This will wander from Indonesia to Peru, but it’s all about bones. Really very dry bones. Could be pig bones, cow bones, or human bones as a Polish Baroness once said to me. Let’s begin with Peru, Marilyn and I and an Israeli commando we’ve met back in Equador and been traveling with for three months.
Alon comes in and says we’re taking a trip out to an Inca graveyard. Marilyn is a bit dubious but goes along for the ride. Ha! The ride is a 15 year old Ford, four door sedan sans upholstery! Not a scrap of fabric and that includes the seats! Well at least ours. The driver has softness. Once we leave the main unpaved road, it’s also obvious why we have no springs, shocks or windows. This is not a road, it’s a Marine obstacle course! But some how we hold on and get to the graves.
It takes one glance to see they have all been looted over and over for their ancient weaving. We walk around until Alon points to a skull cast aside from a grave. Pretty soon we are discovering all kinds of bones. Torsos propped up against mounds of hardened clay. Most of them still possess a great deal of dried skin! Marilyn is not happy. Alon and I try to soothe things but our guide beckons and we go over to one grave where he picks up a child’s hand and fore arm and asks if we want to hold it and be photographed! UGH!
Actually Peru wasn’t half as much fun as Sulawesi, one of the larger Indonesian islands. The northern part is Christian, well with deviations. Yo have to sacrifice a great many water buffalo before your kin can have any influence in Heaven. So it goes. A burial up there can take a week and have a 1000 guests. Water buffs and pigs are slaughtered and presented to the guests. But the best part of this area are the graves.
The richer you are the higher up they are on the cliffs. And once you’re dead, the carve a effigy of you that’s two thirds normal size, dress it in your best clothes and stick it up on the cliffs with all your other deceased relations! It’s really cool, here you are with three or four generations! Everyone dressed in their best and surveying the degenerating world from above! Can’t beat it!
Well, Marilyn really got into photographing these graves. One day we found one of the most famous. There are nineteen effigies on the balcony about fifty feet up! So she’s using a 300 MM lens and sighting in when she feels something go crunch under her left foot. When she looks down, she is standing among perhaps fifteen human skulls a various other body bones. Seems that once you’re dead, your dead and your remains are unimportant. So they just put them in a wooden casket, sit it beneath the balconies and let the weather take care of getting rid of you.
Marilyn squeals. She’s frozen, trying to avoid stepping on another. It is difficult since there is really no place to step without crushing some poor soul's remaining skull. I sort of guide her out.
Later we see something really cool. There are no cliffs in this region so they cut holes in really large rocks and bury their dead in them. Outside they stack your favorite objects while living. Lots of empty booze bottles, a tennis racket and cans of pie filling. Wow! And best of all, if a child dies before it gets its first teeth, it is declared it has not had enough life. So they choose a lovely tree, carve a hole and slip a tiny wooden casket in it. A living grave. It takes a long time for the tiny casket to rot in there and meantime the infant enjoys the tree growing and expanding! Hey! That’s really cool! So it’s bone . . . . . After all, unless we are cremated . . . .See what I mean? Bye-bye for now.