Diameter: 20.000 cm
Gift of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Room 26: North America
Maple spindle whorl
Coast Salish, 19th century
From southern British Columbia, North America
This spindle whorl was used for spinning mountain goat wool. It is one one of the earliest surviving examples, having been collected on a naval expedition during the 1860s. Its surface is carved with a bird of prey, carrying fish. Associated with textile production and therefore wealth creation, the images may represent guardian spirits. They would therefore have contributed to the process by both guarding and purifying the spinner as she worked.
Coast Salish peoples are reknowned for their textiles, both twillled and woven in tapestry weave. Early explorers said that dog wool was also used to make textiles. However, no dog wool textiles are known to have survived.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)