Archaeology Around The World. Christmas 2018

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GEORGIA: At least 7 cremation burials and a copper band from St. Catherine’s Island show that Native Americans living there 3,500 years ago exchanged goods and cultural ideas through surprisingly long-distance trade networks. Analysis of the copper artifact’s chemical signature determined that it originated almost 1,000 miles away in the Great Lakes region. This new evidence is a clear indication that the use of copper and the practice of cremation were introduced to coastal Georgia 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.

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CHILE: A unique 500-year-old burial of 2 ritually sacrificed Inca females was found at Cerro Esmeralda in the 1970s. The pair were dressed in fine clothing and buried with lavish grave goods. New chemical analysis of the red pigment from their clothes detected cinnabar, a mineral not native to northern Chile. While the cinnabar itself was a prestige item, imported from hundreds of miles away, it can also be highly toxic when inhaled, and may have been used to deter would-be grave robbers.

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Nomadic Necropolis


November/December 2018

Some 5,000 years ago, nomadic herders in East Africa constructed a monumental cemetery. The site, called Lothagam North, is close to Lake Turkana in northwest Kenya and has been excavated by a team led by Elisabeth Hildebrand of Stony Brook University and Katherine Grillo of the University of Florida. It features a platform around 100 feet in diameter marked by megalithic pillars. In a large cavity at the platform’s center, the team found the remains of at least 580 people, almost all buried with ornaments, with no distinction based on gender or age. This counters assumptions that such monumental building projects were only embarked upon by settled, socially stratified farmers.

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Burials at the site continued for hundreds of years, coinciding with a period when rainfall in the area decreased dramatically and Lake Turkana is believed to have shrunk to half its former size. The researchers think construction of the site may have been a reaction to this unstable climate. “At a time when the lake shore was shifting from year to year, establishing a landmark that would serve as a constant reference point may have been very important, socially and even psychologically,” says Hildebrand. While the herders abruptly stopped using the cemetery for unknown reasons, they expended a great deal of effort to cover the site with stones before moving on.

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First human remains found in El Salvador's 'Mayan Pompeii'

SAN SALVADOR (AFP).- Human remains have been discovered for the first time in El Salvador's Joya de Ceren, a city buried by a volcanic eruption more than 1,400 years ago and sometimes dubbed the "Mayan Pompeii," the ministry of culture said Thursday.

A skeleton, which was in poor condition, was discovered at the beginning of November, buried with an obsidian knife at the UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site located about 20 miles (35 kilometers) north of the capital San Salvador.

The person "probably lived in the city but was not killed by the eruption" of the Loma Caldera volcano, archaeologist Michelle Toledo said.

Toledo added that researchers believed the remains date to the Late Classic period of Mesoamerica because of the presence of fine white tephra, known as "Tierra Blanca Joven" (young white earth) resulting from the volcanic eruption around 535 AD.

The cataclysmic eruption of the Loma Caldera volcano destroyed numerous Mayan sites and was responsible for the formation of Lake Ilopango, with an area of ??27.8 square miles (72 square kilometers).

The remains are the first to be discovered in more than 40 years of excavations.

Like Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy, the remains of Joya de Ceren were discovered in exceptional condition, providing a rare insight into the Mayan way of life including rituals, agriculture, trade, governance and eating habits.

© Agence France-Presse

Cultural Property: Fall 2018

This article includes several interesting and knowledgeable sources of up to date cultural property news. Click the links for further inquiries toward a specific story. We hope you will subscribe to the Cultural Policy Newsletter at:

New Import Requirements for Ancient & Ethnographic Art

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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.

CPAC – Building A Wall Against Art

The art world is dominated today by stories about spectacular multi-million dollar sales of contemporary artworks at shows and auction houses. Yet the market for ancient and ethnographic artworks has no such lofty expectations. There are far fewer important ancient artworks offered at auction in the US than just a decade ago, and there are fewer foreign exhibitors (or even American galleries) willing to show at major antique fairs in New York.

Already, US authorities’ aggressive seizures of artworks from long-held collections and the unprecedented number of prosecutions based upon foreign laws that nationalize virtually all antique artworks have made art dealers, collectors, and museums hyper-cautious. These enforcement actions threaten to end the once-dominant New York market in global antique and tribal art.

US Monuments and the Southwestern Cultural Landscape

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“The Hopi footprints and clouds are part of a living, sacred landscape that nourishes and sustains Hopi identity. This landscape is steeped in cultural values and maintained through oral traditions, songs, ceremonial dances, pilgrimages, and stewardship.”

Letter from The Hopi Tribe to President Barak Obama and Utah Senators and Congressmen, dated September 30, 2014.

Most reporting on the current administration’s reductions in the size of major Southwestern monuments center on the collision between energy and mineral developers on one side and archaeologists, environmentalists, and native groups on the other.

New York District Attorney Goes After Art Collections

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Over the last few months, headline seizures of artworks from well-known private and public art collections dating back twenty, fifty, and even seventy years have raised questions about the methods of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. In January, warrants for artworks with an exhibition and ownership history going back to 1984 were also served on a major antiquities gallery in New York. The recent seizures are based on foreign ownership laws nationalizing artworks or on theft claims that were not raised by foreign governments until they were contacted by New York authorities. The identifications of the artworks as ‘stolen property’ were made from secret files unavailable to the public. And the threatened penalties – up to 25 years’ imprisonment – are based on a NY law intended to curb illegal trade in stolen goods.

Federal prosecutors have not been involved (although Homeland Security has taken part in raids on homes and galleries), even though the issues are international, and the artworks are all claimed to be looted or stolen from foreign countries decades ago. Instead, a newly formed antiquities trafficking bureau at the office of the District Attorney of New York County is aggressively pursuing these ‘antique’ cases.

Art Dealer Program Brings Over 100 Artifacts Back to Tribes

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ATADA, the largest US professional organization of art dealers specializing in Native American and international tribal art, has returned over 100 ceremonial artifacts to Southwestern Indian tribes. Today’s announcement celebrates the phenomenal success of ATADA’s Voluntary Returns Program, and the work of its founder, ATADA Board member Robert Gallegos, who has spearheaded the program since 2016.

The ATADA Voluntary Returns Program is a community-based initiative designed to bring sacred and highly valued ceremonial objects in current use to Native American tribes. Returns take place through a consultative process; ATADA representatives work directly with tribal community and spiritual leaders. The program evolved through the recognition by art dealers and private collectors that certain objects, although legal to own, had great importance to tribal communities, and that their return could invigorate and enhance tribal community life.

Longstanding Federal Policy Threatened by Indian Art Law


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.)

Peabody-Essex Artifacts Go Back to Tribes

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Twenty-seven years after passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), neither the 210 year-old Andover Newton Theological School (ANTS) nor the Peabody Essex Museum, which housed the ANTS collection of 1,100 Native American artifacts for over seventy years, had cataloged the collection under NAGPRA or notified possible tribal claimants.

According to Peabody Essex director, Dan Monroe, when he heard that the theological school’s board had voted to withdraw eighty items from the museum and sell them, he stepped up to begin the compliance process by notifying hundreds of tribes across the country about the collection. Before that time, according to Monroe, who previously served two terms on the NAGPRA Review Committee, the Peabody Essex Museum had not acted because it did not own the collection, but only stored it for ANTS. ANTS announced in September that they would transfer ownership of their entire collection to the Peabody Essex museum, which will continue the NAGPRA repatriation process.

Salmonella May Have Caused Millions of Aztec Deaths

Between 1520 CE and 1581 CE, three deadly epidemics wiped out an estimated 80% of the indigenous population of the Valley of Mexico. The first epidemic from 1520-1521 was clearly identified as smallpox at the time of the conquest. It took the lives of up to 8 million Aztec people, who had no resistance to the disease. The virulence and rapid spread of smallpox seriously weakened the Aztecs, and was probably a deciding factor in the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan.

A second epidemic, from 1545 to 1550, killed an estimated 15 million people. It was called cocoliztli by the Aztecs, a Nahuatl word meaning “pest” or “pestilence.” Over the course of three to four days, victims of the illness succumbed to a horrific set of symptoms that included heavy bleeding from the nose, eyes and mouth as well as fever and dysentery.

Maori Mokomokai to Return to New Zealand

The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum of World Cultures in Cologne, Germany announced that it would return a mokomokai – a Maori tattooed preserved head – to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa – as part of Germany’s 15-year plan to return indigenous cultural property back to its original owners. The head had been in the museum’s collection for over 110 years. The museum’s director originally procured it in 1908 from a London dealer.

Maori mokomokai have both a sacred and sordid history. In pre-colonial Maori culture ceremonial facial tattooing, called “moko”, was done for chiefs and high-ranking members of the community as a way to indicate status and to mark the completion of rites of passage. When one of these individuals died, their head was removed, preserved and lovingly stored in an ornate box to be brought out and revered during ceremonial occasions and family celebrations.

Rapa Nui Claims British Museum’s Moai Sculpture

The Rapa Nui, people indigenous to Easter Island, have asked the British government to return one of the British Museum’s most viewed and treasured objects – the iconic stone moai statue called Hoa Hakananai’a. Moai, the giant stone monolithic figures representing ancestors and powerful chieftains, are synonymous with Rapa Nui, as Easter Island is now known.

Allen Stone Highlights

Lot 44. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  IBIBIO, EBOK MONKEY STATUE, NIGERIA   Estimate:  $20,000 - $30,000

Lot 44. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000

Lot 96. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  LUBA-SONGYE, KIFWEBE MASK, CONGO   Estimate:  $100,000 - $150,000

Lot 96. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000

Lot 104. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  SONGYE, COMMUNITY POWER FIGURE, CONGO   Estimate:  $20,000 - $40,000

Lot 104. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $20,000 - $40,000

Lot 26. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  IGBO, COMMUNITY SHRINE FIGURE, NIGERIA   Estimate:  $5,000 - $10,000

Lot 26. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $5,000 - $10,000

Lot 221. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  HIMALAYAN MASK, NEPAL OR TIBET   Estimate:  $400 - $600

Lot 221. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $400 - $600

Lot 209. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  SHIVA SCULPTURE, SOUTH INDIA   Estimate:  $800 - $1,200

Lot 209. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $800 - $1,200

Lot 121. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  BAMUM, DRUM, CAMEROON   Estimate:  $15,000 - $25,000

Lot 121. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $15,000 - $25,000

Lot 217. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  DAYAK, ANCESTOR FIGURE (HAMPATONG), BORNEO   Estimate:  $1,000 - $1,500

Lot 217. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $1,000 - $1,500

Lot 88. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  LOBALA, BUFFALO-FORM SLIT GONG, CONGO   Estimate:  $20,000 - $40,000

Lot 88. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $20,000 - $40,000

Lot 147. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  FEMALE ANCESTOR FIGURE, FIJI   Estimate:  $100,000 - $150,000

Lot 147. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000

Lot 210. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  FLORES COUPLE (ANA DEO), INDONESIA   Estimate:  $15,000 - $25,000

Lot 210. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $15,000 - $25,000

Lot 157. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  MENDI, SHOULDER SHIELD (ELAYABOOR), PAPUA NEW GUINEA   Estimate:  $1,500 - $2,500

Lot 157. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $1,500 - $2,500

Lot 197. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  TORAJA, ZOOMORPHIC SARCOPHAGUS (ERONG) CELEBES   Estimate:  $10,000 - $15,000

Lot 197. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000

Lot 168. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  HUARI, MANTLE FRAGMENT, PERU   Estimate:  $1,000 - $1,500

Lot 168. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $1,000 - $1,500

Lot 229. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  EJAGHAM/EKOI, HEADCREST, NIGERIA   Estimate:  $5,000 - $7,000

Lot 229. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $5,000 - $7,000

Lot 246. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  MOSSI, FEMALE FIGURE, BURKINA FASO   Estimate:  $3,000 - $5,000

Lot 246. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000

Lot 214. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  SUMBESE, BEADED BAG, INDONESIA   Estimate:  $200 - $400

Lot 214. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $200 - $400

Lot 29. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018  IGBO, MAIDEN SPIRITS (MMWO) MASK, NIGERIA   Estimate:  $400 - $600

Lot 29. Allen Stone Auction. October 19, 2018


Estimate: $400 - $600

Elephants are still in danger. Fall 2018

AWF Calls for International Support to Combat Elephant Poaching Crisis

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Because of their inability to set in place drastic ivory reform in a speedy manner, the eastern half of the world fuels the largest percentage of the ivory market . The US over the years has played an active role in reducing the demand for ivory by reforming their import, export and sales of ivory. The question though, is should you feel guilty about owning ivory when you see stories of how it could have been obtained centuries ago? Should you donate your ivory to an ivory crush and watch the guilt float away? The artifacts that you hold in your home, offices, and museums are beautiful and should cherished. You can’t save the elephant that provided the ivory a century ago. We can’t do anything for the elephants of the past, but we can help those that are still alive. America is actively playing a part in reforming our laws against the fueling of the ivory market. Now it is up to the rest of the world to follow.

By Emily Duffy, Intern, ArtTrak, Inc.

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According to the Great Elephant Census, Botswana holds 37% of Africa’s endangered elephant population, making it home to the largest population in the world. Despite the lack of fences on the international border, data from tracking collars showed elephants retreating from Angola, Namibia and Zambia and deciding to stay within the boundaries of Botswana where it was thought to be safe. With only 130,000 elephants, Botswana has been described as their last sanctuary in Africa as poaching for ivory continues to wipe out herds across the rest of the continent.

The dry season aerial survey of elephants and wildlife in northern Botswana (covering Chobe, Okavango, Ngamiland and North Central District) has already identified 87 elephants that have been killed in just a few months. The elephant carcasses were found near the Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, the majority of which died in recent weeks. Contrary to what local and international media has reported on the matter, the Permanent Secretary Thato Y. Raphaka, in a statement released early this week, said that, “At no point in the last months or recently were 87 or 90 elephants killed in one incident in any place in Botswana. These statistics however represent cumulative incidences of elephant carcasses during the conduct of the survey as early as July through August.” The survey is expected to end by 30th September 2018 and conservationists fear the final findings of the elephants will be a lot higher.

An ivory demand is fueling the poaching of elephants, and it’s often carved into jewelry, utensils, religious figurines and trinkets that can be sold for thousands of dollars on the black market. As many as 35,000 African elephants are killed each year, and census estimates reveal that a third of Africa's elephants have been killed in the last decade alone. 60% of Tanzania's elephants have been lost in five years.

AWF’s Vice President for Species Protection Dr. Philip Muruthi said this was devastating news for conservation and emphasized the need to assist range states to conserve elephants.

“We are still in a poaching crisis and it is not time to relax. Each range state and partners must remain vigilant. Poachers and traffickers are monitoring law enforcement, and any relaxation in effort exposes elephants to poachers. It’s important to be proactive even as we react to the threat of poaching. Botswana is known for strict law enforcement of wildlife protection, high level of support, and involvement of communities and the private sector, and we need to support their efforts.” said Dr. Muruthi.

