One Book a Week-3

While wandering around Barnes and Noble looking for something new to read, I read the blurb for An Imaginary Life by David Malouf, an Australian writer. I bought it. Of course, I had heard of Ovid, seen parts of Metamorphosis, his most famous work, but knew little about him. Emperor Augustus exiled him to the remote regions near the Black Sea for reasons not totally known but perhaps due to the nature of Ovid’s erotic poetry which was very popular. Written in the first person, this book relates Ovid’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings while in exile. The urbane and educated Ovid now has to learn to live with superstitious, illiterate, poverty stricken people whose language he does not know, who possess none of amenities to which he is accustomed, who live in a bare survival mode. They find a “wild child” and Ovid becomes determined to catch him and teach him. The Child has lived with the animals and speaks their language, seems immune to weather even though naked, knows nothing of humans. As Ovid lives with and teaches the Child, he begins to question what it means to be human, to be civilized, to be different. What is the true meaning of life?

Note: If you look up Ovid, you will find a birthdate but no date of death. No one knows exactly when or where he died or where he was buried.

Blackwater Draw

I walk the mile long trail down into the depths,

caliche, gravel, larger rocks strewn by millennia.

The ancients–Clovis, Folsom, Portales

Man–hunted here at the shores of a lake

nearly 12,000 years ago. In 1929, an amateur

archeologist discovered a spear point lodged in bone.

Scattered cottonwoods whisper in the wind,

timeless voices call me, beckoning.

Who were these people? What did they

look like? Where did they come

from? In whose gods, goddesses, did

they believe? Doubtless hunger

drove them to this place of water

and plenty. Columbia mammoths, giant

sloths, dire wolves, saber toothed cats.

I walk this long path, read signs

that tell what diggers found at specific

spots along the trail: bison horns

spanning seven feet, mammoths twice

the size of elephants. I stand in the shade

of the cottonwoods. They whisper to me.

They tell me ancient tales of hunger, strife,

beauty, love, endurance, woe, war, weaponry,

courage and community. How did they overcome

danger, fear? My skin tingles strangely

in the summer heat. Now this land is dry,

desert, the water that sustained teeming life

evaporated in the crystalline air.

Twelve thousand years from now who will stand here?

Will this place exist? Will someone wonder the meaning

of our bones, who we were, what we believed?

Italy–Sirens’ Song

As we drove along the Amalfi Coast, the guide told us the mythological story of the Sirens.  My daughter took a photo out the window of the Sirens’ islands.


Later I wrote this poem remembering the travails of Odysseus.


The melodious Sirens’ song

lured Odysseus

begging to be untied from

the mast.

Even the roaring sea’s

voice whispered in


They sang honeyed

love songs to starving

sailors, longing for a woman’s

touch, a kiss, ecstasy.

With knife claws, they

ripped them asunder,

crunching bones, blood


Satiated, they sang,

eternal, etherial, deceptive.



Several days later at a shop in Sorrento, while my daughter was looking for a medusa cameo, the owner, a cameo artist, brought out Siren cameos.  He insisted the Siren’s have been terribly misunderstood.  I wanted clarification but unfortunately other customers appeared and I remain mystified.

Is This How Patriarchy Began? by Carol P Christ

Is violence more likely when men spend a lot of time away from women and children?

In my widely read blog and academic essay offering a new definition of patriarchy, I argued that patriarchy is a system of male dominance that arose at the intersection of the control of female sexuality, private property, and war. In it, bracketed the question of how patriarchy began. Today I want to share some thoughts provoked by a short paragraph in Harald Haarmann’s ground-breaking Roots of Ancient Greek Civilization. Haarmann briefly mentions (but does not discuss) the hypothesis that patriarchy arose among the steppe pastoralists as a result of conflicts over grazing lands. As these conflicts became increasingly violent, patriarchal warriors assumed clan leadership in order to protect animal herds, grazing lands, and the women and children of the clan.

