Inside the Peabody Museum: October 2010

archaeological illustrationHow to Draw Like an Archaeologist

Sometimes archaeologists trade their trowels and tape measures for other important tools: pens, paper, and an artist's eye.

Archaeologists use many methods to learn about people in the past, including line drawings and photography to record and share the artifacts they discover. Last spring, Barbara Fash, Director of the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphics, led a family workshop on archaeological illustration in the Peabody Museum galleries.

“With digital photography and 3D scanning widely available and producing precise recording of objects one may wonder why anyone would draw something they could so easily document with mechanized technology," says Barbara Fash. "Still, we find manual illustration plays a vital role because it codifies the three-dimensional information of an object into a readable illusion while creating a stored visual memory in a person’s brain. The illustrator’s ability to see and translate an object to paper cements a deeper understanding of it and better visual recall than merely snapping a photograph.“

Fash will lead the next Archaeological Illustration Family program on Saturday, October 16, part of the Peabody Museum's new Third Saturdays are Family Saturdays. Participants will learn some different drawing techniques for Maya sculpture, then practice new skills in the museum’s Latin America gallery. It's an opportunity to parents and children to participate together in a fun learning experience. All drawing materials will be provided. The program will start promptly at 1:00 and end at 4:00.

Recommended for children ages 8–12 with an accompanying adult. Advanced registration is required and space is limited. Call 617-495-3216 or email

Caption Contest on Facebook: Talking Aztecs

visible language lecture series

Check out the Peabody Museum's Facebook photo album labeled Talking Aztecs. Each Aztec figure has a speech scroll. The experts don't know what they are saying so let's put words in their mouths!

We're collecting captions and tallying votes. Open the image, get number to identify it, and give it a caption, or vote (like) other people's captions, and we'll post the winners Nov. 15 on Facebook and on our website.


chinese woman daguerreotypeNew Daguerreotype Discoveries

Images from the Peabody's collection of daguerreotypes commissioned by famed 19th-century scientist Louis Agassiz are among the most requested items in the collections.

Two people in the daguerreotypes were identified as "Hindu" and four as "Chinese," but they were not named.

Research has revealed that the Chinese people, two men and two women, were in a performance troop engaged for eight weeks in 1850 by famed circus showman P.T. Barnum. The troop also performed at Armory Hall in Boston during the summer of 1850. The daguerreotypes bear the imprint of the Boston-based daguerreotypist Lorenzo Chase, whose studio was not too far from Armory Hall.  Chase probably took the photos during their Boston engagement.

The troop worked at the temporary Chinese museum at 539 Broadway, New York City, for eight weeks while Barnum's American Museum was being renovated. According to a lithograph poster by Nathaniel Currier for "The Living Chinese Family," the star of the show was seventeen year old Miss Pwan Ye-Koo, "a young Lady, with feet 2 inches long." (The feet are not shown in this Peabody daguerreotype, however.) She was attended by "her maid servant" Lum-Akum, whose unbound feet indicated her inferior stature, their interpreter "Aleet-Mong," and "Professor of Music Soo-Chune." Soo-Chune's children were part of the performance's musical ensemble, and although they are pictured in the lithograph, they do not appear in the Peabody's daguerreotype collection.

Barnum's poster claimed the family arrived in New York on April 1850 in the ship Ianthe from Canton, commanded by a Captain Johnson. But Barnum's claim could only be partially true, if at all. The two men, under the names T'sow-Chaoong and Le-Kaw-Hing, had worked as living exhibitions at an earlier incarnation of a Chinese Museum in Boston run by John R. Peters, Jr. After their run at the New York Chinese Museum, three of them, minus Aleet-Mong/ T'sow-Chaoong, were displayed in Knightsbridge, near the London Crystal Palace Exhibition. In December 1851 they returned to the United States and faded from public view.

zooarchaeology lab"Please Touch": Open House at the Zooarchaeology Lab

The Zooarchaeology Lab is seldom open to the public, but this Columbus Day (October 11) is an exception. October is Archaeology Month in Massachusetts, and the Museum celebrates by inviting families and other visitors to "please touch" some of the animal bones archaeologists use to identify wild and domesticated animals. The lab has a large collection of bones from around the world.

Take a peak behind the scenes with the Lab's director, Dr. Richard Meadow in this video, and bring your own bone to get it identified.