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918 L88t 


Throw me a bone 

a bone 




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Throw Me a Bone 

Throw Me a Bone 






Copyright, 1948, by ELEANOR LOTHROP 

All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, 
may not be reproduced in any form without per- 
mission of the publishers. 

The quality of the materials used in the manufacture of 
this book is governed by continued postwar shortages. 




When Eleanor Lothrop swore to 
"obey," she had no idea her new hus- 
band would soon be giving her orders to 
"clean out that smashed skeleton in 
Grave No. 27," In this gay and adven- 
turous book, she tells just what can hap- 
pen when you marry a famous archae- 
ologist and decide to go along with him 
for better or worse. There isn't much 
that doesn't happen, and it is all excit- 
ing, new and continuously amusing. 


7TCCORDING to the dictionary, "archaeology is "the study of 
/JL past human life and activities, as shown by the relics, monu- 
ments, etc., of ancient peoples/' What the dictionary doesn't explain 
is that you've got to get at the relics and the monuments before you 
can study them unless, of course, you restrict yourself to studying 
what someone else has found and that, according to Marquess of 
Queensbury rules, isn't done. You'd think that an archaeologist 
would sometimes be willing to accept the conclusions of his fellow 
scientists but he doesn't seem to have much confidence in human be- 
ings (except dead ones) and has to find out for himself. 

Monuments of ancient peoples are overgrown with brush and 
covered with earth while relics are buried deep in the ground. If 
someone has already cleaned them off or dug them up it doesn't 
count, for the game consists in finding your own, and although any 
archaeologist worth his ancient salt is interested in examining the 
discoveries of others he must turn up something himself before he 
can actually score. 

And this is no longer easy. The supply of monuments and relics 
is by no means exhausted but those archaeologists first on the scene 
naturally grab the best places so that, except for a question of 
luck, anything good that's left is apt to be in out-of-the-way spots 
and far from the comforts of home. In fact in all the years in which 
I've tagged along on archaeological expeditions not once did we 
settle down to work within walking distance of running water or a 
bed with springs. There is one school of thought which claims it 
unsporting to be comfortable but I've never subscribed to it 

Ancient. ruins or monuments are somewhat easier to find than 
relics. Many now dead cities and their locations are mentioned in 
historical accounts and there seems to be no rule against using a 
history book as a "trot." In addition, monuments are bound to be 


above ground, and although they may be covered with earth and 
rubble, at least they do stick out in plain view. The only trick is to 
be able to distinguish between what is a natural geographic feature 
and what is an artificial excrescence. I myself have mistaken every- 
thing from Mount Popocatepetl to a small bump in a back yard for 
an ancient mound, but archaeologists seem to have a special gift for 
spotting the real thing and don't make these humiliating mistakes. 
Once you've made a discovery, all that's left to do is hire a group of 
workmen to clean off the top layer of rubbish, find a place near by to 
live, take typhoid shots and collect a snakebite outfit, plenty of 
quinine, toilet paper and whisky (medicinal) . Everything is then set 
for the real work which consists of giving a spit and a polish to what 
comes to light after the dirt of ages has been removed. 

Relics take more searching for. These evidences of ancient civili- 
zation, whether ornamental or practical, are buried on or with their 
one-time owners; but the big question is "where?" 

Archaeologists sometimes look for a cemetery near the ruins of 
an old city, arguing that the people who once lived there must have 
done something with all the bodies that accumulated over the 
centuries. Unfortunately, however, there is no sure way of telling 
just where they tucked them away or whether they carted them off to 
some spot outside the city limits, so this is somewhat of a hit-or-miss 
procedure. A more reliable method is to look for a piece of ground 
that has bits of prehistoric pottery scattered on top. The broken 
pottery may be just ancient rubbish in which case, though, you're 
"warm," as this is a definite indication of a former civilization or 
it may mean that someone in plowing a field or making a road 
has struck scientific pay dirt. In the latter case it is most probable 
that untouched graves are to be had for the digging, for unless the 
erstwhile plower or road digger happened upon gold or precious 
stones he undoubtedly shrugged his shoulders and went home. 

Once a site has been selected the same preparations take place 
as in attacking a monument. Here, though, you are apt to run up 
against the problem of getting workmen, for many natives have 
superstitious feelings about digging up the bones of their ancestors. 


This can be got around either by not telling them what you hope 
they may find or, if that won't work, by giving them extra money, 
A little cash goes a long way in laying a ghost or, rather, bringing 
his remains to light, and the native's opinion of you will not be 
affected in any case, as he is convinced from the start that you are 

In any scientific expedition the workmen, unless specially trained, 
do only the heavy work. The moment they strike a skeleton or the 
objects which were supposed to accompany it to a better world 
they are moved on to virgin ground; and the archaeologist takes over 
with a whisk broom, a paintbrush, a little shovel and a knife. His 
resemblance to an infant playing games doesn't seem to bother him; 
.and he will contort himself into unmentionable positions while he 
flips off dirt with his knife and blows and brushes until the entire 
grave is cleared. 

Even if something wonderful turns up, you've got to let it lie 
until the whole works are exposed and photographed, and then it is 
usually snatched out and concealed from envious eyes so that you 
don't see it again until it turns up in some museum. There's nothing 
to do, however, but swallow your sense of frustration and hope that 
next time you'll spot something good and can slip it in your pocket 
before anyone notices. 

Archaeology, though, can be a great deal of fun especially if 
you don't take it too seriously and can ignore the technical parts. 
That way you turn it into a treasure hunt with the single difference 
that you can't keep the prize even if you win it. What's more, no- 
body can say that you don't go places. And what if they are some- 
times the wrong places and more than you bargained for? At least 
your life is never dull. 



Chapter 1 

MOST people say that honeymoons are overrated events. 
Diane, my best friend, warned me about mine. "You feel 
awkward/' she told me, "and uncomfortable. While your husband 
is courting you, so to speak, you strain to be at your best every minute 
and only relax when he goes home. But on your honeymoon he 
doesn't go home and you let your skin dry out and strain your eyes 
because you're afraid that the shock of seeing you with grease on 
your face or reading glasses on your nose will be too much for him. 
Not that you can do much reading/' she added bitterly. "You may 
be bored as hell after all, nobody can be entertaining twenty-four 
hours a day but if you should pick up a book, you get a guilty feel- 
ing that it looks as if you weren't having a Good Time. You'll see," 
she said grimly, nodding her blond curls in superior fashion. And I 
was deeply impressed, for Diane had had two honeymoons and was 
in a position to know. 

But Diane was wrong about me. My honeymoon wasn't all fun, 
111 admit, but it certainly wasn't dull and I never had time to be 
bored. I married an archaeologist! 

It was as much a surprise to me as to my family and friends, for 
I had long had other plans. When you're very young you generally 
have a definite idea what you want to do with your life; it's only as 
you grow older that uncertainty sets in. Some girls are bent on having 
careers; they are barely out of kindergarten before they begin to 


think of themselves as the Jane Austens, the Florence Nightingales, 
the Sarah Bemhardts of the future. Some girls are less ambitious; 
all they want is to get married, have children and live happily ever 

I thought of marriage too, but that was to be only the begin- 
ning. What I wanted was to travel and see foreign countries. And 
the best husband for such a life, I decided, was a diplomat. 

Night after night I dreamed of exotic out-of-the-way lands, of 
luxury liners and Oriental express trains, of brilliant dinner parties 
where many languages held sway. And though I could hardly dare 
hope to capture anyone over the rank of Third Secretary, in my 
dreams my husband was always The Ambassador. "Mr. Ambas- 
sador" I could actually hear the third butler say it "the car is wait- 
ing/' "And what will you wear tonight, Madame?" my imaginary 
French maid would ask, and I'd be so busy thinking up an answer 
that I could close my ears to Mother, as she sternly told me to pick 
my socks off the floor. I even mentally designed my clothes from 
the hostess gown in which I would graciously pour tea for a few 
specially invited Cabinet Ministers, to the formal evening dress 
(with train) to be worn at the reception in our honor at the Royal 
Palace. For years I continued to play the game of travel and of 
glamorous sojourns in foreign lands. Well! I have traveled and I 
have seen out-of-the-way places. And if it wasn't exactly in the 
manner of my dreams, at least I've covered more ground marrying 
an archaeologist than I ever could have as an ambassador's wife. 

At the time I met my then future husband, I suppose I knew as 
much about archaeology as most persons who had no special interest 
in the subject. Yd studied ancient history and could talk about the 
Acropolis (which I'd never seen) and the Roman Forum, where 
I'd been dragged at the age of seven. In addition, my aunt's sister- 
in-law had married an assistant to Lord Carnarvon, which made me 
feel that I had a personal link with Tutankhamen's tomb and the 
royal curse. So when my hostess at a gay cocktail party presented me 
to "Sam Lothrop, the famous archaeologist," I was not particularly 
impressed but only surprised that he wore no beard, that he was 


cocktails and that he was quite young. (I suppose I be- 
that archaeologists were kept locked up until they were fifty 
or so and thee suddenly released on an unsuspecting world.) Any- 
how, 1 led right off with the Acropolis, the Forum and King Tut and 
was startled when my companion, rudely interrupting, said, "I am an 
American archaeologist." 

"Of course/ 7 1 answered, irritated that my conversation had failed 
to impress him. "I know the Lothrops come from Boston. So what?" 
But it seems I had missed the point An American archaeologist, it 
was explained, is an archaeologist who specializes in the archaeology 
of the Americas North, Central and South. 

Now in these days of continental solidarity and good neighbor 
policy, most people north of the Rio Grande know more about 
Latin Americans than these people know about themselves. News- 
papers and press agents have highlighted the villainy of the Argen- 
tine, the gay life of Mexico, the incomparable flavor of Chile's wines. 
Donald Duck has flown down to Rio, good dancers must perform the 
samba, and the Incas and Aztecs are more or less household words. 
Until fairly recently, however, we arrogantly thought of ourselves as 
Americans, not North Americans, and all roads (archaeological) 
led to Rome. 

It might thus seem that I had made anything but an auspicious 
start toward impressing a man of science. Sam Lothrop, though, 
must have been attracted by my ignorance, for he acted as if nothing 
could give him greater pleasure than to correct popular miscon- 
ceptions and fill in the vacant spaces of my mind. He went even 
further. He married me. 

Our honeymoon was different from the usual honeymoon; it was 
also an archaeological trip. It was different in other ways, too, for it 
turned out to be a honeymoon for three. 

The third member of the party was Mr, George G. Heye, and 
although he went along only in spirit he was in many ways the most 
important of the trio. Mr. Heye was Sam's boss at the time, head 
of a museum which boasted the ponderous name of Museum of the 
American Indian, Heye Foundation, and you would no more think 


of leaving out "Heye Foundation" when you mentioned the title 
than you would omit the G. from Mr. George G. Heye's name. 

Mr. George G. Heye was not an archaeologist he was an execu- 
tive and his great passion was collecting the art of the American 
Indian. For years he had lived in a sumptuous apartment on Fifth 
Avenue where he dispensed wonderful food and drink and which 
was filled to overflowing with archaeological specimens. Gradually 
his collection grew so large that the American Indian threatened to 
displace Mr. Heye, and at that point, in self-defense, he sought an- 
other home for his trophies. Thus, the Museum of the American 
Indian, Heye Foundation. 

Sam had talked to me about his boss before we were married and 
had mentioned, rather casually, that he was interested in our trip. 
Interested? It was his trip. I found out later that everything had 
been arranged before our departure. The Museum had received a 
grant of money and had decided to blow it on sending Sam to Chile. 
(The fact that he had acquired a wife was incidental, purely inci- 
dental.) He was to do a little digging, a lot of collecting and, in 
general, travel through the country and see what was what. 

It wasn't that I didn't like that kind of trip. It was just that it was 
my HONEYMOON, and Fd pictured spending it as we pleased and 
not as Mr. Heye pleased. The fact that Mr. Heye and I liked lots of 
the same places was fortunate for me, but it had nothing to do with 
the principle of the thing. 

It would have been all right if Sam had occasionally been willing 
to cheat a little. Like spending Christmas with friends instead of in 
a dirty little hotel in the Chilean backwoods. It couldn't be done, 
said Sam, because there was some sort of Indian celebration going on 
in those backwoods, and Mr. Heye might be interested in Sam's 
seeing it. "If the Indians can celebrate Christmas, why can't we?" 
I asked, but this got me nowhere. Sam had a conscience. 

As a matter of fact, all archaeologists have consciences. The trou- 
ble is that their consciences are one-track affairs and are directed only 
toward their work. There is no use in getting upset or pulling any 
"darling, you don't love me any more" kind of talk, because an 
archaeologist just doesn't understand. He may love you madly, but 


a wife, ailing child or personal desire is pushed aside 

the JOB rears its head. 

I've often wondered why this is so and have come to the con- 
clusion that it most be because an archaeologist cares terrifically 
about his profession. God knows he'd never have picked it otherwise. 
He's invariably sent to unhealthy tropical climates, his body is a 
continuous exploring ground for insects and, at best, what can he 

hope for? 

Fame? Only among fellow scientists. I'm willing to bet that 
ninety-nine persons out of a hundred don't know the name of a 
single archaeologist. Or of any archaeological discovery. With the 
possible exception of Tutankhamen's tomb and that only because 
there was a curse and a lot of mystery and scandal connected with 


Money? Certainly not! That's something reserved for bankers and 
bookmakers and movie stars. A good archaeologist won't starve, but 
unless he has an income on the side he had better accustom his 
stomach right from the start to boiled beef and bread with oleomar- 
garine, rather than squabs, or mushrooms under glass. 

At the beginning of our trip I didn't know all that. At the begin- 
ning of our trip archaeology meant little more to me than an 
impressive word that was difficult to spell, and I expected archaeo- 
logical life to be like my dreams of diplomatic travel with adventure 

We spent one glorious unscientific week in Santiago, capital of 
Chile. The hotel was good, the people we met attractive, and we 
went to the races, danced, ate gigantic lobsters from nearby Robinson 
Crusoe Island and, all in all, were typical newlyweds. One week! 
Then the honeymoon ended 

I didn't know it was over. I was still starry-eyed. Even when Sam 
said, "Have you ever heard of Taltal?" 

"It sounds like a disease. Like beriberi," I added. I didn't realize 
at the time how psychic I was. 

Sam laughed. "Taltal is a port on the north coast," he explained. 
"Used to be a flourishing nitrate center until nitrate began to be 


made synthetically. It's no longer quite so flourishing, but there's 
some archaeology I'd like to check on. The boat leaves tomorrow." 

"I'd love to go/' I said, looking at my hero with complete confi- 

"The boat's not very big/ 7 said Sam. "Not like the Grace liners/* 

"Why don't we take a Grace liner then?" 

"The Grace liners don't stop at Taltal This is the only boat for 
thr. next week that stops. You see, Taltal isn't so flourishing any 
r.i'ore," lie repeated rather lamely. 

"Oh, that's all right/' I said. "A smaller boat will be fun." I was 
the scientist's wife. His helpmeet. Until I saw the boat the following 
day. It was called the S.S. Huemul after some Indian. Drab and 
dingy, it huddled defensively at the pier, as if recognizing its own 
limitations. It was about the size of a small yacht, but there the 
similarity ended. The S.S. Huemul looked just like a cattle boat. 
That was because it was a cattle boat. But I didn't realize that at the 

We had a gay send-off, with presents. One friend brought a can 
of bedbug powder, another, a new roach remedy. The Chileans 
have a wonderful sense of humor, I thought, although not very 
subtle. By some lucky chance, however, I kept the powder. 

Not that I was any novice at traveling. I had made eight trips to 
Europe with my family and had nothing but scorn for the type of 
American who talked about the French as "frogs" and the Italians 
as "dagoes" and who thought the little old U.S.A. was good enough 
for him. 

I loved going places. We always crossed on the French line be- 
cause of the food, and most of the stewards were my friends and 
gave me special service. I felt entirely at home at the Hotel Crillon 
in Paris, Claridge's in London and the Excelsior in Rome. To say 
nothing of the Hotel de Paris at Monte Carlo and the Negresco 
at Nice. The family agreed that you sometimes got more atmosphere 
in small hotels but, as my father said, "Why not have a comfortable 
base and go out to find your atmosphere from there?" 

And we did need large rooms as we always had so much luggage. 


We carried an extra supply of shirts for Father and extra underwear 
for all of us, as it was agreed that you couldn't be sure of havmg any- 
thing washed properly unless you were in London or Pans. Father 
couldn't sleep except on his own pillow, which was o giant sizeand 
made of especially soft feathers; so that was carried along toe. Then 
there was the leather kit which held two hot-water bags (Father was 
subject to occasional attacks of dyspepsia), plus a sterno stove to 
heat the water. And the drug case, which was enormous and con- 
tained, among other things, aspirin, rhubarb and soda tablets, three 
remedies for heartburn, and two different mouthwashes which 
Mother claimed she couldn't do without. There was a small suitcase 
for linens which held outsize pillow cases for Father's pillow, and a 
supply of linen hand towels, as Mother thought hotel ones were apt 
to be scratchy. She didn't like the soap you got in hotels, either, so 
she used to provide herself with a large assortment of cakes from 
Roger & Gallet (Violette or Fleurs d'Amour). And an extra supply 
of wash rags and always two Kent nailbrushes. 

Hotel managers were apt to be quite upset when we arrived, but 
Mother would look pathetic and helpless (she was by far the most 
efficient member of the family) and the gallant manager usually 
ended up giving us a larger and better suite than the one that had 
been ordered, at the same price. Especially in France. 

A psychiatrist would have had a field day with Mother, who had 
an obsession about cleanliness. She washed her hands before meals, 
after meals and at least six times in between. She always carefully 
examined the beds when we first arrived in our hotel rooms (even 
the Ritz!),.and she upset the chambermaid by pulling the sheets all 
the way out each morning to make certain that the beds would be 
entirely remade. In the dining room she would wait until the maitre 
d'h6tel wasn't looking and then quickly wipe off her plate and 
cutlery with her napkin, and if she spotted a waiter's thumb closer 
than an eighth of an inch to her food, the food was sent back or left 
uneaten. Father and I laughed at her, but I could hardly help but 
be influenced. 

I thought of Mother all the way to Taltal. And after we got there. 

Chapter 2 

I THOUGHT I was prepared mentally for almost anything that 
might happen on an archaeological trip, but traveling in a cattle 
boat was something I had failed to take into consideration. I'm 
glad, though, I had the experience. Now that it's over. It is funny 
what preconceived ideas one has. I used to think that a cattle boat 
was a boat for cattle. I even believed that Sam had had to wangle 
special permission for us to be on board, thus cheating a couple of 
cows out of their trip. "Move over, Bossie, and let the lady look at 
the ocean," I expected him to say. 

As a matter of fact, a cattle boat is a boat for cattle, but it is for 
everything else too. The cows come first, as indeed they should, but 
where they won't fit, any other animal or piece of freight that has 
the right angles is tied up or deposited. What space remains is given 
over to passengers. 

The S.S. Huemul was so crowded that I don't believe the agents 
would have dared sell another ticket to a mouse. The passengers 
were mostly rotos or half -breeds, with a few Indians thrown in, and 
they occupied the deck. Not in deck chairs, wrapped up in steamer 
blankets, with stewards serving hot consomme, but sitting or lying 
squashed up against each other. Like pressed caviar. 

Bow and stern were filled with cattle, about two hundred in all, 
and from the heartbreaking moos that came forth they were evi- 


dently in the last stages of agony. Crates of chickens were piled 
frighteningly high, the inmates adding to the din. Goats and pigs 
were tied up in every convenient spot, protesting bitterly, and 
additional strange noises which I couldn't identify increased the 
madhouse atmosphere. 

We had been allotted one of the two passenger cabins; which was 
lucky, as there was not an inch of room on deck. The cabin was too 
small for both of us to stand up at the same time, so Sam remained 
vertical and I stretched out on the narrow berth. "How about re- 
versing positions?" I asked, after the first half hour. 'Til stand for a 
while and you lie/' But just then a little man appeared, like an 
angel out of the sky, with an invitation from the captain to lunch in 
his quarters. 

We rushed out on deck and came up against a solid phalanx of 
bodies. A fat Indian woman clutched me as I tried to wiggle 
through, and one of her little darlings grabbed my ankle. I leaned 
down to disengage it and Mama let out a deep belch. A combined 
odor of garlic, sweat and general filth hit me in the face. "Help," I 
yelled at Sam. "Minnehaha stinks." 

Sam has endless ingenuity, and instead of arguing or trying to pull 
me loose, he threw the child a penny, which she promptly put in 
her mouth and swallowed. Minnehaha began to whale her for 
losing the coin, and in the ensuing excitement I managed to free 
myself and we advanced to the bridge of the boat. 

The captain met us with a flourish and introduced himself 
"Santiago Galindo Mendez, at your orders" and there was more 
name than captain. His five feet and few stray inches barely reached 
my shoulder, and the biggest thing about him was his stomach, 
which came to meet you before he did. He got around himself very 
well, though, and when he ushered us into his cabin it was with the 
grace of a Fred Astaire. 

That small room contained two moth-eaten but comfortable 
chairs, a kind of couch, which obviously turned into a bed at night, 
and a wooden bench, placed in front of an immovable table, on 
which three places had been set. In a corner stood a phonograph, 


vintage of 1910, and a pile of records. Nothing more. A far cry this 

from the captain's quarters on the lie de France, but to me it spelled 

heaven. , 

Dust overlaid everything except the phonograph which was pol- 
ished within an inch of its life. It was the type with horn outlet and 
detachable handle which the Victor Company used to advertise 
by a picture of an unpleasant-looking dog listening like mad to His 
Master's Voice, The handle here, however, had been discarded and 
the machine connected by an elaborate and confusing system^of 
wires to a small electric fan which, minus fan blades and protecting 
cage, managed to run it electrically. Wooden pulleys had been at- 
tached to the motor of what-had-been-the-fan to gear its speed to the 
speed of the phonograph, making the tempo of what came forth 
somewhat erratic. It did work, though, without having to be wound 
by hand, and Rube Goldberg could have done no better. The cap- 
tain's pride as he showed us his creation was like that of a father 
exhibiting the latest photograph of little Willie, and finally, unable 
to contain himself any longer, he bowed to Sam and murmured a 
question in Spanish of which I distinguished the word "dance." 
"Sam," I giggled, "he's asking you to dance with him/' 
'Idiot/' said Sam, "he's asking me if he may dance with you." 
So Sam accepted with pleasure (for me), and the captain "call 
me Santiago," he said put on the top record and, clutching me as 
close as his stomach allowed, bounced me around the room to the 
strains of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby/' It was like 
dancing with a rubber ball 

When the record ended he moved the needle back, reset the 
electric fan and off we galloped again. With Sam's permission, of 
course. After three more rounds and three more permissions I got 
slightly desperate. "Please, please, refuse me/' I begged Sam. But 
he was having a wonderful time, and I'm sure his generosity would 
have held out indefinitely had lunch not suddenly appeared. 

This was a four-course affair soup, fish, chicken and dessert and 
it was delicious. Not because it was served in a stuffy cabin in a 
miserable little hulk on the Pacific; it would have been delicious 


anywhere. Whoever had cooked that meal would have been able 
to take a piece of bark and some grass, add a sprinkling of herbs, 
and turn out a dish of Cordon Blen quality. No wonder the captain's 
stomach was out of proportion to the rest of him. 

The food was literally smothered in garlic, but I enjoyed it so 
much that I never thought of the consequences. After we left the 
table, however, I was seized with a most terrific itch. Scratching 
gave some relief but was inadequate, and Sam glared at me each 
time I applied fingernails to body. "Garlic always gives me hives," I 
whispered, but he kept on glaring and shaking his head. 

Now Fd been brought up right, too. I'm sure Mother wouldn't 
have approved of my scratching in public, but the problem had 
never arisen, for every time Fd come out in hives Fd been whisked 
to bed and a skin doctor had been called in to apply a soothing pink 
lotion and assure the family that it was really nothing serious. Sam 
didn't seem at all worried, though (except about my manners), so 
I kept right on scratching and he kept right on glaring. 

Except for the itching, I was very happy in the security of the 
captain's cabin and hated to contemplate a return to our cell. After 
all, I would have itched wherever I was. What's the outside limit, 
I wondered, that guests can stay after lunch is over? And still be 
reasonably polite, of course. Then the solution came to me. I would 
charm the captain so that he would lose all track of time. What if 
the ship did hit a rock? I was willing to take a chance. 

Fd go right on dancing to his antiquated phonograph if necessary. 
And Fd make my conversation so interesting and amusing that he 
couldn't bear to let me go. Unfortunately Fd overlooked the fact 
that it is difficult to charm anyone with conversation when you 
don't speak the same language. 