Wildlife trafficking unfortunately keeps the poaching industry alive, and so AWF’s Canines for Conservation program combats this demand by deploying detection dogs and their handlers to key airports and seaports throughout the continent. The sniffer dogs can detect even the smallest amounts of wildlife contraband—like ivory or rhino horn dust—stopping traffickers before they can export the illegal products abroad. So far, there are canine units strategically located in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, and soon to be deployed to Botswana this year.

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How Teeth Became Tusks, and Tusks Became Liabilities

Humans, mice, narwhals — most mammals rely on ancient genes to produce teeth and tusks. But the tuskless elephants of Africa show that nature can quickly alter the code.

By Natalie Angier

Sept. 11, 2018

GORONGOSA NATIONAL PARK, Mozambique — We are flying in a Bat Hawk aircraft — which may be named for a raptor that preys on bats but looks more like a giant, lime-green dragonfly — and my hair, thanks to the open cockpit, has gone full Phyllis Diller.

Scudding above flood plains the color of worn pool table felt and mud flats split like jigsaw puzzles, we dip toward the treetops and see herds of waterbuck scatter with an impatient flash of their bull’s-eye rumps.

We are searching for the elusive tuskless elephants of Gorongosa, elephants that naturally lack the magnificent ivory staffs all too tragically coveted by wealthy collectors worldwide.

Tuskless elephants can be found in small numbers throughout Africa, but Gorongosa is known to harbor a sizable population of them, the legacy of a violent 15-year civil war. Tusked elephants were slaughtered for their ivory at a harrowing rate, and the park’s rare tusk-free residents thus gained a sudden Darwinian advantage.

Today, about a quarter of the park’s 700 or so elephants are tuskless, all of them female, and I am determined to catch a glimpse of at least one. Yet a week of ground searches has proved fruitless, and now we are circling in a plane and still nothing and, holy mother of Horton, how can such massive creatures go missing?

“There!” Alfredo Matavele, the pilot, cries triumphantly, pointing toward a cluster of trees. “And there!” pointing toward a watering hole. And there and there. “Do you see them?” he demands.

Oh yes, I see them. Dozens, scores, cliques and claques of elephants, ears flapping like flags, trunks slowly swinging, and many of their faces decidedly free of ivory eruptions. I have found them at last, my sisters in dental deprivation.

Other people may admire elephants for their brains or their complex social lives; I feel a bond with this mutant crew. After all, I’ve learned that we share a basic developmental anomaly, which may well be traceable to the same underlying glitches in our DNA.

Elephant tusks happen to be overgrown versions of the upper lateral incisors — the teeth right next to the front teeth, before you get to the canines. Simply put, tuskless elephants lack lateral incisors.

I, too, lack lateral incisors; moreover, the trait runs in families. Tuskless elephants often have tuskless kin. Both my daughter and my younger brother are missing their lateral incisors. No wonder we’ve always had trouble ripping the bark off trees.

Scientists do not yet know the precise cause of tusklessness, but they’ve made great progress in deciphering the genetic program behind mammalian tooth development generally. It turns out to be an old and widely shared code.

“Tooth development has been very conserved during evolution,” said Irma Thesleff, a developmental biologist at the University of Helsinki in Finland. She has found that mutations associated with tooth abnormalities in mice also show up in genetic studies of people with missing or malformed teeth.

“Elephants are no more different from humans than mice are,” Dr. Thesleff said, “so it’s quite possible that the same gene or genes are involved” in elephant tusklessness and human toothlessness.

For example, it could be a typographical error in the genetic code for a signaling molecule called wnt10a. “This is one of the most commonly mutated genes in humans with missing teeth,” Dr. Thesleff said.

And oh, we gap-mouths are everywhere. An estimated 8 percent of the population is missing one or more of the 32 teeth found in the standard adult set, and that figure rises to about 30 percent if you include a natural absence of the four extra wisdom teeth that many people get yanked out anyway.

Missing lateral incisors is thought to be the second most common form of so-called tooth agenesis. One archaeological study of a 9,000-year-old farming community in Basta, Jordan, found that 36 percent of the inhabitants lacked lateral incisors. Researchers viewed the elevated rate as evidence of inbreeding.

The normal background rate of the condition is more like 2 percent to 4 percent, which, coincidentally or otherwise, is close to the background rate of tusklessness among African elephants.

Even more common in humans than a lack of lateral incisors, said Ariadne Letra, an associate professor at the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston, is the absence of the lower second premolars, the teeth with two cusps located in the bottom jaw just before the four-cusped molars.

(I discovered in the course of reporting this story that my husband was born without his second premolars, so I guess I’m grateful my daughter has any teeth at all.)

Through animal studies, scientists have learned that teeth can grow in macabre isolation from other body systems, as though they yearned for a career as novelty dentures at a Halloween party. Isaac Salazar-Ciudad, a theoretical biologist who studies tooth development at the University of Helsinki, explained that if you remove part of the primordial mouth of a mouse embryo and culture it in a dish, it will develop an array of normal-looking mouse teeth.

Although the basic genetic program is widely shared, tooth building is also flexible, susceptible to evolutionary influences.

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Teeth develop through the interaction of two types of embryonic tissue, epithelial and mesenchymal, which early in gestation — by about Day 28 in humans — start folding up into each other origami-style to form a series of large and small buds. Those buds can then be sharpened into canines or incisors for slicing into flesh, or flattened and sculpted into molars with any number of cusps for processing high-fiber plants.

The core of a tooth, the pulp, holds the blood vessels and nerve fibers, while the bulk consists of a bone-like material called dentin. The outer coating of calcium phosphate enamel is the hardest substance in the body, which is why animal teeth account for a disproportionate share of the fossil record.

And when lengthened into structures that breach the boundary of the mouth and grow throughout life, teeth become tusks — for digging, fighting, hauling, piercing, threat display.

The diversity of shapes that teeth can assume, combined with their mineralized hardness, said Dr. Salazar-Ciudad, “could be why they have been repurposed as tusks and used for so many tasks.”

In most cases, tusks are recast canines, curving to the side and upward in wild boars and warthogs, or drooping down in walruses like Yosemite Sam’s mustache. In narwhals, the unicorns of the Arctic, the tusk is built of a single overgrown canine that penetrates through the narwhal’s left upper lip in a permanent open wound, which ends up hosting tiny shrimplike creatures with an appetite for shed whale skin.

The narwhal tusk “is the only straight tusk in nature, and the only spiral tusk, too,” said Martin Thomas Nweeia, a narwhal expert who lectures at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

Tusks, as a rule, are multipurpose devices. Boars and warthogs apply theirs offensively and defensively, to battle one another during mating season and to gore predators many times their size.

Walruses use their tusks like grappling hooks, to haul themselves out of the water and onto the ice, and as weapons against polar bears and in sexual contests — but not, as commonly believed, to forage for food or pry open oysters.

The purpose of the narwhal’s tusk remains a subject of contention. Some researchers suggest the whales use it to stun their fish prey. Dr. Nweeia and his co-workers propose that it is a kind of sensory organ, for detecting changes in water salinity and temperature.

Elephants are the true masters of the Swiss Army tusk. They use their mighty incisors to dig for salts and minerals, to break off branches and get at the foliage, to pry into trees and peel off the bark — “They really love to eat bark,” said Joyce Poole, scientific director of Elephant Voices, a research and advocacy group working at Gorongosa — to scoop an errant calf out of a mudhole or lift a sleeping one to its feet.

They coordinate tusks, trunks and feet to de-thorn acacia trees and soften tough grasses, and they stash leafy branches across their ivory shelves for later consumption.

Just as people are left- or right-handed, so elephants have a favored tusk. “If they’re going to break a branch over a tusk, they use the same tusk repeatedly,” Dr. Poole said. A groove forms in the preferred tusk over time.

But it can take two tusks to tangle. From my perch in the Bat Hawk, I watched a pair of large bull elephants spar by locking together their massive tusks, which can weigh well over 100 pounds each — seven times the weight of an average female tusk.

Yet the biophysical properties that make tusks such splendid tools to own have all too often proved their owners’ undoing. People have long coveted ivory for its beauty, ductility and presumed magical properties.

The first appearance of narwhal tusks in medieval Europe is thought to have given rise to the myth of the unicorn, and to a mad surge in demand for the nine-foot spiraling spears. Elizabeth I is said to have paid 10,000 pounds for a narwhal tusk, then the price of an average castle.

The drive to harvest walrus ivory may well have contributed to the settlement of Greenland in the 10th century, and led to the near extinction of walrus populations around Norway, Iceland and other parts of the North Atlantic.

Elephant ivory, however, is considered the finest in the world, and elephants have long been slaughtered to supply it. Despite international efforts to ban the ivory trade, demand still drives a business worth at least a billion dollars a year.

The persistence of elephant poaching has prompted researchers to wonder whether elephants really needed their tusks, and whether they might not be better off if the tuskless trait were to spread more widely through the African population.

Shane Campbell-Staton, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues have begun systematically comparing tusked and tuskless elephants in Gorongosa, seeking not only to identify the genes involved in tusklessness but also to solve perplexing patterns of inheritance.

Why, for example, are nearly all the tuskless elephants of Africa female? Among Asian elephants, a related species, many males are tuskless, and recent studies suggest they fare surprisingly well on the sexual battlefield when pitted against tusked rivals.

Dr. Campbell-Staton is also looking at downstream effects of tusklessness.

“We know tusks play an important role in obtaining food,” he said, “so if individuals don’t have that tool, are they using the environment differently, and could those changes have consequences for other animals dependent on elephants as ecosystem engineers?”

Maybe, but from the look of it, the tuskless elephants of Gorongosa are thriving. “They’re in fantastic condition, this is a very good habitat for them, and there’s no indication they’re suffering nutritionally,” Dr. Poole said.

Lateral incisors: who needs them? Better by far to keep the poachers at bay.

Natalie Angier became a columnist for Science Times in January 2007. She joined The Times in 1990, covering genetics, evolutionary biology, medicine and other subjects, and was awarded the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in Beat Reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 10, 2018, on Page D1 of the New York edition

Japan’s legal ivory markets are fueling the international ivory trade

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The shutdown of ivory sales on Rakuten-Ichiba, one of Japan’s largest e-commerce platforms, in August 2017 blazed a trail for other online shopping sites selling and auctioning ivory. Some mall retailers even revised their policies to close shops trading ivory, but few online shopping sites have taken the same path as Rakuten — most notably Japan.

Now the country’s biggest online marketplace for various ivory products — including whole elephant tusks — Japan supports the country’s booming domestic market, with up to US $27 million worth of ivory put up for sale in the last 10 years. While the e-commerce giant has made some attempts to monitor the ivory items sold on its sites, dealers are still taking advantage of Japan’s lax trade laws.

In Japan, ivory tusks must be registered before a sale, but the process has remained dangerously lenient. Owners do not need to provide verifiable proof of how, where, or when the elephant tusk was acquired. This means that even if it was obtained after the CITES 1989 international ivory trade ban and therefore illicit, the tusk can easily slip into Japan’s legal domestic market.

Worryingly, registration is required for tusks only — other ivory items are traded regardless of origin and acquisition. Since these products are regulated if owned by a commercial entity, many dealers on shopping or auction sites identify as individuals rather than businesses. The registered tusks are not marked or physically inspected, leaving retailers with few ways of determining whether it belonged to a poached elephant before it ended up on their sites or shelves.

Regional strategies to combat the illegal ivory trade

In the wake of China’s recent domestic ivory ban, the Japanese government has yet to tighten its ivory trade controls categorically. Despite being the top ivory consumer, China adopted the resolution at the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties one year prior calling for the closure of all ivory markets that contribute to the illegal trade. Hong Kong has also pledged to close its domestic market by 2020.

In June 2017, Japan increased penalties for non-compliance and mandated the registration of whole tusks owned by an ivory business. However, these amendments to its Law for the Conservation of the Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora do little to limit illegal ivory trade within the domestic market.

According to a 2017 TRAFFIC survey monitoring ivory trade on Japan’s auction site, the value of ivory products rose over the last three years. Criminal syndicates linking ivory from Japan to regional consumers smuggle these products, feeding black markets in China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. Between 2010 and 2012, one such syndicate trafficked 3.2 tons of ivory from Japan to China — all of which was obtained through Yahoo’s online shopping site.

Without a streamlined ivory ban extending across consumer countries, Africa’s elephants will remain victims of this illegal wildlife trade.

My Word. Fall 2018

My word Fall 2018

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After one year of work, the auction on October 19th of the Alan Stone tribal collection is finally here. I will be at Rago's in Lambertsville NJ from October 12th to the 20th for tours and a lecture on the 17th. Hope to see some of you there. Although I never met Allan, I feel that the last 12 months have given me a respect and fondness for him that I will remember for years to come. I encourage you to go on YouTube and view the video The Collector put together by his daughter Olympia Stone was a gigantic personality that left his mark on the art world in the last half of the twentieth century. See more segments in this issue. The catalog is online at

We are delighted to welcome Ana Norman who is a senior at the University of Dallas majoring in Art History with a concentration in Studio Art. Ana is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy which has given her a slightly different perspective of her fellow students. Ana is a great student and enthusiastic intern that will bring a lot to the gallery. Ana and Emily will be with us until next semester.

So not much is slowing down in the coming months as we move into the holiday season and continue the re-organization of our priorities. There are several exciting projects coming up to include some major damage claim assignments, auction cataloging projects, and expansion of our social media engagement and newsletter.

Please also continue to follow our government’s continued intrusion into the art and antiques world. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree on solutions for complicated problems, however, we all need to continue to be informed. Again I strongly encourage following which has been expanding and upgrading their newsletter which I consider the single most important source of current information on cultural property.

It will be a great Fall.

Upcoming Exhibitions. Fall 2018

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Exhibition at the Bruce Museum traces the history of the Navajo weaving tradition

GREENWICH, CONN.- The Bruce Museum is presenting A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition traces the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest Mexican-inspired Saltillo serapes, c. 1880, to mid-20th century pictorial rugs. Featuring a dozen items from the Museum’s Native American ethnographic collection – some of which have never been publicly exhibited – the exhibition is on display in the Bantle Lecture Gallery through November 25, 2018.

Navajo rugs are unique because their warp (the vertical strings on a loom) is one, long continuous piece of wool thread. Once the warp is set on the loom, the size of the rug cannot be altered. This weaving method requires the weaver to plan the design and pattern of the rug to fit precisely into the predetermined length of the rug.

The ability to conceive and execute two-dimensional designs in extraordinary patterns and colors set Navajo weavers apart from the creators of other Native rugs and blankets. Knowledge of this traditional process is an important cultural tradition that has been maintained through intergenerational instruction and mentoring despite the obstacles of displacement, discrimination and isolation experienced by the Navajo Nation.

