Keel-Billed Toucan – Collected from Belize

One of the most colorful of all the toucans, the keel-billed toucan is best known for its oversized bill and vibrant feathers. Even though it looks heavy, its banana-shaped, brightly colored beak is actually very light. It is hollow and made of protein supported by thin rod-like bones. When they sleep, toucans turn their head… Continue reading

Hafted Ax – Colorado Cliff Dwellings, ca. 1200-1300

Held by 20 inch leather thongs to a wooden handle, this granite stone ax is a wonderful example of craftsmanship and function. Early indigenous groups in North America worked extensively with wood to build houses, temples, fences, and other structures. They developed handled tools which allowed them to work with large pieces of timber for… Continue reading

Striped Skunk Collected from Missouri

An animal that needs no introduction! Instantly recognizable for their signature coloration as well as their foul smelling defense system, the striped skunk is found throughout the United States and southern Canada. The fluid that skunks spray when upset or threatened can cause temporary blindness and pain if sprayed in the eyes of a potential… Continue reading

Are the Bees Buzzing over Winter?

Fall is a nerve-wracking time for honeybee keepers, who often fret about whether their bees have enough honey reserves to survive the winter or whether mites have decimated their bee populations. Bees will typically only leave their hive when the weather is pleasant (at least in the 50Fs and sunny), so it’s hard to walk… Continue reading

Death’s Head Hawkmoth – Collected from Europe

Look familiar? Fans of the film The Silence of the Lambs may recognize this moth species with its distinctive human skull-shaped pattern of markings. Named for the pattern on its thorax, the Death Head’s Hawkmoth has long been associated with the supernatural and death. As a large nocturnal moth, it flies late at night and… Continue reading

Soapstone Water Dropper – China, ca. late 1900s

A water dropper is a small container used by calligraphers in East Asian countries to make ink. It is designed so that only a few drops of water can fall at one time. The calligrapher adds water to the surface of an inkstone, grinds an inkstick into the water, causing particles to come off and… Continue reading

Passenger Pigeon – Collected from Eastern U.S.

Most people alive today have probably never seen this bird in the wild. When Europeans first arrived in North America, there were between three and five billion passenger pigeons east of the Rocky Mountains. Just 400 years later, what was once one of the largest bird populations in the world became extinct. The destruction of… Continue reading

Shell Gorget – Mississippian, date unknown

This shell gorget has an incised design of a sun and moon surrounded by a snake. A gorget is a type of ornament worn on a necklace. The Mississippians often incised, or engraved, decorations into their pottery as well as their ornaments. The designs are more than artistic expressions, they are symbols with meaning to… Continue reading