Vintage Ketoh with Turquoise
Length: 3 5/8″
Width: 2 7/8″
Material: sterling silver
The bow guard-called ketoh by the Navajo-is worn around the wrist while shooting with a bow and arrow to protect from the stinging snap of a released bow string. This initially functional object eventually became adornment of striking design and beauty. Early bow guards were pieces of leather. The Navajo were the first to use silver bands, scratched or stamped with designs and fastened to leather, in the late 1870’s.
The bow guard features a center motif (sometimes with a central ornament) and four “curvilinear” shapes that radiate toward the corners. Often, bars bridge the center to the sides. The inside (hidden) part of the leather strap is frequently covered with designs. Their conceptual resemblance to the four sacred directions and originary center have earned bow guards a place in some rituals, such as Hopi and Zuni summer rain dances. Most dancing katsinas have, on the left wrist, a silver bow guard, and on the right a strand of yarn and a bracelet. Ceremonial dancers still wear Archaic-style bow guards covered with olivella shells.
-North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment From Prehistory to the Present by Lois Sheer Dubin (page 488)
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