Learning Archeology In Situ At Chan Chich Lodge

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We recently posted a brief description of this program in the events section on the Chan Chich Lodge website, and here we provide a longer description written by the program organizers. The photos are from recent years of the program. I am looking forward to welcoming Professor Houk and his team of archeology students to Chan Chich Lodge few weeks from now, and especially looking forward to the opportunity guests of the lodge will have to join the evening lecture series, discussing the history of the location and particular discoveries from the site:

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Guests of Chan Chich Lodge are the most recent inhabitants of the ancient Maya city of Chan Chich. Abandoned around AD 900, the once proud buildings, plazas, courtyards, reservoirs, gardens, and fields were gradually reclaimed by the jungle for over 1,100 years… Continue reading

Osage Nation’s Reign Of Terror

20253bbcb2dd6c45dd81207b5472e853c352bbd3Many of our links to the too many stories of injustice perpetrated against Native Americans in the last year had to do with pipelines.  Some stories focus on the positive, but there remains plenty of negative. The only time we have noted the Osage Nation in these pages, it was under the happier circumstances of someone doing the right thing by them.

David Grann’s new book is being reviewed, and he is being interviewed, just as one of his earlier articles has become a powerhouse cinematic experience. He is our kind of sleuth, and so it is strange that we have not linked to his work before. Thanks to Theodore Ross in the New Republic for bringing this to our attention:

…In the early 1900s, the Osage were among the wealthiest people in the United States, after a large oil reservoir was discovered beneath the barren Oklahoma scrubland they had been driven to by white settlers and the federal government. Then tragedy: a string of murders, each following close on the heels of the next, as a bloody plot to separate the Osage from their money and land unfolded.

Grann tells the story of these murders, the conspirators, and the new breed of lawmen from the FBI who hunted them down. He also reveals a far worse scheme, one that encompasses America’s institutional racism and violence, and the exploitation of Native Americans… Continue reading

Cavafy, Ithaca

cover_cavafy_pbIf you already read this,  you likely treated yourself to the poem the author referenced. I continue to lean on Kazantzakis but perhaps the best outcome for me of reading what Daniel Mendelsohn published in the current issue of the New Yorker was a direction to his translation of Cavafy:

An extraordinary literary event: Daniel Mendelsohn’s acclaimed two-volume translation of the complete poems of C. P. Cavafy—including the first English translation of the poet’s final Unfinished Poems—now published in one handsome edition and featuring the fullest literary commentaries available in English, by the renowned critic, scholar, and international best-selling author of The Lost. Continue reading

East, West & History

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The podcast of this discussion kept sitting there, waiting to be listened to, since last July. Finally I had time to focus on it, and wow. It is worth an hour of your time if you have had the opportunity to live in both East and West and still wonder how to make sense of the experiences; and if you appreciate historical parallels as learning tools:

There’s a new school of history that’s revolutionising the way we look at the past. For centuries, our history has been taught in separate chunks, with the classical, European world divided from China and the East. This traditional, somewhat lazy history of civilisation, zeroing in on the Western Mediterranean, drastically restricts our understanding of the world – and the crucial ideas and problems that have affected human civilisation as a whole; from politics to religion; from war to money. Continue reading

Yuval Noah Harari Speaks His Mind; What A Mind It Is

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707.jpgWe linked recently to a review of this book, and that makes a compelling case. His publisher’s blurb says:

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, envisions a not-too-distant world in which we face a new set of challenges. Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? In Homo Deus, he examines our future with his trademark blend of science, history, philosophy and every discipline in between.

But if you have 90 minutes to let the author compel you through discussion, the intelligence squared recording below will not let you down

Cacao’s Curious Clues

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A view from the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory in São Sebastião do Uatumã, Brazil. A new study examines correlations between plant species in the forest today and archaeological finds. Credit Bruno Kelly/Reuters

Different day, different location, and our interest in cacao is  piqued again:

How the Amazon’s Cashews and Cacao Point to Cultivation by the Ancients

By

Scientists studying the Amazon rain forest are tangled in a debate of nature versus nurture.

