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                                                                                    IVC Desert Museum Society      P.O. Box 2455      El Centro, CA  92244

 

N E W S L E T T E R

Volume XXXI, Number 2. May 2009  Editor: Joan L. Gretz

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What’s Happening Around the Museum  .  .  .  .  .

 

  • The museum board has amended the society by-laws as discussed and approved at the annual membership meeting in December.  The major difference is a change in the number of board members from the previous 15 to the current 11.  There were no openings on the board for regular board members but there was an availability in an alternate position.  At the March board meeting Michele (Mitzi) Thostenson of Ocotillo was asked to serve in that capacity and she accepted.  Mitzi is a recent addition to the society’s membership as a result of her attendance at the annual meeting and we are pleased to have had her join the group.  Ms. Thostenson is the Ocotillo postmaster and is very active in her community’s civic activities.  She chairs the annual Desert Golf Tourney in Ocotillo and was instrumental in having half of the proceeds of that affair given as a donation to the museum society’s general fund this year.  Needless to say, we are most grateful.
  • The board contracted with Jade Security Systems of Brawley to install alarm systems in the museum buildings.  The initial installation occurred in the storage buildings to the east of the main museum building.  Currently the artifacts in the care of the museum are stored in those buildings so we are now assured that the collections are more secure. The large numbers of manos and metates that were stored under locked gates but in the exterior covered areas have now been moved to a completely locked and alarmed container.  The main museum building is awaiting the installation of hard-wired phone lines prior to the security system’s being added there.  There is a problem with the height of the utility pole leading to the site since the phone wires presently would not meet code in clearing the parking lot.  As soon as that problem is solved, Jade Security will commence with the installation of the alarms in the main building.  When those are in place, we can begin the relocation of the artifacts from the storage areas to the main building. In the meanwhile, Rebecca Apple and Carrie Simmons (BLM archaeologist) have been scheduling curation work sessions at the “down-the-hill” site every few weeks.  The collections are being cleaned and organized prior to their being moved to the main building. Volunteers with some experience are encouraged to help with these efforts.  Just drop a note to either person at the address above and you will be notified of the next scheduled work session.
  • We finished the editing of the large map that will be located on the west wall of the exhibit hall.  We developed a comprehensive list of suggested points of interest within the Imperial Valley which we feel will be of help to museum visitors.  Naturally, we did not include any Native American sacred sites or any vulnerable or protected areas out of respect to the tribes and for the prevention of vandalism.
  • Unfortunately, we recently learned that a fire at artist Mona Mills’ home led to the destruction of several large panels that Mona had painted for the museum representing different facets of life in the native villages and environs.  Some of the commissioned works were stored at the museum, so the entire collection was not destroyed.  These canvasses will be stretched and framed for inclusion in the museum’s displays.  Also, the sculpture of the Grinding Woman for which we commissioned Ingrid Vigeant is nearly completed and will be included in the Village Life portion of the exhibit space.

Justice Really Can Be Blind - Randy Carson, an alternate IVCDMS board member and an El Centro and IVC teacher, sent me an interesting article by Richard Crawford that appeared in the April 23 San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper. It details a shooting battle and fire that occurred in 1877 between a party of Cupeno Indians and some area settlers and the subsequent trial.  I have excerpted the article.

 

(The following notice appeared in the San Diego Union on August 18, 1877.)

 There has been some trouble with Pablo’s band of Indians in Agua Caliente Township…a party of Indians, numbering 20 or 25, appeared with the purpose of driving off Chatham Helm and other settlers. A house owned by Helm was set on fire and burned and an Indian named Francisco was shot and killed.”

 

The four Helm brothers settled in the back country of San Diego in the late 1860s.  Their plots were on poor land offering little water but the area was home to about 75 Cupeno Indians led by a chief named Pablo. The group lived downstream from the eldest Helm brother and they found themselves at his mercy for the majority of their water supply. A severe drought in 1877 led to further problems between the two entities. A group of about 25 Indians decided to talk with Helm about their water problem but the confrontation soon turned deadly when a three day siege commenced featuring guns and bows and arrows. While news accounts exaggerated the battle, it is true that one Indian named Francisco was shot and killed and one of the settler’s homes was torched.  The settlers formed an inquest jury the day after the shooting and after interviewing the single witness, an Indian named Juan, returned a verdict in minutes saying that “the deceased came to his death by a gunshot wound being inflicted by some party unknown”.

