A Roar of Jaguars

In the past few years, I’ve realized that, in the Native American tradition, I seem to have an animal totem, the jaguar. This past year when I started my second memoir, I understood my deep connection to this apex predator of the Americas and included an illustration:

My Totem Jaguar

I also realized that this magnificent feline has been lurking in my background for at least 35 years. At a yard sale I’d bought a carved-wood figurine and stashed it away as a curiosity.  Later I gave it as a birthday gift to a friend, who returned it explaining that there was some spirit in it which didn’t “resonate” with him.  Stashed away again, it sat on a shelf for decades—following me around to various domiciles.  Then about a year ago I recognized it for a jaguar-priest or shaman from some South or Meso-American tradition.

My Jaguar Priest Figurine

It suddenly made sense that this jaguar figurine was probably why some 30 years ago I’d gotten so involved in the Aztec milieu. I soon learned that this New World King of Beasts had originally roamed throughout most of the South and Meso-American jungles and even ranged north into the American Southwest (apparently now making a comeback in southern Arizona!).

I also learned that the noble jaguar was central to the mythologies of basically all the ancient civilizations of the New World (just as the lion was to those of the Old). First off, I found it in the Aztec calendar, as the 14th day of their agricultural month and in the second week of their ceremonial count of days (tonalpohualli).  Starting with the day Ce Ocelotl – One Jaguar (those with this birth day-name coincidentally being destined for sacrifice), that second week was under the patronage of the god Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent.

I already knew that the Aztec ceremonial calendar had been more or less inherited from the much earlier Maya and then discovered that it, just like its patron deity, was also revered by the even earlier Olmec. Then about three years ago in considering that maybe the sacred calendar’s count of days had originated in the still earlier Chavín civilization in Peru, I learned that the jaguar was for them also a major deity, often seen as an ornate man-jaguar.  Do note this Chavín were-jaguar’s startling snake-locks!

Chavin Were-Jaguar

If my suggestion that the count of days originated at Chavín de Huantar is correct, that ritual (more like a religion), was carried north by trader-missionaries to populations along the Pacific coast. Ultimately they crossed the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and proselytized the Olmec with the sacred way of telling time.  While many surviving Olmec sculptures are of infant were-jaguars, I’ll show you their dramatic animal.

Olmec Jaguar

Coincidentally, earliest calendar lore has it being brought by a god, namely the Plumed Serpent, who was also the bringer of maize (and culture). Between the calendar, the jaguar, and this legendary civilizer deity, they had a rather well-rounded theosophy, even if some rituals might have involved sacrifices frowned on nowadays.

It’s now become reasonable to think that the early Maya were “civilizing” in Yucatan at much the same time as the Olmec were hard at it in Veracruz. More mercenary missionary work was probably what took the calendar to the Maya.  They hugely elaborated and ornamented the new “faith” with their own deities and even started writing about it in glyphs.

Along with calendar, the jaguar deity (B’alam) came to the Maya, but their representations of it were generally not anthropomorphized.  I found a spectacular relief at Chichen Itza on Google Images, apparently a repro in gold (!), that’s both naturalistic and stylized.  Not to gross you out, but I bet that’s a heart it’s holding in its paw and licking.

Mayan Jaguar from Chichen Itza

Of course, the third part of the religion was the Plumed Serpent, the civilizer deity whom they called Kukulcan (or Gugumatz).  This Triad then moved west and north to early Teotihuacan, where the Serpent likely became known as Quetzalcoatl, or maybe that was amongst the later Toltecs.  That calendar religion reigned across the centuries and other areas of Mexico, as shown by this jaguar totem from the Zapotecs, possibly a funerary urn.

Zapotec Jaguar

Eventually, the barbarian Aztecs came out of the north and adopted the local religion, and it came to be known and misunderstood as the “Aztec Calendar.” In their historical or genealogical picture-books, many of which were from other cultures like the Mixtec, the were-jaguar shows up as jaguar warriors.  These “jaguar-weres” were simply humans wearing jaguar pelts.

In their religious documents, the jaguar is generally depicted as a divine animal such as these two from Codex Borgia, (adjusted and adapted to prepare for drawings in my next icon).  By the way, those wavy figures represent the jaguar’s roar.