I did know a little Spanish. As a matter of fact, Fd studied at 
a language academy for three weeks before we'd left New York. It 
was a very modem academy. The instructor either spoke no English 
or didn't feel like doing so. He stood on a platform back of a large 
table on which a lot of different objects were placed. First he picked 
up a pencil and, holding it high so that all the class could see, said 


In sing-song tones, "el lapeeze, el lapeeze." Then he hit the table a 
smart blow. "Maysah," he said "La maysah." That over, he laid 
down the pencil and told us it was on the table, which we already 

Next he picked up various other objects a pen, ink, a book and 
went through the same routine. Suddenly, pointing straight at me, 
he asked, rather harshly I thought, where the pencil was. I knew, of 
course, and the question was idiotic anyhow; but when put to me 
that way I couldn't say a thing and just goggled at him. Someone in 
the back of the room yelled 'MAYS AH" and the instructor nodded 
his head and gave me a nasty look. That was the end of the first day's 

The second day we went on to colors and numbers, the third day 
to animals and household effects, and by the end of the week we 
got more personal and discussed the family and family relationships. 
After three weeks, I had acquired a vocabulary of perhaps a hundred 
words, a collection of useless phrases, and was out twenty dollars. 

Fd done better when we reached Chile. There were the practical 
expressions I picked up like "Where is the toilet?" or "Run away 
you dirty little squirt," the last of which worked like a charm when 
whining children accosted you on the street. But obviously neither 
of these sentences was going to get me to first base with the captain. 

Then, too, I could say u Te quiero" ("I love you"), which was the 
title of a Mexican song I'd heard on the radio, but this seemed like 
a pretty strong beginning for any new relationship and might give 
him the wrong idea. Anyhow, it was shooting the works all at once. 

So we all sat down and smiled at each other, Sam, who spoke 
fluent Spanish, evidently felt he had nothing to say. Call-me-Santiago 
was equally silent I knew we'd never last long at this rate, so in 
desperation I fell back on my school days. "Little Spanish, me/' 
I said. 'Want to hear?" He nodded enthusiastically. "The pencil is 
on the table. School Spanish/' I added, so that he wouldn't think 
me crazy. 

But the captain only looked puzzled and dug a hand into his 


pocket where he thought he had put his pencil, and where, of course, 
it was. "Ah, Americano joke," said he. "Ha, ha, ha." 

If he's that easily amused, I thought, it's going to be a cinch. And 
I asked him where the cat of his grandmother was. 

"Ha, ha, ha, ha/' 

This unexpected triumph intoxicated me. "Mrs. Brown does not 
like her brother-in-law," I stated, pulling out my tramp card. 

But apparently I'd struck the wrong note. "Who is Mrs. Brown?" 
asked Call-me-Santiago. "Do I know her?" He looked reproachful, 
as if to rebuke me for being a gossip. 

"It's no use," I said to Sam. "We might as well give up." It was 
clear that no three weeks of lessons could turn me into a Spanish- 
speaking siren. But before we left I made up my mind to get some 
practical information. "Taltal, good hotel?" I inquired. 

"Ha, ha, ha!" 

"Sam, you ask him/ 7 1 said desperately. 

"Captain Galindo," asked Sam, "has Taltal a good hotel?" 

"Three hotels," he answered. "The Palace, the Grand and the 

This at least sounded encouraging. "But which is the best?" Sam 

"Ha, ha, ha, there is no difference. Ha, Ha." 

I didn't like the way he laughed, although I later discovered the 
reason for it. It was only three o'clock, but Sam and I stood up and 
murmured our thanks and glumly set out for our cell. "At least stop 
scratching," he said irritably, as we emerged on deck. 

"Sam," I said pitifully, "I've got hives." 

"Nonsense. They're fleas. Fve got 'em too. What do you expect 
on a cattle boat?" 

Up to then Fd known only one flea. I'd known him intimately. 
Our mutual contact had taken place in- Biarritz, where my family 
had reluctantly been persuaded to leave me for an extra ten days of 
sun and amusement while they returned to Paris to shop. When 


the? I moved out of the ocean suite we'd been occupying 

and took a room in a small hotel off the beach, close to a villa where 
friends were living. The hotel was unpretentious and not very com- 
fortable, but I spent virtually no time there except to sleep. 

One morning I felt something in bed with me and, peering under 
the sheet, discovered a large, fat flea. Shocked, horrified and 
ashamed, I grimly gave chase. I finally managed to get my thumb 
over his body and press him down on the bed, but this, unfortunately, 
did not finish him off and when I tried to pick him up he escaped. 
Three or four times I covered him with a finger, but each time he 
got away and hopped over to another part of the bed, where he 
sat laughing at me. 

The following morning, there he was again. And every morning 
from then on. I was never able to kill him. The closest I got was 
catching him between thumb and forefinger, but when I tried to 
squeeze him to death he slipped out. 

I was brought up very strictly. "Be courteous and honorable/' 
my mother used to tell me. "If you make a mistake, admit it. If you 
break something, don't try to hide the pieces and let someone else 
take the blame. And be considerate of other people if you expect 
them to be considerate of you/' So when I was ready to leave 
Biarritz I thought of the next occupant of the room, and even 
though it humiliated me, I confessed to the proprietor that I was 
leaving a flea in my bed. "I'm dreadfully sorry," I said weakly, wait- 
ing for him to turn on me; 

"Bless your heart, Mademoiselle/ 7 He laughed. "Only one? Why 
the hotel is full of fleas. I've got cats, you know/' 

He was nice about it, all right. But I couldn't get over the feeling 
that I'd gotten into the wrong kind of hotel. A dive, probably. Any- 
thing might happen in a place like that. Thank Heaven the family 
didn't know to what I'd been exposed. So I never told them or any- 
one else about my flea. 

Looking back on this experience, I think it's funny. The intense 
and unsuccessful work I put in to kill one flea strikes me as pathetic. 


Now, of course, there is absolutely nothing about fleas that I don't 

In the first place, the sooner you realize that ieas are made of 
rubber, the better. There is no such thing as squeezing them to 
death. It is sometimes possible to squash them between ) r our finger- 
nails, but there is always the risk of their escaping. There is only 
one sure method of getting rid of a flea. 

After you spot him whether on the floor, the furniture, or on 
y OU we t a finger with your tongue (the forefinger works best) and 
dive for him. The flea, once covered with a wet finger, is out of luck. 
He can't hop until the finger dries. Here's your chance, then, to pick 
him up and hold him between dampened digit and thumb. Don't 
waste time trying to smother him. It can't be done. But if a flea's 
body is made of rubber, at least, thank God, he can drown. And 
there's your solution. 

If you're lucky enough to have plumbing, there's nothing to it. 
Just drop him into the washbowl, the tub, or the toilet and run the 
water or flush. If there is no plumbing, he can be deposited in a glass 
of water or other liquid, where eventually he'll drown, or you move 
on to another place, leaving glass and flea behind. 

Of course I knew none of this, that day on the S.S. HuemuL It 
was one of the few occasions when the knowledge wouldn't have 
helped much anyhow. The plumbing, so-called, or "WOMEN," 
was something only to be approached for dire necessity. Sam claimed 
that "MEN" was equally bad. There was no glass in our cabin, nor 
room for one. And we had each acquired such a parade of fleas that 
the simplest thing was to brush them off as well as possible. This is 
what is called fouling your own nest. But we were too miserable 
to care. 

Chapter 3 

T 71 THEN I was fifteen, I fell in love with an umbrella salesman 
V V and I spent most of my time squinting at the sky and 
gloomily predicting rain, then suggesting to my friends that they go 
to Snellenburg's store to buy umbrellas from Jim. And after I was 
married I yearned to do the same kind of promotion for Sam. So 
when the S.S. Huemul dropped anchor in the harbor of Taltal I 
was breathless with excitement This was it. My first chance to 
practice being a scientist's wife. Through me Sam was going to be 
the best-known archaeologist in the world. (I already thought he 
was the best.) I've learned since that it is a great deal easier to 
promote umbrellas than archaeology and that the greatest help an 
archaeologist's wife can give her husband is negative just not being 
an impediment But at the time I was all set to find lost Spanish 
treasure and a new civilization (for him), and even now, after years 
of painful discovery that it is the pottery you don't break and the 
skeleton you don't move by mistake that endears you to an ar- 
chaeologist, I still dream hopefully of being a power behind the 

The cattle got off at Taltal before we did. We waited two hours 
after we had anchored, watching while belts were placed around 
the cows' middles and they were hoisted into the air by some sort 



of derrick and then let down Into a lighter. There was no use com- 
plaining, for, as Sam said, a cattle boat is run for cattle, not passen- 
gers. And when we finally did land, I wondered why I'd ever been in a 
hum*. After fifteen minutes on shore nothing would have made me 
so happy as to be back with the cows. 

Taltal was born out of the desert which runs along the entire 
northern coast of Chile. Shaped literally out of sand, for no sprig of 
green had relieved the monotony of this arid wasteland until pipes 
had been installed to bring down the necessary water from the 
melting snows of the Andes, some hundred and fifty miles away. 
Taltal was built as a shipping port for the nitrate which was found 
far inland, and in the days when the mines were spewing forth their 
precious salts it was a boom town, rich and gay and lively. Millions 
of dollars of business had been conducted in its busy center, and 
crowds of miners came there each week end to enjoy themselves. 
Bars and dance halls and hotels lined the streets. Stores sold luxury 
goods. Money was made to spend, not to keep. 

When we saw Taltal all this had changed. The invention of 
synthetic nitrate had killed the value of the mines which, though 
still productive, lay almost idle. When we saw Taltal it had become 
a phantom town. The streets were still enormously wide. The 
houses, constructed of expensive Oregon wood, still stood, topped 
by corrugated iron roofs. Stores, bars and boarding houses still 
crowded each other. 

But the wide streets were unpaved and at the mercy of the shifting 
sand. The houses, paint peeled off and roofs sagging, rotted in the 
sun. Most of the bars and stores were closed and those that were still 
functioning had pitifully little to offer. Poverty overlaid everything, 
like a damp cloth. Taltal, in short, resembled a once elaborate but 
since abandoned movie set which had become drab and dirty with 

We first tried the Grand Hotel. But after one look we grabbed 
our bags and trudged on to the Palace, which was nearby. Then the 
Olympia. The captain had said there was no difference between 
them ha 7 ha, and he was right. So we stayed at the Olympia. 

This was a small two-storied building, wedged in between two 


similar ones. The bedrooms were on the second floor and lined both 
sides of a narrow corridor which ended in a covered porch, just 
large enough to hold a couple of chairs. Each bedroom had one 
window looking out on the corridor. The windows had no curtains. 
There was no air, no light and no hope. 

The frowzy proprietress, who resembled a Madam, showed us our 
room and asked for a deposit. Sam paid her, and she swished off, 
leaving us to musty horror. I quickly opened the window which, 
being on the corridor, left the atmosphere unchanged. Two little 
girls chased each other screaming up and down the hall, and one of 
them leaned on the sill and poked her face inquisitively into the 
room. I closed the window. 

In the dimness we could just recognize the shape of two sagging 
beds, a couple of early early-American chairs and a bureau with the 
drawers missing. In a corner hung an electric light bulb, suspended 
from the ceiling. "Let's see the worst/' I said bravely, and turned it 
on. Nothing happened. "Sam, the light is out of order. Go tell 
Madam Pushbottom." 

He was gone only a moment "The Madam's compliments," he 
announced in a tough falsetto voice, and he put his hand on his 
hip and wiggled his behind the way she did hers, so that in spite of 
my misery I had to laugh. "The Madam says 'what do you expect 
for twenty-five cents a day with food?' The Madam says 'the lights 
are turned on at 7 P.M. and off again at 10 P.M. and if you don't 
like it you know what/ " 

"You're making it up," I said, giggling. And then sat down on 
my bed and burst into tears. "Can't we please get out of here, Sam. 
Please. Please." 

"There's no place to go," remarked Sam practically. 

And there wasn't. When we walked out on the porch to look 
around, we could just make out the lines of that queen of the 
Pacific, the S.S. Huemul, disappearing into the horizon. Our last 
friend had deserted us. 

"Cheer up/' said Sam. "If things aren't better tomorrow 111 see 
about hiring a car and motoring down the coast." But things were 
worse, not better, and we didn't get a car. 


" Sam had been right about the lights. They, or rather it, did go on 
at seven. This made practically no difference, though. The bulb 
was the size of a golf ball-probably half a watt, I decided, although 
I could never see well enough to check on this-and gave just suffi- 
cient illumination to keep us from running into the furniture. 

It wasn't strong enough for us to see the insects, so we never did 
know just what bit us. We could guess, though. Fleas, of course 
both the ones we'd brought with us and a new lot. Bedbugs, almost 
surely, for life in bed, in spite of the powder we sprinkled about, 
was a series of hypodermic injections. And some sort of winged 
creatures that from the noise they made must have been the size of 
hummingbirds. An entomologist with a flashlight would have had 
a wonderful time. 

I spent most of the Erst night sitting up on a rickety chair, with 
a pillow back of me and my feet where the bureau drawers had 
once been. Sam, irritatingly enough, was able to sleep. So I waited 
until five o'clock to wake him and then asked what time we could 


"You know, that car." 

"Darling," said Sam, "we can't leave yet. We have to stay at least 
a few days to examine some archaeological sites. I told Heye. . . ." 

"Sam," I interrupted, "do you think Mr. George G. Heye would 
be willing to spend one hour in this hellhole?" 

"Maybe not. But he's paid for the trip. . . ." 

"I'll pay him back." 


"I'll pay a hundred dollars extra." 


"Two hundred. I'll use Uncle Walter's wedding check." 


The days were considerably better than the nights. We'd get up 
early, take a picnic lunch and walk some two miles south, where 
the archaeological sites were located. These were right on the ocean, 


and we'd first tear off our clothes, dip them in the water to drown 
any insect life still extant and spread them on a rock to dry. Then 
hurl ourselves into the ocean to "be deloused. 

"This Florida resort life is wonderful/' I said happily the first 
morning, as I floated on my back, gently scratching bites. 

"A little cold/ 7 Sam countered. "Probably a bit early in the 
season. How about getting out and going up to that elegant hotel, 
the Bellavista-Miramar-Seaside, to warm up with an aperitif?" 

"I could stay here forever/* I answered lazily, "and, anyhow, I 
don't think the hotel would let us in without clothes." 

"Eleanor," said Sam, gently but firmly breaking up the game, 
"how about a little archaeology? You know, what we came for." 

Reluctantly I left the water and we applied ourselves to the 
archaeology. Somehow it wasn't my idea of what archaeology 
should be. I had never seen this science on the hoof, so to speak, but 
I'd pictured it clearly in my imagination. There would be a number 
of workmen tearing up the ground until they hit upon a lot of tombs, 
after which Sam and I would be carefully lowered into the grave to 
pull out gold and emeralds. When my hands and pockets were 
filled, I would signal "ahoy," like a diver at the bottom of the sea, 
and the waiting workers would pull me up. 

The archaeology in Taltal wasn't like that at all. Along the beach, 
as far as the eye could see, was a pulverized mass of sand, ash, 
carbonized material, shells, and broken and discarded stone imple- 
ments. At intervals deep trenches had been sunk into this gritty 
mixture, apparently by some previous digger, and scattered through 
the holes as well as over the adjacent surface were hundreds of 
pieces of broken pottery. The pieces were of all sizes and shapes, 
faded and dull. They didn't even fit together. 

"What/' I asked Sam, "is all this?" 

"You might call it prehistoric swill," he answered romantically. 
"An ancient refuse bed or garbage dump. Also a cemetery." 

"A cemetery in a garbage dump?" 

"There were no sanitary laws in those days," said Sam. "No 
garbage collectors. No incinerators. The trash was thrown right out 


the door. And the custom in many places here, for instance was to 
bury your deceased relative either under the floor of your house or 
to dig a hole outside in the refuse and put him into it." 

"You mean Poppa was put right in with the slops?" 

"Under the slops/' corrected Sam consolingly. 

After all, I decided, what they did in the old days was their 
business. And garbage after the first hundred years can't be very 
repellent It would be well worth going through it to get at the gold 
and emeralds. "When do we start digging?" I asked eagerly. 

"We're not going to dig/' said Sam. "Lots of archaeologists have 
dug hare. I just want to check their conclusions." 

"You mean this whole ghastly trip is just to see what someone 
else has already found?" 

"Exactly/' he answered, and his eyes lit up with that gleam which 
only pure science can arouse. "You see, I don't agree with the 
archaeologists who worked here. They called the stone implements 
they found paleolithic and I believe that's a mistake. Fd like to 
prove it." 

I gaped at him. "Paleolithic" was a word I'd vaguely classed with 
such other unreal terms as "Neanderthal man" and "dinosaur/' 
and I didn't know a thing about any of them except that they were 
all TERRIBLY OLD. Why oh why had I wasted four years at col- 
lege studying such useless subjects as French and psychology and 
EngKsh literature? 

Sam must have noted my expression. "Paleolithic/' he explained 
kindly, "is a very early culture found in Europe which is characterized 
by rough stone implements. Now the stone implements here are 
similar in style, which explains why the archaeologists who worked 
in Taltal called them paleolithic. But if that were true it would 
make this site more than a hundred thousand years old by European 
standards. And I don't think that's possible. Do you?" 

The site might have been any age as far as I was concerned, but 
I was so flattered at being consulted that I wrinkled my brow and 
then consideredly said, "Well, I would imagine. , . ." 

But Sam wasn't listening. He'd already disappeared into the 


bottom of some pit. Suddenly he gave a cry of triumph and emerged 
with a handful of broken stone and a few bits of clay. "I've got it," 
he shouted. "I've got it!" 

"What have you got?" From the excitement in his voice it might 
have been the Kohinoor diamond. 

"My proof/' cried Sam happily. With a flourish he helped me 
down some six feet into a partly filled-in trench. Here, apparently, 
had been an ancient grave, although its contents had long since been 
removed. The walls, however, were untouched, and in them could 
be seen layer upon layer of virgin trash broken pottery, some old 
stones, corn cobs, and a few dried beans. Poppa, it is true, had been 
dug up, but the garbage dump that had surrounded his grave re- 
mained intact 

"See?" asked Sam. 

"See what?" 

"The trash is in layers, and there are bits of stone and pottery in 
the same layer. As pottery didn't exist until comparatively recently, 
the stone can't be paleolithic. Isn't that clear?" 


"You wouldn't find the stone and pottery together if they weren't 
the same age." 


"Oh, God!" 

"Sam," I begged, "pretend I'm the idiot child who should really 
be in an institution. For some reason you've got to make this idiot 
child understand. Now start all over again." 

"All right," he said, with unflattering agreement "The wall of 
this trench is made of earth. The earth contains all sorts of ancient 
refuse. The ancient refuse is in different layers, one on top of the 
other. The deepest layers are the oldest and so on up. Get it so far?" 

"Of course. You must think I'm an idiot I" 

Sam went right on speaking in short sentences and pronouncing 
each word slowly as if it stood by itself. "The paleolithic age existed 
a hundred thousand years ago. Pottery didn't come into existence 
until thousands and thousands of years later. Here, though, you 


find pottery and stone in the same layer. And near the top. Sic! The 
stone can't be paleolithic/' He looked as if he had pulled a couple 
of rabbits out of a hat. "Do you see now?" he pleaded. 

"Of course. Nothing could be simpler/' I lied. "And that's what 
we came to Taltal to discover?" 

"Just that" 

'Then we can leave. Hooray!" I threw my arms around his neck. 

Sam quickly disengaged himself. "Not at all," he said, rather 
coldly. "I've found only one example. It will take several days to 
go into other trenches and find additional proof. Pll have to take 
detailed notes. You can help me/' he added quickly as he noted my 

"It's not my idea of archaeology/' I wailed. "I don't want to go 
burrowing after a lot of secondhand swill." 

'"We'll put in our own dig/' promised Sam, "after we leave here/* 

That afternoon we celebrated by visiting the Club Social of Taltal. 
This, we'd been told, was the gathering place for the town's leading 
citizens, where they convened for cocktails, dice-throwing and 
gossip. At one time the Club Social had boasted a membership of 
nearly fifteen hundred, but when we were there the active members 
had apparently shrunk to five. 

The barroom was immense and seemed quite gay, what with rat- 
tling of dice and clinking of glasses; but I'd no more than set willing 
foot within its door when a little waiter swept me out and into 
something called "Ladies Lounge." It seemed no women were al- 
lowed in the bar. 

Ladies Lounge was furnished with a plush sofa, which had been 
consumed by moths right down to its skeletal frame, several equally 
decayed plush chairs and a table holding a copy of the Saturday 
Evening Post for December 1923. The walls were painted a jaundice 
yellow, patterned by the life-blood and squashed anatomies of what 
had once been mosquitoes. On one wall hung a gigantic paint- 
ing of a group of cherubs, ascending into a fleecy-clouded bright- 


blue heaven. Murillo Junior had given the cherabs cute little chubby 
bodies and lovely golden curls, but something had soured his brush 
by the time he reached their faces. It may have been the light; but 
to me those little darlings had expressions of unmitigated evil and 
resembled nothing so much as a bunch of precocious rapists. 

From the close, musty atmosphere I guessed that no one had 
entered Ladies Lounge during the last year. Clouds of dust arose 
as I sat down on the plucked couch and waited for Sam to bring me 
a drink. Sounds of revelry emerged from the bar, but no Sam. After 
ten minutes, I bravely walked back into the forbidden room and 
managed to call "hey" before the same little waiter bore down on 

Sam was in the middle of a dice game and apparently winning, 
for he didn't look particularly pleased at the interruption. Neverthe- 
less he appeared in Ladies Lounge a few minutes later, bearing a 
partly consumed highball and followed by the leading citizens of 
TaltaL There were five of them, and although they were of all sizes, 
shapes and nationalities, a general seediness and an expression of 
frustration linked them in indissoluble brotherhood. It was obviously 
curiosity that had impelled them Ladies Loungeward probably, I 
decided, to see what a white woman looked like, for I was sure that 
any wives or non-native girl friends must have fled Taltal long ago. 

I was presented first to a tall, lanky American named Jim, then 
to a Norwegian, who for some reason was known as Fish, a German- 
Peruvian called Don Oscar, and a little Chilean who spoke no 
English and whom everyone addressed as Stay. And, finally, to the 

The Colonel might have stepped right out of the pages of Kipling 
or Somerset Maugham. A few stray hairs were plastered to the top 
of his head, and a white walrus mustache, slightly yellowed by 
tobacco, hung down from a face that was frighteningly red. He 
brought to mind all those peculiarly fascinating British expressions 
like "tiffin" and "safari" and "pukka sahib" (not quite he!). I 
could picture him drinking his whisky and splash in some remote 


colonial outpost. He had that unmistakable British look that no 
Englishman, even if he has not touched home base in forty years, 
can ever lose. 

The Colonel advanced upon me with military if slightly unsteady 
steps, and it was apparent that he hadn't gone thirsty; not for the 
past three hours, anyhow. In one hand he held a whisky and soda 
and in the other a cocktail glass filled to the brim with a concoction 
of a color that Schiaparelli has since christened "Shocking Pink." 
"I've brought you a little drink/' he announced, bowing deeply and 
thereby spilling some of the pink liquid on a suit already so spotted 
that it was hard to guess what the original color had been. 

"How nice/ 7 1 said, and reached eagerly for the highball. 

"No, indeed/' protested the Colonel coyly. "That's a man's 
drink. No good for a lovely little lady like you. I had Jose shake up 
a special cocktail in your honor/' With that he handed me the rose- 
tinted horror. 

If I'm ever foolish enough to come to this club again, I decided, 
Fll wear pants and a false beard. But in thirsty desperation I downed 
the cocktail, which, from its taste, I guessed to be one third gren- 
adine, one third gasoline and one third rubbing alcohol. "Delicious," 
I managed to say when the burning in my throat subsided. 

Fish, Stay and Don Oscar had returned to the bar, and Sam, 
eyes begging forgiveness, started after them. "Sam/' I said firmly, 
my eyes glued to his empty whisky glass, "bring me back a drink. 
You know, a drink." 

The Colonel beamed. "I'll get us some more," he said gaily and 
staggered off after Sam. 

I was left with Jim. "How do you like Taltal?" he asked politely. 

"Does anyone?" 

Jim laughed. "You get used to it after a while." 

"Heaven forbid. But why should you? Why do you stay? What 
do you do? And what do those other men do?" I was determined to 
discover one good reason for any civilized person living in this 
rotting ex-metropolis. 

And Jim puzzled me most of all. He had a look of general neglect 


which cried for a woman to take care of him. His suit was impressed 
and dirty, with two buttons missing, his shoes were scuffed, and his 
hair must have been cut with manicure scissors. But his deeply 
tanned face held warm blue eyes under bushy brows and a smile 
that in spite of the uncared-for teeth it exposed was a contagious 
one. Of all the Taltal relics I had seen, he at least was human. 

