Ancient Maya - Summer 2018

Drought and the Ancient Maya Civilization - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration


Originating in the Yucatan Peninsula, the ancient Maya civilization occupied a vast area of Mesoamerica between 2600 BC and 1200 AD. Constructing thousands of architectural structures and developing sophisticated concepts in astronomy and mathematics, the Maya civilization rose to a cultural florescence between 600 and 800 AD. Then, between 800 and 950 AD, many southern cities were abandoned and most cultural activities ceased. This period is known by archaeologists as the collapse of the Classic Maya civilization. The Maya, never able to regain their cultural or geographical prominence, were assimilated into other Mesoamerican civilizations until the time of the Spanish Conquest in 1530 AD. 

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The cause of the collapse of the Classic Maya civilization is one of the great archaeological mysteries of our time, and scholars have debated it for nearly a century. Some scientists suggest that a period of intense drought occurred in conjunction with the Classic Maya collapse and could have contributed to the Mayans’ misfortune.


Scientists reconstructed changes in the balance between precipitation and evaporation using the percent of sulfur in sediments and the oxygen isotopes of shells of gastropods and ostracods from Lake Chichancanab on the Yucatan Peninsula (Hodell et al. 1995 (link is external)).

Scientists have reconstructed climate at the time of the Mayan civilization by studying lake sediment cores from the Yucatan Peninsula (Hodell et al. 1995 (link is external); Curtis et al. 1996 (link is external); Hodell et al. 2005 (link is external)). It is possible to reconstruct changes in the balance between precipitation and evaporation (P−E), a common indicator of drought, by measuring oxygen isotope data from the shells of gastropods and ostracods. Lake H2O molecules containing the isotope 18O evaporate less easily than H2O molecules with 16O. Thus, during periods of strong evaporation, the lake water becomes enriched in 18O (values of δ18O are high). These isotopic values are incorporated into the growing shells of gastropods and ostracods that live in the lake.

Another proxy for P−E is the percent of sulfur in the lake sediments. Evaporation concentrates sulfur in the lake water. If the sulfur concentration becomes high enough, salts such as gypsum (CaSO4) will start to precipitate from the lake water and add sulfur to the lake sediments. The variations of sulfur percentage match the variations in oxygen isotopes closely. Corroborating one paleoclimate proxy with another is an important check on proxy records and gives us more confidence in them.

Distinct peaks in these two proxies reflect times of aridity on the Yucatan Peninsula. The most arid time of the last 2,000 years occurred between 800 and 1000 AD, coincident with the collapse of the Classic Maya civilization. A newer high-resolution analysis of rainfall proxies from cave deposits in the Yucatan and in Belize indicates that multiple, decadal-scale severe droughts occurred during this interval (Medina-Elizalde et al. 2010 (link is external); Kennett et al. 2012 (link is external)). Similar, though not necessarily synchronous, droughts appear to have happened in central Mexico as well (Stahle et al. 2011 (link is external); Lachniet et al. 2012 (link is external)). These findings support a strong correlation between times of drought and a major cultural discontinuity in Classic Maya civilization. It is also important to remember that other factors such as overpopulation, deforestation, soil erosion, and disease could have contributed to the demise of the Mayans.

Some important datasets related to drought and the collapse of the Mayan civilization:

Lake holds secrets to Mayan collapse, study finds

Severe drought may have led to the fall of the ancient civilization

Kate Furby, The Washington Post

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The sediment under a lake in Mexico contains some of the long-sought answers to the mystery of the Mayan demise.

Ancient Mayans, primarily concentrated in what is now the Yucatán Peninsula, were among the most advanced civilizations of their time. Mayans were some of the first to build cities. They used astronomy to advance agricultural production, and they created calendars and used advanced mathematics.

But despite all of their progress, the Mayan empire, built over thousands of years, may have crumbled in just a few hundred.

Scientists have several theories about why the collapse happened, including deforestation, overpopulation and extreme drought. New research, published in Science on Thursday, focuses on the drought and suggests, for the first time, how extreme it actually was.

While analyzing sediment under Lake Chichancanab on the Yucatán Peninsula, scientists found a 50 percent decrease in annual precipitation over more than 100 years, from 800 to 1,000 A.D. At times, the study shows, the decrease was as much as 70 percent.

While the drought was previously known, this study is the first to quantify the rainfall, relative humidity and evaporation at that time. It’s also the first to combine multiple elemental analyses and modeling to determine the climate record during the Mayan civilization demise.

Climate scientists commonly use sediment cores to determine the conditions of the past, like geological time capsules.

Each layer of sediment buried deep underground contains evidence of rainfall, temperature and even air pollution. Via chemical processes and interactions, the climate conditions are “recorded” in the surface soil at the time, and eventually buried. Scientists can bore a deep core of dirt, and carefully analyze it layer by layer, year by year to reconstruct a timeline.

For this study, scientists examined the layers of mud and clay in the cores from under Lake Chichancanab. During dry periods, the lake volume would have shrunk, said Nick Evans, a graduate student studying paleoclimatology at Cambridge University and first author of the study. As the water evaporated, lighter particles would have evaporated first, leaving behind heavier elements.

If the drought was intense and long-lasting, gypsum crystals formed and incorporated existing lake water directly into their structure. The “fossil water” inside the crystals allowed Evans and his co-authors to analyze the properties of the lake water during each period.

“It’s as close as you’ll ever get to sampling water in the past,” Evans said.

Evans and his team hope their research will help archaeologists understand how the ancient drought may have impacted Mayan agriculture at a critical time in their history.

Kate Furby, The Washington Post

Potential New Tariffs Ethnographic Art Summer 2018

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Ethnographic and Archaeological Objects and Coins Affected By July 1, 2018 Reporting Changes - Cultural Property News  (


July 6, 2018

Note: The Committee for Cultural Policy provides this website solely for informational purposes. Nothing herein is intended to constitute legal advice.

There are changes under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (2018) Revision 6, Annotated for Statistical Reporting Purposes that have implications for importers of ethnographic and archaeological objects as well as coin collectors. The new import reporting requirements went into effect on July 1st.

“Archaeological pieces” are now reported separately from “ethnographic pieces” and both of those are reported separately from “historical pieces”. Statistical notes 1 and 2 further define the ethnographic and archaeological categories and detail how components of collections should be reported.

From the statistical notes:

  1. For the purposes of statistical reporting number 9705.00.0075, “Archaeological pieces” are objects of cultural significance that are at least 250 years old and are of a kind normally discovered as a result of scientific excavation, clandestine or accidental digging or exploration on land or under water. For the purposes of statistical reporting number 9705.00.0080, “Ethnographic pieces”, which may also be called “ethnological pieces” are objects that are the product of a tribal or nonindustrial society and are important to the cultural heritage of a people because of their distinctive characteristics, comparative rarity or their contribution to the knowledge of the origins, development or history of that people. See Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Informed Compliance Publication on “Works of Art, Collector’s Pieces, Antiques, and Other Cultural Property”.
  2. For statistical reporting of merchandise provided for in subheading 9705.00.00, collections made up of articles of more than one type of cultural property, i.e., zoological, biological, paleontological, archaeological, anatomical, etc., shall be reported by their separate components in the appropriate statistical reference numbers, as if separately entered.

Besides the former differentiation of gold and other, “Numismatic (collector’s) coins” are now separated by age as “250 years or more in age” and “other”. “Numismatic (collector’s) coins” are also now differentiated from coins that are “archaeological pieces.”

Note: The Committee for Cultural Policy provides this website solely for informational purposes. Nothing herein is intended to constitute legal advice."

JB Note: I cannot think of a good thing that has ever come from giving the government more information. We will continue to follow this. I encourage you to subscribe to Cultural Property News  (


UK Ivory update. Summer 2018

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The UK’s ban on ivory sales will not protect the elephants
The great majority of ivory in the UK is worked ivory dating from the 18th to early 20th centuries and is from long-dead elephants. Banning the sale of antique, worked ivory in the UK will not make any difference to the market for new ivory in Asia, and hence the poaching of elephants, claims Richard Thomas, the official spokesman for Traffic, the most respected collectors and interpreters of data about the trade in ivory.
Thomas’s statement goes against the premise underlying the bill to ban the UK trade in ivory, which had its second reading in parliament on 4 June. The government is aiming to announce its enactment at a large international conference about the illegal wildlife trade, which the Foreign Office is hosting in October in London. It fulfils the promise made in the 2015 Conservative manifesto and is strongly supported by both Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Lobby groups such as Born Free, the World Wildlife Fund and 38 Degrees have campaigned hard for this law, with petitions online such as Avaaz’s Save the Elephants: Stop Bloody Ivory, which asked people “to reject any exemptions in the global ban on the ivory trade…to take all necessary steps to enforce that ban and protect the elephants”. This effective and emotive campaign had 430,000 signatures.
All these petitions are phrased in such a way as to suggest that a ban on the sale of all ivory, whatever its date, will directly or indirectly cause the market to die out and therefore save the elephants, but this is not borne out by the realities of the market. Thomas says: “There is a lot of fuss being made about the UK being a major re-exporter of ivory, but I suspect that limiting the sale of ivory in the UK will not make any difference to the demand for ivory in Asia, where the taste is for new items.” His statement is based on the 2016 survey by Traffic of the UK trade, which showed that no new or “raw” (unworked) ivory—which derives from elephants killed now or recently—was seen in any of the UK’s antique markets or shops. It also stated that the majority of the exports from the UK for 2005-15 was of worked ivory and only 2% of raw ivory.
Trade data therefore needs to be analysed more critically. For example, the CITES Trade Database export data for elephant ivory and ivory products for 2006–15 (1,874 ivory transactions) states that the EU is the single largest exporter of ivory items by number of reported transactions. Here, the key phrase is “by number”. Since nearly all the EU trade is in worked items, these are not “bloody tusks” but, for the most part, the usual collectables that you find in an antiques market, the knick-knacks of the expanding 19th-century bourgeoisie.
Thomas also rejects the idea that the UK is a clearing house for poached ivory tusks, the “bloody ivory” of the Avaaz petition. “There is precious little evidence that tusks are being shipped via the UK, except illegally in aeroplanes that touch down here,” he says. According to data published by the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) in 2016, 80% of seizure cases over the last decade, with the UK as the final destination, involved just one or two items—in other words, tourist smuggling.
It is in Asia that there is huge demand for ivory, and the route from Africa is mostly direct to the continent. Despite Kenya’s campaign against poaching, tonnes of ivory are being shipped out of the port, and flown out of the airport, of Mombasa, and also transported out of Sudan with the connivance of the Sudanese army, destined for Asia via the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, says Keith Somerville, the author of Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa.
“It is not the markets in the West that are fuelling the poaching crisis,” says Thomas. “President Obama’s banning of the ivory trade in the US in 2014 was of much less consequence than the 2017 Chinese moratorium on the importation and working of ivory”.
Even this moratorium may have a limited impact on ivory poaching, however. A Traffic survey in China has shown that many people there do not know about the ban, and one in five said that they would continue to buy ivory items regardless. There is also the “whack-a-mole” effect; as the ivory workshops close down in China, they are popping up in Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, and the unrepentant Japanese ivory industry carries on undiminished. “More processing of ivory is also beginning to take place in Africa”, says Thomas, “and even when a seizure of ivory is made there, very little follow-up takes place.”
The much publicised bonfires of captured ivory tusks are foolish, he believes: “All they do is put the price up.” He thinks it would be better for government stockpiles in Africa to be sold. Botswana, for example, derives 15 tonnes a year from natural elephant mortality and, together with Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, it has CITES permission to put it on the market. There have been two sales so far: one in 1999, when Japan bought the whole lot, and in 2008, with Japan and China the buyers. There is opposition, however, from some parties to CITES who believe that such sales encourage demand, but Thomas says that Traffic has found no such link.
There is no doubt that African countries with declining populations of elephants require financial and practical assistance to guard them, while those like Botswana, with large herds, need help with husbanding them, but in both cases, the incentives must be stronger than the pull of the Asian trade. The proposed UK law provides for neither. The conservationist Lucy Vigne, an ivory trade researcher working in East Africa, has gone so far as to say that “This recent issue in the West has been taking away valuable time and resources from dealing with the big issues we are facing urgently, ie; the trade in new ivory in Asia and poaching in Africa” (Financial Times, 9 September 2016).

