Pottery decorating tools made from water buffalo horn. Mid 20th century. Philippines. Asian Ethnology, Solheim Collection. UMMAA 47130.

The study of traditional crafting among contemporary communities provides valuable information for archaeologists studying ancient technologies. Ibanag potters in Isabela Province of the Philippines used these pottery-decorating tools, which they carved from the horns of water buffalo (carabao). Potters could press the serrated edges on the ends of the tools into the soft clay of hand-formed vessels to create distinctive designs. These tools were collected in the 1950s, but women in Ibanag communities continue to make earthenware ceramics today. Tools such as these are highly valued by potters and rarely enter the archaeological record. Ethnographic examples provide archaeologists with insights on likely materials and techniques used to produce the ceramics recovered in excavations.

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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.