New Box Test Results

Submitted by John Bergman-McCool

The Peabody is preparing for exciting building improvements in our collections area that will begin in April of 2023. They will include new storage furniture and an HVAC system that will control temperature and humidity. In advance of the project, we initiated a few tests to see how the environment inside our collections boxes would respond to moving around our building.

In a previous test, we sought to understand how silica gel might help mitigate fluctuating temperature and relative humidity (RH). Environmental monitors were placed in two boxes containing collections; one with a sachet containing silica gel and one without. The values were compared against a monitor that was measuring the ambient temp and RH in our collections area. The initial results of those tests are summarized in a previous blog. The silica gel appeared to bring down RH inside the box. However, once the silica gel had fully adsorbed humidity, the boxes themselves also seemed to buffer against shifting RH levels.

Silica efficacy test in boxes that contain collections. ‘Silica’ and ‘Without Silica’ boxes don’t exhibit the wide ranging RH and show a small decrease in temperature compared to the basement environment they are stored in. As we later learned, the RH is influenced by the collections inside the boxes.

During the new test, monitors were placed inside two empty boxes. One box was located on the first floor and a second box was moved in and out of our HVAC controlled storage area on a weekly basis. The data from inside the box was compared to environmental monitors logging ambient temperature and RH in the test areas. The results were enlightening and clear within the first month. Unlike the boxes containing collections, the empty boxes very closely mirror the temperature and RH of the spaces in which they are placed.

Empty box test from first floor. Test Box temperature and RH compared against first-floor monitors F1-1, F1-2, F1-3. RH and temperature in test box closely mirrors conditions outside box.
Empty box test from the second floor. Test box moved into and out of HVAC controlled storage. Test unit temperature and RH compared against test units inside (F2-6) and outside (F2-4) HVAC storage. RH in test box closely mirrors conditions outside box.

The conclusion from our previous test that the boxes were buffering the collections within from environmental changes was incorrect. The box environment was buffered by the collections inside.

Organic collection items- including bone, wood, and botanical remains- can absorb and release moisture in the air. In our collection area the ratio of air to collection items is high. Collections may influence temperature and RH in the storage area, but it might be negligible.  Inside the boxes that ratio is reversed; they hold more collections for a relatively small amount of air, which results in a microclimate. The box microclimate is influenced by the ability of collections to absorb moisture.

We now know that boxes don’t offer magical RH buffering abilities, but the empty box test did show us that they accomplish some buffering.

Looking closely at the box test that moved in and out of our HVAC storage in April 2022 shows that while temperature very quickly falls in sync with the new environment, RH may take as long as 24 hours to sync with the new conditions.

Empty Box test on second floor from April 2022. Analysis completed for highlighted areas included in tables below. Temp and RH peaks analyzed while outside HVAC storage numbered.

In addition, the test box environment has fewer peaks and valleys for RH (local maximums and local minimums), lower maximum increases and decreases in RH and temperature, and lower average increases and decreases in RH and temperature. Strangely, the test box had more temperature fluctuations while in HVAC storage. Some of the findings are included in the tables below.

While it was surprising to learn that our collections boxes don’t flatten large swings in RH and temperature, it is comforting to know that they are mitigating some of the fluctuations- not to mention protecting from other agents of deterioration like dust and light.

Analysis of Box environment against the environment outside of storage in April 2022. Outside of the HVAC storage the conditions inside the box and outside the box were similar enough to compare local maximums and minimums. Some local max. and min. values were small and have been included in larger trends in increasing and decreasing values referred to as ‘peaks’ in the following table.
Analysis of Box environment against the environment inside HVAC storage from April 2022. The local maximums and minimums did not match up for a 1:1 comparison. Maximum and average values were compared.

Tamaulipas Maize

Excavation profile with arrows indicating the location of Maize, La Perra Cave, Sierra de Tamaulipas.

Contributed by John Bergman-McCool

This blog represents the thirteenth entry in a blog series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Institute through objects in our collection. 

If you travel on state routes through the Northeast this time of year, you will likely witness a continuous stream of hand-painted signs advertising sweet corn. On a recent road trip through Maine, the oft-repeating signs got me thinking about all the places I’ve seen corn cultivated: Washington State, Arizona, the Midwest cornbelt and New England. A quick search on the internet reveals that modern corn varieties can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 3-11 (that’s just about everywhere!). Currently corn is an important crop for many economies across the globe (map of world corn production).

With corn seemingly grown nearly everywhere, you may wonder when and where did it first originate? This question has been the subject of debate among scientists for more than a century. Richard “Scotty” MacNeish, former director of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology and influential twentieth century archaeologist, played an important role in untangling maize’s history of domestication.

While a doctoral candidate in 1945, MacNeish was sent to Texas and northern Mexico to look for evidence supporting the theory that Mesoamerican migration into North America led to the development of mound building cultures. MacNeish found no link, but he did locate a series ruins, campsites, and dry caves that had the potential for long sequences of human occupation in Tamaulipas, a state in northern Mexico.

