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“We Are All Armenian”

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

In 1998, I was fortunate enough to be assigned by the Department of State to the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia, as the deputy chief of mission. Thanks to my studies, I was somewhat aware of the important role Armenia played in the history of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. However, my academic knowledge in no way prepared me for what I discovered.

Early on, I made the acquaintance of Dr. Boris Gasparyan and his scientific colleagues. We began to travel systematically around Armenia, in the hope of building a database of archeological and paleontological sites to lay a foundation for future research.

What we saw on my travels astonished me. We visited historic and prehistoric sites abundant in number, richness, and variety, from medieval cathedrals, fortresses, and towns to Hellenistic cities and Bronze Age tombs. I realized that Armenia is not merely a small country in the Caucasus that regained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  It is one of the wellsprings of world civilization, on the same level as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Italy. 

The traveler in Armenia encounters marvels at every turn through the countryside: hills crowned with Bronze Age fortresses, numberless caves containing early hominid sites, hillsides covered with thousands of ancient stone tools, vast monasteries and ruined cathedrals decorated with delicate bas reliefs.

Boris Gasparyan
Dr. Boris Gasparyan with ancient grape varietals.
Photo by Michael Gfoeller
Dimitri Arakelyan and Souren Kessedjian
Archeologists Dimitri Arakelyan and Souren Kessedjian on a field survey.
Photo by Michael Gfoeller
Ambassador Michael Gfoeller in Armenia
Michael Gfoeller in an ancient vineyard near the Areni cave.
Photo courtesy of Michael Gfoeller

Our discoveries over the last seventeen years via the Gfoeller Foundation have confirmed and expanded our initial understanding of Armenia’s prodigious role in cultural history. In fact, Armenia is the home of many fundamental arts and technologies that form the core of our civilization. Here we find the earliest form of domesticated wheat, the earliest large-scale wine producing complex yet discovered, some of the earliest centers of metallurgy, the earliest known textile and clothing production, the oldest shoes ever discovered in an archeological excavation, and the earliest known sites related to the domestication of horses. 

These arts and technologies developed in ancient Armenia impact the lives of every inhabitant of our planet today. Whoever bakes or eats bread, makes or drinks wine, uses metal tools or jewelry, or wears clothing and shoes is tied by invisible bonds of cultural inheritance to Armenia. In this sense, we are all Armenians.

Early-hominid sites in Armenia, resembling Olduvai Gorge in Kenya and Dimanisi in the Republic of Georgia, indicate that the initial stages of human evolution took place in the Caucasus region, as well as in East Africa. Along with Ethiopia, Armenia is one of the few places in the world where one can trace the pageant of human evolution continuously, from two million BP (before present) to historical times.

Areni mountains in Armenia
Areni mountains
Photo by Michael Gfoeller
Mount Aragats
Mt. Aragats, north of Yerevan
Photo by Michael Gfoeller
Areni, Armenia
Areni landscape
Photo by Michael Gfoeller

Armenia occupies a unique position between East and West. It can be called with equal justification the oldest country in both Europe and the Middle East. The Armenian historical chronicles begin in the twenty-fifth century BCE, many centuries before “Europe” came into existence as a concept. The Armenian capital, Yerevan, was founded in the eighth century BCE as the fortress of Erebuni. The Babylonian Map of the World, dating to the fifth century BCE, contains Armenia. In fact, it is the only country on the map that still exists.

Armenia played a key role in the evolution of world civilization, becoming the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion in the year 301 AD. Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Armenian scholars preserved and disseminated the knowledge and wisdom of the classical tradition. When literacy nearly died out in Europe, Armenian scholarship flourished in a dense network of monasteries and universities, which welcomed students from all over Europe. In more recent times, Armenian scientists and researchers have made fundamental contributions to human knowledge.

More than a small country on the frontier between Europe and the Near East, Armenia is one of the centers of human evolution. It is one of the richest sources of world civilization. It is the memory of our common origins. It is a symbol of the ability of human culture and dignity to survive the harshest tests of history. It is the common inheritance of humanity.  

