Part 1 - Exhibit Highlights
THIS MUSEUM of the Salish online exhibit of The God That Man Forgot features:
* Twenty-one pieces manufactured in Neolithic and early Bronze Age Asia. These artifacts are a small part of the first cache of Neolithic Chinese and northeast Asian artifacts ever found in North America. 45-WH-5-1205, 45-WH-5-1691, 45-WH-5-1641, 45-WH-5-1556, 45-WH-5-1182, 45-WH-5-1491, 45-WH-5-1476, 45-WH-5-1201, 45-WH-5-1552, 45-WH-5-1632, 45-WH-5-1656, 45-WH-5-1506, 45-WH-5-1415, 45-WH-5-1629, 45-WH-5-1513, 45-WH-5-1477, 45-WH-5-1436, 45-WH-5-1710, 45-WH-5-1678, 45-WH-5-1050, 45-WH-5-1281
* Twenty-one pieces manufactured in Neolithic and early Bronze Age Asia depicting the Chinese dragon in its ancient pig dragon, horse dragon and elephant dragon forms. These are the first Neolithic Asian dragons ever found in North America. 45-WH-5-1205, 45-WH-5-1691, 45-WH-5-1641, 45-WH-5-1556, 45-WH-5-1182, 45-WH-5-1491, 45-WH-5-1476, 45-WH-5-1201, 45-WH-5-1552, 45-WH-5-1632, 45-WH-5-1656, 45-WH-5-1506, 45-WH-5-1415, 45-WH-5-1629, 45-WH-5-1513, 45-WH-5-1477, 45-WH-5-1436, 45-WH-5-1710, 45-WH-5-1678, 45-WH-5-1050, 45-WH-5-1281
* Eleven Neolithic Asian-made pieces depicting the domesticated horse -- nine horses in what appear to be archaic macramed rawhide halters or head nets without a bit, plus one horse with a bridle that features a round metal ring on the cheek, and one which may be bitted. Since the horse was apparently domesticated in northeast Asia about 7,000 years ago, and the horse bit was introduced about 5,600 years ago, the pieces with images of unbitted horses must date to the 1,400 year period in between. The artifacts with images of horses wearing bridles with a metal ring and a bit appear to have been made soon after the bit was introduced. These are the oldest known images of the domesticated horse and tack anywhere in the world. 45-WH-5-1641, 45-WH-5-1556, 45-WH-5-1182, 45-WH-5-1491, 45-WH-5-1476, 45-WH-5-1201, 45-WH-5-1552, 45-WH-5-1632, 45-WH-5-1656, 45-WH-5-1415, 45-WH-5-1629
* Eighteen Neolithic Asian-made ceramic stoneware artifacts that are either unfinished or have been black fired, englobed, coated with oxides and/or crystal glazed, ancient methods of finishing pottery from the time before fully vitrified ceramic glazing was invented. These are among the oldest known Chinese ceramic stoneware artifacts anywhere in the world, including China. 45-WH-5-1691, 45-WH-5-1641, 45-WH-5-1556, 45-WH-5-1182, 45-WH-5-1201, 45-WH-5-1552, 45-WH-5-1632, 45-WH-5-1656, 45-WH-5-1506, 45-WH-5-1415, 45-WH-5-1629, 45-WH-5-1513, 45-WH-5-1477, 45-WH-5-1436, 45-WH-5-1710, 45-WH-5-1678, 45-WH-5-1050, 45-WH-5-1281
* Four Asian-made ceramic stoneware artifacts that employ Kaolin clay -- sometimes called China clay -- as a white surface slip. These are the oldest known examples of Kaolin clay use in Chinese ceramics in the world, including China. 45-WH-5-1691, 45-WH-5-1641, 45-WH-5-1629, 45-WH-5-1632
* Four pieces of Neolithic Asian-made ceramic jade. These are the oldest known Chinese ceramic jade artifacts found anywhere in the world, including China. 45-WH-5-1182, 45-WH-5-1632, 45-WH-5-1506, 45-WH-5-1281
* One Neolithic Asian-made ceramic stoneware piece that utilizes carved Egyptian faience on one side, and black firing with white crystal glaze englobement on the other. This is the oldest known example of Egyptian faience found anywhere in the world, including Egypt. 45-WH-5-1513
* Two Neolithic Asian-made ceramic stoneware artifacts with fully vitrified glazed surfaces. These and other glazed ceramic pieces from Temixwten are the oldest known Chinese glazed ceramic stoneware artifacts found anywhere in the world, including China. 45-WH-5-1552, 45-WH-5-1710
* Two Neolithic Asian-made ceramic stoneware pieces that feature celadon, the striking green color that later became a centerpiece of Chinese ceramic production beginning in the Northern Song Dynasty. These are the oldest known examples of celadon in Chinese ceramic artifacts found anywhere in the world, including China. 45-WH-5-1552, 45-WH-5-1632
* Six Neolithic Asian-made ceramic stoneware artifacts that show the evolution of Chinese macrame from a loose, almost free-form method of joining several attachments to the same point on a horse bridle before the invention of hard metal rings, into the highly formalized
and decorative craft known today. These are the oldest known images of Chinese macrame anywhere in the world, including China, as well as the oldest image of the "God's Eye" pattern. 45-WH-5-1556, 45-WH-5-1182, 45-WH-5-1491, 45-WH-5-1476, 45-WH-5-1710, 45-WH-5-1477
* Two Neolithic Asian-made ceramic stoneware artifacts showing that one of the signature visual conventions of of Native American art of the North Pacific Coast -- the stacking of figures, seen most prominently in the renowned totem poles of the Haida and the Tlingit -- is derived from visual conventions that Paleo-Indian immigrants brought with them from Neolithic Asia. These are the oldest known examples of the stacking of figures in the art of the Northwest Coast of North America. 45-WH-5-1710, 45-WH-5-1050
* Twenty-one Neolithic Asian-made ceramic stoneware artifacts showing that the ancestors of the Salish brought at least part of their pantheon with them when the emigrated to the New World, specifically the dragon, Ch'inekw', and the double-headed serpent, Sisiutl. These are the oldest known examples of the Ch'inekw' and the Sisiutl ever found in North America. 45-WH-5-1205, 45-WH-5-1691, 45-WH-5-1641, 45-WH-5-1556, 45-WH-5-1182, 45-WH-5-1491, 45-WH-5-1476, 45-WH-5-1201, 45-WH-5-1552, 45-WH-5-1632, 45-WH-5-1656, 45-WH-5-1506, 45-WH-5-1415, 45-WH-5-1629, 45-WH-5-1513, 45-WH-5-1477, 45-WH-5-1436, 45-WH-5-1710, 45-WH-5-1678, 45-WH-5-1050, 45-WH-5-1281
Part 2 - The One-Eyed God
DO YOU RECOGNIZE any of the 21 faces featured in this exhibit? They represent a god that mankind has forgotten.
