<![CDATA[SALLY BENNETT BOYINGTON - Sally B Blog]]>Tue, 04 Dec 2018 04:21:14 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Astronomy in the Ancient World]]>Tue, 04 Dec 2018 08:39:16 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/astronomy-in-the-ancient-worldThe Hohokam evidently had multiple ways of tracking the movement of the sun to determine the solstices and equinoxes. For a farming people, these solar events would have been important, as they would mark changes in day length and seasonal rainfall. In buildings and rock formations, deliberate placement of holes proves the Hohokam to have been able observers of the sun, while their rock art preserves what appear to be not only the sun/moon but also stars.


But the Hohokam were latecomers among the prehistoric people who recorded what they saw in the heavens. A new analysis of Paleolithic and Neolithic cave art indicates that people watched the stars closely enough to identify constellations and represent them in animal form.
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<![CDATA[More obstacles to overcome...]]>Mon, 26 Nov 2018 02:26:07 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/more-obstacles-to-overcomeIn the final 24 hours of what was otherwise a lovely trip to Europe, disaster struck. My laptop, flash drive, and notes were stolen at a train station, and I lost more than a week's worth of revisions on Swallowing the Sun. I also discovered that what I thought was being backed up to the cloud apparently wasn't. Painful learning experiences. I'm still determined to complete this first book of my "Tales of the Watermasters" series as soon as possible. It's just so hard to keep going this year.
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<![CDATA[So much to do, so little time]]>Thu, 15 Nov 2018 10:54:48 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/so-much-to-do-so-little-time I bravely committed to release Swallowing the Sun into the wild before 2019. Now I have to figure out how to not only finalize the text but also format it, get a cover design, and publish it with Amazon's new KDP system. Plus I need business cards and other marketing materials and have to increase my visibility on social media. This is the part of the writing process I'm least comfortable with . . . and it's becoming the most important!

My Instagram and Pinterest posts have gotten some attention, this blog has been up and running for a year, and my Facebook fan page has acquired several new followers--some that I don't even know! Then there's Goodreads, which has a feed to the blog and direct access to purchase my published books.

I now have a Twitter account and made my first tweet. I'm setting up a Patreon page and have my first Medium post ready to go. I've decided to wait on Kickstarter until Swallowing the Sun has been out for a few months and The Rainbow Knife (#2 in the "Tales of the Watermasters" series) is ready to publish.]]>
<![CDATA[Swallowing the Sun]]>Sun, 04 Nov 2018 21:17:23 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/swallowing-the-sun
When I write, I see the scenes as a visual image or even a film. This is a rough approximation of the title scene from my upcoming book, Swallowing the Sun. The details are incomplete (there are no openings in the temple, for example).

I have sketched out several scenes but have recently played around with colored pencils, watercolors, and even, for this illustration, a drawing program to colorize a pencil sketch.
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<![CDATA[Dogs in the prehistoric Southwest]]>Fri, 26 Oct 2018 15:49:37 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/dogs-in-the-prehistoric-southwestAt Arroyo Hondo Pueblo, a fourteenth-century archaeological site southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico, researchers have found evidence of domesticated turkeys and speculate that these "may be why the excavations didn't find many canid [i.e., dog] bone specimens." Dogs perhaps weren't man's best friend at this prehistoric village, "due to the risk these animals might pose to turkeys." At other locations, though, domesticated dogs may have assisted in hunting or could even have been used as food, at least during times of starvation. Some may have served as beasts of burden.
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Coyote: The Hohokam may have tamed coyotes in addition to deriving domesticated dogs from them.
PictureCeramic figurines of dogs (Pueblo Grande Museum exhibit)
In the Hohokam area, dog skeletons have been found, some buried along with people. Dogs also have been immortalized in art. At one village in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, many ceramic representations of dogs have been recovered from excavations. Dogs appear in rock art, too.

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Drawing of dog or coyote depicted in Hohokam rock art.
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Drawing of dogs (center) in hunt scene from Hohokam rock art.
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<![CDATA[Macaws in the prehistoric Greater Southwest]]>Sun, 02 Sep 2018 13:28:32 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/macaws-in-the-prehistoric-greater-southwestPicture
The Hohokam are known to have had macaws, but how did they acquire these tropical parrots? They certainly would have been able to trade for the feathers and live birds: shells from the Pacific Ocean, copper bells from deep in Mexico, even bison hides from the Great Plains made their way to Hohokam country in the central Arizona desert.

Long-distance trade has long been assumed to have been the means by which macaws entered the American Southwest. But Mimbres pottery found in southwestern New Mexico depicts young macaws, too young to survive the grueling hike from the fledglings' natural habitat far to the south. And indeed, recent DNA analysis of macaw bones from northwestern and southwestern New Mexico indicates that two separate cultures—Ancestral Puebloan (who used to be called Anasazi) in the north and Mogollon in the south—both acquired their macaws from a single breeding population.

Bones of several hundred macaws have been found farther south, in Paquimé, Mexico. But the ones in New Mexico date to the Chacoan era, AD 8501150, significantly predating Paquimé, which did not become prominent until 100 years or so after Chaco culture collapsed. So where was this aviary where macaws were bred?

