Shell with Pigment

  • Shell with Pigment

This object is on permanent display in the South Florida People & Environments exhibit, located inside the “Calusa Leader’s House” in the “Body Decoration” case.


Shell With Pigment by Bill Marquardt

This little shell is an example of a mundane object that is nevertheless fascinating. It’s a Sunray Venus shell, just like you’d find on a Florida beach, but if you look closely, you’ll see marks of a paint brush from when the shell was used as a paint palette. They probably made their brushes from palmetto stems, soaked or chewed on the ends to make them pliable.

Historical records tell us that the Indian people of Southwest Florida painted themselves regularly, often in black, red and white, and that the main leader painted himself black every day in reverence for the spirit world. We also know that these people were excellent painters, so they obviously needed paint brushes.

This clam-shell paint palette is an example of what archaeologists call an “expedient” tool, meaning an object that is casually used, maybe just once or twice, and then discarded.

Bill Marquardt
Curator, South Florida Archaeology & Ethnography
Director, Randell Research Center
Florida Museum of Natural History


Shell with Pigment
From Collier Co., Florida
Dates to ~AD 700-1500

Exhibit Area

Always on Display

Shell with PigmentRadha Krueger