Saturday, July 14, 2012

Things Hidden and Buried

So much learning from this trip to Mexico and the southwest. Yesterday afternoon we reached Aztec Ruins National Monument. An amazing site now in the middle of oil and gas fields in northeast New Mexico.

Thunderheads

The site took a generation or two to build and was inhabited for maybe 100 years. Wooden beams were brought down from the mountains. River cobbles for building were close by. The sandstone for most of the building had to be brought from miles away. And greenstone for decorative layers of wall had to be brought from quite a distance.

Vortex

The outer walls are more or less flat, but buried inside the walls the rocks are irregular and shaped together with mortar or mud. So, much of the wall material is buried inside the thickness of the mud.

Dissatisfaction

Archeologists have found pottery and baskets, probably connected to rituals, buried intact in layers of midden and soil. These objects were apparently buried as is, not thrown away or lost under layers of ruin. Like sacred bundles, they are hidden and part of the site. After they were documented and studied they were reburied by the archeologists.

Grace

The long lines of greenstone are curious and perhaps hold some hint of how people thought about their structures and their world. They seem to be decorative, perhaps commemorative or symbolic. They are reminiscent of serpents, rivers, etc., all of which are symbolic in Mesoamerican expression. Green may also symbolize life, growth, and fertility. But the interesting thing is that these lines of greenstone, which took enormous effort to bring to the site, were also buried intentionally by the builders.

Balance

It's as if it were enough just to have the presence of the stone, the symbol of life and fertility, hidden in the walls of the structure, again like a sacred bundle.

Forms

In some ways it's hard to understand what people were thinking when they engaged in this kind of nuilding project. In some ways though, it's not. Our culture revels in the visible, the apparent, the facies. But artists are also concerned with process, the hidden or buried effort that goes into artistic expression. In science as well there is almost overwhelming stress othe internal, processes and patterns "hidden" in molecular combinations deep within the cell.

Grand Canyon

So when we explore the "mysterious" cultures of "non-western" people perhaps we can look for hints in our own ways of thinking and problem solving. Maybe there are human universals that are expressed variously by various cultures. Alternatively, we can try to understand the "other" on it's own terms, a challenging, frustrating proposition that may offer insights of its own.

Hopi Corn

61 comments:

  1. I pondered to myself recently what were the most important things in my life. The answer seems to be clear that art was up there in importance. Why? Frankly, I don't really know. May be someone here can enlighten me?
    As was my wont w
    hen I have some free time, I browsed the marvelous site, wahooart.com, where they keep thousands of digital images for customers to select to have printed into handsome canvas prints for their homes.
    This image jumped out to jolt my reveries: Still life with bread, by the Cubist Georges Braque. Is art like this picture, as essential as bread and water, or should I say bread and wine?

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  2. I find it really interesting that the artifacts were buried intentionally. As I began reading, I assumed that they were left behind by accident and that they were not meant to be discovered. However, it seems as though the builders who left these artifacts behind knew what they were doing.

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  3. I find it very interesting that the things we find buried in the ground are intentionally hidden. I also really like the fact that there are so many different levels that go into almost all facets of life quite literally like the Grand Canyon picture with all the rocks stacked on top of each other.

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  4. I was really intrigued by the architecture and how most of the building has been brought from miles away. Also how it represents rivers and growth (with the green). This blog post, like many things I read from you, make me realize that if you observe and analyze something for a long enough of time then you will learn something and make new observations and realizations that you probably would not have noticed the first time around.

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  5. I found this reading interesting. It is funny to think that things were left behind in order to be found in the future. This relates to what we discussed in lecture about how more recent things are found buried close and older objects can be found further down. p.s. I loved all the pictures.

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  6. Your trip was clearly meaningful on many different levels, many of which I did not expect. You found meaning and significance in virtually every natural setting, transforming a "pretty picture" into one filled with culture and history.

