My Word 2018

JB initials.jpg

This year has started busier than any year in my memory. Work continues for the Allan Stone sale in October. We will soon feature highlights in the newsletter. We also are collaborating on an auction series called Curious and Curiouser with Rago auctions in Lambertville. This sale will encompass everything from self taught  and outsider art to medical curiosities, natural history, and fabulous early automatons. This has been fun to work on. The first in the series was  a very successful sale Rago held last year under the same name. We also are collaborating with Quinns auction in Lambertville which is planning three auctions for ethnographic and folk art.

This issue of the newsletter has been  challenging sorting out all the interesting stories that we thought you might be interested in following. Certainly among the biggest is funding for NEA, NEH, and PBS which concerns me greatly. I believe the moronic move at the very least gave the President a rationale to be real force against the arts. Obviously this President has not shown much sensitivity in this area, but the golden toilet certainly haqsn't helped the situation.

Kim Kasten (Kolker) has departed the gallery after 12 years to start her own business Kim K Art and Design LLC and to focus on her art art. Kim is a highly competent appraiser having attained the highest CAPP (Certified Appraiser of Personal Property) credentials with the International Society of Appraisers. We wish Kim well and know she will be successful in her new venture.

Our new website ( is attracting a great deal of attention as is our free online resource for research on Southwest Pueblo Pottery. Thank you for your support.

I am about to start my 23rd years on Antique Roadshow  which now tapes in April, May, and June. So for the first time in over two decades I will see most of you in Santa Fe where I will be from August 8th to the 19th. promoting the Allan Stone sale.

This easily could be the best year we have had since opening our doors in Dallas in 1974. We appreciate your support and comments both positive and negative. JB


Human Migration Winter 2018

Sun River Camp Alaska.jpg

For decades, archaeologists have hypothesized that humans entered the Americas from Asia using Beringia (the first man to suggest the existence of a land bridge was actually a 16th-century Spanish missionary named Fray Jose de Acosta). But even as more sites of occupation were discovered in Siberia and Alaska, pointing to human occupation and the movement from west to east, questions remained. When exactly did the migration happen, and how did it happen? In one wave, or many?
In January 2017, researchers at the Canadian Museum of History concluded that a horse jawbone found in the Bluefish Caves of the Yukon bore human markings from 24,000 years ago, meaning that early Americans had settled here by 22,000 BC. That would push back the date of human occupation in North America by 10,000 years. But those findings—like so many in this field—proved controversial, and haven’t been universally accepted by the archaeology community.
The new report on Xach’itee’aanenh T’eede Gaay complicates this narrative further. While she may be “just” 11,500 years old, she provides incontrovertible evidence for the timing of human migration.
Within her genome is the story of a newly discovered population of early Americans whose ultimate fate remains a mystery, as their genes are no longer visible in modern populations. “This individual represents a previously unknown population, which is also the earliest known population of Native Americans,” says Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist and one of the authors of the new study. “We can address fundamental questions such as when people came into North America because this population is related to everyone else.”
The Upward Sun River girl, buried next to an even younger infant in a ceremonial grave with red ochre on both of them, is a member of what researchers are calling the Ancient Beringians. Prior to sequencing her genome, scientists had identified two main groups of Native Americans: Northern Native Americans and Southern Native Americans, who split off sometime after entering the continent. This infant child belongs to neither of those two groups. That means that, somewhere along the way, another split must have occurred to create this unique Ancient Beringian group.
Using demographic modeling, the researchers concluded that the founding population of Native Americans began splitting from their ancestors in East Asia around 36,000 years ago. By 25,000 years ago, they had made a complete split. By 20,000 years ago, another divergence had happened, this time between the Ancient Beringians and the rest of the Native Americans. And within the next 3,000 to 6,000 years, the Native Americans further divided into Northern and Southern groups.
All this, from the ancient DNA of one long-dead child.
Members of the archaeology field team watch as University of Alaska Fairbanks professors Ben Potter and Josh Reuther excavate at the Upward Sun River site.
Members of the archaeology field team watch as University of Alaska Fairbanks professors Ben Potter and Josh Reuther excavate at the Upward Sun River site. (courtesy Ben Potter)
“Now we have these bounds on the formation of Native Americans,” says Victor Moreno Mayar, another author of the paper and geneticist at the Center for GeoGenetics. “We think the explanation for this pattern, the one that requires the least movement, was that Native Americans were somewhere in Beringia 20,000 years ago. The best supported archaeological site in Alaska is only 15,000 years old, so we’re pushing the dates back, and it will be controversial because of this.”
The authors were well aware of the possibility for controversy going into the study. To that end, they included two different models to explain how the Ancient Beringians came to be. In one version, the Beringians split from the rest of the Native Americans before crossing the land bridge into North America, meaning multiple waves of migration. In the second, the group traveled across Beringia as one group, only splitting afterwards. Archaeologist Ben Potter, one of the authors, favors the former.
“I tend to support that on the archaeological side because that fits with the vast majority of archaeological evidence we have,” says Potter, who has worked at the Upward Sun River site since 2006 and was the one who discovered the children in 2013. “It’s not just a lack of sites [on Beringia and North America], it’s also the presence of a robust dataset of sites that shows a clear expansion from northeast Asia into the Aldan region, into northeast Siberia, and then finally into Beringia at around 14,500.”
But how can two such different scientific interpretations coexist side by side? Welcome to the real struggle with the story of human history: the question of whose facts come first, those of archaeologists or those of geneticists. As Potter puts it, genetics provides information about the populations and their splits, while archaeology points to the physical location of these populations and how they interacted with their environment.
Today, scientists find themselves having to incorporate these two strands of information in ways that don’t always seem to agree.
“We should remember that the earliest proven trace of human activity in eastern Beringia dates to around 14.1-thousand-years-ago, making the Upward Sun River site nearly 3,000 years too young to be representative of the initial human colonization of the New World,” said archaeologist Brian T. Wygal of Adelphi University by email. “Based solely on the archaeological data, human variability in the late Pleistocene was already quite diverse by the time of the Upward Sun River child burials.”
Geneticist and archaeologist Dennis O’Rourke of the University of Kansas, whose lab sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of the Upward Sun River infants several years ago but wasn’t involved in this study, agrees that there are some growing pains in the field now that archaeology and genetics are becoming more mixed.
“It’s a continuing challenge to figure out how to integrate these different types of data and ways of approaching the past,” O’Rourke says. “Questions can be raised [with this paper] where the archaeological and the genetic data might point to different geographic populations, but I think those will ultimately be resolved with more archaeological and genomic data from different geographic regions.”
This isn’t the first time such questions have been raised. As East Asian historian Nicola Di Cosma writes for the Institute of Advanced Study, “The tendency to explain the distribution of genes according to assumed patterns of behavior of certain peoples and societies is quite common in ancient DNA studies. Ultimately, these assumptions go back to historical, anthropological, and archaeological models, and sometimes not the best of them.”
That leads to the other issue with this new research: it relies on a single sample. “We could know something about the extent of diversity in this early Beringian population with greater certainty if we had multiple genomes,” O’Rourke says.
Di Cosma is even more blunt. “The samples from which the ancient DNA information is extracted are miniscule: how relevant are they to population movements across Eurasia over a couple of millennia?” he writes.
But ancient remains are exceedingly rare, and even when they’re found, using them for science is fraught with ethical complications. Perhaps most well known is the Kennewick Man, a 9,000-year-old man discovered in Washington who ignited a legal battle between scientists and local indigenous groups who wanted to rebury him. Willerslev ultimately used DNA samples to prove the genetic link between the ancient skeleton and modern Native Americans, allowing him to be returned under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
Potter and the rest of the team worked hard to avoid any missteps in their analysis of the Upward Sun River children, cooperating with the local tribes before doing any testing and trying to answer questions they might be interested in. reached out to the Tanana Chiefs Conference, a consortium of 42 member tribes in Alaska that includes the region where Upward Sun River is located, but didn’t receive a response before publication.
The team’s analysis has already uncovered fascinating insights. For instance, findings from Upward Sun “represents the first evidence of human use of salmon in the New World,” Potter says. “One of the elements we can develop through the bones is that we want to look at the mother’s diet and potential changes through time that might let us understand if people were storing salmon over the winter.”
In the end, the most valuable knowledge from this and future discoveries will likely be some combination of genetics, artifacts and paleo-environmental data, says O’Rourke. Taken all together, the amalgam of sciences could show how humans created material culture to interact with and survive in their environment.

Maya Discoveries Winter 2018

 Tikal with jungle over growth

Tikal with jungle over growth

1. GUATEMALA CITY (AFP).- Experts using an aerial high-tech laser scanner have discovered thousands of ancient Maya structures hidden under the thick jungle of northern Guatemala, officials said Thursday.
Some 60,000 structures were found over the past two years in a scan of a region in the northern department of El Peten, which borders Mexico and Belize, said Marcello Canuto, one of the project's top investigators.
These findings are a "revolution in Maya archeology," Canuto said.
The new discoveries in this Central American country include urban centers with sidewalks, homes, terraces, ceremonial centers, irrigation canals and fortifications, said Canuto, an archaeologist at Tulane University in the United States.
Among the finds was a 30-meter high pyramid that had been earlier identified as a natural hill in Tikal, Guatemala's premier archaeological site. Also discovered in Tikal: a series of pits and a 14 kilometer-long wall.
The Maya civilization reached its height in what is present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, and parts of Belize, El Salvador and Honduras between 250 and 950 CE.
Researchers now believe that the Maya had a population of 10 million, which is "much higher" than previous estimates, Canuto said.
The project relied on a remote sensing method known as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). Aircraft with a LiDAR scanner produced three-dimensional maps of the surface by using light in the form of pulsed laser linked to a GPS system.
The technology helped researchers discover sites much faster than using traditional archeological methods.
"Now it is no longer necessary to cut through the jungle to see what's under it," said Canuto.
Details of the research will appear in a documentary to air on February 11 on the National Geographic channel, said Minister of Culture and Sports Jose Luis Chea.

 Tikal as seen with LiDAR

Tikal as seen with LiDAR

2. Guatemala City - Advanced laser mapping has revealed more than 60,000 ancient Mayan structures beneath the jungles of northern Guatemala.
Set across dozens of hidden cities, the discoveries include houses, palaces and a 90-foot-tall pyramid that was previously thought to be a hill.
Made possible through special laser-equipped airplanes that can "see" through dense jungle, the groundbreaking research suggests that Mayan metropolises were far larger and more complex than previously thought.
Evidence of agriculture, irrigation, quarries and defensive fortifications were widespread, and extensive road networks point to initially unknown levels of interconnectivity between settlements.
Laser finds thousands of lost Mayan structures
Game-changing discoveries
The extent of the findings, first reported by National Geographic, may transform our understanding of how Mesoamerican civilization operated, according to one of the study's co-directors, Marcello Canuto from Tulane University in New Orleans.
"We're discovering that there is more of everything, and the scale is much bigger," he said in a phone interview. "In any given area there were more structures, more buildings, more canals and more terraces (than expected).'"
By extrapolating data from the 2,100-square-kilometer (811-square-mile) site, researchers have also revised their population estimates for the region. They now believe that 10 million people lived in the Maya Lowlands (an area covering parts of present-day Guatetmala and Mexico), a number that is "many times larger" than indicated by previous research.
Credits: PACUNAM/Estrada-Belli
"The general conceit over the last 100 years has been that the tropics were a bad place to have civilizations and that (the climate) is not conducive to sustaining complex societies," said Canuto, who has worked on Mayan archeology for more than 30 years. "There has always been this assumption that Mayan society was less populated and that there wasn't any infrastructure -- that they were small, independent city-states without much interaction.
Revealed: London's secret underground railway system
"But we're finding that this just isn't true. This research shows that, not only were there lots of people, but also lots of ways that they modified the landscape to render it more productive. The defensive structures that we're finding (also suggest) that there were lots of people and lots of resources, which can create lots of competition."
'Revolutionary' aerial mapping
Central America's thick jungle has often made large-scale surveys of historical sites logistically difficult. But recent developments in a technique known as light detection and ranging (or "lidar") are allowing archeologists to see through even dense forest.
The aerial mapping process is carried out by attaching a lidar sensor to the underside of an airplane. Using the same technology found in self-driving cars, the instrument maps the landscape by emitting pulses of laser light and the time taken for them to return.
The resulting data can reveal ground-level contours, pointing researchers toward man-made structures beneath the canopy. For archeologists, the method allows surveys of great detail and unprecedented size, Canuto said.
"This initiative is bigger than anything that has ever been done before. But it's not just big, it's also covering a wide swathe of this area, so it's actually a representative sample.
"For (archeologists) who work in the tropics, this is entirely revolutionizing the way we do everything," he added. "It's as if you were observing the sun and the stars with your naked eye and then someone invents the telescope."
Potential for archeology
Lidar sensors have previously been used to study other Mesoamerican settlements in Belize, as well as temple complexes in Cambodia. The technology may have archeological potential in other tropical areas, such as the Amazon and central Africa.
For now, the method's greatest barrier is the cost of chartering aircraft, Canuto said. His project was only made possible through funding from the Maya Cultural and Natural Heritage (PACUNAM), a Guatemalan non-profit organization that brought together a consortium of archeologists with different areas of expertise.
But as well as making research economically viable, this type of collaboration may provide new insight into the large datasets created.
"Now we're not limited to one site -- we can see everyone's data," Canuto said. "So instead of having 10 scholars working on 10 individual sites, we had 10 scholars working on individual questions across all the sites. That gives you a regional perspective that no one else has."
Advanced laser techniques have revealed more than 60,000 ancient Mayan structures beneath the jungles of northern Guatemala. Credit: PACUNAM/Canuto & Auld-Thomas
Moreover, if archeologists collaborate with experts in other fields, such as ecology and environmental science, aerial mapping may become more cost-effective and widely used.
How the Victoria and Albert Museum in China signals a new design for Shenzhen
"The data we use shows what's on the ground... but the other 95 percent of the data is providing a vertical profile of the canopy," Canuto said. "We, as archaeologists, want to know what's under there when you remove the trees. But ecologists want to see biomass and other things that archeologists don't care about."
The digital maps will later be used to carry out targeted ground research. Over the next three years, Canuto and his team hope to scan the entire Maya Biosphere Reserve, an 8,341-square-mile site in Guatemala's Petén region.


