Three Warclubs : The Ball-Headed, Gunstock, and Sword Clubs in the Beltrami Collection

War clubs were the preferred fighting weapon because Native American warriors could increase their social status by killing their enemies in single combat. In Mississippian art, they were often depicted in conjunction with images and symbols of war. One type of club, now called a sword club, appears to have originated in the South and perhaps in Mexico. They were also popular among the Iroquois and northern New England tribes. Gunstock clubs, found in the western Great Lakes region and Eastern Prairies, are generally considered a western variant of the sword club. The ball-headed club was also a western variant of the sword club and was common from the mid and northern Atlantic coast to the western Great Lakes. In this context, this article analyses the three war clubs purchased by Beltrami in 1823 in the upper Mississippi and Red River area: a sword club, a ball club, and a gunstock club, now in the Caffi Museum in Bergamo, Italy.