Combing through the Phillipian – Part 1

Contributed by Adam Way

My name is Adam Way. I am currently a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire and am working towards my Master’s Degree in Museum Studies. This summer I am working as an independent researcher for the Peabody Institute looking through old Phillipians to see how the Institution has been perceived and presented by Phillips Academy students over time.

This is me on the Cadir Hoyuk archaeological site located in central Turkey in 2018.

In the modern day, there are a number of factors that determine the best place for an artifact or specimen, whether it is in a museum, either private or public, or with the people for which the item has cultural significance. This, of course, has not always been the case. For a long time, the mentality regarding the storage, display, and ownership of artifacts was similar to that expressed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: “It belongs in a museum.” This mind set and practice is certainly present during the early years of the Archaeology Department, now the Peabody Institute, and is reflected in the publication of its various acquisitions in the Phillipian.

There are numerous ways that a museum or institution, such as the Peabody, can increase the size of its collections. These methods include donations, purchasing and exchanging of collections, and conducting archaeological expeditions. Through these methods, the Peabody was able to amass a collection of around 81,000 specimens within its first twelve years of operation (according to the Founders’ Day issue of the Phillipian from Oct 11, 1913).

Phillipian Article, October 11, 1913

While looking through the issues of the Phillipian, it quickly became clear to me that two of these methods of acquisition occurred more often than the third – donations and purchases/exchanges. Donations played a key role during the early years of the Archaeology Department and its collections as they allowed for the collections to grow without draining their available funds. The Department received donations from both individuals with private collections as well as from other organizations. This can be seen in instances like the gift from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, where a sizable donation of clothing and ornaments from the Pacific Islands was made in March of 1910 (although these are not currently present in the Peabody’s collection). While donations like this did occur, it was much more common for individuals to make donations from their own private collections. These gifts tended to be smaller in size but would still dramatically impact the total collections due to the overall volume.

Phillipian Article, March 12, 1910

The other means of acquisition that occurred often was the act of purchasing collections or engaging in a trade. For example, In the Feb 1 issue of 1913, it was announced that Moorehead had traveled to Yarmouth, Maine to secure a collection from an Arthur Marks, Esq. By securing this collection, Moorehead added roughly 2000 specimens to the Department’s total collection. This was also only a few months after they had purchased another collection from W.H. Wheeler of Concord, MA. The Wheeler collection consisted of over 4000 objects from around New England and was the largest single purchase by the Department in the region.

The last way that the Department expands their collection is through sponsored archaeological expeditions. This method of acquiring new specimens definitely occurs less often than the other two methods, especially at first, but becomes more frequent as time goes on. According to the articles in the Phillipian, the specimens retrieved from archaeological digs was fairly limited at first. They mainly came from Moorehead and Peabody’s research expeditions, both throughout the States and in Europe. It was mentioned several times that both men shipped collections of varying sizes back from Southern France. The number of domestic digs did increase as the years went on as Moorehead started a yearly expedition to Maine that brought in roughly 1000 specimens in the first year alone (1912). This specific expedition would prove fruitful for Moorehead as he returned many times in the coming years. In addition to Moorehead’s expeditions, there would also be collection trips where a member of the Department would be sent to a region, such as Eastern Massachusetts, and would be tasked with finding artifacts from old sites. These trips were quite common and could bring in up to 8000 artifacts in one year (1912-13).

From what I have seen in the Phillipian’s coverage of the ever-expanding collection, these methods of adding to the total collections of the Department contributed roughly the same amount. The amount of donations and purchases of collections far outnumber the number of archaeological expeditions; however, they are often much smaller in size. The balance of these three methods is subject to change as I have only read what has happened in the early years of the Department. It is nonetheless impressive how the Department was able to amass such a large collection in such a small amount of time.

