NAGPRA at 30: Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

NAGPRA at 30: Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

New England Museum Association Annual Meeting 2020

NAGPRA resources for session attendees:

NAGPRA Communities of Practice: https://liberalarts.du.edu/anthropology-museum/nagpra/community-practice Network of NAGPRA practitioners from museums, tribes, universities, and government agencies; bimonthly Zoom calls with presentations and networking opportunities; document and repatriation policy sharing.

National NAGPRA: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nagpra/index.htm The National Park Service’s national NAGPRA website, with templates, databases, grant information, and contacts for the NPS professional NAGPRA staff.

NAGPRA data visualization: https://public.tableau.com/profile/melanie.obrien#!/vizhome/NAGPRA-Totals/1_Reported Tableau presentation of NAGPRA data, highlighting institutional and geographic compliance.

Association on American Indian Affairs annual repatriation conference: https://www.indian-affairs.org/repatriation_conference.html The annual conference brings together repatriation practitioners and includes plenary and specialized sessions on all aspects of NAGPRA and repatriation.

Carrying our Ancestors Home: https://www.fowler.ucla.edu/archaeology/coah/ Fowler Museum at UCLA project that documents their work with repatriation.

NAGPRA resources from the University of Indiana, Bloomington: https://lrnagpra.sitehost.iu.edu/nagpra-education/Educational%20Resources.php Includes online resources, further reading, videos, and more.

Contact information and bios for facilitators:

Nekole Alligood, independent consultant, is a member of the Delaware Nation and has served as the NAGPRA Officer for the Nation. Alligood is a cultural anthropologist who has worked in museums and in Section 106.  She has conducted NAGPRA repatriations in collaboration with the Delaware Tribe of Indians and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community and a non-NAGPRA reburial teaming with the National Forest Service in West Virginia.  She currently is a scholar on the development of a traveling exhibit with Ball State University and Ohio History Connection focused on St. Claire’s Defeat (Battle of the Wabash).  She also is working with Ohio History Connection on a reinterpretation of Schoenbrunn Village in Ohio. E-mail: workinglenape@gmail.com

Jaime Arsenault is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), Repatriation Representative, and Archives Manager for the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Ms. Arsenault has worked with Indigenous communities for over 20 years. Currently, she is a member of the Minnesota Historical Society Indian Advisory Committee and the Repatriation Working Group with the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) and a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Repatriation Review Committee. She is a Community Intellectual Property Advisory Board Member for the Penobscot Nation and sits on both the Advisory Committee and the Collections Committee of the Peabody Institute of Archaeology. Ms. Arsenault also serves as a MuseDI Partner on decolonization practice for the Abbe Museum. E-mail: Jaime.Arsenault@whiteearth-nsn.gov

David Goldstein is an anthropologist with the National Park Service currently serving as the Tribal and Cultural Affairs Specialist in the Northeast Region. David works to bring the region’s tribal and community partners into the NPS stewardship programs through sharing capacity and ongoing consultation.  The goal is to support self-determination and resource protection, acknowledging that tribal and community partnerships provide long term sustainability to stewardship. E-mail: david_goldstein@nps.gov

Katie Kirakosian is a trained archaeologist whose research focuses on the history of Native American archaeology. She has conducted archival research in repositories throughout New England and New York State on many NAGPRA sensitive sites, particularly shell middens, prompting recent research with co-author Irene Gates on the complex nature of archival records and digital repatriation. E-mail: kvkirako@anthro.umass.edu

Krystiana L. Krupa is NAGPRA Program Officer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her NAGPRA experience includes osteology and archival research relating to university and museum collections in addition to consultation. Krystiana’s current work focuses on tribal perspectives on the repatriation of biological samples extracted from ancestral remains, such as ancient DNA extracts. E-mail: klkrupa@illinois.edu

Melanie O’Brien is responsible for carrying out all duties assigned to the National NAGPRA Program by the Secretary of the Interior and serves as the Designated Federal Officer to the NAGPRA Review Committee. Throughout her career, Melanie has specialized in Federal-Indian law and policy, applying her master’s degree in public history from Loyola University Chicago to the work of the Federal government. E-mail: maobrien@nps.gov

Lorén M. Spears, Narragansett, Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, holds a Master’s in Education and received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Rhode Island. She is an author, artist and shares her cultural knowledge with the public through museum programs. She has written curriculum, poetry, and narratives published in a variety of publications such as Dawnland Voices, An Anthology of Indigenous Writing of New England; Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond; The Pursuit of Happiness: An Indigenous View and From Slaves to Soldiers: The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution. Recently, she co-edited a new edition of A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams. She consults with K-12 districts, Higher Education, museums and historical societies on Native American Cultural Competency and DEI/J training. E-mail: lorenspears@tomaquagmuseum.org

Marla Taylor is the curator of collections at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA.  She has worked in all facets of collections management from cataloging to conservation to repatriation.  Marla currently splits her time between leading an effort to conduct a full inventory of the collection and facilitating access to the Peabody’s collection for tribal partners, researchers, and educators. E-mail: mtaylor@andover.edu

Jayne-Leigh Thomas is the Director of the Office of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act at Indiana University. Her work involves active consultation with over 100 federally recognized sovereign nations across the United States to return ancestral human remains and cultural items to their rightful communities. Her research interests are NAGPRA, repatriation, bioarchaeology, ethics, cremation studies, and mortuary studies. E-mail: thomajay@indiana.edu

Jackie Veninger-Robert is the NAGPRA Coordinator for the University of Connecticut.  In addition to her NAGPRA and collection management responsibilities for the Office of State Archaeology, Jackie advises students and provides instruction on issues surrounding Native American cultural property law and advocates for opportunities to decolonize museum anthropology.  Jackie has worked for tribal governments in southern New England in a NAGPRA and collections management capacity.  She is a non-member advisee of Connecticut’s Native American Heritage Advisory Council (NAHAC).  Her research interests include: archaeological ethics, heritage management and conflict archaeology. E-mail: jacqueline.veninger@uconn.edu

Ryan Wheeler is the director of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology, a museum at Phillips Academy, Andover MA. At the Peabody he has advanced a strategic vision focused on collections, education, and repatriation. In 2017, Ryan co-founded the Journal of Archaeology & Education, the only academic journal devoted to the intersection of these two fields. Ryan lives with his family in Medford, MA. E-mail: rwheeler@andover.edu

LeRoy Jimerson Jr. ’41: From Gowanda to Gemini

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Today’s Phillips Academy students often ask about the students of the past. Since November is Native American Heritage Month, the topic of Indigenous alumni often comes up. Happily, we are in touch with some recent alums, like Emma Slibeck ’20, who led efforts last year to create an Indigenous Land Acknowledgment, and Tristin Moone ’10, past member of the Peabody Advisory Committee. Paige Roberts, Academy archivist, maintains a list of notable Native American alumni, and we were happy to add LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Jr. (January 21, 1923 – September 28, 1991) to that list during some recent collections research.

