Monday, July 7, 2014

Antiques and Aztalan

We did a little thrift shopping on Saturday, and along the way visited Aztalan State Park.  

Funny that we've both lived our whole lives within less than an hour's drive of this place and yet had never been to see it.  Oddly enough, our interest was piqued this past winter when an episode of America Unearthed aired on the History Channel.  The show was interesting but ultimately disappointing in that no ancient pyramids were seen under the waters of a nearby lake, but the discussion of the ancient native culture of Aztalan had us wanting to see the area for ourselves.

I'll come back to that in a moment.  As it happened, however, there were a couple thrift stores along the way, where my own kind of not-so-ancient treasures were unearthed.  Such as this beauty, a vintage paint-by-number— for a buck! 

PBNs are becoming harder to find, popular as they are with collectors of these amateur works of art.  They're colorful and scenic and, for Boomers like me, hearken back to a time long before the internet or cable TV or even VHS, when a long winter afternoon might lend itself to dabbing paint from plastic pots onto a numbered board.  I can still smell the oils and see, in my mind's eye, the paint-clumped toothpicks, mini stirrers, strewn over a newspaper lined desk. 

I'm not sure that I ever finished any of my PBNs, and I certainly never attempted anything as large as this scene.  I seemed to run out of both paint and enthusiasm at about the halfway point.

At another thrift store, while I lingered in the dish section, Norm made a beeline to the fabrics and scooped up a few bundles he thought I might like.  Good eye, that guy.

We couldn't resist a couple of old 78 records for 35 cents apiece.  Thought these would be fun to display at Christmas: Winter Wonderland and White Christmas, as performed by Guy Lombardo and the Andrews Sisters.  

We still own a turntable, so we could, in theory, play these—or we could all just listen to them on YouTube, HERE and HERE

Back to our tour of Aztalan.  Wikipedia tells us:
  • Aztalan is the site of an ancient Mississippian culture settlement that flourished during the 10th to 13th centuries. The indigenous people constructed massive earthwork mounds for religious and political purposes. They were part of a widespread culture with important settlements throughout the Mississippi River valley and its tributaries. Their trading network extended from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, and into the southeast of the present-day United States.
  • It was first settled around 900 by a Native American culture known as the Middle Mississippian Tradition. The chief center of a Middle Mississippian settlement is at Cahokia, in present-day Illinois, a city that at its peak had 20,000-30,000 people. This was not surpassed by Europeans in North America until after 1800. These settlements are characterized by the construction of mounds, stockades, and houses, by decorated Mississippian culture pottery and agricultural practices. There are also elements of the Woodland culture found here.
  • The residents had long-distance trading relationships with other settlements, linked by their use of the rivers for transportation. For example, items found at the settlement include copper from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, shells from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and stone such as Mill Creek chert from other areas of the Midwest.
  • Sometime between the years 1200 and 1300, the Aztalan settlement was abandoned. Archeologists and historians surmise they may have outgrown environmental resources, or encountered more warfare from other cultures, but do not know for sure. The Little Ice Age occurred soon after 1300 and may have contributed to farming difficulties, putting too much stress on the local chiefdoms.
It's a very interesting place.  The fertile fields and abundant wildlife and fish would have made this location ideal for long term habitation.  

This is the largest terraced mound.  We are standing about 100 yards away at this vantage point.

This smaller mound had originally been a burial site where a number of ancient remains were carefully lain and then ceremoniously burned.

The fact that this culture lived within a stockade is unique to the other native cultures of the area.  It is unknown whether the stockade was built to keep people safely in or keep others out (probably both).  The posts would have been interwoven with vines or pliable branches and then grass and mud applied in a wattle and daub manner to make a solid wall.

It is hard to do this site justice in a blog post with pictures that might just look like prairie fields with shaped mounds of dirt and a bunch of poles in the ground. As you walk the grounds and read the historical information along the way, you get a real sense of the importance of this place in history, theirs and ours.  

There is much to learn and appreciate about these ancient cultures, which preceded European settlement by thousands of years.

There was a museum up the road that contained more information and artifacts from both the native populations, as well as that of early immigrant settlers.  More on that in another post.


Terri said...

A vacation in your own back yard is always good. You learn about the area you live in, and, the best part, no motel costs. Of course, sometimes a motel is fun, too. Pool and hot tub... priceless.
Having fun reading your blog.

Hazel said...

I also saw that America Unearthed segment about Aztalan, so all this post was very fun to read...thanks!

Karen said...

Looks like a great place to visit and the rain seems to have made it all very lush :)

Shay said...

Im going to admit – at first I thought you’d taken a detour to Azkaban (from the Harry Potter books) It’s early – I hadn’t had coffee – dont judge me!

My Mum used to do PBN in the 1970;s – I wonder where all her creations ended up- I haven’t seen them for years.

And woah – that ticking fabric that Norm picked out is the schitz! Can I take him out with me sometime?

Interesting history lesson . I think past cultures really knew how to live well with the land without destroying it . The industrial revolution certainly was a turning point in the history of the world in that respect.

Michelle said...

Looks like a fantastically fun and interesting day!

Sarah Craig said...

Looks like you had loads of fun! Thanks for the trip down memory lane with the PBN images - I too remember spending many summer days working with those little plastic pots of paint!

Kim said...

It's funny isn't it, the wonderful yet to be discovered places, filled with history right under our own noses. Looks like such an interesting place. Love your acquisitions...that Norm of yours has an excellent eye!

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Hadn't thought of PBNs for ages; my daughter would have loved your horse picture; she still mists up when Dan Fogelberg sings "Run for the Roses". My husband will put on the You Tube when she comes by just to see her become nostalgic.

The fabric's Norm found are great stash; the mattress-ticking would make great binding on the bias, don't ya think...

Vonlipi said...

Aztalan looks like such an interesting place to visit.

I love PBNs . They are hard to find and often more expensive than they should be.

Sara said...

Wow the Aztalan people were quite the bunch!! From the Great Lakes to the Gulf they traded?! I don't recall ever hearing about them growing up either.