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  7. What stands out most to me about this post concerns the link between natural science and the humanities. One short excerpt in particular reminds me of a line that could be poetically placed among others describing the beauty and mystery you observed: "It's as if it were enough just to have the presence of the stone, the symbol of life and fertility, hidden in the walls of the structure, again like a sacred bundle." This helps me understand the motivation of Romantic poets like Keats, who looked out on both vast and small landscapes for inspiration for his art. Inspirational.

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  8. This was a very interesting article to read. I really enjoyed the pictures along with the description of the surroundings. The most interesting aspect to me is how deep down there are more layers and the farther you go the older things you find. It may sound like a simple concept but is quite complex in application.

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  9. Regarding "buried" meanings, these photos represent fertility and life although they are deserted, lacking life in the form we're familiar with (animals, humans, green plants). It's interesting to think of the intentional beauty in the things unseen. This leaves the onlooker to interpret the findings less literally and from a subjective perspective.

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  10. I really like your connection about the complexity beneath the surface in both the "non-western" builders' work and a western scientist's investigation of a cell. Its is definitely interesting to think about this national monument in a cellular manner as opposed to just the wide view that I would have normally. I totally agree that there must be "human universals" that are displayed in our interests throughout the world despite being part of one culture or another.

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  11. I thinks that burying these artifacts is extremely telling of how valuable some of artifacts were to the ancient people. I think often in discovering certain things they have been buried over time by circumstances of the environment but this is unique and in a way gives us way more insight on the ancient peoples live and what they deemed important

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  12. I like the fact that they buried the greenstone after they put it there. It makes it seem like the grounds had a vascular system consisting of these stones that people can not see (just like the human vascular system). This idea brings the area to life and adds a spiritual element to it.

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  13. I'm intrigued by the fact that the Aztec Ruins Monument is a natural beauty that is artistically appealing beyond its physical appearance. The pictures help portray the historic processes and effort that goes into creating art. Also, the pictures help exhibit the symbolism of the environment in Mesoamerican culture.

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  14. I really enjoy the picture of the tree in front of the canyons. I like seeing how you analyze something that someone would ordinarily not recognize by describing it as stone and life and fertility. Initially looking at the picture, I did not realize the tree in it because I got distracted by the vastness and beauty of the canyon. But looking at it again you see what the photograph truly represents. The tree represents life, something ever growing, and the stone is something that was once there, eroded away but now at a stand still and never changing.

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  15. I think that your trip was truly meaningful, and I really enjoyed reading about your findings and viewing the pictures. It is quite interesting that they buried items to be found in the future, and that these items remained intact years later. I also find it interesting that there can be universals that are expressed differently through different cultures.

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  16. I enjoyed exploring this blog for many reasons. I admired when you connected the various pieces of bark to other cultural aspects of the mesoamerican expression depending on what they reminded you of, such as serpents and rivers.

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  17. I find it very interesting that it is almost as if this society of people left their homes one day completely in tact. This is not the first time I have heard of a story like this one but I still cannot seem to comprehend why they left everything behind.
    a few years ago I visited the ghost town of Bode. It was this crazy experience. For seemingly no reason everyone who lived in this town left. They left all of their belongings behind, dishes dirty, clothes unwashed and all- it's scary really.
    I saw an even more similar situation this summer while digging in a cave in Israel outside of Tel Aviv. I dug up real archaeological artifacts, mostly pottery shards, underground. It was almost as if these people threw everything carefully into a cave and left.
    What makes all these people leave? How many times has it happened before? And more importantly, will it ever happen again?

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  18. I found it very interesting that many of the artifacts that were found seemed to still be intact. Underneath all of the layers of soil were specific items that showed part of their culture. It's amazing that today we can successfully find these pieces of history and put them together to learn about groups of people living hundreds of years ago.

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  19. I find it very interesting that pottery and baskets were hidden beneath the mud. This leads me to wonder the reasonings behind this action of the common people. Was this intentional? Was this part of a particular ritual? In addition, I enjoyed observing the photos as it allowed me to appreciate the structural functions of the natural world. It is intriguing to discover that natural forces can create such intricate formations.