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And then there is the onus that the proposed law puts on museum curators, who will have to decide which worked, pre-1918, ivory items qualify as being of “outstandingly high artistic, cultural or historical value” and may therefore be sold. This will be in addition to their role in the export licensing process, whereby in 2016-17 nearly 30,000 applications for works of art, manuscripts and archives were considered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with museum curators painstakingly evaluating the most important of them. Did the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consider the unintended consequences of this law as it was drafting the bill?
Ivory veneered tea caddy, Indian, about 1800. Made for the western market
Ivory pass notes
Raw ivory Unworked tusks or parts of tusks.
Worked ivory Defined by the 1997 EU Regulation as “specimens that were significantly altered from their natural raw state for jewellery, adornment, art, utility or musical instruments, more than 50 years before the entry into force of the Regulation, that is before 3 March 1947 (EU Guidelines (2017/C154/06). The great majority of the ivory in the UK, US, and EU is worked ivory (see Re-export of ivory). In the 20th century, most of its domestic uses have been replaced by materials such as plastic, while there is almost no UK demand for modern knick-knacks.
Mortality ivory Tusks from elephants that have died of natural causes.
Re-export of ivory By its nature, all ivory in the UK, EU and US has been imported at some point. Any passage outwards of such items is called a “re-export”.
3 March 1947 Fifty years before the 1997 EU Regulation (see below). Worked ivory items produced before 1947 may be sold without restrictions, while a certificate is required for ivory items produced after 1947. This will change in the UK under the proposed law.
1 July 1975 The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) enters into force, run by the United Nations Environment Programme. CITES is the authority that provides the benchmarks and framework regulations for the ivory trade. By June 2016 there were 183 contracting parties to the convention and meetings are held every two to three years. CITES is funded by the countries party to the convention, with the UK a major contributor. The CITES management authority for the UK is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
1976 Traffic is founded, the leading NGO researching the trade in wild animals and plants, with 120 staff of more than 25 nationalities, organised in six regional teams in key wildlife trading areas of the world. Its data and their presentation are considered objective and statistically sound, and contribute largely to CITES policy and to ETIS (see below) reports, which are available online. Traffic’s headquarters are in Cambridge, UK.
August 1976 The UK was one of the first countries to ratify CITES, now largely superseded by the 1997 EU Regulation and its 2017 amendment (see below).
1989 the CITES resolution commonly known as the “Ivory Ban”, whereby international, but not domestic, trade in African elephant ivory was prohibited as from 18 January 1990 (already banned for the Asian elephant from I July 1975). International prices fall sharply; African nations, with the financial assistance of Western countries, make efforts to enforce the ban. There is a revival in elephant populations. But some African countries with strong elephant conservation programmes argue that a total ban on selling confiscated ivory hurts their abilities to fund conservation.
1997 CITES meeting votes to reintroduce a limited trade as from 1999.
1997 and 1 July 2017 Strengthening of the 1997 EU Regulation by which the EU implements CITES. As from 2017, the Regulation decrees:
no re-exporting of raw ivory, even if it qualifies as a pre-1975 Convention specimen
worked ivory produced before 1947 may still be sold freely, but proof must be provided that the item was acquired before 3 March 1947
worked ivory items produced post-1947 may still be sold with a certificate. There is no clear evidence, the guidelines state, to justify suspending the sale of worked ivory.
1999 Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) is set up, a database of seizures of elephant specimens anywhere in the world since 1989. ETIS has been managed by Traffic on behalf of parties to CITES and it is currently housed at the Traffic East/Southern Africa office in Harare, Zimbabwe.
25 February 2014 President Obama’s Director’s Order 210. Since then the movement of ivory into the US has effectively been banned, and internal commercial transactions are subject to very heavy restrictions that vary from state to state.
2016 CITES meeting recommended that countries with a legal domestic market that contribute to poaching or illegal trade take steps to close down commerce in raw and worked ivory. Traffic’s research proves that the UK’s legal trade does not contribute to poaching or the illegal trade. 31 December 2017 China’s total ban on the commercial processing and sale of ivory and ivory products comes into force.
The UK approach: experts to allow a very few sales
All trade in ivory, whether within the UK or in export from the UK, will be prohibited, except for:
Items of “outstandingly high artistic, cultural or historical value” and predating 1918, which must have a certificate provided by an accredited expert
Pre-1918 portrait miniatures on ivory
Pre-1947 items with less than 10% ivory content that is “integral to it”
Pre-1975 musical instruments with less than 20% ivory
Acquisitions by museums (as accredited by the Arts Council England, the Welsh government, Museums Galleries Scotland and Northern Ireland Museums Council
The French approach: sales allowed if registered
Post-1947 ivory
Trade is banned except for:
Items made from 1947 to 1975 weighing or incorporating no more than 200g of ivory
Musical instruments incorporating ivory elements
Specimens for scientific purposes or cultural display in museums
Pre-1947 ivory
Trade in any item that is more than 20% ivory must be registered with a national database.
Clarification: the paragraph quoting Keith Somerville was amended on 3 July to make it clear that ivory is being transported out of Sudan, not Kenya, with the connivance of the Sudanese army
2nd July 2018 08:52 GMT
Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 303 July/August 2018

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‘Traffic’ Says UK Ivory Antiques Trade Won’t Harm Elephants
Richard Thomas, speaking for the non-governmental organization Traffic, the leading analysts and experts on the trade in ivory, said the UK’s proposed ban on antique ivory sales would not in fact, harm elephant populations. Traffic’s research has found that a ban on the trade of antique ivory goods in the UK would not impact the primary Asian markets, which are for new ivory objects.
Traffic’s statement completely contradicts the position taken by lobbying groups such as Born Free, the World Wildlife Fund, and online petitions such as Awaaz’, which claim that a complete halt to the antique ivory trade is necessary to preserve elephant populations.
Passage of a highly restrictive UK law, held to be the toughest in the world, is imminent, and the media is rife with commentary that legal domestic ivory markets are intrinsically linked to the illegal ivory trade. Such claims now appear unsupported by facts.
The UK law has had its second reading in Parliament and is expected to be passed into law just before a major international wildlife conference in London in October 2018. The proposed law presented by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will prevent anyone in the UK from buying, selling, importing or exporting ivory with very few exceptions. Exempted items would allow sale of:
musical instruments which contain less than 20% ivory made before 1975.
items which contain less than 10% ivory, made before 1947, and where the ivory is integral to the item – a de minimis exemption.
items which are over 100 years old of significant artistic, cultural and historic value, and deemed to be “the rarest and most important objects of their type” through a review by museum or other appointed specialist.
the continued sale of ivory to museums, and between museums will be allowed. However, as museums will be determining whether an object meets the “rarest” qualification that enables an object to be sold in the market, museums will also be the only buyers allowed for objects that do not meet those specifications – leading to a potential conflict of interest.
Art collectors, dealers and dealer organizations, and museums have always agreed that raw ivory and new carved ivory imports and all new ivory sales should be banned. But they have consistently said that banning sales of antique ivory in the UK and USA would have little benefit for elephants. It turns out that the dealers and collectors were right.
An article by Anna Somers Cocks in The Art Newspaper, The UK’s ban on ivory sales will not protect the elephants, July 2, 2018, describes the key points of Traffic’s research and conclusions.  Traffic found no new or raw ivory being sold by UK antique dealers. The UK’s annual exports for 2015 were only 2% raw ivory.
An earlier released study of CITES data alleged that between 2010 and 2015 Britain was the largest exporter of legal ivory in the world. Traffic also found that this data, promoted by other wildlife groups, was misleading because it counted the number of items sold rather than the amount of ivory exported. The Traffic study found that nearly all of the trade in ivory in the UK was in small antique items such as curios, souvenirs, and collectibles.
Instead, Traffic has found that the demand in Asia is what is driving poaching and that the Asian preference is for new ivory items. Thomas told The Art Newspaper that, “President Obama’s banning of the ivory trade in the US in 2014 was of much less consequence than the 2017 Chinese moratorium on the importation and working of ivory.”
However, the China moratorium has not been effective in stopping Chinese and other Asian demand (many Chinese do not even know about the ban), and raw ivory continues to be shipped directly to Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Japan to be worked and sold there. Last year, Traffic reported that lax enforcement in Japan and its largely unregulated domestic ivory market contributed to illegal trade. Tons of raw ivory are shipped out of Kenya and Sudan, and ivory is now being carved to suit Asian taste in Africa as well.
Thomas also encouraged legal sales by African governments of stockpiled and captured ivory rather than tusk-burnings. CITES currently oppose such sales, saying that it would encourage poaching, but Traffic found no link between legal sales and encouraging demand that would be fed by poachers. Thomas pointed out that Botswanna gathers 15 tons of tusks per year from natural elephant mortality and that other African nations could establish legal markets is they would follow and implement South African and other regional conservation models.
Dealer organizations in the UK have stressed that too broad new laws would harm British museums and seriously damage the antiques trade, a significant player in Britain’s overall economy. A British Museum spokesman stated in February 2016 that, “There is no public benefit in restricting the display or movement of ivory works of art made before 1947 and legislation should not extend to cover actions carried out before that date.
Anna Somers Cocks also points out the huge administrative burden the UK government and museums will have to take on in deciding what items may be acquired under the proposed UK law, which allows sales of worked, pre-1918, ivory items of “outstandingly high artistic, cultural or historical value.”
Public sentiment in the UK is strongly in favor doing whatever can be done to save elephants. Given the lateness of the hour and political sensitivity of the ivory issue, it is unlikely that there will be a radical reassessment of the need for legislation to ban antique ivory sales. Despite the Traffic report showing that it is unnecessary, legislation will probably pass – ending what could be a legitimate, controlled market, damaging the traditional British antique industry, making antique objects valueless and encouraging their neglect and destruction. It’s a sad case of an emotional argument trumping the facts.

For on update on ivory this search area on the New York Times is helpful:

For advice on what to do with your ivory, the best source is Fish and Wildlife:


Aztec Archaeology in Mexico. Summer 2018

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Gruesome human sacrifice discovery: Skulls reveal grisly secrets of lost Aztec city

A vast array of skulls buried beneath the streets of modern Mexico City are revealing the grisly details of Aztec human sacrifice.
The area was once the epicenter of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan - a gruesome site where human sacrifices were performed to honor the gods. Captives were taken to the city’s Templo Mayor, or great temple, where priests removed their still-beating hearts, Science reports.
The bodies were then decapitated and priests removed the skin and muscle from the corpses’ heads. Large holes were then carved into the sides of the skulls and placed onto a large wooden pole prior to being placed in the tzompantli, a huge rack of skulls in the front of the temple. Two towers of mortared skulls flanked the rack.
Paintings and written descriptions from the early colonial period document the macabre scene.
In 2015 archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) found the main trophy rack area and one of the skull towers at the Templo Mayor. More than 650 skulls and thousands of fragments were discovered, offering a glimpse into the Aztecs’ bloody culture.
Experts are now analyzing the discovery in detail. Science reports that, given the scale of the racks and the skull towers, archaeologists now estimate that several thousand skulls were likely displayed at a time.
In two seasons of excavations, archaeologists collected 180 mostly complete skulls from the tower and thousands of skull fragments. Cut marks confirm that they were “defleshed” after death and the decapitation marks are “clean and uniform.”
Three quarters of the skulls analyzed belonged to men, mostly aged between 20 and 35. Some 20 percent belonged to women and the remaining 5 percent were children. The victims are said to have been in “relatively good health” before they were sacrificed.
This corresponds with the analysis of victims sacrificed in “smaller offerings” in the Templo Mayor complex. By studying isotopes in the teeth and bones, experts have discovered that the victims were born in different places across Mesoamerica, but had often spent significant time in Tenochtitlan before their violent deaths.

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Isotopic and DNA samples have also been taken from the tzompantli skulls, which could provide yet more insight into the practice of human sacrifice.
Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Mexica people, who became rulers of the Aztec empire. Spanish conquistadors were appalled by the tzompantli when they entered Tenochtitlan in 1519. Two years later, they destroyed the city and paved over its ruins, leaving the Aztec sacrificial remains below the streets of what became Mexico City.
John Verano, a professor of anthropology at Tulane University, who is not involved in the tzompantli project but is an expert on ancient Central American cultures, told Fox News that the Templo Mayor is of immense importance to archaeologists. “For a long time, many historians and anthropologists questioned whether the descriptions by Spanish eyewitnesses exaggerated the number of skulls on the skull rack, as well as the number of victims sacrificed by the Aztecs for the dedication of the Templo Mayor,” he explained, via email. “This discovery now makes these early accounts much more believable.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers
By James Rogers | Fox News

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Sun Storm
A massive disk of intricately carved stone looms over a gallery in Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology

The stone has long been an emblem of Mexican identity. Commissioned by the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II (r. 1502–1520), the nearly 12-foot-wide stone was completed during his reign, in about 1511. Eight years later, when Spanish conquistadores saw it atop a platform in the Aztecs’ central temple, the Templo Mayor, in the capital city of Tenochtitlan, one described it as “round, like a figure of the sun.” When the Spaniards leveled the capital, the stone disappeared, only to be rediscovered in 1790 beneath the city’s main plaza, the Zócalo, a block from where the conquistadores had seen it.
The meaning of this 22-ton disk of volcanic basalt has been subject to a variety of interpretations. The first article written about it in 1792 suggested that it functioned as a clock or sundial. Most researchers have concluded that the figure at the stone’s center represents an Aztec deity, possibly the sun god Tonatiuh—and most still do. But now archaeologist David Stuart of the University of Texas at Austin has a provocative new theory about the central figure. He presented it in the magazine Arqueología Mexicana, and his reading of the famous artifact has set off debate among scholars of ancient Mexico in the magazine’s pages and beyond.
Citing iconic messages on the stone and comparisons to other monuments, Stuart suggests the figure is Moctezuma II himself, represented as the sun god. “People would have seen it as a depiction of the ruler, with the face of the king and the face of the sun being one and the same. The overlap between kings and gods was very important to the Aztecs,” says Stuart. He notes that a glyph above the face reads “One Flint,” the name for the year in which the god Huitzilopochtli was believed to have migrated from his mythic homeland to the central valley of Mexico at the dawn of the Aztec state. Another glyph, slightly to the left, represents a xiuhhuitzolli, a diadem or headdress, worn by the Aztec ruler himself. Stuart believes the two glyphs, taken together, send a clear message of royal power and identity. “It’s a portrait of the deified king. Aztec commoners would have read ‘This is the king. The king is a god.’ Seeing the central figure as a portrait makes it a very historical and political monument.”
Other Mesoamerican experts, however, disagree. Archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, former director of the Templo Mayor excavations, has argued that Stuart’s interpretation is groundless. He writes in Arqueología Mexicana that Stuart has misread the glyph that he believes represents the royal headdress, which, he says, is, instead, part of a longer glyph with no direct relation to the ruler. Moreover, the man in the center of the stone has a tongue-like sacrificial knife hanging out of his mouth. According to Matos, no other portrait of an Aztec ruler has such an attribute.
Patrick Hajovsky, a Southwestern University archaeologist, also disputes Stuart’s theory, saying that although the glyph to the left of the figure might indeed be that of Moctezuma, that would not mean the figure depicted is the king. “By that logic, then, the central figure could just as well be Huitzilopochtli, the god whose name appears in the innermost circle,” he says. He observes that in other works featuring Moctezuma, he never appears in the center of the sun, “but rather to its side, making offerings.”
Stuart admits that by arguing that the stone depicts an actual person—not a god—he is, in a way, demystifying it. “They would have seen it as a person, and I guess that brings it down to earth,” he says. Yet the face is more than just a portrait of Moctezuma. “It plays off multiple identities that revolved around kings and deities,” he says. “The face is several things at once.”
Friday, June 08, 2018

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View of the Ehecatl (pre-Columbian deity of wind) temple in the basement of a shopping center in Mexico City, on June 19, 2018.

The archaeological site, discovered in 2014 after the demolition of an old supermarket, is located in Tlatelolco, a downtown neighbourhood of the Mexican capital that was once a twin city and neighbour of the Great Tenochtitlan, heart of the Aztec empire. RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP

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MEXICO CITY.- In an area located within the limits of the Álvaro Obregón city hall, INAH archaeologists have recorded 26 cavities of the Middle and Late Formative periods

They emphasize that in an unprecedented event, in addition to locating graves of funerary type and for storage, others had to serve to realize steam baths. Photo: Mauricio Marat INAH.

Stop Act Summer 2018

Introduced in Senate (06/21/2017)
Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2017


Introduced on Jun 12, 2018

This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on June 12, 2018. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.


Passed House (Senate next) on Jun 14, 2018

This bill passed in the House on June 14, 2018 and goes to the Senate next for consideration.

