Tag Archives: Ancient Cultures

Of Pictographs and Petroglyphs…

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Freemont petroglyphs 1

Freemont petroglyphs at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; USA

We first heard of the Fremont people as we hiked to Lower Calf Creek Falls in the Grand Staircase Escalante region.The remains of their storage granaries perched at the edges of the high cliffs above us, and we were thrilled to spot their painted rock art, “pictographs,” on a distant canyon wall.

They also decorated many of the rock walls of Capitol Reef National Park to the east, but here the Freemont people carved into the cliff faces rather than painting upon them and created “petroglyphs.”*

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah; Freemont petroglyphs 4The Fremont culture farmed and hunted the Capitol Reef area from around 700 AD to 1250 AD. Their primitive art electrified our imaginations and created questions that can never be answered completely. Questions about ancient motivations and joys… about the death of a culture and the interpretation of its fragmented traces from centuries beyond.

*An easy way to remember the difference is to think: “paint a picture” for pictograph.

Updated from November 9, 2008.

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Torrey Things To Do

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Spelled Out in Gothic Barcelona

Even amidst the brain fog that will drift into any 25-hour day it was unlikely we would forget we were in Barcelona last summer. And these bold metal letters near the Catedral de Barcelona were solid proof that our city amble was no dream. Rich with the Roman remnants of a 2000 year history, Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) remains the heart of this lively Spanish city.

The ancient section is a labyrinth of narrow streets punctuated by courtyards and placas -larger squares that are hubs of activity and commerce. Our day’s exploration took us first through the Portal del Bisbe, a city entrance dating back to the time of Emperor Augustus.

From there we found the Placa del Rei and ambled on to the Placa St. Miguela. Eventually, at sunset. we arrived at the 15th century church Santa Maria del Pi where age-old histories infused the medieval architecture with a haunting sort of beauty that made the afternoon an almost otherworldly sort of experience. An evening of sushi and wine on our seventh floor balcony primed us for the next day’s explorations.

 

 

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Just a Wild Guess?

 

Soon after Mother’s Day each year I plant a few chili pepper plants, cilantro and some basil in a small garden area by the garage. With enough pavement between the edibles and the woods to at least confuse the ravenous deer, we generally enjoy a partial harvest. There’s something elementally satisfying in adding fresh picked anything to your dinner plate. There’s also reassurance in knowing that these home-grown contributions are enhancements —not necessities, as anything palatable might have been to the Sinagua people of America’s Southwest.

In addition to planting cliff-top gardens of corn, beans and squash, the Sinagua people of Walnut Canyon (Arizona) made good use of wild growing native plants. The Gambel oak provided sweet acorns, a dietary staple. Fruit and flower petals from the banana yucca were also part of the Sinagua diet.

I always find myself wondering who went first. You know —who, for instance, popped a prickly pear cacti fruit in their mouth and survived, opening up a little more variety on the dinner menu? Who thought to pound the roots of a yucca plant to make shampoo (and when did daily life settle down enough to even put personal hygiene on the radar)? Which ancient first sampled the Mormon Tea plant (Ephedra viridis), discovering its stimulant qualities, and how much did people rely on the evergreen to stay alert to the dangers and opportunities in their world?

Establishing both the helpful and harmful plant life would have been fundamental to survival. It would have been precious knowledge, committed to memory and handed with care to succeeding generations.

But don’t you wonder about the brave souls who went first?  Without the approval of the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration)? I do.

Flagstaff Things To Do

Updated from May 24, 2010
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