Jaguars from Codex Borgia

Modelling mine on the image on the left, several years ago as my first attempt at drawing on computer, I drew a jaguar with a realistically patterned pelt (and more aggressive demeanor). Intended to be the apotheosis of the Lord of the Animals, the drawing had to wait some three years to be enthroned in YE GODS! Icon #11 – OCELOTL.

My Jaguar–Lord of the Animals

But I’m not done with this roar of jaguars! Recalling that the historical range of the jaguar reached up into North America, there is the possibility that the creature may have been known, or at least recalled, by populations outside of the desert Southwest.  I’m talking about my other favorite topic, the Mississippian “civilization.”

I found a trace of the calendar and image of a heavily stylized man-jaguar in the Southeast and drew this fanciful animal below from a shell gorget (from Fairfield MO across the river from Cahokia) for a book on the Indian mounds.  (See my Gallery of Pre-Columbian Artifacts.)

Jaguar Gorget – Fairfield MO

In the magazine “Ancient American,” Vol. 21, No. 116, I wrote about the cult of the Plumed Serpent in North America, which shows that the trinity of Calendar-Jaguar-Serpent was a Pan-American “religion.”  Small wonder I feel the jaguar my totem—it’s the totem for all Americans.

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Ancient America-Asia Coincidences

Recently I came across two historical coincidences worthy of comment. Both may be archaeologically, or at least anthropologically, significant.

  1. The Rabbit in the Moon.

Readers should be advised that I’ve “studied” (more like “obsessed with”) things Mesoamerican for about 30 years now, and have become fairly conversant about their mythology and art, mainly of the Aztecs. More about that in a moment.

Some decades ago I learned that the Mesoamerican peoples saw a rabbit in the moon. This “moon rabbit” was famous amongst the early Maya, shown here with the moon goddess Ix Chel:

The image of a rabbit in the moon occurs in two of the surviving pre-Conquest Aztec codices (picture-books) and in one of the post-Conquest documents.

Aztec Rabbits in the Moon

Learning about this lunar bunny, I checked out the full moon and immediately saw it clearly. Before, I’d never really been able to see a face in the moon (the European tradition), and now I can see nothing but the rabbit.  In my Aztec obsession, I’ve spent the past several years drawing icons of their deities and am now working on the god of the moon, Tecciztecatl.  As a detail for that icon, I’ve concocted my own Moon Rabbit in an Aztec style and in the orientation I’ve scientifically observed.

Imagine my surprise when I read a book about Chinese myths and legends and discovered that the ancient Chinese also saw a rabbit in the moon. Under “Moon Rabbit” on Wikipedia, I learned that in their inscrutable oriental way, the image the Chinese saw was a rabbit facing to the right—and anthropomorphically using a mortar and pestle to pound herbs or medicines (that equipment occupying the area of my bunny’s bottom).

The entry advised that this traditional image also spread to Japan and Korea and added, “Legends of moon rabbits exist among some of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.” Then the entry states categorically:  “These legends were not influenced by Asian cultures.”  This gratuitous pronouncement smacks of a polemical personal opinion designed to forestall any further discussion of the subject.  Typical…

Now, I’m not arguing that this coincidence necessarily shows any America-Asia connection. It’s quite reasonable that the two widely separated peoples could see the same familiar creature (in differing perspectives) in the Rorschach blur on the moon’s orb.  The bunny could well be a pure coincidence (though some say there are no coincidences).

  1. The Ten Suns

In the same book of Chinese myths and legends, one struck me as surpassingly surreal. The god of the eastern sky, Di Jun was the father of ten suns [sic!] which took turns crossing the sky on each of the ten days of the week.  But they got bored with the routine and one day decided to ride in their chariots all together across the sky, which heat caused great damage to the earth and its creatures.  Unable to make his suns behave properly, Di Jun summoned the Divine Archer Yi and gave him a magic bow and arrows to make the suns resume their rotating duties.  Yi shot down nine of them, leaving only one to cross the sky every day.  That solution greatly distressed Di Jun, who condemned Yi to live a mortal life.  Curious tale…

A few months later I read a book called “Native American Myths and Legends,” which was published by Arcturus Publishing Ltd. in London (2017). The stories were recorded by a range of different writers/ethnographers from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The story that stopped me in my tracks was attributed to a tribe called “Shastika” and taken from a book by Katharine Berry Judson, “Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest (1912). That tribe from northern California/southern Oregon is now called simply Shasta or Shastan and logically relates to the magical Mount Shasta. Per Wikipedia, by the early years of the 20th century perhaps only 100 Shasta individuals existed, and some few Shasta descendants apparently still reside in various reservations with other tribes.

