News from the trenches: Diggers make significant discoveries at Sanxingdui

Archaeology is a profession that requires patience, persistence, and luck. In fact, a great deal of luck seems to be a prerequisite to make a great discovery; some of these involve kids and dogs. We are fortunate to know about the Lascaux caves because of a boy and his dog. A similar scenario led to the discovery of a new hominid fossil, Australopithecus sediba, near the Malapa cave in South Africa. The famous Chinese terra cotta warriors were found by farmers digging a well. The first artifacts at Sanxingdui were discovered by a farmer, as well.

Fairly recently, some eighty-five years after the initial discovery of the site, interesting new finds at Sanxingdui have been announced.

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According to recent reports, archaeologists discovered a portion of the northern wall at Sanxingdui. The northern part of the wall would have run along the Jian River, according to this site map. (Image licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons).

Archaeologists have discovered what may be a section of the north wall at Sanxingdui. In addition, three tombs were found. A well preserved human skeleton was uncovered in one of these. It was dated to the Neolithic, well before the Sanxingdui site was occupied. As far as we know, human remains dating back to the actual Sanxingdui – Jinsha timeframe have only been discovered at Jinsha.

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Vice Premier Liu Yongdan, who visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science on June 21 2015. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of State from United States)

The complete lack of known written sources at Sanxingdui and Jinsha continues to hamper our understanding of this amazing and sophisticated culture. In her recent visit to the exhibit China’s Lost Civilization: The Mysteries of Sanxingdui at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Vice Premier Mme. Liu Yongdan said this was indeed the biggest obstacle to our appreciation of the culture. She expressed hope that ongoing research would eventually uncover such information, a development which would bring Sanxingdui out of the shadows of prehistory and into the light of history. Discoveries like these can only strengthen China’s submission of the site as a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sith take over HMNS Samurai exhibit during Jedi tour

 

Ever wonder where George Lucas got his ideas for the futuristic costumes in Star Wars? Darth Vader’s intimidating helmet seems the stuff of a sci-fi nightmare, and a hot, glowing light saber seems like a swordfighter’s dream. These costumes remain some of the most iconic in film history, but they were based in reality.

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An intimidating Darth Nihilus threatens guests with his light saber in the Samurai exhibit.

Lucas was a fan of Japanese samurai culture, and it shows through his costumes and the code of the jedi, those warrior-monks who trust in the Force and give their lives to the service of those they are sworn to protect. The jedi use ancient weapons even by the standards of the Star Wars universe, and train from childhood to master the secrets of the Force.

The samurai of feudal Japan held a similar attitude. The word itself means “service,” and while samurai could hold no possessions, their communities and the royalty they protected made sure their needs were met while they trained in the disciplines of combat and self-control. It was disgraceful to live as a samurai without a master, and taking their own lives at the end of their service was common.

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George Lucas modeled his Storm Trooper helmets in part from samurai warrior garb.

Lucas credited mythologist Joseph Campbell for influencing the structure of the Star Wars movies, explaining that in the West, mythology had begun to disappear with the downfall of the Western, and he wanted his work to “set standards” in the fashion of old myths. Couple this with a fascination with the famous film by Akira Kurosawa, The Seven Samurai, and Lucas had the makings of his space opera franchise. Though Kurosawa was a Japanese filmmaker, themes in the movie carried many of the same values audiences saw in the western: loyalty, trust, ingenuity, power, and faith in the underdog to name a few.

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Boba Fett also owes his look to the samurai.

Science fiction was the trending tale of the late 1970s. Interest in space and adventure ran high, and Lucas saw an opportunity to marry his love of mythos, Japanese culture, and the sci-fi genre into the highest-grossing film of all time until Titanic hit the big screen in 1997.

With the opening of the Samurai: The Way of the Warrior temporary exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, docent Kris Mills, a student of costume history, saw an opportunity to demonstrate the link between Lucas and traditional Japanese clothing. Mills hosted the first Jedi-Samurai Tour Thursday night, a multimedia presentation featuring photography, Lucas’s costumes, and a demonstration of katana and light saber techniques. Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai was screened in the exhibit as well. Comparing the western art with the eastern culture side-by-side offers a deeper appreciation of Star Wars and samurai culture alike.

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The cast of characters who visited the exhibit for the Jedi-Samurai tour Thursday night.

“[Star Wars] was traditional Japanese clothing and values translated into science fiction,” Mills said. “George Lucas wanted to give his generation Buck Rogers, but he’d been reading Joseph Campbell, so he was influenced by the Asian saga.”

In the slide show, it becomes apparent that Lucas used samurai masks as models for Darth Maul’s face paint and other Sith helmets, samurai kabuto and Han Dynasty hair styles for Queen Amidala and other royalty, and the Japanese obi or robe for the jedi’s distinctive monk-like appearance. (One wonders whether Lucas didn’t use Asian terminology to name his characters Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi as well.) Adam Barnes, modeling the jedi costume, introduced these themes before guiding the guests into the exhibit.

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The bear-like Ewoks of planet Endor seem similar in many ways to samurai archer.

“The idea of imperialism and a grand empire versus a small band of samurai-like rebels is also very Japanese,” Barnes explained.

Models appeared in an Imperial Storm Trooper outfit, Boba Fett’s armor, the costume and face mask of Darth Nihilus, a Sith lord from the video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and in a Chewbacca outfit. With the models standing beside samurai helmets and armor, it’s easy to make connections. Of course, it’s also a blast just to hang out with Star Wars characters and see cool samurai gear, not to mention a great photo op!

