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The Controversial Resurrection of James Dean

Smithsonian Magazine

James Dean’s death in a car crash at the age of 24 enshrined his name in the cultural consciousness as a symbol of restless, disaffected American youth. Despite the fact that the actor starred in just three films, only one of which had been released at the time of the September 30, 1955, accident, he has endured as a towering Hollywood icon. Now, in a move broadly decried as distasteful, production company Magic City Films is planning to digitally resurrect the actor for a new role on the silver screen.

As the Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Ritman revealed earlier this week, Dean has been “cast” in Finding Jack, an upcoming adaptation of Gareth Crocker’s novel of the same name. The narrative centers on the abandonment of military dogs in the wake of the Vietnam War with a particular focus on one soldier’s refusal to leave his canine companion behind. Dean will play a character named Rogan in a role Ritman describes as a “secondary lead.”

Anton Ernst, who is directing the film alongside Tati Golykh, tells the Hollywood Reporter that his team “searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean.”

The late star’s “performance” will be crafted with CGI based on footage and photographs of Dean. Another actor will contribute the voice work.

Interestingly, Dean’s family actually gave the project the green light.

“The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make,” says Ernst. “We do not intend to let his fans down.”

Whether fans will be willing to give the film a chance is another question. News of Dean’s casting has been widely derided, with several prominent actors voicing their concerns.

“This is awful,” wrote Chris Evans, who plays Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, on Twitter. “Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso.”

Elijah Wood, best known for his turn as Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, echoed Evans’ sentiment, adding, “NOPE. [T]his shouldn’t be a thing.”

Both of these actors, points out Laura M. Holson for the New York Times, “starred in franchises celebrated for their use of computer-generated imagery.” Still, many critics argue that creating otherworldly CGI creatures for fantasy franchises is different than using the technology to re-animate an actor who has been dead for nearly 65 years. The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage, for instance, called Dean’s casting a “monstrous, legacy-destroying idea.” River Donaghey of Vice, meanwhile, wrote, “[T]ruly, for the love of all that is holy, just let his legacy be.”

This is hardly the first time the entertainment industry has used digital effects to bring a dead celebrity back to life. In 1991, Natalie Cole performed a duet of “Unforgettable” with a hologram of her father, who had died decades earlier. And in the years since, the practice has become increasingly popular, with holograms of beloved musicians like Frank Zappa and Roy Orbison regularly trotted out on successful tours. Next year, fans will be able to see a digital likeness of Whitney Houston perform in concert; an Amy Winehouse hologram tour is also in the works.

Within the film industry, advanced technologies have restored deceased actors to the franchises in which they once starred. After Paul Walker died during the filming of Furious 7, specialists used 350 CGI shots of the actor to digitally insert him into scenes he never had a chance to shoot. Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, reprised his role as Death Star commander Grand Moff Tarkin in the Star Wars franchise thanks to digital technology. In fact, Ben Morris, visual effects supervisor for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, told Inverse’s Ryan Britt last April, “all the lead actors” in the franchise are now digitally scanned.

“We don’t know if we’re going to need them,” Morris explained. “We don’t intentionally scan them as an archive process. It’s for reference later.”

Walker and Cushing were reanimated for roles they’d previously signed up to play. The CGI recreation of Dean, comparatively, manipulates the actor’s image in an entirely new context.

As Sonia Rao writes for the Washington Post, the actor never consented to playing the Finding Jack character.

“Dean’s role in Finding Jack would be more similar to Audrey Hepburn appearing in a 2014 chocolate commercial,” Rao adds, “but as a major character in a feature-length project.”

For his part, Finding Jack co-director Ernst says he has been taken aback by the negative reaction to the announcement. He believes the role of Rogan will fall in line with Dean’s legacy rather than tarnish it.

“If we aren’t doing anything to hurt James Dean’s image, why are people pushing back?” Ernst asked in an interview with the Times. “I’m trying to analyze what the moral issue is here.”

Oral history interview with Marie Appleton, 1977 June 27

Archives of American Art
1 sound file : digital, wav file

Transcript: 32 pages

An interview with Marie Appleton conducted 1977 June 27, by Paul Cummings, for the Archives of American Art.

Capturing a Bit of Autumn

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Image features a bronze brooch in the realistic form of a decayed and torn dried leaf, in tones of ochre to golden brown. Please scroll down to read the blog post about the object.This bronze brooch by John Iversen, in the form of a delicate decaying leaf with all its ripples and tears, celebrates the variety, cycles, and even decline found in nature. Variations in the metal’s color and finish meticulously capture a dry leaf’s faded hues and brittle textures, heightening a sense of nature’s unpredictability and randomness....

Going to the Ball in Batik

Smithsonian Libraries
At the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum the study and teaching of design includes learning about the materials and techniques used in designing objects, textiles, and works on paper. The more »

String records of the Northwest, by J.D. Leechman and M.R. Harrington

Smithsonian Libraries
Part of plates printed on both sides.

"Some string records of the Yakima", by M.R. Harrington: p. 48-64.

Also available online.


Meet the Muppets

National Museum of American History

You know Kermit, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, and the rest of the Sesame Street gang. But you might be surprised to learn their backstories, their missions, and the inspiration for each of them.


Kermit the FrogThis newer version of Kermit, in a brighter green, was made in 1963 when color television became more popular.

Did you know that Kermit is considered Jim Henson’s alter ego?

Kermit made his debut in 1955 on Jim Henson’s first television program, Sam and Friends, which aired on Washington, D.C.’s NBC station WRC-TV until 1961. The original version of Kermit was made from an old spring coat belonging to Henson’s mother and a pair of Henson’s blue jeans.

Original Kermit the FrogThe original Kermit the Frog puppet was created by Jim Henson in 1955 for "Sam and Friends."

Kermit appeared again in a brief promotional film for Sesame Street in 1969, followed by appearances on Sesame Street and starring roles in other Jim Henson productions.

He was originally performed by Jim Henson and Steve Whitmire. Through Kermit, children learn about self-acceptance as they see the frog struggling with his green color but accepting himself in the end.


GroverThis Grover puppet is part of our museum’s collection. This is how Grover appeared during the first season of "Sesame Street." He was nameless, and Kermit used to call him Fuzzy-face.

When the original Grover was created in 1967, he didn’t have a name, he was green, and his nose was orange. Grover first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, then joined the cast of Sesame Street, where his name was announced during the first season. During season two, Grover appeared with his now-familiar blue color and a pink nose. (Guess it wasn’t easy being green?) Grover was originally performed by Frank Oz, who was inspired by some of his dog’s mannerisms in portraying this monster. That’s why you can see Grover tilting his head sometimes.

Sesame Street’s writers wanted Grover’s character to represent the psychological age of a four-year-old. Grover likes to help, and he tries his hardest. He is loyal and loves to talk without using contractions in his words, saying things like, "I am Grover, I am your waiter, and I am here to serve you. What can I get you?”