The story is called “Old Mole’s Creation.” (Forgive my disrespectful levity, but the title calls to mind a character from that ancient comic strip “Pogo”—Ol’ Mole was blind as a mole and an avid bird-watcher!) Anyway, first “Old Mole burrowed underneath Somewhere and threw up the earth which forms the world.” Then, “in the beginning, Sun had nine brothers, all flaming hot like himself. But Coyote killed the nine brothers and so saved the world from burning up.” Those two simplified sentences are an obvious restatement of the Chinese legend of the ten suns.

But the Shasta tale does the Chinese one better by adding a parallel plot: “But Moon also had nine brothers, all made of ice like himself, and the Night People almost froze to death.” So as the Moons arose, Coyote killed nine of them with his flint-stone knife saved the Night People. Native American story-telling loves coyotes and symmetry.

These two tales of the ten suns are simply too counter-intuitive (and weird) to have developed independently. So I’ll boldly claim that they prove an ancient cultural connection between Asia and America. (They clearly support Gavin Menzies’ book “1421: The Year China Discovered America” and Laurie Bonner-Nickless’ interminably titled book about Chinese exploration of North America in 1433-34, which was just reviewed in “Ancient American,” Issue 121.)

Cue the academic inquisitors!

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Ancestors, My Fore-Folks

So I’m finally getting around to following up on my earlier blog: Ancestors, Level 1, My Parents. To be gender-neutral, this one will be a composite about my “Fore-Folks” going back a few generations.  On my maternal side, I’ve had the enormous help of second cousin Gus who at 94 still lives in Baltimore and has been keeping track of all the descendants of his grandfather (and my great-grandfather) Eugene Trinité.  He has sent me photos of even more fore-folks.  But let me proceed properly:  backwards.

My maternal grandmother Freda Marie Rosenbauer was born March 20, 1895. Freda’s father was Otto William Rosenbauer (great-grandfather), who was born in Austria in 1868. It seems his wife Marie (née Pemsel) was born in 1869 in Germany.  Probably around 1890 they immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland, met, and early in that decade were married.  Otto was a Victorian silversmith and a partner in A. G. Schultz & Co.  That famous company made repoussé sterling hollowware that now sells for large sums.  That’s as far back as I can take Freda’s line.

Otto and Marie Rosenbauer with family, 1905; Freda Rosenbauer, 1910

My maternal grandfather George Marius Trinité, was born on May 15, 1890 in Providence RI. He married Freda on March 29, 1917, just in the nick of time before the US entered WWI.  Just saying…

George and Freda Trinite, 1956

George had a printing shop which I well remember from our rare visits to Baltimore (Ballmer). What I remember most fondly was their big house on Elsinore Avenue (near Druid Hill “Droodle” Park)—and tricking Grampa George by emptying out walnuts (his favorite treat) and gluing the shell-halves back together. Out in the hall, I laughed secretly at his startled exclamations each time he cracked a nut and found it empty.  Freda passed in 1970 and George in 1975.

With my cousin’s help, I have a bit more about George’s line. His parents were Eugene Charles Trinité (b. 10/27/1857) and Johanna Von Euw (b. 8/4/1863) (great-grandparents).

Eugene Trinite and Johanna Von Euw

I’m not sure when exactly, but somewhere in the 1880’s Eugene left Paris and moved to the US, I assume meeting Johanna in Rhode Island and proceeding to have several children, including George and the mother of Cousin Gus, Jeannette. In Paris and in Baltimore, Eugene was a lithographer, which makes George’s choice of a printing career something of a tradition, I guess.

Eugene Trinite as lithographer in Paris; Eugene at mantel in Baltimore

Gus also sent me old photos of two of my great-great-grandmothers, Eugene’s mother Marie Josephine Carlavan and Johanna’s mother Rosa Von Euw. I know virtually nothing about these imposing ladies except that someone has laboriously traced Rosa’s line way back to something like 1204!  It would be fascinating to know who Eugene’s father and Mr. Von Euw (great-great-grandfathers) were and from whom they came, but no such luck.

