The Bald Prohets
On a smog-encrusted morning late last August, the otherwise innocuous Mount Baldy was abruptly transformed into the most eminent archeological site in the Western Hemisphere. The incidental discovery of a ceramic protrusion from the ground invoked a routine dig from my team and I, which quickly revealed itself to be the most significant excavation of my career.
Embedded just beneath the sprawl of a few Yuccas lay an archaic time capsule; a deliberately implanted and arranged archive of objects – a cryptic codex of exceedingly peculiar artifacts. The most jarring and prophetic of these specimens is a small shield, emblazoned with the ubiquitous corporate logos and industrial scenery of our present era. I was quick to deem the findings a hoax. Rehydroxylation tests, however, deemed the object to be 800 years old.
Of the progenitor’s culture we know very little. Their cosmology is hardly revealed through the obfuscated objects they addressed to us. My credentials compel me to speculate and prescribe narrative to these inscrutable peoples, to elucidate their way of life so that we may confidently add yet another patch to the elaborate quilt of human history. But I remain mystified; we have dug up the whole mountain, and they have left us nothing more.
Discovered in remarkable condition, an aggregate of individual house-forms coalesce to form this cohesive spearhead. This conglomerate of miniature aluminum dwellings likely symbolizes tribal solidarity – a powerful visual metaphor for the strength of a community united. The top heaviness of the spear would render it rather ineffective for actual combat – the lack of wear on the tip would suggest its purpose was largely ornamental.
Of its creator’s life ways we know virtually nothing. Not even the faintest vestiges of dwellings have been unearthed. As such their architecture is revealed to us solely through the aestheticized buildings on the spearhead, which depict multi-story houses and ostensibly Oriental cottages. One would expect the discernible features of the houses depicted – tiled roofs and brick walls – to remain, in some dilapidated form, today. Excavations around the greater Baldy area thus persist – with archeological digs abounding even within the campuses of Claremont.
The Village Spear
Planted in a plaster-like substance and buried upright, this totemic post is the only stationary object in the collection. Granted that there are no traces of the Bald Prophet’s settlements, be they sedentary or nomadic, the specific utility of this post is unknown. The pyramidal trinkets attached to the pole are relatively crude in construction. Both their craftsmanship and makeup are starkly simpler than the other artifacts on display, leading us to believe laymen produced them rather than specialized artisans. The pole may therefore be a communal obelisk of sorts, wherein personal terracotta offerings were brought and strung (the original twine has been refurbished). The figurative aspects of the totem – namely the distinctive nose and adjoining mouth, accompanied by the silhouette of an eye, suggests the possible countenance of a human-like deity, rather than the reptilian beasts featured in neighboring pieces.
Both objects in the Cholla pair combine the distinctive skeletal patterns of the Cholla cactus with frightful and whimsical renditions of reptilian deities. The twine in both artifacts has been replaced for exhibition’s sake, though their overall utilities are wholly unknown. Given the neatness and deliberation with which the objects were rested, we know their burial was intentional, and that they are objects of considerable significance. I must note that the artisan’s choice to transmute organic cactus into radiant aluminum (whose lack of rust is truly miraculous) is as much a display of artistic talent as it is of alchemical mastery.
The original cactus would have been placed in a clay and sand investment, which would then be heated to the point of disintegration – leaving only a cavity where the cactus once was. A molten alloy would then be poured into the negative space, consequently yielding a metallic analog of the original plant. Perhaps these pieces exist to showcase the wondrous morphing of the organic and ephemeral into the synthetic and immortal.
Ornamented with the fast food iconography that pervades our present era, we assumed this peculiar specimen to be an orphaned piece of art, a cynical commentary on the inundation of corporate imagery. The object was subjected to a series of rehydroxylation tests, which, to our astonishment, dated the artifact back to the 12th century; an eruption of queries flowed forth, to which I supply only my humblest speculations:In explanatory matters I have never once deferred to the occult; I have always situated the mystique of shamanism within the phenomenological confines of Western thought. But this tablet is testament to the prognostic capacities of the Bald Prophets, who so foresaw our world with unnerving lucidity, rendering it succinctly in this prophetic tablet. A torrent of logos, a tangle of wires, a terrible beast ensnared in a power lines; quite an opaque narrative we have been bestowed. It could be a blind prediction, conceived from sheer luck and impossible coincidence. Perhaps it is a portrait, a future record of our world for the ancient archives of theirs. But if this tablet is a message, an imminent warning, it seems we have unearthed it too late.