But for 5,000 years, charms and other small objects with this deity on them were carried out of Asia by by Paleo-Indian immigrants to the New World and left on the charm altars at the ancient Salish Indian village of Temixwten, 2,000 miles into North America.
Look again at the face of this long-forgotten Neolithic Asian god. Donald Mitchell, writing in the Smithsonian Institution's Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast, described it as "a fantastic segmented creature."
In fact, it is a composite face made of other creatures and scenes, somewhat like the work of 17th century Austrian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who painted portraits of people that were composed of other things such as vegetables and sea creatures.
So depending on your perspective, the face of this forgotten god always appears to be more than one thing, or more than it seems -- which is to say, profound. But there are a few common elements in its depiction, and one feature that is always found. The one universal is that this deity only has one seeing eye. This is why I call this motif the One-Eyed God.
Beyond that, the nose and often the eye of the One-Eyed God are formed by a reptile, either a Chinese dragon or a snake, often white. The mouth is likewise frequently formed by a reptile, either a Chinese dragon or a snake, again often white.
This motif of the head and neck of a Chinese dragon curving across the face of another dragon can be seen in a Hongshan jade pendant in the Stutzman Collection at Cornell University, where a horse dragon curves across the face of a pig dragon.
Another iconographic feature of the One-Eyed God: a rushing stream often flows across the lower part of the One-Eyed God's composite face, which is frequently teeming with fish. At the same time, since everything associated with the One-Eyed God appears to be more than one thing, the stream often gives this forgotten deity out of Neolithic Asia the appearance of a full, Caucasian beard.
The One-Eyed God is commonly portrayed with a Caucasian eye as well, although the Asian eye appears on some pieces as well. And on one charm in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, 45-WH-5-1710, a figure with an Asian eye and fierce countenance is portrayed on top of another figure with round Caucasian eye and a look of dismay.
Surprisingly -- considering all these pieces came from an ancient North American Indian village -- the Chinese dragon is featured over and over again on artifacts from Temixwten. In fact, the Chinese dragon appears on every piece in The God That Man Forgot exhibit. The archaic pig dragon, horse dragon and elephant dragon forms of the Chinese dragon are represented in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, and all three are used to form parts of the larger One-Eyed God deity, although the horse dragon form appears the vast majority of the time.
The domesticated horse is also portrayed frequently at Temixwten, often with archaic macrame head net and nose band, rather than bit, although there are some depictions of bitted horses as well. Frequently, the iconography of the horse and the dragon merge, so that the dragon is shown bridled with reins and lead rope. Merging even further, some pieces appear to present the dragon and the domesticated horse copulating on the face of the One-Eyed God.
Just as surprising as the presence of Chinese dragon and domesticated horse imagery at Temixwten is the apparent presence of the Mexican serpent, specifically the conjure serpent motif. The conjure serpent motif -- a snake with a human face in its mouth -- is seen in both the Maya and the Aztec between 700 AD and 1500 AD. From Maya texts that have recently been translated, we know that the Maya believed the serpent of smoke that arose from burning paper soaked with the blood of the supplicant could conjure a deceased relative or ancestor for the living.
The conjure serpent motif is seen dramatically on one piece in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, 45-WH-5-1182, a finely finished ceremonial stone knife in green ceramic jade. 45-WH-5-1182 is a beautiful and important piece. It has an archaically bridled Chinese dragon / horse on one side, and a conjure serpent on the other side, where the conjure serpent forms the mouth of the One-Eyed God.
Two other One-Eyed God pieces included in The God That Man Forgot exhibit also combine the iconography of China and Mexico in the same piece, 45-WH-5-1678 and 45-WH-5-1281. So it seems that Temixwten, the One-Eyed God, and three striking pieces from The God That Man Forgot exhibit -- 45-WH-5-1182, 45-WH-5-1678 and 45-WH-5-1281 -- could be the long-sought missing link between the Old World dragon and the New World serpent.
I date the pieces included in The God That Man Forgot exhibit between roughly 7,500 and 2,500 years ago, based largely on the evolution of horse tack and stoneware ceramics, as well as visible features such as the stylization of common, persistent iconography. This exhibit covers the period from the late Stone Age through the very early Bronze Age, from before the domestication of the horse and the invention of ceramic stoneware through the invention of the metal bit and and glazed ceramics. It covers the time from when no one man had the power impose his will on large numbers of people to the time of kings, the rise of the first Dynasty in China, the invention of hard metals, the written word and money.
The curious connection between this ancient, long-forgotten Neolithic Asian god, the Chinese dragon, the early domestication of animals, a people who we no longer think of Asian, the paleo-Indian migration to North America, the Mexican serpent, and the ancient North American Indian village of Temixwten can't help but raise a twittering jungle of questions.
So have you seen a wandering god with one crystal eye, a Chinese dragon for a nose, and a rushing salmon stream for a beard? May have ancestor in mouth...
Part 3 - Temixwten
LOCATED IN the lower Fraser Valley about 40 miles from modern Vancouver, B.C., Canada, Temixwten may be the oldest continually inhabited place in North America.
Although Temixwten itself it has never been fully plowed, let alone subjected to systematic archaeological explored, there are several archaeological sites within 50 miles that give an indication of Temixwten's age. The oldest of these -- the Milliken Site near Hope, British Columbia -- has been Carbon-14 dated between 9,000 and 11,000 years ago, and is among the oldest known places of human habitation in North America.