This bill amends the federal criminal code to double the maximum prison term (from 5 years to 10 years) for persons convicted of selling, purchasing, using for profit, or transporting for sale or profit the human remains of Native Americans or cultural items obtained in violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
The bill prohibits the export of Native American cultural items that were obtained in violation of the Act, Native American archaeological resources that were obtained in violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, or Native American objects of antiquity that were obtained in violation of the criminal code. Violators may be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.
The Department of the Interior and the Department of State must each designate a liaison to facilitate and hold trainings and workshops on the voluntary return of human remains or cultural items.
Interior must refer individuals and organizations to Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations to facilitate the voluntary return of human remains or cultural items.
In addition, Interior must convene a tribal working group consisting of representatives of tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to provide advice on issues concerning the return of, and illegal trade in, human remains or cultural items.


Longstanding Federal Policy Threatened by Indian Art Law
2017 STOP Act Raises Doubts in Committee – Prognosis for 2018 Congress Uncertain
Kate Fitz Gibbon - January 1, 2018
At the end of 2017, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee sent nine bills to the Senate floor for passage – all passed with Unanimous Consent. The Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act, S. 1400, known as the STOP Act, was NOT among them. It appears that a number of Senators on the Indian Affairs Committee heeded the questions raised by ATADA, CCP, the Global Heritage Alliance, and other organizations. The groups variously raised concerns about the constitutionality of provisions forbidding trade in unspecified objects, the negative economic consequences for Southwestern states and the harm to museums and private collectors by making it federal policy to return all Native American objects to tribes.
The version of the STOP Act introduced in 2017 remains before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee through the second, 2018 session of the 115th Congress. There have been no changes to the bill since its introduction on June 21, 2017. (A 2016 bill of identical title but somewhat different intent was introduced in 2016 but died in committee at the end of the 114th Congress.)
A parallel bill is before the House, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act, H.R. 3211, which has been before the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs and the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations since last August.
It is hoped that the issues covered in testimony and outlined below will continue to raise concerns about the STOP Act as written, and will engage the public in developing more positive public policies to protect tribal, economic, museum, and academic interests in 2018.
Senate Testimony on Private Property Protections for Collectors and Museums
To reprise the issues raised by the bill:
On November 8, 2017, three organizations representing the interests of collectors, the art trade, and museums gave written testimony to a hearing at the Senate Committee for Indian Affairs. The Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2017, or STOP Act (S. 1400, HR 3211) would affect thousands of collectors of American Indian art, Indian artisans, and businesses throughout the Southwest.
ATADA, the Committee for Cultural Policy, and Global Heritage Alliance provided critical perspectives on the bill, which threatens the trade in Native American art, and will hamper museums in their efforts to protect and share Native art and culture. If passed, STOP would impose broad restrictions on the circulation of tribal art and fundamentally alter Congress’ past support for private and public collecting.

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While supporting respect for tribal patrimony, restoring communally owned, inalienable objects to tribes, and protecting archaeological sites from looting, the three organizations argued that the STOP Act will not achieve these goals. The Act is harmful to both tribes and Southwestern states and unconstitutionally fails to give notice of what would be illegal to export.
Although the legislation was triggered by French auctions of tribal artifacts, no proponent of STOP has shown how it would change the operation of French law. France is currently a market center for international tribal art from nations in Africa, Asia, and South America that already have export laws. Paris annually hosts the largest tribal art fair and market in the world, the Parcours des Mondes.
How Would a Person Know When They Were Breaking the Law?
Lack of notice to US citizens of what would violate the law and trigger a 10-year penalty was a key issue for Senate Committee members. Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman John Hoeven of North Dakota asked – if information on what is sacred and inalienable is secret, how would a person know when they were breaking the law? Proponents of STOP failed to give an answer.
Acoma-Governor-Kurt-Rileys-testimony to the Senate Committee acknowledged that the law would forbid the export of undisclosed items, stating: “The types of cultural items the Pueblo is attempting to protect are difficult to fully describe and publicly identify,” but later asserted NAGPRA makes clear what is covered. (NAGPRA does not actually identify what is inalienable or what is sacred, and after 27 years, there is still no standard for museums to follow under NAGPRA.) Governor Riley also stated that if in doubt, collectors could contact tribes. However, many, including Acoma, do not release information on what is sacred, or which items are inalienable from the community.
Key Issues
The three organizations raised the following concerns with the STOP Act:
-The STOP Act is redundant. “Trafficking” in violation of NAGPRA or ARPA is unlawful, and 18 U.S.C. § 554 already prohibits export from the United States of any object contrary to any law or regulation of the United States.
-The STOP Act discourages ALL Indian art sales, including contemporary jewelry, ceramics, etc. It states that it is official U.S. government policy to return ALL “items affiliated with a Native American culture.”
-The STOP Act fails to explicitly place the burden of proof on the federal government, giving Customs broad discretion which in the past has led to due process abuses.
-The STOP Act imposes 10 years’ jail time for violations of less than $1 value.
-The STOP Act could destroy the value of Americans’ private property, threatening the collections of America’s museums and the commercial viability of businesses and Native American artisans.
-The STOP Act federalizes ATADA’s Voluntary Returns Program, discouraging participation, and creating a “Trojan Horse” bureaucracy, including Department of Justice and Homeland Security.
ATADA’s Voluntary Returns Program is a better, more effective model, and has returned dozens of important ceremonial items already in its first year.
-The STOP Act Seeks Return of All Objects to Tribes and Would Remove Protections for Private and Public Collections

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The plain language of STOP makes it federal policy to encourage voluntary return of all “items affiliated with a Native American culture” to their origin tribes. Such a federal policy would severely damage the entire legitimate trade in Native American art: from legally excavated or sold historic objects to commercially produced jewelry, pottery, and textiles made by tribal artists.
Furthermore, the STOP Act would undermine Congress’ intent to preserve private collections under ARPA. As the Committee for Cultural Policy noted, ARPA’s purpose is also to: “foster increased cooperation and exchange of information between governmental authorities, the professional archaeological community, and private individuals having collections of archaeological resources and data which were obtained before October 31, 1979.” (16 U.S.C. § 470aa(b))
The federalized ‘voluntary’ returns program amounts to a clean sweep of the nation’s collections of tribal art, deterring buyers from purchasing objects, private collectors from donating their art to museums, and public museums from adding to or even retaining their current holdings.
STOP is Bad for Regional Economies
Many Southwestern US states rely upon cultural tourism, just as many of the tribes do; almost ten percent of New Mexico’s economy and employment derives from cultural tourism, much of it focused on the state’s Native culture and history. The STOP Act threatens to end this significant component of American life.
Success from Community Education and an Independent Voluntary Returns Program
In the last year alone, ATADA’s successful voluntary, non-governmental returns program has arranged the return of dozens of sacred objects to tribes. ATADA urged the Senate Committee to encourage voluntary returns by directly involving tribal offices and enabling donors to take deductions for gifts.
Is STOP Unconstitutional?
A law that prohibits export of certain items must define what those items are, or be found constitutionally deficient. The 567 tribes in the United States are not homogeneous in their cultural perspectives. What may be profoundly sacred to one tribe may be a utilitarian object to another. Furthermore, many tribal representatives hold that the nature of sacred objects must be kept secret even within tribes. Only tribal religious or cultural authorities are considered qualified to determine the status of a particular object.
Global Heritage Alliance said the STOP Act will encourage Customs to shift the burden of proof on to the exporter to demonstrate that the property was lawfully removed from federal or Indian lands. Under STOP, the government would require owners to prove their objects were not ‘stolen,’ which is no easy matter when objects have circulated for decades among many hands.
ATADA, CCP and GHA agreed that if the STOP Act is passed, it should be revised to eliminate constitutional abuses, return only what truly needs returning, and continue existing federal policy that protects museum, private collections and the public interest.


My Word Summer 2018

My Word Summer 2018

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On July 6th we marked the passing of Barbara Blackmun, a friend and a major force in African art scholarship. Barbara was an an elegant and gentle lady that successfully broke down barriers to make an important contribution to the study of African art in general and Benin ivory in particular. An obit is included in this issue. Barbara you will be missed. 

As many of you know Antiques Roadshow moved this past season (Number 23) from conventuion centers to historic locations. While it is a great deal more work for the crew, staff,and apprasiers the new venues have provided an exciting and somewhat adventurous quality to the shows. Every venue is different and each has their own unique challenges. We taped these shows in April, May, and mid June and visited Sarasota, Tulsa, Louisville, San Diego and Rochester Michigan. As we learn hope to adapt better to our new challenges, I am sure the show will evolve further. Regardless I am sure it will continue you to be an adventure for all involved.

Since last September the great staff at Rago auctions and I have been working on the Alan Stone catalog for the October 19th sale in Lambertsville, New Jersey. The majority of the sale is  African; however there are also some very interesting Pre-Columbian, American Indian, Oceanic, and Indonesian objects that Alan acquired over the years. See the article in this issue of the newsletter

We have a number of other sales that will be scheduled in the next six months both with Matt Quinn and David Rago. In this regard we have started a new section of the blog and newsletter providing a wish list of the objects we are looking for at the request of friends and clients. This has evolved in conjunction with our auction activities where more clients are seeking us out to find a market for their objects. Let us know... we should be able to help either find objects you are seeking or to find buyers for objects you are selling. 

Finally within the next four months we should see our first outsider art/folk art auction at Quinns auction house in Falls Church, Virginia. In addition we are participating in the latest sale of the very successful Curious and Curiouser auctions scheduled at Ragoarts before the end of the year..

Allan Stone Auction Highlights For October 19th Sale at Rago

 Igbo Mask, NIgeria      

Igbo Mask, NIgeria



 Luba Songe Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Luba Songe Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo

 Songye Community Power Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Songye Community Power Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo

 Kongo Nkisi Nkonde Power Figure, Collected 1909, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kongo Nkisi Nkonde Power Figure, Collected 1909, Democratic Republic of the Congo

 Igbo Tutelary Figure, Nigeria

Igbo Tutelary Figure, Nigeria

 Igbo Tutelary Figure, Nigeria

Igbo Tutelary Figure, Nigeria

 Himalayan Mask, Nepal/Tibet

Himalayan Mask, Nepal/Tibet

 Shiva, Southern India 19th century

Shiva, Southern India 19th century

 Ibibio Figure, Nigeria

Ibibio Figure, Nigeria

 Bamum Drum, Cameroon , Early 20th Century

Bamum Drum, Cameroon , Early 20th Century

 Dayak Hampatong Figure,  Borneo

Dayak Hampatong Figure,  Borneo

 Lobala - Yangere Slit Drum, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Lobala - Yangere Slit Drum, Democratic Republic of the Congo

 Fiji Island Figure, Hooper Collection, 1800 - 1850

Fiji Island Figure, Hooper Collection, 1800 - 1850

 Flores island Couple, Eloquent Dead, Early 2oth Century

Flores island Couple, Eloquent Dead, Early 2oth Century

 Mendi Shield, Papua New Guinea

Mendi Shield, Papua New Guinea

 Toraja Sarcophagus,  South Sulawesi, Indonesia

Toraja Sarcophagus,  South Sulawesi, Indonesia

 Huari Textile, Southern Peru, AD 500 - 800

Huari Textile, Southern Peru, AD 500 - 800

 Ejagham - Ekoi Headcrest, Nigeria Late 19th/Early 20th Century

Ejagham - Ekoi Headcrest, Nigeria Late 19th/Early 20th Century

 Mossi, Burkina Faso, Early 20th Century

Mossi, Burkina Faso, Early 20th Century

 Sumba Beaded Bag, Indonesia 20th Century

Sumba Beaded Bag, Indonesia 20th Century

 Kiowa Ledger Drawing, Late 19th Century

Kiowa Ledger Drawing, Late 19th Century

 Sioux Beaded Baby Carrier, c. 1880

Sioux Beaded Baby Carrier, c. 1880

 Shipibo Storage Vessel, Amazon Basin

Shipibo Storage Vessel, Amazon Basin

Donations and Returns. Summer 2018

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African ceramics from the collection of Franz Duke of Bavaria donated to Design Museum in Munich

MUNICH.- Over 1,300 items of African ceramics from the collection of Franz Duke of Bavaria are going to Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum as donations or items on permanent loan, and will thus be made accessible to the public.
Starting in the 1960s, His Royal Highness the Duke of Bavaria has established an important collection of African ceramics. The collection comprises examples from different African regions and focuses in particular on ceramic vessels from the 19th and 20th centuries.
In terms of scope, precision of selection, and quality of the individual pieces, the collection is widely regarded as one of the most important collections of African ceramics world-wide. Despite having such a strong reputation among the specialists, it is not widely known.
The thrilling, highly aesthetic objects are formally very diverse and include items of everyday use as well as ritually employed vessels. The range of designs oscillates between the abstract and the figurative.
On the intentions behind his gift and loan to Die Neue Sammlung, H.R.H. Franz Duke of Bavaria said:
“In addition to the purely scholarly interest, it is precisely in connection with design, and by extension to ceramics from European cultures that we gain a new and interesting perspective on the African pieces.”
Die Neue Sammlung itself can look back on a long and rich collecting tradition in the realm of ceramics. In the very year of its foundation, the museum acquired ceramics at the World Fair in Paris and quite consciously emphasized an international approach. Today, the collection at Die Neue Sammlung comprises over 5,000 one-off ceramic objects and about 1,000 items of industrial ceramics. The focus lies on ceramic pieces from Europe (Germany, England, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia), but the museum also holds sets of works from Asia (China, Japan and Korea) as well as the US.
Twenty years ago, Die Neue Sammlung was able to acquire 12 major ceramics from the Art Nouveau collection of H.R.H. Franz Duke of Bavaria.
Even though ceramics forms just one of the museum’s collection areas, and there are more than 20 in all, there is no other design museum world-wide that has a collection of ceramics as comprehensive, high-quality and closely meshed as that of Die Neue Sammlung.
The African Ceramics collection closes the unfortunate geographical gap in the holdings with an inventory that is as outstanding in terms of quality as it is in quantity.
“The donation and permanent loan of African ceramics form an important extension to our collection and a major addition to our non-European holdings. We are very grateful for the exceptionally generous gift,” comments Angelika Nollert, Director of Die Neue Sammlung.
From the summer of 2019 onwards, Die Neue Sammlung will be honoring this generous gift by hosting a comprehensive exhibition supplemented by a publication and an accompanying program with international guests. The title of the exhibition “Seen differently. African ceramics from the Franz, Duke of Bavaria Collection” highlights the special nature of the new context. In a museum for design and applied art with a large ceramics collection comprising mostly ceramic vessels from the early 20th century onward, the African ceramic objects can be viewed specifically in light of design and artistic aspects in comparison to ceramics made in other countries at the same time. And conversely Die Neue Sammlung’s ceramics collection also gains a new context through this important expansion.
“The African Ceramics Collection and its bestowal to Die Neue Sammlung by H.R.H. Franz Duke of Bavaria to Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum is an impressive testimony to his passion for collecting and his cultural patronage. Die Neue Sammlung as one of the largest design museums world-wide is now able to draw on a trove of items that place the rich seam of its existing collections in a new context. I am delighted that Bavaria as a center of culture is gaining such a marvelous addition and would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to H.R.H. Franz Duke of Bavaria in the name of all art lovers of the Free State,” said Minister of Science and the Arts Prof. Marion Kiechle in prior to the press talk at Die Neue Sammlung in the rotunda of Pinakothek der Moderne.