In 1948, MacNeish returned for a field season that included the excavation of three cave sites in the Sierra de Tamaulipas. The caves housed a surprising amount of very well preserved botanical remains. During the closing moment of the excavation in Tamaulipas, the crew had all but closed up shop and shipped off their specimens and equipment when three small maize (corn) cobs were recovered from La Perra cave. The excavations in Tamaulipas pushed the age of maize cultivation back to 2,500 BC. The discovery of what was then the earliest evidence of domestication in the Americas would shape the direction of MacNeish’s archaeological research.

Pre Nal-Tel maize fragment from La Perra Cave, Sierra de Tamaulipas.

A little over a decade later, spurred by colleagues in botany, MacNeish would search farther south for earlier evidence of maize cultivation. In 1961, after years of survey in Central America and southern Mexico, MacNeish found promising dry caves in the Tehuacán valley of Mexico. There he led a multidisciplinary team in the excavation of six cave sites. Among the many discoveries were maize remains recovered from layers dating to 4,700 BC. Tehuacán was theorized as the ancient seat of maize domestication.

Radiocarbon dating techniques utilized by MacNeish in Tamaulipas and Tehuacán required large amounts of carbon, frequently charcoal, that would be destroyed during the dating process. The resulting age was then assigned to artifacts (corn, stone tools, bone, etc.) that were found in the same layer as the charcoal. Developments in radiocarbon made in the 1980s meant that much smaller samples were required, reducing the chance that sampled artifacts would be completely destroyed. When this direct method was applied to maize from Tehuacán and squash from Tamaulipas, the results were up to 2,500 years younger than previously thought.

MacNeish’s comments in the margins of Bruce Smith’s 1995 book The Emergence of Agriculture.

The revisions resulted in prickly disputes about the age of domestication in the Americas. Eventually the dust up resulting from the new dating technique settled, due in part to new dates obtained from squash seeds that rooted domestication to an earlier date of 8,000 BC in Mexico.

MacNeish remained resolute that the dates he derived were accurate up until he passed in 2001. In 2012, Archaeologists returned to the cave sites in the Tehuacán Valley in search of maize remains. The team recovered new maize samples that corroborated the younger age for Tehuacán maize.

Recent research within the fields of microbiology and DNA have focused on the teosinte plant and the Balsas River as the probable ancestor and location for earliest cultivation of maize. Analysis of the DNA suggests that the plant was cultivated as early as 7,000 BC.

The fact that MacNeish did not locate the cradle of corn, shouldn’t take anything away from the massive effort he and his colleagues undertook during their search. As for the Tamaulipas maize, MacNeish himself credits his project in Tamaulipas for planting the seeds that would develop into the multidisciplinary approach he would adopt for much of his subsequent career.

Behind the Photograph: “A Good Maine Dinner”

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

Warren K. Moorehead and crew in camp, Penobscot River, Maine, 1912. Photograph by Charles A. Perkins. Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology, Photograph Collection

Ever wonder what lies behind a photograph? Beyond the simple description scrawled on the back of each image? The Peabody collection contains more than 600,000 artifacts, photographs, and documents. The Peabody’s photograph collection, specifically, is extensive and contains many interesting, yet untold stories. To bring these stories and photographs to light, we would like to share them with YOU, fellow readers, in our blog series, Behind the Photograph. You can find these stories using our BehindThePhoto tag on our blog.

The year is 1912, the site is an expedition campsite located along the Penobscot River in Maine. On the right a crew member sits on the ground with his back to the camera, legs stretched out in front of him, ankles crossed, balancing his dinner on his lap. Near the tent we see three individuals close together. One sitting through the smoky haze of the campfire, another standing with his plate in his hands – last to get his meal or maybe in line for seconds? An apron on the third individual identifies the camp cook. To the left two individuals sit on tree stumps with dinner plates on their laps, enjoying “a good Maine dinner,” as the title of this photograph describes. The individual in black, farthest to the left, is none other than Warren K. Moorehead, the Peabody’s first curator and Peabody director from 1924 to 1938.

Warren K. Moorehead and Maine Expeditions

During this decade, Maine was a popular destination for archaeological field projects sponsored by the Peabody (known then as the Archaeology Department at Phillips Academy Andover.) Warren K. Moorehead’s first expedition to Maine was organized in 1912. The camping image above was taken along the Penobscot River during this expedition. This venture was so successful that Moorehead sent both survey and excavation crews to Maine each summer for the next three years. During this period, crews surveyed a large portion of Maine’s rivers and excavated dozens of sites. Maine remained the primary destination for the Peabody’s field projects for the remainder of this decade. Although Moorehead’s archaeological interests were focused elsewhere after 1920, he continued to send crews to Maine as late as 1926.

Glass Plate Negative

Much of the Peabody photographic collection is fragile. The Maine expeditions took place at a time when photography, as well as archaeology, was undergoing radical change. With the introduction of smaller and less expensive film cameras, the large and cumbersome view cameras with glass plate negatives were quickly replaced. This transition is reflected in the Moorehead photographic collection.

