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