Thursday, September 23, 2010

life is busy & i carry around big piles of junk which i occasionally have to put on my back as i ride my bike around or go from place to place. i put the youtubes that they show in my class, here, and there are all kinds of cool ones here, but in my other class, we watch about the mound people and cahokia. finally late tonight i was fishing around for something for them to read, and the problem is, there isn't much written about it, that isn't very dry archaeology-type stuff. i wanted a news story, and it had to include an artifact or something about the material culture of the place.

but here's the rub...it was all made of wood, so there's nothing left. they had a solar calendar called woodhenge - tall posts laid out in a circle, but they were wood; they're long gone. they find little things, sandstone tablets and such...

so there's this one, a lady found it out in her field in about 2000 or 2001, it's called the bird man. the bird man is a kind of combination man and bird and from what little i glanced at, he got people to speculate about whether the birds represented the heavens, and the man the earth, so the bird man would be like a go-between? our anthropology textbooks are full of this kind of speculation, but it kind of galls me, because what do we know? nothing. maybe it was just big bird like my lunch-box.

but anyway there he is, about the size of a playing card, an interesting image, and now he has taken his place near the top of the echelon of cahokia area artifacts, though in general, i have to say, cahokia is still virtually unknown; put "bird man of cahokia" into google and it will ask you if you wanted to say "birdman?" but when you do, it gives you no results. google images will give you a picture though; he's real. i kid you not. the woman found hime, and gave him to a museum. can you imagine? one of the few artifacts left over, remaining from the era.

googling around, you get a sense of the anthropologists' world: arguments about how important cahokia was, what happened to the artifacts, why it was all wood, whether they were indeed related to various other known bands of people throughout the area; what else has been found, what other "bird-men" have been uncovered, etc.

more research obviously has to be done. not now though; it was garbage day; i'm exhausted; a stack remains; one more day before the weekend. a son's birthday approaches, and, i'm grateful: he's home, safe, in my own house; i'm grateful he made it to this one, and hopeful he'll make it to many more. civilizations come and go, and, on a micro-level, kids grow up, and eventually leave the home. the vernal equinox comes, a full "super" harvest moon with it, jupiter right up there in the mix, the time when the moon is closer to the earth than any other time, and also brighter, and rounder; it's the korean thanksgiving, not to mention a jewish new year and other stuff. the hottest of the hot (september is the cruelest month) hot spell finally might pass over, in favor of slightly cooler nights, soon, now that it's fall, hint hint, but meanwhile, i'm thinking about this birdman - she just gave it to the museum, but, most likely, there are others like it around. this was a place, i think, hit hard by the floods - not too far from here, about halfway to cahokia really, but on the bluffs, like we are, not too far out above the mississippi. turned out, anyone who wandered up and down the valley, they called "mississippian," so i guess i qualify. up by alton, i had some ancestors that moved up there, and actually i have some old relatives who still live up there i believe, and there by the river, on the cliffs, just north of town, is a kind of bird-man, the piasa, who overlooks the area and who has occasionally been defaced or whatever. one night we were driving around up there and rain was coming down in sheets, so bad, i couldn't even look up and see the thing, because i was afraid of being washed right into the river, the water was coming at me so strongly. coming at me in sheets. but i knew it was there; they tell the legend of the piasa, and apparently, several bands of indians moved into the area, and just took up where the old legends left off. so you shouldn't be surprised if someone else did the same. the indians are gone; the piasa is almost gone; little bird-man sandstone tablets are hard to find, maybe they're almost gone too; but, the stories remain. and if they don't, someone oughta make them up. it rains hard here, and half the time this stuff washes right on down the river.

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