From the Pot Pourri–Phillips Academy yearbook for 1941

Jimerson was the son of Seneca leader LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Sr. of the Cattaraugus Reservation, Gowanda, New York. He attended Phillips Academy for one year, graduating in 1941. The senior Jimerson was an accomplished carpenter, attended Hampton University (a HBCU in Virginia that has some PA connections in its founding), established a scholarship fund for Native students, and served in Seneca leadership positions throughout his adult life.

After Phillips Academy, LeRoy Jimerson Jr. served in the Navy and pursued interests in electrical engineering and computers. He was an instructor at the Great Lakes Naval Base and at Treasure Island, California. Jimerson, in 1949, received a scholarship to the University of Michigan. Established in 1932 by the Michigan Board of Regents, that scholarship acknowledged the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs, which had required tribes to cede millions of acres to the federal government, some of which ultimately went to the university. Perhaps an early version of an institutional land acknowledgment?

LeRoy Jimerson building an analog computer–from Boys’ Life magazine, 1951

A profile in 1951 Boys’ Life combines quaint anecdotes and stereotypes of life on the reservation with Jimerson’s academic success and interest in computers. The story appeared shortly after Jimerson completed his studies at the University of Michigan, but includes a lot of information on his post-graduate year at Phillips Academy when he “joined the school band, ran as a member of the cross-country squad, distinguished himself as a math student, won a Latin prize, and was elected to a cum laude (honor) society.” In the Boys’ Life article, he describes general acceptance by his fellow Academy students, relating one instance where an international student wanted to know why he wasn’t wearing paint and feathers. Today we recognize this as a micro-aggression, akin to the numerous accounts found on the black@andover Instagram page.

In the 1950s, Jimerson worked for Schlumberger, an oil field services company. Here he was involved in developing a magnetic resonance apparatus with scientist and engineer Francois F. Kirchner. Nuclear magnetic resonance continues to be used in oil prospecting today.

Block diagram of Gemini’s guidance system–from https://virtualagc.github.io/virtualagc/Gemini.html

IBM, in Owego, NY, recruited Jimerson in June 1957, where he was quickly promoted to senior engineer. In 1962, McDonnell Aircraft contracted with IBM to provide the guidance systems for Gemini. From 1962 to 1966, Jimerson worked as a computer engineer on the NASA Gemini mission, laying the groundwork for Apollo and the moon landing a few years later. In an interview, Jimerson recalled that, “It was like a blitzkrieg, people didn’t know what hit them” (Time-Life Books 1993:33). According to a document prepared in 2012, Jimerson originated the math flows needed in the computer programming for the Gemini missions. Math flows–in this context–are detailed flowcharts like the one shown here, showing the sequence of algorithms that underlie computer code. At some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Jimerson and his family relocated to Herndon, Virginia, though it is not clear if he continued working for IBM.

LeRoy S. Jimerson (left) and David R. Baldauf, two of IBM’s Federal Systems Division engineers, study graphic output of Gemini rendezvous data. The image originally appeared in the August 1962 issue of an internal IBM publication called Business Machines. Courtesy of International Business Machines Corporation, © 1962 International Business Machines Corporation.

Jimerson died on September 28, 1991 in Sarasota, Florida, where he had retired with his family in the mid-1980s. The picture that emerges from the few interviews that we located, is that LeRoy Jimerson Jr. was an accomplished scientist and engineer who worked on one of the country’s early and significant space flight programs. His time at Phillips Academy was short and well spent, and a stop along an educational career that included one of the top scientific and technical programs–the University of Michigan. Until recently, LeRoy Jimerson wasn’t on our radar. We are hopeful that Phillips Academy can connect with more Native and Indigenous students–it is clear we have a lot to offer one another.

Further Reading

Buffalo Courier Express (1961) LeRoy Jimerson Obituary. February 23, 1961, p. 27.

Crump, Irving (1951) Indian Cum Laude. Boys’ Life (March 1951):27, 64.

IBM (1962) Putting a Man on the Moon: America’s Next Step. Business Machines (August 1962):18-19.

Jamestown Post Journal (1961) Famed Seneca Indian Leader, LeRoy S. Jimerson, 72, Dies. February 23, 1961.

Kirchner, Francois F., and LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Jr. (1961) 2,996,658 Magnetic Resonance Apparatus (originally filed December 12, 1955). United States Patent Office, Washington DC. https://patents.google.com/patent/US2996658A/en

Mooney, Pat, and Charlie Leist (2012) Gemini Programing Development and Verification Process. https://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/Documents/Gemini_Peer_Reviews.pdf

Thomas, Amelia Kennedy (2015) Iroquois False Face Masks: Living Representation of Spirits. https://indian.hklaw.com/ESSAYS/2015/ID105.pdf

Time-Life Books (1993) Space. Time-Life Book, New York.

What’s on the Window?

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Returning to the Peabody Institute on a more regular basis this month led me to rediscovery an interesting little artifact on the window of my office. When I first joined the Peabody in 2012, my colleagues pointed this out to me, but it has remained largely covered up by window blinds since an initial peek.

Singleton Peabody Moorehead’s name scratched on the windowpane in the director’s office.

The artifact in question is a scratched signature on a glass windowpane: S. P. Moorehead. Singleton Peabody Moorehead was our first curator’s youngest son.

When I first saw this little relic of past occupants, I imagined the younger Moorehead scratching the signature using his father’s emerald ring. That ring is a prominent feature in pictures of Moorehead, and I can imagine a mischievous child borrowing the ring and testing the stone’s hardness on the nearest handy surface: his father’s office window.

Robert Singleton Peabody, our founder, lent his name to the younger Moorehead. In fact, S. P. Moorehead was born in October 1900, right around the time that his father Warren and Robert Peabody were imagining the Department of Archaeology, our name in the early part of the twentieth century. Robert had befriended the elder Moorehead and hired him about a decade earlier to help amass a collection of Native American objects. He also provided convalescent facilities when Moorehead was recovering from tuberculosis. In fact, Singleton Moorehead was born at Saranac, New York where his father was recovering at Peabody’s cabin.

Moorehead’s entry in the 1918 Phillips Academy yearbook.

So who was Singleton Peabody Moorehead? He grew up on Hidden Field Road on the Phillips Academy campus, and graduated from the school in 1918. During his time at Phillips, Singleton, or “Sing,” played football, swam, and served as art editor for the Academy’s yearbook Pot-Pourri. He also participated in archaeological projects, including Alfred V. Kidder’s excavations at Pecos Pueblo, New Mexico. Both of Warren Moorehead’s sons, Ludwig and Singleton, served in World War I. After a brief military service, Singleton attended Harvard, where he received undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture (BA in 1922 and M. Arch. in 1927). At Harvard, he continued his association with archaeologists, including a friendship with Philip Phillips. One wonders to what extent Moorehead’s exposure to archaeology prepared him for the Colonial Williamsburg project that became his life’s work?

Moorehead’s elevation of Colonial Williamsburg Block 17; Block 8: Duke of Gloucester Street.

