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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    An ossuary temple; inside, dessicated bodies and idol, with fire and animal skins beneath temple Watercolour over graphite, touched with gold

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1585-1593
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 295 millimetres
    • Width: 204 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Inscribed in brown ink: ‘The Tombe of their Cherounes or cheife personages, their flesh clene taken of from the bones saue / the skynn and heare fotheire heads, wch flesh is dried and enfolded in matts laide at theire / feete. their bones also being made dry, ar couered wth deare skynns not altering / their forme or proportion. With theire Kywash, which is an / Image of woode keeping the deade.’ and in another hand "9"
  • Curator's comments

    For an introduction to this group of drawings by John White and a list of abbreviations used in the Literature at the end, see curatorial comment for 1906,0509.1.1, the title page inscription to the album.

    The following text is taken from K. Sloan, 'A New World: England's First View of America' (London, BM Publications, 2006), no. 10, pp. 114-15:
    [NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]:

    This drawing by White is an important record of the North Carolina Algonquians’ veneration of their dead chiefs or werowances and the preservation or mummification of their bodies. The skin on their bodies was pulled back and the flesh inside removed, sun-dried and placed in the mats that were laid at their feet. The skeletons were then covered with leather and the skin replaced. They were laid in the temple on a platform with a ceremonial fire kept in front and a painted wooden idol, Kiwasa, sat guard. The temple, shown in the view of Secotan, was not open as depicted here; White has drawn the reed mats up in order to help see inside. De Bry added a priest, mentioned in the text, and inserted the entire structure on stilts inside another building not indicated in the drawing.
    There is no original drawing by White for the de Bry engraving titled ‘Ther Idol Kivvasa’ and there are no buildings depicted in any of the towns that resemble the round one in which the idol is seated in the engraving – in the caption, the idol is described as in the temple ‘as the keper of the kings dead corpses’. Harriot’s text describes the idol fully but not quite well enough to provide the details given here, and it seems therefore that an original drawing once existed, though probably of the idol only. Harriot pointed out that the head resembled that of the Florida Indians and certainly the style appears to be similar to those found in Le Moyne’s drawings, which White was familiar with (see 1906,0509.1.22). As in many of the other captions, Harriot uses this one to further his Protestant message that the people were ignorant of the Christian God but already ‘verye Desirous to know the truthe’ and might easily be brought ‘to a knowledge of the gospel’.

    Engraved in ‘America’, pl. XXII (double) and engraving of Kivvasa, pl. xxi (single)

    Lit.: LB 1(8); Quinn, pp. 425–7; ECM 38; PH&DBQ 41(a); PH 38; Kupperman 1980, pp. 53–6; and see also Michael Gaudio, ‘The space of idolatry: reformation, incarnation and the ethnographic image’, Res 41, Spring 2002, pp. 72–91


  • Bibliography

    • Binyon 1(8) bibliographic details
    • Sloan 2007 10 bibliographic details
    • Croft-Murray 1960 38 bibliographic details
    • Hulton+Quinn 41(a) bibliographic details
  • Location

    British Roy PI

  • Exhibition history

    1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.48
    1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 48
    1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 48
    1984 May 1-Dec 31, BL, Raleigh & Roanoke, no.72
    1985 Mar-Jun, Raleigh, NC Mus of History, Raleigh & Roanoke, no.65
    1985 Jun-Aug, New York, Public Library, Raleigh & Roanoke , no. 65
    2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.10
    2007/8 Oct-Jan, Raleigh, North Caroline Mus of History, 'A New World:...'
    2008 Mar-Jun, New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, 'A New World:...'
    2008 Jul-Oct, Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, 'A New World:...'

  • Conservation

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  • Subjects

  • Associated titles

    • Associated Title: America
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


An ossuary temple; inside, dessicated bodies and image, with fire and skins beneath temple
Watercolour over graphite, touched with gold

An ossuary temple; inside, dessicated bodies and image, with fire and skins beneath temple Watercolour over graphite, touched with gold

Image description



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Object reference number: PDB56

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