Restitution. Christmas 2018

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Editor’s Note: Don Miller was far more than a footnote on a repatriation case. You are urged to search this blog for the coverage we have given this story to date. Many supporters and friends of Don Miller would say that he too was a national treasure deserving a bit more from his government than he received. Is it about quotas and grand headlines? Is it probable that Don Miller failed to have clear title to any of the objects currently seized by the US government? You be the judge and know there is far more to this story than what you will read below. JB

US returns plundered artifacts to Colombia

WASHINGTON (AFP).- The United States returned to Colombia Wednesday 38 ancient artifacts plundered over decades by a private American collector described as a "modern-day Indiana Jones."

The FBI recovered the artifacts -- pre-Colombian ceramic pottery from the southern Narino highlands and the Caribbean -- after receiving a complaint about the museum-like collection at the home in Indiana of one Donald Miller, a businessman with an interest in archeology.

Investigators found thousands of pieces from China, Colombia, New Guinea and the United States.

"This collector was a modern-day Indiana Jones. Remember that what Indiana Jones did was to steal all manners of cultural patrimony from other countries," Colombia's Ambassador in Washington Francisco Santos told reporters during a ceremony at the Colombian Embassy.

"That's what this man was -- but he was a 90-year-old old man with a museum in his home. That was his hobby," Santos added.

Twenty-nine of the recovered pieces were returned during the ceremony, and 11 more will be delivered in Bogota.

"The items returned today are part of the largest collection of art and cultural property ever recovered by the FBI in the course of a single investigation," said FBI Special Agent Maxwell Marker.

No charges were brought against Miller, who died shortly after the collection was seized.

"His hobby was to travel around the world picking up these pieces and literally stealing the cultural heritage," Santos said.

The Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History is set to assess the pieces and try to identify them.

Trafficking in plundered artifacts is particularly destructive because of the loss of valuable knowledge that occurs as well as the physical objects.

"We lose the ability to physically appreciate our heritage," said Santos.

Jennifer Galt, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, said the objects were so small that they were easy to hide in luggage.

"Although we cannot return these items to their original context and recover that lost information, I am very pleased that the United States can return them to Colombia," she said.

© Agence France-Presse

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Restitution of African art from France: "We need this memory"

LAGOS (AFP).- The debate over the restitution of thousands of African cultural artefacts from France has become heated, but in West Africa conservators prefer to call it "collaboration" and are preparing for their return.

The French presidency announced on Friday night that it was restoring "without delay" 26 works plundered by the French army in 1892 and claimed by the authorities in Benin.

The recommendations come with the delivery of a non-binding report that proposes a change in legislation and urges the return of museum artefacts to Africa from France.

Alain Godonou, a Beninese conservator responsible for heritage at the new national agency for tourism promotion in Benin, has been working on this issue for more than 30 years and says now is the time for reflection.

The small West African country of Benin, formerly Dahomey, was home to the kingdom of Abomey (1600-1894) and priceless wealth.

But instead of sitting in the capital of Porto-Novo, the throne of King Glele from 1858 is one of the centrepieces of the 70,000 African objects kept at the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris.

"To keep war booty in countries that are now friends and collaborate doesn't make sense," Godonou told AFP.

"It's a relief but it's only the beginning. There is still so much to be done so that our youth can access this heritage that will make them proud."

Sensitive question

"We don't want them to have our objects just for the sake of it," Godonou continues.

"The cultural education of African youth is important and these objects will help to root them."

This includes a rehabilitation of museums. For years, Europeans have justified keeping the treasured artefacts by arguing that African countries didn't have the facilities to take care of their cultural heritage.

But in many countries -- including Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Benin -- plans are underway new museums have been built and plans are underway for yet more.

Beninese President Patrice Talon, whose goal is to make tourism one of the pillars of the national economy, has approved the sites for five museums that will open in 2020 to honour the kings of Abomey and the Amazons, the all-female military regiment in Dahomey.

The country's minister of foreign affairs Aurelien Agbenonci told AFP on Saturday the government is "delighted" with the decision, which he said was "an invitation to get to work quickly."

Ousmane Aledji, in charge of heritage for the Benin presidency, welcomed the "new form of cultural exchange" with France.

"We're not for a violent claim, but we want to put in place measures for progressive restitution," he says.

His sentiment was echoed in Abidjan, where the director of the museum of civilisation of Ivory Coast Silvie Memel Kassi said "it's not a bad thing in itself that they were preserved and indexed in France."

"Ancestral pieces"

The national museum of Abidjan was renovated last year, but a larger museum is sill in the works.

In this case, said Kassi, "we could start talking about a definitive restitution."

She added that "the important thing is to work together, we want to have access to these objects, we need this memory, these objects are a memory."

In Dakar, the museum of black civilisation, whose inauguration is scheduled for December 6, will be ready one day to house the objects, pledges Kassi.

"We have operational reserves that can accommodate such objects," said the Senegalese museum director Hamady Bocoum, stressing the works may not necessarily end up in museums and could go back to communities who may "decide to put them in the altars of the ancestors."

"These works came from our ancestors," said Taho Toubo, a traditional leader from Ivory Coast.

"I pray for the ancestors that their pieces are returned."

© Agence France-Presse


British Museum to return Benin bronzes to Nigeria

By Kieron Monks, CNN

Updated 11:07 AM ET, Mon November 26, 2018

London (CNN)More than a century after British soldiers looted a collection of priceless artifacts from the Kingdom of Benin, some of the Benin bronzes are heading back to Nigeria - with strings attached.

A deal was struck last month by the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG) that would see "some of the most iconic pieces" in the historic collection returned on a temporary basis to form an exhibition at the new Benin Royal Museum in Edo State within three years.

More than 1,000 of the bronzes are held at museums across Europe, with the most valuable collection at the British Museum in London.

Nigerian governments have sought their return since the country gained independence in 1960.

Temporary solution

The agreement represents a breakthrough for the BDG, which was formed in 2007 to address restitution claims.

The group comprises of representatives of several European museums, the Royal Court of Benin, Edo State Government, and Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

The returns are contingent on the timely completion of a new Royal Museum, adjacent to the Royal Palace that once housed many of the bronzes. Nigerian officials presented plans for the Museum at a BDG meeting in October. A spokesman for the Governor of Edo said that designs are being finalized in collaboration with the Royal Court of Benin.

A spokesman for the British Museum said European museums would play an active role in developing an elite institution suitable for housing exhibits that are considered to be among the greatest ever African artworks.

"The key agenda item (at the October meeting) was how partners can work together to establish a museum in Benin City with a rotation of Benin works of art from a consortium of European museums," the spokesman said.

"The museums in attendance have all agreed to lend artifacts to the Benin Royal Museum on a rotating basis, to provide advice as requested on building and exhibition design, and to cooperate with the Nigerian partners in developing training, funding, and a legal framework for the display in a new planned museum."

Details about which pieces will be returned and how many are yet to be established. Dialogue is ongoing between the parties of the BDG, and the group is scheduled to meet again in Benin City next year. The present agreement notes that Nigerian partners have not ceded claims for permanent restitution, and officials remain determined to secure the bronzes on a permanent basis.

"We are grateful these steps are being taken but we hope they are only the first steps," Crusoe Osagie, spokesman for the Governor of Edo, told CNN. "If you have stolen property, you have to give it back."

Osagie called for greater pressure on European governments to return the bronzes.

Breaking the deadlock

Nigerian claims received a boost with the release of a new report commissioned by the French government that calls for wholesale restitution of artifacts seized during the colonial era.

The report from academics Felwine Sarr and Benedicte Savoy, prompted by President Emmanuel Macron's 2017 commitment to return African heritage, recommended that items taken without consent should be liable to restitution claims.


Many of the estimated 90,000 artifacts of sub-Saharan African origin held at French institutions could be contested under the report's criteria.

Sarr and Savoy further recommended that key, symbolic pieces long sought by claimant nations should be immediately returned - including several French-held Benin bronzes.

The report also proposed a series of bilateral agreements between the French government and African states to bypass French laws barring museums from releasing their collections, which have proved a longstanding barrier to restitution. Such agreements would allow for permanent restitution rather than loans.

The French government has responded to the report by announcing an initial 26 artworks will be returned to the state of Benin, with further restitution to follow.

Pressure building

France's example will increase the pressure on museums across Europe, which has been building on several fronts.

Grassroots campaign groups within European countries are demanding restitution, such as in Germany, where 40 organizations recently signed an open

letter calling for the return of historical artifacts.

The letter prompted German institutions to conduct inventories of their collections to determine which items were acquired illicitly.

There is also growing recognition of the validity of restitution claims from a new generation of political leaders. Leader of the UK Labour party Jeremy Corbyn has said that if elected, his government would be willing to discuss the return of "anything stolen or taken from occupied or colonial possession."

Several influential private collectors have also taken the side of African claimants, such as British citizen Mark Walker, who voluntarily returned a set of Benin bronzes captured by his grandfather.

Museums are also facing a raft of increasingly determined claims from the governments of dispossessed nations across the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to Greece's claims for the Elgin Marbles, to Chile's appeal for Easter Island statues.

Few longstanding observers of a saga that has been taking place since the end of the colonial era expect these matters to be resolved quickly. President Macron's initial commitment to return just 26 pieces suggests a long term process.

Museums and national governments are likely to resist wholesale restitution, and national laws preventing museums from disbursing their collections will continue to present a formidable barrier.

But if the wheels are turning slowly, they do at least appear to be shifting.

Don Miller and Unanswered Questions. Christmas 2018

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Editor’s Note: This newsletter has been following this story since the raid. For background search on Don Miller’s name for these segments. JB

“Plundered” Artifacts from Aged Missionary’s Collection Go to Colombia

State Department & FBI present 39 objects from much criticized 2014 FBI raid

CCP Staff - October 12, 2018

On October 10, 2018, representatives of the FBI and U.S. State Department returned 38 ancient artifacts to Colombian officials in Washington, DC. Colombian Ambassador Francisco Santos characterized the objects as “plundered over decades by a modern-day Indiana Jones.” Jennifer Galt, a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, implied that the artifacts had been smuggled, describing the objects as stolen cultural patrimony “so small that they were easy to hide in luggage.” Unsurprisingly, the actual circumstances of the seizure were not discussed.

A 91 year old missionary who gave tours to schoolchildren and Scouts

In fact, the collector, Donald Miller and his wife were missionaries, supporting charitable activities and building churches in Colombia and Haiti. Miller had served in WW2 and was stationed in New Mexico during the Manhattan atomic bomb project. He worked at the Naval Avionics Center in Indianapolis in the 1970s and 1980s until his retirement. Miller was an amateur archeologist who made frequent trips overseas to participate in excavations.

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Mr. Miller was 91 years old in 2014, when about 100 heavily armed federal agents surrounded his Rush County, Indiana home and seized much of his collection. Agents told him that his artifacts were suspected as “stolen” and that it might take a dozen years or more to catalog them and determine what was lawfully owned and what was not. The thousands of objects ranged from WW2 memorabilia to tools and artifacts from tribal communities of the Americas – to a Chinese warrior figure on the front porch. They were not objects of substantial value, but were carefully curated to create a homemade, old-fashioned local museum. (Miller had offered his collection in 2014 as a donation to the Grover Museum in Shelbyville, Indiana, where a sampling of his collection was later exhibited, but they had turned down the gift.)

The Millers had collected objects from some 200 countries over eight decades, including pieces from Peru, Haiti, New Guinea, Australia, and China. They also collected Native American items from the US, which are legal to own if collected from private land. However, the collection also held numerous human skulls and other remains, which may have triggered a report that resulted in the raid. Miller was said to have attended Indian shows in the area for many years, and such remains, if collected from private land, were collected and sold before passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in 1990. Tribal officials from Oklahoma and other locales said they had been contacted and were working with the FBI to return these remains to tribes.

However, Miller’s home was not, as claimed, a secret trove of stolen or smuggled international artifacts. The Millers were passionate collectors and had purchased many objects as curiosities in the U.S. as well as bringing back beads, bowls and other common finds from around the world during their missionary tours and personal travels. Nor was it ever hidden. Mr. Miller was garrulous and proud of his collection: he regularly gave personal tours to local schoolchildren and Scout troops who came on field trips, and to anyone else who asked. A tunnel connecting the buildings that housed the collection featured a 60 foot anaconda; the Native American collection included canoes, beads and baskets, and the arrowheads Miller had collected since he was a boy on an Indiana farm.

Investigators told the press that Miller had been working on the collection his whole life and, “may or may not have acquired them properly.” They also said that when the 100 agents arrived, Mr. Miller invited them in. There is no indication that the the FBI ever considered simply asking Mr. Miller to return the human remains to the tribes, given his earlier offer to donate them to a museum. No charges were ever filed against Mr. Miller, who denied doing anything illegal up until his death in 2015, a year after the FBI seized his collection. Neighbors and friends said he had dropped out of public life after the raid.

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Community residents were upset at the time of the raid, asking why the FBI would send a hundred agents to the home of an elderly resident who was proud of and never hid his collection. “He’s just an ordinary guy. He just loves collecting things. His house looks like something you’ve never been in. It’s just beautiful,” said local Pat Montgomery. Neighbor Andi Essex asked, “Why? Leave him alone! He’s done so much for people.”

World travelers and collectors long before patrimony laws were common

Even after the raid, FBI spokesmen did not allege that any law has been violated, but stated that they were carefully assessing the objects to determine if they were unlawfully possessed. In 2014, retired FBI agent Virginia Curry called the raid, “an embarrassing and unnecessary show of force by the FBI.” In her April 4, 2014 response to Catherine Sezgin of the ARCA blog, Curry also noted:

“One might argue that Donald Miller’s collection, in a rural area of Indiana satisfies the federal definition of a museum. While the affidavit in support of the search warrant on this 91-year-old man’s home is not yet available on the Internet for review, it appears that there is no evidence that Mr. Miller is a physical threat or would cause harm to the artifacts he has so carefully maintained and displayed to his neighbors on request (on request, by the way, is as regular a schedule as one might ask for in such a rural Indiana community)… I suspect that Mr. Miller might have been persuaded before this event to work with the FBI, or any other agency, and the same expertise the FBI will now have to employ to evaluate, inventory and collect this material in anticipation of an eventual legacy donation to another facility.”

Dr. Kathleen Whitaker, former director, Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, said in response to the raid, “I personally find this descent on, and intrusion into a private home a bit disconcerting… the number of agents that descended on the site seems outrageously overdrawn. What did they expect from this 91-year-old man? Cannons and Uzis? ”

In statements to the press at the time of the raid, FBI spokesmen said that the goal of the seizures was to repatriate objects to source countries but did not provide any legal justification for seizure of the foreign objects. Laws in source countries, often unenforced, can potentially create legal liability for collectors in the U.S., but most countries, including Colombia, did not pass laws claiming artifacts as state-owned patrimony until the 1990s. Without knowing the date of import, there is no way of knowing if objects were imported in violation of U.S. law. Artifacts collected before passage of such laws were generally sold openly and were legal to bring into the U.S.