Singleton joined the Boston architectural firm Perry, Shaw and Hepburn in 1928 and almost immediately began work at the firm’s field office in Williamsburg, Virginia. Here he was involved in the restoration work of Colonial Williamsburg, ultimately joining the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in 1934, where he worked as director of architecture from 1944 through 1948, and then as a consultant. So, if you’ve visited Colonial Williamsburg, you know Singleton Moorehead’s work! Perhaps one of the best-known structures at Colonial Williamsburg is the capitol building, reconstructed based on elevations, archival descriptions, and archaeological investigations conducted under the director of the Perry, Shaw and Hepburn architects. Another Colonial Williamsburg favorite is Chowning’s Tavern; a 2016 newspaper story on the 1939 reconstruction attributes much of the character of Chowning’s to Moorehead, who was interested in the quotidian aspects of eighteenth century architecture.

Moorehead’s birds-eye view of Pecos Pueblo, from Alfred Kidder’s 1958 “blue book” Pecos Notes.

He married Cynthia Beverley Tucker Coleman, a descendant of St. George Tucker, a colonial resident of Williamsburg. A New York Times (December 12, 1964) obituary notes his involvement in many other historic preservation and architectural projects, as well as contributions to two books, Colonial Williamsburg: Its Buildings and Gardens (1949) and The Public Buildings of Williamsburg (1958), and authorship of many articles. One such crossover project was Kidder’s revisit of his Pecos excavation, including detailed architectural plans executed by Singleton and published as one of the Peabody Foundation “blue books” in 1958.

S. P. Moorehead died in December 1964 and is interred in the Bruton Parish Church cemetery in Williamsburg.

Further Reading

Lounsbury, Carl R. (1990) Beaux-Arts Ideals and Colonial Reality: The Reconstruction of Williamsburg’s Capitol. Journal of the Society of Architectural History 49(4):373-389.

New York Times (1964) Singleton P. Moorehead Dead: Colonial Williamsburg Planner. December 13, 1964, p. 86.

Singleton P. Moorehead Streetscapes, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation https://rocklib.omeka.net/collections/show/11

SAA Announces New Peabody Award

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

In August, the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) announced its newest education award, the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology Award for Archaeology and Education.

SAA_logo

The Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology Award for Archaeology and Education recognizes the excellence of individuals or institutions in using archaeological methods, theory, and/or data to enliven, enrich, and enhance other disciplines, and to foster the community of archaeology education practitioners. The Peabody Award will spotlight these contributions and promote teaching ideas, exercises, activities, and methods across the educational spectrum, from K-12 through higher education and public education.

Peabody Advisory Committee member and recent chair Dan Sandweiss ’75 proposed the award to the PAC and SAA. Both organizations agreed that it was a great opportunity to honor those involved in archaeology and education, joining the Journal of Archaeology & Education as another important tool for creating community among those engaged in these endeavors.

One important criterion is that nomination documentation must include materials—like activities or lesson plans—that can be shared with the broader community via SAA’s website.

The award description indicates that anyone may submit a nomination and that nominees do not have to be members of the SAA. Both individuals and programs are eligible. The award committee offered this list as examples of activities that might distinguish a nominee, including archaeology service learning programs, popular archaeology writing, adult or youth training programs, lessons or lesson plans for K-12 educators, archaeological outreach programming, oral history projects, lifelong learning classes or programs, archaeology camp experiences, and collaborative work with other educators or institutions around archaeological pedagogy.

The deadline for submitting a nomination is December 1, 2020 and submission information and guidelines are on the SAA website for the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology Award in Archaeology and Education. Peabody director Ryan Wheeler is serving as the SAA’s Teaching Awards committee chair and can be contacted with questions about the Peabody Award.

Henry Inman Portraits at the Peabody

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Three distinctive oil paintings attributed to artist Henry Inman (1801-1846) are among the collections of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology. These paintings are part of a larger group of portraits created by Inman to produce the hand colored lithographs that appeared in the three volumes of The History of Indian Tribes of North America (1836-1844) by Thomas McKenney and James Hall. Specifically, the Peabody paintings depict Petalesharo (90.181.10), Ki-On-Twog-Ky, or Cornplanter (90.181.11), and Mohongo and Child (90.181.12). The source material for the Inman paintings were original works created principally in Washington DC by portrait painter Charles Bird King (1785-1862). The bulk of the King originals were destroyed in a fire in 1865.

Image shows an oil painting of a Native American man with feather headdress and spontoon pipe, metal gorget at the neck and metal gauntlets.
Henry Inman’s portrait of Ki-On-Twog-Ky, or Cornplanter.

Today, original editions of the McKenney and Hall volumes and individual lithographs are valuable and highly sought after, but at the time the project was not a financial success. Many of the Inman portraits (at least 100 or more) were given to the Tilestone and Hollingsworth Paper Company of Milton, MA, who had supplied paper for the book project. The families of Edmund Tilestone and Amor Hollingsworth made a gift of the paintings to the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 1882. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Harvard museum sold many of the Inman paintings in their collection, ultimately retaining twenty-five.

Image of cleaned oil painting showing Native American man with eagle feather headdress, silver peace medal necklace, and fur robes.
Henry Inman’s portrait of Petalesharo after a recent cleaning.

Comparison with the list of Harvard’s original holdings indicates that the three Inman portraits at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology did not come from that source. The frames also are quite different; the paintings at Harvard have simple wood frames, with descriptive plaques affixed, while those at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology have ornate frames with gold leaf. In correspondence on file, former museum director Richard S. MacNeish told then director James Bradley that the paintings were part of the original gift from Robert S. Peabody. Stebbins and Renn (2014:288) report that Harvard received 107 of the Inman paintings from the Tilestone and Hollingsworth heirs, but that Inman had originally painted 117 and the whereabouts of the remaining paintings is unclear. It is possible that Robert S. Peabody acquired the three paintings when they were exhibited in Philadelphia.

Image shows two students standing on either side of an oil painting of a Native American and explaining their work to onlookers.
Phillips Academy students share their independent research on the Henry Inman paintings with members of the Board of Trustees.

The paintings reflect the classical style of portraits painted in the nineteenth century, and do not attempt to portray people in an imagined “primitive” setting as the photographs of Edward S. Curtis do at the end of the century. Clothing and personal items reflect the blend of traditional and Anglo-European attire resulting from varying levels of cultural assimilation. History and Social Sciences instructor Marcelle Doheny uses the paintings in her senior elective, Race and Identity in Indian Country, and they were part of an independent student project in 2015-2016 that examined Anglo-European portrayals of Native Americans.

Image shows an oil painting in an elaborate gold gilt frame that depicts an attractive Native American woman holding her baby. She wears a red blouse which covers the baby's shoulders. A silver Indian Peace Medal around her neck is held by the baby.
Henry Inman’s portrait of Mohongo and child in storage at the Peabody.

The biographical notes that accompany the McKenney and Hall publication provide additional details about the lives of these individuals, at least as documented by the editors. Mohongo’s (1809-1836) story is particularly striking, as she was one of a group of Osage persuaded to make a European tour in 1827. While in Europe, she gave birth to twins, but only one survived. The tour organizer, who had brought the Osage to Europe to perform as a Wild West Show, was arrested for debt in Paris, leaving the rest of the party to fend for themselves. Ultimately, the Marquis de Lafayette learned of the situation and arranged for passage back to North America. During the sea voyage more members of the party perished, but Mohongo and her child survived, ultimately arriving in Norfolk, Virginia, where Charles Bird King painted their portrait. We believe that the peace medal worn by Mohongo depicts Andrew Jackson, who was president at the time. Mohongo and her child made their way back to Missouri. The book, An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827-1830: Three French Accounts edited and translated by William Least Heat-Moon and James K. Wallace, documents the episode.