OscarThis Oscar puppet was built in 1970 and is in the museum’s collection.

Jim Henson and Jon Stone—a Sesame Street writer and producer—used to frequent a restaurant with a very rude waiter. The restaurant was called Oscar’s Tavern, which is how Oscar got his name!

Oscar was originally purple in Jim Henson’s drawings for the character. He was then briefly orange, until 1970 when he became his signature green. Caroll Spinney, who originally performed Oscar, was inspired by a taxi driver to create his voice. Oscar teaches values such as tolerance, inclusion, and kindness. Eric Jacobson is currently performing this puppet.

Bert and Ernie

Bert and ErnieThese are the original Bert and Ernie puppets used for the first test pilot episode of "Sesame Street" in 1969. Jim Henson tried to play the role of Bert, but ultimately felt more connected to performing Ernie.

The first appearance of these two puppets was in the first test episode of Sesame Street in 1969, where they taught the audience the number two. Bert is serious, while Ernie is more cheerful and innocent. Through their disagreements, they represent the importance of cooperation; they remain best friends despite their different personalities.

Big Bird and Snuffy

Sesame Street posterThis poster commemorating "Sesame Street"’s 20th anniversary features both Big Bird and Snuffy.

Big Bird is a six-year-old preschooler and has been since he was created in 1969. This role was originally offered to Frank Oz, who also plays Bert, but he did not feel comfortable in the costume, and Caroll Spinney took the role. Big Bird helps children understand basic reasoning skills and the importance of friendship.

Big Bird’s best friend, Snuffy, is a woolly mammoth. When Snuffy was first introduced, all the adults in the show thought that Snuffy was Big Bird’s imaginary friend. He didn’t appear when adults were around and seemed fantastical.

However, in the 1980s, the showrunners were concerned with accounts of unreported child abuse and worried that by portraying adults who didn’t believe their six-year-old protagonist, they were discouraging real children from speaking up. So Sesame Street finally revealed Snuffy was real. “At last! Joy! Joy! I told you there was a Snuffleupagus and at last you’ve seen him, and you’ve got to believe it," Big Bird exclaims. The adults apologize to our feathered friend and proclaim, “From now on, we’ll believe you whenever you tell us something.” The point is driven home, and Snuffy quips, “Maybe we should get that in writing.”

Cookie Monster

Cookie MonsterCookie Monster teaches diversity by sharing meals from different cultures. Even though cookies are his favorite, he encourages children to eat healthy foods.

Cookie Monster was first created in 1966 for an unaired commercial in which hungry monsters devoured different types of General Foods snacks. However, Cookie Monster was repurposed on Sesame Street in 1969 and given a new favorite food—cookies! Originally performed by Frank Oz, Cookie Monster is able to feed himself because his hands are simply gloves over the performer’s hands. All the cookies that he eats go through a hole in his mouth leading to the puppeteer’s sleeve.

Gabriela Sama was a curatorial intern in the museum’s Division of the Culture and the Arts.

Please Note: Your favorite Muppet may not be on display when you visit. We rotate them frequently to provide the best care for them.

Gabriela Sama
Posted Date: 
Friday, November 8, 2019 - 14:30
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Wyss Institute Selects

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
The beauty of natural forms and their underlying design principles provide living organisms with their incredible strength, resilience, and efficiency. Matilda McQuaid, Deputy Director of Curatorial and Head of Textiles leads a discussion with Don Ingber, founding director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and his co-faculty member Pamela Silver....

USSR In The Ring

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
In this Russian-designed poster for the German film ‘The Boxer’s Bride,’ the disembodied faces of a man and a woman smile out at the viewer from a black background, hovering above a stylized boxing ring. Their heads are enveloped in concentric circles, to give the impression of their presence as an apparition. In the boxing ring below, two fighters spar on a vibrant red floor, the white perimeter of the ring cutting rectangular outline, which appears as a stack of three suspended squares. Below, in blocky black letters on yellow, the title of the film in Russian. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.In the early years of the Soviet Union, there was a strong urge to understand all elements of life in terms relating either to the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. Many longstanding assumptions pertaining to the role of arts and leisure in society were subject to ideological debate. Constructivist artists, eager to secure a role for...

A Historic Boat, Stuck Above Niagara Falls Since 1918, Finally Breaks Free

Smithsonian Magazine

In 1918, a barge-like vessel broke free from its tugboat and got lodged in the shallow rapids above Niagara Falls. The two men on board were rescued, but the boat remained stuck in the same spot for more than a century. Until this Halloween, when gusty winds and strong rains pushed the wreck further downriver.

The iron scow, as the vessel is known, has been eaten away by rust over the years, which may explain why it finally shifted. “It could have been the way the wind came down the river,” David Adames, CEO of Niagara Parks, which sits on the Canadian side of Niagara River, tells Christine Rankin of CBC News. “If it came down at a high enough gust, at that point in time, it might have hit the side of the rusted structure and it was enough to move it.”

But the scow did not stay free for long. It has now come to a stop around 164 feet downstream, Niagara Parks explained in a video, and appears to have flipped on its side and spun around. “It could be stuck there for days,” says Jim Hill, the parks’ senior manager of heritage, “or it could be stuck there for years.”

The scow is a unique relic of what Niagara Parks deems “[o]ne of the most dramatic rescue efforts in the history of the Niagara River.” On August 6, 1918, the scow was taking part in a dredging operation around a mile away from Horseshoe Falls, as the Canadian section of the natural landmark is known. Suddenly, the boat separated from its tug and began heading towards the falls. Two quick-thinking men on board, Gustav Lofberg and James Harris, opened the scow’s bottom dumping doors, which flooded its compartments and slowed it down. Eventually, the boat ground to a halt on a rocky area less than 2,000 feet from the edge of the falls.

But the ordeal was far from over. Lofberg and Harris were now stranded amid the “torturous rapids,” as Niagara Parks puts it, and authorities from both the United States and Canada began implementing a plan to bring them to safety. The U.S. Coast Guard shot a lifeline from a nearby powerhouse to the scow, and a canvas sling was suspended from the ropes. By nightfall, authorities were inching the sling closer to the men—when it suddenly stopped, caught up in a tangle in the lines.

Image by Courtesy of Niagara Parks. Here the Iron Scow is seen in its historic location just three days before it shifted. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Niagara Parks. This is a historic image of the scow rescue from 1918. (original image)

In the early hours of the morning, a brave WWI veteran named William “Red” Hill Sr. volunteered to to travel over the rapids in the sling and untangle the ropes. It took him two tries—it was too dark to see properly during the first attempt, according to Kayla Epstein of the Washington Post—but he was ultimately successful. Later that morning, Lofberg and Harris were safely brought to shore.