Miniatures Meet Fossil Humans

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

In July, I start to think about the upcoming fall course Human Origins. Last year I spent most of the summer retooling the course into an online experience. I owe a lot to the advice of my spouse, who passed along many of her experiences teaching online in spring 2020. I was pleased with the result—an iterative, assignment driven course, taught exclusively online, that even managed to keep some hands on activities. In fact, I plan to keep many elements of the online course—students in the fall will use Padlet for many of their assignment, we will dedicate at least two weeks to flint knapping, and we will keep the three major themes: pseudoscience, human evolution, and race. I will continue to look for ways to decolonize the syllabus as well. Considering the frequency of new discoveries (Google “Dragon Man,” for example), the focus is more on how to think about human evolution, rather than the details. The frequent new discoveries in the field continue to challenge the two competing models of human evolution, making us wonder, maybe we really need a new theory?

3D prints of fossil hominin skulls made by students in Human Origins, fall 2019.

I hope that we can revisit 3D printing again in the fall. Once many of the skeletal elements of Homo naledi became available on Morphosource, 3D printing became part of the course. For a few years, we visited the campus makerspace and looked at prints of Homo naledi’s more unusual features, including the hand and femur. In fall 2019, students worked in teams to 3D print their own miniature versions of fossil human skulls, learning details about each find and species as part of the assignment. Those miniature 3D prints got me thinking about earlier models and teaching tools for this subject, and my own first interests in human evolution.

Part of the foldout “March of Progress” graphic from Time Life’s Early Man book, circa 1970.

My first inkling that human evolution was something to be interested in came from a mid-1970s rebroadcast of a documentary called Natural History of Our World: The Time of Man (first aired, December 14, 1969). I wanted to watch this for two reasons: 1) Richard Basehart, who played Admiral Nelson in one of my favorite TV shows, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, provided the narration, and 2) I wanted to know more about the fossils shown in the teaser ads! I think my parents were a little baffled, but they let me stay up and watch it. I don’t remember much about that show, but it included some pretty incredible shots of volcanic activity and, of course, Basehart’s distinctive voice. Not long after that, my dad brought home a set of the Time Life nature books, with the 1970 edition of Early Man right on the top (it looks like Early Man was first published in 1965, but there were many reissues). That book captivated me! Books on dinosaurs, fossils, and evolution (for someone who was a kid, or perhaps anyone, really), were in short supply in the 1970s. I still share that book with students in Human Origins, and we talk about the many errors of the “March of Progress” graphic that launched a thousand memes. For a kid in the ‘70s interested in evolution, that book—authored by a serious scientist, H. Clark Howell—was a treasure.

Squadron Rubin’s “Neanderthal man” figure with original packaging and color chart.

So imagine my delight when I found a tangible, material version of those fossil people. The discovery was in an unlikely place—the local hobby shop. I was interested in model kits, but the little metal figures of warriors, Vikings, and dragons were especially exciting. These were becoming more popular with the rise of the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons, and various alliances and licensing deals between the D&D publishers and companies like Grenadier who made these miniatures, or minis. There among the heros and monsters of D&D (think the current TV show Stranger Things), were some old stock made by a company called Squadron Rubin. These were figures of all the fossil humans found in the pages of the Time Life Early Man book, and the color cards even referenced the book! Some Googling indicates that artist, sculptor, and businessperson Raymond Rubin was behind these figures. The main figures made by Squadron Rubin were of historical soldiers, spanning the Picts to Vietnam and every period in between. The idea was that you could buy these, glue as necessary, and paint following the color chart provided, building up your army. Eventually Rubin collaborated with others to launch Grenadier, the company that dominated the metal miniature business for a while. I wish I knew more of the story behind how the world of metal miniatures intersected with human evolution, but I was happy that it had!

The Squadron Rubin Australopithecus male figure with color chart!

The Squadron Rubin fossil people are 1:32 scale, so most are around or just under 2 inches tall. And, they aren’t frenzied savages like the “cavemen” depicted by Frank Frazetta or other artists around the same time. The artistic recreations in the Early Man book supplied the inspiration, and the figures are usually just posing, often in male-female pairs. I’ve managed to locate examples of Squadron Rubin Neanderthals, Australopithecines, and Cro-Magnon people, and I suspect there were other species depicted as well. Occasionally, they turn up on eBay.

Covers from DC Comic’s “Anthro,” which pitted the first Cro-Magnon (or modern human) against an array of cave brutes and prehistoric monsters, late 1960s.

