Category Archives: Archaeology

The 12+ labors of Ralph B. Shead

For me, History is filled with people and things. I have never really indulged in the movements and theories and isms that seem to infect the past presently. For a historian this is a professional character defect, for me it is what brings history alive and allows us to find our connections to it.  It is likely why I spent so much time learning archaeology and paleontology. I believe it is ultimately what lead me to the history of science so I could talk about all of that at once.

When I first came to OU and was getting settled across campus with the few people I had some connection with I was shown around the Sam Noble Natural History Museum. On the second floor back in the hallway to the VP lab and collections there are these two enormous paintings (13.5 feet long by 3.5 feet high). After taking in the scale and content of these behemoths I immediately looked for the signature. “Ralph B. Shead ’42” and “Ralph B. Shead ’34 (or 39 it is obscured by the frame I believe it is 34).

Who was this artist? What else had he done, and why was he doing these things at this scale? This was years before I started the digitization and scanning project and information was slow in coming. I wouldn’t even find a photo of him for 2 years. When I started scanning and updating an internal manuscript on the history of the museum I gleaned a little more information.

You can see his Mammoth Mural in the background (Source: Unpublished manuscript by Wann Langston, Jr. )

You can see how hard it is to piece this stuff together. Langston missed Shead’s retirement by a few years which is understandable because Langston was working at the National Museum of Canada from 1954-62.  Shead stayed at the Museum until 1960 or 61 and he wan’t simply the museum artist.  In addition to his museum technician and painting work he served as the Oklahoma sate superintendent for the WPA during the 30s (when the bulk of his work was completed). The WPA records and receipts over in our Western History Collection indicate that some paint and supplies were purchased as part of the “Fossil Bones” project making at least the two paintings upstairs technically WPA art.  Through some interesting turn of events another giant (13-footer) painting now resides down at the Texas A&M Biodiversity Heritage prep lab. The irony behind this is that its subject matter is Norman’s native (Permian) son–the Cotylorhynchus. 

The Cotylorhynchus  painting falls  under the WPA years as well and was complete with the aid of a plaster or clay model he created.

Shead at work on Cotylorhynchus painting (Copyright Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History)
Ralph B. Shead with his plaster (clay?) model of Cotylorhynchus (Copyright Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History)

Shead also created other plaster models for reference, and I believe he was the one who fashioned/oversaw the plaster for the Procamelus (now Aepyicamelus) skeletal reconstruction that accompanied the skull until it disintegrated.

More plaster models. (Source: Unpublished manuscript by Wann Langston, Jr.)

The bulk of Shead’s work predates the formation of the WPA by a year. They were the “missing” and then “rehomed” paints from the previous two posts. They are also impressive in scale and scope as well, and add three more paleontology paintings to Shead’s portfolio. Ralph’s great-nephew told me that the marine reptiles  mural wasn’t one of Ralph’s. Conrad said he was certain that it was a  signed  just as the Mammoth was, of course the place where his signature would have been was unfortunately damaged when it was removed from the wall. It doesn’t look quite like other works by Shea, and was painted on sheetrock and not canvass like Shed’s other works, but he did paint most everything that was in the museum. If anyone out there has a photo of this with the signature intact please send it along.

The moving of these paintings led to some renewed interest in some old emails and leads that were passed to me for follow up. Chasing down contacts I was able to locate the final “missing” mural that I was aware of living peacefully over in the Geology Graduate offices in Sarkey’s. It is another of Shead’s giants too, this one of a Carboniferous landscape painted in 1938 (during the WPA funded period)

There were also some Shead paintings reportedly hanging out in the microbiology department so I went in search for them. There were three, two in an classroom/lab and one in the herbarium office. These were as surprising as the marine reptile mural because I had never seen mention or reference of them. I photographed them to add to my ever-growin Shead dossier. When I was processing the images later that evening I noticed that there were no signatures on the microscope or fungi ones, but I assumed they had been covered by the frame (looking back now I don’t think that is the case, I just need to look harder).

The other one was even more surprising because while it is a Shead painting, it wan’t painted by Ralph.

I had no idea there *was* a Robert Shead and that added a whole new layer to the simple project of documenting Ralph B. Shead’s work. I found even less on Robert Shead (1908-1999) than his older brother Ralph. Robert had a son who ended up working at an internationally acclaimed interior design firm in Dallas. That son’s, (David LaForge Shead) obituary outlined his work followed in his parents’ footsteps studying art and design at OU. I haven’t been able to track down Robert’s years at OU yet. William Shead confirmed all this and added that Robert had a lucrative interior design company in Oklahoma City. He even served as a designer during his war service years, boasting that he has designed the interior of MacArthur’s private plane. He also confirmed that the fungi and the microscope were Robert Shead paintings and not Ralph’s.

Ralph B. Shead from OU 1916 yearbook
Shead in 1915 (OU Yearbook)

Ralph however received his certificate of art in 1916, 14 years before Stovall arrived at the university, and became *the* name associated with all things museum and paleontology related. David Levy’s  The University of Oklahoma: A History, Volume II 1917-1950 only mentions Shead in a single sentence: “Ralph Shead, a professional artist who became a long time employee of the museum, designed displays and created historic murals.” (214).  At least two of which include a Jurassic scene and the background for the oreodon exhibit. Not only did Shead paint the background but  he did the figure sculpting for the diorama as well.

Jurassic Background (Copyright Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History)


Oreodon display. These fossils were prepped and mounted by WPA workers and are still in these positions in their new habitat in the current museum. (Copyright Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History)

Pretty short-shrift for someone who produced four 13+ foot paintings, three slightly smaller ones, and served as acting director of the museum between 1952 and 54 (Stovall died in 1953) after the “new” Museum was opened in 1951.

University Museum 1951. (OU Yearbook, 1951)

The paleontology paintings aren’t even the largest scale that Shead worked with while painting at OU. There is an enormous geological map of Oklahoma painted with various labor scenes around it that I will be spending some time with next week photographing more completely and attempting to do some digital repairs on it.

Photo by author

Shead wasn’t bound to the art studio during his tenure at the museum. As WPA superintendent part of his work included accompanying the visitors and press to sites worked under WPA funding. Here here is during the “This Project Pays your Community” public tour week in the Cimarron County Dinosaur Quarry.

Mr. Held, pres agent, Ralph Shead, Miss Fullerton, Mrs Stafford, J.W. Stovall (left to right)(Copyright Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History)
Cimarron County. Dinosaur Eula Fullerton, Director P&S Division and Ralph Shead, Supt. Paleo project (Copyright Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History)

Similarly, Shead’s fieldwork was not simply administrative. There were times when Shead as a “museum technician” was involved in the dirt of the excavation, and like his paintings he worked with dinosaurs and extinct mammals.

Ralph Shead (right) with WPA foreman Mannie Capansky and the “brontosaur” femur. (Copyright Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History)
R.B. Shead excavating elephant 3 miles SW of Weatherford Sept 4, 1941. (Copyright Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History)

Later in 1941 Shead published a 7 page informational booklet on the Bear Zuni Fetishes from the Spiro Mounds archaeological excavations. Spiro was another scientific University WPA project. OU Anthropology students Shawn Lambert and Lucius Martin presented a poster highlighting the OU WPA artists and their illustrations for the Spiro project and publications. Interestingly this poster hangs in the same paleontology hall as the first two Shead paintings that I saw.

While I was working on this collection of Shead work, I contacted his great nephew William who not only lives in Norman, but lives at the original Shead address. The original house burned in the 1930s and the current house is a gorgeous faux adobe Mexican colonial partially designed by Ralph with the interior designed by Robert. It is definitely my favorite house in Norman.