Several exhibits—for example, the Indian Gallery of Henry Inman, which toured museums from 2006 to 2012—have assembled small collections of the extant Inman paintings, but the examples at the Peabody have never been included, likely because curators and art historians have not known about them.

Other Sources

Christie’s East. 1981. American Paintings and Watercolors of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries (auction catalog). New York.

Ewers, John C. 1954. Charles Bird King, painter of Indian visitors to the nation’s capital. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1953. Pp. 463-473. Publication 4149. Government Printing Office, Washington DC.

Gerald Peters Gallery. 2008. Henry Inman, Twenty-four Indian Portraits (catalog). New York.

Gerdts, William H., and Carrie Rebora. 1987. The Art of Henry Inman. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Stebbins, Theodore E., Jr., and Melissa Renn. 2014. American Paintings at Harvard, Volume 1: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826. Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press, New Haven.

Viola, Herman J. 1976. The Indian Legacy of Charles Bird King. Smithsonian Institution Press and Doubleday & Company, New York.

Viola, Herman J. 1983. Indians of North America: Paintings by Henry Inman from the D. Harold Byrd, Jr. Collection. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY.

John Lowell Thorndike

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

The Peabody lost a great friend with the recent passing of John Lowell Thorndike ’45 (1926 – 2020).

Image of John Thorndike, an older man with black rim glasses, a striped bow tie, and tweed jacket standing in front of a microphone at a museum event.
John Lowell Thorndike ’45 at the Peabody in 1998. Collections of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology.

John was critical in the recent history of the Peabody, serving as chair of the Visiting Committee in the 1990s and early 2000s. This was a turbulent period, seeing everything from the reopening of the Peabody in 1990, engagement with Native American tribes through repatriation, and an attempt to become a public-facing institution with relevance on campus, culminating in a near-closure in 2002. He and Marshall Cloyd ’58, played a big part in the decision to keep the Peabody open and refocus our efforts on programming for Phillips Academy students.

I was fortunate in getting to know John a little, as he would visit campus at least once a year to attend the luncheon presentation of the Augustus Thorndike Jr. Internship, which he founded with his brother Nicholas (PA Class of 1951). Students selected as interns spent a year preparing a historical biographic sketch of an interesting Phillips Academy person, often an alumnus or faculty member.

John remained intensely interested in the activities of the Peabody in the years after 2002. He was particularly interested in our relationship with the Pueblo of Jemez and our continued work on repatriation of Native American ancestral remains and funerary belongings. We often had a chance to sit and talk before and after the luncheons, and John and I frequently had e-mail or phone exchanges after he received our monthly newsletter. John was particularly delighted when our ceramic artist friends from Jemez, Dominique and Maxine Toya, joined one of the Thorndike luncheons. They were on campus that week to work with Thayer Zaeder’s ceramics classes, continuing our long relationship with the pueblo.

John also shared with me his pleasure in seeing the publication of our book, Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology, by the University of Nebraska Press in 2018. John was not able to attend our launch party at the Peabody, but he called me shortly after receiving his copy in the mail and expressed his delight at our success, the considerable work done by Peabody director Malinda Stafford Blustain and Peabody staff members. He grudgingly and humbly acknowledged that he had some small role in that success, in the understated style of the New England gentleman that he was.

Our condolences to John’s family and friends. He will be missed.

A wonderful tribute appeared in the Boston Globe, recounting Mr. Thorndike’s many philanthropic and family pursuits: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?n=john-lowell-thorndike&pid=196302666

Summer Reading, Archaeology Edition

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Earlier in May, members of the Eugene Winter/Northeast Chapter of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society asked me for some summer reading suggestions. I checked online for reading lists of archaeology books that might appeal to the interested public and was surprised to find that most did not include many actual books on archaeology! I quickly typed up the following list. Check out digital copies of almost all of these books after creating a free account in InternetArchive.

1) Books by David Hurst Thomas, including his textbook Archaeology. You might be surprised that a textbook would be at the top of my reading list, but this is a terrific book. In earlier editions, at least, each chapter includes all of these great quotes. This book demonstrated to me as a college senior that archaeology was for smart people. Also, Thomas’s book Skull Wars, on the Kennewick Man (the Ancient One), is a superb look into the complex relationship between Native Americans and archaeologists. Copies of Archaeology on InternetArchive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=david%20hurst%20thomas%20archaeology

Skull Wars: https://archive.org/search.php?query=david%20hurst%20thomas%20kennewick

2) Loren Eiseley’s The Night Country. Eiseley was an archaeologist and paleoanthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania and this is his semi-autobiographical memoir. It is so beautifully written, and funny, and gives some great insights into twentieth century archaeology by a master of the profession. You can borrow the book electronically from InternetArchive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=loren%20eiseley%20the%20night%20country

Ryan Wheeler reading his copy of Loren Eiseley's The Night Country.

3) Encounter with an Angry God by Carobeth Laird. About her life with archaeologist and ethnographer John Peabody Harrington, who was brilliant and maybe more than a little crazy. I found this in the stacks as a grad student and couldn’t put it down. Again, available to borrow on InternetArchive: https://archive.org/details/encounterwithang0000lair

4) In Small Things Forgotten by James Deetz. In many ways, this book defined the field of historical archaeology. This is especially relevant for those of us in New England, but everyone will enjoy learning about pipe stems, gravestones, and other quotidian aspects of daily life that only archaeology can illuminate. Also available to borrow on InternetArchive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=in%20small%20things%20forgotten

5) What This Awl Means by Janet Spector. This is one of the first—and remains one of the most creative and engaging—books in the field of feminist archaeology. Spector uses feminist perspectives to interpret a nineteenth century Native American site near Minneapolis. Storytelling techniques that are rare in archaeological writing figure prominently, making this book fascinating and accessible.

