Sunday, September 29, 2013

Maya Influence

Consider the “Maya Influence” on the world after 1492 for just a moment.
Take a look at: 10 Maya foods that changed the world's eating habits,” for example. Christine Delsol writes, “Lost among the laurels heaped upon the Maya, though, is credit for their agricultural wizardry. When the conquering Spanish started carrying Maya food staples back to Europe and to the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, it changed the world's eating habits. We're not talking about the Yucatán's deliciously exotic lime-and-achiote concoctions but food you buy every day in Safeway's produce aisles…”

The ten foods listed are Avacados, Papaya, Squash, Chocolate, Vanilla, Corn, Chiles, Tomatoes, Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes.

So back up for just a moment and consider just the Maya influence on the “western half of the world,” as we’ve been taught to think of it – and maybe it extends farther than the above map suggests. “Ancient Maya cuisine, reads the Wikipedia entry of the same title, “was varied and extensive. Many different types of resources were consumed, including maritime, flora, and faunal material, and food was obtained or produced through a host of strategies, such as hunting, foraging, and large-scale agricultural production. Plant domestication focused on several core foods, the most important of which was maize.
The two most common maize races of the Maya highlands are Olotón (Left) and Comiteco (Right).
Much of the Maya food supply was grown in forest gardens, known as pet kot.[1] The system takes its name from the low wall of stones (pet meaning "circular" and kot "wall of loose stones") that characteristically surrounds the gardens.

The Maya adopted a number of adaptive techniques that, if necessary, allowed for the clear-cutting of land and re-infused the soil with nutrients. Among these was slash-and-burn, or wideness, agriculture, a technique that cleared and temporarily fertilized the area. For example, the introduction of ash into the soil raises the soil’s pH, which in turn raises the content of a variety of nutrients, especially phosphorus, for a short period of time of around two years. However, the soil will not remain suitable for planting for as many as ten years. This technique, common throughout the Maya area, is still practiced today in the Maya region. Complementing wideness techniques were crop rotation and mil pafarming, employed to maintain soil viability and increase the variety of crops.”

Maybe you were thinking of somewhere in what’s now called North America as you read the words “forest gardens,” or “low stone walls” described as “circular walls of loose stones.”

Three Sisters as featured on the reverse of the 2009 Native American U.S. dollar coin

Wiki goes on to say, “Maya diet focused on four domesticated crops (staple foods): maize, squash, beans (typically Phaseolus vulgaris) and chili peppers. The first three cultivars are commonly referred to in North America as the "Three Sisters" and, when incorporated in a diet, complement one another in providing necessary nutrients.[2] Among the three, maize was the central component of the diet of the ancient Maya, and figured prominently in Maya mythology and ideology.
Maize? Isn’t that Corn? Maybe you were thinking you could say that was also the central component of the diet of the Ancient People who were leaving all those arrowheads and stuff around your neighborhood. I know they were in mine.
At Native Tech,Tara Prindle writes about Maize in New England:
“As the lifeways of mobile hunting and gathering were often transformed into sedentary agricultural customs, very slowly the cultivation of maize, along with beans and squash, was introduced into the southwestern and southeastern parts of North America. The practice of maize agriculture did not reach southern New England until about a thousand years ago.

A Penobscot man described the transformation of maize for the shorter growing season of northern New England. Maize was observed to grow in a series of segments, like other members of the grass family, which took approximately one phase of the moon to form, with approximately seven segments in all, from which ears were produced only at the joints of the segments. Native Americans of northern New England gradually encouraged the formation of ears at the lower joints of the stalk by planting kernels from these ears. Eventually, as ears were regularly produced at the lower joints of the cornstalk, the crop was adapted to the shorter growing season of the north and matured within three months of planting.

Native Americans of New England planted corn in household gardens and in more extensive fields adjacent to their villages. Fields were often cleared by controlled burning which enriched not only the soil but the plant and animal communities as well. Slash and burn agriculture also helped create an open forest environment, free of underbrush, which made plant collecting and hunting easier.” {From:}

"Forest Gardens," agricultural fields, "stone walls" and something simply referred to as "slash and burn."
And don't forget about Maize, where it came from and where it went... 

Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn 
When: Sept. 24-March 24, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 2013 
Price: Free with museum admission. 

It takes 25 corn plants per person per day to support the American way of life. This 10,000-year global genetic journey explores the relationship between people and corn, arguably the most productive domesticated plant and the greatest plant breeding achievement of all time. Visitors will be a-maized at the scientific, economic and cultural significance and impact of corn on daily life, past and present. 