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Come to see the jedi and Sith, or come to see the intricate samurai armor. The armor itself is a must-see.

Take the Jedi – Samurai Tour July 16 or August 20 from 6 to 9:30 p.m., or check out Samurai: The Way of the Warrior before the exhibit makes like a ninja and vanishes September 13. For more information about this and other presentations, visit HMNS online.

 

 

 

 

 

Horse around with H. Alan Day and wild mustangs April 30

On April 30 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, cattle rancher, cowboy, and author H. Alan Day will tell the story of establishing a sanctuary in South Dakota for unadoptable wild horses previously warehoused by the Bureau of Land Management. After Day successfully lobbied Congress, those acres became Mustang Meadows Ranch, the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary established in the U.S. His entertaining presentation will include the challenges of balancing the requirements of the government with the needs of the 1,500 wild horses and the land itself, and give an update on the sanctuary today. A book signing of The Horse Lover will follow the lecture. Books will be presigned by Sandra Day O’Conner, retired Supreme Court Justice and inductee to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

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Sandra Day. Credit: National Cowgirl Museum

The following is an excerpt by O’Connor from the forward of The Horse Lover, A Cowboy’s Quest to Save Wild Mustangs.

“When my brother, Alan, told me that he had agreed to keep fifteen hundred wild mustangs on his South Dakota ranch, I thought he had temporarily lost his common sense…

For more than 400 years, wild mustangs have existed in the region that is now the western United States. They fared well before the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 reduced their habitat. But even in the last century there were many pockets of public land in the West where they could live free, breed, and multiply. But the pressures of the multiple-use policy of the Bureau of Land Management and the restricted uses of national forest and national park lands meant that many of the wild mustangs would be captured, sold, or destroyed. The wild horse and burro law dictated that the Bureau of Land Management was to capture many of them and care for them until they could be adopted. Sadly, many of them were not suitable for adoption. This opened the way for the project Alan undertook. the-horse-lover-cover-194x300

It is impossible to see a herd of wild horses running free without feeling a surge of excitement and enthusiasm for their vigor, power, and beauty. To watch them run with their manes and tails flying in the wind is to experience a sense of the ultimate freedom of motion. 

This book tells the story of the Mustang meadows project in a way that enables the reader to see and feel that excitement and to glimpse what was and what might have been with these splendid animals.”

Come early to see live mustangs at the museum in the sun dial plaza entrance. These horses from the Little Mustang Program, like those of H. Alan Day,  were also received from the Bureau of Land Management and are in need of adoption.h_alan_day

The Little Mustang Program in our area provides the opportunity for young horsemen to attain ownership of a wild horse (aka a mustang) and create their own positive and educational horse owning experience. This program is organized in accordance with the requirements set out by the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Trainer Incentive Program and the BLM’s National Wild Horse Program. The horses are received from the BLM on a regular basis with a goal of adoption in 120 days. The adoption program is administered by V.E.T.S. Livestock Management Services Organization, Inc. 5340925377258.image

HMNS Distinguished Lecture

Quest to Save Wild Mustangs

H. Alan Day

Thursday, April 30, 6:30 p.m.

Click here for advance tickets.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 4/6-4/12

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

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Lecture – Bushido, The Way Of The Samurai By Sensei Darrell Craig
Tuesday, April 7
6:30 p.m. 
In order to share the true spirit of the Bushido, the way of the samurai, Sensei Darrell Craig will describe samurai battle preparations and lead a demonstration by his students of traditional samurai techniques and weapons. Keeping in the spirit of Bushido, the session will commence with the sound of Taiko Japanese war drums followed by Batto-Jutsu and Kendo Katat-the way of the sword. Darrell Craig is sensei of classical martial arts of Japan at Houston Budokan. This lecture is cosponsored by Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

Special Exhibition – China’s Lost Civilization: The Mystery Of Sanxingdui Opens Friday, April 10
The Sanxingdui culture left no written record or human remains and appears to have existed for only about 500 years before it vanished. In 2001, another archaeological discovery, this time in the city of Chengdu at Jinsha, revealed possible clues to the mystery of where they might have gone. This exhibition will present many of the most important discoveries from both Sanxingdui and Jinsha and examine the great mystery of where this 3500 year old culture could have come from and where and why they abruptly vanished.

Organized by the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Cultural Relics Bureau of Sichuan Province, Peoples Republic of China.

Major funding provided China Southern Airlines. Local support provided by Kathrine G. McGovern/McGovern Foundation.

Science Hack Day Houston
Saturday, April 11- Sunday, April 12
Science Hack Day Houston is a 48-hour-all-night event that brings together inquisitive and creative minds to one place, to make wonderful things.
Designers, developers, engineers, scientists bring their A-game to the same physical space for a brief but intense period of collaboration, hacking, and building ‘cool stuff’. By collaborating on focused tasks during this short period, small groups of makers are capable of producing remarkable results. For more information, the schedule and to RSVP to participate visit http://sciencehackdayhouston.com/.

If you are interested in seeing these hackers in action, purchase a ticket to the permanent exhibit halls on April 11th or April 12th and stop by Glassell! It’s going to be a science extravaganza!

Organized by Brightwork CoResearch

2015 Orchid Show And Sale
Saturday, April 11- Sunday, April 12
HMNS Grand Hall
FREE Admission

The show includes fabulous exhibits created by HOS members, other orchid societies and commercial sales vendors, featuring orchid plants as well as arrangements, corsages, orchid collectibles and educational information. The orchids in the exhibits and the exhibits themselves are officially judged before the show opens. First, second and third place ribbons and trophies are awarded to the best orchids, best-grown orchids and best exhibits.