Inside the Peabody Museum: April 2012

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NEW LECTURE & TASTING Man Food Fire: The Evolution of Barbecue

hand-colored engraving by de Bry

"The brovvyllinge of their fishe ouer the flame" [English translation] in "Wunderbarliche, doch warhafftige Erklärung, von der Gelegenheit vnd Sitten der Wilden in Virginia . . ." [America, pt. 1, German], Frankfort: Theodore De Bry, 1590, p. 65. North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Did barbecue beget civilization? How did humankind learn to grill?

Award-winning, bestselling author, PBS TV host, and former Watson Fellow Steven Raichlen will offer a provocative lecture on the history of barbecue, from the discovery of live fire cooking by Homo erectus nearly two million years ago to the invention of the charcoal briquette, charcoal and gas grills, and modern barbecue restaurant.

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology and the Harvard School for Engineering and Applied Sciences present the lecture,"Man Food Fire: The Evolution of Barbecue" on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at the Geological Lecture Hall (24 Oxford St., Cambridge) at 6:00 pm.

What could be better? An actual barbecue tasting prepared by Jason Bond of Cambridge's Bondir restaurant with a beer tasting by Cambridge Brewing Company following the lecture. Mr. Raichlen will sign copies of his books, Planet BarbecueBarbecue Bible, and the new Best Ribs Ever, at the reception.

What the Heck Is This?

Homer Tate gaff

A creature perhaps created by Homer Tate. PM 2005.0.50.

In the spirit of April Fools Day, we bring you a mysterious discovery brought to our attention by an Arizona police officer.

Four scruffy, creepy, creatures, each about 2 to 2.5 feet high, were found packed in boxes stuffed with newspapers dating from 1947. Sergeants David Hall and Matt Molique of Holbrook, Arizona got on the case. They queried several institutions, including the Peabody Museum, for help in identifying the oddities.

"Your dolls are extraordinary," wrote back Curatorial Associate Susan Haskell, "both because they are so unusual and because we have one also...No one has been able to figure out what it is." Haskell thought the figures might have been made as tourist items.

Haskell is a frequent recipient of mysterious requests, as she assists researchers and scholars in exploring Peabody Museum collections. Knowing the Zoology Department at the Harvard Museum of Natural History would be unable to offer immediate help--they were in the midst of a storage move--Haskell suggested a zoological department at a local college might be able to identify the horns, hoof, hair, and so on.

The solution came from Joe Meehan, Curator of the Arizona Historical Society-Pioneer Museum in Flagstaff. "Homer Tate made a variety of 'artifacts' including mummies, mummies of mermaids, shrunken heads (very popular for rear view mirrors in the 1950s and '60s) and other forms of freaks of nature," said Meehan. Tate moved to Arizona in the 1890s, working as a miner, a farmer, and later, a Sheriff of Graham County. "In the 1940s he began creating the 'artifacts.' This was the heyday of Route 66," said Meehan, "and roadside attractions dotted the landscape." He noted the grisly forms and materials of the artifacts--dessicated animal skins and bones likely scavenged from the desert, hair, and more--resembled others made by Tate. When he spoke with another Holbrook policeman, Meehan learned the newspapers (all dating to the time Tate lived in Arizona) had pencil notations which read "Male Pygmy Mummy." Mystery solved!

Five "Trash Talk: Anthropology of Waste" Events in April

Photo by Justin Kramer

The Manshayet Nasser district of Cairo, also known as "Garbage City." Egypt, 2009. Photo by Justin Kramer.

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22, but April might as well be Earth Month, judging by the quantity of Trash Talk: Anthropology of Waste film, talks, and school vacation week events.

First is "Garbage City and the Informal Economy." Associate Curator of Visual Anthropology Ilisa Barbash talks with makers of the documentary film Zabaleen— featuring traditional waster pickers in Cairo—and the coordinator of an international waste pickers organization. Clips from the film will be shown. (See below for all Trash Talk event dates, times,  locations, and age recommendations.)

Then Ben R. Turner and Patrick McMullen reveal accomplishments, challenges, and lessons learned in the talk,"Tornadoes, Twin Towers, and Hurricanes: 20 Years of Urban Disaster Clean-up." Turner and McMullen's company has been on the scene in the aftermath of such devastation as 9/11 and the hurricane in Joplin, Missouri.

Just when parents are looking for things to do at the end of School Vacation Week, three family events come to the rescue: Trash Tales Discovery Room is a drop-in program for kids to make their own toys from "trash" (offered two afternoons), and Earth Day Recycling Fun is a unique family visit to Harvard's Recycling and Surplus Center in Allston, led by Harvard's head of recycling. Advance reservations are required for Earth Day Recycling Fun.

See what's coming up in the Calendar of Events.






Did you miss lectures in the Trash Talk: Anthropology of Waste series? You can listen to them here or download them to your mobile device through iTunes U. Look for Harvard's Peabody Museum lectures. More will be posted throughout the year.

April 5

6 pm


Trash Talk Film Sneak Preview and Discussion

"Garbage City and the Informal Economy"

Co-sponsored by Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Semitic Museum, Harvard University

April 11

6 pm


"Dr. Loco" and ZUMIX

April 19

6 pm

Trash Talk Lecture

"Tornadoes, Twin Towers, and Hurricanes: 20 Years of Urban Disaster Clean-up"

April 21

1-4 pm

Earth Day Recycling Fun

Special off-site program

April 21 and April 24-28

Noon-4 pm

Drop-in Family Event

Trash Tales Discovery Room

April 24

6 pm

Lecture and Tasting

"Man Food Fire: The Evolution of Barbecue" by Steven Raichlen

 Co-sponsored by the Harvard School for Engineering and Applied Sciences