This verdict was in spite of Juan’s testimony that the Indians approached Helm saying “We are friends and don’t want to fight” and further that Helm’s response was “I want to kill an Indian today”.  Juan then stated that when Francisco moved toward the house, Helm shot him dead. After Helm was vindicated of the shooting he started proceedings to have three of the native participants arrested for arson.  As is often the case, there was conflicting testimony…the Helm brothers and their friends gave an elaborate account of the arson while the Indians’ recounting brought forth a cause and effect story of the fire’s following the settlers shooting spree against the Indians.   The single day of testimony in Justice Court allowed the presiding justice to declare that “the guilt of the three Indians accused of the arson was fully established by the three competent witnesses (all settlers)”.  The Indians consequently were jailed in San Diego.  Twelve years later another settler named Bill Fain located an Indian witness who testified to the intentional shooting of Francisco by Chat Helm. Fain, the elected regional constable, arrested Helm but the case was dropped before coming to trial.   So goes history in our part of the wild, wild West!!!

 

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UNIVERSITY RETURNS CULTURAL ARTIFACTS

(Excerpted from the Imperial Valley Press, March 11, 2009; article by Nicolas Taborek)

 

Artifacts from an ancient Mexican culture are heading home after more than 50 years as property of the University of California, Berkeley.  Eighty boxes of archaeological objects from the prehistoric city of Cuicuilco in Mexico’s Central Valley made a stop at the Mexican Consulate in Calexico on their way to Mexico City. Baja California archaeologists and Pablo Jesus Arnaud Carreno, the local Mexican consul, facilitated the return of the ceramic figurines and tools that date from between 800 B.C. and 100 B.C.   Cuicuilco was one of the main urban centers of the Preclassical period in Mesoamerica.  Its cultural development was part of the transition from a simple agricultural society to a more complex social, political and economic structure. The items included in the collection were discovered during excavations in the area in 1957. The artifacts were accompanied by test results, notes, maps and drawings from the original dig.  It is planned to have the objects studied by specialists at the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Baja California according to Julia Bendimez Patterson, director of the institute.

 

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Pregnant Turtle Fossil Found     (from an article published by the Associated Press)

Paleontologists say that a 75 million year old turtle fossil uncovered in southern Utah has a clutch of eggs inside, making it the first prehistoric pregnant turtle found in the United States. At least three eggs are visible from the outside of the fossil and CT scan images are being studied in search of others inside.


GREEN BLING   (Excerpts from an article by Stephan Reebs, Natural History magazine, October 2008)

 

When agriculture arose about 11,000 years ago in the Middle East, fields weren’t the only green things cropping up.  People’s accessories were growing greener too, according to a comprehensive study of a group of stone beads, the bling of yestermillennia, unearthed at eight dig sites in Israel.

 

The sites are between 8,200 and 13,000 years old.  Of the 221 beads found there, 89 beads or 40% are made of green stone including malachite, turquoise and fluorapatite.  The collections mark the first substantial appearance of stone beads, green ones in particular, anywhere in the archaeological record.  In the hunter-gatherer societies that preceded the dawn of agriculture, beads (typically of antler, bone, tooth, ivory, or shell) were white, yellow, brown, red or black with only a few examples of green soapstone.

 

The minerals used to fashion the green beads discovered in Israel came from as far away as northern Syria and Saudi Arabia.  Thus, people must have gone to great lengths to obtain stones of the latest color.  It is proposed that with the advent of agriculture, the color of young leaves came to symbolize fertility and good health.  So, green beads were probably used as fertility charms and amulets against the evil eye.

 

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CABAZON TRIBE GETS STOLEN ARTIFACTS RETURNED    (Article by Associated Press)

 

From Palm Springs – The FBI returned stolen pottery, hand-woven baskets and other artifacts to an American Indian tribe recently, three and a half years after they were stolen from a museum in the southern California desert.

 

The 17 pieces were taken in early 2005 from the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Cultural Museum in Indio said retired FBI Special Agent Joseph Stuart who investigated the theft.  Steven Farmer of Indio pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property in connection with the thefts and was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison.

 

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13,000-Year Old Stone Tool Cache in Colorado Shows Evidence of Camel, Horse Butchering

(Article from University of Colorado at Boulder News Center, February 25, 2009)

 

A biochemical analysis of a rare Clovis-era stone tool cache recently unearthed within the city limits of Boulder, Colorado indicates some of the implements were used to butcher ice-age camels and horses that roamed North American until their extinction about 13,000 years ago, according to a University of Colorado study.  The study is the first to identify protein residue from extinct camels on North American stone tools and only the second to identify horse protein residue on a Clovis-age tool. The Clovis culture is believed by many archaeologists to coincide with the time the first Americans arrived on the continent from Asia via the Bering Land Bridge about 13,000 to 13,500 years ago.