The Squadron Rubin figures, along with the many other depictions of fossil humans in popular writing, TV ads, comic books, movies, artwork, and sculptures give us a glimpse into thinking about human evolution and fossil people through time. I often ask the Human Origins students to find and research examples of how fossil humans were depicted in popular culture. Are the treatments sympathetic, savage, sexualized, or something else? Often this has to do with ideas about how closely modern humans are linked to these ancient people. The recognition of genetic connections between modern humans and Neanderthals in 2011 marked one shift in our relationship to “cavemen.” Once we understood there was a connection between us and them, depictions of ancient people began to shift, becoming more sympathetic and sensitive to our ancestors. But, it depends a lot on the artist, medium, and specific circumstances.

Behind the Photograph: Traveler in Tweed

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

Pipe in mouth and axe in hand, a man in a tweed suit stands in front of a 1940s Dodge “Woody” station wagon brimming with suitcases and archaeological gear. The crates on the ground by his feet are labeled, “F. JOHNSON, PEABODY FNDN, ANDOVER, MASS.” Who is this man and where could he be traveling to?

The year is 1948 and this traveler in tweed is Frederick Johnson, curator of the Peabody (known as the Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology at the time) from 1936-1968.

Fred Johnson with expedition gear in front of the Peabody, 1948.

Frederick Johnson (1904-1994) joined the Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology as Curator in 1936. He held this position until 1968, serving one year as Director before retiring in 1969. During his time at the Peabody, Johnson initiated an archaeological excavation program for students at Phillips Academy. He also organized the Committee for the Recovery of Archaeological Remains (1945-1968) and chaired the American Anthropological Association’s Committee on Radioactive Carbon 14 (1948-1968.)

Johnson is recognized for contributing to the development of an interdisciplinary approach to archaeology, using scientists from various fields to study archaeological problems together. The Boylston Street Fish Weir project (1939) in Boston, MA as well as the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition (1944 and 1948) were two examples of this method.

The image of Fred Johnson above was taken before his trip to the Yukon Territory for the last year of the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition. This five-month field project combined archaeological and geobotanical research in the unknown northwestern interior of North America and was carried out jointly by the Peabody and Harvard University (funded by additional sources, including the Wenner-Gren Foundation.)

The journey began from North Dakota to Burwash Landing, Yukon with research in parts of the Shakwak and Dezadeash Valleys in southwestern Yukon. The project leaders were Fred Johnson and Professor Hugh Raup, botanist and Director of the Harvard Forest in Harvard, MA. Two Harvard graduate students served as assistants in the botanical and archaeological research, Bill Drury and Dr. Elmer Harp, Jr.

Harp was a recent Harvard graduate and Curator of Anthropology for the Dartmouth College Museum in Hanover, NH. He documented the trip through field notes and his own photographs. Below is one of Harp’s photographs taken at the beginning of their trip. Do you notice anything similar between these two images? That is the same station wagon in each photograph and yes, that is Fred Johnson with his pipe again! Harp and Drury were tasked with driving the expedition’s station wagon from Boston to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – standard labor assigned to graduate students in the field.

Bill Drury, Fred Johnson, and Elmer Harp at the start of the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition, May 4, 1948. Photograph by Dr. Elmer Harp, Jr., Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.

According to Harp’s recordings from the expedition, Johnson and Raup conducted several projects in the early years of the Yukon project (1943-1944) exploring for evidence of the first appearance of humans in the New World. The 1948 project was to search for archaeological sites along the eastern borders of the Rocky Mountains via the Alcan Highway. This was the first time the highway was opened to civilian traffic since the beginning of WWII. The Andover-Harvard expeditions went on to represent the first systematic explorations of Yukon’s prehistoric past.

Further Readings and Resources

For more information on the Yukon project, see its publication: Investigations in Southwest Yukon, by Fred Johnson, Hugh Raup, and Richard MacNeish, 1964

Explore Elmer Harp, Jr.’s field notes on the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition: North to the Yukon Territory via the Alcan Highway in 1948: Field Notes of The Andover-Harvard Expedition.

For more information on the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition photographs by Fred Johnson check out our blog: Cataloging photographs in our database, and the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition photographs