“The Najavo textile collection at the Bruce is extensive enough to illustrate the history of the weaving traditions and varied enough to demonstrate the artisanal skill of the weavers,” says Kirsten Reinhardt, Museum Registar and the organizer of this exhibition. “Each piece is an extraordinary example of artistic creativity and technical execution.”

The Navajo were first recognized as the finest weavers of small horse blankets, placed under saddles to protect the horse, after the Spanish introduced both sheep and horses to the American Southwest in the mid-1500s. Influenced by Pueblo weavers, the Navajo then made large blankets which were prized throughout the Southwest and across the Great Plains for their quality as outerwear. Later, trading post economics led to a transition to rug making, a tradition that remains strong today.

The items on display are from the collection of Miss Margaret Cranford (1887 – 1974), a resident of Greenwich. At the age of 21, Miss Cranford began a lifelong pursuit of traveling across the United States and the world, collecting fine decorative art, jewelry, and textiles.

“The Bruce is indebted to the generosity of Miss Cranford,” says Reinhardt. “Her collecting trips to the American Southwest in the early 1930s generated gifts that are the foundation of our ethnographic collections, in both quality and number. Personal letters, maintained in the Museum’s archive, demonstrate her passion and respect for all things Native American and help to frame her collecting strategies. We hope our guests find meaning in her dedication to identifying and preserving Native American traditions.”

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Exhibition focuses on the aesthetics and significance of African beadwork

ZURICH.- With Bead Art from Africa the Museum Rietberg presents an exhibition on the aesthetics and significance of beadwork, thus, for the first time, allowing women artists to take centre stage.

Overlooked by art history for a long time, women play the key role as creators of beadwork in African art. The beadwork produced by women in the eastern and southern parts of the continent takes on the shape of figurative art in West Africa. Viewing the designs and techniques reveals how much creativity and skill goes into making these filigree objects.

Whether dealing with extravagant ornaments, impressive masks, or royal stools – the exhibition unfolds the vast scope and ingenuity of bead art in East, South and West Africa. However, glass beads never served merely decorative or ornamental purposes; the colours and designs also convey intricate messages about age, gender, and identity of the persons wearing the pieces.

The glass beads that reached Africa from Europe embody early globalization. As from the 17th on they were produced specifically for the African market in places like Venice, Amsterdam and Bohemia. Women also played a key role in the manufacture and trade of glass beads. However, glass beads always meant more than simple trade goods or means of payment.

In a gradual process of cultural appropriation, the new materials were endowed with a unique aesthetics of their own and charged with symbolic meaning, taking their cue in parts from existing artistic techniques such as body painting, mural art, and weaving. Thus, glass beads stand for both innovation and tradition.

With the Mottas collection, an undisclosed treasure trove has found its way to the Rietberg Museum which both adds to and enhances the existing Africa collection. Grouped into different thematic fields, the exhibition sheds light on the design and uses of African bead art. Old beadworks dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries are juxtaposed with contemporary positions from South Africa.

The first section “Interwoven Worlds” sheds light on the history of production and the worldwide trade of glass beads. One of the highlights is a map of the world indicating global trade routes. To create the map, the bead designers Anna Richerby and Laurence Kapinga Tshimpaka from Cape Town relied on more than 350,000 glass beads produced in the Czech Republic.

The focus of the next two galleries, “Colour and Design” and “Lines and Surfaces”, is on how beadworks are able to communicate messages with regard to age, gender, and identity. Here oral traditions, so important in African cultures, are translated into physical shapes and materials. While among the Zulu and Xhosa peoples of South Africa the interplay of colours is striking, in East Africa the difference between the delicate designs of the Maasai people and the more planar style of the Kamba immediately captures the eye.

Beads and ornaments, as so many other materials, repeatedly undergo transformations and aesthetic modification. The section “TransFORMations” addresses, on the one hand, bead traditions from southern and central Africa which have emerged from art forms such as body painting, plaiting and weaving. But then again, textural changes are also encountered modern fashion design. Labels such as MaXhosa by Laduma, for instance, gather inspiration from old beadworks, while the internationally renowned South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo takes colours and patterns from traditional Xhosa ornaments and transforms them into new materials, as his modern knitwear collection goes to show.

The section “Figurative” touches upon a further aspect of bead art, namely, bead-decorated masks and sculptures. In this case beads give expression to social, religious and political relationships between the various classes in a society. Thus, beads not only signify the negotiation of gender but also stand for the lavish splendour used to celebrate royal power and rule. An impressive example is the bead-decorated royal stool from the kingdom of Bamum in Cameroon.

On the basis of historical postcards, the exhibition also shows how, in the West, glass beads were seen as being “typical” hallmarks of “traditional” Africa, without ever acknowledging the extent of innovation and exchange that was going on. In his project Native Work, the South African photographer Andrew Putter examines the dehumanizing and exoticizing properties of early ethnographic photography.

Showcasing beadworks from South Africa and other regions in Africa, the exhibition presents some ninety highlights from the collection recently donated to the museum by François Mottas. One of the characteristic features of his collection is the focus on small glass beads, so-called seed beads. Over the last thirty years, the passionate collector has assembled and carefully documented a collection of nearly 400 pieces.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Scheidegger & Spiess and edited by Michaela Oberhofer, with contributions by François Mottas, Nanina Guyer, and Daniela Müller; 176 pages, ca. 130 figures.

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John Molloy Gallery


19th Century American Indian

Garments and Accessories

October 4 - November 10, 2018

Opening Reception: October 4, 6-8 PM

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The Met

October 4-6, 2019

This landmark exhibition in the Museum's American Wing will showcase 116 masterworks representing the achievements of artists from more than fifty cultures across North America. Ranging in date from the second to the early twentieth century, the diverse works are promised gifts, donations, and loans to The Met from the pioneering collectors Charles and Valerie Diker. Long considered to be the most significant holdings of historical Native American art in private hands, the Diker Collection has particular strengths in sculpture from British Columbia and Alaska, California baskets, pottery from southwestern pueblos, Plains drawings and regalia, and rare accessories from the eastern Woodlands.

Natural Disasters . Fall 2018

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Five Ways Cultural Institutions, Landmarks and Zoos Are Prepping for Hurricane Florence

Many museums are closing their doors, while zoos and aquariums are moving their animals indoors

By Meilan Solly

September 13, 2018

SMARTNEWS Keeping you current

Five Ways Cultural Institutions, Landmarks and Zoos Are Prepping for Hurricane Florence

The first stage of Hurricane Florence’s onslaught began this morning, battering the Carolinas with rainfall predicted to reach up to 40 inches, winds of up to 110 miles per hour and storm surges measuring up to 13 feet. Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane late last night, but as Steve Kiggins reports for USA Today, the storm still poses an unprecedented threat to the southeast coast. Roughly 10 million individuals living in the Carolinas and Virginia are currently under storm watches or warnings, and one of the region’s top power suppliers, Duke Energy, warns that Florence could leave millions without power for weeks on end.

The Associated Press’ Jeffrey Collins writes that the eye of the storm is expected to reach land as early as Friday, lingering along the eastern seaboard over the coming days and generating catastrophic inland flooding. As Florence approaches, here’s how zoos, museums and cultural institutions across the southeast are preparing.

According to The Virginian-Pilot’s Stacy Parker, the Virginia Zoo’s more than 500 critters and the Virginia Aquarium’s thousands of marine animals are headed indoors, trading in their normal enclosures for shelter in “permanent, secure buildings.” Staffers from both institutions will remain with the animals over the course of the storm, providing medical care and tracking any damage incurred.

Flooding is a particular concern, as both the zoo and the aquarium are located on Virginia’s eastern shore, but personnel are working to thwart a potential storm surge by securing loose items and maintaining the properties’ back-up generators. Although floodwaters have previously reached the zoo’s parking lot, zoo spokesperson Ashley Mars tells ABC News’ Meghan Keneally that “we’ve never really had any flooding on zoo grounds.”

Similar preparations are underway in the Carolinas: The State’s Jeff Wilkinson reports that the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, began moving its birds indoors earlier this week. As zoo spokesperson Susan O’Cain tells Wilkinson, “Several of our outdoor exhibits are not made to withstand hurricane winds.” Other local zoos, including the Lynnwood Park Zoo near Jacksonville, North Carolina, and Charleston’s South Carolina Aquarium, have closed in preparation for the storm.

Keneally writes that the majority of the roughly 150 dogs and cats housed at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter in northeastern North Carolina will also ride out the storm in place. Manager Judy Anthony has found temporary foster homes for about 30 of the animals, but the remaining ones will stay at the shelter under the care of a staff member or volunteer who will check in and feed them “as conditions allow.”

The area’s wild animals will need to battle the storm on their own, but as Denise Lavoie reports for the Associated Press, at least one group is expected to escape largely unscathed. The Outer Banks’ famed wild horses are well-versed in storm survival and instinctively know how to protect themselves.

“They know where to go to stay high and dry and are probably in better shape right now than most of us humans who are scrambling with final preparations,” the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, an organization dedicated to one of the area’s herds, wrote on its Facebook page earlier this week. “They are much better off without any help from us; anything we might do in the hopes of ‘protecting’ them would probably end up being more dangerous and stressful for them than the storm.”

Museums and cultural institutions across the Carolinas and Virginia are closing ahead of the storm’s arrival

In North Carolina, Cape Hatteras’ North Carolina Maritime Museums, Raleigh’s North Carolina Museum of Art, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum and Fayetteville’s Museum of the Cape Fear are amongst the many museums shutting their doors through the weekend. The state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources has a comprehensive list of closings.

Patriot Points Naval and Maritime Museum, the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry and the South Carolina State Library are several of the institutions closing in South Carolina. The Post and Courier and Fox24 have more complete lists of local closings.

The latest forecasts suggest Virginia will not be as heavily hit as the Carolinas, but state museums and cultural centers are still readying themselves for the worst. Amongst the institutions locking their doors are the Chrysler Museum of Art, Glass Studio and historic houses and the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. The Virginian-Pilot has a list of most regional closings, cancellations and postponements.

Kris King, executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, tells Charleston City Paper’s Connelly Hardaway that museums, particularly those housed in historic estates, follow a general set of rules when preparing for storms: pull furniture into the center of the room, put plastic over everything and store the most valuable items on the second floor (the first floor may flood, and the roof could blow off of the third floor).

Major tourist sites and historical landmarks are readying themselves for the worst. The aftershocks of the storm could pose a significant threat to the region’s thriving tourism industries

Agence France-Presse reports that Charleston, South Carolina, boasts a $4.2 billion tourism industry. The oldest and largest city in the southern state, Charleston is home to Civil War icon Fort Sumter, as well as Revolutionary War bunker Fort Moultrie. Both forts, as well as the numerous national parks in the area, have been closed since Tuesday, according to The Post and Courier.

Charleston is also home to an array of historic estates that require a different form of hurricane preparation than newer houses. Some of these houses serve as public tourist attractions. Charleston City Paper’s Hardaway writes that older homes tend to exhibit “structural sturdiness.” Still, the buildings’ high number of windows leave them vulnerable to gales of wind and heavy rainfall.


North Carolina’s most significant tourism draw, the 200-mile-long string of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks, once hosted Orville and Wilbur Wright’s historic first flight, as well as the mysterious colonial settlement of Roanoke. The town of Kitty Hawk, site of the Wright Brothers’ record-breaking launch, is under a mandatory evacuation notice. A museum dedicated to the triumph has been closed for renovations since 2016 and was scheduled to re-open on September 28.

The Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily notes that the three areas constituting America’s Historic Triangle—Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown—have not opted to close, as the storm’s most devastating effects are projected to bypass southern Virginia. Still, AFP points out that the sites are susceptible to flooding.

Many universities, public schools, government offices and local businesses are closing in anticipation of Florence. Hundreds of cultural events have been postponed or canceled

Higher education institutions ranging from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, to the College of Charleston and Raleigh’s North Carolina State University have cancelled classes and/or evacuated students. As Science magazine’s Frankie Schembri reports, researchers at affected universities are scrambling to protect their life’s work: NC State toxicologist Heather Patisaul says that she and her research team moved their “most precious samples” to freezers equipped with backup power generators. She adds, “I’m also going to have at least two coolers of dry ice at home. So, if our freezers go down, at the very least I can get into campus with those coolers and get our most precious samples on dry ice.”

Ann Ross, a forensic anthropologist at NC State, tells Schembri that she’s most concerned about maintaining her lab’s security during a power outage, as some of the human and animal remains she and her team study relate to ongoing law enforcement investigations.

Listings of public school, government and local business closings are available at The Port City Daily, The Post and Courier and The Virginian-Pilot.

Singer-songwriter J. Cole’s inaugural Dreamville Festival, a celebration of North Carolina music culture that was expected to bring 35,000 people to Raleigh this weekend, is one of the most prominent events shuttered by Florence. The News & Observer’s David Menconi reports that festival organizers hope to reschedule the event.

SPARKcon, an annual arts festival held in downtown Raleigh, has also been postponed. INDY Week has a more comprehensive list of North Carolina event cancellations and delays.

Some are looking to the past, hoping to learn from previous storms such as 1989’s Hurricane Hugo

Yesterday, AccuWeather’s Jonathan Petramala posted a Twitter video describing a hurricane-centric exhibit at the Wrightsville Beach History Museum in North Carolina. A post marks the heights reached by prior floodwaters, such as the 10-feet storm surges of Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and the more than 17-feet surges of Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Comparatively, Florence is expected to produce storm surges measuring up to 13 feet.

Outside magazine’s Wes Siler notes that many are comparing Florence to Hurricane Hugo, a category four hurricane that made landfall north of Charleston in September 1989. Ultimately, Hugo damaged or destroyed 108,658 South Carolina homes, trailers or apartments, claimed 19 lives, and caused $6.9 billion in damage.

It’s possible that Florence will be even more devastating than Hugo, Eric Holthaus writes for Grist. “Florence’s deluge will extend inland for hundreds of miles, which would flood virtually every river and stream in the Carolinas,” Holthaus explains. “Worst of all, Florence will likely slide southward after reaching the shore, following the coastline and inflicting damage down to Charleston ... or as far south as Savannah, Georgia. In contrast, Hugo’s landfall was relatively quick, weakening to a tropical storm in less than a day. Florence’s long coastal tour could take as long as two and a half days.”

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Major US tourist sites in path of Hurricane Florence

CHARLESTON, SC.- From Charleston's colonial mansions with finely-crafted balustrades, to fragile Outer Banks beaches, to exalted centers of American history, the tourism-heavy US East Coast is facing a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence.

Here is an overview of key sites under threat.

Charleston, South Carolina

The 130,000 residents of this water-surrounded colonial gem are accustomed to flooding. Founded in the 17th Century, the historic city sits on a peninsula overlooking the Atlantic. Hardy Charlestonians often throw "storm parties" in the face of brutal weather. But this time the entire population of the city -- and coastal South Carolina -- is under an evacuation order.

