Originally Published in 1910

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MR. HERBERT L. CLARK has presented to the Museum in memory of his father, the late Mr. Edward W. Clark, a collection of rare ethnological specimens from the South Seas (Polynesia and Melanesia). The collection has been in private hands in England for many years and dates from the early explorations in the islands of the Southern Pacific.

When Captain Cook, between 1768 and 1780, was making his wonderful voyages of discovery, the narrative of which forms one of the most delightful books in our language, the natives of New Zealand, Austral Islands, Hervey Islands, Samoa and the numerous other islands that dot the South Pacific Ocean, possessed among other, qualities that rendered them peculiarly interesting and picturesque, a high degree of skill in carving certain elaborate patterns on the herd and beautiful woods that .their islands afforded. These products of native art proved so attractive to the early navigators that many rare objects were carried back to civilization on their ships, to find their way eventually into public museums or private collections.

It is a fortunate circumstance that brings a collection of these rare old treasures now into this Museum. The largest and most striking objects are from New Zealand, but the Clark collection includes peculiarly valuable series of carvings from many other islands. In this connection an abstract from a letter received by the Director from C. C. Willoughby, Assistant Curator of the Peabody Museum of Harvard, will be of interest to readers of the JOURNAL. Mr. Willoughby recently visited the University Museum to see the newly acquired collection which Mr. Clark’s generosity has secured, and he writes concerning it as follows:

“Museum authorities are realizing more than ever the importance of securing without delay the small amount of ethnological material to be obtained from existing tribes which illustrates the life of primitive peoples, for in another decade little or nothing will remain of the early culture of the American Indians, or of the inhabitants of the Pacific Island groups. The native culture of the African tribes is also fast disappearing.

“It is now almost impossible to secure good old specimens from Polynesia [New Zealand, Austral and Hervey Islands, Samoa, Marquesas, Easter Islands, etc.]. Inferior imitations are offered to collectors and find their way into Museums. It was with special pleasure that I noted the valuable old Pacific Island material you have recently obtained. The collection of Austral Island ceremonial paddles is a remarkable one. There are few Museums which possess a more complete series. This is also true of the ceremonial adzes from the Hervey group. The objects in this lot from New Zealand, New Caledonia and other islands are likewise of great value. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate this collection, as most of the specimens belong to the days of Cook and other early explorers and are no longer to be obtained from the natives. Such examples of the old culture of these peoples are almost priceless.”

The Museum has acquired through Mrs. C. C. Harrison an extensive collection of inscribed fragments of papyri and ancient manuscripts on parchment and other materials, of great interest and value for the student of ancient languages and literature. This collection, which was purchased from a European collector in Cairo, is probably the most extensive series of ancient oriental papyri ever brought to this country. It contains documents in Arabic, Hieratic, Demotic, Coptic, Greek, Hebrew and Peblevi, and will afford an abundance of material for research in these several departments of oriental learning. This important collection which comes to the Museum as the gift of Mrs. Harrison was brought from Cairo to Philadelphia by Professor W. Max Muller, who spent last summer on the Nile copying the Demotic inscriptions on the temple walls at Philæ on behalf of the Carnegie Institution.

The article by Mr. Harrington on the Delaware Indians, printed in this number of the JOURNAL, is based on information gathered by him from members of the several scattered bands during the time he spent among them in connection with the work of the Heye Expedition.

A series of some two score Malisit and Penobscot songs, recorded on the phonograph, has recently been added to the Museum’s collection. The records were secured by Mr. Mechling last summer among the Indians of St. John River, New Brunswick, while carrying on his studies in connection with his course in Anthropology at the University. The Mali-sits are the nearest neighbors of the Penobscots on the northeast, consequently this collection, added to one from the Penobscots previously secured by the department, makes a fairly strong representation of northeastern Indian music, as a basis for study and comparison.

Mr. J.0. Warfield made a second trip to the Pamunkey and Mattapony Indians of Virginia in December, returning with valuable additions to his notes on medicine practices and the general ethnology of the Powhatans. A small lot of interesting native articles was obtained by Mr. Warfield from sonic of the older people with whom he became acquainted on his first visit.

Professor B. Max Muller is offering during the second term a course on Egyptian Archaeology for undergraduate and post-graduate students. This is the first time in the history of the University that the subject has been offered. Next year the course will be further developed and offered during both terms.

