Early Classic Period Puzzles

Early Classic Period Polychrome Vessels

Almost from its inception there have been archaeological studies of the Maya sites at Chan Chich by nature of the lodge’s stated purpose to protect the area from further lootering. Professor Thomas Guderjan lead some of the early field seasons (1988 and 1990) studying the Maya Settlements in Northern Belize. At that time, the two Dos-Arroyos Polychrome Vessels illustrated above were some of the only artifacts found on site, but the subsequent seasons, spanning close to 20 years at this point, have yielded extensive data and additional artifacts.

These two vessels remain on display in the restaurant area at Chan Chich Lodge. Although both had been repaired by Guderjan’s team, the one on the left had broken over the years. Just before this season’s team fully dispersed, I took the opportunity to request some puzzle practice.  Continue reading

The Technological Wow Factor of Archaeology

Crist’s post about this fascinating National Geographic article last week touched on its excellent graphics but barely began to scratch the surface of the amazing technology that would certainly have left the readers of the early issues of the magazine speechless.

In addition to the world-class photography, the interactive 3-D graphic of the frieze above uses SketchFab technology to allow viewers to not only zoom in and out, but to turn the object around in all directions, as if handling it in person. Do take the time to play with it! Continue reading

Maternal Instinct vs Species Survival

©JOOP VAN DER LINDE/NDUTU LODGE

The more time we spend at Chan Chich Lodge the more we see the seasonality of birth patterns in the wild. There clearly seems to be a “baby season”, that starts with the cats and moves down the food chain to their mammalian prey, as well as birds. Although no photo captures, several jaguar cubs were sighted earlier in the year, followed by dozens of fawns and baby collared peccary. Even the Gallon Jug Farm has welcomed 4 baby horses to the fold, with a fifth on the way…but we’ll talk about that another day.

This unusual news from Panthera.org, an important Big Cat Conservation NGO who uses our 30,000 acres as part of their Jaguar Corridor research, perhaps makes a little bit of sense within the context of those patterns.

We thank Susie Weller Sheppard for sharing these field notes.

Earlier this week, Panthera President and Chief Conservation Officer Dr. Luke Hunter received photos from our partners at KopeLion with some astonishing content: the first-ever evidence of a wild lioness nursing a leopard cub.

Taken on Tuesday by a Ndutu Lodge guest in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the images show a 5-year-old lioness, known locally as ‘Nosikitok,’ suckling a leopard cub estimated to be just 3 weeks old. Continue reading

Archaeology in Miniature

After spending a few days participating in the 2017 CCAP dig I went to visit the lab where the artifacts are cleaned, sorted and tagged. While Phil and I were doing the most basic work, Tomás and Mnemo were carefully cleaning out a burial pot that had been found in the chamber next to our new unit.

Using dental implements and small wooden sculpture tools, they were essentially repeating the process that we’d begun in our unit a few days earlier – carefully excavating the packed earth layer by layer – albeit in miniature. Continue reading

Archaeology Lab 101

Much of the scientific rigor involved in archaeology is related to the careful documentation of what often appears to be a proverbial needle in a haystack: tiny flakes of chert stone, potsherds, or obsidian can be found in the layers (or lots) of a dig unit.

In this tropical environment we’re dealing with wet, loamy earth, so those stone or pottery fragments are frequently covered in mud, and who better to clean much of these items than interested novices. Continue reading

Getting Your Archaeological Feet Wet

Day #2 at CCAP began with the same sense of camaraderie as Day #1 as we continued the process of clearing out topsoil, clipping roots, hauling soil and stone, and yes, working on walls. Each conversation with the team was informative, as we discussed the upcoming step of closing out the “lot” we’d started and opening the next one of the unit – basically as we approached the change-over of levels for the precise documentation required at an archaeological dig.

We were quite close to that point when we stopped work for lunch, returning with high energy to move on to the next stage. But it’s green season in Belize, and Mother Nature had other plans for the day. Continue reading

A Day In the Life of the Chan Chich Archaeological Project

When Crist wrote about the Chan Chich Archaeological Project in April it was in anticipation of the group’s arrival. Now that we’re several weeks in I’ve had the opportunity to assist them first hand, in part as a “guinea pig” for guest involvement as citizen science participants. Fellow contributor Phil Karp (a veteran of many citizen science programs) was enthusiastically up  for the experience as well.