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  20. It's surprising that a site that looks so simple could have taken one to two generations to create. I've never heard of artifacts being buried before, so that was interesting and provoked curiosity. It is also interesting to think about what the greenstone may have been used for or symbolized.

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  22. At first glance the photos above look very natural and untouched by humans. It is incredible to me that Aztecs had such a complex society at a time where the luxuries of technology and transportation did not exist. They were so in-touch with the environment around them and I very much feel the opposite (living in Boston and being from LA). Today, all the resources we need are brought to us (as long as you have the means to pay for them). Globalization has completely changed the quality of life humans live.

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  23. The fact that these people buried their creations rather than to display them conveys much about their views on art. Perhaps they viewed their creations as part of a greater connection to nature, which could be appreciated by some higher power. In any case, they certainly didnt believe in displaying art purely for its own sake.

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  25. Reading through this article, I found t interesting that the Mesoamericans intentionally buried their monuments. One would assume that it was not intentionally but it seems the burial of such artifacts and monuments had some sort of sacred and symbolic meaning to them. These ruins seem very aesthetically pleasing in that there seems to be a delicate balance of the man made and the natural within them.

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  26. I really liked the reading and the pictures provided a good visual. It is fascinating that objects were buried for the purpose of being found later. Like in lecture we learned how through older and older layers older objects are found. I also like the idea of how the exterior is different from the interior of nature. You can't see the buried objects on the exterior but the interior is a whole different world.

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  27. I really enjoyed reading this article. I loved the pictures that you posted because it allowed me to visualize what you were writing about. It's so interesting to learn that under so many layers of earth there once was a whole different world that existed.

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  28. Isabel Vera

    I am curious and intrigued that the Ancient Mesoamericans hid their art and creations by burying them, yet even more intrigued that they covered it up with such beautiful and compelling material that would attract millions with desire to dig deeper. By observing the burying of what took a vast amount of people and an extraordinary amount of effort to make possible, I am able to extract the true value and the essence of the Mesoamericans’ idea of art and creation. Perhaps these people were trying to preserve what they valued most. Taking into account the oil and gas fields surrounding the Aztec Ruins National Monument that are most likely tampered with frequently in our modern world and the untouched beauty of the Monument, it seems that the ancient Mesoamericans have done a remarkable job in the preservation of their valued art.

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  29. This post got me thinking of things in nature in other structures besides this one that became part of the landscape and that many take for granted but for these people who built them they were so sacred to them and held a great value. This reminded me of what we discussed in lecture that the past is key to understanding the present an idea which Lyell brought forth. The reason for studying artifacts of the past is to get an idea of the values they had like fertility and life and compare them to values we have now which in many cases are very similar regardless of the time difference.

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  30. I found it intriguing how the archaeologists reburied the pottery after they've studied and documented them. Normally you'd think that archaeologists keep the unearthed items, and give them to the local museums. This raises very interesting thoughts concerning the preservation of, not just the artifacts, but the environment around them. Who knows, maybe some animals or organisms became to rely on the existence of such artifacts in their environment!

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  31. This was such an interesting post. First of all, I loved your pictures. All of them are so phenomenal. It's amazing that there is a whole world of culture underneath the soil. It really shows us that we don't know the extent of our beautiful world until we search, dig, and find the treasures that our ancestors left for us!

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  32. Kate Schade

    For me this post connected history and nature. In the above pictures, there are layers upon layers of physical earth particles, as well as things made and used by mankind. These layers have come together to create another force that symbolizes physical history and change of humans though nature.

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  33. I find it very interesting to learn about people of past places and cultures. In this blog post, having the pictures is a great tool to visualize the area in which you are speaking. I find it interesting that the individuals buried their artifacts and also that they were reburied after documentation.

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  34. In reading through the article, the first thing that struct me was the pictures and how beautiful the scenery is. I think the addition of the photos make it a lot easier to connect with the essay and really see what you're talking about. The one big thing that I thought of while reading the parts of the article that had to do with the ancient people purposefully burying things, building things in particular shapes, and using particular colors, I thought about the way that humans have evolved. People had come a long way at this point and were strategically building things and really consciously thinking about what they were doing which really proves the ideas of evolution physically, but also mentally.

