Miscellaneous Adventures: Exploring Lost Worlds

The next Miscellaneous Adventure that you all voted for has us exploring Record Unit 416, National Museum of Natural History, Public Information Officer, Records, circa 1969-1991. The folder, titled "Subject Files Research: Miscellaneous Research and Discoveries" comes from Box 19, and mostly contains news articles from the 1960s to 1980s about ethnological and environmental discoveries. While I found many of the articles in this folder interesting, three stories in particular caught my eye.

Base of mud brick grainery sile at Tell Jemmeh, Smithsonian Institution Research Reports, Number 9,

The first one is a set of articles that appeared in Smithsonian Institution Research Reports in the Fall of 1974 and Summer of 1979. These articles document the work of Dr. Gus Van Beek, curator of Old World Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, during his excavation of Tell Jemmeh, a hill on the border of Gaza and Egypt. The site was believed to be a stopping point for caravans in the first millennium B.C., and during his nine summers spent there, 12 acres of ruins were excavated. In addition to uncovering lots of vessels and pots, Dr. Van Beek and his team uncovered blacksmith shops, kilns, grain silos, residences, and other architectural ruins. All of the work conducted on Tell Jemmeh helped to provide details about the site's rich history.

Smithsonian botanist, Dr. Vicki Funk, collects an Aroid plant on Cerro de la Neblina's plateau, "Sci

Dr. Charles Brewer examines one of the giant pitcher plants with 18-inch-long leaves living on Cerro

The second article that caught my eye is titled "Scientists Explore 'Lost Worlds' in Venezula," and was written for the Smithsonian News Service in January 1985. The article details a visit by U.S. scientists to Cerro de la Neblina, an isolated mesa in Venezuela's Guayana Highlands, where "[b]izarre species of flora and fauna existing nowhere else in the world have evolved…" that took place a year earlier.  According to one account of the trip, on Cerro de la Neblina "giant pitcher plants and other insectivorous plants abound, spectacular orchids grow on the ground instead of on trees, flightless grasshoppers and giant earthworms make an occasional appearance, tiny black frogs and lizards move through dense mats of vegetation and birds sing from the moss-covered branches of dwarf trees." This plateau is one in a series of mesas whose unique ecosystem inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel, The Lost World.

Comparison of wing spans between a South Carolina pseudodontorn and a wandering albatross. News Rele

The third article is a news release about the fossil remains of a gigantic seabird, a South Carolina pseudodontorn, that was identified by Smithsonian scientists in 1987. After being discovered in Charleston in 1984, the fossils were studied by Dr. Storrs L. Olson of the National Museum of Natural History and Kenneth I. Warheit, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. Based on their findings, Dr. Oslon and Mr. Warheit believed that the bird had a wing span of over 18 feet and weighed about 90 pounds, which makes it over four times heavier than the largest living seabird.

If you would like to see what other miscellaneous mysteries exist in our collections, comment below, or message us on Facebook or Twitter to vote for:

Folder A for Record Unit 50 – Smithsonian Office of the Secretary, Records, 1949-1964, Box 26, Folder: Awards - Miscellaneous, 1928-1958


Folder B for Record Unit 7399 – Hahn William Capps Paper, 1939-1964, Box 1, Folder: Miscellaneous Larval Notes, Sketches, etc. (Unpublished)

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