Travel Stones are fictitious cultural artifacts presented in the style of a museum exhibit. The imagined culture derives from an ancient people who carry their travel stones, like house keys, as a way to access their home center that is ultimately more spiritual than physical. Passed from generation to generation, the stones further serve as resonant objects in the tracing of the people's history. Prompted by the drawings on the stones, the ancients recount tales of their origins to the next generations as well as to those they meet in travel.
(c. 9,000–8,000 BCE) were crafted by members of the Coast Salish in British Columbia, Canada. As a hierarchical society oriented toward property and status, the Salish regarded the stones as symbols of trust in the individuals upon whom they were bestowed. During special Potlatch coming of age ceremonies, each young villager pre-destined as an “explorer” received a stone previously held by a community elder. The Salish would depend upon the next generation to travel outside of known areas in search of opportunities for trade and territory expansion.
The stones--carried much like house keys--were devices to remind the young community members of the importance of home and to tie them back to their land of origin. The stones also took on a secondary function as mnemonic devices. Prompted by the drawings on the stones, the Salish explorers would recount tales of their origins to those they met in travel.
While archeologists have yet to find actual Travel Stones, historians have located documentation of their existence and use in the recounts of European explorers. One such example is from Sir Francis Drake’s world-circumnavigation travel log:
The fifth of June year of our Lord 1579, being in 48 degrees towards the pole Arctic, we found the air so cold, that my men being grievously pinched with the same, complained of the extremity thereof; and the further we went, the more the cold increased upon us. Whereupon I thought it best for that time to seek the land, and did so. In the bay we anchored; and the people of the country, having their houses close by the water's side, shewed themselves unto us, and gave us small objects as gifts. From an appointed speaker’s oration, I understood the objects as travel guardians. The presents were stones, jewel-like in coloration while primitive in design and no larger than my thumb. In my free moments aboard the Golden Hind, I shall endeavor to represent their cultural importance in paintings for my brother, Thomas.
The paintings to your right, currently on loan from the private collection of Nathan Drake, depict the stones as observed by Francis Drake in the late 1500’s.
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