Tracing a legume pod motif

From the exhibit Empowering Engaged Thinkers: Student Discovery Stories from the Hearst Museum

A decoration on ceramic bowls and textiles led to Colin Domnauer’s senior thesis and to insights on cultural diversity.

Colin attended a Hearst talk on psychoactive plants in the Andes, and a conversation with Professor Christine Hastorf sparked an idea for a senior thesis. He is a member of the class of 2020 with a major in Planetary Science.

“My senior thesis was based on original research at the Hearst where I traced changes in an ancient Peruvian motif: a line of circles that we think represent seed pods from a psychoactive plant.  The objects always show a shaman and an act of transformation, indicating a possible ceremonial use.  Even after the COVID-19 pandemic began, I was able to continue my research through the Hearst’s collection portal of almost 4 million objects.  There is no other resource like that.  My research experience made me appreciate the diversity of human culture, shattering the notion that modern industrial society is the pinnacle of human success; the fact that each culture is a unique expression of the same human spirit, equally sophisticated in their relationship to different aspects of reality, each manifesting a unique way of being.  I would encourage people to check out the online portal—there is plenty of research to be done.”

“My research experience made me appreciate the diversity of human culture.”

Ancient Peruvian bowl

4-8803, circa 400-600 CE.