Monday, April 19, 2010

Only a couple of decades late.

I grew up in Southeastern Kansas. There's not much I can say about it, it's a quiet rural place. And I was never interested in it, until now...

Recently I've been thinking about the landscape I grew up in. It's a flat place, not the mind-numbing flatness of western Kansas, there is some roll, some hilliness as the land rises toward the Ozark mountains of Missouri and Arkansas, but still smooth with a horizon that stretches forever. The sky is unbroken apart from the electric poles and the seemed utterly unremarkable until recently. Now, living in Japan, the horizon is cut short by mountains.

So now, I look back with a little bit of nostalgia on those wide open plains. And what's more, I find myself contemplating the history of the place. A part of the landscape is an interesting phenomenon; in amongst the endless fields, you will find the occasional lonely hill, rising abruptly from the earth and coming to a broad flat top...utterly alien in that flat land, and upon reflection, very hard to explain. So of course, being the place that Kansas is, the explanation people found was "Indians!" (At the time, 20-odd years ago, "Native American" wasn't what people were saying.)

Most everyone believed, or at least said, that these must be artificial, and so the product of those people who had lived on that land before us. As I grew, I dismissed the idea as the result of hick ignorance (something that became a habit to a know-it-all college boy...) and forgot the idea.

But now, in my nostalgia, I've done some research about the idea, and it turns out to be utterly plausible. There are a large number of Native burial mounds throughout Kansas and Missouri, apparently made by people who populated the midwest as long as 2,500 years ago. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any way to tell if a mound is, indeed, a burial mound apart from digging into it--and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

So yeah, it's fascinating. Research is fun...

And if anyone can tell me about those mounds, I'd love to hear it.

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