Ambassador Michael Gfoeller in Armenia
Photo courtesy of Michael Gfoeller

Ambassador Michael Gfoeller served as a U.S. diplomat from 1984 until his retirement in 2010 in Armenia, Bahrain, Belgium, Iraq, Moldova, Poland, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

“Proud of who I am”: Venda Children’s Musical Cultures

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Spring 2014: South Africa

“It Is Heritage”: Two Families of Cloth Dyers in Dakar, Senegal

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

According to Sekou (Cheikh) Fofana, his skill as a dyer is a direct result of his love for his mother. His parents are deceased, but he keeps large portraits of them in his home in Guédiawaye, a large suburb of Dakar, Senegal.

His father was a Guinean Soninke itinerant trader, who was often away for long periods. Sekou’s mother was a Malian Soninke dyer, who used the synthetic dyes that became widely available in West Africa from the 1960s. Soninke people are an old and storied Mande ethnic group, particularly known for travel and trade, Islamic scholarship, and cloth dyeing.

From his relatives on his father’s side, Sekou knows a bit about the complex processes of gathering, processing, and dyeing with indigo. But it is from his mother that Sekou derives his skills: as a child, he was constantly by her side, learning much of what she knew. With this multilayered family legacy, dyeing is more than a business for Sekou: “o kɛra ciyɛn,” he says in Bamanankan. “It is heritage.”

Like many African textile artists working in urban settings, Sekou walks a professional tightrope. He must produce cloth that will sell in competitive, fashion-centered Dakar, which often means making things with new, rapid techniques on inexpensive materials. At the same time, keeping in business is what allows Sekou to sustain and teach traditional dyeing skills, techniques that are laborious and complex, yielding pieces that are highly valued but slow to sell. Sekou is open-minded and experimental in his approach to new techniques like silkscreen printing. The balancing act today is to transform his dyeing heritage without destroying it.

Senegalese textile art
Fashionable cloth like this “VIP” will be sold in a marketplace or boutique, then tailored into garments like dresses, top-and-skirt ensembles, or boubous (a voluminous West African robe). Clients may approach dyers to create custom pieces, or purchase from merchants who commission material from dyers like Sekou.
Photo by Rebecca Fenton
Senegalese textile art
Cloth decorated with stitch-resist by members of the Wagué family. Despite the apparent design limitation of the tiny straight lines of sewn thread, Fatoumata creates a varied and lively composition of motifs that seem to shimmer on the cloth. Some of the motifs are passed down in the family, while others are her own design.
Photo by Rebecca Fenton

The terminology used in contemporary cloth decoration also reflects a regard for old techniques, even as new methods supplant them. The silkscreens themselves are called clichés, French for “film” or “printing plate,” as they are produced through photographic means. To describe the printed motifs, artists borrow from hand techniques, like miselini (Bamanankan, “little needle”) or takka (Wolof, “to tie”).

Although almost any image can be created on the silkscreens, often the motifs or the style of drawing them likewise refer to the hand techniques that artists and consumers continue to value. Silkscreens have been used in cloth decoration in Mali since at least the 1990s, but have attained new heights of popularity across West Africa since about 2013. In 2015 and 2016, shimmer ink became available, and the radiant cloths printed with it were marketed as “VIP,” evoking prestigious cosmopolitan style.

Senegalese textile art
Fatoumata Wagué holds a work in progress. This lightweight cotton cloth is about twenty feet long and will become a mulahfa, a wrap-around garment like the one she is wearing.
Photo by Rebecca Fenton

The women of the Wagué family, a prominent clan in the central neighborhood of Grand Dakar, have practiced dyeing nearly all their lives. Now in middle age, they have ceased to dye for income, but they continue to create elaborate stitch-resist cloths as a hobby—only for the pleasure of creating. The lexicon of marks, stitches, and designs they possess provides a well of creativity, grounded in the past.

Skilled in the design of intricate, multicolored resist patterns, the Wagués had no interest in adopting the quicker, cheaper techniques that have become prevalent in Dakar, but the declining prices of dyed and decorated cloth have effectively pushed them out of the market. They are proud to have sent the young people in their family to school, but they are concerned that their skills were not being passed on and troubled by knowledge they themselves had lost.

But “in the village, they still know,” they said, voicing the widely held imagining of “the village” as a repository of tradition skills and values. I was able to meet one of the “village” Wagués, and she did indeed “still know” and more importantly, still do, some of these old skills, particularly the dense stitch-resist for which Soninke dyers are renowned.

Unlike the silkscreens, which are used to apply designs after the cloth has been dyed, the older methods of decoration involve resist techniques, meaning that artists use knots, thread, wax, or resin to create the spaces where color will not go. Indigo and other natural colorants require careful preparation according to often secret vat recipes. By contrast, dyeing with synthetic dyes appears simple.