 

Named the Mahaffy Cache after Boulder resident and landowner Patrick Mahaffy, the collection is one of only two Clovis caches that have been analyzed for protein residue from ice-age mammals.  In addition to the camel and horse residue, a third item from the cache is the first Clovis tool ever to test positive for sheep while a fourth specimen tested positive for bear. The Mahaffy cache consists of 83 stone implements ranging from salad plate-sized, elegantly crafted bifacial knives and a unique tool resembling a double-bitted axe to small blades and flint scraps.  Discovered in May 2008 by a landscaping crew working on the property, the cache was unearthed with a shovel under about 18 inches of soil and was packed tightly into a hole about the size of a large shoebox.  It appeared to have been untouched for thousands of years. The artifacts were buried in coarse, sandy sediment overlain by dark, clay-like soil and appear to have been stored at the edge of an ancient stream. It was posited that someone gathered together some of their most spectacular tools and other scraps and stuck them all into a small hole, fully expecting to come back at a later date to retrieve them.  Much of the stone used to craft the tools originated in Colorado’s Western Slope and perhaps as far north as southern Wyoming.   One of the tools, an oval-shaped bifacial knife that had been sharpened all the way around, is almost exactly the same shape, size and width of an obsidian knife found in a cache known as the Fenn Cache from south of Yellowstone Park.


PRESIDENT OBAMA TO ENCOURAGE TRIBAL REPRESENTATION AT UNITED NATIONS

 

President Barack Obama is considering a petition that would allow representative from each tribal nation located within the United States to have a seat at the United Nations as full voting members…a decision that has taken the world by surprise.

 

The plan would allow each indigenous Red Indian Nation, currently referred to as “tribes” or “bands”, to have a voice in international decisions regarding global peace and policy at UN headquarters in New York City and once and for all join the community of the world’s nations. The qualifications for membership in the UN stipulate that a nation must have its own language, its own land, and its own culture or way of life.

 

Watch for further developments on this issue and look for the petition circulating within your community.

 

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THE DEBATE GOES ON . . . WERE PEOPLE IN AMERICA 14,000 YEARS AGO?

(From an article by Maggie Fox, Reuters, April 2008)

 

DNA from ancient human feces found in a cave in Oregon provides biological verification that people were in North America 14,000 years ago.  The findings, published in the journal Science, add to growing evidence that people were living in the Americas earlier than the once widely accepted date of 13,000 years ago, based on bones from the so-called Clovis culture in southwestern United States.

 

In with the dried-out samples of excrement, known as coprolites, are sinew and plant fiber threads, hide, basketry, cords, rope, wooden pegs and animal bones.  The dates of the coprolites are more than 1,000 years earlier than currently accepted dates for the Clovis-complex, researchers wrote.  Dennis Jenkins, a senior archaeologist at the University of Oregon, found the dried-out samples in caves known as the Paisley Caves, about 220 miles southeast of Eugene, Oregon on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountain range.  The issue of when humans first arrived in the Americas is contentious.  Most experts agree that they migrated from Siberia over a land bridge that once existed in what is now the Bering Straits between Alaska and Russia.  The best evidence of this travel theory eminates from the Clovis culture.

 

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NEW NEANDERTHAL EVIDENCE GIVES FOOD FOR THOUGHT . . .

(Excerpts from National Geographic, October 2008; This is just a tease to have you read the entire article!)

 

In March 1994 some spelunkers exploring an extensive cave system in northern Spain poked their lights into a small side gallery and noticed two human mandibles jutting out of the sandy soil. The cave, called El Sidron, lay in the midst of a remote upland forest of chestnut and oak trees in the province of Asturias, just south of the Bay of Biscay.  Suspecting that the jawbones might date back as far as the Spanish Civil War, when Republican partisans used El Sidron to hide from Franco’s soldiers, the cavers immediately notified the local Guardia Civil.  But when police investigators inspected the gallery, they discovered the remains of a much larger and older tragedy.

 

Within days, law enforcement officials had shoveled out some 140 bones, and a local judge ordered the remains sent to the national forensic pathology institute in Madrid.  By the time scientists finished their analysis (it took the better part of six years), Spain had its earliest cold case file.  The bones from El Sidron were not Republican soldiers, but the fossilized remains of a group of Neanderthals who lived, and perhaps died violently, approximately 43,000 years ago.  The locale places them at one of the most important geographical intersections of prehistory, and the date puts them squarely at the center of one of the most enduring mysteries in all of human evolution.