Great-great-grandmothers Marie Josephine Carlavan and Rosa Von Euw

On the Wisconsin paternal side, I have fewer photos, but a bit more genealogical information. My father’s mother Ella Josephine Perry (Paré) was born as ninth of ten children on May 21, 1893.  Meanwhile, Joseph Raymond Balthazor (AKA Jody), was born a month earlier as fourth of eleven children on April 25, 1893.  I learned somewhere that Jody was a bar-keep (saloon owner).  There were, of course, myriad taverns all over Wisconsin—until Prohibition nixed that line of work.  Adaptable, Grampa Jody transitioned to being a storekeeper.  I never saw much of my Balthazor grandparents, except when I was quite small.  Ella passed in 1958, and Jody in 1960.

Jody and Ella Balthazor

Jody’s mother was Melvina Joubert (born 4/9/1870), and Ella’s mother was Delsina Joubert. Since Melvina and Delsina (great-grandmothers) apparently were sisters, my grandparents were cousins.  We have to remember that Bear Creek was a tiny town…  Ella’s father was Louis (Loudacicus) Paré (great-grandfather), who was born 5/1/1844 in Canada, but there’s no further information on this branch of the family tree.

Jody’s father was John Balthazor (born 3/22/1865—great-grandfather) of New London, Wisconsin.  He was the son of Joseph Balthazar (born 11/28/1841—great-great-grandfather) and Margaret Guyette (b. 10/9/1843), whose parents were Joseph Guyette (born 10/19/1810 in Montreal—great-great-great-grandfather) and Madaleine LaValk (birthdate unavailable).

Joseph and Margaret Balthazar (Great-great-grandparents

Note how the spelling changed, probably due to the illiteracy of the parties involved—and watch what happens as we go back in time. Joseph Balthazar was the son of Michel (Mitchell) Beltazar/Beltezar (b. 1816—great-great-great-grandfather) and Rosalie Plante (b. 1815) of Iberville, Quebec.  And Michel was the son of Martin Balthazard (great-great-great-great-grandfather) and Sophie Herbert (dates unknown).

Somewhere I’ve filed (and lost) materials on the generations of B-lt-z-rs during the 17th and 18th centuries who came from central France to Canada early in the 1600’s, most likely to Quebec City (f. 1608).  For US-historical reference, Jamestown and Santa Fe both were founded in 1607.

Those early fore-fathers went by very French names like Jean Baptiste Balthazar. In the many generations leading up to Martin in Wisconsin, the tribe spread to Montreal (f. 1642), the nearby little town of Iberville, and across Canada.  Some of the family must have also been amongst the Acadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia to Louisiana by the British in 1751—since Balthazar is not an unusual name amongst modern Cajuns.  In all likelihood, my fore-folks were also involved in 1775 defense of Quebec and Montreal against the invasion by the Revolutionary American Colonists.  Meanwhile, those pioneer generations before Martin in the wild woods of Canada almost certainly involved Native American mothers, tribes unknown.

I have to ask myself what I’ve inherited from that horde of fore-folks besides the exotic name. Well, for one thing, I’ve got a slightly darker skin-tone than most white guys, and for another, my “artistic” inclination may be inherited from Otto, Eugene, and George.  But beyond that, I can’t say where my “brains” came from.  I suspect they’re my own creation.

What I really have to wonder is who all those fore-folks really were. They lived in worlds utterly different from this one I live in and undoubtedly lived lives utterly different than my own.  I’m sure my own grandsons in their new worlds wonder the same about me.  And the lives they’re living are definitely different than mine.

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Hog Heaven

In my previous blog post I mentioned my prize-winning Poland China hog named Cornpone (the Magnificent), which made me a bit sentimental about pigs. So I went to my archive of photos and pulled out the snapshot I took of him dated September 28, 1957.

Cornpone, Champion Poland China hog, 1957

Oddly, after these 61 years the Kodacolor print has taken on the true color of the subject, a magenta-toned sepia. It lends the memory a certain monumentality.  He is standing by his trough in which I would dump a daily bucket of slops (scraps from our truck stop café across the highway) and mix nice messes of special mash to make him fat.

Cornpone’s pen was a good-sized area next to that for Daddy’s twelve brindle hunting hounds. The picture was taken from the edge of his wallow in the foreground.  I’d also bring buckets of water every day to keep it suitably muddy, and he’d loll around in the muck, grunting and snorting.  That’s where I learned the truth of the old saw “happy as a pig in hot mud.”

