USA Diaries – Day 28– Is it safe to say that Cahokia was overrated?

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary.

PS: I haven’t kept my promise.. I didn’t post each and every day and now I am trying my best to update all the remaining days from the sanctuary of my Home Sweet Home. 

I am sorry.. you need to forgive me… I am not an archaeologist and you can not expect me to feel the same way about a pile of earth the way the rest of the group might have felt. But I am skipping ahead.. and therefore let me start the details of the day from the very beginning. By this time, it is a granted fact that day just has to start early and there is just no getting around to it. But since I am not a breakfast person, I headed off to the Arc, which I was unable to see the night before. Now, I was a bit scared since the affairs of last night were more or less very much alive in my memory. But the park and the overall area was so breath taking that all my concerns went out of the window. The Arc is a splendid structure, but since I didn’t know the concept behind it … which is very important for me to have any feelings for anything ….. I lacked that connection with it, which I was able to establish with, lets say, the Vietnam Memorial.

By the time I got back to the hotel, people were more or less there and just waiting for a signal from Mark to start loading the van. And within 15 minutes or so we are all ready and heading towards Cahokia. Now I didn’t google Cahokia or anything, because I like to keep this element of surprise and be completely taken away by the very first sight… And in this case too, it was very much true, but just not in the way I had hoped.

So while my Archaeologist friends were all taken away by the sight of the site, for me it was nothing more than a pile of sand. I am sorry… I am really sorry for hurting anyone’s feeling this way.. but that’s what it was .. for me! When they said to us, that lets move along to the next site, I really thought that maybe the next one will be much grander town like say Mohen-jo-Daro – which after this, feels like a real beauty! But the next one was just more of a mound!

Although you do get a pretty good view of the city from the top!

However, the Museum was quite another story! I think I was simply in love with the Museum display and the way everything was organized. My friends comment was also justified.. She said that there were not so many archaeological artifacts retrieved from the site as she had expected to be here.. but the Museum Director in his defense did say that it was because most of those artifacts were displayed in the State Museum.

The Museum was so amazing. The tour of the Museum starts with an Orientation Film, which tells the story of the site and how people lived and how the mounds got developed. At the end of the movie, the backdrop is suppose to rise up to the Cahokia Village display, which I should say would have been quite dramatic, but unfortunately the backdrop wasn’t working and thus we were deprived of this privelage.

 

But the entire museum is a must see, yes there are not many artifacts from the site and therefore, thank god I am not an archaeologist, because I didn’t once think about this. I just thought that the info being given was nicely divided up under different headings. And the display and dioramas were simply to die for. I loved it!

And then how can I forget the village scene display! Amazing!

On the way back, we stopped at an Antiques Mall, and I could have gotten lost in that place, it was so huge and amazing. I mean it had everything in it that I could have every thought possible! But there was so much to see that you need an entire day to go through it. I mean for heaven’s sake, one of us actually found archaeological artifacts and stone tools from this place. I however found these really amazing sign boards and all!

The rest of the way was just another drive lasting around another 6 hours. Dinner was a Chinese affair, and I liked what I had, although I cant recall the names of the dishes which I had.

USA Diaries – Day 27 – I left my heart in St. Louis!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary.

One thing you learn when you are under the supervision of Mark Kenoyer, and that is that he will pack such a schedule that you get the most of everything without wasting a minute of your life. And this is exactly what Sunday was all about! Despite the fact that we were due to travel to St. Louis so that we can visit the site of Cahokia, there was still a session organized for the morning. The session was all about Collection Management and how the University of Wisconsin with its limited budget and all tries to do the best it can for its collection. We also had a big discussion about why is it necessary to have Teaching Collection with which the students can familiarize themselves and learn to handle artifacts and objects and how it can be used for their Research Purposes. The tour was given to us by Danielle who works in the Department and has been taking care of the Collections for a while now. I really like this approach of Western Universities where they let you touch the objects and actually get a feel for them so that you can have a better understanding of their texture quality and everything and there is no denying that you get more out of such experiences then you can ever imagine. We even got a chance to go and visit the effigy mounds many of which just seem to be scattered all over Wisconsin Areas. These Mounds are shaped as certain animals and the exact purpose of these effigy mounds has still not been very clear. The major excavations were done in the early 1900’s and sometime around 1920 but even the evidence found has not been enough to deduce the basic person of these mounds. I would love to post some pictures of them, but then in the pictures they hardly seem like something special… actually to be honest, they didn’t seem like anything special in reality even.. oh well, that’s the non-archaeologist in me speaking! Anyways, so after that we went to grab some lunch at the same place where we ate the first day – this Indian Restaurant called Mirch Masala. And on my way back to the hotel, I saw these bunch of people gathered up outside the Capitol Building – and chalking the sidewalk. Since there seemed to be no explanation for this, I decided to go up to them and just see what are they doing. It turned out that these people were protesting against the arrest of two Veterans who were charged with Chalking on the Side walk. The people simply spread the word out and they had an entire strategy planned out about what they are going to do when the police comes etc. I really thought that it was an ingenious idea for protesting. I simply loved it. 

 

By the time we got back, people had already started to pile up in the Presidential Limousine and many of Mark’s students had also decided to join us for the trip. I have to say that it was a very sweet ride, but apparently there had been a bridal shower or something in it the night before which meant that there was glitter more or less every where. There is hardly anything that I can say.. I mean after all it was just 6 hours drive. There were jokes and discussions and all of that but there is little that can be shared out here.

We did get a chance to see much of the landscape and the problems that are being faced. This year there has been a scarcity of rain and this means that most of the corn fields have gone dead. It was quite sad to see this, which would have an impact on the entire food market of the world.

When we finally reached St Louis we headed off first to the restaurant Rasui – which is an Indian Restaurant. The food was really good and it was nice to have a lassi after so many days – although I do have to say that I will never get used to the idea of having lassi with a straw and without Malai.

But still it wasn’t so bad!

The night stay was at Hyatt and we were pretty excited about staying at such a fancy place. But the most exciting part of the night came when we decided to go out to the Arch, and right then at that time, a shoot out happened right across the road. A car apparently just came and started 3 straight fires…. a few people across the road were just ducking behind a bin. I think someone was injured or something. And then we even got cursed as well by a car which just passed by us. I have to say it was too much adventure for one night.

After all this, there was enough reason to call it a night