The team of archaeologists and field school students, led by Texas Tech University associate professor Dr. Brett Houk, is studying the ancient Maya at Chan Chich and surrounding sites. Several weeks into their dig they’ve made significant progress, and they gamely accepted the challenge of taking novices into their ranks.

We began at the beginning, well known to be the very best place to start, with a new “lot” located next to a well-established excavated area. Continue reading

Southern Roots Run Deep

Ms. Gomez grew up pulling mangoes from the trees and buying sugar cane from the vendors gathered outside her parochial school. Evan Sung for The New York Times

While Crist may have had the good fortune to enjoy a taste of Kerala with Asha Gomez during travel away from our home there, I was busy exploring the market byways for local ingredients and food ways. What a fascinating story to hear that Asha is actually experiencing that same sense of discovery and exploration within her own home state.

It looks like Crist might have gotten his wish for Asha to come to Kerala, after all!

A Chef’s Quest in India: Win Respect for Its Cooking

“I think I had disconnected myself from this place in some way by saying for so long that the U.S. was home,” said Ms. Gomez, 47, who had moved from the Indian state of Kerala to the state of Michigan as a teenager. “There is still so much a part of me here. I think I had forgotten that.”

Ms. Gomez had come to this land of ports, tea estates and spice gardens not only to reconnect with a part of herself, but also to find new ways to use her camera-ready personality and kitchen chops to lasso Kerala’s beautiful food culture and drag it back to the United States.

“I have to remove people from the mentality that all Indian food should be clumped up into nine dishes that are not really Indian dishes,” she said. “Not all Indian food belongs on a buffet line at $4.99. Indian food is 5,000 years of tradition and history, and it belongs right up there with French cuisine.”

Her frustration over American interpretations of the beloved coconut-scented fish curries, dosas and carefully layered beef biryanis of her homeland echoes the lament of countless cooks who have immigrated from countries like China, Mexico or Vietnam only to find their food mangled to meet the limitations of a new country’s palate and relegated to its cheap-eats guides.

“I wish I could say to every immigrant cook in America, ‘Why do you think your food should be any less than any other cuisine that comes from anywhere else in the world?’” Ms. Gomez said. Continue reading

Biomimetic Yarn-Bombing

Image © 2016 CHOI+SHINE

I’ve long been fascinated with urban space art installations in general, and fibre based pieces in particular. Somehow I missed hearing about the Singapore based i Light Marina Bay Light Art Festival in March, but I’m happy to have discovered it now.

The festival is an annual event, and this year’s theme of Biomimicry and Sustainability strike multiple chords. London/Seoul based architectural firm Choi+Shine created The Urchins for this site specific installation. 

This project is inspired by sea urchin shells, which are enclosed yet light weight, delicate and open.  Their textured and permeable surface interacting with light creates openness, while the pattern’s mathematical repetition brings visual rhythm and harmony.  Against light, the sea urchin natural form reveals one of the most spectacular patterns found in nature. Continue reading

Foraging Forays

Taking a break from packing for my upcoming return to Belize, I joined a group of old friends from the Georgia Mushroom Club in a foray near the Georgia/South Carolina border. Fresh air, a walk in the woods, good company, and foraging for mushrooms – what better way to spend a morning?

The weather has been warm and wet, great conditions for mushrooms and we were happy to find patches of chanterelles. As we searched we talked about Chan Chich Lodge and Belize, and that we’re in the midst of brainstorming collaborations with the staff and local community who carry the ancestral knowledge of the old Mayan and Belizean foodways, and chefs who focus on foraging in the creation of their menus. We’ve recently discovered a variety of foods that are plentifully available from the Chan Chich forests, and are excited to incorporate them into our culinary story.  Continue reading

Cry Sadness Into The Coming Rain

Gottlieb ǂKhatanab ǁGaseb aka Die vioolman (The Violinist) plays traditional Damara music at the funeral of Ouma Juliana ≠Û-khui ǁAreses on the family farm beneath the Dâures. Uis District, Erongo Region. December 2014

As an international company, our team tends to be spread out across the world, so more often than not many of our posts is a surprise to the rest. It was with that sense of synchronicity that I read Crist’s piece on Gerhard Steidl’s conservation work yesterday while I was in the midst of writing about this upcoming publication.

