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The American Museum of Natural History has many exhibits that demonstrate many aspects of anthropology. The Museum is located on Central Park West between W81st and W77nd streets. The museum is an excellent place to open oneself to many new ideas and cultures. When looking through the museum the exhibits that are anthropological could enhance ones understanding of a culture. The museum is very big and a lot of time is needed to get the most out of it. The following exhibits that demonstrate many aspects of anthropology are located on the first, second and third floors. The first floor has American Northwest Coast Peoples, Eskimos, Human Biology and Evolution. The second floor had African Peoples, Asian Peoples, Mexico and Central American Peoples, and South American Peoples. Finally, the third floor had Primates, North American Eastern Woodlands And Plains Peoples, and Pacific Peoples. The museum also included many other interesting exhibits that did not have to do with anthropology like the Dinosaur Hall. All these exhibits in the museum had detailed information on each exhibit whether it was a big sculpture or a little skeleton. There was also films that could have been seen for a small price, but if one has the time it is very educational and worth seeing.
In the hall of Asian Peoples the most intriguing exhibits was the Chinese Wedding. It was very interesting to see how a different culture gets married. In this wedding the Chinese bride sits in this beautiful bridal chair from the groom’s family that had carried her from her home. The bride now says her good-byes to her own family because in the Chinese culture she is now part of the grooms family. ” Her impressive dowry, displayed by the procession on the road , gives prestige to her family as the beauty of the bridal chair gives prestige to the groom’s.” Prestige and honor are very important to the Chinese culture and during an important event such as a wedding it is not unusual to flaunt their prestige. To properly perform the dowry and the chair is a must. In tradition Chinese culture the bride must be covered by a veil and the groom never had seen her before he had removed the veil himself when she had arrived at his family’s home.
In picture #1 this shows the background of a village in Shantung, in northeastern China. In this province is where Confucius was born and lived which also had a great amount of ancient tradition. “The early 20th century wedding chair, of wood, kingfisher feathers, copper wire, gilt and glass was probably made in southern China. The way the Chinese get married is very unusual to our western culture. This exhibit expresses to me that people are very different all over the world and there is much to explore about other cultures even an event such as a wedding.
One other exhibit seen in the Asian Peoples were an exhibit about dance. It was called the personality in Dance. The junkai people perform a special dance called the whirling dance. Dance in these peoples culture express a lot of different things. It evokes many moods, inspiration of belief, the hope and energy of young people, and the power of fear that could kill you. Society is very important to these people. Dance also by itself can express the values that a society should have that keep it binded together.
One educational exhibit is the Human Biology and Evolution Hall. This exhibit introduces the common biology of humans, and how we evolutionized. The biology of the humans were shown though holographic pictures. These pictures did show the whole body including the muscles and the bones. The evolution part of this exhibit was very interesting. “We humans often think of ourselves as the culmination of a steady history of an evolutionary improvement. But this idea is wrong, for evolution is neither goal-oriented nor merely a matter of species gradual improving their adaptation to their environments. “This is an excellent quote from the evolution exhibit. This quote explains in a simplistic idea on how humans did evolutionize. Evolution is a long process that can happen for many reasons. One way humans became the way they did was from a common idea of natural selection. The traits that were needed to survive would express themselves more and more over time. This would happen because whoever did not have these traits probably could not have survived and died. This could happen for many reasons but the most likely would be a change in surroundings or environment. The evolutionary trends of the human being toward being better is brain and body size, bipendalism, and their face and teeth. Much of the human ability to make and use tools and other objects stems from the large size and complexity of the human brain. Most modern humans have a braincase volume between 1300 and 1500cc. In the course of human evolution the brain size has more than tripled. Bipedalism or two-legged walking seems to be the earliest human characteristic to evolve. This form of locomotion led to the modern human skeletal parts such as the lower spinal column, pelvis, and legs. The face and jaws of humans has decreased in size over time. The teeth had also decreased in size.
