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26. Abundance (II)

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

The harvest was gathered in a concave basin many miles across. The basin was not purely functional; it also had a ceremonial role in the local religion, and it was important for the emperor to visit the basin and make an offering to it. The children had a special role here as well. They were required to sift through the corn for insects and mice; they were rewarded for all the squashed and mutilated creatures they brought to their parents. We still have some of the candied sweets they were given as a reward. Of course, we know, thanks to modern agriculture, that these methods were a very crude way to protect the crop. Quite often, there would be a catastrophic failure and the entire crop would be ruined. These people, after all, put all their eggs in one basket—literally. When failure happened there was a sacrifice. Usually, as you would expect, it was a virgin; perhaps two or three virgins, if the spoilage was particularly bad.

We are not going to dwell on the bad harvests today. We are looking at the Golden Age for this people, a period about 200 years before the Europeans arrived. No, you should be careful about reading the pop histories you see online: this decline had nothing to do with the Europeans. The decline, well, there is no point in spoiling it for you; we will cover it next semester. Now, as I was saying, the harvest was gathered and the children rewarded. Then, if you look here, just where the laser pointer is, you can see that the emperor would stand on this little bridge or promontory right out over the harvest. We have no records regarding the ceremony, sadly. The glyphs round the outside of the basin have been decoded, but they proved to be a disappointment. The information there was purely functional; it was to do with sowing and harvesting times, nothing more. We only know about the ceremonial aspects thanks to a slab found in the Gulf of Mexico; it clearly showed the basin on it, and there were a few references to the ceremony. You probably know the most famous words, they put them on all the tourist tat: “ACH MAH POU CHU’ IX.” I know, nobody can pronounce that right, not in the first semester. You will get there. I promise.

So far as we can gather, the emperor went out over the harvest and performed some kind of ceremony. Now, this is not a golden bough situation. The emperor was not sacrificed to renew the harvest or the land, or anything like that really. We know he survived because of the continuity of other historical records back in the citadel. During the Golden Age, the basin held up its bounty and this explains how the population grew to such an enormous extent over those hundreds of years. If you look at this satellite picture, you can see how far the civilisation spread out. They left an imprint that is still visible beneath the jungle canopy. And, you know, a few of my colleagues, in their private moments, will suggest that there are remnants of the civilisation down there to this day. Lost tribes, if you go in for that kind of thing. I can assure you, it is not as preposterous as many think…

Now, I have disagreements with the structural engineers over this, but I think there was some kind of covering, perhaps made of vines, that went right over the basin. They say that something like that is impossible, but I just have a feeling in my stomach…the other option is that there was a sacrificial layer, composed of a kind of corn-mould, that protected the rest of the store.

So this is what it looks like: a successful pre-European feudal civilisation at its height. The fall, of course, is the exciting part, but first we should look at some of the jewellery that they produced in this period…


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