Born in Namibia, photographer Margaret Courtney-Clarke spent decades capturing life in remote places in Italy, the USA and numerous parts of Africa. Returning to Namibia after years away, she found the once familiar landscape drastically changed.

Cry Sadness Into the Coming Rain is a forthcoming publication by Steidl, Germany, 2017.

With strong memories of my formative years growing up on the edge of the Namib Desert in what was then known as South West Africa, I have returned to explore my obsession with this place and my lifelong curiosity for the notion of shelter. I have covered thousands of dusty kilometres across remote plains, through dry river beds, over sand dunes and salt pans, through conservancies and communal lands to photograph families in desperate, forgotten outposts. I try to capture the ‘transhumance’ – the search for work, forage and water – and the remnants of former habitats alongside once productive land.

In coastal towns I move with women and children across stretches of desert from one garbage dump to another – often with the loot they carry in their quest to create shelter and eke out a living. I focus on human enterprise and failure, on the bare circumstances of ordinary women and men forced to negotiate life, and of an environment in crisis. Continue reading

America’s Best Idea Just Got Better

In our current political climate we continue to applaud those who stand up to for science, nature and culture. It’s been particularly heartening to watch the steward’s of our national parks create a virtual protective shield around the vision they’re charged to protect.

My personal standing ovation goes to the partially anonymous park ranger who spends his spare time creating downloadable maps of all our country’s national parks, by state, from A to Z. (F, Q, U and X seem to be the only letters missing…) In addition to maps, site visitors find all sorts of experiential tips to prepare for safe exploration.

Glacier Maps

If you’re looking for a Glacier map, you’ve come to the right place; currently I’ve collected 28 free Glacier National Park maps to view and download. (PDF files and external links will open in a new window.) Here you’ll find a bunch of trail maps, along with other maps such as campgrounds and the shuttle bus. You can also browse the best-selling Glacier maps and guidebooks on Amazon. Continue reading

Music That Inspires On Multiple Notes

Musicologist and conductor Laurie Stras

While I personally don’t focus on organized religion, I can’t deny the power of sacred music to uplift my spirit. This story of inspired Renaissance composition and modern-day curiosity resonates with historical sleuthing and musical puzzle solving.

Click on the Sound Cloud musical links, close your eyes and breathe deep.

Sisters doing it for themselves: radical motets from a 16th-century nunnery

Eight years ago, leafing through a bibliography of 16th-century music prints (like you do), my eye was caught by the title of a motet: “Salve sponsa Dei.” “Bride of Christ,” I thought. “Must be for nuns!”

It was one of 23 anonymous motets published together in 1543, so I did what any self-respecting nunologist would do, and ordered a reproduction of the book. As I put the motets into a usable edition for modern singers, I found they were unlike any other 16th-century music I’d ever seen. They were dense, intense and sometimes startlingly dissonant.

The music – for five equal voices (of unspecified sex) – is astonishingly beautiful and yet strange, radical even. These works had lain unsung and unloved for almost four centuries, mostly because they were anonymous. These days, anonymity suggests that whoever created the book, music, painting or whatever was not important enough, or the product is not good enough, for anyone to care who made it. But in the 16th century, anonymity was also an important way for members of the nobility to disguise their participation in commercial ventures that were considered beneath them (which is why Gesualdo, a prince, published his madrigals anonymously).

But Virginia Woolf was right when she said: “Anonymous was a woman.” Continue reading

Art as Public Domain

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher by Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, Delft 1632–1675 Delft)

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher
by Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, Delft 1632–1675 Delft)

In these current times when Art, Culture and Civility appear to be under constant attack, news that museums and galleries – both private and public – are opening their virtual archives of Public Domain artworks to be just that, public, is newsworthy.