Niagara Parks staff are now monitoring the scow, and Adames tells Laura Stone of the Globe and Mail that officials may add cameras to a decommissioned power plant so they can keep a closer watch on it. “[W]ith the river current and more wind, it could move again and it could go to the Falls,” Adames says—and if that happens, authorities will have to be notified so they can properly protect tourists. A tumble down the Falls is also likely to spell the end of the scow’s decades-long stint in Niagara; either the boat will get stuck in rock formations below the water, or it will drift downriver, where it will have to be removed due to safety concerns.

But for now, Adames, tells Stone, it’s looking like the vessel will stay in its new location for the “foreseeable future,” lodged once again amid Niagara’s swirling waters.

Sunlight-Tracking Polymer, Inspired by Sunflowers, Could Maximize Solar Power

Smithsonian Magazine

In recent decades, solar cells have gotten better and cheaper, leading to a boom in the solar energy industry. But most solar panels have one major drawback—they don’t move. That means the sunlight reaching them often comes in at an angle, which hinders maximum power production. But a new light-loving, sunflower-inspired polymer may help boost the productivity of solar panels in the near future.

The new polymer, described in a paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, is capable of phototropism, or the ability to follow the sun in its daily journey across the sky. Inventor Xiaoshi Qian of the University of California, Los Angeles and the team call the new polymer SunBOT, which stands for sunflower-like biomimetic omnidirectional tracker. Each stem is roughly one millimeter in diameter and infused with a nanomaterial that turns light into heat with a little “flower” coated with solar energy-collecting material at the top. When light hits one side of the stem, the material heats up and shrinks, bending the stem points directly at the light source while it moves around and strikes from various angles.

To test the SunBOTs, the team submerged a bot-covered panel in water with just the solar-gathering tips sticking out. To measure how much light had been converted into heat, they tracked how much water vapor the panel generated. They found that the SunBOTS produced 400 percent more vapor than materials that didn’t track the light source.

Seung-Wuk Lee, a bioengineer at the University of California, Berkeley, not involved in the study, tells Sofie Bates at Science News that the most promising use of the SunBOTs would be integrating the material with solar cells, which could give solar technology a huge boost. Currently, solar cells capture about 24 percent of the sunlight available. By allowing the cells to operate at a near-maximum absorption rate almost all day long, the SunBOTS could boost that 90 percent, reports Bates.

“That is a major thing that they achieved,” Lee says.

The team originally created a batch of SunBOTS using gold nanoparticles and a hydrogel. Additional experiments showed that other materials, including carbon black nanoparticles and liquid crystalline polymers, also worked. This suite of ready-to-use materials shows the bots’ promising versatility, Lee tells Bates.

While the most obvious use is to improve solar cells, the team writes in their paper that the light-sensitive stems may have other applications as well.

According to the paper:

This work may be useful for enhanced solar harvesters, adaptive signal receivers, smart windows, self-contained robotics, solar sails for spaceships, guided surgery, self-regulating optical devices, and intelligent energy generation (for example, solar cells and biofuels), as well as energetic emission detection and tracking with telescopes, radars and hydrophones.

The bots aren’t the only new tech the could improve the efficiency of solar cells—and advancements in solar energy are progressing rapidly. Earlier this year, MIT researchers found a way to use organic photovoltaic cells that allow photons of sunlight to “kick” loose two electrons instead of just one, which can boost solar cell output. Researchers are also making progress on solar cells made of perovskite, or materials with a unique crystal structure that allows them to be much more efficient than the current generation silicon solar cells. Add to that an array of coatings that improve solar cell efficiency and the advent of thinner, more flexible solar panels and the future of energy is looking decidedly sunny.

Will Microneedle Patches Be the Future of Birth Control?

Smithsonian Magazine

In the seemingly cluttered world of less-than-ideal contraceptive options, researchers are developing one that is more reliable, simpler to use, and looks a lot like a spikey Band-Aid.

In a study published in Science Advances today, researchers led by Wei Li, a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech, describe a new contraceptive patch with biodegradable microneedles that release hormones under the skin. Building on burgeoning microneedle technology, the needles on this device separate from their backing within a minute and stay embedded beneath the skin, releasing hormones for over a month.

Scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan are collaborating on the project, and it is funded by USAID through a grant to the nonprofit humanitarian development organization FHI 360.

The working prototype contains 100 microneedles, which measure hundreds of micrometers in length and are made out of a biodegradable polymer. The user presses the patch into her skin and lets it rest for about a minute. Once inserted, the fluids between her skin cells trigger a reaction in chemical compounds at the base of the microneedles, causing small carbon-dioxide bubbles and water to form. These bubbles weaken the needle’s connection to the backing, and the water further helps the backing to dissolve. This makes it much quicker and easier to remove the backing from the microneedles than is possible in patches without a fizzing mechanism.

Microscope images show effervescent microneedles on a contraceptive skin patch. When applied to the skin, effervescent bubbles quickly separate the microneedles from the patch so that the patch can be removed after one minute. (Wei Li/Georgia Tech)

Once the microneedles enter the skin, they slowly dissolve, releasing the hormone stored inside into the bloodstream. In animal testing, the hormone concentration remained high enough to be effective for more than 30 days, signaling it may be effective as a long-term contraceptive.

Though the scientists refer to the spikes as “microneedles,” the patch was designed to be painless and the needles undetectable after insertion.

“If we've designed it right, your experience should be that of pressing a patch to the skin,” says Mark Prausnitz, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Georgia Tech who co-authored the study. “We’ve designed it so that the experience is nothing like a hypodermic needle.”

Microneedling tools are already a trend in cosmetics, used to decrease acne scars and alleviate wrinkles and dark spots. The use of microneedles is also becoming increasingly viable as a way to deliver drugs and pharmaceuticals like insulin and vaccines. Many of these inventions are still undergoing development and testing, and several companies have filed patents for microneedle patches.

These patches are promising because, compared to typical injections, they can be less painful, easier to use and produce no biohazardous waste. Though most other microneedle patches immediately release their drug into the body, the needles in the new contraceptive patch do so slowly over the course of many days. And the new effervescence of the backing allows the needles to break off more quickly, so users must only attach it for about a minute, rather than the 20 minutes some other designs require.

The microneedles, shown here under a microscope, are less than one millimeter tall. (Wei Li/Georgia Tech)

Encased in the microneedles is a dose of levonorgestrel (LNG), the drug most frequently used in intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other forms of contraceptive implants. Though scientists don’t yet know how this delivery method will affect a woman’s body, Prausnitz expects to see similar side effects as other contraceptive devices using LNG.

“We're not innovating in terms of the drug itself,” he says. “We're using a really tried and true drug that's probably been in hundreds of millions of women and has been safe and effective.”

The researchers aim to improve upon existing contraceptives by building one that is long-acting, and easy and painless to apply at home. According to a study published in the journal The Lancet last year, 44 percent of pregnancies worldwide between 2010 and 2014 were unintended. By providing another reliable and accessible contraceptive option, researchers hope to help reduce this number.