According to Jim, he had come here when very young. He had 
signed as crew on a South American cargo boat in order to see the 
world, and when the boat reached Taltal he'd found color and 
gaiety and excitement. So when the ship sailed on, it sailed without 
Jim. When his money ran out, he got a job on the lighters that were 
used to load and unload the ships which anchored in the harbor, 
and after a few years' hard work he was made manager. Wealth 
rolled into his pockets in a steady stream and his future, he thought, 
was assured. Then came the discovery of synthetic nitrate. Almost 
overnight, Taltal and its brisk shipping trade collapsed. But Jim 
stayed on. He still managed the lighters, which sagged in their 
berths waiting for the occasional small boats which touched at 
Taltal The rest of the time? Jim shrugged his shoulders. 

The story was the same in almost every case. The Norwegian, Fish, 
was employed by the railroad which had been built to carry men 
and supplies to and from the mines. The railroad was almost idle 
now, but Fish remained. Don Oscar, too. He had owned large 
nitrate interests and had lived in the biggest and best house in 
Taltal. It was still the biggest and best house in Taltal, though 
sagging and woebegone. And Don Oscar still lived in it. 

The Colonel had been in Taltal since anyone could remember. 
No one knew just what he did, although he spoke vaguely of mining 
interests. He always seemed to have plenty of money, though. 

"Remittance man," I said immediately. "Probably cashiered out 
of the army." We were back with Kipling and Maugham. 

Jim merely raised his eyebrows. The disintegration of Taltal, he 
continued, had affected the Colonel less than anyone. He apparently 
still had enough money to spend and he still spent almost all of it 
r on liquor. 


"And Stay?" 


"The little Chilean/* 

"Oh, you mean Julio." Jim laughed and explained that Julio was 
addressed as "listed," which is Spanish for "You," and that in Chile 
people have a bad habit of not pronouncing their final d's. Julio, it 
seems, was a mining engineer who had come up from Santiago in 
boom times. And he, too, had failed to go home. 

It was difficult to understand. None of these men seemed really 
to be friends. Only adversity and desperation had drawn them 
together. Each afternoon they met at the Club Social for a dice 
game and some drinks, after which they ate their supper at one of 
Taltal's inferior restaurants and then looked for a woman, or a 
gambling game, or fust got drunk. Except Don Oscar, who always 
went direct from the club to his once elegant house and his plump 
little German wife. 

"But why?" I asked. "Why stay? Why not get the hell out?" 

Jim shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know," he finally said. 
"We're used to it here, I guess." 

It was the Lotus Eaters over again. Only in Taltal there was no 

When the Colonel returned he seemed even unsteadier than 
before. But this time he had not trusted the drinks to his shaky 
hands. They were on a tray. And there were four of them. Two 
highballs and two shocking-pink horrors. Jim repaired to the bar 
to get reinforcements for himself, while the Colonel parked the tray 
on the table and, handing me a glass, tried not too successfully to 
sit down next to me. 

"That's me, not the sofa you're sitting on," I remarked, gulping 
my drink before he could spill it. And I moved to one of the chairs. 

"Damme, that's good," he said. "Damme if it isn't." He picked 
up one highball and downed it. Then the other. 

I quickly grabbed the remaining cocktail before the Colonel 
could. By this time it was beginning to taste a little better. As I was 


putting the empty glass back on the tray he reached for my knee and 
pinched it. I kicked him in the shin and he let go. "Damme, but 
you've got spirit, girl Damme if you haven't/' 

Where was Sam? Where was Jim? Where was anyone? I looked 
desperately around the room and caught the eye of the third cherub 
from the left. He gave me a lecherous wink. There was no help 

Suddenly Don Oscar poked his head into the room. He was the 
captain who rescues the shipwrecked mariner, the St. Bernard who 
finds the traveler fallen in the snow. "Hetto" I said. "Do join us." I 
even thought in italics. 

Don Oscar looked slightly astonished. "I just stopped by to see 
if you and your husband would like to come to our house for supper 
tomorrow night" 

"We'd love to." 

"We eat at eight. Come early if you like and take a bath." 

"How wonderful" I said. It never occurred to me to be insulted. 
I realized that Don Oscar must have seen the bathroom in the 
Hotel Olympia. It was a bathroom in name only. The last plumber 
had undoubtedly left Taltal years ago, Leaving the once shiny fixtures 
choked up and useless. They had now been put to other purposes. 
The toilet gaily housed a growing cactus plant. The washstand was 
used as a wastepaper basket. And the bathtub was a storehouse for 
everything for which no other place could be found. In it, when I'd 
last looked, were potatoes, cloves of garlic, dirty wash, a Flit gun, 
a hammer and some dried beans. Over the sides a bunch of babies' 
diapers had been hung to dry. "How did you fenow?" I asked Don 
Oscar. I was choked with emotion. 

"I've lived here a long time," he said matter-of-facfly. "Well, 
I'll see you tomorrow." 

"Don't go," I begged. But he'd already set forth toward home 
and wife, and I was back where I'd started. 

The Colonel remained quietly on the couch. Trickery, no doubt. 
I prepared for a sudden lunge. But nothing happened. I looked at 
him more closely. He was asleep. 


Jim finally removed him. Apparently it was something he was 
used to doing, for when he and Sam returned to Ladies Lounge he 
didn't seem very surprised. "It's a little early for it," was all he said, 
looking at his watch. 

'We'd better go, too," suggested Sain. 

"Sam, please, I need a drink first." 

"Poor darling, of course. I'll get you a highball right away/' 

"Sam," I said, "I want a double cocktail, one of those nice pink 

He looked at me with concern. "Do you feel all right?" 

"I feel fine." 

After the drink arrived I felt even better. I sat back on the couch 
and looked at the cherubs, all of whom were now giving me provoca- 
tive looks. Their attention pleased me. I was warm and content. 

"Eleanor," announced Sam, "we've got to get back to the hotel." 

"I won't go back to the hotel. Ever. I'll stay right here and sleep." 
I was slightly hysterical 

Just then a roach the size of a rat walked across the floor in my 
direction. "All right," I cried quickly, "let's go." At least our hotel 
room was too dark to disclose the animal life. 

Sam helped me to my feet as I took a last look at the cherubs. 
The third one from the left gave me a final lecherous wink. "Good- 
by, Colonel," I said, and we were off. 

Two days later we left Taltal in a hired Ford. As we started on 
our way Sam relaxed in the back seat and counted the flea bites 
on his right arm. "Seventy-three, seventy-four, seventy-five. . . /' 

"Sam, isn't it wonderful to be leaving?" 

"Yes. Seventy-six, seventy-seven, seventy-eight. . . /' 

"Just where are we going?" 

"Don't make me lose count. Seventy-nine, eighty. . . /' 

"But where .are we going?" 

"To La Serena. Eighty-one, eighty-two, eighty-three I've got a 
hundred and four bites," he finally announced. "Just from elbow to 
wrist That's a record/' He seemed genuinely pleased. 


"Sam, tell me honestly/' I asked. "Wasn't Taltal the worst place 
you've ever been in all your life?" 

"Honestly/" said Sam 7 holding my hand, "it was the worst place 
I've ever been to in my life/' 

Warmth and happiness flooded me. Marriage was a wonderful 
institution. Sam and I had shared adversity and it had brought us 
closer. I felt the last four days had been worth all the misery we'd 
suffered. Especially as they were behind us. 

I don't know what Taltal is like now. With the terrific demand 
for nitrate during the recent war ? it may again have become a boom 
town. The Hotel Olympia may have repaired its plumbing. The 
electric lights may work all day. Fll never know. Neither God nor 
Mr. George G. Heye can ever drag me back to see. 

Chapter 4 

I USED to feel that Mr. Heye took a fiendish pleasure in picking 
out the most villainous spots in Chile for us to cover. Whenever 
we were at our lowest ebb I would torture myself by imagining him 
comfortably ensconced in his magnificent apartment with a box of 
specially imported Havana cigars and some newly acquired first 
editions. Or sitting in one of New York's luxurious restaurants 
washing down breast of guinea hen sous cloche with a bottle of 
Montrachet, 1911. "Poor Lothrops," he would undoubtedly be 
saying, as the waiter filled his glass for the third time. Actually, of 
course, Mr. Heye did not direct our itinerary. It was Sam who de- 
cided on the places he believed Mr. Heye would like us to visit. But 
when the choice proved to be a miserably uncomfortable one, I 
preferred to blame Mr. Heye. 

I was happy as could be, though, when we reached La Serena. La 
Serena was a large town, capital of the province of Coquimbo, 
which nestled a mile or so back from the ocean in an attractive 
green valley. It was clean and modern with remarkably well-stocked 
stores and a pleasant club, or casino, where we went for our evening 
cocktail. Atmosphere in La Serena had no doubt been sacrificed to 
sanitation, but to us this was more than made up for by a holiday 
from scratching and a feeling of confidence that a cheese sandwich 
would be a cheese sandwich, and a bed a bed instead of home 



grounds for insect life. Atmosphere can be a fine thing if you don't 
have to get involved in it personally. 

The leading hotel, called the Grand, was nothing like the Hotel 
Crillon in Paris. But it wasn't like the Hotel Olympia in Taltal, 
either. The rooms resembled cells, clean and bare, and were just 
large enough to contain a bed, a chair and a chest of drawers. A 
small window, high up in the wall, gave light but no view. In fact 
the air was one of such thick celibacy that when I went to see Sam 
in the adjoining cell I felt like a nun visiting a monk. 

Sam had picked La Serena because, from what he had seen in 
the museum in Santiago, he knew this region to be rich in archaeol- 
ogy. What he wanted was to put in his own dig, in a spot near 
enough to a town to make it unnecessary to establish a camp to live 
in, and La Serena seemed to fit the bill. Unlike Taltal, it had never 
been dug professionally; what specimens had come to light had been 
the result of accidental discovery by the natives. 

The problem, now, was to find the exact spot which would pro- 
duce ancient graves. After all, a cemetery can be just so large, and 
to hit it right on the nose takes a good bit of doing. 

People are always saying, "How did you happen to know just 
where to dig? Your husband must be psychic." As if it were magic 
that leads an archaeologist instinctively to the right spot. Unfor- 
tunately it's not that easy; as a rule tedious and hard work is neces- 
sary in order to bring in the prehistoric bacon. The technique most 
commonly and most successfully employed is to ask questions, with 
the idea that if you do so long enough you will eventually find some- 
one who knows something. You make a nuisance of yourself hurling 
inquiries at everyone you see chambermaids, bartenders, business- 
men because sometimes someone has a friend who knows a man 
who has a friend who dug up an old bone by mistake. If this fails, your 
best bet is to chase directly after the men who farm the land, for in 
ploughing or tilling they are apt to turn up remains of another era. 
Heaven knows what archaeologists would have done without agri- 

We drew a complete blank with the waiters and the bartenders 


and the local gentry of La Serena. So we hired a car and made a 

tour of various estates in the vicinity, stopping at the small huts 

in which the workmen lived. The first four calls proved fruitless. 

The natives were polite and disinterested and obviously thought us 

crazy. The conversation, so called, went something like this: 

Q. "Have you lived here long?" 

A. "Yes." 

Q. "Have you done any ploughing or digging around here?" 

A. "Yes." 

Q. "By any chance have you come across any ancient skeletons or 

pottery or ornaments?" 
A. "No." 

Q, "Do you know anyone who has?" 
A. "No." 

You could hardly accuse the Chilean peon of being expansive but 
at least he was definite. The fifth try, though, brought results. Our 
unenthusiastic host his name was Jaime had returned the same 
brisk answers as his predecessors, but as we were leaving Sam noted 
a fat pig guzzling his dinner out of a delicately painted prehistoric 
bowl "What's that?" he asked, trying to control his excitement 

Jaime looked at us pityingly. "A pig," he said finally. 

"I mean what is he eating out of?" 

"A pot" 

Calvin Coolidge had nothing on Jaime for taciturnity, but after 
we had softened him up with a couple of packages of Chesterfields, a 
chocolate bar and two pieces of chewing gum, he admitted that the 
pot had been found in a field a mile or so away. Yes, he could show 
us the spot and he would be willing to dig for us if Don Luis, owner 
of the land, gave permission. Jaime even consented to sell the pot for 
the equivalent of ten cents, and in a burst of cordiality he pulled out 
his shirttails and cleaned out what the pig hadn't 

We found Don Luis at home. He was a shriveled little Italian, 
almost a hundred years old, who had come to Chile some eighty 
years before. We had been told he owned thousands of acres of land, 
but his wealth had certainly not made him a spendthrift, for he 


lived in a tumbledown one-story house, alone, except for four dogs, 
three cats and a goat which, from the atmosphere that rose to meet 
us, must have been the indoor type. Don Luis greeted us enthusias- 
tically, but as we soon discovered he was stone-deaf and spoke no 
English I didn't count on my relationship with him getting very far. 

Any intimacy between him and Sam was foredoomed to failure, 
too. If there is anything on four feet (or even two) that Sam loathes, 
it is cats. A cat does to him what a spider does to me. His hackles 
rise and he becomes almost physically ill at the very thought of one. 
I myself have no feeling one way or another about cats, although 
for smartness and meanness I don't know their equal. The instant 
a cat-hater enters a room, Pussy senses his reaction and slyly attaches 
herself to him. I admit there's something to be said on her side as 
her feelings are undoubtedly hurt, but the revenge she takes is out 
of all proportion, 

Don Luis's cats were not of the most attractive variety and they 
were even meaner than the general run. Just a glance at Sam sitting 
unhappily in a corner and they rushed his way, one leaping to the 
arm of his chair while the others rubbed themselves affectionately 
against his leg. I could see him flinch and perspiration beaded his 
forehead, but he sat rigidly still, with a smiling-the-boy-fell-dead ex- 
pression. If we'd been visiting the Prince of Wales he would doubt- 
less have gotten up and left, but this was archaeology. And we had 
come to ask a favor. 

The question of communication was slightly difficult Sam almost 
burst his lungs asking Don Luis for permission to dig on his land. 
No result. He repeated his request in a normal voice, pushing his 
mouth into strange shapes in the hope that our host could read lips. 
No result. Finally he repaired to the car, cats at heel, and carried in 
our recently acquired pot, at the same time making digging gestures 
with his free hand. At this, Don Luis nodded genially and, escorting 
us to the back door, pointed out the outhouse. 

Sam looked discouraged, so I decided to try. I adore all sorts of 
quizzes and guessing games, and my favorite dream for some years 
has consisted of being tapped for action by one of Dr. I. Q.'s radio 


henchmen. "I've got a lady In the balcony, Doctor/" he says with 
rare perception, and then the good doctor brings forth a quotation, 
flubbed by other contestants week after week, which, If answered 
correctly, will net me fourteen hundred dollars. The quotation is 
an obscure one ? but In my dream, of course, I know the answer. 
"John Donne/' I state modestly but firmly, and to the envious 
plaudits of the audience, I give my name and walk off with the cash. 

When we were in La Serena, of course, radio quizzes were still 
a thing of the future, but I had been brought up on such minor 
teasers as anagrams and Twenty Questions. "Let's play charades/' 
I yelled at Don Luis, and although he obviously didn't understand 
a word, he looked interested and willing to play anything. So I hid 
the pot under a straw mat which decorated the living-room floor. 
Then I collected a shovel I had seen leaning against the back door 
and, holding it in both hands, I dug at the mat until I finally scooped 
it up and exposed the pot. 

Don Luis guessed the answer right away. "Dig/' he beamed. "Of 

Fm still convinced that he thought we wanted to dig for an 
outhouse, but his "of course" was all we needed, and we quickly 
thanked him and said good-by. As we reached the car Sam relieved 
some of his frustration by doing a beautiful piece of leg work on the 
cats, which had followed him out. I'm glad the S.P.C.A. wasn't 
there to see. 

Everything was now set. We had a site that was likely to bring 
results, permission to excavate and a workman to do the dirty work. 
Sam was in charge and I was his willing if ignorant assistant, and 
nothing could stop us. I wouldn't have been surprised if we'd 
turned up a second Rosetta stone. 

When Sam and I first became engaged, I offered to study archaeol- 
ogy. "Good Lord, no/' said Sam. "I think that would be a great mis- 
take. You stick to your field and let me stick to mine/' 

I didn't dare confess I had no field. What I did have was a talent 
for knowing a little about a great many things and an even greater 


talent for giving an impression that I knew a lot I could generally 
sense what the answers should be. Thus I'd groan over the banality 
of Tschaikowsk/s Palhetique (although secretly I loved it) and 
rhapsodize over Marcel Proust when, actually, he bored me stiff. 
And if I was uncertain just how to react if, for instance, someone 
asked what I thought of Dali or Gertrude Stein I could always say, 
<4 Oh, Dali," or "Oh, Gertrude Stein/ 7 in a middle-of-the-road tone of 
voice, so that it could be interpreted either as enthusiasm or scorn, 
depending on what my companion wished to hear. 

This technique, of course, was no good for archaeology. And, be- 
sides, I was sincere about wishing to be a little helpmeet to my 
husband and all prepared to grasp archaeology to my bosom. So 
when Sam discouraged my taking on this science any more deeply 
than a 'learn as you go along" procedure, I was genuinely disap- 
pointed. Even if it meant he could have no comeback when I turned 
out to be a scientific dud. 

What I had the greatest difficulty getting through my head was 
that you could put on a dig without scores of workmen. Somewhere 
Fd read an article about an expedition to Egypt, illustrated by a 
series of intriguing photographs. One of them, I remember, showed 
a titled Englishman in a topee and khaki shorts, smugly watching 
while hundreds of busy natives filed by, carrying off earth from the 
excavations in baskets on top of their heads. Another pictured Lord 
Pishposh holding up a jeweled crown while the same flock of natives 
watched goggle-eyed in the background. When I told Sam about 
this he remarked somewhat wryly that the article had probably been 
a fiction story, the photographs, drawings by a popular illustrator, 
and that we'd be lucky to get one workman without a basket. 

Which was just what we did get. Jaime, carrying spade and pickax, 
appeared at the hotel the following morning to direct us to the spot 
where the pig's pot had been discovered. It was arranged that in 
future he would meet us at the site promptly each morning at seven. 

After a ten-minute drive we reached a large open field, which was 
IT. IT looked just like every other field except that bits of pottery 
and cow dung were scattered thickly over its surface. The cows, ap- 


patently having consumed everything in sight except the pottery, 
had fortunately been diverted to greener pastures. Jaime waved his 
arm in a vague gesture, and Sam, employing, as far as I could tell, the 
"eenie, meenie, minie, mo" system, outlined a square on the ground 
and Jaime swung his pick. 

There's no use pretending I wasn't excited. You don't have to 
have a scientific viewpoint or a particular desire to increase the 
knowledge of the world to be spellbound by a dig. In the earth are 
things that have been buried for hundreds of years. You may find 
them. You may not. They may be dull. They may be spectacular. 
A dig is something like a treasure hunt, like waiting for Santa Glaus 
to come down the chimney, like the mailman approaching your 
door. Anything can happen. 

I stood, hands clenched, eyes glued to the ground which Jaime 
was attacking so spiritedly. Remember, it was my first dig. What 
happened, of course, was that nothing happened. "Relax/' said 
Sam. "He's hardly started. Nothing can turn up yet." 

But I couldn't relax. I was afraid if I moved my eyes away for one 
second I would miss out And then, after an hour, it happened. 
There was a sudden scrunching noise. Jaime's pick had struck some- 
thing solid. 

Before I could say "ah/' Sam had leaped to the spot, waving 
Jaime out of the way. In no time at all he had grabbed a small shovel 
and a knife and was busily at work. No surgeon could have wielded 
his instruments with more dexterity, and while I, speechless, watched 
the operation, the outline of the grave was gradually exposed. 

When this stage was reached Sam generously pointed to a second 
knife and said, "You can help me clear." I was so excited that my 
hands shook and I was sure I'd make some disastrous mistake, but 
I bravely flipped away the earth as I'd seen Sam do. When every- 
thing showed up clearly, we climbed, out of the pit and quietly 
surveyed our handiwork. 

In the center of the grave lay a skeleton, knees drawn up to his 
chest, as if he were the victim of a bad case of cramps. And placed 
around him in no particular order were two red jars, one cracked 


pot and some stones which had been rubbed smooth by use. "Isn't 
he WONDERFUL?" I said rapturously. 

Later on in my archaeological life I got so spoiled that I groaned 
at the sight of a skeleton. I would sniff if a pot wasn't decorated and 
feel personally put upon if the poor dead Indian wore no jewelry. 
But that was later on. The first grave you dig up is something special. 
Like your first evening dress or the first time you go to the theatre 
or your first date with a boy alone. You can never repeat the sensa- 
tion. To me that moldy bunch of bones surrounded by a few coarse 
clay pots and some hunks of rock was Alexander the Great, King 
Midas and John D. Rockefeller all rolled into one. I've never felt 
that way about a skeleton since. 

As a matter of fact, we'd been extraordinarily lucky. Archaeologists 
often spend days before they find something. Or find nothing at all 
And we had struck pay dirt after only an hour's digging. What's 
more, in the next four weeks we unearthed more than seventy 
burials. Let Lord Pishposh in Egypt with his hundreds of workmen 
do any better, thought II 

According to Sam, this was a very significant dig. That was be- 
cause there were three layers of burials and each layer was of a 
different type. The skeletons in the top layer were flexed, which is 
the technical term for the position I had interpreted as a case of 
cramps. The second layer contained stone tombs, in which the 
bodies were buried full length with their possessions set right in 
with them. Either the Indians of that era had been lazy, or their 
families had been enormous, for the tombs were filled to overflowing. 
Skeletons were squashed down one on top of the other like a sand- 
wich, and you could rarely tell whose arm or leg belonged to whom. 

All that had gone before was simplicity, though, compared to the 
bottom layer. Here the burials were bundle, or what is called 
"secondary," burials actually just a pile of loose bones heaped to- 
gether. Along with them were skeletons of llamas, the South Amer- 
ican camels, that had been sacrificed to accompany the dead and 
whose bones were intermingled with theirs. And elaborate pottery 
and occasional objects of gold and silver and turquoise. But none of 


this hodgepodge appeared at first sight. An underground flow of 
water had covered everything, and it was only by baling that you 
could get an occasional glimpse of what was there. Or you could 
put your hand down into the mushy ooze and pull out almost any- 
thing. Like a prehistoric grab bag. 

The site was so packed with ancient remains that it was thoroughly 
confusing. There were so many bones. Sam patiently tried to teach 
me their names but as I could never even manage to remember 
whether leg bones were called tibia and fibula or fibia and tibula, 
I soon gave up. 

In general, though, I was getting wiser. You can no more be 
exposed to an archaeologist without acquiring some knowledge than 
you can fail to get a cold if someone consistently sneezes in your 
face, I learned the hard way, just the same. 

When you r re young you tend to exaggerate the importance of 
your failures and for years they come back to haunt you. Two oc- 
casions still stick in my mind as spelling heartbreaking misery: my 
unpopularity at my first big dance when I spent the evening hiding 
in the dressing room, and the night My Hero of the moment took 
me out and I was in such a state of excitement that I threw up in 
front of him. To these earlier fiascoes I can add a third, no less pain- 
ful to think back upon: what I did to Sam's best grave at La Serena. 

It was the second week of the dig. We had spent the previous 
day uncovering and cleaning the skeletons and surrounding objects 
in the middle layer of what apparently was a very important grave. 
"You go on ahead/ 7 Sam had told me that morning, "and meet 
Jaime. Get him started breaking new ground. I have some business 
in town and I'll be with you in a few hours. 7 ' 

So I had gone to the site and, after picking what I hoped was 
a good spot for Jaime to work on, I looked around for something 
else to do. And there was yesterday's grave, spick and span and 
bulging with remains. "Ah!" I said to myself, 'Til surprise Sam. 
Pll show him what an apt pupil I am/' So I grabbed a handful of 
paper bags which always accompanied our digging paraphernalia 


and carefully, lovingly, I extracted each pot, each bit of stone, each 
skeleton, and placed them in separate bags. Nothing brolce. How 
proud Sam will be of me, I thought, feeling the anticipatory warmth 

of his approval. 

When even-thing in sight had been removed I took my little 
trowel and dug down until I reached the burials in layer No. 3. Here 
things were more complicated, as you could only feel, not see, what 
lay beneath the water. I worked feverishly, though, immersing my 
arms in ooze, pulling out a mess of bones, pottery, a beautiful 
turquoise bracelet, and putting away each trophy neatly, as I had 
seen Sam do. The grave was almost cleaned out when he arrived. 
"Darling, look what I've done." I beamed happily. 
Sam looked. I don't believe I have ever seen such dismay on a 
human countenance. "You haven't. ... You couldn't. . . - You 
didn't . . . pull the grave to pieces," he fairly moaned. "Every- 
thing is gone. Now I have no records of any kind." 
"I thought. . . ." 