3. Guatemala City - Using a revolutionary technology known as LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”), scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.
“The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated,” said Thomas Garrison, an Ithaca College archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who specializes in using digital technology for archaeological research.
Watch a preview for "Lost Treasures of the Maya Snake Kings."
National Geographic Channel
Garrison is part of a consortium of researchers who are participating in the project, which was spearheaded by the PACUNAM Foundation, a Guatemalan nonprofit that fosters scientific research, sustainable development, and cultural heritage preservation.
The project mapped more than 800 square miles (2,100 square kilometers) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region of Guatemala, producing the largest LiDAR data set ever obtained for archaeological research.
Researchers using aerial lidar sensing equipment targeted 10 parcels within Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. Their discoveries are revealing previously unknown areas of Maya cities.

Maya City

Maya World mapping.jpg

The results suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilization that was, at its peak some 1,200 years ago, more comparable to sophisticated cultures such as ancient Greece or China than to the scattered and sparsely populated city states that ground-based research had long suggested.
In addition to hundreds of previously unknown structures, the LiDAR images show raised highways connecting urban centers and quarries. Complex irrigation and terracing systems supported intensive agriculture capable of feeding masses of workers who dramatically reshaped the landscape.
The ancient Maya never used the wheel or beasts of burden, yet “this was a civilization that was literally moving mountains,” said Marcello Canuto, a Tulane University archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who participated in the project.
“We’ve had this western conceit that complex civilizations can’t flourish in the tropics, that the tropics are where civilizations go to die,” said Canuto, who conducts archaeological research at a Guatemalan site known as La Corona. “But with the new LiDAR-based evidence from Central America and [Cambodia’s] Angkor Wat, we now have to consider that complex societies may have formed in the tropics and made their way outward from there.”
Surprising Insights
“LiDAR is revolutionizing archaeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized astronomy,” said Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Tulane University archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer. “We’ll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we’re seeing.”
Already, though, the survey has yielded surprising insights into settlement patterns, inter-urban connectivity, and militarization in the Maya Lowlands. At its peak in the Maya classic period (approximately A.D. 250–900), the civilization covered an area about twice the size of medieval England, but it was far more densely populated.
The unaided eye sees only jungle and an overgrown mound, but LiDAR and augmented reality software reveal an ancient Maya pyramid.
Courtesy Wild Blue Media/National Geographic
“Most people had been comfortable with population estimates of around 5 million,” said Estrada-Belli, who directs a multi-disciplinary archaeological project at Holmul, Guatemala. “With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there—including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable.”
Virtually all the Mayan cities were connected by causeways wide enough to suggest that they were heavily trafficked and used for trade and other forms of regional interaction. These highways were elevated to allow easy passage even during rainy seasons. In a part of the world where there is usually too much or too little precipitation, the flow of water was meticulously planned and controlled via canals, dikes, and reservoirs.
Among the most surprising findings was the ubiquity of defensive walls, ramparts, terraces, and fortresses. “Warfare wasn’t only happening toward the end of the civilization,” said Garrison. “It was large-scale and systematic, and it endured over many years.”
Laser scans revealed more than 60,000 previously unknown Maya structures that were part of a vast network of cities, fortifications, farms, and highways.
The survey also revealed thousands of pits dug by modern-day looters. “Many of these new sites are only new to us; they are not new to looters,” said Marianne Hernandez, president of the PACUNAM Foundation. (Read "Losing Maya Heritage to Looters.")
Environmental degradation is another concern. Guatemala is losing more than 10 percent of its forests annually, and habitat loss has accelerated along its border with Mexico as trespassers burn and clear land for agriculture and human settlement.
“By identifying these sites and helping to understand who these ancient people were, we hope to raise awareness of the value of protecting these places,” Hernandez said.
The survey is the first phase of the PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative, a three-year project that will eventually map more than 5,000 square miles (14,000 square kilometers) of Guatemala’s lowlands, part of a pre-Columbian settlement system that extended north to the Gulf of Mexico.
Hidden deep in the jungle, the newly-discovered pyramid rises some seven stories high but is nearly invisible to the naked eye.
“The ambition and the impact of this project is just incredible,” said Kathryn Reese-Taylor, a University of Calgary archaeologist and Maya specialist who was not associated with the PACUNAM survey. “After decades of combing through the forests, no archaeologists had stumbled across these sites. More importantly, we never had the big picture that this data set gives us. It really pulls back the veil and helps us see the civilization as the ancient Maya saw it.”



Technology Winter 2018

Thread genius.jpg

NEW YORK - Sotheby’s recently announced its advancements in data capabilities and strategy, including the acquisition of startup company, “Thread Genius.”
“Thread Genius” was founded by Andrew Shum and Ahmad Qamar in 2015, specializing in providing e-commerce businesses with artificial intelligence that understands taste based on visual recognition. The acquisition of the company is a continuation of Sotheby’s focus on data and technology to drive innovation and improve both internal processes and client service and experience. Transactions would come together by matching an object with an individual’s preference at a certain price point, and Sotheby’s retains data in these three areas. By uniting all data-related activities under one umbrella, the auction house hopes to accelerate innovation and provide benefits to both their internal team and clients.
The acquisition of “Thread Genius” builds on Sotheby’s 2016 acquisition of the Mei Moses Art Indices – now known as Sotheby’s Mei Moses – a database of nearly 50,000 repeat auction sales in eight collecting categories. Andrew and Ahmad, together with Richard Vibert, a data scientist recently appointed Head of Data & Analytics Strategy, will report to Jennifer Deason, Executive Vice President, Head of Strategy & Corporate Development for Sotheby’s.

Art Market Winter 2018

"it is only a matter of time before a painting sells for $1 billion (818 million euros)"

Christies Salavator Mundi.jpg

1. PARIS (AFP).- The fine art market is going through such a boom that it is only a matter of time before a painting sells for $1 billion (818 million euros), according to a new report seen by AFP Wednesday.
Driven by the record sale of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" to a Saudi prince for $450 million ($550 million) in November, the market is rising in a way not seen for three decades, the authoritative Artprice index said.
"The latest spectacular all-time fine art auction record... for 'Salvator Mundi' represents the beginning of a new era for the art market in which the next big milestone will be the $1 billion threshold," it said.
"In the meantime, we are bound to see results between $179 million and $450 million in 2018," it predicted.
Artprice founder Thierry Ehrmann told AFP the revival of the market after two years of falling prices was spectacular, with prices surging across the globe in the second half of the year.
"All the indicators have never been so good for 30 years," he said, with the report suggesting everything points to "firm and durable growth".
Competition for the very best artworks between top museums -- with more and more being built across the globe -- was also fuelling the boom.
"The real motor of the market's growth is unquestionably the museum industry," Artprice said.
Museums battle billionaires
"For the first time in history, the higher end of the market is being driven not by the whims of billionaires but by acquisition strategies designed to generate future cash from museum visitor flows."
"The art market is now being partly driven by a balance-sheet logic that justifies acquisitions amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars," the report added.
Art sales in America soared by more than a half in the second half of the year, almost the same amount in France, by more than a quarter in Britain and by 20 percent in China.
The Asian giant remains the world's biggest art marketplace, said Artprice, with $5.1 billion in turnover -- more than a third of the global total -- with the US only slightly behind with $4.9 billion.
Artprice, which is partnered with the Chinese index Artron, said "intense competition between China and the US generated explosive growth in the West.
"Art clearly represents an essential element in the soft power arsenals of the US and China," it added, as well as on a smaller scale in the Gulf, with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates competing with each other by opening big new art museums.
Chinese supremacy was also marked in Artprice's index of the world's top 500 best performing artists at auction last year.
Chinese artists represent 32.4 percent of the total number compared to just 16.4 for American artists.
They made up four of the top 10 highest selling artists -- Qi Baishi, Zhang Daqian, Fu Baoshi, Zao Wou-Ki -- with Qi coming in fifth overall behind Leonardo, Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.
As well as Leonardo, the year also saw new auction records for Basquiat, Qi, Zao, Marc Chagall, Fernand Leger and Brancusi.
Fine art is often defined as paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, videos, installations and tapestries, but excludes furniture and traditional cultural artefacts.

Really?? Winter 2018

Venus of Willendorf.jpg

1. VIENNA (AFP).- The prehistoric "Venus of Willendorf" figurine, considered a masterpiece of the paleolithic era, has been censored by Facebook, drawing an indignant response Wednesday from the Natural History Museum in Vienna, where it is on display.
The tiny statuette of a voluptuous naked woman, which is some 30,000 years old, was discovered in the Austrian village of Willendorf in the early 20th century and is considered "the icon" of the museum, the facility's director general Christian Koeberl said in a statement.
The 11 centimetre (4 inch) statue from the early stone age is "the most popular and best-known prehistoric representation of a woman worldwide," he added.
The controversy began in December when Italian arts activist Laura Ghianda posted a picture of the artwork on the social networking site which went viral.
After it was censored she messaged that "this statue is not 'dangerously pornographic'. The war on human culture and modern intellectualism will not be tolerated."
The natural history museum voiced outrage, saying in its statement; "we think that an archeological object, especially such an iconic one, should not be banned from Facebook because of 'nudity', as no artwork should be.
"Let the Venus be naked! Since 29,500 years she shows herself as prehistoric fertility symbol without any clothes. Now Facebook censors it and upsets the community," it said.
"There is no reason for the Natural History Museum Vienna to cover the 'Venus of Willendorf', and hide her nudity, neither in the museum nor on social media," Koeberl insisted.
"There has never been a complaint by visitors concerning the nakedness of the figurine," he added.
The museum said it had never directly experienced censorship by Facebook, despite its recent post on "Stone Age pornography".
Facebook is regularly criticised over content which it bans or indeed content it allows to be published.
On March 15, a French court is due to pronounce on the decision by the California-based social networking site to close the Facebook account of someone who posted a photo of 19th century French painter Gustave Courbet's "Origin of the World" painting, which depicts female genitalia.


2. NEA, NEH, PBS all need funding now and in the future from this administration, so instead of trying to work with the President and maybe educate him on the importance and value of the arts, the Guggenheim offers him a gold plated commode with an obvious message sent as certain as flipping him off to his face. Stupid stupid and a missed opportunity to make a bad situation better instead of making a bad situation worse. The curator and director should be fired. JB


NEW YORK Guggenheim Chief Curator Offered Trump Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘America’
President Donald Trump’s request to borrow a painting by Vincent van Gogh, to be hung in his private living quarters, was turned down firmly but politely by Nancy Spector, chief curator of the Guggenheim, New York.
In an email to the White House dated September 15, 2017, the curator presented an alternative offer, a long-term loan of the 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet, an interactive work titled “America.” The Trumps had requested to borrow Van Gogh’s “Landscape with Snow,” but the curator replied explaining that the painting was prohibited from travel except for the rarest of occasions and was on its way to be exhibited at the Guggenheim’s museum in Bilbao, Spain, and then it would return to New York for the foreseeable future.
Created by Maurizio Cattelan, well-known for his satirical and provocative creations, the Guggenheim exhibited “America” for a year in a public restroom on the museum’s fifth floor for visitors to use. Critics have described the work as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in the country. The cost of the gold to create “America” has been estimated to have been more than US$1 million. Cattelan conceived of the gold toilet before Trump’s candidacy for president, though he has acknowledged that he may have been influenced by the mogul’s almost unavoidable place in American culture. The artist also suggested that he had the wealth that permeates aspects of society in mind, describing the golden toilet “as one-per cent art for the ninety-nine per cent,” noted the South China Morning Post.

Contemporary Art Winter 2018

Amy Whitaker.jpg

This should make most contemporary art dealers cringe. There have been debates for years over copyright issues and publications rights. If a Basquiat on the cover of a Sothebys catalog helps sell not only the piece but the catalog, who should benefit? But  now under the property rights one normally expects to have with personal property the question must be asked what do you really own when you own it.. JB

1. NEW YORK, NY.- What would happen if the artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg had retained 10 percent equity in the artwork sold in the start-up phase of their careers? This question is the focus of a new study from the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development in partnership with the University of Luxembourg introducing a novel investment framework to reflect the artist’s role as an early stage investor in their own work.
The study finds that artists can reap significant financial rewards from holding an equity stake in their artwork—compared with investing the equivalent dollar amount in the S&P 500—and is among the first to quantitatively test a retained equity model using first-sale prices alongside auction results.
“The fractional equity model represents a necessary structural correction to how we view artists. Art is currently priced and not valued; the market doesn’t account for initial economic risk or investment by the artist. Artists, like any early investor, should have exposure to the upside they helped to create,” said Amy Whitaker, an assistant professor of visual arts management at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s lead author.
The study combines publically available auction data with private sales information to analyze the returns on retained equity for ten Rauschenberg works and nine Johns works sold via the Leo Castelli Gallery between 1958 and 1963. The data show that Rauschenberg’s portfolio would have generated returns 2.8 to 140.8 times greater than an equivalent investment in the S&P 500, with John’s portfolio outperforming the market by a factor of 24.9 to 986.8.
For instance, a 10% equity stake in Rauschenberg’s work State—sold in 1959 for $300—would have become $44,000 in the art market. The same $30 investment in the S&P 500 would have returned $2,417 over the same time period.
Whitaker acknowledges the results are buoyed by the meteoric success of the artists in the study, but indicated the outsize returns show why shared value matters. “It’s necessary to have a conversation about artists being modeled as investors, whether they become as successful as Johns and Rauschenberg or not. This study shows you the maximum possible return to the artist and therefore articulates why structural intervention in markets for creative work deserves serious consideration,” Whitaker said.
The study extrapolates that modeling equity portfolios for artists will also introduce a secondary market for shares—independent of the sale of the artwork itself—and facilitate a system of ‘fractional ownership.’ Fractional ownership allows for more democratic investment in art markets, as collectors can diversify their portfolios without the need to purchase whole works, and artists can sell shares to fund future projects. Whitaker advocates the use of blockchain technology—an open and distributed ledger securely recording and verifying transaction data—for the management of fractional shares.
“The whole idea of fractional ownership is really one about shared creation of value. Artists’ equity shares remind us—contrary to the myths of creative genius and the related archetype of the starving artist—of how many different actors there are in the creation of value in art markets, including gallery owners, collectors, and artists. It makes sense that we’re exploring this now because the technology is really there. Specifically, the blockchain, but there are also other technologies that would allow us to manage fractional equity in ways that don’t have onerously high transaction costs,” said Whitaker.
The current system of resale royalties—where artists are paid a percentage of the increase in value when a work is sold—are often criticized for bureaucracy, costliness, and poor enforcement, but Whitaker says emergent technologies can mitigate these issues.
The study also offers wider implications for other creative fields in which early-stage work is difficult to value.
“The system can generalize the ways we compensate early stage creative work in any field. This is good for individual workers and reorients the way we look at growth in the economy overall,” said Whitaker.
In addition to Whitaker, the study “Democratizing Art Markets: Fractional Ownership and the Securitization of Art” was co-authored with Roman Kräussl from the Luxembourg School of Finance at the University of Luxembourg.

