Spinning Top - Tonala, Mexico, 1962-1963 Object Reg. No: SH 990015

Alternative Name(s): Finger Top

In 1962-63, during sabbatical leave, American folklorist Dr Dorothy Howard undertook research in Tonala, a pottery village in Mexico. She had for many years been keen to study a single child intensively in the context of his family and community, and collect play materials from the local community. She choose to study Pedro Munoz, who was 12 years old in 1962. She published a book based her research, Pedro of Tonalá, in 1989. In later years she studied a girl from ages two to four in Lincoln, Nebraska (1967-1969), and in 1977 published a detailed account of her own childhood in Dorothy's World: Childhood in Sabine Bottom, 1902-1910.

This object forms part of the Dorothy Howard Collection, contained within the Australian Children's Folklore Collection (ACFC). The ACFC is unique in Australia, documenting contemporary children's folklore across Australia and in other countries reaching back to the 1870s. The Collection has a strong component of research material relating to Victoria.
Small wooden finger top, painted with coloured rings over whole surface. Rings are bands of red, yellow, white, light blue, turquoise and purple. Point of the top is finished with clear lacquer, and the spindle has a hole drilled in the top.
Statement Of Significance:
Top-spinning is an ancient activity. Tops dated at 1200-1400BC were excavated in Egypt, and they are often mentioned in classical literature. They are found throughout the world and used by adults and children, in rituals as well as for games of skill. There are many different kinds of tops, and the way the are used depends on their size and shape. Top-spinning is a traditional pastime in Mexico, and this object is an example of a hand-made Mexican finger top. It is very decorative, with coloured rings covering its surface, in comparison with other Mexican tops which are made from natural wood and have no decoration at all.
Acquisition Information:
Cultural Gifts Donation from Dr June Factor, 1999
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
Discipline: History
Dimensions: 4.00 cm (Height), 4.00 cm (Length)

More information

Tagged with: children s play, toys, games, handmade games toys, making history - australian childrens folklore
Themes this item is part of: Australian Children's Folklore Collection, Dr Dorothy Gray Mills Howard (1902-1996), Childhood & Youth Collection, Domestic & Community Life Collection, Leisure Collection
Primary Classification: GAMES & TOYS
Secondary Classification: Action Games
Tertiary Classification: spinning
Place & Date Made: Tonala, Mexico, 1962-1963
References: TASP Newsletter, vol.7, no.3, Spring 1981 - containing articles about and by Dorothy Howard, including information on her Mexican research.
Dorothy Howard, 1989, Pedro of Tonalá.

Add your comment

  • Museum Victoria does not provide valuations, for more information please visit the valuation infosheet
  • Please note that Museum Victoria staff will not normally respond to comments posted on our website.
Yes No