Here are two 19th-century turtle-shaped umbilical cord amulets from the Penn Museum‘s rotating display. The first one I saw on display this past weekend; the second one is from a visit back in 2019. I thought it looked different than what I remembered! 😉
1. Turtle-shaped umbilical cord amulet, Assiniboine (Nakoda) culture, c. 1860.
Deerskin, sinew, glass bead, copper bead.
2. Tturtle-shaped umbilical cord amulet, likely Lakota (Sioux) culture, c. 1880.
Deerskin, turtle bone, glass bead, copper bell.
These charms are a Native American Plains Culture Area tradition, with a piece of the newborn’s umbilical/navel cord dried and sewn into these small effigies and attached to the child’s cradleboard or clothing. Often turtle-shaped ones were made for girls, and lizard-shaped ones for boys, reflecting broader traditional gender-based associations of each animal common in the region.