Buddha Head figurines at Cape Horn
I'm ... writing ... to inquire about historic artifacts that were recently unearthed in the Cape Horn area. These artifacts are: NUMEROUS (hundreds?) Buddha Head figurines all ranging in size from a dime to a silver dollar. These Buddha heads were obviously poured from original carved castings, the material is extremely dense and polished and has the consistency and finish of fine porcelain or polished ivory. There are several hundred artifacts most of them Buddhas, but also there were other figures approximately the same size, these other figures included porcelain "seashell shapes", conical shapes, "button shapes" with colored enamel overlays including red, blue and emerald green.
We are attempting to identify, date and determine their origin and what these pieces were used for. It is speculated that they were used by the chinese for gambling since they were not allowed to possess gold?
No one has been able to identify them or even show other examples of like pieces in the Chinese camps during the gold rush era.
ALL of these pieces were found very near the Cape Horn area and would be very interested in any information or help that you might provide in further investigating or identifying these very old and historic artifacts. ...
Here are a couple of photos of the pieces that I have. So far I have identified approximately 8 different unique pieces. Each of these pieces is complete and unbroken (not part of a larger piece), except the "half" Buddha face piece in the picture which represents the largest shape of the "set." The one that is next to the "1" is a complete piece and is the largest of the pieces.
The backside of each piece clearly indicates that these pieces were "cast" or poured from porcelain or a similar very dense hard material. ... Out of the several hundred pieces I've looked at, it appears that that there are dozens of "original" molds for each shape.
In my opinion, it appears that these may have been used by the Chinese as "gambling money" or for trading ... the questions i have though is ...
1) Origin: Were they cast here or in China. How old are they?
2) Did other Chinese camps in the gold country use these same pieces or were they exclusive to the Cape Horn camps / area?
3) Historical significance?
4) Are there others out there?
6) The Chinese buddhas were historically the "fatter, happier Buddha" – Is it possible that these are Japanese? Cambodian? (My guess is that they must be Chinese because of their locale.)
—Jim Bowers, Colfax, California