 

The Neanderthals, our closest prehistoric relatives, dominated Eurasia for the better part of 200,000 years.  During that time, they poked their famously protruding noses into every corner of Europe and beyond.  Scientists estimate that even at the height of the Neanderthal occupation of western Europe, their total number probably never exceeded 15,000.   (Now read National Geographic, 10/2008, p 38 for the rest!)


Recommended Reading . . . While recovering from recent surgery, I managed to read selectively through a large cache of periodicals that were stashed beside my bed waiting for just such an opportunity.  If you don’t have a similar pile of reading material handy at home, a visit to your local library will probably provide you with some of these resources and, hopefully, you just might find them as fascinating a read as I did . . .

 

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, September 2008, p 127; article by Peter Gwin

Lost Tribes of the Green Sahara…How a dinosaur hunter uncovered the Sahara Desert’s strangest Stone Age graveyard.  Archaeologist unearthed the 6,000 year-old bones of a woman buried at a site called Gobero in northern Niger.  The crew located over 200 graves near a vanished lake in the Sahara that hints of a once fertile land.  Artifacts found with and/or near the burials disclose painted ceramic patterns from both the Kiffian and Tenerian cultures that flourished in these areas more than 1,000 years apart.  The Kiffian lived 10,000 to 8,000 years ago and other than a few fishing tools (harpoons and hooks) carved from animal bones, they left little physical evidence of how they lived. Pottery sherds different from those of the Tenerian are found in the same locales.  The Tenerian culture thrived 6,500 to 4,500 years ago and their graves disclose a myriad of grave goods including tools crafted from green volcanic rocks and pendants carved from hippo ivory.

 

SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, April 2009, p 49; article by Donavan Webster

The Dino Wars. . .Across the West and the Great Plains of America, prospectors – and poachers – are excavating fossils in a cash-fueled free-for-all that often pits them against the scientists and the law.  Larry Shackelford, a special agent with the BLM in Salt Lake City, says,  “Newly harvested fossils are flooding the market.  Can we run down each one and check where it came from?  The answer is NO.  We just don’t have the manpower.” To snare poachers, federal agents are charged with policing prospectors across some 500 million acres.  Nobody knows how much fossil material is being taken off public lands and smuggled out to other areas, nor do they know the scale of what’s being lost. Dinosaur skeletons fetch millions at auctions, while local rock shops offer more affordable finds.  Since the book and movie Jurassic Park  were released, fossil collecting has gone into overdrive.

 

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, December 2008, p 60, article by Karen E. Lange

The Stolen Past…This selection elucidates the wide spread looting that imperils the Holy Land’s sacred sites.  About 2000 archaeological sites pepper the West Bank of Israel that is subdivided into a patchwork of parcels, some controlled by Israel, some by Palestine and some jointly.  Legal and physical obstacles hamper police, leaving sites and artifacts vulnerable to looters.   While some major sites remain unharmed, in many places the scale of the destruction is almost industrial.  Looters attack ancient sites with backhoes and small bulldozers, scraping away the top layer of earth across areas the size of several football fields.  Then, guided by metal detectors, they sink shafts to extract anything of value. Among the rock-hewn tombs that honeycomb the hills, grave robbers methodically clean out centuries old chambers, dumping the bones and hauling off the limestone ossuaries. Few job opportunities in this area, inadequate law enforcement by both Palestinian and Israeli authorities that leave archaeological sites unprotected, and the demand for artifacts within the tourist market have created the perfect setting for looting.

 

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, December 2008, p 34; article by Tom Mueller

The Holy Land’s Visionary Builder: HEROD…This article opens with a color photo of King Herod’s three-tiered palace which cascades down the north face of Masada, the work of a king long reviled as a villain but today recognized as a master architect.  With Roman techniques and unique ambition, he created audacious masterpieces of stunning beauty. More than two millennia after Herod’s death, great stones that supported his magnificent Second Temple complex still stand in Jerusalem.  Each day the plaza at the Western Wall fills with Jews whose prayers include hopes for a restoration of the temple.  Eight miles south of Jerusalem where the last stunted olive trees and stony cornfields fade into the naked badlands of the Judaean desert, a hill rises abruptly, a steep cone sliced off at the top.  This is Herodium, one of the grand architectural creations of Herod the Great who raised this low knoll into a towering memorial of snowy, polished white limestone. In 2007, Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer and his team discovered the tomb of Herod in a dramatic setting halfway up the 300-foot tall mound at Herodium, halfway between his summit fortress and the sprawling grounds of his desert retreat below.

