I love Jane Austen's writing and have read and reread her novels for many years. With no word processor to enable quick and easy changes, her books were so well crafted in the early drafts that she could simply write in small changes and pin substantial changes made on separate slips right onto the page.
The Hohokam built many things: great mounds, vast networks of canals, huge buildings, several different kinds of dwellings, work areas, and storage structures. One of the most interesting features that existed throughout Hohokam country is ballcourts. Although the ballgame fell out of favor before the time of my "Tales of the Watermasters" novels, not all of the ballcourts wound up being filled with trash or otherwise repurposed. I use one of the relic ballcourts as a setting for a scene in the first volume, Swallowing the Sun, which should be available for sale in a few months.
Archaeology Southwest has published a summary of what is known about the Hohokam ballcourt. The illustrator, Rob Ciaccio, has taken research and produced his vision of the Hohokam world, much as I have done for my novels.
AD 1275 kicked off a period of change marked by violence and cultural shifts and large-scale movement of people in the Southwest. Archaeologist Karen Gust Schollmeyer has written an interesting summary of that era. The books in my "Tales of the Watermasters" series are set approximately a century later, when the central Arizona valley witnessed still more change.
Ancient vessels that once contained wine were recently discovered in caves in southwestern Sicily.
Sicily is a fascinating place historically and geographically, one of my favorite parts of a trip to Italy and Greece a few years back.
Wine production may have allowed the Sicilians to trade for metal tools in the early Mediterranean maritime trade.
Oh, the places I've been and the people I've seen . . .
Family commitments have kept me from my Knoxville home and work commitments limited the amount of time I could spend on my writing, including this blog.
But my imagination has taken me far away, back to the Gila River valley where my People of Two Rivers live.
Those sites in the Phoenix and Tucson areas where I used to go to do research undisturbed have become tourist attractions. Where I once would be alone as I wandered taking pictures, on this latest trip I had to wait in line to get a photograph that didn't have someone's head in it. Or even more disruptive, a vehicle coming past or a leafblower running in the background of a video.
Yet the fact that people are interested in these places is a great thing.
More pictures and words will come later, once I am back in Knoxville and have real Internet access again. Thanks for listening.
The first draft is done!
It took me two weeks to outline and two months to write this initial 80,000 words, the fastest any book has ever come together for me.
Now I'll put it away for a few months and go back to "Swallowing the Sun."
The Akimel O'odham and Tohono O'odham make magnificent baskets using the same materials and probably (judging by recovered Hohokam pottery) the same patterns as those of the Hohokam. Here is a sampling of basket patterns and types. The Smithsonian has a collection, including the plants used to make these baskets.
Here we are at the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. It's a solemn occasion for some, a time of joy for others, meaningful in almost every culture around the world. In some places it coincides with famine, in others it marks the birth of a savior. The People of Two Rivers, as I have named the Hohokam in my series of prehistoric novels, definitely observed the solstices and equinoxes . . . but how?
For my "Tales of the Watermasters" series, a group of specialists named the Skywatchers follow the sun as it shifts through its seasonal round. The Skywatchers tell the people when they can safely plant their first crops in the spring (although the Valley of Two Rivers becomes fiercely hot in the summer and has a long growing season, frost occurs frequently enough in early spring that too-early planting can be disastrous); when to call down the summer rains that enable a second planting; when to offer thanks to the mother-goddess for providing the preservable foods that will carry them through the lean winter; and when to turn back the sun from the darkness of winter to bring the warmer days of spring.
The Skywatchers relied on astronomical observatories such as the one at Mother Sleeping (AKA Hole-in-the-Rock), the Temple of the Mist (AKA Casa Grande Ruins), Spirit Mountain at Serpent Gate (AKA the Pueblo Grande platform mound), rock art at River Shield Butte (AKA Tempe/Hayden Butte) and in the Greasy Mountains (AKA South Mountain Park), and a structure along with rock art north of Serpent Gate (in the Phoenix Mountains).
These ancient observatories suggest that the spring sun-festival of the People of Two Rivers began a few days earlier than the actual equinox, perhaps March 18, and the fall sun-festival began a few days later, perhaps September 25. The sun's position along the horizon may also have given ordinary people a rough idea of when to expect the sun-festivals to occur, as the sun would rise or set in a specific "notch" in the mountains that surround the valley for approximately four days. According to the calculations of avocational archaeologist Ben Mixon, there would be 189 days during the summer period, between the equinoxes, or seven months of 27 days each. During the winter, there would be 174 days, or six months of 29 days each. (See my earlier post about the calendar.)
The historic O'odham people, the inheritors of the Hohokam world, had a twelve- or thirteen-month lunar calendar that began in the summer, whereas I have written the People of Two Rivers as starting their year with a four-day New Fire ceremony at the winter solstice, when the sun is "turned back" along the horizon, marking the lengthening of days. The thirteen moons observed by the O'odham appear to have consisted of seasonal markers important to these agricultural people: hot, rainy, short planting, dry grass, light cold, low cold, backbone (midwinter), rutting/heat (animals), lean (animals), leafless, green (leafing-out or sprouting), yellow (flowering), flowers fading (fruiting).
The O'odham used to celebrate the winter solstice with a four-day ceremony focused on their creation myth, with deities who lived at the solstice points on the horizon. Archaeologist Todd Bostwick, in his Landscape of the Spirits, on the rock art of the Hohokam, has a fascinating discussion of the Hohokam calendar systems.
I had my mother teach me to read when I was four, and I've never stopped. Now I can play with words all day long... it's the best job in the world.
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