I spent the afternoon surrounded by even more of  Ralph’s art in his old house catching up on the Shead family history which is as fascinating as I had figured and in a surreal way similar to threads of my mother’s side of my family. Just to add all the smaller pieces of Shead’s work here to what is part of the University it is obvious that Shead painted all the time. Some of these landscapes are from the areas in the panhandle area which William said Shead really liked.  I am going to make it a habit of visiting more often and next time I will have my big camera, but for now, having all of Ralph’s extant work together, even if it is just digitally. is a pretty fulfilling feat.  There is at least one more that was given to a family psychologist friend. Either set of these would be an impressive portfolio, when lumped together is simply staggering.

Most are normal “house-art” sized (16×20 or so) except the Mexican scene, it is at least 48×60. I want to try and get some better photos of at least that one for a print.

I don’t know much more about the artist that was born in New Madrid, Missouri in 1892; What was he up to between 1916 and 1933 when he started painting for Stovall and the museum? Shead’s WWI draft card lists him as a school teacher in Jenks in June of 1917. William said he thought Shead was pursuing a master’s degree in art in Indiana before the family called him home to help during the depression. A few newspapers have him exhibiting art at the Herron Art Museum and the Indiana State Fair. He  is mentioned as living in Indianapolis with his brother Walter (newspaper reporter) in the reports of Laurance’s death in 1933.   An article in the Inianapolis Star  (January 8, 1935) lists Shead as having attended Washington University in St. Louis, MO, the Grand Central School of art, and the School of Design in New York.  It mentions his OU museum murals and a potrait of Bishop Francis Kelly of the Catholic diocese of Tulsa and Oklahoma City which all seem to have been completed in 1934.

Indianapolis Star Tue. Jan 8, 1935

His plans to return to Indianapolis in 1935 changed when he became the WPA Oklahoma state superintendent that same year.  When the WPA folded, Shead became the assistant director of the University Museum, serving as “acting director” from 1952 to 1954 when the Hungarian-born archaeologist Stephan Francis Borhegyi took over the museum directorship.

The Oklahoman. December 27, 1948.
Shead in Sooner Magazine in 1957. (Vol 29 . no. 8 pp 8-10)

According to William Eugene Hollon’s A History of the Stovall Museum of Science and History (1956), during the late 1940s through the early years of the 1950s Shead was the only full-time museum employee. He serve as assistant director and head of exhibit preparation at the renamed Stovall Museum  until he retired in 1960. He continued to paint the rest of his life finally laying down his brush in 1969.

The Oklahoman Thursday Feb 20, 1969

Shead is buried next to his parents and brother (not Robert) in the the St. Joseph’s Catholic section of the Norman IOOF cemetery on Porter St. in Norman, less than 50 yards from J. Willis Stovall and his wife.  There is an American Legion medallion next to his headstone. There were even a story tied to the headstone.

The large Shead stone was created by Shead’s father James. He was skilled with concrete and decorative planters and birdbaths are part of the front garden at the house.

The family stories are not without tragedy either. The brother Laurance that is buried here was a fairly successful theatre manager at the Garden Theatre in Paterson, New Jersey who was known to help anyone down on there luck. One such patron, a prospective singer from Georgia named Louis Kenneth Neu took advantage of his kindness, accompanied Laurance to his apartment for a party, and eventually hit him from behind with an iron and stole his wallet. Laurance died of his injuries and Ney was later apprehended and executed in New Orleans for the murder of Laurence Shead and a wealthy Tennessee businessman.

Their mother Mary is, so far, the longest-lived Shead, and her story ties the family to one of the most significant geological stories in North America.  Her Father’s Grandfather, a LaForge survived the New Madrid Earthquake only to catch pneumonia from wading through the slush that was once his farmland when the Mississippi River flooded. He later succumbed to his illness ultimately making him another victim of the quake.

His surviving work is impressive by any standard, and that isn’t taking into account all the already (really) lost “displays” and “historic murals” that served as backdrops for all the dioramas throughout the museum. His work isn’t simply art or background, paleontology or archaeology. His work crisscrossed all aspects of the museum, its collections, and ever expanding subject areas (which I think is why I have been drawn to finding out more about him). They also remain some of the strongest physical links to the history of the university museum outside of the collection artifacts themselves.


The Road to Comps Part 4: Emergent Specializations-Anthropology/Paleoanthropology

As I continue to look at the professionalization of disciplines in the later 19th century I believe I am beginning to see the historic thread that connects these things starting to match the thread of my personal interests in their modern incarnations. The greatest thing about these readings (and the few before in the last post) is that I have been part of their modern machinations. Aside from working in the Vertebrate Paleo lab (such as it is) at Lamar for most of my undergrad, I spend a summer field season in Belize with the University of Texas following the Maya. Not only did it help me see I was more interested in the history of archaeology as a direction of inquiry (I still follow the latest Central–and some southern-American discoveries) than actually making a career working with those personalities, it has provided me with an already primed canvas to start smearing my own theories onto.

Ancestral Images

Let’s start, conveniently at the beginning. I read Moser’s work back when I was working on a display and reconstruction chapter in my Piltdown thesis. The beauty of this book is the unrolling of a large scroll of images of the past–both physical images, of which there are a handful; and subconscious images of which there are almost innumerable sort, but, like human ancestry can be traced back to their source, if you know where to look.

Stone Age artists at work by Charles Knight
Stone Age artists at work by Charles Knight

The idea of cavemen with clubs and skins are the very essence of understanding humanity’s past. Kids drawings contain this although they can’t always tell you why. The most matter of fact ones will say “because that is the way they were.” They don’t know that, and we don’t know that. If we know anything it is that is wasn’t that way. The first neanderthals were brutes, partly due to the misidentification of pathological disease on the first skeleton, but in reality all led by a host of ideas about the “other.” That is going to come up again and again in this post and hopefully it will makes sense to us both by the time I get to the end.

The caveman situation is not the beginning of that iconography. It isn’t even the middle. Wildmen, hairy and misshapen, come to us from some of the earliest sources translated. Marco Polo’s travel reports gave us the odd communities of mono-pods and the torso-faced. These were other. They weren’t Greeks, they weren’t Roman, and they certainly weren’t civilized. These sorts of otherness qualities run hairily though the Renaissance as well. Even the Bible recorded instances of either people reverting to wild men living off grass, etc. while others as hosts to demons live outside the city away from civilization. Just like the biblical imagery in Rudwick’s analysis of paleontological scenes, these march badly forward through time not necessarily within the waking consciousness of man, but most definitely part of the grey matter. The “modern stone age family” isn’t as much of a caricature as you might think.

The past is a foreign country and the first visitors there fell into the same category as other foreigners. The pasts borders were filled with people so unlike modern humanity that they defied regular classification. Even as those classifications arose in the 20th and more recently the 21st century, the iconography of their existence and lives have remained relatively unchanged, although with the finds of the last few years, Arthur Keith’s necklace-wearing caveman has been vindicated.

There is no better way to tie these two books together than this Far Side cartoon
There is no better way to tie these two books together than this Far Side cartoon

The discoveries that led to the eventual depictions of neanderthal were part of a larger collecting effort. In order to understand the fullest picture of life on earth in the past paleontologist were scouring the entire habitable planet to find specimens of the long dead. That methodology crossed over into other new branches of science. Material culture was one thing, bowls, pots, weapons, could all be employed in arguments of a technologically driven process of evolution, but the questions that needed to be answered was that of race. Namely was man a single specie–not so much as in the variation of mockingbirds or tortoises, but questions of racial hierarchy and classification had to be answered.