Its location has not yet been established. Maybe it was in one of the Hohokam communities. I would like to think my Watermasters had something to do with importing this beautiful bird into the Southwest and enshrining it in Puebloan art and culture.

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Exhibit signage at Pueblo Grande Museum, Phoenix, Arizona, showing where evidence of macaws has been found
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<![CDATA[Blue pigments for face and body paint and decorations]]>Thu, 30 Aug 2018 15:23:58 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/blue-pigments-for-face-and-body-paint-and-decorationsThe prehistoric Puebloan people to the northeast of the Hohokam area utilized turquoise, or "skystone," as a pigment. Crushed and mixed with other materials, it became a permanent paint. The Hohokam certainly had turquoise, because they made jewelry from it. They also had stone palettes for mixing pigments, as well as "paint pots" for storing either the raw minerals or the paint mixtures.
Ancient Mayans had another blue pigment material: the rare lapis lazuli, which yielded a deeper blue hue than turquoise. Did the Hohokam have access to this stone? There appear to be no sources in central Arizona, but they would have been able to trade with people in California or Colorado to attain lapis lazuli, as they did for saltwater shells. 
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<![CDATA[Walk on one of the immense mounds of the Watermasters]]>Mon, 27 Aug 2018 15:09:37 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/walk-on-one-of-the-immense-mounds-of-the-watermastersPueblo Grande Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
I can take a virtual tour of Pueblo Grande when I want to remind myself about the Hohokam village that is the setting for volume 2 (and one of the settings for volume 3) in my upcoming Tales of the Watermasters series.

During the fourteenth century AD, when this platform mound was at its greatest, it stood about 12 feet high (up to 21 feet once the structures built on top of it are factored in!) and measured about 170 feet east-west by 320 feet north-south—just a little smaller than an NFL football field. The bases of some of these structures at Pueblo Grande Cultural Park have been stabilized and show the outlines of the rooms, though unfortunately they don't give a sense of the imposing height of the original edifice.

At the foot of the platform mound was a compound surrounded by an adobe-and-rock wall more than 3 feet thick and nearly 9 feet high. What remains even now dwarfs visitors to the site. The walls of the compound were coated with caliche plaster, which would have functioned like whitewash, not only protecting the adobe but also smoothing the wall surface so that it likely shone under the desert sun.
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The author standing beside the 700-year-old platform mound wall at Pueblo Grande
Archaeologists have determined that the platform mound had a long history of ritual use, as indicated by horns from desert bighorn deposited by the Hohokam circa AD 900 and a smaller circular mound built before AD 1175. Several periods of abandonment, restoration, and expansion occurred before the final major construction, which might have coincided with the drought that struck the entire Southwest circa AD 1275.

During the same general period, polychrome ceramics and other new material goods appeared, suggesting either trade with new groups or evidence of large-scale population movements, and the Hohokam began to wall off their food storehouses, family and household areas, and public and ritual zones. They seem to have gone from a people comfortable and confident in their homeland to being suspicious of others but at the same time reliant on outsiders.
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Gila polychrome jar
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Reconstructed house compound with shade structure known as a vatto
What caused these major cultural shifts? Archaeologists, Euro-American explorers, and others amazed by what the Hohokam built and created have speculated about the possible causes of the changes and, indeed, the eventual downfall of this magnificent and long-lived civilization. My own speculations take the form of a series of novels ... fictionalized archaeology or prehistoric fiction, as some call it.

The events and characters found in my Watermasters series may never have existed, but the essential truths of the Watermasters' existence in the Arizona desert surely would have. Who must those people have been? What would their lives have been like? How do their experiences—and their eventual disappearance—relate to our modern culture wars?

To find out, look for Swallowing the Sun, coming out soon in installments as an e-book and later this year in print.
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<![CDATA[Fascinated by feet]]>Thu, 09 Aug 2018 02:28:51 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/fascinated-by-feetIn a land where cholla (fondly known as "jumping cactus") abounds, experienced hikers advise newcomers to carry a comb to safely flick away the spiny segments, which can penetrate even sturdy boots. Feet also suffer the insults of sharp rocks and blast-furnace heat. But how did the Hohokam and other early desert dwellers protect their feet? Archaeologist Stephen E. Nash has been looking into the matter of shoes.]]><![CDATA[Getting old in prehistoric societies]]>Wed, 08 Aug 2018 02:42:37 GMThttp://wordsmithpages.com/sally-b-blog/getting-old-in-prehistoric-societiesNot everyone died before the age of 30 in cultures like the Hohokam, even though infant mortality was higher than in modern industrial nations, young men tended to die from violence or accidents, and young women faced risks from childbirth. But those who managed to survive their first three decades had a good chance of living to 70 or so. Archaeologist Christine Cave has an insightful explanation of how this could be so, based on her research into what she calls the "invisible elderly."
Those who did survive may have been treasured for their wisdom. In any case, that's how I prefer to think my Watermasters treated their elderly. Older people play important roles in all my books, as repositories of history and myth.
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