"Don't you know that the procedure is to clear away the earth 
until the contents show up sharply so that you can take notes on 
the burials and photograph them. Until that's done, move noth- 

"I didn't. . . ." 

"It's the only way an archaeologist gets a chance, later on, to 
study the material as it was buried and to work out its relationship 
to other objects. It's the only way he can reconstruct the story of how 
ancient peoples lived. And this is what Really Matters." 

"I tried " 

"'This is what Really Matters," he repeated. "The meaning of 
each piece, not the piece itself. A bone can be as significant as an 
emerald, a pottery fragment as important as a turquoise bracelet." 
"I found. . . ." 

"Of course, if you happen to find gold or precious stones it's all 
to the good, but it isn't the Main Consideration." 
"I'm sorry," I finally managed to say, inadequately enough. 


"I guess I didn't make it clear before/' said Sam, becoming kind, 
which made things much worse. 

"I'll never never do it again/' I promised fervently. "Just try me." 

"Maybe you'd better watch me work for a few days/* he suggested, 
dashing my hopes to the ground. "You'll catch on quicker that way/' 

I did watch and I did catch on, although I made more mistakes 
in the process. Fortunately they were never again as serious as the 
first one. 

There was the time I was removing the contents of a grave 
(a grave already recorded and photographed!) and I put an archaeo- 
logical specimen in my pocket. It was nothing but a dirty hunk of 
something with a few tiny blue stones showing. I hardly looked as 
I slipped it into my pants pocket in order to have a memento of my 
first dig. And then forgot about it. 

That night in the hotel, as I was shaking out my pants to get rid 
of the dirt, out fell the hunk. Sam pounced like a kitten after a ball 
of wool. "And what/' he asked accusingly, "is that?" 

"Oh, that! 1 With a sinking feeling I realized I had sinned again. 

"Yes, that. Where did you find it?" 

"Why, Sam, it's nothing. You know I wouldn't have taken any- 
thing that was any good. This is just an old hunk I kept as a souvenir. 
An old hunk with a blue bead or two that I found in the ground/' 

"I see/' said Sam, meaning he didn't. "It just so happens that that 
old hunk is a bone figurine with inlaid turquoise eyes." He fondled 
it as if he were fondling a baby and then wrapped it tenderly in 
toilet paper. That was the last I saw of it. 

But it wasn't the last I heard. I never had a chance; the odds were 
four to one. How could I, alone, win an argument against Sam, 
What-Would-Mr.-Heye-Think, God-How-Could-You, and SCI- 
ENCE? This was another lesson I never forgot. 

I learned other things, too. About skeletons, for instance. Fd 
never known that a skeleton had sex. To me skeletons were just 
a bunch of bones of neutral gender. I even used to call a skeleton 
"it." So that when Sam, busily clearing the remains of a long-dead 


Indian, remarked that he was working on a girl of about eighteen 
years of age, I looked at him as if he were Sherlock Holmes. "How 
do you make that out?" I asked admiringly. 

"There are hundreds of variations in the bone structure of a male 
and of a female/ 7 he answered. "A woman's jawbone is usually 
smaller and more delicately constructed. Her eye sockets are apt 
to be rounder and her two central incisors wider. She has less chin 
and a thinner brow ridge. There are other differences, too, although 
no one of them is conclusive in itself. But when you find several of 
these characteristics true to form, you can make a pretty good guess/' 

"But how can you tell she is eighteen years old?" 

"I can't Only approximately. The teeth are the best clue. If you 
spot baby teeth, naturally you have a baby. And the more worn 
the teeth, the older the person is. The sutures in the skull are 
significant, too. As you grow older, the sutures close up." Having 
finished his lecture, Sam again applied himself to his eighteen-year- 
old girl 

The game sounded like fun. "Sam," I said, "I want to play, too. 
Three to one I hit the right answer." With great care I pulled a skull 
from the mire where I was working and examined it for at least five 
minutes. "It's a woman," I said. "She's forty-seven years old and, 
from the strange shape of her head, looks mentally deficient. Come 
quick and tell me if I'm right" 

Sam reluctantly abandoned his bony charmer and picked up my 
skull. He looked it over from every angle, no trace of expression on 
his face. "That," he finally pronounced, "is a male llama." 

Gradually, though, I was being whipped into shape. I lapped up 
information as intensely as a participant in a lifeboat drill in war- 
time, until finally I felt certain that if I didn't know everything one 
did do, at least I knew what one didn't. I even got smug about my 
knowledge. "This," I said to myself, "is easy." And then TROUBLE 
started and it wasn't easy at all. All the rules Fd learned were off. 

TROUBLE started with a little boy who wandered into the field 
and stayed to watch us work. He was the type of child who stares 


continuously and who won't or can't talk He must have used sign 
language after he left us, though, for In the afternoon, back he came 
with three little friends. They didn't talk much either, just giggled 
inanely, which was disconcerting if nothing more. 

The real onslaught began several days later. There were young 
girls, there were women some pregnant, some nursing their 
babies there were able-bodied men with apparently nothing to do 
but gawk 7 and there were more children between the ages of five 
and fifteen than any self-respecting community has a right to beget 
in ten years. Some of them toddled along, attached to Mama's skirts, 
and some, the tough ones, came in gangs; but the majority drove up 
in busses, three hundred strong, accompanied by their teachers. 
School had been suspended in our favor. We were an educational 
free-for-all a combination zoo, museum and nut farm and the 
kiddies had a wonderful time. We didn't 

The teachers, having delivered their charges at the new play- 
ground, disappeared. Chaos followed. One of the children stole my 
sweater. Another stole one of Sam's pet skulls and organized a ball 
game with it, and by the time the skull was recovered all that was 
left was teeth. We had been In the habit of going back to the hotel 
for lunch until, on our return one day, we found a game of leap frog 
going on and the contents of the trench in which we'd been working 
smashed into small particles. After that we brought sandwiches and 
ate them in the hot sun, bitterly guarding ancient bones. 

What was so maddening was that we were helpless. Each evening 
Sam lodged a complaint with the local authorities, and each evening 
they promised that the matter would be attended to the following 
day. And each day was just like the day before. 

We couldn't even count Jaime on our side. During the first two 
peaceful weeks of the dig, we had followed archaeological rules. 
Each time that Jaime struck evidence of a burial Sam and I im- 
mediately took over, and Jaime, with pick and shovel, was shooed 
off to start a new trench. This was no longer possible. We didn't 
dare leave anything exposed when we were not on hand. Thus only 
one burial could be kept going at a time which, when cleared, could 


be quickly photographed and taken up. Until then no other could 
be started. As a result, Jaime spent most of his time sitting under 
a distant apple tree, smoking cigarettes and consorting with the 
enemy, He ? naturally, was very happy about this arrangement, and 
at times we suspected Mm of having hatched up the entire hideous 

After a week, school finally returned to Its own home grounds. 
This didn't eliminate visits from anyone of non-school age or from 
the covey of curiosity seekers that had been raised by the publicity 
of our official complaints. They were fairly silent watchers, though, 
and their behavior was better. We were weak with relief. And then 
I had the misfortune to find a gold earring. One puny little gold 
earring. It was ugly. It wasn't even pure gold. 

The earring was one of a number of objects which I extracted 
from the ooze, and the Instant I spotted It I concealed It; but It was 
too late. "Gold. Gold. Gold." You could hear the word tossed In 
whispers from one end of the field to the other, like a football. 
"They're finding gold. It's gold they're after. They're robbing us of 
our gold/" The whispers became frenzied. 

The next morning when we came to work, the site was one mass 
of excavations. The treasure-seekers must have been digging all 
night Pulverized bone and smashed pottery were sprinkled like 
confetti over the earth. "The such and such so and sos," said Sam, 
Indignantly letting forth a series of unmentionable words. "ROB- 

As far as I could see It was a question of dog eat dog, but I thought 
It wiser not to say so. "Do you suppose they found any gold?" I 

"How should I know," said Sam, shrugging his shoulders re- 

We never did know, either. We didn't stay on at La Serena long 
enough to find out. 

Chapter S 

UNTIL I went to Chile I always thought the Indians were 
poor oppressed creatures, noble and brave but gullible. (After 
all, hadn't they been persuaded to give up the island of Man- 
hattan for twenty-four dollars" worth of trinkets?) I felt ashamed 
and sorry and wanted to show my sympathy. So when Sam an- 
nounced that we were going to visit the Araucanian Indians in 
southern Chile, I was pleased as could be. No one could have accused 
me of being a great success at digging, but here was my chance to 
make good. Here was where I could apply the psychology Fd 
studied in college. Personal contacts had always been my forte and 
I could hardly wait to try my talents on the Indians. "The darling 
Indians," I said to myself. "They may be difficult but 111 win them 
over/' I pictured myself dandling sweet little brown babies on my 
knee. I fully expected to be adopted into the tribe. 

Sam tried in vain to quell my enthusiasm. The trouble was I had 
never known any real Indians; all my experience had come from 
books. My friends were Pocahontas and Hiawatha and the warriors 
who peopled the novels of J. Fenimore Cooper. They were romantic 
and inspiring and just what I expected the Araucanians to be. I was 
wrong. The Araucanians are without doubt very famous Indians. 
They Ve been the subject of books and poems, too, and they too must 
once have been romantic and inspiring. But when we saw them 



they were about as romantic as the characters in Tobacco Road, and 
the only thing they inspired was pity. After a few months we decided 
they were more interesting to read about than to meet and better 
admired from afar. 

There are still more than a hundred thousand Araucanians living 
in southern Chile, and Sam's plan was to study their civilization 
and to make a collection of its material evidences. This isn't as easy 
as it may sound. To learn about the Indians' customs you often 
have to sneak up on them to see what they are doing, and you are 
as apt to be received with a carving knife as with a smile. And in 
order to acquire a collection of what they wear and use, you more or 
less have to pull the earrings from their ears, the clothes off their 
backs and the chamber pots out from under their bunks. This is 
called ethnology and it is an uncomfortable science for all concerned. 
It is true you are dealing with live subjects, not dead ones, but after 
a few weeks that doesn't seein to be an advantage. After a few weeks 
we decided that "Lo, the poor Indian" might well be changed to 
"Lo, the poor Lothrop." 

The Araucanians proved to be tough, independent and un- 
friendly. It is not surprising. They are the real fighting Indians of 
all time, and their life has been one continuous struggle. The Incas 
in their heyday attacked them and got soundly trounced. The 
Spanish conquerors in the sixteenth century were more success- 
ful, but only for a short time; and after a series of revolts the Indians 
managed to free themselves and remained free for almost three 
hundred years. 

This is now changed. In 1883 the Chileans, having gained their 
independence from Spain, finally licked the Araucanians but it 
took machine guns to do so. The Indians were incorporated into the 
Chilean government and most of their property was confiscated. 
However they still continue to raise food and sheep on the little land 
left them. Few of them can read or write and few speak anything 
but their own language. 

They keep to themselves. They weren't glad to see us. They took 
Sam's money and gave as little as possible in exchange, and there 


was no dandling of little brown babies, no initiation into the tribe. 
In fact they hated the sight of us. 

This, of course, did not affect Sam's program in the least For 
months we chased after Araucanians, collecting what we could and 
taking rebuff after rebuff in our stride. 

We first made our headquarters in Temuco, a town almost twenty- 
four hours by rail from Santiago. Temeco had been founded during 
the wars of the nineteenth century as nothing more than a frontier 
post, but it had grown rapidly and, in contrast to the towns of 
northern Chile, seemed modem and progressive. The streets, though 
made of cobblestone, boasted sidewalks and gutters, and real trolleys 
and taxicabs rattled up and down" their length. The main hotel, 
except on the various occasions when the plumbing faltered, was 
excellent In fact Temuco seemed too comfortable to be true at 
least for scientific research. 

Luckily, though, it was the center of the district that held the 
Mapuche Indians, main tribe of the Araucanians, and that was 
why Sam had chosen it. A fifteen-minute drive in almost any direc- 
tion would take you into Indian territory. 

Starting work in a new place is always something of a problem. 
And although it is easier to find ethnological specimens than archae- 
ological ones for their owners at least are above ground you Ve got 
to go about it right in order to get results. So we inquired as to who 
might help us and were told of a Frenchman who had lived in 
Temuco for many years. He was a teaching brother, Brother Claude 
by name, and he was interested in the Indians and had even learned 
a little of the Mapuche dialect. We decided to pay him a visit. 

Between him and me it was dislike at first sight. Brother Claude 
was soft-spoken and smooth, and he was swathed in a heavy cloak 
of piety which might have been made of cellophane for all it failed 
to conceal When I remarked on this to Sam he was shocked and 
rebuked me, so it was with pardonable satisfaction that I re- 
ceived the news some years later that Brother Claude had run off 
with a young French girl and had been expelled from the Church. 
At the time, though, I strained to treat him with politeness, for 


In spite of the fact that he turned out to be an unworthy pillar of 
the Catholic Church, he was of great help to Sam. 

As a matter of fact, onr relationship if not pleasurable was mu- 
tually beneficial. The order to which Brother Claude belonged was 
a pathetically poor one and provided him with nothing beyond bare 
necessities. While he served as our guide, his expenses were paid 
(by Mr. Heye) and he had a wonderful time. Time and again I 
gagged over food that tickled his palate and bruised myself on beds 
that to him apparently seemed equipped with Simmons mattresses. 
Insects passed him by for more succulent subjects, and when we 
traveled together he would appear each morning, rosy and rested, 
to face my hollow-eyed and itching envy. But he was a good guide 
and he knew just where to take us. 

We started our collecting by going to the Indian agencies which 
flourished in Temuco. These were a combination of old-fashioned 
general store and Indian trading post (like those in the western 
U.S.). The Indians came from long distances to pawn their posses- 
sions or to exchange them for such commodities as hoes and shovels, 
pots and pans, knives, needles, nails, or staples such as rice and flour. 
A special room was devoted to exhibiting articles that the Indians 
had left behind and contained silver jewelry, saddle blankets, woven 
saddlebags, ponchos and even, occasionally, a worn pair of pants. 
The pawning of these, we were told, represented a complete low in 
an Indian's financial state. How he could manage to get home, 
pantless, I never quite understood. 

The agencies treated the Indians well. They were usually given 
three months in which to redeem their possessions, and no amount 
of verbal persuasion or even bribery would induce the agencies to 
break their word. Sam used to browse around among smelly ponchos 
and saddlebags until he found what he wanted. 'Til take this," he'd 
say to the shopkeeper who would then pull out his little book and, 
after an interminable amount of calculating, say "Very well, sir, 
you may have that in twelve days if. Or this one next Tuesday if." 

There was a silver necklace I had coveted for weeks, and on the 
magic day when it was to be mine I discovered that "if" had ma- 


teriallzed the night before and claimed it. Lots of objects, of course, 
had passed their time limit, and Sam bought cases and cases of 
woven articles as well as some lovely silver ornaments, but the 
things we wanted most remained tantalizingly unavailable, depend- 
ing on that potential "if." So we decided to try the direct approach. 
This meant going after the Indians on their own home grounds. 
Sam therefore hired a car, and one bright morning, full of enthusi- 
asm, he, Brother Claude and I set forth on our hunt. We left the 
car at the edge of a large field and walked toward a cluster of small 


"huts that were scattered over the landscape like flies on flypaper. 
The huts were called rucas and they all looked alike. They were one- 
room affairs with heavily thatched roofs and eaves that came so close 
to the ground that it was impossible to stand up beneath them, A 
tiny aperture in front took the place of a door. There were no 

Every mca was guarded by two or three emaciated, flea-ridden, 
mangy dogs which rushed at us fiercely when we approached. 
I stuck close to Brother Claude, the lesser of various evils 7 for he 
carried a camera and a fully extended tripod with which he warded 
off canine attention. 

Brother Claude, we discovered, had been an expert fencer in his 
youth and he had forgotten little of this art. "En riposte" he would 
cry, assuming the classical posture of left hand above head, right 
arm stiff, as with unerring aim he pricked a snarling dog in the 
shoulder. "Touche" I expected the dog to howl as he ran out of our 

Unfortunately we could not use a tripod on the Indians. At the 
first three rucas we were received with (i) a hiss, (2) a spit, and 
(3) a curse. All three they were women then turned their backs 
and swished into their homes. If there had been such a thing as a 
door they would have slammed it. 

After a good deal of effort we wheedled our way into a ruca. The 
single room measured about fifteen feet by twenty and was crowded 
with inmates. At one time or another I noted Papa, Mama, Grand- 
mama, an indeterminate number of relatives and about nine kiddies, 


although it was so dark I may have counted the 

twice. There were similar difficulties totting up the score on the pigs ? 

chickens and dogs which nosed about underfoot 

Wooden "bunks for sleeping lined the walls and were the only 
articles of furniture, except for some little wooden seats about a foot 
high which served for guests and for the head of the family. Everyone 
else sat on the dirt ioor. In the middle of the room the dirt hacl been 
hollowed out to make a fireplace, and smoldering logs supported 
a large caldron from which emanated an odor that spoiled my 
appetite for the next week, 

Papa Indian was spokesman. Brother Claude officiated for our 
side. The conversation was in Mapuche, a language which sounds 
like a drawn-out whine. As is often the case when someone does not 
know a language well, Brother Claude spoke in a slow singsong, as 
if he were addressing a child of three or a congenital idiot. The In- 
dians obviously disliked him as much as I did. 

Sam had made a list of things he was interested in buying and 
Brother Claude chanted through them one by one. Papa Indian 
was evidently set on being as difficult as possible. If he was asked 
for one article he would shake his head and counter with something 
entirely unrelated. It was as if you were to go into a grocery store 
and request flour only to be told there was none but that you could 
have a mousetrap instead. 

"Have you any earrings to sell?' 7 whined Brother Claude. 

"Corn," Papa Indian whined back. 

"Spears?" Brother Claude continued to whine. 

"No. Ponchos/ 7 

"Silver necklace?" 

"No. Earrings." 

"Yes, yes, earrings," said Brother Claude eagerly. 

"No earrings/' whined Papa Indian with deadpan expression. 

"Let's go," I suggested, after this brisk repartee had been trans- 

"Patience," said Sam. "You can never hurry an Indian. It takes 


Heaven knows we had plenty of time, and I wouldn't have 
minded waiting if it hadn't been for the atmosphere of concen- 
trated venom which surrounded us. Not an ounce of friendliness 
was exhibited except by the pigs, the dogs and the children. 

For the benefit of those sentimentalists who gurgle over anything 
under the age of seven, I should like to state that there is nothing 
either sweet or cute about the young Indian fry of Latin America. 
They are rade, they are incredibly dirty, they whine. You may feel 
desperately sorry for them as it isn't their fault they've been 
brought up that way but that doesn't make contact with them any 
more enjoyable. The poor kids are friendly enough, but you suffer 
in direct ratio to their friendliness. "Gimme, gimme/' they whine 
pathetically about anything that catches their eye, and if that fails, 
they resort to their invariable habit of applying sticky hands to your 
dress or purse or whatever you happen to value most, making it next 
to impossible to detach hand from article. 

This, though, is to be expected. After all, any children anywhere 
whose families are not in the upper brackets and who have no 
Mademoiselle or governess in attendance are apt to put their little 
fingers in every sort of mess. Particularly disconcerting about Indian 
children, however, are their continuously runny noses. They either 
sniffle or drip. Or both. And until a child is old enough to wipe his 
own nose (and decides he wants to do so), it stays as is. Mama her- 
self may be clean as can be (although she usually isn't) , but nothing 
will induce her to touch Junior's nose. This is a superstition that 
exists all over Latin America and has existed for centuries. 

I once asked a distinguished ethnologist what it was based upon, 
and he got very technical and went into long explanations about body 
functions and anal complexes and other unpleasant psychological 
terms. So I gave up trying to be well informed and bent my energies 
to staying as far away from the South American papooses as possible. 

In this I was licked from the moment we stepped into our first 
ruca. Out-of-doors you at least stand a chance of dodging them, but 
try sitting bunched up on a midget seat with endless little creatures 
suddenly appearing out of the darkness and pouncing on you. There 


was one particular pest who could not have been more than three, 
although his face had the craft}* wisdom of forty, and who kept mat- 
Ing strange noises with his month that might have meant something 
to Mama and Papa bet which sounded to me like "glug ? glug-* 7 
Glug first make a dive for my hair and pulled out a hairpin, which 
he pensively sucked and then handed back. I shook my head and 
waved a hand in a "keep it" gesture. 

That was my mistake. He had now smelled victory and was out 
for better things. While I was busy fending off a pig Glog managed 
to get his hand into my pocketbook, and when the hand emerged, 
my compact was attached to it. Papa Indian mnmbled something 
unintelligible, and Glog shook off the compact which fell to the 
ioor and broke ? spilling bits of powder in all directions. One of the 
pigs immediately poked his head into the mess and emerged with his 
snout coated with Guerlain's best. 1 suppose it was funny. Sam and 
Brother Claude laughed. Glug gave me a winning smile. I didn't 
smile back. 

It took us over an hour even to get started. Brother Claude kept 
on chanting Mapuche and Sam accompanied him with a rattle of 
coins, specially brought for the occasion. These last finally 
succeeded in flushing out various pieces of wearing apparel, a wooden 
spoon, some rather inferior silver jewelry and the wooden seat, 
which by then I considered a permanent part of my anatomy. When 
the business was transacted we said good-by with relief. All I wanted 
was to get home quickly. The way Papa Indian and family looked 
at us, I gathered our departure would make them equally happy. 

In the next three weeks we picked up a lot more specimens. We 
managed to crash about one raca in every four, and although our 
reception was never what you might call enthusiastic, we did get 
along better, and the antagonism shown us was not so great. Except 
for the woman who chased me with a carving knife. 

I was only trying to be helpful. Mama Indian in this case was fat 
and swarthy and apparently very vain. Her neck, ears and wrists 
were loaded down with silver, and although she was anything but 
a Lorelei, she continuously combed her long, black and rather 


greasy hair. At one point she put down the comb and scratched her 
head with both hands (probably lice I decided ) , and I picked up the 
comb, which was a curious one and obviously homemade. Sani, I 
was sure, would be interested in adding it to his collection. With 
that, my fat friend stopped scratching and picked up a knife. I 
could see she meant it too. I dropped the comb and all dignity and 
ran like hell out of the TUC<L 

Sam and Brother Claude joined me almost immediately. I was 
still shaking as we slunk to the car. "What did I do?" I asked Sam. 

f Tou picked up her comb and it probably had some of her hair 
in it. The Indians believe that if you get hold of hair clippings or 
nail parings or any other parts of themselves, it puts them in your 
power and you can practice witchcraft on them." 

"I don't want to practice anything on them/' I said bitterly. "I've 
decided I prefer archaeology to ethnology. I like my Indians better 

Sam was lost in thought. "And just as I was working up to buying 
some of her silver/' he said sadly. 

This episode didn't stop our collecting activities, although I never 
again touched anything unless it was handed me. Sam's fever of 
acquisition lasted until he had exhausted all the rucas that we were 
allowed to enter. He was interested in every material object that 
came into the Indians' daily lives implements for eating, for cook- 
ing, for farming, gear for their horses, fighting instruments. 

We bought pots and cups and spoons. Ponchos and mirrors and 
looms. Silver bridles, stirrups, bits and spurs. Drums, whistles and 
jewelry. Bags by the score made of net, calfskin, lambskin, horse 
head, calf head, horse leg, as well as of the unmentionable parts of 
the cow and bull. Wooden masks, trumpets and pipes. Baskets. 
Burial poles, "From cradle to coffin/' might well have been our 

Sam's fever only subsided when he had practically cleaned out the 
Indians. There were boxes and boxes of specimens. There was so 
much, in fact, that I was sure the Museum of the American Indian, 
Heye Foundation, would have to build an extra wing to make room 
for their new collection. 

Chapter 6 

WE WEREN'T through with the Araucanians by any means. 
Collecting was only part of Sam's job; he was equally 
interested in studying the customs of the Indians and in witnessing 
some of the ceremonies they still practiced. And, above all, in taking 

We had brought along a movie camera from the States (courtesy 
of Mr. Heye) which had all sorts of trick gadgets that completely 
baffled me and, as it turned out later, even confused Sam. Mr. Heye 
had also supplied thousands and thousands of feet of film enough, 
I was afraid, to turn Sam into a second Burton Holmes. Wherever 
we went the film went with us, filling at least six suitcases to 
overflowing. We also carried a tent, although we never used it. And 
camping equipment and excavation materials. All this, combined 
with the bags that housed our modest personal paraphernalia, made 
quite an imposing array of luggage. 