For example, a click on the image to the left takes viewers to the Metropolitan Museum’s website that includes not only the full details of the painting (description, catalogue entry, provenance and exhibition history, etc.), but also a hyperlink to a map of the gallery where viewers can find the actual painting, and related objects within the museum’s vast collection.

We’re happy to know that museums, whether virtual or physical, still provide inclusive space to breathe deep.

Met Museum Makes 375,000 Images Free

Continue reading

Coffee, Birds & How They Matter

Sun-grown coffee (left) is a monoculture of coffee bushes. Shade-grown coffee (right) offers more habitat for forest species. Photos: Chris Foito/Cornell Lab Multimedia; Guillermo Santos).

Sun-grown coffee (left) is a monoculture of coffee bushes. Shade-grown coffee (right) offers more habitat for forest species. Photos: Chris Foito/Cornell Lab Multimedia; Guillermo Santos).

Our lives in the New World Tropics has allowed a frequent convergence between birds and coffee, even in the most simple terms of enjoying birdsong in our garden over the first morning cup. That very garden of our home in Costa Rica sits in what was historically cafetal (a coffee finca), with large trees shading the coffee that still grows along the little stream that runs along the property line. Blue-crowned motmots (the Central American cousin to the Andean Motmot mentioned below, have been frequent residents.

The coffee plantings at our home are insignificant compared to the 100+ acres of Gallon Jug Estate shade-grown coffee at Chan Chich. Of the nearly 350 bird species recorded in the Chan Chich Reserve’s 30,000 acres, a large percentage are migratory, making their home in the coffee as well as the healthy forest habitats that make up the reserve.

Sustainable agriculture is rarely a “get rich quick scheme”, but taken within the context of the “seventh generation stewardship”, the benefits will continue to outweigh the costs.

In Colombia, Shade-Grown Coffee Sustains Songbirds and People Alike

By Gustave Axelson

Early one morning last January, I drank Colombian coffee the Colombian way—tinto, or straight dark.

I sipped my tinto while sitting on a Spanish colonial veranda at Finca Los Arrayanes, a fourth-generation coffee farm and hotel deep in northwestern Colombia’s Antioquia region. The sun had not yet risen above the high ridges of the northern Andes. In the ambient gray predawn light, the whirring nocturnal forest insects were just beginning to quiet down.

My senses of taste and smell were consumed by the coffee, which was strong and bold in a pure way, the flavor flowing directly from the beans, not a burnt layer of roast. But my eyes were trained on a small wooden platform that held a couple of banana halves. The first bird to visit was an Andean Motmot, one of Colombia’s many Alice in Wonderland–type fantastical birds. It sported a green-and-turquoise coat and black eye mask, and it was huge—longer than my forearm, with a long tail with two circles at the end that swung rhythmically from side to side like the pendulum of a clock.

The motmot flew away and I took another sip of coffee to be sure I didn’t dream it. Another bird soon landed on the platform to pick at the bananas. This one was yellow, though Colombians call it tangara roja, because males of this species are completely red. In its breeding range, birders from the Carolinas to Texas know it as the Summer Tanager.

For more than 5 million years, a rainbow of Neotropical migrant birds (tanagers, warblers, and orioles) has been embarking on epic annual migrations from breeding grounds in North America to the New World tropics. In Colombia, these wintering areas are a lot different now than they were just 50 years ago. From the 1970s to the 1990s, more than 60 percent of Colombian coffee lands were cleared of forest as new varieties of sun-grown coffee were planted. During that same period, populations for many Neotropical migrant species plummeted—a drop many scientists say is related to deforestation of the birds’ wintering areas across Central and South America.

And yet, coffee doesn’t require deforestation. Continue reading

If You Happen To Be In London

John Lockwood Kipling with his son Rudyard Kipling, 1882. © National Trust/Charles Thomas

John Lockwood Kipling with his son Rudyard Kipling, 1882. © National Trust/Charles Thomas

Kipling is almost a household name for many in our group, but primarily in the context of Rudyard Kipling, the writer of the well-known stories and fables about India. When researching the author a few years back I was surprised to learn about his talented father, whose beautiful illustrations graced the early editions of several of his son’s books.