“Even with all the choices that exist today, [contraceptives] are not doing what's needed for everybody,” Prausnitz says. “What motivates us is that if we can figure out the science, there can be some good that comes of it.”

The team has so far tested the hormone delivery on rats and a placebo patch on human subjects. The researchers have also conducted interviews and surveys with women of reproductive age in the U.S., India and Nigeria and found the patch was well-received conceptually by these women and physically by the test subjects. Only 10 percent of the subjects who tested the placebo patches reported feeling pain initially, and none were in pain after an hour. None exhibited tenderness or swelling, though some still experienced redness of the skin after a full day.

“Alternative approaches to delivering contraceptives beyond the once-a-day oral pill stand to transform the user experience and maximize patient adherence,” Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist and professor in MIT’s department of mechanical engineering, writes in an email. Traverso, who was not involved in the research, has developed a pill that, after being swallowed, opens in a person’s small intestine, allowing microneedles inside to inject drugs into the bloodstream. “As a community we are enthusiastic about the potential of microneedle patches for extended release of a broad range of drugs, but certainly the impact for contraception is significant.”

The device likely won’t be ready for clinical trial for another two to three years, and it would be several more years until it could be FDA approved and marketable. In that time, researchers will be increasing the quantity of LNG carried in the rat-sized patches tenfold to make them usable in humans. Their challenge is to increase the capacity of the needles without making them too large and painful.

Another crucial next step is to prolong the length of the hormone release. Ideally, they will be able to create a patch that can be changed every three and six months, rather than just one. Reducing the number of patches women have to buy could significantly decrease the overall expense.

“USAID certainly has the mission to bring this kind of patch to developing countries and making it accessible, which means the cost has to be right,” Prausnitz says. “They've made it very clear to us that the target needs to be that a patch must be competitive with the cost of other contraceptive methods.”

If they succeed, scientists may be able to create a product that gives women around the world a much-needed new contraceptive option.

You Can Now Explore a 3-D Model of Cave Covered in Creepy 'Witches' Marks'

Smithsonian Magazine

Earlier this year, cavers exploring Creswell Crags—an ancient limestone gorge in England’s East Midlands—chanced upon Great Britain’s largest assemblage of “witches’ marks,” or carvings designed to ward off evil spirits. Etched on the walls of one of the historic site’s caves, most of the markings are in areas closed to the public. Thanks to a new 3-D rendering of the cave, however, interested parties can now examine the superstitious medieval engravings from the comfort of their own homes.

Humans have left their mark (or in this case, markings) on Creswell Crags since at least 12,800 years ago, when hunter-gatherers left depictions of extinct animals and mysterious figures on the caves’ walls. Over the following centuries, locals and visitors alike passed through the gorge, leaving their mark along the way.

Staff at the Creswell Crags Museum & Heritage Centre had long thought the majority of marks seen at the site dated to modern times. But when Hayley Clark and Ed Waters, members of the underground exploration society Subterranea Britannica, toured the Crags back in February, they recognized some of the carvings as witches’ marks.

Experts examined the engravings and confirmed their identity as protective medieval symbols. (According to Historic England, witches’ marks are also known as apotropaic marks—a name derived from the Greek word for “turn away” or “ward off.”) Numbering in the hundreds, the markings range from letters to symbols, patterns and shapes.

Paul Baker, director of Creswell Heritage Trust, tells the Guardian’s Mark Brown that managers and tour guides had long known of the marks’ existence.

“But we told people it was Victorian graffiti,” Baker says. “We had no idea.”

The markings range from letters to shapes, patterns and symbols. (Creswell Heritage Trust)

According to a press release, the marks include multiple references to the Virgin Mary: Double “VV” engravings allude to the biblical figure’s title of Virgin of Virgins, while “PM” stands for Pace Maria. Other etchings depict boxes, mazes and diagonal lines designed to trap evil forces. Locals would probably have engraved these marks in response to death, illness, poor harvest or other hardships viewed as manifestations of evil.

The markings seen today likely represent just a fraction of those originally created. Archaeologists excavating the crags during the 19th century widened the caves, tunneling through the stone and inadvertently destroying surface etchings.

Researchers at Creswell Crags partnered with Jeremy Lee of Sheffield Hallam University to digitize the marks. As the animator explains in a university press release, he used lidar (light detection and ranging) and photogrammetry to create detailed 3-D renderings of the caves, making them “accessible to a broad and distanced audience, whilst enabling a detailed viewing and analysis of the marks inside.”

Alison Fearn, a Leicester University expert on “protective marks,” tells the Guardian that it remains unclear what great evil locals were hoping to ward off by creating the markings.

She says, “It could be fairies, witches, whatever you were fearful of, it was going to be down there.”

John Charlesworth, a heritage facilitator at the crags, notes that many medieval people feared the natural world: “These are places where supernatural forces in an untamed non-human environment could be at work,” he tells Brown. “Local people are in the jaws of this monstrous landscape.”

In the Sheffield Hallam press release, Paul Baker, director of Creswell Crags, adds, “We may never know what the makers of these marks were seeking protection from or the fear they experienced but the marks are extremely numerous and the concentration in this chamber suggests that this was a significant place.”

Witches’ marks aren’t just found in caves. Per Historic England, protective markings have also been discovered at the entrances of barns, homes, churches and inns. Although the practice’s origins stretch all the way back to antiquity, most markings seen in Great Britain date to between the 16th and early 19th centuries. Markings weren't the only way people kept evil at bay: Some superstitious individuals even embedded “witch bottles” in the walls or under the hearths of their homes to prevent witches from gaining entry.

New Ancient Ape Species Rewrites the Story of Bipedalism

Smithsonian Magazine

The picture is on T-shirts, coffee mugs and bumper stickers: the ubiquitous but misinformed image of the evolution of humankind. A knuckle-walking ape rouses himself to stand on two feet, and over a 25-million-year “March of Progress,” he becomes a modern man.

Most paleoanthropologists will tell you that this version of evolution is oversimplified, misleading or just plain wrong. The theory that the last common ancestor of humans and apes walked on its knuckles like a chimpanzee is not supported by the fossil record, although it has seen popularity in scientific discourse. David Begun, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Toronto, used to be an outspoken proponent of the knuckle-walking hypothesis, until he was asked to consult on a newly discovered fossil that would challenge his assumptions about early hominid locomotion.

When Madelaine Böhme, a researcher at the University of Tübingen in Germany, unearthed the partial skeleton of an ancient ape at the Hammerschmiede clay pit in Bavaria, she knew she was looking at something special. Compared to fragments, an intact partial skeleton can tell paleoanthropologists about a creature’s body proportions and how its anatomy might have functioned. A relative newcomer to the field and a paleoclimatologist by trade, Böhme enlisted Begun’s expertise in analyzing the fossil ape.