Repatriation Winter 2018


1.RIO RANCHO, NM.- ATADA, the largest US professional organization of art dealers specializing in Native American and international tribal art, has returned over 100 ceremonial artifacts to Southwestern Indian tribes. Today’s announcement celebrates the phenomenal success of ATADA’s Voluntary Returns Program, and the work of its founder ATADA Board member Robert Gallegos, who has spearheaded the program since 2016.
The ATADA Voluntary Returns Program is a community-based initiative designed to bring sacred and highly valued ceremonial objects in current use to Native American tribes. Returns take place through a consultative process; ATADA representatives work directly with tribal community and spiritual leaders. The program evolved through the recognition by art dealers and private collectors that certain objects, although legal to own, had great importance to tribal communities, and that their return could invigorate and enhance tribal community life.
The Voluntary Returns Program has brought over 100 sacred and ceremonial objects from private collections and dealer inventory to Southwestern tribes at zero cost to the tribes. Another several dozen returns are proceeding.
ATADA has facilitated the return of a Zuni war god, Acoma and Laguna flat and cylinder dolls, Hopi ‘friends’, Navajo Yei masks, numerous prayer sticks, bandoliers, rattles, arrowheads and other jish that are part of a medicine bundle. Items generally regarded as sacred include altars and altar elements, and items from shrines belonging to the community. Chairperson Robert Gallegos has made numerous trips to Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, and other tribal communities (sometimes a 5 hour drive each way) in order to return items in person, ensuring that each item is treated respectfully.
ATADA sees the Voluntary Returns program as the right thing to do, and a necessary step for art dealers to take in order to build to positive relationships between the art trade and tribal communities. As a national organization, ATADA is ready to facilitate returns outside of the Southwest to tribal communities through a wide range of contacts across Indian America.
In complementary actions as a professional organization, ATADA has adopted bylaws forbidding its members to trade in items in current ceremonial use. ATADA has also established due diligence guidelines to protect buyers and sellers from trading in unlawfully acquired items that were sold or removed from tribal communities without the communities’ permission or knowledge. In addition, ATADA sponsors education programs to inform collectors the public about current laws and developing policy on tribal art. The members of ATADA have undertaken not to acquire, display, or sell items known to be of important current sacred, communal use to Native American tribal communities.
ATADA does not make determinations regarding the sacred or communal status of specific items of the various tribes. Historic photographs and publications may indicate ceremonial status, but similar objects may hold different status in different tribal organizations. When returns are facilitated through ATADA, the tribes are contacted directly for their advice and they decide whether a return is merited.
The ATADA Voluntary Returns Program is not a private-sphere substitute for the repatriation of human remains and communally-owned objects under NAGPRA, a federal law. Under NAGPRA, museums and institutions that receive federal funding are required to create lists of human remains and certain broad categories of Native American objects in their inventories, and to provide these lists to the associated tribes, which can request their return.
NAGPRA covers a wide variety of materials from items of common use and items in trade, to items deemed sacred or inalienable cultural patrimony. However, NAGPRA participant institutions have interpreted NAGPRA criteria very differently and no fixed standard for identification has been established for ‘sacred’ or ‘inalienable’ objects through NAGPRA.
In comparison, the ATADA Returns Program brings objects that have circulated legally in trade, often for decades, back to tribes on a purely voluntary basis as donations to the tribal communities. The returned items are usually objects that are needed for present-day ritual activities. Unlike in museum and institutional collections, human remains are almost never found in private collections, and the Voluntary Returns Program does not handle them.
ATADA has been working with the tribes in order to encourage tribal entities to provide receipts suitable for a tax deduction. ATADA believes that a format acceptable to both the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the tribal entities could be developed, and would encourage many additional gifts to tribes.
Questions? Interested in donating? Contact ATADA’s Executive Director David Ezziddine
1 ATADA Bylaws, Article X, Trade Practices, Ethics, And Guarantees.
2 ATADA Bylaws, Article XI, Due Diligence Guidelines.
3 ATADA Symposium, Understanding Cultural Property: A Path to Healing Through Communication. May 22, 2017, Santa Fe, NM.

Tribal Art Museum Exhibitions Winter 2018

Teotihuacan Fire God.jpg

1. LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents City and Cosmos: The Arts of Teotihuacan, a groundbreaking exhibition featuring new archaeological discoveries from the ancient city’s three main pyramids and major residential compounds. City and Cosmos includes nearly 200 works in various media, such as monumental sculpture made of volcanic stones; polychrome mural paintings; and smaller-scale objects made out of precious greenstones, obsidian, and ceramic. Organized in collaboration with Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) and the de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, City and Cosmos provides an extraordinary opportunity to see these objects, many of which have never been exhibited in the United States.
“Shaped over centuries by many different peoples and cultures, Teotihuacan was one of the most significant civic centers in the Western Hemisphere,” says Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “Telling its complex and cosmopolitan history is especially relevant to a place like 21st century Los Angeles, where more than 150 languages are spoken.”
“City and Cosmos presents objects found over the last few decades—including some even in the last few years—by archaeologists from Mexico, the U.S., and Japan,” says Megan E. O’Neil, associate curator of art of the ancient Americas and curator of LACMA’s presentation. “These archaeological projects have uncovered remarkable objects in contexts that help us understand the city’s chronology as well as more complex societal questions such as religion, civic identity, and relations with other areas of Mesoamerica.”
Prior to its presentation at LACMA, the exhibition was on view at the de Young Museum in San Francisco under the title Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire (September 30, 2017–February 11, 2018). The objects were selected by the exhibition’s organizing curator, Matthew H. Robb, now chief curator of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, in close consultation with INAH archaeologists in charge of excavations at the site.
The ancient city of Teotihuacan flourished in central Mexico in the first millennium CE and was the largest urban center in the Americas in its day. Highly organized and densely populated, it was built in a grid-like plan over roughly 8 ½–9 ½ square miles. City and Cosmos focuses both on the main pyramids and residential compounds to explore the central question of how the city worked to create a cohesive civic identity. Featuring both monumental sculptures and buried offerings, the exhibition also emphasizes how artworks relate to place, both above and below ground. New discoveries reveal that both visible and buried works were arranged in specific ways to commemorate the city’s ancestral foundations and to forge relationships with vital, essential forces such as fire and water.
City and Cosmos is organized according to the city’s main architectural complexes and highlights visible monumental sculpture and buried offerings from the three main pyramids: Sun Pyramid, Moon Pyramid, and Feathered Serpent Pyramid; residential compounds; and the city’s edges and beyond.
The exhibition begins with the astonishing new discoveries from Tlalocan, the name given to a staggeringly rich underground offering discovered in 2003 by a Mexican archaeological team led by Sergio Gómez Chávez. The archaeologists found a tunnel underneath the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, and buried inside was an astounding collection of objects notable for their complexity and quantity. In a simulation of the cosmic underworld, the tunnel depth reaches groundwater. Also, the tunnel ceiling is covered with magnetite, and on the floor of one room are spheres of earth covered in pyrite. Magnetite and pyrite gleam when light is cast on them, creating a star-filled underworld evoking the night sky. In this sacred space, the people of Teotihuacan offered rubber balls, slate and pyrite disks, feline skulls, thousands of fragments of wood and rubber, and seeds. Near the tunnel’s final chamber were four sculptures, two of which are featured in this gallery, made of precious greenstones, some apparently carrying bundles of greenstone jewels and pyrite mirrors and disks, items typically used for divination ceremonies. Placed in this significant location, they are thought to represent the ancestral founders of the city.
The next section, called Teotihuacan, City of Gods, introduces the city’s distinct art forms that were crafted from local and imported materials. Also featured are deities that personified natural forces of rain, lightning, fire, water, and maize. The ubiquitous Storm God was associated with water and fertility but also could spark lightning, create fire, and inflict destruction. The Feathered Serpent was a hybrid entity related to rain and moisture-laden clouds. Another supernatural is the Old Fire God, who embodied the cleansing and regenerative qualities of fire. Sculptures of the Old Fire God appear in many sizes and locations at Teotihuacan, from the top of the Sun Pyramid to myriad domestic contexts.
The following galleries focus on the three main pyramids at Teotihuacan: Feathered Serpent Pyramid, Sun Pyramid, and Moon Pyramid. Small in comparison to the Sun and Moon pyramids, the Feathered Serpent Pyramid was once covered on all four sides in elaborate, monumental carvings of undulating feathered serpents, each carrying a mosaic headdress on its back. Their bodies are surrounded by shells indicating they are in an aquatic environment—perhaps the primordial waters of creation—and their heads emerge from feathered portals that indicate the creature is arriving to the earthly realm from another dimension. Many jade and greenstone objects were deposited in the sacrificial offerings buried within and below the Feathered Serpent Pyramid. Deemed extremely valuable materials throughout ancient Mesoamerica, they were imported from great distances and prized for their lustrous green colors and association with maize. Greenstone figurines and jewelry discovered in excavations led by Saburo Sugiyama appear in this gallery. Around 350 CE, the building’s facade was destroyed, the interior was looted, and an additional structure was added to the building’s front. But the Feathered Serpent remained a significant entity in the city, appearing in murals in residential compounds and on ceramics and other media.
The Sun Pyramid is Teotihuacan’s largest, and one of the most massive structures of the ancient world. Built around 200 CE in a single construction effort, its square plan covers more than 500,000 square feet, and it stands over 200 feet high. Archaeologists have studied the pyramid since the late 19th century, but recent excavations continue to shed light on this immense structure. A sinuous tunnel lies beneath the pyramid. Although much smaller in volume than the Tlalocan tunnel, the two contemporaneous passages both are oriented east-west, extend over 300 feet, and may share symbolism. Recent excavations above the tunnel have uncovered offerings of precious greenstone objects arrayed with other materials. Large sculptures were found at the pyramid’s summit, including two greenstone slabs of monumental proportions and an Old Fire God sculpture. Outside the pyramid, sculptural programs relating to fire, jaguars, and human hearts indicate the Sun Pyramid was used to celebrate solar and New Fire rituals.
The Moon Pyramid is Teotihuacan’s second-largest structure, with a rectangular base covering more than 250,000 square feet and reaching 141 feet high. Excavations co-directed by Rubén Cabrera Castro and Saburo Sugiyama revealed several construction phases in which major dedicatory offerings were deposited. Around 250 CE, the pyramid was greatly enlarged, indicating a period of increasing wealth and political centralization. This construction was marked by a dedication event involving the sacrifice of humans and predatory animals. The offerings, which also included objects of exceptionally precious materials such as greenstone, obsidian, slate, and pyrite, were carefully arranged, and some seem to be associated with rituals relating to the origin of the cosmos. One dramatic offering, recreated in the gallery, comes from a burial site excavated by Sugiyama’s team. At the center of this offering was a male figure made of mosaic serpentine and greenstone paired with a female figure in obsidian that were surrounded by 18 obsidian eccentrics in the shapes of feathered serpents and lightning bolts.
Teotihuacan was largely made up of single-story residential and administrative buildings that varied in size and level of luxury. A separate gallery focuses on the city’s Residential and Administrative Compounds. The Street of the Dead Complex, for example, was an administrative center of monumental scale that crossed the Street of the Dead, the city’s north-south axis; La Ventilla was a relatively highstatus neighborhood southwest of the ceremonial core. These complexes, which housed many of Teotihuacan’s residents in multi-apartment dwellings, were Teotihuacan’s social and economic engines. Few of the more than 2,000 such complexes in the city have been completely excavated, but there is evidence they housed individuals from various social levels and had residential, religious, and administrative functions, with kitchens, storerooms, and courtyards with altars for venerating patron gods. Archaeologists also have found evidence for high levels of craft production, including the making of pottery vessels, shell ornaments, baskets, and garments or the raising of animals like rabbits. Featured in this gallery are a variety of objects from these residences, including censers that were decorated with a human face within a frame adorned with mold-made plaques of birds, butterflies, temples, or feathered disks. Teotihuacan residents used these censers to burn offerings to honor deities and ancestors.
Another gallery, Painted City, highlights the painted polychrome murals that decorated many of the city’s apartments and administrative centers, including Techinantitla, a high-status compound in the northern section of the city center. Techinantitla was the site of large-scale looting beginning in the early 1960s, and the compound’s murals subsequently circulated throughout the world’s art markets. A 1976 bequest to the de Young revealed a large quantity of previously unknown mural fragments. Negotiations led to the repatriation of about 70 percent of those murals to Mexico and a collaborative relationship that has produced exhibitions such as this one. City and Cosmos reunites three sets of murals of feathered serpents with flowering trees, which are on public view for the first time in more than a thousand years. Also in this gallery are stucco-painted polychrome vessels from LACMA’s collection painted in a technique similar to the murals.
Another section of the exhibition focuses on the City's Perifery and Beyond. Residential compounds outside Teotihuacan’s core show diversity of people, goods, and economics, yet each reveals connections with the city center. The working-class residents of Tlajinga, on the city’s southern periphery, specialized in the mass production of obsidian blades. This volcanic glass played a crucial role in Teotihuacan’s economy, and the people living in Tlajinga owned luxury goods typically seen in more elite compounds. Also on the periphery were neighborhoods that were ethnic enclaves for people from other places in Mesoamerica. Archaeologists found that people in these compounds participated in local material culture and imported goods from their home regions. Their use of foreign goods and practice of foreign rituals were generally related to rites of passage such as birth and death. Biological evidence shows continuous immigration of people into Teotihuacan, and material evidence of foreign goods in the city and of Teotihuacan goods in distant regions reveals active exchange of raw materials and finished products with other regions in Mesoamerica.
City and Cosmos concludes with the Xalla Compund. Located east of the Moon Pyramid plaza and north of the Sun Pyramid, Xalla may have been the site of elite workshops for lapidary craftsmen, painters, and garment-makers. Many objects from Xalla bear evidence of a violent, destructive event that marked the beginning of Teotihuacan’s collapse. Around 550, the city’s ceremonial center was burned, and ritual objects, such as the large marble standing figure featured in this section, were intentionally smashed. The unusual and striking object is one of the largest sculptures in precious stone found at Teotihuacan and may portray a local patron deity. The figure was once installed on a temple, but archaeologists found it smashed to pieces and scattered. Following the great fire, Teotihuacan collapsed and much of the population left the city. But the site itself continues to lives on as a powerful model of ancient Mesoamerican urbanism.

