Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The quest for the Holy relic of archaeology: part nine

Wolf with caribou hindquarter
Photo: Denali NPS

The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong.

Inuit proverb, Kivalliq region, Nunavut, Canada

It must have been decades ago when I read a Scientific American published study on the relationship between wolves and caribou, I wish I could give you the citation, but I cannot find it in a web search. It must be difficult for everyone to find because you constantly hear plans to cull wolves because they are decimating herds of various species. Long before Man came along to save them, wolves and caribou did quite well on their own. This is what happens with wolves and caribou: Wolves will descend upon a large herd of caribou and eat their fill. It is easiest for them to pick the young, the old and the injured, but they do not hold this idea as any sort of wolf philosophy, it's just the way it most often works out. If the wolves did not show up, the caribou would just keep grazing until nothing was left and then they would move away looking for another area to strip for food. The wolves keep eating and breeding and the caribou numbers keep diminishing. When the caribou herd numbers become very low, too low to be able to survive (there is safety in numbers), they will spilt up and seek out new herds to join. This has the beneficial effect of mixing genetic material and avoiding the weakening that inbreeding creates. The new combined herds are made stronger because of the extra numbers. The wolves might appear to suffer as a result of all of this but the best hunters and their offspring do better than some so the caribou also make the wolves strong. The wolves will howl and thus find distant packs to join and hunt more caribou and their genetic material is refreshed , too. The numbers of  the populations of each go up and they go down and then back up again and vegetative life gets a chance to replenish itself. A balance occurs and the entire food chain survives. Of course, we believe we could run it all better.

When you see archaeology taking on aspects of a large (herd) religion, that is, a religion manifested by its adherence to a single mode of survival and a rejection of all that is different from it, the spiritual values on which it feeds (vegetation) will become stripped away and the herd will starve to death. Fortunately, the predators will arrive (government) and reduce the numbers of archaeologists and many of these will soon move away and find other ways to express their needs, becoming independent foragers, joining amateur groups, whatever, thus mixing their genetic material (ideas) and guaranteeing their individual survival as something different (evolution). But when people successfully control the predators by getting the governments to continue to allow the herd to strip the vegetation, then the species becomes extinct. Its inbreeding and lack of new ideas weakens it until it is no more.

Nietzsche said "God is dead", but he was looking at the large "monocultural" religions who, like their agricultural correlates strips the earth of its regenerative powers. First you see the instruments of regeneration start to disappear. In religion, this is syncretism, the mixing of the genetic material of the psyche which makes it stronger. In agriculture, the bees start to vanish. The monocultural religions do their very best to kill each other off but even if only one survived, it would soon starve to death. (extinction).
"The practice of religious debate flourished in South Asia, often with great acrimony, particularly in intra-Buddhist contexts. But, in the long run, the mainstream position for both Hinduism and Buddhism is that religious diversity is inevitable, beneficial, and necessary because of human diversity. Hinduism has taken this position perhaps more seriously than any other religion. East Asia produced an equally complex and quite different family of religions -- Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto. Here the solution to religious diversity is especially interesting. Everyone, except for religious specialists such as priests, "belongs" to all the religions, calling upon each one for different needs. The idea of exclusive loyalty to one religion is rather foreign and incomprehensible to most people." 
Rita M. Gross, Religious Diversity: Some Implications for Monotheism
Curiously, the word "evolution" is absent in the above paper as it is in Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane. Whether we see evolution as Natural Selection or made more mathematically likely through epigenetic processes, we should avoid influences from neo-Darwinism which seeks to take over from nature by culling the wolves. This is the mind-set of UNESCO, national cultural property, dictatorships and Monsanto. It is better by far to "go organic".

It is said that opposites attract. This is really nonsense. It is just that opposites have less in common and a certain amount of commonality can cause both, sometimes, to fight to the death in order to win over everything that is left.That is why extreme fringe archaeology and doctrinal archaeology are really quite similar: their materialism forms itself into opposing poles and each becomes ever increasingly extreme. They are really trying to kill each other.