For more info, visit
Amazing Maize delivers a WOW experience from the entryway's eye-popping 7-foot tall sculpture of corn products on through six sections taking us across 10,000 years of evolution from wild plant in Mesoamerica to today's genetically modified fields.
You can walk through and get the high points, or you can allow yourself to become thoroughly engaged with interactives, including some of the 4,200 corn-based products currently available, American Indian tribal relationships with corn featuring a larger-than-life replica of the Mayan corn god, scientific findings and technological advancements highlighted by a chance to climb aboard a tractor and manage thousands of acres of corn fields.
Built to feel like you're on a farm, there's a delightful brightness in the delivery of information that makes you feel like you're in a conversation. We start with "did you know it takes 25 corn plants per person per day to support the American way of life - from sweeteners to plastics, fuels to textiles, [M&Ms to baby powder], corn is a part of every life for nearly all of us."
Journeying through 5,000 square feet of space we find out why and how corn has remained the mainstay of human and animal life from its isolated beginnings in the heart of Mexico to its current penetrating appearance worldwide and out into space.
Amazement lurks around every corner - try pounding corn into meal the old way, meet up with a razorback hog and figure out why corn whiskey was an easier way to ship corn down the Ohio River. Make connections between moonshine and the Indy 500; corn, overpopulation and African slave trade; and corn and the discovery of vitamins. My ideal visit is to spend a day, with a lunch break at the Ayer's dining room savoring their corn-ingredient foods.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Interpretive (Stuffed Turtle) Native American Stone Row

Thursday, September 26, 2013

3 PDFs about Cultural Landscape

Prehistoric trails are part of the cultural landscape of the Picacho Basin in the Colorado Desert of southeastern California. These trails provide a lasting testament to prehistoric life ways. Since the early twentieth century, scores of trails have been documented in this region. The trails, which vary from short segments to over 200 mi. in length, were used to access resource collections areas, to conduct trade and warfare, and as ritual routes to sacred sites. A number of trails were recorded in 2010 during surveys for proposed military aircraft landing sites. Observations regarding these trails, and their significance, are discussed.

“The entire west was crisscrossed by prehistoric trails. In California, these trails linked all areas: north, south, east, and west (Campbell 1999:42). Not only were local trails utilized, but super-pathways traversed and bisected the region and reached trails far beyond, leading to what would become the adjoining states of Arizona and Nevada (Campbell 1999:42)…”

This following report provides documentation concerning Native American ethnographic resources that could be impacted by the Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility and Includes the Keruk andXam Kwatcan Trail and its Earth Figures Landscape:

 Cairns or rock piles in the desert often denote that one is in close proximity to a trail. However, it should be noted that historic cairns are also prevalent in the Colorado Desert due to mining, and care should be taken to distinguish between those cairns which are historic and which are prehistoric (Laylander and Schaeferin draft). Sometimes these cairns contained cremations, others were used as shrines, and others were simply trail markers; however, regardless of their purpose, they are “indications of the eco‐cultural ethic which led Native Americans to pause for a moment and pay respect before setting foot on the trail” (Bean et al. 1978: 7‐14).
Cairn on desert pavement, not analyzed by the California Energy Commission or Bureau of Land Management.

And one more:
Ethnographic Trail Systems as Large-Scale Cultural Landscapes: Preservation and Management Issues. 

"It is well known that Native American ethnographic landscapes can encompass relatively large geographic expanses (Hardesty 2000; Parker and King 1992). Sacred mountains, such as Mt. Shasta in California, San Francisco Peak in Arizona, and Devils Tower in Wyoming, are examples. What is less widely appreciated is that Native American belief systems often not only refrain from delineating geographic boundaries with respect to specific revered landforms, such as mountains, but also insist on a critical interconnection among what might otherwise be considered separate landscapes..."

Monday, September 23, 2013

And Then There's Slobot:

"Slobot could see where a soapstone bowl was started, but never finished."

And I'll add, "Slobot spots a box turtle soon after, never seeing any similarity between the two, not having been programmed to recognize the possibility of a soapstone boulder that is a box turtle petroform in South Carolina."

Coincidence here(?):

Did You Have To Do That?

