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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Birchbark scrolls

Wiigwaasabak (Ojibwe language, plural: wiigwaasabakoon) are birch bark scrolls, on which the Ojibwa (Anishinaabe) people of North America wrote complex geometrical patterns and shapes. When used specifically for Midewiwin ceremonial use, these scrolls are called mide-wiigwaas. These writings enabled the memorization of complex ideas, and passing along history and stories to succeeding generations. Several such scrolls are in museums, including one on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. One recent study of a few scrolls details the complex math and memorizing scheme associated with the symbols that were used long ago.  The complex writings also include astronomy, rituals, mapping, family lineage, songs, and migration routes. In addition to birchbark, copper and slate may have also been used, along with hides, pottery, and other artifacts. Some archaeologists are presently trying to determine the exact origins, dates, and locations of their use. Many scrolls were hidden away in caves and underground man-made pits.

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