Senegalese textile art
A stand featuring cloths decorated with stitch-resist, wax resist, and other techniques, made by Fatoumata Wagué and others from Matam, Senegal.
Photo by Rebecca Fenton
Senegalese textile art
Aminata (left) and Binetou carry the batiste out to dry in the street midway through its printing process. The pattern will be completed with a second color and design filling in the grid.
Photo by Rebecca Fenton

According to Sekou, it is the mixing of sophisticated colors, creating attractive and attention-grabbing tones with reliable results, which requires experience and skill. Many people may dabble in dyeing, having seen dye packets for sale in shops and dyers at work in their neighbors’ courtyards, but without appreciating the complexity of the work involved. Sekou is a kind and attentive teacher, but it has been hard for him to find an apprentice who will work with him long enough to learn all he has to share.

Dyeing represents an ancient tradition and an important economic activity across West Africa, with many local variations. In many places, including Mali and Senegal, dyeing cloth has historically been the domain of women, and all the stages of cloth production moved back and forth between women’s and men’s work. To generalize, men grow cotton, women card and spin it, men weave, women dye, men tailor garments. There are exceptions, and the techniques and the social contexts of work change.

Senegalese textile art
Fatou ties a series of small knots in a white shirt with thread, in preparation for dyeing.
Photo by Rebecca Fenton

Along with dramatic urbanization and increasing Islamization during the twentieth century, which affected many traditions, new technologies have also played a role in transforming textile traditions, from the introduction of manufactured cloths, to machine-spun cotton yarn, to vivid synthetic dyes that became widely available from the 1960s.

Like these earlier technologies, silkscreen printing has changed the equations of labor and value in cloth production. It doesn’t make sense to invest months of embroidery work, like the Wagués’, into a low-quality cloth that will not be durable, for example. However, silkscreens go down just as rapidly on the best, most costly manufactured cloth as on the inexpensive batiste.

The lightweight batiste cloth is bright, attractive, and desirable for the hot summer months. Even when decorated, however, it is cheap, not expected to last more than a season. It is essentially fast-fashion. In Dakar, where many potential clients lack much purchasing power, demand for lower costs drives the development of faster methods and cheaper goods.

Despite these pressures, the older, slower methods persist. Sekou and his family, the Wagués, and other dyers travel to learn from practitioners in small towns in Senegal and neighboring countries. On one occasion in Guédiawaye, I observed Sekou, his relative Fatou, and his assistant Moussa working on hand-tied resists. They spread their work on the cool tile floor of Fatou’s courtyard, taking care to show me the different motifs they created. Their delight and pride in these hand skills suffused the little space as we worked into the evening. Without prompting, Fatou’s daughter imitated her mother’s deft movements as she picked up scraps and began to try some ties.

Senegalese textile art
Fatou’s daughter tries tie-resist techniques with cloth scraps.
Photo by Rebecca Fenton

The immense popularity of artisanal fashion cloth in West Africa at once sustains and threatens the embodied knowledge that the Fofanas and the Wagués have inherited. Here at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, a new initiative called Crafts of African Fashion will explore the role of traditional craft skills in the contemporary fashion industry and promote sustainable cultural heritage enterprises. The initiative will launch at this year’s Folklife Festival, where visitors to the Festival Marketplace will be able to meet and observe the work of visiting master artisans from Africa and enjoy a display of contemporary clothing by designers from Africa and the African diaspora.

Rebecca Fenton is a predoctoral fellow at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and National Museum of Natural History. She recently completed her Ph.D. in art history at Indiana University. Her research focuses on expressive dress and other forms of creativity in everyday life in Africa.

“Hunger” Amidst Plenty

Smithsonian Gardens
Hunger Ghada Amer, (1963 – ), born in Egypt, based in New York Earthwork in “Earth Matters” Site-specific, 2013 Ghada Amer is one of a selected number of artists invited by the National Museum of African Art to take part in the exhibit Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor by creating an earthwork in […]

“Health, Hair, and Heritage” Discussion at National Museum of African Art

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
HealthHairHeritage

The Sanaa Circle, a friends group of the National Museum of African Art, will present a panel in the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center Pavilion, Friday, June 7, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.; it is FREE and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. The panelists will discuss contemporary hair, health, and beauty in reference to the heritage and history of Africa. The discussion will be moderated by Diana N’Diaye, curator of The Will to Adorn Festival program.

Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director of the National Museum of African Art, will begin the evening with opening remarks. A reception will follow with hair models featuring images of contemporary beauty. The panelists will be available for additional conversation during the reception.

Panelists include:

  • Dr. Monte Harris, a Sanaa committee member and internationally recognized plastic surgeon, lectures and leads discussions on the role of hair in an individual’s perceptions of beauty and identity. As the leader of the Center for Aesthetic Modernism and Do Good H.A.I.R. Project, Harris provides comprehensive health guidance for women seeking to achieve personal beauty that aligns with their ancestral heritage.
  • Karen Milbourne is a curator at the National Museum of African Art. Her expertise includes the arts and pageantry of western Zambia and contemporary African art. She has curated the exhibitions Artists in Dialogue: António Ole and Aimé Mpane (2009) and Artists in Dialogue 2: Sandile Zulu and Henrique Oliveira (2011). She also served as coordinating curator for the exhibitions Yinka Shonibare MBE (2010) and Central Nigeria Unmasked (2011).
  • Gina Paige is president and founder of African Ancestry Inc., the nation’s leading genetics-based people ancestry-tracing company, sparking global interest, dialogue and focus on the importance of people knowing who they are.

Click here for more information and to reserve your free ticket .

The National Museum of African Art is America’s only museum dedicated to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art.

“Baby Hands” on Rock Paintings Were Probably Lizard Prints

Smithsonian Magazine

Reconstructing the past isn’t easy, and it is even more challenging for events that date back millennia. This search for evidence can take researchers to strange places—and for anthropologist Emmanuelle Honoré and her colleagues, that meant measuring baby hands in a hospital.

Though the methods are slightly unusual, the researchers uncovered something curious: The tiny Stone Age handprints stenciled inside an Egyptian cave were likely not from small humans, but rather lizards, Kristin Romey reports for National Geographic.

Honoré and her team, who recently published their results in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, analyzed small handprints at Wadi Sūra II, a rock shelter in the Western Desert of Egypt. Discovered in 2002, the shelter is also known as “the cave of the beasts” after the menagerie of creatures depicted on its walls.

The sandstone cave is filled with mysterious paintings and markings that seem to pre-date animal domestication, including lots of outlines of human hands that are at least 6,000 years old. Among these handprints, 13 appear to be left by very small humans. These were the first such stenciled hands found in the Sahara.

But when Honoré looked at the paintings, she began to doubt that the handprints were tracings of Stone Age babies. So she teamed up with researchers to get measurements of newborns and pre-term babies at the neonatal unit of a French hospital. This comparison showed that indeed, the cave prints were not human.

Honoré then moved to other candidates, from monkeys to lizards. Ultimately, the lizards won. 

“The most compelling comparisons are found among reptiles,” writes Honoré. Likely candidates include young crocodiles or desert monitor lizards—an animal that is well-represented in other Saharan rock art.

But the case isn't closed just yet. “We are not sure if we will get a definitive answer,” Honoré told News.com.au’s Debra Killalea, “but our first results are very convincing.”

The team speculates that the paintings may have included the prints of important religious or cultural symbols like the lizards. But Honoré doesn't want to speculate too much on the meaning, reports Romey.

"We have a modern conception that nature is something that humans are separate from," she tells Romey. "But in this huge collection of images we can detect that humans are just part of a bigger natural world."

Researchers may never know exactly what made the prints, but identifying them as reptile gives the cave of the beasts new meaning—and fresh intrigue.

“Arming the Rebels” Has Pretty Much Never Worked

Smithsonian Magazine

In Greece, Cuba, and Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Angola and, now, in Syria, “arming the rebels” has been one of the U.S.'s go-to approaches to international relations. Yet according to an internal report from the CIA, that strategy is a bad one, says the New York Times.

In every instance but one, arming the rebels just didn't really work. And even when it does, says the Times, there can be some nasty aftereffects.

Let's say there's some conflict or struggle or insurrection that American leaders want to sway one way or another but don't want to actually get involved in—no boots on the ground. Since its inception 67 years ago, the CIA has offered a different option: the agency will arm and train the existing opposition. Yet in almost all cases, says the Times, arming and training rebel forces, rather than fighting alongside them, “had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict.”