But the Milliken Site was only inhabited seasonally. It was a place in the Fraser Canyon where people from up and down the lower Fraser River gathered to harvest and dry salmon. Perched on the side of a narrow, wind-whipped and otherwise inhospitable canyon, there was no reason for people to be there except to harvest fish, and people would not have traveled to the Milliken Site until population pressure at the primary permanent villages made it necessary.
Temixwten is a much more hospitable spot than the Milliken Site, and Temixwten was a year round village -- evidenced by the presence of both pit houses and long houses, as well as an extremely robust polished stone tool making industry. And as good as the salmon fishery was in the Fraser Canyon, the fishery at Temixwten was better.
At Temixwten, you didn't have to travel to fish; you just stepped outside your pit house door. Temixwten was itself one of the choicest fishing spots on the entire lower Fraser. Every year, the sockeye and assorted other salmonids came right to the Temixwten village site itself, and presented themselves at the fabulous Temixwten salmon weir on the Sumas River (Sumas may be an Anglicized corruption of Temixw). Down river from the weir, the river dropped into a shady canyon, with the village on the west bank above, so that fishing was almost as easy as deciding which bright blueback you wanted, and spearing it.
Nor was Temixwten's natural wealth measured only in sockeye salmon. Today, the mouth of the Sumas River -- its confluence with the Fraser River a dozen miles north of the village site -- is recognized as one of the richest oolichan fisheries on the lower Fraser, and one can probably assume that was also true before the coming of the whites. And water fowl frequented Sumas Lake in incredible numbers as late as the turn of the 20th century. In fact, Temixwten was exceptionally well situated at the end of the last Ice Age.
Try to imagine that time 11,000 years ago, when men used stone tools and much of the earth was still locked in ice. The ice tongue called the Sumas Stade had retreated from the lower Fraser Valley, leaving islands of ice strewn across the landscape. What we now call the Sumas Valley was one of the first areas in the Lower Mainland to be freed, and the river that flowed in that valley -- the Sumas River -- was one of the first to welcome back the recolonizing salmon and the fur-dressed men amd women who followed them, since its entire drainage is contained in the low western foothills, not the interior of the North Cascades, which was still covered in ice -- thousands of feet thick in some places.
It was a time when most of the Pacific Coast of North America -- apart from the Queen Charlotte Islands and a few other isolated spots -- was still buried deep in ice. Nonetheless, archaeologists believe that one of the main Paleo-Indian migration routes into North America was down the coast from the Aleutian Islands in ocean going canoes or similar craft, especially for the coastal tribes, whose origin stories frequently begin with some sort of long and dangerous canoe journey. The biggest challenge for these Paleo-Indian immigrants on the coastal migration route into the New World was NOT just crossing the Bering Strait into North American coastal waters, it was safely steering south of the ice.
Many didn't make it, judging by the oral record of Tlingit and the Nootka, both of which speak of the first ancestors nearly dying of thirst on the sea until rain saved them, sometimes repeatedly. In Daughters of Copper Woman by Ann Cameron, eleven of the twelve in the New World bound canoe perished -- including all the "memorizers" who carried the lore of the people who became the Nootka on the west side of Vancouver Island, now called Nuu-chah-nulth. According to the legend, only one girl from that escaping canoe -- Copper Woman -- survived on the harsh coast. Other Paleo-Indian emigrants were more lucky, and came ashore to human hospitality, a fire and fish to eat.
But where was the safe haven these late Paleo-Indian immigrants sought? Well, if you were a Paleo-Indian immigrant to the New World and you were in a canoe coasting south along the West Coast of North America at the end of the last Ice Age, the first fair harbor that you would have found south of the ice would have been the Fraser River, the mouth of which is near present day Vancouver, B.C., and Bellingham, WA. North of there, the coast was inhospitable and still largely locked in iced, and south of there, the next three major possible havens -- Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay and the mouth of the Columbia River -- all have notoriously treacherous bars blocking their entries.
In fact, the deep water approach via the Strait of Juan de Fuca made the river we call the Fraser the best landing option north of San Francisco Bay for Paleo-Indian immigrants traveling the water route into the New World. And if you paddled up the Fraser to the first mountain you came to, called Sumas Mountain, and then turned toward the sun and paddled up the Sumas River and across Sumas Lake to the Sumas Prairie, you would have come to Temixwten, the place that was the end of your great journey out of Asia, and the beginning of your next great journey, into the New World.
It appears from the evidence at Temxwten that many immigrants in that long ago time gave profound thanks, there on the sacred ground where they came safely across to the other side. After the ancient Asian custom, this offering of thanks often took the form of small stone charms or amulets which they had carried with them on the long, dangerous journey. So they left their offerings on the charm altars at Temixwten, just as pilgrims today leave small stones at the stupas in Tibet. Over the millennia, thousands and thousands of these charms were carried out of Asia by Paleo-Indian immigrants to the New World, and left in Temixwten.
Piety aside, do you think Temixwten was a party town? I think Temixwten was a party town, and probably a place where you could gamble away everything you owned in a night too. But it would seem that Temixwten was also a place that was unusually cosmopolitan and knowledgeable about what was happening in the world, even in far away places as far away as Asia. Above all, Temixwten was a free port where the traveler could ask for and receive hospitality at the end of their journey, just as it was for the first whites who set foot there during the 19th century.
And so they came, just a few at a time in the beginning. There are artifacts at Temixwten that resemble pieces from the earliest known phases of human habitation on the lower Fraser, both 9,000-11,000 year old Milliken and what is called the Old Cordilleran Phase as seen at the Glenrose Cannery Site near the mouth of the Fraser just outside Vancouver, which has been Carbon-14 dated at 8,500 years ago. These artifacts are mostly modest pebble tools, flakes and cores for making flaked stone tools, along with some less finely cut and polished stone.