Many ecologists tend to think that before Europeans arrived in the Americas, the vast wilderness was pristine and untouched by humans. But several archaeologists argue that ancient civilizations once thrived in its thickets and played a role in its development. Continue reading

You Had Us At Sweet Potato

logoWe have only recently discovered this resource but I expect you will start seeing a flow of interesting stories. sourced from Harvest Public Media, that touch on topics of interest to us here. For example, the mere mention of sweet potatoes was enough to get us interested:

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According to the USDA, sweet potato consumption in the U.S. nearly doubled in just 15 years, from about 4 pounds per person in 2000. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II. Continue reading

Model Mad, Icon

 

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A new anthology of the work of Harry Belafonte, pictured here in the nineteen-forties or fifties, reiterates his standing in American music. PHOTOGRAPH BY BETTMANN / GETTY

There was an editorial a few days ago that alerted us to the birthdays of two buddies, each on icon in his own right, who have 70 years of solidarity in the tough times, and best of times too. It also alerted us to the time since our last post with the model mad theme, so here is one more:

HARRY BELAFONTE AND THE SOCIAL POWER OF SONG

By Amanda Petrusich

Sixty-one years ago, in 1956, Harry Belafonte recorded a version of the Jamaican folk song “Day-O,” for his third studio album, “Calypso.” It opens with a distant and eager rumbling—as if something dark and hulking were approaching from a remote horizon. Belafonte—who was born in Harlem in 1927, but lived with his grandmother in a wooden house on stilts in Aboukir, a mountain village in Jamaica, for a good chunk of his childhood—bellows the title in a clipped island pitch. The instrumentation is spare and creeping. His voice bounces and echoes as it moves closer. It sounds like a call to prayer. Continue reading

Millenia-Old Amazonian Practices Worthy Of Marvel

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New research suggests people were sustainably managing the Amazon rain forest much earlier than was previously thought. Credit Jenny Watling

Anything with the word Amazon in it, when it refers to the rainforest ecosystem in South America, is worthy of marvel. Joanna Klein offers this story, in the Trilobites feature at the New York Times, that is one of the more surprising finds we have seen in a long time:

Deep in the Amazon, the rain forest once covered ancient secrets. Spread across hundreds of thousands of acres are massive, geometric earthworks. The carvings stretch out in circles and squares that can be as big as a city block, with trenches up to 12 yards wide and 13 feet deep. They appear to have been built up to 2,000 years ago.

Were the broken ceramics found near the entrances used for ritual sacrifices? Why were they here? The answer remains a mystery. Continue reading

Model Mad, Literary

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The Cold War–era writings of the Czech writer Václav Havel offer ideas on how dissidents can resist “the irrational momentum of anonymous, impersonal, and inhuman power.”PHOTOGRAPH BY MIROSLAV ZAJIC / CORBIS VIA GETTY

This post by Pankaj Mishra fits the bill for the theme we have been following, as the excerpted several paragraphs below will illustrate:

VÁCLAV HAVEL’S LESSONS ON HOW TO CREATE A “PARALLEL POLIS”

…Born in 1936, Havel came of age in Czechoslovakia, whose Communist rulers repeatedly imprisoned and continuously surveilled him while suppressing many of his writings. Defiant right until 1989, when he engineered the fall of the Communist regime, Havel came to be celebrated in the West as a “dissident,” a word commonly used to describe many in Communist countries who valiantly struggled against a pitiless despotism. Continue reading

Support The Story

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Credit Emilia Lloret/Native Agency

We will all be the beneficiaries, no doubt:

