Category Archives: Research

Indiana Jones looks at golden idol.

This Week in Links

Contributed by Samantha Hixson

 

This week it seemed there were a lot of great links discussing new and exciting things happening within the world of archaeology.  Here are just a few that we found:

Ancient DNA reveals genetic legacy of pandemics in the Americas

This article talks about the role of diseases in shaping the genetic diversity of contemporary Native American communities.  Historically these effects were documented by written accounts with little to no physical evidence since most European introduced diseases leave no evidence on bone.  Recent breakthroughs in DNA markers, however, have been able to physically prove the evolutionary effects of these pandemics.

Archaeologists discover man whose tongue was replaced by a stone

This article is a great example of how archaeologists are able to create and test hypothesis when attempting to solve puzzles encountered while excavating.

Teeth of Irish famine victims reveal scientific markers for starvation

An interesting article that not only highlights the use of modern science in investigating historic traumas, but a great example of how important cultural context is both historically and in a contemporary lens.

Cask from the past: archaeologists discover 5,000-year-old beer recipe

Not only is this a super cool article talking about the first example of in situ beer making in China, but also a great example of how archaeologists are able to extrapolate larger and further reaching conclusions from a small snap shot of the past.

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.”

Folders full of Scotty MacNeish's Tehuacan survey records from the 1960s

Dipping a toe into the Peabody’s archives

In my first few weeks at the Peabody, I’ve been surveying the museum’s archival material to gain a better sense of the collections before proceeding to more detailed cataloging and processing work. It’s been fascinating to begin to piece together the history of the Peabody through the materials I’m coming across, and to learn about 20th century American Archaeology in the process. For this first blog post, I thought I’d share a few items that illustrate the types of collections found here at the Peabody.

This 1916 budget and letter from Curator and subsequent Director Warren Moorehead to Director Charles Peabody discussing canoes are examples of routine records found in the museum’s organizational archives: they document the operation of the institution at a given time, and often provide as much information about the time period in question as they do about the institution. Organizational records can include correspondence, museum publications, annual reports, meeting minutes, grant files, and any other material produced in the course of the museum’s administration.

Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology budget, 1915-1916
Phillips Academy Department of Archaeology budget, 1915-1916
Letter from Warren K. Moorehead to Charles S. Peabody, February 16, 1916
Letter from Warren K. Moorehead to Charles Peabody, February 16, 1916

Another significant amount of archival material here is comprised of excavation and field records. The Peabody carried out and funded numerous projects under the curatorship and directorship of Warren Moorehead, Douglas Byers and Fred Johnson, and Richard “Scotty” MacNeish, from the museum’s founding up until the early 1980s. Some of these projects were carried out locally in New England (note the canoes mentioned above, and Fred Johnson with expedition gear below), while others were carried out in the Southwest, the Yukon, and under Scotty MacNeish, Mexico and South America.

Fred Johnson in front of the Peabody Museum, 1948
Fred Johnson in front of the Peabody Museum, 1948
Folders full of Scotty MacNeish's Tehuacan survey records from the 1960s
Folders full of Scotty MacNeish’s Tehuacan survey records from the 1960s

As some of the museum’s artifact collections were accumulated during these excavations, the records provide contextual information about the finds through their documentation of the sites in question, in addition to their significance for archaeological research more generally.

Another critical component of museum records are collection and registrar files, which document objects and their provenance. The museum’s accession files contain acquisition or gift information, correspondence about the object/collection, and other relevant documentation. Object ID images also fall under this category, and the Peabody has over 10,000 slides of object images alone. Occasionally, supplemental materials accompany gifts or acquisitions by the museum, providing additional context of an object or a collection. One such example are the 500 or so color slides taken by Copeland Marks in Guatemala during the 1970s, where he collected textiles that are now part of the Peabody’s collection. These beautiful, bright images may include shots of these textiles being made or worn by their original owners.

Coban, Guatemala, color slide by Copeland Marks, 1970s
Coban, Guatemala, color slide by Copeland Marks, 1970s
Coban, Guatemala, color slide by Copeland Marks, 1970s
Coban, Guatemala, color slide by Copeland Marks, 1970s

Another colorful find are six small notebooks belonging to Stuart Travis, who painted the large “Culture Areas of North America” mural at the Peabody. These notebooks are full of illustrations and information Travis recorded about the indigenous communities represented in the mural. A collection like this offers a glimpse into how Travis presumably conducted research for the mural and conveys how meaningful this project was for him. Several other collections here were donated by individuals who carried out specific projects for the museum, or volunteered here, such as Eugene Winter, who donated his large collection of personal papers.

Stuart Travis notebook, 1942
Stuart Travis notebook, 1942
Stuart Travis notebook, 1942
Stuart Travis notebook, 1942

That’s all for now – I hope to delve more deeply into individual collections in the blog in the coming months. Thank you for following the project!

The Temporary Archivist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to improve the intellectual and physical control of the museum’s collections. We hope this gift will inspire others to support our work to better catalog, document, and make accessible the Peabody’s world-class collections of objects, photographs and archival materials. If you would like information on how you can help please contact Peabody director Ryan Wheeler at rwheeler@andover.edu or 978 749 4493.

Biface Cache Research

Contributed by Bonnie Sousa

Abigail Gamble, a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, visited the Peabody to examine stone tools for her senior thesis.  She looked at several stone blades from an archaeological site in Andover for her comparative study of blades in the Northeast.   The museum acquired the artifacts from collector Arthur Hofmann in the early 1940s.