The archaeological site closest to Temixwten, Xa:ytem, 12 miles north on the Fraser River at Mission, B.C., was another permanent village that has been Carbon-14 dated at 7,000 years ago. At Xa:ytem, archaeologists dug down 11.5 feet without getting through to sterile soil. Similarly, a test shaft at Temixwten dug by by students from Western Washington University in 1998 went down 10 feet without getting through the Temixwten midden to the sterile soil beneath.
Then about 6,600 years ago, two world altering events shook in the lower Fraser, beginning with the eruption of 10,781-foot Mt. Baker, the nearby volcanic peak called Komo Kulshan by some Salish. Although a blanket of volcanic ash from the eruption extended for 20 miles to the northeast, the fiery show was apparently not taken as a bad omen at Temixwten since this was also the time when the first big wave of Paleo-Indian immigrants out of Asia apparently swelled the population at Temixwten, a group that certainly included some of the early ancestors of the Salish. Archaeologists mark this time as the beginning of the Charles or St. Mungo Culture Phases, which featured a significant advance in the sophistication of their tools and and other stone work, as well as a change in patterns of resource usage.
Patricia Ormerod noted in Reading The Earth: Multivariuate Analysis of Feature Functions at Xa:ytem (The Hatzic Rock Site, Dg Rn 23), "from the first arrival of Charles culture people... resources were not all consumed on site but were processed and stored, probably until moved to winter camps. There is limited data suggesting that around 4500 BP, use of the Xa:tem site intensified." In other words, from the time of the first big wave of immigrants out of Asia covered in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, the native population in the lower Fraser had overwhelmed the fishing capacity at the original, primary year-round village sites. The reason for this population explosion has long been a mystery to archaeologists, but now The God That Man Forgot exhibit provides the answer: there was a significant influx of Paleo-Indian immigrants from Asia to Temixwten and the lower Fraser at this time.
This new influx of immigrants from Asia drove the ancestor of the Salish to fish further and further from their permanent villages like Temixwten, and expand their reach generally. Temixwten was one of the major villages in the Fertile Crescent of the Salish -- the 60 mile stretch of the lower Fraser Valley that is the ancestral home of the Salishan People -- when the Salish conquered most of the Pacific Northwest, from the Inside Passage in the north to Tillamook in the south, west to the Pacific Coast and east to the Bitterroot. In the center was the Salish Sea, comprising what we now call Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Strait of Georgia and the lower Fraser River.
At its height, Temixwten ran along the banks of the Sumas River for 100 yards, from the confluence of the Sumas River and Johnson Creek to the weir site, where the river ran over a shallow as the river entered a small ravine with the village above it on both sides. A large fern prairie was immediately adjacent for digging the roots that were a staple starch, along with exceptionally fine artesian well water (that still provides the City of Sumas water), while Sumas Lake yielded a legendary bounty of waterfowl. Later it appears the village shrank and abandoned the east bank, possibly for defensive purposes. A cadastral map of Washington Territory prepared in 1875 indicates that Temixwten was the biggest village within two days travel to the south, as well as the northern terminus of the Squalicum Trail, which later became the route for the first telegraph line through the valley.
The traditional prestige and importance of Temixwten in the Salish world is apparent in the fact that the largest known Salish stone statue, T'xwelátse, came from Temixwten, as did other pieces in museums around the Northwest, such as a bearded man bowl that Wilson Duff called the "Bowl Behind Face" at the UBC Anthropology Museum (A6555) in Vancouver, BC. According to Sonny McHalsie of the Stó:lō Nation's Cultural Research and Resource Management Centre, T'xwelátse came to Temixwten as part of the bride's dowry in a high status marriage of alliance between Sto:lo village further upriver and Temixwten.
Temixwten was also an early center of Sxwo:yxwey, the great spiritual healing figure of the late Salish that arose in response to the White Man's plagues. In fact, Temixwten may even have been the birthplace of Sxwo:yxwey, for Salish legend says Sxwo:yxwey came out of a lake, and the posts and bird figures that comprise the main features of the Sxwo:yxwey mask can be seen as an iconographic representation of Temixwten, with its famously bird-rich lake, its distinctive posted lake houses and fabulous posted salmon weir.
Then in 1832, Nooksack oral tradition says there was a devastating flood in Temixwten, after which the Nooksacks withdrew and Temixwten fell under the Sto:lo sphere of influence and was called Kw’ekw’e’i:qw in the modern Halkomelem dialect of Salish. It was about this time that the whites started to receive the hospitality of Temixwten as well. For instance, the Sumas Indians were were extremely gracious to the joint American / British Boundary Survey Expedition in 1859, providing salve to balm the whites' mosquito bites, and when the first American pioneer, Robert Johnson, settled on the Sumas Prairie right next to the village in 1872, they married him into the family with one of the women from the village.
The growing population of American settlers repaid this hospitality with a terrorist campaign to drive the Sumas Indians out of Temixwten. In the fall of 1887 and the spring of 1888 two Sumas Indians were lynched by Americans, and in one instance the American vigilantes crossed into Canada to murder their victim there, prompting a protest from Canada. Nonetheless, the Indians in the village got the message, and scattered to the winds. Simultaneously, Robert Johnson filed a homestead claim on the village site, which he already partially occupied. When the City of Sumas was incorporated in 1891, the Temixwten village site was Block One of the original platt. Three years later, American settlers burned what remained of the old village, and put T'xwelátse on display in Gargett's Store on Cherry St. in downtown Sumas.
Is Temixwten the oldest continually inhabited place in North America? At present, it's impossible to say how old Temixwten really is, but its origin can be bracketed with some confidence. The ancient village of Temixwten was almost certainly founded sometime after several massive ice dams in the Fraser canyon broke and loosed a series of large outburst floods on the lower Fraser Valley, which occurred sometime late in the last glaciation, according to Don J. Easterbrook in Multiple Younger Dryas and Allerød moraines (Sumas Stade) and late Pleistocene Everson glaciomarine drift in the Fraser Lowland.
The other side of the Temixwten time bracket can be deduced from the dates at Milliken. Because it is a better and more easily accessible fishing site than Milliken, Temixwten would have been founded before the Indians of the lower Fraser fished at the Milliken Site, which dates to 9,000 - 11,000 years ago. So it would seem that Temixwten probably also dates to sometime between the ice age floods and the start of fishing in the Fraser Canyon at Milliken, or 11,000 and 9,000 years ago.