The full force of Florence is threatening the city's colonial structures, cobblestone streets and dozens of bohemian bars and cafes, which delight the region's five million annual visitors. A direct hit on Charleston could shock the area's $4.2 billion tourism industry, which employs more than 47,000 people.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

This 200-mile-long (320 km) stretch of barrier islands is lined with pristine beaches that draw a wild and picturesque line between the vast Atlantic and the North Carolina mainland.

Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright made history's first successful motorized airplane flights here, in December 1903 between the wind-swept dunes of Kitty Hawk. A museum on the site has been undergoing renovations for two years and was due to re-open September 28.

It was on one of the islands, Roanoke, that explorers attempted in the late 16th century to found the first permanent English settlement in North America. One of the settlers who sailed back to Europe found no one on his return to Roanoke, and only the letters "Croatoan," the name of an Indian tribe, engraved on a tree.

For centuries the fate of the "Lost Colony" has remained shrouded in mystery.

Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach

Large expanses of fine sand are flanked by miles of grand hotels, restaurants, and boardwalks in South Carolina's Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach, further north in Virginia. The popular destinations are particularly vulnerable to the full force of stormy seas. Millions of tourists visit each year, lured by mild weather until late in the summer season.

Civil War and colonial sites

Fort Sumter, near Charleston, was site of an artillery battle between Union and Confederate forces that launched the American Civil War, on April 12, 1861. The fortress, including its cannons, is today among the major attractions of the region.

Further north in Virginia, the beautifully preserved colonial city of Williamsburg, and nearby historical sites of Jamestown and Yorktown, are not under evacuation orders but could suffer flooding as they are near waterways.


Washington is a prime tourist zone, with more than 20 million visitors last year. Between the US Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall is home to world-class museums, celebrated monuments and the White House, all of which could face flooding in the event Hurricane Florence brings her wrath northward.

The mayor of the city, which is famously built on a swamp, declared a state of emergency Tuesday to mobilize resources in preparation for the storm.

Across the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, authorities began distributing sandbags on Monday to fight flooding in sections of the historic downtown already besieged by weeks of heavy rain.

© Agence France-Presse

Personal insight.

As I read through the hundreds of articles about hurricane Florence I just can’t help but think about all of the devastating hurricanes that rolled through the eastern coast over the last few years and the impact they have had on people today and years to come. Hurricanes Ike, Sandy, Harvey, Irma, and Maria have all been extreme natural disasters that have caused many coastal cities susceptible to catastrophic Hurricanes to prepare accordingly. Every article I have come across tells the same story, “Major art moved days before hurricane hit” and “our disaster plan preparation has been put into motion”. It looks like the Carolina’s were appropriately informed and have learned from the mistakes of other museums thus becoming proactive in lieu of this storm. It has been a few weeks since the storm has hit and yes it was catastrophic for everyone in the area but no major artworks seem to have been damaged. The MFAH is a great role model for other museums. A team, assembled for large threats, devised a disaster plan during Harvey that was tailored to the exact threats he imposed. Moving art work, lining sandbags around the facility, and wrapping up sculptress are just some of the ways that they prepared. By sleeping in the museum during the hurricane, the MFAH staff was ready for any outcome, and prepared to change directions on a fly if the storm brought about something unexpected. This preparedness is something that was seen during hurricane Florence. Important art work was driven out of immediately threatened coastal areas while staff hurried to move parts of the remaining collections to higher ground. The storm was devastating but in regards to major art work in Museums across the coast it was a success. Yes there were a few set backs but over all the priceless artwork was saved.

By Emily Duffy

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Raging fire tears through Rio de Janeiro's treasured National Museum

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP).- A massive fire ripped through Rio de Janeiro's treasured National Museum, one of Brazil's oldest, in what the nation's president says is a "tragic" loss of knowledge and heritage.

Even before the embers had begun to cool early Monday, grief over the huge cultural loss had given way to anger at across-the-board budget cuts threatening Brazil's multi-cultural heritage.

The museum's destruction caused a social media outcry and students and researchers gathered to demonstrate outside its still-smoldering remains.

"It's not enough just to cry, it is necessary that the federal government, which has resources, helps the museum to reconstruct its history," the museum's director Alexandre Keller said in front of the devastated building.

The fire, the cause of which remains unknown, broke out late Sunday at around 2230 GMT.

The majestic edifice -- which was closed to the public when the fire started -- was swept by flames as plumes of smoke shot into the night sky, while scores of firefighters battled to control the blaze.

Five hours later they had managed to smother much of the inferno that had torn through hundreds of rooms, but were still working to extinguish it completely, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

By morning the extent of the loss was still unclear -- although a fire department spokesman told AFP there were no reports of victims so far.

Charred ruins

Firefighters were poised to enter the charred ruins to see what might be salvageable, the spokesman added, warning that it would be dangerous.

"The facade is resistant, but a lot of material fell from the roof," he said. "We are going to proceed with great care, to see if we can save something."

The natural history and anthropology museum -- founded in 1818 and home to over 20 million valuable pieces -- has suffered from funding cuts, forcing it to close some of its spaces to the public.

The head of finance and planning at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, on which the museum depends, described the destruction as "a loss to the whole world."

"We are not going to put up with this strangulation of public resources anymore," Roberto Antonio Gambine Moreira told AFP.

"This is a sign of the lack of investment, a lack of resources, and the consequences that brings," he said.

The museum's collection included art and artifacts from Greco-Roman times and Egypt, as well as the oldest human fossil found within today's Brazilian borders, known as "Luzia."

It also housed the skeleton of a dinosaur found in the Minas Gerais region along with the largest meteorite discovered in Brazil, which was named "Bendego" and weighed 5.3 tons.

Pieces covering a period of nearly four centuries -- from the arrival of the Portuguese in the 1500s until the declaration of the first Brazilian republic in 1889 -- were also stored there.

"This is a tragic day for Brazil," President Michel Temer said in a statement. "Two hundred years of work and research and knowledge are lost."

'Culture is grieving'

Brazil's minister of culture, Sergio Sa Leitao, tweeted that "there will be little or nothing left of the palace and the exhibits."

A deputy director at the museum, Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, voiced "profound discouragement and immense anger" as the treasured institution burned, accusing Brazilian authorities of a "lack of attention."

He said the museum, a former palace that was once the official residence of the Portuguese royal family, had never had necessary support.

The fire comes as campaigning for October's critical presidential vote gets underway, one of the most uncertain Brazilian elections in decades.

Senator Lindbergh Farias of the country's leftist Workers' Party hit out at the institution's lack of funding and blamed it on spending cuts ordered by the government.

'Lobotomy' of national memory

Sa Leitao, who in July 2017 became culture minister under Temer -- a deeply unpopular center-right leader -- acknowledged that "the tragedy could have been avoided" but said "the problems of the National Museum have been piling up over time."

The minister recalled that in 2015 under the government of leftist Dilma Rousseff the museum had been closed for maintenance.

Leitao also said the fire struck just after the South American country's National Development Bank had signed a sponsorship contract aimed at revitalization.

He said a reconstruction project would be set in motion, adding "this tragedy serves as a lesson."

"Brazil needs to take better care of its cultural heritage and the collections of its museums," he said.

Meanwhile Marina Silva, a former environment minister who is running for president, called the blaze "equivalent to a lobotomy of the Brazilian memory."

The collection, she said, "contains objects that helped define the national identity -- and are now turning to ashes."

© Agence France-Presse

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Brazil orders museums to boost fire protection

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP).- Brazil has issued a 30-day deadline to improve fire protection at six federal museums, a week after a blaze gutted Rio de Janeiro's treasured National Museum.

Federal Judge Geraldine Pinto Vital ordered that steps be taken immediately at the museums of the Republic, Villa-Lobos, De la Chacara do Ceu, Do Acude, National Fine Arts and the National Historical Museum.

The Public Prosecutor's Office ordered the six closed temporarily because they did not have the authorization of the firefighters to operate.

On the night of September 2, a fire destroyed the three floors of the National Museum, which had a collection of some 20 million pieces. It was the country's oldest.

The causes of the incident continue to be investigated.

The historical institution, linked to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), had suffered cuts in funding, which forced it to close several of its spaces to the public.

© Agence France-Presse

Mayan Archaeology. Fall 2018

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Ancient altar reveals Mayan 'Game of Thrones' dynasty

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP).- A 1,500 year old Mayan altar discovered in a

small archeological site in northern Guatemala is drawing comparisons to popular

fantasy drama television series "Game of Thrones" for its descriptions of the Kaanul dynasty's

political strategies aimed at bringing entire cities under its control.

The altar, carved out of limestone and weighing around one ton was found at the La Corona

archeological site in the jungle region close to the borders with Mexico and Belize, Tomas Barrientos,

co-director of excavations and investigations at the site told journalists.

Barrientos said the altar was found in a temple and showed King Chak Took Ich'aak, La Corona's ruler, "sitting and holding a scepter from which emerge two patron gods of the city."

According to studies, the 1.46-meter by 1.2-meter slab contains a hieroglyphic Mayan inscription corresponding to May 12, 544.

Other discoveries have allowed researchers to determine that King Chak Took Ich'aak also governed the nearby city of El Peru-Waka some 20 years later.

Barrientos says these pieces of evidence show that the Kaanul dynasty, or Serpent Kingdom, developed a political movement in La Corona that allowed them to defeat their Tikal "arch rivals" in 562 and thereafter rule the Mayan lowlands in southeast Mesoamerica for two centuries.

'Mayan Game of Thrones'

That political movement was based around alliances with small cities surrounding Tikal ahead of the final victory push.

Alongside those revelations, researchers also found details of a wedding between a princess from the Serpent Kingdom and a King of La Corona, Barrientos said.

"This altar shows us a part of Guatemala's history and in this case, around 1,500 years ago, I would call this the historical Mayan version of Game of Thrones," he added, comparing the Kaanul kingdom's maneuvering to that in Game of Thrones of noble families competing over control of the seven kingdoms.

Barrientos said the altar "fills in the gaps" and "pieces together the puzzle" of the Mayan culture's political relationships.

"It's a high quality work of art that shows us they were rulers entering into a period of great power and who were allying themselves with others to compete, in this case, with Tikal."

La Corona "was the place where the most important historical Mayan political movement began to take shape."

The Serpent Kingdom expanded from its capital Dzibanche to present day north Guatemala, Belize and the Mexican state of Campeche but was finally defeated by Tikal.

Dangerous excavations

"Having information about what happened next, how they were plotting a political strategy here, teaches us a lot about politics in those times and the fight for territory," said Barrientos.

Excavating and investigating in the remote Mayan Biosphere Reserve where La Corona lies can be hazardous, though.

The region is constantly at threat from looting, invasions and incursions by criminal gangs, drug-traffickers and illegal ranchers, accused by environmentalists and authorities of starting forest fires that damage pre-Columbian monuments.

Culture deputy minister, Gladys Palala, told AFP that authorities are trying to counter encroachment by criminal groups besieging Peten, an area ripe with "archeological remains."

"Wherever you go and excavate, you find (something). It's an eminently archeological area," she said.

The Mayan culture reached its apogee during the classical period from 250-900 before going into decline over the next 300 years.

© Agence France-Presse

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The Maya civilization used chocolate as money

By Joshua Rapp LearnJun. 27, 2018 , 11:45 AM

Your Hershey bar may have been worth its weight in gold in Mayan times. A new study reveals that chocolate became its own form of money at the height of Mayan opulence—and that the loss of this delicacy may have played a role in the downfall of the famed civilization.

The study is on the right track, says David Freidel, an anthropologist and Maya expert at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who was not involved with the work. Chocolate “is a very prestigious food,” he says, “and it [was] almost certainly a currency.”

The ancient Maya never used coins as money. Instead, like many early civilizations, they were thought to mostly barter, trading items such as tobacco, maize, and clothing. Spanish colonial accounts from the 16th century indicate that the Europeans even used cacao beans—the basis for chocolate—to pay workers, but it was unclear whether the substance was a prominent currency before their arrival.

To find out, Joanne Baron, an archaeologist with the Bard Early College Network—a network of schools that focus on college-level teaching for high school–aged students—in Newark, New Jersey, analyzed Mayan artwork. She focused on published research and other available Maya images during the Classic Maya period from about 250 C.E. to about 900 C.E. in the southern Maya lowlands in modern-day Mexico and Central America. The objects—including murals, ceramic paintings, and carvings—depict typical market exchanges and tribute payments to Maya kings.

Chocolate didn’t pop up much in the earliest art, Baron found, but it became more prevalent by the 8th century C.E. That’s also around the time people seem to be using it as money—that is, an item widely accepted as payment for goods or services rather than a one-off barter. The Maya usually consumed their cacao as a hot drink, a steamy broth served in a clay cup. One of the earliest depictions of it used in exchange dates to the mid-7th century. In a painted mural displayed in a pyramid that may have been a central marketplace near the Guatemalan border, a woman offers a bowl of what looks like frothing hot chocolate to a man in return for dough used for making tamales. This early depiction suggests that although chocolate was being bartered at this point, it may not have been traded as a form of currency, Baron says.

But later evidence shows that chocolate became a little more like coins—in the form of fermented and dried cacao beans. Baron documented about 180 different scenes on ceramics and murals from about 691 C.E. through 900 C.E. which show commodities delivered to Maya leaders as a tribute, or a kind of tax. Goods like tobacco and maize grain are sometimes given as tribute, but the items that pop up most in these scenes are pieces of woven cloth and bags labeled with the quantity of dried cacao beans they contain, she reports in Economic Anthropology.

Baron believes the fact that Maya kings collected cacao and woven cloth as tax shows that both had become a currency at this point. “They are collecting way more cacao than the palace actually consumes,” she says, adding that the surplus was probably used to pay palace workers or to buy things at the marketplace.

Freidel says cacao was almost universally loved by the Maya. But it would have been far more prized than crops like maize because cacao trees are susceptible to crop failure and didn’t grow well near Maya cities.

Some scholars believe drought led to the downfall of the Classic Maya civilization. Baron speculates that the disruption of the cacao supply which fueled political power may have led to an economic breakdown in some cases.

Freidel says the rise in artistic depictions of cacao may not necessarily indicate increased importance as a currency. As the Classic Maya period unfolded, he says, more and more people wrote things down and painted murals or pottery scenes. “Is it actually getting more important or are we just learning more about it?”

He is also skeptical that the loss of cacao contributed to the Maya’s downfall. Cacao beans were not the only type of currency, Freidel notes—woven cloth and other goods like maize grain or certain types of green stone were also possibly used as money. “My guess is that one commodity crashing would not cause the system to crash.”

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Tulane archaeologist leads team to major Maya find

September 12, 2018 11:45 AM

A team of archaeologists co-led by Tulane University professor Marcello A. Canuto has discovered a nearly 1,500-year-old carved altar at the Classic Maya site of La Corona, located in jungle forest of the Petén in northern Guatemala.

The discovery, announced Sept. 12, 2018 at the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Guatemala City, presents new evidence for how a powerful kingdom – known as Kaanul dynasty – began its two-century domination of much of the lowland Maya region.

