems. Batak writing—on bamboo, bone, and bark paper—was limited to religious specialists. Bartlett made extensive collections of Batak manuscripts. He donated 155 manuscripts to UMMAA. The one shown here was used for divination. It consists of 21 thin strips of bamboo inscribed with calendrical information and strung together. The strips were smoked in the final finishing process.

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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.