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State museum displays 19th century tomahawk recently returned to museum's collections
ALBANY, NY.- The New York State Museum announced that an 18th-century Native American tomahawk gifted to Cornplanter, the respected Seneca leader, by President George Washington in 1792 has been returned to the Museum’s collections and will go on exhibit in the State Museum’s main lobby July 17 through December 30.
Pipe tomahawks were significant objects of intercultural exchange in the 18th century and could be used as smoking pipes; smoking was a common ceremonial practice between parties after reaching an agreement. The meetings between Washington and Cornplanter, also known as Gy-ant-waka, in the 1790s eventually led to the Treaty of Canandaigua (1794), which established peace between the sovereign nations of the U.S. and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. For nearly 70 years this tomahawk was in the hands of private collectors, after being stolen from the Museum between 1947 and 1950. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous collector, the pipe tomahawk was returned to the State Museum’s collections in June 2018.
“We’re pleased to put this historic artifact on public display so children and families can learn about Cornplanter and his role as a diplomat helping to establish peace between sovereign nations, an important part of New York history,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa.
“The tomahawk is a key artifact in our Native American ethnography collection, and we’re pleased it has been returned to the State Museum,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “I encourage teachers to bring their students to the Museum to explore the history of the Native Peoples of New York and learn about the fascinating story of Cornplanter’s tomahawk.”
“We’re honored to exhibit Cornplanter’s tomahawk—an incredibly important artifact that speaks of Native American, New York, and American history and culture,” said Mark Schaming, Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Education and Director of the State Museum. “The State Museum has a large Native American ethnography collection that includes thousands of objects of art and material culture from tribes across North America. We’re grateful to the anonymous donor for returning this iconic artifact to the museum, where the public can once again view it and learn from it for generations to come.”
The pipe tomahawk entered the State Museum’s collection in 1850 courtesy of Seneca diplomat Ely Parker, who purchased it from the widow of a Seneca named Small Berry. On one side of the blade is Cornplanter’s name, Gy-ant-waka, and on the other side of the blade is the name “John Andrus,” possibly the manufacturer. Parker replaced the haft with one made of curly maple wood and silver inlay to reflect what the original haft may have looked like, based on descriptions from Small Berry’s widow, as the original haft had long since been replaced. Parker also added a brass plate engraved with his name on the bore end of the tomahawk.
On Tuesday, July 17 at noon at the Museum’s Huxley Theater, Dr. Gwendolyn Saul, curator of ethnography, will host a talk about the return of Cornplanter’s pipe tomahawk, the remarkable history of Cornplanter and the beginnings of the Museum’s ethnology collections. The talk is free and open to the public.

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United States returns stolen copy of Christopher Columbus letter to Spain
WASHINGTON (AFP).- After years of searching, the United States has returned to Spain a rare copy of a 1493 letter from Christopher Columbus, which had been stolen from a national archive in Barcelona.
The letter, addressed to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and describing the explorer's discoveries in the New World, was one of 16 copies made at the time of the original missive on Columbus's orders.
Stolen from the National Library of Catalonia in Barcelona in 2004 or 2005, the document was handed over late Wednesday to the Spanish ambassador to Washington, US officials said.
The thieves who took the letter had replaced it with a forgery, and the switch was only discovered by experts in 2012 after a tip from an informant that several other copies had been stolen from archives across Europe and replaced with expertly crafted fakes.
The discovery sparked a seven-year international investigation that reached as far as Paris and Brasilia.
Investigators found that the Barcelona copy had been sold in 2005 by Italian secondhand book dealers for 600,000 euros ($708,850), and then resold in 2011 for 900,000 euros.
After "long negotiations," the letter's unidentified owner in Brazil handed it over in 2014 to US authorities, who used experts to establish its authenticity.
In the letter, Columbus tells the Spanish crown everything about his first trip to America, still believing he was in the East Indies.
The text begins with his departure from Puerto de Palos in Spain in August 1492 and ends when he returns to Lisbon in March 1493, seven months later.
"We are truly honored to return this historically important document back to Spain, its rightful owner," US Attorney David Weiss said at the ceremony to return the document to the Spanish envoy.
© Agence France-Presse

Floods - Fire - Funding. Summer2018

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Heritage sites receive $1M from American Express

NEW YORK, NY.- American Express and World Monuments Fund today announced $1 million in funding to support preservation efforts at eight endangered cultural heritage sites included on the 2018 World Monuments Watch.
The funded sites face threats from the effects of natural disaster, climate change, urbanization, and neglect, and date from prehistory to the twentieth century. They were included on the biennial Watch to identify opportunities for collaboration and positive impact. Now, grants from American Express will make projects possible at the following places:
Potager du Roi in Versailles, France; Grand Theater of Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing, China; the town of Amatrice, Italy; Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium in Takamatsu, Japan; Tebaida Leonesa in León, Spain; Blackpool Piers in Blackpool, England; Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape in Matobo, Zimbabwe; and Monte Albán Archaeological Site in Oaxaca, Mexico.
“As the founding sponsor of the World Monuments Watch, American Express is committed to advocating for the protection of our most treasured landmarks around the globe,” said Timothy J. McClimon, President of the American Express Foundation. “We recognize these sites as symbols of national and local identity, and value the role that their preservation can play in attracting visitors and revitalizing communities.”
“For more than 20 years, American Express has been an unmatched champion of the world’s most treasured places.” said Joshua David, President and CEO, World Monument Fund. “Their leadership and support of the World Monuments Watch allows us to support international partners in the protection, conservation, and stewardship of sites of cultural heritage, helping to strengthen communities around the world.”
The World Monuments Watch works with local communities to bring their treasured cultural heritage sites to an international stage. Announced in October 2017 with founding sponsor American Express, the 2018 Watch includes a diverse group of 25 sites spanning more than 30 countries and territories that face daunting threats or present unique conservation opportunities.
Over the past 20 years, American Express has given nearly $18 million to help preserve 166 World Monuments Watch sites in 71 countries. It has also partnered with a number of leading organizations to help preserve sites in need, build awareness, and engage the public in preservation efforts across the world. Through these partnerships and other individual grants, American Express has granted more than $60 million to support hundreds of preservation projects.
Potager du Roi; Versailles, France
The historic kitchen garden of the Palace of Versailles was created more than 300 years ago to fulfill King Louis XIV’s vision of creating the most impressive palace in the world. The garden has been at the cutting edge ever since, introducing new microclimates and methods for producing harvests in and out of season, and developing hybrid fruits and vegetables. Today, stewards of Potager du Roi are looking for new ways to engage visitors and address maintenance challenges.
Grand Theater of Prince Kung’s Mansion; Beijing, China
The Grand Theater at Prince Kung’s Mansion is the largest and only imperial mansion theater open to the public in Beijing, China. The theater was added to the celebrated eighteenth-century residence as part of a pleasure garden, staging plays and entertaining guests. Today, the residence operates as a museum and the theater continues to be used for performances. Funds will be used to build an international, scientific conservation partnership aimed at recovering the original appearance and historic authenticity of the theater during Prince Kung’s era.
Amatrice, Italy
The hill town of Amatrice, Italy, suffered a series of devastating earthquakes in 2016, destroying the majority of the town and causing 299 deaths and approximately 400 injuries. Amatrice was included on the Watch to bring awareness to its state and the need for better disaster prevention and preparedness. Funds will be used towards restoration efforts at the Museo Cola Filotesio, whose bell tower survived but requires comprehensive stabilization and conservation.
Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium; Takamatsu, Japan
The beloved modern landmark was built by renowned architect Kenzo Tange in the 1960s and hosted local sports events for 50 years until its suspended roof began to leak. The facility was closed to the public in 2014 as a result of these structural issues; it also no longer meets current gymnasium requirements. Funds will be used to support local advocates in their campaign to preserve and repurpose the structure to meet a community need.
Tebaida Leonesa; León, Spain
The rural communities of the Tebaida Leonesa, a rugged, mountainous area, originated in the seventh century. Since then, the valley has preserved its cultural, natural, and immaterial values as well as much of its exceptional medieval architecture. Now, the communities face the challenges of preserving the character of their villages and landscape in the face of growing tourism and development. Funds will be used to restore the original wall paintings of the Church of Santiago de Peñalba, a tenth century masterpiece of Mozarabic architecture.
Blackpool Piers; Blackpool, England
For more than a century, generations of working-class Britons have vacationed at Blackpool and visited its three iconic piers on the Irish Sea coast of England. Today, the piers are threatened by dangerous sea-level rise as a result of climate change. Privately owned, they are ineligible to receive public funding for rehabilitation. Funds will be used to facilitate expanded dialogue between local groups and the pier owners and explore new models for their rehabilitation.
Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape; Matobo, Zimbabwe
The dramatic cultural landscape, home to one of the world’s great rock art collections, marks critical stages in human history and evolution, reaching back 100,000 years. The World Heritage Site continues to be deeply associated with cultural and religious traditions. Today, its important rock art is threatened by deforestation, the risk of fires, and other human activities. Funds will be used to work with local heritage authorities on improved documentation and conservation plans at the site.
Monte Albán Archaeological Site; Oaxaca, Mexico
Known for its unique hieroglyphic inscriptions, the sixth-century metropolis provides insight into the ancient Zapotec civilization. Fifteen structures were affected following a September 2017 earthquake, with five showing severe damage that requires emergency structural shoring to prevent collapse. Funds will be used for a project in partnership with INAH to address the long-term stability of Monte Albán, including physical conservation, documentation, and geological assessment. The program will also emphasize training and capacity building, giving local technicians the skills they need to effectively repair and prepare Monte Albán for future natural disasters.

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Heritage Responders and Caribbean Museums in Crisis Heroic Work By Museum Staff, NGOs, and Residents Saves Museum Collections