Tribal Art Auctions Winter 2018

Mezcala temples.jpg

1.  PARIS.- The late Nobel Prize Laureate Ilya Prigogine (Moscow 1917 – Brussels 2003) and his wife Maryna, started acquiring a variety of Mezcala, Chontal and Olmec works of art in the mid-1960s. This selection of 148 pieces, will come for auction on 9th of April at Christie’s Paris and has been the subject of several publications, including Carlo Gay’s Ancient Ritual Stone Artifacts,published in 1995 and has been shown in exhibitions in Brussels, Geneva and Antwerp. The Prigogine’s were great friends of curators, collectors and gallery owners, such as Frances Pratt; Ed Merrin, of Merrin Gallery New York; David Bramhall, Sentino Micali of Mermoz Galerie, Paris, where they have acquired many of their pieces.
The art of Mezcala and Chontal, from the mountainous region of Guerrero, Mexico, is known for its stone sculptures including animal effigies, masks, architectural models and most specifically, figurines dating from 300 to 100 BC. Like many Mesoamerican cultures, they were most probably ritual offerings for the hereafter.
The Prigogine Collection is one of the premier private groupings of Mezcala art in the world and Ilya’s time spent as professor in Austin, Texas as of 1967 surely attracted him to the ancient art of his new geographical surroundings. Furthermore, these pieces inspired his work and provoked an exploration of the supposed contradiction between art and science.
40 Years of Unravelling the Art of Guerrero and a long lasting Friendship
Ilya Prigogine met Carlo Gray in the late sixties, and was immediately smitten with Mezcala portable sculpture and the two men had an ongoing correspondence, exchanged views and ideas, to learn as much as possible about it. Ilya, the man of science, had a unique perspective that came from a lifetime of studying the building blocks of the universe. Used to dealing with the unknown, he immediately recognized the universal symbolism so powerfully conveyed by Guerrero lithic art.
Ilya Prigogine understood that Mezcala art is highly simplified/abstract by choice and not because of the intractable material they used. He was attracted to the universal symbolism of the stone celt, from which Mezcala figures appear to evolve. He and Carlo shared an irrepressible curiosity and a sense of wonder about life and the universe, and the same interest in how the human mind attempts to rationalize the unknown. Each in his way studied the myths and beliefs that have always sustained this endeavor, using different cognitive tools to interpret their symbols, while reaching similar conclusions.
The small scale stone sculptures from the Mezcala region in the state of Guerrero south of Mexico City have appealed to many ever since they became known in the late 19th and early 20th century and were included in major exhibitions of art from the ancient Americas such as the pioneering exhibition Before Cortes – Sculpture of Middle America, organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1970.
The stone sculptures range in size from 5 to 40 cm in height and include among other forms human figures, seated or standing–the largest group–, masks, some animal forms and a sizable group of objects in the shape of small houses or temples. The works are made of a variety of hard, dense metamorphic rock. In the absence of metal tools in the Americas prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the early 16th century, the works were created using stone tools such as stone hammers, chisels and drills, and different types of abrasives.
The enigmatic temples and architectural models were carved from hard, often dense stones in grey, creamy alabaster and varied shades of green. The structures measure as little as 3 cm up to 30 cm.
The evocative models can include pillars on raised or low platforms, with stairs, peopled with figures fixedly standing within columns or mysteriously recumbent on lintels or so schematized to become metaphors of architecture. Their reductive simplicity causes them to appear both ancient and modern.
For Professor Prigogine, whose Mezcala architectural collection is second to none, it was the interstices in these colonnaded structures, ‘Houses for the Hereafter’, which evoked the symbolic passages through which the soul of the deceased could pass through to the afterlife. The collection has alone 37 temples to offer, highlighted by lot 93, the larger, green temple to the right of the picture (estimate: Euro 30,000-50.000).
Green stone axe heads, commonly known as “celts,” were some of the most important works of art traded across ancient Mesoamerica and Central America. Created from jadeite mined in southern Guatemala, or using local green stones from highland Mexico, celts were first created by the Olmec peoples of the Gulf Coast after 1000 B.C. The Olmec seem to have conceived of green celts as sprouts of maize and thus “planted” celts in dedicatory offerings, as in the caches at La Venta (in the modern state of Tabasco) thus animating ceremonial spaces while perpetuating agricultural fertility.
Such ceremonial axes de-contextualized from their original utilitarian usage were traded, exchanged and collected as heirlooms in many regions of ancient Mesoamerica. The Prigogine collection will offer 16 celts with ranging estimates from Euro 1,200 to Euro 12,000.
Images of serpents, large and small, tightly coiled or feathered appear commonly in Aztec art. This serpent is exceptional for the emphasis of the verticality which adds a force and elegance to this key ophidian in the ancient Mesoamerica pantheon. The serpent has multiple meanings, that vary according to context and attributes. It represents the double animal of one of the most important divinities of the Mexica pantheon, Quetzalcoatl, the “quetzal serpent” or “Plumed Serpent”. Supremely benevolent, chaste, peaceful, creator of humanity and of the second Sun, inventor of the arts and of the calendar, he is also the God of the Wind (estimate: Euro 130,000-180,000).
The representation of faces through masks, face-panels and heads is a defining characteristic of the Chontal style. The Chontal produced far more masks and heads than in the classic Mezcala corpus of sculpture. The relative abundance of such masks and the attention given to even stylized traits is an indication of their importance in the Chontal belief system. Carlo Gay hypothesized that the Chontal masks evolved into the famed mask carving tradition of the Teotihuacan civilization. The rendition of the human visage would go on to become a primary focus of lapidary art for later Mesoamerican civilizations. This particular mask is 12cm high and dates from 300-100 B.C (Estimate Euro 8,000-12,000).
Ilya Prigogine’s legacy includes more than 1000 papers and 20 monographs and he also received 50 honorary degrees, numerous medals and prizes, accumulating in the 1977 Chemistry Nobel Prize for his work in the field of Thermodynamics, and in particular that orderly and stable systems can arise from more disordered systems. His theories have had application in areas as diverse as the study of traffic congestion; cosmology; insect communities; and the multiplication of cancer cells. In 1979, together with Isabelle Stengers, he published Order out of Chaos, which traced the scientific and philosophical ancestry of these ideas from Aristotle onwards, and called for a new dialogue between science and humanities – the book became a best-seller. Prigogine divided his time between Brussels – where he was a professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles as of 195 and director of the International Solvay Institutes as of 1959 and Austin, Texas where he was Professor for Physics and Chemical Engineering from 1967 onwards.

SNY Fang Figure.jpg

2. NEW YORK The Shape of Beauty: Sculpture from the Collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet
14 May 2018 | 10:00 AM EDT | New York
This superb collection of fewer than 40 objects, formed over the last 50 years by the New York couple Howard and Saretta Barnet, is comprised of masterpieces of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, and American Indian Art, alongside Classical and Near Eastern Antiquities.
Covering an astonishing span of time and geographic range, the collection synthesizes widely disparate human cultures into a universal aesthetic of beauty.  Each work is of exceptionally high quality, many have been extensively published and exhibited and are icons of their respective genres.Following the highly successful auctions “The Color of Beauty”, which presented the contemporary paintings from the Barnet collection last fall, and “The Line of Beauty”, which presented their extraordinary collection of Old Master Drawings in January 2018, Sotheby’s is delighted to conclude the series with The Shape of Beauty, paying tribute to the unique vision of Howard and Saretta Barnet, and providing an unmatched opportunity for today’s collectors.

Elephants, Ivory Update, and Protection of our Living Treasures Winter 2018

Elephant ivory update.jpg


Many years ago I met Maya scholar David Matsuda who I believe is unique in having worked in a New York gallery specializing in the sale of Pre-Columbian art and also  in having spent time in jungles of Guatemala studying the lives of smugglers and pot hunters. His work became the subject of his dissertation. David enlightened me that the activities of these workers in the jungle could be compared to the struggles of subsistence farmers. This realization only helps you understand not rationalize the plight of people trying to support their families. The comparison can be made to ivory looters. Again it is not a rationalization or any way a justification of this brutal activity.  In my mind it makes the current decision of the Trump to ease the ban on trophy hunting of elephants sick and perverse on almost any level. My colleagues in the art world are trying to save works of art that are in part or totally comprised of ivory taken well over 100 years ago. To the art world trophy hunting is an insult difficult to comprehend. Again I guess its all about politics and the money.

1. NEW YORK New York Times March 7, 2018  The United States has moved to allow hunters to import big-game trophies, including elephant tusks and lion hides, acquired in certain African countries with approvals granted on an individual basis.
The decision, reported in a memorandum published last week by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, overturns an Obama-era ban on some trophies and contradicts public statements by President Trump, who had endorsed the restrictions.
In November, agency officials moved to lift the ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The new policy supersedes and broadens that decision, officials said.
Traditionally, the agency has considered imports of trophies from certain endangered species on a nation-by-nation basis. The Endangered Species Act stipulates that in order for such trophies to be approved, exporting countries must demonstrate that hunting enhances survival of a particular species in the wild — by reinvesting the money into conservation, for example, and by supporting local communities.
In December, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that officials had implemented the Obama-era bans without following regulatory procedures, including a failure to open up the decision to public comment.
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

    Hunt Elephants to Save Them? Some Countries See No Other Choice DEC. 4, 2017
    Trump Halted These Hunt Trophies. Elephant Lovers Will Never Forget It. NOV. 20, 2017
    Trump Administration to Lift Ban on ‘Trophy’ Elephant Imports NOV. 16, 2017
To accommodate that court decision, officials said the Fish and Wildlife Service will change how it evaluates imports for certain endangered species across Africa — not just elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, the subject of the circuit court ruling.
Rather than evaluate lion, elephant and bontebok (a type of antelope) trophies on a nation-by-nation basis, the agency now will consider imports of these animals from six African countries on case-by-case basis, as it already does with the majority of species hunted on the continent.
The six countries are Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. The new policy does not mean that all trophies will be automatically permitted, officials said. The applicants will have to meet the same conservation and sustainability requirements as before.
The decision was long sought by Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association, which had filed the lawsuit against the agency.
“We were surprised as anyone when they came out with that announcement last week, but we think it’s a positive step,” said Richard Parsons, chief executive of Safari Club International. “As much as some people have a distaste for hunting, in southern Africa it actually works and is very positive for wildlife conservation.”
Whether safari hunting ultimately helps or harms fragile animal populations is a controversial question.
Hunting organizations point out that big-game sportsmen — who may pay $100,000 or more per hunt to shoot a lion or elephant — can provide indispensable funding for conservation.
“I’ve been in this business a long time and listened to a lot of animal-rights organizations that talk loudly about how they’re going to save rhinos and elephants, but we’re the ones putting money on the ground to make it happen,” Mr. Parsons said. “We think the Fish and Wildlife Service is on the right track to make solid decisions for elephant conservation.”
But conservation groups argue that alternatives should be pursued, especially when the quarry are endangered species.
“These are animals that our country has decided we’re going to protect, and we should all get to have a say in their protection,” said Elly Pepper, deputy director of the wildlife trade initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Bonteboks outside Cape Town, South Africa. Bonteboks killed in South Africa are among the animal trophies no longer banned under new government guidelines. Credit Hoberman Collection/UIG, via Getty Images
“The decision regarding whether someone’s allowed to shoot an endangered species shouldn’t be made behind closed doors.”
The agency previously made determinations about trophies publicly available, she said, but under the new system interested parties will have to file a Freedom of Information request to see details of case-by-case trophy hunting permits. Each request can take months to process.
Others share Ms. Pepper’s concerns. “These decisions are all going to be made in the dark, and this new case-by-case approach doesn’t give anyone comfort that these animals will be protected in the way the previous system did,” said Kitty Block, acting president and chief
We’ll bring you stories that capture the wonders of the human body, nature and the cosmos.
You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services.
“We think this is a one-sided attempt to appease a constituency that favors hunting.”
Ms. Block noted that the latest decision marks departure from President Trump’s public comments about big-game trophy hunting.
Following the November announcement that the United States would begin accepting elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia, Mr. Trump tweeted that he planned to reverse that decision and that he would be “very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.”
“Nothing’s changed since then,” Ms. Block said. “The elephant populations haven’t come back, there hasn’t been a slowdown in poaching or corruption — all these issues remain.”
While the agency’s new criteria are effective immediately, the circuit court must now determine whether or not the case-by-case approach is an acceptable solution.
This means the decision to allow certain trophy imports “isn’t a done deal,” Ms. Pepper said. “When the ban was first lifted last year, the public expressed a lot of anguish, and it seemed to work for reversing that decision.”
Regardless of the final decision, Jan Stander, director of Phundundu Wildlife Park in Zimbabwe, said the lifting of the trophy bans is “too little, too late.”
“Zimbabwe’s lost around half a million hectares of wildlife land since the trophy ban in 2014,” he said. “It’s all gone over to cattle and agriculture.”
Mr. Stander and his colleagues had relied on fees paid by American hunters to run their anti-poaching units, maintain roads and support communities living around the reserve.
But following President Obama’s trophy ban, Mr. Stander had to drop his prices for lion hunts from $130,000 to $25,000. Elephant hunts, which he once marketed for $80,000, “I couldn’t even give away,” he said.
In the year following the ban, Mr. Stander said he lost $500,000 and was forced to close the nearly 80,000-acre reserve for lack of business. Populations of elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard have since dwindled as poachers have moved in.
“I should have left three years ago, but this is an area that’s close to my heart,” he said.
Ecotourists, he added, will not save the day. They disappeared years ago, scared away by the country’s political turmoil.
“The only reason there’s still wildlife here in Zimbabwe today is because of hunting and the amount of money it brings in,” he said. “I’m on the conservation side, but I was using the hunters and trophy fees to keep the conservation going.”
“Commercially, we’re dead,” he added.


Lawrence Anthony elephants.jpg

2. SOUTH AFRICA - For 12 hours, two herds of wild South African Elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives. The formerly violent, rogue Elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago as pests, were rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony, who had grown up in the bush and was known as the "Elephant Whisperer." For two days the herds loitered at Anthony's rural compound on the vast Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu -- to say good-bye to the man they loved. But how did they know he had died? Known for his unique ability to calm traumatized Elephants, Anthony had become a legend. He is the author of three books, Babylon Ark, detailing his efforts to rescue the animals at Baghdad Zoo during the Iraqi war, the forthcoming The Last Rhinos, and his bestselling The Elephants Whisperer. There are two Elephants herds at Thula Thula. According to his son Dylan, both arrived at the Anthony family compound shortly after Anthony's death. "They had not visited the house for a year and a half and it must have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey," Dylan is quoted in various local news accounts. "The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd, a day later. They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush. "Elephants have long been known to mourn their dead.

