The Brain Scoop:
The Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo

In 1898, two lions began terrorizing railway workers in Tsavo, Kenya: over a six-month period, they were responsible for killing and consuming 35 people. The story has been shared in Hollywood movies, books and documentary programs, but over the last century there’s still a fundamental question that scientists seek to answer: why did they do it? 

The theories about man-eating motivations range from scarcity of their normal prey, to an aggravating infection from dental damage partially crippling one of the lions. And what I think is so compelling about this story is that we continue finding new ways of answering that question, thanks to advancing technologies, creative interpretations, and access to the lion’s remains here in our Museum!

This week we interviewed visiting researcher from Vanderbilt University, Larisa DeSantis, who is taking dental impressions of their teeth, and Bruce Patterson, who has done extensive research looking into these particular lions (including authoring a book on the topic!).


Archaeological Museum of Thebes

Offering gifts to the goddess

Main element of the Mycenaean religious ritual was the procession of female worshippers towards the shrine, the temple, or the altar of the seated, sometimes enthroned goddess.The depiction of processions on murals, and gold seal-rings was particularly frequent.

The preserved part of a large mural composition from the palace of Thebes (14th/13th century BC) shows a procession of female adorants in traditional Minoan dress. They advance majestically holding their offerings: lilies, wild roses, a casket with jewellery, a necklace, and a luxury vase perhaps filled with aromatic oil. They move in two opposite directions, perhaps towards a central female deity who receives their offerings.

I think I have finally solved the flounced skirt mystery. In my opinion it’s a large rectangle piece of textile, straight from the loom, perhaps decorated at the top and bottom border with added woven bands. The textile is draped around the hips, then tied with the top toppling down. Multiple layers can be worn, toppling down and giving the look of the flounced skirt. Similarly the vest, could be a tunic, again rectangle pieces of textile can be used, with decorative woven bands binding them together at the seams. 

Detail of “Leaf from the Morgan Picture Bible”, Ms. Ludwig I 6 by unknown creator, France ca. 1250 via Getty Open Content Program

“Open content images are digital surrogates of works of art that are in the Getty’s collections and in the public domain, for which we hold all rights, or for which we are not aware of any rights restrictions.” - Open Content Program, “Public Domain and Rights”, The Getty

Judy Chicago explains the plates transforming from completely flat designs (in the first historical section of the table) to sculptural (in the last section) as an allusion to the freedom women slowly gained (and sometimes lost) over time. The final plates, for Georgia O'Keeffe and Virginia Woolf, are very sculptural because Chicago felt it was the historical point, beginning in the 1920s, at which women developed their own visual and written language to describe the female experience. 

Have a question on your next visit at the Museum? Download our ASK app and ask away.

Judy Chicago (American, born 1939). Virginia Woolf Place Setting from The Dinner Party, 1974-1979. Brooklyn Museum © artist or artist’s estate

I got to film a segment for an episode of the Travel Channel show “Mysteries at the Museum” today. It was about ergot poisoning but the real mystery is what in Darwin’s name happened to the chair I sat in for the interview.

Seen in the herbarium/botanical collections.


Archaeological Museum of Thebes:

Women holding flowers from a large composition found at the Palace of Thebes (14th/13th century B.C)


This month in Paleontology news… a well-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skull was found in Montana. It has been dubbed the “Tufts-Love Rex,” in honor of the volunteer paleontologists who first saw bones sticking out of a hillside: Burke Museum’s Jason Love and Luke Tufts. The researchers unearthed ribs, hips, jaw bones and vertebrae and the skull, which is about 4 feet long. Estimated to have lived 66.3 million years ago, “Tufts-Love Rex” will be displayed at Burke Museum in Seattle. Dinosaurs are of perpetual fascination to all ages and we recommend the following books to satisfy rekindled interest.

Headlines: T. rex with Well-Preserved Skull Found in Montana’s Hell Creek Formation (Scientific American)



Keep reading

Marc Chagall, The Soldier Drinks, 1911-12, oil on canvas, 109.2 x 94.6 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Source

According to Jennifer Blessing at the Guggenheim, Chagall had explained that The Soldier Drinks was based on his own recollections of tsarist soldiers during the Russo-Japanese war, where they were billeted with families between 1904 and 1905.


Archaeological Museum of Thebes:

Next to the museum there is the medieval tower of Thebes. The medieval tower has also been renovated and houses a small exhibition about Boeotia’s medieval heritage. The tower is not the only archaeological site at the museum. The museum had been planned to be a lot bigger originally, but during construction another archaeological site was discovered at the foundations, a residence dating to 3000 B.C. Construction halted and today, the site is stored underneath the museum.

Historical Map: “Futuroute” Route Selector for Picc-Vic Rail Project, Manchester, 1970s

Everything about this rather fabulous mechanical route selector – a unique piece created to build interest and publicity for the eventually-cancelled rail project – just screams early 1970s modernist design. From the gaudily coloured stripes on the case, to the tightly-spaced sans serif typeface, to the very name itself: “Futuroute” – literally the route for the future! Although I keep wanting to pronounce it as “futuro-route” rather than the intended “futu-route” for some reason…

The unit is now part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester, and is apparently every bit as clunky to operate as it looks.

For more information on the Picc-Vic project, check out the Wikipedia entry, or Chapter 3 of the Infra_Manc exhibition catalogue (PDF).

Source: Tim Dunn/Twitter