Christmas Lights Around The World 2018

Caretta Shiodome Tokyo

Caretta Shiodome Tokyo

Christmas Light Show Salerno Italy

Christmas Light Show Salerno Italy

Christmas Market, Frankfurt, Germany

Christmas Market, Frankfurt, Germany

Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York

Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York

Unknown site Guiness World Record

Unknown site Guiness World Record

Kobe, Japan

Kobe, Japan

Largest LED Sculpture, Moscow

Largest LED Sculpture, Moscow

Newport Beach, California

Newport Beach, California

Niagra Falls, ONtario

Niagra Falls, ONtario

NIce, France

NIce, France

Private home, Bristol, United Kingdom

Private home, Bristol, United Kingdom

Floating Christmas tree, Rio de Janeiro

Floating Christmas tree, Rio de Janeiro

Salerno, Italy

Salerno, Italy

Tokyo Christmas

Tokyo Christmas

Coming to Auction! Christmas 2018

Bonhams Lot 394Y  AN EXCEPTIONAL TLINGIT RATTLE  US$ 100,000 - 150,000

Bonhams Lot 394Y


US$ 100,000 - 150,000


Native American Art

11 Dec 2018, starting at 11:00 PST .

Los Angeles


  • 07 Dec 2018 12:00 - 17:00 PST

  • 08 Dec 2018 12:00 - 17:00 PST

  • 09 Dec 2018 12:00 - 17:00 PST

  • 10 Dec 2018 09:00 - 11:00 PST

  • 11 Dec 2018 09:00 - 11:00 PST

  • SOLD $504,500

Bonhams Lot 571  A LAKOTA SIOUX THREE-BLADED EFFIGY CLUB  US$ 30,000 - 50,000

Bonhams Lot 571


US$ 30,000 - 50,000

Bonhams Lot 334  A FRITZ SCHOLDER PAINTING, "SCREAMING INDIAN", 1970  US$ 50,000 - 70,000

Bonhams Lot 334


US$ 50,000 - 70,000

Binoche et Giquello to offer a rare Fang byeri

PARIS.- On the upcoming 14 December, auction house Binoche et Giquello will offer a rare Fang byeri among an African and Oceanic sale. The exceptional nature of this reliquary statue lies in the choice of a female bust. Its thick patina illustrates its age and its rare quality overall. The figure is one of the 20 remaining Fang busts, of which only a handful of models are female.

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This votive statue was used at the beginning of the 19th century for ancestral cult. It was then brought to France during the 20th century by a colonial administrator. It is estimated between €1 and €1,5 among the sale which includes 60 lots for a global estimate of 3 to 3,5M€.

The Fangs of Equatorial Africa are considered as a conquering nation who arrived in Gabon at the end of the 18th century. They are divided in different groups. One of them, the Ntumu group – who’s name comes from Ntum, the cane the leader carries during important debates – occupy the Wolev-Ntem plateau, in the North of Gabon. The social hierarchy of the Fangs is based on lineage. The father, named Esa, holdss a mighty power on his descendants, and is the only one who can lead the ancestral cult.

The byeri figure is made to keep the bones – skull or jaw – of the most illustrious ancestors of a family. The bones are contained in a bark box, on which an anthropomorphic wood effigy is fixed.

Each sculpture had a decor which refers to a deceased person of the lineage. The Esa honors the byeri by offering food in exchange for ensuring women’s fertility among the descendants, successful hunting, victorious battles, healing powers and protection against evil wizards.

The votive statue has a crucial role during young men initiations. After they drink a hallucinogenic herbal mixture, young men are left alone for a night with the byeri to meet their ancestors in a dream. The ancestors gives them a name and the list of their personal prohibitions.

In this auction, the byeri has the shape of a young woman’s bust with a cylindrical trunk. In the middle of its emerging breast, there is a brass pectoral in an ovoid shape. A “unique” high necklace, according to Louis Perrais, and brass bracelets decorate the figure’s neck and upper arms.

The perfect Fang classicism of the face features a large forehead in a quarter sphere and a very sparse face in the shape of a heart. The large mouth with thick lips stretched forward characterise “the fang pout”. The eyes are underlined by significant traces of resin which have certainly supported brass disks.

The thick black patina, sometimes weeping, illustrates the impregnations of rituals oil and its use since the beginning of the 19th century.

Gifts for the Season! Christmas2018

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Archives of American Art announces pivotal gift from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, (the Archives) today announced it has received a $5 million gift from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation to create an endowment to process and digitize material on art and artists from historically underrepresented groups in the Archives’ collections and the American canon, making them broadly available online. African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and women are typically underrepresented in U.S. museum collections.

The gift is among the largest in the history of the Archives and builds on the commitment the Foundation made in June with its announcement of a promised gift to the Archives of the expansive Roy Lichtenstein Foundation records and Roy Lichtenstein papers comprising more than 500 linear feet.

Highlights of materials already in the Archives’ collections that will be prioritized for processing and digitization using proceeds from the endowment include:

• The scrapbook of Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828?1901), one of a few African American painters of the 19th century to win national recognition.

• The papers of Jeff Donaldson (1932?2004), one of the co-founders, in 1968, of the artists collective the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA).

• The papers of renowned African American painter, printmaker, and teacher Charles W. White (1918?1979).

• The records of the Cinque Gallery founded in 1969 by artists Romare Bearden (1911–1988), Ernest Crichlow (1914–2005), and Norman Lewis (1909–1979) to exhibit the work of both new and established African American artists.

• The Tomás Ybarra-Frausto research material on Chicano art, the Archives’ most frequently consulted collection for the study of Latino art.

• The voluminous papers of ceramic artist and educator Toshiko Takaezu (1922?2011).

Since its establishment 64 years ago, the Archives has been committed to diversifying and broadening its collections and making them publicly accessible online. While the Archives has one of the most ambitious digitization programs in the world, the process requires time and meticulous attention to detail. Thus, to date, the Archives has been able to process only about 13 percent of its collections, which are continually expanding.

The timely gift, which helps to match a generous challenge grant to endow digitization at the Archives made by the Terra Foundation for American Art in 2016, brings the Archives' digitization endowment to more than $11 million, securing a robust future for the program. It also ensures that women and people of color will represent a greater proportion of the Archives’ processing and digitization activity going forward.

“The Archives of American Art has been committed to diversity in its collections since our early years, beginning with the acquisition of Horace Pippin’s illustrated World War I memoir in 1958," said Kate Haw, director of the Archives of American Art. "Since then, we have worked to build strength in collections focused on historically underrepresented art and artists and to make these collections available to a worldwide audience, but we need to do more. This extraordinary gift reinforces our work to add to our existing collections on underrepresented artists and enables us to share an ever more inclusive story of American art globally. The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation’s wonderful generosity will lead to further research in under-recognized areas of our field, future exhibitions, and publications, connecting people everywhere with the stories of a wider range of artists. We are profoundly grateful to the Foundation for their vision and support.”

Dorothy Lichtenstein, president of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, said, “We are delighted to support the Archives of American Art and the processing and digitization of materials related to these important artists. We applaud institutions like the Archives that open their virtual doors wide and invite the world in. Having this diversity of treasures available online will allow students, scholars, and art-lovers to explore and expand on the remarkable network of connections and associations across the vibrant arc of American art history.”

The Archives will begin processing and digitizing material under this endowment in early 2019.

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Bruce Museum receives promised gift of major collection of Native American art

GREENWICH, CONN.- The Bruce Museum announced the promised gift of a highly significant collection of Native American baskets, textiles, and ceramics, to be donated to the Museum by Mr. and Mrs. Jay W. Chai of Riverside, CT. The Museum’s Executive Director, Peter C. Sutton, expressed his abiding gratitude. He characterized it as “a truly transformative gift.”

The donation will build on the foundation of ethnographic material given to the Museum in 1967 by Greenwich resident Margaret Cranford and will enhance the Bruce Museum’s standing as a regional resource for scholars and aficionados of Native American material culture.

The Museum's ethnology collection focuses on objects of peoples from the Americas and reflects the sophistication and diversity of the various cultures represented. The Native American collection is particularly strong in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Southwest material, including Navajo textiles and jewelry, Pueblo blackware, and Plains beadwork. Baskets, tools and clothing come from Plains, Southwest and Northwest Coast peoples. Prehistoric material from the Northeast rounds out the collection since the Bruce Museum is the repository for archaeological material excavated in Greenwich.

A selection of 13 Native American baskets from the promised gift is now on view in the Museum’s rotunda, as a timely complement to the exhibition A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. The exhibition showcases a dozen Navajo textiles from the Museum’s Native American ethnographic collection, as well as biographical material about Miss Margaret Cranford. The exhibition will be on display in the Bantle Lecture Gallery through November 25.

“The documented and verifiable provenance of notable objects in this gift strengthens the Bruce’s existing collection and provides innumerable avenues for interpretation and research,” says Kirsten Reinhardt, Bruce Museum Registrar and Curator of the Navajo Weaving Traditions exhibition.

Looking toward the future, the Bruce Museum plans to offer an exhibition featuring significant pieces in the Chai collection to further its mission to promote the understanding and appreciation of art and science to enrich the lives of all people.


Rockefeller Gifts Bring Indian Art Home to Southwest

Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Mesa Verde National Park Receive Major Gifts of Indian Art

CCP Staff - October 19, 2018

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado announced on October 18, 2018, that they have received major gifts of Native American Art from the Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller, which has been held by the David Rockefeller Estate. Many of the works were originally acquired in the 1920s and 1930s by David Rockefeller’s parents John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. In recent years, David and Peggy Rockefeller added important antique and contemporary works to the collection. David Rockefeller died in 2017.

Ten days of Christie’s auctions in May 2018 offered 1,500 European, American, and Asian artworks from the David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection. The sales grossed $832.6 million, the highest auction total ever for a private collection, all of which was distributed among twelve charities. Rockefeller’s Native American art and artifacts, of less intrinsic value but great personal importance, were reserved for direct donation to the MFA and the National Park Service’s Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum.

Jesse Nusbaum and the Building of Mesa Verde National Park

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The Rockefeller Estate gifts to Mesa Verde Park reflect John D. Rockefeller’s personal commitment to the park at a key time in its development, and his friendship with its superintendent, archaeologist Jesse Nusbaum. Nusbaum, who was appointed superintendent in 1921 at age 32, had actually worked surveying and photographing ruins there as early as 1907, later completing the Balcony House work for journalist and pioneering preservationist Virginia McClurg.

Nusbaum described the condition of the park and its staff when he inherited it as an “unholy mess,” where nepotism reigned and staff and their families illegally excavated and sold pots from ruins. Facilities for visitors were negligible, and the locals used the park as a place for roistering and drinking. Resisting attempts by local politicians to conciliate the locals, Nusbaum fired the worst of the staff and moved himself and his wife to Mesa Verde, where he built a Hopi-style home, made his own Spanish-colonial style furniture, and when the snows came, they wintered there alone, doing archaeological work in the park. Nusbaum first reduced, then ended grazing in the park, halting the already limited coal-mining, and built catchments to try and regularize water access.

Not satisfied with stabilizing and protecting the land, Nusbaum also developed a professional administration for visitors to the park, regulating entry and access, putting up signs to keep people off of ruins, and creating campgrounds. In fact, thanks to the proliferation of the American automobile, the park was already becoming seasonally overcrowded. Mesa Verde remained an educational experience, unlike the purely playground atmosphere of some other national parks. Nusbaum delivered lectures for the public in the evening, and soon involved the many Navajo laborers, who formed 90% of the workforce, in doing evening “sings.”

While his relationship with the neighboring Utes was more difficult, Nusbaum felt sympathy with the Navajo’s harsh lives, and built hogans for the park workers to make them more comfortable. His wife, a nurse, treated workers and visitors for injuries and after much lobbying, in 1926, the federal government authorized tents and finally a small hospital.

Nusbaum had to constantly fight off attempts by local politicians to influence its management. When a politician supported by the Ku Klux Klan came to the park, the group asked to use the site for an initiation ceremony and invited Nusbaum to join the group; he armed his men with axe handles and told the Klan to “get out.” The park’s “museum” was a poorly maintained log cabin when Nusbaum arrived; it was run by a local who claimed that the displays belonged to him. Nusbaum forced the man to give up the keys, and as soon as his own house was built, Nusbaum began working on a museum that would be fireproof and could safely hold a larger collection.

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Nusbaum Made Rockefeller a Partner in Park Development and Archaeology

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. first arrived Mesa Verde National Park on July 3, 1924, with his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and sons John III, Nelson, and Laurance. The trip to Mesa Verde was in many ways a typical outing for both moneyed and ordinary American travelers, but Nusbaum was focused on bringing in the Rockefellers as park sponsors and supporters. He gave the Rockefeller family a personal tour of the park and its impressive sites; they visited the museum, and Nusbaum’s wife Aileen produced a pageant for their entertainment.

Rockefeller was immensely impressed with Nusbaum and the work that he and Aileen had done. Rockefeller donated funds to build a four-room section of the museum, now known as the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, which were architecturally designed to blend into the site, an innovation that led the way for later park buildings throughout the Southwest.

Rockefeller also funded the archaeological work that Nusbaum undertook in the quiet months of winter. Nusbaum rarely had professionally trained staff, so he taught his local workers archaeological skills himself. In Rockefeller-funded excavations from 1924 to 1929, Nusbaum was able to gain far greater understanding of the Anasazi peoples and recover important materials for the park museum.

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Rockefeller Gift to Mesa Verde Museum

The Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum received over 100 works of “Native American Culture, by Native American artists, including pieces by tribal community members traditionally associated with Mesa Verde National Park.”

The gifts to the museum include a Navajo (Diné) rug with the woven initials J.D.R.; pots by San Ildefonso artist Maria Montoya Martinez (Poveka) and her husband Julian Martinez; wood sculptures by John Louis Clarke, and paintings by artists of the Taos School, including Eanger Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp.

The Gift to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In the case of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA), the gift of 52 works by artists from 13 Native American tribes and nations is particularly timely. The MFA has stated that its Native American collection had been understudied and largely left in store for decades. To remedy the situation, the museum has recently begun a “renewal of its commitment to the collection, interpretation and display” of Native American art. The gifts from the Rockefeller collection to the MFA includes Plains beadwork, Navajo rugs, pottery, watercolors and baskets.