This image is one of 130 glass plate negatives in the Moorehead photographic collection at the Peabody. Most of these glass plate negatives (including this image) are 5 x 7” in size and appear to have been taken with a Rochester Optical Company, New Model (1890) view camera.  There are a few larger negatives in the Peabody’s photographic collection that are about 6 x 8” in size that were taken with an Improved Model Seneca view camera (1906). The Seneca view camera is still located at the Peabody to this day!

1906 Improved Model Seneca view camera at the Peabody

For further reading about Warren K. Moorehead and his archaeological excavations in Maine check out Warren K. Moorehead’s text, The Archaeology of Maine.

Summer Reading List: Our Peabody Staff Picks

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

Ah, summertime. The Andover Summer session has ended, students have left campus, the weather is warm (too warm at times), and it’s time for some relaxation and rejuvenation before we start the new school year. What better way to enjoy the rest of your summer than with a good book! But with so many books out there, how do you choose?

Thankfully, members of the Peabody staff are here to share their “Peabody Picks” with you dear readers! Below are some of our favorite reading recommendations based on what our staff is currently reading or has read this summer. Enjoy!

Ryan Wheeler, Director – Decolonizing “Prehistory”: Deep Time and Indigenous Knowledges in North America

Decolonizing “Prehistory” combines a critical investigation of the documentation of the American deep past with perspectives from Indigenous traditional knowledges and attention to ongoing systems of intellectual colonialism. It’s a 2021 collection of essays edited by Gesa Mackenthun and Christen Mucher. I was initially pointed to the first chapter by a colleague—that’s by the late Annette Kolodny and titled Competing Narratives of Ancestry in Donald Trump’s America and the Imperatives for Scholarly Intervention. The other essays are equally provocative and engaging! It can be read online for free here!  

“This book packs a double revelation and, with it, an important message for the environmental movement.” – Heather Menzies, Watershed Sentinel

Marla Taylor, Curator of Collections – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

In a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live a life of freedom.  But, the deal is not what she expected.  Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

“Completely absorbed me enough to make me forget the real world.” – Jodie Picoult, Washington Post

John Bergman-McCool, Assistant Curator – The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking) by Katie Mack

The Universe had a beginning, and it will have an end. Modern cosmology — the study of the nature and evolution of the cosmos itself — has allowed physicists to explain the history of the Universe from the first tiny fraction of a second until today. But what’s next? We now have the tools to extend our knowledge into the distant future and speculate about the ultimate fate of all reality.

“A thrilling tour of potential cosmic doomsdays….Mack’s infectious enthusiasm for communicating the finer points of cosmological doom elevates The End of Everything over any other book on the topic.” –The Wall Street Journal

Lindsay Randall, Curator of Education and Outreach – STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

While it has no right to be – given the topic – Mary Roach has written a book that is hilariously funny as she takes the reader on a tour of what can happen to human bodies after death. I enjoyed 99.99999% of the book, with the only downside being the part that describes what maggots sound like when feeding… Now I am forever like Ron, the poor unsuspecting media relations guy who was only trying to be nice as he drove Mary around, as I too used to like Rice Crispies.

“One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year….Gross, educational, and unexpectedly sidesplitting.” Entertainment Weekly

Emma Lavoie, Administrative Assistant – The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room returns with a thrilling reconstruction of one of the most notorious events in literary history: Crime novelist, Agatha Christie’s mysterious 11-day disappearance in 1926. History and true crime lovers, this book is for you!

“A stunning story… The ending is ingenious, and it’s possible that Benedict has brought to life the most plausible explanation for why Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926.” – The Washington Post

Beth Parsons, Office of Academy Resources, Director for Museums and Educational Outreach – The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

A remarkable novel about J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white in order to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation. An interesting tie to Andover, she is the daughter of Richard T. Greener (Andover alumnus, ‘1865), the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality.

“Historical fiction at its best…The Personal Librarian spins a complex tale of deceit and allegiance as told through books.” Good Morning America

David Spidaliere, Collection Project Assistant – Engaging Archaeology: 25 Case Studies in Research Practice by Stephen W Silliman

Bringing together 25 case studies from archaeological projects worldwide, Engaging Archaeology candidly explores personal experiences, successes, challenges, and even frustrations from established and senior archaeologists who share invaluable practical advice for students and early-career professionals engaged in planning and carrying out their own archaeological research.

“Unique and thoughtful, Stephen W. Silliman’s guide is an essential course book for early-stage researchers, advanced undergraduates, and new graduate students, as well as those teaching and mentoring. It will also be insightful and enjoyable reading for veteran archaeologists.” Wiley-Blackwell Publishing

Jessica Dow, Collection Project Assistant – Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man by Nina Lyon

Who, or what, is the Green Man, and why is this medieval image so present in our precarious modern times? An encounter with the Green Man at an ancient Herefordshire church in the wake of catastrophic weather leads Nina Lyon into an exploration of how the foliate heads of Norman stonemasons have evolved into today’s cult symbols.

