Did Deer Cloud Live Before Columbus?

 

Indigenous People of the United States

Indigenous People of the United States

 In my book, Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons, the protagonist Deer Cloud paints stories of his gods on the wall of a rockshelter overlooking a river. The rock art is still there today for people to see. But when exactly was it painted? How old is it? Did that happen before Columbus visited America?

I get asked these questions a lot. In general Americans are pretty foggy on events in North America prior to European settlement. As it turns out, people like Deer Cloud created the Pecos River style rock art in the canyons along the Rio Grande just west of Del Rio, Texas,  about the same time as the Minoans flourished in Crete. That’s about 4,000 years ago, or 2,000 years BC.

Below is a short timeline on human occupation of North America, with some comparative information to add context with the rest of the world. When you look at the timeline, notice what was going on around the world in 2000 BC, or about 4,000 years ago.  What happened before? What happened after?  Please note that all dates are rounded and open to debate and new evidence.

Be watching for a quiz later this spring to win a free copy of my book! I hope you win!

Who, When and Where: Rough Timeline of Human Occupation of North America

Buffalo, the mainstay of North American Plains Indians

Buffalo, the mainstay of North American Plains Indians

1879 Traditional life of the Great Plains Indians is over. Other Native Americans have either moved to reservations or died. The buffalo of the Great Plains are gone, over 65 million destroyed by white hunters.

1875  The last Comanche villages in Palo Duro Canyon (Texas) destroyed by U.S. Army

1776   U.S. Declaration of Independence from England

1730   Founding of San Antonio by Spanish settlers in Texas

1718 Founding of New Orleans by the French

 1700-1875   Comanche, Kiowa and Apache rule the Great Plains of North America

1642 Founding of Montreal, Canada by the French as Ville Marie

1620 Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts

1610   Don Pedro de Peralta establishes Santa Fe in New Mexico as the capital of the province of New Spain

1532 Pizarro begins the defeat of the Incas in Peru

1521 Cortez conquers the Aztecs in Mexico

1492 AD   Christopher Columbus makes landfall in the Caribbean

1000-1400 AD   Navajo and Apache migrate south from present-day Canada

http://newmexicohistory.org/places/navajo-nation-from-prehistory-to-the-twentieth-century, http://www.ihs.gov/navajo/index.cfm?module=nao_navajo_nation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apache, http://www.indians.org/articles/apache-indians.html

Cahokia, courtesy of Britannica.com

Cahokia, courtesy of Britannica.com

700 AD   Cahokia settlement first established near what is today St. Louis http://cahokiamounds.org, http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/01/cahokia/hodges-text, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahokia

0 The Common Era Begins

44 BC        Death of Julius Caesar

776 BC     First Olympic games

449 BC     Construction begun on Acropolis in Athens

800 BC     Founding of Rome

1,000 BC  Adena culture appears in what is today Ohio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adena_culture

2,000 BC     Pecos River style polychrome rock art along the Rio Grande

Lower Pecos rock art

Lower Pecos rock art

http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/pecos/art.html, http://www.rockart.org, http://www.shumla.org

  • 1790 BC Code of Hammurabi
  • 2000 BC Maya Pre-Classic period in Central America
  • 2000 BC Minoans worship the mother goddess in Crete
  • 2600 BC Stonehenge begun in Britain
  • 2750 BC First Egyptian pyramid begun at Saqqara

3000 BC Evidence of silk production in China

  • 3114 BC Beginning of the Maya Long Count
  • 3200-2340 BC cities begin in Mesopotamia
  • 3300 BC Bronze Age begins in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and perhaps Britain
  • 3300 BC “Otzi the Iceman” dies in the Alps between today’s Austria and Italy
  • 3700 BC invention of wooden carts in Central Asia
  • 3750 BC First evidence of cotton weaving in India
  • 3761 BC Origin of the modern Hebrew calendar

4,000 BC     Old Copper Complex emerges in what will one day be Wisconsin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Copper_Complex

  • 4000 BC First Egyptian hieroglyphs

6,000 BC     Domestication of corn in Mexico http://teosinte.wisc.edu/questions.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maize

The bones of Kenniwick Man, courtesy of the Seattle Times

The bones of Kenniwick Man, courtesy of the Seattle Times

7,500 BC     Kenniwick Man lived on northwest coast http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennewick_Man http://www.burkemuseum.org/kennewickman

  • 11,000 BC Clovis culture emerges http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clovis_culture

19,000-12,000 BC       Human beings arrive in North America http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buttermilk_Creek_Complex, http://www.gaultschool.org/Home.aspx, http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/gault/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meadowcroft_Rockshelter

 

Rare Film of Kiowa and Comanches Showing in Austin January 25

Sunday, January 25th at 4:00 PM the Austin Film Society is showing a 1920 film, THE DAUGHTER OF DAWN, featuring over 300 members of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes, including the son and daughter of Quanah Parker.