I was reminded of a summer spent with my family at Aix-les-Bains, 
when the outstanding event of the season had been the arrival of 
the Aga Khan at the hotel where we were staying. Literally moun- 
tains of trunks and elegant Vuitton bags preceded him and his 
entourage, which consisted of his latest wife (or concubine) and a 
couple of dozen valets and French maids. When he entered the 
lobby I could barely see him for the nauseating bowing and scraping. 



that surrounded him. u Who Is it?" ! Inquired of one of the bellboys, 
who said something In awed tones that sounded like "Thaggalcon." 

That afternoon 1 described the excitement I had witnessed. "Who 
was It?" asked Mother, always ready for a juicy piece of gossip. 
"A Mi. Kahn/' I answered. "Some famous Jewish banker, I believe." 
"Not Otto?" asked Father, suddenly Interested, **I guess so/' 1 said, 
wishing to please. 

We were soon enlightened as to the Identity of the famous guest. 
The personnel of the hotel continued to bow and scrape, as was only 
to be expected with a man whose subjects pay him his weight In gold 
and jewels each year. The Aga Khan and his wife (or concubine) 
sat at a table nearby to ours In the dining room, and we used to watch, 
fascinated, while he guzzled the exotic foods specially prepared for 
him by the chef. "Disgusting performance/' remarked Mother, 
delicately wrinkling her nose. "Why not?" said Father mildly. "It 
pays him to eat!** 

In a small way I compared our trek to obscure Chilean towns 
with the Aga Khan's triumphant descent upon European watering 
places. Sam's entourage, It Is true, only consisted of a wife and a 
French cleric (no handmaidens or handmen), and our ample lug- 
gage held utilitarian articles rather than creations from Chanel or 
Savile Row, but to the hotelkeepers In the obscure towns we visited 
I expected us to appear as awe-inspiring as the Aga in AIx. It didn't 
work that way. Chilean hotelkeepers received us with stunned 
amazement, all right, but they neither bowed nor scraped, and our 
impressive entrance didn't improve either the rooms or the service. 
The extra suitcases were a nuisance, that's all, but they continued 
to go with us. 

A camera is a mysterious thing and can be as temperamental as 
any artist. To me who was weaned on a sweet and gentle Brownie, 
which turned out good results even when I forgot to focus It, our 
movie camera was an absolute monster. He obviously didn't like us. 
He wouldn't cooperate. Whenever Camera's performance was of 
no particular importance he reacted like a lamb, but if something 


exciting was going on which we wanted to record for posterity, 
Camera got coy or sick. 

In Temuco Sam got into his photographic stride by taking pictures 
of me and of the scenery outside town. 

Having tried out his wings on me, so to speak, he now prepared 
to focus on Indians. Unfortunately they weren't as keen as I to be 
photographed. After a good deal of effort he persuaded an old crone 
to let herself be filmed while weaving a poncho. Preparations were 
made with great care. Grandma was induced to wear all her jewelry 
and her most picturesque costume. The loom was moved out-of- 
doors so that there would be plenty of light. The bench on which 
the old lady was to sit was placed in such a way that each stage in 
the process" of work would show up clearly. Then the camera was 
tried out at endless different angles until the perfect one was found. 
Finally all was set and Sam started the machine running. At this 
point Grandma ran too. "She probably thought she heard a swarm 
of bees/' I said helpfully, trying not to laugh at Sam's expression of 
dismay. "Shell come back/ 7 But she didn't. Nor were we ever able 
to induce anyone else to take her place. 

It was some consolation when Brother Claude and Sam's ever- 
flowing stream of coins combined to obtain us permission to film 
some of the Indian girls making mote. Mote is a sort of corn meal 
which is made by soaking the com in water and lye and then putting 
it into baskets and trampling it. This performance is obviously not 
suitable for anything but a short short, as there is little if any varia- 
tion in tramples, but Sam thought it would be interesting to record 
it photographically. He did. 

But the tramplers were almost as shy as the weaving lady, and 
although they did not run away, they refused to face the camera and 
did their trampling with backs turned. Each time Sam moved the 
camera they reversed. Thus, except for the fact that they were 
standing in baskets, which gave a slightly mad aspect to the scene, 
they might have been any group of fat-hipped brunettes anywhere, 
waiting for a bus on a midwinter day and stamping their feet up 
and down to keep warm. 


None of these small discouragements counted, though, in the 
light of our one great triumph. 'Tve arranged to photograph a machi 
ceremony/' Sam exulted one night as he and Brother Claude re- 
turned from a special Indian hunt "Are you listening, Eleanor? 
FVE GOT A MACHI!" He sounded as if he had just caught a 
four hundred pound swordfisk But I was excited too. A machi cere- 
mony was something few outsiders had ever been allowed to see 
much less record photographically. Sam had succeeded in crashing 
the inner circle of Indian life. The holy of holies. 

A machi is a witch doctor. She for machis are almost invariably 
women is looked upon with tremendous reverence and is believed 
by the Araucanians to be the interpreter of their most important 
god, known very simply as the Supreme Deity. Some of her functions 
are to discover the sorcerer who is responsible for death; to bring 
rain; to predict hidden or future things; and, above all, to cure the 
sick. This is a big order, and to be a machi is the greatest thing a 
woman can aspire to, but there is apparently no percentage in trying 
for the profession as it is imposed on her supernaturally, either by 
the Supreme Being himself or by a spirit through interior revelation. 

There is no use in her saying to herself, "I want to be a machL" 
Either she is tapped from above for this exalted work or she goes 
on leading her normal life as a wife and mother. No one seems to 
be very clear as to how the tapping, so to speak, takes place: the 
Indians, even if they know, refuse to discuss it. My first thought was 
that an enterprising female would have a wonderful opportunity 
for cheating. "A spirit came to me last night/' she can so easily say, 
and there she is, fixed for life. But when I mentioned this, Sam told 
me I had a suspicious nature and that the Indians were too super- 
stitious to indulge in such chicanery. However I still have my doubts. 

Once IT has happened to her, the potential machi is taken in 
hand by an older and more experienced machi and is trained over a 
long period before she is consecrated and allowed to practice. The 
mctchi's job is obviously too important to take any chance on her 
fumbling it. Once set, though, she is at the disposal of all in need. 
The unhappy bring their troubles to her door. The ill come to her 


for treatment. For simple sickness she usually prescribes herbs, 
which she prepares in some secret way, but with something more 
serious, or in case of catastrophe, she resorts to a ceremony. 

Each machi owns what is called a machi pole. This is the long and 
massive trunk of a tree which is sunk into the ground and into which 
steps are cut, making it into a kind of ladder. The upper part is 
carved in the semblance of a face, the top of which is leveled off to 
form a platform about two or three feet wide ? and green branches 
are tied to the back and sides of the pole to carry out the illusion of 
a tree. During the ceremony the machi ascends to the square-cut 
top and dances on it, at the same time steadying herself by holding 
on to the branches, which quiver and shake as if animated by the 
tree's spirit itself. As she dances, she prays and chants sometimes to 
cure sickness, sometimes to bring on rain, sometimes so that children 
may be produced. 

The machi Sam had netted was a big fat woman of forty-odd years 
whom we called Lupe because her real name was unpronounceable. 
She had been a machi since she was seventeen and was either more 
intelligent or more venal than the majority of Mapuche Indians. At 
any rate, she had agreed to let us attend, with camera, a ceremony 
at which she was officiating to pray for some badly needed rain. 

Unfortunately, God got ahead of Lupe, for on the day the cere- 
mony was to take place it poured steadily. I took one look out of 
our hotel window and suggested a game of Russian Bank. "How 
can you think of such a thing?" asked Sam reproachfully, as if I 
were responsible for the downpour. "We are going to Lupe's house/* 

"But how can she pray for rain when it is already raining?" 

"You can't tell," said Sam, without much conviction. "Maybe 
it's not raining out there." 

It was raining "out there," all right, and we got thoroughly wet 
and knee-deep in mud, but the trip was worth while, for after a 
consultation and promise of an extra financial bonus Lupe agreed 
to have a ceremony, anyhow, on the next clear day. Just what she 
was going to pray for this time we weren't sure, but it didn't make 
any difference. 


The following day was bright and sonny, and Sam, Brother 
Claude and I arrived at dawn at Lupe ? s ruca, in back of which the 
machi pole was planted, all dolled up for the occasion in a fresh set 
of branches. Sam deposited a suitcase of extra film in the shade and 
set up his camera, fiddling around with light meter, tape measure 
and other appliances until everything was fixed to his satisfaction. 
Then we waited. 

"Do find out what's wrong/' Sam said impatiently to Brother 
Claude. "I'd like to get started while the light is good." But Lupe 
was apparently in no hurry. She combed her hair, she put on a new 
pair of earrings, she smoothed down her skirt and, finally, all 
spruced up, she dove into the ruca and reappeared with a baby which 
she proceeded to nurse. 

"Why not film this maternal scene?" I suggested. But Sam wasn't 
interested. His camera was all set up for the big event and he wasn't 
going to risk getting it out of line, even by an inch. So, waiting un- 
happily while potential storm clouds raced across the sky, we 
watched Lupe until she had fed the baby enough nourishment 
surely to give it indigestion. 

After what seemed like hours, an audience of some thirty men, 
women and children gathered around the pole, and Lupe disposed 
of the baby, gave her hair a final pat and prepared to start. Sam 
took his stance, like a golfer addressing his ball, but before he could 
so much as touch the camera, Lupe had shinnied up the pole with 
lightning speed and was safely on top. "Make her come down/' he 
yelled agonizedly at Brother Claude, and after a hasty dialogue 
Lupe descended, quite good-naturedly, and began to climb up all 
over again. 

This time Sam caught her at the takeoff, and everything was go- 
ing fine until Lupe had reached the halfway mark, when the film 
stuck and the camera stopped working. Sam gave it a rather un- 
professional shake to loosen it, and Lupe was again lured down to 
repeat her ascent. By now she had lost some of her good nature, and 
you could hardly blame her as she was undoubtedly developing a 
Charley horse. The audience, too, had begun to give us baleful 


looks, and I was scared that Papa wouldn't be cured of his piles, or 
that Mama would stay sterile and we would be blamed. 

So when the camera broke down again this time for good we 
pretended all was well and watched the ceremony with smiles on our 
faces and exasperation in our hearts. When the dance was over Lupe 
climbed down and collected her money, Sam collected his suitcase 
of unused film and we went home. "At least we saw the ceremony/' 
I said rather weakly, trying to cheer up Sam. "No one you know has 
ever got that far." But he refused to be consoled. "That Lupe/' he 
kept muttering. As if she had let him down purposely. 

Sam immediately sent the camera to Santiago, urgently request- 
ing a quick repair job. In the meantime we continued to carry the - 
film and various gadgets with us from town to town, hopefully 
wiring the repair shop our new address each time we moved. The 
camera was returned in perfect condition three days before we 
left Chile for good. 

Of the thousands of feet of film which had traveled around South 
America, fifty feet had been used. These were developed in New 
York. They showed a two-second view of a panic-stricken Indian 
woman weaving and a brief exposure of the behinds of five or six 
girls jigging up and down. The rest of the film consisted of pictures 
of me against a beautiful scenic background. They were excellent. 
"Oh, Mr. Heye/' I laughed to myself when I saw them, "this one is 
my round/* 

Chapter 7 

7f LL in all, we spent not quite three months in southern Chile. 
jT\ Half of this time we were in and around Temuco, a town 
hardly to be described as brimming with entertainment or luxury 
but one which I thought of nostalgically each day we traveled 
farther from it. The other six weeks were spent visiting little towns 
in the south towns so uniformly miserable that, looking back, it is 
hard to distinguish one from another. Fortunately I kept some sort 
of record. 

The entries in "My Trip Abroad" (a wedding present from a 
second cousin once removed) are anything but comprehensive. I am 
afraid they describe a state of mind rather than a country. Here, then, 
is what I find: 

Dec. 21. Truf Truf: (Left Temuco this morning). Stayed in Pension. 
Outhouse falling to pieces. No seat. 

Dec. 23. Labranza: Bathroom but no tub. Toilet clogged. Fleas. 

Dec. 25. Nueva Imperial: Hotel France (nothing like)! Asked man- 
ager where I could wash. He escorted me to plaza and pointed out public 
baths. What a Christmas! 

Dec. 30. Carahue: Grand Hotel! No sleep. Bedbugs. 

Jan. i. Puerta Saavedra: Beautiful scenery. No bath. 

Jan. 3. Collico: Fleas. Bedbugs. Roaches. Indians. 

fan 4. Hacienda Lanalhue: Estate belonging to millionaire engineer, 



High hopes. Fooled. Bathtub used for storage. Outhouse built over stream. 
Docks in stream. Very disconcerting. 

Jan. 7. Puren: Eighteen days since I have had a bath. 

Jan. g. Los Sauces: Brother Claude is beginning to smell. 

Here the diary ends. It doesn't matter. The remaining weelcs of 
one- and two-night stands followed the same pattern: Dirt. Indians. 
Insects. Dirt. There were occasional variations. Like Ancud. I don't 
need a journal in order to remember that experience. 

Ancud is a tiny port on the very lovely island of Chiloe, northern- 
most of the Magellanic Islands and directly off the coast of Chile. 
At the other end of the island was our objective a town named 
Castro, which was thickly settled with Indians. It was necessary to 
spend a night in Ancud on the way, and we had wired ahead to the 
only hotel asking for the best room available. 

We arrived by boat, and although the trip had been both rough 
and wet I was in a cheerful frame of mind, for we had finally shaken 
off Brother Claude. The Hotel Chile, as it was called, was a one- 
story building and contained six guest bedrooms. The architectural 
arrangement was somewhat curious. Each bedroom opened into the 
next, so that each had two doors except for No. 6, which was a dead 
end and had only one. Thus, to reach your room you started from the 
lobby and worked your way through No. i, No. 2, etc., until you 
struck your own particular haven. We had been allotted No. 6. 

This meant a long walk and seeing life in the raw, so to speak, 
but it was the best room and the only one to have privacy. At least 
that's what we thought until the manager escorted us there and we 
discovered that three people besides ourselves had No. 6 too. 

The other tenants were all men. As a rule I prefer men to women, 
but these were as evil-looking a bunch of specimens as Fd ever seen, 
and I was certain that if I dared go to sleep I'd be murdered. The 
manager wasn't at all sympathetic. It was only after an outburst of 
tears on my part (genuine) and Sam's promise to pay for three extra 
board-and-lodgings that our roommates were transferred. One of 
them, who resembled pictures Fd seen of Jack the Ripper, gave me 


/ M 

a look which made me regret I'd married an archaeologist instead 
of a policeman. 

The room itself was large and light, with a nice view of the sea. It 
contained six beds, the best of which, next to the window, the 
manager indicated was mine. The room was a shambles. The only 
bed that boasted clean sheets was Sam's. I smiled at the manager. 
"When can my bed be fixed?" I asked pleasantly. The four spares 
could stay the way they were, I decided. It wouldn't do to be too 


The manager gave me a smug look. 'The Minister of the Interior 
slept here last night/* he announced proudly. 

"How nice. But when can I have the bed made up?" 

"You don't understand/' he insisted. 'The Minister the Minister 
of the Interior slept in that bed/' 

"I know how it is/ 7 1 said soothingly. "He probably left here late. 
So inconsiderate. But if you could just send me the chambermaid/' 

"Madam/' he said, "I thought you would like everything left just 
as it is. It was the Minister of the Interior himself." 

I looked at the dirty sheets, at the ashes scattered over the counter- 
pane, at the chamber pot under the bed. "No/ 7 I said firmly, "I 
would like the bed made fresh and the place cleaned up." The 
manager appeared shocked but resigned. I could see I'd made two 
enemies already. 

When the chambermaid arrived, we decided to take a walk and 
embarrassedly sneaked through Rooms No. 5, 4, 3, 2 and i. The 
hotel was jammed each room had its quota of guests to correspond 
to the number of beds, and in two of them an extra cot had been set 
up. The occupants were mostly men, although there was a flashy 
blonde in No. 2 and there were a couple of little girls in No. i. 
Having worked our way through several rather intimate scenes, we 
decided to stay put until we were ready to retire, so as not to disturb 
our fellow guests any more than necessary, although the situation 
seemed to bother us more than it did them. 

We went to bed early. At 4: 30 A.M* I woke up from a nightmare 
that I was lost in the desert. My throat burned from our highly 


spiced supper; I was feverish with thirst. There was no sign of water 
in the room. "Sam," I whispered, '"could yon please get me some- 
thing to drink/' Sam slept on. "SAM!" 

Sam opened one eye. "I didn't kill Brother Claude/" he mumbled. 

**Sam 7 please wake up. I need you." 

"Of course, Aggie." 

At this I jumped out of bed and shook him. Aggie was a preten- 
tious little bleached blonde who had been after Sam for years. 
"What about Aggie? Tell me, did you ever . . . ?" 

"I dunno. Gotta go sleep now or Brother Claude won't like." Sam 
turned on his back and began to snore. 

I gave up. There was nothing for it but to make a trip to the 
dining room, at the other end of the hotel. So I put on my shoes 
and a top coat over my nightgown and started on my trek. 

Dawn was beginning to break, and its dim light helped me on my 
way. All three occupants of No. 5 were asleep. I reached No. 4 with- 
out incident, to find that Bed 4A, the bed by the window correspond- 
ing to mine, was occupied by my friend Jack the Ripper in a night- 
shirt. He was awake and grunted as I hurried through. In the next 
room the flashy blonde (who belonged in No. 2) was just getting 
out of 3C's bed. I rushed on. Room No. 2 was quiet and normal, 
except for the blonde's empty couch. No. i was equally quiet until 
I tripped over a toy go-cart and one of the children woke up and 

The return trip was engineered in double-quick time. As I 
entered Room No. 4, 1 heard giggles emerging from the bed of 4A 
and I realized that the blonde (26) must have graduated from 
3 C. I ran like hell back to 6B and Sam before the blonde could. 

On our way back from Castro, a week later, we arranged to reach 
Ancud in time to take the boat back to the mainland the same day. 
We had three hours to spare, but we sat on the dock and waited, 
quite happily. 

I didn't really feel clean until we reached New York, and even 
then, although I had spent most of my time both in Santiago and on 


the boat sitting in a bathtub, I felt that the scars of our last six weeks 
in darkest Chile must be there for all to see. So when we were invited 
to dine with the Heyes a few days after our arrival ("We'd like to 
meet the bride/ 7 said Mrs. Heye coyly), I wasn't very enthusiastic. 
But one doesn't turn down the Heyes lightly (said Sam), so we 
arranged to go. 

We were greeted cordially, Mrs. Heye, a handsome if somewhat 
overpowering woman, wore an evening gown which, I decided, had 
irst seen light of day in the atelier of either Lanvin or Patou. Her 
wrists and hands bristled with jewels. She swam in a sea of Chanel 
No. 5. I felt shy and awkward in last year's flowered chiffon, like 
a country girl on her first visit to New York. Chile was too recent: 
I had barely removed its soil from under my nails and its flea bites 
still itched. 

We were ushered into the drawing room and introduced to our 
fellow guests. A butler served ice-cold cocktails, and another passed 
a tray on which reposed a five-pound tin of fresh caviar, garnished 
with the appropriate hard-boiled egg, onion and lemon. The caviar 
was passed three times. 

Then dinner. A handwritten menu adorned each place. "Green 
turtle soup sherry. Oyster crabs Newburg Johannisberger, 1893. 
Saddle of mutton, pommes souffles, petits pois el la francaise Cham- 
bertin, 1906. Fresh strawberries Chantilly Veuve Clicquot, 1911." 
Not a lengthy dinner but surely an adequate one (oh, shades of 

Coffee and liqueurs for the ladies were served in the drawing 
room. "Now tell me all about your trip," said Mrs. Heye, drawing 
me down next to her. "Imagine!" she stated to the assembled group 
of expensive-looking women. "Mrs. Lothrop has just come back 
from a year in Chile. In the wilds. Living with Indians and other 
strange people. So courageous." She sniffed daintily at her Napoleon 
brandy. "Poor child. It must have been awfully hard on you," she 
added, echoing my own sentiments. 

"It was a wonderful trip." I heard the words come forth, clear and 
definite. To my surprise, it was I who was saying them. 

Part II 

Chapter 8 

WHEN I broke the news to my family that Sam and I were 
going away again this time to Guatemala they sighed 
deeply and said, "Well, anyhow, it's not as far as Chile/' That was 
true enough., but where we eventually landed, in an Indian village 
on the shores of Lake Atitlan, was more or less the end of the world. 
At least it seemed so. 

Lake Atitkn is in the highlands of Guatemala, some six hours by 
car from the capital, and it is a storybook lake. The water is deep 
blue, shot with occasional green, and an unbroken chain of moun- 
tains encircles it. Huge volcanoes tower in the background purple 
and brown cones with cottony clouds covering their tips and twelve 
small villages, named after the Twelve Apostles, dot the rocky slopes 
as they meet the water. Of these, Santiago Atitlan is the largest. It 
is also the most colorful, the most charming and the most frighten- 
ing place I've ever lived in. 

Sam had visited Lake Atitlan some years before and, not satisfied 
to relax and enjoy the scenery, had traveled around the lake sniffing 
for ruins. He'd found some beauties, too, on a steep hill called 
Chuitinamit, and then and there he made up his mind that some 
day he would return to excavate them. And return he did, although 
it was five years later. An archaeologist is like an elephant. He never 

When I first saw Lake Atitlan I understood why no one could 



forget it. It was a warm day in January (in Guatemala the seasons 
are reversed and January is like our June), and the lake and the 
mountains and the sky were all so bright that they looked as if they 
had been freshly painted on a piece of cardboard. A modem hotel 
for tourists clung close to the water, shiny white in contrast to the 
blue of the lake. Here we spent the night. "It's got everything," I 
said happily. "Hot water, good food, superb view. There must be a 
catch somewhere. Archaeology was never like this." 'The catch/' 
said my husband drily, "is that this is nowhere near where we are 
going to work. The rains are on the other side of the lake." 

So the next day we took a launch and for an hour and a half we 
chugged across the water to the village of Santiago Atitlan, which 
is directly across the harbor from the ruins of Chuitinamit, and 
where Sam hoped to find some sort of house to rent. Francisco, the 
boatman, was anything but encouraging. "This is an Indian village/' 
he said. "There will be nothing fit for you to live in." 

"It's clear to see he's not used to archaeologists/' I protested. 

"We'll manage/' Sam declared hopefully. 

All of us were right. Francisco was not used to archaeologists, there 
was nothing fit to live in and we did manage. 

Santiago Atitlan, or Atitlan as it is commonly called, looked as 
unreal as its surroundings. Built on a tongue of lava that slopes 
down from the side of the volcano, it extends far into the lake, water 
lapping three sides. The surface of the lava had been eroded into 
boulders of all sizes and shapes, and where the boulders weren't, 
the village was. Houses, their walls partly stone and partly vertical 
bamboo poles topped by roofs of thatch, had mushroomed wherever 
there was sufficient level ground. 

The streets, actually nothing more than stony paths, wandered 
at random from the highly perched plaza down to the water. In spots 
where they were too steep for anything but a mountain goat, stair- 
ways had been cut. The over-all effect was that of an unpatterned 
fortified hill, and as you twisted your way up and down the crooked 
streets you had a feeling that anything might be waiting round 
the corner. Like a nursery rhyme, I thought at first, and I wouldn't 


have been surprised to run into Jack and fill or to see Humpty 
Dtimpty perched on a wall. But after we had lived in Atitlan for a 
while, I realized that the character of its inhabitants was very far 
from being simple or like a nursery rhyme. 

I have never felt so much a foreigner as I did in Atitlan. The 
Indians were generally polite, occasionally belligerent and always 
inscrutable. At best you felt an undercurrent of passive indifference 
beneath their deliberate calm. After a while you realized that even 
their politeness was a parody. "Very well/' they usually answered 
to whatever you asked of them, and you could only sense that they 
were adding under their breath, "Well do it, you lug, but only 
because we damn well have to/* This attitude didn't make for any 
deep friendships. In fact, of all unfriendly Indians these were the 
most so. Their past history and isolated position probably had a 
good deal to do with it. 

Santiago Atitlan is a village of some ten thousand inhabitants. 
Of these, about two hundred are ladinos, a mixture of Indian and 
Spanish. The rest are pure Zutugil Indians, a branch of the Mayas. 
Long before the advent of the Spanish they were fighting for their 
existence against neighboring tribes, and as a result, they developed 
a dependence on each other and a distrust of anyone else. The 
Spaniards conquered but were never able to assimilate them; nor 
could they break through this defensive armor. The Indians accepted 
the fact that they had been defeated, but they stuck together even 
more closely and, except for a certain amount of tmding with nearby 
peoples, had little contact with the outside world. Foreigners were 
frankly unwelcome. To them you were either a Zutugil Indian from 
Atitlan or you were poison. 

