Oklahoma's number one blog for natural and cultural history.

 

Around the World in Eight Photos

Jules Verne captured adventurous readers through his novel Around the World in 80 Days. Well, today we’re circumnavigating the globe in just eight pictures! So pack your bags because for the next few minutes, we’re going off the grid.

Japan 

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As the warrior scholars of Feudal Japan, Samurais had quite extensive weaponry: elaborate armor, menacing masks and fanciful swords, such as the one shown above from 1800 CE. For more information about Samurai culture and artifacts, be sure to check out the ethnology collection’s blog.

Peru

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This ceramic drinking vessel hails from the Nazca culture of coastal Peru and dates to around AD 200-800.  The artwork depicts a sacrificial scene, indicating that the item may have been used for sacrificial rites.

New Guinea

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Kundu drums are a staple of the Sepik region in New Guinea and are used at nearly every ceremony, feast, ritual and community event. Drum makers whittle at hollow tree trunks to achieve the hourglass shape, then stretch lizard or snakeskin across the top opening.

France

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The Acheulean hand axe was in use for over one million years and is considered by some to be the “Swiss army knife” of the Stone Age. Likely used for cutting and butchering, this hand tool from Troche, Dordogne in France could date back to the lower Paleolithic period 1.8 million years 

Cyprus

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This white painted ware jug is of Cypro-Archiac origins and was likely produced around 600 BCE. Although little information is available about the jug’s use, ethnologists can use physical features to speculate about its history. “Typically, the more decorated a piece is, the higher it is in status,” said ethnology collection manager Stephanie Allen.

Guatemala

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During the Classic Period, AD 200-800, this incense burner from Guatemala would have likely been used by the Maya to send prayers and offerings to the deities. The burner features an individual wearing a helmet or headdress possibly an ancestor or deity.

Ethiopia

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Made entirely of lion’s hair and hide, this Ethiopian headdress is likely from the early to mid-1900s. Because ethnologists are uncertain about the artifact’s tribal origins, very little is known about this piece. Regardless, this unique treasure remains a museum favorite.

Spain

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Discovered in the famous Altamira Cave in Spain, this bone awl would have been used to puncture holes in animal hide for tailoring and manufacturing. The ability to alter clothing enabled those living 50,000 to 10,000 years ago to battle the brutal climate of glacial Europe.

That completes our trip around the world, highlighting artifacts from the ethnology and archaeology departments at the Sam Noble Museum. These departments house extraordinary collections, especially from Native North and Central America. Additional stories about artifacts such as these can be found on the Archaeology and the Ethnology blogs.  

The Sam Noble Museum hopes to incorporate a permanent display for artifacts such as these in the coming years. Until then, feel free to view the ethnology department’s online catalog.

For more international adventures, be sure to visit our latest exhibit, The Art of Sport + Playa display of international balls, created with unique materials from around the world.

The Big Reveal

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Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program

Back in May, the Sam Noble Museum released a most exciting announcement  on our blog, detailing a prestigious contest for conservation.  We diligently urged our followers and fans to vote for our deteriorating treasure, a swatch of Native American lace from the 1400s, and promised to keep our faithful readers updated with the latest news.

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The Spiro lace 

For two months, the museum’s staff sat on pins and needles, eager to claim the attention and aid that could accompany a place in the 10. After long days of waiting for that fateful email, the results finally arrived on August 6. 

The Oklahoma Cultural Heritage Trust recognized the Sam Noble Museum as having one of Oklahoma’s top 10 endangered artifacts. In addition to receiving the Cultural Heritage Stewardship Award for earlier campaign progress, the Sam Noble Museum will receive free lodging to attend the Oklahoma Museums Association Annual Conference in Enid, Oklahoma. The museum will also be recognized at the OMA Awards Program on Friday, September 27.

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Top 25 finalists receiving the Cultural Heritage Stewardship Award

As you recall from our first post, the Spiro lace, from 1400 AD, was discovered buried beneath Craig Mound at the historic Native American Spiro Mound site in eastern Oklahoma by a University of Oklahoma excavation team operating under the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s. The Spiro Mounds are known as one of the most significant ceremonial sites in North America and were actively used from 800 to 1450 AD.

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The Spiro Mounds

Since then, many cultural artifacts have been recovered from beneath the mounds, including cups, pottery, tools and textiles like the Spiro lace.  The lace survived in part because of its proximity to copper plates beneath the mound, whose metallic properties served as a preservation tool for hundreds of years.

“It looks like they [Oklahoma Native Americans] had many clothing and elaborate costumes we know nothing about,” said Elsbeth Dowd, the former collection manager of the Sam Noble Museum’s archaeology department and current museum registrar.

According to Dr. Dowd, this fragment of lace survives as Oklahoma’s oldest textile and offers previously unknown information about the way Native Americans lived centuries ago. Unfortunately, when this piece was discovered many decades ago, as a good-intentioned effort to prevent further deterioration and tearing, the lace was glued to a yellow matboard.

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The lace glued to matboard

Current preservation efforts are geared at safely removing the lace from the matboard, as the acidic properties of the board will gradually wear on the lace and inflict further damage. Additionally, with the lace removed, archaeologists like Dowd would be able to conduct a more informative analysis of the lace using methods such as fiber analysis and 3D scanning. 

“Being able to conserve this to give people access to the lace would really be great for research,” Dowd confirmed.

Thanks to your votes, the museum is one step closer to obtaining the preservation care so desperately needed. Through the Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Program, the Sam Noble Museum hopes to gain further recognition and support for its conversation efforts. It is evident that Oklahomans care deeply for their rich history, which is precisely why the museum is dedicated to preserving it for generations to come.

If you would like to support the Sam Noble Museum’s preservation efforts or any of its other programs, operations, and development of exhibits, click the donate button on the museum’s homepage.