The Boston museum’s Art of the Americas wing opened in 2011. In giving new attention to the MFA’s early Native American acquisitions. Its galleries do not so much present a timeline as a narrative about development and change, for example, showing pottery of the ancient Mississippi Mound Builders and the overtly contemporary ceramics of Cochiti Pueblo, Berkeley, UCLA and Parson-trained Diego Romero.

The MFA’s current exhibition, “Collecting Stories: NativeAmerican Art,” documents the early years of MFA collecting after the museum opened in 1876. This exhibition tells as much about many other U.S. museums as it does the MFA, as it explores the justification for relegating Native American materials to anthropology and natural history museums during much of the 20th century. In recovering Native American materials from obscurity and giving them pride of place in fine arts museums, the MFA says that, “As both works of art and souvenirs, these objects initially fit into the MFA’s educational mission to represent art in all media and from all cultures.”

Because the group of Native American objects gifted to MFA Boston and Mesa Verde from the David Rockefeller Estate were displayed in the Mt. Desert Island property in Maine, the collection is new to the public. Its display at Mesa Verde will now enable many Americans to see this part of U.S. art history and archaeology together in the landscape that inspired it.

Online MFA Collection Tour: Native North American Art

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MFA Boston receives gift of Native American art from Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller

BOSTON, MASS.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has announced the gift of the Estate of David Rockefeller from the Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller—an acquisition comprising 52 works of art by Native American artists and works representing Native American culture. The objects in this cornerstone gift were assembled primarily by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in the 1920s and 1930s, and include Plains beadwork, Navajo (Diné) weavings and rugs, Nez Perce cornhusk bags and one Taos School painting, as well as pottery, watercolors and baskets by a variety of artists from 13 Native American tribes and nations. Later works in the collection were added by their son David Rockefeller and his wife Peggy.

The MFA is one of two institutions to receive a gift of Native American art from the Estate of David Rockefeller, along with the Mesa Verde National Park Museum in Colorado, which John D. Rockefeller, Jr., helped to sponsor in the 1920s. At the MFA, these objects present an opportunity to add greater depth and breadth to the existing collection. The acquisition is part of the Museum’s renewed commitment to the collection, interpretation and display of Native American art, as reflected in the ongoing exhibition Collecting Stories: Native American Art; the Native North America Gallery in the Art of the Americas Wing; and recent installations of Native American works in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.

“This gift represents the remarkable legacy of the Rockefeller family as leading art collectors and as land preservationists, both on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, where their Native American collection was displayed, and widely across the United States. These significant examples of Native American art will allow us to broaden the stories we present in our galleries and further explore in our public programs,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director. “As the MFA continues to diversify the narratives we tell about the art of the Americas, we strive to be inclusive of the wide range of artists who have contributed to these histories. By strengthening the Museum’s collection in this critical area, this gift marks an important step forward.”

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller acquired the core of the gift during their travels throughout the American West in the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., became active in the growing land conservation movement in the U.S. and sponsored projects related to Native American art and anthropology in the Southwest. The Rockefellers purchased and later donated thousands of acres of land for the National Park Service at this time, including at Grand Teton National Park, while simultaneously collecting Native American art during the course of their travels. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., purchased objects directly from a number of artists, including renowned potter Maria Montoya Martinez (Poveka or Water Pond Lily) (1887–1980, San Ildefonso Pueblo) and her husband, Julian Martinez (1885–1943, San Ildefonso Pueblo)—acquiring some of the first blackware pottery they ever made. Rockefeller’s son, David, met Maria Martinez on his first visit to the Southwest as a child in 1926, part of a 10,000-mile tour of the American West with his parents and brothers.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller became particularly interested in contemporary watercolors by Velino Shije Herrera (Ma-Pe-Wi) (1902–1973, Zia Pueblo), Tonita Peña (Quah Ah) (1893–1949, San Ildefonso Pueblo) and Awa Tsireh (Alfonso Roybal) (1898–1955), among others. Smoking Pipe (about 1926), an oil painting by famed Taos School artist Eanger Irving Couse (1866–1936), was purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1926.

“These gifts of Native American art add a new dimension to the MFA’s collection and allow us to envision displays in our 19th- and 20th-century galleries where Native American art will enter into compelling dialogues with our renowned collection of American painting and decorative arts,” said Dennis Carr, Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture. “The MFA’s efforts to collect Native American art began in the 1870s, shortly after the Museum opened to the public, but then diminished in the decades after the 1910s. These objects, which were made or collected during the 1920s and 1930s, are an important complement to our current collection.”

The objects being donated to the MFA and Mesa Verde National Park were part of a collection of Native American art displayed in the “Rest House,” located on the Rockefeller family’s property on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. After John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s, death in 1960, his son David inherited most of his father’s properties in Maine, as well as his parents’ collection of Native American art, which he and Peggy left on view in the Rest House until his death in 2017.

“The immersive quality of the ‘Rest House’ collection, with its mixture of textiles, pottery, basketry and paintings, exemplifies a fashionable way to display Native American art in the early 20th century. Because the Rest House was a private family retreat, the collection has remained a lesser-known aspect of the Rockefeller family’s collecting and specifically of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s artistic sensibility,” said Pam Parmal, Chair and David and Roberta Logie Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts. “We are pleased to provide a public acknowledgement of this important contribution.”

Christmas Treasures from the Gallery

Here are some works in the gallery now. Contact or call 214-789-4695

Pende mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Early 20th century

Pende mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Early 20th century

Kiowa ledger drawing, late 19th century

Kiowa ledger drawing, late 19th century

Bamum drum, Cameroon, 1st quarter 20th century

Bamum drum, Cameroon, 1st quarter 20th century

Flores Island couple, late 19th/early 20th century, Published Eloquent Dead

Flores Island couple, late 19th/early 20th century, Published Eloquent Dead

Toraja Sarcophagus, late 19th/early 20th century, Celebes, L. 93”

Toraja Sarcophagus, late 19th/early 20th century, Celebes, L. 93”

Maya earspool disks AD 600 - 900

Maya earspool disks AD 600 - 900

Results. Christmas2018

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A tribal art world record emerges in Rago's $2.3M October auctions

LAMBERTVILLE, NJ.- Rago Auction’s October 19-21 auction series brought in a total of $2,324,975 across three segments. While each segment saw spirited bidding, the series’ opening segment, Tribal Art from the Collection of Allan Stone and Other Owners, met or exceeded all expectations with strong interest and even stronger results throughout.

This nearly 250 lot sale, consisting of tribal and ethnographic art of African, Oceanic, American and Asian origin and fueled by bidding from an international audience including buyers in Nigeria, France, China and the U.K., achieved a final sale price of $969,000 against a high estimate of $928,200.

Standout lots from the Tribal sale include; lot 147, a Fijian ancestral figure which sold for $137,500; lot 209, a bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Shiva from the 16th century which sold for $40,625; lot 105, a community power figure from the Songye people of the Congo which sold for $28,750 against a $18,000 high estimate; and lot 43, a headcrest from the Ekoi people of Nigeria which sold for $115,625, setting a new world record for the highest price achieved by an Ekoi headcrest at auction.

“Rago’s first major tribal sale proved to be a great success in netting just under a million dollars. It is noteworthy that this inaugural sale set a world record with the Ekoi headcrest, whose provenance includes The Helena Rubenstein Collection. Rago is currently seeking property for their next Tribal Art Sale, planned for fall of 2019.” - John Buxton, Specialist in Charge

Lots of note from the weekend’s other sales include; lot 1143, a carved limestone sculpture titled "Crucfixion" by outside artist William Edmondson which sold for $175,000; lot 1106, a 2nd century Roman marble sculpture of a Bacchic Faun which nearly doubled its $15,000 high estimate to sell for $28,750; lot 461, a 74-piece Buccellati sterling silver flatware set which sold for $20,000; lot 1198, George Washington Mark's "Greenfield Street by Moonlight" which sold for $28,750; lot 1142, a Haida Argallite bust of a European man which sold for $18,750 against a $8,000 high estimate; and lot 612, a “Rio” rocking chaise lounge by Oscar Niemeyer which sold for $5,938, more than double its high estimate of $2,400.

Lot 101

Lot 101

Lot 98

Lot 98

Christies SALE 16418

Arts d'Afrique d'Océanie et d'Amérique

Paris 30 October 2018

Sale total including buyer’s premium: EUR 5,214,750

LOT 98


Price realised EUR 2,407,500

LOT 101


Price realised EUR 62,500

Estimate EUR 25,000 - EUR 35,000

Christeis SALE 16506

Chefs-d'Oeuvre d'Art Africain et Océanien de la Collection Adolphe Stoclet

Paris 30 October 2018

22 Lots total

Sale total including buyer’s premium: EUR 1,393,125

Lot 1

Lot 1

Lot 22

Lot 22



Price realisedEUR 87,500

EstimateEUR 30,000 - EUR 50,000

LOT 22


Price realised EUR 1,207,500

Estimate EUR 300,000 - EUR 500,000



13 Nov 2018, starting at 11:00 EST .New York

55 Lots sold

Lot 92

Lot 92

Lot 72

Lot 72

Lot 92


Sold for US$ 336,500 inc. premium

Lot 72


Sold for US$ 87,500 inc. premium

Winter Solstice and its Traditions! Christmas2018

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Winter solstice

WRITTEN BY: The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Alternative Title: hibernal solstice

Winter solstice, also called hibernal solstice, the two moments during the year when the path of the Sun in the sky is farthest south in the Northern Hemisphere (December 21 or 22) and farthest north in the Southern Hemisphere (June 20 or 21). At the winter solstice the Sun travels the shortest path through the sky, and that day therefore has the least daylight and the longest night. (See also solstice.)

When the winter solstice happens in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted about 23.4° (23°27') away from the Sun. Because the Sun’s rays are shifted southward from the Equator by the same amount, the vertical noon rays are directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn (23°27' S). Six months later the South Pole is inclined about 23.4° away from the Sun. On this day of the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, the Sun’s vertical overhead rays progress to their northernmost position, the Tropic of Cancer (23°27' N).

According to the astronomical definition of the seasons, the winter solstice also marks the beginning of the season of winter, which lasts until the vernal equinox (March 20 or 21 in the Northern Hemisphere, or September 22 or 23 in the Southern Hemisphere). After the solstice, the days get longer, and the day has thus been celebrated in many cultures as a time of rebirth.

DEC 20, 2016

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8 Winter Solstice Celebrations Around the World

Since long before recorded history, the winter solstice and the subsequent “return” of the sun have inspired celebrations and rituals in various societies around the world.


Inti Raymi

In Peru, like the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, the winter solstice is celebrated in June. The Inti Raymi (Quechua for “sun festival”), which takes place on the solstice, is dedicated to honoring Inti, the sun god. Before the Spanish conquest, the Incas fasted for three days before the solstice. Before dawn on the fourth day, they went to a ceremonial plaza and waited for the sunrise. When it appeared, they crouched down before it, offering golden cups of chicha (a sacred beer made from fermented corn). Animals—including llamas—were sacrificed during the ceremony, and the Incas used a mirror to focus the sun’s rays and kindle a fire. After the conquest, the Spaniards banned the Inti Raymi holiday, but it was revived in the 20th century (with mock sacrifices) and continues today.

Shalako – Zuni Indians

For the Zuni, one of the Native American Pueblo peoples in western New Mexico, the winter solstice signifies the beginning of the year, and is marked with a ceremonial dance called Shalako. After fasting, prayer and observing the rising and setting of the sun for several days before the solstice, the Pekwin, or “Sun Priest” traditionally announces the exact moment of itiwanna, the rebirth of the sun, with a long, mournful call. With that signal, the rejoicing and dancing begin, as 12 kachina clowns in elaborate masks dance along with the Shalako themselves—12-foot-high effigies with bird heads, seen as messengers from the gods. After four days of dancing, new dancers are chosen for the following year, and the yearly cycle begins again.


Like the Zuni, the Hopi of northern Arizona are believed to be among the descendants of the mysterious Anasazi people, ancient Native Americans who flourished beginning in 200 B.C. (As the Anasazi left no written records, we can only speculate about their winter solstice rites, but the placement of stones and structures in their ruins, such as New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, indicate they certainly took a keen interest in the sun’s movement.) In the Hopi solstice celebration of Soyal, the Sun Chief takes on the duties of the Zuni Pekwin, announcing the setting of the sun on the solstice. An all-night ceremony then begins, including kindling fires, dancing and sometimes gift-giving. Traditionally, the Hopi sun-watcher was not only important to the winter solstice tradition, as his observation of the sun also governed the planting of crops and the observance of Hopi ceremonies and rituals all year long.

Current Exhibition. Christmas 2018

Phoenix Art Museum presents never-before-seen artifacts from Teotihuacan

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PHOENIX, AZ.- Phoenix Art Museum is presenting Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire, the first major U.S. exhibition on Teotihuacan in more than 20 years from October 6, 2018, through January 27, 2019 in Steele Gallery. This historic exhibition, organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), showcases more than 200 artifacts and artworks from the UNESCO World Heritage site. This exhibition presents a rare opportunity to experience both previously and recently excavated objects drawn from major collections in Mexico, many of which are on view in the United States for the first time and include mural fragments, religious offerings, reliefs, and more. A contemporary of ancient Rome, which reached its height in 400 CE, the ancient metropolis of Teotihuacan is one of the largest and most important archaeological sites in the world and the most-visited archaeological site in Mexico. On view in the United States for its final run at Phoenix Art Museum, Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire is a dynamic exploration of Teotihuacan as an urban environment, shedding new light on the striking parallels between urban life in the ancient Americas and life in contemporary cities.

“It’s a privilege for us to host Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire at Phoenix Art Museum,” said Amada Cruz, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “These objects have an important and timely cultural significance for our visitors, as they show us that the project of building communities, and the opportunities that come along with it, have an extensive history in proximity to our present-day home in Phoenix. We look forward to sharing these never-before-seen archaeological treasures with our community.”

Located approximately 30 miles outside of modern-day Mexico City, Teotihuacan was founded in the first century BCE near a set of natural springs in an otherwise arid corner of the Valley of Mexico. At its height a few centuries later, the city covered nearly eight square miles and featured enormous pyramids, long avenues, and residential compounds. Highlights of the exhibition include monumental and ritual artifacts from both recent and historic excavations of the three largest pyramids at Teotihuacan—the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, the Moon Pyramid, and the Sun Pyramid. Ceramics and stone sculptures from the city’s apartment compounds, which were inhabited by diverse peoples from many parts of Mexico, also are on view.