Between August 18th and September 18th, 2017, one hurricane after another ravaged the Caribbean. First Hurricane Harvey, then Irma, Jose, and finally Maria slammed into many of the 28 Caribbean island nations. Puerto Rico, Cuba, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Martin and Saint Barthélemy, Anguilla, the Leeward Islands, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Virgin Islands, and Guadeloupe were all in the cross hairs. Hurricanes Irma and Maria were two of the strongest storms to hit the region in recorded history, each reaching an astounding category-5 status along their path. In addition to the destruction wrought on homes and businesses, the month of storms damaged museum buildings and left widespread power outages in their wake, retarding post-storm recovery efforts and further endangering museum collections.
In the immediate aftermath of the storms, as people reeled from the loss of life and personal property, there was already significant concern about the endangered cultural infrastructure of the Caribbean. The damage to the museums represented a significant problem for the islanders, both psychologically and economically. Caribbean cultural heritage sites are not only safe keepers of the islanders’ history and identity – they also contribute to the tourist economy on which most of these islands survive.
After fire and flood, heat and humidity pose the greatest threats to art and artifacts in collections. Conservators recommend that collections maintain a humidity of less than 65% and a temperature below 68 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent mold growth and insects damage to collections. These standards are impossible for museums in the Caribbean to maintain without electrical power. Puerto Rico, for example, enjoys the climate of a tropical rainforest; the average temperature in the city of San Juan during the day is above 80 degrees year-round and humidity averages 75%. In these conditions, only a short time need elapse before mold growth can damage or destroy precious objects.
Without power, working in damaged buildings without the electricity necessary to restore safe temperature and humidity levels, Caribbean museum staff were faced with an almost impossible task of preserving the artifacts in their care. There was widespread structural damage and power outages on most of the affected island nations – nearly the entire territory of Puerto Rico lost power, over 90% of the structures on the island of Barbuda were destroyed and the whole population was evacuated to Antiqua. Surprisingly, in most cases the museums and cultural institutions were soon able to protect their collections and shore up their heritage sites to guard against further damage. Their remarkable recovery was thanks to the ingenuity of on-site museum staff and the assistance of NGOs, and offers a wealth of lessons in disaster response for museums worldwide.
Spotlight on Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico was severely affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Six months after the category-5 hurricanes pummeled the island, some areas still did not have electricity.
There are many questions to be asked about Puerto Rico’s ongoing crisis: about US culpability for the clumsy and inadequate recovery process following the devastation of Hurricane Maria: underreported death tolls, slow response times, a crumbling electrical infrastructure, and the prior financial bankrupting of the country partially attributable to questionable mainland banking and investment practices. We should also look at the vulnerability of art and cultural heritage during natural disasters and why the preservation of heritage matters for a community in times of public disaster.
In the days following Hurricane Maria the reports rolled in: the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Juan had lost power, had no backup generator and was therefore without climate control. The copper exterior on a wall at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) had been torn away by the wind and rain and almost all of the landscaping in its sculpture garden was destroyed. The museum had a backup generator that was able to run the climate control system, but procuring diesel could become a problem. Nearly all of the 1840s doors, window frames and shutters at the Spanish Colonial headquarters of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in Old San Juan were significantly damaged. The Museum of Art at the Mayaguez campus of the University of Puerto Rico had lost a portion of its roof, as had the Museo Casa Roig. Miraculously, the Museo de Arte de Ponce sustained minor damage and was actually able to reopen a week after the hurricane.
Almost before the winds ceased, the museums came together to protect Puerto Rico’s art and cultural heritage. Both the Museo de Arte de Ponce and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) reached out to other museums to help protect and restore their collections. According to Victoria Stapley-Brown at the Art Newspaper, MAPR became a “communications and conservation hub for local cultural institutions” and the Museo de Arte de Ponce worked with the museum at the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey to assess the damage and conserve pieces from their collection.
The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico also opened its doors to store over 220 artworks and artifacts from a half a dozen institutions until it was safe for the works to return.  Some of the institutions that MAPR has assisted include: Santa Catalina Palace (the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico), Sacred Heart University, the José M. Lazaro Library at the University of Puerto Rico, Caguas Art Museum, Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation, Ateneo Puertorriqueño, and Casa Roig Museum.
Sometimes museum directors had to take dramatic, not to say creative, steps to save their collections. The director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico in San Juan, Marianne Ramírez Aponte, described how she had to “hack big, rectangular vents” into their gallery walls to create cross-ventilation to fight the high temperatures and humidity [to prevent mold growth and water damage] until power could be restored.” Due to these astounding efforts the museums lost very little of their art and artifacts.
NGOs: Aid from Abroad and Help on the Ground
Emergency heritage conservation organizations from the United States – groups trained in art and cultural heritage rescue and recovery – donated money or came to lend a hand in Puerto Rico. One of the groups to dispatch assistance to the island was the National Heritage Responders (NHR). Cultural Property News spoke via email with one of NHR’s responders, Molly O’Guinness Carlson, a high school teacher in the Northeast with a background in archaeological conservation and wet-site conservation (think shipwrecks).
The National Heritage Responders sent two deployments to Puerto Rico to assist the museums with conserving their collections. The team from NHR that Molly was on arrived in Puerto Rico over 70 days after Hurricane Maria.
This was Molly’s first deployment with NHR, but not her first time in Puerto Rico: “I was thrilled to do so because once as a sailor I went through a hurricane on a square topsail schooner and we got pretty beat up. We limped into Puerto Rico by following a radio direction beacon right under El Morro National Park to the inner harbor. The people of PR took very good care of us and it was great to give something back to them.”
Molly described the herculean efforts of museum staff throughout the island in conserving their collections: “Directors, curators and cultural agency staff were very, very challenged to protect what they curated while without building integrity, security and climate control.
“The people who needed to work in this environment were isolated, not getting trauma help or advice on how to stay safe. They felt helpless yet were trying to carry the responsibility of managing the disaster. Mental exhaustion was very evident, yet they were loyal to their collections and were soldiering on.”
Molly recognized the impact of trauma and described her team’s response to the situation. “Sometimes the best gift we could give was just to listen… to let them tell the story of what they experienced and let them stop being in charge for just a little while… to give them an eddy where they could put down Atlas’s burden.”
“They were isolated and did not know why they were crying at home and did not realize they were having very real trauma reactions. We were the first to hear their story. We were able to acknowledge the exemplary efforts they took before the storms hit… and reassure them that their efforts to mitigate the damage in a system of island-wide chaos and loss of infrastructure were often exactly right.”
(For more about the National Heritage Responders see: EMTs for US Heritage: National Heritage Responders: An Interview with Jessica Unger of the the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation, Cultural Property News, February 1, 2018)
How Other Museums Can Help
The response of Chicago’s National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture highlights how museums and cultural centers outside of the Caribbean helped the islands after the disaster. In an interview on Adelante Chicago, museum director Billy Ocasio described the museum’s efforts to help Puerto Rico rebuild. In recognition of their role as community leaders as well as cultural centers, the museum initially partnered with multiple relief organizations to help support over 20 mission trips bringing supplies to all 77 communities in Puerto Rico.
Once the basic needs of the people of Puerto Rico were met, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture began to assess what it could do to help the arts and culture of Puerto Rico. Ocasio said, “at the end of the day we are a Puerto Rican museum and our mission is to preserve the art and the culture and the traditions. So we looked at the creative economy of PR and we found that nothing was going to the creative economy of PR… so we partnered with the government of Puerto Rico through the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture which preserves the art and artifacts.” The Chicago museum opened a brand new gift shop that purchases all its goods directly from Puerto Rican artists. The money thus raised goes back to Puerto Rico to buy more goods from the Puerto Rican artists. Ocasio reports that the gift shop has been wildly successful and is helping to build the creative economy of Puerto Rico.
Focus on Barbuda
Hurricane Irma decimated the small island of Barbuda. Approximately 90% of the structures on the island were damaged or destroyed and the whole population of 1,800 inhabitants was evacuated. Among the casualties of the hurricane were the outdoor equipment and weather station of the Barbuda Archaeological Research Center.
Barbuda’s recovery has been halting and hampered by ongoing outages and resource shortages. The government’s website states: “Sadly we are not able to regularly update the website on a regular basis since we have been back in Barbuda. Nearly nine months now without electricity, we are still using expensive generators that cost too much to run for more than a few hours and gas is limited and is often rationed or runs out. The internet is slow and is no longer being provided free at the Fisheries building; often there is no signal. Most people have limited phone signal.”
Homes are gradually being repaired but the pace is slow, especially for those in the worst damage categories – still waiting patiently in tents as we approach the next hurricane season.”
We do not yet know what happened to the historical and archeological sites listed on Barbuda’s website. These include the remains of a 19th century castle, as well as an old government building and other early structures from Barbuda’s history.
At the Barbuda Archaeological Research Center, “much of the center’s outdoor equipment and weather station were destroyed,” reported the Science News Staff at Science. One of the Center’s dogs and a horse were killed by debris. Fortunately, the Barbudan staffer at the center and her family survived unscathed, despite minor damage to the main building.
Dr. Sophia Perdikaris, a professor at Brooklyn College in New York City and director of the Barbuda Archaeological Research Center, has been running the Brooklyn College archaeological field school to Barbuda for the past ten years. For a decade, she has worked with a team of local Barbudans studying pre-Columbian human remains on the island. Dr. Perdikaris told the staff at Science last autumn that, “I think I was in tears the entire week,” she says. “[The Barbudans] become like a family; it becomes like a second home.”
At the time of publication, Cultural Property News has been unable to reach Dr. Perdikaris or determine what has become of the Barbuda Archaeological Research Center.
Legislative Jetsam from the Storm
In addition to the damage sustained by Barbuda’s archaeological sites, the island’s contemporary cultural is undergoing changes incited by Hurricane Irma. Perhaps most significant are intensified challenges to the island’s communal land ownership practices that have been in place since the abolishment of slavery in the 1830s and legalized by the Barbuda Land Act of 2007.
According to Steve Sapienza of the Pulitzer Center in his article Hurricane Irma nearly destroyed Barbuda: will recovery destroy the island’s communal way of life?, the Prime Minister of Barbuda, Gaston Browne, declared an end to communal land ownership in a November 2017 United Nations donor conference in New York. Faced with a $200 million bill to rebuild the island, “he claimed that private land ownership is the only way to secure financing to rebuild Barbuda because collective ownership scares away foreign investors.”
Opposition to deconstruction of communal land ownership was already in the works with legal challenges to the Paradise Found (Project) Act, 2015. Paradise Found Nobu is a $250 million resort project spearheaded by actor Robert DeNiro and investor James Packer. The 2015 Act amended the 2007 Barbuda Land Act to allow developers to lease land beyond the 50-year maximum limit and to dispense with plebiscite approval for large developments – both amendments directly benefiting the resort. The Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) has challenged the act’s constitutionality, but with so much of the island destroyed, it will be hard for the islanders to turn away from the possibility of foreign investment and increased tourism.
What Comes Next?
Hurricane season officially began June 1, 2018, while much of the Caribbean is still reeling from the 2017 season. This year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts a “near or above-normal 2018 Atlantic hurricane season” meaning there could be more than 9 hurricanes, half of them quite as intense as those that struck the Caribbean last year.
There is no doubt that hurricanes are getting stronger and more destructive. Museums and cultural heritage sites need to know how to protect their staff, collections, and buildings from the danger posed by these storms, and how to recover post-hurricane. Moving forward, museum and institute staffers can look to the experiences of the cultural heritage safe keepers in the Caribbean to learn how to prepare, how to recover, and where to look for aid. The quick response of the wider arts community to the Caribbean crisis is a warming reminder of the sense of comradeship which ought to pervade the international art world. Cultural heritage institutions are essential to communities, even – or perhaps especially – at times of national crisis.
Bonnie Povolny - June 27, 2018

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Glasgow blaze guts one of world's top art schools - again
GLASGOW (AFP).- Fire devastated one of the world's top art schools once again on Saturday, destroying four years of restoration work after a previous blaze ripped through the historic Glasgow School of Art.
The famed Mackintosh Building in Scotland's biggest city has been "extensively damaged", fire chiefs said.
A restoration project, set to cost between £20 million and £35 million ($26.5 million and $46.5 million; 23 and 40 million euros), had been returning the world-renowned institution to its former glory following a fire in 2014.
But much of that work has been wrecked, firefighters confirmed, after rushing to tackle the inferno which broke out at around 11:20 pm (2220 GMT) on Friday.
No casualties were reported.
"This is a devastating loss for Glasgow," deputy assistant chief fire officer Peter Heath told a press conference.
He said firefighters who had battled to save the building four years ago were distraught to be back at the scene after it went up in flames again.
"The fire has had a good grip of this building and it's extensively damaged it, but the emotional attachment -- there is a sense of loss not just amongst the firefighters but I am sure the citizens of Glasgow."
Asked if any of the restoration work had been destroyed, Heath replied: "Given the extent of the fire, that would be a fair comment."
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her heart "breaks for Glasgow's beloved" art school, which is housed in one of Britain's most cherished buildings.
"It is hard to find words to convey the utter devastation felt here and around the world for the iconic Mackintosh building," she said.
Local residents were evacuated from their homes with the glow from the blaze visible across the city centre.
The fire affected all floors of the art school and spread to a nearby campus and a nightclub.
Writing on Twitter, Paul Sweeney, a Glasgow MP, said: "It looks like the entire interior space is now fully alight. The best we can probably hope for is structural facade retention and a complete rebuild of the interior."
Britain's Scotland Secretary David Mundell said he was at the school only a fortnight ago to see the restoration work.
He said the government "stands ready to help, financially or otherwise".
Protected landmark
The previous blaze was in May 2014, badly damaging the building designed by the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
A Glasgow-born architect and designer, Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a leading exponent of Art Nouveau, whose distinctive lines and lettering remain influential.
He won a competition to design the building in 1897 and it took around 10 years to complete. It is now a landmark in the city with special government-protected status.
The school's alumni include recent Turner Prize for art winners Simon Starling (2005), Richard Wright (2009) and Martin Boyce (2011).
Others include "Doctor Who" actor Peter Capaldi, Harry Potter and James Bond movie actor Robbie Coltrane, and members from the Scottish rock bands Travis and Franz Ferdinand.
"Can't believe what's happening to the art school. Terrible," said Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos.
The 2014 blaze began when a projector ignited gases from expanding foam used in a student project, a fire investigation found.
© Agence France-Presse

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The Glasgow School of Art dilemma: rebuild, leave in ruins or design a whole new school?
Alumni at odds over how to move forward after fire gutted Mackintosh’s masterpiece
Gareth Harris
10th July 2018 10:27 GMT
The question of the next step for the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), which was ravaged by a fire last month, is dividing artists and architects who are torn over whether the landmark Art Nouveau building should be rebuilt, remain as ruins or be replaced by a new art school. The local artist and GSA alumnus Nathan Coley tells The Art Newspaper: “We have a great architect [Mackintosh], and a tested world-class design. The 'Mack' must be rebuilt. Imagine the signal it would send to the world if we didn't.”
The GSA, which is considered Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, was completed in 1909. More than 120 firefighters tackled the fire—the second blaze to hit the historic site in four years—the cause of which is still unknown.
“The investigations by Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Health and Safety Executive [are] a hugely complex event so we wouldn’t expect to hear anything about the causes of the fire for some significant time,” a GSA spokeswoman tells us.
“We have been focusing on getting the building stable so that our local community can get back into their homes and business premises as soon as possible and making sure that the work of the GSA can continue,” she adds. Postgraduate students were back on campus last week and the commencement of work to stabilise the building is imminent, the spokeswoman says.
The high-profile architect David Chipperfield has called for the school to be rebuilt, adding that the school should be declared a “monument of national importance”. The challenge will be funding the project, he told Architects Journal. “In my opinion, the cost issue should be set aside and defined as a result of an acceptable approach,” he says. Reconstruction costs are currently estimated at £100m.
But the architect Alan Dunlop, a visiting professor at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, disagrees. He believes that a public debate is now necessary. “After the fire, the general opinion seemed to be that a rebuild was necessary but I think that is now changing. The more the GSA learns about the condition [of the building], the more serious the situation seems to be. Exactly what remains and what needs to be demolished is unclear though the North elevation appears to be sound, but only to the first floor,” he says.
Dunlop, another alumnus of the GSA, says that replicating the school risks turning it into a “Mackintosh museum”, and now advocates launching a competition to build a new art school on the site. “This has the potential to be an important cultural debate, especially on the issue of creating a new school.”
The most radical solution comes from Ray McKenzie, an honorary professor at GSA. “Anybody who tells you they know what should happen next is either a fool or a clairvoyant. I certainly have no answers, but I do have a suggestion: it should be left as a ruin,” he writes in ArtForum. His love letter to the GSA includes some poignant observations. “After 34 years teaching in the Mack I never once tired of its life-enhancing generosity as a design, its continual reaffirmation of the ‘poetics of architecture’,” McKenzie says.
UPDATE (10 JULY): Tom Inns, the director of the Glasgow School of Art, told The Guardian that the school will be rebuilt. “We’re going to rebuild the Mackintosh building. There’s been a huge amount of speculation about what should happen with the site and quite rightly so, but from our point of view and that of the city of Glasgow, it is critically important that the building comes back as the Mackintosh building," he said.

