Jacob’s Cavern

Detail of breccia

This blog represents the third entry in a blog new series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Museum through objects in our collection. A new post will be out with each newsletter, so keep your eyes peeled for the Peabody 25 tag!

Contributed by Marla Taylor

The unassuming and muddled looking object below is a piece of loosely formed breccia from Jacob’s Cavern in McDonald County, Missouri.

Breccia from Jacob's Cavern
Breccia from Jacob’s Cavern

Breccia is a type of rock that is composed of broken fragments of other rocks that have been cemented together by a fine-grained matrix – this process can take thousands of years. While this piece is not yet solid rock, it is on the way.  In this case, the matrix (or glue) is ash from thousands of fires that sustained life in the cavern for hundreds of years.

Acting on a tip from a local named E.H. Jacobs, Charles Peabody and Warren Moorehead traveled to Jacob’s Cavern in April of 1903 to examine the site.  Upon arrival, they found a large rockshelter of limestone with hundreds of stalactites and stalagmites, and the floor was covered with a thick layer of fine ash up to 1.5 meters (nearly 5 feet) deep! This ash is most likely the direct result of untold numbers of small fires in the cavern to keep the occupants warm over the years of use.

Peabody and Moorehead excavated the thick layer of ashes in using a careful grid system and uncovered hundreds of artifacts.  The stone tools were primarily projectile points and blades with relatively few large tools like axes.  They also found a ‘considerable’ number of bone needles and awls.  These small bone tools are essential in daily life to create, maintain, and repair clothing and other basic equipment.  The sheer volume of ash and artifacts in the cavern indicates long-term occupation.

All evidence of human occupation – stone and bone tools, food debris – in the cavern was found in the layer of ashes and intermingled with breccia.  And, most notably, many artifacts are visible within the breccia (see the photo below).  This means that they were created, used, and discarded before the formation of the breccia and were left undisturbed for possibly thousands of years.

Detail of breccia
Detail of breccia with stone tools circled in green and bone fragments circled in yellow.

Peabody and Moorehead brought samples of the breccia and hundreds of collected artifacts back to the Peabody in 1903 while excavations continued by Mr. Jacobs for another couple years.  Published in 1904, the report of their work became the first Bulletin published by the Department of Archaeology.  The entirety of this report can be found here.

The work done by Peabody and Moorehead with Jacob’s Cavern became a foundation for later work at the Peabody.  Explore and excavate a little-known site, bring the materials back to Andover for study, publish about that work, and provide invaluable new research and insight into the field of archaeology.

The Greek Bird

This blog represents the second entry in a blog new series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Museum through objects in our collection. A new post will be out with each newsletter, so keep your eyes peeled for the Peabody 25 tag!

We don’t know much about the relationship between our institution’s founder Robert Singleton Peabody and his son Charles, the museum’s first director. In fact both men remain a bit of a mystery as they were intensely private and left little in the way of memoirs, notes, or archives. Robert’s rather substantial gift to the Academy, for example, was to remain anonymous until well after his death. For years we assumed that Charles, like Robert, had attended Phillips Academy. We found recently, however, that he stayed a bit closer to home and completed his high school education at the Germantown Academy—a venerable day school not far from the Peabody home in Philadelphia. In one of the few pieces of correspondence that we have between the two Peabodys, Charles exhorts his father to help him secure a position at the new Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology and asserts that he will not be the architect of his own undoing. Charles was on hand for the grand opening of the Archaeology Building in 1903, as he had been appointed the “honorary director.” One object in the Peabody’s collection provides a little window into what may have been a fraught and complicated relationship.

Image of the note from Charles Peabody explaining the origin of the little ceramic bird with Robert Peabody's appended note.

Object 19661 in Robert Peabody’s original collection is a small terracotta bird, perhaps a swan or goose. A handwritten note in pencil on lined paper tells us part of the story. Charles, during his tenure at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, received the terracotta figurine from the school’s factotum Nikolaki. Charles muses in the note that Nikolaki had “hooked” it from one of the American excavations, perhaps at Argos or Eretria. Excavation reports can be found for both sites. For example, Charles Waldstein excavated at Argos from 1892 to 1895, with some focus on the Sanctuary of Hera. During the same time, Theodore Woolsey Heermance worked at the theatre of Eretria. Some quick poking around suggests that the little figurine, handmade of attic clay and covered with a white slip, is likely a votive offering. Similar offerings, representing an array of animals and birds, have been found at many Greek sites. Waldstein’s report on the Argos excavations mentions a number of terracotta figurines—some human and others animal. These offerings would have been placed in a temple for some set period and then discarded as ritual debris. Many similar examples can be found in auction catalogs and in the extensive collections exhibited at the Met.

Image of the terracotta bird--likely a swan or goose--a typical votive offering from a Greek temple.

The elder and younger Peabodys did have a lot in common, beyond their interest in discretion and privacy. Both were united in a passion for archaeology. Robert’s interests were more antiquarian—during his life he amassed some 38,000 archaeological specimens, principally from North America, while Charles was devoted to the French Paleolithic and dabbled in stratigraphic excavation, when horizontal and vertical control was a new concept. In many ways the two men represented archaeology’s past and future. Robert’s interests as a student had leaned toward the classical and he was named the valedictorian of his class. His correspondence with his curator Warren Moorehead and the administrators of Phillips Academy are filled with Latin and classical references. Charles received his PhD in philology—sort of a combination of classical languages, Biblical studies, and archaeology—from Harvard in 1893. After this he spent some time in Athens at the American School where he picked up the little votive bird. Robert appended his own note—in blue pencil—to Charles’s, indicating that he had received the bird from his son in 1897. Not long after this Charles was becoming established as an instructor in European archaeology at Harvard. With the creation of the Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology in 1901 Charles spent more time in Andover, helping to make decisions about the construction of the archaeology building and ultimately teaching classes as he could. The little votive bird was shipped from Philadelphia to Andover as part of Robert’s burgeoning collections, forming the core of the Museum that we know now. With Robert’s death in 1904, Charles pursued his passion for prehistoric European archaeology, participating in and leading a number of expeditions during his career before ultimately moving to France permanently in 1924.