“Teotihuacan was an unrivaled civilization in its time and presents many parallels to our contemporary culture that help us re-imagine the nearly universal phenomenon of humans making cities,” said Matthew H. Robb, curator of the exhibition and chief curator of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. “Teotihuacan was a city in the modern sense of the word—a place where a multiethnic population was drawn together by many of the same social, religious, and economic ideas and forces that have long compelled people to create the clustering of monumental architecture and large-scale housing that we call cities.”

“We know from these artifacts that features of life in Teotihuacan, including agriculture, a relatively high standard of living, and better economic opportunities, relate to the same phenomena that we experience in any large city today, from Phoenix to Beijing to Paris,” said Robb. “These objects show us how a successful civilization like Teotihuacan dealt with the challenges and opportunities that come with long-distance migration; how it used art to create a unifying identity for a diverse population is remarkable. Teotihuacan was a city far ahead of its time, and some of the lessons we’ve learned from these objects could apply to our own contemporary situation.”

The Mexican-led team of archaeologists who worked at the main pyramids includes specialists from around the world, including faculty from ASU’s Teotihuacan Research Laboratory (School of Human Evolution and Social Change). Together, they have made significant discoveries since the last major exhibition of Teotihuacan artifacts in the early 1990s. By bringing objects from various excavations together and encouraging visitors to understand the context of specific sites within the city, Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire provides visitors with a special chance to learn more about a significant place in the Americas’ historical and cultural landscape. Over the course of the exhibition in Phoenix, the Museum will partner with ASU and its world-class archaeology faculty to create community-wide, all-ages programming to enhance visitors’ experiences of these World Heritage archaeological treasures, on view for the first time in the state of Arizona.

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Heard Museum exhibits rare works by Henri Matisse and the Native Alaskan masks that inspired him

PHOENIX, AZ.- The Heard Museum, located in Phoenix, Ariz., announced the opening of Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit, on Oct. 29, 2018. This will be the public’s first and only opportunity to see this groundbreaking exhibition exploring the surprising artistic and spiritual connection between the great 20th century French modern master, Henri Matisse, and the Indigenous people of the Arctic.

Matisse is celebrated for his sensuous approach to color and composition. Largely unknown to the general public, however, are his striking black-and-white portraits of Inuit people that were inspired, in part, by a group of Yup’ik (Native Alaskan) masks collected by his son-in-law Georges Duthuit.

In the last decade of his life, while working on his masterpiece La Chapelle de Vence, Matisse became interested in both the physical forms and spiritual concerns of the Inuit which later inspired this series of 39 individual portraits depicting the faces of Inuit men and women. In addition to original works by Matisse, the exhibition will also feature Yup’ik masks, cultural objects, archival photographs, film and ephemera totaling more than 150 pieces.

"The Heard Museum is honored to show these rarely seen works by Matisse and to share this extraordinary story with our visitors,” said David M. Roche, Heard Museum director and CEO. “Of particular significance to us is the effort this story inspired to reunite pairs of Yup'ik masks that, due to a variety of circumstances, have been separated by time and great distances. It's a thrilling and emotional experience to see them together again and advancing this type of scholarship is central to our mission."

Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit is co-curated by Sean Mooney, curator of the Rock Foundation and Chuna McIntyre, a Yup’ik artist and elder, and is the first ever exhibition to restore the original cultural practice of mated pairs of Yup’ik masks.

“It’s a privilege for us to show our masks,” said Chuna McIntyre. “All of these masks were once used together in a ceremony, then dispersed all over the world. People will experience centuries of history and it is a rare opportunity to finally have them all together again thanks to the Heard Museum.”

Yua is a Yup’ik word that represents the spiritual interconnectedness of all living things and is essential to maintaining balance and order in the Arctic way of life. The Yup’ik are Native Alaskans and their name translates to “the Real People.” A critical objective of the exhibit is to underscore the important contributions of Native Alaskans to an expanding concept of American art, as well as its intersection with broader artistic movements.

National and International exhibition collaborators include the Matisse Museum (Le Cateau) in France, the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Fowler Museum of Cultural History at UCLA, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC-Berkeley and the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Major funding for the exhibit has been provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Educational programs are being designed to ensure many points of entry for families, educators and youth and includes the unveiling of the exhibition mascot, Henri the Husky. Animals play an important role in Arctic cultures and Henri the Husky will be the accessible “face” to help families, youth and students engage and learn about the art and themes in the exhibition. Henri will be incorporated into all collateral materials including a Matisse Family Guide as well as the companion family exhibition It’s Your Turn: Matisse in the Sandra Day O’Connor Gallery and public events including First Fridays and Holidays at the Heard. An original ink drawing by Matisse depicting his beloved dog Raudi will be shown in It’s Your Turn: Matisse and hung at eye-level for kids to enjoy.

New Export Bill. Christmas 2018

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Bill Introduced to Regulate Export of U.S. Tribal Art

H.R. 7075: Native American and Native Hawaiian Cultural Heritage Protection Act of 2018

Kate Fitz Gibbon - October 21, 2018

New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce has introduced a bill, H.R. 7075, the “Native American and Native Hawaiian Cultural Heritage Protection Act of 2018,” that will provide tribes with assurance that cultural items obtained in violation of U.S. laws will not be exported beyond the reach of legitimate tribal claimants.

In a release on the day of introduction, October 19, the nation’s largest tribal art dealer organization, ATADA, thanked Congressman Pearce for his leadership in bringing together the tribes and art market participants to craft legislation that was “balanced and properly addresses the tribes’ valid claims while recognizing the importance of a vibrant art market to New Mexico’s economy.”

Bill Reaffirms the Law and Focuses on Stopping Illegal Trade

The key purpose of the Pearce bill is to halt the exportation of Native American and Native Hawaiian items obtained in violation of ARPA, NAGPRA or the 1906 Antiquities Act. H.R. 7075 requires certification and review (or self-certification for low value shipments) for export of all “covered items” which are published in a list in the Federal Register; the exporter must affirm that to the best of his or her knowledge, the objects are not acquired in violation of any U.S. law.

Under U.S. law, the vast majority of Native American and Native Hawaiian objects, including many culturally important items, may be lawfully owned by individuals and institutions. Others may not: human remains may never be sold, nor items taken from federal or Indian lands without a permit. Also, certain religiously important objects and items communally owned that are categorized as cultural patrimony under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act may be claimed by tribes from museums that hold them, if the museums receive federal funding.

Lawful Trade Recognized

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As ATADA noted in its release, “Native American art has been collected for over a century, and holds pride of place in American museums and private collections.” ATADA stated that tens of thousands of small U.S. businesses and tribal enterprises are dependent on the legal trade in Native American art and antiques. It stressed that international and domestic cultural tourism, especially to New Mexico and the Southwest, supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and makes up at least 10% of New Mexico’s economy.

H.R. 7075 states its intent to “facilitate the export of lawfully possessed Native American and Native Hawaiian items.” This purpose sets the Pearce bill apart from another bill that is pending in the Senate, known as the “STOP Act,” S. 1400, which fails to place the burden of proof on the government to show an object is unlawfully acquired. The proposed STOP Act would also make it official government policy to “voluntarily” return all cultural items to tribes.

How is Due Process Protected?

H.R. 7075 and other bills dealing with Native American cultural items previously introduced in both House and Senate have been bedeviled by an intractable problem: how do you write a bill making it illegal to export objects because they are unlawfully acquired under existing U.S. laws, when the public has no way to specifically identify what objects are unlawful to export?

For example, under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA), what makes an item unlawful is not based on what it is but instead on where it was found – whether it was taken without permission from tribal or federal lands. For items in circulation in trade for decades, this information is almost never known.

Under NAGPRA, it is not only essential to know when an object was originally acquired – but tribes are often unwilling to identify what items are sacred or which they consider inalienable cultural patrimony. The tribes treat this as privileged information.

However, by setting forth remedies short of seizure and by penalizing “bad actors” who try to export items knowing that they were illegally acquired, H.R. 7075 attempts to address the absence of due process present in other bills.

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Which Items Will Require Certification?

It remains uncertain which types of Native American items will actually require export certification under H.R. 7075. The bill sets no value threshold, or threshold related to rarity or “importance,” unlike export certification systems in Canada, Europe, Japan, or the UK.

The tribes’ reluctance to identify which objects are sacred or ceremonial – and which might require certification – means that the bill’s future effect is not yet clear. The bill states that the Secretary of the Interior will publish a notice in the Federal Register that will include “a description of characteristics typical of covered items,” [requiring certification] which nonetheless “shall be sufficiently specific and precise to ensure export certification is required only of such covered items and that fair notice is given to exporters and other persons as to which items require export certification.”

Therefore, the breadth of the list of “covered items” which will be subject to export certification will determine how great a financial and time burden is placed upon commercial and personal exports of Native American objects. This list was not defined in the bill.

H.R. 7075 does acknowledge that objects made for commercial purposes “generally” do not qualify as a covered item requiring certification.

Requesting Assistance from Other Nations

A further “purpose” confirms the authority of the President to request agreements or “provisional measures” subject to the limitations of Article 9 of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property to obtain the return of objects obtained in violation of ARPA, NAGPRA, and the Antiquities Act. This may assist the tribes in obtaining return of Native human remains still in foreign museum or scientific collections.

How will exports of Native American and Native Hawaiian goods work?

Exporters of all Native American and Native Hawaiian goods that are listed in the Federal Register as “covered items”, regardless of value, must submit an online application for export certification though the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s AES online export system.

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If the exported items are Native American or Native Hawaiian “covered items,” the exporter must fill out an attestation form stating that “to the best of the applicant’s knowledge and belief, the applicant is not exporting a Native American cultural item obtained in violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq. or 18 U.S.C. 1170), a Native American archaeological resource obtained in violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (16 U.S.C. 470aa et seq.), or a Native American object of antiquity obtained in violation of the Antiquities Act under section 1866(b) of title 18, United States Code.”

The proposed legislation will require only a limited AES filing for “covered items” of less than $2500 value, and an export certification document will be generated immediately on self-certification by the exporter.

However, the legislation does significantly broaden previous export requirements. Since July 2017, only commercial shipments of goods totaling $2500 in value or more have required online AES filings.

If a shipment that includes native American or Native Hawaiian “covered items” is valued at $2500 or more, there will be a 6-day time period for review of the proposed export by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of the Interior (which will provide information on the items being exported to tribes for review). With notice to the exporter, U.S. Customs and Border Protection can extend the review of an application for certification for up to 30 days if credible evidence of a violation of law is provided which requires investigation, after which certification will be either approved or denied.

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A Federalized Voluntary Returns Program

In its release, ATADA stated that it was “proud that the principles of ATADA’s Voluntary Returns program, which brings important items of religious and ceremonial use back to the tribes, have inspired a similar federal program.” H.R. 7075 sets up a completely voluntary returns program for items that anyone wishes to donate to a tribe of origin.

The voluntary returns program is designed to cover a broad range of items desired by the tribes, regardless of whether the items are held in violation of any U.S. law. H.R. 7075 establishes two working groups as advisers/consultants for the voluntary returns program, one with tribal members and one that will include collectors, dealers and museums. The bill will facilitate returns by making “provision for tax documentation of deductible gifts of Native American items to Native American tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations,” which some tribes have been unwilling or unable to do on their own.

Enabling Tribes to Receive Forfeited Items and to Request Halt to Legal Action

The bill also amends ARPA, NAGPRA, and the Antiquities Act, which until now have directed returns of all seized or forfeited items to the federal government, to permit such items to be returned to tribes. Another provision would allow a Native American tribe or Native Hawaiian organization to direct the Department of Justice to halt a legal action regarding a sale of an item (which might facilitate returns, particularly from overseas sales).

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1. The bill requires that an exporter have knowledge that an object was obtained in violation of ARPA or NAGPRA for the exporter to be subject to penalties.

2. There is no expansion of ARPA or NAGPRA except to enable returns of forfeited objects to tribes as well as to the federal government.

3. The Secretary of Interior will publish a list of covered items requiring certification that will have a “description of characteristics typical of covered items,” however, the description must be “sufficiently specific and precise to ensure export certification is required only of such covered items and that fair notice is given to exporters and other persons as to which items require an export certification”

4. The bill states that objects made for commercial purposes generally do not qualify as a covered item.

5. All covered items require certification, but items under $2500 may be self-certified by filing an attestation form online through the U.S. Customs’ online AES system with immediate issuance of a certification.

6. All covered items or groups of items $2500 or over require full processing through the AES system, certification shall be issued within 6 days.

7. With notice to the exporter, U.S. Customs and Border Protection can extend the review of an application for certification for covered items over $2500 for up to 30 days if credible evidence is provided which requires investigation, after which certification shall be approved or denied.

8. A “picture” of the covered items must be submitted with the application for certification for all items, regardless of value. The process for submission of a picture/photo is not determined.

9. Information on the covered items included in the filings will be made available by the Secretary of the Interior to Native American tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations via a secure website or other method in compliance with AES procedures.

10. Denial of export certification does not in itself enable seizure or in any way affect the legal status of an item under existing United States law.

11. Whoever seeks to export a covered item without a required export certification but voluntarily returns the covered item to the Indian Tribe with a likely cultural affiliation prior to active investigation shall not be prosecuted for such violation with respect to the covered item. The process of obtaining an export certification does not qualify as active investigation.

12. Any covered item that a person is attempting to export without an export certification shall be subject to seizure; a covered item seized under this clause for which credible evidence does not establish within 60 days that it was obtained in violation of U.S. shall be returned to the exporter but shall not receive an export certification.

13. If credible new evidence is provided that indicates a covered item that received an export certification was obtained in violation of ARPA, NAGPRA etc., the certification can be revoked before export; if discovered after export, the export can be revoked only after seeking court approval.

14. If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection denies an export certification, issues a Detention Notice, or seizes a covered item, the applicant shall, upon request, be given a hearing on the record. The provisions of 18 U.S.C. 983(c) shall apply to any forfeiture.

15. An Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian organization may submit a request to the Secretary of State that the US become involved in halting the international sale of Native American cultural items obtained in violation of U.S. law. Within 15 days the DOS shall contact the foreign state and the Department of Justice to transmit the request. In the case that an Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian organization submits to the Attorney General a request that the Attorney General cease pursuing legal action with regard to the sale of the Indian Tribe’s or Native Hawaiian organization’s item, the Attorney General shall promptly cease pursuing such legal action.

16. The Secretary of the Interior shall establish a federal framework for voluntary returns of items to tribes and convene working groups consisting of representatives of Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations, and a working group consisting of Native American and Native Hawaiian art dealers, collectors, and museums to advise the Federal Government on voluntary returns.