We kept our herd of several hogs (the pinker variety) in a pen down past the pasture at the edge of the woods—where their stench couldn’t reach up to the house or yard. It was also my exhausting duty to haul many buckets of slops to them each day and to keep their wallow wet.

Periodically we’d slaughter maybe three of the herd at a time, and neighbor folks from around helped with the hot and heavy work. First, Daddy would lean over the fence with his rifle and shoot a hog between the eyes.  It would drop like a rock.  Then he’d jump in and slit its throat, letting the blood run into the wallow.

A few of the men would drag the carcass out of the pen and up the hill to where some huge iron pots were boiling on wood fires. They’d haul the hog up on ropes over a tree limb and lower it into the boiling water for a moment to scald the hair off.  Then they’d hang it up from another branch for the butchering.

When they’d spit the stomach open, I was always grossed out by the cascade of guts but had to help with sorting out the intestines for sausage-casings. Brandishing great knives, they’d toss slabs of hog-fat into another iron pot to render out the lard and make chitlings (pork rinds).

The butchering would take most of a day, and it was quite a community party. We’d wrap up the cuts of hams, loins, and so on to put in our big walk-in cooler, and folks would take turns on the big grinder making sausage.  The neighbors were happy to get shares of the meat and buckets of lard for their work.  And we had loads of fresh pork to sell in the café.

Cornpone didn’t share the rustic fate of our common hogs. That fall we took him to the Sevier County Fair in DeQueen, Arkansas, where he won the Blue Ribbon.  After his big win, he went to a more sophisticated hog heaven.  Being a simple country boy of fifteen, I sold my champion hog to a meatpacker and bought myself a pair of cowboy boots with turquoise tops.  My young feet outgrew them within a year.

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Gem of Wisdom #100

To celebrate this one-hundredth posting on my blog, I offer another gem of wisdom for what it’s worth to the many millions who don’t read my postings.

I’m not one given to thumping on the holy books of any sect, except for plagiarizing the Aztec codices, but that’s a matter of art. However, I keep thinking of the biblical parable of demonic possession because it seems particularly cogent nowadays.

From my naïve (and eccentric) position, it sure looks to me like the majority of the human race is possessed by demons. Those evil spirits are easily named as the traditional seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth—and all the synonyms and corollaries under each…  These behaviors are deadly not only to the perpetrator but also to everybody else.  Infection by even one of them is like poison in a well.  Complexes, which are frighteningly frequent (and painfully apparent in certain public figures!), are especially lethal.  By the way, I’m talking here about the whole world.

So what happens in the biblical parable? The demons are exorcised, i.e., driven out, into a herd of undeserving swine that stampedes off a cliff into the sea and drowns.  Nice way to dispose of trash, I guess, but nowadays we don’t have that technology.  And I don’t believe in scape-hogs.

These Little Pigs

[This photo of cute little piggies is lifted from www.swarkansasnews.com in appreciation for it coming from Nashville, a civilized town quite close to my childhood home in the woods where I had all my Neolithic dentistry done.  And in memory of my prize-winning shoat, a Poland China hog named Cornpone the Magnificent.  He earned me the title of 4-H County Champion Boy!]

Even without swine to drown the evil spirits, our demon-ridden humans are obviously, but obliviously, stampeding headlong over economic, ecological, and spiritual cliffs. Unfortunately, their suicide may well kill off virtuous humans too, not to mention other life-forms on earth.  Let’s hope at least the innocent pigs survive.  Their intelligent brains might eventually evolve into sentience, and one might even boldly go where no pig has gone before!

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Souvenirs of Logan Circle

On reading my most recent blog about gay life in Washington DC in the Neolithic (the 1970’s) in our faerie castle the Four Belles (1320 Rhode Island Ave NW), a friend suggested that I write more about the Centennial chandelier. I’m happy to do so, but actually I want to write more in general about memories of Logan Circle and my salvage activities.

(At that time, DC was in the throes of urban renewal and tearing down entire blocks of abandoned Victorian houses. Our most urgent battle around Logan Circle was to keep that from happening to the mansions and apartment buildings there.)