We can only assume that both men, well versed in classical languages and archaeology, knew exactly what that little ceramic bird was—an offering from a votary to a god.

No “Orphaned” Artifacts

This blog represents the first entry in a blog new series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Museum through objects in our collection.  A new post will be out with each newsletter, so keep your eyes peeled for the Peabody 25 tag!

Contributed by Quinn Rosefsky  (Phillips Academy Class of ’59)

Robert Singleton Peabody (1837-1904) grew up in Muskingum County, Ohio—just outside of Zanesville—but attended an eastern boarding school—Phillips Academy—to graduate in 1857. After law school at Harvard he established a lucrative legal practice in Vermont before relocating to the Germantown area of Philadelphia. During much of his life, Robert nurtured an interest in archaeology and Native Americans and worked to amass a personal collection of artifacts. In 1866, Robert’s uncle, George Peabody (known as the father of modern philanthropy) gifted PA with funds to establish a “scientific department” to encourage scientific discourse be incorporated into the curriculum. At the turn of the 20th century, Robert sought to revitalize his uncle’s good intentions by re-establishing a program for the sciences, specifically archaeology.

The archives of the Peabody Museum contain the letters and documents that reveal the evolution of Robert’s intentions. The primary correspondence is between Robert Peabody and Warren K. Moorehead. Moorehead was the man responsible for building, cataloging, and maintaining Robert’s artifact collection and would ultimately become the first curator of the Department of Archaeology at Phillips Academy.

Peabody then wrote in a letter dated March 3, 1898, that he was impressed with Moorehead’s cataloguing of the substantial collection Peabody had amassed (nearly 50,000 artifacts), which were “of sufficient value, to be cared for.” Adding, “I have known too well the fate of those Orphaned collections placed at the Mercy of a cold world…” Although what Peabody then proposed was to establish a department of archaeology, he also wrote that the financial situation at the time was not good. He was likely referring to the Panic of 1893, during which 500 banks closed and 15,000 businesses failed. The ensuing financial depression lasted from 1893 to 1898. Peabody’s conclusion was: “…I will not deliberately, add another to the list of failures…I want to make assurance doubly sure, if I go into it at all.”

Nevertheless, Moorehead’s letter to Peabody on April 4, 1898, continued to press the issue. He had spoken to the wife of Dr. Wilson, a Curator of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institute, and conveyed her response to Peabody: “…It is fortunate for Andover and the public at large that you conceived the idea of preserving archaeological relics.”

The archives have a gap in the sequence of letters, but it is clear that Robert S. Peabody had been having discussions with Dr. Cecil F. P.  Bancroft (1839-1901), Andover’s fifth headmaster. Bancroft agreed to help push the project forward with the school’s Board of Trustees. By November 11, 1900, planning was well-advanced.

In a letter dated March 6, 1901 from Peabody to the Trustees of Phillips Academy, the amount and purpose of the donation were laid out. Specifically, Peabody wished his collection to have a home for preservation, the establishment of a Department of Archaeology which would be “self-supporting and independent.” Furthermore, this Department should be “disconnected from any other branch of Phillips Academy.” As for the museum itself, “…(it) should be, as far as consistent, tasteful and attractive on its exterior, with good proportions, not too high, and within, light and cheerful as possible, with some simple and tasteful decoration—as tinted walls, etc.” Peabody went on to propose that Moorehead be the first curator because “…Professor Moorehead knows every specimen in the collection, and its history.” Peabody also stipulated, “…that the building/museum be a pleasant place where students might find an agreeable relaxation during the broken events which occur in the lives of the most closely pressed.” In other words, the building would serve not only as a museum but as a social center.

It was no surprise that the amount of the gift to Andover, indicated in a letter dated March 8, 1901 from Peabody to Bancroft, was related to the amount given previously by his uncle in 1866. George Peabody had also dedicated the same amount—$150,000—to aid in founding the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. To differentiate himself from his uncle, Robert pointed out that his gift would also include a collection of artifacts. These artifacts amounted to one hundred thirty-two boxes containing nearly 50,000 items insured for $35,000 at the time of transportation by rail on July 10, 1901 from Philadelphia to Warren K. Moorehead in Andover. The actual endowment, anonymous by design, included $100,000 for the Peabody Foundation and $50,000 for the building. This amount would grow substantially at Peabody’s death, as he willed the residue and remainder of his estate to Phillips Academy in March, 1902. The total gift amounted to at least $500,000—approximately $12 to $13 million by today’s standards.

What did $50,000 buy in 1901? The future architect for Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Guy Lowell, was hired and he submitted plans for the projected museum at Phillips Academy. By the end of October, 1901, ground-breaking began on the site where formerly the First Classroom Building, the Farrar House, and then the Churchill House had been located. The building was completed in less than two years and was dedicated on March 28, 1903, the event was  memorialized in the mid-April 1903 edition of The Phillipian.“The building was tastefully decorated with potted palms and flowers…Mr. Frederick W. Putnam, L.L.D, professor of Ethnology and Archaeology at Harvard, said that students would learn to reason more for themselves, and would depend more upon their own powers than upon text books.”