Photographs (left to right): Ridgecrest, California; Anza Borrego Desert, California; Mt. Baxter, Maine

Wampum Belt Archive

Six Nations Wampum Belt

Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum #39383

ca. 18th Century

Reproduction R. D. Hamell

January 16 2015

Original Size:



Beaded Length: 36.0 inches. Width: 4.0 inches. Length w/fringe: 60.0 inches.


Rows wide: 9; Rows long: 210. Total beads: 1,890.


Shell and leather.


Web site description:

Probably Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) artist
Wampum belt
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 (sic) for reciting ritual speeches, while belts of wampum solemnized intertribal communiqués and commemorated councils and treaties” (103).

“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.” (105)

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.