Cocoon Artifacts Collection
Inside the collections of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, there is a collection of cocoon artifacts, donated by Dr. Richard Peigler. While most people associate the use of cocoons with the production of silk (sericulture), cocoons are used in many other ways. For thousands of years, humans have found functional and spiritual uses for cocoons.
In this collection there are cocoon artifacts that represent various Native American Tribes of the United States and various tribes around the world, such as Africa and Mexico. The collection includes various hand and ankle rattles, as well as a charm and necklace crafted from different kinds of cocoons.
Moth cocoons are strong and sturdy when dried and preserved and are therefore used in creating a variety of products. Browse the collection below to see the variety of products created from different species of moths.
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A pair of ankle rattles made with cocoons of Rothschildia cincta used in the Pascola Dances by Indians in southwestern U.S.A. and northwestern Mexico.The second pair follows this image. These are sewn on buckskin, and were made by the Yaqui Tribe in Rio Yaqui, Sonora, Mexico. This set dates back to the 1950s.
Zulu Tribe, South Africa. Dance rattles made with cocoons of Argema mimosae, which are sewn onto goatskin.
Earrings made with pieces of cocoons of Cricula trifenestrata, made in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.
Left picture frame made with pressed cocoons of Attacus atlas with postcard of Carolus Linnaeus, known as the "father of modern taxonomy." Right picture frame made with pressed cocoons of Cricula trifenestrata depicting A. S. Packard, Jr., principal editor to the early American Naturalist. Both frames made in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.
The second pair of ankle rattles made with cocoons of Rothschildia cincta used in the Pascola Dances by Indians in southwestern USA and northwestern Mexico. These are sewn on buckskin, and were made by the Yaqui Tribe in Rio Yaqui, Sonora. This set dates back to the 1950s.
Ankle rattles made by San Tribe (Bushman) in Botswana, Africa with cocoons of Gonometa postica (Lasicocampiadae).
Necklace made by Merced Maldonado of the Yaqui Tribe in Guadalupe, Arizona. Cocoons of Rothschildia cincta (Saturniidae) each containing 7 palm seeds. The different types of seeds are red coral bean (Erythrina flabelliformis) from Rio Yaqui, castor bean (Ricinus communis), Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), and mescal bean (Sophora secundiflora).
Ankle rattles made with the cocoons of Argema mimosae (Saturniidae). Made by the Swazi Tribe in South Africa.
All five hand rattles are replicas based off of historical hand rattles. These rattles were created by Craig Bates (formerly of Yosemite National Park) and his son Carson Bates of the Sierra Miwok Tribe. The first two rattles to the far left represent the Yosemite Miwok Tribe of California. The first rattle is made with cocoons of Hyalophora euryalus. Center is a Pomo Cocoon Rattle, made with a cleaned moth cocoon lashed with deer sinew to a goose quill. The rattle is used by the Eastern Pomo to chase away bad dreams. The fourth rattle is made with cocoons of Hyalophora euryalus. The cocoons contain gravel from an ant hill and is attached with willow twigs to a willow handle by deer sinew and decorated with coyote fur. This rattle represents the Southern Miwok Tribe of central California. To the far right, another handle rattle made with cocoons of Hyalophora euryalus and represents the Central Miwok Tribe of central California. These rattles were used by the Central Miwoks to chase away bad dreams.
Far left, cocoons of Bombyx mori from India and to the right, cocoons of tasar silkmoth (Antheraea paphia = mylitta) from West Bengal, India.
These replica pieces were created by Craig Bates (formerly of Yosemite National Park) and his son Carson Bates of the Sierra Miwok Tribe.The charm (left) is used by the Wailaki Tribe, California. It is composed of tule (Scirpus) stems, willow (Salix) sticks, and cocoons of Hyalophora euryalus. The hand rattle (right) is modeled in the tradition of the Pomo Tribe of northern California. It is made with cocoons of Antheraea polyphemus and contain gravel from an ant hill. It is attached to a handle of goose quills and peacock quills by linen twine.
Peigler, R. S. 1994. Non-sericultural uses of moth cocoons in diverse cultures. Proceedings of the Denver Museum of Natural History, Series 3, Number 5: 1-20. Can be accessed on the following link: http://www.dmns.org/science/museum-scientists/proceedings
Peigler, R.S. 2004. Chapter 10: The silkmoths of Madagascar, pp. 154-163, in C.M. Kusimba, J.C. Odland, and B. Bronson, editors, Unwrapping the textile traditions of Madagascar. Field Museum, Chicago, and UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles. 196 pp.
Peigler, R.S., & Maldonado, M. 2005. Uses of cocoons of Eupackarida calleta and Rothschildia cincta (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae) by Yaqui Indians in Arizona and Mexico. Nachrichten des Entomologischen Vereins Apollo 26(3): 111-119. PDF
Web page created by Stacey Huber, M.A.