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Illustration1:PhotographCourtesyofMoundville Archaeological Park,TheUniversityofAlabama TheMoundvilleRattlesnakeDisk:OutlinedinForm,Imagery, andGestureSigns

CliffordC.Richey October2011

Itisunlikelythatalltheprinciplesusedintheseancientcompositionshavebeendetermined. Hopefullyenoughoftheprinciplesareknownforthereadertogainageneralideaofthe composition'smeaning.Forthepresentitappearsthatthefollowingruleswereusedin organizingandcomposingthecomposition. LayeredOrganization.Gesturesignsweredepictedbyhandmotionsmadeintheairandreliedon thereader'smemorytoretainthemessagefromonesigntotheother.Thesamesystemcouldnot havebeenusedinwrittensignlanguagebecausewritingsignsontopofoneanotherwouldhave resultedinahopelesstangleofsigns.Thussignswereseparatedbyspatialorganization,suchasthe groupingofFormsintopatterns,ordiscreteImages.Form,Imagery,andGestureelementsareall consideredsigns.Generallytheyappeartohavebeenreadfromthelargestsigntothesmaller. TheInitialorTotalForm(shape).Thiscouldbeconsideredthetitleorsubjectofthecomposition. IthasnotyetbeenlearnedhowoneshoulddetermineTotalForm.Attimesitseemsthatoneshould justvisuallytracetheoutlinetogaintheForm.Atothertimesthisseemstoresultinanincoherent shapeorperhapsunrecognizableshape.Perhapsitwasintendedthatoneonlylookattheoverall Formandnotincludeeverydetailsuchasminorindentations. Subforms.FoundwithinotherFormsorFormswithacomparativereductioninsize.Alsosmall groupingsofformsseparatefromthemajorForm. Imagery.Usuallyimagerywascomposedofelementarygesturesignsthatheldanassociational (theessenceofthedepictedsubject)value.Suchimagerywasoftentheequivalentofaphrasein English.AnexamplewouldbeanImageofaFrogtorepresenttheconceptof,theonethatleaps upward. BasicGestureSigns.Literallyhundredsofsuchsignshavebeenhistoricallydocumented,intexts onsignlanguage,andcanbeusedtoassistinlearningthemeaningoftheassociationalimagery throughcontext.Thesesignsweredrawnleavingoutthedepictionofthehands.Theresultantlines andtheformtheytookwaswhatwasconsideredimportant.Forexample,alargeXshapedsign wasbasedonthegestureoftwoarmscrossingeachothersintheactofatrade.Thissignwasalso usedforanexchange,trade,oratransformationdependingonitscontext.See http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/native/sign/index.htmforacompilationofthegesturesigns. Thesystemwasverylogicalaswillbeseenfromtheillustrationsbelow. Wewillbeginwiththesignforasurface.

Ifwewishedtowrite,onthesurfacewewouldsillyputaverticallineonthesurfaceline.

Or,beneaththesurface.

Wewouldwritecrossingthroughthesurfaceas,

asignforanopeningwouldlooklikeaV

Asimplecirclerepresentsapositionorlocation.Italsorepresentsthenumberone.

Position.Thesignsarepositionallysensitive.Relativedirectionaswellasunwrittensignscanbe determinedbytheirposition.Forexample,thepositionofasignonafaceorbodycanrepresentthat partwithoutitneedingtobeshown.Thepartnotdepictedisincorporatedintothemessagealong withthesignthatoccupiestheposition.Thiscouldresultinsomebizarreformsandimagery.ALeg andFootmightappearwhereanArmandHardwouldbeexpected.BecausetheLegandFoothold themeaningofalongjourneyandtheArmandHandholdthemeaningofawarriorandstewardor priesttheresultant,combined,messagewouldbe,thelongjourneyofthewarriorpriest.Thisalso explainswhyoneoftenseesimageryofseveredlimbs,fingers,evenheadsinthecompositions. Theyareessentiallywordsorphrasestheycouldbedepictedindependentlyifdesired. Wecouldcompoundtwosignstowrite,anopeninginthesurface.Thentosaysomethingwas aboveorovertheopeningwewouldplacethepositionalcirclethere.Followingthesamelogic,on thesurface,andbelowthesurface.

CompoundingofSigns.Form,Imagery,andGesturesignscouldallcompounded.Thisoften resultedinoddappearingFormssuchasaSerpent'sBodywiththeHeadofaFox,etc.Compounded GesturesignsaresometimesdifficulttorecognizebecauseoftheirsimplicityorlackofImagery. CompoundedFormisalsodifficultastheshapeswereoftenblendedoneintotheotherandsome imaginationisneededtoferretouttheindividualshapes. Therearealsosignsforplace.

