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Destruction of 'Seed Sculpture' Boon to Biological Archivists

Tevrisand, Nevada -- A flash flood on the Tevrisand Flats on Monday resulted in the partial collapse of one foundation wall at the University of Nevada's Museum of The Desert People. Water "poured in" through the breach and flooded the Restoration Area and the Climate Preservation Vault, submerging pieces ranging from basketry to fragile sand glass to textiles, explained Sandra Mesote, the Museum's Director. "Many of our restoration projects had been moved to the South Wing on the first floor in anticipation of the start of filming of Ken Burns' Desert Peoples project. We were fortunate that the works most likely to be damaged were elsewhere at the time of the flood."

One artifact that had not been moved was the famed 'Seed Mother' sculpture recovered at the Lintoe settlement excavation in 1916 by Dr. David Arthur Renot of Harvard University. The foot-high statue, encrusted with seeds and tiny pods to create the effect of a mosaic tile, had been on loan to the Museum for the Archaelogy of the Lintoe Exhibit due to open next month. The collapsing foundation wall "smashed the statue's special case," recalled Director Mesote, "and by the time we could get to it, the dirt-clay statue had been reduced to a mass of seeds and mud."

As the museum staff began to clear away the debris, they discovered small ceramic pots within the mud. The thimble-sized pots, wrapped in fabric and then sealed with pitch, were thought at first to have been used to firm up the sculpture or had been included to represent the powers and benefits of the Earth Mother. But when several of the tiny pots were opened, they were found to contain caches of seeds, each little pot holding one variety exclusively.

While the Museum's staff are perplexed by the find, biological archivists are thrilled with the discovery. "The Lintoens were very sophisticated in their approach to agriculture, and the position of HarvestMaster was passed down from father to son, generation after generation. These samples probably represent not only the life's work of one Lintoen HarvestMaster, but perhaps as many as five or six, judging from the age of some of the sample containers," explained Dr. Julian Illimave, Associate Professor of Desert Agriculture at the University of Nevada. "Analysis of these samples will tell us a great deal about the Lintoens' agricultural management strategies as well as plant variety hardiness and regional rainfall."

Meanwhile, the Lintoen show will go on. "The statue has been destroyed, but we will still include it in the exhibit," said Director Mesote. "Our plan is to have a 'life-size' photograph of the statue with one of the seed pots as an example of what was recovered after the flood. We're sad about the loss of the statue as a work of art, but we now know why the Lintoens called the statue 'The Seed Mother.'"

Reported by the Daily Apocrypha News Staff. All rights reserved. © 1998.

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