It will be shown at the Marchesa Theater, located at 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd in Austin, east of Highland Mall and just west of I-35, a bit hard to find. You can reserve tickets online, but the theater holds 300, so you probably can just show up at the door before 4:00.

TICKET PRICES
$8 General Admission / $5 AFS MAKE & WATCH members plus students (with valid ID) / Free to AFS LOVE & Premiere members.  AFS complimentary tickets will be accepted at this screening.

THE DAUGHTER OF DAWN

Written and directed by Norbert Myles, presented in partnership with the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and Humanities Texas. Following the screening, there will be presentations by Dr. Caroline Frick (Founder and Director of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image) and Dr. Janna Jones (Professor of Electronic Media and Film, Northern Arizona University).

THE DAUGHTER OF DAWN is a rediscovered narrative film featuring White Parker and Wanada Parker, the son and daughter of legendary Comanche chief Quanah Parker. The Texas Film Company (based in Austin) shot the film in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma in 1920 (May-July) with a cast of over 300 members of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes. For this docudrama, the cast members provided their own clothing, teepees, and personal items.

Norbert Myles (1887-1966) wrote the script and directed the film. He would eventually go to Hollywood where he became better known as a makeup artist for studio films, including THE WIZARD OF OZ.

But in 1920 Myles was more interested in making films outdoors with real people. Like so many films throughout cinema history, THE DAUGHTER OF DAWN centers on a love triangle. Both White Eagle (played by White Parker) and Black Wolf (Jack Sankadota) are in love with Daughter of the Dawn (Esther LeBarre), daughter of the Kiowa Chief. Complicating matters is Red Wing (Wanada Parker), who also loves Black Wolf. Interspersed with the scenes of courting and unrequited love are battles, dances, and buffalo hunting.

The film played in theaters in Los Angeles, Kansas City, Tulsa, and a few other places before disappearing for over eight decades. A fire at the Texas Film Company had apparently destroyed all copies and materials related to the film. However, a nitrate print was discovered in Georgia in a private collection in 2005. After much negotiation, the film was finally bought by the Oklahoma Historical Society, which had it restored. Dennis Doros of Milestone Films secured the film for digitizing and distribution. An orchestral score by Comanche composer David Yeagley has been added to the silent film.

In 2013, THE DAUGHTER OF DAWN was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

USA, 1920, DCP, B&W, silent with musical score, Milestone Films, 80 min.

7th Annual Lower Pecos Archaeolympics at Seminole Canyon

Throwing a spear with an atlatl is one of the eventsof anicent skill at the Archeolymics.

Throwing a spear with an atlatl is one of the events of ancient skill at the Archeolympics.

Reporting today’s blog post is Vicky Munoz, Archaeology Intern at the Shumla Research and Education Center.

The 7th Annual Archeolympics was held February 22,2014 at Seminole Canyon State Park near

Vicky Munoz

Vicky Munoz

Comstock, Texas, about 35 miles west of Del Rio.  The Archeolympics is a primitive skills competition featuring atlatl and spear throwing, rabbit stick throwing, and frictiion fire starting. Ancient people who lived in the Lower Pecos region of Texas used these three basic skills for daily life, but few contemporary folks practice them today. It’s not unusual for today’s paleo-triathletes to compete in all three events.

Participants included Boy Scout groups from Del Rio, Texas; the Experimental Archaeology Club at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas; and a group from San Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas; as well as individuals with a special place in their hearts for Archaic skills, some coming from as far as Houston.

The rabbit stick throwing competition was first up. A rabbit stick is a non-returning boomerang, and was used all over the world as a primitive hunting device.  The paleo-athletes took turns lining up and throwing at two defenseless soccer balls that stood in for rabbits about 20 feet down range. Each competitor had three shots per turn. This event, or any of the events for that matter, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most participants missed the targets, but the crowd went wild when one of those “rabbits” bit the dust.  Watch the short video below by Jack Johnson to see the power of a rabbit stick against a mighty opponent, the “Pumpkin.”

A few of the competitors even had hits on all three throws! The bar was set high in this year’s games. Winners had to be determined by sudden death.   Juan Carlos won in the youth category (second place went to Josh Allen), and Lauren Kempf in the adult (second was Fabian Castillo and third was Jerod Roberts).

Friction fire starting was the second event of the day.  This is definitely the sprint event for the games. The event was open to all ages, but only five competitors were brave enough to enter: Robin Matthews, Jack Johnson, Charles Koenig, Bryan Heisinger, and Jerod Roberts. The rules for this event are deceptively simple: Start a fire using nothing but a spindle or hearth-board as fast as possible. No bow drills, all muscle.

Charles Koenig makes fire

Charles Koenig makes fire

Competitors arrange their kits in front of them on the ground. When the flag drops, the race begins.  Within 30 seconds, two were beginning to feed their hungry embers to create that fire. Charles Koenig and Jerod Roberts were neck and neck, but it was the previous champion, Charles, who eventually came out on top with a blistering time of 46 seconds.

The other competitors had to be reminded that the race was not over, and that there were two more places on the podium still up for grabs. They quickly went back to trying to conjure fire. Jack Johnson, also a previous friction fire race champion, added drama to the race by dropping out not just once, but twice, citing exhaustion. He had been doing fire starting demonstrations most of the morning and didn’t have enough energy saved up for the race! Jerod Roberts had also burned most of his energy giving Charles Koenig a run for his money, but managed to get another ember going, only to lose it once more. Exhausted and somewhat defeated, Roberts took a timeout. Watch this short video to see how to start a fire with a sotol drill and hearth stick.

Meanwhile Bryan Heisinger (see www.aswtproject.wordpress.com, Feb. 25, 2014), with laser like focus and coaching from the new champion Koenig, began

Friction fire starting race

Friction fire starting race. Photo courtesy Megan Vallejo.

to get his embers glowing. A newcomer to the sport, Heisinger later recounted how he was so determined to get a fire going that he was forgetting that he also needed to breathe! Clocking in over 4 minutes, Heisinger took second place as the others looked on, clearly feeling the burn (pun intended) in their arms. At just over 6 minutes, Robin Matthews and Jerod Roberts declared a draw and were awarded third place.

After halftime, the atlatl and spear throwing competition began. The sport was divided into  amateur, skilled, and team events. This is the real crowd pleasing event and the one with the largest number of competitors.  Apparently launching pointed darts at animal targets really gets the adrenaline going. Some competitors are so serious that they bring their own darts and atlatls from home.

Robin Matthews throwing with atlatl and spear

Robin Matthews throwing with atlatl and spear. Photo courtesy Shumla.

Scoring is as follows: three points for hitting the target of the deer in the heart/vital area, two points for a hit on the neck and face of the deer target, one point for a hit on any other part of the flesh. The rules to this are also deceptively simple: earn the most points in three attempts.

As the shoot-out began, the wind began to calm down a bit which was a big help to the competitors as they were throwing into the wind. For most of the hunters, the prey eluded them and they went hungry that night but of course, there is always a winner. In the amateur category, Amanda Castañeda took first place with second to Joe Taylor. Amanda delivered a fatal blow to the deer as well as one to her competition.

Those with more experience (and confidence) compete in the skilled category.  At this level, the competition is fierce with friends and couples being pitted against one another. Playful verbal jabs are slung at one another, especially within groups where they’re all vying to be the alpha atlatl hunter. It’s all-out war.

Charles Koenig, who also blazed his way to the top in friction fire race, took the top spot in the skilled category with Mallory Marcone taking second, and Jim (just Jim) taking third place. The youngest winner in the skilled competition was Willie Canseco, age 13.  Here’s a short clip of the atlatl event, courtesy of Michael Strutt and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

In the team atlatl category, the group known as the Eaglenesters took first place. Troop 255 managed to slip in and snatch second place, and the Sharknados defeated the remaining competition in sudden death for third place.  Each team got five shots at the target. Teams were composed of 2-5 people, with every member taking at least one shot.

Prize objects for winners

Prize objects for winners. Photo courtesy Shumla.

Ultimately, it’s important to note that these competitions aren’t just for pride or fun. Each first place winner received a beautiful Perdernales style projectile point knapped by Kinley Coyan from Sanderson, Texas. Unlike the recent Sochi Olympics, however, no national anthems were sung, nor flags raised.