View original post 808 more words

Ancestry and DNA–Part Four

Since I hit several dead ends in my previous endeavors, this afternoon I went back to all the hints and started more research.  My last ancestry post indicated my surprise at the DNA results.  In that post I failed to mention that the reports indicate a possible range as well as exact numbers.  Today’s endeavor made me reconsider once again because everything I was able to trace went back to England over and over again.  Although the DNA results specified Europe West as 77 per cent, it did show a possible range with a low end of 50 per cent.  Great Britain’s number is 9 per cent with a range up to 27 per cent.  My guess is that the reality is more like 20  per cent Great Britain and  60 to 65 per cent Europe West which I can trace to specific places, e.g. Switzerland mostly.  An acquaintance had her DNA done by two different sources with somewhat differing results.  I also realize that over many centuries people have migrated to Great Britain from continental Europe.  In the south the Romans were there for centuries.  However, no Italian showed up in my DNA even though I know the name of one ancestor who migrated from Italy.  Perhaps she was from northern Italy–all I can find is simply Italy so have no idea from where.  Northern Italy, unlike southern Italy, is included in Europe West by

After quitting for the day, I went back to the matrilineal part of my grandson’s National Geographic Genotype data.  It provides a totally different type of analysis that goes back even further into history with illustrations of the movement of your ancestors over thousands of years and provides your exact Haploid Group.  I am J named after Jasmine in the book, “The Seven Daughters of Eve” by Bryan Sykes, a British geneticist.  This book traces the mitochondrial DNA of modern Europeans back to seven women located in different parts of the world.  Jasmine was the result of a mutation that occurred approximately 45 thousand years ago in the Near East/Caucasus from which I probably get that small percentage of Caucasus DNA.  Today not only are J Haploid people found in Europe but also in the UAE, Yemen, Iran, etc.  More specifically I am J1C3B which is found most commonly today in Switzerland and Austria.  Only  .2 per cent of the Genotype project participants have that DNA.  Furthermore, unless you were born in Africa below the Sahara or are a descendant of Africans, you will have some Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA, usually between one and four per cent.  My grandson has 1.2 Neanderthal.  Scientists now believe that for non-Africans, a great deal of our immunity comes from those genes.  The Genotype project provides links to a different family tree source than if you wish to go that route.

The book also indicates that working out your family trees with who married who and all their children may not be accurate because what is official may or may not be what really occurred.  The author tells the story of a friend who insisted his DNA get analyzed and eagerly awaited the results which provided the author with a dilemma once he realized his friend could not possibly be who he though he was.

Large Lakes of the Sahara

Who knew?  In the literal middle of nowhere in Chad several large lakes still provide fresh water to the few animals and people who live there.  Salt water lakes reside in many deserts worldwide, but not freshwater lakes.  The May/June 2014 issue of Saudi Aramco World both astonished and enlightened me.  These lakes are not mere oases, but really large lakes, the Lakes of Ounianga.  In 2012, all eighteen of them became part of World Heritage sites.

Each lake remains different, some interconnected, some fresh water, some saline.  They are 500 miles from the nearest large body of water, Lake Chad.  To get there, you must use four wheel drive or ride a camel.  In 2001 and 2002 not far from these lakes, the fossils of extremely ancient hominids were found, hominids who lived seven million years ago, potential precursors to modern humans and chimpanzees.  Here and there camels graze in sand nearly devoid of vegetation. Near these lakes lush foliage grows, green gems in the middle of miles of varying shades of endless brown.  One of the lakes’ water is red from the algae growing in it sometimes several inches thick.  Frogs croak.

Once upon a time long ago, this Sahara grew savanna grass where the wildlife we associate with other parts of Africa lived–elephants, giraffe, hippos, antelopes, and the now extinct auroch.  Lake Boukou holds fresh water, crystalline, pure.  Around this lake one can find ancient stone hammers and scrapers dating from half a million years ago.  Because of evaporation in the dry heat, one would expect these lakes to become increasingly saline.  Only one of the eleven lakes in this area is saline. How is this possible?