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  35. Looking at these photos causes me to think about the lives of the people who once inhabited the area. I wonder how they lived, what their culture was like, and what went on in the community on a daily basis. I find it so interesting that these people had pottery and woven baskets, which were intentionally buried for preservation. This makes me think about the value these objects had to the culture. The shape of the greenstone is particularly interesting to me, because there is so much symbolism behind the construction of the wood.

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  36. I believe that there are human universals that are expressed in different ways by different cultures. One example of this is the pottery that archeologists found perfectly in tact, while very unique to the area and culture it is one example of an object which is used by many cultures. I also believe that attempting to understand another culture with using their subjectives, we may be able to further understand ourselves and better ways to solve problems.

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  37. The patterns of humans have always seemed interesting to me. The fact that things like architecture and art are passed through the generations and considered worth while or sacred is fascinating. As humans we always strive to achieve even greater goals in art and science even when a purpose might not be immediately in sight and that is what this article made me think about.

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  38. This article seems to identify something I've been thinking about for a while and that is most cultures seem to have similar origin stories despite their varying locations. The buried ruins, despite their basic functionality showcase root necessities between cultures while still displaying their unique elements.

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  39. These pictures are quite impressive. They certainly capture the vastness and beauty of the area! I thought it was very interesting how the archeologists who discovered the baskets and pottery made sure to rebury them after documenting them. I think that leaving the area as they found it was incredibly thoughtful of them. It will certainly help preserve the area.

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  40. It is fascinating to think of all the things that are the remainders of people and culture. These remainders end up being buried themselves and go unnoticed all the time. The earth continues, but has been marked in some way by things that are hidden and buried.
    Gabrielle Kanellos

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  41. All of the pictures included in this article are magnificent. I have not been there myself, but it is interesting to have a little understanding of this very different type of culture, then the one I live in. Often people, including myself, are so busy in there daily lives that they don't stop to think about the past, but rather what will happen in the future, and how we can manipulate it to our liking. It is interesting to think that we are able to understand the past through findings through the greenstone. Despite the uncertain facts of the past, it is amazing, as humans, how we are able to understand the past.

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  42. I think you touched on a great point when you said "it's hard to understand what people were thinking when they engaged in this kind of building project." Because none of us were around at the construction of these structures, every analysis and observation about it is just speculation. No one truly knows what their meaning behind doing what they did was, and because they're all gone, we never will. All we can do is speculate. I enjoyed reading your takes on it though.

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  43. Reading this and looking at the pictures gave me a crystalized glimpse into the minds of people from other, non-western societies. The fact that they left pieces of their culture behind for spiritual reasons is a representation of how metaphysically driven these people were. From an artistic standpoint, it can also suggest that the interior is just as important as the exterior; people must look past the facade.

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  44. What interested me the most was how the inhabitants of this area were able to create such structured buildings and how they knew what materials from nature were best, which sometimes meant traveling for miles to get materials. It is also interesting how they buried their sacred objects in the walls of the buildings for the spirits.

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  45. I really enjoyed reading all of the descriptions along with the beautiful photographs. I really thought that the long lines of greenstone were cool looking. Something I noticed after reading this blogpost was that a lot of the observations and conclusions you drew were not something that would've come to my mind at a first glance. There is always a deeper meaning and more connections that come about after initial first observations that we make.

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  47. his goes back to the idea of what is under the surface. We would never think that underneath the soil or mud there would be pottery or greenstone that were purposely buried there. It goes to show how science and art are so interrelated, and how they complement each other. With the help of science, in this case, we can discover the art that was left behind.

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  48. I'm really feeling this post. The pictures are incredible and I think it's awesome how you can find so much meaning in places that others would think are pretty plain. I find it simply fascinating to think about how these natural features ended up the exact way they are. I like to think that they're all in their particular places for a reason, just like each of us is who we are for a reason. There's so much beauty in the American Southwest, even though its mostly rocks and desert, you just have to look in the right places, which you do.