6) The Early Mesoamerican Village by Kent Flannery. The major selling points of this book is that it is well written and highly readable AND that between the chapters there are these fictional interludes featuring The Great Synthesizer, The Skeptical Graduate Student, and The Real Mesoamerican Archaeologist. Archaeological writing at its best! Check it out on InternetArchive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=the%20early%20mesoamerican%20village

7)  The Science of Archaeology? This is Richard “Scotty” MacNeish’s autobiographical musing on the future of archaeology. Scotty was the fifth director of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology (then called the Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology). At our institution he conducted major projects in Mexico and Peru questing for the origins of agriculture and civilization. Happily, you can check it out on InternetArchive: https://archive.org/details/scienceofarchaeo0000macn

8) Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries by Kenneth Feder. All the kooky ideas, from Atlantis to Giants, about North American archaeology and why people believe them. Ken gave our big lecture last fall about his newest book, Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and other Strange Sites in North America, a site guide to many of the places mentioned in Frauds. Lots of fun, well written, and you can’t help learning along the way. Frauds is available on InternetArchive too: https://archive.org/search.php?query=frauds%20myths%20feder

9) Gods, Graves, and Scholars by C.W. Ceram. This was published in 1949, but tells the stories of many of the great archaeological discoveries up to the mid twentieth century. Heinrich Schliemann at Troy, Howard Carter and King Tut, etc. You have to read this if you are an archaeologist. Again, see InternetArchive for e-copies: https://archive.org/search.php?query=gods%20graves

10) The Bog People by Peter Glob. Iron Age mummies from European bogs. Some crazy preservation that you only get in wetsites (anaerobic conditions). If you read this, you will want more on wetsite archaeology! Copies to borrow on InternetArchive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=the%20bog%20people%20glob If you do get hooked, follow this up with Bryony Coles’s Sweet Track to Glastonbury: The Somerset Levels in Prehistory. The Sweet Track is a Neolithic timber walkway. More great wetsite archaeology!

11) Lucy: the Beginnings of Humankind by Donald Johanson. I carried this book around with me for a year in high school, reading and re-reading it. This sometimes got me in hot water, as I attended a very conservative religious school. Dated now (first published in 1981), with so many new discoveries, but really well written and it gives a sense of the scholarly battles that still rage over human origins. Pair with Lee Berger’s more recent book Almost Human and you get a pretty good sense of the complexities of paleoanthropology. Click here for digital copies on InternetArchive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=lucy%20donald%20johanson

12) Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage by Bill Rathje. This is a fun book and recounts the work that Rathje and his University of Arizona students did on modern refuse disposal habits and how this could be applied to archaeological sites. Rathje was a big proponent of Behavioral Archaeology, so you get some of that theory as well. Checkout the copy on InternetArchive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=Rubbish%20rathje

Cardboard 3D Slice Model: Megalonyx Femur

*A version of this post appears on the Virtual Curation Lab blog.

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

I was excited when Bernard Means of the Virtual Curation Lab posted 3D slice models of artifacts and fossils. The models reminded me of the topographic models we made in the Boy Scouts. We cut out and stacked cardboard pieces, replicating the elevation contours of a topographic map. A two dimensional image was transformed into 3D! Lock down means most of us are away from 3D scanners and printers, so the cardboard patterns are a fun way to make 3D models. Plus, I LOVE building stuff out of cardboard, often with my eight-year old son Leo. Leo and I have made a Corinthian helmet, the TARDIS and K-9 from Doctor Who, a wearable sea turtle carapace, a model of our house, and much more.

Choosing a 3D Slice Model

Initially I wanted to build the Virtual Curation Lab 3D slice model of a dire wolf skull. I downloaded the plans and watched the video loop showing a virtual assembly. Ultimately, I opted for the Megalonyx femur. I decided that it was a little simpler, and might make a better first build. Each set of plans includes numbered pieces with registration marks that indicate how all the pieces stack. I like Megalonyx too, since these giant ground sloths existed in my home state, and some Florida rivers occasionally reveal fossilized bones. Megalonyx existed across much of North America for over 10 million years, ultimately becoming extinct around 11,000 years ago!

Image of stacked cardboard pieces on a cutting mat with a computer in the background showing a virtual assembly of the model.
Stacked pieces of the Megalonyx femur with the VCL model playing in the background.

Assembling Materials

I started by downloading and printing a set of the plans from the Virtual Curation Lab. There are five pages with approximately 26 pieces for the Megalonyx femur. I printed two sets of plans, keeping one for reference as I cut each piece out to make patterns. As I worked on creating the patterns for each piece, I assembled my other materials, including:

  • pieces of thick, corrugated cardboard from a shipping box (thin cardboard, like a cereal box, won’t work well),
  • an X-acto knife with a supply of #11 blades,
  • a cutting mat,
  • an envelope to store the paper patterns,
  • adhesive glue,
  • and some black spray paint and some brown and tan acrylic modeling paint.

Image of the bone patterns on plain paper, with the cardboard cutouts, a pencil, and an X-acto knife.
Cutting the cardboard pieces with a #11 X-acto blade.

Creating the Model

As I began making paper patterns for each piece, I noticed that some of the pieces are rather small or have narrow sections when printed on an 8.5 x 11-inch piece of paper. I decided to scale things up by adding about 1/8-inch on each side of each pattern. One could also use a program like Photoshop to scale up the pattern. I traced the patterns onto the cardboard, making sure to keep the long axis of each piece against the “grain” of the cardboard. This produced pieces that showed the honeycomb structure of the corrugate cardboard along their long side. I was a little worried that my cardboard might be too thick (2/8-inch), but the Megalonyx femur is a big, thick, flattish piece of bone, so I decided to keep going. Next time I will use some 1/8-inch corrugated cardboard. Change the X-acto blades with some regularity—they get dull quickly! I also made sure to transfer over the piece number and registration marks as I went. I saved all the pattern pieces in an envelope for future use. Once all the cardboard pieces were cut out I made a few test stacks and cleaned up edges as needed. I used some silicon glue left over from another project to adhere all the pieces. This provided for easy cleanup, allowed me to reposition pieces as needed, and made for a nice, solid bond after 35 minutes. White glue should work fine too. Dr. Means suggests on the Virtual Curation Lab blog assembling the models from the center moving outward. This worked well, and I made two large sections of the model that I then joined. I also had the virtual assembly loop playing to make sure the pieces were going together correctly. Following the registration marks is important too!

Image of the partially assembled cardboard bone model on a black cutting mat.
Two large glued-up segments of the cardboard slice model.

Painting and Decorating

When the cardboard was well bonded, I went to the garage to spray paint the model in a well-ventilated space. I used some leftover black spray paint to give a quick base coat. After the paint dried, I added some details with brown and tan acrylic paint. Minerals and tannins have heavily stained fossils from Florida rivers and quarries blackish-brown. Once I achieved the desired effect, I left the Megalonyx model to dry. My son produced a background drawing for display.

Final Thoughts

Building these cardboard 3D slice models is a fun and low-tech way to learn about fossils and artifacts. During each stage of the build, my son and I looked up facts about the Megalonyx. The name Megalonyx is Greek for “large claw,” referring to the large, curved claws used for grabbing branches and foliage, their main food. We learned that our model, measuring about 9-inches long is about one-half scale. Megalonyx femurs measured by paleontologists are as much as 20-inches long! This was an impressive animal, measuring around 10-feet tall and weighing over 2,000 pounds. Their closest living relatives are the three-toed sloths of Central and South America, though these are much, much smaller! There are indications, too, that Native Americans hunted Megalonyx during the late Pleistocene.

Image of the cardboard Megalonyx femur on a blue and green painted background.
The painted Megalonyx femur model on a background created by the author’s son Leo.

I’ve also made a Youtube video illustrating the build.