Böhme and colleagues determined that the bones they found came from a dryopithecine ape, an extinct ancestor of humans and great apes that once lived in the Miocene epoch. The fossils are approximately 11.6 million years old and came from at least four individual apes, including one partial skeleton. The team described the newfound ancestor, named Danuvius guggenmosi, in a study published today in Nature.

An illustration of Danuvius guggenmosi, supporting itself with both its forelimbs and hindlimbs. (Velizar Simeonovski)

D. guggenmosi was likely a small primate about the size of baboon, with long arms like a bonobo. The creature had flexible elbows and strong hands capable of grasping, which suggests that it could have swung from tree to tree like a modern great ape. But the similarities with known apes stop there. The animal’s lower limbs have much more in common with human anatomy. With extended hips and knees, D. guggenmosi was capable of standing with a straighter posture than that of living African apes, and its knees and ankles were adapted to bear weight. The animal’s locomotion would have therefore shared similarities with both human and ape movement, and D. guggenmosi may have been able to navigate the forest by swinging from tree limbs and walking on two legs.

“There is no reason to think it would not have used all four limbs when that made sense, for example, on smaller branches where balance was an issue,” Begun says. “But it was also capable of both chimp-like suspension and unassisted bipedalism.”

This hybrid form of locomotion, which Böhme and colleagues dubbed “extended limb clambering,” was previously unheard of. Begun says before this discovery, scientists in the field used models of motion employed by living quadruped primates to inform how our early ancestors may have moved. “Here, we have something that doesn't exist today,” he says. “It's totally new and different, and you couldn't imagine it. It would have been silly to even suggest it unless you found fossils that told you that there was an animal like this.”

Unlike suspensory great apes that favor their forelimbs and bipedal hominins which prefer their hindlimbs, the anatomy of D. guggenmosi indicates that the ancient primate used both sets of limbs equally. The curvature of the big toe suggests that this animal would have been able to walk flat-footed on branches, using its longest toe to grasp and balance.

“Our last common ancestor with great apes doesn’t look like a chimp or any living great ape—he may have looked like Danuvius,” Böhme says.

Femoral head, ulna and tibia from a male Danuvius guggenmosi. (Christoph Jäckle)

D. guggenmosi puts bipedality on the evolutionary timeline far earlier than scientists previously expected. Jeremy DeSilva, a paleoanthropologist who reviewed the study for Nature, says while this discovery sheds some light on how hominids began to walk on two feet, it also raises new questions about the evolution of locomotion. Rather than humans evolving to become bipedal after splitting from a quadruped ancestor, the great apes must have evolved from a creature with bipedal capabilities.

“Given what we know about the relationships between humans and the African great apes, then gorillas and chimpanzees would have had to have independently evolved knuckle-walking. That would have happened twice,” DeSilva says. “That is unsettling. It's disruptive to what we once thought.”

Böhme says it is also worth noting that D. guggenmosi was found in Europe, far from where most people imagine ancient apes lived. The narrative of human evolution is typically set on the African stage, but before early humans evolved, some of their primate relatives were living in forests that stretched across the Mediterranean. “We have to keep in mind that a big part of human history or human early evolution was not an African story,” Böhme says.

Another mysterious part of the puzzle, DeSilva says, is that the European apes completely disappear a few million years after D. guggenmosi. And another couple million years after that, scientists start to see evidence of early human development in Africa. But there’s a huge gap in the fossil record between D. guggenmosi and the next partial skeleton in the human family, Ardipithecus ramidus.

“We've got these bookends with Danuvius and Ardipithecus, and then the in-betweens are now giant question marks,” DeSilva says. “To a scientist, that’s not discouraging. It’s exciting.”

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Crabs Can Learn to Navigate Mazes, Too

Smithsonian Magazine

Rats are famously skilled at navigating mazes in the labs—a sign that they are capable of what scientists call “spatial learning,” or the ability to find your way around an environment. Spatial learning has, in fact, been well demonstrated in many vertebrates and a few invertebrates, like honey bees. But a new study in Biology Letters highlights the cognitive abilities of an understudied species: crabs, which, as it turns out, is pretty good at completing mazes, too.

You might not expect that crabs would be able to perform this relatively complex task; after all, “[c]rustaceans have a brain roughly 10 times less than the size of a bee’s in terms of neuronal count,” study co-author Edward Pope, a marine biologist at Swansea University in Wales, tells Layal Liverpool of New Scientist. But as the researchers note in the study, crustaceans live in dynamic underwater habitats, and “[l]earning the location of, and routes to, resources should, therefore, be an adaptive trait.”

Mazes were a perfect way to put the crawling critters’ spatial learning to the test. The researchers scooped up 12 European shore crabs (Carcinus maenas) from two aquatic locations in South Wales and brought them back to the lab, where the animals were kept individually in tanks. After an acclimation period, the team popped the crabs into an underwater maze, with a single crushed mussel—a tasty snack for crabs—at its end point. There was only one correct path through the maze, which required five changes in direction and included three dead ends.

The crabs were tested once a week for four weeks. All of the animals were initially able to complete the maze within 25 minutes, but during the first week, none made it to the end of the maze without taking wrong turns, reports Veronique Greenwood of the New York Times. As the experiment progressed, the crabs were able to complete the task more quickly, and with fewer mistakes. By week three, the study authors write, some of the crabs were able to navigate the maze without taking any wrong turns.

The smell of food was “undoubtedly” important in helping the crabs navigate the maze, the researchers note, so the team next sought to determine how crabs would fare without olfactory cues to guide them. The researchers waited two weeks after the first phase of the experiment had concluded, then placed the crabs back into the maze—this time without a snack waiting at the end. All of the crabs zipped to the end of the maze within eight minutes, presumably expecting food, which in turn suggests that they had “some memory of the maze,” the study authors write. For comparison’s sake, the researchers also tested 12 crabs that had never seen the maze before. Without food to attract them, they struggled to find their way out, and only seven actually completed the task.

“[W]e know that insects, especially ants and bees, have some impressive mental abilities but we haven’t really looked for them in their aquatic counterparts,” Pope says. “The fact that crabs show a similar ability to insects is, in some ways, not that surprising but it is great to be able to show it so clearly.”

Understanding crustaceans’ spatial learning abilities not only fosters our appreciation for these creatures, but also helps scientists gauge how they might respond to the changing ocean environment. For instance, as Greenwood notes, researchers can study how crabs’ maze skills are affected by water that mimics the warmer and more acidic oceans that are predicted to become a reality by 2100.

“Gaining a baseline understanding of the lives of the animals that are going to actually be impacted by the changes in our future oceans is really important,” says study co-author Mary Gagen, a geographer at Swansea University who specializes in climate change. “That doesn't just mean the big charismatic animals, it means things like crabs that are so important for the food chain.”

At the Anacostia Community Museum, a Sleek New Look Comes with a New Director

Smithsonian Magazine

“A Right to the City,” the current exhibition on view at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum looks at a handful of D.C. neighborhoods where residents banded together to fight or recover from the nation’s first urban renewal projects, expressways that would rip through communities, or schools that would rise from segregation to serve all more fairly.

