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The Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences

If you are not familiar with the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences, it rivaled, and even excelled, the Smithsonian collection at the turn of the 20th century.  It was one of the many amateur Academies set up to study our world and its history.  Of course, my main area of interest is the work they did on the Archaeology of the America's.

In the forefront were questions of  the origins of the Mound Builders and whether primitive man inhabited America before, or during, the last Ice Age.  Remember that this was before the discoveries of  chipped stone artifacts, undeniably made by humans, in direct context with Ice Age mammals during the first quarter of the twentieth century.  Many amateurs of the 19th Century shared the belief that man was here at that time and a few were a little too anxious to turn this theory into accepted fact.

No matter what eventually transpired from the actions of a few misguided members, the Academy saved many artifacts in their collection and recorded details of mound excavations that would have been lost forever.  Many of these mounds now have houses, roads or factories over them.  We definitely owe them a debt of gratitude for this. 

So, if you get a chance, please come to Davenport's Putnam Museum (the direct descendent of the Davenport Academy) and see what the fuss was all about, and then take a look at the many wonderful artifacts that were preserved for posterity by these archaeological pioneers.   The Putnam Museum certainly deserves kudos for keeping the Academy's collection intact.

Putnam Museum Displays Davenport Tablets and Elephant Pipes

The Putnam Museum's display and lecture concerning the history of the Elephant Pipes and Davenport Tablets was held September 24, 2006.  The slate tablets and pipes are now on permanent display housed in their new cases (top center) but the famous figure tablet, (top left) is broken into about 10 pieces and will not be displayed until it can be stabilized..   


The tour of the storage area was exceptional as the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences archaeological collection has been kept intact over the last 100+ years.  I do hope that they will eventually have the room available to put most of it on display as it is quite extensive. 

*** Two books of interest are The Davenport Conspiracy and The Davenport Conspiracy Revisited by Marshall McKusick.  These are out of print but original copies can be found in the $25-$40 price range. 

We also have reprinted two books concerning the Davenport Academy.  One is Animal Carvings From Mounds of the Mississippi Valley by Henry W. Henshaw. This was regarded as the opening salvo from the Bureau of Ethnology that started the so-called "Davenport Conspiracy". 

The other one is Ancient Pottery of the Mississippi Valley by William H. Holmes, a study of the Davenport Academy's pottery collection.  Interestingly enough, it came out the year following Animal Carvings. Of course many of the pottery pieces are also mentioned in Aboriginal Pottery of the Eastern United States, also by William H. Holmes.


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