I'd like you to just cut that out, whoever you are. When I'm walking down a road along a river, looking at a row of stones, contemplating about it's age and all the reasons the thing may have been made, I know for sure that it wasn't so that you, the week before last, could come along and do this.
My grandson and I were looking for "turtles," not actual turtles but possible effigies stacked artistically and included in the "stone concentration." He's only 6 and quite open minded, just learning about things like white berries on a vine means poison ivy and three needles on the pine means "R-E-D" and five means "W-H-I-T-E."  The stone row along the river (what's left of it, anyways) might have been built when the road was cleared historically, but when it suddenly veers up from the road and up diagonally toward an outcrop, there's a possibility it might be "prehistoric," which right where we were means "earlier than 1659," when the founders of Pomperauge Plantation quit wandering around and followed the correct river branch to get to what is now called Woodbury CT...

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Indian Council Caves

"The most unique attraction along the trail is the Indian Council Caves, formed by an unusual pile of house-sized boulders. In the photo above, look for my dog in the lower center for scale. Yup, and that's just one of the boulders. It's even more surprising because there is nothing like this in the woods leading up to the cave. It's not particularly rocky for Connecticut, and you don't notice many boulders. Then there they all are right on top of each other. It's like a giant was cleaning up his field and threw all the rocks in a corner..." 

A Limestone Cave in CT

The Trail Guide pdf says, "(125) Marble Caves: This marble was originally a large coral reef that surrounded a volcanic island in an ancient ocean. During the formation of Pangea, the ocean was subducted under Proto-North America. The coral reef was compressed, heated, and metamorphosized into the marble rocks you now see. Notice how the rain water seems to have melted and washed away the marble due to our slightly acidic rain. Now take a look at the dark rock that was deposited on top of the marble. This rock, called hornblende schist, was originally laid down during a series of volcanic eruptions that coated the coral reef with multiple layers of volcanic ash."
Peter Marteka writes:
It was only years later that I learned that for a real cave, you need the presence of limestone or marble. The only publicly accessible caves in Connecticut are "Tory's Cave" in New Milford and "Squaw Cave" in Bolton, where an Indian maiden and her Dutch sailor lover hid from colonists...But after a recent visit to Little Laurel Lime Park in Seymour, I'm thinking of adding its caves to the short list.

To reach the caves, visitors should stay on the main trail, following it to the left each time they encounter a secondary trail. After reaching a beautiful stone wall high on a ridge, visitors can turn left or right to see the caves, which are absolutely fascinating, with stratified layers of hardened rock on top of the layers of marble. It's a strange sight to see the huge trees growing out of the sides of the ledges next to the caves.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Historical Society, Westbrook CT

My wife Roberta and I spent some of Saturday morning at the Westbrook Historical Society's museum - prompted by a special, personal invitation by my Mom. 

We got to meet and talk with Cathy Doane, as well as Gary Bazzano who maintains a great website about Grove Point Beach.

Just as the label says, these came from...
...also known as Hawk's Nest and also thought to possibly be Obed's Hammock.
The Gages write about it here:
and here:

At another location, a large boulder is (or was - I've haven't been there yet and hope it isn't gone) known as Obed's Sacrifice Rock (or "Altar") appears to have been a Tobacco Sacrifice Stone.

"Histories of the Saybrook, CT area include mention of Obed and "Obed's Sacrifice Rock." Obed appears to have been a "son of a Hammonassett Chief; and after the subjugation of the Pequot, a servant to Gov. Fenwick: that Fenwick did give him...two acres more or less near the confluences of Pychaug & Menunketezuck rivers, known as Obed's Homake."
He later lived near Springbrook Rd, "passing most of his time in the retirement of his wigwam or the solitude of the chase." Obed's Sacrifice Rock was a boulder "contiguous" to his "aboriginal structure." The author continues to write in a language somewhat similar to American English, "Upon this symbol of pristine faith, was kindled from time to time, a fire which consumed the sacrifices tendered, with sweet incense from bay and birch; mingled with the fumes of tobacco." {}
Obed's Altar was a "large flat rock:"

 The first Stone Concentration I ever became positive was an animal effigy, a life-sized Bear's Head (that will rock when put into motion) was another Tobacco Stone that included a fire starting stone:

It was nice to be talking with people who not only collect old photos, but have also tried to locate where the photos were taken. There's some beautiful old landscapes where one wonders just what might be contained in those "stone walls" or possibly already existing Native American-made Stone Rows that were put into use as "animal commons:"

This year (1639), the common land was divided into 
the"ox common," "cow common," and "calf 
common." The sheep and goats, of which 
there were many, had prescribed limits. 
Each flock was the charge of a keeper, who 
was obliged to fold them at night to 
protect them from the wolves. In 1642, it 
was estimated that there were twelve thou- 
sand cattle and three thousand sheep in 
Town. Many of these grazed on the Hill. 
Originally, the livestock was imported from 

And of course there's this famous Turtle: