I’m going to write about this for Pith, but it was really awesome. It’s weird how it’s one thing to know people lived here 2,000 years ago, but seeing something they built, seeing the wavy lines in the dirt that show how they piled baskets full of mud, is really something different.
I didn’t take as many pictures as I should have, because I was walking around talking to people and they were all saying really interesting things. But I fucked with the contrast on this one so that you can–I think, see the difference between the dirt that’s on the mound from years of erosion and maybe farming and the dirt that is the mound. In real life it’s easier to see, especially if you have someone pointing it out to you.
But if you look kind of below Deter-Wolf’s pinky (like below and to the right) you can see where one of the archaeology students drew a wavy line in the dirt to show the heaping basketful of mud’s top. And you can kind of see the difference between the soil piled by time, which is kind of light brown in this picture and, you know, Tennessee mud colored in real life, and the dark brown part under his hand, which is the old mound structure itself, which is a gray color in real life.
So, this morning, I went to a media thing at Glass Mounds, which involved a great deal of me getting up on the mound about half way and not being able to get back down. Thankfully, they don’t just let you die there, stranded on a burial mound regularly being pelted with golf balls. At least, not when other members of the media are standing there watching.
This, though, is not about that. This is about the completely unrelated awesome thing I learned from Aaron Deter-Wolf, who is an archaeologist for the state. He’s got a new book coming out from the University of Texas Press this fall about tattoo traditions in North America pre-Europeans showing up here (he’s an editor and contributor). But here’s the thing that blew my mind. He said that there’s a ton of evidence that North Americans were pretty commonly tattooed. But there’s nothing ever found at an archaeological site that’s been identified as a tool for tattooing.
Which is not to say that they haven’t found such tools–I assume the book is about what there is to see once you know what you’re looking for. But he told me that part of the problem has been these words they use to describe what they find at archaeological sites–specifically needles and pins. When archaeologists found what they had decided were obviously needles and pins, they got thought of as only sewing implements.
You could see how this could even happen to us. Say you knew very little about prison culture and you excavated a prison site and found ball point pen innards and pins in the remains of a cell. Those would get classified as “ball point pen parts” and “pins” and you might never know you’d just come across a tattoo kit, even if you knew prisoners were often heavily tattooed.
So, that is really awesome and I can’t wait to read it. I tried finding it at Amazon, but it’s not there yet, but when I googled it, I found a lot of interesting-sounding contributors. So, “Drawing with Great Needles: Ancient Tattoo Traditions of North America.” I’m going to try to remember that.
The folks at High Garden Tea over on Fatherland helped me figure out as accurate a recipe as possible for what would go in a tea a rootworker in the 19th century would have given a werewolf to ease his transition from man to wolf. They took into account all kinds of stuff–its availability back then, whether it had a slightly different use (obviously, no one tries to set bones with boneset anymore, for instance), and how easy it would be for a black woman in Nashville during reconstruction to get her hands on it.
What they came up with is really bitter and kind of medicinal tasting, but not quite as hideous as you’d think something with an herb known as devil’s claw would be.
Anyway, I then bought a cup of it over to Chuck at East Side Story, which he made the other guy in the store also try. So, you know, that’s at least three of us who don’t have to worry this month about the pain of being a werewolf.