An illustration for Dr. Patricia Crown of the University of New Mexico, showing the technique presumably used a thousand years ago by the inhabitants of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, to froth a drink made from cacao traded up from Mexico. Arguing the details with three archaeologists and four Pueblo consultants took six weeks and about fifty emails. Love this kind of dialogue!
And yes, the woman has six toes. A mutation that shows up archaeologically and may be associated with high status.
The story of chocolate in Chaco is fascinating. Here’s Dr. Crown’s brief introduction to it:
More of my favorite kind of illustration, historical recreation:
In an area we’ve hiked scores of times, looking for a place for lunch, we climbed a little mesa that promised a good view. On a smooth sandstone ledge, unexpected, was a bedrock metate: the roughly-pecked surface where a woman had ground corn or wild-gathered seeds.
Around it were rough petroglyphs of a lizard and snakes: probably Puebloan, but so heavily coated with desert varnish that they looked Archaic. It was fine to sit where she had sat, looking out over the late winter piñon and sand, munching corn chips we had not had to grind ourselves.
On and around the Malpais, the hunter-gatherer-farmer presence of ancestral Puebloans is everywhere underfoot.
In a sandy cul-de-sac among the crinkled lava, all by itself, was a carefully-squared sandstone block that was probably a deadfall for small game: packrats, squirrels, deer mice. Jan propped it on a twig and demonstrated, remarking, at the appropriate instant, “Squeak.”
To Cañoncito. A fiercely windy day. My ears, teeth, hair are full of grit.
The harsh, huge wind. Immense peace.
The day was spent in classic hunter-gatherer country: piñon, sandy hills, sandy bowls and corries, the burned earth that marks Archaic sites. I came upon fragments of a smashed Puebloan bowl that had been painted with stripes and checks, still sitting right where it broke. Right next to the bits was a tidy burned spot, quite round, perhaps twelve inches in diameter: the fire at which the bowl had broken. Growing exactly out of the center of the burned spot, happy for the nitrogen, was an eight-inch cedar trunk.
Mountain bluebirds, light-bellied in the wind, reminded me of fish swimming in the sea.
For more walks on stone and sand, click here.