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The Lunder Conservation Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum
At the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Lunder Conservation Center, visitors have the unique opportunity to see conservators at work in five different laboratories and studios. The Center features floor-to-ceiling glass walls that allow the public to view all aspects of conservation work–work that is traditionally done behind the scenes at other museums and conservation centers
Three scout leaders in the United States are to face criminal charges after filming themselves destroying a natural, mushroom-shaped rock formation (known as a hoodoo) in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. The three men (Dave Hall, Glenn Taylor and Dylan Taylor) are seen in their own video toppling the formation while one of them is heard to say, “Some little kid was about ready to walk down here and die and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way, so it’s all about saving lives here at Goblin Valley.”
Hoodoos take millions of years to form and there are thousands of them in Goblin Valley State Park. Spokesman Eugene Swalberg said, “It is not only wrong, but there will be consequences. This is highly, highly inappropriate. This is not what you do at state parks. It’s disturbing and upsetting.” It certainly is inappropriate; let’s hope better signage will be put in place warning visitors of the consequences of damaging the park’s features and that this particular hoodoo can be re-erected.
The myths of El Dorado
For centuries Europeans were dazzled by the legend of El Dorado – literally ‘the golden one’. Many different stories were told of El Dorado – sometimes it was imagined as a lost city of gold, sometimes as a man covered in powdered gold who plunged into the middle of Lake Guatavita (near modern Bogotá). The exhibition uncovers the fascinating truth behind some of these myths. Unlike in Europe, gold was not valued as currency in pre-Hispanic Colombia. Instead it had great symbolic meaning, facilitating all kinds of social and spiritual transformations. It was one way the elite could publicly assert their rank, both in life and in death.
Palygorskite. Image credit Wiki Commons
HeritageDaily reports on the 12 April that –
The recipe and process for preparing Maya Blue, a highly-resistant pigment used for centuries in Mesoamerica, were lost. We know that the ingredients are a plant dye, indigo, and a type of clay known as palygorskite, but scientists do not know how they were ‘cooked’ and combined together. Now, a team of chemists from the University of Valencia and the Polythecnic University of Valencia (Spain) have come up with a new hypothesis about how it was prepared.
Full article here.
A monkey geoglyph in the Lines of Nazca complex
Writing in Mining.com yesterday, Michael Allan McCrae reports that –
A portion of the Nazca Lines, massive ancient geoglyphs in southern Peru, were torn up by heavy machinery, reports El Comercio (Spanish).
The Nazca Lines, which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, are large figures etched into the desert between 400 and 650 AD. The company that is accused of the damage, which operates a limestone quarry and upgraded their operation a few months ago to produce construction material, says their land is privately owned and they are free to operate on it as they wish. A researcher is pushing back…
Writing in The Los Angeles Times on the 18 November, Louis Sahagun reports on the theft, damage and desecration of 3,500 year old petroglyphs on cliffs in the Eastern Sierra –
BISHOP, Calif. — Ancient hunters and gatherers etched vivid petroglyphs on cliffs in the Eastern Sierra that withstood winds, flash floods and earthquakes for more than 3,500 years. Thieves needed only a few hours to cut them down and haul them away.
Federal authorities say at least four petroglyphs have been taken from the site. A fifth was defaced with deep saw cuts on three sides. A sixth had been removed and broken during the theft, then propped against a boulder near a visitor parking lot. Dozens of other petroglyphs were scarred by hammer strikes and saw cuts.
The region is known as Volcanic Tableland. It is held sacred by Native Americans whose ancestors adorned hundreds of lava boulders with spiritual renderings: concentric circles, deer, rattlesnakes, bighorn sheep, and hunters with bows and arrows. For generations, Paiute-Shoshone tribal members and whites have lived side by side but not together in Bishop. But desecration of the site, which Native Americans still use in spiritual ceremonies, has forced reservation officials and U.S. authorities to come together and ask a tough question: Can further vandalism be prevented?
Writing for MessageToEagle.com Dustin Naef reports that –
Native Americans of the Mt. Shasta region have maintained ceremonial sites on and around the mountain for thousands of years, but the locations of these sites have not been disclosed to the public, and are not talked about – and well, one can hardly blame or criticize them for it, because most Native Americans would like to enjoy the areas that they deem sacred without the intrusion of the public who have been known to desecrate their ancestral lands, and carry away sacred objects as souvenirs.
After all, how would some people like it if someone came into their church to have a picnic, and then carried off an urn? Some sacred sites already no longer exist, or have been defiled (like Pluto’s Cave) as a result of development and intrusion, and others are in jeopardy. (Native American Interview By Dorothea J. Theodoratus and Nancy H. Evans ).
Many Native Americans view any development on Mt. Shasta, or indigenous sacred sites anywhere, as dangerous to all people in the vicinity, because most believe that the spirits who reside there will find a way to destroy any such construction, or punish intrusions upon their sacred ground. Their concern is that further development and intrusions will harm the energy and strength of the mountain, which connects to the whole topology of the region, and perhaps dislocate the spirits who reside there.
Sacred Land Film Project (SLFP)’s mission is to create and distribute media and educational materials to deepen public understanding of sacred sites, indigenous cultures and environmental justice. A sponsored project of Earth Island Institute in Berkeley, California since 1984, SLFP is a 501(c)3 non-profit funded entirely through grants and individual donations. If you enjoy this clip, please consider making a donation to SLFP. Your contribution will make it possible for us to complete our newest documentary series, Losing Sacred Ground, which will bring the stories of these indigenous communities to a national television audience.
Chimney Rock Archaeological Site: Image credit US National Forest Service
Writing in The Examiner on Friday, 21 September, Stacey Witting reports that –
Today, President Obama exercised his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate a new national monument at Chimney Rock Archaeological Area in Colorado. The president’s decision provides this irreplaceable site — sometimes called “America’s Stonehenge” — with permanent protection and a designation equal to its historic and cultural importance. The 4,726-acre Chimney Rock Archaeological area located in San Juan National Forest which is a mecca for hikers.
President Obama’s decision—only the third time he has exercised his authority [in this way] — comes in response to a grassroots campaign conceived and led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which engaged a diverse coalition including a bipartisan group of local and statewide elected officials, Puebloan and tribal leaders and private citizens. In May, the National Trust named Chimney Rock a National Treasure, one of the irreplaceable places that epitomize the American story but face distinct threats.
The history and cultural significance of Chimney Rock predate the exploration and settlement of North America. Between A.D. 925 and 1125, the Chacoans built a residential and ceremonial village and inhabited the Chimney Rock mesa, establishing the most northeastern and highest known Chacoan site.
The ancient Chacoans were great engineers, architects and astronomers. Among their ceremonial and residential structures on the mesa is the Great House Pueblo which was likely used as an observatory for the rare Northern Lunar Standstill. During the standstill the moon aligns between Chimney Rock’s double spires. This extraordinary lunar alignment has earned Chimney Rock the nickname “America’s Stonehenge.”
Full article here.
Senior conservator, Stefano Scafetta, works on a portrait of a young Menominee boy by George Catalin
In this studio [at the Smithsonian American Art Museum] conservators restore the surface of paintings to a condition that most closely resembles an earlier unaltered or undamaged state. The two most common procedures that take place here are cleaning and inpainting. During cleaning, conservators carefully remove layers of accumulated grime; darkened varnish; and old, discolored retouching from the surface of paintings. To restore areas of lost paint, conservators fill the areas of loss with gesso, and inpaint them to match surrounding areas of original paint. They use easily reversible materials and take great care not to cover any of the original paint that had been applied by the artist.