Category Archives: Artifact of the Month

Artifact of the Month – May 2016

glm-spursA Cowboy and His Spurs – Spurs in America’s Southwest

Believe it or not, the first evidence of spurs appeared in about 5th Century B.C., and in the oddly serendipitous way these things happen, appeared in the Roman Empire, Greece, the medieval Arabic world and amongst the Celts all at about the same time!  These early spurs were “prick” spurs—long points welded onto a metal or leather yoke.  Prick spurs were common until the 14th century, when rowel spurs made their appearance.  About that time, spurs became much more ornamental in design and decoration.  For example, the spurs of the Spanish Conquistadors were elaborately engraved and chased with precious metals and could have rowels as large as 6” around!

Spurs are still popular, especially in the American Southwest, where they are an important part of the cowboy tradition.  How many old tv or movie westerns have you watched where a cowboy’s approach was heralded by the jingling of his spurs?

A set of spurs are a key piece of a cowboy’s equipment.  Spurs are used by riders to signal commands to their horses.  Spurs are especially useful to cowboys to maintain control over their horses when they cannot use reins when performing tasks that require them to use their hands and upper bodies.

The spurs used by cowboys are primarily of three types: the Mexican spur, the California or buckaroo spur and the Texas or cowboy spur. The spur is composed of a heel band with buttons that can be either stationary or swinging; a shank, straight or curved, and with or without a chap guard; and a rowel, that is, a small wheel of various types, such as “toothed,” “6-Point Spoke,” “5-Point Star” and “Sawtooth.”

The spur is an art form as well as a tool, with engraving and other artistic elements, often handmade and utilizing silver or other precious metals.  There are many collectors of antique spurs, particularly western and cowboy aficionados.

Artifact of the Month – May 2015

In the Hopi religion, Katsinas are supernatural beings that are kindly spirits of life, fertility and prosperity.  They are intermediaries to the gods, who come to villages and dance and ask the gods for bountiful crops, rain, and peaceful lives.  At three main Hopi Katsina ceremonies—December, February, and in July—dancers don elaborate painted and carved… Continue Reading

Artifact of the Month – March 2015

“WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ARROWHEAD VERSUS A PROJECTILE POINT?” That’s a pretty common question heard in the Archaeology Wing of the Cave Creek Museum.  What regular people call arrowheads, archaeologists typically call “projectile points”, not   because it sounds more academic, but because stone, wood, bone, antler, copper and other raw material types were used… Continue Reading

Artifact of the Month – January 2015

Prehistoric Native American “Mini-Pots” The Cave Creek Museum is proud to house and exhibit an extensive collection of prehistoric pottery, much of it collected from local and regional sites, at first by interested parties as they immigrated into the area; later by professional archaeologists. Some of the most intriguing pottery pieces are the “miniatures”.  Although… Continue Reading

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