The original Key Marco Cat, thought to have been carved between 50 and 1600AD, was encased in muck at the Northern tip of Marco Island and unearthed in 1896 by Frank Hamilton Cushing, and archeologist with the Pepper-Hearst Expedition. Carved of Buttonwood and buried for 1000 years, the 6: effigy survived excavation and exposure to air because, unlike many of the other wooden artifacts, it had been rubbed with animal fat, as a deity.
In addition to the Marco Cat, a carved Beaked Sea Turtle, a Wooden Mask, an Alligator and a shell with a painted human figure form the University of Pennsylvania Museum, found during the 1896 Expedition along with 2000 other artifact, will be on display.
The ceremonial mask, "Spoonbill Man" is different from the other masks discovered in having a mortised space for insertion of a separate nose piece which was missing. Archeologists never found the nose once attached to the mask. It has been speculated that it was carved separately because it was too long to come for a single block of wood. Spanish friars who visited the Calusa in 1697 reported some of their masks had noses six feet long.
The Beaked Sea Turtle figurehead, carved between 600 and 800AD is about six inches long. Originally painted black, white, blue and red, only black and white remain today. Also referred to by some as a Falcon.
The Alligator measures about 2 feet long with a lower, articulated jaw. It was originally painted white, black and blue. But today, only the black pigment remains.
The Sunray Venus Clam Shell, about three inches long, contains a full-length figure of an Indian Dancer with headdress, waist and ankle bands drawn in black pigment. A shocking accusation of fraud against Frank Cushing was made shortly after the Expedition by a Smithsonian photographer resulted in a well-publicized investigation. Ultimately Cushing was exonerated.
Replicas of the artifacts are available on the "Shop" Page of this website.