Watch this You Tube video:


Comings and Goings Winter 2018

Wiles Yale University.jpg

1. NEW HAVEN, CONN.- Yale announced today that Stephanie Wiles, currently the Richard J. Schwartz Director of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, will be the next Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery. Ms. Wiles will join Yale on July 1, succeeding Jock Reynolds, who has led the gallery since 1998.
Ms. Wiles has 20 years experience leading college and university art museums at Cornell, Oberlin College, and Wesleyan University. She began her career in the department of drawings and prints at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City where she worked for seventeen years. Ms. Wiles received her bachelor’s degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a master’s degree in art history from Hunter College of the City University of New York, and a Ph.D. in art history from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
At Cornell, Ms. Wiles raised endowments to support new curatorial positions, spearheaded an active grant program to advance teaching across disciplines, led the redesign of permanent collection galleries, and launched a comprehensive photography partnership with the Cornell University Library through a new grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She also oversaw the commission of a stunning light installation on the exterior ceiling of the museum’s sculpture court, visible from campus and the city of Ithaca. Comprised of 12,000 LEDs and named in honor of scientist Carl Sagan, “Cosmos,” by artist and Yale alumnus Leo Villareal, was completed in 2012.
“Stephanie shares my vision for integrating the arts into so much of what we do at Yale,” Peter Salovey, president of Yale, said. “She is a respected leader and gifted communicator who understands that the arts can contribute to every aspect of teaching and learning on our campus. From interdisciplinary classes that take advantage of the museum’s superb collections, to collaborations with scientists and conservators at Yale West Campus, to outreach to our neighbors in New Haven and visitors worldwide, I am confident Stephanie will forge new and lasting partnerships to further strengthen the connections between the gallery and the rest of the university.”
“I am thrilled about this incomparable opportunity to lead the Yale University Art Gallery,” Ms. Wiles said. “Its renowned collections and distinguished staff make the gallery one of the finest university art museums in the world. The unique possibilities to partner with faculty, students, and staff, as well as with outstanding colleagues and collections just steps away at the Yale Center for British Art, the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and the Peabody Museum of Natural History, are tremendously inspiring."
A specialist in old master drawings, Ms. Wiles has written and lectured widely on topics ranging from Rembrandt etchings to the photographs of Margaret Bourke-White. She has decades of experience organizing major exhibitions and curating or co-curating shows, including Side by Side: Oberlin’s Masterworks at the Met; Jim Dine, some drawings; Gainsborough to Ruskin: British Landscape Drawings & Watercolors in the Morgan Library & Museum; and Exploring Rome: Piranesi and his Contemporaries. Ms. Wiles serves on the board of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and chairs the AAMD Membership Committee.
“The formative early years I spent at the Morgan Library taught me the importance of quality, connoisseurship, and deep looking,” Ms. Wiles said. “It has been a joy to apply this same research and aesthetic expertise to learning about art from other cultures and contemporary arts practice in an academic setting. Mentoring undergraduate and graduate students is exciting to me, and I look forward to working with the gallery’s curators, educators, conservators, and others to ensure that Yale continues to play a leading role in all areas of museum work and education.”
Ms. Wiles has extensive experience working at the intersection of art, science, and technology. She served on several committees at Cornell Tech, a science and technology graduate school in New York City, tasked with integrating the visual arts into the student experience. She has also worked to create transdisciplinary programs at Cornell’s main campus. Under Ms. Wiles’ leadership, the Johnson Museum developed eight new semester-long courses co-taught by museum staff and faculty from the arts, humanities, engineering, and science.
“The Yale University Art Gallery is an exceptional resource for our university and for scholars around the world, and it is a wonderful attraction and focal point for our students, staff, faculty, and the thousands of visitors who enjoy our collections each year. It is one of Yale’s greatest treasures,” Salovey said. “I know Stephanie will create new ways to reach large and diverse audiences, ensuring that even more people enjoy, appreciate, and learn from these incredible works of art.”


2.  WASHINGTON DC Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford is the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the nation’s premiere museum devoted to the arts of Africa. He joined the museum in February of 2018 and brings with him a wealth of experience writing, lecturing, and broadcasting on Africa’s arts and cultures. Casely-Hayford succeeded Johnnetta Betsch Cole, who served as director of the National Museum of African Art from 2009 through 2017 and now holds the title Director Emerita.
Casely-Hayford is a fellow of the Cultural Institute at King’s College London, a trustee of the National Trust (the U.K.’s largest heritage organization), a member of the Blue Plaque Group, and a Clore Fellow. He sits on the board of the Caine Prize for African Writing and has previously sat on the board of London’s National Portrait Gallery. As director of Africa 05, he organized the largest African arts season in Britain, with more than 150 venues hosting 1,000 events. Recently, he developed an exhibition for London’s National Portrait Gallery using 18th- and 19th-century portraits to tell the story of Britain’s abolition of slavery.
A frequent on-air contributor about Africa, Casely-Hayford has presented a six-part television series for Sky Arts called Tate Britain’s Great British Walks and two series of Lost Kingdoms of Africa for the BBC, for which he also wrote the companion book (Bantam Press, Random House, 2012). He has advised on a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet, worked on a British Library exhibition focused on African intellectual tradition, and consulted on Tate Britain’s exhibition Artist and Empire. Casely-Hayford delivered a recent TEDGlobal Talk on pre-colonial Africa and is the author of an upcoming book on Timbuktu and the rise of the Mali Empire (Ladybird/Penguin, 2018).
Born in London, Casely-Hayford was educated at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, where he received his doctorate in African history and was later awarded an honorary fellowship. He delivered a centenary lecture on Ghana for the school and he remains a SOAS research associate and a member of its Centre of African Studies Council.


3.  GAINESVILLE, FL.- After 15 years as director of the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, Rebecca M. Nagy has announced she will retire from her position in the summer of 2018.
Nagy was appointed director of the Harn in July 2002. Under her leadership, the Harn has become essential in the cultural and academic life of UF and the Gainesville community, as well as increased its collections and visibility of exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Significant building expansions have been completed under her direction. These include an 18,000-square-foot wing with galleries for contemporary art, classrooms and a café in 2005 and a 26,000-square-foot wing for the exhibition, conservation and study of Asian art in 2012.
Art in the Harn’s collections has increased from approximately 4,700 to 11,100 works—more than doubling the amount of art available for display, research and teaching. That growth has allowed the Harn to loan numerous works of art to other institutions and organize original exhibitions that travel to other venues across the nation.
Transformative strategic planning focusing on community engagement and immersing art into UF academics has resulted in a steady increase of numbers served to more than 100,000 visitors per year. Membership has reached record highs with over 6,000 individual members, of whom more than 2,000 are UF students. Harn staff has grown from three curators overseeing the collections to six curators overseeing the major collecting areas of African, Asian, modern and contemporary art and photography. The education department has also grown to include an Education Curator of Academic Programs, whose goal is to collaborate with campus departments and colleges in order to incorporate art into student learning experiences.
Since Nagy’s appointment, endowments supporting acquisitions and programs at the Harn have grown to a total current market value of $19.2 million. This includes 22 new endowments added since her appointment worth an estimated current market value of $8.48 million.
“It has been an honor to lead the Harn through significant growth in what feels like a very short amount of time,” Nagy said. “My years here have provided challenges, rich rewards and much joy and satisfaction. There are great things ahead for the Harn. I leave secure in the knowledge that my colleagues’ passion, energy and dedication to excellence will thrive under new leadership.”
Throughout her career, Nagy has curated exhibitions, published articles and exhibition catalogues, and lectured widely about medieval, contemporary and African art. For the Harn, she co-organized the exhibition “Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists” (2007) with Achamyeleh Debela and produced the accompanying catalogue, and worked with an international curatorial team from the Harn and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium to organize the traveling exhibition “Kongo across the Waters” (2014). She also collaborated with Susan Cooksey to co-curate “Deep Roots, Bold Visions: Self-Taught Artists of Alachua County” (2012).
Nagy has served as a trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors, is immediate-past-president of the Florida Art Museum Directors Association and currently serves on the board of the Florida Association of Museums. She is an editor for the scholarly journal “African Arts.” Nagy is an emerita board member of Gainesville’s Matheson History Museum and a former board member of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association, Art in Public Places Trust of Gainesville and Alachua County, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Gainesville and Gainesville Women’s Forum.
Prior to her appointment as director of the Harn, Nagy spent 17 years at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, where she concluded her tenure as associate director of education while also serving as curator of African art. From 1988 through 2002, she also served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she was awarded her doctorate in art history in 1983. Nagy was a lecturer in the department of art and art history at the Cleveland Museum of Art from 1982 to 1985.
“I have seen the results of Nagy’s determination to make the Harn’s collections and exhibitions accessible for all,” said Joseph Glover, UF provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. “Her exemplary leadership has ensured the Harn will continue to enrich lives in our community for generations to come.”
The search firm Russell Reynolds and Associates has been selected to conduct a national search for the next director and a search committee has been assembled with the goal of having the new director ready to step in when Nagy retires.   

Pre-Columbian Archaeology Winter 2018

Amazon PC.jpg

1. PARIS (AFP).- Areas of the Amazon previously thought to be uninhabited may have been home to up to a million people in the centuries before Christopher Columbus arrived, new archaeological research has found.
Scientists from Britain and Brazil uncovered evidence of hundreds of fortified villages in the rainforest away from the major rivers -- areas long thought untouched by human civilisation before Europeans arrived in the late 15th century.
The findings, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, follows the discovery of extensive earthworks and fortifications in another region of Brazil, bordering on Peru.
Researchers now believe such pre-Columbian habitations could stretch over an area as wide as 400,000 square kilometres, and may have been home to between 500,000 and a million people.
The discovery of 81 new archaeological sites dating back to 1250-1500 -- among them 104 large geometrical earthworks -- was based in part on satellite images.
Excavations at 24 sites uncovered ceramics, polished stone axes and samples of fertilized soil, as well as ancient rubbish pits called middens.
Analysing charcoal remains and excavated pottery, the researchers found that a 1,800-kilometre stretch of southern Amazonia was continuously occupied from 1250 until 1500 by people living in fortified villages.
Ceremonial rituals?
With huge swathes of the Amazon still unexplored by archaeologists, the findings challenge the assumption that ancient communities necessarily lived on floodplains close to the main waterways.
"There is a common misconception that the Amazon is an untouched landscape, home to scattered, nomadic communities," said Dr Jonas Gregorio de Souza, a researcher from the archaeology department at Britain's Exeter University.
"This is not the case. We have found that some populations away from the major rivers are much larger than previously thought, and these people had an impact on the environment which we can still find today."
The researchers believe there were between 1,000 and 1,500 enclosed villages in the area, with two-thirds of the sites yet to be uncovered.
The sites varied in size, from enclosures surrounded by man-made ditches -- also known as geoglyphs -- measuring 30 metres in diameter, to structures 400 metres across around a circular plaza radiating sunken roads.
It remains unclear what these mysterious geoglyphs -- which could be square, circular or hexagonal -- were used for.
"It is possible they were used as part of ceremonial rituals," the researchers wrote.
Reevaluating history
Villages were often found nearby or inside of the 81 geoglyphs surveyed. The earthworks were probably made during seasonal droughts allowing for trees to be cleared from the area, the study speculates.
"Drier areas still had fertile soils, where farmers would have been able to grow crops and fruit trees like Brazil nuts," it said.
Some geoglyphs were also interconnected through a network of causeways, elaborately constructed over many years.
Earlier research uncovered 450 similar geoglyphs in Brazil's Acre state, which borders Peru in the western Amazon spanning 13,000 square kilometres (5,000 miles), but few artefacts were found.
"We need to re-evaluate the history of the Amazon," said Professor Jose Iriarte, also of Exeter University.
"It certainly wasn't an area populated only near the banks of large rivers, and the people who lived there did change the landscape. The area we surveyed had a population of at least tens of thousands."


Pre-Columbian Archaeology Winter 2018 All About the Inca

Quipus 1.jpg
Quipus 2.jpg

1. Secrets Of Quipu – Ancient Inca Message Decoded By Student | December 27, 2017 | Archaeology News, Artifacts, News – Unraveling the secret of the quipu is by no means easy, but one student has successfully decoded an ancient Inca message.
The Inca had no written language. To communicate they invented the quipu, a form of non-verbal communication written in an encoded language similar to the binary code used by modern computers.
A quipu (or ‘khipu’ – (in Quechua ‘knot’) was a series of strings with knots. The number of knots, the size of the knots, and the distance between knots conveyed meaning.
As mentioned earlier on Ancient Pages, the quipu is one of the most mysterious phenomena that existed in odd number of dimensions.  
Deciphering the knots is of great importance as it gives a better understanding of what life was like for the Inca. A quipu contains a secret message and when we decode it, we give South American people a chance to speak.
Secrets Of Quipu- Sacred Ancient Inca Message Decoded By Student
Manny Medrano is a Harvard student who has made an astonishing archaeological breakthrough. Together with his Professor, Gary Urton, a scholar of Pre-Columbian studies, Medrano interpreted a set of six quipus, knotted cords used for record keeping in the Inca Empire.
“There’s something in me, I can’t explain where it came from, but I love the idea of digging around and trying to find secrets hidden from the past,” Medrano said.
“I could never figure out the hidden meanings in these devices. Manny figured them out, focusing on their color, and on their recto or verso (right-hand and left-hand) construction. This was the only case we have discovered so far in which one or more (in this case six) quipus and a census record matches,” Professor Urton said.
Manny Medrano
A study by Manny Medrano ’19 (from right), with guidance from Professor Gary Urton, has decoded the meaning behind khipus, an Incan bookkeeping method of knotted rope. Credit: Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Medrano has compiled a database of hundreds of quipus from museums around the world and was later hired by his professor help organize citations in his recently published book, “Inka History in Knots: Reading Khipus as Primary Sources.”