“The discovery of this altar allows us to identify an entirely new king of La Corona who apparently had close political ties with the capital of the Kaanul kingdom, Dzibanche, and with the nearby city of El Peru-Waka,” said Canuto, director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane and co-director of the La Corona Regional Archaeological Project (PRALC).

The altar is made of limestone and displays the image of previously unknown king, Chak Took Ich’aak, carrying a double-headed serpent effigy from which the site’s patron gods emerge. It is accompanied by a column of hieroglyphs that record the end of a half-katun period in the Long Count Maya calendar corresponding to May 12, 544 AD.

“For several centuries during the Classic period, the Kaanul kings dominated much of the Maya Lowlands,” said Tomas Barrientos, co-director of the project and director of the Center for Archaeological and Anthropological Research at the University of the Valley of Guatemala. “This altar contains information about their early strategies of expansion, demonstrating that La Corona played an important role in the process from the beginning.

The team also included David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center of the University of Texas at Austin along with Guatemalan archaeologists Maria Antonieta Cajas and Alejandro González.

Since 2008, Canuto and Barrientos have directed a multidisciplinary research program focused on the Maya city and involving archaeological excavation, hieroglyphic decipherment, regional settlement analysis using LiDAR imagery as well as a variety of chemical and material analyses. The PRALC will continue investigating the altar to better understand its importance and to define how the Kaanul kingdom came to exercise power over much of the Maya Lowlands.

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Cross-Legged Woman's Tomb Reveals Ancient Maya Kept Jaguars in Cages

By Rafi Letzter, Staff Writer | September 12, 2018 02:00pm ET

A tomb in the ancient Maya city of Copán, in Honduras, holds the skeleton of a young woman who was cross-legged, surrounded by large animals. The bones of two deer and a crocodile lay alongside her. And most impressive: A complete puma skeleton was also found in the tomb, apparently slaughtered as part of the burial ritual. They'd all been there since the year A.D. 435, early in Maya history.

Now, researchers say the puma skeleton may have been domesticated, according to a paper published today (Sept. 12) in the journal PLOS One that describes the cross-legged woman's tomb. That ancient puma was part of a vast scheme of big-cat domestication, the researchers wrote.

"Encoded into the bones of jaguars and pumas at the Maya site of Copán was evidence of both captivity and of expansive trade networks," Nawa Sugiyama, an archaeologist at George Mason University in Virginia, and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Exotic animal burials

It's not uncommon for archaeologists to find the remains of big cats and other animals in Mesoamerican cities. At one site alongside a sacrificial altar in Copán, there were so many mixed-up remains of big cats, packed so tightly, that excavators took to calling them "jaguar stew," the researchers wrote in the study.

But those animals, buried as part of rituals performed in the city, have revealed new insights about life in Copán. Though people living in the Americas in that period were known to only have domesticated dogs and turkeys, chemical analysis of the big cats and other animals found in the city reveal that they, too, were kept and raised in captivity, and not merely hunted from local game grounds. [Prince's Tomb: Images from a Mayan Excavation]

The first evidence of large captive animal populations at Copán, the researchers wrote, is that the surrounding wilderness simply wasn't big or rich enough to support all the big cats found in these sites. And careful analysis of the bones suggests that at least some of the animals weren't living in the wild at all — meaning that early Mesoamericans kept and traded big cats and other animals far earlier than archaeologists realized.

Animals including jaguars and pumas, but also deer and birds, were likely kept in pens and traded around the Copán valley, the researchers found. That means there was a significant animal trade in South American more than 1,000 years before Moctezuma, ruler of Technochitlan, kept a famous zoo of sacrificial animals.

The evidence for domestication was revealed in the bones of the jaguar, puma and other felids found around Copán, which were often were rich in C4, a carbon-containing molecule common in agricultural plants like maize, but not wild plants. That means those big cats were likely eating captive prey fed human food — meaning they themselves were likely kept in captivity, the researchers wrote. However, other bones found at the same site were rich in C3, a molecule common in wild plants in the region, suggesting they ate a wild diet. That means, the researchers wrote, that the people of Copán likely kept big cats in captivity and slaughtered them. But they would supplement those slaughters with cats killed in wild hunts.

Studies of pelts, deer and other animal remains found around Copán also revealed oxygen isotopes, or versions of oxygen with different numbers of neutrons, that probably didn't come from the local area. Likely, the researchers wrote, the people of Copán were keeping not just big cats in captivity but a whole range of animals, and trading their furs, skins and other byproducts far and wide.

Originally published on Live Science.

Peruvian Archaeology. Fall 2018

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All Bundled Up


Sept/Oct 2018

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Archaeologists working at Pachacamac, a pre-Columbian pilgrimage site and ceremonial center on the coast of Peru, have uncovered a well-preserved mummy buried sometime between A.D. 1000 and 1200. The team discovered the mummy while excavating remains of a structure once devoted to local ancestors. The building appears to have been transformed into a ritual healing facility when the Inca Empire absorbed Pachacamac in the late fifteenth century. “We knew there was an important cemetery beneath the building, which had been continually looted since the Spanish conquest in 1533,” says Peter Eeckhout of the Université libre de Bruxelles, who has directed excavations at the site since 1999. “Finding the burial in such a perfect state is miraculous.” Researchers will soon examine the mummy using medical imaging and 3-D reconstruction technology to determine the individual’s position within the bundle, detect possible diseases or injuries, and discover any grave goods included with the remains.

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Archaeologists unearth 3,800-year-old wall relief in Peru

Date 17.08.2018

Wall carvings were found in what was once a fishing city of the Caral civilization, the oldest in the Americas. The relief is thought to symbolize a period of drought and famine brought on by climate change.

Archaeologists discovered an ancient wall relief in Peru, belonging to the oldest civilizations in the Americas, news agency Andina reported on Thursday. The wall is approximately 3,800 years old and portrays snakes and human heads.

One meter (3.2 feet) high and 2.8 meters long, the wall relief was discovered in the sea-side archaeological site of Vichama, 110 kilometers (68 miles) north of Peru's capital, Lima.

The Vichama site is one of the excavation points of the recently discovered Caral civilization, also known as Norte Chico, and has been explored by archaeologists since 2007.

The Caral civilization is 5,000 years old, making it the oldest civilization in the Americas, and flourished at the same time as the thriving Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Chinese civilizations. The Caral people lived in the Supe Valley along the north-central coast of Peru.

Dating back to 1800 and 3500 B.C., Vichama is thought to have been a fishing community and one of the Caral peoples' various cities. The wall was made of adobe, a clay-like material from which bricks are made and was located at the entry point of a ceremonial hall.

Documenting climate change

The wall relief shows four human heads, side by side, their eyes closed, with two snakes passing between and around them. The snakes point their heads to what appears to be a humanoid seed symbol that is digging into the soil.

Archaeologist Ruth Shady, who oversees the site and announced the discovery, hypothesized that the serpents represent a water deity that irrigates the earth and makes seeds grow.

Shady said the relief was likely done towards the end of a drought and famine that the Caral civilization experienced. Other reliefs discovered nearby showed emaciated humans.

Archaeologists believe that the relief discovery reinforces the notion that these early humans were attempting to depict the difficulties they faced due to climate change and water scarcity, which had a large impact on their agricultural production.

The Caral excavation site has so far unearthed the ruins of 22 buildings in a 25-hectare space, dating back to between 1800 and 1500 B.C.

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Pre-Incan archaeological remains found in Huancayo

MICHAEL KRUMHOLTZ Article Updated: August 3, 2018

Archaeologists working at the Wariwillka site in Huancayo have dug up what they are calling evidence of a pre-Incan culture known as the Wari. Peru’s Culture Ministry confirmed the findings Thursday after they were accidentally discovered when a construction project leveled off a structure in the area.

“We are recovering and safeguarding archaeological heritage in accordance with National Cultural Heritage Law,” on-site archaeologist Ronald Sullca told state-run news agency Andina. “We’ve found some lithic remains, fragments of ceramics, human bone remains, and a salvage procedure is being performed before handing them over to Culture Ministry for their protection.”

It is initially believed that the findings are from the Wari culture, which was present from around 500 to 1000 AD in a large portion of Peru, mainly along the coastline. However, the exact location of the findings was a popular zone for numerous civilizations over the course of different centuries.

“We are going to analyze them (the bones and artifacts) to determine whether they belong to Wari period since the place is located 100 meters away from the archaeological complex of Wariwillka, known as Wankas’ place of origin,” Sullca said.

The current dig area is private land of 500-square meters owned by a local man named Porfirio Aquino who bought it a few decades ago.

Another archaeologist on site commented to Andina that the current excavation spot was most likely a burial site for the Wari culture.

Photo of the day

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Repatriated archaeological pieces from different Peruvian ancient cultures are shown at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lima, on September 20, 2018. The 1.785 repatriated pieces come from countries such as Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Ecuador, United States, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland, according to the Peruvian Chancellor, Nestor Popolizio. ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP

Tribal Fairs and Market overview. Fall 2018

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Parcours des Mondes 2018: The world's leading tribal art show opens in September

PARIS.- In its sixteen years of existence, Parcours des Mondes has established itself as the world’s most important international tribal art show. This multiple-venue, open-air art fair is always enjoyable and often benefits from Indian summer weather. It affords visitors the opportunity to visit galleries from around the world specializing in the arts of Africa, Oceania, the Americas, as well as the arts of Asia. For its seventeenth edition, held from September 11 through September 16, 2018, in the heart of Paris’ Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, collectors, aficionados, and the merely curious will, as has become customary, embark on a voyage through the customs and rituals of the world’s traditional cultures, expressed through representations that are sometimes human, sometimes animal, sometimes decorative, and sometimes utilitarian. The 2018 Parcours des Mondes will center around three main events: an homage to the legendary 1930 exhibition that was held at the Galerie du Théâtre Pigalle, a series of lectures and conversations that will take place at the Espace Tribal, and the thematic exhibitions that many of the participating galleries will present. Of course, the wealth of the Parcours des Mondes’ offerings makes it a destination both for the galleries that exhibit there and for its visitors, who come from the world over to attend.


Adam Lindemann is this year’s honorary president. A major force on the contemporary art scene, but also a major collector and aficionado of tribal art, Lindemann operates Venus Over Manhattan in New York City. He is the author of Collecting Contemporary, a work that became a collectors’ bible of sorts soon after it was published by Taschen in 2006. His presidency of Parcours des Mondes underscores the importance of the relationships between the fields of tribal and contemporary art.


An homage to the legendary 1930 exhibition organized by Tristan Tzara, Charles Ratton, and Pierre Loeb at the Galerie du Théâtre Pigalle in Paris will be presented at Espace Tribal in the form of a thematic exhibition. The brainchild of Nicolas Rolland and Charles Wesley-Hourdé—two young players on the tribal art market—in collaboration with Tribal Art magazine, the show will reunite a selection of artworks that were displayed at this historic event, the impact of which was decisive in developing a taste and a market for tribal art. The inclusion of archival documents and photographs will enhance the presentation. The 1930 show will also be the subject of morning lecture programs at Café Tribal and the evening discussions that have made Espace Tribal well known as a place for reflection and the sharing of knowledge at Parcours des Mondes.


On first blush, Parcours des Mondes may appear to be a trip through time to experience the mores and cultures of an exotic “other,” as perceived from the perspective of the “self” with which we are so familiar. However, in reality the event invites us to take an internal journey to consider themes and issues that are fundamentally universal but to which approaches vary from continent to continent. The focused exhibitions that will be presented by a number of Parcours des Mondes’ galleries are a manifestation of this concept. The fair demonstrates that art is the reflection of human experience without limits or borders, in which representation and ritual provide portals to the incomprehensible and sacred phenomenon of life.

The exhibitions that galleries are planning for the 2018 Parcours des Mondes will touch on the subjects of magic and the supernatural, since it is the very limits of our intellect that cause us to search our souls through artistic expression in the quest for answers to our eternal questions.

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Parcours des Mondes 2018: Closing report

PARIS.- ‘‘Long Live Parcours!” The phrase was on everyone’s lips, from beaming gallery owners to starryeyed visitors, collectors and even the casual observer. After its closing on Sunday 16 September, Parcours des Mondes 2018 has had much cause for celebration. The highly anticipated by the American collector Adam Lindemann, themed exhibitions of incredible diversity, an epic retrospective exhibition ‘‘Pigalle 1930, retour sur une exposition mythique’’ curated by Charles-Wesley Hourdé and Nicolas Rolland at the Espace Tribal, and a rich line-up while basking in the waning rays of the September sunshine – simply by looking through the programme of the day, the 17th edition boded well for a ravishing event. And it definitely did not disappoint – higher footfall, more amateur art enthusiasts among visitors, and most notably, American buyers making a huge comeback after several years of cautious attendance. A look back on a week at the heart of the realm of art and art collection.


Invited to preside over Parcours des Mondes 2018, Adam Lindemann, American art collector who helms Venus Over Manhattan, an art gallery specialising in iconoclastic exhibitions where historic and modern artworks mingle, was able to inject his dynamism tinged with modernity into the exotic ambiance of Parcours des Mondes. Apart from his writings about art and the records he has set at contemporary art auctions (Hanging Heart by Jeff Koons in 2007 and a Basquiat canvas in May 2016), this lover of the arts and culture, expressing his passion for the collection in flawless French, sets himself apart by the wealth and eclecticism of his collection, blending contemporary art with African and Oceanian art.

The makings of an ideal President, who won over journalists during the inaugural press conference through his erudition and authoritative knowledge of the artworks showcased during Parcours des Mondes 2018.

Whether it was a consequence or coincidence, what stood out for this edition was the return of American buyers in great numbers in the European market, according to Galerie Flak (Paris), Galerie Jean-Baptiste Bacquart (Paris), Galerie Abla & Alain Lecomte (Paris) and Christophe Hioco (Paris), to name just a few. The mix of visitors to the art fair was particularly international (USA, Europe in the widest sense of the term, Australia, etc), with two-thirds of visitors being foreigners and one-third of them French. German and Belgian visitors made up the largest number of European clients. This also serves to highlight the fact that many curators of international museums attended the opening of the event, a guarantee of the consistent quality of participating gallery owners’ selections.

In terms of number of visitors, the overall impression was one of record footfall. This was the case throughout the event, with visible peaks on opening day and Saturday. Indian Heritage (Paris) even called the increased amount of visitors a ‘tsunami’. Even though exact numbers cannot be obtained, it is estimated that there were a total of 12,000 visitors during the entire event. This tallied with the reality on the ground – both on weekdays and the weekend, the streets and pavements were packed and collectors made major purchases all the way until the event ended on Sunday.

While galleries are divided on the volume of new clients (few for Galerie JeanBaptiste Bacquart (Paris), more for Galerie Olivier Larroque (Nîmes)), they do agree on the increase in American visitors compared to previous years. Olivier Larroque reports an influx in relatively younger clients (between 30 and 40 years old), a sign of renewal and the arrival of a generation whose aesthetic and artistic preferences in art collection remain to be defined.