Definitions used by three U.S. laws are referenced in the bill. These laws serve very different purposes, and their inclusion is the bill is to segregate items obtained in violation of the underlying law. The definitions include:

- “cultural items” under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (which primarily enable tribal claims to be made to these items when in federally funded museum collections),

- “archaeological resources” as defined under the 1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act (which are unlawful to trade in if they were taken without a permit from federal or Indian lands), and

-“objects of antiquity” under the 1906 Antiquities Act. (This last term, “object of antiquity” was never defined in the Antiquities Act, and the lack of definition was the chief reason the Antiquities Act was held unconstitutionally vague in 1978 in the 9th Circuit.)

These different statutes’ definitions could, if very broadly interpreted, encompass virtually all objects made by Native peoples before 1918 under the ARPA definition (if taken from federal or Indian lands), and a quite broad swathe of items under NAGPRA, especially given that statute’s expansive definition of “cultural patrimony” as an “object having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself, rather than property owned by an individual Native American…”

However, trade in objects matching these descriptions is not unlawful – only trade in items of these types that were unlawfully obtained after passage of each statute.

This article and all other articles published by Cultural Property News are for information purposes only. They are not legal advice.

Bits and Pieces. Christmas 2018

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VIENNA (AFP).- Police are searching for three men after the theft of a painting by French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir from an auction house in central Vienna, police said Wednesday.

The landscape was due to go under the hammer on Wednesday but is thought to have been taken from the Dorotheum auction house late on Monday afternoon.

Police have released security camera images of three men who entered the auction house at around 5:15 pm (1615 GMT). After making straight for the painting on the second floor they are thought to have left through different exits.

"They were probably professionals," Vienna police spokesman Patrick Maierhofer told the APA agency.

The landscape painting, "Bay, Sea, Green Cliffs", dates from 1895.

It measures 27 centimetres by 40 centimetres (10 by 15 inches) and was valued at 120,000-160,000 euros ($136,000-180,000).


© Agence France-Presse

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Brazil recovers ancient human fossil fragments from burnt Rio museum

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP).- Brazilian officials said Friday they have recovered pieces of a 12,000-year-old fossil of a neolithic woman that was among the prized artifacts in Rio de Janeiro's burnt down National Museum.

"We found almost all of the skull and 80 percent of its fragments have been identified," museum director Alexander Kellner said, adding that fragments of a femur were also uncovered from the ashes.

The fossil, nicknamed "Luzia," was discovered in 1970 in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais by a French-led expedition.

A Manchester University team later did a digital face reconstruction based on the skull, which was used to model a sculpture of the ancient woman.

That sculpture went up in flames on September 2 along with most of the museum's 20 million artifacts. But the original skull fragments, kept in a metal urn in a closet, were found a few days ago.

"They've suffered alterations, damage. But we're very optimistic at the find and all it represents," said Claudia Rodrigues, a professor at the museum who has been picking through the debris.

The 200-year-old institution was considered the main natural history museum in Latin America, and was known for its paleontology department and its 26,000 fossils.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

© Agence France-Presse

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2,000-year-old inscription spells Jerusalem as Israel does today

JERUSALEM (AFP).- Israel unveiled Tuesday a stone pillar engraved with an ancient inscription showing that the spelling of Jerusalem in its present-day Hebrew form was already in common use some 2,000 years ago.

During construction work in February in Jerusalem, archaeologists unearthed the pillar with the inscription "Hananiah son of Dodalos of Jerusalem," written in Aramaic with Hebrew letters.

The Hebrew spelling of the city -- pronounced Yerushalayim -- is the same today.

The name of the city in that form appears only rarely from the period of the second Jewish temple (first century AD) and usually in religious and political contexts, said David Mevorach of the Israel Museum, where the stone is now being exhibited.

The city's name appears several hundred times in the Bible, almost always in the slightly different form of Yerushalem and only five times as Yerushalayim, said Yuval Baruch of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Yerushalayim is also used on a Jewish coin dating from the time of the Great Revolt against the Romans (66-70 AD).

"This inscription is important because it's a daily thing," said Mevorach.

"It's not for any religious or messianic or propaganda purposes. It's a person identifying himself from the city."

Baruch said "right now we understand that, for sure, in the second temple period, some people in this area of Jerusalem, when they want to say or to read or to spell the name of the city, they use the same way as we use today, Yerushalayim."

"We understand that the name has a very deep root... It's not something that was created in the diaspora."

He added that "even if you are a kid in school... they can read 50 percent of the letters."

The stone was originally part of a Jewish potter's village dating to the second century BC near Jerusalem.

The site, now inside the city, became the Roman 10th Legion's workshop in the early second century AD for ceramic building material.

It was the same legion that destroyed Jerusalem and the second Jewish temple in 70 AD.

The stone was reused as part of a row of columns along a basin.

Since it was removed from its original spot, details of its previous use are unclear.

Mevorach said Hananiah may have been an artist or artisan advertising his workshop or the stone could have resulted from a donation to a public structure.

As for Dodalos, it may have been a nickname referring to Daedalus, the craftsman in Greek mythology, said Mevorach.

It "hints to this long-time tradition of Jews living here adopting the ways of the Greeks" after the conquest of Alexander the Great, he said.

© Agence France-Presse

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Old Master? Cave paintings from 40,000 years ago are world's earliest figurative art

TOKYO (AFP).- A painting of an animal in an Indonesian cave dates from at least 40,000 years ago, making it the world's oldest piece of figurative art, new research has shown.

The painting in Borneo, possibly depicting a native type of wild cattle, is among thousands of artworks discovered decades ago in the remote region.

But it was only using technology called uranium series analysis that researchers have finally been able to work out just when they were painted.

The discovery adds to a growing body of evidence that cave painting did not emerge only in Europe, as was once thought.

"We can see that figurative art developed and evolved more or less at the same time in Asia and in Europe," researcher Maxime Aubert told AFP.

In 2014, researchers dated figurative art on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi to 35,000 years ago, but some of the paintings examined by Aubert and his team in nearby Borneo were produced at least 5,000 years earlier.

Aubert, an associate professor at Australia's Griffith University, worked with a team in remote and inaccessible caves in the East Kalimantan area of Borneo to date the paintings.

The team, whose research was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, looked at multiple layers of artwork painted on top of each other.

The bottom-most and oldest layer featured paintings of animals, mostly a local type of cattle, as well as hand stencils in a reddish colour.

On top of those artworks were hand stencils in a mulberry colour grouped in patterns and embellished with lines and dots, as well as small stick-like human figures in the same colour.

The final layer featured people, boats and geometric designs.

'An intimate window'

Aubert and his team employed a technique called uranium series dating, which involves analysing layers of the mineral calcite that formed on top of the painting over the years, as well as the material underneath the art.

They removed samples smaller than one centimetre (half an inch) across from the artworks and found one painting of an animal had been produced at least 40,000 years ago, and possibly nearly 52,000 years ago.

"To our knowledge, the large animal painting... is the oldest figurative rock art image in the world," the team's study said.

The painting is in fact one of the earliest-known representations of any kind of an animal, dating from a similar period to mammoth-ivory figurines found in Germany, the study added.

For many years, cave art was thought to have emerged from Europe, where famed pieces have been discovered and dated in Spain, Italy and France.

But the Indonesian paintings challenge that theory.

"It now seems that two early cave art provinces arose at a similar time in remote corners of Palaeolithic Eurasia: one in Europe and one in Indonesia, at the opposite end of this ice age world," said Adam Brum, an archeologist involved in the study, in a press release issued by Griffith University.

The second layer of artwork dates to around 20,000 years ago, and suggests an interesting evolution in the artwork of the era.

"Around 20,000 years ago, painting becomes of the human world, not the animal world. We see the same thing in Europe at more or less the same time," Aubert told AFP.

He plans to carry out further testing of other artwork in Indonesia, as well as pieces in Australia, and said he felt a personal connection to the past when examining the paintings.

"It's amazing to see that. It's an intimate window into the past."

© Agence France-Presse

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Relic of Quebec ramparts unearthed by Canadian archaeologists in 'major' find

MONTREAL (AFP).- Archeologists in Canada's Quebec City have found a well-preserved relic of the settlement's first fortifications built by French settlers more than 300 years ago, they said on Tuesday.

The foundations of the palisaded ramparts date from 1693 and are about 20 meters long (22 yards).

They were uncovered during initial construction work at a residential project in the city, whose old quarter is a World Heritage site.

"We found a small piece of wood driven into dark soil. We got out our trowels and scraped the dirt very delicately, and realized that we had found a hugely important relic, very well preserved," said Jean-Yves Pintal, head of the archeological team.

The relic was part of an enclosure erected according to the plans of French military engineer Josue Dubois Berthelot de Beaucours between 1693 and 1694 to replace a temporary system built in 1690 to defend the city against possible English artillery fire.

Built by 500 troops and residents of Quebec, these fortifications consisted of "a wooden frame made of massive pieces of cedar cut with axes," Pintal said.

"It's a major discovery for Quebec City but also for all Quebec," said the French-speaking province's Premier Francois Legault, who underlined the "exceptional" conservation of the material which was buried in clay.

The ramparts will be recovered from the earth and the wood dried in an operation that will take two years.

They will then be put on display.

Nathalie Roy, Quebec's Minister of Culture, called the palisade "priceless," while Mayor Regis Labeaume said it was "one of the secrets" that needed to be cleared up about the city's history.

"There remains a big one," he added, "and that is the tomb of Champlain."

Samuel de Champlain founded the city in 1608, and Pintal has given himself one year to find his resting place, the mayor said.

Quebec's historic district, unique in North America, is considered "a remarkable example of a fortified colonial town" by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency which includes the area on its World Heritage list.

British General James Wolfe defeated General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm in 1759 to secure control of New France for the British.

© Agence France-Presse

Peru. Christmas 2018

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Peruvian archeologists discover pre-Columbian statues

RUINAS DE CHAN CHAN (AFP).- Archeologists in Peru have found 20 800-year-old wooden statues in the largest pre-Columbian site in the Americas, Culture Minister, Patricia Balbuena and researchers revealed on Monday.

The statues, all but one of which were in a good condition, were found in the Chan Chan archeological site: a city that was once the capital of the Chimu Kingdom and pre-dated the Inca Empire.

Located close to the north Peruvian modern city of Trujillo, Can Chan was comprised of 10 citadels, or walled palaces, in its six kilometer squared (2.3 square miles) center of a wider city that measured 20 square kilometers.

Each statue measures 70-centimeters (27.5 inches) in height and they were aligned in niches in the wall of a ceremonial corridor decorated with high mud reliefs in a thousand-year-old building.

The corridor where they were found, buried in earth, was only discovered in June in the Utzh An or Great Chimu palace.

"It's an important discovery for its age and the quality of its decoration," said Balbuena while visiting the site.

The statues, discovered in September, are black with beige clay masks and "would be the oldest sculptures known to date in Chan Chan," said archeologist Arturo Paredes, who is leading the dig.

Each sculpture is standing with a circular object on its back, perhaps a shield.

The corridor is decorated with squares, like a chessboard, and waves in high relief, while there are also images of the "lunar animal," a mythical symbol common in pre-Hispanic cultures along the north Peruvian coast, according to archeologist Henry Gayoso.

The Chimu culture flourished between 900 and 1450 AD on the northern coast of Peru and at its apogee, Chan Chan, which means resplendent sun, had 30,000 inhabitants.

Only 14 square kilometers of the original complex remains but even that is under threat from the climate, looting and residential encroachment.

It attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world every year.

Some 500 people, including 50 archeologists are working on investigative and preservation projects in Chan Chan, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.

© Agence France-Presse

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PERU: The 1,500-year-old remains of at least 60 individuals from the La Ramada culture were discovered in a series of deep pits in the Vitor Valley of southern Peru. Six trophy heads were also found in the graves. Trophy heads were sometimes removed from enemies killed in battle, but these examples may have actually belonged to friendly combatants. Since it was burdensome to transport the bodies of fallen comrades home, only the heads may have been brought back for burial within the community.

Mexico and its Aztec Empire. Christmas 2018

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The Archaeologist Who Helped Mexico Find Glory in Its Indigenous Past

By Leila McNeill

November 5, 2018

Historically, 19th century archaeology has centered on heroic histories of white men’s conquest and exploration of foreign lands. Mexican-American archaeologist Zelia Nuttall was neither a man, nor an explorer in the traditional sense. Perhaps her unique perspective helps account for her unconventional approach: For over 30 years, Nuttall investigated Mexico’s past to give recognition and pride to its present—a project Western archaeology had largely ignored in favor of bloody, salacious narratives of Mesoamerican savages.

In 1897, Nuttall challenged the popular belief that ancient Mexicans were “bloodthirsty savages, having nothing in common with civilized humanity,” as she put it in an article for The Journal of American Folklore. This dangerous representation, she wrote, had “such a hold upon the imagination that it effaces all other knowledge about the ancient civilization of Mexico.” She hoped her work would disrupt this narrative and “lead to a growing recognition of the bonds of universal brotherhood which unite the present inhabitants of this great and ancient continent to their not unworthy predecessors.”

Born in San Francisco on September 6, 1857, Nuttall was the second of six children. Her Mexican-born mother, the daughter of a wealthy San Franciscan banker, and Irish physician father gave Nuttall and her siblings a privileged upbringing. When she was a child, her father moved his family to Europe in an attempt to improve his poor health, and they spent time living in England, France, Germany and Switzerland. Nuttall became fluent in Spanish and German, receiving ample education mainly through private tutors.

The family returned to San Francisco in 1876, where in 1880, Nuttall met and married French explorer and anthropologist Alphonse Louis Pinart. In the first years of their marriage, Nuttall and Pinart traveled widely through Europe and the West Indies for Pinart’s work. By the time the couple returned to San Francisco in 1882, Nuttall was pregnant with their daughter Nadine and the marriage had unfortunately become an unhappy one. She legally separated from Pinart in 1884 and formally divorced in 1888, maintaining custody of Nadine and winning back her maiden name of Nuttall.

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Despite the unhappiness of her marriage, Nuttall found her love for archaeology during her travels with Pinart. After their separation, Nuttall took her first trip to Mexico in 1884, along with her daughter, mother, sister and younger brother. That winter, she undertook her first serious archaeological study.

When she entered archaeology in the late 19th century, the field was overwhelmingly male and not yet formalized. Within decades, prominent archaeologists like Franz Boaz were making concerted efforts to professionalize the field. Pioneering women archaeologists, including Nuttall, Egyptologist Sara Yorke Stevenson and anthropologist of the Omaha people Alice Fletcher, often hadn’t received a formal scientific education at universities—an option overwhelmingly barred to them in the 19th century. These women found themselves considered “amateurs” by default. Despite this, they excavated sites and published their findings with equal skill as their male colleagues.