Quipu 4.jpg
Quipu 3.jpg
Longest known quipu.jpg

2. ‘Collata Quipu’ May Explain Messages Hidden In Mysterious Writing Of Inca | May 10, 2017 | Archaeology News, Artifacts, News – Two 18th century ‘Collata Quipu’ artifacts preserved in a wooden box by elders of the region located in San Juan de Collata, in the province of Huarochiri, Peru may offer clues to understanding how some quipus kept and relayed information.
Message Cord. A bundle of animal hairs signals the beginning of a sequence of twisted and knotted cords on an 18th century khipu from a Central Andean village. A bright red tuft of deer hair is followed by a woven cone of hairs from different animals mixed with metallic fibers. New research suggests this and another khipu contain a type of writing.
Message Cord. A bundle of animal hairs signals the beginning of a sequence of twisted and knotted cords on an 18th century khipu from a Central Andean village. A bright red tuft of deer hair is followed by a woven cone of hairs from different animals mixed with metallic fibers. New research suggests this and another khipu contain a type of writing.
Inca used combinations of knots to represent numbers, very useful for the storage of corn (corn), beans and other provisions and most of quipu artifacts belong to the Inca period, between 1,400 and 1,532 AD.
However, Spanish accounts of colonial times indicated that the Incas also decoded histories, biographies, letters and other important information.
According to Collata villagers, the quipus are sacred writings of two local chiefs concerning a late 18th century rebellion against Spanish authorities.
See also:
Secrets Of Quipu – One Of The Most Mysterious Phenomena That Existed In Odd Number Of Dimensions
Ancient Chinese Version Of Quipu -Tradition Of Tying Knots Dates Back To Antiquity
The lost “written” language of the Inkas used twists of coloured animal hair rather than ink and paper,
The lost “written” language of the Inkas used twists of coloured animal hair rather than ink and paper. Image credit: University of St. Andrews
According to Sabine Hyland, anthropologist at St. Andrews University “the ropes have 14 different colors for 95 unique rope patterns and the number is within the range of symbols in logo syllabic writing systems”.
Each Collata quipu consists of a horizontal cord from which a series of cords hang. One Collata specimen contains 288 hanging cords separated into nine groups by cloth ribbons tied at intervals along the top cord. The other quipu features 199 hanging cords divided by ribbons into four groups. Knots appear only at cord ends to prevent unraveling. In contrast, proposed accounting quipus contain many knots denoting numbers.
These specific combinations of strings could represent syllables or words and the special thing about them, as Hyland explained, was that they contained “a series of complex color combinations between the strings.”
Quipu knots
One quipu starts with a tuft of bright red deer hair, followed by a woven, cone-shaped bundle with metallic-colored thread. The second quipu begins with a woven, tube-shaped bundle of multicolored alpaca hair atop the remains of a red tassel.
“The Collata khipus are completely unlike accounting khipus that I have been studying for over a decade,” Hyland says. Central Andean khipus generally viewed as accounting devices were often made of cotton, and they contain two main colors, between 15 and 39 cord combinations and repetitive knot sequences.
Hyland’s analysis indicates that the quipus of St. John of Collata are the first identified as narrative by descendants of its creators.
These quipus are larger and more complex, and unlike others of their kind, are made of hair and fiber from Andean animals.

What Were The Most Important Inca Laws That All Citizens Had To Respect? | August 16, 2017 | Ancient History Facts, Featured Stories, News
Share this: – The Incas were very strict with the laws and punishments, which were very harsh and severe. Unlike other places, the Inca Empire had low crime rates.
The laws were controlled by special officials chosen by Sapa Inca and they had to be respected by the Inca citizens. The laws were based on beliefs, practices and customs of the society. The Inca had no system of imprisonment.
Inca Laws and punishment
Every member of the Inca society had to worship the sun.
Three most important Inca laws imposed on all citizens, were: “Do not steal” (Ama Sua), “Do not lie” (Ama Llulla) and  “Do not be lazy” (Ama Quella).
Regional leaders were authorized to decide in several different matters of law but not all.
Only a higher authority could decide in cases of the penalty in form of mutilation or death, which was given for robbing, killing, breaking state possessions or entering rooms of the Chosen Women.
Laziness, was also considered a very serious crime since lazy people deprived the Sapa Inca of their work and the punishment for doing so – was death, which was also applied in case of homicide, adultery, rebellions, second offenses in drunkenness and theft.
Inca Laws and punishment
If a citizen made a mistake for the first time, then he/she would get a reprimand from the government.
In case of a second offense, the punishment was very severe – death by stoning, hanging, stoning or by pushing the person off a cliff.
The Inca government promoted peace among its citizens, and in fact there was very little crime in the Inca Empire, but at the same time, there was no mercy when a crime was committed.
Any kind of law transgression represented an action against divinities and was therefore, unacceptable.
The purpose of Inca law system was to teach a lesson to the lawbreaker and prevent re-occurrence by any member of the society, therefore, mutilation and the death penalty were frequently applied.
Lucky ones, who managed to survive a punishment, had to tell their stories for the rest of their lives.
People, who listened willingly to the stories, would give them food but their survival was based on how engaging and compelling their crime story was.
The Inca respected all local laws in new territories conquered by them, as long as these laws were not in conflict with Inca law.
Otherwise, all contradicting laws had to be removed; if the leader of the territory conquered by the Inca, opposed the new set of rules, he would be executed.

Inca sun mask.jpg

4. Atahualpa
by Mark Cartwright
published on 17 March 2016
Atahualpa (Brooklyn Museum)
Atahualpa (also Atawallpa) was the last ruler of the Inca empire who reigned from 1532 CE until his capture and execution by the invading Spanish forces led by Pizarro in 1533 CE. The troubled Incas had suffered six years of damaging civil war and Atahualpa was only just enjoying his ascendancy to the throne when the Spanish arrived to turn the Inca world upside down. Further weakened by European-introduced diseases which wiped out millions, the Incas could do nothing against the better-armed invaders who would stop at nothing to gain the fabulous riches of the Americas’ largest ever empire.
Civil War & Succession
Atahualpa’s father Wayna Qhapaq died in 1528 CE of smallpox, the most distinguished victim of the epidemic of European diseases which had spread from central America even faster than the foreign invaders themselves could manage. This epidemic killed a staggering 65-90% of the native population. When Wayna Qhapaq died without choosing a second heir (his first choice Ninan Cuyuchi also died of smallpox) Atahualpa battled for the throne with his half-brother Waskar (or Huascar) in a hugely damaging civil war which the Spanish would be only too glad to take advantage of when they arrived on Inca territory in 1532 CE. Atahualpa was based in the northern capital at Quito while Waskar was at Cuzco. After diplomatic relations soured between the two brothers, open warfare broke out in the north. There followed a series of battles costly to both sides until, after six years of fighting, Atahualpa finally prevailed.
By the time Spanish arrived, Atahualpa had managed to capture Waskar but the factions which had deeply split the empire remained. Waskar was imprisoned and his kin-group was killed, as were those who had supported him. Atahualpa even killed historians and destroyed the Inca quipu records. This was to be a total renewal, what the Incas called a pachakuti or ‘turning over of time and space’, an epoch-changing event which the Incas believed periodically occurred through the ages. What Atahualpa did not know was that another pachakuti was less than a year away, and this time he would be its victim.    
Atahualpa’s reign may have been brief but, as the Sapa (‘Unique’) Inca, he lived a life of extreme luxury.
Atahualpa’s reign may have been brief but, as the Sapa (‘Unique’) Inca, he lived a life of extreme luxury. Drinking from gold cups, wearing silver-soled sandals and treated as a manifestation of the Sun god Inti on earth, Atahualpa was the head of the largest and richest empire the Americas had ever seen. His taste for opulence was chronicled by the Spanish who said that he once ordered a cloak made only from bat skins. As the Inca king, he had the right to wear even more gold jewellery than the already over-laden nobility. His regalia included a feather headband (Ilauto), a golden mace (champi), and king-size golden ear-spools. The monarch travelled on a gold and silver litter further embellished with parrot feathers. He was fed food by a servant, and anything the royal person touched was collected and burnt in an annual ceremony to ward off witchcraft. If ever there was a pampered ruler it was the Sapa Inca of ancient Peru.
Pizarro Arrives
On Friday, 15th of November, 1532 CE the 168-man force of Spaniards led by Francisco Pizarro approached the Inca town of Cajamarca in the highlands of Peru. Pizzaro sent word that he wished to meet the Inca king, there enjoying the local springs and basking in his recent victory over Waskar. Atahualpa agreed to finally meet the much-rumoured bearded white men who were known to have been fighting their way from the coast for some time. Confidently surrounded by his 80,000 strong army Atahualpa seems not to have seen any threat from such a small enemy force and he made Pizarro wait until the next day. Then, seated on a low wooden throne and accompanied by all his wives and nobles, the Inca ruler finally came face to face with these curious visitors from another world.
Inca Ruler Atahualpa
Atahualpa is Captured
The first formal meeting between Pizarro and Atahualpa involved a few speeches, a drink together while they watched some Spanish horsemanship and not much else. Both sides went away planning to capture or kill the other party at the first available opportunity. The very next day Pizarro, using the conveniently labyrinth-like architecture of the Inca town to his advantage, set his men in ambush to await Atahualpa’s arrival in the main square. When the royal troop arrived Pizarro fired his small canons and then his men, wearing armour, attacked on horseback.  
In the ensuing battle, where firearms were mismatched against spears, arrows, slings, and clubs, 7,000 Incas were killed against zero Spanish losses. Atahualpa was hit a blow on the head and captured alive. Either held for ransom by Pizarro or even offering a ransom himself, Atahualpa’s safe return to his people would only happen if a room measuring 6.2 x 4.8 metres were filled with all the treasures the Incas could provide up to a height of 2.5 m. This was done and the chamber was piled high with gold objects from jewellery to idols. The room was then filled twice again with silver objects. The whole task took eight months and the value today of the accumulated treasures would have been well over $50 million. Meanwhile, Atahualpa continued to run his empire from captivity and Pizarro sent exploratory expeditions to Cuzco and awaited reinforcements from Panama. Then, having got his ransom, Pizarro summarily tried and executed Atahualpa anyway, on the 26th of July 1533 CE. The Inca king was originally sentenced to death by burning at the stake but, after the monarch agreed to be baptized, this was commuted to death by strangulation.
Inca Gold Sun Mask
Some of Pizarro’s men thought this was the worst possible response but the wily Spanish leader had seen just how subservient the Incas were to their king, even when he was held captive by the enemy. As one Miguel de Estete described the king receiving visitors during his captivity,
When they arrived before him, they did him great reverence, kissing his feet and hands. He received them without looking at them. It is remarkable to record the dignity of Atahualpa and the great obedience they all accorded him (D’Altroy, 93).
As a living god, Pizarro perhaps knew that only the king’s death could bring about the total defeat of the Incas. Indeed, even in death the Inca king exerted an influence over his people for the severed head of Atahualpa gave birth to the enduring Inkarri legend. For the Incas believed that one day the head would grow a new body and their ruler would return, defeat the Spanish, and restore the natural order of things.
The Collapse of the Inca Empire
One of the reasons the Inca empire collapsed so swiftly following Atahualpa’s death, perhaps in less than 40 years, was the fact that it was founded on, and maintained by, force, and the ruling Incas (only 40,000) were very often unpopular with their subjects (10,000,000 of them), especially in the northern territories. This was not least because the Incas extracted heavy tribute from conquered peoples – both in kind and labour - and loyal Inca subjects were forced on these communities to better integrate them into the empire. The Inca Empire, in fact, had still not reached a stage of consolidated maturity – it had only just reached its greatest extent a few years before.

Saksayaman Cusco peru.jpg
Inca Empire.jpg

Map of the inca Empire
It was a combination of factors then, a veritable perfect storm of rebellion, disease, and invasion, which brought the downfall of Atahualpa and the mighty Inca Empire. In addition, the Inca mode of warfare was highly ritualized where such things as deceit, ambush, and subterfuge were unknown. Inca warriors were highly dependent on their officers, and if these fell in battle, a whole army could quickly collapse in panicked retreat. These factors and the superior weaponry of the Europeans meant the Incas had very little chance of defending a huge empire already difficult to manage.
Pizarro received criticism from the Spanish king Carlos I for treating a foreign sovereign so shabbily, and his attempts to install a puppet ruler – Thupa Wallpa, the younger brother of Waskar - failed to restore any sort of political order. The Spanish soon found out that the vast geographical spread of their new empire and its inherent difficulties in communication and control (even if their predecessors had built an excellent road system) meant that they faced the same management problems as the Incas. Added to this was the massive population decline following epidemics and communities still resentful of outside rule. For those local tribes, a change in rulers, unfortunately, brought no respite from a rapacious overlord, once again, eager to steal their wealth and impose on them a foreign religion.

5. Inca Government
Inca Government
by Mark Cartwright
published on 22 October 2015
Inca Ruler Atahualpa (Mary Harrsch (taken at the Ojai Valley Museum))
The Inca civilization flourished in ancient Peru between c. 1400 and 1534 CE, and their empire eventually extended across western South America from Quito in the north to Santiago in the south, making it the largest empire ever seen in the Americas. Government and power was held at Cuzco, the Inca capital, which was considered the navel of the world. Eventually 40,000 Incas would govern some 10 million subjects speaking over 30 different languages. Consequently, the centralised Inca government, employing a vast network of administrators, governed over a patchwork empire which, in practice, touched local populations to varying degrees. Inca government, therefore, relied heavily on a combination of personal relations, state largesse, ritual exchange, law enforcement and military might.
Historical Overview – The Empire