This compares well with the oldest known habitation sites in Eastern Washington, where Avey’s Orchard in Douglas
County dates to around 10,300 years ago, according to the Washington Office of Archaeology & Historic Preservation. The East Wenatchee Clovis Site (also called the Richey-Roberts Clovis Site), a deposit of prehistoric Clovis points and other artifacts dating to roughly 11,000 radiocarbon years ago, is presently considered the oldest known human habitation in Washington State.
Then there is the name, Temixwten. Temixw is the Salish word for "sacred dirt," the red clay the Salish use for ceremonial purposes, and Temixwten means "place of sacred dirt." There are numerous places named Temixwten throughout the Salish world. In fact, there is another Temixwten in Nooksack territory, just a few miles from the ancient village of Temixwten. The difference is that all the other Temixwtens are places where you can get temixw, places where you can actually find the sacred red clay. But there is no red clay at Temixwten.
The dirt at the ancient village of Temixwten is almost midnight black loam, and was described by the WSU Extension Soil Testing Service as the "highest organic content soil we have ever tested from Whatcom County," which isn't surprising considering it is comprised of 10,000 years of salmon and oolichan midden. No, Temixwten is not a place of temixw in a literal sense. It is a place of temixw in a figurative sense. It is the Sacred Dirt, the Sacred Ground, the Sacred Homeland, of the Salish.
However old Temixwten is, it is older than the Milliken Site, older than Glenrose Cannery, older than Xa:ytem, which is a Canadian National Monument, older than any other site known in the lower Fraser or Western Washington. And none of these other ancient village locations survived as continuous places of human habitation from the end of the last Ice Age until now. Only Temixwten survived, and survives still.
By comparison, the Indian pueblo at Taos, New Mexico -- which is widely considered the oldest continuously inhabited place in the United States, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- dates back to some time between 1000 and 1450 A.D.
In other words, Temixwten was already something like 10,000 years old when Taos was founded.
Part 4 - Chinese Dragon / Salish Dragon
BECAUSE THE Chinese dragons at Temixwten are so ancient and so numerous, it is possible to make some observations about the basic nature of the Chinese dragon, which has long been a source of speculation and inquiry among scholars, in Chinese itself and elsewhere.
First of all, it appears from the archaeological evidence at Temixwten that the primitive dragon embodied or was somehow associated with invention and transformation, specifically human inventions that had the power to transform the world, beginning with the capture of fire -- both in the original Promethean sense, and also in the late Neolithic sense of ceramic stoneware, an invention of Neolithic Asia that we still value highly today. This is why most dragons breath fire.
After fire, the domestication of the pig, goat, horse and elephant -- in that apparent chronological order -- are the big transformational powers associated with the Chinese dragons at Temixwten. The domestication of the horse, particularly, seems to have resounded through the Neolithic World like Krakatoa, with aftershocks that ran on for millennia, judging from the evidence on the artifacts included in The God That Man Forgot exhibit.
Eleven pieces in The God That Man Forgot exhibit contain images of the domesticated horse with archaic Neolithic bridle featuring an upper lip band but no bit, and a couple more where the horse is apparently bitted. On some of these, the iconography of domestication -- e.g. the horse's bridle -- merges with the iconography of the deity, so that the dragon becomes the horse's bridle and the dragon IS domestication, as in the dragon reins on 45-WH-5-1201 at right!
At other times, the dragon is shown in the regalia of domestication. For instance, the dragons on the 45-WH-5-1476 and 45-WH-5-1491 are both shown wearing the Neolithic bridles of ancient domesticated horses.
The deep Chinese association of the dragon with water seems more latent at the early phases visible from Temixwten. The One-Eyed God, who seems to be a form of -- or a force associated with -- the Serpent or dragon seen on so many Temixwten artifacts, is frequently shown with water flowing down his face like a salmon stream, as on the 45-WH-5-1506 and 45-WH-5-1415.
Based on the significant number of Chinese dragons depicted on the late Neolithic artifacts at Temixwten, it seems apparent that the Salish dragon originated in the Chinese dragon that the ancestors of the Salish brought with them from Asia. In fact, the connection between the Chinese dragon and the Salish dragon has been hidden in plain sight all these years.
The Asian origin of the Salish dragon is clearly indicated linguistically. The Salish dragon is called ch'inekw' in L'hechelselem or ch'inekw'e in Straits Salish, and somtimes spelled, tzinquaw.
The ancient Salish word Ch'inekw' contains the root, "ch'ine," the same root as the French, "Chine," and the English, "China."
Part 5 - Domesticated Horse
THE DOMESTICATED horse cast a long shadow across the history of Temixwten, even though no horse apparently ever set foot there.
The reason this far reaching equine influence is the massive impact the domestication of the horse had on every aspect of human life in northeast Asia during the late Neolithic. The domestication of the horse literally changed everything -- agriculture, hunting, commerce, travel, and of course, war.
Before the domestication of the horse, it was effectively impossible for a small group of men to impose their will on a much larger group. After the domestication of the horse in northeast Asia during the late Neolithic came the first kings, the first dyansties, and the first empires.
When the ancestors of the Salish immigrated to the New World, the domesticated horse was the penultimate symbol of power in the Neolithic world, both literally in its physical strength, but also in its larger power to transform the world.
So powerful was the domesticated horse in the minds of men 6,000 years ago, in fact, that equine iconography merged with the iconography of the reigning deity, the Chinese dragon, as seen in 45-WH-5-1201 and 45-WH-5-1476. This was when the Chinese dragon took the long-snouted appearance it still retains today, along with the trailing reins, now shown as barbels.
But when was this? The latest Mitochondrial DNA research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in January 2012, indicates that the horse was independently domesticated at least 17 different times in different places during the Neolithic. According to
Alessandro Achilli of the Università di Perugi, the lead author for "Mitochondrial genomes from modern horses reveal the
major haplogroups that underwent domestication," the horse may first have been domesticated as long as 10,000 years ago, but the big burst in domestication apparently occurred between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago. Archaeological research further narrows the prime period of equine domestication to between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago.