The one time it did work, says the Times, was Afghanistan in the 1980s. But even there the local opposition wasn't working alone, and the goal wasn't to overthrow an existing leader but to wage a war of attrition against a larger Soviet army. The NYT:

“But the Afghan-Soviet war was also seen as a cautionary tale. Some of the battle-hardened mujahedeen fighters later formed the core of Al Qaeda and used Afghanistan as a base to plan the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. This only fed concerns that no matter how much care was taken to give arms only to so-called moderate rebels in Syria, the weapons could ultimately end up with groups linked to Al Qaeda, like the Nusra Front.”

If arming rebels does little to sway the outcome, that doesn't mean it's without risk. Last month, for instance, the House of Representatives gave the White House the go ahead to continue arming and training Syrian rebels.  Around the same time, the Guardian wrote that some of the weapons currently being used by ISIS fighters were originally supplied by U.S. and Saudi Arabia to rebels fighting Assad in Syria.

‘Life’ Magazine’s Earliest Women Photojournalists Step Into Spotlight

Smithsonian Magazine

The debut cover of LIFE magazine is dominated by the monumental spillway of Montana’s Fort Peck Dam, then under construction and poised to become the world’s largest earth-filled dam. But the eye is drawn to two humans, dwarfed by their surroundings, standing at the bottom of the shot.

The cover image is typical of its creator’s work. Dedicated to revealing both the human side of stories and the settings in which they took place—including such far-flung locales as the Soviet Union, Korea, India and North Africa—Margaret Bourke-White quickly emerged as one of LIFE’s most talented photographers after editor Henry Luce’s photography-centric weekly launched in November 1936. But today, she and the other pioneering female photojournalists who worked for LIFE during the 1930s and onto the 1970s remain little known, their iconic snapshots rendered more recognizable than their own names and histories.

LIFE: Six Women Photographers, a new exhibition on view at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, aims to correct this imbalance, presenting more than 70 images taken by six early photojournalists: Marie Hansen, Martha Holmes, Lisa Larsen, Nina Leen, Hansel Mieth and Bourke-White.

Marie Hansen's photograph of Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps recruits at their Des Moines training center (© LIFE Picture Collection, Meredith Corporation)

“Many of these women are not known, they’re not even in photography history books,” co-curator Marilyn Kushner tells the Guardian’s Nadja Sayej. “These women have not gotten their due, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

According to Kushner, fewer than 10 women served on LIFE’s photography staff during the time period covered by the show. (As a 2015 study found, this gender imbalance persists today, with 85 percent of 1,556 photojournalists surveyed identifying as men.) Despite their small numbers, they covered a vast array of subjects, from Hollywood’s elite to the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) formed at the height of World War II, the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, and rampant homelessness in San Francisco and Sacramento.

As Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, explains in a press release, “These pioneering women photographers captured events international and domestic, wide-ranging and intimate, serious and playful. At the forefront of history, [they] enabled the public ‘to see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events,’ as LIFE founder and editor-in-chief, Henry Luce, described it.”

In addition to photographing the cover of LIFE’s first issue, Bourke-White became the first Western photographer accredited to enter the Soviet Union and the first female photographer to cover active World War II combat zones. Hansen, a Missouri native who joined LIFE in 1942, meanwhile, publicized women’s contributions to the war effort by producing a photo essay on WAAC recruits training for deployment. One image in particular, depicting a room full of gas mask-wearing trainees, is among those most widely associated with the initiative.

Image by © LIFE Picture Collection, Meredith Corporation. Lisa Larsen, photograph from “Tito As Soviet Hero, How Times Have Changed!” (original image)

Image by © LIFE Picture Collection, Meredith Corporation. Nina Leen, unpublished photograph from “American Woman’s Dilemma" (original image)

Image by © LIFE Picture Collection, Meredith Corporation. Margaret Bourke-White, photograph from “Franklin Roosevelt’s Wild West" (original image)

Three of the women featured in the exhibition—Larsen, Leen and Mieth—were born in Europe but moved to the U.S. at some point during the 1930s. Larsen, a German Jew who fled her home country after Kristallnacht, documented Yugoslavian President Josip Broz’s 1956 visit to the Soviet Union, capturing crowd shots of the hordes who flocked to the Kremlin while also managing to snap intimate portraits of the men and women who were likely in attendance under duress.