The Church had obtained a small foothold, but it wasn't a very 
secure one. As far as the Indians were concerned a little Chris- 
tianity went a long way, and although officially they had been con- 
verted to Catholicism and had their own church, they used it for 
rites that were certainly not according to Hoyle or the Vatican. 
Nobody, they had decided, was going to tell them how to conduct 
their religious life, and when the local priest in the eighteenth 


center}' tried to do just that, the Indians showed their disapproval 
by killing him. After which they were left pretty much alone, except 
for an unfortunate visit by the Bishop of Guatemala, who came to 
make shocked protest at the news that the Indians were worshipping 
Judas. The visit was unfortunate for the Bishop, who was chased out 
of town by his would-be flock brandishing machetes, and barely 
escaped with his life. The Indians had decided that Judas was holy, 
and not even a bishop was going to tell them different. Nor did 
anyone try to interfere with their special brand of Catholicism again. 

I suppose I was naive to think we could ever become pals. We 
never stood a chance. Except for a handful of men, the Indians had 
had no education and spoke no language but their own dialect. We 
were up against the basic mistrust of all uneducated people for 
something they do not understand. Here were two white intruders 
in funny-looking clothes who could only communicate with them 
through an interpreter and who apparently had come to buy the cos- 
tumes off their backs and to dig up their ancestors. All Indians are 
superstitious those of Atitlan particularly so and afraid, above 
everything, of witchcraft. Maybe they thought we would hurt their 
crops. Maybe they believed we would ruin the peace of their buried 
kin. At any rate, they did their best to make things so unpleasant that 
we would be forced to leave. 

Of course no one in his right mind except an archaeologist would 
ever have gone to Atitlan to live. To visit, yes. For a short visit 
Atitlan was wonderful and one of the most picturesque sights in 
Guatemala. So much so that it was a drawing card for all American 
tourists in the vicinity. 

Every week a boatload or two of people would ride over from 
their comfortable hotel on the other side of the lake and clamber 
up the dock, squealing with delight and breathless at their daring. 
The women, usually in high heels, would stumble along the stony 
street up to the plaza, carrying elaborate picnic lunches carefully 
wrapped in wax paper, and oh-ing and ah-ing about the scenery and 
the town. "How quaint/ 7 they used to murmur and, when they first 
saw the Indians, "Gee, aren't they cute/' 


The Indians, wised up to the ways of the world by the ladinos, 
soon learned to take advantage of this windfall. Meekly, tongue in 
cheek, they would offer goods for sale at outrageous prices goods 
that usually had been obtained by trade from Guatemala City 
while the children would ran along with hands extended, whining 
"pennylady, pennylady," the only English they knew. In the after- 
noon the tourists would go back to their comfortable hotel, loaded 
down with "Indian" goods and atmosphere, and the town would 
relax and compose itself for the next onslaught. 

A visit to the Lothrops was part of the tourist program. I think 
they expected to find a cross between Mr. and Mrs. Robinson Crusoe 
and Admiral and Mrs. Byrd. Generally we were lucky enough to 
be away working, but occasionally we were caught. "What fun it 
must be living in this wonderful place," the tourists usually said. 
And invariably, "The Indians are the sweetest things, aren't they? 
So nice and friendly!" To which we smiled and said nothing. 

At first, of course, I, too, thought the Indians sweet and friendly. 
"They're just shy, poor things/ 7 I said to Sam when the women 
looked the other way instead of returning our greeting. "They'll get 
used to us," Sam agreed hopefully. That was before we'd heard the 
stories about the Priest-Who-Was-Killed or the Bishop-Who-Was- 
Chased, and before we found out that no foreigner had dared live in 
Atitlan since seventeen hundred and something. Until we came 

On our first visit, house-hunting, I was full of optimism. If anyone 
had tried to tell me what these Indians were really like, I wouldn't 
have believed them. They looked so attractive. And so gentle. They 
were rather small, as if built on a slightly reduced scale, and they 
were handsome and clean and held themselves erect and proud. 
The women wore white cotton blouses, with a red scallop em- 
broidered deep at the neck, and bright red skirts, set off by touches 
of yellow and white. Their shawls were red and blue. Headbands, 
usually of orange, green and purple, were interlaced in the braids 
wound around their heads, giving the effect of a halo. The men 
wore white knee-length trousers, striped in yellow and purple and 


embroidered with small figures. Their shirts ? either red or blue, were 
held In at the waist with wide red belts patterned in black 

It was an amazing sight to see hundreds of Indians massed to- 
gether in the market place. There never were such brilliant colors 
reds so red or blues so blue or yellows so yellow. "What a 
combination for a dress!" I said to Sam. But he discouraged me. 
"You'll never see these colors In modern industry/' he explained. 
"They're too expensive for commercial use. The red is cochineal, 
obtained from an Insect; the blue comes from the indigo plant; the 
yellow is made from bird droppings and the purple from the juice of 
shellfish. Hardly practical for manufacturing on a large scale." 

The ladinos flitted through all this native color like a few sparrows 
mixed in with birds of Paradise. They wore conventional and drab 
clothes and looked like any ordinary laborer. But it was a Ictdino 
named Diego who finally consented to rent us a house. 

The procedure was simple. There was no bouncing up and down 
on mattresses to try them out or Indulging In "How many closets 
are there?" and "How large Is the Icebox?" kind of talk. It wasn't 
necessary. The house we were taken to see had no mattresses, no 
icebox, no closets. It did have four walls and a roof. And as they 
were the only four walls available in all of Atltlan, there was no 
problem of choice to confuse us. 

Diego's house had been a bar, and It was only on the market be- 
cause he had decided to go out of business. It stood In a large yard 
right off the main thoroughfare, doubtless brooding on more amus- 
ing days. The entire house would have fitted into an ordinary 
living room, and it was divided into two sections, one of adobe and 
one of boards, topped by a tin roof. The adobe room, to be used for 
sleeping, as its walls were better able to keep out the cold, had a 
door which gave onto the yard; no window. The other room had a 
large window opening on the street, which had served as invitation 
to the bar and through which drinks had been dispensed. A wooden 
shutter was attached to it and could be hooked either up or down 
no doubt to conform with the hours designated for drinking. 

For furniture, the house contained one large table, which had 


held bottles and on which we planned to eat, a wooden stool and 
three feeble wooden chairs. We would have to bring our own cots, 
There was plenty of room for them. 

In one corner of the yard was a tiny shack made of stalks of bam- 
boo. This was the kitchen. A block of adobe reached to working 
height, and on it were piled several pieces of wood. This was the 
stove. "And the toilet?" I inquired. 

"The toilet?" echoed Diego politely. He looked around his 
miniature property as if he himself had forgotten where it had been 
placed. Finally he waved his hand vaguely back of him, where no 
building of any kind defaced the landscape. 

"That won't do," I said. "Insist, Sam, please." So Sam insisted. 

"You mean you want an outhouse?" asked Diego. "A real out- 

"Yes," chorused the Lothrops. 

"Very well, I will build you one/* said our future landlord, "but 
it will double the rent." 

"How much?" 

"Five dollars a month instead of two fifty. That's furnished, of 
course," added Diego quickly, indicating the decrepit chairs and 
table and obviously worried by our startled expressions. 

"Outrageous," Sam told him, "but I suppose we will have to pay 

As we climbed back into our launch we were smug with triumph. 
"I told you," said Francisco, "there would be nothing fit for you to 
live in." 

"Ha," we said, "that's where you're wrong." We meant it, too. 
The outhouse was to be constructed without delay, and our land- 
lord had promised to wash down the floors with kerosene and to nail 
down the wooden shutter, as any bar we ran was going to be for our 
own consumption. Our new home was to be ready in a week, and we 
planned to return, cots, baggage and cook in tow, to take over 
occupancy. We could hardly wait. 

Chapter 9 

I HAD thought so much about Atitlan I was almost afraid to see 
it again, for fear it might have changed. But as our loaded launch 
glided up to the dock I sighed with relief. Everything was just 
as before. The town still perched precariously on its rocky slope, as 
if holding its breath to keep from sliding down into the lake. It was 
as beautiful as I remembered it The Indians splashed the wharf 
with the same extravagance of color. And if they failed to give us 
a rousing welcome, I was too excited to notice. 

We approached our new home with as much awe as if the grounds 
had been the gardens of Versailles and the house the Petit Trianon. 
Diego had done a good job. Our mansion had been neatly swept and 
the yard cleared of the pig and chicken droppings that had decorated 
it on our last visit. And, triumph of triumphs, a brand-new outhouse 
had blossomed into being. 

The outhouse was constructed of reeds, on top of which a rusty 
piece of corrugated iron perched crookedly, like a beret on a woman 
who has had one drink too many. The reeds had been tied in bundles 
and fitted together with great care, so that not even the most curious 
eye could find a peephole. After which, I suppose, Diego had gotten 
tired. At any rate, he had failed to construct either door or protection 
of any kind for the gaping entrance which sociably faced the street. 
"We'll get to know our neighbors in no time at all/' said Sam. 
"Just the other way round/' I corrected him. 



It Is usually quite a hurdle to make a complete change in your 
mode of living, but in Atitlan we slid painlessly into our new 
existence. What helped, of course, was that we were comfortable 
and well looked after. 

There was Maria, whom we had brought with us from Guatemala 
City. Maria was our cook. She \vas also chambermaid ? waitress, 
laundress, nurse, as well as a friend on whose ample shoulders I 
leaned when I became discouraged about life. Maria was pure 
Indian. She had been brought to the capital from her native village 
when very young, and there she had stayed, working hard and only 
returning home when, for some strange reason (the words were 
hers) she suddenly found she had produced a child. 

"I certainly didn't expect it," she would say, as if the baby had 
dropped from a tree, "but it is the will of God, and my mother will 
be happy. She is old now and has no little ones of her own/ 7 

And Maria would work a little harder and send back more money 
to take care of her ever increasing brood. 

"Why not get the father to contribute?" I once asked her. 

"The father!" she retorted, looking unutterably shocked. "There 
is no father!" And she was so definite that she almost convinced me. 

As a matter of fact, it was because Maria loved children that we 
happened to get her. She had been working for American friends of 
ours who had a little boy of five. His name was Robin, but to Maria 
he was el rey (the king), and the king could do no wrong. Un- 
fortunately el rey's mother and father were unable to agree with 
her, and when the little king was naughty he was duly punished. 
This shocked Maria, who believed he should enjoy the same im- 
munity that is accorded royalty. 

The climax came when Robin, left alone one day and idly search- 
ing for trouble, came across a bottle of glue and happily poured it 
into his father's shoes. When Papa discovered this unfortunately 
only after slipping his foot into a leather boot, which subsequently 
had to be cut off he whacked hell out of his offspring, and Maria 
announced flatly that she could no longer work for barbarians who 
kcked appreciation of such a superior being. Maria was a wonderful 


servant; and for a weak moment Mama was tempted to spare the 
rod and spoil the cook, but she decided it would be easier to find a 
new cook than a good psychiatrist for Robin later on. 

So Maria was turned over to us, who had no children, and she 
transferred her affections to me, I never quite reached the exalted 
position of the little king, but if Sam, justifiably annoyed at times 
by my mistakes, spoke to me harshly or impatiently, Maria would 
frown and begin to look fierce. It got so that he never dared criticize 
me. At least not until we were alone. 

There was Jesiis. Jesus, a pretty young Indian girl, had been en- 
gaged to help Maria. Her principal duty was that of water girl. As 
all our water for drinking, washing and cooking had to be brought 
up from the lake, a distance of about two hundred yards, Jesus made 
at least seven trips daily, carrying the water on her head in a jar 
which she emptied into one of the large clay containers set up against 
the shady side of the kitchen. All Indian women in Guatemala carry 
water (and just about everything else) in this way, and although 
water jars boast two handles, these are only used to hoist the jars 
up and down, for no self-respecting female would dream of holding 
on to or even touching her burden once it has been placed on her 
head. This naturally makes for a wonderful sense of balance and 
magnificent posture. 

Every time I looked at Jesus I automatically pulled in my stomach 
and my chin, threw out my chest, stood on the balls of my feet. I 
even practiced making a porter out of my head, beginning with an 
empty tin cup and graduating to a cup filled with water. But after 
several days of getting drenched and catching a severe cold, I resumed 
my accustomed slouch. 

There was Cristina. Cristina was the spinster daughter of Diego, 
our landlord. I don't know whether her home life or an unhappy love 
affair was responsible, but something had frozen her face into a 
permanent mask of disapproval which even her rare attempts to 
produce a smile could not break through. She was an indispensable 
part of our household, however. Maria and Jesiis were both hard- 
working and agreeable, but they were unable to communicate with 


each other as their respective dialects had about as much similarity 
as Hebrew and Chinese. 

On Cristina, then, who could speak Spanish to Maria and Zutugil 
to Jesus, devolved the duty of being interpreter. She did little else. 
Like most ladinos, she was allergic to manual labor and she spent 
most of her time sitting on a stool in our yard, a queen holding 
court, occasionally deigning to tell Jesus that Maria needed more 
water or wood, or to ask Maria what she wished Jesus to do next 
For these services she received the equivalent of $3.50 a month. 

Maria was the highest-paid member of the household, earning 
eight dollars monthly. She did most of the work and she worked 
hard. She cooked three big meals a day. She waited on the table. 
She kept the house in order. Although the house was small it was 
an effort to keep it clean, both because of the dust that blew in 
from the yard and because of the insects which., before we came upon 
the scene, had run unmolested about the premises, 

Our first act on arriving had been to resweep the dirt floors, splash 
them lavishly with Flit and finally cover them with pine needles 
in lieu of a carpet. Even so the goodly heritage of fleas that Diego 
had left behind persisted, and twice a week fresh pine needles were 
obtained from up the mountain and Maria swept the old ones (plus 
fleas) into the yard. Sam believed that exposure to the sun would 
kill our little friends, but L was sure the warmth only caused them 
sufficient discomfort to inspire them to hop back into the house, 
healthier and hungrier than before. 

Maria was in complete charge of the kitchen. It was her home, 
her castle, and in spite of its deficiencies she was so proud of it she 
rarely allowed anyone else inside. Which was sensible, for the room 
was tiny, and with Maria in it, plus kitchen implements and a large 
and elaborately constructed figure of Christ in the manger, which 
accompanied her on all her travels, there was hardly an inch of space 
left over. 

Maria slept on the floor, though how she managed to sleep I 
never understood. Her bed was a thin straw mat, the bottom of 
which protruded (as, therefore, did her feet)" from the opening 


which served as an entrance. When I first saw the mat I was shocked 
"Don't yon want a cot?" I aslced her. 

"And where would I put it, Senora?" She laughed, as if it were 
a great joke. Nor did she ever complain, although cold winds swept 
through the unprotected room each night, penetrating her blankets 
and leaving her covered with a layer of ashes from the top of the 

The stove was a feeble affair, but miraculously Maria breathed 
life into it. She was a natural cook, and as the food in Atitlan was 
good, we ate well In the beginning, until digging started, I did 
the marketing. The market was held in the plaza, a ten minute 
walk from our house, and each morning I set forth, accompanied 
either by Maria or by Jesus with an empty basket in which to bring 
back our purchases. At first I used to take Cristina with me as 
interpreter, but her obvious scorn of my shopping technique de- 
pressed me so much that I decided to depend on the universally 
understood methods of pointing at an object (I want that! ) , fingers 
tentatively stretched out (how much?) and hands, protestingly 
raided high (too much! ) . 

The market was held daily, from early morning well into the 
afternoon. In the main square, dominated by the ancient church, 
hundreds of Indian women squatted on their haunches, their wares 
piled in front of them, the massed color of their costumes almost 
too bright for the naked eye. Here were sold brooms, brushes, gourds, 
women's headbands, and materials for their skirts (the textiles 
brought in from neighboring towns and regularly sold or traded for 
articles and food native to Atitlan ) . 

Also turkeys, chickens, dried fish, black beans, potatoes, bananas, 
plantains, alligator pears and other local produce. The turkeys and 
chickens were held by a string looped around one leg, the other end 
of which was attached to the owner's wrist, and they were sold alive. 
Sometimes they rested apathetically on the ground; more often they 
nervously scratched the sun-baked earth, flapping their wings and 
pecking at your hand if you tried to examine them closely. They 
had my complete sympathy (for who can blame a chicken for 


objecting to having its breast pinched or tickled?), and as a result 
I did my buying by instinct, depending in most part on whether 
the look on the chicken's face appealed to me. 

Unfortunately this was no good as an indication of age or condi- 
tion, and after I had twice brought home painfully scrawny and 
antique specimens, Maria decided I needed help. Not being as soft- 
hearted as I, she prodded and poked her way right through the 
market until she found what she wanted. After which the poor 
chicken or turkey, both legs now tied tightly together, was placed 
protesting in her basket among less active purchases. 

Eggs presented a different problem. Sam has always said that 
there is no such thing as one egg. "You must eat two," he insists, 
"or three, or even four if you feel so inclined, but one egg just 
doesn't count. After all, you don't talk about one twin/' he is apt 
to add triumphantly. Here, of course, is my chance to say that you 
don't talk about three twins or four twins either, but I've always 
refrained, as I know what he means. 

The Indian women, however, didn't understand this. They were 
poor, and few of them owned more than one laying hen apiece, 
and the moment the hen let loose an egg it would be rushed to the 
market. This made for a fine degree of freshness, but to pick up 
enough eggs for a couple of breakfasts was apt to take a good half hour 
of searching and bargaining. 

To bargain is routine with the Guatemalan Indians. It is a game 
they play and enjoy, and a game they expect you to play with them. 
The first price mentioned is automatically discounted. You might 
offer fifty cents for an article for which the seller hopes to get twenty- 
five but he (or she) will turn you down flat. By the same token you 
must not accept the seller's asking price, even if it seems low. After 
three or four offers and counteroffers both sides reach a sum ap- 
proximating the most the buyer will pay and the least the seller will 
take. At this point hand over your money, grab your purchase and 
run, before the Indian's pathetic wails about being done in the eye 
(all of which is part of the game) upset you too much. 

The food in the market at Atitlan was very reasonable. Reduced 


to average terms (after haggling), a chicken cost twenty or twenty- 
five cents, a turkey thirty-five. Eggs were a cent apiece. Vegetables 
w-ere scarce and (except for very inferior corn) were mostly imported 
from neighboring towns, but even so, forty cents would get you 
enough squash, tomatoes, onions and peas for four meals. The most 
spectacular buy was alligator pears. These were large and tender 
and full of flavor. The price varied according to the season, but the 
highest reached was four cents apiece, while in ordinary times you 
could buy twelve dozen for a dollar, a little more than half a cent 

a pear. 

We always seemed to be hungry and we ate extraordinarily well 
Except for meat. This was sold in a little shop facing the plaza, and 
because there was no ice it was painfully fresh. We did manage to 
buy an occasional tenderloin of beef that wasn't too hard on the 
teeth, but as a rule we stuck to chicken or turkey or meat out of cans 
that were part of the supplies we ordered from the other side of the 
lake. Butter, too, came in tins, as well as certain fruits and vegetables. 
Most of our food, though, was bought locally, and rice, potatoes 
and black beans the latter made into a smooth puree, crisp on the 
outside and served with fried plantains rounded out our menus. 

Because we had no ice, turkeys and chickens had to be eaten 
freshly killed, too. So freshly killed, in fact, that they were practically 
rushed from deathbed to oven. This didn't seem to interfere with 
the succulence of the chickens but turkey meat was apt to be so 
tough that neither knife nor molar could dent it. Until Maria solved 
the problem. "Why don't you get him drunk?" she asked one day. 

"Get WHOM drunk?" I said, startled, looking at Sam. 

"Why, the turkey, of course," she answered. (The bird in question 
was a lady, but to Maria all fauna were masculine.) "It's simple," 
she continued. "I've done it before. You give him some aguardiente 
(the local rum) and he will pass out. Then, when I get ready to chop 
off his head, he will be relaxed and, in consequence, tender when 
you eat him." 

Sam and I both laughed but we decided to humor her. So while 
Maria held the turkey, Sam opened its mouth and I poured down the 


ram. One good slug and "he" was out like a light. Maria wielded 
her ax and all was over. "I don't suppose it will work/" I told Sam, 
"but at least the poor turkey has had a pleasant end/* 

It did work, though. Our bird had apparently relaxed into a state 
of delirious tenderness while in its cups. "Wouldn't the Temperance 
Society be shocked?" we laughed as we happily stuffed ourselves. 

But when the American Ambassador's wife came to lunch it 
wasn't quite so easy. We had received a letter from Guatemala City 
announcing her projected visit to Atitlan with two friends and 
asking if they could all come and picnic with us. "Don't go to any 
trouble/* she wrote. "We can bring our own sandwiches and maybe 
you will give us coffee. I know you must be living very primitively/' 

"Well show her how primitive we are/ 7 1 said to Sam. "Ill serve 
her as good a lunch as she can get in her old Embassy. And we will 
have a turkey!" So I wrote Mrs. Ambassador and told her to leave 
her sandwiches at home and we would do our best to see that she 
and her friends did not go hungry. 

The day before the luncheon, Maria and I went to pick out our 
main course. Maria must have poked and tickled every turkey in the 
market. She inspected their eyes, their crops, their feathers, their 
toenails. With the possible exception of the knee-jerk, she gave them 
a complete neurological examination. After one hour she picked 
out her victim an enormous turkey gobbler which she claimed had 
passed every test. Because of his size and special qualifications he 
cost half a dollar, but to hell with the extra fifteen cents, said I, we 
don't have an ambassador's wife to lunch every day. 

"Look at Goliath/' said Sam, when we brought him home. "Isn't 
he superb?" Maria and I beamed, and the turkey arched his back 
feathers and strutted around the yard. 

At seven the next morning we started activities. "Where's the 
liquor?" I asked. 

"You're not going to give him a drink this early in the morning?" 
Sam shuddered. "That's carrying depravity too far." 

"The turkey doesn't know the time." (I would have felt more 
sympathetic toward poor Goliath if his gobbling noises hadn't kept 


me awake most of the night.) "Let's get started. Where's the 

"Why whisky?" asked Sam. "Rum does the trick just as well, 
and we only have one bottle of Scotch, which we need to serve before 

"This is a very special turkey/' I insisted. "And it will only take 
one small jigger. We'll have plenty left." But I was wrong. 

Goliath was hard to handle. He scuffled about madly, in spite 
of Maria's and Sam's restraining hands, and at least a jigger of our 
precious whisky watered the ground before I managed to pour a 
good-sized drink down his throat. Goliath did not take to it kindly. 
He sputtered and choked, spilling some of the liquid on his feathers 
and some over Sam, then broke loose from Maria's grasp. After 
some minutes we jockeyed him back into position and I gave him 
another dose. This just seemed to add to his strength and again he 
broke loose. Now, though, he was slightly unsteady and easier to 
recapture. After four drinks he began to stagger. Two more and his 
legs gave way. "There he goes," I said, but he managed to pull him- 
self together and was up at the count of five. 

"What a turkey," said Sam, admiringly. "What capacity!" 

"He's wonderful," I agreed and tipped the bottle toward his 
open mouth. At long last Goliath was down for good. A smile 
seemed to settle over his face. He was finished. So was the bottle 
of whisky. 

The party was a huge success. Never, agreed everyone, had a 
turkey been so tender. Or had such a wonderful flavor. Before lunch 
Mrs. Ambassador handed me a package. "You wouldn't let us bring 
food," she said, "so we brought you some Scotch. I hope you can use 

"We can" Sam and I chorused fervently. 

Chapter W 

WHEN you move into a new community, you count on 
building up some sort of relationship with the inhabitants. 
In an Indian town, of course, it is more difficult. I hardly expected 
the Zutugil matrons to call on me and invite me to dinner, but I did 
think that eventually we might develop at least a nodding acquaint- 
ance with our neighbors. The Indians of Atitlan, however, didn't 
go in for nodding. The only reaction we got was resentment from 
the men, curiosity from the women. 

The women's curiosity was so strong it overcame even their 
shyness. We were hardly settled before they began to stream into 
our yard, babies in arms, the rest of the family trailing behind. They 
were grave, silent and interested. Our home was given a terrific 
once-over. They examined the kitchen, in spite of Maria's dark 
looks. They examined the blankets on our cots. They fingered a 
dress of mine which hung from a hook on the wall. 

"Hello," I said. 


"Cute baby," I said, poking a finger at a little bundle one of the 
women was carrying under her arm. Mama quickly pulled the red 
cap Baby was wearing down over its face. 

"They always do that," Sain explained, "if you get too close to 
their babies. They're afraid you've got the Evil Eye." I quickly 
backed up. 



"Nice day/ 7 1 tried next, in a Hud of pidgin Spanish. 


"They won't talk/' I announced rather unnecessarily. 

