Rock star David Lee explains “dreamtime” rock art in a Distinguished Lecture Jan. 22

Editor’s note: The following post was written by David Lee, a rock expert specializing in the rock art sites of northern Australia. His Distinguished Lecture, co-sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America Society – Houston, examines how the ceremonial traditions of indigenous groups in northern Australia are linked to lessons learned during the “dreamtime,” when the world was first created. Contemporary songs, stories, laws and ceremonies are informed by this ancient past and are still used to teach aboriginal children about their connection to the lands of their ancestors.

Everywhere in the world that early humans found rocks, they left images carved and painted onto their surfaces. These images continue to inspire the curiosity and imagination of modern people, and researchers struggle to understand them. Unfortunately, any knowledge of the function and meaning of rock art has been lost across most of the world.

What: Distinguished Lecture, "Dreamtime - Aboriginal Interweaving of Past, Present and Future"

Northern Australia is one of the last places left where rock art is still a living part of indigenous culture. For the last seven years, I have studied with Yidumduma Bill Harney, the last fully-initiated Wardaman man and custodian of his people’s country, songs, and stories. Together we have documented 27 of the rock art sites in Wardaman Country along with all of Yidumduma’s knowledge about them.

This knowledge provides many insights into how rock art functioned in the daily and ceremonial lives of early peoples. Yidumduma and the other Wardaman elders wish to see this knowledge recorded for their descendants and shared with the rest of the world. Wardaman Country is known as the Land of the Lightning People, where the Lightning Brothers fought, and where the Rainbow Serpent was killed, during the Creation Time.

What: Distinguished Lecture, "Dreamtime - Aboriginal Interweaving of Past, Present and Future"

For the rest of the Wardaman creation story, you can visit my site here.

What: Distinguished Lecture, "Dreamtime - Aboriginal Interweaving of Past, Present and Future"

To learn more about the preservation and ongoing research of rock art in the United States, go to Western Rock Art Research.

What: Distinguished Lecture, “Dreamtime – Aboriginal Interweaving of Past, Present and Future”
When: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m.
Where: HMNS Main, 5555 Hermann Park Dr., 77030
Who: David Lee, rock star
How Much: $18 for public; $12 for members

David Lee’s lecture is sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America Society – Houston and the Apache Corporation.

Labor Day! Fun For The Long Weekend At HMNS

Monday is Labor Day – and you know what that means, right?


In case you’re wondering how to fill the long hours between Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning, here’s a list of the top ten weekend experiences you can have with the family at HMNS all weekend long.

That’s right – we’re open MONDAY! Because we’re here for you. 

10. Come And Take It!

A look at the stunning variety of fascinating artifacts from Texas’ rich history, that is.

Come And Take It
The Come And Take It Cannon!
See a full set of photos from the exhibit on Flickr

Texas! The Exhibition closes at 5 pm on Monday, Sept 5 – so don’t miss your last chance to see Santa Anna’s spurs, Davy Crockett’s violin, the Davis Guards Medal and many other objects from a huge swath of Texas history – from prehistoric cultures to the Spindletop oil gusher.

Preview the exhibit with our blog series on Texas History! (And see how you can win free tickets to see the exhibit closing weekend!)

9. Ramble through Borneo with Orangutans

And while you’re at it, explore Tsavo with young elephants.

Born To Be Wild
The cuteness! See it this weekend in Born To Be Wild 3D at HMNS!

Born To Be Wild 3D is a fascinating, entertaining and heart-warming film chronicling the efforts of two pioneering women to save orphaned animals.

Time Out New York says “The kids will squeal with delight.” We think you probably will, too.

8. Discover The True Meaning of Mayan Prophecies 

2012: Mayan Prophecies
2012: Mayan Prophecies in the HMNS Planetarium

Worried about 2012? Explore the Mayan culture in this new planetarium film. Learn why Dec. 21, 2012 will be just another day, but the Mayan culture’s true contributions to civilization are unique and fascinating.

7. Solve A Crime!

If watching CSI makes you think you think “I could do that!” – this exhibit is for you! Study fingerprints, chromatographs, DNA, insect lifecycles, tire marks, hair analysis, thread comparison, and handwriting analysis to catch the culprit!

Crime Lab Detective opens at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land on Saturday, Sept. 3!

6. Watch A Butterfly Enter The World!

Cockrell Butterfly Center

Our butterflies flit through a three-story, glass enclosed rain forest habitat – and it’s a showstopper of the large-scale variety. But you shouldn’t miss the Hall of Entomology on the upper level – where you can watch butterflies emerge from their chrysalides daily. It’s a quiet moment of tranformation, rebirth and wonder that everyone should experience.