Mieth, another German-born photographer, arrived in America in the midst of the Great Depression; her “socially engaged” photo essays, in the words of the New-York Historical Society, generated sympathy for organized labor and exposed the harsh conditions prevalent across the nation. During the war, she photographed Japanese Americans incarcerated at Heart Mountain in Wyoming, and in the aftermath of the conflict, she returned to Germany to document the “psychological effects and physical damage” inflicted on her home country.

Leen, a Russian native who emigrated to New York in 1939, focused mainly on American domesticity. Her “American Woman’s Dilemma” series envisioned women as “empowered protagonists,” Timeline’s Rian Dundon writes, “emphasizing the distinct traits and desires of American teens, mothers, and busy professionals navigating the optimism and possibilities of a booming economy.” But domestic life wasn’t Leen’s only interest: Google Arts & Culture details that she was also a prolific animal photographer, often taking snapshots of her dog Lucky, and was additionally a talented group portraitist. Her photo of the so-called “Irascibles,” a group of Abstract Expressionists including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, aptly captured the tension existing between these avant-garde artists’ desire for career success and their disdain for the establishment.

Martha Holmes' photograph of a white woman embracing mixed-race singer Billy Eckstine (© LIFE Picture Collection, Meredith Corporation)

Holmes, the final journalist spotlighted in the exhibition, photographed celebrities including Pollock, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland, Eleanor Roosevelt, Salvador Dali and Joan Fontaine. But she is perhaps best known for her 1950 snapshot of a white woman embracing mixed-race singer Billy Eckstine.

“When that photo was taken, they weren’t sure if they should put it into the issue—a white woman embracing a black man,” Kushner tells the Guardian’s Sayej. “But Luce put it in there because he said: ‘This is what the future is going to be. Run it.’”

At the time, the photograph attracted widespread condemnation, and Eckstine’s career was permanently damaged by the fallout. Still, Bobbi Burrows, a longtime LIFE editor who spoke to The New York Times’ Dennis Hevesi upon Holmes’ death in 2006, said that the image remained the photographer’s favorite among the thousands she had taken throughout her career.

LIFE: Six Women Photographers is on view at the New-York Historical Society through October 6, 2019.

‘Captain Kidd’s Treasure’ Has Finally Been Discovered

Smithsonian Magazine

William Kidd was a notorious pirate hunter turned notorious pirate, and legend has it that he left treasure behind. Now, a group of archaeologists thinks they’ve found part of Captain Kidd’s booty in a shipwreck off the coast of Madagascar — a 121-pound bar of silver, they say, is just the tip of the treasure iceberg.

The Guardian’s Jessica Elgot reports that a team of divers found the bar of silver while investigating shallow waters off Saint Marie Island. They’ve been scouring the area for remains of the Adventure Galley, William Kidd’s ship, which was discovered underwater in 2000. Though past trips unearthed old bottles of rum and shards of pottery, archaeologists never found anything that could be considered “treasure” until now.

Captain Kidd took the helm of the Adventure Galley in 1695, when he was hired by a group of English investors to hunt down pirates. But, the story goes, when Kidd failed to find pirates on his journey, he became one himself. By 1698, the vessel was unseaworthy and Kidd ran it ashore in Madagascar. His crew deserted him to join another pirate captain and he was arrested, tried, and executed for piracy in 1701.

Kidd’s death did little to tamp down rumors that he left plenty of treasure behind on his adventures. The BBC reports that explorer Barry Clifford, who discovered the ship more than a decade ago, is convinced there’s even more loot at the bottom of the ocean. But though his team “has no doubt that the discovery is genuine,” they hope to validate their findings with analysis of wood from the shipwreck.

Genuine or no, one thing is clear: that’s one big piece of silver. Clifford and his team presented it to the president of Madagascar Thursday, and Elgot writes that officials hope the find will promote tourism in the country. The president's office Tweeted a photo of the find, with the note: "Saint Marie Island: Discovery of a wreck and treasure in the waters of the Island of Saint Marie.”