However, the horse bit -- which is now emblematic of the domesticated horse and horse tack -- was actually not widely adopted until a millennia or more later. In his 2009 paper in Science, "The Earliest Horse Harnessing and Milking," lead author Alan Outram of the Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter, UK, found that the Botai Culture of Kazakhstan had domesticated horses that were bridled with a bit about 5,600 years ago. Outram and his co-authors presented evidence of "bit wear" in Botai horses, meaning the dental remains of Botai horses showed the sort of wear patterns commonly seen in bitted horses.
It was during the approximately 1,400 year period in between the domestication of the horse and the widespread adoption of the bit that most of the horse blades in The God That Man Forgot exhibit were manufactured. Only one of the pieces in this collection appears to show horses bridled with a round metal ring, and only one appears to depict a bitted horse, and these two appear early. Based on the horse tack evident in the pieces in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, it would seem that there was a significant influx of Paleo-Indian immigrants from Asia to Temixwten between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago, which coincidentally coincides with the rise and spread of the Salish throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Temixwten was clearly still culturally connected to China and the Chinese dragon 6,000-7,000 years ago, and because of that connection the people of Temixwten were acquainted with the domesticated horse very early -- ironically, long before Europe. The oldest images of the domesticated horse at Temixwten predate the oldest European depiction of the domesticated horse -- the Uffington White Horse -- by several thousand years. But since native North America horses were apparently never domesticated and died out around 12,000 years ago -- and no one ever successfully ferried horses across the Bering Strait into the New World -- Temixwten had knowledge, but not actual possession. It's ironic that the ancestors of the Salish carried the horse into the New World, rather than the other way around.
And on the Asian side of the Bering Strait, the only way the horse people of the Asian Steppes could use the stupendous new power of the domesticated horse was by moving west, which is what they did, ultimately riding to conquest over more of Eurasian than anyone before or since. This horse-powered wave of conquest eventually circled the globe and reached the New World more than six millennia later with the Spanish Conquistadors, still moving west, and still conquering everything before it.
Part 6 - Changing Face of Asia
THE CHANGING face of Asia is captured in The God That Man Forgot exhibit as well.
While some of the Asian-made artifacts from Temixwten depict the people of northeast Asia with epicanthic fold eyes, many do not.
For instance, 45-WH-5-1415 clearly shows the "Asian eye," while 45-WH-5-1201 does not. And 45-WH-5-1710 shows both on the same piece, as seen in the photo at right.
Several artifacts in The God That Man Forgot exhibit depict faces with full, heavy Caucasian beards -- such as 45-WH-5-1506.
What do these Neolithic Asian faces with Caucasian features mean? They apparently reflect a time in northeast Asia before the First Dynasty when China didn't exist yet, and China's various ethnic and racial components were not as well mixed as they later became: China was still in the process of becoming China.
The ancestors of the Salish were a part of that coalescing Chinese mix -- a part that opted out, possibly among the very last paleo-Indian immigrants to the New World. In the Old World, the ancestors of the Salish apparently were an indigenous people of northeast Asia from somewhere on or near the Sea of Okhotsk who looked much as they do now: copper skinned and Caucasian eyed, with light to medium beard in males.
Roy L. Carlson traces the Salish pebble tool tradition to the area "around Kamchatka and the Sea of Okhotsk" in Wayne Suttles's Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast, and Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1483 further pinpoints the mouth of the Okhota River near the modern town of Okhotsk, Russia, as the probable starting point of the Salishan People's great journey to Temixwten.
The ancestors of the Salish were "not Chinese," according to Nooksack Salish linguist George Adams's grandmother, Lucille Solomon, and they did not have the "Asian eye," but they were Asian, and they carried a great deal of what was rapidly becoming "Chinese" culture and technology with them to Temixwten, which is to say they brought the most advanced culture and technology in the world.
Culturally, the ancestors of the Salish carried first and foremost the Chinese dragon -- which became the Salish dragon or Ch'inekw' -- along with a reverence for their ancestors, a deep love of jade, the practice of living in long houses and pit houses, various habits of dress including conical rain hats, and a riverine, salmon-based economy.
Part 7 - Northwest Pre-History
THE GOD That Man Forgot revolutionizes the pre-history of the Pacific Northwest as well.
Instead of a succession of lithically defined "culture phases" with names like Charles and St. Mungo and Locarno Beach that wander in and out of the fog of pre-history for no apparent reason, The God That Man Forgot shows that at least some of the big cultural and technological advances on the Northwest Coast of North America over the last 7,500 years have been driven by big cultural and technological advances on the Northeast Coast of Asia.
The 2011 discovery by a Colorado University Research Team near Nome, Alaska, of a Chinese-made bronze belt buckle dating from the Shang Dynasty proved that the Chinese had a presence in North America -- either directly or by trade -- as late as approximately 1100 B.C. Now The God That Man Forgot exhibit shows that in Neolithic times, 5,000 or more years before Shang, China's reach in North America was much deeper.
So the lithic advances seen in the Charles culture phase correlate to the large wave
of Paleo-Indian immigrants that arrived from Asia shortly after the domestication of the horse in Northeast Asia, and the advances of the Locarno Beach culture phase correlate to another wave of Asian immigrants during the early Dynastic Period in China.
The God That Man Forgot also answers a fundamental question that archaeology has been completely unable to explain until now -- how the Salish were able to conquer virtually the entire Pacific Northwest so quickly. The thousands of Asian-made charms and other artifacts found at Temixwten clearly demonstrate that the Salish had numbers at the time they exploded on the Northwest scene, but they also had superior Asian-made ceramic technology, as demonstrated by the ceramic pocket blades and ceramic tool-making core from Temixwten included in The God That Man Forgot exhibit.
And the presence of ceramic cores, along with map blades like 45-WH-5-1483, throws another major curve at the conventional view of New World colonization, because it indicates that at least some of the Paleo-Indian migration into Temixwten at the end of the Neolithic was carried out as planned colonial ventures. You don't carry ceramic cores and maps unless you plan to make the journey.