Under the Sahara lies the world’s largest fossil-water aquifer beneath the countries of Chad, Sudan, Egypt, and Libya.  The maximum depth is 12,800 feet. This acquifer supplies the Lakes of Ounianga.  The mats of reeds and algae on top of the fresh water lakes keep their evaporation rate low and their water fresh.  Once these lakes covered vast distances.  Researchers use diatomic soil to study the changes in the lakes over centuries.  Diatoms are the remains of microscopic sea creatures that turn into ivory or white soil.  Studying these soils enable scientists to date the age of the lakes to approximately 6000 years ago.  Once researchers thought the Sahara suddenly became a desert about 5000 years ago, but new data reveal a more gradual change to desert taking thousands of years and only becoming the desert we know more recently.  Research around the lakes will prove important to understanding climate change and its causes.

Currently fifteen clans live in Ounianga.  These people believe their ancestors came out of the lakes when they were one giant lake surrounded with date palms.  Core studies (scientists take a core sample of the soil–in this case 16 meters) indicate that date palms came rather late in the area’s millennial history.  They have also found the roots of reeds and even trees dating back to approximately 8000 years ago.  Their goal is to drill even deeper.  Heat (122 degrees F) make this a long, torrid task, but the scientists dedicated to learning the story of these incredible lakes and the Sahara press on.



Notes:  Saudi Aramco World is one of my favorite magazines, filled with fabulous photos, historical articles, recipes, and endless fascinating information.  This issue also included an article about the Muslim Tartars who live in Poland today.  You can subscribe  by adding your name to their free subscription list.

Diatomaceous earth is found in many places.  I feed it to my horses to prevent parasites.  It is used in cleaners and even tooth paste.

Apocalyptic Planet-Part Five: Civilizations Fall

Whether it is my innate ambition, something my parents instilled in me, or something else unknown, I try to learn something new every day.  Craig Childs starts this chapter of his book by talking about a Phoenix landmark.  Back when I travelled to Phoenix regularly, I knew this place as Squaw Peak.  Now its name Is Piestewa Peak.  The name change is probably a good thing.  I never knew before reading this how dreadfully pejorative the word squaw is.  Basically, it means Indian bitch as well as other things related to the privates of women.  All languages seem to possess an accumulation of dreadful words geared to putting women down one way or another.  Slang words for the private parts of a man rarely mean anything pejorative, at least not that I know of.  The new name, a Hopi name, a blessing word, is a word that calls water to this place.  Not a bad idea in Phoenix or most of the Southwest for that matter.

The name Phoenix fits.  Underneath modern day Phoenix, an ancient city lays buried, a quite sophisticated city with ball courts, temples, irrigation canals.  This city existed at least a thousand years ago.  Its inhabitants grew corn, cotton, beans, and agave.  Farmers, hunters, carvers, all sorts of artisans and merchants apparently lived there.  Now they are called Hohokam taken from an O’odham word meaning “ancestors”, the “ones who have gone”.  We find forgotten cities all over the world, Palmyra, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat.  What causes these sophisticated civilizations to fall?  If you read a bit, look further, you find common themes:  environmental decay, resource depletion, conflict, disease, social problems.  Angkor Wat fell because it could not maintain its complex irrigation network.  Ur in Iraq fell because a drought caused its port to dry up.  Usually, the demise of particular civilizations occur over time, e.g.Rome.

Childs notes that human patterns often follow animal patterns, or at least mammalian patterns.  For example, when over population occurs, behavior changes.  Parental care and cooperation become replaced with aggression, violence, competition for resources, dominant behaviors.  These types of behaviors are particularly detrimental to females and the young without whom the society (or animal population) cannot replace itself.  Generally, in animal populations, when this occurs, reproduction slows for several generations and the imbalance corrects itself.  For humans, it is not so simple.  Hohokam bones indicate mass starvation and malnutrition.  Other civilizations, e.g. the Anasazi, seem to have disappeared without a trace.

Today, most of the world’s largest cities have immense infrastructures that keep them going, miles of underground sewage tunnels, water mains, etc.  Here in the US in our oldest cities, much of what we take for granted is very old and deteriorating.  New York City and Chicago have water main systems that some experts claim are near collapse or at the very best badly in need of repair.  Doubtless such conditions exist in old cities throughout the world, most of which are much older and larger than the majority of cities in the US.  Yet, they continue to prosper.  Have we passed a point when civilization cannot fall?

