Monday, June 21, 2010

National Trust for Historic Preservation Awards Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center Foundation A Preservation Grant from The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors

Grant Will Go Towards Chesser-Williams House Project

The Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center Foundation was awarded a $10,000.00 grant by the National Trust for Historic Preservation from its Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors. The seed grant funds will be used to assist in preserving the rare, historic folk art paintings found in the Chesser-Williams House.

"These funds provide the foundation for important preservation work nationwide”, said David Brown, executive vice-president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The grants go toward protecting the places that tell America’s story and they often trigger other preservation projects, further strengthening efforts to protect our country’s heritage and make our communities more livable."

The Chesser-Williams House is one of the oldest, surviving homes in Gwinnett County. The home was built in the mid 1800’s and still sits on its original foundation stones. The home was deeded to the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center Foundation in 2008. It will be re-located to the campus of the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center. Once restored, the Chesser-Williams House will be utilized as a teaching tool to showcase life in early Gwinnett.

The most significant feature of the home is the beautiful, hand painted folk art found on the exterior and interior. The artwork was painted in the late 1800’s and is attributed to an itinerant, German artist who was known to paint in exchange for room and board as he traveled from North Carolina to Texas.

“The Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center Foundation is honored to partner with the National Trust in preserving the Chesser-Williams House,” said Jason West, Director of Development. “The best way for people to gain an appreciation for the past is to make it relevant to their daily lives. Once completed, this house will provide Gwinnett and the surrounding area with an interpretative, educational experience of the past that can be seen and touched.”

In 1997, a generous gift from George P. Mitchell established the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors in honor of his wife. The fund provides assistance in the preservation, restoration, and interpretation of historic interiors. Once a year, Mitchell Fund grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 are awarded to non-profit groups and public agencies. Over $135,000 were awarded in 2010. Grants must be matched at least dollar for dollar with public or private funds.

For more information on the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors, visit:

About the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center Foundation

The Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center (Center) is a unique partnership among Gwinnett County, the Gwinnett County Public School System, the University of Georgia and the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center Foundation. The Center provides an opportunity for more than 40,000 students and 25,000 community members annually to participate in interpretative, hand-on field studies and community based educational programming. The Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center Foundation is a not for profit 501(c)(3), whose purpose to support the mission and vision of the Center and to assist in raising needed funding for its various educational programs and exhibits.

About the National Trust for Historic Preservation 

The National Trust for Historic Preservation ( is a non-profit membership organization bringing people together to protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to them. By saving the places where great moments from history – and the important moments of everyday life – took place, the National Trust for Historic Preservation helps revitalize neighborhoods and communities, spark economic development and promote environmental sustainability. With headquarters in Washington, DC, eight regional and field offices, 29 historic sites, and partner organizations in 50 states, territories, and the District of Columbia, the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to a national network of people, organizations and local communities committed to saving places, connecting us to our history and collectively shaping the future of America’s stories.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Archeologists Discover 'Brain Food' in Early Human Ancestors' Diet

/PRNewswire/ -- A team of scientists now know what may have helped fuel the evolution of the human brain two million years ago. Archeologists working in Kenya unearthed evidence that our human ancestors ate a wide variety of animals including fish, turtles and even crocodiles. Based on analyses of animal bones and stone tools they excavated, the research team found that our early ancestors incorporated aquatic "brain food" in their diet.

"These aquatic foods are really important sources of the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and docosahexaenoic acid that are so critical to human brain growth," said co-author and paleoanthropologist Dr. Richmond. "Finding these foods in the diets of our early ancestors suggests they may have helped to lift constraints on brain size and fuel the evolution of a larger brain."

The discovery of such a diverse animal diet is important because early human brain size increased dramatically after two million years ago. Growing a large brain requires an enormous investment in calories and nutrients and places considerable costs on the mother and developing infant. Anthropologists have long considered meat in the diet as key to the evolution of a larger brain. However, until now, there was no evidence that human ancestors this long ago had incorporated into their diets animal foods, from lakes and rivers, rich in brain nutrients.

A team of scientists from Kenya, the United States, the U.K., Australia and South Africa discovered a 1.95 million year-old site in northwestern Kenya in 2004. Preservation of the excavated site was so remarkable that the team was able to develop a detailed reconstruction of the environment. Over four years, the scientists excavated literally thousands of fossilized bones and stone tools, and were able to determine that at least 10 individual animals, and perhaps many more, were butchered by early humans at this site. Many of these bones showed evidence of cut marks made by early human ancestors as a result of using sharp stone tools to cut meat from the bones or crush long bones to access the fat-rich bone marrow.

"At sites of this age we often consider ourselves lucky if we find any bone associated with stone tools, but here we found everything from small bird bones to hippopotamus leg bones," said archeologist David Braun of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, who was the lead author on the research.

Gaining access to smaller animals like turtles and fish may have allowed these early humans to increase the protein in their diet without the danger of interacting with dangerous carnivores, such as lions and hyenas. These early humans were relatively small and not well suited to compete with the large carnivores that lived at that time. Stumbling upon brain-fueling food may have been a fortunate side effect of finding foods at lakes and rivers.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation. The project was directed by Jack Harris of Rutgers University and represents a collaborative effort between National Museums of Kenya and a host of international institutions. Paleontologist Marion Bamford of the University of Witswatersrand in South Africa identified fossilized plant remains that revealed the wet and possibly marshy environment in which these early humans were living. Lead zooarchaeologist Jack McCoy of Rutgers University identified bones of various animals including turtles, fish, crocodiles and large antelopes that ended up as the meals of these early humans. Dr. Richmond of GW took part in fossil identification and analyzing how the findings were important for human evolution.

The site, known to the archaeologists by the moniker FwJj 20, is located in the northern part of the Koobi Fora research area on the eastern side of Lake Turkana in Marsabit District, Kenya. The presence of overlying layers of volcanic ash helped the team pin down the age of the site. Geologists on the team, Naomi Levin of Johns Hopkins University and Andrew Herries of the University of New South Wales, Australia, were able to use a combination of techniques to estimate the age of the site as close to 1.95 million years. David Braun and his international team will return to northern Kenya to find more answers to questions about the diets of our earliest ancestors.

The article, "Early hominin diet included diverse terrestrial and aquatic animals 1.95 Ma in East Turkana, Kenya," will appear in the May 31, 2010, issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). PNAS is a weekly journal that publishes cutting-edge research that spans the biological, physical, and social sciences.

Established in 1821 in the heart of the nation's capital, GW's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences is the largest of the University's academic units with more than 40 departments and programs for undergraduate, graduate and professional studies. Columbian College provides the foundation for GW's commitment to education, research and outreach, providing courses ranging from the traditional disciplines to a wide variety of interdisciplinary and applied fields for students in all the undergraduate degree programs across the University. An internationally recognized faculty and active partnerships with prestigious research institutions place Columbian College at the forefront in advancing policy, enhancing culture and transforming lives through scientific research and discovery.

The George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia and has additional programs in Virginia. The University offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 130 countries.

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