Thursday, April 29, 2010

Almost Forgotten

Time for a short break from our Dane's Pad ramble, by way of another posting courtesy of John Steventon's Outside the Wyre series. Cheers John.

Few things are as sacred as burial places. Let enough time go by,though and things change, customs are forgotten, and the word 'sacred' can lose its meaning. As Historians, we may wonder how the past can be forgotten, plowed over, or nearly lost completely to human memory. The truth is, stuff happens.

In the past there have been plagues, war, and just plain hard times to erase whole chapters from our history. Hungry people aren't going to have the same moral compass as those who have plenty. The poor farmer may see a burial mound as just another place to grow corn, and see a place like Stonehenge as a source for free stone. We look at these acts with horror, but as Antiquarians we must work with what we have. Like it or not, but each day the book of History moves on, often written over past pages.

For some time now we have had written history, recorded for posterity. Even the written record can be flawed, and even words carved in stone can be lost. Word of mouth becomes our living history, but stories change, and sometimes the people who know the words pass on before they can find someone who cares enough to hear them.

Stuff happens.

Not everyone cares about the past. Many have enough worries in the day to day business of life. Our history can be meaningful, sometimes important, and often just amusing anecdotes. Those of us who care should remember though that in the long run, nothing is sacred, and nothing lasts forever.

I went for a hike yesterday, here in Ohio, USA, looking for signs of Native life. I found a few pieces of flint that showed me that once upon a time a budding civilisation once thrived here. Thousands of years of history lay here, nearly forgotten. I was in a deep ravine, surrounded by trees, and could almost imagine what life was like back then, in a time before roads and buildings dotted the landscape. I climbed higher, knowing that was where my native hunters would have walked, looking out over the land for game, enemies, or just a nice view. I wanted to see things from their perspective.

High atop the deep shadowy ravine I found a little clearing where the sun peeked through. It shone upon weather beaten stones that were struggling to remain upright. Upon the stones were names and dates carved upon them over 160 years ago, some much longer.

A few people know they are there, but the steep path up the hill has almost returned to brush. There is no sign at all of a church, a village, or civilisation at all. Upon some of the stones are the names of local towns, so perhaps these were people of prominence, once upon a time?

The latest dates were in the 1850's, well within recorded history, and not too long ago for their families to have forgotten them. Yet forgotten they are. Only Nature Herself places flowers upon these graves.

This experience was a not too subtle reminder that time moves on, and even the most sacred of places can return to the soil. It is no surprise then that the world of History can have so many mysteries, so many unanswered questions. Some answers can still be found, though, by simply going for a walk. :0)


Ann ODyne said...

lovely post thank you John

John said...

Cheers! I know it isn't the usual stuff, but Sir Brian needs a break once in a while. ;0)

Ann ODyne said...

'Only Nature Herself places flowers upon these graves' is wonderful.

Originally, I commented at length, then it all disappeared after The Big Click. I love cemeteries and epitaphs and headstones.

John said...

"I commented at length, then it all disappeared after The Big Click"

I hate when that happens! You wax poetic, and the moment is lost, and it just seems too exhausting to try and type it up again, knowing that you'll never again get each word just... right.

I don't know what the attraction is with these places... or maybe I do and just won't admit it. :0)

Anyways, there is something magical about visiting the past in quiet little places like these. The deceased often make good companions. :0)

Except for zombies, of course. They're worse than puppies when it comes to housebreaking and feeding.

Cheers again, JOHN :0)

PS Thank goodness you stopped in, Ann, or I'd be talking to meself.

Brian Hughes said...


"...then it all disappeared after The Big Click..."

I've programmed the board to do that when commentators start to praise my guest writers articles more than mine.

John said...

NOW he shows up. :0)

I think the internet just does that in an attempt to stifle our creativity, and to frustrate bloggers who can't figure out why they don't get more than one

Ann ODyne said...

Bri, I had to forgive him for 'plowing', but maybe the Yanks have solved the vileness of English as a second language, with hurdles like 'bough', 'through', and 'rough'.
no actually, now that I've set them out. (nough?).

WV is Colibi, and I brace for the day that chavs start naming their sproglets with WV words.

Brian Hughes said...


Americans call it Websters. Orwell called it Newspeak. Variety is the spice of life, people say...although too much spice and you end up with a vindaloo and the taste of the meat is overpowered.

Jayne said...

Lovely post, John :)

John said...

Jayne, thank you very much!

Ann, forgive my use of language and crude humour!

Brian, thank you so much for letting me post here again!

JOHN :0)

WV = aphecal... um, no comment.

Hels said...

The trouble with written history (on paper, graves or anywhere) is that it is often lost, burnt by accident, taken away by soldiers, or hidden because of changing political views.

The trouble with oral history is that people forget stuff, change details accidentally or out and out lie to meet new personal or communal agendas.

But old cemeteries are wonderful. I went to the Chinese goldrush cemetery in Ballarat last weekend where most of the indentured workers arrived from China soon after 1851. The Chinese community was very large, but their section of the cemetery was tucked away in a corner, far from the good Church of England graves.

John said...

Sorry for the late response.
I'm not sure where Ballarat is.. sounds like a sad place. I've seen other cemeteries where people are segregated, though. Hopefully that kind of stuff is past us. :0)