The Skull CollectorsAnyone who works with statistics will implore you to increase you n. The large the sample size the more your analysis can smooth out or accommodate oddities. Such was Samuel Morton’s drive in his collection of human skulls. Definitely macabre by any standards and offensive to a great number of tastes people are still arguing over the ideology of Morton and others of his day who went about dealing in body parts of others while never thinking to have their family members boiled, de-fleshed and numbered.

Aside from the count, Morton’s collection stands as a testament to early American scientific methods. Morton’s collection grew as people from across the globe sent him skulls. A trade network of what Fabian calls the “unburied dead” existed for most of the century. In its earliest guise it was grave robbers selling corpses to medical schools, but as the recent turn in tastes was anthropology, that was where the enterprise lay. Since most “civilized” people could afford burial in a protected area, Morton’s collection skews heavily towards the poor and minority groups. This says as much as anything and if you are into that kind of study, definitely add Fabian’s book to your library, it is one of the best on the subject. For my purposes those it reveals the power of specimen-ization. The clips below show nearly the same thing. Darwin in South American bartering for a skull specimen and an outlaw in the American Southwest doing the same. The differences to our eyes are one was a living breathing prehistoric beast and the other was a living breathing human. The hardest point to get through here, beyond the whys and wherewithalls is to many people, especially the collectors and early anthropologists, this distinction simply did not exist.


For Morton, and those who collected for him, the pieces of what once made up individuals became important pieces of a larger puzzle, nameless, if not faceless, data points used to try and answer the same questions about man that were being addressed involving  say, the evolution of the horse. For many of Morton’s collectors, and maybe Morton himself, the remains were no more or less than that of horses. They would see “primitive” burial practices as quaint, and wait for the ceremony to be over before swiping the skull and mailing it back to Pennsylvania. There was always someone willing to help. Even John James Audubon of bird and quadruped fame shipped Morton skulls from the battlefield of San Jacinto in Texas. Spanish-Indian he surmised.

Audubon sends Morton skulls from San Jacinto

With the oddities pouring in, and more than a few bags of skulls coming in from the Pacific Northwest and California it would sound like Morton had many experimental measurements but nothing so much as a standard or a control. The American Civil War provided an abundant opportunity for the skulls of white men to be added to Morton’s collection. In fact this time of windfall was exactly what one of Morton’s collectors pegged as the best opportunity for collecting–death on such a scale that the living have no time, energy, or ability to buried their dead. Embalming and funerary history aside, this is one of the races for the new middle class to have their family members embalmed and returned to the cities. Many of them knew the fate of the unburied dead.

In Morton’s lifetime he saw the end to this type of scientific collecting as the Smithsonian’s Bureau of Ethnography began undertaking government-sponsored large scale collecting expeditions and gone were the days that individuals without government authority would collect skulls. Decades later the move to repatriate remains reduced the collection but because not all of the skulls had claimants it wasn’t completely dismantled. In fact, this further skews the original Morton collection towards the poorest class as many of the native american remains have been claimed and repatriated  while skulls of those from tenements and asylums are still part of the collection at UPENN. Most recently (2013/14) the exhibit Year of Proof: Making and Unmaking Race, displayed some of the remaining skulls inside the craniometers that Morton used to measure the skulls in minute detail. As you can surmise many people were put off by the display.

The Smithsonian and The American Indian

After the war, the USGS was still helping America push West along newly united transcontinental railways. Veterans of the war with more skill or cunning or, (more likely) connections made their way into advanced posts in government positions. John Wesley Powell creates the Bureau of American Ethnology in order to preserve the material culture of the vanishing race of American Indians as well as throw his hat into the debates of race, evolution, progress, and what it means for culture.  The Smithsonian’s relationship with its own past is somewhat of an inconvenience these days. The fact that they are attuned to it is promising as you can see the difference in this version of the book in 1994 after being originally released in 1981 under a quite different title:

Savages and Scientists

It wasn’t necessarily a question of de-humanizing the American Indian in the case of the bureau. The Indian had been a vanishing race since before George Catlin and others went west to preserve what they could of the culture with their art. In the post Civil War West the “vanishing” was less than romantic. Nearly to a man all comers to the “Indian question” offered the same two options (a very victorian matter of fact either/or conundrum) the native people must either assimilate or be exterminated. Either choice meant an end to Indian culture as it was practiced in the 1870s through. This was a blanket justification for the bureau. Here, again, we see the other as specimen. Their culture (and their bodies) were things to be collected, studied, catalogued, and explained. (That explanation will come near the end with the last book I will talk about in this post Iron Cages). Incidentally it was the bureau’s work–methodology, scale, and financing–that kept others from amassing collections like Morton. In this sense, anthrology was pulling from the playbook of geology. In fact, Frederick Max Müller called the Bureau of American Ethnography “intellectual geology.”

Wonderful Things Vol. 1

From the perspective of the anthropologists, why not? They were not only riding the tide of understanding the earth, in deep time and for them more recent, and for linguist, perhaps even real time. The Indians were either developing modern Republican sensibilities or were being killed. Either way the race, culture, and civilization of the American Indian in all its guises was vanishing or had vanished. Egyptomania was gripping the American East coast even as modern civilization’s wonderful things were headed west. A vanished civilization with high art and an only recently deciphered language (Champollion cracked the Rosetta Stone in 1822).  Native American Indian Culture was as ripe for the picking as anything buried in Egyptian sands. There were also mummy unwrapping parties, after all why just dehumanize indigenous remains?

Jungle of Stone

To further accelerate American archaeology you have John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood exploring the lost cities of the Maya. In 1841 they published the first book of American archeology: Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán. To tie the two together Stephens had explored Egypt, and The Holy Land (with a book published in 1837), Greece, Turkey (published in 1838) and other places before setting out for Central American jungles in 1839 the same year that Morton published his Crania Americana. In 1844 Morton published Crania Aegyptiaca; or, Observations on Egyptian ethnography, derived from anatomy, history, and the monuments.  

Egyptian Obelisk in New York's Central Park. Installed February 22, 1881
Egyptian Obelisk in New York’s Central Park. Installed February 22, 1881

That following year Edger Allan Poe published a satirical short story “Some Words with a Mummy” in the American Review: a Whig Journal. Poe had attended a mummy unwrapping ceremony whose star had, through ever increasing exaggeration by the press,  been billed an “Egyptian Princess.” As the unwrapping concluded with evidence that she was intact not a real princess, but not even a real she, Poe introduced the world, through one Doctor Ponnonner, to Allamistakeo. I think this might set precedent for all the amazingly bad puns for things like this. There is even an episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that introduces the ancient Amun Turt-El in 1991.  We will spend much more time with Poe later.

Experts are in an increasing accord that the men in this photograph are Samuel Morton, Joseph Leidy, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Experts are in an increasing accord that the men in this photograph are Samuel Morton, Joseph Leidy, and Edgar Allan Poe.

To tie almost all of this together in a less than neat bow is Takaki’s revised edition of Iron Cages. Here Takaki takes all the individual looks at American white attitudes towards different minorities and plays them out in context of each other, as they happened, in real time, from the Revolution to the Spanish -American War in the text and then as far as Post civil rights in the Epilogue. This is not an exercise to again arrange according to race who was treated the worst by the European Americans. One of the things I notice about that term is that is hardly ever includes the Spanish, Portuguese, or the Italians. The Scots are sometimes differentiated from the English and the Irish are right out. In effect it just works that the British, French, and (broadly) German.

