Blogs & Videos: Living Cultures

Four dried corn cobs that are shades of purple, orange, and brown

The Amazing Journey of Maize

Alaka Wali is a Curator of North American Anthropology. In 1621, the Wampanoag Indians and the colonists of Plymouth shared a feast that, today, is widely viewed as the very first Thanksgiving in the colonies of America. This three-day long fall festival celebrated their bountiful harvest and an alliance that would last for over 50 years. With modern traditions of turkeys, parades, and pies, we often lose sight of the true story of those early encounters between the Native peoples and the Mayflower settlers.

Left: Pieces of eggshell and small bones laid out in rows. Right: A young boy and an older woman carry live turkeys by the feet through a market.

Archaeological Excavation Unearths Evidence of Turkey Domestication 1,500 Years Ago

The turkeys we’ll be sitting down to eat on Thursday have a history that goes way back. Archaeologists have unearthed a clutch of domesticated turkey eggs used as a ritual offering 1,500 years ago in Oaxaca, Mexico—some of the earliest evidence of turkey domestication.

Saving a River from Poison

The Putumayo River is home to some of the purest water in the Amazon basin—but maybe not for long. The huge Amazon tributary forms the border between Colombia and Peru, draining from giant Amazonian forests, orchid-covered peatlands, and, most presciently, soil bearing traces of gold. But mining that gold has the unfortunate side-effect of poisoning the water with mercury.

I had the same question

Since November I have spent my Fridays combing through the Museum’s vast China collection. Though we have thousands of vases, jades, and theatrical masks we only get to share a few in the new China exhibition. The first time I see an object from our collection my head fills with a million questions. But, those questions vanish by the time I finish the task of photographing and processing that object.

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