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Thursday, April 13th, 2006

Time Event
1:46p
Three small books ...
While down in Phoenix this past weekend, I got in one activity that I (as opposed to the kids or the in-laws) wanted to do, which was go visit the Pueblo Grande archaeological site. This is pretty remarkable, being right downtown, just east of the airport. Of course, the whole greater Phoenix area had been home to the Hohokam a thousand years ago, so finding their remains is not unusual in that regards. The Pueblo Grande site has a large mound with various associated additional buildings (and several more acres not fully excavated), with a small museum attached. I picked up these three guidebooks in the museum gift shop.

As those reading these posts regularly know, I used to have a small publishing company, and I'm quite envious that the publisher of these has been able to "make a go of it" with these quarter-page format saddle-stitched books. I was also impressed that these were the first books I've seen that featured the new "ISBN-13" identification numbering (also indicating to me that these are in enough demand for frequent re-printing). As these are quite brief (32 pages each), I figured I'd cover them all in one review.

First, there is Elizabeth C. Welsh's Easy Field Guide to Southwestern Petroglyphs, a decent over-view of what petroglyphs are, how they were (variously) made, how they can or can't be dated, etc. There are tons of illustrations of assorted petroglyphs, with information about what "style" each is, and some conjecture as to what they might mean. This is an interesting discussion, as it brings in interpretations of current Southwest native tribal experts, as well as examples from our own culture (e.g. would somebody 300 years from now recognize Smokey The Bear as an icon for forest fire awareness?).

Next is James R. Cunkle's Easy Field Guide to Indian Art & Legends of the Southwest which looks at Southwestern native myths as they've "survived" in the pottery of the Mimbres people, part of the Mogollon culture of 1,000 years ago. The Mimbres burial customs involved placing a bowl over the face of the deceased, with a small hole punched through the bottom, and these bowls have been excavated in various locations over the years, and form the basis of this booklet. Thirty three bowls are pictured, with a brief explanation (or conjecture) of what the design represents. Some are easily recognizable (with variations of Kokopelli or Hopi "trickster" figures), while some are interpreted via other known Native American myths, and some are just described, with their significance guessed at. Again, hardly exhaustive (although a more extensive book by the same author is recommended in the intro), it is an interesting way of presenting the subject.

Finally, there's Rick Harris' Easy Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Southwest, which is sort of thematically between the other two. This is primarily the description of nearly 200 symbols, ranging from clan icons to spirit and animal imagery, with outlines on how to "read" things like directional cues, and combination symbols (such as "trail leads to settlement beyond mountains"). I'm sure that the Von Danikens of this world will really appreciate the fact that all the "Spirits" pictured look exactly like the heads of classic pulp-era SciFi robots (except for the one that looks like that Popping Martian thing!), including what could easily have been the prototype for "Dr. Theopolis" from the cheesy Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV show.

I'd normally point folks off to Amazon to pick up copies of these (were you so inclined), however, Amazon proper, while listing these, has a "sourcing fee" added on that's more than the cost of the ($1.50 list) book, and their used/new vendor area adds on $3.50 shipping per title! So, if you're looking to pick up these, I'd recommend going straight to the publisher, American Traveler Press, where you'd just end up spending $2.50 for shipping for all three.


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