Four Belles carving and 1 & 2 Logan Circle

The photo on the left is a close-up of the carving of four hands with bells from which we took the name of our house. In fact, I found out several years ago from the current owner that the original builder had indeed named it the Four Belles—for his wife and three daughters.  The Second Empire wedding cake house on the right was owned by Lewis Kleiman, the guy who took my publicity shot mentioned before.  I occasionally helped him work on restoring the place, like stripping woodwork and such—but it was like spitting in the sea.

Copper Peak, 1320 RI Ave NW

Lewis also helped me in my salvaging. Early one morning we went in my old blue van (Lavenia Van Dodge) to a ruinous house on Sixth Street and rescued its copper peak to put on the Four Belles.  To get to it, we had to climb the bannister of the collapsed staircase and scramble through a rotten hole in the roof!  The peak is 4 or 5 ft. tall and maybe 6 ft. across the base.

 

 

 

But to return to that Centennial chandelier: As remarked before, it was a gift from France along with the Statue of Liberty.  My housemate Charles, being a historic preservation bigwig, got inside on the renovation of an area in Independence Hall where the Centennial chandelier had been hung and nabbed it for our castle.

Victorian Elegance at the Four Belles

In the photo, the huge Eastlake mirror behind the chandelier was rescued from a doomed house on M Street, along with two fabulous mantles and another mirror in black lacquer. When found, it and its beveled glass had been painted white! It now lives in the Library at Santa Fe’s posh inn and spa at La Posada. So I can occasionally visit my old friend.

In the middle is one of the Baccarat prisms (about 18 in. long) hanging on my porch.  On the right is a lamp (purchased in an antique shop), which is also here in my apartment.  By the French sculptor Auguste Moreau, it sat on the newel post of the tiger-eye oak staircase in our grand reception hall.  A few shadows of the Victorian elegance of the Four Belles.

And to return to my salvage activities: Another piece I still have is a trunk I found in 1974 on like the sixth floor of the wracked-out Iowa building also previously mentioned.  I had to remove its shredded canvas covering and live with the raw wood, but after all these decades, it still holds my blankets and linens.  Like that beautiful building, it has survived!

Trunk Found in the Iowa, 1974

There are naturally many stories to be told about salvaging, but I’ll only impose on you with a few. The first was an adventure of saving a plaster ceiling medallion like the one shown below, though I recalling it being a bit more ornate, if you can imagine that:

Victorian Ceiling Medallion

The derelict house was just a few doors down M Street from the one with the mirrors and mantles. I hauled my ladder into its crumbling dining room and proceeded to the cautious work of removing the ceiling medallion.  In the middle of the job, the entire ceiling of plaster and lathe let go of the joists.  There I was standing at the top of the ladder like Atlas holding up a very heavy sky!  With extreme trepidation and caution I tilted the slab to rest one edge on the floor, and with the other side propped on the ladder, I climbed down.  Then it was a fairly simple job to remove the prize and haul it away in trusty old Lavenia Van Dodge.

After untold hours of cleaning and restoration, I gave the medallion to one of the new urban pioneer neighbors around the Circle. Can’t recall who…  That’s what I did with the mantles, fancy woodwork, and such that I salvaged as welcome-wagon gifts.

A major salvage accomplishment was getting into a gorgeous Greek Revival building at, I believe, 12th and O (former home of DC’s black Masonic Lodge), the day before it came down.  They’d abandoned their library, and my friends and I loaded it out of the back window into Lavenia.  In the horde I found among other fascinating volumes a huge tome called “Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley” by Squier and Davis, which led to my 1992 book “Remember Native America.”  (I’d just seen the old public library on Maryland Avenue get knocked down with all the books still in it!)

And one more anecdote: After salvaging some mantles and sets of fabulous glazed tiles from the fireplace surrounds from another house, I went to a dinner party with the family of a lady friend in Alexandria.  Her aged grandmother was our hostess and was fascinated to hear about all my salvaging activity.  When I mentioned the address of that day’s rescues, the grandmother almost had a cardiac:  It was the house where she’d been a little girl, and the room with the green tiles had been her bedroom.  I came back the next day and gave her one of them as a souvenir.

Victorian Glazed Tile from Fireplace Surround

Later, in 1982, I installed several of the tiles around the kitchen sink in my next Victorian, a little Queen Anne in Denver, with this one left over.