This exhibit was a very good exhibit because it could teach us a lot about ourselves and where we came from. It explained our trends toward what we are now and why we went in that direction. Evolution is a complicated process that is hard to understand. This is why this exhibit needed to have a lot of simple information for someone that have never learned about human evolution before.
One of the most interesting exhibits was one of the Aztec stone of the sun. Aztecs are very popular for their monuments and stone sculptures. Their most popular monument is this stone of the sun known as the calendar stone. It includes all the elements of a calendric system, but it is not a calendar. All the symbols on this calendar stone relate to the sun and accent. It also explains the role of the sun in the Aztecs belief and culture. The Aztec performed many rituals that have been drawn on the stone. In the museum they colored in parts of the stone to explain what the designs meant. Look at the picture in the back to fully understand this. The orange part of the stone, which is the face in the middle, is the sun god ( Tonatiuh ). The yellow orange, which surrounds the sun god, is cosmogonic myths of the Aztecs. The blue, which is just outside the myths, is emblems referring to the four cardinal directions.
The pink, which is outside the cardinal directions, is the 20 day signs of the 260 day ritual calendar. The yellow, which is located after the ritual calendar, is the disc of the sun. The red, which is the end of the stone, is 2 fire serpents. The green, the last design on the stone, is the date “13 need ” which is supposed to be the birth of the sun. This stone expresses the great beliefs the Aztecs had for the sun. They were a people of great design and expression for their culture.
Also in the same exhibit of the Aztec stone was the Colossal Olmer Head. This looked like a big head. It was found at the site of San Lorenza. It was the largest and most outstanding sculpture of the great stone heads from the Olmer peoples. This head weighed 20 tons carved in a typical Olmer style. This hall itself included a lot of outstanding sculptures. These people in this hall seemed to like building and sculpturing things. They looked like they spent years on making these sculptures. These sculptures are very remarkable and I am very impressed of the talent these people had.
Inside the exhibit of the South American Peoples had a couple of interesting little things. It showed a thing of warfare of the people in that area. The only thing that I found interesting about this was it looked like the guy had a hamburger in his mouth. This exhibit itself was probably the worst exhibit. If one of the most interesting things was a guy with a hamburger in his mouth the exhibit could not have been very education or even eye catching. It was very boring and I do not think I spent more than ten minutes in it. The only thing I stared at was a tomb they had of one special person and a few other people. There was not a lot of interesting new cultural ideas in this hall and because I found this very boring and not educational it had to be as a hall the worst one in the museum.
Some of the other exhibits that I have failed to talk about also had few interesting factural ideas in them. The one exhibit I also felt was horrible was the Eskimos. It was closed the day I went to the museum and I was really looking forward to seeing the Eskimo exhibit.
My favorite hall was the one of the Pacific Peoples. This the hall that I have my picture with my girlfriend next to a beautiful stone sculpture. This large stone sculpture was located on Easter Island. More than 250 complete and partial sculptures still remain on this small isolated island. Some of the figures are more than 30 feet high and weigh 20 tons. These people even impressed me more in a whole then the Aztecs and others in that hall that made nice sculptures also. These people cut them from lava and transported from the quarry near the middle of the island. The Marquesas are where the first settlers that came to Easter Island are believed to come from. Little are known about the heads and figures made by people. I think this is very interesting and would want to find out more about these peoples and their sculptures. This hall was also my favorite because I was always interested in seeing the beautiful pacific. So seeing exhibits with skeletons in them excited me in a way that I was happy we had saved this exhibit for last.
The museum in an overall view gave me a better understanding to anthropology as a whole. Each exhibit had detailed facts about the culture and the people. For Example, we have learned about the human evolution in the class, but the museum as you can see had good exhibits showing the evolution change in humans in great detail. Another example could be the skeletal bones I saw at the museum. After seeing the bones at the museum I could easily relate them to the story in the Phillip Whitten and David E. K. Hunter anthropology book of No Bones Unturned. This had gave me a better grasp at what they were looking at. It had also given me more interest to how they looked at the bones and what techniques they used.
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