Archaeology at the time was also strongly linked to European and North American colonial expansion. As dominant nations competed to stack up colonies, explorers similarly vied to bring glory to their countries by bringing back artifacts from colonized nations and the excavations of indigenous sites. Yet Mexico also participated in this international competition, despite being itself often the site of foreign intervention and excavation. Historian of archaeology Apen Ruiz argues that this focus was integral to Mexican identity and power on the world stage.

Mexican politicians and intellectuals believed that the country’s history of indigenous empires gave Mexico a uniqueness that other competing nations didn’t have. But at the same time, they “did not want to acknowledge the relationship between the indigenous present and the glorious past,” Ruiz writes. Any connections between the supposedly “savage” indigenous people of the past, they feared, could make Mexico appear backward in an increasingly modern world. When Nuttall arrived on the scene, this debate—whether present-day Mexicans were direct descendants of the country’s former Aztec empire—was at the heart of Mexican archaeology.

While visiting the historical site of Teotihuacan in 1884, located northeast of Mexico City, Nuttall collected a series of small terracotta heads. These artifacts had been studied before, but had yet to be accurately dated and understood. In a comparative study of her collection and others, Nuttall concluded that the heads were likely created by the Aztecs near the time of the Spanish Conquest, and had once been attached to bodies made from degradable materials. She concluded that the figures were portraits of individuals representing the dead, were arranged into three classes, and were not all made in the same location.

Nuttall published her results in her paper “The Terracotta Heads of Teotihuacan” in The American Journal of Archaeology and the History of the Fine Arts in 1886. The study was original, thorough, and demonstrated an authoritative knowledge of Mexico’s history—as evidenced by the glowing responses of the archaeological community. That same year, Frederic W. Putnam, a leading American anthropologist, made Nuttall an honorary special assistant in Mexican archaeology at Harvard’s Peabody Museum—a position she accepted and maintained until she died.

In his 1886 annual report for the Museum, Putnam praised Nuttall as “familiar with the Nahuatl language, having intimate and influential friends among the Mexicans, and with an exceptional talent for linguistics and archaeology.” He went on: “As well as being thoroughly informed in all the early native and Spanish writings relating to Mexico and its people, Mrs. Nuttall enters the study with a preparation as remarkable as it is exceptional.”

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Putnam asked Nuttall to head the museum’s Central American collection, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. However, intending to take her research abroad, she declined. Nuttall and her brother George then moved to Dresden, Germany, where they lived for 13 years. During this time she traveled around Europe, visiting different libraries and collections, and to California, where she met Phoebe Hearst, member of the wealthy Hearst family and benefactor of University of California’s Museum of Archaeology. Hearst became a patron for Nuttall, providing financial assistance for her travels and research.

Without formal attachment to an institution, Nuttall had significant freedom to pursue work she deemed important, wherever it happened to be. In this way, Nuttall’s amateur status worked to her advantage, granting her an independence other professional archaeologists did not have.

After 13 years of study and travel, Nuttall published a flurry of works. In 1901, at age 44, she published her largest academic work, The Fundamental Principles of New and Old World Civilizations. One of her most lasting contributions was recovering ancient Mexican texts that Europeans had taken from Mexico and let fall into obscurity. One was the Codex Nuttall, a facsimile of an ancient Mexican manuscript of pictographs that had ended up in the hands of a British baron, Zouche of Harynworth. Nuttall learned about its existence from a historian in Florence, tracked it down and published it with a thorough introduction detailing its historical context and translating its meaning.

As Nuttall’s love for archaeology blossomed, so did her love for Mexico. In 1905, she decided to make Mexico her permanent home. With Hearst’s financial backing, she purchased a 16th century mansion in Mexico City known as Casa Alvarado, where she lived with her daughter. This, too, made Nuttall different from other foreign archaeologists, who tended to conduct research abroad but ultimately return to their home countries and institutions.

Not all of Nuttall’s theories turned out to be correct. In her 1901 text, she postulated that Mexican civilization had developed in parallel with those in Egypt and the Middle East. Long before Columbus, she argued, seafaring Phoenicians sailed to the Americas and interacted with the indigenous peoples of Mexico, influencing their cultural traits and symbols. Archaeologists have since largely rejected this idea.

Yet Nuttall is primarily remembered for effectively using archaeology as way to engage in the nationalist politics of the turn of the century. In the debate as to whether or not modern Mexicans were related to the native Aztecs, she claimed that “the Aztec race is represented by thousands of individuals, endowed with fine physiques and intelligence, who speak, with more or less purity, the language of Montezuma.” The portrayal of ancient Mexicans as uncivilized, she argued, kept modern Mexicans from claiming their indigenous heritage.

“She opened a reading of the Aztecs and ancient Hispanic peoples of Mexico to see them on the same level, through the same lens, that they saw other great civilizations of the world,” Ruiz tells “It was not so much about amazing discoveries, it was about changing the discussion.”

Unlike other explorers, Ruiz adds, Nuttall “was in dialogue with and talking to the people who were doing archaeology in Mexico, and was invested in conversations about what was important to Mexicans.”

Near the end of her life, Nuttall advocated for the revival of Mexican traditions that had been eradicated by Spanish conquest. In 1928, she called for a renewed national celebration of the indigenous New Year, which was traditionally observed twice annually by numerous Mesoamerican cultures when the sun reached its zenith and cast no shadows. That year, Mexico City celebrated the Aztec New Year for the first time since 1519.

In a personal letter to friend Marian Storm, Nuttall expressed her pure joy at the event: “It is strange to have archaeology produce such lively offspring! You can imagine how happy it has made me to have extracted from the grave of the past a germ so vital and lively that it will set children dancing and singing and observing the sun every year.” For Nuttall, archaeology wasn’t just exploring a foreign culture—it was also about deepening and awakening her own.

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Aztec Fishing

Mexican archaeologists have discovered a 39-inch-long sawfish blade at the bottom of a stone box packed with thousands of other ceremonial objects at the Aztec religious complex in Mexico City known as the Templo Mayor. This isn’t the first sawfish blade excavated there—archaeologists have found 77 so far—but it is possibly the largest, says the project’s director, Leonardo López Luján. Sawfish, a type of ray, had deep spiritual significance for the Aztecs because the fish was considered a hybrid of earth and sea, says archaeologist Alejandra Aguirre. The blade, its sharp teeth intact, was the last object to be excavated from a deposit containing some 11,800 artifacts, including the carcass of a wolf dressed in gold armor (“Aztec Warrior Wolf,” Top 10, January/February 2018), birds, and thousands of snails. Known as Offering 174, the box was interred under a floor during the reign of the emperor Ahuitzotl (1486–1502) and, according to Aguirre, may be a kind of tribute to the expansion of the Aztec realm under his rule.

Broken Treaty and Native American Battles. Christmas 2018

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In 1868, Two Nations Made a Treaty, the U.S. Broke It and Plains Indian Tribes are Still Seeking Justice

The American Indian Museum puts the 150-year-old Fort Laramie Treaty on view in its “Nation to Nation” exhibition

By Kimbra Cutlip

November 7, 2018

The pages of American history are littered with broken treaties. Some of the earliest are still being contested today. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 remains at the center of a land dispute that brings into question the very meaning of international agreements and who has the right to adjudicate them when they break down.

In 1868, the United States entered into the treaty with a collective of Native American bands historically known as the Sioux (Dakota, Lakota and Nakota) and Arapaho. The treaty established the Great Sioux Reservation, a large swath of lands west of the Missouri River. It also designated the Black Hills as “unceded Indian Territory” for the exclusive use of native peoples. But when gold was found in the Black Hills, the United States reneged on the agreement, redrawing the boundaries of the treaty, and confining the Sioux people—traditionally nomadic hunters—to a farming lifestyle on the reservation. It was a blatant abrogation that has been at the center of legal debate ever since.

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. had illegally appropriated the Black Hills and awarded more than $100 million in reparations. The Sioux Nation refused the money (which is now worth over a billion dollars), stating that the land was never for sale.

“We’d like to see that land back,” says Chief John Spotted Tail, who works for the president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He was speaking at the unveiling of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, parts of which are now on display at the National Museum of the American Indian. On loan from the National Archives, the treaty is one of a series that are being rotated into the exhibition “Nation to Nation: Treaties between the United States and American Indian Nations” on view through 2021. Most of the 16 pages of the Fort Laramie Treaty on display are signature pages. They feature the names of U.S. Government representatives and roughly 130 tribal leaders.

Delegates from the Sioux and Northern Arapaho Nations came to the museum to participate in the unveiling. During a small, private event in the exhibition hall on October 26, tribal delegates performed a Chanunpa or sacred pipe ceremony thanking and honoring the treaty’s signers and praying for the peace and welfare of their people and the United States. Among the delegates and roughly two dozen guests were direct descendants of the original signers, including Spotted Tail whose great-great-grandfather was a signatory.

“It is an honor to see what he did, and it is my wish that the United States government would honor this treaty,” Spotted Tail says. To him and the other delegates who spoke, the treaty represents a hard-won victory meant to ensure the survival of their people, but it hasn’t worked out as intended.

In the five generations since the treaty was signed and broken, the Sioux Nations have steadily lost reservation lands to white development. They now live in small reservations scattered throughout the region. “From the time we signed it, we were put into poverty and to this day our people are still in poverty,” Spotted Tail says. “We’re a third world country out there. The United States does not honor this treaty and continues to break it, but as Lakota people we honor it every day.”

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 was forged to put an end to a two-year campaign of raids and ambushes along the Bozeman trail, a shortcut that thousands of white migrants were using to reach the gold mines in Montana Territory. Opened in 1862, the trail cut through Sioux and Arapahoe hunting territory (as established by the first Fort Laramie Treaty in 1851). Red Cloud, a leader of the Oglala Lakota people viewed the wagon trains, and the forts that were built to protect them, as an invasive force. He and his allies, the Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho people, fought hard to shut down the trail. And they won.

“This treaty is significant because it really marks the high watermark for Sioux tribal power in the Great Plains,” says Mark Hirsch, a historian at the museum. “The Native Americans were wielding a kind of military power and presence in the plains that forced President Grant to realize a military solution to the conflict wasn’t working.”

The terms of the treaty not only closed the Bozeman trail and promised the demolition of the forts along it, but guaranteed exclusive tribal occupation of extensive reservation lands, including the Black Hills. White settlers were barred from tribal hunting rights on adjoining “unceded” territories. Remarkably, the treaty stated that the future ceding of lands was prohibited unless approval was met from 75 percent of the male adult tribal members. It was a resounding victory for the tribes.

Although some of the tribal leaders signed it in April 1868, Red Cloud refused to sign on promises alone. He waited until the forts had been burned to the ground. Seven months after the treaty was drawn, Red Cloud’s war finally ended when he placed his mark next to his name, on November 6, 1868.

Speaking at the ceremony, Devin Oldman, delegate from the Northern Arapaho Tribe says “This treaty is a promise of a way of life. It represents freedom, and that’s what I came to see.” For Oldman, freedom means sovereignty and the right to their traditional beliefs and structures of governance.

“The Sioux nation was sovereign before white men came,” says Hirsch, “and these treaties recognize and acknowledge that.” But in reading the 36-page document, it is clear the United States had an agenda that wasn’t fully consistent with the concept of self-determination for the Native American people.

Nine of the treaty’s 17 articles focus on integration of native peoples into the white man’s way of life. They commit the U.S. to building schools, blacksmith shops and mills. They include provisions of seeds and farm implements for tribal members who settle on the reservation including, “a good suit of substantial woolen clothing” for men over 14, and flannel shirts, fabric and woolen stockings for women.

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“This treaty is chockfull of incentives to encourage the Indians to adopt what was considered a proper Jeffersonian American way of life,” says Hirsh. Given the disparity between cultural norms of white men and native people, and the use of many interpreters, it seems unlikely that expectations were uniformly understood by all parties.

The Sioux tribal members who agreed to settle on reservations resisted pressure to adopt farming and came to resent the lousy U.S. Government food rations. Many did not participate in assimilation programs and left the reservations to hunt buffalo on lands west of the Black Hills, as they had done for generations. The treaty allowed for that, but the specter of "wild" Indians living off-reservation deeply unsettled U.S. policy makers and army officers.

And then came the gold. In June 1874 General George Custer led an expedition to search for gold in the Black Hills. By 1875, some 800 miners and fortune-seekers had flooded into the Hills to pan for gold on land that had been reserved by the treaty exclusively for the Indians.

Lakota and Cheyenne warriors responded by attacking the prospectors, which led the U.S. to pass a decree confining all Lakotas, Cheyennes and Arapahos to the reservation under threat of military action. That decree not only violated the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, but it flew in the face of tribal ideas of freedom and threatened to destroy the way of life for the Northern Plains Indians.

The conflict set the stage for the famous "Battle of the Little Bighorn" in 1876 where Custer made his last stand and the Sioux Nations were victorious—their last military victory. The following year, Congress passed an act that redrew the lines of the Fort Laramie Treaty, seizing the Black Hills, forcing the Indians onto permanent reservations and allowing the U.S. to build roads through reservation lands. In the years that followed, the Great Sioux Reservation continued to lose territory as white settlers encroached on their land and the expansion of the United States marched steadily on.

“This is a classic broken treaty,” says Hirsch. “It is such a naked example of a treaty abrogated by the United States in which the U.S. shows profound lack of honor and truthfulness.”

With no official means to seek redress, the Sioux had to petition the courts for the right to argue their case. They won that right in 1920 but the legal battle continued until the 1980 Supreme Court ruling which stated that the land had been acquired by false means and the Sioux were due just compensation. In refusing the payment, the Sioux maintain that the land is theirs by sovereign right, and they aren’t interested in selling it.

The financial award could help lift the Sioux Nation tribes from poverty and provide services to address the problems of domestic violence and substance abuse—problems that have followed the breakdown of their traditional societal structure at the hands of the United States. But money alone won’t give the people of the Sioux Nation what they are looking for. As important as the sacred land itself, it is the sovereign right they seek—acknowledgement that just five generations ago, representatives of the U.S. Government met representatives of the tribal nations on a level playing field in the Northern Plains, where one nation made a promise to another.

It would be easy to think of this 150-year-old document as an artifact of America’s uncomfortable past, says Darrell Drapeau, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribal council who teaches American Indian studies at the Ihanktowan Community College. But it is important to remember, he says, that the U.S. Constitution—a document that governs daily life in America—was signed almost four generations earlier, 231 years ago.