 

 

 

 

 

A Few Impressions of My Sojourn to Shoshone and Death Valley, California   

by Rich Ryan, El Centro

 

My friend Arnie and I drove to Shoshone, CA on the weekend of February 6th to attend the Sierra Club’s California-Nevada Wilderness and Desert Committees meeting (http://www.desertreport.org/).  The get-together is held annually at the Flower building in Shoshone, a small town located at the southeastern edge of Death Valley National Park and close to the Nevada state line.  Since there are only about ten buildings along Route 127 running through Shoshone, the town is easy to find. Unfortunately we discovered that it’s also easy to miss because that’s almost what we did.  “Was that the place?” That was the question as we went hurrying through and then turning around.  Most attendees at the meeting camped out in the parking lots surrounding the Flower building.  Some slept in their cars.  However, one woman remarked that a Prius is too cramped for both husband and wife to rest comfortably. Most of those Sierra Club folks were fairly hardy however.  We were disappointed when it rained somewhat heavily on Friday night and most of Saturday and noticed that there was some complaining about the presence of mud and the absence of sun even from a number of the diehard club members.

 

The two dozen club members who had requested space on the agenda set the topics for the session.  Protecting the wilderness and open spaces in the high and low deserts was the focus.  As interesting as the desert reports were, I had come primarily to see Death Valley (http://www.nps.gov/deva).  We managed a quick two-hour trip on Saturday morning before the meeting began.  Ignoring the rain as best we could, we drove west on Route 178, designated as Badwater Road, to a spot at the Ashford Mill ruins.  The mountains and the mineral coloring featured on the rocks and hills stood out beautifully in the gray weather.  Fortunately there was very little traffic so we could take our time and enjoy the sights. We wanted to ensure our attendance at the opening sessions, so we left our self-guided sight seeing tour and returned to Shoshone.  The town is located at about 1600 feet, a change from our sea-level status in El Centro.  On Saturday night a brilliant moon peeked through the clouds as the temperature dropped significantly.   We were thankful to be lodging at the spartan but friendly Shoshone Inn rather than in a drafty rain-soaked tent.

 

The formal meeting broke up shortly after noon on Sunday but the planned group hike was canceled since continued rain still  threatened.  Arnie and I headed back to Death Valley National Park.  This time we traveled north to Death Valley Junction and west on Route 190 into the park’s center at Furnace Creek.  Luck was with us as we were rewarded with a sunny day causing the mountains surrounding Death Valley to simply glow.  The rain that had made our Saturday soggy filtered down as snow on the Amaragosa and Panamint Ranges.  Visibility was forever in all directions.  We were presented with California at its best and for a moment I even imagined I was Huell Howser conducting a television travel log.  The vistas from the Zabriskie Point overlook alone was worth the 7.5 hours drive from El Centro.  I had purchased a Cannon 880 digital Elf specifically for this trip and was able to take some beautiful photos.  Zabriskie Point overlooks badlands of black and beige with hills and valleys that appear as connected, rounded skeletal structures absent of vegetation.

 

Wherever we went in Death Valley, we encountered German, Japanese, French and Russian visitors who seemed spellbound by the unusual scenery, photographing and chatting with us, among themselves and with the tourists from the other countries.

 

At the park headquarters we perused the exhibits and obtained the National Park Service’s Death Valley visitor’s map and the vehicle sticker.  We incurred no charge since I had just obtained an America the Beautiful National Parks and Lands Pass.  The pass costs $10 for seniors and remains effective until one expires.  It allows free entry into all NPS sites nationwide and provides discounts on campgrounds as well.  The pass can be purchased at any BLM office.

 

We had lunch at the Furnace Creek Ranch Forty-Niner Café and toured the borax mining machinery in the rear of the borax museum.  With the date groves, golf course and surrounding mountains the ranch is reminiscent of a less glitzy Palm Springs.  Later in the day, we walked up the Harmony Borax Works interpretive trail where Chinese laborers mined the borax salts from the desert floor and huge 20-mule teams carted out tons of the mineral.  The sun began to break under clouds lining the Panamint Range to the west and the facing mountains reflected an orange stripe running horizontally for miles along the mountain’s brownish face.