AhorizontalplaceAverticalplace

Stance.ExampleswouldbeofaFiguresittingmeaning,waiting.AFigureonBendedKneemight represent,theonearisingetc.StancemightalsoincludesuchthingsasFacialExpression.

TheGesturesignelementfor,waitingandtheCompound,awaitingplace. Therearesignsformoreintangiblethings.Theytendtobecurvilinearsuchasthepositionalcircle discussedearlier.

movementturning

Thesignforwateristangible Whilethesignforaliveorlivingis curvilinear Therearesignsthatarealmosttopographicalsuchasahole.

Alocationthatisdarkorhasdepth.Itsoppositewouldbeahill, Addingadditionalconcentriccircleswouldindicateincreaseddepthorheight.Asideviewofthis signmightlooklikethis, orthis Writtensignlanguagewasaskeletallanguageandthereforecouldbeusedbypeoplespeakinga varietyofdifferentlanguageswithdifferentgrammars.Theeloquenceofthetranslationwas dependentonthereaderandthemannerinwhichthesignswereparaphrased. Atthistimeitisunknownwhethertherewasmorethanonesystemofwrittensignlanguage.While manyofthecompositionsofdifferentculturesmay,initially,appearquitedifferentthesedifferences seemtobemainlyofstyleandartistictaste.Thesestylisticdifferencesmayhavebeenintentional, asamatterofpride,suchasameansofbrandingaculture.BecauseImageryandformwerebased in,andcomposedof,thegesturesignsthisallowedmuchleewayfortheabovestylisticdifferences.

Fromtheaboveonemayimmediatelysensehowwellorganizedasystemitwas.Writtensign languagewasjustaslogicalasthesystemusedinhandsigning.Thebasicconceptsareeasily learned.OfcoursethesystemgetsmorecomplicatedwhenitinvolvesFormandImageryasthese havetheirownmeaningandassociations.OftenonecanfigureoutthemeaningoftheFormand Imagerythroughthesignelementscombinedwiththecontextoftheoverallmessage.Oneareaof difficultyisthatsomeFormsandImagesmaynotbeshownintheirtotalitybecausetheyareeither mergedintotheothersignsor,attimes,seemtohavepartshiddenbehindothersigns.Onehasto useone'simaginationtocompletetheknownForm.

Illustration2:DrawingCourtesyofMoundvilleArchaeological Park,TheUniversityofAlabama (Colorcodingaddedbythewriter)

ExactlywhattheAssociationalFormoftheBuffaloHeadmeanttotheNativeAmericanthat composeditisunknown.However,wecanfindsomehistoricalinformationastowhattheBuffalo meanttotheWinnebagoTribe.PerhapssimilarmeaningswereheldbyotherBuffalohuntingtribes. ThefollowingismaterialfromPaulRaden'sNotebook.1Thespiritofthebuffalo,ananimalthat seemstotraversethewholeearthinitsmigrations,istheveryessenceoftheland.WhenEarth makercreatedourworld,hesawthathiscreationwasunstableandmovedaboutuncontrollably,so hecreatedthelandtohelpanchorit.Thislandisinspiritualoriginagiganticbuffalo.However,the chiefofthebuffaloesisthecomplexdeityBlueHorn.AsitissaidinBlueHorn'sNephews,"He wasoneofthechiefWaterspirits,thatwaswhyhewascalled"BlueHorn".HewasaBuffalo Spirit.Hewasthechiefofthebuffaloes,buthewasaWaterspirit,itissaid.BlueHornisalso associatedwiththeblueskyandtheEveningStar.Esoterically,thebuffaloesoverwhichhehas commandarethevastherdofstarswhoundertakethemassivemigrationacrossthedarkplainof thecelestialsphereeverynightfromeasttowest,onlytocometogroundortodisappearbelowthe groundattheendoftheirjourney.WhatmakesthemBuffaloSpiritsisthemysteriousjourneythey makefromwesttoeast,eithersomehowacrossthelandorperhapssubterraneanly,travelinguntil theherdreemergesintheeastfollowingafterthesettingsun.AstheEveningStar(RedStar)who liesclosetothehorizonofthesunset,heleadsthisherdofstellarbuffaloacrossthesky.Sothe BuffaloSpirits,likeBlueHornhimself,seemtobesplitbetweenacelestialhomeandanabodein theunderworld. InthispaperwewilltrytoaligntheFormImageryandGesturesignswithexcerptsfromtheabove quote.Thematchisnotperfectbutdoestendtoshowsomecorrelations.Mostoftheelementsfound inRaden'squoteabovecanbefoundinthetranslationoftheDisk.Thisincludesthemigration (multiplewalksorjourneys),Thejourneysfromwesttoeast,theabundanceofsubterraneanwater andstreams,aswellasthereferencetotheBuffaloastheGreatOne,aleaderandfinallythe relationshipbetweenBlueHornandtheEveningstarVenus.