“Lyon’s search for the meanings of the folk image and symbol of rebirth take her from neopagan Cornish festivals to the forests of south-west Germany. She is both political and sardonic.” The Guardian

Richard Davis, Peabody Volunteer – Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson by Peter C. Mancall

The English explorer Henry Hudson devoted his life to the search for a water route through America, becoming the first European to navigate the Hudson River in the process. In the winter of 1610, after navigating dangerous fields of icebergs near the northern tip of Labrador, Hudson’s small ship became trapped in winter ice. Provisions grew scarce and tensions mounted amongst the crew. A story of exploration, desperation, and icebound tragedy, Fatal Journey vividly chronicles the undoing of the great explorer, not by an angry ocean, but at the hands of his own men.

“Mancall’s account of the doomed voyage is exciting, tense, and tragic…. This is an excellent re-examination of [Hudson] and his final, sad effort.” – Booklist Magazine

Michael Agostino, Peabody Volunteer – Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes

A wonderful non-fiction book where the author assembles many decades of Neanderthal research into a clear description of how they lived, survived challenges, and created art. I especially like the detail she provided on how the many stone artifacts were sourced and created. This fueled my imagination as I work with the many pieces in the Peabody collection.

“‘Kindred’ is important reading not just for anyone interested in these ancient cousins of ours, but also for anyone interested in humanity.” The New York Times

Cats and Bears

Contributed by John Bergman-McCool

Lately, the process of fully cataloging Adopt-A-Drawers has resulted in some interesting discoveries. The most recent of these comes from artifacts collected by Richard “Scotty” MacNeish in Tamaulipas, Mexico.

MacNeish went to Tamaulipas in 1945 hoping to find sites that predated the production of ceramics. In particular, he was searching for sites with long cultural sequences that he could use to tell the story of the development of human culture in Mesoamerica. During three field seasons, spanning  ten years, MacNeish identified and excavated several village and cave sites in the Sierra de Tamaulipas and the Sierra Madre Oriental, two mountain ranges in Tamaulipas.

MacNeish’s Tamaulipas excavation areas.

MacNeish recovered a wide variety of items from the well-preserved cave deposits in Tamaulipas. Of these were two fragmentary bear canine-shaped pendants recovered from Armadillo Cave in the Sierra de Tamaulipas. They appear to have been burnt and MacNeish believed that they were fashioned from sandstone. When compared with real canines from a bear and unknown canid, it is clear that they are an imitation. For example, the Tamaulipas pendants have no enamel and they lack the same degree of detail. However, they do approximate the shape very effectively.

Left: Two Tamaulipas bear canine-shaped pendant fragments. Middle: Dog or coyote canine pendant from Ohio. Right: Bear canine pendant from Ohio.

One of the pendants was fractured below a possible enamel layer so they were both inspected under magnification. Surprisingly, they show signs of very thin layering more reminiscent of the annuli of shell. I asked our Director, Dr. Ryan Wheeler to take a look at them. Among those who work here at the Peabody, he is the resident expert on shell artifacts. Dr. Wheeler agreed they were shell.

Magnified View of bear canine-shaped pendant from Tamaulipas, showing annuli.

The fact that the pendants were made of shell led us to think about a possible connection with the Hopewell Culture. Several shell imitations of bear canines have been recovered from Hopewell mound sites. Additionally, the Hopewell developed a very large interaction sphere, traveling far and wide for trade materials. The Hopewell procured copper from Lake Superior, silver from Canada, obsidian from Wyoming, mica from the Blue Ridge Mountains and shell from the Gulf of Mexico.

We wondered if these pendants could have been a Hopewell trade object. Fortunately, the Peabody archives include MacNeish’s Tamaulipas excavation paperwork (digitized here). The first step to establishing a possible link was to determine the items’ age. Using charcoal from distinct layers excavated from the cave deposits, MacNeish was able to radiocarbon date the deposits. The layer containing the shell pendants dates to the Almagre Phase, roughly 2,200 to 1800BCE. This correlates to the Archaic period in the Ohio valley, about 2,000 years before the Hopewell developed. The Hopewell connection was out.

I also searched for bear remains found in northern Mexican archaeological contexts. A very quick review of available resources indicated that bear remains are not all that common in the region. The only positive return came in the form of bear long bones found at Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico. This was interesting, because the historical range of both Mexican grizzly and black bears include much of northern Mexico, including Tamaulipas state. It is very likely that humans and bear interacted in the past.

At Dr. Wheeler’s suggestion I reached out to Dr. Brad Lepper, Senior Archaeologist with the Ohio History Connection and José Luis Aguilar Guajardo, archaeologist in Tamaulipas, Mexico. They both responded with helpful information. Dr. Lepper was interested in the presence of the shell pendant and was unaware of anything similar coming from Archaic sites. He suggested consulting Cheryl Claassen’s book Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America for possible archaic examples, which I haven’t yet had a chance to read.

Dr. Lepper provided several examples from the Ohio History Connection’s collection of Middle Woodland Hopewell bear canine pendants (here and here) and their imitations (here and here). Some of the canines were split, or contained fresh water pearls from the Ohio River. Imitations were made from mica, copper, shell, bone, ceramic and stone.