The Archeolympics is the brainchild of National Park Service Archaeologist, Jack Johnson, Amistad National Recreation Area, and organized for the last five years by Park Ranger Tanya Petruney, Seminole Canyon State Park. The

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson

purpose is to give the public the opportunity to get hands on experience while learning about the lifeways of the prehistoric Lower Pecos inhabitants, including demonstrations on flintknapping, fire starting, plant processing, cord making and, weaponry. The event is sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, The National Park Service, The Rock Art Foundation, and the Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center. The event continues to grow every year but as of right now, this is one of Texas’ best kept secrets. Other events similar to this are held around the state year round. For more information on this check out the Texas Atlatl Association Meetup page (http://www.meetup.com/ATLATL/).

Well, that concludes this year’s Archeolympics! If you “like” the Seminole Canyon State Park Facebook

Great competition. Photo courtesy of Shumla.

Great competition. Photo courtesy  Shumla.

page, they will update you on when the next Archeolympics will be held plus all the other super cool things they have going on all year round. A special thank you to all the staff and volunteers! Without them this event would not be possible. Hope to see y’all next year!

Ow! Aching Teeth in the Lower Pecos Archaic

Tooth loss is no laughing matter

Tooth loss is no laughing matter

How are your teeth? Probably better than the people living in the Lower Pecos region of Texas 4000 years ago (plus or minus).  We should count our lucky stars that we have toothbrushes and dentists.  Archaic people’s dental problems must have caused them great pain, with very little to ameliorate the situation, and affected many areas of their lives.

Many, if not most, of the adult Archaic skeletons discovered by archeologists in the area of Texas where the Pecos river meets the Rio Grande, show that the population was relatively free of disease except for extreme tooth decay (Rose, et al., 1988; Turpin, 1994).  Mailloux (2003) analyzed teeth from 38 Archaic skeletons and found that the majority of the tooth crowns had been “obliterated.”   This high incidence of tooth decay and tooth loss has been attributed to the sugar content of the diet, which partially consisted of large quantities of prickly pear and agave (Turpin, Henneberg and Riskind, 1986; Danielson, 1998).

Watch this 2 minute video to understand what happens when a tooth becomes decayed. If it does not load automatically, just hit “watch it on YouTube.”

You can easily see how tooth decay and abscess would be painful.  There are other consequences if many teeth are affected or missing (as is the case with the above mentioned skeletons). First, there is the problem of eating. Food would need to be mashed and carefully swished around the mouth to get the benefit of saliva, which breaks down certain chemicals in food, then carefully swallowed so as not to choke.  This type of food preparation would be time consuming in the stone age kitchen, and impose an extra burden on the chef. So that big hunk of charcoaled venison you wanted for dinner is definitely out.  You get raw mashed venison liver instead. Probably healthy, but not so good in a taco.

In addition, a lack of teeth causes a loss of support for the lips and cheeks, giving a “sunken in” look to the

This lady with missing teeth may have trouble being understood

This lady with missing teeth may have trouble being understood

lower third of the face. This causes the tongue to broaden out and affects pronunciation of many words.  We have many consonants in English which require the tongue to strike the teeth for proper pronunciation. For instance, think of the sound of the letter “t”.  Feel how the tongue curls to strike the upper teeth when you repeat the sound.   Not being able to do this would make it difficult to communicate clearly and undoubtedly cause frustration to all parties.

Eventually, the loss of many teeth can reduce the flow of saliva in the mouth. Saliva washes away bits of food on the teeth and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth.  Without this A) you get dry mouth, which is not very comfortable in the desert), and B) the body becomes more prone to heart disease, which tooth-painmeans you probably die young (as most of the skeletons discussed above did).

Having fewer teeth in the mouth causes progressive bone loss in the jaw, which in turn causes the lower third of the face to collapse even more. Recent studies have demonstrated a link between periodontal bone loss and osteoporosis, which causes brittle bones that easily break. Again, not good if you must climb in and out of the rugged canyons of the region to find dinner.  The poor condition of their teeth undoubtedly caused shorter lives and many problems for the people affected.