Iron Cages

Following the settlement of the continent Takaki’s whites are pressed to incorporate themselves into staunch republicanism and non Britishness while they also deal with the millstone of slavery and continuing, often hostile contact with Native Americans. For the time period covered the book is relatively short (only 303 pages not including notes and an annotated bibliography) so it jettisons through emancipation, the newly freed black industrial “body” of the new south working for the increasing middle class white “mind.” They south is still separated form the north in terms of working class. The new industrial push sees labor in the north consolidating and unionizing to the dismay of the industrialists. While the argument that the newly freed workforce of the south is still as content in labor to make a dollar as they had been under the yoke of slavery.

The drive west brings more “other.” As the east is cleared by indian removal, and the north east especially has generations removed from Indian contact, new methods of describing the increased threat to modern Republicanism as it unfurled on the American West. With expansion comes new Americans. That is to say Mexicans living in lands that belonged to Mexico until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Now these people were Americans and they had the equivalence of five minutes to start acting like industrial, protestant infused working Republicans. Many ended up working in the copper mines to (as Takaki oft repeats) provide the raw material for the wires that brought electricity to the east. To make matters worse the treaty had only been worked out with the Mexican government and no thought was given to the indigenous tribes whose lands straddled the new borders. This should come as no surprise and in fact is repeated to the world’s great detriment after the end of the Great War as the European powers drew lines across the map and divided the spoils effectively planting the seeds of World War II. That is getting ahead of the story, and we must remember that this is a decent approximation of New York City in the 1840s:

Even jumping around the problems in the Southwest and British Northwest (present day Oregon) there were addition racial tensions as far west as the land went. California had seen an influx of Chinese immigrants arrive with the gold rush. They were classified of themselves and in relation to those existing others in North America. To paraphrase some of Takaki’s sources, the Chinese weren’t as brutish as the blacks, nor as lazy as the Indians. Takaki works in the alignment the Japanese had with Mexican workers in order to strike for better wages, only to not be able to register their union because the state wanted them to agree to a No Japanese membership (presumable knowing that on their own they would have less bargaining power).

Eventually the Chinese make it to the East Coast, to some shock and horror as they are brought in to break strikes, just as the “blacks of the New South” had been after the war. I can’t confirm it with hard dates, but one gets the idea that around this time is when C.H. Woolston wrote the words to Jesus Loves the Little Children as it, in its original incantation includes “red and yellow, black and white” children. Woolston was born in 1856 and lived exclusively in New Jersey and Philadelphia after 1880 (if is to be believed).


The book would be great use in any course on American History in the 19th century for no other reason than the great breadth of scholarship that it contains. For me, the most interesting parts is the inclusion of contemporary literature. Takaki utilizes contemporary literary sources for enormous impact by bringing books like Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court out of their quaint classic-ness and into the realm of political and social commentary that it was written as. This example in particular showing the Yankee’s classification of the medieval British as “indian-like” “barbarous” and “savage.” And that is ignoring all the violence.

The ending, I think, is the best part of the book. Not for how it ties in Takaki’s thesis on race in American in the longue durée, but for how he uses Melville’s work as a mirror to modern society. I have been a fan of Melville’s works for years. Not just Moby Dick, but the more obscure Bartleby, the Scrivener, and Redburn. These all show up in Takaki’s conclusion, which should be no surprise given the number of times Takaki uses the word “monomaniac,” it is second only to the phrase “iron cages.” Melville, like Poe and Twain, was well aware of the position of American republicanism, industrial might, and moral ambiguity. To see the Pequod as metaphor for an industrial complex, with her crew a numb mindles body, even aware of perpetuating their own demise they don’t overthrow the captain. Ahab, the embodiment of all the industrial might, civilization, and even technology–one forgets his wish to be a remade–manufactured–man, as his wooden leg serves him better than flesh. Ahab also studies all the maps, currents, tides, winds &c in order to utilize any and all scientific means available in order to destroy the whale.

By the time they catch up to the whale they are in Japanese waters and Fedallah is "Ahab's shadow"
By the time they catch up to the whale they are in Japanese waters and Fedallah is “Ahab’s shadow”

I think, for me, the power in those last pieces of comparative literature comes from work I did over 14 years ago. In my Comp II course I wrote a comparative literature paper comparing Moby Dick to the Bible. It is one of the few things I no longer have a copy of, and it pains me sorely as I was proud of the paper for not only the exemplary grade, but for what I learned while writing it.  Holding on to that sense that Moby Dick was metaphor for the Bible and now (Takaki’s first edition was published in 1979) seeing that it can also serve as metaphor for the captains (ahem) of industry and what Catlin called the “splendid juggernaut of civilization” leads me to take another step back and, like Euclid (and later Lincoln) note that things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. In this sense removing Moby Dick the Bible becomes a metaphor for American Production (and vice versa). This is the entire tenant that deist, like Jefferson, and Freemasons, like Washington, are working with by working biblically, but not religiously. The Bible for them, was treated any other way an ancient text was, this is why Jefferson had no qualms about cutting it to pieces and reordering it in his own fashion for his own purposes.

If you have been following along you will notice paths are starting to cross and the centrifugal force is increasing as it was the Bureau, and The U.S. Ex. Ex (Wilkes Expedition) that brought ends to Morton’s style of collecting, that is ye olde gentleman drawing room scientists that I sent out of vogue with my Piltdown work. Egypt influences American practices in the fields out west, Poe, Twain, and Melville provide harsh realities and Whitman a foil to modern problems with optimism, especially where race is concerned. There will be more about them in future posts but for now, what is the entire take home for all the readings of other? Why is the “other” so important with regards to American Republicanism? It will sound like an oversimplification, but in the case of the evidence above, the entire idea of what is is to be American is defined by what it is not. That is to say, it is not red, yellow, black or brown. In some senses, it is not merely white, as it is not British or French. Without the others Americans, as they exist in the 19th century could not be. The fact that there are many others, and a drive for recognition on the scientific stage set mainly in Europe, required cataloging and maintaining a hierarchy of others, races, and progress. That they were able to align each of them so readily, so quickly, and so firmly as for them to outlast that need requires further study from a multitude of fields. But first, it requires facing many inconvenient truths.

Prehistory and Paleolithic Pop Culture

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Image Source:

Turns out Hugh Hudson has a new film out that focuses on the discovery of the prehistoric cave paintings in Altamira. If you aren’t familiar with the discovery, the Cliff Notes version is an 8 year old girl named Maria led her father Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola to a cave which held amazing paleolithic paintings of bison among other wonders; scientific debates ensue.

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Image Source: Screen capture from Mark Knopfler Making of Altamira Soundtrack video on youtube
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Image Source: Screen capture from Mark Knopfler Making of Altamira Soundtrack video on youtube

The end of the 19th century was rife with debates on man’s place in nature as well as the entire story of mankind in general. The established French view was that prehistoric humans were incapable of such higher forms of thought required to create such things. Arguments about the past and the professional nature of the scientists and divided disciples were heated, marked, and many times personal. Paleoanthropology and other disciplines as we know them were in their infancies fetal stages and battle for the authority to pontificate on humanity’s past was as much the prize as finding answers to the questions they were asking.