Nurturing New Storytellers in Africa and Latin America

By David Gonzalez

For some people, the idea of “serious” photography conjures up dramatic scenes of suffering, violence and poverty. This can be especially so in parts of Latin America and Africa, where careers have been made by foreign journalists who go in looking for drama. While no doubt there are pressing issues in these regions, there are also scenes of daily life, or less dramatic situations, that go unnoticed, slanting how a global audience sees people and places. Continue reading

Scientist, Illustrator, Forgotten Metamorphosist

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In some of Merian’s drawings, butterflies and caterpillars didn’t match. CREDIT MARIA SIBYLLA MERIAN, METAMORPHOSIS INSECTORUM SURINAMENSIUM, AMSTERDAM 1705, THE HAGUE, NATIONAL LIBRARY OF THE NETHERLANDS

Any story with Metamorphosis in it is bound to get our attention, but a long-forgotten scientist getting her due is the intrigue that makes this story by JoAnna Klein–A Pioneering Woman of Science Re‑Emerges After 300 Years–coinciding with the republication of this book below, worthy of the read:metamorph

Maria Sibylla Merian, like many European women of the 17th century, stayed busy managing a household and rearing children. But on top of that, Merian, a German-born woman who lived in the Netherlands, also managed a successful career as an artist, botanist, naturalist and entomologist.:

“She was a scientist on the level with a lot of people we spend a lot of time talking about,” said Kay Etheridge, a biologist at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania who has been studying the scientific history of Merian’s work. “She didn’t do as much to change biology as Darwin, but she was significant.” Continue reading

Patagonia, Geological Time & Food History

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Two fossils of a newly discovered species of tomatillo that are 52 million years old. CreditPeter Wilf

They had us at Tomatillo. But mention fossils, geological timeframe, discovery and Patagonia all in the same headline and there we go:

Tomatillo Fossils, 52 Million Years Old, Are Discovered in Patagonia

By Nicholas St. Fleur

The nightshades have an ominous reputation, but this large plant family is more than just its most poisonous members, like belladonna. It contains more than 2,400 different species, including some of the most widely consumed fruits and vegetables in the world, such as potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. 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

Sanskrit Scholarship & Mystical Journeys

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Our random meeting and conversations with some scholars in southern India led to an exploration of the origins of yoga, which we linked to here.

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Next, using some of the same clues provided by those conversations, we were led to some excellent programming by Smithsonian Channel that includes one of the two scholarly co-authors mentioned in that previous post (see the second book) plus someone you may recognize from another context:

MYSTICAL JOURNEY: KUMBH MELA

West meets East when acclaimed actor Dominic West joins his childhood friend on a pilgrimage to Northern India and the biggest religious festival in the world, Kumbh Mela. Here, 100 million Hindus have gathered to wash away their sins in the holy rivers near Allahabad, on the banks of Sangam. It is also where Dominic’s friend Sir James Mallinson will be initiated into a senior role called a mahant. Follow these friends on this incredible two-week journey, and submerge yourself in the sacred waters and culture of this triennial celebration.

Origins Of Modern Yoga

9780195395341One of the excellent benefits of living in south India is meeting people who know alot about south India. Sounds circular, but occasionally the people are specialists on topics we have come to care deeply about. We met a group of Sanskrit scholars yesterday quite by chance, one of whom is a leading authority on the texts that are the earliest documentation of what we now call yoga.

When we mentioned our interest in yoga from the lay perspective, because we offer yoga experiences in various properties we manage in Asia and Latin America, it led to a simple question: where can we learn the most, most accessibly, about the real origins of yoga? The answer was this book and this author (incidentally a friend and colleague of the one to whom we were asking the question. So over at Oxford University Press this is what we found.