People of the Archaic Lower Pecos had few remedies for all this tooth ache. They did have willow bark  however  ( See my blog entry of April 8, 2013)  for the pain-killing

Lechugilla quids found in rock shelters

Lechuguilla quids found in rock shelters

properties of willow bark.)  Willow bark contains the same active ingredients as aspirin and would have been an effective medicine. You could drink it as a tea, or in another possibility I hearby propose, soak a quid (or wad) of lechuguilla fiber in strong willow tea and hold that against the spot in pain. Lechuguilla quids have been discovered in many rock shelters in the area, but archeologists have proposed few suggestions about their use. Quids might have been soaked in other teas with pain killing substances, such as datura or peyote tea. (See blogs of March 3 and February 4, 2013  for discussion of these plants.)

Another plant commonly known today as leatherstem (Jatropha dioica) was probably used by ancient people. Leatherstem is also known as Sangra de Drago and various other Spanish names, and is found wild all over the Lower Pecos region. This plant has the wonderful ability to go dormant during drought times, and

Leatherstem, or Jatropha dioica, in drought

Leatherstem, or Jatropha dioica, in drought

Leatherstem,or Jaropha dioica, leafed out.

Leatherstem,or Jatropha dioica, leafed out

burst into leaf a day or two after even a sprinkle of rain. It also has the ability to numb pain, particularly in the gums.  Just break off a twig and rub it over sore gums for instant, albeit minor, relief.Perhaps people smashed these twigs and used the paste on their gums as well.

Other antibacterial agents were available to the people as well, such as wild oregano, sage, possibly hot peppers, and charcoal.  People could make a poultice using any, or all, of these ingredients to sooth mouth pain.

If my teeth were hurting as much as indicated for the Archaic peoples along these rivers, I would have used everything available, plus a good dose of ritual from the shaman, to make the pain go away.

Joseph Schuldenrein: Indiana Jones of Internet Radio

Joe Schuldenrein, host of  internet radio archeology program

Joe Schuldenrein, host of internet radio archeology program

My guest today is Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein, host of the internet radio show Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality and 21st Century Archeology on VoiceAmerica.com (http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/1975/indiana-jones-myth-reality-and-21st-century-archaeology). Dr. Schuldenrein is also president and principal archeologist of Geoarcheology Research in Yonkers, New York.

Thanks for being with us today, Joe. Why did you decide to do an internet radio show about archeology?

I always thought that if I didn’t go into archaeology I was best suited to a career in media. I viewed myself as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. But I love appearing in public and seem to have a knack for communicating with people from a broad range of backgrounds and socio-economic strata. In 2011, I was contacted by the VoiceAmerica Internet radio station. They had seen my company’s web-site and thought that archaeology was an appealing topic for their multi-faceted audience. I did not need much convincing. As I got into it, I realized that the need to present archaeology to a broad audience was critical, if we, in the professional community, are to survive in a world of diminishing governmental funding. It should be clear to all archaeological professionals that public outreach is now our major mission if archaeological careers are to remain viable going forward.

What are some of the challenges of doing a show like this?

These emerged at the outset. I had thought that running a program would be a lot like presenting a paper at a

A current excavation by Schuldenrein in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He is pointing to a 19th century well

A 19th century well excavated on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

meeting. Since I had lots of experience at that and basically present extemporaneously, I figured that the transition to radio would be relatively easy. It was not. At all. VERY fortunately, I was able to pre-record my first show. Otherwise it would have been a disaster. My initial off the cuff presentation would have been a dismal failure had I not had the opportunity to do several takes. The learning curve was initially bumpy. I scripted my next few programs meticulously. And they seemed to work well, in my eyes at least, until some of my colleagues told me that the program sounded too scripted, stiff, and staged. Eventually, I was able to get a protocol down that allowed me to work from an outline and to work my interviews in the more natural and extemporaneous format that fit me better. VERY FORTUNATELY, I now have a magnificent intern who does nearly all of the behind the scenes work, including recruiting guests from my network of contacts, proposing topics of interest and co-ordinating with the station. She also does all of the advance work that involves Public Relations work and advertising. Without her I would NOT be able to continue. The broadcasts themselves are not the hard part. The preparations are.

Other than my husband Steve Black, who are some of the guests you’ve had on? 

We have been fortunate to have had so many. We cover all aspects of archaeology so we pride ourselves in both a diverse audience and range of guests. Some of the more colorful include Brian Fagan, Tom King, the Culture Minister of Afghanistan, Sonny Trimble of the Corps of Engineers, Hampton Sides, who wrote the recent best-seller on the excavation of the Titanic, and the folks who produced American Diggers. Those are the ones that immediately come to mind.