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  49. I think it's amazing that evidence of the past is buried right underneath the ground that we walk on. I also think it's neat how the archaeologists were respectful enough to put the uncovered relics back just the way they were meant to be.

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  50. Jaime Stilwell-
    It was very interesting to consider the symbolism behind certain objects that are connected to specific cultures-- such as the stone and plants connected to fertility and life mentioned earlier in this post. This article made me question the significance of other objects and materials in more modern environments.

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  51. It's amazing that the Aztecs built this place mostly with materials that came from so far away. It's also interesting to think about the symbolism behind the greenstone. It came from so far away, so to try to figure out why the Aztecs used it important. Lastly, I thought it was really cool that the archeologists reburied the objects they dug up.

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  53. I thought this post was very interesting. We often think of archaeological finds as things that were left unintentionally unless they seem to be part of burial rites. I think it's amazing how the essence of the rock is based in hidden things, very similar to other parts of nature, like the human body or flowers.

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  54. I honestly find the sites in the American Southwest and Mexico to be some of the most beautiful qualities that this area of the world has to offer. From the natural things like the Grand Canyon to the pottery found buried in the bundles, everything offers a story of history.

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  55. I found this essay to be very interesting for many reasons. To begin, I enjoyed having the ability to read along and think about the history of such cultures. While reading, my mind travelled back to the times of these societies, trying to picture the world as it was back then. The architecture that they used, and the blankets and pottery that they made is very amazing. It's incredible to be able to identify these parts of their lives and understand how they lived, and why they left things the way they did. The pictures included in this essay were very helpful with having a visual image in my mind of the ancient cultures and their amazing story. My favorite part of this essay was the section in which you discussed the stone, and how it reflected life during this time. The greenstone seems to serve as a time capsule. A symbolic way of preserving the life that lived in and around these societies that we had a chance to understand the culture of these people.

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  56. The "buried beauty" of the ruins are a direct parallel of the the beauty and complexity hidden within natural systems (such as the organs of plants). It's hard to tell initially what the builders' intentions were (why go to that much effort to make something beautiful if it's only going to be hidden?) But perhaps they were trying to create an internal system themselves - one of symbolism and great meaning. Perhaps hiding the structures was meant to encourage a spiritual search of some sort.

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  57. I enjoyed how the descriptions were accompanied by images. Your trip looked like a blast! It's interesting to think about how, with the addition of Earth's layers, important aspects of life in the past is being "buried" and hidden. It is also interesting to think that objects were buried on purpose and were maybe meant to be hidden.

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  58. It was a quite the change to go from flickr pictures of colorful and vibrant flowers to photographs of a vast and dry Mesoamerican desert. And yet what baffles me and further signifies the importance of culture, is that both the desert and the pictures symbolize the ideas of life, fertility and vitality.

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  59. The post was very surprising, your deep and thought out insight of these ancient people encouraged me to further my own insight on your observations. When you said "buried" meanings, you weren't kidding... these ancient people may or may not have actually buried part of their culture for certain reasons. I think it's really beautiful that we can uncover a past culture of people and somewhat understand their way of life by what they left behind, even if that observation isn't completely correct with how they actually lived.

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  60. I love when a place not only has natural beauty, but tons of history hidden inside that beauty, and here there is clearly both. I found it really interesting that the inhabitants of the ruins intentionally buried artifacts for future civilizations to find.

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  61. I really agree with what you said in this post. Our culture does have two sides: those who appreciate the intangible, and those who don't. There are the industries that build oil fields among ancient ruins, and there are scientists/archaeologists that take the time to observe things that may not seem "significant" (as in of monetary value) to us. Another thing that I resonate with is something I also posted in my last comment, which is that there IS something "universal" about ancient human culture. That thing is the human desire to control the supernatural. That greenstone may be aesthetically pleasing, but I am pretty sure that it existed to symbolize their wanting to "prosper" or "flourish", as green usually signifies. It is worth it to pursue those "intangibles", or at least, worth not neglecting.

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