ʻAe Kai: A Culture Lab on Convergence

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program
A weekend-long creative experience featuring 50+ artists, scholars and cultural practitioners from Hawaiʻi, the Pacific Islands and beyond 🏄🏾 Details: http://smithsonianapa.org/aekai The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center is pleased to present ʻAe Kai: A Culture Lab on Convergence on July 7-9, 2017 in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. ʻAe Kai will take place in the former site of Foodland in Ala Moana Center, an 18,000 sq ft supermarket situated in the neighborhood between Waikiki and Kaka‘ako, and will explore the meeting points of humanity and nature in Hawaiʻi, the Pacific Islands and beyond. Following 2016’s transformational culture labs – CrossLines in Washington, D.C. and CTRL+ALT in New York City – ‘Ae Kai will continue SmithsonianAPA's practice of community building through curated artmaking. The biggest Culture Lab to date, most of ‘Ae Kai’s participants are based or rooted in Hawaiʻi, with the majority of artists identifying as Pacific Islanders. FEATURING: AARON KAWAI’AE’A w/ TAVANA Acrylic works with traditional & modern themes ABIGAIL KAHILIKIA ROMANCHAK w/ CHARLES COHAN Traditional printmaking with a contemporary vision ADAM LABUEN w/ ALEX ABALOS Work that blends science and fantastical portraiture ADRIENNE KEAHI PAO Photography exploring fantasy & identity ALOHA GOT SOUL Excavating rare & forgotten Hawaiian music ANGEL CHANG Fashion inspired by rural Chinese handweaving BRANDY NĀLANI MCDOUGALL Tracing indigeneity & colonialism through bilingual poetry CALVIN HOE Mahi ʻAi Kalo (taro farmer) & artisan CARL FRANKLIN KA’AILĀ’AU PAO Multidisciplinary art exploring kaona and wā CHAD SHOMURA w/ LINH HUỲNH Experiments in stranger intimacy CHARLES PHILIPPE JEAN-PIERRE Paintings & illustrations that contrast perception & reality CHELOVE DC-based street art investigating indigeneity today CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ Poetic bridges from Guam to Hawaiʻi to California DR. KEANU SAI Complicating the Hawaiian kingdom's historical narrative HAVANA LIBRE Uncovering Cuba's hidden surf culture JAHRA ‘RAGER’ WASASALA Movement & poetry rooted in New Zealand & Fiji JESS X. SNOW, KIT YAN & PETER PA Queer Asian American storytelling through visual poetry JOCELYN KAPUMEALANI NG Special effects & poetry with a fascination with the dark JOHN “PRIME” HINA Hawaiian storytelling through street art KATELIN LILI’INOE BRANCO Illustrations inspired by animal/human/environmental interactions KATHY JETÑIL-KIJINER Poetry & performance exploring life in the Marshall Islands KAYLA BRIËT Film & music based on Native American traditions & futures KEALOPIKO Contemporary fashion rooted in traditional Hawaiian practices LEHUA M. TAITANO Art & poetry exploring queer Chamoru identity LÉULI LUNAʻI ESHRĀGHI Multi-practice art centered on indigeneity & queer futures LISA JARRETT Comparing Self & Other as an American Black woman LOW LEAF Bridging Los Angeles & the Philippines through DIY music MAIKA’I TUBBS Sculptures from found materials to explore consumption & ecology MAILE ANDRADE Multimedia exploring Native Hawaiian creative expression MASPAZ The power of typography & color through graffiti MAZI MUTAFA Hip hop as a tool for transformative learning MONICA JAHAN BOSE Collaborative fabric & printmaking to explore gender & climate change NAOKO WOWSUGI Reciprocal exchange between art & the world NICOLE A. MOORE The intersection of African American history & Hawaiʻi PŌHAKU STONE Revitalizing ancient surf & he'e hōlua (Hawaiian sledding) RICKY TAGABAN Material culture to explore traditional & contemporary Native Alaskan life ROSANNA RAYMOND Multi-disciplinary art focused on contemporary Pacific Island culture SHIZU SALDAMANDO Portraits about social constructs of identity & subcultures SID M. DUENAS Multi-platform art that challenges the effectiveness of language SLOANE LEONG Sci-fi & futurism from an Asian Latina Polynesian cartoonist SOLOMON ENOS Illustration/sculpture/painting depicting Hawaiian fantasy TERISA SIAGATONU Queer Samoan poetry & healing arts THE SURF PROFESSOR Crafting the Papa Heʻe Nalu (traditional native Hawaiian surfboard) WIENA LIN Sensory experiences about material culture & tech waste WOODEN WAVE Murals & illustrations that merge fantasy & sustainability

Ötzi the Iceman's Last Meal Included Goat Bacon

Smithsonian Magazine

Since his 5,300-year old mummified body was discovered in the Ötztal Alps between Italy and Austria in 1991, Ötzi the Iceman has been studied in incredible detail by researchers. Not only have they found that the ancient European was between 40 and 50 when he died, they discovered that he was murdered. Just in the last year, researchers have revealed what the ice man wore, what his voice may have sounded like and that he had calcification in his arteries. A look at his stomach contents in 2011 showed that the ice man’s last meal consisted of cooked grain and meat from an ibex, a type of wild goat.

