Manioc grater made of wood and stone. Mid 20th century. Araguaia River, Brazil. Ethnology, Malkin Collection. UMMAA 25056.

Anthropologist and filmmaker Borys Malkin collected this manioc grater in 1957, while conducting ethnographic fieldwork among Karajá communities in the Araguaia River Valley in central Brazil. Manioc, or cassava, is a large tuber and a staple crop of Karajá farmers. Traditionally, men made the graters, which are wood planks with embedded stones. Women used them to grate the cassava, which they could turn into flour or make into a low-alcohol fermented beverage called chicha.

Trained as an anthropologist, Borys Malkin (1917–2009) held a formal academic position at the University of Minnesota for less than two years; he spent nearly forty years (from 1957 until 1994) in South America, documenting indigenous communities and making collections of traditional material culture and insects for museums around the world. In 1958, Malkin gave a collection of more than 100 objects of traditional Karajá material culture, as well as photographic slides and black and white negatives, to the Museum. Malkin took the photograph below, which shows a woman using a grater to process manioc.

Back to Day 155 or continue to Day 157.

In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.

Woman named Shurerea using a grater to process manioc. Photo by Borys Malkin. Santa Isabel, Araguaia River, Brazil, 1957. UMMAA slide collection, no. 9400.