26 October 2011

Inner Demons III opens Friday, Oct. 28th

Inner Demons III Explores the Uncomfortable and Unsettling through Art

Santa Fe, NM — Inner Demons III, opens with a reception Friday, Oct. 28th, from 6 – 9 p.m. at Ahalenia Studios, which has a new location at 2889 Trades West, Unit E, off of Siler Street. Celebrating its third year in what has become and annual show, Inner Demons III explores and encourages art that is dark, moody, and morbid (or otherwise disturbing in its subject matter) with an eclectic line-up of artists. This event is free and open to the public. Because of its proximity to Halloween, costumes are welcome at the opening.

The exhibit will be open to the public from 1 – 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29; Sunday, Oct. 30; Saturday, Nov. 5; and Sunday, Nov. 6. From Oct. 31 through Nov. 4 the show will be open by appointment, which can be arranged by calling emailing

Participating artists include:

• Marcus Amerman
• Bryon Archuleta
Moloch DC, acrylic, Bryon Archuleta
• Ross Chaney
• Melissa Dominguez
• Dennis Esquivel
• Robert Garcia
• Staci Golar
• Bob Haozous
• Sam Haozous
• Topaz Jones
• Daniel McCoy
• Marlon Melero
• Melissa Melero
• America Meredith
• Mary Beth Nelson
• Joseph Sanchez
• Kevin Sullivan
• John Torres-Nez
• Brandon Williams

Show website:

17 October 2011

Toltec Mounds, Arkansas

The unassuming state of Arkansas boasts over 40,000 archaeological sites (AAS). The number of mounds in the state is staggering. And one of the largest mound sites in Arkansas is Toltec Mounds, so named because the Knapps, who once owned the land, thought Toltecs from Mexico surely most have built these elaborate platform mounds (TMS).

Built between 650 and 1050 CE, this ceremonial site sits near an oxbow lake separated from the Arkansas River centuries ago. Toltec served as a ceremonial center for adjacent farming communities; very few people actually lived on site. Of the 18 mounds at Toltec, the tallest stands at 39 feet. Certain mounds are positioned to correspond with sunrises and sunsets during both equinoxes and solstices. (TMS). The Toltec Mounds were abandoned abruptly in 1050, which is interestingly enough when Cahokia gained ascendency in a cultural "big bang," that many attribute in part to the explosion of a supernova on July 5, 1054 (Cahokia, Wilford).

The culture that built Toltec Mounds is called the Plum Bayou culture. Their descendants are unknown. Through NAGPRA, archaeologists legally have to consult with the Quapaw tribe about human remains and cultural patrimony of Toltec Mounds; however, the Quapaw only arrived in the region after the 13th century. Quapaw oral history says they migrated from the Ohio River Valley. The idea of a culture with no known descendants is somewhat haunting, but whether the Quapaw intermarried the Plum Bayou people or not, I'm glad that they have a tribe advocating on behalf of their burials and sacred items today.

Damon, Pythias, and a friend
The museum and grounds were well kept. A wooden structuretakes you out onto the lake among cypress looking back at the mounds. A couple of catfish resided in the audiovisual room. I asked what their names were and sure enough they did have names—Damon and Pythias.

13 October 2011

Chucalissa, Tennessee

Sinti (snake) mosaic, based on pottery design
Digging for a swimming pool in a segregated African-American park in 1938, the Civilian Conservation Corps unearthed precolumbian artifacts from a Mississippian mound complex. The University of Tennessee investigated the site, which showed evidence of human occupation dating back to at least to 1000 BCE. The town site dates back to 1000 CE and was alternately abandoned and rebuilt. The main occupation dates from 1400 and was thought to be abandoned by the 1541 arrival of Hernando de Doto in the region (CH Nash Museum).
Curvilinear "wave" patterns are ubiquitous in this region
The name "Chucalissa" means "abandoned house" in Choctaw (Visitor's Guide 2). Today the site is west of T. O. Fuller State Park, and it's difficult to believe you're still in the city of Memphis, surrounded by towering forests on all sides, and a nearby power plant. ("What is it with mounds and power plants?" commented Linda.) The CH Nash Museum has an extensive collection of artifacts from the site on display, and their signage ties in the African-American history of the area. Signage is geared toward children, making the site and lifeways of the people who lived there directly relevant to the visitors. Recently added panels show input from Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes. Perhaps the interpretive materials here are some of the best because instead of exoticizing the precontact residents of the site, they humanize them.