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Image Source: Screen capture from Mark Knopfler Making of Altamira Soundtrack video on youtube
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Image Source: Screen capture from Mark Knopfler Making of Altamira Soundtrack video on youtube

Having done a fair amount of research on the Piltdown Affair and its context within the debates that came to a head because of find like Altamira, I am especially intrigued. Adding to that is the fact that like so many other important discoveries in this period it was made by an amateur. That is to say it was reported by an amateur since it was originally discovered by a child.

Drawing of Altamira cave originally from grotte d’Altamira, Espagne. Relevé du plafond aux polychromes publié par M. Sanz de Sautuola en 1880 (d’après Cartailhac, 1902) hosted on Wikimedia Commons

The movie itself looks wonderful since it will have the debates and forces of will involved (including the Church). It also included the wonder that fills Maria as the bison from the cave come alive in her dreams and become a part of her.

Bison in the reproduction museum in Altamira
Bison in the reproduction museum in Altamira

As with most things in life I didn’t get to this from any direct route. I actually first heard of this film through a trailer for its soundtrack. As bizarre as soundtrack trailers sound the bits and pieces around it are where I can glean more of the story.

Mark Knopfler and Evelyn Glennie worked together to create the score for the film and it sounds incredible. It was on Mark’s official Facebook page that I first say the trailer to the soundtrack. Complete with the reimagined stylized version of the famous bison on the front.

The bison form Altamira are iconic and you may recognize them from the plethora of Bisonte cigarette ads/packs that are everywhere. (I say everywhere, that may only be the case if you are as interested in Spain as I am).  If not everywhere then at least on which is a more useful website than you may think, especially for someone who studies visual culture.

Bisonte Cigarrettes, From
Bisonte Cigarrettes, From

Getting to the heart of the film is difficult since all the available trailers are in Spanish since it was released there at the first of this month (April 2016). This isn’t because the film is in Spanish, but because of locality (I guess). So the trailers are dubbed into Spanish which just strikes me as odd, even if I am appreciative of the fact that was produced in English.

There are a few English clips that are part of the making of the soundtrack video below where I grabbed some of the above photos. As far as the cave itself goes, it remains closed to visitors since the damage it sustained from visitor’s breathing in the 1960s. The museum close by has a full replica included some sculptures of human faces that you couldn’t get to in the cave itself.  There are also reproductions in Madrid, Germany, and most recently Japan.  The Caves were up for reopening to the public a few years ago, but in an effort to preserve the site the decision was made to keep them closed. looking at a fake trope was still contentious in 2014.

The Cave was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 and they have a short video on it as well. Until it gets wider release this will have to suffice to piece together what is going on.


Update: Aug. 3, 2016 Full length English trailer finally hits youtube.


The Greatest Adventurer of All Time


Now, I would be completely remiss if I did not include the following man of action on the list. Not all of the men behind the movie actually lived, you see. H. Rider Haggard’s pen brought to life the greatest man of adventure to ever grace a page: Allan Quatermain.  I have a complete collection of all of Haggard’s work, and I love them all, but if you are scrapped for time you may just want to devour King Solomon’s Mines, and She. Fair warning, however, you may decide to read them all.  Quatermain came on the scene in 1855 searching for King Solomon’s Mines. The book, by the same title, is commonly considered the first of the “lost world” genre of literature.  Haggard, being child 8 of 10, was sent by his father to what is now South Africa to take an unpaid assistant to the secretary for the Governor of Natal.  This was not an uncommon practice for families in England. Since only the eldest child would be the inheritor, the remaining siblings were left to their own devices, usually in one of England’s colonies. His time is Africa not only influenced his writing, but left a cause that he would champion for for many years. His work in agriculture reform is mostly overshadowed by his life as a novelist, but he worked throughout Britain’s colonies and dominions attempting to change archaic land use practices and make colonial (and sometimes native) farming, ranching, etc. more profitable.

The downside to such popularity of a character that has fallen out of copywright is that he can be used in any way anyone with a camera and an idea see fit. The latest Allan Quatermain and the Temple of the Skulls, is, well, it is.  There have been popular portrayals of Quatermain, some better, some worse, some story lines have been switched, twisted, or created to work the character in.
Hal Lawrence first played Allan Quatermain in the 1919 feature by the same name. Quatermain made the screen again in 1937 portrayed by Cedric Hardwicke.  Stewart Grander in 1950 and John Colicos in 1979 searched for King solomon’s Mines and King Solomon’s Treasure, respectively. In 1985 and 1986 Richard
Chamberlain offered an 80s style rebirth to the character. There was a television movie in ’86 which starred Arthur Dignam. Quatermain retired back to the books until 2004 when Sean Connery brought the character back to life in an extremely loosely based rendition of Alan Moore’s Graphic Novel The League OF Extraordinary Gentlemen. 

I liked the movie based solely on this character, but seeing all the major players in all the literature I read was very exciting, only to have it spoiled by Tom Sawyer showing up. I heard that he was introduced to the film so Americans would watch it. I am not sure how tre that is, but given what is popular in theatres these days, I am not surprised.

The best movie rendition of the book, although many scenes were simply made up, was the 2004 made for tv versions of King Solomon’s Mines.  Patrick Swayze played the lead in one of his last roles before his death.  The cast of characters generally fit the feel of the stories, and Allan’s aging angst.  The Temple of the Skulls is four years old now and I just found it in a 99 cent rack at the video store. I looked it up online and was not impressed, now I may change my mind when I actually get time and desire to watch it, but as it stands, not so much.

I will end it saying that I too put my foot in his boots.  I was Allan Quatermain one year for Halloween and it was great fun. More so that the party lasted late into the evening and I did not have enough time to remove all the white/grey from my beard before going to work the following morning.  If you haven’t read Haggard’s work, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. The movies are fun, but leave a lot to be desired.  Following the stories and the number of times this book has been required reding in boy’s schools, a nightly reading with your son would most likely be an enjoyable memory for you and him.  You should read it to your daughter as well, if only to make her the coolest girl in jr. high and high school in the future. For that matter, many books have used different takes on the story, but one of my favorites is The Medusa Stone is written by Jack Dubrul. Not as much to do with an all out search for the mines as many other stories, the mines are more a character in the book, than a mere location.

Haggard did not pull Quatermain out of the ethereal. Allan Quartermain was firmly based on a living individual who lived a life quite unpralleled by the rest of us mortals. I suppose that makes him Indiana Jones’ Grandfather, but having this man in your family tree would explain a few things. I will explain more about this man soon, his name was Frederick Courtney Selous.

John Pendlebury Man at Knossos

Rounding out the final four position for the Indian Jones question is a British archaeologist by the name of John Pendlebury. Born in London in 1904, John Pendlebury had blinded himself in one eye by age eight, received scholarships for Pembroke and eventually competed internationally as a high jumper. Pendlebury made is mark in the world in Greek archaeology.  The climate in the Mediterranean allowed for Pendlebury to work in both Greece and Egypt in a single field season.  Crete became a second home to him and he worked closely with native Cretans to understand the history of the island.  He was one of the first to look at local legend, folklore and stories to ascertain more about the physical history of a place.  Shepherds would show him to places that they had known about for generations and Pendlebury would soon be digging there. Some people believe this was taking advantage of the locals for self aggrandizement, but that seems to sell the locals a but short.  This was the late 1920s and early 30s, the world worked differently than it does today.