“We have a viewpoint of this treaty as a living treaty being the supreme law of the land and protecting our rights in our own homelands,” says Mark Von Norman, attorney for the Cheyenne River an Great Plains Tribal Chairman Association. “We don’t always think that the courts are the right forum for us, because it’s really nation to nation, and it shouldn’t be a United States court telling our Sioux Nation tribes what the treaty means. It’s based on the principal of mutual consent.”

A 2012 UN report on the condition of indigenous people in America seems to support that stance in spirit. It noted that U.S. courts approach the inherent sovereignty of tribes as an implicitly diminished form of sovereignty, and that monetary compensation can reflect an outdated “assimilationist frame of thinking.” The report specifically cited initiatives to transfer management of national parklands in the Black Hills to the Oglalal Sioux Tribe as examples of a more equitable and modern approach to justice.

“One thing I know about Indians, they don’t give up, and I suspect that this issue will continue into the future,” says museum director Kevin Gover, who is a member of the Pawnee tribe. “And I really do believe that one day something at least resembling justice will be done with regard to the Sioux nation’s right to the Black Hills.”

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 is on view in the exhibition “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations,” at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. through March 2019. The entire 36-page agreement can be seen online.

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Inside a Native Stronghold

A rugged volcanic landscape was once the site of a dramatic standoff between the Modoc tribe and the U.S. Army


November/December 2018

In 1872, some 150 members of the Modoc tribe took refuge in arid and unforgiving terrain just south of the Oregon-California border. Today, Lava Beds National Monument encloses 73 square miles of this harsh landscape on the southern edge of Tule Lake. Eruptions as recent as 800 years ago have left raw expanses of lava, tuff, and obsidian pocked by caves and laced with the largest known concentration of lava tubes in North America. Here, amid a maze of volcanic walls, boulders, fissures, and holes, 50 to 60 Modoc warriors held off a much larger force of U.S. Army soldiers for half a year.

The Modoc War is far less well known than other major Indian wars of the late nineteenth century, such as the Great Sioux War of 1876, which is famous for the Battle of the Little Bighorn. “The Modoc War remains an untold piece of American history,” says National Park Service archaeologist David Curtis. “It was very short, but the archaeological footprint that was left behind is enormous. It rivals Civil War battlefields.” For two years, Curtis has led a team of archaeologists studying this vast site. They are building on a comprehensive survey conducted by archaeologists Eric Gleason and Jackie Cheung for the National Park Service in the wake of a 2008 fire that burned off much of the vegetation that had grown in the 136 years since the Modoc War. That fire brought the site closer to its nineteenth-century appearance and exposed numerous features and artifacts dating to the war. Gleason and Cheung’s work was aided by the fact that newspapers and magazines of the time sent numerous correspondents to California to cover the war. Comparing these accounts and contemporary photographs with archaeological findings has added new layers of understanding to this often-overlooked episode in the history of the American West.

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People have inhabited the Tule Lake Basin for at least 11,500 years. By the nineteenth century, bands of Modoc lived in seasonal villages along the banks of the Lost River, the lake’s source, which empties into its northwest corner. Nicknamed the Everglades of the West, the lake once covered 100,000 acres and provided local tribes with abundant fish, game, and edible plants. The Modoc moved between permanent dugout homes in the winter and temporary structures built near seasonal food sources in the summer. Tule reeds supplied them with sustenance as well as sleeping mats, moccasins, baby cradles, and baskets woven from its fibrous stalks.

Settlers started to arrive in large numbers in 1846, when pioneers blazed a side branch of the Oregon Trail through the area. Tensions escalated into raids and ambushes by both sides, and in 1864 the federal government pressured the Modoc to give up their traditional lands and settle on a nearby reservation. But when the government didn’t provide enough rations, tribal members began to return to their homelands, some of which were now occupied by settlers.

In November 1872, U.S. Army troops arrived at Lost River to convince a band of Modoc led by a chief known as Captain Jack to return to the reservation. Captain Jack and his group refused the military’s order, and gunfire erupted, with casualties on both sides. Captain Jack’s band fled by canoe, and at the south end of the lake they were joined by other groups of Modoc, including one band that had killed 14 settlers as they traveled down the lake’s eastern shore. Together, the Modoc bands dug in on top of a 30-foot-high plateau of lava surrounded by deep fissures. Bordered by the lake to the north and more lava fields to the south, the place was known to the tribe as the “land of burned-out fires.” As a result of the events that followed, it would be known to history as Captain Jack’s Stronghold.

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The Army set up camps in open areas to the east and west in an attempt to surround the tribe. On the foggy early morning of January 17, 1873, more than 300 soldiers and volunteers from Oregon and California attacked from both sides. Even though their forces outnumbered the Modoc six to one, the assault quickly turned into a disaster for the Army. Lava cracks in the stronghold made ideal rifle trenches. Concealed Modoc snipers picked off Army soldiers as they crossed open fields of sagebrush, and dense fog made it impossible for the soldiers to use their mountain howitzers with any accuracy.

When it became clear that the plan to encircle the Modoc wasn’t working, the Army troops withdrew, counting 12 killed and 25 wounded. By contrast, only a few Modoc were wounded, and after the Army’s retreat, the warriors were able to collect Army rifles and ammunition from the battlefield. Both sides dug in for what was to become a six-month siege.

Today, a visitor to the battlefield can still make out cairns, walls, and other structures built of basalt stones by both the Modoc and the U.S. Army. In their survey, Gleason and Cheung recorded 756 fortification features here in all, including at least 569 rifle pits, or small barricades built for cover during battle. It wasn’t always obvious to the pair whether a feature was natural or constructed, especially since basalt tends to fracture naturally into flat-sided building blocks. But it was usually clear which side built a feature based on its shape or orientation. Gleason notes that some fortifications were obvious Army picket posts, waist-high circular walls of stones that sheltered three or four men on guard duty. Low C-shaped walls protected individual riflemen lying on the ground.

The survey showed that the action happened over a much larger area than was previous thought, expanding the stronghold from 183 acres to 445. Gleason and Cheung were astounded by how intact the site is. “You can still match individual rocks in historic photos,” says Gleason. This is in spite of the fact that souvenir-seeking tourists have been traveling to the battlefield since 1873. At least initially, these visitors were drawn in part by the extensive international media coverage the war received as it unfolded. Correspondents from Harper’s Weekly and The Illustrated London News filed stories from the field, and a reporter from the New York Herald even secured an interview with Captain Jack. The photographers Eadweard Muybridge, who is famous for his motion studies of animals and people, and Louis Heller took dozens of stereoscopic images of the lava fields and participants on both sides. The coverage swayed public opinion to the side of the besieged tribe—at least at first. It also provided a rich contemporary record that historians and archaeologists are still tapping.

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These accounts described the Modoc as taking full advantage of the lava plateau’s natural defenses. One Army captain involved in the fighting said, “I have never before encountered an enemy, civilized or savage, occupying a position of such great natural strength as the Modoc stronghold, nor have I ever seen troops engage a better armed or more skillful foe.” It didn’t help that the attacking troops were “a hodgepodge from all over after the Civil War,” says Curtis. “They were undersupplied, morale was low, and a lot of them were volunteers.” In contrast, the Modoc considered the entire landscape sacred. “You can only imagine their determination,” he adds.

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Over the three months after the initial Army assault, the Modoc settled in and tended to their defenses. Documenting these natural and constructed fortifications helped illuminate the Modoc battle strategy. “The original idea was that the Modoc picked a pretty good spot and were pretty good fighters,” says Gleason. “Now we know they were improving it, building fortifications in strategic locations, even burning brush for visibility.”

The Modoc also built corrals for 100 or so wild cattle that had roamed the lava beds and constructed camps consisting of small lodges out of willow poles and mats woven from tule reeds. Gleason and Cheung were able to pinpoint and survey seven of these Modoc camps, showing for the first time how the tribe remained divided into small bands just as they had been before the fighting. Despite more than a century of souvenir-hunting, artifacts such as cow bones, buttons, beads, and rifle cartridges remain at the camps. Using historical photographs, Gleason and Cheung identified one of the camps as belonging to the Hot Creek band. This site has special significance to Cheewa James, a Modoc historian and author who has worked at the monument. Shacknasty Jim, the Hot Creek leader, was James’ great-grandfather. Shacknasty Jim’s son Clark, her grandfather, was born there during the siege. “When I used to lead tours, I’d look in the caves and wonder if that’s where they lived, where my grandfather had been born, but we had no way of knowing,” she says. James’ first visit to the campsite after archaeologists identified it as the place of her grandfather’s birth was a moving experience. “My hair must have been at least six inches off my head,” she says. “It was just astounding, seeing where they lived and ate, where my grandfather was actually born. It’s astonishing to think that life continued right there. That’s where he survived.”

Some Modoc chiefs and their families sheltered in caves formed by collapsed lava tubes. Devery Saluskin, a member of the Modoc tribe who worked as an archaeological technician during the 2010 field survey, also has family ties to the site. He was able to visit the cave where his great-great-great-grandfather Peter Schonchin lived during the siege. “Seeing where he slept as a 14-year-old boy, it’s not just some far-off history,” Saluskin says. “It really brought me closer to my ancestors.”

At 43 by 23 feet, Captain Jack’s cave was the largest. Here was where the Modoc leaders sat and argued through the winter about what course to take. The tribe wanted six square miles of their ancestral homeland to settle on permanently, while the U.S. government demanded they hand over the warriors who had killed the settlers.

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The government eventually formed a peace commission headed by Brigadier General Edward Canby and set a meeting for April 11. In the stronghold, Jack argued for reaching a peaceful settlement. Other Modoc chiefs wanted to keep fighting. They pointed out how the whites had killed Modoc people, including some of their own family members, under flags of truce more than once. They may also have thought that if they could kill the Army leaders the troops would be demoralized and end the siege. Jack was mocked and overruled.

The meeting of the peace commission and the Modoc chiefs fell on Good Friday. Jack’s cousin, a bilingual Modoc woman named Winema (also known as Toby Riddle) served as interpreter along with her white husband. She had warned Canby of rumors of an ambush, but he insisted on receiving the chiefs at the Army’s western camp. The two sides had talked for less than an hour when the Modoc pulled out pistols, killing Canby and another negotiator and severely wounding Alfred Meacham, superintendent of Indian affairs for Oregon. Winema dragged Meacham to safety, and the Modoc fled back to the stronghold. Canby was the only full general killed during the Indian wars and the ambush made international news. It also turned public opinion against the tribe. The Army brought in hundreds more soldiers to remove the Modoc once and for all.

Gleason and Cheung have identified three Army camps, cataloging artifacts such as glass bottles, tin cans for food and tobacco, horseshoes, nails, and clothing fragments. Rifle cartridges and bullets were among the most common items in camps and on the battlefield. Identifying them by make and model enabled the researchers to recreate skirmish lines and sniper positions based on where different types of ammunition were found, since the Army used breech-loading rifles and pistols, while the Modoc mainly used older muzzle-loading rifles.

Pieces of mortar rounds, howitzer shells, and friction primers—a trigger mechanism for cannons—showed where the Army had set up emplacements for mortars and mountain howitzers, light and portable artillery pieces that had been used extensively in the Civil War. By examining historic records of the fighting, Gleason says it was possible to narrow down the provenance of some artifacts to an astonishing degree. “It’s not very often in my career I’ve been able to pick up an artifact and know the day it was dropped and probably the person who dropped it,” he says.

For Saluskin, recovering artifacts such as the shell fragments initially provoked another kind of response. “That’s not just some artifact,” he remembers thinking the first time he saw one in the field. “That shell was sent to kill my ancestors.” It took some time for him to become accustomed to nonmembers of the tribe handling these kinds of objects, he says, even for scientific purposes. But the archaeological work offered him new insight into an event that was critical to the history of his people. “I got to know that place intimately, wandering all over, being able to let my DNA experience every crack and crevice and lava mound and rock wall.”

On April 17, 1863, the Army attacked Captain Jack’s Stronghold again. As before, troops advanced from the east and west simultaneously, with the goal of encircling the Modoc and cutting them off from the lake. This time the fighting force was not made up of volunteers, but solely of professional soldiers—close to 700—accompanied by scouts from the Warm Springs tribe of northern Oregon.

“After the first battle, the soldiers were really leery of the Modoc and their ability to move and shoot,” Gleason says. According to newspaper reports, Army veterans of the first battle knew enough to advance at night, blackening their faces and guns and covering their heads with dark cloth. Mortar fire covered their movements. But their advance was initially stymied by the additional fortifications built by the Modoc and the fact that there was no brush to use for cover.

After fighting their way into the stronghold, the soldiers found it deserted except for a few Modoc who were too sick or injured to travel. The defenders had slipped out under cover of darkness and headed south. The battle left six soldiers dead and 17 wounded, with only two to four Modoc casualties.

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Two weeks later, a band of Modoc warriors ambushed an Army scouting patrol made up of 60 men at Hardin Butte, four miles south of the stronghold. The attack left 22 soldiers dead, including all five officers. A Modoc chief nicknamed Scarfaced Charlie is said to have let the rest of the soldiers go, shouting, “We don’t want to kill you all in one day.” But the victory masked the toll the retreat from the stronghold had taken on the Modoc. Famished and weary, the Hot Creek band surrendered on May 22, followed by Captain Jack’s group 10 days later.

A military court sentenced Jack, Schonchin John (Peter’s father), and two other Modoc chiefs to death. Two more chiefs were sent to Alcatraz for life. After the hanging, the prisoners’ heads were sent to the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C., though they have since been repatriated to the men’s descendants. The remaining prisoners were transported to a reservation in Oklahoma, where nearly half died from disease and malnutrition over the next decade.

The Modoc War was the only major Indian war in California, and relative to the number of combatants, it was one of the most expensive in U.S. history. To defeat some 60 native warriors, the government spent an estimated $400,000–$500,000, the equivalent of $8.4 million–$10.5 million today, and counted more than 100 casualties. In comparison, the six square miles the Modoc had requested to settle on would have cost $20,000.

Today there are about 300 Modoc in Oklahoma, and about the same number belong to the Klamath Tribes of southern Oregon, which include the Klamath and Yahooskin peoples. In 2017, the Modoc tribe of Oklahoma made a return of sorts to their ancestral lands by purchasing 800 acres to the north and west of the monument. It is important, says Saluskin, for the tribes to be as involved in the archaeology and administration of the site as possible. “It’s not just a snapshot of 1872,” he says. “It’s a sacred place, and it’s a sad place.” Near the end of a trail that now wends through Captain Jack’s Stronghold stands a 10-foot pole that was wedged upright in the rock after the 2008 fire. It is covered with bandannas, baseball hats, colored cloths, and beaded jewelry, items left by Modoc to honor their ancestors’ act of defiance.