As usual, attendees included connoisseurs and seasoned buyers of tribal Asian and African art, but gallery owners were also pleased to notice many casual and curious browsers, few and far apart in earlier editions, who came by to admire all the undiscovered beauty on display. Some of them apparently have travelled across Paris (or Europe!) and made the rounds of the galleries just for the occasion, a promising sign that underscores the importance of Parcours des Mondes on the international scene for primitive and Asian arts. This is an observation that Julien Flak confirms, adding that ‘‘this edition once again maintains the central, unsurpassed position that Parcours occupies in the annual schedule of [his] business worldwide’’.

All of these newcomers may have been drawn to this fair by the introduction of contemporary art, symbolised by Adam Lindemann’s appointment to the position of Honorary President, as much as the dynamism that individual exhibitions by galleries have breathed into the fair.


Through their wealth, abundance and quality, themed exhibitions have once again drawn curious onlookers and art enthusiasts into the dimmed interiors of galleries. The variety of themes on display reflects the conscientious and specialised research that went into each exhibit, with the aim of arousing the attention of visitors.

Following the example of the exhibition organised by Galerie Abla & Alain Lecomte (Paris), ‘‘OBJETS MÉDECINE. OBJETS RITUELS’’, this method holds major potential for attracting and inducing acquisition. Stimulating buyers’ interest in the content of the object in addition to its aesthetic quality has therefore translated into a large number of significant sales, as soon as the event was declared open. The first sale was a Kafidelejo Sénoufo from the former collection of Allan Stone which was acquired by a French collector. As proof of the consistent quality that always creates buzz around such selections, the gallery confided that it could have sold the object to several clients, as interest in it was intense. The second object of significance was the Bambara Komo mask, which was also highly sought after and sold immediately at a price in the region of €20,000.

At Galerie Flak (Paris), ‘‘AfriCubisme. Ancient African Art and Cubism cross paths’’ made the (good) decision to cross styles by opposing works by pioneers of modern art (Vlaminck, Picasso, etc.) with about thirty Senoufo, Dan, Dogon, Tsogho, Songye, Lwalwa or Baga artworks, illustrating the same artistic convergence that lies at the heart of human creation, and ‘‘La Condition Humaine’’, the theme of the exhibition by Galerie Dandrieu-Giovagnoni (Rome) of three feminine statues.

Olivier Larroque took up the challenge of exhibiting the technical and aesthetic magnitude of miniature African sculptures while Galerie Bernard Dulon (Paris) showcased ‘‘Diamant noir’’, a Dan mask from the former Rasmussen collection.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, while realising how many objects were made from coconuts acquired from here and there over time, Anthony Meyer opted for this stimulating and alluring theme, conspicuously loaded with ideas of impartation and personal history, since some of the objects came from his father’s collection. Galerie Meyer - Oceanic & Eskimo Art therefore off ered the sale of part of this collection, based on the theme of coconuts, for an exhibition titled ‘‘Une exposition pas ... à la noix. La noix de coco dans tous ses états en Océanie’’. A humoristic break while browsing the extensive stretch of arts, cultures and galleries.

Espace Tribal remains the platform for fertile discussion on know-how and visions – between journalists and Adam Lindemann, during a highly fruitful and friendly discussion at the inaugural press conference on 11 September, between various types of audience and a historical and cultural approach to artefacts and the concept of collection and ‘collectionism’.

The radiating aura of prestige therefore seems to be the heart of the 2018 edition. To quote Julien Flak, Parcours des Mondes 2018 took place ‘‘with excellent energy and in an ambiance of sharing’’, represented by the ever-increasing number of themed exhibitions which were truly from the heart.


The retrospective exhibition ‘‘Pigalle 1930, retour sur une exposition mythique’’ organised by Charles-Wesley Hourdé and Nicolas Rolland, together with Tribal Art magazine, on the exhibition of African and Oceanian arts that was held at Galerie du Théâtre Pigalle in 1930, seemed to intrigue and engage the minds of visitors. Among the veteran objects gathered for the occasion, there were works that used to belong to Tristan Tzara and other illustrious persons with evocative names. In line with the change in vision that the 1930 exhibition established, they also denote continuity and the idea of imparting collectors’ preferences and know-how, and interest in works ‘‘with a history’’.

As such, Charles-Wesley Hourdé sold two objects whose stylistic equivalents already existed in the selection exhibited at Galerie du Théâtre Pigalle in 1930.

This ambitious project is an invitation to look at such objects differently and to gain a fresh perspective on ‘Negro’ art. As proof of the relevance of the issue and the success of the operation, during the inaugural press conference with Adam Lindemann, the initiative also spurred dialogue on the ‘tribal art’ label. Regardless of whether it is a passion for collection or cause for reflection and research, there is no doubt that the exhibition at Espace Tribal has provided food for thought, both on the practice of art collection itself, as well as on the value and position of these objects transposed into the European art market.


Art dealers have noticed museum curators’ growing interest in their galleries, going by the number of visits they have recorded.

The spine-chilling selection of objects from Galerie Mingei (Paris), for its theme ‘‘Supranatural. Yurei, Dokuro, Bakemono’’ did nothing to put off visitors and has even benefitted from the hype generated by the exhibition ‘‘Enfers et fantômes d’Asie’’ at Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac (10 April – 15 July 2018) which had included some artworks from Galerie Mingei.

In another vein, Galerie Abla & Alain Lecomte (Paris) has reported two American museums’ bids on the rare two-faced Toma mask and the Bakongo dog for rather large sums which remain secret. Egyptian art has also been doing well as two American museums have been able to acquire masterpieces. ‘‘These acquisitions prove once again that non-European art continues to fascinate, and with good reason,’’ commented Pierre Moos, Director of Parcours des Mondes.

Two trends therefore emerge in the report on museums based on this 17th edition of Parcours des Mondes.

This spirit of erudition can be felt in the beautiful, skilfully referenced catalogues that embellish themed exhibitions, in objects prized by enthusiasts, for want of acquiring some of these wonders. The high quality of these objects reveals itself both in their visual beauty as much as in their content, as shown in the catalogue of Mingei’s exhibition (Paris), made in a Japanese style with contributions by Christophe Marquet, Director of the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), Alain Briot, M.D., and member of the Société Asiatique (Institut de France) Kei Osawa - University of Tokyo.

With the retrospective exhibition at the Espace Tribal, they may indicate a change of course in the practice of art collection and how it is viewed, focusing on heritage and historical value, without losing sight of its aesthetic dimension.


According to Pierre Moos, ‘‘all the art dealers were unanimously in high spirits.’’ A general feeling that Yann Ferrandin, who has only praise for this year’s Parcours, confirms, calling it a venue for ‘‘beautiful encounters thanks to all these beautiful objects’’, adding that the quality of the selection and the concept of ‘favourites’ remain the inexhaustible crucible of this event. It is easy to see why: some dealers have sold almost 90% of their exhibited pieces and many gallery owners have sold several important artworks soon after the event opened, followed by steady sales throughout the rest of the fair. By Tuesday, Galerie Flak (Paris) had already sold the sculpture on the cover of its catalogue for the exhibition ‘‘AfriCubisme. Ancient African Art and Cubism cross paths’’ and several major pieces of ancient Eskimo art.

For the moment, no trends are emerging from this edition. Regardless of their specialisation, galleries are revelling in the record attendance and sales of various works, but themed selections seemed to have been the favourites for all visitors. While the gallery Christophe Hioco (Paris) reports that there were sales in every category of exhibited artwork, i.e., Indian art, Gandhara art, and Thai art, Indian Heritage (Paris) has indicated that its Himalayan masks made up the bulk of sales and has announced that it has sold the piece from the catalogue, a major work. A concentration of the same style within a gallery is a supporting element for sales.

As is the case every year, the prices of acquired artworks may range from below €3,000 to several multiples of that, such as the stern of a Maori war canoe sold by Galerie Jean-Baptiste Bacquart (Paris) to an American collector for more than €100,000. For the ‘‘Microcosm’’ exhibition, Olivier Larroque announced a price range of €1,000 to €28,000 inclusive and Indian Heritage (Paris) between €500 and €100,000 for its masks. The huge price bracket shows the event’s ability to keep up with changes in the preferences and dynamics of collections as well as the diversification of collectors’ statuses.

This edition has therefore succeeded in taking the opposite course in a delicate situation where auction houses have intensified the competition. The pieces exhibited appealed to buyers as they were attractive not only in terms of aesthetics, but their price tag as well. Apart from the undeniable quality of the selection, art dealers’ decision to review their pricing in order to offer potential buyers the desired pieces at realistic prices, and scaled to cater to all categories of clients (from a few thousand to several million euros), has therefore paid off.

To paraphrase Galerie Flak, it is highly satisfying to conclude on an ‘‘extremely positive initial assessment for this edition of Parcours’’ consisting of a ‘‘remarkable year in terms of sales, encounters and visitor volume’’ and an ‘‘assessment perfectly in line with previous editions’’, a reflection of the general mood that matched the warmth during the week of the event. We are all now eagerly looking forward to Parcours des Mondes 2019, which will be held from 10 to 15 September 2019. Until then, let us drift through the enjoyable memories, in search of the wonders that lit up the 2018 edition of Parcours des Mondes.

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Santa Fe Indian Market embraces the full spectrum of American Indian art establishing Native Art Week

SANTA FE, NM.- The world’s oldest, largest and most prestigious contemporary Native American art event, Santa Fe Indian Market, marks its 97th year by inviting some of the City’s leading institutions, galleries, art markets and Native cultural events, to join in the first coordinated Native Art Week, from August 12 – 19 in 2018. The founding members of Native Art Week have been invited based their academic and cultural importance— and in the case of commercial members, their reputation for authenticity and cultural sensitivity.

Announcing the establishment of Native Art Week, Santa Fe Indian Market Executive Director Ira Wilson said, “Native Art Week is an opportunity for the art community to combine efforts and let the world know that August in Santa Fe, NM, is the best place to experience Native American art.”

Native Art Week’s premier provides the public a coordinated, central calendar and web-page with detailed information on all member activities and direct links to all member’s websites— offering an easy way to explore and plan participation in the myriad of events which have grown up around Indian Market over the decades.

Native Art Week’s 2018 events include special exhibitions, tours and panel discussions by the Museum of Indian Art and Culture, The Wheelwright Museum, The Museum of International Folk Art, Project Indigene, the School of Advanced Research, The Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association (ATADA) and the Institute for American Indian Art. Three major antique shows featuring important works of Native Art occur during the week; Objects of Art, August 9-12; the Antique Indian and Ethnographic Art Show, August 10-13; and the Antique American Indian Art Show August 14-16. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase returns for its eighteenth year, screening films free of charge at the New Mexico Museum of History August 14-19.

Santa Fe galleries presenting special exhibits during Native Art Week include Andrea Fisher Gallery, Blue Rain Gallery, Brent Mackley Gallery, Ellsworth Gallery, Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art, Allan Houser Gallery, Faust Gallery, Peters Projects, The Gerald Peters Gallery, Nedra Matteucci Gallery, Morning Star Gallery, Sherwoods Spirit of America and Shiprock Santa Fe.

More than 100,000 visitors are expected to attend the week’s events to take advantage of an unparalleled opportunity to learn about and purchase both traditional and cutting-edge Native art works.

Upcoming Auctions. Fall 2018

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Binoche & Giquello to offer 43 miniature sculptures from the collection of Béatrice and Patrick Caput

PARIS.- Key figures on the African and Oceanic art scene, Béatrice and Patrick are offering their collection at auction. 43 precious miniature sculptures will be offered by auction house Binoche & Giquello at Drouot on Thurdsay 15 November.

Patrick Caput, international consultant and expert for African and Oceanic arts and his wife Béatrice have built their collection with passion for 50 years. All types of miniature artefacts will be featured, from daily objects to precious and fetish works of art.

Béatrice and Patrick Caput had very specific criteria when selecting an item to join their collection. It had to be ancient, to have had a story and then only, it had to reveal an emotion, either when touching the wood or just when admiring the beauty of the sculpture.

Patrick Caput is the son of a doctor who also had a passion for painting, poetry and collecting -mainly Chinese art-, and of a mother whose family had long lived in India. Patrick Caput has grown up in a family who had an open-mind towards foreign cultures. The young man started collecting very early, first focusing on Indian, Iranian and Chinese bronzes. He soon realised, however, that a collector must focus on a specific category. From then, he chose African and Oceanic arts, to later become one of the finest connoisseurs of these civilisations and their artistic production.

At 18 years old, Patrick Caput met some of the greatest collectors of the Parisian scene –the Ratton brothers, René Rasmussen, Robert Duperrier– with whom he sharpend his knowledge and eye. The galleries of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Brussels and New York are the main places where he looked for precious works.

As head of department in a multinational company for 15 years, Caput lived in Africa several times. His numerous travels have allowed him to understand and appreciate some of the continent’s traditional cultures.

“During [his] stays in Paris, [Patrick Caput] would often visit the galleries in Saint-Germain. [He] was always discerning in [his] purchases and sometimes very brave with Béatrice giving her blessing. [He] knew everything there was to know about African, Oceanic and Indonesian art”. Alain de Monbrison, close friend and African and Oceanic art dealer.

A tireless and thorough collector, Patrick Caput left his international career during the 2000s to participate in building Sotheby’s’ African and Oceanic art department in Paris. He is now an independent expert.

On 15 November, Patrick and Béatrice Caput will offer the part of their collection dedicated to miniatures. This decision results from a strong belief of the collectors: a collection must live and continue to be renewed.

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Morphy to auction pieces of history from iconic O'Connor Collection

DENVER, PA.- Morphy Auctions announced today its offering of the historic O’Connor Americana Collection on September 26 in Denver, PA.

Over 70 years in the making, Walter J. O’Connor’s collection of historic artifacts and documents is comprised of items ranging from hand-drawn maps from the Revolutionary War, to letters signed by George Washington, and the world’s finest collection of 18th and 19th century engraved powder horns dating back to the French and Indian War and American Revolution. With O’Connor’s complete collection available, historians worldwide will have the opportunity to own a piece of history and expand their collections. With over 200 lots available, highlights of the O’Connor Americana Auction include:

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1759 Engraved Powder Horn of Elijah Sharp, Fort Edward, “Defiance to the Proud French”

● Two of Five Known Powder Horns by John Bush

● 1763 Master Carver Attributed Powder Horn of Thomas Hooton

● Archibald Montgomerie’s Pair of Fine English Silver Mounted Flintlock Pistols from 1760

● Brass Revolutionary War Continental “USA” Button Mold

● George Washington’s 1770 Table of the Ohio River from Fort Pitt

“If it weren't for historians and collectors like Walter O’Connor, we wouldn’t have access to national treasures that tell us so much about our history,” says Dan Morphy, President of Morphy Auctions. “We are honored to share O’Connor’s knowledge of the past by offering his complete collection with historians worldwide.”

