New Online Exhibit Highlights Academy’s Unique Collection of Navajo-Style Rugs

April 2014


Included in the Academy’s Anthropology collection is a unique group of contemporary Navajo-style rugs. These rugs were woven not by Navajo Indians, but by an English couple, Margaret and Tony Shuffrey, who, upon their first visit to the American Southwest in 1980, immediately became enthralled by Navajo culture and the rugs for which the Navajo are internationally acclaimed. They subsequently taught themselves how to weave in the Navajo style, and over a twenty year span completed nearly 40 Navajo-style rugs. Their weavings were used to illustrate lectures about Navajo weaving and culture that they presented throughout England and Wales. Their collection garnered praise from Navajo weavers and traders alike, many of whom became close personal friends.


A new online exhibit details the history of the collection’s creation and its ongoing importance for education and exhibition. To view the exhibit, click here.

Japanese Folk Toys From the Academy Collection Displayed at SFO

November 2013


A new exhibit at the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport features objects from the Academy's Anthropology collection. Over 125 dolls, whistles, carvings and other Academy objects are part of an exhibit on Japanese toys. If you're traveling through the United terminal at SFO now through May 7, 2014, take a moment to learn about these symbolic and creative objects and see the evolution of folk toy design up to the present day. To view the Academy's full collection of Japanese folk toys on our online database, click here.

Native American Art Exhibit Features Works from the Academy's Collection

September 2013


Twenty works from the Academy’s collection of paintings and drawings by Native American artists are included in a current exhibit, Foundations: Native American Painting, showing now through December 6 at the C.N. Gorman Museum at UC Davis in Davis, CA. 2013 marks the Gorman Museum’s 40th anniversary, and their staff is marking the occasion with this exhibit which traces the development of Native American painting from 1925 to 1980. During the first half of that era, many Native artists honed their skills at the Santa Fe Indian School’s “Studio” and later the Institute of American Indian Art, as well as at similar programs at Bacone College in Oklahoma. The whole definition of “Native American art” gradually changed at national competitions like the Gallup Inter-tribal Ceremonial, the Philbrook Art Center’s American Indian Artists Exhibition, and the Scottsdale National Indian Arts Exhibition, as artists themselves determined what was or wasn’t “authentic,” thus paving the way for their own children and grandchildren who are today’s leading artists.


The Gorman Museum is located in Hart Hall on the SW corner of the quad of the UC Davis campus, and is open to the public Monday through Friday, noon to 5 pm, and Sunday, 2 to 5 pm. For directions, see

Academy Receives Donation of Important Historic and Contemporary Navajo Rugs

July 2013


The Department of Anthropology recently received a very important donation of 4 historic and 49 contemporary Navajo rugs from Nance and Mel Donaldson. The Donaldsons assembled their collection during the 1980s and 1990s, and acquired beautiful examples of most of the regional styles of rugs woven by today’s Navajo weavers. Included in the collection are examples by some of the most important weavers of that period, including Mae Jim and Sadie Curtis, both of whom excelled in weaving Ganado style rugs, Larry Nathaniel, a male weaver who produces tapestry-weight rugs in the Two Grey Hills style, Barbara Benally who weaves large sandpainting rugs, and Marjorie Spencer and her daughter, Geneva Shabi, who weave intricate Wide Ruins style rugs. Several of the rugs won awards at the New Mexico State Fair and the Navajo Nation Fair. Other styles represented are Storm Pattern, Chinle, Crystal, Raised Outline, Teec Nos Pos, Pictorial, Burntwater, Yei, and Yeibichai, and several saddle blankets. The four historic examples include two rugs from the 1890s that are woven of Germantown yarn, a type of commercial yarn that was produced in Germantown, a suburb of Philadelphia, in the late 1800s and then made available to Navajo weavers through trading posts.


This generous donation adds considerable depth to the Academy’s Navajo rug collection, in terms of the individual weavers who are represented, the period in which these rugs were produced, and in the range of regional styles. Previously, the Academy’s collection had only a few Navajo rugs that were woven after the mid-1960s, and relatively few that clearly illustrated the various regional styles, most of which are based on particular designs and/or colors and are often named for a particular trading post on the Navajo Reservation.


To view these rugs, click here.

Academy Curator Awarded 3 Year NSF Grant

April 2013


Senior Curator and Irvine Chair of Anthropology Zeray Alemseged recently won a three-year National Science Foundation grant for his project “Integrating multidisciplinary tools to study Plio-Pleistocene paleoecology of early hominins from the Omo Valley, Ethiopia,” otherwise known as “You are what you eat.” The project will apply new integrative approaches to a large collection of fauna from the Lower Omo Valley of southwestern Ethiopia in order to better understand the paleoecology of Plio-Pleistocene hominins. Combining existing taxonomic abundance data with independent paleoecological information derived from stable isotopes and ecomorphology, Dr. Alemseged and his team will test hypotheses regarding paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic change in the region, during a period marked by some of the major events in early hominin evolution. Their integrated approach will help facilitate more robust interpretations of large-scale environmental change, and will also allow for the reconstruction of changes in hominin habitats and their distribution through time.

Academy Curator Makes Cover of Science

October 2012


Academy Curator of Anthropology Zeray Alemseged's recent publication Australopithecus afarensis Scapular Ontogeny, Function, and the Role of Climbing in Human Evolution, made the cover of Science. Dr. Alemseged previously published cover stories in Nature on the earliest evidence of stone tool use in food-procuring butchering, and on his team's famous find of the 3.3 million year old child, Selam.

For earlier departmental news, visit our Archives page.

Video Links



    In 2006 Academy Curator Zeray Alemseged and his team uncovered the fossil remains of a 3.3 million year old Australopithecus afarensis child, nicknamed "Selam," in the Dikika area of northeastern Ethiopia. To watch videos discussing this important find, click on the links below.
  • Nature
  • National Geographic
  • Ted

    For other online videos featuring Senior Academy Curator Zeray Alemseged and his work, check out the YouTube links below.