Julian Smith is a contributing editor at ARCHAEOLOGY.

Season 24 Antiques Roadshow Key Dates. Christmas2018

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Season 24 Antiques Roadshow Key Dates

Monday, NOV 12: 2019 Tour Ticket Application Process Begins

Monday, JAN 7: Season 23 Broadcast Premiere

Monday, FEB 11

Ticket Application Deadline at 11:59PM PT

Furniture Submission Deadline at 11:59PM PT

Monday, FEB 26: Winners notified & Tickets Distributed

Tuesday, APR 16: Appraisal Event — Phoenix, AZ

Saturday, APR 27: Appraisal Event — San Antonio, TX

Monday, MAY 13: Appraisal Event — Sacramento, CA

Saturday, JUN 1: Appraisal Event — Fargo, ND

Tuesday, JUN 18: Appraisal Event — Winterthur, DE

Whats happening in the Art Market! Christmas 2018

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Is the Market for Young Artists Back?

Sales of artists born after 1945 are approaching 2014 levels; Kenny Spots Jenny's Buyer; Seferian LA MoCA's New Chairwoman; Zeng Fanzhi Takes on Cezanne; Sarah Sze Gets Storm King Commission

Artprice’s annual Contemporary art report is out. Artprice defines Contemporary artists as artists born after 1945. So the category doesn’t include some major figures often sold in the Contemporary art category like Gerhard Richter, David Hockney or, even, Andy Warhol. It does include artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The chart, above, shows the category peaking in 2014 during the same period many were fixated on young artists sometimes called the “Zombie Formalists.” The peak before that was in 2007 leading up to the financial crisis. Artprice keeps their records on a semester system. So these numbers show a year beginning in July and ending the next June which coincides with the auction calendar at the major houses in Europe and the US.

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The 2017/18 chart shows the number of lots by artists who are 73 or younger rising to an all-time high. The value of those lots lags behind either 2013/14 and 2014/15. That’s significant. It should be a good sign that the market for living artists is broadening at auction. Which is a trend we’ve seen in other data too.

Another interesting data point is how the three major auction houses in Contemporary art stack up under Artprice’s rubric. Sotheby’s is the leader with $533m in sales and the highest average price across 2,443 lots. Christie’s trails by 10% in the category with more lots and a meaningfully lower average price. Phillips which has specialized in emerging artist’s markets until recently also punches well above its weight in this particular category with $290m in sales and an average price close by Christie’s.

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A tribal art world record emerges in Rago's $2.3M October auctions

LAMBERTVILLE, NJ.- Rago Auction’s October 19-21 auction series brought in a total of $2,324,975 across three segments. While each segment saw spirited bidding, the series’ opening segment, Tribal Art from the Collection of Allan Stone and Other Owners, met or exceeded all expectations with strong interest and even stronger results throughout.

This nearly 250 lot sale, consisting of tribal and ethnographic art of African, Oceanic, American and Asian origin and fueled by bidding from an international audience including buyers in Nigeria, France, China and the U.K., achieved a final sale price of $969,000 against a high estimate of $928,200.

Standout lots from the Tribal sale include; lot 147, a Fijian ancestral figure which sold for $137,500; lot 209, a bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Shiva from the 16th century which sold for $40,625; lot 105, a community power figure from the Songye people of the Congo which sold for $28,750 against a $18,000 high estimate; and lot 43, a headcrest from the Ekoi people of Nigeria which sold for $115,625, setting a new world record for the highest price achieved by an Ekoi headcrest at auction.

“Rago’s first major tribal sale proved to be a great success in netting just under a million dollars. It is noteworthy that this inaugural sale set a world record with the Ekoi headcrest, whose provenance includes The Helena Rubenstein Collection. Rago is currently seeking property for their next Tribal Art Sale, planned for fall of 2019.” - John Buxton, Specialist in Charge

Lots of note from the weekend’s other sales include; lot 1143, a carved limestone sculpture titled "Crucfixion" by outside artist William Edmondson which sold for $175,000; lot 1106, a 2nd century Roman marble sculpture of a Bacchic Faun which nearly doubled its $15,000 high estimate to sell for $28,750; lot 461, a 74-piece Buccellati sterling silver flatware set which sold for $20,000; lot 1198, George Washington Mark's "Greenfield Street by Moonlight" which sold for $28,750; lot 1142, a Haida Argallite bust of a European man which sold for $18,750 against a $8,000 high estimate; and lot 612, a “Rio” rocking chaise lounge by Oscar Niemeyer which sold for $5,938, more than double its high estimate of $2,400.

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Christie’s Is First to Sell Art Made by Artificial Intelligence, But What Does That Mean?

Paris-based art collective Obvious’ ‘Portrait of Edmond Belamy’ sold for $432,500, nearly 45 times its initial estimate

By Meilan Solly

October 26, 2018

on Thursday, the AI-generated “Portrait of Edmond Belamy” sold for $432,500—some 45 times its estimated value—in a sale trumpeted by Christie’s as the first auction to feature work created by artificial intelligence.

It’s a moment likely to be marked in the timeline of both AI and art history, but what, exactly, does the sale signify? For the AI community, the Verge’s James Vincent writes in the days preceding the bidding war, the auction provoked controversy among those who argued that the humans behind the canvas (a trio of 25-year-olds best known as the Paris-based art collective Obvious) relied heavily on 19-year-old Robbie Barrat’s algorithms yet failed to sufficiently credit him.

Then again, the entire draw of the otherwise mundane portrait is its attribution to an intimidating mathematical equation:

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If the work was truly authored by this string of numbers and letters, does it matter who built and trained the AI? And, given the relatively blurred, imprecise vision the portrait—which Vulture art critic Jerry Saltz scathingly describes as “100 percent generic”—offers of its dour-looking subject, does “Edmond Belamy” even deserve a place in the art history canon?

There are no straightforward answers to these questions. The boundaries between AI, artists and AI-produced art are still amorphous, a fact readily exemplified by the current conflict between Obvious and Barrat. But before diving into the issue at hand, it’s worth revisiting the basics of the technology at the heart of this debate.

Back in August, Hugo Caselles-Dupré, one of Obvious’ three co-founders, outlined the collective’s creative process to Christie’s Jonathan Bastable. As he explained, Edmond and the sprawling network of Belamys depicted in a series of family portraits emerged thanks to a machine-learning algorithm known as the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN). American AI researcher Ian Goodfellow developed GAN in 2014, and as TIME’s Ciara Nugent notes, the rough French translation of “Goodfellow”—bel ami—provided the inspiration for the fictional family’s name.

Obvious’ GAN consists of two parts: the Generator, which produces images based on a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries, and the Discriminator, which attempts to differentiate between manmade and AI-generated works.

“The aim is to fool the Discriminator into thinking that the new images are real-life portraits,” Caselles-Dupré said. “Then we have a result.”

The Verge’s Vincent likens the training process to tricking a bouncer at a club. At first, a drunk individual may not be able to act sober enough to gain entry, but with enough practice, an inebriated person’s performance may convince a bouncer to change their tune.

“The networks know how to copy basic visual patterns, but they don’t have a clue how they fit together,” Vincent writes. “The result is imagery in which boundaries are indistinct, figures melt into one another, and rules of anatomy go out the window.”

Barrat, a recent high school graduate now conducting research at a Stanford University AI research lab, has been at the forefront of this algorithm-powered revolution, which is tentatively termed GANism. In an interview with the Washington Post’s Meagan Flynn, Barrat explains that he started experimenting with the technology two years ago, first training GAN to produce original rap songs based on a set of 6,000 Kanye West lyrics and later expanding to surreal landscapes and nude portraits.

After fine-tuning his code, Barrat uploaded it to the sharing platform GitHub, where it was freely available to aspiring AI artists like Caselles-Dupré and the remaining members of his three-man team, Pierre Fautrel and Gauthier Vernier. GitHub exchanges between Barrat and Obvious further speak to the former’s contributions, with Caselles-Dupré repeatedly asking Barrat to tweak the code.

It’s worth noting, too, that Tom White, a New Zealand-based academic and AI artist, conducted tests designed to compare Barrat’s model with those produced by Obvious. As he tells the Verge, the series of Barrat portraits produced by the analysis look “suspiciously close” to that of Edmond Belamy.

Caselles-Dupré readily acknowledges that Obvious drew heavily on Barrat’s work, but he tells the Verge the collective tweaked the algorithm to develop a unique portrait style.

“If you’re just talking about the code, then there is not a big percentage that has been modified,” Caselles-Dupré says. “But if you talk about working on the computer, making it work, there is a lot of effort there.”

Obvious’ borrowed code isn’t the only factor contributing to AI art world ire. As the New York Times’ Gabe Cohn writes, many members of the community find the Belamy portraits wholly underwhelming. Vincent points out that critics have further identified technical shortcomings, including low resolution and smeared textures.

In an interview with Cohn, Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has worked extensively with GANs, likened “Edmond” to a “connect-the-dots children’s painting.”

Speaking separately with the Post’s Flynn, Klingemann added, “It’s horrible art from an aesthetic standpoint. You have to put some work into it to call it art. … You have to put your own handwriting on it, make your own mark with these tools. That takes some learning and work and finding something different to say.”

Still, the debate over authorship barely begins to address larger questions of AI autonomy. Christie’s has been quick to capitalize on the Belamy portrait’s singular status, defining its medium with a heady catch-all description: “generative Adversarial Network print, on canvas, 2018, signed with GAN model loss function in ink by the publisher, from a series of eleven unique images, published by Obvious Art, Paris, with original gilded wood frame.” Obvious itself initially marketed the work as “created by artificial intelligence,” but Caselles-Dupré tells the Verge he now regrets using such definitive language.

Jason Bailey, the digital art blogger behind Artnome, explains why such phrasing is misleading, arguing that “anyone who has worked with AI and art realizes” algorithms are tools, not active collaborators or autonomous agents.

Regardless of Edmond Belamy’s true nature, the Christie’s sale marks a turning point. As a specific example of AI-generated art, it isn’t the revolution of Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain”—an actual urinal turned on its side that sparked the rise of modern and conceptual art—but the kind of work the painting (if you can call it that) represents certainly points to a departure from traditional definitions of art. And, judging by the hefty price tag seen at yesterday’s auction, collectors with large pockets, at least, certainly seem ready to embrace the burgeoning field of AI-led art.

My Word. Christmas 2018

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With the Newsletter at Christmas we try to focus on the nice things that are happening in the world.. yes its possible. It has been a great year ending with cataloging the Allan Stone collection for Rago Auctions and the Multiple Owner sale at Quinns auction this past week. We were pleased to set a world record with the Helena Rubinstein Ekoi/Ejagham head crest which sold at Rago’s for $115,625 with the commission. The hammer total was just less than $800,000 for the sale which, considering that the Stone sale was the auction house’s first major sale of ethnographic art, was a tribute to the  dedication and work of the staff at Rago. Rago has begun considering objects for another sale in the fall of 2019. Quinns has at least two ethnographic sales planned for 2019. It seems I find myself busier now than  at any point in my career.. a blessing not a curse .. because this is fun.

 December 6th will be Emily Duffy’s last day at the gallery. She has been a valued intern that will no doubt have great success in whatever she attempts after graduation from the University of Dallas.. Emily has done a great job on the Christmas newsletter in finding some fascinating stories. Our new intern Molly McNab also from the University of Dallas will begin working with us in January. Ana Norman will also be with us for the next semester.

 Our Antiques Roadshow Season 24 schedule has been announced . 1. April 16th Desert Botanical Garden Phoenix Arizona 2. McNay Art Museum, San Antonio Texas 3. Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California 4. Bonanzaville Fargo North Dakota 5. Winterthur Museum Winterthur, Delaware. See our segment in this issue.

Before publishing this newsletter, we should note that at Bonhams Los Angeles yesterday the Tlingit rattle sold for $504,500.

 2019 promises to be exciting on all fronts which we will attempt to cover for you. If you have any suggestions, complaints, compliments, or comments, send them to us at In the meantime we hope you and your family have a great Christmas and New Year celebration.

My Time Here At Shango. Christmas 2018

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Time here at Shango.

I immediately called my mom as a drove off from my first day as an intern.  The overreaction went a little like this:

Hey honey! How was your …

Mom, I LOVE MY NEW INTERNSHIP! It’s so cool. I am surrounded by art, my boss is so nice, and I am going to learn so much about the art world! I am going to network, and gain experiences and I am SO EXCITED!

. . .

Classes, life, past two-bit-jobs, .. Nothing could have prepared me for the positive experience I have had as an Intern here at Shango. The amount of knowledge that I have gained over my last 6 months here is something I will always treasure. As my last day approaches I can’t help but think about my first day.

With no expectations and an urge to learn, on that first day I found myself walking into an office and immediately buried under disorganized files. My first task was to organize 8 drawers of files. Not knowing how or even what these files were about I set out to accomplish my task; Opening every file one by one and sorting them out. I looked up from the paper in my hand and focused on one of the thousands of tribal art books that lined the wall. In that moment I saw what an opportunity I had before me. Not realizing it at the time, this task gave me a small peak at how John Buxton’s businesses operate and the number of clients he has gained over his 40+ years in the business. Museums, organizations, Private individuals: Looking through these files I caught a glimpse at the reach he had.

At the end of my day I walk to John Buxton’s office and strike up a conversation about my future, my dreams, and what I hope to accomplish. Little did I know that this one conversation would shape my entire internship.

Sitting in that I office I talked about how I had no idea what I wanted to do. All I knew is that I loved studio art, I dream of working abroad, and that my knowledge of the of the art industry was limited.  That day I told him that “I wanted to gain as many experiences as I could that would help me in my future search for a career path.” He said, “okay we will do that”, we said our good byes I went to my car and called my mom.

Out of my 6 months interning I have gotten just that and more.  My day to day duties included; Photography, art appraisal and research, creating the newsletter, updating the blog, visiting museums, sitting in with clients, and auction cataloging. Not only did I learn about John Buxton’s Appraisal and Gallery businesses I was able to network with many people who opened my eyes to the amount of opportunities I had before me. Talking with so many people about their personal career path is the what allowed me to gain a holistic view of the industry and set my expectations for any future job that I pursue.

My last day is sneaking up, as I reflect on my first day. I can’t help but think what my future holds. Graduation is on the horizon -6 months away- and the next thing I do is up in the air. Full time job, grad school, living under a bridge, it’s all possible. This internship has given me experiences and knowledge that I will be able to build from for years to come. It is the greatest gift I could have asked form during the Christmas season. Thank you to all who has had an impact on my journey to a happy and thriving career. A special thanks to John Buxton and the doors that you have opened and the wonderful experiences I have had working here at Shango. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

-Emily Duffy