"They don't speak Spanish/' said Sam. a At best what would come 
out would be *Ug, ug/ " 

"Even that would be better than nothing/' I said. But in the days 
that followed, although we were the subject of constant visitations, 
not even an "Ug" was loosed our way. 

The men were a little more communicative but hardly more 
affable. They resented us from the start. And showed it. The day 
we moved into our house I bought some of the gay red material 
at -the market out of which women's skirts were made, and Maria 
and I tacked it up as a curtain on the gaping outhouse. "Privacy and 
local color in one/ 7 I announced. "It will be an inspiration/' The 
next morning our inspiration was gone. "Some mistake/' we decided. 
"The Indians wouldn't steal. The wind must have blown it away/' 

So I bought more material, and we rigged up another curtain. The 
next morning curtain No. 2 was gone. There was nothing to do but 
buy curtain No. 3 (or give a free exhibition) , but from then on we 
took it to bed with us each night, rehung it each morning. 

Other things disappeared, too. A washtub we had left in the yard, 
a tin cup, a pair of stockings I had hung out to dry. "It couldn't be 
the Indians/' I insisted, unwilling to admit these seemingly nice and 
simple and unworldly people could have an impure thought. "Who 
else?" said Sam unhappily. And after that, when we went out, Maria 
or Cristina were always left on the premises to protect our property. 

I still don't believe the Indians stole for any other reason except 
to annoy us. They never took things for which they had any use. 
They drank out of gourds, not tin cups; their laundry was done in 
the lake, not in washtubs; and no self-respecting Indian woman 
would have been seen dead in a pair of stockings. Their pilfering was 
an irritation campaign, nothing more. We were outsiders, inter- 
lopers, mysterious strangers who were obviously cooking up trouble; 
and the sooner they could get rid of us the better. 

We worked and worked to break down the shell of distrust in 


which the Indians enclosed themselves. We gave them presents 
trinkets to the women, cigarettes to the men, canned goods to 
stock the family larders and the presents were politely and un- 
enthusiastically received and their attitude remained unchanged. 
We offered to help in cases of sickness or emergency, and our help 
was accepted and their attitude remained unchanged. I once read a 
book called How to Win Friends and Influence People, but I doubt 
if the author would have had much success in Atitlan. We didn't 
try to influence anybody. We never got as far as winning friends. 

There was one exception. We made one friend among the Indians. 
Just one. His name was Pedro Mendoza and he lived in a house al- 
most directly back of ours. One windy morning a rather intimate 
article of apparel swirled across the back fence and landed on the 
kitchen roof. ("About time something blew in, not out/ 7 said Sam.) 
Five minutes later a worried-looking individual came in our front 
gate to retrieve it. "I'm Pedro Mendoza/' he announced. "That" 
pointing sheepishly toward the kitchen roof "belongs to my wife/* 

"Sam/ 7 1 said. "Did you notice? HE SMILED!" 

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Unfortunately it 
was a friendship that didn't improve our standing in the com- 
munity, for Pedro was an Evangelist (a term used in Latin America 
for all Protestants) and he was as much of a pariah in Atitlan as 
Sam or I. We once asked him how he had happened to become 

"I had heard about the Bible Institute which had been organized 
in Panajachel, across the lake/' he told us, "and one day out of 
curiosity I visited it. Stories from the Bible were being read and 
explained in Indian dialect (I, of course, have always been able to 
speak Spanish/' he announced proudly) , "and classes were being 
formed to teach my people to read and write. It was a good thing/' 
he added simply. "So I became an Evangelist and now I too try to 
spread the good word." 

"Have you had much success?" we asked interestedly. 

Pedro shook his head. "Very little so far. There are few of us here 
in Atitlap, too few. We tjy to teach the rest but they are not 


receptive. *You think we should learn to read and write/ they say. 
"What for? Reading and writing will not produce good crops/ TOE 
tell us God wants us to stop getting drank/ they say. 'Why, our ram 
is God's gift to us. Why shouldn't we use it?' 'You are a traitor/ they 
say. 'You are selling yourself for the foreigners' money/ It is diffi- 
cult," he continued, "but they will learn in time. And I have already 
converted my family/' he added triumphantly. 

Converting Pedro's family meant converting a large portion of 
the population of Atitlan. There was Lucha, his wife. There were 
Consuela and Juana, married daughters with children of their own, 
and Pepita, still single. There were Salvador and Jose, the older sons, 
and six or seven younger Mendozas ranging from thirteen years to 
two. By all indications another little Mendoza was on the way. 
Birth control had apparently stopped short of Atitlan. 

All three generations lived together. The house, fortunately, was 
a large one, for by Atitlan standards Pedro was rich. He was a man 
of property, a big landowner, and his numerous scattered holdings, 
on which he himself worked, yielded enough produce both to feed 
the enormous Mendoza clan and to bring in a comfortable income 
on the side. When I first saw Pedro's house I was surprised. I had 
expected something out of the ordinary, but except that it was about 
double the size and very clean (the usual pigs and goats and chickens 
were not allowed inside) , it was like all other native houses. 

There were the regulation walls of stone and bamboo topped by 
thatch, and the regulation yard enclosed by stone boundaries. Inside, 
the house consisted of one very large windowless room with an 
alcove used as a kitchen. Hammocks hung from the beams, and 
chests for clothing and small squatting stools were scattered gener- 
ously about. 

But although the Mendoza family lived in native style they were 
much more advanced than most of the Indians of Atitlan. They 
spoke Spanish. They had learned to read and write. Pedro, as a 
matter of fact, was well educated and had even traveled about the 
country. On one of his trips to Guatemala City he had taken 
Consuela, his oldest daughter, with him. That had been seven years 


before we knew her, but she still talked about her experience to 
anyone who would listen. "Imagpte!" she would say. "I have seen 
the biggest city in Guatemala the biggest city in the whole world. 
There were automobiles all over the streets, and the streets were 
smooth! And enormous houses. And" the climax was always the 
same "I rode in a streetcar!" 

"That streetcar/ 7 said her mother, laughing. "She will never 
forget it" But there was a bit of envy in her laugh, for Lucha had 
never been to the capital, had never seen an automobile, had never 
ridden in a streetcar. 

Next to Pedro, we got to know Pepita best. Pepita was seventeen 
and, by Atitlan reckoning, an old maid. This was not because she 
was unattractive, but because her father had been so inconsiderate 
as to become an Evangelist before she had reached marriageable 
age. As a result the boys and girls she knew had been told to stay 
away from the family of "that traitor Mendoza." Pepita was phil- 
osophical, however. "Even if I am too old to marry and have chil- 
dren/' she said, "there are other things. Father has promised to take 
me to Guatemala City on his next trip. And in the meantime I will 
go on with my weaving/' 

Pepita was the best weaver in town. She made most of her family's 
clothes and she worked with speed and skill and grace. So when 
she consented to weave a blouse and shawl for Sam to buy, he was 
inordinately pleased. Sam was trying to make a collection of all the 
different articles of clothing worn in Atitlan and until we met the 
Mendozas had had very little luck. The women made clothes for 
themselves and for their families to wear, not to sell; so that in order 
to acquire a costume it was usually necessary to buy one already 
worn, if not right off the owner's back. 

Nor was that easy. An Indian's wardrobe is a limited one when 
a blouse or shirt begins to wear out someone in the family weaves 
a new one and even in cases where there were "spares" at home, 
the owners weren't anxious to let us have them. We were The 
Enemy, after all, and it was perfectly possible (so they argued) that 
we would practice witchcraft on them if we had their clothes in our 


possession. Occasionally a more enlightened Indian, or one in need 
of money, would disregard this risk, but such individuals were few 
and hard to find. 

Sam kept on trying, though, and his technique was generally the 
same. He would go to the market place, accompanied by Cristina 
as interpreter, and pick out a likely prospect usually a woman, and 
always a well-dressed one. "I like your costume/ 7 he would say 
(through Cristina). "Haven't you another like it at home? If so, 
do let me buy this one/ 7 

The woman as a rule either shook her head or giggled at his 
proposition and ignored it In which case Sam would go right on to 
the next smartly dressed individual and repeat the procedure. 

When I was along I was thoroughly embarrassed by this approach, 
although to my surprise the Indians didn't seem at all insulted. It 
was as bad, I told Sam, as if I were to go up to a comparative stranger 
at home and say, "What a beautiful dress, Mrs. Snodgrass. Where 
did you get it? I want one just like it. How about selling me yours?" 

But Sam told me I was wrong. "The Indians," he said, "are used 
to selling their blouses or shirts or coats secondhand. Whenever they 
need to raise money for parties or for Easter ceremonies or to pay 
a witch doctor they pack up their extra clothes and anything else 
they may own and travel to the nearest town that boasts a pawn- 
shop. There they either borrow money on their possessions or sell 
them outright. That doesn't mean," he added quickly, "that they 
will be willing to let me have them, but it can't hurt to try. At worst, 
they will only ignore me." Which is just what they did do. 

The Mendozas were therefore a godsend. They were helpful and 
generous and they stripped themselves to add to Sam's collection. 
"I don't need this shirt," Salvador would say. "Take it, and Pepita 
will weave me another." "Would you like a shawl?" (This from 
Juana.) "It is a ceremonial one which I won't use until Holy Week, 
and by then Pepita can make me another." "Take this coat, this 
handkerchief, this belt, this bag." The offers poured in from all sides. 
And always, "Pepita can make me another." 

Poor Pepita! Although she didn't seem to mind. She had attached 


herself to us, her new friends, and our Interests were hers. When 
Sam told her he wished to photograph the different steps in weaving, 
she was delighted. "Good/ 7 she said. "You will take my picture and 
then you will not forget me/' And conscientiously, whenever the 
blouse or the shawl on which she was working called for a change in 
process, she would stop her work until Sam could be there to take 
photographs or to make a sketch. Sometimes Sam was busy, and 
Pepita would have to wait days before she could continue her 
weaving. "Poor Salvador/' I said. "When will Pepita find time to 
make his shirt? Or Juana's shawl? Or Pedro's belt?" 

But Sam was so captivated by his growing collection of textiles 
to say nothing of the documentary evidence he was amassing on the 
technique of weaving that he paid scant attention. "Poor Salvador, 
poor Juana/' he repeated dutifully. But without much conviction. 

The friendliness of the Mendoza family merely served to high- 
light the surliness of the other Indians. If only they had been willing 
to let us alone! Night was the worst time. Almost every night, just 
as we were getting ready to sleep, loud voices would be heard on the 
street side of our house. Then a knock on the boarded-up window 
in the next room. "Open up. We want a drink." The first time this 
happened we tried not answering. But the knocks became blows. 
"Open, do you hear. Open. We want rum." 

"This is no longer a bar/' Sam finally called out. 

More blows on the window, this time with fists. "We want rum! 
We want rum!" 

"Go away/* I yelled, when I could stand it no longer. Although 
the yell was more of a quaver. 

"Ah! A woman," came back from outside. "Open the window, 
little one, and serve us." And the shouts and the pounding continued 
until, finally, the would-be drinkers got tired of waiting. After they 
had gone we lay in bed, wakeful, until the next lot came along. 

This performance took place at least three nights a week and 
was more or less the same each time, although the language of our 
persistent visitors varied according to their state of intoxication. On 
occasions when we were left in peace it was almost as bad, for each 


time we heard steps coming up the street we waited, tense, for the 
steps to stop and the pounding and yelling to begin. "Do you think 
they will ever learn that Diego has given up his bar?" I asked Sam. 
"Or are they doing this purposely?" 

"I doubt it," said Sam. "The news must certainly have got about, 
but when the Indians are drank or thirst}' they probably forget every- 
thing except that they want another drink And their feet bring them 
here automatically/* 

But if the disturbance on the street side of the house was acci- 
dental, that on the yard side wasn't. This took place at night, too. 
Almost every night. It was a quieter attack and, just because of that, 
more frightening. It usually started with a shuffle of feet, no voices. 
Suddenly the handle of our door would begin to turn, and although 
the door was always locked on the inside, it was a flimsy lock and 
gave but little reassurance. "Sam," I would say, trembling, each 
time this happened, "they're going to break in." 

"Don't worry/' he'd answer, patting my hand. "They won't break 
in. They only want to annoy us/' 

"How can you be sure? 97 I'd ask desperately, and I'd wedge a chair 
under the doorknob, like a young girl trying to defend her honor. 

Sam was right, though. They never did break in, and I don't 
believe they tried very hard. But the nightly invasions shuffle, 
shuffle, rattle, rattle continued. Sometimes Maria would wake up 
and fearlessly, broom in hand, chase the invaders. And they would 
go away. Only to return later. 

In desperation I consulted Pedro. "That is bad," he said, shaking 
his head commiseratingly. <r Very bad. Although I am sure the 
Indians would do no harm. They are like children. It isn't that they 
dislike you personally; it is that they dislike anything strange to 
them. But if you are nervous/' he offered, "Salvador or I can sleep 
outside your door." 

Dear Pedro, I sighed with relief. But to my dismay Sam turned 
He-Man. "Of course not, Pedro," he said. "We wouldn't think of 
such a thing." And then, the "we" becoming even more editorial, 
"The Indians don't frighten us! 9 

?. ; c ^\$ t **.:?*?s 

Chapter II 

HPHE reason for living in Atitlan, of course, was to be near 
J[ Chuitinamit, the site which Sam planned to excavate. It 
should have been easy to get started. The usual technique is to ( i ) 
pick your site, (2) get permission to dig, (3) engage workmen, 
(4) get yourself and said workmen to the site, (5) make some holes 
in the ground and (6) pray that you will find something. This 
sounds simple, and up to the point where you find something (or 
don't) it usually is. But in our case, the only part of the program 
that was simple was picking out the site, and this had been done five 
years earlier. We had permission to dig, it is true, but between a con- 
tract signed in the capital and enforcing that contract in an Indian 
town many miles away there is a big difference. 

All formalities had been attended to. We had gone to see the 
Minister of Education in Guatemala City for our permission. We 
had played the HOW game with him. In Latin America it is con- 
sidered good form to disguise or at least sugar-coat all business deal- 
ings. This is done by obscuring the issue with polite chitchat in order 
to see how long you can take before coming to the point, so that 
when you do finally reach it, it seems almost like an accident. Hence 
the HOW game. 

The Minister of Education played so well that Sam and I were 
almost whitewashed. He started in as we were shaking hands. 



"HOW are you Sefiora? HOW are you Sexior?" "HOW are you Mr. 
Min " we managed to get out just In time before he countered 
with "HOW is your mother? HOW is your father?" (As these ques- 
tions were addressed to each of us separately, he scored four points.) 

'Very well, thank you, Mr. Min" 

"HOW are your children?" he interrupted (a question which in 
my opinion should have penalized him), but noting my expression 
he quickly corrected himself. "Ah, that's right. No children. Too 
bad, too bad." The way he said this made us feel so guilty that we 
lost our turn and the Minister got back into his stride with "HOW 
was your trip down? HOW do you like Guatemala? HOW long do 
you expect to stay?" 

Three times Sam tried to break in with "HOW can I get permis- 
sion to dig, Mr. Min " but the Minister paid no attention, and it 
was only after he had won the game by a score of eighteen to two 
with a final "HOW can I be of service to you?" that Sam got his 

Once the game was over, there were no difficulties. The Minister 
agreed it would be a good idea to explore the buried treasure of the 
Mayas (especially as by law anything we found would be kept by 
the Guatemalan government), and he scrawled a few lines to the 
political chief of the department in which Atitlan was situated, 
saying in effect, "help Lothrop." We shook hands once more and off 
we went. 

"Mr. Min was certainly helpful," I commented. And, mistakenly, 
"The rest should be easy." 

The political chief's headquarters were in Solola, a town some 
twenty miles from Atitlan. We called on him three days later and 
it was a repetition of our call on the Minister. We again played the 
HOW game. Mr. Chief also won (although by a less imposing 
score) and he, too, gave Sam a "help Lothrop" letter, this one 
addressed to the Alcalde or Mayor of the town of Atitlan. 

The Mayor was apparently not the type who cared for games. 
"What do you want?" he grunted as soon as he saw us, and without 
waiting for an answer he called in his assistant, Mayor No. 2, who 


was an Indian and who eyed us with more distaste, if possible, than 
had Mayor No. i. So without preliminaries Sam handed over the 
latest "help Lothrop" letter, which was digested in silence. The 
Mayor, it seemed, was not anxious to help Lothrop. Neither was 
Mayor No. 2. What they both wanted was for Lothrop to get the 
hell out and not bother them. Naturally they didn't say so, but as 
time went on it became more and more evident. 

It was grudgingly conceded that we might dig "as long as the 
political chief says so, although what you'll find besides weeds I 
can't imagine/ 7 stated Mayor No. i, in a way that made it clear he 
hoped the weeds would choke us. 

"The first round is ours," whispered Sam, and he quickly sealed 
his victory by requesting an interpreter and eight workmen, the 
latter to be paid the unprecedented sum of twenty cents a day, 
which was five cents, or twenty-five per cent, more than the current 

But when we returned to the town hall to interview our prospec- 
tive helpers, we found just one a puny little guy named Nicolas. 
Nicolas, it turned out, was the interpreter, and he insisted on being 
put on the pay roll immediately although there was nobody for 
him to interpret. 

The Indians were not anxious to work for Sam, even at increased 
pay. To prove this, Mayor No. i requested No. 2 to round up 
various individuals from the street, and he put the question to them 
then and there. Each one emphatically shook his head, and No. i 
shrugged his shoulders and tried not to look pleased. Of course, as 
the language used had been absolutely unintelligible to us, No. i 
might very well have asked the unsuspecting Indians such questions 
as "Did you take a bath this morning?" or "Have you been stealing 
eggs?" or even "Would you like to work for this dirty foreigner-if- 
you-say-yes-God-help-you?" The expression on Nicolas' face seemed 
to bear this out, 

"What can I do?" asked the Mayor smiling happily. "Everyone 
is busy. You had better go back where you came from." 

I was beginning to agree with him, but Sam's face took on that 


"archaeology here I come" look. "If you can give me no assistance/' 
he threatened, "I shall have to get in touch with the political chief." 

"Come back tomorrow/' said No. i quickly, "and I will see what 
I can do." 

After two weeks of daily visits to the town hall and threats of 
communicating with the political chief, the Minister of Education 
and even the President of the Republic, we collected a group of 
eight workmen. I don't know where Nos. i and 2 had discovered 
them, for in no way did they resemble the good-looking if un- 
friendly Indians around Atitlan. These men were villainous; next to 
them the average run of American gangsters would have looked like 
choir singers. 

The foreman was named Fernando. He was surly and insolent, 
and his right eye drooped in frightening fashion. I called him Dill- 
inger. The other men were uniformly evil-looking, except for one 
rather effeminate creature of the type of Pretty Boy Floyd. But, 
gangsters or not, they were able-bodied men and we were at last pre- 
pared to start work. 

Chuitinamit is the Indian name for the steep and rocky hill 
projecting from the flank of the volcano San Pedro, across the 
harbor and about a mile from the town of Atitlan. On this hilltop 
fortress, surrounded on three sides by the waters of Lake Atitlan, 
are the remains of the ancient capital of the Zutugil and the residence 
of their kings. The royal family had picked themselves a wonderful 
site both from the point of view of scenery and of defense and 
here, according to tradition, they had lived for fifteen generations 
before the Spanish conquest. 

Life for the Zutugil had been a constant struggle. By pure chance 
they had settled on lands that contained quantities of cocoa, and 
when, later, the cocoa bean became general currency throughout 
Mexico and Central America, those lands turned out to be im- 
mensely valuable. Trees literally oozed money. It was as if you had 
an orchard that produced dollar bills instead of apples and, as might 
be expected, everyone around you kept trying to take away your 


money-making plants. The Zutugil, however, had managed to ward 
off all onslaughts up to the arrival of the Spaniards, and until then 
their rulers prospered, secure in their impregnable fortress. 

Chiiitinamit now is a jombled mass of lava blocks whose shape 
defies description. Called the "child of the volcano," it is an ex- 
crescence in miniature of its father San Pedro, except that it has no 
crater. And in the center of this hunky blob stand the remains of 
the ancient citadel all that is left of the former grandeur of kings. 
Here are bits of pyramids, falling temples, demolished plazas, and 
walls of what once were palaces and other buildings. Here, too, are 
stones and boulders, some carved, some with holes cut into their 
upper surface to collect the blood of human sacrifice. 

Outside the ruins, wherever rocks permit, the ground is under 
cultivation. This ground belongs to the Indians of Atitlan, who 
depend on farming for their subsistence. Atitlan itself is too rocky 
to produce anything, and its inhabitants have therefore turned to 
the fertile slopes of surrounding volcanoes. On these, every bit of 
earth has been used. Corn, peas, peppers and beans crop up be- 
tween rocky boulders, sometimes in plots so small that one out-size 
growing pepper w r ould probably smother its neighboring vegetables 
right out of existence. The Indians certainly made the most of very 
little. If they had ever been let loose in the rolling fields of a state 
like Kansas they would undoubtedly have gone crazy. 

Chuitinamit, like the adjacent volcanoes, was planted within an 
inch of its life. And it was in this ground that Sam wanted to dig, 
for, where the rocks weren't, the buried Indians presumably were. 
Unfortunately that was also where the corn grew. And the peas and 
the peppers and the beans. This made for complications. 

Few of the landowners were enthusiastic about having their vege- 
tables dug up, even when paid three times their value. As a rule each 
little plot belonged to a different person sometimes four or five 
stalks of corn constituted an entire holding although occasionally 
some capitalist had several bits of land scattered about the slope. 
Thus if we found a skeleton In the plot of willing landowner Jones, 


the skeleton's feet might be under the sod of unwilling landowner 
Smith. And Sam refused to subscribe to the theory that half a 
skeleton is better than none. 

Legally, of course, we had a right to dig anywhere. That didn't 
help much. Legally you have a right to walk along any public road 
in the United States. But if a vicious dog goes after you, you're not 
going to stand on your legal rights. You're not going to stand at all. 
You'll run. And if an Indian comes toward you brandishing a 
machete, you're not going to say, "Look here, old man, my contract 
permits me to dig up your property." What you'll do is get the hell 
off his property. Which is just what we did. In fact we hopped so 
many times from one plot of ground to another, we might have been 
a couple of eas. 

Our irst job was to study the ruins. These had been pretty well 
pulled to pieces by treasure seekers, but there was still a majestic 
pattern to what had once been a flourishing city. "I'll make a map," 
said Sam, "of the principal buildings. That, plus photographs, 
should give a good idea of the layout." 

So while I held one end of a long tape measure and Dillinger un- 
willingly held the other end, Sam ran around with a surveying 
instrument and jotted down angles and measurements. Dillinger 
had a nasty habit of jerking his end of the tape whenever I took my 
eye off him, which was apt to throw me off my feet and make the 
measurements inaccurate. Each time this happened we would have 
to start over again. 

"Keep your eye on that bastard," shouted Sam, "or we'll be here 
forever." But he exaggerated. We hadn't been there two days before 
a couple of little brown men appeared out of nowhere and murmured 
something which I took to be Zutugil for "Good day/* 

"Good day to you," I said pleasantly. 

"They say get off their land," stated Nicolas, barely suppressing 
a grin. 

"But why?" asked Sam. "We're doing no damage and, if necessary, 
I'll pay them." 

More grunts and mutters. 


"They say/ 7 Nicolas repeated, this time grinning widely, "Get 
off their land and quick." We got. 

"Ill have to make some sort of map from the photographs/' said 
Sam sadly. 

Digging had its problems too. All digs (where archaeologists are 
involved) are scientific in purpose, but this was a superscientific one. 
"What Frn interested in/ 7 said Sam, "is finding, first of all, objects 
which can be identified as belonging to the centuries just before the 
Spanish conquest. Then, under these. . . ." 

"Sain/' I interrupted excitedly, "GOLD?" 

He shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe. Or clay or obsidian or 
bone. It doesn't really matter. As long as it is older material from 
which I can reconstruct an earlier and entirely different culture. 
It's depth Fm looking for," he continued enthusiastically. "Depth 
will tell the story." 

But "depth" wasn't easy to find. As a start, Sam decided to cut 
a series of test trenches from the water to the summit of the hill and 
then concentrate on the areas that promised the most important 
results. It was slow work and at first the results were negligible. Not 
that they were unexciting. After all, your reaction to what comes out 
of the earth is comparative. If you've been finding gold and emeralds, 
a turquoise bracelet seems like an anticlimax, but if for hours nothing 
but roots or worms have turned up, even a coccyx can give you a 

The workmen didn't subscribe to this theory. "Blah blah blah/' 
said Pretty Boy Floyd. 

"What did he say, Nicolas?" 

"That he thinks you're both crazy to waste your time and his." 

