CSU, Chico News

From Cave Art to E-mail: Museum of Anthropology Offers New Exhibit on Language and Meaning

Date: 02-12-2008

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Adrienne Scott, curator
Museum of Anthropology

The Museum of Anthropology at California State University, Chico has a new exhibit, “From Cave Art to E-mail: Language and Meaning in Human Cultures,” that will run through May 23. The museum is located on the third floor of Langdon Hall at the corner of Cherry and West First Streets.

Anthropologists and linguists agree that language has been a part of human culture for at least 40,000 years, said Adrienne Scott, curator of the museum. “The archaeological record explodes with art and artifacts at that time, indicating that more complex speech systems had developed. That was just the beginning. In this exhibition, the story of human language is told through the eyes of many cultures and their artwork, geographic location and social systems,” said Scott.

Visitors to the exhibit will learn about the global expressions of language and communication, said Scott. “The arts and sounds of human life point the way toward understanding the origins and challenges facing the 6,912 languages of the world today,” she said.

Exhibits include Upper Paleolithic cave art of Europe, a tape of the changing voice of Ishi originally recorded more than 100 years ago on wax cylinders, a page from a 14th century illuminated manuscript, and a recording of an excerpt from Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon.

There are activities for both adult and youth visitors, including creating poems on a refrigerator door, experiencing intricate Tanzanian wood carvings, and wrestling with some age-old questions. Can great apes use sign language like humans do? Did ancient cultures deface buildings with graffiti? And is it really true that men don’t listen and women can’t read maps?

“There’s something for everyone at this year’s exhibition,” said Scott. “Whether you are seeking an understanding of linguistics, an overview of the various writing systems or just enjoyment of art and storytelling, From Cave Art to E-mail offers an appealing outing for a wide audience.”

The Museum of Anthropology is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Special tours can be arranged. For more information, you can call 530-898-5397, e-mail anthromuseum@csuchico.edu or visit the museum’s Web site at www.csuchico.edu/anth/Museum.