But another story could be added about the museum itself.

The Anacostia Community Museum is just reopening its doors after a seven-month, $4.5 million improvement project that amplifies the 52-year-old museum's welcoming outreach to the nearby neighborhoods. In addition to its most obvious changes, with a redesigned landscape developed with Smithsonian Gardens to be more reflective of the Anacostia watershed, the interior spaces have been reconfigured with a mind to the community and all the lighting, heating and air conditioning has been updated.

Amid all that change, the museum also has a new director as well.

Melanie A. Adams brings more than 25 years of experience in community engagement in museums and higher education, including the Missouri Historical Society and most recently the Minnesota Historical Society. She replaces Lori Yarrish, who died in August 2018 at 58 after a brief illness.

Raised in New Jersey with a degree from the University of Virginia, Adams says she’s been long aware of the Smithsonian’s smallest D.C. museum. “The Anacostia Community Museum has been a model around the country for community-based museums,” she says. “Even before this job was posted, during my time in Missouri, I was always looking to this museum for the great work that they were doing.”

"I was always looking to this museum for the great work that they were doing,” says the new director Melanie A. Adams. (Michael Barnes)

More than four miles from the National Mall where many of the other Smithsonian museums are located, the Anacostia Community Museum drew 33,700 visitors last year, compared to the 6.2 million at the National Air and Space Museum and 4.8 million at the National Museum of Natural History.

“I’m never going to have the numbers that they have on the Mall,” Adams says. “But when you look at the stories we’re telling here, we’re the Smithsonian’s way of diving deeper into the community.”

Attendance will be further down this year because of the seven-month closure, which began in March, with only a three-week notice because of the 35-day partial government shutdown (that shuttered the museum for an additional 35 days in December and January).

For Adams, the closure “gave me a good opportunity to get to know my staff, my board and other Smithsonian colleagues. But towards the end, I was dying for it to open!”

The 52-year-old community-based museum is now refreshed with redesigned landscaping developed to be more reflective of the Anacostia watershed. (Michael Barnes)

What had begun as a site security project quickly moved to improvements to be more welcoming, says Sharon Reinckens, the museum's deputy director who helped oversee the changes.

With big hedges cutting the building off from the street, no stairway or other pedestrian pathway to the front door other than a bus turnaround, a new direction was needed, she says.

“It was pretty much concrete and a few trees,” Reinckens says. “The idea was to enhance the exterior of the site to make it more welcoming and engaging for our audiences across the nation. We kind of re-sculptured the site, and in the process, we created a community garden.”

What began as a drainage site turned into a permanent teaching installation about the Anacostia Watershed, river restoration projects and the site’s first inhabitants, the Nachotchtank.

Inside, space was reconfigured to allow public access to a patio, and the creation of an internet lounge where visitors can sit, charge phones, or attend a series of nighttime activities planned weekly starting in January. Or maybe it could simply be a place to hang out, Reinckens says. “You go to a coffee shop; you go to the museum.”

Inside the museum, space was reconfigured to allow public access to a patio, and the creation of an internet lounge where visitors can sit, charge phones, or attend a series of nighttime activities. (Michael Barnes)

While “A Right to the City” has been open since April 2018, it’s now joined by an exhibition created by nine home-schooled teens from Arlington County, Virginia, about gentrification titled “Gen Z Speaks: A Right to the City” that reflects their research and points of view.

The main exhibition, which continued to be represented during the construction with satellite versions of the show at four neighborhood public libraries, is further enhanced in the reopening by a series of maps that add context to the neighborhoods studied—Adams Morgan, Anacostia, Brookland, Chinatown, Shaw and Southwest.

A rare film of Martin Luther King speaking at a parade and rally in Shaw in 1968 serves as a kind of unifying message about community involvement overall: “Prepare to participate!”

And while there are a number of local leaders featured in the individual sections, there are also nearly 200 oral histories that can be heard at a phone booth, as well as an opportunity to record and share their own neighborhood stories.

But as specific as these stories can be, the value of the Anacostia Community Museum is that they can be universal.

“We really take a hyper-local look at issues. We look at the D.C. region and look at specific issues,” Adams says. “But they also resonate around the world in urban areas. We like to say you could take ‘A Right to the City’ and pick it up and put it in any urban area in the country, change the name of the neighborhoods, and you would have very similar stories, whether that’s issues of housing, freeways or education.”

Work has begun on the next big exhibition there, with the working title “D.C. Eats,” which Adams describes as “a kind of food history of the region but will also look at very current issues around food in terms of food insecurity, deserts, social justice issues related to food.”

But November will begin a strategic planning process for plans further down the road.

“One thing we want is to do an audience survey to figure out who is our audience and what do they want,” she says. “I think this is a great time to do this with the reopening of the building. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary back in 2017. This allows us to see who we want to be for the next 50 years.”

“A Right to the City” continues through April 20, 2020 at the Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Pl., SE, Washington, D.C. The hotline number to hear or contribute D.C. neighborhood stories is 202-335-7288.

Wizard Rock, a One-Ton Boulder, Disappears From Arizona’s Prescott National Forest

Smithsonian Magazine

A hulking one-ton boulder known as Wizard Rock is one of the most popular landmarks in Arizona’s Prescott National Forest. Located along a highway that cuts through the sprawling property, the boulder is striking to behold—it’s black, with ribbons of white quartz running through it—and drivers often pull over to admire its beauty. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Wolfe and Saeed Ahmed report for CNN, Wizard Rock disappeared from its longtime spot on the side of the road around two weeks ago.

Prescott National Forest staff announced the brazen theft in a recent statement appealing to the public for information on the boulder’s whereabouts. It is illegal to remove minerals from National Forest lands without a valid permit, and those who violate the rules face fines of up to $5,000 dollars or a six-month jail sentence. Some offenders receive both punishments. Permits are required to remove most items, including firewood, plants and trees, from forests.

Because Wizard Rock is so large, staff believe the thief—or thieves—used heavy equipment to cart it away. “The easy way to do it would be a backhoe,” Jason Williams, Prescott’s trails and wilderness manager, tells Weldon B. Johnson of the Arizona Republic. “But, if you had a trailer positioned properly and didn’t mind beating some things up you might be able to do it with a Bobcat. But you surely aren’t going to be able to do it any other way.”

This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that one of Prescott’s huge rocks has been stolen. According to the statement, the forest has dealt with “two separate incidents of boulders being removed” from its lands over the past four months. All of the missing boulders weighed between 750 and 2,000 pounds. Because the thieves likely used heavy machinery to commit their dastardly deeds, it’s possible passersby didn’t even realize they were witnessing a crime.

“I think what happens is the general public, if they see somebody working with equipment in the forest, they see the equipment and assume it’s an authorized thing,” Williams explains.

