Could it be the practice of archaeology is as much about seeing as is the practice of shamanism?
As I gradually accustomed myself to seeing through the worldview of the pre-Colombian high cultures of the Andes, I began to perceive features in archaeological sites that I previously hadn’t been able to see at all. At Ollantaytambo, for example, after ascending to the Sun Temple I found that the features of the severely defaced jaguars carved upon the Wall of the Six Monoliths were far clearer, lying just beneath the scars left by Spanish vandals.
This sudden seeing of what has long lain in plain sight is hardly a new experience.
Europeans knew about the Paleolithic temple caves for centuries before recognizing their actual time depth and inestimable cultural worth. Yet saddled with a worldview that disallowed the existence of human culture before 4004 BCE (that is, the date of Bishop Ussher’s calculation for the creation of the world), visitors to the caves simply could not perceive the vast antiquity of the iconography from 25,000 years before. The graffiti they scrawled upon the walls testifies to this. It wasn’t until European science had tentatively begun to establish the hoary time depths of the geological processes of the Earth that the possibility of evolution, fossil records, and human culture of anything other than superficial depth could be perceived.
Yet, the revelation of the deep past is a cat and mouse game, our unseen inheritance a plaything in the hands of the industrial forces unleashed upon Peru.
This fact was driven home to me some time after my return from the ancient temple complex of Chavín when, in the darkness of the wee hours of the morning, I walked out of Takiwasi after an ayahuasca ceremony. Continue reading “To Leave Not a Rack Behind…”