Cuzco became a significant centre sometime at the beginning of the Late Intermediate Period (1000-1400 CE). A process of regional unification began from the late 14th century CE, and from the early 15th century CE, with the arrival of the first great Inca leader Pachacuti ('Reverser of the World'), the Incas began to expand in search of plunder and production resources, first to the south and then in all directions, and so they built an empire which stretched across the Andes.
The rise of the Inca Empire was spectacularly quick. First, all speakers of the Inca language Quechua (or Runasimi) were given privileged status, and this noble class then dominated all the important roles within the empire. Eventually a nationwide system of tax and administration was instigated which consolidated the power of Cuzco. The Incas themselves called their empire Tawantinsuyo (or Tahuantinsuyu) meaning 'Land of the Four Quarters'.
The Incas imposed their religion, administration, and even art on conquered peoples.
The Incas imposed their religion, administration, and even art on conquered peoples, they extracted tribute, and even moved loyal populations (mitmaqs) to better integrate new territories into the empire. However, the Incas also brought certain benefits such as food redistribution in times of environmental disaster, better storage facilities for foodstuffs, work via state-sponsored projects, state-sponsored religious feasts, roads, military assistance and luxury goods, especially art objects enjoyed by the local elite.
The Inca King
The Incas kept lists of their hereditary kings (Sapa Inca, meaning Unique Inca) so that we know of such names as Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (reign c. 1438-63 CE), Thupa Inca Yupanqui (reign c. 1471-93 CE), and Wayna Qhapaq (the last pre-Hispanic ruler, reign c. 1493-1525 CE). It is possible that two kings ruled at the same time and that queens may have had some significant powers, but the Spanish records are not clear on both points. The king was expected to marry on his accession, his bride sometimes being his own sister. The queen (Qoya) was known as Mamancik or ‘Our Mother’ and could wield some influence both on her husband and via her kin group, particularly in selecting which son might become the official heir to the throne. The Qoya also had significant wealth of her own which she could dispose of as she wished.
The Sapa Inca was an absolute ruler whose word was law. He controlled politics, society, the empire's food stores, and he was commander-in-chief of the army. Revered as a god he was also known as Intip Churin or ‘Son of the Sun’. Given this elevated status he lived a life of great opulence. Drinking from gold and silver cups, wearing silver shoes, and living in a palace furnished with the finest textiles, he was pampered to the extreme. He was even looked after following his death as the Inca mummified their rulers and later 'consulted' them for their opinion on pressing state affairs. Despite his enviable status, though, the king had to negotiate the consent and support of his nobles who could, and did, sometimes depose or even assassinate their ruler. In addition to keeping favour with his nobles the king also had to perform his role as a magnanimous benefactor to his people, hence his other title Huaccha Khoyaq or ‘Lover and Benefactor of the Poor’.
Inca rule was, much like their famous architecture, based on compartmentalised and interlocking units. At the top was the king, his high priest (Willaq Umu) – who could also act as a field marshal - and ten royal kindred groups of nobles called panaqa. These nobles could form and instigate policy in councils with the king and, even more importantly, influence the final choice of the king’s successor which was rarely simply the eldest son. Indeed, many royal accessions were preceded by intrigue, political maneuvering, coups, and even assassinations to promote a particular kin group’s candidate. This may well be why later Inca kings married their own sister so as to avoid widening the elite power base at the very top of the government structure.
Next in line to the panaqa came ten more kindred groups more distantly related to the king and divided into two halves: Upper and Lower Cuzco. Then came a third group of nobles not of Inca blood but made Incas as a privilege. This latter group was drawn from that section of the population which had inhabited the region when the Incas had first arrived. As all of these groups were composed of different family lines, there was a great deal of rivalry between them which sometimes broke out into open warfare.
The Inca Administrators
At the bottom of the state apparatus were locally recruited administrators who oversaw settlements and the smallest Andean population unit the ayllu, which was a collection of households, typically of related families who worked an area of land, lived together, and provided mutual support in times of need. Each ayllu was governed by a small number of nobles or kurakas, a role which could include women.
Local administrators collaborated with and reported to over 80 regional-level administrators (a tokrikoq) who were responsible for such matters as justice, censuses, land redistribution, organizing mobile labour forces, and maintaining the vast network of roads and bridges in their jurisdiction. The regional administrators, who were almost always ethnic Incas, reported to a governor responsible for each quarter of the empire. The four governors reported to the supreme Inca ruler in Cuzco. To ensure loyalty, the heirs of local rulers were also kept as well-kept prisoners at the Inca capital. The most important political, religious, and military roles within the empire were, then, kept in the hands of the Inca elite, called by the Spanish the orejones or 'big ears' because they wore large earspools to indicate their status. To better ensure the control of this elite over their subjects, garrisons dotted the empire and entirely new administrative centres were built, notably at Tambo Colorado, Huanuco Pampa and Hatun Xauxa.
For tax purposes annual censuses were regularly taken to keep track of births, deaths, marriages, and a worker’s status and abilities. For administrative purposes populations were divided up into groups based on multiples of ten (Inca mathematics was almost identical to the system we use today), even if this method did not always fit the local reality. These censuses and the officials themselves were examined every few years, along with provincial affairs in general, by dedicated and independent inspectors, known as a tokoyrikoq or ‘he who sees all’.
As there was no currency in the Inca world taxes were paid in kind - usually foodstuffs (especially maize, potatoes, and dried meat), precious metals, wool, cotton, textiles, exotic feathers, dyes, and spondylus shell - but also in labourers who could be shifted about the empire to be used where they were most needed. This labour service was known as mit'a. Agricultural land and herds were divided into three parts: production for the state religion and the gods, for the Inca ruler, and for the farmers' own use. Local communities were also expected to help build and maintain such imperial projects as the road system which stretched across the empire. To keep track of all these statistics the Inca used the quipu, a sophisticated assembly of knots and strings which was also highly transportable and could record decimals up to 10,000.
Goods were transported across the empire along purpose-built roads using llamas and porters (there were no wheeled vehicles). The Inca road network covered over 40,000 km and as well as allowing for the easy movement of armies, administrators, and trade goods it was also a very powerful visual symbol of Inca authority over their empire.
The Inca Empire was founded on, and maintained, by force and so the ruling Incas were very often unpopular with their subjects (especially in the northern territories), a situation that the Spanish conquistadores, led by Francisco Pizarro, would take full advantage of in the middle decades of the 16th century CE. Rebellions were rife, and the Incas were actively engaged in a war in Ecuador, where a second Inca capital had been established at Quito, just at the time when the empire faced its greatest ever threat. Also hit by devastating diseases brought by the Europeans and which had actually spread from Central America faster than their Old World carriers, this combination of factors would bring about the collapse of the mighty Inca civilization before it had even had chance to fully mature.

6. Inca Communication: Mailmen Of The Inca Empire Were Fast Roadrunners | March 20, 2016 | Ancient History Facts, Featured Stories, News
Share this: – As a means of communications, the Inca used fast roadrunners to relay messages. The roadrunners were the mailmen of the Inca Empire. Not everyone could become a roadrunner, or chasqui.
It was a specialized and honorable profession that required studies.
Without these specially trained Incan mailmen, controlling the vast Inca Empire would have been almost impossible.  The Incan communication system was based on chains of runners to relay messages. Most messages were oral. Some were sent by Quipu, the knotted language of the Inca.
Since the Inca had no writing system the runner had to remember the message, and relay it to the next person. The Incan roadrunners were very fast and they could carry messages at a rate of about 250 miles a day.
Inca Communication: Mailmen Of The Inca Empire Were Fast Roadrunners
Each runner would run for one to two 1/2 miles along the famous Inca roads. There were small relay station buildings spaced along the roads where  fresh runners watched and  waited for the arrival of the  messenger.
As he approached the relay station, the runner blew loudly on a conch shell to alert the next runner to get ready. The next runner would appear, running along side the first.  Without stopping, the first runner told the second runner the message. The second runner then speeded ahead until he reached the next relay station.
Chasquis served for fifteen days at a time.
The chasqui did not have guards and they never carried weapons to defend themselves. They always ran alone.
Still, this type of Inca communication was highly effective. It was vital that the messages always reached the Sapa Inca accurately.
If it was discovered that a message was not accurate, punishment was severe and a roadrunner could be killed.

Sapa Inca.jpg

7. Who Was The Sapa Inca? | January 27, 2016 | Ancient History Facts
Answer: The ruler of the Inca people was called the “Sapa Inca”, which means “only emperor”. (in Quechua: “the only Inca”).
The Inca believed that their ruler – Sapa Inca was sacred; he was like god on Earth
The Inca believed that their ruler – Sapa Inca was sacred; he was like god on Earth
The Sapa Inca was all powerful and his word was law. He was head of the government, and he owned everything. He was both a religious and political figure, and it was very important because for the Inca, politics and religion were intertwined.
The Inca believed that their ruler – Sapa Inca was sacred; he was like god on Earth. He descended from the sun god Inti, and this connection to the cosmos helped them to justify their rule over several civilizations across South America.
See also: Chocolate Was Invented In Mesoamerica 1900 B.C.
A Sapa Inca was polygamous, meaning he could have many wives. He wore a hat made of gold and feathers, his clothes were covered in jewels, and he wore huge gold earrings. The Sapa Inca only wore an outfit once, after that it was burned.
Some Sapa Inca are said to have had as many as a hundred children. When the Sapa Inca died one of his sons became the next Sapa Inca, this was not necessarily the oldest, just the favourite. After he died the Sapa Inca was mummified, and remained in his palace.
The first Sapa Inca was Manco Capac, who was the son of the god Inti, the sun god. The ninth Sapa Inca, Pachacuti expanded the kingdom and founded an empire, which would become the largest Native American Empire.

Early Man Winter 2018

Flint Ca. 500000 to 50000 Tony Berlant.jpg

1. DALLAS, TX.- The Nasher Sculpture Center opened First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone, an exhibition exploring prehistoric tools and collected objects as evidence of the beginnings of artistic intention and craft. The show is on view January 27 - April 29, 2018. The exhibition is the product of a unique curatorial collaboration between Los Angeles-based artist Tony Berlant and anthropologist Dr. Thomas Wynn, Distinguished Professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone is the first museum exhibition to present ancient handaxes as works of art. Traditionally understood as the longest-used tool in human history, the handaxe is equally fascinating for its non-utilitarian, aesthetic qualities. While handaxes are not rare—millions have been discovered throughout the world—First Sculpture presents a refined and exemplary collection of these objects, which date from 2.5 million to 50,000 years old, as evidence of the earliest forms of artistic intention. The exhibition highlights the aesthetic qualities of each stone and provides crucial historical and scientific information to give the viewer a deeper understanding of human history, as well as an enriched appreciation for humankind’s early ability to sculpt beautiful objects. Whether carved from visually interesting stones using stone flaking techniques, called knapping, or rendered at unusual sizes that would inhibit use of the object as a tool, a case can be made for the handaxe as the first sculpture our prehistoric ancestors conceived.
“We believe imposing these basic ‘good forms’ [on the handaxes] must have been a pleasurable activity—making an artifact that was symmetrical or resembled a sphere gave the stone knapper more pleasure than making an irregular form,” note Berlant and Wynn. “This impulse to impose form became a significant motif in human evolution.”
The exhibition also explores figure stones—naturally occurring stones that carry shapes and patterns that resemble human or animal forms, especially faces, and which were gathered by prehistoric people. The stones, which sometimes show evidence of modification, indicate an inclination to recognize figuration within nature much earlier than has been generally accepted. “The human mind evolved to be sensitive to aesthetic phenomena,” say curators Berlant and Wynn, “and stone artifacts trace some of this evolutionary history.”
“First Sculpture is an unprecedented exhibition, looking to the origin of art-making at its most fundamental levels—the drive to make something beautiful or the inclination to acknowledge beauty within nature itself,” says Nasher Sculpture Center Director Jeremy Strick. “As such, this collection of works casts a new light on the history of art, suggesting that the primal need to create and collect beautiful objects has even deeper roots that we ever imagined.”
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated, scholarly catalogue published by the Nasher, with a central essay co-written by exhibition curators Berlant and Wynn, as well as a preface by renowned American scientist, Jared Diamond. The Nasher Sculpture Garden presently has on vierw a collection of hand axes from contemporary artist, Tony Berlant of Santa Monica, California.

2.. Ancient Stone Weapons, Including One of a Kind Giant Handaxe, Could Tell Story of When Early Humans First Left Africa
By Kastalia Medrano On 12/28/17 at 4:14 PM
Archaeologists in Saudi Arabia have discovered a massive cache of stone artifacts, some of them more than 1.7 million years old. They might reveal when different species of early hominins first migrated out of Africa, according to Live Science.

Saudi Handaxe.jpg

The researchers are part of the DISPERSE project, which studies the diaspora of early humans across Africa and Asia. The artifacts, more than 1,000 of them, were found in a basin of porous rock bordered by volcanic lava flows, just a few miles from the coastline of the Red Sea, according to an update from the DISPERSE project's website.

They include fragments of weapons like handaxes, knives and spear points, along with tools like animal hide-scrapers, hide-piercers and hammer stones. Live Science reported that one hand axe weighs nearly eight pounds, making it notably heavier than the rest. It's the first of its kind discovered in the Arabian Peninsula, according to DISPERSE. A paper on the discovery was published in the scientific journal Antiquity.

“The site and its associated artifacts provide important new evidence for hominin dispersals out of Africa, and give further insight into the giant handaxe phenomenon present within the Acheulean stone tool industry,” the authors wrote in their paper.

"Achaelean" artifacts date to anywhere between 1.76 million years and 100,000 years old. The researchers know that the climate during the time the tools were in use was wetter than the climate is now, but hope further research will reveal a more specific timeline.

"It's far more arid [today] than it was at certain points in time," lead author Frederick Foulds, an archaeology professor at Durham University in England, told Live Science. "It's strange to be walking over hard, dry rocks which were formed by water pooling during a far wetter period. We think it was during these wetter periods that it's likely the site was occupied."

Foulds told Live Science that with additional analysis to narrow the date range in which the tools were created, they hope to be able to extrapolate the exact species of hominin to which they belonged.

“During periods when the ice sheets were at their largest, there was widespread aridity in the Sahara and Arabian deserts, but during periods when the ice sheets shrank, the climate of these regions became a lot wetter," Foulds told Live Science. "What's interesting about the Wadi Dabsa region is that the geography of the region may have created a refuge from these changes.”

Archaeology Winter 2018

Aztec wolf.jpg

1. Mexico City Archaeologists excavating at the foot of the Aztecs’ Great Temple, in downtown Mexico City, discovered a dazzling collection of gold artifacts and the skeleton of a juvenile wolf. Occupying a stone box the size of a dishwasher, the gold artifacts are the finest yet excavated at the 40-year-old dig, says lead archaeologist Leonardo López Luján. They include ear and nose ornaments and a piece of body armor known as a pectoral—glittering, stylized versions of attire that were used to decorate the sacrificed wolf, as if the canine were symbolizing a human warrior. The wolf’s head faced west, signaling that it was “the companion of the sun, after the sunset, during its journey to the underworld,” says López Luján. The offering was buried during the reign of Ahuitzotl (1486–1502), a time of war and great imperial expansion for the Aztecs.

Truck damages Peru's ancient Nazca lines.jpg

    2. Peru's ancient Nazca lines were damaged when a driver accidentally plowed his cargo truck into the fragile archaeological site in the desert, officials said Tuesday.The driver ignored warning signs as he entered the Nazca archaeological zone on January 27, the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

    The truck "left deep prints in an area approximately 100 meters long," damaging "parts of three straight lined geoglyphs," the statement read.The lines, considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, are enormous drawings of animals and plants etched in the ground some 2,000 years ago by a pre-Inca civilization. They are best seen from the sky.Entering the area is strictly prohibited due to the fragility of the soil around the lines, and access is only allowed wearing special foam-covered foot gear, according to Peruvian authorities. The lines criss-cross the Peruvian desert over more than 500 square kilometers (200 square miles). Created between 500 BC and AD 500 by the Nazca people, they have long intrigued archaeologists with the mystery of their size and their meticulously drawn figures. Some of the drawings depict living creatures, others stylized plants or fantastical beings, others geometric figures that stretch for kilometers (miles).

3. Experts discover hidden ancient Maya structures in Guatemala

    Experts using an aerial high-tech laser scanner have discovered thousands of ancient Maya structures hidden under the thick jungle of northern Guatemala, officials said Thursday.Some 60,000 structures were found over the past two years in a scan of a region in the northern department of El Peten, which borders Mexico and Belize, said Marcello Canuto, one of the project's top investigators. The new discoveries in this Central American country include urban centers with sidewalks, homes, terraces, ceremonial centers, irrigation canals and fortifications, said Canuto, an archaeologist at Tulane University in the United States.Among the finds was a 30-meter high pyramid that had been earlier identified as a natural hill in Tikal, Guatemala's premier archaeological site. Also discovered in Tikal: a series of pits and a 14 kilometer-long wall.The Maya civilization reached its height in what is present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, and parts of Belize, El Salvador and Honduras between 250 and 950 CE.Researchers now believe that the Maya had a population of 10 million, which is "much higher" than previous estimates, Canuto said.The project relied on a remote sensing method known as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). Aircraft with a LiDAR scanner produced three-dimensional maps of the surface by using light in the form of pulsed laser linked to a GPS system.  