The value of these boulders is not especially high—Williams tells Johnson they might fetch between $100 to $200 per ton, depending on the beauty of the stone—but as Prescott staff note, Wizard Rock was particularly “special to the community.”

“It’s unfortunate when we lose a treasure such as the Wizard Rock,” says district ranger Sarah Clawson. “These boulders belong to the public, and should be enjoyed by locals and visitors for years to come.”

Clawson adds, “Our hope is that [Wizard Rock] will be returned to us.”

All hope isn’t lost: Back in 2009, an anonymous individual returned a heart-shaped 80-pound to the state’s Granite Mountain Wilderness region after the Daily Courier ran a story about the incident. As the statement points out, the thief evidently “didn’t know it meant so much to the local people familiar with it.”

Eagle Talon Jewelry Suggests Neanderthals Were Capable of Human-Like Thought

Smithsonian Magazine

With cut after cut of a stone knife, a Neanderthal painstakingly sliced a sharp talon from the toe bone of an eagle, perhaps crafting a necklace or some other personal ornament. They then tossed aside the bone on a cave floor along with other scraps and broken tools.

More than 39,000 years later, archaeologists found the cut-marked toe bone in what is now Spain. An analysis of the eagle remains, published today in the journal Science Advances, adds a new piece of evidence to our understanding of the behavior of Neanderthals. The find reignites a debate among scientists: Did our extinct cousins engage in symbolic activities, like making art and decorating their bodies, that we've long believed were uniquely human?

The toe bone was unearthed in a narrow cave in Calafell, a village on the Mediterranean coast southwest of Barcelona. Named Cova Foradada, the cave's archaeological significance was discovered by chance in 1997 when hikers found several human bones from the Neolithic period, a time when humans in Europe first started settling in villages and relying on agriculture for sustenance.

Years of subsequent excavations have revealed that Cova Foradada's history extends far beyond the Neolithic. Humans were using the site 38,000 years ago for hunting-related activities. Before that, some of the last Neanderthals in Europe sought shelter there, too.

Eagle bone from Cova Foradada showing cut marks. (Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo)

No Neanderthal bones have been found at Cova Foradada, but the ancient relative of our own species did leave behind telltale tools associated with the Châtelperronian culture. Châtelperronian artifacts, including stone tools and tiny beads, have been linked with Neanderthals in southwestern France and northern Spain. Around 44,000 years ago, this culture coincided with the time period that Neanderthals were in contact with modern humans in Europe before disappearing about 30,000 years ago.

Among the layers of Châtelperronian artifacts at Cova Foradada, archaeologists found a toe bone from an imperial eagle with clear cut marks. In the last decade, archaeologists across southern Europe have started recognizing similar cut-marked raptor bones and talons at Neanderthal sites, such as the 44,000-year-old Fumane cave in Italy and the 130,000-year-old Krapina site in Croatia. Analyses of these artifacts and experiments with raptor carcasses have suggested that the claws at these sites were deliberately removed and worn as personal ornaments. At first these talons seemed like isolated examples. Now they've been documented at about a dozen Neanderthal sites, including Cova Foradada.

"I think it is an important addition to growing body of evidence of personal ornament usage in Neanderthals, now spanning more than 80,000 years," says Davorka Radovčić, a curator at the Croatian Natural History Museum, Zagreb, who studied the talons at Krapina but was not involved in the new study.

Neanderthals lived from Portugal to Eurasia, but their penchant for using raptor claws seems restricted to a specific region of southern Europe, from northern Spain through southern France and northern Italy to Croatia, says the lead author of the new study, Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo, a researcher at the Institute of Evolution in Africa (IDEA), which is based in Madrid. Did wearing talon jewelry have special meaning for Neanderthals living in this geographic area?

"We think that the talons are related to the symbolic world of the Neanderthals," Rodríguez says. While it's difficult or even impossible to know what these symbols actually meant to Neanderthals, their use may imply that Neanderthals were practicing a form of communication.

"We're looking at evidence of traditions that have to do with social identification," says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who wasn't involved in the study. "Why do you wear ornaments? Why do you go through this trouble? Because you notice something interesting, you want to associate yourself with it, [and] you want it to mark yourself for other people to recognize."

Exterior view of the prehistoric site of Cova Foradada. (Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo)

The question about wearing talons gets to the heart of a larger debate among paleoanthropologists about Neanderthals. Thirty years ago, scientists only ascribed symbolic behavior to Homo sapiens, and Neanderthals were thought to be totally different from us, Rodríguez says. "Now we have little pieces of evidence that show a different picture."

Those little pieces of evidence include Neanderthal use of pigments, ritualistic burial sites and possible cave art. Still, many of these findings remain extremely controversial. Just last month, the Journal of Human Evolution published a paper signed by more than 40 anthropologists arguing that there is no strong evidence for Neanderthal cave art in Spain. The researchers were responding to findings, reported last year, that suggested a few cave art sites in Spain were at least 65,000 years old, predating the arrival of modern humans in region—meaning they must have been created by Neanderthals. The authors of the response paper contend that we have no reason to believe that Neanderthals made cave art because evidence of their symbolic practices are "exceedingly rare and often ambiguous," paling in comparison to the complex figurative cave art created by modern humans.

Neanderthals are also known to have made birch tar as an adhesive, suggesting they were capable of human-like planning and complex cognition. But a few months ago, another research team published a study claiming that birch tar wasn't actually so hard to make and shouldn't be used as an example of Neanderthals' cleverness.

These cases illustrate how little consensus there is about how to interpret the archaeological evidence at possible Neanderthal sites, Hawks says. "The views that people have are so far apart that it goes all the way from, 'Neanderthals are meat robots that had nothing interesting going on in their head' on one extreme, to 'Neanderthals are fully modern and basically like us and we can't discriminate against them,' on the other end."

While Rodríguez's new study offers a picture of necklace-wearing Neanderthals, he thinks the current body of evidence regarding Neanderthal behavior suggests significant differences between Homo neanderthalensis and the Homo sapiens that displaced them.

"If Neanderthals had a very, very complex world like us, in the record this evidence should be very common," Rodríguez says. With the evidence still fragmentary, he doesn't think scientists can insist yet that Neanderthals were just like modern humans, but perhaps they were more like us than previously believed.

'Witch Bottle' Filled With Teeth, Pins and Mysterious Liquid Discovered in English Chimney

Smithsonian Magazine

Contractors demolishing the chimney of a former inn and pub in Watford, England, recently chanced upon a creepy surprise: namely, a bottle full of fish hooks, human teeth, shards of glass and an unidentified liquid. As BBC News reports, the 19th-century vessel is likely a witch bottle, or talisman intentionally placed in a building to ward off witchcraft.

The newly discovered bottle is one of more than 100 recovered from old buildings, churchyards and riverbanks across Great Britain to date. Most specimens trace their origins to the 1600s, when continental Europe was in the grips of a major witch panic. Common contents found in witch bottles include pins, nails, thorns, urine, fingernail clippings and hair.