In addition to historic artifacts, O’Connor’s collection contains memorabilia from films portraying iconic times in America, including the pistol used in the western film, “Shane” and rifles for Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.

O’Connor’s Americana Auction will begin promptly at 10 a.m. EST on September 26 and take place at Morphy’s Denver, PA gallery located at 2000 North Reading Road. For historians and collectors interested in surveying O’Connor’s collection prior to the live auction date, Morphy will hold an extended preview on September 25 until 7:00 p.m.

Morphy Auctions offers live, absentee, phone, and online bidding with no additional surcharges from third party bidding sites. All lots to be offered at the O’Connor Americana Auction are on display and available for preview in Morphy’s Denver, PA auction gallery.

Lot 43. Estimate 30,000-40,000

Lot 43. Estimate 30,000-40,000


Sale 16418 Arts d'Afrique d'Océanie et d'Amérique

Paris 30 October

9 Avenue Matignon

30 Oct,4:30pm


24 Oct, 10am - 6pm

25 Oct, 10am - 6pm

26 Oct, 10am - 6pm

27 Oct, 10am - 6pm

29 Oct, 10am - 6pm


Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie

12 December 2018 | 4:00 PM CET | Paris

Sotheby’s Paris is pleased to announce the next dedicated sale of important African and Oceanic artworks from various collections. The sale will take place in Paris on 12nd December. Each work, whether unpublished or well known, has been carefully selected to celebrate the infinite richness of styles and the tremendous artistic genius of the anonymous sculptors from these regions who so deeply influenced 20thcentury artists.

From Papua New Guinea to Polynesia, from Côte d’Ivoire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the artworks in this group, each chosen for their remarkable artistic qualities, will emphasize the ravishing and creative interpretation of the artist, their impressive sculptural achievements and their eloquent aesthetic sensibility. Each lot will form a dialogue between strength and sensitivity, stylistic archaism and innovation, and individual genius and the influence of traditional canons.

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One of the world's rarest Chinese paintings to lead Christie's sale in Hong Kong

HONG KONG.- Christie’s will offer one of the world’s rarest Chinese paintings by Su Shi (1037-1101) – the pre-eminent scholar of the Song Dynasty and one of the most important figures in Chinese history.

The painting, Wood and Rock, will lead Christie’s Hong Kong Autumn Sale 2018. This is an ink-on-paper scroll which depicts withered tree branches standing dignified alongside a curiously-shaped rock, resembling, as one renowned critic put it, giant creatures and dragons appearing and disappearing from stormy seas.

An esteemed scholar, writer, poet, painter, calligrapher and statesman, Su Shi was unparalleled amongst the Song literati. His artistic accomplishments, coupled with his repeated exiles in later life, made him one of the best-known literary and political figures in Chinese history.

Given the preeminence of the artist and the extreme rarity of his paintings, Wood and Rock is set to become one of the most important works ever auctioned in world history.

The painting is part of an extended scroll which is complemented with calligraphy by Mi Fu – a renowned painter and calligrapher and a contemporary of Su Shi. Both Su Shi and Mi Fu are amongst the four most celebrated calligraphy masters of the Song period.

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2018 November 16 Ethnographic Art : American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal Art Signature Auction - Dallas #5382

Full Preview

November 14-15, 2018

Heritage Auctions - Design District Showroom

1518 Slocum Street

Dallas, TX 75207

Lot 314 Estimated 75,000-90,000

John Buxton Youtube Links

Result Highlights. Fall 2018

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Arte Primitivo

Exhibition: September 3rd through sale dates

580. Senufo Female Figure

Ivory Coast. 40”H. (102cm)

Estate of Merton D. Simpson; Merton D. Simpson Gallery, NY.

Ex. William Moore collection. Ex. Sotheby’s 2008.

Tribal Art & Antiquities Wednesday 19th September 2018. Starts at 10:00amAll lots are subject to the Buyer’s Premium at 25% + VAT.

LOT 100 An Inuit sea otter amulet Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500 Sold for £7,000

LOT 100 An Inuit sea otter amulet Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500 Sold for £7,000

Wolley and Wallis sale

September 18. 2018

Lot 869 A Maori hei-tiki pendant Estimate: £4,000 - £6,000 SOLD for £20,000

Lot 869 A Maori hei-tiki pendant Estimate: £4,000 - £6,000 SOLD for £20,000

LOT 512 A Turkana beaded bag Estimate: £150 - £200 Sold for £3,000

LOT 512 A Turkana beaded bag Estimate: £150 - £200 Sold for £3,000

LOT 620 A Taiwan headdress Estimate: £200 - £300 Sold for £16,000

LOT 620 A Taiwan headdress Estimate: £200 - £300 Sold for £16,000

LOT 582 A Yoruba female Ibeji figure Estimate: £300 - £400 Sold for £6,500

LOT 582 A Yoruba female Ibeji figure Estimate: £300 - £400 Sold for £6,500

Prehistoric Art! Fall 2018

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Prehistoric 'hashtag' may be world's oldest drawing: study

PARIS (AFP).- It may be a symbol of the internet age but scientists in South Africa have found an ancient hashtag scrawled on a piece of rock that they believe is the world's oldest "pencil" drawing.

The design, which archaeologists say was created around 73,000 years ago, pre-dates previously identified abstract drawings from Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia by at least 30,000 years.

It was found by researchers inside the Blombos Cave, around 300 kilometres (185 miles) east of Cape Town, a site that contains evidence of some of the earliest instances of what humans today would call culture.

Previous expeditions to the cave found shell beads, engraved pieces of ochre and even tools manufactured from a rudimentary cement-like substance.

Among the artefacts was a small flake of silicate rock, onto which a three-by-six line cross-hatched pattern had been intentionally drawn in red ochre.

"Our microscopic and chemical analyses of the pattern confirm that red ochre pigment was intentionally applied to the flake with an ochre crayon," the team wrote in a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

They said the pattern appearing on the fragment may have originally extended over a larger area and could have been "more complex in its entirety."

Although there are far older known cave engravings, including one in Java that is at least half-a-million years old, the team of researchers said the Blombos Cave hashtag was the oldest known drawing.

"This reinforces the idea that drawing was something that existed in the minds of the hunter-gatherers," Francesco d'Errico, a director of the National Centre for Scientific Research at the University of Bordeaux, told AFP.

While drawings such as the one unearthed in South Africa undoubtedly had a "symbolic meaning" d'Errico said early humans "probably didn't consider them as art."

© Agence France-Presse

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Chile's rock art llamas divulge secrets of ancient desert culture

ATACAMA (AFP).- Open air rock paintings in the world's driest desert pay testament to the importance of the llama to millennia-old cultures that traversed the inhospitable terrain.

Conservationists working in Chile's Atacama Desert want UNESCO to recognize the Taira Valley drawings as a heritage site so they can develop sustainable tourism in the region.

Taira is "a celebration of life," said archeologist Jose Bereguer, describing the site as "the most complex in South America" because of its astronomical importance as well as the significance to local shepherds.

The rock art was a "shepherd's rite" needed to ask the "deities that governed the skies and the earth" to increase their llama flocks.

First rediscovered by Swedish archeologist Stig Ryden in 1944, the Taira rock art is between 2,400 and 2,800 years old.

It is made up of a gallery of 16 paintings more than 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) above sea level on the banks of the Loa River that traverses the desert.

The jewel in the crown are the Alero Taira drawings some 30 meters from the Loa in a natural shelter, in which the importance of the llama becomes abundantly clear.

Not just the principal source of wealth for desert dwellers over thousands of years, the llama has been used in ritual ceremonies throughout the Andes for just as long, such as in the "Wilancha," or sacrifice to "Pacha Mama," or Mother Earth.

'Possible to delve'

"No one can understand the things done 18,000 years ago because the cultures that did them have disappeared," said Berenguer, curator at Santiago's Museum of Pre-Columbian Art.

"Here, it's possible to delve into the meaning because we have ethnography and because there are still people living in practically the same way as in the past."

According to Rumualda Galleguillos, one of around 15 indigenous people still raising llamas in the Atacama Desert like their ancestors, these pictures are a "testament" to forefathers who could neither read nor write.

Around 90 precent of the engravings, painted mainly in red but also ochre yellow and white, depict llamas of various sizes, some pregnant, others suckling their young.

But the remaining 10 percent depict the desert's diversity, such as foxes, snakes, ostriches, partridges and dogs.

The few human figures that appear are tiny, as if those painting them "wanted to go unnoticed in front of the greatness of animals that were so important to their economy," said Berenguer.

What the paintings also demonstrate is that 2,500 years ago, people were already studying the stars in an area that has more recently become the astronomy capital of the world with some of the most powerful telescopes ever built.

A book written in conjunction with the Atacama observatory called "The Universe of our Grandparents," claims that the ancient inhabitants of this area studied the stars to help learn how to domesticate the inhospitable desert and survive its dangers.

Seeing llamas

In this vision, the universe is made up of the skies and Earth as one whole, with the skies forming the horizon of life. What is seen in the skies is a reflection of what there is on Earth.

Unlike the Greeks, though, ancient Atacama astrologists didn't see Orion, Gemini or Cancer.

They saw llamas, their eyes, corrals, a loaded slingshot and a shepherd standing with his legs spread wide and arms in the air, worrying about foxes, said Silvia Lisoni, a professor of history and amateur astronomer.

Taira is located on an axis that aligns the sacred Sirawe "sandy eye" quicksand from where locals would pray for rain, the San Pedro volcano, the Colorado hill, and the Cuestecilla pampas, another sacred spot.

Volcanoes, like springs, were considered deities by the Atacama natives, while llamas were thought to have been born of springs.

The Alero Taira is positioned so that it is completely illuminated by the sun on both the winter and summer solstices.

"There's evidence that this site was built here for specific reasons," said Berenguer.

Taira is not the oldest example of rock art in this part of Chile, though. To the north in the copper mining Antofagasta region lies Kalina, around 1,000-1,200 years older than Taira, and Milla.

This style of art has been found also in the Puna de Atacama plateau in neighboring Argentina, but Taira "has few equals in terms of beauty and complexity," said Berenguer.

One day, he hopes that Taira will be afforded UNESCO World Heritage Site status like the rock art in the Cave of Altamira in Spain or France's Lascaux caves.

© Agence France-Presse

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Rare 1,500-year-old arrowhead found near the Dempster Highway in Yukon

Mike Rudyk · CBC News · Posted: Aug 30, 2018 5:42 PM CT | Last Updated: August 30

Jennifer Macgillivray had been trying to do a back country hike in Yukon's Tombstone region for a number of years.

This year, she finally had the chance, and the trip did not disappoint. Macgillivray made a rare archeological find on the trail — an ancient and rare caribou-antler arrowhead.

She and her son, with two friends, had been flown in to begin their hike near Mayo, Yukon. Over eight days, they traversed mountain ranges, eventually making their way toward the Dempster Highway.

"On the second-last day, we had just finished kind of a tough ridge walk," Macgillivray said.

"We were just coming down the ridge, and I found a little patch of gravel between two big blinds — kind of big snow blinds — and there was this arrowhead laying in the gravel."

When she got home, she reported her find to the Yukon government's heritage branch.

"We find lots of caribou hunting sites, but we've never found a bone or antler hunting artifact like this up in the Dempster corridor," said Christian Thomas, the government's special projects archeologist.

"It is extremely rare — it might be one of the only bone hunting artifacts we have."

Thomas says it is a unique find because hunting tools made of organic materials typically don't last long in harsh climates. Somehow, this arrowhead was preserved in ice.

Bow-and-arrow hunting technology started showing up in Yukon around 1,500 years ago, and Macgillivray's arrowhead is believed to date from then.

The area where she found it is in the overlapping traditional territories of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in and Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nations.

Macgillivray says it looked like a perfect place to hunt a caribou, a long time ago.

"It makes sense — especially where I found it, with the two big rocks on either side. It seems like the caribou might have passed down the centre there, and someone might hide behind a rock and shoot it. That's the story I'm telling myself," she said.

Macgillivray says they saw a lot of caribou roaming where they hiked, and "even got a little bit tired of caribou, there was just so many in that area."

'An archeology site we can investigate'

Thomas says Macgillivray did the right thing by reporting her find to the Yukon government's heritage branch. He says archeologists can now look for more artifacts nearby.

"This object is actually quite rare and because someone found it, it is an archeology site we can investigate," he said.

"Some of our best archeology projects have come from one find, that one hiker brought in."

For example, he says the Yukon ice patches project near Carcross — where researchers have found hundreds of hunting artifacts — started with "one stick that a hunter brought in."

Thomas says Macgillivray's arrowhead will help First Nations learn about the ancient technology their ancestors used to hunt big game.

Repatriation Fall 2018


European museums may loan back some works stolen from former colonies

By James McAuley and Rick Noack

August 17

PARIS — Nearly every Western European capital has a massive, monolithic museum designed to project an image of national might and instill ordinary citizens with patriotic pride through expansive collections that stretch across time and place.

In the seats of former colonial powers, these caverns of culture also reflect contested periods of history. They feature items acquired in dubious circumstances or plundered outright. And although the empires have long since collapsed, the objects have remained.

Now, after decades of silence and even obfuscation on the part of many European governments, some of the continent’s leading cultural institutions are beginning to reevaluate colonial-era ­artifacts and, in some cases, discuss returning them to their countries of origin — under certain terms.

The accelerated push began with French President Emmanuel Macron, who proclaimed while in Burkina Faso in November that France would work toward the “temporary or permanent restitution of African heritage to Africa.”

As recently as March 2017, France had rejected efforts by ­Benin to reclaim thousands of objects looted in the 1890s from what was then the Kingdom of Dahomey — including royal thrones, scepters and statues on display at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. “The goods you mention have been integrated for a long time, some for more than a century, into the public assets of the French state,” the government insisted in a communique obtained by France’s Libération newspaper. “Their restitution is not possible.”

Macron, elected in May 2017, signaled a shift. “I cannot accept that a large part of cultural heritage from several African countries is in France,” he said. “African heritage cannot just be in European private collections and museums.”

There is similar discomfort within Britain. The Victoria and Albert Museum in April staged an exhibit of objects — including a gold crown and chalice — taken by the British army from Ethi­o­pia in 1868. “Even at the time, this episode was regarded as a shameful one,” the museum noted. Ethi­o­pia filed a claim for the artifacts in 2008. This year, the V&A director floated returning the objects under a long-term loan agreement.

Germany, too, has joined the reevaluation and restitution push. The German Lost Art Foundation, established to support investigations of Nazi-looted art, announced in April that it would expand its mandate to include artifacts from former colonies. In May, the German museums association released a code of conduct to guide the research and possible restitution of colonial-era objects. For 2019, Germany has set aside $3.5 million to help museums determine the origins of possibly illegal or illegitimate artifacts.

“The colonial era has been a blind spot in our culture of remembrance for too long,” the culture minister wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, a consortium of European museums known as the Benin Dialogue Group has been discussing rotating loans to Benin City, Nigeria, of artifacts looted by the British army.