John's Coydog Community page


  1. Hi John,
    Great article. You took the words right out of my mouth.

    I haven't had the time to read your blog lately, but took some today. I saw that you quit smoking. Two an one-half years ago I'd had it so I quit my job, bought a tent, loaded the car and hit the road. I felt I needed to get out of my routine, so I drove for two months, visiting, camping and hiking. It worked. K

  2. Thanks K. Nice to hear from you again!

    There's nothing like a "walkabout" or a "road trip" to refresh the psyche.



  3. Good morning. I reached Tashi and he did not have much to add about Bill. Have run off a summary of The Sacred and the Profane . I tried reading it on line but I need time to digest the content. You certainly point me towards interesting reading materials which make me think deeply. My friends won't have a clue what I am talking about if I present these ideas to them.
    I have been trying for two days to reach the events coordinator at Fort Calgary to plan a Christmas dinner for the First Canadian Collectors Club. I am their acting administrative secretary. The ironic thing about me being a member is I do not collect things. I just enjoy finding out about the things they collect, most are very knowledgeable and lead interesting lives.

    1. I'm glad you were able to get hold of Tashi, but sorry that he did not have too much to add to what you already knew. I think, though, that Bill would have been very happy to have left a few mysteries about himself. Often he would give a sly smile about something someone said about him, but would say nothing.

      I live to get people thinking in new directions.

      I have not heard of The First Canadian Collectors Club and can think of several different interpretations of the name. Please tell more!

  4. You make me laugh. They were the first collectors club to be organized in Canada some 45 years ago. I wonder what interpretations you were thinking of I bet they were interesting. I enjoyed your riding stories but not the one were you broke your arm. I was making pictures in my mine of the situations. Have you ever read any of Emily Carr's novels. If you want to truly experience pictures being made in ones mind read her works. I had the opportunity to attend a showing of her works that was held in Victoria at the Royal Museum. I stood in front of the first work displayed and cried I found it so moving.

  5. Besides the one you mention there are:

    (2)The first club for Collectors of Canadiana
    (3)A club for collectors of First Nations objects
    (4)Viking collectors
    (5)A club for collectors of objects of 17th century French settlers in Quebec
    (6)A club for collectors of any pioneer stuff

    I was pretty sure that it was not no's 4 or 5 because it is in Calgary

    I don't remember hearing that Emily Carr wrote novels! I do love her paintings, though. Did you catch the Tom Thompson show at Master's Gallery a few year's ago? It was mind-boggling. There was young girl who lived next door and had come to Calgary to study art-conservation. She was also working at Master's Gallery and was the hostess for the show. As Carrie had left no will, I gave her all of Carrie's books on artist's materials because I thought Carrie would have approved of that. Young Chloe then gave me an invitation to the opening party, and there, introduced me to the various Mount Royal elite who were mostly sipping wine and eating the hors d'oeuvres. I was trying to look at the paintings in chronological order as they had been arranged on the walls by a decorator. I think it was the largest collection of his work ever to have been shown.

    About a month later, Chloe's parents came to take her back to BC after convincing her to shift her studies to law instead of art conservation. Just what we need, more lawyers. Perhaps Carrie's books will yet work their magic on her though.That's what I have decided to tell myself.

  6. Thank you for your sense of humour everyone needs a good laugh. Emily's first book won a Governor General's award. She was so gifted she could write poetry, political satire (which was brilliant), paint in different techniques and work with clay.
    Your guesses 2, 3 and 6 are pretty close. It just wonderful be famous for being an owner of a beautiful dog. The loyal dog that looked after my sister and myself was different in that she was born with a short tail and 50% of her pups had the same genetic marker. People wanted to have her pups because of that oddity.

  7. Tom Thomson also managed to get some recognition here before he died, just... Actually, I think the arts in Canada got more attention in the past than it does today, where the wisest thing to do is to head south of the border!