The God That Man Forgot also demonstrates for the first time that Paleo-Indian immigrants out of Asia carried with them many of the major conventions of Northwest Coast Indian art -- such as the stacking of figures seen in totem poles -- and even some recognizable characters from the Northwest Coast pantheon -- such as the Salish dragon, Ch'inekw', and the two-headed serpent, Sisiutl.
So The God That Man Forgot exhibit brings the study of Northwest Coast Indian cultures full circle. Early anthropologists such as Charles Marius Barbeau, "the father of Canadian anthropology," noted the similarities between Pacific Northwest Coast Indian art and the art of ancient China. He and others -- including Creel (1935),
Hentze (1936), Schuster (1951), Covarrubias (1954), Badner
(1966), Fraser (1968), Coe (1972), and Davis and Davis (1974) -- speculated that Northwest Coast Indian art had developed from ancient Chinese art.
These theories were rejected for "lack of evidence," but now The God That Man Forgot provides concrete, irrefutable proof that Barbeau and all the others were correct. There is no more room for doubt. Northwest Coast Indian art developed out of the art of Neolithic China and northeast Asia.
Part 8 - Mexican Serpent
IT IS almost as surprising to find images of the Mexican serpent on artifacts from an ancient North American Indian village of Temixwten as it is to find Chinese dragons and domesticated horses.
The Mexican serpent -- and other Mesoamerican references -- are not anywhere as numerous as those to Asia and the Chinese dragon, but they are found on three pieces in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, 45-WH-5-1182, 45-WH-5-1678 and 45-WH-5-1281.
And one of them, 45-WH-5-1182, has references to both China and Mexico on opposite sides of the same piece. 45-WH-5-1182 is a stunning ceremonial celt with a double headed serpent sculpted in bas relief on Side 2, one head of which is a horse dragon wearing a loose Chinese macrame head net bridle without a bit.
While Side 2 is sculpted, Side 1 of 45-WH-5-1182 is highly polished except for a marvelous little tableau carved into the blade, where we see a serpent with a dead human (his body is a skeleton) in the serpent's mouth, the two jaws of which are each salmon leaping on the jade green blade.
This motif -- the "ancestor in mouth" motif -- is common in Mexico among both the Maya and the Aztec between 700 A.D. and 1500 A.D. We know from recent translations of Maya texts that the Maya believed that a supplicant could conjure the spirit of the dead by burning strips of paper soaked in his or her own blood. The smoke from this fire would produce a conjure serpent, which could in turn produce the spirit of the dead.
Interestingly, one of the earliest known depictions of the great Mexican serpent manifestation -- Quetzalcóatl or Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent -- is in the guise of a Mayan conjure serpent, according to The Rise and Fall of Maya Civilization by J. Eric S. Thompson. This is at Copan, circa 800 A.D. So Quetzalcoatl may in some sense also derive from the distant Asian concept of the conjure serpent seen 5,000 years before in artifacts at Temixwten like 45-WH-5-1182.
The Mexican flavor in the other two pieces cited in The God That Man Forgot exhibit is distinct, but less strong. 45-WH-5-1678 has long-snouted figure with large teeth that is visible on the left and behind the main figure of the elephant dragon and the One-Eyed God. This figure is reminiscent of several Mayan figures with long pendulous noses, including Cha'Ac, the Mayan rain god, and Quetzalcóatl himself. 45-WH-5-1281 has the feeling of Quetzalcóatl as well.
This is the savage, blood-sacrifice serpent of the New World, not the urbane, intellectualized dragon of the Old World.
Part 9 -- - The One-Eyed God Q&A
Q: HOW DO you know the face you call the One-Eyed God actually represents a god?
A: Well, it clearly does not represent a real human being, like a leader or chief, for as Donald Mitchell noted in the Smithsonian Institution's Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast, the face is "fantastic." Beyond that, it's hard to say. It's possible for instance, that the three primary components -- the dragon, the snake, and the flowing stream -- are not parts of some larger deity, except as distinct, separate components of a trinity, as in the Catholic Church.
Q: Why did the ancestors of the Salish carry charms and other pieces with the One-Eyed God on them? And why are there so many of them found in Temixwten?
A: It's hard to know why the ancestors of the Salish carried these charms except by possibly analogy to modern human behavior. Modern travelers -- who are also Catholic, and some who are not -- sometimes carry a charm with the likeness of St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, for good luck on their journey.
The One-Eyed God motif has been found on small pieces at other Salish sites, in both British Columbia and Snohomish County in Washington State, but never in numbers that even come close to the thousands found at Temixwten -- without any archaeological digging at all.
Returning again to the St. Christopher medal analogy, St. Christopher medals may not be very common generally, but in places where Catholic travelers congregate, they may be quite common. So it may be that the One-Eyed God has not been identified before now because examplesof the iconography were never common enough elsewhere to attract attention.
Another reason the One-Eyed God has not been identified: modern archaeologists are not trained to know what to look for. For instance, they don't know what the 11 traditional attributes of the Chinese dragon are, what a Kaolin slip look like, or when Hongshan was, so they don't identify these things among the artifacts they study.
A thorough re-examination and reappraisal of the major Salish archaeological digs and collections on this score might prove very illuminating.
Q: Apart from the theological, technological and cultural aspects of the recent Temixwten discoveries, what strikes you the most about the pieces?
A: The personal, human element. Most of these charms and pocket blades were carried by specific individuals into the New World. They are highly personalized expressions of individual people, showing their tendencies and impulses. Some chose the smallest and lightest charms possible. Some chose (and could afford) showy, even ostentatious charms. Some chose the cheapest. Some chose charms that served the utilitarian purpose of a pocket blade or a ceramic core. And some chose charms that functioned as puzzles and passtimes.
Q: Most of the Salish origin stories involve a long canoe journey -- what the Salish call "The Great Flood" -- but unlike the Nootka and the Tlingit, the Salish do not remember a time before the canoe journey on the big water. The coastal Salish mostly say that when the flood receded they tied their canoes to the mountain tops and were set down where they always were: their home. How do you explain the difference between the Nootka and Salish origin stories?