Similar to Sylvanus Morley, John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury was called to use his expertise to the good of his country during wartime.  His knowledge of Crete and surrounding areas, his fluency with the language, and innumerable friends (on both sides of legality) led him to work as one of the top British Intelligence Agents in Greece.  His closeness with the local gentry may have also led to his unfortunate death. When the Germans invaded mainland Greece Pendlebury and crew were in Heraklion.  As the fighting progressed Pendlebury was shot in the chest. The wound was not fatal and he was carried inside a small cottage to rest. It is reported that a German doctor treated Pendlebury, dressed his wounds, and gave him some sort of an injection. He was given a clean Greek shirt to replace his bloodstained uniform, and when fresh German paratroopers arrived they found a local wounded rebel lying in a cottage bed. Pendlebury had lost his service discs and could not prove he was in fact a British soldier. He was dragged outside, placed against the wall of the cottage and summarily executed; killed in the Battle of Crete, his adopted home, fighting for his adoptive countrymen.

There are may passing mentions of John Pendlebury and the Battle of Crete, a chapter here, or a brief passage there. There are several books that Pendlebury wrote on Bronze Age Greece, Knossos, and other areas he worked. None ever really tied together the story of the man. Thankfully in 2007 Imogen Grunden published The Rash Adventurer: The Life of John Pendlebury. The book is a fairly substantial work of research that lays to rest a few myths and answers many questions about Pendlebury. The author, however, does not offer any input on the famous last words of Pendlebury as he was standing at the cottage wall. A common legend among followers and some contemporaries of Pendlebury maintain that he told the Germans, in no uncertain terms, to be fruitful and multiply…with themselves. But, as with all good stories, this one seems impossible to substantiate.

Other more entertaining stories come to light as well, such as how the Germans believed he was behind everything going against them in Crete, and if he died all of Greece would fall under German control.  How supposedly Hitler wanted his glass eye as proof of his death, and that the German soldiers exhumed his grave to make sure he was dead.  These were brought back to light by an article posted here by the UK Mail online (take it for what you will, I nicked the photo). Either way, the legends seem fitting for someone deemed “The Cretan Lawrence.”

Sylvanus Morley…Undercurrents

Dealing with the most famous of the two source pre Indiana Jones Joneses has not left is without other contenders.  I am sure there are even more than managed to make my list. But these are the ones I am familiar with, and can give the best account of, or advice for reading about.  The third individual on our quest to find the source was different from his two predecessors by one chief enterprise: he was actually a trained archaeologist. Sylvanus Morley was, in fact, a Mayanist. He studied at length in Latin American and published several books, and many papers on the Mayan iconography among other things.  He also published his diaries, a huge effort of 39 volumes running the gamut of his active years (1905-1947) trying to unravel the mysteries of the Maya of Mexico and Central America.  Little is known or discussed about Dr. Morley outside of individuals who actually study the Maya presently. In fact, there are a few who do not know the history of their own field, save some disdain, or unkind words for their predecessors. But all that changed (or has it?) in 2009 when Charles Harris and Louis Sadler published The Archaeologist was a Spy: Sylvanus G. Morley and the Office of Naval Intelligence.  Aside from being one of the books that helped solidify my desire to study the history of science (namely the people at the forefront and/or the births of their respected fields), it revealed to me that many people who work in fields today have no idea where their intellectual infrastructure comes from. Others, can specifically name a mentor, or a grandmentor (that would be their mentor’s mentor for you folks playing along at home) but most cannot trace influence back more than a few academic generations.

         Of course in that count we can always save those poor bedeviled people who hate all the squandered treasures, pillage, plunder and general disdain for local culture. They can always point out who opened a tomb or pyramid first and how unethically they did it. Aside from being generally correct, their self assurance that they are doing it better is quite irritating at times. One must always remember that the archaeologist hipster is a very, VERY annoying conversation mate. But, back to Vay as his friends called him. The indigenous people that he worked with in Mexico and Central America knew him as Sylvano, or Doctor. (Good heavens, could Morley have been the inspiration for Doctor Who as well as Indiana Jones?–the cosmos could not stand it.) The brilliant young archaeologist was called upon by his government, during wartime, to carry out surveillance for the war effort.  He had access to areas that were unmapped and unknown to American military leaders. So, taking his time and efforts Morley folded spy work into his day job of archaeology. His main job was to map the coastline looking for German ports, and deciding whether any coves, cayes, or similar areas could harbor a secret German U-boat facility. There was, he concluded, neither. Problems did arise when he and his chosen team of other archaeologist, each of whom held a speciality within certain geographic areas,  were accused of spying. They all fervently denied such allegations, and went on about their work, both archaeological and governmentally sanctioned. Morley oversaw the Carnegie Institutions Department of Anthropology’s first project. The rebuilding, renovation, and explorations of Chichen Itza.  The department was created in 1912 and accepted Morley’s proposal to work at the site. Tensions from the Mexican Revolution slowed progress, and the First World War postponed it further.  Morley’s work on the Yucatan Peninsula did not begin until the 1923-24 field season.

Sylvanus Morley should be remembered for his work at Chichen Itza, for his early papers on Maya hieroglyphs, and his years at the Carnegie Institution. Instead thanks to Franz Boas, who is undeniably is “the father of anthropology” as he is called, Morley and his team were “exposed” for the spies they were. Boas even said that people like that “prostituted science.” All accolades aside, Boas seems to have a perpetual bur in his saddle. Having recently been passed over for the directorship of the field museum Boas slight was especially raw. To add insult to injury the man hired by the Field Museum was W. H. Holmes, of whom Morley was protege. Perhaps that was part of the bouquet of feathers that never left Boas’ ass. Regardless, his “look what they did” campaign backfired.  Holmes wrote letters complaining of Boas “Hun regime” and “Prussian control of anthropology.” The letters, paired with American anti-German sentiment (probably anti-Jewish sentiment as well since that always seems to fall into play somewhere), led to the AAA censuring Boas for his tirade. Boas may have genuinely felt that the prostitution of science by spying put anthropologist working everywhere at risk of suspicion, the official censure letter stated that his exposing or Morley did just that.

      I am of the opinion that it Boas did more harm than good at that point.  Boas censure was not rescinded until 2005 when the world stepped out into it’s let’s all be friends attitude and sold its backbone down the river in order to make as many people happy (read rich and prominent) as they can. I think the rescind should be rescinded and that every time Boas is mentioned, he should be called in all his facilities and mention should be made of the wonder that a man could have such a long and successful life with so feathers of conceit up his ass. It is little wonder he died of a stroke. Boas did much good for the fight against racism and pseudoscience in the field, but on this particular issue he shut his hand in the door.  Either way the latest thing about Morley to hit press was about his “spy ring.” (segue: There is another instance in science were accusation led to an international issue, Don Johanson of

Franz Boas
(So you know what he looks like)

Lucy fame alerted authorites that a rival scientist was in fact spying for the U. S.. The latter and his team of grad students were escorted from the country unceremoniously (at gunpoint.) There will be a full post on Jon Kalb’s Adventures in the Bone Trade later.) Concluding a third contender for the mark of Indiana Jones’ outline, Sylvanus Morley may have been more a retro inspiration. The fourth movie revealed Jonesy had worked as a spy during World War II, maybe that’s Morley maybe not. (Maybe that makes Oxley W. H. Holmes?)  Either way, Morley and his work should be known more widely than those that currently study the Maya.

Hiram Bingham, Door No. 2

Following up on the heels of RCA, another
famous explorer-archaeologist (treasure hunter *gasp*) is Hiram Bingham III. (there was at least a IV, but I am not sure what number the family is up to now) Bingham was born in Honolulu, Hawaii quite some years before those nice American missionaries displaced the the Hawaiian Queen.  Bingham makes the list for many of the same reasons that Andrews did: for example. he wore a hat. He also tromped about South America in field gear.

