Jon Berg Fine Art
Folk art carved wooden box of tropical origin possibly Latin America

Folk art carved wooden box of tropical origin possibly Latin America

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Directory: Vintage Arts: Decorative Art: Folk Art: Pre 1970: Item # 1422827

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2311 Schader Dr. #310
Santa Monica, CA 90404

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A unique piece, made of a tropical wood, 12 1/4" by 6" by 3 1/4", the box hinged, opening from the top, revealing scooped-out recesses when opened. A bird incised with a burning tool and the date 1964 also so incised appear on the front portion that opens out. On the sides, likewise, a design is burned into the wood. This appears to me to be of Caribbean (Haitian?), Mexican/Central American or South American origin, though I suppose it could be African (I think, much less likely). When found, rounded pebbles were present in the scooped out areas. It has been suggested to me that this is some sort of simple game board that goes under the general classification name "mancala" from the Arabic word "naqala" ("to move"). I copy this from the lengthy Wikipedia description of this game and its origin: "Mancala is one of the oldest known games to still be widely played today. Mancala is a generic name for a family of two-player turn-based strategy board games played with small stones, beans, or seeds and rows of holes or pits in the earth, a board or other playing surface. The objective is usually to capture all or some set of the opponent's pieces. Versions of the game date back to the 7th century, and evidence suggests the game existed in ancient Egypt.". The game spread from Egypt through the Middle East and ultimately throughout the world, where its various versions have many different names. There are bore holes from insects in the back, and an area there is taped up due to cracking or weakening from bore damage.