 

Miami Circle Reflections: Part 1–the Journey Begins

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

This series of blog posts—Miami Circle Reflections—are my memories of working on the Miami Circle project from fall 1999 through the construction and opening of the Miami Circle Park in February 2011. These reminiscences draw on my archived emails, newspaper-clipping collection, photos, publications, and, well, my recollections of the time. Florida’s Governor and Cabinet directed that my office, the Bureau of Archaeological Research, conduct an assessment to confirm the authenticity of the site (more on that to come!)l. Recently promoted to Archaeologist II, I had relocated from Gainesville to the Bureau headquarters in Tallahassee. I was nominated to lead the site assessment for several reasons: I was from southern Florida, I had studied the archaeology of the area, and no one else wanted to go. A six-week investigation of the Miami Circle property in October and November 1999 led to over a decade of involvement in research and publication, historic preservation and site planning, complicated permitting and politics, and ultimately the construction of the Miami Circle Park.

Two male archaeologists crouch down and examine water-filled basins carved in limestone bedrock. Dirt piles are behind them.
Miami-Dade County historic preservation director Bob Carr (left) examines the Miami Circle with County Archaeologist John Ricisak sometime in early 1999.

However, before I can tell about the events of fall 1999 I need to back up to the end of the previous year. December 1998 found me in Fort Lauderdale spending Christmas with my parents. Over breakfast one day just before Christmas, my father handed me the newspaper with a story about a mysterious archaeological discovery in the heart of downtown Miami. I scanned the story, which included claims of animal effigies carved in the soft Miami limestone and Maya visitors who brought stone axes to the site; I searched the story for the names and faces of familiar archaeologists, like Bob Carr, long time Miami-Dade County Archaeologist and then director of the county’s historic preservation program. Little did I know that the site described in that article—the Miami Circle—would change the direction of my career and dominate my professional life for the next decade. A week later, I shared the article with my colleagues back at the Bureau of Archaeological Research in Tallahassee. Over the first months of 1999, the Miami Circle ruled the archaeological news and each new day brought some new—often more incredible—claim. Most interesting, however, was the growing movement to save the site and the associated political twists and turns. Positioned at the very place where the Miami River meets Biscayne Bay, Miami’s twenty-first century rebirth would begin at its heart, with the destruction of the Miami Circle site and construction of two 40-story hi-rise towers.

Three archaeologists work inside a circular excavation pit filled with holes and basins carved in the limestone bedrock.
Excavation of the Miami Circle feature by Miami-Dade County Archaeologist John Ricisak and a volunteer team, early 1999.

Archaeological investigations had first begun at the parcel known locally as Brickell Point in 1998 when a block of 1950s-era apartments were demolished and the property was being prepped for development by Michael Bauman’s company Brickell Pointe Ltd. Miami-Dade County has one of the most stringent local historic preservation ordinances, largely due to the efforts of long-time County Archaeologist Bob Carr. In the 1980s, Miami-Dade County enacted its ordinance and required that municipalities follow suit or develop even stricter historic preservation laws. The City of Miami tried to sidestep the requirement, but ultimately created its own historic preservation framework. Parcels in sensitive zones required archaeological surveys and could receive protective designations from the city’s historic preservation commission. In 1998, County Archaeologist John Ricisak took over the investigation of the Brickell Point site when it was determined that the developer’s contract archaeologist was doing substandard work. With a team of volunteers, Ricisak tackled what he believed would be a salvage project—the recovery of information from the site prior to destruction for development. However, local schoolchildren, followed by activists and Native Americans, began to insist on the preservation of the site. This led to tense moments in the field for Ricisak, including a plan by the developer to hire a stonemason to cut the 38-foot diameter Miami Circle feature out of the soft Miami oolite limestone and relocate it to a nearby park. Public outcry encouraged Miami-Dade County’s major, Alex Penelas, to sue the developer, citing eminent domain: the county planned to seize the Miami Circle parcel purely to save the ancient archaeological site. This action is almost unheard of in legal and historic preservation circles. The county feared that the court might accept the developer’s valuation of the property, exponentially greater than the $8 million paid for the parcel, while the developer worried that public sentiment might influence the decision, resulting in a punitively low value to be paid for the site. In this milieu, the developer and the county reached a compromise. The property would change hands; the sale price (including fees) was $26.7 million dollars. The county had to scramble, however, to secure the funds, or the deal would be off. Financial commitments came from the Knight Foundation, the Trust for Public Land, and the State of Florida. Contributing $15 million the State of Florida had several conditions—namely that the parcel would become state lands and that a state sponsored investigation could take place.

Image of newspaper articles spread out about the Miami Circle site.
A montage of the author’s newspaper clipping collection about the Miami Circle.

Much of the above happened on the periphery of my involvement. I tracked the story carefully and collected a file of newspaper clippings through the first months of 1999. One big development was the response to the outlandish claims made about the site. Remember the Maya traders bringing stone axes, or the fabulous carved animals? Those were tame compared to the Druids, Atlanteans, and Extraterrestrials offered as possible builders or visitors to the site. This was 1999 and the beginning of the Internet Age. The Web was in its infancy, but stories like the Miami Circle attracted considerable fringe interest. The Circle was a regular topic on Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM paranormal-themed radio show. Richard C. Hoagland (of the faces on Mars fame), and one of Bell’s regular guests, visited the Miami Circle and set up a webcam in a nearby hotel. One could log on and observe the site at any hour (not much was happening, as the developer had shut down most work at the site). Magician and paranormal debunker James Randi (aka The Amazing Randi) issued a challenge in February 1999. Randi claimed that the circular features that formed the Miami Circle were, in fact, part of the Brickell Point Apartments 1950s-era septic system and not an actual archaeological site. There were other skeptics, including Florida Museum of Natural History curator Jerald T. Milanich, who championed the septic tank theory. In April 1999, Milanich visited the site with State Archaeologist Jim Miller and other state representatives in response to an application to acquire the site using Conservation and Recreation Lands funds. Miller returned with his impressions, and not long after archaeologist Richard Haiduven visited Tallahassee and briefed us on the site. Haiduven had volunteered on the county-sponsored excavations and provided the most detailed account of conditions at the Circle.

Two men--John Ricisak and Jerry Milanich--stand on the carved holes and basins of the Miami Circle site. Buildings of the Miami skyline and fluffy white clouds are in the background.
John Ricisak and Jerry Milanich at the Miami Circle, April 1999.

As the legal fight to acquire the Miami Circle wore on in the spring and summer of 1999, the site remained in the news. The big milestones came in May and June 1999. In May, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, gave acquisition priority to the Miami Circle in the ranking of Conservation and Recreation Lands properties. A month later Miami-Dade County won the right to acquire the property through eminent domain. A trial to determine the value of the property was set for October 1999. A lot happened in September that year. The county and the developer reached a settlement, as described above, and the State of Florida agreed to participate in acquisition, pending a state investigation of the site. Two other things happened. Jacqueline Dixon, geologist at the University of Miami, conducted a sourcing study of the stone axes found at the site during John Ricisak’s salvage project. They were made of basaltic stone from the vicinity of Macon, Georgia, and were, in fact, not of Maya origin. Ricisak was pushing back against the far-fetched claims. Influential Archaeology magazine published archaeologist Jerry Milanich’s critique “Much Ado about a Circle.” Milanich, as mentioned above, had taken up The Amazing Randi’s notion that the site was not real and his push intensified as it looked more likely that the county and state would save the site. I’ve always believed that Milanich’s piece gave the Miami Circle story a boost at a point where media interest had begun to wane.