      On a more serious note, while working at Yale University Bingham rediscovered the lost mythical city of Machu Picchu. Rumor has it that the team was about to give up when a young Andean lad met one of Bingham’s men at a cantina/saloon/coffeeshop and said he knew of a trail that led to a lost city. If he knew the trail I am not sure why exactly the city was still “lost” but for the sake of argument it was lost to the white man. I suppose Pizarro saw it and after all was forgotten it became “lost” again. Anyway, Bingham’s contribution to Dr. Jones may lie in his job at Yale: lecturer of South American History. In fact, Bingham was never trained in Archaeology. Another facet of character development could be grandfathered by the number of folks who came forward after Bingham (and the National Geographic Society) announced the discovery of Machu Picchu.  A British Missionary, Thomas and a German engineer, J. M. Hassel came forward claiming to have seen the city first. No one really trusts engineers, but would a missionary lie? Bingham was the son of missionaries himself. That would have been a great anthropological battle going on in newspapers had Bingham and Payne parlayed fisticuffs in text.

     Recent developments had discovered that another German, Augusto Berns purchased land opposite Machu Picchu in the 1860s and initiated various schemes to raise money in order to pillage his neighbor. There is a 2008 write up on in it the Independent (found here) discussing Berns, plunder, governmental permission, and an 1874 map showing the location of the “lost” city. But, the chinese have a 600 year old map that shows Antarctica and no one believes them, so there you go. So, mainly known as a teacher and discoverer of a “lost” Incan city, turned his hands to politics and served as a Republican U.S. Senator from Connecticut, 69th Governor and 58th Lieutenant Governor of the same. Bingham died in 1956 at age 80, proving that there may possibly be a few more Indiana Jones movies in store. (Indiana Jones and the Sacred Filibuster?)

Most of the books about the whole ordeal are written by Bingham or his men. Many people find these self-serving, and they probably are, but they were there, they wrote it down, you didn’t, so take it for what its worth. When it comes to history know your sources, sometimes all you have to work with is one or two sources. They may not contain 100% truths but sometimes you have to go with what you have. Throw it out there and get people talking about it. I mean, when was the last time you heard Hiram Bingham’s name brought up in conversation. (not counting conversations with me) The Inca Rebellion, Pizarro, or even 1911 probably only creak through the floorboards of history in survey courses, or worse, some video game.

         For a couple of nice reads to get you in the feel for Dr. Bingham (he had a PhD from Harvard to go along with degrees from Yale and UC Berkley.) try Lost City of the Incas authored by Bingham himself or Explorer of Machu Picchu by his son Alfred. Al, incidentally was also a Connecticut senator, an Army Civil Affairs Officer during World War II, and a practicing lawyer whose last book The Tiffany Fortune and Other Chronicles of a Connecticut Family was published in 1996, the year he turned 81. If you ever get out to the D. C. area, you can stop by and pay your respects to Bingham, he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Roy Chapman Andrews

         Roy Andrews may be the most popular (and likely) candidate for the inspiration behind Indian Jones. It is had to argue with the look, the hat, the field gear, the gun. But, one must remember that mot all field gear looks that way, and in general, so does field gear. Also, the time periods are pretty similar and toting a gun across the globe was less of a hassle then. Hopefully I will get to expand on Andrews a bit later after re editing a paper I wrote on him, but for now a short sweet introduction to get all the players on the board.

        Not much is known about it life before he graduated from college in Benoit, Wisconsin and became a professional explorer and he took great pains to control his image once he was. He wrote many books about his adventures and even some for children. He was, without a doubt the world’s most famous explorer in the 1920s. Where they difference comes is that he was a paleontologist not an archaeologist. Point of fact, he really wasn’t a trained paleontologist either. But he traveled to far off lands and discovered things, and just as importantly, he wrote about them. He was also a noted man to publicized the new trends and products. He always had a kind word for Dodge vehicles. Dodge was also a large financier of his expeditions.


        He had a brief pre-Dino life which involved whaling for the American Museum, but he is really known for finding the first dinosaur eggs in Mongolia. He really wasn’t out dinoing then either. The scientists at the American Museum were convinced that the earliest ancestors of man would be found in the far east. (interestingly enough, some modern findings are suggesting they may not have been as wrong as the Leakey’s and Don Johanson had hoped)

So introducing the first of the many facets that would make their way into spielberg’s hero: Roy Chapman Andrews.

       For full effect you can read the plethora of books written by Andrews, which if you are intested in him, you should. For a one hit wonder encompassing his most popular expedition you can read Dragon Hunter by Charles Gallenkamp.

The Making of an Indiana Jones…

Beginning sometime near the end of the last century I worked mainly between three major identity crises. I had (still have) a common tendency to find common ground with a character in a movie or book and slip into some sort of anachronistic version of that person in the real world. The funny thing is pieces of each of them have stayed and wedged firmly into the makings of a psyche that is truly unique. After swillowing between the likes of Don Johnson’s Marlboro Man, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, and Elvis high school finally ended and I was able to make a clean slate and move into the more lucrative field of college.

Actually the first go round gave little change to the situation at hand and I had to wait six years to find some kind of direction.  In 2006, however, I began again.  This time I soaked up all that the world of higher education had to offer. In a few years, quite without trying I developed a lasting image on campus, all it took was a fedora. I have always worn some kind of hat, and began a daily wearing of a fedora not long after beginning college for the second time.  Soon after I was invited to begin paleontological field work in the Uinta Basin in Utah.  Working in the desert of America’s southwest, sifting through Eocene dirt for microfossils became the highlight of the year.  I was still into Archaeology though, and took off for a Maya field school in the Orange Walk District of Belize. Hosted by the University of Texas, I learned many things about what it took to be a lifetime academic archaeologist. I also made some of the best friends I have ever had.  This reinforced the nomenclature that had taken hold back home. I was Indiana Jones.

I pondered on this a bit, and with the study of the history of field explorations in the American west for fossils, and further research into Archaeology led me to the conclusion that for as many people that take on the persona of the world famous archaeologist, there are nearly as many people behind the character.  Over the next few chapters here, I will look at some of the more famous, and perhaps infamous versions of the man that has came to be the most famous Archaeologist of all time.  Some of the names will be familiar, some may be new, each have some claim to the “inspiration of the character Indiana Jones.” But the truth resides somewhere out there in the abyss of popular culture, popular perception of exploration, and popular accounts of those same explorations, usually by the explorers running the show.

Let’s look at what we know about Dr. Jones historically, not counting the novels, or the prequel series. Every child born in the 80s should have grown up with the Dr. Jones stories. The Raiders of the Lost Ark is film classic that has gained a cult following without actually being a <shudder> cult film. This happens when movies are just good. Everything is great about this movie, except many professional archaeologist disagree with the methods and adventure going on in the film. And they should, there lives are filled with countless hours of dedicated research, painstakingly publishing findings, and the delicate dance of back-stabbing while avoiding being stabbed in the back. The closer the profession deals with humanities origins, outcomes, arts, evolution, the more cutthroat the game. Either way, great fun, great movie, great hero of the ages.