Gamble,Abigail_March2016

Collections with new plexi-glass doors

Changing Spaces

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Updating spaces at the Peabody is like playing with a giant sliding puzzle. In order to rearrange one room, you have to make space in another for everything that will be displaced. We wrestled with this puzzle as we recently updated two major spaces at the museum – our basement work room and our main exhibit gallery.

The basement work room is the center of most of the collections work at the Peabody. It is where work duty students, volunteers, and collections staff spends most of their time. And, until recently, it was home to several staff work spaces too. But it was time to refresh the space and make room to spread out the collection as we transfer artifacts from the old wooden drawer to new archival boxes.

 

Updating the gallery space was no small task! First, all the old exhibit was dismantled and objects were returned to storage. Then the exhibit cases were removed. And finally, the false walls that confined the space were demolished. Patching and painting is now underway. Future projects will see updated lighting and restoration of the windows.

 

Conversations are on-going about how to utilize this newly empty gallery space. The added space has already benefited our community family days and will hopefully provide space for student curated exhibits and larger student and alumni events.

If you haven’t been over to the Peabody for a while, now is the time!

Image of student presenter

Sharing what you learn – Student presentations

Contributed by Marla Taylor

On the third Tuesday of every month, the Massachusetts Archaeological Society – Gene Winter Chapter invites a guest speaker to their meeting at the Peabody Museum.  For the past six years, Phillips Academy students have been invited to speak about their experiences with archaeology at one of these meetings.

On February 16th, seven students, in three groups, shared their research and work on a variety of topics.

Youth for Restoration: Preserving Local History

Viraj Kumar’s ’17 interest in local history led him to create a non-profit organization that works to preserve and restore local history in Poughquag, New York. He discussed his experiences working with the community on a 19th century grist mill.

Printing History: 3D Rendering of Artifacts

Four students, Alana Gudinas ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16, and Sarah Schmaier ‘16, were challenged to scan three artifacts from the Peabody Museum’s collection and print them as 3D models.  They discussed the process and highlight some of the implications of this technology for museums and other institutions.

More than Meets the Eye:  19th Century Portrayals of Native Americans

In the 1830s, the first director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs launched an ambitious effort to collect over one hundred portraits of Native Americans.  Veronica Nutting ’16 and Alex Armour’16 investigated three of these paintings at the Peabody–how and when they got here, why they’re important, and how they compare to contemporary depictions of Native Americans.

Speaking to an audience of nearly 50 chapter members, professional archaeologists, and members of the PA community, all the presentations were very well received.  Congratulations to all the students for their hard work!

Check out this article from the Phillipian to learn even more.

Peabody Receives Toomey Foundation Award for Upcoming Symposium

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

The Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences awarded the Peabody Museum $5,000 to support “The Archaeology, Art, and Iconography of Florida’s Watery Landscapes,” a symposium to be held at the 81st annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), scheduled to take place this April in Orlando, Fla. Organized by Joanna Ostapkowicz of National Museums Liverpool and Peabody Museum director Ryan Wheeler, the symposium will include a number of presentations highlighting sites, excavations, and objects from waterlogged deposits that allowed preservation of wood and other perishable materials.

SAA_2016003.jpg

The symposium was inspired by conversations between Ostapkowicz and Wheeler after they met at the SAA meeting in 2013 and recognized that archaeological sites in Florida had produced an amazing array of carved wooden artifacts, but that many of these ancient American Indian objects were understudied. Since then, Ostapkowicz and Wheeler have collaborated on a project that seeks better radiocarbon dates, wood identification, and physical documentation of four wood carvings from Hontoon Island and Tomoka River in central Florida. The Hontoon owl totem—a six-foot-tall, stylized carving discovered in the 1950s—is among the sculptures being studied and has been selected as the emblem of the SAA meeting in April.

The symposium will feature Lee Newsom of Pennsylvania State University and Vernon J. Knight of the University of Alabama as discussants, and will include the following presentations:

“ ‘Totem’ Owls, Otters and Pelicans: 14C Dating Central Florida’s Prehistoric Sculptures,” presented by Joanna Ostapkowicz, Ryan Wheeler, Lee Newsom, Fiona Brock, and Christophe Snoeck

“Wood Preservation Dilemmas of Florida’s Prehistoric Saltwater Sites: Famous Key Marco and Recent Weedon Island,” presented by Phyllis Kolianos

“The Original Spaghetti Junction: Using Canoe Locations to Trace Routes of an Ancient Transportation Network in Florida,” presented by Julia Byrd

“Mortuary Ritual at the Fort Center Mound-Charnel Pond Complex (8GL12): New Insights from an Accidental (Re)Discovery,” presented by Daniel Seinfeld

“The Pineland Site Complex: A Southwest Florida Coastal Wetsite,” presented by Karen Walker and William Marquardt

“The Karst Spring Vent as Receptacle with Meaning: Chassahowitzka Headsprings Weeden Island Period Dolphin Fin Effigy,” presented by Michael Arbuthnot and Michael Faught

“Fort Center’s Iconographic Bestiary: A Fresh Look at Fort Center’s Zoomorphic Wood Carvings,” presented by S. Margaret Spivey

“Early Archaic through Middle Archaic Design Elements on Artifacts from the Basin at Little Salt Spring (8SO18), Sarasota County, Florida,” presented by Steven Koski and John Gifford

IMG_6095
Joanna Ostapkowicz measures the Hontoon owl totem in its display at the National Park Service’s Timucuan Ecological Preserve, Jacksonville, Fla., December 2014.