SATURDAY APRIL 20th, 11AM to 3PM: THE FRANKLIN EXPEDITION
I’m extremely excited for this event. By now, I’m sure you know how much I love connecting curators and archaeologists with families. This Saturday we’re doing just that with a very special one off event on an iconic Canadian moment lost to history, the Franklin Expedition.
Find out about fascinating new research into John Franklin’s mysterious and deadly 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage. Why did the Expedition fail, and where are the remains of the lost vessels today?
Ken Lister will describe the provisioning of Arctic expeditions and present ROM research and artifacts investigating the possibility of lead poisoning of the Franklin Expedition’s crew.
The format is “Meet and Greet” and is open for ALL AGES. Marc-André, Ryan and Ken will be on the floor fielding your questions and comments and will give you a unique insight into their research. They’ll also have some fabulous artefacts out to show you. Best of it all, it takes place in our First Peoples Gallery, which will help provide a deeper context into Canada’s origins, and the history of the Franklin Expedition.
- The CBC has an absolutely wonderful minisite of the the Franklin Expedition with Searching For Franklin. Make sure to check it out. A wonderful primer for Saturday.
- Top 3 photos courtesy of Parks Canada.
- Photo of Ken Lister courtesy of Ken Lister.
THE DYNAMIC HORSE
The dynamism and speed of the horse (Equus ferus) was appreciated at least as far back as the last Ice Age, when Upper Palaeolithic hunters depicted them on caves and other objects in France, such as this object made of antler (possibly an arrow-shaft straightener or a spear-thrower, and what better to impart swiftness to the arrow or dart than calling on the spirit of the horse?). The horse was domesticated possibly at least twice, with one centre being the Eurasian steppes, where horses were certainly domesticated 5,500 years ago as evidenced by DNA and the wear on teeth by use of the bit. However, the “Arab” horse may have been domesticated about 10,000 years ago, and there is also DNA evidence for a different horse strain in what is now Spain. Possibly what would once have been a related wild population spreading from Western Europe through the Middle East to Central Asia is now extinct, with what was once thought to be the last “wild” horse, the Przewalski’s horse, now shown by DNA evidence to not be an ancestor of the domesticated horse at all (photo by Bill Pratt).
THE CLEVER MONKEY
This pot with a monkey on it, being examined for stability by April Hawkins of the New World Archaeology section, was excavated at the Maya site of Lamanai by ROM archaeologists, and is dated to the 15th-early 16th centuries AD. Three types of non-human primates are found in the Maya region: the Howler monkeys (Aloutta pallita & Aloutta pigra), the Spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) and the Capuchin monkey (Cebus capucinus). Revered by the ancient Maya, the monkey was a supernatural patron of the arts and writing, often depicted as the “Monkey-man scribe.” Throughout the lands of Mesoamerica, and right up to the time of contact with Europeans, monkeys were associated with arts, music and dance. The unchecked spread of agriculture and resource extraction activities threaten both monkey habitat and archaeological sites.
THE MIGHTY ELEPHANT
Today there are no elephants between Sub-Saharan Africa and India, and are endangered even there, but in Ancient times elephants were far more widespread. A subspecies of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana pharaoensis) was once found in North Africa (the elephants of Hannibal), while the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) was found as far west as Syria and as far east as China. Although they may sometimes be a symbol of power and strength, the intelligence and social nature of the Indian elephant means that even wild animals may be domesticated, and typically it is domesticated elephants which are being depicted in ancient art, like this 13th century AD tile from Kashan, Iran. However, although used in warfare in the Mediterranean, these elephants were extirpated in the 1st century BC due to demands for ivory and for games in Rome.
THE POWERFUL BULL
Above, Kay Sunahara of the Greek & Roman section selects figurines of the powerful bull. The bull was a symbol of strength from earliest times, and it should be remembered that the earliest bulls encountered by humans, the wild Aurochs, or Bos primigenius, would have been as tall at the shoulder as the full height of a modern human. Domesticating these massive, iconically powerful creatures into milk-cows might have been one of the greatest achievements of the Neolithic Revolution! According to DNA analysis this probably took place in a few villages in northern Mesopotamia, in what is now southeast Turkey, about ten thousand years ago. Today there are 1.3 billion cows in the world, and they are all descended from about 80 individuals in those Mesopotamian villages!
THE PROUD LION
This lion pictured above, carved in western Syria in the 9th-7th century BC, is lucky not to represent an extinct sub-species. The Asiatic lion, Panthera leo persica, was hunted to extinction throughout most of its range in the 19th century, and now exists only in one reserve in western India (originally a private hunting preserve). The last pride of lions in Iran was shot in 1963, even though the lion was a national symbol, and had pride of place on the Iranian flag at the time. It is perhaps the proud bearing and courage of the lion that made it vulnerable, because it attracted the attention of hunters that wanted to prove something about themselves (ROM Photography pic). Sadly, both the lion depicted and the elephant with which it is made are now extirpated in Syria.