A very interesting collection from the Arunta tribe of Central Australia has recently been acquired by the Museum. The collection, which was made by Mr. J. T. Huston, formerly a missionary to the tribe, consists of boomerangs, spear throwers, spears, shields, stone knives and axes, totem sticks, message sticks, charms, bull-roarers, and a curious pair of shoes designed to disguise the tracks of the wearer. Accompanying the collection which illustrates very fully the ethnology of the Arunta is a set of photographs showing the tribal ceremonies and characteristic types. A set of notes also accompanies the collection.

A dug-out canoe, apparently of native Indian manufacture, from the Hackensack River, Bergen County, New Jersey, has recently been added to the Heye Collection. Local tradition claimed this canoe, with another and a fragment of a third, to have been exhumed from the river mud, near New Milford, a few miles above Hackensack, during some dredging operations. The ancient craft was patched up by its finders and used for several years by the longshoremen, later passing into the possession of Mr. Speck who continued to use it on pleasure trips. The hull is apparently of white pine hollowed to a thickness of about an inch along the sides, in length about sixteen feet, in width about eighteen inches forward and narrower astern, with pointed ends. This dug-out has been pronounced a typical example of the craft used by the Delaware Indians in northern New Jersey in early colonial days.

Doctor Speck went to Maine to spend the Christmas holidays with the Penobscot Indians with the object of collecting further data for his monograph on the ethnology of the Penobscots. By means of the several visits which Doctor Speck has now made, an interesting body of information has been secured from the survivors of this eastern tribe. The collection includes phonographic records of native songs, mythological narratives, notes on the dances, ceremonial customs and general ethnological data.

So many persons have taken advantage of the course of public lectures given on Saturday afternoons that the lecture hall on each occasion has been filled to overflowing.

The course will be continued during January, February and March and the programme which as been sent to all of the members announces the names of several distinguished lecturers.

Doctor Charles, Harrison Research Fellow in Semitics, is giving a course on cuneiform writing for post-graduate students in the department of Semitic languages and literature. Tablets from the Museum collection are used in the exercises in decipherment.

Dr. Albert von Le Coq, the German explorer and archaeologist, who is to lecture in the Museum course on March 4th, was commissioned by the Prussian Government in 1904 to make archaeological investigations in Turkestan. The expedition was successful in making an important discovery of ancient MSS. written in several languages, and in obtaining other valuable information regarding the ancient civilization of the country. The subsequent German explorations in Turkestan with which Dr. Le Coq has been associated have also been instrumental in adding very greatly to our knowledge of ancient Asiatic literature and art.

While returning with the treasures discovered by the expedition, Dr. Le Coq, finding the way home by Russia closed by reason of the war with Japan, decided to cross the Himalayas into India. In company with Captain Sherer, an English officer of the Royal Artillery, he succeeded in passing the mountain barrier. After crossing the Karakoram Pass his companion became seriously ill with pneumonia. By traveling from dawn to sunset for nine consecutive days Dr. Le Coq crossed the Sasar and the Murghi Pass twice, the last time in a blinding snow storm, in order to bring assistance to Captain Sherer. The height of these passes is 17,840 feet and the summit consists of some three miles of glacier. By this act of self-sacrifice Dr. Le Coq was able to bring aid to his traveling companion in time to save his life.

Sir Francis Younghusband of Kashmir sent an official report of this exploit to King Edward VII, and as a result, Dr. Le Coq was decorated by the Prince of Wales, now King George V of England, with the gold medal of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. This is a decoration that is very rarely conferred and only in cases where extreme courage has been shown in saving life. Sir Richard Temple, who represents the Order of St. John in England, lays emphasis on the courage of Dr. Le Coq’s exploit in the following words:

“A man who was himself in bad health and who, as an old and experienced traveler, knew exactly the danger of the situation, deliberately and of set purpose, in order to save the life of his fellow-traveler, three times crossed some of the most dangerous passes in the world under conditions of weather which he knew would become worse each time he made the attempt. And he did more than that. In order to secure that everything should be done that was possible to sane his friend’s life, he deliberately left behind food and clothing most necessary to himself.”

Cite This Article

"Notes." The Museum Journal I, no. 3 (December, 1910): 60-63. Accessed February 22, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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