4.. Unique Knife That Belonged to Early Medieval Scribe Unearthed in Poland

A unique knife that belonged to an early medieval scribe has been discovered in the Pasym Castle located at Pasym, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Poland.
The knife dated to the 8th or 9th century is the only such object known from Poland.
The similar objects originate from Great Britain, Frisia or Norway, according to archaeologists who carried out excavations in the early medieval fortified  Pasym settlement.
The knife is less than 10 cm in length and was found in a hearth inside a residential building.
What distinguishes the knife from other objects of this type, is the presence of two blades – a longer blade (measuring 42 mm) and a shorter one (measuring 27 mm), which could be used interchangeably.
Both blades were formed by cutting off the back, reports Science in Poland.

Scribe Knife Found in Poland.jpg

“This is the only Prussian settlement with such an early metric, it dates back to the VII-IX century” – said Dr. Sławomir Wadyl from the Institute of Archeology of the University of Warsaw, who conducted excavations at Pasym in cooperation with Kacper Martyka from the Museum of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn.

The knife is less than 10 cm in length and was found in a hearth inside a residential building. What distinguishes the knife from other objects of this type, is the presence of two blades – a longer blade (measuring 42 mm) and a shorter one (measuring 27 mm), which could be used interchangeably. Both blades were formed by cutting off the back, reports Science in Poland.

Knife discovered in Pasym medieval settlement. Photo credit: S. Wadyl
Knife discovered in Pasym medieval settlement. Photo credit: S. Wadyl

“No similar object has been found in Poland until now. The search for similar artefacts led us to the British Isles, where rotary knives are quite typical for this period. The objects discovered there, as well as in Frisia and Norway, are similar to our find,” said Dr. Wadyl, adding that it is  surprising that until now similar objects have not been found in the Polish lands, in the areas associated with either the Slavs or the Balts.

Researchers believe that knives of this type were used by scribes in their work. Two different precision blades could be used to create manuscripts – such tools are among the instruments frequently depicted in the images of scribes found on miniatures from the era.

“On this basis, we know that knives with a variety of blades accompanied all stages of manuscript creation: they were used to cut parchment, mark lines, control the shape of letters and erase mistakes” – says Dr. Wadyl.

With time, this kind of knife was probably adapted by other crafts that required precision, where the possibilities offered by knives with two different blades were extremely desirable.

“So they could be used for processing leather, wood or bones” – says the archaeologist. Evidence of antler processing was found within the building where the knife was discovered.

According to Wadyl, it is difficult to say whether the knife had been brought from Scandinavia or the British Isles, but the concept of its creation clearly indicates this origin. Less similar specimens of rotary knives have been discovered by archaeologists in Belarus and Estonia, but they are several hundred years younger than the one from Pasym.

Will President Macron return African art from French Museums?

Benin President Talon and Macron.jpg

France’s President Has Promised to Return Africa’s Heritage—Now Macron’s Pledge Is Being Put to the Test
European museums face renewed calls to hand back artifacts looted in Africa during the colonial-era.
Naomi Rea, March 8, 2018,
France's president Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with Benin's president Patrice Talon during his arrival to the Elysee Palace on March 5, 2018 in Paris. Photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images.
Emmanuel Macron welcomed the President of Benin to the Elysée Palace in Paris this week, the first visit by an African head of state since the French President’s surprise pledge last November that he wanted to see Africa’s cultural treasures on show “in Dakar, Lagos and Cotonou,” not just in Paris.
In Macron’s speech delivered in Burkina Faso last November, he went beyond art and artifacts in France’s public collections, declaring: “African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums.”  
The outcome of the French head of state’s meeting with Benin’s president, Patrice Talon, is being watched closely by European museums that also have art and artifacts looted from the West African nation in their collection—and those who have long wanted museums to repatriate historic plunder taken from across the continent.  
Also this week, Macron announced the appointment of two experts who will report later in the year on the repatriation of African cultural heritage held in French museums. The Senegalese writer and economist Felwine Sarr, and the French art historian Bénédicte Savoy, are due to present their recommendations in November.
Benin’s Lost Bronzes
Macron’s historic statement, which came as a surprise to many in Europe and Africa, marked a huge shift in the stance held by the French government, which for many years closely guarded the “inalienable” right to its national collections. Its institutions own African art, some of which was looted by the French during the colonial period, just as Britain, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands in territories they controlled in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  
Benin suffered more than most, with French troops looting the Dahomey Kingdom in 1892. British troops also plundered Benin City—which is actually located in today’s Nigeria—in 1897. Many of the looted artifacts, including the sculptures known at the Benin Bronzes, were acquired by the British Museum. Others were auctioned off to defray the the cost of the campaign and are now in museums across Europe as well as North America.
Although Macron’s speech was widely applauded, others were less impressed. The president declared he will “set the conditions” for repatriation, but what are those conditions? And does Macron have the right to decide whether African institutions are fit to take care of artifacts, if they are repatriated?
In December, Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments called for France to unconditionally return all heritage taken illegally from Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, a professor of art history and architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara, tells artnet News: “[It is] completely and arrogantly wrong to imagine that France should have the last word on what constitutes safe conditions for managing these artifacts.”
Ogbechie thinks that in addition to restituting African objects, Western countries should provide monetary reparations equalling the benefits derived from holding these objects for more than a hundred years.
A visitor looks at a statue in brass representing a horn player (L, Benin, South of Nigeria, XVIth and XVIIth Century) during an exhibition focused on refined Art in Benin, 02 October 2007 at the Quai Branly museum in Paris. Photo by Olivier Laban–Mattei/AFP/Getty Images.
Will French Museums Follow Macron’s Lead?
The French Ministry of Culture has opposed repatriation in the past. So far, the culture minister Françoise Nyssen has not commented in public on Macron’s speech, nor has the director of the Louvre, Jean-Luc Martinez. In October he proudly announced at the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi a new acquisition: a magnificent head of the Oba (king) of Benin. (The Louvre Abu Dhabi did not respond to requests for information about its provenance).    
The director of the Museé du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, which has a vast collection of African artifacts was opposed to returning anything to source countries, but after Macron’s speech in Africa, Stéphane Martin has had a change of heart.
When artnet News contacted the museum shortly after Macron’s speech on November 28, a spokesperson stated that the museum “fully supported the president’s initiative.” Martin has since come out in favor of returning African artifacts to Africa, justifying his U-turn position in an interview with The Art Newspaper: “There is a real problem which is specific to Africa. Cultural heritage has disappeared from the continent.” He regretted that in the museum’s African art exhibitions since the museum opened in 2006, not a single work was lent by an African museum. “We ought to do something to repair that,” Martin said.
Previously Martin argued that losing artfacts would disrupt the museum’s mission to educate French visitors about the “Other.” He told Sally Price in her 2007 book Paris Primitive, “We are not in the business of buying ourselves a clear conscience vis-a vis the non-Western world or becoming an ‘apology museum’.”
The Loan Option
Instead of repatriation, Martin prefers that French and African museums collaborate and exchange loans. He has suggested that a collaborative project similar to the Louvre Abu Dhabi might work with a museum in Africa, if suitable museum partnerships could be arranged for medium or long-term loans. But here’s the rub: although Martin cites the Museum of African Civilisations in the Senegalese capital of Dakar as a possible partner, there are few other museums in Africa that would meet French museum standards.
Critics of this approach argue that French approval of African museums expresses a paternalistic attitude towards Africa that smacks of “neo-colonialism.” In the publication Modern Ghana Kwame Tua Opuku, condemned Westerners assuming “a God-given right and obligation to supervise Africans and their activities, including what obviously is African property.”
“The Benin bronzes were perfectly safeguarded in the King’s palace for over 500 years before the British looted the entire corpus they could lay their hands on,” Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie points out, although he acknowledges that African museums will need time to improve security and other standards of care.

There's more information on the blog at


France: President Macron Says send the African Art Back to Africa

Macron African Art.jpg

These two articles from the Art Newspaper provide an update on President Macron pushing to return "all" the African art in French museums to Africa. I guess out of fear our colleagues in Europe have not expressed outrage at the potential dismantling of not only Quais Branly but also the exhibition at Lions Gate in the Louvre. Of course, this decision would have a major impact internationally in potentially setting a precedent that would create problems in the museum world. It would be interesting if someone had the courage  to ask whether this was about protecting African heritage or French interests  abroad.

Jacques Chirac.jpg

1. PARIS What restitution experts have to say about President Macron’s pledge to return African artefacts
The French leader’s announcement in Burkina Faso is hailed as historic—but gets a mixed response
29th November 2017 11:15 GMT
French President Emmanuel Macron and Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore sit in a classroom as they visit the Lagm Taaba school in Ouagadougou, as part of his first African tour since taking office Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to return African artefacts housed in French institutions to their country of origin has been called historic by restitution specialists, who also questioned how the new cultural policy will be implemented.
In a speech given yesterday (28 November) at the University of Ougadougou in Burkina Faso, Macron said: “I cannot accept that a large part of cultural heritage from several African countries is in France. There are historical explanations for that, but there are no valid justifications that are durable and unconditional. African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums. African heritage must be highlighted in Paris, but also in Dakar, in Lagos, in Cotonou.”
In the next five years, Macron stressed that he wants the conditions to be met for the "temporary or permanent" restitution of African heritage to Africa. “This will be one of my priorities,” he said.
Yves-Bernard Debie, a Brussels-based lawyer specialising in cultural property and trade, tells The Art Newspaper that this speech is historic because it breaks with the French legal tradition established in 1566 by the edict of Moulins. “Since that time, the royal domain has become the public domain and is inalienable,” he says.
“I’m concerned because it is a very bad signal to send to all the countries that think they can ask for the restitution of goods that, in their view, have been unlawfully obtained. There is no longer any reason that prohibits these countries from claiming ‘their heritage’ from France. Is this realistic? Yes and no. No because of the principles of inalienability that are enshrined in the law. Yes, because we can always change the laws,” Debie adds, asking: “What does ‘temporary restitution’ mean? A restitution is to return to its rightful owner something that was obtained unlawfully, and, one cannot, on the other hand, return something temporarily.”
On the other hand, Professor Nicholas Thomas, the director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, argues that this is a move in the right direction. “President Macron's commitment to prioritise the issue will be welcomed by many museum curators,” he says.
Museums in France housing African artefacts may now be forced to draw up new guidelines for repatriation. More than 70,000 items from sub-Saharan Africa housed at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris come from the former Africa and Madagascar collections of Musée de l’Homme and Musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie in Paris. Museum officials declined to comment on Macron’s announcement.
The Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris is embroiled in its own restitution battle with Benin, which called last year for the return of Guezo, Glele and Behanzin treasures in the museum’s collection. The disputed works were seized in 1892 from a kingdom that stretched across what is now Benin and Nigeria when the French army ransacked the royal palaces of Abomey in Benin.
In August 2016, the Benin government formally asked the French foreign ministry to repatriate the works. But the then minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said last December that restitution is impossible because the collection, like those of all French public museums, is “inalienable”.

Martin Quais Branly.jpg

2. Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris is ready to return African art
Head of the ethnographic institution applauds President Macron’s pledge to hand back African cultural heritage
Vincent Noce
4th January 2018 09:39 GMT
President Macron with Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian-Kabore Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to return African artefacts is an “awesome challenge”, according to Stéphane Martin, the president of the ethnographic Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris. With curators and museum staff in France—and across Europe—often fiercely attached to the principle of the inalienability of public collections, Martin’s reaction comes as quite a surprise.
In a speech on 28 November at the University of Ougadougou in Burkina Faso, Macron urged that within five years (the term of his presidency) “the conditions be met for the provisional or permanent return of African cultural heritage to Africa”, adding: “It is unacceptable that a large part of this heritage is kept in France or in private European collections and museums.”
He pointed out that, in the past, “in many countries, African curators themselves sometimes organised the trafficking of cultural goods, and these goods were also sometimes saved from the hands of traffickers by European curators and collectors,” and called for “a new common vision” and an end to “old conflicts”. Such a process “will need scientific and museographic partnerships”, he said.
According to official sources, Françoise Nyssen, France’s culture minister, had not been informed of the president’s intentions and has so far not commented on the declaration. The culture ministry is notoriously hostile to any changes on matters of restitution. In 2010, the French parliament voted to set up a scientific commission to study proposals for repatriation, but the ministry failed to act.
The Quai Branly museum has a collection of more than 70,000 artefacts from sub-Saharan Africa, and displays 1,000 of them in its galleries on the Left Bank of the Seine. “There is a real problem which is specific to Africa,” Martin says. “Cultural heritage has disappeared from the continent. In the African art exhibitions we have held since opening in 2006, not a single work was lent by an African museum. We ought to do something to repair that.” But he adds that the return of works to Africa needs to be considered “in the framework of cultural projects”.
The opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi last November marked “a major change in the museums’ world map”, Martin says. “It demonstrated that such a partnership is possible and can change our cultural vision. If together, and possibly with international co-operation with other Western partners, we can build one, two or three safe museums in Africa, I would not even consider transfers of ownership as taboo.”
Martin is prepared to start the process right away. “Think of the Museum of African Civilisations in Dakar, which has been built by the Chinese and has been empty for three years. Why not consider working on a partnership there? It might not be easy but it would be worth trying.”


Chinese Archaeology

Oracle bone inscription.jpg

Chinese Archaeology
Chinese authorities announced Tuesday that Chinese oracle-bone inscriptions — the earliest documentary evidence found in China — have been included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
China has been preparing these artifacts for the UNESCO program since 2013, and on Oct 30 UNESCO announced on its website oracle-bone inscriptions were included.
The inscriptions were excavated from the Yin ruins in Anyang city, Central China's Henan province, which provide records of divinations and prayers to the gods from people in the late Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century BC).
Oracle-bone inscriptions are the prototype of modern-day Chinese characters and the embodiment of the continuous evolution of Chinese civilization.
Initiated by UNESCO in 1992, the Memory of the World Program aims to rescue the gradually aging, worsening and disappearing documentary heritage in the world and to raise public awareness of the significance of documentary heritage.
The program takes place every two years, and China has 13 examples of documentary heritage inscribed on the Memory of the World Register so far.
The most recently included Chinese documentary evidence, "Archives of the Nanjing Massacre", was inducted in 2015.