All this suggests a dramatic change in attitudes. But critics wonder whether it will lead to much of an overhaul of the continent’s collections. They note that governments are talking less about returning artifacts with sincere apologies and more about long-term loans and joint-custody agreements. They bristle at the idea that European institutions should get to determine which claims are valid and whether other countries have adequate facilities and curatorial expertise to get back objects that were taken from them.

After one museum in Hamburg assessed three Benin bronzes in its collection and determined “there is no question anymore that these bronzes constitute looted art,” it decided merely to shift the bronzes to a different Hamburg museum that could provide “respectful treatment of these works.”

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“The big point of contention is whether artifacts brought here with violence can be considered legal,” said Christian Kopp of the nongovernmental organization Berlin Postkolonial. “We need to define what legality means in this context.”

The burden of proof, Kopp added, should lie with European museums and not with former colonial countries. “Museums should have to prove that their acquisitions were legal,” he said.

In Germany, pressure to research and reconcile colonial-era objects comes as Berlin prepares to open a massive new ethnographic museum next year. Little is known about some of the 20,000 items slated to go on display at the Humboldt Forum, although the curators have said they are committed to identifying items that may have been acquired illegally or unethically.

“Every museum should actively search for objects that need to be returned. I’d rather have empty vitrines in the exhibition,” said Gorch Pieken, curator of an exhibit and workshop space within the new museum. Pieken suggested that empty display cases could raise awareness about restitution.

“It’s about reestablishing a pact between society, the object and the patrimony,” said Senegalese writer and economist Felwine Sarr, who along with French art historian Bénédicte Savoy has been tapped by Macron to outline a repatriation plan, expected in November.

Sarr is author of a 2016 book, “Afrotopia,” that eschews Western development aid and advocates for an Africa that determines what it wants for itself. He sees restitution of objects taken during the colonial era as a crucial step in that evolution: The objects are signifiers of stolen pasts.

Sarr rejects the suggestion there are not adequate facilities to receive these artifacts and dismisses security concerns.

Some in the art world are haunted by what happened to the “Lydian hoard” — hundreds of gold pieces that were illegally excavated and exported from Turkey, acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and then returned to the Usak Museum in western Turkey as part of a legal settlement, after which some of the pieces were sold off and replaced by fakes by a museum director with gambling debts.

“We’ve visited many museums in Africa,” Sarr said. “There are museums prepared to welcome the objects with the professional competence that is necessary.”

But there are other concerns at play, shared even by those who support restitution on moral grounds.

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“To me, the works of art are universal,” said Erick Cakpo, an African art specialist at the University of Lorraine. “With restitution, you risk the idea that the works are better in one place more so than another. The works are ends in and of themselves. We have to do a serious examination to ensure that the viewers who see these objects, also see them in their globality.”

Since its establishment in May 1791, France’s flagship museum, the Louvre, has prided itself on being a “universal museum” that showcases the pinnacle of human aesthetic achievement — a status made possible by the colonial exploits of Napoleon, whose successive military campaigns across Europe and the Middle East did much to bolster the Louvre’s collection of antiquities.

In the same vein, the Louvre’s new outpost in Abu Dhabi, which opened last November, has styled itself as the Arab world’s first “universal museum” and has chosen to display similar objects from vastly different cultures together, to emphasize human commonalities.

But some feel privileging an object’s “universal” value can efface the particular history in which it is inscribed, as well as the experiences of the individuals who made it. Restitution, they say, is the only adequate means of honoring those histories, at least for those items known to be looted or plundered.

“History is irreparable. It is incomprehensible,” Sarr said. “What we are doing is merely a gesture of recognition, of saying, ‘This is something that was taken in illegal circumstances.’ It’s just an initial act of recognition.”

Of course, there are complexities, said Louis-Georges Tin, a representative of black associations in France who has influenced Macron’s position on lost art.

“To restitute is difficult,” Tin said. “But not to restitute is even more difficult.”

Noack reported from Berlin.

Art Market. Fall 2018

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Art Is Seen as a Glittering Investment. Will New Taxes Take Off the Shine?

By Scott Reyburn

Sept. 14, 2018

With a new season of international art fairs, auctions and exhibitions about to begin, many are talking up art as the alternative asset of the moment.

“The world’s wealthy are flocking to auction houses, dealers and art fairs in ever greater numbers,” said a special report earlier this month in The Financial Times on how private banks are helping the world’s wealthiest individuals collect art and make the most of its investment potential.

The 2018 Wealth Report published in March by the realtors Knight Frank took a similarly positive view. Art was the top performer of the 10 categories in its “Luxury Investment Index.”

It remains to be seen if those perceptions will be maintained at next month’s “Frieze Week” in London and “FIAC Week” in Paris, and the forthcoming calendar of auctions in London, Paris, Hong Kong and New York.

About half of the world’s 200 top art collectors are based in the United States: Will the Trump administration’s recent tax overhaul, cutting rates for both corporations and wealthy individuals, make that powerful group even more willing to spend its millions on art?

“It’s not going to make a big difference,” said Diana Wierbicki, global head of art law at the firm Withers Bergman LLP in New York. From Ms Wierbicki’s perspective, a far more significant element in the Trump administration’s tax changes has been the removal of art as an asset that benefits from a 1031 exchange, a mechanism that formerly allowed capital gains tax to be deferred by rolling over the proceeds of a sale to buy more art. This tool was regularly used by some of America’s wealthiest investor collectors.

Ms. Wierbicki thinks the reform will affect some collectors’ willingness to sell. “It depends on the age of the collector,” said Ms. Wierbicki. “The older generation is going to be more thoughtful,” she added. Collectors whose artworks have soared in value may want to pass them onto family members, rather than face a capital gains bill of 28 percent, she said.

As for younger collectors, “this higher expense of getting out may make them think about investing in other markets,” said Ms. Wierbicki.

Others with expertise in the art market point out that the 1031 exchange was only used by relatively few ultra-wealthy collectors who were regular sellers as well as buyers.

“They’re a small subset,” said Todd Levin, an art adviser based in New York. “They’re not the whole art market, and we’re only talking about America. But the effect won’t be negligible.”

For outsiders, perceptions of the art market tend to be based on dazzling auction results, particularly at the bellwether sales in New York in May and November. Christie’s and Sotheby’s have both made preliminary announcements suggesting that wealthy collectors and their estates are still willing to sell prize assets.

In November, Christie’s will offer 85 works of exceptional American art from the estate of the travel entrepreneur Barney A. Ebsworth, who died in April. The works are valued at a total of $300 million, and the pick of the group is undoubtedly Edward Hopper’s haunting 1929 painting “Chop Suey,” showing two young women lunching in a Chinese restaurant, which Christie’s describes as “the most important work by the artist still in private hands.” It is estimated to sell for at least $70 million.

Christie’s will also be offering David Hockney’s 1972 masterwork “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” — familiar from the movie “A Bigger Splash” — with an estimate of about $80 million, a new auction high for a work by a living artist.

Sotheby’s will include the 1913 painting “Pre-War Pageant” by the pioneering American modernist Marsden Hartley in its November Impressionist and Modern sale. The work is one of a group of admired abstract compositions Hartley made in Berlin from 1912 to 1915. Like the Hopper and the Hockney, this is estimated at a new price level for the artist at auction: $30 million.

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Arrangements will only be clarified on the night, but it is highly likely that guarantees, provided by undisclosed third parties, will make these new highs foregone conclusions.

“Third-party guarantees are a good tool for the seller,” said Christine Bourron, founder and chief executive of Pi-eX, a specialist art market analytics and finance company based in London. “They get rid of the risk of a work not selling, and that’s priceless.”

Last year, guaranteed works represented more than 40 percent of the estimated value at the Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips evening auctions of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art, according to research by Pi-eX. Almost 90 percent of those guarantees came from third parties hoping either to buy the work, or share the profit above the agreed minimum price, Pi-eX’s report said.

The Pi-eX research, based on 250 evening sales from 2007 to 2017, showed that returns on third-party guarantees shrank in 2017, making them more attractive to sellers and buyers, rather than to 1031-minded investors.

Occasionally guarantors can hit the jackpot, such as in November when the painting “Salvator Mundi,” attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, sold at Christie’s for $450.3 million, about $350 million over the agreed minimum price.

But with competition between the auction houses pushing up valuations — and thus creating “growth,” or at least inflation — more guaranteed lots are selling to their guarantors, without any external bidding validating the price.

“There’s huge volatility in the market,” said Ms. Bourron. “The third-party buyers are taking the full risk of that volatility.”

For all the noise generated by one-off results such as that $450.3 million given by the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the $110.5 million paid by a Japanese online shopping mogul for a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting in May last year at Sotheby’s, art remains a market dominated by a relatively small constituency of extremely wealthy insiders, mostly in America.

“It’s a very risky asset. There are booms and troughs. There are high transaction costs and it’s easy to be taken advantage of,” said Doug Woodham, managing partner at Art Fiduciary Advisors, based in New York.

Mr. Woodham said that he has yet to notice a significant influx of wealthy new art investors, but that the Trump administration’s tax changes could potentially release more liquidity into the art market. Buyer enthusiasm, however, could also be curbed by the removal of 1031 exchanges for art, and by sharp new limits on deductions for state and local taxation, which particularly affects those based in New York. “Collectors are smart, tax-aware people,” Mr. Woodham said.

Perception and reality are very different things in the commercial art world. The reality is that it’s getting more difficult to make easy money out of art.

Tribal Art. Fall 2018

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Archaeologists dig Native American fort found in Connecticut

By The Associated Press

Updated August 28, 2018 9:04 PM

NORWALK, Conn. — A 1600s Native American fort uncovered as part of a rail bridge replacement project is shining some light on a tribe's first dealings with Europeans, archaeologists said on Tuesday during a tour of the site.

The find on a small sliver of land next to railroad tracks that carry Amtrak and Metro-North commuter trains is considered one of the most important discoveries in the Northeast for Native American history.

Not only did experts recently find the remains of the 17th century fort, they discovered some artifacts including arrow and spear tips that date back an estimated 3,000 years, indicating Native Americans were active at the site for generations. No evidence of human remains has been found.

"It's one of the earliest historic period sites that has been found so far," said archaeologist Ross Harper. "And it's very rich in artifacts including Native American pottery and stone tools, as well as trade goods such as glass beads, wampum, hatchets and knives. It's definitely one of the more important sites, not just for the area but New England in general."

Harper said he believes the fort had wooden walls because what appeared to be post holes were found where vertical wood pieces were placed.

He said it appears the Norwalk Indians, a tribe that historians know little about, had a fort at the site from about 1615 to 1640 and used it to trade goods with early Dutch settlers. The site is on a small sliver of land next to railroad tracks that carry Amtrak and Metro-North commuter trains. A 19th century history of Norwalk mentions an old Native American fort, and a road near the site is still named Fort Point Street.

The site was found during preliminary archaeological surveys ordered as part of the state's upcoming replacement of the 122-year-old Walk Bridge, which spans the Norwalk River and swings open to allow boats to pass. The bridge has gotten stuck in the open position several times and caused massive rail service delays. Construction is set to begin next year.

Harper works for Archaeological & Historical Services Inc., a Storrs, Connecticut-based firm that is painstakingly removing artifacts from the site and taking them back to its offices for cleaning and further study. Some of the artifacts may be headed to museums. The firm will write a lengthy report on the artifacts and its findings.

The firm, which plans to completely remove all artifacts from the site by the fall, has been working in consultation with the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans — the two federally recognized tribes in the state. There is no known opposition to the removal of the artifacts.

The two tribes issued a joint statement on the project this week.

"Any time a Native American site or artifacts are found, the utmost sensitivity should be used," the statement said. "While the Walk Bridge construction site in Norwalk may or may not have direct ties to the Mohegan or Mashantucket Pequot tribes ... we take the matter seriously. In fact, Tribal Preservation Officers from both tribes have actively been working with people on the ground there for over a year to offer their expertise."

The site is one of only about a half-dozen in the Northeast known to have contained evidence of Native Americans' first encounters with Europeans, and most of the sites have been destroyed or removed during development of the lands, Harper said.

The rare find is what drew about 20 archaeologists from the region to Tuesday's tour in oppressively hot weather.

"For me, it's like a gold mine," said Kevin McBride, an anthropology professor at the University of Connecticut and research director at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. "I think the reason the site is so important is that there's a lot of material here. It's definitely one of the most important sites we've found in a long time."

McBride said items found at the site provide some insight into Native Americans' first interactions with Europeans and show how they incorporated European products such as iron tools and knives into their culture.



Lambertville, NJ: On Wednesday, October 17, Rago Auctions hosts Tribal Art expert John Buxton as he delivers a presentation titled “Allan Stone, Collecting as a Pure Passion.”

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This presentation will highlight not only the Allan Stone collection of Tribal Art being offered on October 19, but also the energy and excitement of the art world in New York City in the 1960’s. The 60’s were a decade of great political and social change, causing a surge of introspection and sense of exploration reflected broadly across the arts of the era. It was during this time that Allan Stone became a major force in the art world, owing to his enthusiasm for, and early entry into, the realm of both contemporary and ethnographic art.

John Buxton has been in the antiques and appraisal business for more than 40 years. He is a Certified Appraiser of Personal Property and former National Board Member with the International Society of Appraiser with expertise in African, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and American Indian art. Buxton has also served as an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow since its inception in 1997. Buxton owns Shango Galleries based in Dallas, Texas and has been an active auction cataloger of ethnographic art since 2015.

The auction house opens on Wednesday, October 17 at noon. A wine and cheese reception begins at 5 pm. The presentation will begin at 6 pm.

Guests are invited to R.S.V.P. to or 609-397-9374 ext. 119.

About Rago Auctions: Rago is a leading U.S. auction house with over $34 million in sales annually. It serves thousands of sellers and buyers yearly with global reach, personal service and competitive commissions for single pieces, collections and estates. Rago's expertise encompasses 20th/21st century design; fine art; American, European, English and Asian decorative arts and furnishings; fine jewelry and coins/currency. An internationally known venue through which to buy and sell, it offers free valuations for personal property (from a single piece to collections), as well as USPAP compliant estate and appraisal services. Rago is located midway between Philadelphia and New York with satellite offices in Westchester/Connecticut.


Miriam Tucker

609.397-9374 x 141

For Immediate Release

Anna Norman Fall Intern. Fall 2018

My name is Ana Norman and I’m a Dallas native. I’m currently in the midst of my senior year at the University of Dallas, where I am Majoring in Art History with a concentration in Printmaking. I’ve always enjoyed art not only because of its aesthetic, but also because of the story that can be read in each individual piece. Whether an object tells of a cultural tradition, a personal narrative, or a historic event I believe every work of art offers some reflection of its society. After graduation in the spring, I intend on furthering my studies by attending graduate school with a focus on Modern and Contemporary Art and the Art Market. I am excited to embark on this internship and hope to expand my understanding of art’s in today’s world.


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  (