“USS New Mexico (BB-40) 14-inch projectiles on deck, while the battleship was replenishing her ammunition supply prior to the invasion of Guam, July 1944. The photograph looks forward on the starboard side, with triple 14/50 gun turrets at left. Note floater nets stowed atop the turrets.”
To ancient peoples of the American Southwest, a macaw’s brilliant feathers weren’t just adornments. They were status symbols and spiritual emblems — so precious, in fact, that macaws were kept in captivity and deliberately plucked of their plumage, new evidence suggests.
Macaw skeletons from three prehistoric pueblos in New Mexico bear signs of feather harvesting, according to analysis presented on 31 March at a meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Vancouver, Canada. But the skeletons also hint that the macaws’ handlers went to great lengths to care for their demanding charges. “People were doing their utmost to keep them alive,” says Randee Fladeboe, an archaeologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville who analysed the macaw bones.
Archaeologists studying the ancient Native Americans called the Puebloans and nearby groups have found macaw bones and feathers dating from ad 300 to ad 1450 at sites ranging from Utah in the American Southwest to Chihuahua in Mexico. It is likely that many of these birds were imported; there is scanty evidence of macaw breeding, except at one Mexican site, and many macaws are tropical. The highly prized scarlet macaw (Ara macao), for example, lives at least 500 kilometres to the southeast.
Fladeboe examined the wing bones of 17 scarlet and military macaws (Ara militaris) from three pueblos. Fifteen of the birds had small bumps marring the upper surfaces of their wing bones.
A macaw’s flight feathers are rooted in the bone, so pulling them out can cause bleeding and infection, Fladeboe says. Multiple infections, or a combination of infection and malnutrition, lead to bumps like those on the skeletons. Macaws do sometimes yank out their own feathers, but the ancient bones show traces of multiple feather loss along their entire lengths and on both right and left wings. To Fladeboe, it seems unlikely that 15 of the 17 macaws she studied would strip themselves so methodically.
Seventy-two years ago today, on July 16th, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was tested in a remote stretch of desert in south-central New Mexico known as the Trinity Site. This test occurred only weeks before two of them were dropped on Japan in an effort to end World War II. The mushroom cloud it created was seen for miles, and created an enormous crater in the ground. Today, all that remains of the birth of the atomic age is that crater (eroded to be mostly flat), the McDonald family’s ranch house where the bomb was assembled, and some strange green glass that was created by the detonation. This glass is strewn all across the crater, and every piece is the property of the U.S. government. It is also slightly radioactive. (We put it back down on the ground after examining it!)
This glass, called Trinitite, is found nowhere else in the world.
Xiuhcoátl, the Turquoise Serpent, or Fire Serpent.
Xiuhcoátl is the Nagual, the Spirit Animal of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Turquoise Lord, Teótl of Fire, Time, the Center, the Hearth, and Wisdom, Father to the Teótl and embodiment of wisdom. The Xiuhcoátl is also an atlatl wielded by Huitzilopochtli, the Sun at the Zenith, who personifies the victory of wisdom over ignorance.
The Turquoise Serpent is the dry season, as opposed to Quetzalcoátl, the Plumed Serpent, who is the wet season. Metaphorically, in the wet Mexican summer, Quetzalcoátl descends to the earth and covers it with his skin and plumage; all the earth is covered with his green feathers, and life blooms. In the dry Winter, Xiuhcoátl descends, and with his fiery skin covers the earth, and all the vegetation dries out and dies.
The serpent also represents the movement of time; its very body is shaped like the year-glyph, its body forming trapezoidal, year-glyph shapes, and its tail is the glyph itself. Thus, the serpent Xiuhcoátl is symbolic of day, fire, turquoise, the dry season, and wisdom.
In the photos, he appears at the top as the Spirit Animal of Xiuhtecuhtli; he circles the body of the Turquoise Lord, and from his flaming skin emerges calendar glyphs, representing time. In the detail, can be seen his curling snout and his year-glyph tail. The following two pictures are ancient Mexica stone carvings of Xiuhcoátl, and at the bottom, one of my paintings in which Huitzilopochtli, the Hummingbird on the Left, the Sun at its Zenith, holds Xiuhcoátl in his hand as a weapon with which to defeat his sister the moon, and, metaphorically, the triumph of wisdom over ignorance.
My paintings are available as limited edition prints in my Etsy store at this link.
The 5"/25 (127 mm) battery aboard the U.S. Navy battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40) prepares to fire during the bombardment of Saipan, 15 June 1944.
Note the time-fuze setters on the left side of each gun mount, each holding three “fixed” rounds of ammunition; the barrels of 20 mm machine guns at the extreme right; and triple the 14"/50 (34.5 cm) guns in the background.
(Source: Official U.S. Navy photo 80-G-K-14162 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command)
This is from the mythological
sequence describing the descent of Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, to
the Underworld, to recover the bones of the ancestors from the Lord of
Death, in order to create the new, and current, race of men. At the top,
the Teótl gather in Tamoanchan, the Twelfth layer of the heavens, to
order Quetzalcoatl and his Spirit Animal, Xolotl, the dog-god, to
descend to the Underworld to recover the precious bones. Below, they
descend on a rope adorned with eagle plumes, which symbolically
represents the Milky Way, through the subsequent 11 layers of the
heavens, before they enter through the belly of the earth Goddess,
Coatlicue. These layers are, in order, the Red, Yellow, and Blue
heavens, the Daytime and the Nighttime Skies, the heaven of shooting
stars, the heaven of Venus, the heaven of the Sun, the heaven of the
stars, and the heaven of the moon and clouds. Below is the surface of
the earth and the imperial city of Tenochtitlan.
The painting is the preliminary drawing for the painting, which will be painted in full color. A print of the preliminary drawing is available on my Etsy store at this link.
Pfc Terry P. Moore of the 7th Infantry Division on Okinawa with a BAR, photographed by W. Eugene Smith for his story “24 Hours in the Life of a Soldier”. Pfc Moore, 23, was from Albuquerque, New Mexico. His unit was 2nd Platoon, Company F. 184th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.