3. Of Iron Steamship Anacondas and Black Cayman Canoes: Lowland Mythology as a Rosetta Stone for Formative Iconography - Peter G. Roe and Amy Roe
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3 Of Iron Steamship Anacondas and Black Cayman Canoes Lowland Mythology as a Rosetta Stone for Formative Iconography Peter G. Roe and Amy Roe Enduring (Myth)themes and Systemic Change: An Overview The overarching topics of this volume are the enduring themes that have guided Amerindian cultures over vast stretches of time, space, and societies, and the alterations those themes have undergone as the natural byproduct of continuous, and of­ ten catastrophic, cultural and environmental change. Because the west­ ern hemisphere is essentially a set of ver­ ti­ cally and tenu­ ously connected island continents, there is an underlying unity to the linguistics , physical anthropology, and social development of these relatively isolated worlds before they were violently reintegrated into, and of­ ten obliterated by,the larger human story.This unity can be superficially belied by the welter of languages, cultures, adaptations, and specific histories that the autochthonous inhabitants of the Americas exhibit.Yet despite the range of environments and levels of social and po­ liti­ cal integration among these myriad populations, some themes persist even into the modern day, and do so from the remotest antiquity. One theme, in particular, stands out. A reverence for nature, evident in a persistently animistic worldview, is common to Amerindian societies, regardless of the level of social, po­ liti­ cal, or technical integration they have achieved. In their ethos, all the things of culture were modeled upon, and derived from, the world of nature.These worlds did not exist in static opposition to each other but in an endlessly dynamic dualism that focused on the liminal overlapping categories between otherwise opposed entities, a phenomenon called dual-­ triadic dualism (Roe 1995a). Such a view effectively connected the worlds of humans with the worlds of geological, hydrological, and climatological forms, as well as the animals, birds, and plants that inhabited them, via bridges or ladders of intergrading concepts. In turn, this animistic ontology of nature worship was Lowland Mythology as a Rosetta Stone for Formative Iconography 85 generated by a cultural epistemology of altered states of consciousness from dreams to trance and visions that revealed hidden realities that were,and are, regarded as more real, more perfect (a form of “primitive Platonism”) than the empirical patterns perceived by the waking senses (Roe 1989). In this metaphorically amphibian chapter, we attempt to reflect some of the complexity of that world by combining ar­ chaeo­ logi­ cal interpretation,archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy, and traditional ethnographic fieldwork . We examine one such importation of culture, the horticultural way of life, from the world of nature via one such overlap category, withholding protocultural custodians, mostly dawn were-­ creatures who withheld the secret of cultigens, which they acquired naturally, from questing humans and their culture hero deities. We do this with reference to the first true multimedia ,multiregional,and multiethnic civilization (Lavallée 2000) of ancient Peru, Chavín. The aesthetic signature of this seminal civilization was an art style (Roe 1974; Rowe 1967) that flourished from 1200 to 200 b.c.e.,as part of a regional cult (Burger 1992) that spread through­ out the north­ ern and central Andes and coast, and the civilization’s related sacred polities.We will do that by offering a new meta-­ narrative (Roe and Roe 2010), the story behind the story, for the physical location, construction, orientation, and history of the monumental stone architecture,and its associated stone sculpture,of the primate type site of Chavín de Huántar in the Callejón de Conchucos of the north­east­ern Andes. We attempt to do so by affirming a 3,200-­ year pattern of cultural continuity , with appropriate change but without significant symbolic or iconic disjunctions, or radical changes of meaning, in the astral mythologies of at least two jungle tribes removed both in time and environmental zones from that ancient highland civilization.These reference groups are the current ethnographic Amahuaca and Shipibo Indians of the eastern slopes of the Andes .They are both egalitarian Panoan tribes within the watershed of the Upper Amazon, the same watershed Chavín de Huántar was located within. These enduring themes and persistent narratives will allow us to partially explicate the content of the heretofore little understood Chavín religion (Bur­ ger 2008:692) and its attendant myths carved in stone on the famously enigmatic monumental sculpture that the site is noted for, esoteric artwork, an aesthetic sys­ tem that has successfully resisted generations of Andeanists’attempts to decipher it (Roe 2008). Specifically, we examine two well...