According to BBC News, the Watford property—now a private residence but formerly known as the Star and Garter inn—is best known as the birthplace of Angeline Tubbs, a woman later nicknamed the Witch of Saratoga. Born in 1761, Tubbs emigrated to the United States during her teenage years. She settled down in Saratoga Springs, New York, and made a living telling fortunes.

The type of torpedo-shaped glass bottle found in Watford was first manufactured during the 1830s, meaning the find is probably not directly connected with Tubbs. Still, the witch bottle’s presence does suggest the building’s residents practiced anti-witchcraft traditions much longer than most.

“It’s certainly later than most witch bottles, so sadly not contemporary with Angeline Tubbs,” Ceri Houlbrook, a historian and folklorist at the University of Hertfordshire, tells BBC News, “but still a fascinating find.”

The home’s current owner does not plan on displaying the bottle. Instead, the anonymous individual says they “will probably hide it away again for someone to find in another 100 years or so.”

So, how exactly did witch bottles work? Per JSTOR Daily’s Allison C. Meier, practitioners filled the vessels with an assortment of items, but most commonly urine and bent pins. The urine was believed to lure witches traveling through a supernatural “otherworld” into the bottle, where they would then be trapped on the pins’ sharp points. Would-be witchcraft victims often embedded the protective bottles under hearths or near chimneys; as anthropologist Christopher C. Fennell explained in a 2000 study, people at the time thought witches “gained access to homes through deviant paths such as the chimney stack.”

Witch bottles are more than just curiosities. Researchers at the Museum of London Archaeology (including Houlbrook) are currently working on a three-year project, “Witch Bottles Concealed and Revealed,” dedicated to analyzing examples held in public and private collections. The team’s goal is to learn more about the tradition’s origins, as well as its relationship with beliefs regarding magic and early modern medicine.

Interestingly enough, Geoff Manaugh reports for the New Yorker, the project has led MOLA’s ceramics specialist, Nigel Jeffries, to suspect that witch bottles were primarily created for medical purposes. As Jeffries tells Manaugh, the vessels may have been thought to act as “curatives that could bring a home’s residents longevity and health.”

The Salem Witch Trials are the most famous example of witchcraft hysteria in the U.S., but the scare also took root in many other places—including the Hudson Valley, where contractors and archaeologists have found witch bottles, eerie symbols and other forms of magical protection dating as far back as the 1600s.

By the time Angeline Tubbs arrived in the U.S., witches were treated as creepy curiosities rather than criminals. According to a Saratogian article by Wilton Town historian Jeannie Woutersz, Tubbs traveled to New York with a British officer during the Revolutionary War but was left behind following the conflict’s end. Eventually, she moved to a hut on a nearby mountain range, where she made a living begging and telling fortunes. Perhaps she was a woman who just preferred isolation—or maybe witch bottles kept her from ever moving into town.

Oral history interview with Margaret Babcock, 1998 July 21

Archives of American Art
2 sound cassettes (total 120 min.) : analog.

An interview with Margaret Babcock conducted 1998 July 21, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art, in Camden, Maine. The interview covers her family background up through the 1920s.

Babcock discusses being raised in Exeter, New Hampshire, where her father owned Daniel Chester French's former house; being a precocious student; attending Phillips Exeter Academy's June Ball with Francis Grover Cleveland, a grandson of the president (she recites a poem that commemorated her romantic thrill over the experience); attending Smith College where she concentrated in zoology but aspired to be a writer and teacher; devoting much time to modern dance; meeting, her freshman year, an Amherst College senior & pupil of Robert Frost, Ernest Robson (formerly Rosenblum) from Chicago; the snobbish economic and anti-semitic caste system at Smith; her parents divorce while at Smith, causing sudden financial problems, and becoming a scholarship student; Robson coming to Smith to see her during her junior year, and following her at the end of that year to Camden, Maine, where her grandmother Frye and her mother lived, and a secret camping trip to northern Maine and Provincetown; marrying Robson April 7, 1926 and graduating from Smith; Peter Blume, the poet Sidney Peak Crawford, and his dog "Little Peak" joined her and Robson on Lime Island, off Camden, summer of 1926; Blume staying behind and showing his "Maine Coast", which he had painted on the island, to her shocked mother and grandmother; supporting Blume financially.

Oral history interview with Paul Bodin, 1993 March 11

Archives of American Art
1 sound cassette (66 min.) : analog.

An interview with Paul Bodin and James Wechsler conducted 1993 March 11, by Stephen Polcari, for the Archives of American Art.

Bodin recalls his career as a painter. He mentions his work as a technical illustrator as a means of support, his participation in the WPA, and his friendship with Milton Avery and Adolf Gottlieb. Examples of his work are examined with regard to a chronology of the themes and subjects that interested him. Also present during the interview was James Wechsler, a friend of Bodin.

Oral history interview with W. G. Constable, 1972 July -1973 June

Archives of American Art
Transcript: 81 pages

An interview of W. G. (William George) Constable conducted 1972 July -1973 June, by Robert Brown, for the Archives of American Art.

Constable discusses his early education, his serving in World War I, and his career as a lecturer, curator, and writer in Britain, Canada, and the United States. He discusses his relationship with collectors, the development of Canadian, British, and American museums, as well as reminiscing about key figures such as art historian Roger Fry and painters Renoir and Degas.

Oral history interview with Gardner Cox, 1974 March 19-July 8

Archives of American Art
3 sound files : digital, wav file

Transcript: 107 p.

Interview of Gardner Cox conducted by Robert F. Brown for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Boston, MA, from March 19-July 8.

Cox speaks of his childhood friends, his parents' artistic leanings, his early painting instructors, his education at Harvard, his training and early career in architecture; his portraits of socialites and Democratic party notables, and describes his sketches and their relationship to his portraits. He also recalls Amy Lowell, R.H. Ives Gammell, Charles Webster Hawthorne, Frank Shay, John Frazier, Aldro Hibbard, and others.

Oral history interview with Virginia Cuthbert, 1995 August 28

Archives of American Art
1 sound cassette (90 min.) : analog.

An interview of Virginia Cuthbert conducted 1995 August 28, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art, in Cuthbert's home, Buffalo, New York.

Ms. Cuthbert discusses her family background in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area; and her father's love of art and acquaintance with Homer Saint-Gaudens, Director of the Carnegie Museum of Art; her very early art education and, later, her study in Europe on a Syracuse University fellowship; her brief study with Felice Carena in Florence and critiques of her work in London by Augustus John and Colin Gill; her study and friendship in New York with George Luks and the beginning of a long friendship with the composer, Virgil Thompson; graduate study in fine arts at the University of Pittsburgh; her engagement to the future museum director, Andrew Ritchie, its breaking-off, and her marriage to Philip Elliott; her further study at the Carnegie Institute with Alexander Kostellow; and a sketching trip to France and Spain.
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