A replica village of high-pitched thatched-roof huts was torn down from the site for not being sufficiently accurate to the originals, but photos reveal that they look as good as any found in other sites.
Platform mound at Chucalissa, 1350–1600 CE
Human effigy bowl, note the elaborate hat
The main platform mound dominates the site. The front is covered by concrete, which ironically, gives more of a sense of what the mound looked like in its heyday, since most mounds were sealed in red or yellow clay. Built between 1350 and 1600 CE, the 25-foot-high mound measures 150 feet long at its base. Postmold evidence reveals that two 50-square foot buildings once stood on the platform's surface (Visitor's Guide 6-7).

Across the large plaza, where demonstration stickball games are still occasionally played, sits a residential ridge mound and the smaller and older platform mound, worn down by plowing. The site also features the obligatory dugout canoe and herb garden. Plant signage features the pawpaw, an important source of food and textiles, and sassafras, important for teas and medicine. Near an employee's house is a prodigious stand of river cane, Arundinaria.

Contemporary tribes thought to have ancestral links to Chucalissa during its different occupations include the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Quapaw.

02 October 2011

Pinson Mounds, Tennessee

Incised greenstone pendant
The two-thousand-year-old Middle Woodland site, Pinson Mounds has my vote, hands down, for the creepiest site we've visited. This is probably due to the rain, the mist rising from the forests, the echoing insect calls, or the incised human skull rattles found on a male burial and on display in the museum. Built near the southern fork of the Forked Deer River, Pinson Mounds were constructed from 200 BCE through the 400 CE (Mainfort and Kwas).

Pinson is part of the Miller sub-tradition, a precolumbian culture that settled along the Tombigbee River in western Alabama, northeastern Mississippi, and western Tennessee, that flourished from 250 BCE to 550 CE (Peregrine and Ember 327). The Miller diet featured hickory nuts, goosefoot, maygrass, deer, turtles, fish, and shellfish (328-9). Miller peoples were part of the Hopewellian exchange. Many of the ceramics interred at Pinson were imported from throughout the southeast, while some of the Pinson stone artifacts came from as far away as Ohio (328, 333).

Pinson contains possibly 30 mounds, including five platform mounds. Unlike later Mississippian mounds, these early mounds have no conclusive evidence of buildings on their surface (328). Only three of the mounds were burial mounds; one of these being the Twin Mounds (Mainfort and Kwas). Few people are believed to have lived at the site; instead, it was a ceremonial center for the region (Peregrine and Ember 333).

Saul's Mound, Pinson Mound #9
At 72 feet tall, Saul's Mound, or Mound 9, is the second-tallest mound in the United States. Currently by trees and foliage, the mound is actually rectangular, with the corners corresponding to the four cardinal directions.

The park's museum is quite large and resembles a mound on the outside with turf-covered earth shored on its side. I can't help but think this architecture is genius and must help with their heating and air conditioning bills. They have an extensive collection of pottery, lithic tools, a dugout canoe, and other artifacts. The outside of the museum is covered with yucca plants, which seems incongruous, but as I found out, Yucca filamentosa is actually common throughout the south, growing as far east as Virginia.

As we drove away, we passed the amusing site of a flock of wild turkeys foraging on a mound, which lifted some of the creepiness of the site.

back entrance of the museum, covered in yucca plants