Results. Summer 2018

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Artemis Gallery's June 20-21 antiquities auction breaks house record by 77%

BOULDER, COLO.- Artemis Gallery hosted a June 20-21 Connoisseurs Auction of exquisite antiquities, Asian and ethnographic art that set a new house record while attracting a legion of new collectors. The fully vetted 481-lot selection, with provenance from some of the world’s finest collections, followed a timeline that started in Ancient Egypt and proceeded through the centuries to the colonial settlements of the New World. In all, the sale surpassed the company’s previous auction record by a remarkable 77 percent.
“Quality and authenticity are of paramount importance to our clientele, but they also want the assurance that what they’re bidding on is legal to purchase and, if ever desired, to resell. We offer an unconditional, broad-spectrum guarantee to buyers that we believe is unsurpassed anywhere,” said Artemis Gallery Executive Director Teresa Dodge. “We create a comfort level that is essential to have in place when dealing with collectors of antiquities. I think that’s why we’re able to achieve such excellent prices in literally every category we handle.”
The top lot of the June 20-21 sale was a magnificent Magna Graecia volute krater attributed to the White Saccos Painter, circa 330-310 BCE. Of elegant form and exhibiting elaborate decoration and iconography, this important vessel had graced several private collections over the years and had been sold at Christie’s twice since 1993. A book example, it appears in A.D. Trendall and A. Camitoglou’s First Supplement to the Red-Figured Vases of Apulia, 1983. Its selling price at Artemis Gallery’s sale was $43,575.
A large and elegant circa mid-5th-century BCE Greek hammered-bronze hydria displayed a stunning natural patina of blue, turquoise and teal hues of. The battle for ownership was exclusively online, with the winning bidder paying $31,125. A Greek glass alabastron – a vessel possibly meant to hold perfumed oils – with an appealing zigzag motif reached $9,960.
One of the finest pottery objects in the sale was a Pre-dynastic (circa 4000-3600 BCE) black-top, Nile-silt pottery jar with Bonhams provenance, which sold for $8,715. Its wonderful russet-hued finish was due to its thin iron-oxide slip, and its black upper portion, to the thick carbon deposits to which the vessel was intentionally exposed to obtain the desired effect.
Of perhaps the earliest culture represented in the sale, a Mesopotamian faience shell and bitumen head, circa 14th-13th century BCE, had been published in the 2000 book Beloved by Time: Four Millennia of Ancient Art. Similar to an example held in the collection of The British Museum, this superbly pedigreed figural work was won for $11,205.
Also noteworthy was an Old Babylonian circa 1840-1843 BCE terracotta barrel cylinder fascinated bidders with its approximately 70 lines of cuneiform text. “The inscriptions were made in still-wet clay prior to the firing process,” Teresa Dodge explained. “Kings would inter cylinders of this type beneath structures they had commissioned in their kingdom as a symbol of good luck and to express faith toward the gods they worshipped.” Artemis Gallery provided a full translation of the inscription, which revealed a benevolent message from King Sin-Iddinam of Larsa. The cylinder sold for $9,960.
Roman antiquities ignited strong competition, led by a circa-1st-century CE fresco fragment of Perseus holding Medusa’s head in one hand and a sword given to him by Jupiter (Zeus) in the other. A magnificent artwork and a rare survivor, it sold via the Internet for $28,010. Another great Roman (possibly Roman Tunisian) treasure, a mosaic depicting the head of Mercury, dated to the 1st-2nd century CE and also sold online, for $23,655. Other Roman highlights included a pair of 19K gold bracelets, ex Christie’s and Sotheby’s, $19,920; a superb marbled mosaic blown-glass sprinkler flask with a tall, cylindrical neck, which also sold for $19,920; and a highly detailed and lifelike mosaic of a colorfully feathered rooster, $13,695.
Both Roman and Viking jewelry, known for their great quality and precious-metal purity, was chased by a number of bidders who specifically watch for these specialties in Artemis Gallery’s sales. A pair of sensational circa-2nd-century Roman bracelets whose gold quality tested in excess of 19 karats, came with provenance that included prior sale at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. The lot achieved an above-estimate $23,655. Hefty Viking jewelry included an intricately twisted gold cuff bracelet with coiled terminals, which made its mark at $4,980.
“Collector interest continues to grow in Pacific Northwest Native American art and cultural objects,” Teresa Dodge observed. An early 20th-century Haida argillite totem comprising a vertical profusion of carved animals, 13.1 inches high, had been estimated at $250-$350. It proved to be one of the sale’s great surprises, garnering 34 bids and soaring to $14,940.
An excellent selection of 19th-century Spanish colonial/Central American art was offered. Among the entries most popular with bidders was a Mexican painted-tin ex voto, or devotional painting. It visually tells the story of a man who fell from a hot air balloon at a great height and was saved through the power of his wife’s prayer to The Virgin of Guadalupe. The 7- by 10-inch artwork sold online for $4,050 against an estimate of $1,200-$1,800.
To discuss consigning to a future Artemis Gallery auction, call Teresa Dodge at 720-890-7700 or email

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18th century Chinese moon flask sells for 4.1 million euros at an auction in France

MONTBAZON (AFP).- A rare porcelain moon flask that belonged to the 18th century Chinese Emperor Qianlong has been sold for 4.1 million euros ($4.8 million) after a bidding war at an auction in France.
The blue, white and celadon flask -- more than 200-years-old -- was bought by a French woman who outbid 17 Chinese buyers during a sale that lasted about ten-minutes, according to auctioneers who described the buy as "historic and legendary".
The final sale including fees totalled more than 5 million euros -- ten times the auction's opening price of 500,000 euros.
Emperor Qianlong, one of the longest serving Chinese emperors who ruled for much of the 18th Century, was an avid art collector.
The round-shaped moon flask has eight Buddhist symbols in stylised lotus petals and bears the seal of the emperor. It was discovered by chance in April in a French castle during a valuation of antiques and its original owners remain anonymous.
The buyer, who bid over the phone during the auction at Artigny chateau in Montbazon, central France, s expected to keep the flask at her apartment in Paris but it could potentially be loaned to a museum in future, the auctioneer said.
According to the auctioneer Philippe Rouillac, the flask was probably brought back from China by a French navy officer.
Far East art specialist Alice Jossaume said the flask is one of two flasks from Emperor Qianlong that exist.
The other flask was sold for 1.8 million euros at Sotheby's in Hong Kong in 2016.
© Agence France-Presse

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Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie
13 JUNE 2018 | 4:00 PM CEST | PARIS
Sale total 5,581,225 EUR

Lot 33
Estimate   1,000,000 — 1,500,000 Lot Sold   2,578,350 EUR

Lot 66
Estimate   100,000 — 150,000 Lot Sold   405,000 EUR

Christies SALE 16410
Past Future: The African Art Collection of Liliane and Michel Durand-Dessert
Paris 27 June 2018
Sale total including buyer's premium: EUR 6,124,250

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LOT 72
Price realized EUR 1,927,500
Estimate EUR 2,000,000 - EUR 3,000,000

Archaeology around the world-Summer 2018

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Traces of Lost Society Found in 'Pristine' Cloud Forest

Deep in Ecuador’s lush Quijos Valley, a society thrived—and then disappeared. But a lake preserved its story.
In the 1850s, a team of botanists venturing into the cloud forest in the Quijos Valley of eastern Ecuador hacked their way through vegetation so thick they could barely make their way forward. This, they thought, was the heart of the pristine forest, a place where people had never gone.
But they were very wrong. Indigenous Quijo groups had developed sophisticated agricultural settlements across the region, settlements that had been decimated with the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. In their absence, the forest sprung back. This process of societal collapse and forest reclamation is described in a new study published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Linking Amazon and Andes
The Quijos Valley lies in one of the most biodiverse cloud forests in the world, along a pre-Columbian trade route that linked the rich Amazonian lowlands with the high Andes. Thousands of people lived there centuries before the Spanish arrived, farming maize, squash, beans, and even passionfruit in poor soil of the valley floor. [Learn about how cloud forests are drying up today].
The study's researchers found a tiny lake in the valley and dug down into the silt at the bottom, pulling up a plug of sediment that had built up over the last 1000 years—and found evidence of human occupation going back to the very oldest part of the core.
In the oldest layers, scientists found tiny pieces of pollen—swept from the valley and the surrounding forest into the lake by wind—from maize and other plants that only grow in open, airy conditions, which told them that humans were cultivating plants on the valley floor. They also found plenty of charcoal bits, indications that people had lit fires nearby.
When the Spanish arrived in the 1540s, they wreaked havoc on the indigenous Quijos, killing many and conscripting others to brutal forced labor. The Quijos revolted, but by 1578 most of them had been killed or driven away, and the Spanish eventually retreated out of the valley.
“Possibly one of the worst tragedies in human histories occurred during this period,” says Nick Loughlin, the lead author of the study, as millions of indigenous people across the region died after the arrival of European colonizers. And the new record captures the exact moment when a thriving culture disappeared.
The lake sediments record both the fighting and the eerie emptiness that followed. Big chunks of charcoal fleck the mud during the height of the conflict. And after the valley was abandoned, the pollen flecks that show what’s growing in the area changed quickly and dramatically.
“In the wake of that, the land fallows,” explains Mark Bush, an ecologist at the Florida Institute of Technology who was not involved in the study, because “when you stop cultivating the earth, the forest just encroaches back in.” First grass creeps over abandoned agricultural land. And then the forest starts staking its claim.
The Return of the Forest
Human signs disappear completely for the next 130 years, as the cloud forest bursts back into being. Pollens from different trees—the ones that are known to grow fast and first, and then the ones that grow slow and long—show up in steady succession until the forest reclaimed the valley completely.
By the early 1800s, humans returned to the valley. The lake sediments showed Loughlin and his colleagues exactly when they showed up, and exactly what they did to the landscape--changing the mosaic of trees ever so slightly and grazing large animals in the valley.
When the next round of European explorers passed through in the 1850s and 60s, they saw only forest so dense they imagined it had always been untrammeled. But what they saw, Loughlin says, was something that already shifted away from fully “pristine."
“You can see where the explorers might have gotten the impression of pristine forest,” says Andrea Cuéllar, an anthropologist at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, who studies the cultural and agricultural history of the Quijos but was not involved in this study. “These areas are amazingly exuberant, and you say as you look at it: if this is not real forest, then what is?”
Estanislao Pazmiño, also an anthropologist at the University of Lethbridge, agrees that this new record clearly shows the capacity of these forests to recover after they’ve been influenced by humans. But he doubts that the valley could recover in the same way today. Now, the valley floor is heavily grazed, its soil depleted and the surrounding forest far from pristine. “The technology the pre-Colombian indigenous used was much less harmful than what’s used today,” he says.

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Sculpted head of mystery biblical king found in Israel

Well-preserved and high-quality figure is a rare find, experts say
Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
JERUSALEM — An enigmatic sculpture of a king’s head dating back nearly 3,000 years has set off a modern-day mystery as scholars try to figure out whose face it depicts.
The 2-inch sculpture is an exceedingly rare example of figurative art from the Holy Land during the 9th century B.C. — a period associated with biblical kings. Exquisitely preserved but for a bit of missing beard, nothing quite like it has been found before.
Scholars are certain the stern bearded figure wearing a golden crown represents royalty, but they are not sure which king it symbolizes, or which kingdom he may have ruled.
Archaeologists unearthed the figurine in 2017 during excavations at a site called Abel Beth Maacah, just south of Israel’s border with Lebanon, near the modern-day town of Metula.
Nineteenth-century archaeologists identified the site, then home to a village called Abil al-Qamh, with the similarly named city mentioned in the Book of Kings.
During the 9th century B.C., the ancient town was situated in a zone between three regional powers: the Aramean kingdom based in Damascus to the east, the Phoenician city of Tyre to the west, and the Israelite kingdom, with its capital in Samaria to the south.
“This location is very important because it suggests that the site may have shifted hands between these polities, more likely between Aram- Damascus and Israel,” said Hebrew University archaeologist Naama Yahalom-Mack, who has headed the joint dig with California’s Azusa Pacific University since 2013.
Eran Arie, the Israel Museum’s curator of Iron Age and Persian archaeology, said the discovery was one of a kind.
“In the Iron Age, if there’s any figurative art, and there largely isn’t, it’s of very low quality.
And this is of exquisite quality.”
The royal figurine is made of faience, a glass-like material that was popular in jewelry and human and animal figurines in ancient Egypt and the Near East.
As scholars debate whether the head was a stand-alone piece or part of a larger statue, the Hebrew University team is set to restart digging this month at the spot where the mystery king’s head was found.

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Pre-Inca Funerary Towers Restored

Picture showing restored pre-Inca funerary towers known as chullpas, erected at the Qala Uta archaeological site near Quehuaya, on the slopes of the hills bordering Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian Andes some 70 km west of La Paz, taken during the presentation of six restored towers, on June 14, 2018. With financial support from Switzerland and in coordination with the Culture Ministry, locals have reconstructed six of the 300 chullpas which have been torn down by time or looting in the area. Aizar RALDES / AFP

Bits and Pieces - Summer 2018

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Suspect dead, 20 hurt in shooting at US arts festival

NEW YORK (AFP).- At least 20 people were hurt early Sunday in a shooting at an all-night arts festival in Trenton, the state capital of New Jersey, that also left one suspect dead, a local prosecutor said.
"Multiple individuals opened fire" inside the festival venue shortly before 3:00 am, Mercer County chief prosecutor Angelo Onofri told reporters.
A 33-year-old man, one of the suspects, was killed, and another was taken into custody, he said. Among the injured at the Art All-Night Trenton event was a 13-year-old boy in critical condition. Several weapons were recovered at the scene, Onofri said.
The local CBS affiliate said 22 people were wounded, and that four of them were in critical condition. Officials offered no immediate theory as to what prompted the shooting spree, or how it unfolded. Art All-Night Trenton is an annual event in the city, which is home to 85,000 people and is located about 65 miles (100 kilometers) south of New York. The event was meant to last 24 hours from 3:00 pm Saturday. "It's with great regret that we announce that the remainder of Art All Night has been cancelled due to a tragic incident that occurred overnight," organizers said on the event's Facebook page. "We're still processing much of this and we don't have many answers at this time," the statement said. "Our sincere, heartfelt sympathies are with those who were injured."
© Agence France-Presse

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Thieves steal ancient arrow poison from Rijksmuseum Boerhaave in the Netherlands

THE HAGUE (AFP).- Dutch police were on Thursday hunting for thieves who stole a museum safe containing a potentially deadly poison used by South American tribes to lace their arrows for hunting.
The thieves broke into an outbuilding of the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave in the eastern town of Leiden early on Wednesday and stole the refrigerator-sized, free-standing safe in which the ancient vial holding the poison was being stored.
"It's a poison called curare, which is used in South America on arrows to kill animals," Amito Haarhuis, director of what is the national Dutch museum of science and medicine, told AFP.
"It was offered to us recently as part of a collection, but we decided we didn't want to have it. So we locked it in the safe and we are going to have it destroyed safely," he said.
The poison is quite dried out and looks like a small "black sugar cube" contained in an ancient glass pot with a red lid, and a label saying "Curare".
In a warning to the public, police said it was "very toxic and can be fatal," urging anyone who finds it not to touch it, but to call them.
Haarhuis said there were so far no clues as to who had taken the safe, which other than the poison contained just a small amount of money.

