Interested in archaeology? Take advantage of two unique opportunities.

Updated: January 11, 2018

By Les Conklin


It was more than 20 years ago. I’ve never forgotten seeing a pit house excavation in an archaeology museum in Xi’an, China. I was amazed. The size, post hole locations and shape seemed to be almost identical to a Native American pit house floor that I had seen at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Although some don’t agree, artifacts, such a pit house evidence, and more recently DNA studies have shown that the ancestors of Native Americans migrated from Asia to North America and south. As they moved or shifted locations over time, they carried their knowledge, technology, weapons, tools and household goods with them.

Those two pit houses, thousands of miles apart, came to mind as I began writing about these two local opportunities that folks interested in archaeology and anthropology can enjoy. The first is the monthly meetings of the local chapter of the Arizona Archaeology Society in Cave Creek. The second is a special exhibition in northeast Phoenix at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) of ancient musical treasures from the Henan Museum in China. It turns out that Henan and Xi’an (where I saw the pit house) are in neighboring provinces in China.

Arizona Archaeology Society Desert Foothills Chapter (DFC-AAS) Meetings

DFC-AAS meetings are held monthly in Cave Creek and are free and open to the public. The speakers, usually professional archaeologists or historians, are very good to excellent. The meetings are convivial and well-attended.

The February 14th meeting will feature a presentation by archaeologist James Snead PhD. His talk is titled “Obliterated Itineraries: The Archaeology of Roads, Paths, and Trails. For more information, read the article “Talk: Archaeologists Discovering Lost Native American Trails – Feb. 14” in The PeakArticle

Henan Museum,Zhen gzhou,, Henan Province, Peoples Republic of China.

Henan Museum, Zhengzhou,, Henan Province, Peoples Republic of China.

MIM’s Special Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Musical Treasures

Colin Pearson, MIM’s Curator of Asia, Oceania and the Middle East, travelled to the prestigious Henan Museum to attend a conference on music archaeology. Located in the heart of China’s fertile and historic Central Plain. Henan Province has witnessed the rise of Chinese culture from Neolithic times through to the establishment of numerous imperial capitals. Centuries later, the area is known as China’s archaeological gold mine.

Colin’s visit resulted in a partnership between the Henan Museum and MIM. Three years later that partnership has created Ancient Musical Treasures from Central China: Harmony of the Ancients from the Henan Museum. The interactive exhibition showcases more than 60 musical and archaeological treasures spanning NINE THOUSAND YEARS of Chinese music and history.

Pearson says, “It is an absolute honor that the Henan Museum would trust us with their treasures. Each unique piece is a glimpse into China’s history through a musical lens—and it is thrilling to share them with the rest of the world. My colleagues and I poured our hearts into this project, and it was extremely rewarding to have the exhibition featured recently in the Wall Street Journal.”

The exhibition, which employs interactive technology, enables guests to see, hear, and feel the music. The exhibition opened on November 10, 2017 and will close on May 6, 2018 at the MIM’s Target Gallery. Exhibition admissions are $7 with a paid museum admission and $10 for the special exhibition only. My recommendation is to pay the museum admission and, at a minimum, include a visit to the Asia Gallery and its regular China exhibits.

Below are photographs of some of the exhibition’s extremely rare instruments and artworks on display for the first time in the United States. MIM’s website has complete information about the exhibition.  Website


Bone Flute,

Bone Flute, Peiligang Culture 7000-5000 BCE (approximately 7,000 – 9,000 years ago).


Shaman's grave with flute.

Many bone flutes have been found in graves of ancient Peiligant shamans. The flute is to the right of the lower leg.


Musician playing replica of ancient instruments.

MIM’s large screen monitors display videos of a Henan Museum orchestra playing replicas of ancient instruments. Musicians are wearing period costumes.


Bronze Bell

Bronze Bell, Spring and Autumn Period 770-476 BCE Approximately 2,500-2,800 Years Ago). Ancient characters are notes on the musical scale and the owner’s name.


Exhibition Booklet

A small, glossy, high-quality book describing the exhibit is available at the MIM gift shop. Unlike many books that document special exhibits, this book costs less than $6.

Photo Credit. All photographs courtesy of the Henan Museum  by Niu Aihong with the exception of the MIM exhibition booklet, which is provided courtesy of MIM.

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Author: Les Conklin

Les Conklin is the editor of A Peek at the Peak publications and the author of Images of America: Pinnacle Peak. He is the president of the Greater Pinnacle Peak Association and the Monte de Paz HOA. He founded Friends of the Scenic Drive and has served on the Scottsdale Pride Commission, McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission, and on the boards of several local nonprofits. Les is a resident of north Scottsdale and a member of Scottsdale's History Maker Hall of Fame. Les is a volunteer school tour guide at the Musical Instrument Museum.

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