ME966.175 | Root club
Anonyme - Anonymous
Aboriginal: Penobscot or Abenaki
1840-1860, 19th century
11.2 x 16.2 x 56.8 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Club (57)
Keys to History
War was a fundamental part of both Iroquois and Algonquin society, giving young men an opportunity to enhance their reputations as warriors. But it was a war that focussed primarily on capturing prisoners, for the glory it brought, out of vengeance or to bring in outsiders to replace clan members who had died.
Research: Marie-Ève Fiset. Validation: Alain Beaulieu, Chaire de recherche du Canada sur la question territoriale autochtone, UQÀM.
The club, also known as a cudgel (or mace), was a formidably effective weapon for knocking out enemies. It was also an important symbol of prestige. The handle was often decorated with depictions of a warrior's exploits in battle, symbols of his clan or images of protective spirits.
The war club with a spherical head, made from a natural knot in a tree, was one of the weapons most commonly used by the peoples of the eastern woodlands and is probably the type used by the St. Lawrence Iroquois. Further east, among the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Abenaki, with whom the St. Lawrence Iroquois traded, clubs were made of a carved root, like the one seen here.
This war club dates from the mid-19th century. By that time, weapons like this were rarely used in combat anymore, but continued to have a symbolic role in ceremonies and ritual dances. In the late 19th century, they were also sold to tourists as objets d'art.
Each warrior made his own weaponry, which included wooden protective armour, a knife, a bow, arrows and a war club.