Number 2. Well, that is what it is. This movie had such promise, great location, great mythology, dark storyline, pretty awesome movie poster, even a comical little asian kid. What could possibly go wrong? Kate Capshaw, that’s what. I have watched countless hours of television and film (years if you do the math) and there are rarely few times I dislike someone in a movie more than her in this film.  I remember thinking as a child that this was an ill placement.  I remember wishing as an adolescence that someone would just kill the bitch in he first few scenes and let Ford and Shortround carry out the adventure on their own. Alas, that did not happen and this poor, poor, length of heat exposed tape remained the least favorite of the trilogy for decades. It was a sure way to decide on friendships: if person in question ever said that the Temple of Doom was their favorite film, you immediately (even subconsciously) removed them from your list of people you ever knew and with little help tried to find an open construction site in which to drop them into a cement mixer.

What could save such an awesome work of cinema from its horrid sequel? Sean Connery, of course. Probably the best all around film to come out of the decade (Ghostbusters are up there in the running, you’ll understand why I vote for Aykroyd later) It had everything the original had, and nothing that the sequel had, and that was a great combination. The only complaint I have about this great ending to a trilogy is how they treated the beloved Sallah. In the original he was a trusted, capable, and noble friend. In this he ends up more like a bumbling sidekick for comic relief. Knights, The Holy Grail, and melting Nazis, what is not to love.

Many, *MANY*, fans will tell you that there were ever only three and they steadfastly refuse to even discuss the fact that there might have been rumours of a fourth installment. The power of this thought process is legendary, look at how the whole world has forgotten the first Hulk movie and the demon-hulk-poodle. But, for the record there was a fourth installment. What was bad about it…aliens, Shia Labeouf, Ox being a mental invalid through most of the film, Connery not coming out of retirement…What was good about it…<chirp, chirp>… There were some good things, it happened in South America, we got another Indiana Jones movie, who Shia Labeouf was, the intricate contraption that housed the ending of the movie, the conquistador mummies, and my personal favorite: “If you untie me I am going to punch you in the face” <untie> *punch.*

The ending of the series has left us again without a hero archeologist. It has also left us with a trilogy boxed set and a loose fourth dvd that we bought to have the whole set even though we never watch 2 and 4. There’s the background on how I see it, and possibly How I came to be. Working backward from me to the movies to the men behind the myth I hope to shed some light for myself and possibly others on what makes an Indiana Jones.

For the record, I still wear Don Johnson’s vests from Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, I still have severely oversized sideburns, I still wear hats, and depending on just how nihilistic I feel upon awakening I may or may not wear my blood-stained smiley face button to work. I was also told I could not dress up as Rick O’Connell from the Mummy movies for halloween because it needed to be “something I did not wear every day.”Regardless of all that has been built upon, it is an undeniable fact that the older I get the more I look like Dan Aykroyd. But, hey, he is helping fund Dr. Phil Currie and team’s dino digs in Canada, so why not. And there was Ghostbusters.  

How do all these equate to an Indiana Jones?

The day of the whistlepig

      I had fully intended a post on woodchucks on the second as is customary for Groundhog day, however a death in my wife’s family has put me a few days behind.  With all the services ending today, it is nice to be able to sit and talk of nothing by pointless nature facts and look up pictures of groundhogs on the internet.

So here is goes. I will spare you the redundant mythos about shadows and sly references to Bill Murray and just go with a short, sweet introduction to marmots.

Personally, I think he looks as trustworthy as any meteorologist.

     Groundhogs, whistlepigs, woodchucks, or the land-beaver, the latter of which sounds like some villain from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series, are all the same animal.  Their relatives all prefer the highlands and rocky heights, whereas these guys are the lowland plains and fringe forest dwellers.  Being lowland means they have slightly different ties to their Clans and an almost understandable accent.   (–scottish jokes, groundhogs are not racists, and kilt jokes are hard to make on animals with such short legs. Also google could not find a single image of a woodchuck in a kilt, therefore one must not exist.)

     Groundhogs are nicely sealed against their habitat. They are painted with two coats.  They have a grey undercoat with a nice arrangement of “guard hairs”that give them the “frosted” appearance, i.e. natural highlights.  They are also proficient burrowers moving roughly a cubic meter of soil (about 710 lbs (320 kg)) when getting down to business. There are several active members in the groundhog local that are pushing for the 500 lbs work week, but the rallies have yet to draw up much support.  Burrows, in which extended family can all dwell,  separately of course, groundhogs are keen on their own space.  Be it ever so humble, small burrows usually have a front and back door.  Larger estates may have up to five means of entrance and egress.  Most whistlepig flats contain about 14 meters (46ft) of hallways, and can reach as far as 1.5 meters (5ft) underground. In unfortunate situations these homes may undermine building foundations.  Burrows are not the only confusions with prairie dogs. 

      When out and about, they remain ever on alert.  If the sentries see any suspicious characters they will let out a high-pitched whistle as a warning. Hence, whistlepig.  They may emit low barks, or chatter there teeth.  Squeals usually indicate fighting, serious injury, or capture. When frightened the hair on their tails will stand straight up giving it a brush like appearance. Evidently all major predatory animals have an innate fear of hairbrushes, this is second only to the natural fear of fire.  Although an animal that when frightened could set its tail on fire would be incredible.

The last few seconds you can hear the whistle.
Shadow, schmadow, I can see my house from here.

      So these large hole dwelling fiends are not much good outside a burrow you say?  They are actually quite good swimmers and can climb trees when escaping danger.  They do prefer to retreat to a burrow for the home field advantage and will defend themselves with they extremely sharp claws and “big, pointy teeth” (technical term, +10 for you if you know the source.) Groundhogs are territorial and tend to be agonistic, that is they tend to search for their own truths in the word, no, no, no, wait they are agonistic, NOT agnostic.  That just means they tend to fight amongst themselves to determine dominance and the true path, so maybe they are Baptist. In that case they usually disagree about minutiae interpretation of Groundhogdom  and take half of their congregation and start a new burrow.

         Groundhogs do build separate burrows, but it has nothing to do with differences in theology.  Groundhogs are some of the only animals that truly hibernate, and the separate burrow is for sleeping purposes. In most areas they sleep from October to April. In more temperate areas they can hibernate for as little as three months.  I am not sure if Pennsylvania is considered temperate, I hope so, otherwise people wake them up early for no other reason than to determine if they see there shadow, and they are given no coffee or hot chocolate.   
      A few more random points of interest:  They are used in medical research on Hepatitus B-induced liver cancer.  Once infected they are at 100% risk of developing liver cancer.  They are using them as models for testing Hepatitis B and liver cancer therapies.  Some woodchucks decided to not take the medical school rout and instead became Archaeologist.  Groundhogs are known to have revealed at least one archaeological site in the U.S.  The Ufferman Site in Ohio has never been excavated by humans, instead, numerous artifacts have been found in the midden piles of the local groundhogs.  Their diggings have surfaced significant numbers of human and animal bones, pottery, and bits of stone.  

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck? Aside from Geico commercials they don’t actually chuck wood. They play jai-lai.  The etymology of woodchucking might relate to the Algonquian (some argue Narragansett, and by “some” I mean “wikipedia”) name of the animal: wuchak. Given the explorers penchant for bastardizing native languages (and people, ahem, different post) it should be little wonder that we don’t wonder how much wu could a wuchak chak, if indeed a wuchak could chak wu.

Some wuchaks don’t bother chaking wu, some are gentle
poets who take the time for the small things in life.
Although given their aggressive behavior, they are little old contrarians.
This photo says everything: “Stop and smell the flowers, dammit.”

   I hope that this short reading will give shed a new light on an overexposed and under-appreciated little mammal. I also sincerely hope that if you will never be able to hear that tongue-twister again without at least thinking of the phrasr “chaking wu.”