Now researchers say that further testing shows that it wasn’t just goat meat—Ötzi’s last meal included goat bacon. The Local reports that Albert Zink, a mummy specialist from the European Academy of Bolzano analyzed the goat meat found in Ötzi’s stomach. Looking at the nanostructure of the proteins, he was able to determine that the meat had never been cooked. Instead, it was dry-cured, making it into a product similar to prosciutto.

Zink points out that Ötzi was not carrying a bow and arrow with him while traveling in the mountains, meaning it was unlikely he was hunting fresh meat. Raw meat would probably spoil. So it makes sense that the ice man traveled with cured meat. “It seems probable that his last meal was very fatty, dried meat—perhaps a type of Stone Age Speck or bacon,” Zink tells The Local.

But that’s not the only secret Zink has pulled out of Ötzi’s tummy. In a study that appeared in Science earlier this month, Zink and his team also found the oldest known Helicobacter pylori bacterium in the ice man, the pathogen that has been linked to the development of ulcers and gastric cancer. According to Laura Geggel at LiveScience, the researchers took 12 biopsy samples of Ötzi's stomach and intestines, then separated out the various strains of H. pylori found in his food, the soil he was exposed to and the bacteria that infected the ice man himself. They isolated the pathogen, finding that Ötzi had a particularly virulent strain of the bacteria, and that the ice man likely had a reaction to the bug, as do one in 10 people. That meant he may have suffered from ulcers or stomach problems as a result.

The H. pylori also helps researchers track migration of people into and out of Europe. The fact that Ötzi had a strain that Europeans share with Asian populations and not the North African strain most people have today, reports The Local, means the populations probably had not mixed yet significantly. “We can say now that the waves of migration that brought these African Helicobacter pylori into Europe had not occurred, or at least not occurred in earnest, by the time the iceman was around … 5,300 years ago,” Yoshan Moodley, a professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Venda in South Africa and co-author of the study says.

Whatever the condition of his stomach, Otzi likely didn’t have a chance to feel indigestion after snacking on the dried ibex. “The iceman felt secure and had a rest with a large meal,” Zink tells Andy Coughlan at New Scientist. “At a maximum of 30 to 60 minutes later—because otherwise his stomach would have emptied—he was shot from behind with an arrow.”

And while Ötzi might have been fond of charcuterie, researchers found that he didn’t order the cheese plate—The Local reports the analysis also showed that he did not have any dairy products in his stomach at the time of his death.

Étoile du Nord

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Within a blue and yellow border, railroad tracks meet at a vanishing point along a high horizon line, where the point of a star also touches down. Information about the railway at bottom, and around border in contrasting colors.

Écuelle with Branch Handle

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Circular dish (a) with two vertically set handles, interlaced and splayed in foliate form at join with wall of dish. Cover (b) double domed, with handle in form of olive brance with leaves and olives. Bowl and cover decorated with polychrome floral sprays; blue band and scalloped gilt band at mouth of bowl and edge of cover.

Écuelle and Stand with Floral Sprays

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Circular, with handles composed of crossed-over loops. Domed cover with handle in the shape of a twig. Circular tray with curved sides and scalloped edges. Decorated with flowers, singly and in sprays.

Écuelle and Stand

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

“Visionary� exhibition teaches new ways to see the passion burning in Africa’s art

Smithsonian Insider

Diverse, dynamic and by turns fierce and delicate, “Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa’s Art,” a new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, uses […]

The post “Visionary” exhibition teaches new ways to see the passion burning in Africa’s art appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

£1 Palms and Kola Tree single

National Postal Museum

£1 Nyala Antelope single

National Postal Museum

£1 Lion single

National Postal Museum

£1 King George V single

National Postal Museum

£1 Giraffe single

National Postal Museum

£1 Elephant Badge of Gambia single

National Postal Museum

£1 Coat of Arms single

National Postal Museum
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