 

Death Valley Impressions    (continued from the previous page)

 

But it was from the terrace of the classy Furnace Creek Inn ($340 for a standard view) that we saw a spectacular sunset over the snowy Panamint Range.  We had hoped to drive south on Badwater Road from Furnace Creek and perhaps take a short hike around the Artists’ Palette area, but this road was washed out due to Saturday’s rains.  The view from the Furnace Creek Inn’s terrace made up for that disappointment.

 

On Monday morning we began our trip home, driving south through the beautiful and lightly used Mojave Desert National Preserve (http://www.nps.gov/moja/).  What had been falling as heavy rain earlier turned to snow at 3400 feet.  (We were confident of having the exact altitude reading by referring to Arnie’s GPS.)  The snow lasted for some time, whitening the many Joshua trees and yuccas dotting the desert.  We experienced rain through most of the desert road trip but it began to diminish just south of Palo Verde. Our reward for enduring the precipitation should be a good desert flowers year.

 

I look forward to returning to Death Valley during the winter months so that I can take advantage of the many hiking opportunities available in the park.  We are fortunate indeed to have one of this planet’s most dramatic locations within a half day’s drive of the Imperial Valley.  We should all remain cognizant of our responsibility to enjoy and protect our beautifully scenic desert lands whenever we visit.

 

 

 


Increases for the Historic Preservation Fund Included in President Obama’s FY 2010 Budget

 

Recently published information tells us that President Barack Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2010 was released on May 7, 2009 and includes increases for the Historic Preservation Fund. The Department of Interior is funded at $12 billion that includes $77.675 million for the Historic Preservation Fund and $20 million for the Save America’s Treasures Program.  The funding level for the states is $46.5 million, an increase of $4.315 million over FY09.  The Tribes are funded at $8 million, a $1.052 increase from FY09.  Preserve America had been zeroed out in FY09 and found new support in the FY10 budget at $3.175 million.  In all the increase in funding in FY10 for the Historic Preservation Fund over FY09 levels is an increase of $8.691 million.

 

Meanwhile, the Historic Preservation Caucus, chaired by Representative Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Michael Turner (R-OH), has sent a request to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies that is signed by 83 members of the House.  For the SHPOs, the request is $55 million of which $5 million is specifically designated for records digitization grants.  The request for the Tribes is $30 million, $30 million for Save America’s Treasures, and $10 million for Preserve America.  The total of this request is $125 million for historic preservation!

 

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies is hoping to mark up the House bill during the first or second week following the Memorial Day recess.

 

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HAVE YOU HEARD OF IDA, THE MISSING LINK ???

Scientists have discovered the oldest and most complete fossil of a human ancestor.

 

An incredible 95% complete fossil of a 47 million year old human ancestor has been discovered and, after two years of secret study, an international team of scientists has revealed it to the world.  The fossil’s remarkable state of preservation allows an unprecedented glimpse into early man evolution.  Discovered in Messel Pit, Germany, it represents the moment before anthropoid primates - the group that would later evolve into humans, apes and monkeys – began to split from lemurs and other prosimian primates.  This groundbreaking discovery fills a critical gap in human and primate evolution.

 

Jarn Humun of the Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway uncovered the fossil through a chance encounter with a fossil dealer in Hamburg, Germany.  Immediately recognizing its significance, he procured it for his museum.  He learned it had been hidden for 25 years in a private collection.

 

The fossil’s analysis has revealed its age.  Named “Ida” by the scientific team, she lived in the early Middle Eocene during a critical period in evolutionary history when, after the extinction of the dinosaurs, mammals first began to thrive on the planet. The Earth was beginning to take the shape that we recognize today – with the Himalayas forming, and early horses, bats, whales and many other fauna and flora evolving.

 

A cast of the specimen will be on display in the “Extreme Mammals” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York soon.  A new Book, The Link, tells the full story of Ida’s discovery and its impact on the scientific world.

 

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Don’t Build a Pyramid in Your Backyard…You May End Up in Court!

In the November 2008 issue of National Geographic, information was shared that Egypt is irked.  It seems that more folks go to Las Vegas, home of a phony pyramid and other ersatz Egyptiana, than visit the awe-inspiring Nile landmarks. The country wants to copyright its treasures, thus requiring anyone who wishes to create a fake replica to secure a permit and to pay a fee prior to proceeding with construction.  “The funds generated will help to preserve these monuments,” says Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief archaeologist. Lawyers say that the pyramids are too old to protect.  But new buildings are in luck.  Since 1990, U.S. law has extended copyright protection from architectural plans to the structures themselves.

 

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