Hooray for Halloween!
Bats 'n bugs
Befriending bats
Best brain bank
Grave robbers
Gorgeous graves
Angel statue courtesy of ColdMarble.


doorways in Chaco Canyon

These doorways lead deep inside an Anasazi home at Chaco Canyon.
© 1999, David Tenenbaum.


A couple of cliffside dwellings in Chaco Canyon (New Mexico), home of the Anasazi people -- and of cannibals?
© 1999, David Tenenbaum
Bats, brains, and burying grounds

Still learning from graves

  • Take the bone of a red-crowned crane (actually, cranes are rare, so use your imagination instead). Carve in a bunch of holes, adjust them to make the pitch exactly what you want. Then die and arrange to have the flute buried with you in a grave in China. Now wait 9,000 years, until an archeologist digs up the grave and plays the flute -- the oldest flute yet to be played. It may not be Jean Pierre Rampal, and it looks like the modern instrument called the recorder, but the flute still sounds like music. angel statue Older, busted-up flutes have been found in Neanderthal caves, but archeologists said this was the first found in playable condition. So what are you waiting for? Wet your whistle, and see "After 9,000... " in the bibliography.

  • While archeologist used to be derided as grave robbers, some real-life grave robbers are making archeologists miserable by systematically plundering graves in Sipan, a huge archeological site along Peru's northern coast that dates from 200 BC to 700 AD. Local "huaqueros" (that's the Quechua term for grave robbers) say they're just trying to make a living by digging into burial chambers and yanking out gold, ceramics, tapestries and precious stones. The Toronto Star said that due to the peasants' excavations, the site "looks as if it had been bombed." Despite laws protecting antiquities, huaqueros continue their destruction. "The traffic in archeological treasures out of Peru is second only to drug trafficking in terms of money made and the damage it does to the study of our past is incalculable," lamented museum director Walter Alva to the Toronto Star.

  • A mass grave at Crow Creek, in present-day South Dakota, bears signs of a massacre in 1325 A.D. The 550 victims were mainly women and children, and 95 percent of the skulls bore signs of scalping. According to Science magazine, "fractures caused by blows to the head and mouth and breakage of skulls after death, including 'cut marks and intentional fragmentation of bone, intentional mutilation,'" said Douglas Owsley, an anthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. (See "Crow Creek's Revenge" in the bibliography)

    cliffside dwellings

  • After long explorations of graves and garbage dumps in the American Southwest, some archeologists say they see signs of cannibalism among the Anasazi people who lived there hundreds of year ago. According to Science magazine, archeologist Christy Turner of Arizona State University "identified a pattern of bone processing in several hundred specimens that showed little respect for the dead. 'There's no known mortuary practice in the Southwest where the body is dismembered, the head is roasted and dumped into a pit unceremoniously, and other pieces get left all over the floor,'" Turner told Science.

    Boo! Bibliography awaits...

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