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


Feast Your Eyes

For some, culture is an acquired taste – but not when it comes to food! TIME and National Geographic photographer Peter Menzel and his wife, Faith D’Alusio, have prepared a sampler plate of world culture with their photographic exhibit Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. The best part? We’ve saved you a seat!

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

The Hungry Planet exhibit, sponsored by Love’s Travel Stop & Country Stores, follows the lives of ten families as they produce, shop for and prepare food over the course of one week. We’re talking American fast food, Mali open kitchens and everything in between – a taste of culture for visitors of all ages. 

Chinese Street Stall

The 40 deliciously intriguing photos, from Menzel and D’Alusio’s award-winning book, show the sharp contrasts and universal aspects of this essential human pursuit. Even if photography isn’t your cup of tea, Hungry Planet takes the cake with several surprising revelations about global food preparation and consumption.

Vegetable Market in India

 So eat your heart out! Hungry Planet will be at the Sam Noble Museum from May 3 until August 31. But, if you’re looking to whet your appetite beforehand, join us for an opening reception on Friday, May 2 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.! The public opening will include food tastings from these savory local vendors: 


     Caesar’s Catering

→     Sooner Legends



     Abbey Road Catering

     Simply Falafel

 You might have a lot on your plate, but this is one (mouth-watering) exhibit you won’t want to miss. So join us on May 2 for the public opening, and sink your teeth into world culture.

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.




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.



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



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.



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 




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.



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.




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.



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.

Inside the Treasure Box: Week Six

We’re over halfway through with our eleven-week blogging journey! Crazy, right? Don’t be sad, friends. There’s still five weeks left! To celebrate, we left you a little ITTB challenge on our Facebook page. We know you’ve been on the edge of your seat since then, justdying to see what collection we’re diving into today. Never fear! Relief is on the way. As promised in our last post, we’re diving into Mexico’s rich history with a little help from our ethnology department.


According to Dr. Marc Levine, curator of archaeology, Mixtec-speaking people of southern Mexico used ritual objects, such as the one above, to burn incense during the 13th through 16th centuries. Grasping the long handle in one hand, a priest would sprinkle aromatic resin over hot coals placed in the circular cup. The pungent smoke would awaken the senses and carry this offering to the gods and ancestors above.


The polychrome painted decoration identify this object as an example of the Mixteca-Puebla style, known from the modern Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca. In Mexico today, these incense burners are called sahumadore, and people continue to use them on ritual occasions such Dia de los Muertos, a traditional, Mexican holiday meaning “Day of the Dead.” To catch a glimpse of this unique holiday, check out the video below by the Travel Channel:

Pretty neat, huh? If culture and travel isn’t really your thing, then be sure to check out last week’s post from our invertebrates department! Like always, you’re going to want to stay tuned for next week’s post. It’s creepy, it’s slimy, and it’s just in time for Halloween. Make sure you don’t miss a thing by following our blog and liking us on Facebook for weekly ITTB teasers!

Inside the Treasure Box: Week Three

Finally, it’s Wednesday! We know you’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting for today’s #ITTB. Well, you’re in luck. Today’s artifact, submitted by the ethnology department, has quite a rich and far-reaching history. You won’t be disappointed.

Today’s Inside the Treasure Box selection comes from far across the Atlantic Ocean. This gorgeous mosaic dates to the 2nd century AD and hails from the House of Cilicia at Seleucia Pieria, the harbor of ancient Antioch in Turkey. Archaeologists from Princeton University excavated much of this ancient city in the late 1930s. This mosaic served as the flooring of a triclinium, or dining room, and it represents a personification of the Roman territory of Kilikia, or Cilicia.

Traditionally, in a triclinium, there are three couches arranged in a U-shape along three walls of the room to produce an open area in the center of the room, used for serving food to guests. The area underneath the couches would be decorated with relatively simple designs while the central area of the triclinium would often feature the most elaborate portion of the mosaic, to be the focal point of any banquet.

Want to know the best part about today’s selection? Unlike many of our other ITTB gems, which are too fragile or rare to be placed on display, this Turkish mosaic has a permanent home just outside the Brown Gallery.   Coincidentally, the Brown Gallery is also the home to our newest exhibit, Masterworks of Native American Art. This exhibit features the latest chapter in Native American fine art, highlighting works from 1960 to the present. 

A selection from the “Masterworks” exhibit

With such exquisite culture right around the corner, a trip to the museum is a must for you and your kin. But before you grab your keys and head on over, there’s one last thing! Don’t forget to tune in next week for part four of this eleven-week series. We’re not giving anything away, but you might want to brush up your history, starting with 310 million years ago. That should keep you busy until next week, right? Good. We’ll see you on Wednesday!

Sneak a peek into Papua New Guinea

Working at a natural history museum is quite a rewarding experience. My enthusiasm is partially from being one of the most recent hires at the museum. I began in September and have enjoyed working with Dan Swan, curator of ethnology, and his team planning our upcoming exhibit, Warrior Spirits: Indigenous Arts from New Guinea. Nearly 100 pieces from the collections of the Sam Noble Museum and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art will be displayed beginning Feb. 4.

The collections include a variety of cultural objects, including masks, drums and ceremonial garments, many of which were collected during surveys in the 1970s assessing petroleum and mineral resources. U.S. soldiers also contributed items collected while Allied Forces manned listening stations in New Guinea during World War II.

Here is a sneak peek at the people and culture surrounding our upcoming exhibit:

Carved wooden ancestor figure, E/1972/4/11.

The people of Papua New Guinea are mostly descendants of Melanesians, closely related to the islanders of Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The island was one of the first landmasses to become populated by modern humans, about 50,000 years ago.

Hundreds of cultures live on the island of New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. These groups reside in small, remote rural villages- more than a third of them in the rugged highlands- and make their living by fishing, farming, hunting, and gathering. As a result of the villages’ isolation, many different languages are spoken on the island. With nearly one thousand distinct dialects spoken there, New Guinea possesses the greatest concentration of languages in the world.

The traditional Melanesian cultures are kept alive in elaborate rituals that accompany deaths, feasts, marriages, compensation ceremonies and initiation rites. Many of the artifacts in our collections reflect the diversity of the region, highlighting such ceremonial traditions as the dramatic fire dances practiced in the Highlands of West Papua and the ritualized veneration of ancestors among the Sepik River groups of New Guinea.

Art in New Guinea is as varied as its people. Carving, twining and weaving, produces many different types of art. Carved wooden sculptures, masks, canoes, and storyboards from New Guinea are valued around the globe in private collections, museums, and art markets.

The objects in Warrior Spirits, which include daggers carved from the bones of cassowary birds – a large flightless bird native to New Guinea and prized for its aggressive territorial nature—along with carved shields, war-clubs, spears and bows and arrows, were created and used by the indigenous peoples of present-day Papua New Guinea and West Papua, Indonesia.

Warrior Spirits: Indigenous Arts from New Guinea will be on display from Feb. 4 through May 13. Augmented with maps, graphics, and audio and video elements, this exhibit allows visitors a glimpse into the fascinating world of New Guinea. For more information, visit our website: www.snomnh.ou.edu.