5. Discover a Modern-Day Dragon

Think all dragons breathe fire? Some just flash it – including The Dragon, one of the world’s most famous mineral specimens.

The Dragon | HMNS Mineral Hall

It just so happens to be part of our collection – on permanent display in the Hall of Gems and Minerals, along with literally hundreds of the world’s finest gems and minerals. Hundreds. 

4. Develop An Intense Desire To Wear This.

Ancient Ukraine Exhibit at HMNS
Preview the entire exhibition in this set of photos on Flickr.

If you’ve followed our advice on #4, you’ve likely whetted your appetite for gold. And our Ancient Ukraine exhibition (closing Sept. 5!) could be called: Gold! Oh, And Some More Gold. (Except that it also features fascinating artifacts made from many other materials, from the entire 6,000 year history of Ukraine.)

Get an idea of what you’re in for in our curator’s blog series on Ancient Ukraine.

3. Spend Saturday With The Stars!

George Observatory

Long weekends are the perfect time to make the long drive out to our George Observatory. It’s an hour outside Houston, but that means light pollution is at a minimum – and stars are at a maximum.

If you’ve never been, you will marvel  at the number of stars you can see with the naked eye – and the astronomical detail you can view through our Gueymard telescope, one of the largest in the country that’s available for public viewing.

The Observatory is open every Saturday night from 3 – 10 pm. Get Directions and information on Admission.

2. Explore Two Continents

Hall of the Americas

Our Hall of the Americas features cultures from the Inuit in Alaska to the Inca of Peru – go on an expedition through hundred of years of American history and over 2 continents this weekend!

1. Take The Science Fun Home!

The HMNS Museum Store has a metric ton of science ideas and activities to take home – and your purchases always support our science educational programs! Grab the Pocket Starfinder for your Big Bend camping excursion, take the Encyclopedia of Texas Shells on a seashore expedition, or identify what’s fluttering around your own backyard with the Butterflies of Houston and Southeast Texas Guide.

From a Galileo Thermometer to track the summer heat to a Dinosaur Hunter Field Canteen, we’ve got everything you need to close out the summer right!

Here’s to a great long weekend – hope to see you here at HMNS!

Glimpses of Eden: the Pongos Basin of Peru

Well, I’ve had some ‘feedback’ from some of my professional peers regarding my blogs: ‘Gee Dan, so good of you to sell out on your research in favor of war stories from the trenches!?’  OK – well, I guess the blogs were just a lot of fun to write so far (and hopefully just as much fun to read?)  So here is one a little bit different from my prior blogs, that highlights a recent manuscript that was published by my colleagues and I.

Photo by N. Dauphine

Photo by N. Dauphine

Imagine a pristine and lush rainforest that has been virtually un-infiltrated by post-Colombian civilization.  Does such a place exist? And if so, how has it maintained its unexploited state after all this time?  Such a region in fact does exist.  In the Department (state) of Amazonas, Peru, the territory north of the vast Marañon River is perhaps one of the few, if not only, final frontiers remaining on our planet.  A true ‘Garden of Eden’ where people and wildlife live in harmony and the pristine habitat remains relatively unmolested.

The indigenous Aguaruna are perhaps one of the last indigenous communities to be ‘transitioned’ by Missionaries, despite years of attempt.  Indeed, the Aguaruna are one of the groups that tend to be more reactionary to transition, resorting to rituals such as making Tsantas (shrunken heads) of their conquered adversaries.  Remarkably, these ‘noble savages’ are at total peace with nature.  While many indigenous cultures manage their natural resources in a highly sustainable fashion, the Aguaruna go one step further, revering the wildlife with which they share the region, with much of their folklore and culture revolving around birds.  In fact, the Aguaruna even practice the art of taxidermy with birds, using kapok (Ceiba pentandra) fiber instead of cotton.  

blue-eyed beauty
Creative Commons License photo credit:

My colleagues and I have recently published a timely monograph on the incredible diversity of birds inhabiting the land of the Aguaruna: the Pongos Basin.  We found an overwhelming number of more than 450 species representing over 50 different avian Families.  It is highly probable that the incredible avian richness in the 66 plus sites sampled north of the Marañon River is in part due to the ‘noble savagery’ displayed by the Aguaruna, preventing development from encroaching upon their lands.

Care to check out the manuscript?  Click here.

– DB, 5/14/08