1 PaulRadin'sNotebook58,amanuscriptwithnumberscorrespondingtothepagesofalostsyllabictext.Pages 104107werefoundasasingleloosepagefragmentinsertedinanothernotebook(#59).Thetranslationisinthe styleandhandofOliverLaMre.collectedbySamBlowsnake,ca.1912 PaulRadin,WinnebagoNotebooks,Philadelphia:AmericanPhilosophicalSociety.

Illustration1:Initial Form

Thelocation, Thegreatone. (ALocationalCircleandthenumberone.Relativesizeequatestogreat)

Illustration2: TheBuffalo TheGreatOne,TheOneWhoMovesAround TheGreatBuffalo,TheOneWhoRoams. Thespiritofthebuffalo,ananimalthatseemstotraversethewholeearthinits migrations...Raden TheHornedOne, Theleader. Hisholes,Hiswallows (NotethelinestemmingfromtheBuffalo'sNosetothesignforaHoleontherimoftheDisk) (theholesinthesurfaceoftheearth,perhapsametaphorrelatedtobuffalowallows) Inthe Surface

TheAxe,Hand,EyeImagerycomprisesthecenteroftheDisk.Thisdividesthediskintotheleft (east)andright(west)aswellasanaboveandbelow.MuchofthepositioningoftheotherForms andImageryappearstobebasedonthiscenter.

Illustration3:The Axe,TheHand,The Eye TheGreatAxe,TheGreatSun, (TheAssociationoftheGreatAxe(gray)thatwithitsRays,heats,cutsopenthefaceoftheearth) HisHand,HisSteward, (ASunpriestorservantoftheSun) Ontheside Of Theearthfemale (Ontheside,Positional,oftheearthfemale.The,red,TriangularThumbnailindicatingtheearthas female) Theirlocations, Hisseeds,Thefour, Everywhere. (ThefourroughLocationalCirclesoftheFingertipsmayalsorepresentaseedpod.Thiswouldtie inwithHislineage,seebelow) (ThenumberFour,thefourdirections,everywhere) HisEye,Venus, (VenusastheEyeoftheSun,arisingbeforetheSunandactingasitsscout) (TheEyeImageryiscomposedofthreegesturesigns} TheLocation, Theoneonthehillside (1.TheCircleasthesignfor,theoneandalocation) (2.TheCurvedhillsignasviewedfromtheside) HeldasinaBowl (3.Theslightlycurvedlinebelowthehillsignmeaningheldasinabowl) HisHouse,Hislineage (ASquarerepresentsahouse.Inthiscaseafamilyorclan)

TheSerpents,Thestreams

That Bindtogether, (Thebodies,green,oftheSerpents,thestreams,tiedtogetherbytheknots,yellow) Thewestandtheeast. (Rightandleftingesturesigningrepresentsthedirectionswestandeast) Theabove Andbelow (theLoopsoftheSerpent'sBodiesarePositionedoneabovetheother) TheHornedSerpent,TheChieftainoftheStream HewasoneofthechiefWaterspirits,thatwaswhyhewascalled"BlueHorn".Hewasa BuffaloSpirit.Hewasthechiefofthebuffaloes,buthewasaWaterspirit,itissaid.Raden

Hereontheside, (theSerpentsHornisaFingerpointingadirection,here) (Positional) TheMouth,Thewatersource TheLips,theunseenturning,Theedge,theunseen,turning Within Theplaces,earthfemale (withintheearth) TheFang,Theonethatpuncturestheholes theearthfemale thegreatunseenmovement Onherside. (Positional)

TheNeck,Theverticalplace (verticalrectangleplacesign) Of Themany, (ThreeXForms,shorthandformany) Transformations. (TheXshapedsignsforanexchange,trade,orcosmologically,atransformation) Theunseenjourneys, (TheFeet,brownshades,withinDoublelines) Above And Below (PositionoftheFeet) TheEye,Venus, TheHill (Concentriccirclesofthehillsignasviewedfromoverhead) Within Thecontainer. (TheLinethatFormsaVesselshapearoundtheBird's(blue)Body,flight,Imagerywithinit) Hisflight, (ThehillsignFormstheHeadoftheBird)

TheTailoftheSerpent,Descends (possiblyaconstellation) (TheFormoftheTailsarebasedonthesignfordescendingandascending) Openinguptheplacesbelow (AcompoundoftherectangularplaceandtheVshapedopeningsigns) Themanycaptiveones (Threeasshorthandformany) (Theheartshapedgesturesignforsurroundedorcaptured) Thevessel,thecontainer (TheFormoftheTipoftheTailasaVessel) Theentrance (ThelentilshapedsignattheMouthofthevessel) To Thewatersource (TheMouthoftheVessel)

