Sunday, July 22, 2007

The History of Meat Helmets

Speaking of the shadows of history, I must alert my faithful readers to this important micro-history about Western Civilization and its wily ways. It's shocking how our predilection for hats of meat is largely ignored on the day-to-day.

Well, now you know. Thanks to the Reverend Jack for the tip.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Piles of rocks

I've been quoted recently concerning a fascinating archaeological anomaly in the southeastern United States - the humble rockpiles that are scattered across the fields and forests of rural Georgia. In the July fourth edition of Flagpole, writer Jonathan Railey focuses on how vestiges of the past manage to remain protected because they remain invisible. Check it out: it's not every day that light is shed on the shadows of history.

Unfortunately, as Railey laments, the invisibility strategy is no longer working out for the rock piles, which are increasingly disregarded and destroyed by thirsty land development. This happens because most rock piles are believed to be "no more than" field clearing piles or property markers from the turn of the century. For the majority of the cases, this is the most likely scenerio.

However, an older phenomenon hides amongst these stones: rock piles built by Native Americans sometime in the deep past. While the most common myth is that they can mark burials, there is very little evidence for this. Another possibility is that they are prehistoric sacred sites, or "prayers in stone" as the United South and Eastern Tribes now call them. Because so much has been lost about the ways of the past, the reasons for these rock piles are largely mysterious.

Of course, the real pickle is that there is no sure-fire way to identify the origins of rock piles using standard archaeological investigation..... unless you dismantle them. The United Tribes recently made a call for protection of the prehistoric rock piles (USET resolution 2007; 037), but it's difficult to protect what cannot be discerned.

Archaeologists in the Northeast are responding the the call for protection; hopefully this new wave of public attention will result in new, non-intrusive methodologies for the study of rock piles. Check out this blog for good information about the mystery of rock piles in the NE.

My hope is that greater attention to landscape, more systematic survey techniques and a healthy respect for researcher intuition will help identify these crazy little piles of rocks. Don't let me start blabbing about radical empiricism again. We're still learning how landscape affects perception, and the rock piles themselves may have something to teach us about that. With a greater understanding of how the first Americans constructed their perception of landscape, their cosmology may become more visible again.

It's just hidden in plain sight.

Update (7/27/07): My response to Railey's article can be found here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Don't feed the animals

Just got back from a backpacking trip in the Trinity Wilderness. Here's the lake we camped at deep in the Klamath mountains- spring fed, clear and cold. The mosquitos were rough at sunset so I kept the incense burning.

One night, a brazen young doe approached our camp and fed quietly on nearby mosses. Then she made eye contact and approached further until she stood within ten feet of me. As she craned her neck out and sniffed the air, we realized she was expecting to be fed. She must make these round every night to the campers, and judging from her behavior, she makes out all right on this welfare system.

I finally stood up and told her to go away. It would have been a sweet moment, but I don't want any part of domesticating the wildlife of the Trinity Wilderness. By feeding the deer, we make them dumb.

While this was happening, I suddenly remembered a dream I had about six weeks ago in which a deer approached me to eat. In the dream, I held out an apple and the deer munched it quickly. Then it transformed into a translucent red glowing scorpian and finally into a kokopeli insect figure that played its own probiscus like a flute while the sounds of classic jazz piano filled the night. I'm not making this up.

Despite this experience, I decided that feeding the deer in real life was not an appropriate way to honor this dream. There is no simple parallelism between waking and dreaming life, despite our hopes. What is good for the deer in my dream is ultimately harmful for the deer in consensual reality.

Besides, I didn't have an apple.

The zoo-like spell of this "wilderness" lake is our own creation. My fascist environmental self gnashed its teeth and beat the drums as I contemplated making a sign that read "Don't feed the animals!" That attitude doesn't help either - now I'm the zoo-keeper!

That's all from the western edge of the empire this week. Stay tuned for further adventures in wilderness trangressivity and smooth jazz.