Image of protest signs left in front of a chain link fence.
Signs left by protesters at the construction entrance to the Brickell Point property. Local shaman Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez frequently visited the gate and smudged visitors and archaeologists alike.

This is where my Miami Circle journey began. After the Governor and Cabinet authorized our office to investigate the site, I began planning for the project. Using the information provided by Jim Miller and Richard Haiduven, I developed a plan to investigate the remainder of the 2.2-acre parcel. John Ricisak had focused his efforts on the Miami Circle feature itself, and then been restricted by the developer from working elsewhere. The Circle was found somewhat fortuitously, with Ricisak and surveyor Ted Riggs noting that large, basin-like features in the limestone seemed to form a circular arc. They then marked the presumed path and excavated the 38-foot diameter Circle. Like other sites in the area, darkly stained archaeological deposits called midden (from the Danish word køkkenmøddinger for kitchen midden) capped the limestone bedrock. Midden deposits here are refuse and living surfaces left behind by the Tequesta Indians and their ancestors. I used maps of the site to plot a grid where we would excavate test pits. I hired a crew and planned to use a desk and phone in Bob Carr’s Archaeological & Historical Conservancy office in Little Havana, not too far from the Brickell Point site. The site remained fenced with 24-7 security guards and all entry required the developer’s approval. The investigation was relatively straightforward. We soon found, however, that a dense layer of construction debris capped the parcel. We abandoned gas-powered augers and the county loaned us a backhoe and a crackerjack operator, who carefully removed rubble to expose the old midden surface. We also cleaned profiles left from the demolition of the mid-twentieth century apartments, ultimately documenting three things: 1) about 70 percent of the 2.2-acre parcel had intact midden deposits and additional features carved in the underlying bedrock; 2) previous construction activity had removed the upper portions of the archaeological deposits, but left the lower layers intact; and 3) there were lots more carved holes to be found, including many in an area we dubbed “the Valley of the Holes.”

Black and white line drawn map of the Brickell Point property, showing the location of the Miami Circle and the extent of the limestone bedrock. The lines on the map are similar to those on a weather map.
A map of the Brickell Point parcel showing the elevation and extent of limestone bedrock at the site. The author made of series of these maps, which were crucial during the later park development at the property.

We also wanted to tackle some of the claims made by conspiracy theorists, namely that the site wasn’t real. We asked that the State Geologist’s office inspect the underlying bedrock and the carved holes and basins that formed some of the most interesting parts of the site. Harley Means visited and made some interesting observations, ultimately published the following year. He noted that the Miami oolite limestone (oolite is composed of minuscule balls of calcium carbonate—or ooids—glued together to form a soft limestone rock) had a laminated coating formed by the interaction of acidic groundwater and dissolved minerals. This was a normal feature of oolite, but it was clear that the crust, formed over hundreds or thousands of years, covered the carved holes and basins. This meant that the holes and basins discovered by the county and state archaeology teams were quite old and not from the 1950s! If this wasn’t enough, I decided we needed to locate and excavate another one of the 1950s-era septic tanks. One was coincident with the Miami Circle, which had fueled the claims of a recent origin by the Amazing Randi and Jerry Milanich. Using the septic plans that John Ricisak had located at the town engineering office, we pinpointed the location of another tank (a large, concrete-encased structure). In a phone conversation with Jerry Milanich prior to the launch of my project he suggested that if we excavated another septic tank on the site we would find another circle of carved holes in the adjacent limestone. We found the tank quickly, but no associated features were located. Jerry was undeterred. A few years later when we nominated the site as a National Historic Landmark he suggested the Miami Circle was the foundation for an early twentieth century gazebo that could be seen on an old postcard of Brickell Point. Other skeptics (there were many) suggested the large midden-filled basins were “banana holes,” a geological feature known in the Bahamas that also involves the dissolution of cavities in soft limestone bedrock. The pattern of the hole at the Miami Circle, however, did not support the “banana hole” theory. Excavations on the north bank of the Miami River a few years later identified a similar circular feature, also measuring 38-feet in diameter, and directly opposite the Miami Circle. This discovery clinched our second attempt to list the Miami Circle as a National Historic Landmark!

Image of the author shooting pictures at the site. He is wearing dirty blue jeans and a green work shirt. He has closely cropped hair. The Brickell Bridge is in the background and piles of rock and rubble are present.
The author at the Miami Circle in fall 1999. We still relied heavily on film cameras at this time–shooting black-and-white film and color slides. John Ricisak had a digital camera, but the images were low-res.

On the ground in fall 1999, the project had a few unusual elements. Protests at the site demanding the preservation of the Miami Circle had abated, but we still had the occasional visitor. Mostly we had to talk with folks through the fence, as the developer had forbidden guests inside the parcel. Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez was a fixture at the entry gate. Catherine is a local shaman and Carib Tribal Queen, originally from the Caribbean. She had been actively involved in the push to save the Circle and had created an altar on and just outside the entrance gate. The altar included laminated photos of celebrities that had visited the site, shells, woodcarvings, and beads. Catherine stopped by frequently to check on us. On Tuesday afternoons, people would gather for a vigil. Catherine smudged visitors (and our field crew members) with sage. We met other interesting people too, including Ishmael Bermudez. Ishmael stopped by one day to share information on dinosaurs and the Fountain of Youth, both located during excavations under his nearby Little Havana home. He told me about being at the Brickell Point site in the 1970s and receiving an energy surge. He lamented that he could not enter the property anymore. I motioned him to follow me to part of the property adjacent to the Sheraton Hotel next door. Here was a place where a driveway cut down through the limestone creating an exposure facing the hotel. I suggested he could “plug in” here. He did and left very satisfied a little while later. Ishmael frequently stopped to wave at us from Brickell Avenue Bridge, which bordered the west side of the property. In a cavernous storage space under the bridge the Florida Department of Transportation graciously allowed us to store our gear and the artifacts and samples we were collecting on a daily basis.

A crowd of reporters outside the chain link fence at the Miami Circle site.
One of the press conferences held at the Miami Circle during the author’s investigation of the site. The author is somewhere in the middle of that throng of reporters!

Another unusual feature of our field project were the press conferences. Once the protesters were gone the daily media attention abated, but the county was interested in keeping the Circle in the spotlight, especially as they worked to secure funds for the acquisition—something that was still uncertain, despite the legal settlement. If I remember correctly, we had at least two of these, coordinated by Michael Spring, the head of the county’s arts programs. During one of these we agreed to share some of the finds, including the jaw of a massive grouper and an unusual object made from the primary ore of lead (galena). The fish jaw was local fare, and probably provided the centerpiece of an ancient Tequesta feast, but the lead ore had come from as far away as Missouri! I was worried about speaking and trying to share the objects, especially if someone decided to make a grab for one of them. I asked Victor Longo, a Florida Atlantic University anthropology student and one of our crew, to serve as “artifact wrangler.” In this capacity, Victor would share the objects on my signal, but was prepared to snatch them to safety at the first sign of trouble. He served admirably, and no artifacts were lost or harmed! This might sound a bit paranoid, but during the county’s investigation of the site a volunteer or visitor stole one of the exotic stone axes. Richard Haiduven, who had joined our crew, later related the story and his daydream of recovering the axe in a SWAT-type raid evocative of the Elián González saga, which was playing out just after our time at the Circle. Victor is now a successful realtor in Delray Beach.

