Inside the Peabody Museum: April 2013

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Japanese Theater Masks: Performance and Workshop

The History of Dreaming and More: Divination Lecture Series Continues

New Exhibition Book: Anthropology at Harvard 

Japanese Theater Masks: Performance and Workshop

Cat Mountain

Cat Mountain, presented with Behind the Mask Theatre.

Cat Mountain tells the story of Sho, a young servant girl who journeys to a strange and far-off mountain, where she hopes to find her freedom and her lost cat. But people warn, “No one has ever returned from Cat Mountain!” Behind the Mask Theatre brings this magical folktale to life in an original adaptation featuring puppetry, dance, masks, and Japanese theater styles.

Behind the Mask Theatre presented the Chinese mythological character the Monkey King at the Peabody Museum last winter in a popular family program. This year, the performance of Cat Mountain will be followed by a mask-making family workshop at the Peabody Museum. 

Cat Mountain performance tickets are available online. Show your ticket on April 20 before or after the performance and take $2 off Museum admission. Reserve your spot in the mask-making family workshop online, too. Space is limited. More information.

Two Divination Lectures in April: The History of Dreaming and Models of Prediction

mola with a dream motif
October 2004 lunar eclipse by Joe Roberts

Top: A Cuna mola with a dream motif, San Blas Islands, Panama. PM 971-14-20/23880. Bottom: October 2004 lunar eclipse by Joe Roberts, courtesy

What do our dreams mean, and what do they tell us about the future and ourselves? The history of religious dream divination has comprised the "future" of disease and healing; the nature of the afterlife; and omens for entire communities and nations, often involving difficult and ambiguous choices. On Friday, April 5 at 6:00 PM, Harvard Divinity School Professor Kimberley C. Patton reveals why dreams may be seen as a portal to hidden states of being or as divine knowledge to be ignored at one's peril. (See the calendar listing below for details.)

And later in the month, does our search for the "perfect model" of prediction reveal as much about our sense of aesthetics as it does about the future? Acclaimed author and mathematician David Orrell says yes in his talk, "Perfect Model: The Past, Present, and Future of Prediction," Thursday, April 18 at the Yenching Institute (2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge) at 6:00 PM.

Orrell will explore the history and the challenges of prediction, from the oracle at Delphi up to the latest methods being developed in areas such as systems biology and economics. Two of his most recent books are Truth or Beauty: Science and the Quest for Order and The Future of Everything: The Science of Prediction.

Public receptions will follow both lectures at the Peabody Museum (11 Divinity Avenue). The lectures are part of a year-long series about divination (from the Latin divinare – “to foresee, to be inspired by a god,”) and the many ways that humans attempt to understand the present and divine the future.

Anthropology at Harvard: New Peabody Book Covers 150-Year History

Anthropology at Harvard

A Biographical History, 1790–1940
Peabody Museum Monographs 11

To order, please contact Harvard University Press.

Peabody members: to receive your membership discount, please purchase directly from the front desk of the Peabody Museum or email

Former Peabody Museum director Stephen Williams and historian of anthropology David L. Browman of Washington University St. Louis (Harvard PhD ’70) have written a landmark work slated for publication by the Peabody Museum Press in May. Anthropology at Harvard: A Biographical History, 1790–1940 recounts the rich and complex story of the birth and development of anthropology at America’s oldest university. According to Research Anthropologist Ira Jacknis of the Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, “This volume will be required reading for anyone interested in the history of American anthropology.”

The authors, both renowned archaeologists, have written widely on the history of anthropology—Williams most famously in his debunking of 19th-century “fakes, frauds, and humbugs” in Fantastic Archaeology: The Wild Side of North American Prehistory (University of Pennsylvania 1991), and Browman focusing on archaeology’s role in 19th-century “empire building” and on historical biases in the discipline against women and various ethnic groups.

Browman and William’s detailed account of Harvard anthropology traces its growth out of the natural history studies—including the “natural history of humans”—propagated by Asa Gray, Jeffries Wyman, and Louis Agassiz. Harvard’s Peabody Museum—the first museum of anthropology in North America—was established in 1866, just seven years after the founding of Agassiz’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Harvard initiated the continent’s first undergraduate major in anthropology in the 1870s and recruited its first graduate students to the program in the 1880s.

Harvard anthropology was profoundly influenced by the “cohort” nature of graduate training—the social networks of students and colleagues that formed a dynamic backdrop to the development of ideas. Also key to the story are contributions made by amateurs and private funders to the early growth of the field. The volume contains fascinating vignettes of pioneering scholars and enthusiasts who conducted adventurous fieldwork in the Americas and around the globe. Their brilliant achievements led to new understandings of and perspectives on world cultures both past and present; their more controversial exploits ranged from dredging the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza to engaging in espionage during the First World War.

Among the hundreds of individuals profiled in these pages are Frederic Ward Putnam, Alice Cunningham Fletcher, Sylvanus G. Morley, A. V. Kidder, and Carleton Coon. More than 150 historic portraits and field photographs—many never before published—provide lively visual documentation of the people who created, taught in, and were trained by North America’s first academic department of anthropology.

Save the Dates! Summer Solstice and Biblical Achzib

Summer Solstice: Night at the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture

Celebrate the longest day of the year with live music, food, hands-on activities, and free admission to the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture (Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and the Semitic Museum) Friday, June 21 from 5:00 to 9:00 pm.

"Biblical Achzib: Vibrant Seaport of the Phoenicians"

And from our friends at the Semitic Museum at Harvard University and the Harvard Near East Society: an invitation to a public lecture by Michael Press of the University of Arkansas, "Biblical Achzib: Vibrant Seaport of the Phoenicians."

During the Iron Age, Tel Achzib was a prosperous Phoenician port town. This lecture will focus on the Phoenician strata, providing the first insights into the nature of the Iron Age remains on the tell, including the stratigraphy, architecture, pottery, figurines, and other small finds. Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 at 7:00pm, Yenching Auditorium, 2 Divinity Ave, Cambridge. A reception follows at the Semitic Museum.


Anytime   Did you miss any lectures? You can listen to them here or download them to your mobile device through iTunes U. Look for Harvard's Peabody Museum lectures.

April 5 6:00 pm



Divination Through the History of Dreaming
at Haller Hall, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge Kimberley C. Patton, Professor of the Comparative and Historical Study of Religion, Harvard Divinity School

April 18 6:00 pm


Perfect Model: The Past, Present, and Future of Prediction David Orrell, scientist and author of The Future of Everything: The Science of Prediction

April 20 1:00 pm

Performance and Family Workshop

Japanese Theater Masks
Tickets available online

May 2 5:00-7:00 pm

Exhibition Opening Reception and Book Signing

Stephen Dupont: Papua New Guinea Portraits and Diaries

May 9 6:00 pm


Foresight, Forecasting, and the Future in Ancient Mesopotamia
at the Yenching Institute, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge Francesca Rochberg, Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Co-sponsored by the Semitic Museum at Harvard University.