by Chase Mendenhall
In the wake of a tragedy that took the lives of 11 people in Pittsburgh, we reflect on the the collections housed at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and find comfort among the doves — symbols of the people of Israel (Song of Songs Rabbah 2:14). Doves are of immense importance symbolizing human souls, sacrifice, and peace.
From the collection we share the European Turtledove (Streptopelia turtur) because it is listed as a species vulnerable to extinction and frequently written about in cultural texts. In fact, it was the stamina and swiftness of the Turtledove that aided Noah in his search for the holy land after the floods (Genesis 8:11). It is also the Turtledove’s loyalty as a mate that mused William Shakespeare to write poetry of an ideal love between a Turtledove and a Phoenix. But, perhaps the most fitting description and scientific namesake of the Turtledove is its cooing call, or the biblical Hebrew word “turtur,” which is a sound of mourning and a call for universal peace.
Together, we mourn the loss of so many innocent lives in Squirrel Hill and hope for peace alongside loved ones and family.
Chase Mendenhall is Assistant Curator of Birds, Ecology, and Conservation at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.