Photographs (left to right): Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico; Canadian Geese, Mendon Ponds Park, New York ; Storm on the Island of Dominica

Wampum Belt Archive


Probable Iroquois Wampum Belt

18th Century (E53442)

Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum

White belt with 3 black diagonals; however the 'jagged' edge on the right indicates? the belt was broken

PEM Cat# E53/442 exchange from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1976 (Grimes et al; 2002, p.103)


Original Size:

Rows: 6. Length 54 cm. 21.3 inches






Leather with cordage


Shells and leather
18th Century
Peabody Essex Museum

“Wampum are cylindrical shell beads, typically about one Quarter inch in length and one eighth inch in diameter. Wampum beads are white or purple, with the white made from the interior column of the Atlantic whelk shell and the purple made from that of the quahog…. The more important use of wampum was as a symbolic and documentary medium. Among the Iroquois, wampum strings functioned as mnemonics for reciting ritual speeches, while belts of wampum solemnized intertribal communiqués and commemorated councils and treaties.”

“Belts made mainly from white beads suggest cordial diplomacy, while those that made extensive use of purple (sometimes referred to as “black” beads) have more sober connotations. The meaning of the belt shown here, which is predominantly purple with ten white cross-filled hexagons, is now lost, but it bears faint traces of red paint on some of the beads and fringe. Belts marked with red were understood as a call to war.”

Quoted from: Above citations quoted from: Uncommon Legacies: Native American Art from the Peabody Essex Museum, by John R. Grimes, Christian F. Feest, and Mary Lou Curran. NY: American Federation of Arts, New York in association with University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 2002; 103, 105.