Image of Richard Haiduven excavating midden soil at the Miami Circle.
Archaeologist Richard Haiduven excavates an unusual find at the Miami Circle–the burial of a five-foot shark. The five-gallon buckets protect the dark midden soil that contain the shark remains.

We concluded our investigation of the Brickell Point-Miami Circle parcel just before Thanksgiving 1999. I returned to Tallahassee to prepare my report and get back to my other projects, which had languished now for several months. Just before the year ended, the money changed hands and the Miami Circle officially became a state-owned property. And despite all the things that had happened since the discovery of the Miami Circle feature in October 1998, there was so much more to come! And since I had led the state investigation, I became the state Miami Circle guy. Stay tuned for my next Miami Circle Reflections blog where I detail the worst idea I’ve ever had.

Tamaulipas Orchid

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Early in his archaeological career Richard “Scotty” MacNeish, the Peabody’s fifth director, used funds from the Wenner-Gren Foundation to investigate caves and rock shelters in northern Mexico. MacNeish had found that some of these sites contained preserved plant remains, basketry, twine, and other perishable artifacts while a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Early in 1949 his crew chief discovered tiny corn cobs in La Perra Cave in the Sierra de Tamaulipas. The rich biodiversity of this area in northern Mexico, near the Gulf Coast and Texas border, had attracted other scientists interested in the flora and fauna of the so-called cloud forests. Perhaps it is not surprising that the ancient people of the area experimented with plants, including early crops like corn. MacNeish’s work in the Sierra de Tamaulipas pushed corn origins back to 4,500 years ago (about half of the now-acknowledged age).

A man in a white t-shirt and khaki pants sits in an excavation pit and removes samples.
Scotty MacNeish removes samples from La Perra Cave, Sierra de Tamaulipas, March 1949. Collection of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology 2018.0.0741.

The Peabody houses a small type collection of materials from MacNeish’s work in Tamaulipas, including artifacts, photographs, and fieldnotes. Last year we collaborated with the Boston Public Library’s Digital Commonwealth project to digitize the archival records associated with MacNeish’s Tamaulipas project, primarily to facilitate access by Mexican archaeologists working in the region. Those files are available on InternetArchive. We also digitized many of the photos from the project, available via PastPerfect Online. Recently, Peabody staff member Emma Lavoie has been cataloging the artifacts from Tamaulipas. Looking over Emma’s shoulder one day at the many preserved plant remains, I was surprised to see part of an ancient orchid!

Image of dried plant remains in a labeled plastic bag.
Dried pseudobulbs and roots of orchid from Sierra de Tamaulipas. Collection of Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology 2019.6.396.

The Orchidaceae are one of the largest families of flowering plants, known to most of us from the cultivated examples with colorful and fragrant blooms available at grocery stores and garden centers. Commercial growing of orchids as houseplants began in the nineteenth century as the demand for “parlor plants” increased and diverse hybrids were created, many with fantastically shaped and colored blooms. Most of the orchids available for sale are of the genus Phalaenopsis. In the wild there is considerable diversity too, with terrestrial and epiphytic examples and a range of shapes, sizes, colors, and scents. Perhaps the best-known orchid is vanilla, a terrestrial form from Mexico.

We do not know what genus or species the dried pseudobulbs and roots of the Tamaulipas orchid represent. Notes on file show that botanist C. E. Smith, a student of Paul Mangelsdorf at Harvard, identified the orchid. Mangelsdorf worked closely with MacNeish on his early corn project, and Smith pioneered the field of archaeological botany. Quick searches of the literature did not reveal many examples of archaeological specimens of orchids in the Americas. We do know from some of the few preserved screen-fold books made by the Mixtec, Aztec, and their contemporaries that a variety of orchids were used in medicine, some may been collected for their hallucinogenic properties, and others were used to produce a special glue used in featherwork.

Image of a page from an illuminated manuscript showing three scenes of Aztex featherwork in the left hand column.
Image of Aztec featherwork from Sahagun’s sixteenth century Florentine Codex.

Carlos Ossenbach, in his 2005 study “History of the Orchids in Central America, Part 1: From Prehispanic Times to the Independence of the New Republics,” laments that the destruction of the majority of the screen-fold books by the Spanish also destroyed considerable information on the use of orchids in Mesoamerica. Between 1547 and 1577 Bernardino de Sahagún compiled his History of Things of New Spain (also called the Florentine Codex), which includes considerable information on the use of plants, including orchids, among the Aztec. Here Sahagún documents the use of the Encyclia pastoris orchid for glue making, when he describes how the pseudobulbs of the orchid are cut and soaked in water to produce a sticky substance called tzacutli. The complete codex can be viewed online: https://www.wdl.org/en/item/10096/view/1/35/ Researchers have documented at least twenty-three different orchid species and their use by the Aztec, Maya, and their neighbors, primarily as medicines, adhesives, fixers for pigments, and as ornamental specimens.

Image of pick and white orchids.
Orchids in Ryan Wheeler’s mom’s shadehouse, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Tamaulipas orchid reminded me of the many terrestrial and aerial orchids that we often encountered at archaeological sites in Florida. Limestone and shelly soils encouraged their growth. It also brought back memories of my work at the Miami Circle site in late 1999. During the fieldwork I stayed with my parents and I was fortunate to accompany my mom on an orchid ramble one Saturday. A bus packed with orchid enthusiasts left Fort Lauderdale and visited at least half a dozen orchid growers in Homestead and Redlands, south of Miami. During the ramble we entered a raffle. I was surprised to receive a call Sunday evening. The gentleman calling informed me I had won a raffle prize and asked if I could collect it after work on Monday. After another intense day at the Miami Circle I navigated my Ford F-150 long-bed pickup through Miami’s crowded streets, onto Florida’s Turnpike, and then onto the Homestead extension. It was dark by the time I found the orchid grower. We entered the massive greenhouse and the grower–the gentleman who had called me the night before–gestured to one of the tables covered with orchids. I assumed I had won one of the orchids. He corrected me in a mellifluous English accent, I had won ALL of the orchids on the bench, approximately 100! He helped me load them into the F-150 and I headed north. My parents were disbelieving upon my return home. After I persuaded them to come outside, however, they acknowledged the enormity of the prize. My dad helped me unload and we struggled to find room in my mom’s orchid shade house. Some are still thriving today, while others were lost to hurricanes.

I’m interested in our Tamaulipas orchid. Could we determine the genus and species? Would that help us better understand why the orchid was in a cave deposit? Maybe as a drug,  or for glue making, or as a mind-altering hallucinogen? Perhaps we can connect with a specialist and answer some of these questions!