  8. Unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to view an original Thomson in person. What I have seen as been through art books. Yes there is an American actor loves his work, no wonder one has to go south of the border. I have had the pleasure of travelling in North Ontario to see the beautiful country that inspired him. Oh the call of the loon how haunting it sounds. Also, the largest dragonflies I have ever viewed. This country is so grand.

  9. When Chloe gave me the invitation, I imagined that there would be perhaps one lesser painting, a few drawings and perhaps some modern reproductions for sale. His paintings have now topped the million dollar mark at auction. When I saw the walls were full of original paintings it came as quite a shock! I've never been further east in Canada than just over the border into Saskatchewan.

  10. There is so much to see especially the changing landscape. Manitoba is so, so flat and as you enter Saskatchewan the vegetation starts to change and the elevation starts to rise. I love reading maps and looking at all the different geological forms. When I travel I have to read everthing I can about the history and landforms. I must drive people bananas but that is me. I have been to every province except Newfoundland and Labador and the northern parts. Cape Breton is a favorite of mine.

    1. I think I've been stopped a bit by the emptiness along the TransCanada. It's like Walt Wingfield said in "Lettters from Wingfield Farm" about the the council reports in the local paper:

      "They're like the road between Winnipeg and Calgary, they could do with some editing":


      (starts at about 6:40)

  11. You are right about the emptiness between Winnipeg and Calgary but the beauty of the vast open spaces is amazing. As I have told others one can certainly see what is coming towards you. I have never been to London but I have been able to learn about it through my younger daughter who has been there often. Hawaii, the big island, is the furthest I have been from Canada and it is not as commercial as some of the other islands. There are some very interesting archaeology sites, one has a altar where up to ten thousand poor souls were sacrificed all because they broke some stupide rule, like a woman eating a banana which was only for men. I am off to the neighbours to returns some things.

  12. Or as a friend once told me "You can sit on your porch and watch your dog run away for two days" All along the Trans Canada from Alberta into Saskatchewan the original prairie has vanished and what grows in the way of grass has either been planted or has spread from where it was originally planted. But if you go down into the south-east corner of Alberta about as south as the last east-west road before getting to the U.S. Border there are places where you can see the original prairie grass where the wind makes it look like waves on a green ocean. South of that road is (was?) a line of abandoned ranches with their falling down houses. It was in that area I once saw a huge herd of antelope grazing with their sentinels keeping guard at the periphery of the herd. As I tried to get closer, the sentinels stamped their hooves and the herd moved off in a wave, going under a barbed wire fence without seeming to break step. In one of the abandoned (1920's)ranch-houses I saw the bleached skeleton of an antelope who had fallen through a rotting floor and had become injured or trapped.

    North-east of there at the Saskatchewan end of the Cypress Hills, you can look from higher ground from east to south and see the curvature of the earth as the land falls away to lower altitudes: no trees, no fences, and land untouched by any human, ever. Nearby there is a desert area with small dried up wadis and a bit of very low scrub vegetation and the smell of sage. I heard a rattlesnake near where I was walking. As best I can remember it was in this general area:

    49°33'30.09" N 109°49'05.37" W

    you can find it on Google Earth. Just zoom up to about 21,000 feet.

    The story of the banana reminds me a bit of the superstitions of the Hill People of south-east Asia, where just arriving and someone then getting sick could get you killed for witchcraft or something!

    From another part of the world, I just read this passage from Sheik Hahmoudi about T. E. Lawrence in 1911:

    'Once he fell sick in my house and when it appeared that he would be very ill, the neighbours came round and advised me to put him out, lest he should die and his family should suspect me and the government put me in prison. I refused to listen but before he lost consciousness he called me and said, "Don't be afraid Hamoudi. See, here on this paper I have written to my father to say that if I die you are not the cause." So I fed him with milk and nursed him till he was well.'