Childs completes this discussion by describing his visit with his wife to Guatemala.  They visited all the best known Mayan sites, visited with natives.  His wife managed to get invited to a Mayan fire ceremony, a renewal ceremony.  History books tell us the Mayan civilization is dead, ended.  But it is not.  The Mayan culture still exists.   At least six million still live in the Central America.  What would have happened to Mayan cities if the Europeans had not brought epidemic diseases and better fire power?  We will never know, of course, but no matter how many civilizations rise and fall, change continues and humans continue to inhabit the earth.

The new question is this:  can this planet we live on sustain the ever increasing numbers of humans who inhabit it??

Sacred Corn

SAM_0035   In the summer on hot, humid nights, you can hear the corn grow.  My great grandfather, my grandfather, and my father grew corn.  I grow corn in that same rich loess soil of Northwestern Missouri.  Soil laid down by Ice Age glaciers thousands of year ago.  Only on a few hill tops, here and there, will you find non glacial soil. Repeatedly, daily, I walk by the sacred corn plant of life painted on my hall corner.  This sacred corn corner houses three corn maiden kachinas and a drum decorated with corn maidens.  I give thanks to corn for my house and the life I lead.

Corn Song

I sing the song of ancients:

pueblo peoples,

Anazazi, Hopi, Zuni.

I sing the song of an America long gone.

Maya, Aztec, Tolmec.

I sing the song of life:  colors of the rainbow

golden, red, white, blue.

I sing the song of now:  thick, endless

identical rows.

Pioneer, Monsanto,

anhydrous ammonia,


I sing the song of hope and joy:

an ancient reclaiming,

a klaidescope of colors,

butterflies and fireflies.

I sing the eternal human song.



This is a Navaho kachina.  Kachina are actually Hopi, but Navaho artists now make kachinas as well.  The first corn maiden kachina I bought.


Spotted corn kachinas, on the left, are unusual.  It took me years to find one.  The kachina on the right was created by R Pino, who is both Hopi and Navaho.


Every year Pendleton runs an art contest among Native American students.  The winner’s art work is transformed into saddle blankets.  This design, created by Mary Beth Jiron, is the latest in this Student Series. There are three corn  maidens  on each side of the blanket, representing the different varieties of corn grown by native peoples, yellow, red, blue, white, black, and spotted.

Blackwater Draw-Part Two

The ancients hunted here at the shores of a lake

nearly 12,000 years ago.  In 1929, an amateur

archeologist discovered an ancient spear

point lodged in bone.  I walk the mile long trail

down into the depths.   Caliche, gravel,

larger rocks strewn by millennia.  For

thousands of years Clovis, Folsom, and Portales

Man left remnants of their hunting life.

The scattered cottonwoods whisper in the wind,

timeless voices call me, beckoning.

Who were these people?

What did they look like?

Where did they come from?

In whose gods and goddesses did they believe?

Doubtless hunger drove them to this place of water

and plenty.  Columbia Mammoths, giant sloths, dire wolves,

saber toothed cats  gathered here for thousands of years.

The diggers found an obsidian spear head with a

bison whose horns spanned seven feet and

mammoths twice the size of elephants.

Saber toothed cats competed with these

ancient ancestors at this place, all driven by

hunger, thirst, and instinct.  I wonder how

these people overcame danger, fear?

I walk the mile long path, stand in the shade

of these cottonwood trees , read the signs that

tell me what diggers found at specific spots along the trail.

The cottonwoods whisper to me.  They

tell me ancient tales of hunger, strife, fear,

beauty, love, endurance.  I hear the ancient voices

calling.  They tell me ancient tales of woe, war,

weaponry, courage, and community.  My

skin tingles strangely in the summer heat.  Now

this land is dry, a desert, the water that sustained

teeming life evaporated in the crystalline air.

Twelve thousand years from now who will stand here?

Will this place exist?  Will someone wonder the meaning

of our bones, who we were, what we believed?