How is your quest to stir up creativity going?
It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to get out to a different spot and write. Sometimes health circumstances and finances hold me back from the adventures I want to take. This week the universe aligned and a writer friend and I went on a low-cost/high adventure trip to expand our creative horizons. We took a two hour drive to find ourselves over a millennium in the past.
Write Anywhere #60: Archaeological Sites
Heavener Runestone, Heavener, Oklahoma
My friend and I ventured into that unknown territory (at least to us) otherwise known as southeastern Oklahoma. We’d heard of some ancient relics in the area and wanted to find out about their possible origins for ourselves.
First we headed to Heavener, Oklahoma, (pronounced HEEVNER) home of the Heavener Runestone. The controversial runestone is possible proof that Vikings travelled into the Mississippi River Valley. A very large slab of stone inscribed with ancient lettering has been attributed to ninth century Vikings, nineteenth century Scandinavian settlers, Native American tribes, and even members of the exploratory party of French explorer LaSalle.
Some experts think the inscription may be a boundary marker, with a translation of ‘Valley Owned By Gloam’. There have also been other runes found in the area that may have been connected to one another. One of those has the translation ‘Magic or protection to Gloi’, ‘Gloi’ possibly being a nickname for Gloam. The discovery was important enough to create a state park around the site that sits on Poteau Mountain and just recently the Viking and Celtic Festival has been held there each April and October.
View from Poteau Mountain
Once we got past a maze of train crossings that kept filling up with trains blocking our way to this year’s festival and the mysterious rock, the mountain’s beautiful terrain helps you understand why a long-ago Viking named Gloam might have laid claim to this area.
After checking out the small interpretive center we had to hike down a steep rock-paved path to see the runestone itself. Flowering dogwoods lined the way down and the tinkling of a small waterfall across the stones mixed with the sound of dulcimers from the festival above made it feel that we were parishioners in Nature’s cathedral.
The peaceful atmosphere was broken periodically by the yells of children running up and down the paths. I admired their stamina, as I had to take several breaks to catch my breath, particularly on the way out of the crevasse.
Afterwards we ate a picnic lunch at the park and took some time for reflection and writing, but annoying insects and people-watching got the majority of our attention.
From there we travelled on to another ancient landmark in the area. The Spiro Mounds is a prehistoric Native American archaeological site, encompassing the ancient traces of the Caddo peoples.
Welcome to Spiro Mounds
The mounds house bones and artifacts from the thriving civilization in this area from the 900s A.D. to the 1300s. Basically, the mounds were to the Caddo what the Pyramids were to the ancient Egyptians – burial monuments for the most powerful and wealthy of its citizenry, as well as worship sites.
Spooky clouds block the sun
After a bright sunny day at the Heavener Runestone, the clouds obscured the sun at Spiro Mounds as our self-guided tour of the ancient graveyard began, giving a gloomy cast to an eerie place. A replica of a thatch hut sat in disrepair but we ventured inside. On our way out I spotted a shiny silver cylindrical item on the ground I thought might be a metal screw. I picked it up to find it wasn’t metal at all, but had the distinct feel of flesh. I squealed and tossed it quickly, thinking it might be an armadillo, lizard or snake tail. The creepy factor increased.
burial mounds surrounded by peaceful forest
Quiet but for the birds chirping, it was hard to imagine this place was once a bustling Caddo city of thousands. We couldn’t shake the thought that in spite of the idyllic setting, hundreds of people lay entombed in the gently rolling mounds that surrounded us, whether by natural death or execution to become companions to the deceased on their journey to the afterlife, and the creepy factor won out over more writing time.
another cluster of mounds
A ghostly bus stop?
I love history, and trying to imagine the loneliness for the familiar that Gloam and his Vikings might have felt travelling so far from home, or the desperation of a young Caddo widow knowing that she must accompany her husband to the grave makes it so much more than facts on a museum wall. What if Vikings and Caddo Indians met one another? The possibilities are fascinating.
Time travel is possible, if you’re willing to explore with your imagination.
Where did you write this week?
Any archaeological sites in your local area? Have you visited them? Tell us about it.