With a bit more searching we found this excellent BBC Radio 4 segment from just a few months ago that features the same scholar, Mark Singleton, and is worth a listen if you are interested in the origins of modern yoga.  Continue reading

Old World Trade In Spices, Lessons for 21st Century Leadership Thinking

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“The Return to Amsterdam of the Second Expedition to the East Indies,” painted by Hendrik Cornelisz Vroom, 1599. CreditPhas/UIG, via Getty Images

Amitav Ghosh, who we think of primarily as a writer of fiction, is also an important non-fiction thinker/author, and most recently published “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.” This op-ed in the New York Times puts future trade discussions into perspective in the most remarkable setting we can think of at the moment– the spice trade of centuries past. From our perch on the Malabar coast of India this is a welcome bit of history with which to welcome the new year and the challenges ahead:

GOA, India — For many years the word “globalization” was used as shorthand for a promised utopia of free trade powered by the world’s great centers of technological and financial innovation. But the celebratory note has worn thin. The word is now increasingly invoked to explain a widespread recoiling from a cosmopolitan earth. People in many countries are looking nostalgically backward, toward less connected, supposedly more secure times.

But did such an era ever exist? Was there ever an unglobalized world? Continue reading

Vatican’s Small Steps Toward Gender Equality

Barbara Jatta will oversee an institution that is one of the Holy See’s major sources of funds with about $311 million in gross revenues a year. PHOTO: VATICAN MUSEUMS

Barbara Jatta will oversee an institution that is one of the Holy See’s major sources of funds with about $311 million in gross revenues a year. PHOTO: VATICAN MUSEUMS

Without religious affiliation, we’ve applauded the current pope’s embrace of environmental protection and other progressive leaning policies. In a current political atmosphere where gender often overrides qualification, we appreciate this appointment all the more.

Pope Francis Names New Female Director of Vatican Museums

ROME—The Vatican Museums, one of the world’s pre-eminent art collections, announced Tuesday that Barbara Jatta, an Italian art historian and longtime Vatican official, will become its new director, making her the first woman to hold one of the most prestigious jobs in the art world.

The appointment by Pope Francis, which is effective Jan. 1, will also make Ms. Jatta the most prominent female administrator at the Vatican. The pope has spoken about expanding the roles of women in the Catholic Church, but most high Vatican offices are reserved for cardinals and bishops, who must be men. (Margaret Archer, a British sociologist, was named president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, an advisory body to the pope, in 2014.)

The Museums, which include priceless masterpieces including the Sistine Chapel frescoes by Michelangelo, regularly appear among the world’s top 10 museum complexes by attendance, with over six million visitors in 2015. The collections include 70,000 objects, dating back from antiquity through the 20th century. Continue reading

Top Shelf Infographics For 128 Years

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Thanks to the fancy-fine publisher, Taschen, for collecting this particularly powerful informative art form into one book:

A History of Knowledge

The best infographics from the National Geographic archives

Back in the days when the information age was a distant dream and the world a more mysterious place, National Geographic began its mission to reveal the wonders of history, popular science, and culture to eager audiences around the globe. Since that 1888 launch, the world has changed; empires have risen and crumbled and a galaxy of information is today only a click away. But National Geographic endures; its calm, authoritative voice is as respected as ever amid the surfeit of data in our daily lives. Continue reading

Flavors Of The Place

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Japanese Chemist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda is credited with discovering MSG — one of the eight ingredients Lohman explores in her book. Peter Van Hyning

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Thanks to the salt, at National Public Radio (USA) for this story, How Just 8 Flavors Have Defined American Cuisine, by Alan Yu, which also serves as a review for this book about the history of food in a country not thought to have its own cuisine:

Sarah Lohman has made everything from colonial-era cocktails to cakes with black pepper to stewed moose face. She is a historical gastronomist, which means she re-creates historical recipes to connect with the past.

That moose-face recipe dates back to the 19th century, and it wasn’t easy. She recalls spending hours trying to butcher the moose from Alaska in her kitchen in Queens, New York. She tried scalding the face in hot water to remove the fur, but it didn’t quite work and her apartment stunk of wet moose.

But “at the end of the day, people showed up and ate it, someone actually liked it, and then we ordered a pizza,” she says. Continue reading