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Ancient Coin Identified

Before revealing the positive ID on that ancient coin I found a half-century ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which I also wrote about in Ancient American, Vol. 22, Issue 119, I really must commend that magazine as an excellent forum for dialog among independent researchers. Rather than the establishment authorities that I contacted (with no response), it was readers of Ancient American who told me what I’d found.

Among other responses with pieces of information, most explicit was the wonderful email from Steve Moore with a photograph of the same coin in fantastic shape:

Roman coin of Maximianus 298-299 AD

and an arcane collectors’ description: “Maximianus (298-299 AD) AE Follis, 9.92 grms, 28 mm,Ticinum mint; Obv.: IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG, Laureate head right.Rev.: GENIO POPV-LIROMANI, Genius naked.” Steve added that the genius is holding a “pater” (plate for offerings) in his right hand. Mystery solved; probably deposited in the early 4th century AD.

A few respondents wrote about who Maximianus was, namely the co-Emperor with Diocletian. A researcher on Roman history, Richard Stross noted that “Rome’s most severe persecution of Christianity was the Great Persecution of AD 303 to 313.” He felt it reasonable that persecuted Christians or supporters of losing political rivals might well have come to this continent. So do I.

I also found Stross’ other thoughts very informative. For instance, about artifact finds, he remarked: “Perishable materials such as wood, cloth, and leather would have rotted. Iron implements generally would have become unrecognizable masses of rust. A small expedition would not build stone buildings, and Romans generally did not use stone for small implements. Gold and silver were rare and expensive, so there would be very little if any on the expedition. The artifacts we would expect to find would be items of bronze, ceramics, or glass. The bronze items, in addition to coins, would be small common articles such as buckles and pins.”

But that’s not all. Stross adds an interesting perspective: “Except for coins, the small bronze artifacts may appear similar to modern scraps of metal. Artifacts of bronze may have been found, but not reported because they were not suspected of being ancient. Roman potshards may have been found, and ignored because they appeared to be broken pieces of modern ceramics. Even an intact cup, bowl, or jug may have appeared to be modern and therefore ignored. An exception would be the small ceramic oil lamps.”

And he knew of such an exception: “It appears that at least one oil lamp may have survived in America. I read a newspaper article in the 1980s of one that was discovered in Chillicothe, Ohio. It was buried several feet deep, so it was not lost recently; it was either lost in ancient times or was intentionally buried. It was examined by an expert, and verified as a genuine antiquity.” Several others have apparently been found…

Some respondents ventured to explain how my coin might have gotten into that flower bed in Ann Arbor. One fellow proposed: “At one time someone made the grand tour of Europe and either found it or bought it as a souvenir. Or perhaps a soldier in WWII found it while on his Tour of Duty over there. Either way, it simply got lost. This would also explain that hoard ‘found’ in 1993 as well as most of the rest.”

Recognizing his facile explanation as Chapter and Verse of the academic dogma, I noted that the site had been in an agricultural field until my house was built, so he quickly revised his scenario to a farmer out plowing who loses his watch-fob. Convenient. The well-trained fellow simply ignored my other note about mineral encrustation from centuries underground.

More charming, if even less credible, was one woman’s “half-cooked, caffeine-induced theory … that early French explorers venturing down into Michigan used the coins to trade with local Native Americans.” I don’t think so. Using Occam’s razor, I’d say my coin was most likely buried in the early 4th century in a small mound on that hilltop overlooking the Huron River.

As a matter of fact, Angelina Spencer wrote that: “I too, along with my brother, found similar coins near a plowed ‘hill’ outside of Monroeville, Ohio near our Huron River.” [She added an intriguing note touching on another important ancient mystery: “Some Firelands settlers accidentally dug up native burials back in the 1800’s (all sitting, facing West), but some were tall with Red hair (whether this is true or hyperbole I do not know). Copper armbands and black pearls were found as well as coins.”]

Some respondents were confident that other artifacts could surely be found on that Ann Arbor hilltop. One fellow, an adept at finding lost objects, virtually guaranteed that gold was to be found there. Now, I’m not particularly allured by “treasure,” but I’m just as certain that other coins are lurking in that vicinity—and maybe an entire burial complex.

All it would take is a good metal detector, appropriate permissions, and someone to wield the machine. There’s bound to be a bunch of accomplished detector folks out there. If such a “someone” wants to take on the project, I might be convinced to supply the address, maybe even convince me to go on the expedition!

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