By Jessica Dow
While a majority of the objects in our collections have been kept because they are relevant to American history, the families and houses associated with Huguenot Street, there are many examples in our collection that stray away from this. An example of this is an ale bowl of Scandinavian design.
This bowl is wooden with two handles carved in the shape of horses, and covered in linear geometric patterns. Though it is simple in manufacture, the distinctly foreign aspects of it make the object stand out against the American artifacts which make up most of our collection.
The bowl would have been used for the drinking of ale, which may seem commonplace from today’s perspective, but is much more significant when considered in the vast context that is international and historical drinking culture. Tracing back to the Neolithic revolution, the creation of alcoholic drinks has been a major aspect of the agricultural and social development of most cultures all over the planet. The social constructs which arise around communal imbibing of alcohol have had a major impact on moral development, both on an individual and sociocultural level. Furthermore, the act of drinking has become a symbol of maturity over time, and has been an important keystone of “coming of age”. This element of drinking persists to this day, when drinking is restricted from younger populations.
Suddenly this little bowl is a symbol of an underrated but crucial element of the development of today’s cultures, instead of just a cracked wooden bowl that may have helped the descendants of Vikings party well into the morning.