A: Many factors could theoretically explain this. It could be simply a matter of the difference in the time that had passed, and indicate that the ancestors of the Nootka came to the New World more recently than the Salish. Or, as in the case of Copper Woman, it could be that there was some sort of tribal catastrophe along the way and the Salish memorizers died before they could pass on their stories AND their meaning.
Or it could have something to do with the manner of the Paleo-Indian immigrants' leaving. Both the Tlingit and the Nootka origin stories begin with some sort of catastrophe and hurried departure from their prior home -- in Daughters of Copper Woman it is "raiders from the North." These tribes were torn from their old home, and that trauma left a strong mark on the tribal memory.
Perhaps the reason the Salish have no such mark in tribal memory is that they willingly and knowingly left their old homes. As noted above, the presence of ceramic cores for tool making and map blades at Temixwten strongly suggests planned colonial ventures played a part in the Salish story.
Q: It appears that the One-Eyed God was a strongly held belief for thousands of years in Neolithic Asia, and at Temixwten. What happened to this deity? Why did mankind forget the One-Eyed God?
A: I can only conjecture here too, but I don't think mankind forgot entirely; I think mankind just forgot the meaning of the ancient stories and images. For instance, many later day depictions of the Chinese dragon (starting with the Oracle Bone script figure for the Chinese dragon), show it with barbel-like appendages trailing off its snout. So the Chinese remembered the ancient story and the ancient image, but by the time they invented writing they had already forgotten that the dragon's barbel-like appendages were actually reins from the time when the domestication of the horse was the biggest thing going in the Neolithic World, and the dragon was shown bridled in the regalia of the domesticated horse to convey its awesome power and majesty.
Similarly, I think the people who became the Native Americans of the New World -- especially the Maya and the Aztecs of Mexico -- remembered some of the forms, but forgot the meaning of the ancient stories as the millennia passed. The Mexicans remembered the conjure serpent, and the White Dragon or god -- Quetzalcoatl -- remined their penultimate deity, but they forgot that the conjure serpent's jaws were also leaping salmon, and that the White Dragon had domesticated the pig, the goat, the horse and the elephant in the time before time began.
Q: Do the artifacts from Temixwten in The God That Man Forgot exhibit collectively convey a sense of the world view of the ancestors of the Salish at the time they came to the New World?
A: I'd say yes in a couple respects. If you hold them in your hand, almost all the pieces in The God That Man Forgot exhibit encourage exploration and repeatedly teach the lesson that things look differently depending on how you view them. So in 45-WH-5-1691, the White Dragon on the face of the One-Eyed God, but if you turn it sideways the white dragon becomes the halter and lead rope on a domesticated goat.
The cast of mind revealed here is discerning, subtle and fundamentally undogmatic -- that is, trained to see things more than one way. The artifacts from Temixwten reflect a people who were thoughtful and spiritual both. And since the imagery of war is entirely absent from their work, we may also conclude that the ancestors of the Salish were not a warrior people.
Part 10 - Electron Microscope Testing
TO HELP identify the materials in artifacts from Temixwten, the Museum of the Salish retained Microtrace, a leading North American testing laboratory, to test several Temixwten artifacts, one of which is included in The God That Man Forgot.
This artifact -- 45-WH-5-1641-- was analyzed by polarized light microscopy to characterize optical properties of the minerals, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to look at the micro-texture, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) to determine elemental composition, and Raman microspectroscopy to identify specific mineral phases.
Microtrace scan data indicates that 45-WH-5-1641 is consistent with proto-glazed ceramic stoneware. This determination together with the man made figurative elements of the piece, positively identify it as ceramic stoneware.
Since there is no evidence that Native Americans ever produced ceramic stoneware anywhere in the New World, this piece -- like all the ceramic pieces in The God That Man Forgot exhibit -- must have been manufactured in Neolithic Asia.
Coming quickly on the heels of John Hoffecker's 2011 discovery of a Shang Dynasty bronze belt buckle in northern Alaska near the Bering Strait,
the discovery of this Asian-made ceramic stoneware blade at Temixwten indicates that the Neolithic connection between China and America ran deeper into the New World than anyone has suspected before.
Further testing of artifacts from Temixwten is underway.
Part 11 - Terminology
A NOTE on terminology: When discussing charms and amulets, The God That Man Forgot exhibit employs the definition of "amulet" from Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology by Barbara Ann Kipfer: "small good-luck charms, often in the form of gods, hieroglyphs, and sacred animals, and made of... stones or faience."
However, The God That Man Forgot exhibit deviates from Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology's definition of "blade." Like most of conventional archaeology, Kipfer defines blade by form, not function: "a long, narrow, sharp-edged thin flake of stone" which is rarely ornamented.
But as The God That Man Forgot demonstrates, many high end Neolithic cutting tools are highly ornamented, and many don't look at all like what archaeologists say a blade should look like. In fact, one measure of a high end Neolithic blade is the number of cutting edges it offers, which translates into usage before the blade has to either be resharpened or discarded.
Neither does conventional archaeology seem to have seriously considered the possibility of a small "pocket blade" tool type, despite evidence in historic times that the Sioux sometimes carried and concealed very small cutting blades in their long hair.
By contrast, The God That Man Forgot exhibit defines "blade" in terms of function, not form. So despite their shape, size or material, all pocket blades included here have (or had) a sharp edge, and in the real world they could be used as a cutting blade.
Similarly, The God That Man Forgot exhibit introduces the term "pocket blade" to Neolithic archaeological parlance, meaning a small cutting tool, often with more than one edge in a compact configuration.
Finally, The God That Man Forgot exhibit uses the term "Asian" to denote blades manufactured before the Dynastic Period in China, and the term "Chinese" to denote those manufactured after the nascent Chinese nation state came into being.
Part 12 - Provenance
ALL OF the Temixwten artifacts discussed and displayed here were collected at Temíxwten by the property owner, and are part of the Museum of the Salish collection.
-- Bruce Brown
May 1, 2015
Updated May 29, 2015