Archaeology

What is an Artifact in Archaeology



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If what fellow HELIUM writer Sarah Piper says is true, that "artifacts are the butter of archaeology" then I have a lot of "butter" under my belt in the form of a little-known literary treasure that details the exact location and contents of an ancient Mayan cave, now buried under an aging condo building a block away from Playa de Los Muertos or "Beach of the Dead" in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. "PV", as this tropical playground is known, is on the west coast of Mexico at one of the largest bays in the world, La Bahia de las Banderas or "Bay of Flags".

(An introduction to this copyrighted, but unpublished manuscript titled "Cave of the Dead Canoe"* can be found in my first HELIUM article "My Traveling Buddha".)

The manuscript, which I have been studying for over a decade, describes the life of a young Scottish seaman named Andrew Macquire, a cabin boy to pirate Francis Drake, his vessel The Golden Hind heading for the New World in 1577.

Suddenly, nearing the end of a torturous two-year journey from Plymouth, Andrew is banished from The Golden Hind and is immersed into a brown skin aboriginal culture of Mayan and Polynesian warriors at a spot called Bandera, which is now known as PV.

One day there is an earthquake and tsunami that strike the tiny, palapa-thatched village, but the two hundred or more natives all survive by reaching higher ground, having wisely "read" that "the tide had fallen far to the horizon" and spelled quick disaster.

Later, returning to their destroyed village the natives find everything gone, except for the main cave which had been carved out of a rocky cliff bordering the beach, which was used for shelter and cooking, and also as a "hostel" for Spanish soldiers and amateur European adventurers who occasionally passed through. Unfortunately, the cave had been damaged, and the Chief, fearing it would eventually collapse, ordered the men to seal it off. (Fast forward the twentieth century, when, in the early sixties, a condo apartment building is built upon the buried cave.)

According to Andrew's fascinating tale, if this cave were ever to be opened (and now I'm thinking of Geraldo Rivera's disastrous media fiasco when Al Capone's safe was opened up on national tv -I think they discovered some old whiskey bottles) the archeologist should find a cache of simple objects in the form of ancient pottery shards, beadwork (the beads most likely fine ones made in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, and introduced by Spanish Jesuit monks) and a few broken Spanish weapons.

However, the real treasure would be seen on the walls of the cave where a large mural had been drawn in charcoal, now grown faint with the centuries, depicting animals, serpents and two indigenous warriors "hard at combat".

I recall sitting down and excitedly composing letters to a few re-knowned archaeologists in Europe and the U.S., including Dr. James E. Brady, archaeologist at George Washington University.

Of course, no responses were forthcoming and I soon realized how naive of me to think that these scholars would take my far-fetched story of Andrew's strange tale with more than a grain of salt.




*CAVE OF THE DEAD CANOE by Andrew Macquire as channeled by Frank E. Thomas. Modern English translation by Jody Overend. Copyright 1992 and registered Screenwriters Guild 1992 by Jody Overend. All rights reserved.

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