March 10, 2007 Marshall Joseph Becker,PhD, "Wampum: Native American Money or Belts Used for Diplomacy?"

Dr. Becker spoke about wampum, beads made from sea shells which have always been important objects in the ritual and ornamental activities of Native American tribes in the Northeast. Around 1615 CE, a small, cylindrical bead type called wampumpeag began to be made in huge numbers along the shores of Long Island Sound. The uniform size and shape of these beads, generally called wampum, allowed them to be woven into bands of various dimensions and stimulated their production as a commodity. The lecture reviewed how this bead type developed, how the Lenape, Five Nations Iroquois, and other Native peoples used these bands and suggested possible Huron origins for wampum, as well as discuss the role of Dutch traders in spreading wampum to the Puritans and other colonists.
            Marshall Joseph Becker, West Chester University, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, received all of his degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was trained as a four-fields anthropologist. He has focused his research on the Contact-period Lenape and their immediate neighbors in the Delaware River valley. Using both archaeology and ethnohistory he has delineated the four cultures in this region commonly glossed as Delaware. Finding that the diplomatic uses of wampum by the Lenape did not conform to the patterns commonly noted among the Five Nations Iroquois and others, he began a search for explanations in 1971. By expanding his research to include native peoples in New England and Canada, he has recently been able to delineate more clearly political uses for wampum throughout the Northeast. Dr. Becker has published 11 papers on wampum since 2001, and is currently working on the first book in a planned series on the subject.

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