Below Theunderhalf,theunderworld (Theunderhalfofthecomposition) Theplace (Greenplacesign) Of Themultitudeofwalks

(ThenumerousFeet,shadesofbrown,intheStanceofwalkingheadingupwardsanddownwards) Upwardsanddownwards Ontheside. (Positional)

Theplacesbelow (Green,Positional) Thatareclosedorheldin (TheVshapedsignfor,heldin)

Inthewest, (Righthandsideequatestowestingesturesigning) Thewalksontheside, (FeetImagery,Positional) Descending, (Curvedsign,orange,fordescending) Unseen, (Doublelined) TheEye(Venus), (EyeForm,orange) Below (Positional) OntheLeft,Intheeast, (TheLefthandsideequatestoeastingesturesigning) Theverticalplace (Green,Rectangularplacesign) Theascension,

Unseen, (Curved,DoubleLinedFormforascendingunseen) Of TheEye,Venus (FormofEye,orange) (TheEyeispositionedattheupperendofthecurvedascendingsign) BlueHornisalsoassociatedwiththeblueskyandtheEveningStar.Raden Thewalksupward And Downward (The,shadesofbrown,FootImageryalignedwiththeFormoftheascendingsign,orange) Ontheside ThewalkoftheEyeVenusabove (AsdepictedbybeingPositionedontheupperarchoftheFootImagery)

SotheBuffaloSpirits,likeBlueHornhimself,seemtobesplitbetweenacelestialhomeand anabodeintheunderworld.Raden TheupperandlowerworldsasrepresentedbytheloopsoftheSerpent'sbodies.

WhatmakesthemBuffaloSpiritsisthemysteriousjourneytheymakefromwesttoeast, eithersomehowacrossthelandorperhapssubterraneanly,travelinguntiltheherdreemerges intheeastfollowingafterthesettingsun.Raden Thedescentinthewest,thehorizontalwalks,andthearisingintheeast

Illustration4: Serpent'sHeadEast BasicallytheSerpentHeadsarequitesimilarexceptfortheirStance(headingupwardandheading downward),theirNeckareasandtheirHorns. TheEasternSerpentisheadingdownward.TheBackofitsNeckhasthreeXsignswhichmeans exchangesortransformations.TheCountofThreeisshorthandforthemany.MostlikelytheXs alsoformtheImageryforaNetoraSnaretheonethatcapturesthespirits.Thereisavertical place(white)signseparatingtheXsignsfromtheImageryoftwoFeet(walksorjourneys) arrangedorPositionedasaboveandbelowonthesides.AbovetheFeetisa(lightgreen) horizontalplacesign.TheSerpent'sHornpossiblyindicatingaleader,isaseveredFingerpointing uptowardtheholesign,thenotch,onthedisk.BelowtheHornisasmallTriangularsign(red) meaningtheearthfemale.TheEyeoftheSerpentisPositionallyintheareaoftheeye(Venus).Itis theConcentricCirclessignforahill.Onthesideofthehill(Positional)isthe(blue)Formofa Bird'sBodyandTailindicating,flight).TheBird'sHeadmaybeviewedastheCircularhillsign. TheBird'sBodyiswithintheFormofvessel,acontainer. TheLinesontheSerpent'sJawarenotclear.TheJawoftheSerpent'sHeadmayhavehelditsown associationsuchassomethingthatopensandclosesorishinged.TheLinesmaybesignsfor doorways.Inanyevent,theMouthisthesignforawatersourceandarounditistheDoubleLined UshapedLips(theEdgeoftheMouth)indicatinganunseenturning.WithintheMoutharesix placesigns.ThemeaningoftheCountofsixisnotknown. FinallywearriveattheSerpent'sFang(red)whichmayhavebeenperceivedastheSerpent'sarmor weapon,theonethatcutsholesorsomethingalongthatvein.TheFangwasmadeintheFormofthe Triangularearthfemalesign.FromthesideoftheearthfemalesignstemaveryLargeDouble Lined(unseen)movementsign.ThisLinejusttouchestherimoredgeoftheDisknearaholesign. TheHornedSerpent,TheLeader,TheStream HerebelowTheHole Headingdownwards Themanytransformations TheNet,Thespiritcatcher

Averticalplace Aplaceofupwardanddownwardjourneys Onthesides (oftheearth)

TheEye,Venus Theflightwithin Thecontainer Thehillside Themouth,Thewatersource Theunseenturning Theplaceswithin TheFang,Theonethatpuncturestheholes Theearthfemale Onherside Thegreat,unseen,movement.

Illustration5: Serpent'sHeadWest