 What episode has received the most listeners? or do you have statistics on that?

The Titanic piece was extremely well received. We could get statistics on the individual shows, but the station more typically monitors our numbers on a month to month basis. They do this through Internet technology. We originally had a few thousand listeners (in 2011) and are now up to about 40,000 per month. That number is a sum of the live audience, generally pretty small, and the number of listeners who have accessed the individual episodes as podcasts. The success of Internet radio is measured by the call-ups of the podcasts and we are doing well by that and related criteria.

Where do you do most of your own archeological work?

Procuring OSL Dating Sample at wadi Hasa, Jordan

Procuring OSL Dating Sample at wadi Hasa, Jordan

I have worked nearly everywhere in the world. Since I am trained as a geoarchaeologist, I have honed my specialty by consulting with large research firms throughout the U.S. My graduate work was in the Near East and, as a result, I have always had an Old World focus. I have collaborated with researchers and academic institutions in Central Europe, parts of Africa, and intensively in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan). I am more of a methods person than a regional specialist. As the founder and Principal of my company, GRA, I have shifted the focus of our work in response to the changing realities of the research and applied worlds. Right now we are heavily centered on high tech methodologies, urban archaeology, international heritage development programs and media.

What motivates you about archeology in the first place?

I could wax poetic about the innate drive I had to do archaeology as a child. That would be a lie. As a college student in the heated ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I was actively involved in protest politics. When I became disaffected with politics in my last year of college, my main objective was to get out of school as quickly as possible. The onlyway I could do that in 4 years was to load up on Anthropology courses. In my senior year I was inspired by

Geoarcheological investigation at prehistoric shell midden, central California coast

Geoarcheological investigation at prehistoric shell midden, central California coast

my archaeology professor, the late Dr. Phil Weigand. He encouraged me to try archaeology as a way of “finding myself.” I packed off and did a season at Cahokia under Dr. Mike Fowler. I was hooked and never looked back.

What do you want people to learn or discover from listening to your show?

My main objective on the show is to bring the message of archaeology to the general public. I think the biggest eye-opener in our field is the degree to which the message of the past provides a road map to the future. For example, archaeological scientists should be able to provide compelling evidence for climate change, via their window on past circulation systems that are readily documented. However, as professionals we are so focused on our esoteric research that we fail to reach the greater communities that can benefit from our knowledge. Besides, archaeology is so inherently appealing to most people. I am amazed that, as professionals keyed to our own research, we consistently ignore the big picture and, by extension, the greater public. In my own small way, I see this radio show as a venue for expanding our reach. I am reminded of how the late Carl Sagan was able to transmit his fascination with astronomy to the greater public. It is imperative that we archaeologists do the same.

It’s been a pleasure to have you on the blog, Joe. I hope you’ll come again sometime.

Sickness and Heath in the Ancient Lower Pecos

Healing often involved medicinal plants as well as ceremony and prayers

Healing often involved medicinal plants as well as ceremony and prayers

Everybody gets sick. Everybody gets injured. At one time or another in our lives, we all experience illness and some sort of wound, just as every generation before us has. The people of the ancient Lower Pecos faced the same physical ailments we do, in most cases, but dealt with them in very different ways, with more or less success. Many ailments were beyond their control, however, and people simply suffered.

This article begins a short series on medicine and healing as it might have been 4000 years ago in the desert of the Lower Pecos.  We know from skeletons and other evidence that the people rarely lived more than 35 years.  That is not to say there were never any “old” people.  There were. But many died before their hair turned gray. medicine_manIf sickness did not kill them, then a broken bone would. We can probably assume that infant mortality was high due to insufficient diets at times or other issues.  Pregnancy and birth were undoubtedly fraught with complications. Falls could kill. Teeth would rot.

While we may never know exactly how disease affected ancient people, we can assume they faced some of the same ailments we know, like cuts and burns.  This article begins a short series about the Lower Pecos Medicine Kit as it might have been 4000 years ago.  I will look at various common ailments and suggest ways that may have been treated.

Future articles will discuss ways to ameliorate arthritis, poor digestion, burns, wounds, broken bones, tooth decay indiansleep problems, and issues concerning blood. Before you get too excited, however, let me make clear that I am not a trained health care provider, herbalist, or medicine woman.   All I can tell you is what I think would have been likely. I invite you to join in the discussion as we progress, and especially to help keep me from going astray. Believe me, I’ve got friends who will set me straight!