José Luis Aguilar Guajardo was also very interested in the bear canine-shaped pendants. He was unaware of anything similar coming from sites in the Sierra de Tamaulipas mountains. He indicated that shell was a semi-precious material used for making ornamentation by the Indigenous people in the area. The Sierra de Tamaulipas mountains are quite close to the Gulf of Mexico, a source for shell materials.

José was clear that black bears can still be found in the Sierra de Tamaulipas, and supported the possibility that they were bear-shaped. However, he suggested the possibility that they were inspired by the jaguar instead. According to José, jaguar were abundant in the area and were revered by the Indigenous people.

How to assign an animal label to the pendants becomes an interesting problem. Bear and jaguar canines can look similar in size and appearance. Understanding what the maker of the pendants intended them to represent is difficult when they cannot be asked about them directly. Both animals’ habitats overlapped in northern Mexico.

Though they don’t provide a definitive answer, some helpful articles, and their authors, that explore the importance of bear and jaguar imagery in north and Mesoamerica include: Bear Imagery and Ritual in Northeast North America, Thomas E. Berres, David M. Stothers and David Mather; Predators of Culture: Jaguar Symbolism and Mesoamerican Elites, Nicolas J. Saunders; and Rohonas and Spotted Lions: The Historical and Cultural Occurrence of the Jaguar, Panthera onca, among the Native Tribes of the American Southwest, Steve Pavlik. There are probably many, many others.

Perhaps, as José Luis Aguilar Guajardo has suggested in personal communications, Sierra de Tamaulipas falls into an area in which jaguars were strongly revered. In a very simplistic summary of the above articles, cranial remains of bears in archaeological contexts in North America have been considered a sign of bear ceremonialism. They don’t appear in MacNeish’s Tamaulipas excavations. Jaguar hides were an element of Aztec royal clothing and one of the accoutrements used by Aztec shamans. A small fragment of possible jaguar hide was recovered from the Sierra Madre excavations in Tamaulipas.

Future excavations in the area will likely bring more evidence to bear on the ritual and symbolic practices of the people of Tamaulipas.

Resources:

Archaic Bear Tooth Pendants and other related artifacts

Donaldson, William S. and Stanley Wortner

1995      The Hind Site and the Glacial Kame Burial Complex in Ontario. Ontario Archaeology 59:5-95.

Bear Imagery and Ritual

Berres, Thomas E., David M. Strothers and David Mather

2004      Bear Imagery and Ritual in Northeast North America: An Update and Assessment of A. Irving Hallowell’s Work. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 29(1):5-42.

Jaguar Imagery and Ritual

Pavlik, Steve

2003      Rohonas and Spotted Lions: The Historical and Cultural Occurrence of the Jaguar, Panthera  onca, among the Native Tribes of the American Southwest. Wicazo Sa Review 18(1):157-175.

Saunders, J. Nicolas

1994      Predators of Culture: Jaguar Symbolism and Mesoamerican Elites. World Archaeology  26(1):104-117.

Archaeological (Career) Explorations 

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Back in May, I was approached by Peabody education volunteer and Triton Regional High School History teacher Lisa Herzl about a student of hers who was interested in going to college for archaeology. She asked if there were any opportunities this summer for the student to learn more about what exactly archaeology is before committing her life (and $$$$) to studying it.

I reached out to my network of archaeologists to see what might be available. And, the outpouring of support of the student’s interest was amazing. My former thesis committee member Dr. Christa Beranek wrote to me that she would be happy to give the student a tour of the site she was working on at the end of June.

The Fiske Center UMass Boston was hired to investigate the property that the Marblehead Museum recently acquired. The property sits adjacent to the Jeremiah Lee Mansion, owned and operated by the Marblehead Museum, and was the former brick kitchen and possible slave quarters owned by the Lee family. This would make the site the SECOND known, still standing, extant slave quarters in New England. 

The house and brick kitchen/possible slave quarters were built in 1766 for the Lee family. When Jeremiah Lee built his property, he made extensive changes to the land, including tearing down the Bartholomew Jackson house and leveling the land. This work essentially “capped” the previous archaeological deposits – a gold mine for the team.

Once word got to Dr. Bethany Jay (long-time Peabody collaborator) that I was going to be touring the site, she jumped at the opportunity to tag along.

Dr. Beranek was kind enough to spend over an hour with our group, not only giving us a tour of the different test pits and the artifacts being found, BUT also letting us get our hands – literally – dirty!

I have been following the investigation via the social media pages of both the Fiske Center and the Marblehead Museum and you should too! And in typical archaeology fashion, they found an amazing deposit on the second to last day. Can’t wait to see where the next stages bring them!

Ms. Herzl’s student had the time of her life and is now even more set on archaeology as a career path. Here’s to the next generation of archaeologists!

Andover Summer Returns: Dig This! class at it again

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

The Peabody is keeping busy this summer with volunteers, interns, events and visits, researchers, and of course hosting the Andover Summer Session class, Dig This!

Dig This! students in class and learning to read an excavation site.

During the month of July, the Peabody hosts the Dig This! class, a course offered by Phillips Academy’s Andover Summer Session. This Lower School initiative takes a closer look at some crucial episodes in the development of this country to hone skills and understanding of dynamic interactions that took place between Native peoples and European newcomers, which continue to shape the United States to this day.

Using the Peabody Institute’s collections, together with extensive library and internet materials, students actively explore a series of case and character studies to understand the minds and strategies of important individuals from some of the most significant events in history. In addition, students attend field trips to nearby historical sites that bring these stories to life.

Dig This! students on field trips to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard and Old Sturbridge Village

Students then get to participate in their own archaeological excavation of the Mansion House at Phillips Academy – the home of PA founder, Samuel Phillips, Jr. It’s always so exciting to see what these students discover as they take part in this unique opportunity to witness history.

Dig This! students excavating the Mansion House site

Be on the lookout for more updates on students’ findings through our social media this month and maybe even a blog from one of our Dig This! class instructors!

We hope you all are having a wonderful summer!

Never Alone: Video Games and the Teaching of Culture

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

A few months back I wrote about archaeogaming and my friend Bill’s foray into this unique branch of archaeology. Little did I know that I would be immersing myself into it even more. I have even learned to play a videogame during this new endeavor! 

Tom Anderson, faculty in Computer Science at PA contacted me after reading my last blog post as he was interested in collaborating with the Peabody to do something related to videogames. 

Okay then………. game on (literally!)

Game excavated from the ATARI burial site

While learning more about archaeogaming – defined as the archaeology in and of videogames – I learned about the ATARI video game burial and excavation, countless examples of the past being incorporated into the landscapes of games such as Zelda, and explored real pieces of material culture that could be found in games such as Minecraft.

To make fire in Minecraft you need steel and flint. The graphics for the steel is often confused for a C when in fact it is a historically shaped steel fire starter.

As I was researching different avenues that the class could focus on, I stumbled upon the most amazing game: Never Alone or Kisima Ingitchuna

The game is centered on a traditional story of the Iñupiat people, and also a collaboration between the tribe and game developers. 

The game structure of Never Alone is a puzzle platformer where in order to win you must play as both Nuna, a young girl, and her fox companion, highlighting the Iñupiat ideal of cooperation and community.  

Adding depth is the inclusion of Cultural Insights throughout the game for the player to access and learn more.

For the Computer Science class, I pulled artifacts from our Arctic collections for the students to explore. The students were asked to not only work together to figure out what the artifacts are and how they were used, but to also identify which artifacts were depicted within the game. 

An example of an artifact from the Peabody collections found in the game are labrets – facial jewelry traditionally worn by men on either side of their mouth – as seen on the character Manslayer.

This was an exciting collaboration to work on and allowed me the opportunity to explore an aspect of archaeology that I only recently began thinking about. 

And recently there was an exciting announcement of a sequel to Never Alone!

Articles:

Never Alone and the need for American Indian narratives in games

How a Smithsonian Artifact Ended Up in a Popular Video Game

Updating Centuries-Old Folklore With Puzzles And Power-Ups

How a 150-year-old Tlingit robe is inspiring Alaska’s next generation of engineers

Videos:

Never Alone: the Art and the People of the Story

Aloha from Kauai

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

After two years and three rescheduled trips (thanks Covid), I finally was able to travel to Kauai, Hawaii. Of all the activities and sites to see on the island, I couldn’t miss visiting some of Kauai’s historical and archaeological sites. The Hawaiian Islands are rich with history and it was wonderful to learn about Hawaii’s culture and traditions during my time on Kauai. Here are a few of my favorite sites and some history that I learned while visiting the island of Kauai.

The island of Kauai is one of many islands that make up Hawaii. There are eight major islands commonly seen on maps, but that does not account for all of them. For many people, only the four largest of the islands usually come to mind – Big Island, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai. These islands are the most well-known, but there are actually 137 islands and 5 counties that make up the state of Hawaii.

Map of the Eight Major Islands of Hawaii

Kauai is nicknamed “the Garden Isle” for its lush green mountains and valleys and rich biodiversity. At the heart of this fertile land is Mount Wai’ale’ale. With average annual rainfall of 400+ inches, this mountain is a sustainable source of water for the island’s agriculture, drinking water, hydroelectric power, recreation, and numerous other public uses. Mount Wai’ale’ale is part of an ancient volcano that formed Kauai in its last eruption over 5 million years ago. The explosion not only gave the island its unique shape, it created the entire east side of Kauai. Today the mountain is a half moon-shaped depression (also known as a caldera). This shape combined with island trade winds, creates a large amount of fog, mist, clouds, and rainfall making this location one of the wettest places on earth!

Inside the caldera of Mount Wai’ale’ale
In 1982, the caldera had a record-setting 683 inches of rain!

Kauai has a unique history being the oldest inhabited of the main Hawaiian Islands. It was the only Hawaiian island that was not conquered by King Kamehameha, entering a peaceful resolution with Kamehameha in 1810. Later in 1864, the Robinson Family purchased over 55,000 acres of Kauai and over 46,000 acres on the island of Niihau from King Kamehameha V for $10,000 in gold (about $170,000 today). In purchasing these lands, the family promised to protect the island and its residents from outside influences. Today, over five generations later, the descendants of the Robinson family have upheld their promise requesting that 76 percent of its non-conservation lands be designated as important agriculture lands, with protection from future development.

Sugarcane was Kauai’s primary economic resource, dominating the industry until the mid-20th century. Sugar was introduced to the island by the Polynesians and later the first sugar extracting operation and mill was established in the southern town of Koloa in 1835. Soon sugar plantations developed on the east side of the island – the Lihue Sugar Plantation expanding quickly due to its fertile land around the Wailua area fed by Mount Wai’ale’ale. By the 1960’s, the sugar industry began shutting down due to labor strikes, politics, and the statehood of Hawaii. The Lihue Sugar Plantation was one of the last operating plantations, shutting down in 2000.

Although the sugar industry has since ended, many sugar plantation sites are still present. I had quite the adventure exploring the Lihue Sugar Plantation, as the site is now accessible by mountain tube. Mountain tubing?! You may ask – why of course! Picture a lazy river-experience (although not so lazy at times) down some of the plantation’s old hand-dug canals and tunnel systems circa 1870. In many of these tunnels, you can still see the marks from workers’ pickaxes. Workers tried to save time and extend one of the tunnels with dynamite. This technique was discontinued after their first try, but a large chamber in the tunnel ceiling remains.

Lihue Sugar Plantation Canal, circa 1870

Mountain tubing the Lihue Sugar Plantation canal and tunnel system

My favorite location on the island was the Honopu Valley, located along the Napali Coast. The Honopu Valley is one of the most beautiful and mysterious sites with cathedral cliffs that reach up to 1,200 feet. Much of this side of the island is inaccessible by road and is best visited by helicopter or boat. The Honopu Valley, also known as the Valley of the Kings, is the source of many Hawaiian legends. For this reason the site is the most remote and secluded along the coast, being extremely difficult and dangerous to access due to the spiritual significance of this burial site.

The Napali Coast on the island of Kauai

Legends aside, the Honopu cliffs were used as burial sites for ancient Hawaiian Ali’i (royalty) that ruled along the Napali Coast. Hawaiians believed that their chiefs were direct descendants of gods and their remains contained powerful mana (life force).  To avoid the mana falling into the wrong hands, a chief’s remains needed to be buried in a secret location.

Honopu Valley (Valley of the Kings)

Warriors, chosen from birth, were designated to bury the chief’s remains in the cliff walls. They would either climb hundreds of feet up the steep cliffs or lower themselves down the cliff walls by rope in search of a suitable location for the chief’s remains. Once carefully buried in the cliff walls, the warrior would jump or cut their rope, falling to their death – securing the location’s secrecy forever.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources limits visitors to this site out of respect for the sacred history of the Honopu Valley, although there have been several exceptions to these regulations for Hollywood, with movie scenes of Honopu filmed in King Kong (1976), Six Days Seven Nights, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Honeymoon in Vegas, and Jurassic Park 3.

It is quite remarkable to see these cliffs from air and water, knowing the honorable yet fatal task these warriors were selected for. It is said, to this day, the remains of these warriors can be seen in the sand dunes underneath the cliffs after being exposed to heavy rains or winds.

Coastal hiking trail view – Cliffs above Shipwreck Beach

After a two mile hike along the coastal trail from Shipwrecks Beach, you’ll come across a site frozen in time – the Makauwahi Cave Reserve. From above, the reserve looks like a tropical oasis amongst the rocky, volcanic cliffs and dune vegetation. If you’re lucky enough to find the cave’s entrance you can expect to be greeted by a small hole in the cave wall that visitors must crawl through as their rite of passage into the cave. Once through, you’ll emerge from the dark, cavern entrance and step back in time to Hawaii’s largest limestone cave and fossil site.

Entrance to the Makauwahi Cave

For over 100,000 years, water has seeped into the cave and eroded the limestone. As a result, 7,000 years ago a large section of the cave ceiling collapsed, leaving behind a vast oval opening to the sky. This formation created a unique time capsule of geological change and biological occupation.

The thick walls of the Makauwahi Cave preserves over 10,000 years of animal fossils (shells and bones) and plant fossils (seeds, leaves, and wood.) From a 352,000-year-old lava flow to a Styrofoam cup washed in by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, the prehistoric sinkhole preserved everything and anything that fell into it.

The Makauwahi Cave Reserve from above

Today, archaeologists and paleoecologists study the cave’s sediment layers and fossils to understand the prehistoric landscape and its change overtime. Using innovative restoration techniques, researchers and scientists are experimenting in native species conservation with abandoned farms and quarry lands surrounding the site. Through this initiative, acres of forest land, dune vegetation, and wetlands are being restored, featuring many species of native plants and endangered species such as waterbirds and blind cave invertebrates. There’s even a giant tortoise sanctuary in one of the wetland reserves near the cave! Learn more about the Makauwahi Cave Reserve and its current restoration project here!

Meet Maurice, a 20+ year old giant tortoise from the Makauwahi Cave Reserve Tortoise Sanctuary

An Unusual Item

Contributed by John Bergman-McCool

Recently, an unusual item was found while processing one of our adopted drawers. The Adopt-A-Drawer program lets donors support the full cataloging of artifacts housed at the Peabody. Every time a drawer is adopted we measure, weigh, photograph, and house the contents in archival storage. Beyond documentation and storage, adopted drawers represent a chance to dig deeper into the stories of the items held here at the Peabody.

Figure 1. Example of an unmodified turkey ulna (top) and flute made from ulna.

The item in question was one of two bone flutes stored in the adopted drawer (figure 2). According to our catalog, they were both from Pecos Pueblo, a site in New Mexico situated in the Upper Pecos Valley east of Santa Fe. One of the flutes is labeled with a number that indicates that it was previously uncataloged and found with material from Pecos. At some point in the past, it had become separated from its provenience information.

When comparing the two flutes they are similar in most ways. They are both made from bird bones with the ends removed to make a hollow tube (sound chamber) that is open on both ends. They also share the same configuration of holes. There is a larger hole near the proximal end of the bone and three smaller holes at regular intervals near the distal end of the bone.

Where they differ is that the uncataloged flute’s sound chamber is plugged at the proximal end by a dark material with a vitreous luster. It immediately brought to mind resin, an Indigenous adhesive material that I knew of but had never seen in a decade of working as an archaeologist. The position of the plug suggested that this instrument was played like a transverse flute, which was eye opening.

Figure 2. The two flutes with view of openings at proximal end.

­I looked for information on other flutes from Pecos and fairly quickly came across an article authored by Richard W. Payne for Kiva, an archaeological journal published by the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society. Mr. Payne was a trained medical professional with a lifelong interest in Native American flute music. You can find more information about him here and a bibliography of his writings on native flute traditions here. He is considered one of the driving forces behind the rejuvenation of the Native American (or Plains) flute, which is its own fascinating story (Conlon 2002).

Payne’s article is fairly technical, being written from the perspective of a person with years of flute playing and experience with musical theory. Neither of these subjects are in my wheelhouse. On the first read, the most interesting points concerned his visual analysis of bone flutes from Puebloan sites. Among other suppositions, he suggests that the sound window shape can determine how the instrument was played (figure 3). Round holes could serve as the embouchure of a transverse flute or as tone holes of for an end blown flute. Notched holes could be played from either end. Triangle or square holes suggest ducted flutes. (Payne 1991)

Figure 3. Examples of sound windows with arrows to indicate wind direction and cross-section showing sound chamber. a: Transverse flute with plug. b: End blown flute, with wind blowing across the open end. c: Notched, making a hole with fipple edges to allow play from either end (my best guess). d: D-shaped window of a ducted flute with interior duct to direct air flow.

In discussing the bird bone flutes of Pecos, Payne notes that the site was occupied until the nineteenth century and that bone flutes from later contexts show evidence of European influence. Frustratingly, the claim isn’t supported with examples. Further, he mentions an article by Charles Peabody, the first director of the Peabody, wherein a flute from Pecos produced musical tones equivalent to a tabor pipe, again suggesting Western influence (Payne 1991).

The article by Charles Peabody, a talented flautist and ethnomusicologist, among other things, was written in 1917. In it, he describes asking Alfred Kidder for permission to experiment with a bone flute that was recovered while visiting Pecos during the 1916 season’s excavations. Permissions secured, those experimentations included inserting a plug of modeling clay in the proximal end of the flute. Prior to the insertion, the instrument played tones that were “excessively shrill.” After the insertion, the flute played several tones within the C sharp scale. A figure of the flute is included in Charles Peabody’s article (Peabody 1917).

When a comparison is made of the flute in Peabody’s article and the flute in question, it is clear that they are indeed one-and-the-same. The most likely scenario is that Charles Peabody acquired the flute at Pecos before it was cataloged. Eventually, it made its way back to the Peabody and was returned to the collection. By the time it was found with other materials from Pecos, all institutional knowledge of the item had been lost. Fortunately in this case, there was some record of its history.

With the story of the flute’s provenience resolved, there seems, to me, to be other questions left unanswered. These are the references to Western influence in both the musical tones and the flutes themselves suggested by Richard Payne and to a lesser degree, Charles Peabody. I’ll address those in a follow up blog.

References:

Conlon, Paula

2002       The Native American Flute: Convergence and Collaboration as Exemplified by R. Carlos Nakai. The World of Music 44(1): 61-7

Payne, Richard W.

                1991       Bone Flutesof the Anasazi. Kiva 56(2): 165-177

Peabody, Charles

                1917       A Prehistoric Wind-Instrument from Pecos. American Anthropologist n.s 19: 30-33