Rudyard Kipling’s bookplate ‘Ex Libris', Lockwood Kipling, 1909. © National Trust Images/John Hammond

Rudyard Kipling’s bookplate ‘Ex Libris’, Lockwood Kipling, 1909. © National Trust Images/John Hammond

Those lucky enough to be in London this month can visit the Victoria & Albert Museum for the exhibition Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London.

More of note, not only was the senior Kipling an artist, writer, museum director, teacher, and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement – he was also a conservationist, distinguished for promoting the traditional textile crafts of India and what is now Pakistan.

The exhibit coincides with Conferences and Symposia related to the 3-year international research project on Kipling’s legacy.

The 19th century Arts and Crafts revival in British India is a fascinating chapter in the international history of art and design. However, John Lockwood Kipling’s career as designer and architectural sculptor, curator and educator, illustrator and journalist, has received little attention. Continue reading

Kerala’s Stars Redux

We published this post in the early period of this site, but the beauty of the subject and the timeliness of the season begs its redux…

The colorful stars that begin to grace Kerala buildings in December from homes, to businesses, to places of worship have humble beginnings despite their current flashy status.  The were originally a simple white 7 point star that correlated with the beacon leading to the Christmas manger.

Many of these folded and cut paper stars are the handiwork of a group of women in a fishing villages around the southern Kerala city of Kollam. Continue reading

‘Tis the Season for Creative Arborescent Decision-Making

photo credit: Carol Fernandez

photo credit: Carol Fernandez

Real Vs. Fake Trees – Which is Better for the Environment?

Tis the season for an age-old question: Which kind of Christmas tree – real or fake – is better for the environment?

We love this question, because it’s an example of a simple choice that anyone and everyone can make that can reduce our impacts on the environment.

We also love this question because, like many environmental issues, the answer isn’t as simple as you might think. Our #1 recommendation? Buy a real tree. Read on for more details on the impacts of both real and fake Christmas trees, and then make the choice that’s right for you. And check out our 12 Tree Tips for other earth-friendly holiday decoration tips.

REAL CHRISTMAS TREES

In 2015, 26.9 million trees were purchased from live Christmas tree farms – more than twice the number of fake trees purchased (12 million).   Continue reading

Centennial Portraiture

Painted Desert by Cody Brothers

Since August this year a multitude of events have occurred to honor the 100th birthday of the U.S. National Park Service. Aside from the obviously wonderful wilderness experiences available in the country’s 58 parks, as well as our own National Park of the Week series on this site, there are cultural events that highlight the beauty and history of the amazing achievement that is the preservation of our national patrimony for future generations.

Photographers have documented the landscapes of our national parks from the moment the technology made it possible, and the haunting beauty of the panoramas draw artists, explorers and dreamers still.

National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient Cody Brothers is all three. Continue reading

Fiber Fashion

PiñatexTM production will bring new income opportunities for pineapple harvest farmers in developing countries, with the initial development stage taking place in the Philippines

We’re not insensitive to the frequent commentary on both news and social media by animal rights activists against viewing animals as commodities. With those feelings in mind, this discovery of Ananas Anam, a not for profit organization that is developing leather-like textiles using natural fibers that are the by-product of the pineapple harvest, is an exciting one.

I’ll definitely be on the look out for Pinatex products and hope our readers will as well!

ananas- anam – new materials for a new world

OUR SOCIAL IMPACT

Ananas Anam supports pineapple-farming communities in the Philippines. We are developing a new industry that will enhance the social network in rural areas as farmers will be able to sell fibres as a commercial and viable proposition.

Furthermore, the farming communities will benefit from the potential output of natural fertilizer/biogas which is the by-product of fibre extraction.

Other pineapple-growing developing countries will join the Philippines in the production of Piñatex, which will support local economies and strengthen their exports. Continue reading