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New Import Requirements for Ancient & Ethnographic Art

Ethnographic and Archaeological Objects and Coins Affected By July 1, 2018 Reporting Changes
Note: The Committee for Cultural Policy provides this website solely for informational purposes. Nothing herein is intended to constitute legal advice.
There are changes under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (2018) Revision 6, Annotated for Statistical Reporting Purposes that have implications for importers of ethnographic and archaeological objects as well as coin collectors. The new import reporting requirements went into effect on July 1st.
“Archaeological pieces” are now reported separately from “ethnographic pieces” and both of those are reported separately from “historical pieces”. Statistical notes 1 and 2 further define the ethnographic and archaeological categories and detail how components of collections should be reported.
From the statistical notes:
For the purposes of statistical reporting number 9705.00.0075, “Archaeological pieces” are objects of cultural significance that are at least 250 years old and are of a kind normally discovered as a result of scientific excavation, clandestine or accidental digging or exploration on land or under water. For the purposes of statistical reporting number 9705.00.0080, “Ethnographic pieces”, which may also be called “ethnological pieces” are objects that are the product of a tribal or nonindustrial society and are important to the cultural heritage of a people because of their distinctive characteristics, comparative rarity or their contribution to the knowledge of the origins, development or history of that people. See Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Informed Compliance Publication on “Works of Art, Collector’s Pieces, Antiques, and Other Cultural Property”.
For statistical reporting of merchandise provided for in subheading 9705.00.00, collections made up of articles of more than one type of cultural property, i.e., zoological, biological, paleontological, archaeological, anatomical, etc., shall be reported by their separate components in the appropriate statistical reference numbers, as if separately entered.
Besides the former differentiation of gold and other, “Numismatic (collector’s) coins” are now separated by age as “250 years or more in age” and “other”. “Numismatic (collector’s) coins” are also now differentiated from coins that are “archaeological pieces.”
Note: The Committee for Cultural Policy provides this website solely for informational purposes. Nothing herein is intended to constitute legal advice.
CCP Staff - July 6, 2018

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People -- and politics -- threaten Kano's ancient walls

KANO (AFP).- Young boys scramble up the remains of a crumbling section of the ancient city wall in the Kofar Na'isa area of Kano, in northern Nigeria.
"This wall may not survive the rainy season," warned Falalu Musa, a local resident.
"It will soon join the others," he added, pointing to mounds of red earth lying nearby.
Houses and commercial buildings have sprung up on other demolished sections or been turned into dumping grounds for rubbish, litter and sewage from the ever more crowded city.
Elsewhere, excavators dig into the fortifications for the red iron- and aluminium-rich rock laterite, which is loaded onto donkeys and taken away for use in construction and renovation.
What remains of the weakened walls that once stretched 14 kilometres (nine miles) around the city is then prone to crumble at the foundations and collapse when the rains come.
The historic walls are under threat as never before from a combination of an exploding population that has put pressure on land and housing, as well as local politics.
"If you look at the city wall generally, almost 80 percent of it has been destroyed," the curator of the Gidan Makama Museum in Kano, Mustapha Bachaka, told AFP.
The walls no longer mark the city limits.
"There is a lot of encroachment," he added.
Now, those wanting to protect the city's unique heritage are appealing for fresh funding to shore up the ancient defences before it is too late.
'Magnificent work'
The mud walls date back to the 11th century and have come to define Kano as an ancient city state, attracting archaeologists' attention and tourists from across the world.
Local archives record that in their original state the walls were 15 metres (50 feet) high and 12 metres thick at the base, with a broad rampart walk.
Surrounding the wall were added trenches several metres deep to further deter would-be invaders, while access was controlled by 13 large entrance gates. Two more have since been added.
"It was a magnificent work of military engineering, which captivated the British when they conquered Kano in 1903," said Aliyu Abdu, from the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
Despite their shared culture, language and tradition, rivalry, warfare and conquest were the norm in pre-colonial Hausa states that now make up most of northern Nigeria.
But the city, now home to most of the estimated 13 million people living in Kano state, survived and developed into an important centre for Islamic scholarship, industry and a trading hub for the wider region.
"Wars were everywhere in Hausaland, just for territorial expansion. The city wall provided protection against invasion," Bachaka said.
"Without these walls there would have been no Kano by now."
Funding shortfall
Abdu blamed the Kano state government as "the main culprit" for the degradation of the city walls.
"The government is giving out land around the city wall to political supporters to compensate them for their support," he said.
That has robbed them of the moral authority to punish anyone who encroaches themselves. No one from the government responded to requests for comment.
But the situation demonstrates the difficulties in protecting sites of historic and national interest.
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments took over protection of the walls from the Emir of Kano, the spiritual leader who is revered across the Muslim-majority north.
In 2007, the commission submitted a bid to have the walls, the emir's palace and other places of interest declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
But little or no progress has been made in the last 10 years.
Experts fear that securing global protection status is unlikely if they are unable to save the walls from further damage.
"It is an irony that while we are making efforts to put Kano walls on the World Heritage map, people have turned them into pit latrines," Bachaka said.
Those keen to preserve the walls for generations to come say the widespread damage can be salvaged if money is found to fund the work.
The only work carried out in recent years was thanks to a 58,000 euro ($68,000) grant from the German government.
In the meantime, the Kano museum has set up a monitoring team to patrol the remaining walls to stop encroachment.
"This is all we can do in the interim," said the commission's Abdu.
"Despite the challenges, it will not be a lost battle."
© Agence France-Presse


Navajo Weavings On Exhibition Summer 2018

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Unique exhibition of Navajo weavings opens at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
WILLIAMSBURG, VA.- For generations, anonymous Navajo women working on hand looms created brilliantly colored, boldly designed pictorial blankets and rugs as was their longstanding cultural and artistic tradition. They adapted and modified their weavings from the world around them and created an art form that is uniquely theirs and provides insight into the Navajo culture at the turn of the 19th century. On July 14, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, one of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, opened “Navajo Weavings: Tradition and Trade¸” an exceptional opportunity to view 26 examples of these colorful and symbolic items on loan from the collection of American folk art enthusiasts Pat and Rex Lucke. The exhibition is scheduled to remain on view until May 31, 2020. Through the woven motifs of these textiles, museum visitors can learn what was important to the makers among the Diné (the term the Navajo use to refer to themselves meaning “the People”) and gain a sense of their aspirations.
“As Colonial Williamsburg continuously strives to illustrate America ’s enduring history, it is especially significant to be able to share with our visitors this extraordinary collection of American Indian textiles,” said Mitchell B. Reiss, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “The motifs in these weavings will offer our guests important awareness of this vibrant culture through their artistic traditions.”
“The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg strive to present exhibitions that address the broad range of American culture,” said Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for collections, conservation and museums. “We are particularly pleased to share this important body of Navajo weavings from the Southwest with our audiences and are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Lucke for their generous loan.”
The earliest of Navajo weavings were blankets to be worn, known as “chief blankets,” made with a simple, horizontally striped and banded design and format. Among the highlights of Navajo Weavings is the oldest known, remaining Navajo blanket that contains pictorial elements. This example, made between 1855 and 1865 of native handspun wool, bayeta (raveled wool trade cloth that was used to create the red color) and natural dye, is elegant in its simplicity and classic proportions. The anonymous weaver used traditional formations found in the classic style of its time period showing black and white stripes. The weaver also had the freedom to individualize the piece with personal experiences and outside influences from trade. Six stylized horses—symbols of power and wealth—in the center horizontal anchor points are the exception to the traditional design in this piece; the horses are stylistically similar to those found on early Navajo petroglyphs dating to 1800. Many weavings created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries included imaginatively stylized horse images, signifying their importance to the Diné. (After Spanish Conquistadors introduced horses to the Southwest in the 17th century, the Peoples’ way of life was forever changed as horses were used for transportation, warfare and commerce.)
“Navajo pictorial weavings provide an insight into the cultural changes of the Diné and a record of their daily life,” said Kimberly Smith Ivey, senior curator of textiles at Colonial Williamsburg. “The Navajo weaver integrated traditional Diné imagery and symbolism with images of modern life influenced by trade and other cultures. The best examples reveal aspects of the artist’s personality and imagination, such as an independent spirit and sense of humor.”
Almost all Navajo pictorial weavings show objects or scenes that are common on the native lands and combine objects from modern, everyday life with traditional imagery. Another highlight in this extraordinary collection to be on view is a small woven example made of commercial wool, cotton and dye from ca. 1890. Tradition meets trade in this piece that depicts corn, a sacred plant used in Navajo ceremonies, and a modern locomotive. Small weavings such as this one, called “samplers” or “loom samplers,” were produced by Navajo weavers as unfinished “works-in-progress” on looms and as finished textiles. These smaller objects were popular with tourists because they were less expensive and could be easily transported.
Although the American flag was favored by customers, it rarely appears as a true rendering on Navajo weavings. As flags were displayed on government buildings, both the buildings themselves as well as the flags became symbolic of U.S. power and authority on Navajo land. The weavers, therefore, would have adapted the flag to suit their needs, sometimes altering the rectangular shape, changing the number of stars or substituting them with flowers or anchors to create an entirely different motif. The colors might not have remained red, white and blue. In yet another eye-catching example in Navajo Weavings, a pictorial weaving made between 1910 and 1920 of commercial wool and dye features the American flag along with a building—probably representing a school house—that stood out on Navajo land as a symbol of the government’s authority. The size and shape of the piece suggest that it may have been intended for use as a table runner.
American folk art collectors Pat and Rex Lucke have been fascinated for many years with the artistic expression of Navajo weavers and understand that in the hands of these anonymous women, everyday objects such as trains, livestock and houses become works of art. The Luckes, who began collecting antiques, folk art and other artifacts in the early 1970s, discovered Navajo weavings while visiting an Indian arts gallery in Scottsdale , Arizona , and thought it would be a fitting addition to their folk art collection. Today, the Lucke’s enjoy living among their collections in their Nebraska home.

Allen Stone Auction at Rago! Summer 2018

Tribal Arts from the Collection of Allan Stone and Various Other Owners

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Catalog online October 1, 2018
Exhibition begins October 13, 2018

Tribal Arts from the Collection of Allan Stone and Various Other Owners encompasses 300+ lots, mostly African in origin, but also Oceanic, Asian, North and South American The catalog will be available in print and online in early September. Exhibition begins on October 13. Bidding by phone, left bid, in-room and online. Stone was one of the great collectors of the 20th century. Tribal arts was one of his passions. This sale, vetted and catalogued by specialist-in-charge John Buxton, continues a long and successful relationship, with Rago representing property from Stone’s collection across multiple categories. Highlights: The Flores Island couple featured as the frontispiece in The Eloquent Dead: Ancestral Sculpture of Indonesia and Southeast Asia; a well-known Fiji Island figure with provenance to the James Hooper Collection, along with other important artifacts from Melanesia and Polynesia; many fine objects from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, notable among them a Kongo nail fetish collected between 1907 and 1909 and an important Songe kifwebe mask; a Royal Bamileke sculpture; a fine Lobala drum; and an important Igbo totemic Ikenga post.

See the Stone Auction photo highlights in this newsletter issue.

Tribal art specialist John Buxton is available for questions and will attend the tribal exhibitions in Santa Fe from August 8th to August 19th. His cell is 214-789-4695 or

Barbara Blackmun- Summer 2018

Barbara Blackmun. 1928-2018

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Barbara was born in Merced, California on June 29, 1928 and passed away on Friday, July 6, 2018. She was a resident of Kentucky at the time of her passing. She is the daughter of Walter Lafayette and Marian Lewelyn (Warner) Winston. She gained an extensive education at UCLA, receiving a bachelor’s in fine art, Doctor of Philosophy in Art History and a Master of Art in Art History at Arizona State University. Her focus was in the African arts, more specifically Ancient Benin ivory tusks. She specialized in the interpretation of iconography on carved ivory tusks from ancestral alters in Benin Nigeria; Authentication, Analysis and interpretation of ivories & bronzes from ancient Benin and of terracotta’s & bronzes from the Kingdom of Ife, in Nigeria.

Her career was extensive and diverse. She was a teacher in elementary and secondary schools in California and an instructor at; Malawi Polytechnic College, Blantyre, San Diego Mesa College, and University of California, Los Angeles. Continuing, she gained curatorial experience at Mesa college, and Chicago field Museum. She was a curatorial consultant for the Chicago Field Museum, that Chicago Art Institute, the Detroit Institute Art, the Museum for Voelkerkunde in Vienna, and the Ethnologists Museum in Berlin. She was also a national program director for the African American Institute in Malawi.

She was also a board member for many councils including; the African and African-American Studies Research Program at the University California in San Diego, San Diego Mesa College Foundation, contemporary arts committee at the San Diego art Museum, and the arts and crafts board at the University Malawi. She was also a founding member of the African Arts Council at the San Diego Art Museum.

Barbara will certainly live on through her important work. For her friends and colleagues her absence is not easily filled even by the memories of her grace and kindness.  You are invited to attend a funeral service for Barbara Blackmun on Saturday, August 11th, at 11 am, at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church 533 East Main Street.


Art Auctions through the eyes of an intern.- Summer 2018

Through the eyes of an intern.

Heritage Auction


Price realized so far $1,099,498

12% failed to sell


Sold. Sold. Sold to Bidder 104. Next item. Again, and again hours on end. My first experience with an auction was not for someone’s personal gain but a community fundraiser. The current economy was good and everyone was there to give money and reach a common goal. Every item caused a bidding war even for insignificant items. Watching something with no historical value sell for as much as it did developed my opinion that antique art auctions would be even more exciting.  What I expected was watching hands shoot up into the air as the auctioneer spoke a million miles a minute. Every historic and rare item cataloged would be excitedly handed to its new owner. Within the first couple of minutes and a few pieces later my idea was rectified by the lack of eagerness shown by bidders, lack of money reaching the estimated value of the pieces and the fact that some did not even make the sale was shocking.

Walking into the auction room that morning, the first thing that I notice is the lack of people present for the live auction. Granted this is my first art auction and new technology gives people the opportunity to bid online or call in a bid, but I was expecting something with more bustle. Art auctions have been happening for centuries and the excitement in the room was less than what I expected. Lining the front of the podium are about 12 phones which are common but what caught my eye were the lack of people manning the phones once the auction had started.

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This sale offered 573 lots that included American Indian, pre-Columbian and tribal art. About 12% of the lots did not sell during the live auction and many of the lots sold below the estimated price of the piece. Many of the pre-Columbian pieces did not sell or did sell for way below estimated price. The Olmec Jade Figure estimated for $100,000-150,000 did not sell nor did the Olmec jade maskette est $30,000-60,000.  This makes me wonder, as I sat in the room with my catalog and highlighted pieces, did these people know something about these “rare” artworks that I did not. As customers, we are trusting that every auction house is making the ethical decision of only putting items that are authentic, to their best knowledge, up for auction. Was something wrong with the piece? Does this dramatic pass on a rare piece reflect the auction house or the changing opinion of beauty and importance in art at this specific point in time?  Further, as I flipped through the results and compared them with the prices I thought everything would sell for, I was shocked to see the results. In my own opinion as an intern, when over 700 bidders participate in an auction and only 30 lots go significantly beyond the estimated price, it does seem disappointing.

Looking back on past ethnographic art auctions at the Heritage auction house I noticed that over the past few years the total priced realized has been between $100,000 and $600,000. That is a huge difference when comparing the sale this summer which reached above $1,000,000. The main thing that caused this significant jump was  the Kiowa ledger book drawings that were estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 but sold for well over $300,000.Without that sale, the entire sale would have been average.

Being involved in the auction as a potential buyer was a fascinating experience. The complex process of an art auction combined with this particular sale seemed like a roller-coaster ride to me. The risks involved are far higher than I could have imagined and it all centers around knowledge. Knowledge of the market place. Knowledge the buyers have. Knowledge the sellers have. Knowledge the specialist has. Knowledge of the current demand. And the trust that each person involved is correct. Continuing, the answer I have regarding the success of this auction is complicated. They sold most of their pieces but most of them were below the estimated price. This is the best ethnographic sale they have had if you only compare the total prices. The success of the auction essentially depended on one lot containing the ledger book of drawings. So would a consignor be encouraged to consign to future auctions possibly not. However, would a prospective buyer be encouraged to check out future auctions? Absolutely!!

Emily Duffy, Intern

Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba new Curator at NOMA-Summer 2018

Foreign born curators

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Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba or Endy for short is the new Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art. Ezeluomba, who will begin his work at NOMA August 1, 2018, will oversee and manage NOMA’s significant collection of traditional African art, which is considered one of the most important in a public museum in the United States. He is originally from Benin City, Nigeria, and comes to NOMA from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, where he was the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Research Specialist in African Art. Before his time in Virginia, Ezeluomba served as a consultant on the Elusive Spirits: African Masquerades exhibition at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, and worked on the Harn Museum curatorial team that produced Kongo Across the Waters, examining 500 years of cultural exchange between the Kongo, Europe, and the United States, showing the rise of Kongo as a major Atlantic presence and the transmission of Kongo culture through the transatlantic slave trade into American art. The exhibition was also shown at NOMA in 2015.

Ezeluomba received a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Florida, Gainesville, specializing in historic African shrines. His dissertation, entitled Olokun Shrines: Their Functions in the Culture of the Benin Speaking People of Southern Nigeria, earned him the University of Florida Graduate School Doctoral Dissertation Award in 2017. Ezeluomba received his B.A. in Fine and Applied Arts from the University of Benin, and graduated from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, where his master’s thesis focused on the contemporary Nigerian artist Obi Ekwenchi. Ezeluomba has contributed to multiple publications and journals, including Routledge Encyclopedia of African Studies, Agents of Space: Eighteenth-Century Art, Architecture and Visual Culture; Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism; Black Art Quarterly; and has presented at numerous international conferences.

Endy is part of a growing trend to hire foreign born curators for US museum curatorial positions. According to statistics only 16% of individuals in  Curators, Conservators, Educators and Leadership positions have a diverse ethnicity.  The new wave of experts:  Nigerian born Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi at Cleveland Museum of Art , Yaëlle Biro at the MET, Nii O. Quarcoopome at the Detroit Institute of Arts, internationally respected Kosta Petrides at the Chicago Art Institute, Paris born Diala Toure at Morgan State University and is now a private appraiser, London born Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford has just been appointed director of the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, and more that we probably have missed.



Shango Wish List - Summer 2018

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Although much of our efforts have recently been directed to appraising and auction cataloging, we now have more requests from friends and clients to locate objects. The gallery has not in the past used our social media platforms to advertise that we are engaged in actively trying to find objects. If you are seeking, let us know as well we might be able to find it. If you are trying to find a market for high quality objects, let us know we may have a buyer.

Some of these have always been on our list but now you know. Condition and collection history are always important. And we are looking for quality.

1. Nazca ceramics

2. Panamanian ceramics

3. Pre-Columbian gold

4. Masks and Figures from Burkina Faso

5. Maya jade

Emily Duffy the Intern! Spring 2018

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My name is Emily Duffy and I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I am one year away from graduating from the University of Dallas with an Art Studio Degree in Printmaking and a concentration in General Business. I have been passionate about art my entire life and look forward to turning it into a career after I graduate. I  studied abroad in Rome during my time in college thus sparking my love for traveling.  During my down time I like to spend quality time with friends and family. I look forward to gaining new experiences and knowledge during this internship. 


Archaeology Spring 2018

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1. LONDON.- The world’s oldest bridge is to be saved for future generations thanks to a pioneering project as part of the British Museum’s Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme. The bridge at Tello, in the south of Iraq, was built in the third millennium BC and will be preserved by British Museum archaeologists and Iraqi heritage professionals who are being trained to protect ancient sites that have suffered damage at the hands of Daesh (or the so-called Islamic State). Working with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, it is hoped that restoring the 4,000-year-old bridge will be a potent symbol of a nation emerging from decades of war and could one day lead to the site welcoming tourists from around the globe to learn about Iraq’s rich heritage.
The bridge will be restored in the latest phase of the successful Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme, or simply ‘Iraq Scheme’, created by the British Museum. The Scheme sees the British Museum provide state of the art training to Iraqi archaeologists, so that they can stabilise, and potentially rebuild, heritage sites that were damaged or destroyed by Daesh as they come back under Government control. The work to conserve the bridge will be part of the fourth phase of the Scheme, with field training of two groups of trainees beginning in the autumn. These latest trainees are the first female archaeologists to be trained as part of the Scheme.
The project will also see the creation of a visitor centre at the site, which it is hoped will lead to the return of international tourists to the region, who stayed away during the war with Daesh. With the new visitor centre, which will explain in both English and Arabic how the bridge has contributed to world history, it is thought tour groups from outside Iraq could begin to visit the site by 2020.
Sebastien Rey, Lead Archaeologist, Iraq Scheme says: “This is a hugely important project to ensure the long-term sustainability of the world’s oldest bridge, which is an incredibly clever piece of ancient engineering on a grand scale. The full conservation programme will not only provide access to the site for the local community and tourists, but it is hoped that it could yield unprecedented finds that may lead to a new cultural centre of interest in the region – one of the poorest provinces of Iraq. It is also an important emblem of Iraq’s heritage and restoring the bridge is a symbol of a brighter future for the Iraqi people.”
Built for the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, the bridge was only rediscovered in 1929. Described at the time as an ‘enigmatic construction’, it has been variously interpreted as a temple, dam, and water regulator. Recent studies using 1930s photographs as well as recently declassified satellite imagery from the 1960s, alongside new research at the site, have led to the confirmation that it was a bridge over an ancient waterway and it is, to date, the earliest-known bridge in the world. Since the excavations nearly 90 years ago, the bridge has remained open and exposed, with no identifiable conservation work to address its long-term stability or issues of erosion, and no plans to manage the site or tell its story to the wider world.
The need to protect the bridge arose from preliminary work by the first two Iraq Scheme excavation seasons. The preliminary assessment stressed the urgency of carrying out a larger and more ambitious conservation programme, including emergency excavations. Even during this early phase, two trenches were uncovered, containing well-preserved deposits of the prehistoric Ubaid period dating to the fifth millennium BC. These contain a wealth of information on the origins of Girsu and, consequently, the birth of urban centres in Mesopotamia, one of the earliest known civilisations. This would improve international recognition of the rich and important heritage of Iraq.
The next group of Iraq Scheme participants that will carry out this vital work are eight female heritage professionals from the Mosul region. They will arrive in London in April 2018 to train at the British Museum in all aspects of archaeological fieldwork and emergency archaeology. It is hoped they will go on to continue the success of the Scheme so far, such as one graduate who was appointed by the Iraqi State Board to lead the assessment of the site of Nimrud.


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2.  More than $1 million for earthquake-damaged Monte Alban
NEW YORK, NY.- World Monuments Fund announced today more than $1 million in funding to support disaster response and restoration efforts at Monte Albán Archaeological Site in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The new project is the latest in WMF’s long history of supporting cultural heritage sites damaged or destroyed at the hands of natural disaster – beginning with the floods of Venice in 1966. Fifteen structures within Monte Albán and the northern section of Atzompa were affected by a devastating September 2017 earthquake, with five showing severe damage that required emergency structural shoring to prevent collapse. The site was included on the 2018 World Monuments Watch as part of the Disaster Sites of the Caribbean, the Gulf, and Mexico, with the goal of mobilizing heritage conservation efforts in the aftermath of a string of hurricanes and earthquakes.
WMF will launch a partnership with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) to address the long-term stability of Monte Albán, including physical conservation, documentation, and geological assessment. The program will also emphasize training and capacity building, giving local technicians the skills they need to effectively repair and prepare Monte Albán for future natural disasters. Local architecture and engineering students in their last semester will carry out research and documentation in the first phase of work.
Leadership gifts from American Express, Roberto Hernández Ramírez and Claudia Madrazo de Hernández, and The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, and additional generous donations from Charities Aid Foundation of Canada and Fundación Mary Street Jenkins, will make the program possible.
“For more than fifty years, World Monuments Fund has been helping people restore the buildings and places that define their values following natural disasters,” said Joshua David, President and CEO, World Monuments Fund. “Now we have the opportunity to safeguard one of Mexico’s most important archaeological sites while empowering its community. We are thankful for the support of leadership donors American Express, Roberto Hernández Ramírez and Claudia Madrazo de Hernández, and The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, as well as all of the project’s other donors, who are collectively making this effort possible.”
“For more than two decades, American Express has been a proud advocate of the World Monuments Fund,” said Timothy J. McClimon, President, American Express Foundation. “Preserving the prolific Monte Alban is a critical step in rebuilding the Oaxaca community. We are honored to serve as a lead donor for this project.”
“The cultural sites that were damaged during this tragedy don't belong only to the Mexican people; they belong to humankind,” said Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering, Consul General of Mexico in New York. “Out of great loss and devastation, we have a chance to restore hope and optimism to the people of Oaxaca and those for whom Monte Albán is a source of great pride. We are grateful for the support to make it stronger and accessible for future generations.”
The ancient Zapotec metropolis of Monte Albán was founded in the sixth century B.C. and became a World Heritage Site in 1987. Its impressive architectural remains—terraces, pyramids, and canals—extend over some four miles, and include hieroglyphic inscriptions that provide insight into the ancient Zapotec civilization. It was previously included on the 2008 World Monuments Watch to assure the sustainability of the archaeological zone in the face of threats including looting, vandalism, unchecked tourism, and forest fires.

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3.  Remains of 14th-Century Village in New Zealand Tells Tales of Maori History
The excavation, which unearthed moa bones and stone tools, helps fill a gap for researchers
By Julissa Treviño
June 1, 2018
The Polynesian people who came to New Zealand some 1000 years ago, first established themselves as the tangata whenua, which in the Maori language, means people of the land. Today, the indigenous Maori people make up about 14 percent of New Zealand’s population, and the culture’s past and present remain an integral part of the island nation’s identity.
But while much of their early history is documented through songs and stories—from tales of Kupe, who the Maori consider to be the first adventurer to navigate to the landmass, to the deep roots of the pohutukawa tree in Maori mythology—archaeological digs have also helped to piece together details of early Maori life in the land they first called Aotearoa.
Such is the case with a recently discovered 14th-century Maori village along the country’s South Pacific coastline. As The Gisborne Herald reports, the remains of the village were found in the present-day city of Gisborne, via an 8-foot-deep excavation on the edge of an old riverbed.
At the excavation site, University of Otago archaeologists uncovered bones of a flightless bird endemic to New Zealand called the moa, fish hooks fashioned from those bones, as well as stone tools made of obsidian and chert rocks that date back to the early 1300s.
In a press release, the team says the discoveries help to fill in the gaps about where the Maori people first settled in this area.
“We don’t know as much about early occupation around this part of the coastline as we do in other parts of the country,” University of Otago professor of archaeology Richard Walter says.
The archaeological work was conducted with the permission of Heritage New Zealand, which under the authority of the Pouhere Taonga Act, regulates the modification or destruction of the nation’s archaeological sites.
The area is of historical importance because it’s believed to be the first landing place of canoes which carried Maori to the district in 1350. It’s also where the first contact between Maori and British explorer James Cook took place in 1769.
As the Herald reports, the excavation took place in anticipation of the development of a wharfside log yard. “Given the port’s location, we take the protection of these significant sites within operational areas very seriously,” Andrew Gaddum, general manager of Eastland Port Limited, which is constructing and operating the new log yard, tells the paper.
The Herald reports that the found artifacts are currently undergoing analysis in university labs.

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4.  Evidence of world's biggest child sacrifice found by archaeologists in Peru
LIMA (PERU).- Archaeologists in Peru have found evidence of the biggest-ever sacrifice of children, uncovering the remains of more than 140 youngsters who were slain alongside 200 llamas as part of a ritual offering some 550 years ago, National Geographic announced on Thursday.
The site was located on top of a cliff facing the Pacific Ocean in La Libertad, a northern region where the Chimu civilization arose, an ancient pre-Columbian people who worshipped the moon.
The cliff is located just outside the northwestern coastal city of Trujillo, Peru's third largest city which today has 800,000 inhabitants.
"While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya and Inca have been recorded in colonial-era Spanish chronicles and documented in modern scientific excavations, the discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimu civilization is unprecedented in the Americas -- if not in the entire world," National Geographic said.
The investigations were carried out by an international team led by National Geographic's Peruvian explorer Gabriel Prieto, of the National University of Trujillo, and John Verano, a physical anthropologist from Tulane University in New Orleans.
The team uncovered evidence of "the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas -- and likely in world history."
"I, for one, never expected it," Verano told the magazine of the sacrifice site, known to the researchers as "Las Llamas."
"And I don't think anyone else would have, either," he added.
The excavations began in 2011 when the team uncovered the remains of 42 children and 76 llamas at a 3,500-year-old temple nearby.
By the time the excavations had finished five years later, they had uncovered more than 140 sets of child remains and 200 juvenile llamas, as well as rope and textiles dating to between 1400 and 1450.
Located about 300 meters above sea level, the site is in the middle of a cluster of residential compounds in Huanchaco, a neighborhood bordering Trujillo.
Hearts removed?
"The skeletal remains of both children and animals show evidence of cuts to the sternum as well as rib dislocations, which suggest that the victims' chests were cut open and pulled apart, perhaps to facilitate the removal of the heart," the magazine said.
Researchers determined that the children were between the ages of five and 14, although most were between eight and 12 when they died, with their bodies buried facing west -- out to sea.
The llamas were all less than 18 months and they were buried facing east, toward the Andes, they said.
"It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic," Verano said.
The Chimu civilization extended along the Peruvian coast to where Ecuador begins, with its empire brought down by the Incas in around 1475, just a few decades after the sacrifice at Las Llamas.
"Until now, the largest mass child sacrifice event for which we have physical evidence is the ritual murder and interment of 42 children at Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan," National Geographic said, referring to what is modern-day Mexico City.
© Agence France-Presse