"Blah blah blah/' said Two-gun Mahoney, kicking at the earth 
with his bare toes. 


"He says he's sure those bones he's just found will bring you bad 

"Tell him to leave THOSE BONES alone," shouted Sam. 

Just then the landowner appeared, irately pointing to one sickly, 


uprooted stalk of com ("my vegetable garden!" he protested), and 
ordered us to move on. "Blah blah blah" and "ha ha ha" from all 
the workmen this time. We didn't bother to ask Nicolas to translate. 

We advanced one ridge. Here the ground was lying fallow (no 
stalk of corn, no pod of pea) and it seemed safe to excavate. But 
we had failed to take into consideration a nearby cave, formed by 
a mass of volcanic boulders. It was no ordinary cave. When we 
crawled into it we found, heaped in neat rows, some twenty odd 
armadillo shells and a dozen or more skulls of sheep and goats. 

"It's a sacrificial cave, a shrine," said Sam, "where the Indians 
of today make offerings to their gods. We'd better get back to work 
and leave it alone." 

There was an ominous feeling in the air; the workmen seemed 
more restless and even more insolent than usual. We returned to 
our digging, but the damage was done. 

"Don't look now," said Sam, "but there's AH Baba." 

I couldn't resist looking. Ali Baba was a small and, at first glance, 
unassuming Indian, sitting just beyond the cave, as if guarding it. 
On his knees rested a machete which he was quietly sharpening. 
Every few minutes he would look over at us, then continue his 
sharpening. He never said a word. He didn't have to. We left. 

Ridge by ridge we worked our way up the hill. Sometimes we 
found nothing, sometimes bits of skeletons, pottery or stone. Fre- 
quently we were ordered to move on. When this happened, the 
workmen looked cheerful and joked together; otherwise they were 
surly and bored. All in all, we managed to extract from the unwilling 
earth one obsidian lance point, some squared stones, one stone ax- 
blade, one stone chair, a piece of an incense burner, one globular 
jar, the bones of three humans. Surely a discouraging lot of junk 
(thought I) and hardly worth daily exposure to Dillinger & Co. 

Dillinger himself was becoming constantly more menacing. He 
had apparently singled me out as his particular victim, doubtless 
because he realized I was frightened of him. Unfortunately he gave 
me no outright cause for complaint. After all, you can't chastise 
a man for leering at you when it may be his regular expression; or 


for spitting in your direction so expertly that he manages to miss 
your big toe by one eighth of an inch. Nor, as we climbed toward 
the top of Chuitinamit and stones and rabble came rolling down 
my way, could I do more than continue to dodge them, for how 
could it be proved that they were not dislodged accidentally? 

If I could have spoken to Dillinger direct, without an interpreter, 
I would have thrown myself on his mercy. "Dear Dillinger/' I would 
have said, "my husband has the mistaken idea he wants to work here. 
You and I, dear Dillinger, realize how silly this is. But if youll only 
humor him and do us no bodily harm, 111 try to get him to leave as 
soon as possible. 77 

However when we reached the summit things looked brighter. 
Here the ground was flat and less rocky, and the landowners, who as 
usual seemed to spring up out of the earth like mushrooms, were 
apparently willing (for a consideration) to let us dig. Endless pos- 
sibilities stretched ahead. 

Graves turned up right from the start so many and so varied 
that Sam plunged enthusiastically into a study of the burial habits 
of the Zutugil. There were adults buried in a sitting position with 
their knees bent up against their chests. There were adults lying 
stretched out in conventional fashion. There were children buried 
under an inverted bowl. "Bones, bones, nothing but bones," I com- 
plained ungratefully. Until we discovered a grave full of decapitated 
skeletons. More bones, it is true, but these were intriguing and 
puzzling. Like a detective story. 'The Case of the Headless Bodies/' 
I called it 

The grave was five feet by seven. At a depth of about two feet were 
a mass of skeletons around which had been placed twenty-one pieces 
of pottery, various stone objects and nearly a ton of rock to tamp 
them down. In spite of the fact that the rock had played havoc with 
the bones, Sam surveyed them carefully and pronounced them to 
be the headless bodies of eight individuals and the bodiless head of 
one, minus its jaw. "Curious/' was his only comment. 

After frenzied digging, the missing parts turned up in a corner 
of the grave, several feet lower down. Here, piled up like so many 


eggs, were seven skulls and the missing jawbone. Sam fingered this 
grisly ind with professional skill, like a doctor examining what was 
left of the victims of a holocaust. "WeVe got an aged male and 
female/' he announced, "two adult males, two adult females (one 
of them with her jaw disarticulated), one young female, and one 
young adolescent, sex uncertain. And all buried at the same time. 
Probably related/* 

"Just "one big happy family/ 7 I contributed. "Do you suppose 
they murdered each other?" 

Sam became wildly scientific, but his deductions unfortunately 
were negative. "It might be human sacrifice/' he stated, "which was 
quite common in those days. The usual method was to cut through 
the abdominal cavity and tear out the heart which, with its blood, 
would then be offered to the gods. When this was done the bodies 
were sometimes decapitated first. But/' he admitted sadly, "if it 
was sacrifice, the bodies would have been found close to an ancient 
temple, and this site is almost half a mile away from the nearest 
ceremonial center/' So that idea was disposed of. 

"Maybe they had been punished as a group for some crime/' he 
went on. "But no." Again he shook his head. "If it had been punish- 
ment, they would have been shot with arrows or cracked over the 
head with a stone, not decapitated. And they would have been 
thrown into an unhonored grave. Instead of which all their posses- 
sions were carefully buried with them/' 

"Sam, you're telling me what didn't happen. I'm dying of curiosity 
about what did, particularly how the lady lost her jaw/' 

*T11 examine the grave again/' said Sam agreeably, "and see if 
I can come across more evidence. Maybe when we take up the pots 
and stone objects we'll find something significant underneath." But 
we never had much chance to see what was underneath. 

I wouldn't have believed that anything more in the way of obstruc- 
tions could have come our way. We had had to fight the official 
powers of Atitlan before we could start digging. We had undoubtedly 
acquired the worst-mannered and most inept bunch of workmen 
who had ever carried pick or shovel. We had been chased off more 


land by more landowners than the population of Atitlan seemed 
to warrant. Even the vegetables were leagued against us. An ear 
of corn that was a fiedgling seed one day would spring into full iower 
the next if it happened to be in groond we wished to explore. (This, 
in fact, had happened so often that I suspected Dillinger & Co. of 
earning around vegetable props to drop on promising archaeological 
earth.) But there was one more disaster awaiting us. A snake! 

We had gone to Chuitinamit as usual As we reached the summit 
and prepared to walk the half mile further to our excavations, we 
stopped a moment to admire the rains. Pretty Boy Floyd, who was 
idly whacking at the ground with his machete, suddenly gave a cry. 
Strange sounds emerged from his mouth, like a death rattle. Grab- 
bing Nicolas, who was about to ran the other way, Sam and I rushed 
to see what was wrong. And there, peering out from under a rock 
while Pretty Boy cowered nearby, was a small but deadly fer-de-lance. 

"Did it bite him?" Sam asked Nicolas, who shook his head. "Well, 
kill it/ 7 said Sam, but no one volunteered, and he was finally forced 
to kill it himself, while I stood on the sidelines and cheered him on. 
When he was sure there were no further signs of life, he sighed with 
relief and we looked around for the workmen. They had gone. 

"The sissies," I exclaimed, "to be scared of a snake/ 7 

"Fm afraid that's not all of it," said Sam. "To them the snake is 
holy. It is the principal religions symbol throughout Central Amer- 
ica and represents a god. And ? unfortunately, this particular snake 
appeared at the foot of the main temple to defend it, they probably 
argue. It is very unusual to find a snake this high up, and the Indians 
are undoubtedly convinced that it is a sign we have no right to be 
here. We'd better go home and hope they will be over it by tomor- 
row/ 7 

The next day not one workman not even Nicolas turned up. 
They were sick, we were told, when we inquired at the town hall. 
"All of them?" asked Sam. "All of them/' said Mayor No. i firmly. 

"My headless bodies/ 7 I mourned. "My jawless head. Now Fll 
never know/' 

"Never mind/ 7 comforted Sam. "We'll finish them up alone. 


After all, there Is BO more heavy work to be done on that grave/* 

But we had hardly taken the possessions of the family Headless 
out of the ground before the landowner appeared, flanked by an 
army of cohorts. His eyes glistened. He yelled. We didn't need 
Nicolas to tell us that what he was yelling was the equivalent of 
"scat/" "The word must have got round/' said Sam. "We might 
as well give up and take our trophies home." 

"Poor Sam/" I said sympathetically as we climbed down the Mil 
"All this for nothing/' 

"Nothing!" exclaimed Sam. He loolced ready to explode. "NOTH- 
ING! Why, this has been an immensely important dig. I found just 
what I wanted/' 

"You mean those few old pots and stones?" 

He gave me a pitying look. "It isn*t what I found. It's what it 

"Of course/' I said quickly, realizing guiltily that Fd already for- 
gotten the lesson taught me in Chile on what Really Matters. "And 
what does it mean?" 

"It means that I now have a good idea of the types of civilization 
which existed here and how far back they go/ 7 

"How did you dope that out? 7 ' I was genuinely impressed. 

Sam warmed to my admiration. "I don't know if I can explain it 
to you/* he said, explaining it to me. "What we found in the very 
top graves was material from just before the Spanish conquest, for, 
through historical records, we know that these cities were occupied 
at the time the Spanish came. And what we found in the graves 
underneath are obviously earlier cultures. As a matter of fact, you 
can date the very bottom ones back nearly fifteen hundred years 
before the Conquest/' 


"Remember the sherds we sorted? Remember the Usulutan 

I nodded. A sherd is the name given by the archaeologically ini- 
tiated to bits or fragments of pottery. We had dug up thousands 
at Chuitinamit, all colors and shapes, few of them fitting together. 


Thus when Sam had ordered them stuffed into bags and transported 
to our back yard, turning it into an ancient garbage dump, I was 
surprised as well as unenthusiastic. "But why?" I'd asked. "I don't 
believe any of these fit. I'll bet you don't get as much as one com- 
plete pot out of them." 

''That's not the point/ 7 Sam had said. "We are going to sort them 
and count them.** 

It had sounded like the dullest kind of game, but Fd played it 
anyhow. We had made eight piles, according to color brown, 
orange, red, black, cream ? chalk, black on red and a peculiar-looking 
ware which Sam, for some reason unknown to me at the time, had 
named Usulutan. Now, however, he was letting me in on the secret. 

"Remember those Usulutan sherds?" he again asked. "I gave them 
that name because they correspond exactly to pottery that comes 
from the Department of Usulutan in Salvador. In fact it ? s the same 
ware, and the pieces here, if not trade pieces, are at least of the same 
age. What's more, it is the earliest painted pottery now known from 
Central America." 

"How do you know that?*" I asked, to slow him up. 

"Because various archaeologists, including myself, have found 
Usulutan ware in Salvador buried beneath early Maya remains. 
And as the Maya remains were dated, we were able to give an ap- 
proximate date to the graves under them/* 

"And the graves here?" 

"The earliest graves here, as I've explained, must be the same 
period as the early graves in Salvador. And since the Salvador graves 
can be dated back about fifteen hundred years before the Conquest, 
so can these/* Having reached his climax, Sam relaxed triumphantly. 

"That's terrific," I pronounced. 

"Have I made it clear?" asked Sam, obviously pleased. 

"Sam," I said weakly but proudly, "I've learned so much that 
I've got archaeological indigestion. I feel just as if Fd swallowed a 

Cfiapter 12 

DO WE GO?" I asked Sam. 
"Go where?" 

"Home. Or Afghanistan. Or the Fiji Islands. Even the South 
Pole. Anywhere at all where there are no Indians/' 

"When Holy Week Is over/" said Sam. "After all, It starts in a few 
days, and we might as well stay and see what goes on." 

"I've seen enough/' I stated. "The Indians have snarled at us, spit 
at us, done everything but murder us. I might as well admit I'm 
scared to death. The lock on our bedroom door gets weaker every 

"Nonsense/* said Sam. "This is one time you'll be perfectly safe. 
The Indians will be much too busy to bother about us." Somehow 
this didn't comfort me as much as it was supposed to. But we stayed. 

Now that it's over and we managed to get out of Atitlan unharmed, 
I'm glad we did stay. For whatever I may have felt about the Indians, 
I couldn't help but be fascinated by their attitude toward religion. 
It was so practical. I'm one of those people who doesn't believe in 
much of anythiqgjintil I'm in a jam, when I go through a deplorable 
performance of "Oh, God, please get me out of this mess. Just this 
once, dear God, and I promise to be good in the future." But the 
Guatemalan Indians go me at least seventeen better. They pray to 
God and Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles and their ancient 



gods and the feathered serpent and anything else they believe might 
bring in results. What they're looking for is good luck and protec- 
tion against the powers of evil, and any divinity who fills this need 
is good enough for them. I suppose they argue that if one fails, 
another may crash through. 

During Holy Week in Atitlan there were no holds barred. Any 
and every god, religious figure or symbol was cause for celebration. 
For the Indians it was an occasion for genuine fun coated with holi- 
ness; everything went on from religious ecstasy to drunken rough- 
house. According to Pedro, the principal objects of worship were 
Christ and the Maximon, although it seemed to me that the god 
Bacchus had an edge on both of them. 

We had heard a great deal about the Maximon, although no two 
versions were the same. This fabulous being exists for only four days 
a year, and no outsider knows just what he stands for, except that he 
is presumably a special god or the essence of several gods. When we 
asked Pedro about him he shrugged his shoulders. "I am a Chris- 
tian," he rebuked us. "I do not go in for these pagan customs. How- 
ever if you wish to see the Maximon, I will take you to the house of 
Diego Ramirez, the witch doctor, on the Tuesday night before 
Easter. There he will be made up/' 

"Made up?" 

"Put together. Dressed/' said Pedro. 

"But what is it that is dressed?" asked Sam. "You can't just dress 
the air." 

"Nobody but the witch doctor and his special assistants know 
what is the core of the Maximon. Some say it is a silver image. Some 
say it is an image of wood. I myself have no idea. After all, he is not 
exhibited until he is fully clothed." Pedro's tone was thick with 
virtue. He sounded as shocked at the notion of the Maximon ap- 
pearing on the scene sartorially deficient as I might have been at 
encountering a friend emerging from the Metropolitan Opera House 
in his underwear. 

"Clothes or no clothes/' I told Sam, *Tm going to find out what 
makes the Maximon tick." 


So on Tuesday night before Easter, a foursome consisting of 
Maria, Pedro, Sam and myself set out for Diego Ramirez's house, 
Maria with a frying pan concealed under her sweater "in case 
those drunks should molest you, Senora." But the drunks and even 
the occasional sober individuals we encountered were much too en- 
grossed in the creation of this year's Maximon to pay any attention 
to us. The streets were seething with people. Everyone seemed to 
be celebrating, including children and babes in arms. "Does this go 
on all week?" I asked Pedro. 

"More or less/* he answered. "There are processions almost every 
day. Tomorrow, Wednesday, is devoted to the Maximon. Thursday 
is a general celebration, on Friday will be the big ceremony when 
Christ is taken down from the Cross, and on Saturday and on Easter 
Sunday there are more religious ceremonies and more processions. 
What you will want to see/' he continued, "is the Good Friday 
procession which is a very special one." 

"What we want to see/' I said, "is everything" 9 and, disregarding 
Pedro's shocked expression, "especially if it has to do with the 

Crowds filled the street in front of Ramirez's small house, and 
though with the help of Pedro and Maria we managed to push our 
way to the door, we were allowed no further. Pedro kept a firm hand 
under my elbow. "Don't think of trying to go in, Senora," he ad- 
monished. "That might mean real danger." 

"But I want to see his innards/' I said bravely, feeling like the 
heroine of an adventure story. 

"Youll be satisfied to see his outards/' retorted Sam, "and don't 
try any tricks/" 

We had waited over an hour when finally the door was thrown 
open and the Maximon exposed to the public gaze. Lines formed, 
as in a wedding reception, and we were allowed slowly to file by IT. 
I don't know just what I had expected to see. A male angel, possibly, 
with wings folded back. Or a martyr with benign if suffering expres- 
sion. Maybe a prophet, the wisdom of ages upon his face. At the 
very least some mysterious godlike being, robed in velvet, crowned 


with jewels. But what faced us, propped up against a comer of the 
house, was a scarecrow, a misshapen bundle, clothed in the customary 
short pants, shirt and coat of the Atitlan Indian. Two thin sticks 
represented his legs, to which a pair of shiny new shoes had been 
attached. His face was a leering wooden mask painted in bright 
colors and crowned by three felt hats, from which hung a number 
of varicolored handkerchiefs. And stuck jauntily between the 
painted lips was an enormous cigar! 

Maria quickly crossed herself. Sam and I were much too startled 
to move, until the pressure back of us forced us on. "Does he 
always look like this?" I asked Pedro when we finally found our- 
selves in the fresh air. 

"Why, yes/' said Pedro. "His mask and costume are invariably 
of this type, although they are entirely new each year. After Holy 
Week his clothes are stored away in chests and never used again/* 

"But how can he afford such extravagance?" 

"Gifts/' said Pedro simply. "All gifts. Different individuals present 
him with suits and shoes and hats, and the best of these are picked 
out for his yearly appearance?' 

The Maximon was spending the night in the same house where 
he had been created, so we unwillingly left him to the awed admira- 
tion of the multitude and went home. Early the next morning we 
returned, just in time to see two Indians, distinctly unsteady in spite 
of the hour, bearing our friend high upon their shoulders, while a 
parade of frenzied worshippers brought up the rear. Then into the 
town hall, while Sam, Pedro and I followed close behind. Inside, 
though, it appeared that something had gone wrong. The man who 
seemed to be in charge of Maximon activities began to yell at a 
little brown replica of Caspar Milquetoast, while everyone else stood 
around helplessly and muttered. "What has happened?" we asked 

"The mat has been forgotten. The mat on which the Maximon 
is to be laid." 

This oversight turned out to be the fault of Caspar Milquetoast 
who was supposed to be Mat Man, and he promptly burst into 


tears, then ran into the street as If the devil himself were pursuing 
him. Meanwhile the two bearers kept balancing their burden as 
well as possible, but the alcohol they had consumed made the task 
difficult, and each time they staggered the Maximon's three hats 
would drop off onto the dusty loor and the cigar would fall out of 
his mouth. 

Head Man was yelling at everybody now that Mat Man was no 
longer there to take the blame, and I was beginning to be afraid that 
the entire performance was going to end in a riot, when suddenly 
Caspar returned, a large straw mat clasped to his bosom. There was 
an awed hush. The mat was deposited on the loor, and with ex- 
quisite care the Maximon laid on top of it. 

Several hours later, after the Maximon had had his siesta, he was 
carried to the church in the plaza, in front of which a pole, adorned 
with massive branches of green leaves, had been sunk into the 
ground. The Maximon was lashed by a cord to this artificial tree and 
there he remained, leering genially at his humble subjects and at - 
anyone else who paid him heed. 

"And that's all that happens?" I asked Pedro, disappointed. 

"Just about. Until Friday afternoon, when he is taken back to 
Ramirez's house and dismantled/' The relief in Pedro's voice was 

Pedro had actually been having a miserable time. He was more 
than willing to act as our guide, but he obviously disapproved of the 
pagan ceremonies and ignorant beliefs of his fellow townsmen and 
he was embarrassed to have us witness them. Each time we asked 
a question about the Maximon, he flinched visibly. "But Good 
Friday," he beamed, "is a wonderful sight. There will be a ceremony 
in the church and a procession to commemorate the crucifixion of 
Christ and the descent from the Cross. You will be very interested." 

"It sounds thoroughly conventional," I complained to Sam. "We 
didn't have to come all the way to Atitlan to attend Good Friday 
services. We could have seen the same thing right at home." But 
I was never more wrong. 

On Good Friday the population of Atitlan seemed to have 


doubled. The crowds In the plaza were so dense that we were unable 
to get through to the newly erected platform from which Mayor 
No. i was to read the death sentence upon the Image of Christ. 
But In the af ternoon, long before the ceremony of the descent from 
the Cross was to take place, we managed to squeeze into the nave 
of the church where the image of Christ, now nailed to the Cross, 
had been set up. 

In spite of the early hour, every Inch of space was filled. The 
Indians were like no churchgoers I had ever seen. Everything but 
smoking seemed to be permitted. Many of the men carried bottles 
of ram which they passed around freely, both men and women spat 
at will, dogs ran in and out, and two little boys sat on the floor 
playing a game with dice that had a strange resemblance to "craps/* 
At a few minutes before three, however, there was a sudden hush 
and four men with blond curly wigs and beards, dressed In white 
ceremonial robes, approached the Cross. They looked like sun- 
burned unshaven Harpo Marxes. 

Pedro leaned toward us. "The Judases," he whispered. 

"Four of them?" I whispered back. 'That's too much of a bad 
thing/ 7 

"In Atitlan they worship Judas. Judas Is supposed to be holy, so 
they honor him by representing him four times/' Pedro looked 
thoroughly unhappy as he tried to explain. 

"Never mind," I started to console him, when my attention 
was distracted by Judas No. 3, who seemed faintly familiar. "Sam!" 
I clutched his arm. "Could it be possible? Number three! Look! 
If g Pretty Bay Floyd!" 

We craned our necks. There was no doubt about it. Pretty Boy 
Floyd it was, though if he recognized us he gave no sign. 

The ceremony was about to begin. A spirit of reverence filled 
the church. Even Pretty Boy looked exalted. Under the Cross, tall 
silver candelabra and a silver crucifix were held high while countless 
men and women knelt, some of them with candles, some with in- 
cense burners. Judases i and 2 slowly ascended the Cross by means 
of ladders and removed the nails and crown of thorns. They untied 


Christ's bonds and carefully, reverently, lowered him into the out- 
stretched hands of Jodases 3 and 4. With equal care the four Judases 
placed Christ in a catafalque which was wailing nearby, covering 
him first with a ceremonial shawl, then with a piece of modem cloth. 
And the procession was ready to take off. 

Now that the tension was over, the bottles reappeared. Pedro, 
Sam and I pushed our way through the throng of thirsty celebrants 
and found a place outside the church, past which, said Pedro, the 
procession would file. "If you wish, we can join it later/' he sug- 
gested, "but first you will be able to see what goes on." 

The procession was headed by two men playing fife and dram. 
Back of them, at intervals of about five feet, came the silver candela- 
bra and crucifix and a crucifix of wood. Twelve small children, 
dressed in their Sunday best, followed, crowns of gaily colored 
paper on their heads. Back and forth they scampered, shrieking with 
delight. "A costume party?" I queried. 

"They represent the Twelve Apostles/' Pedro stated in utter 

"Hush/' said Sam. "Here comes the catafalque/' 

The catafalque was a truly impressive sight Borne on six silver 
standards beneath a canopy of silk, the sacred bier passed by, sur- 
rounded by women bearing candles and incense. So numerous were 
the women and so thick the incense that the rest of the procession 
was obscured. "What comes next?" I asked Pedro. 

His expression was enough. He didn't have to answer. Thus it 
was with no surprise that we saw, directly back of the image of 
Christ, high above the heads of the crowd and wobbling perilously 
with each unsteady step of his bearers the Maximon! 

Now came the rest of the townspeople, yelling and pushing, al- 
most dancing along. Every few minutes a man would drop out of 
line, tilt up a bottle and take a drink, then rejoin the procession. 
"Let's go with them," I cried, and the three of us, holding hands, 
shoved our way in. "Where are we headed for?" I yelled at Pedro 
above the noise. 


"Through town and to the church again/' he yelled back. "The 
Maximon drops off when we pass Ramirez's house, but the rest of 
us go on." 

By this time the mob was so large and so unruly that it was 
difficult to stick together, "If we lose each other/* shouted Sam, 
"IT1 meet you back at the house as soon as the procession is over." 

"Right/" I said and let myself be pushed about at will. So that 
when we approached the spot where the Maxiinon and about thirty 
of his attendants dropped out, it was easy to drop out with them. 
Neither Sam nor Pedro were anywhere to be seen. 

Here at last was my chance to see the Maximon without his 
clothes. The Indians, I decided, were much too drunk to notice 
anything. Unfortunately I was wrong. As we neared Ramirez's 
house I found myself close to the royal scarecrow, who was about 
to be carried into his home. One of the bearers turned to back 
through the door and looked straight at me. He opened his mouth. 
I had just time to touch the bosom, the abdomen of the Maximon, 
to try to feel what was concealed in his wrappings, before the out- 
raged yells began. I don't believe I ever ran so fast in my life. 

"Where have you been?" asked Sam as I staggered, breathless, 
into our yard. He looked white. 

"The Maximon!" I gasped. "I felt him. Of course I can't be sure, 
but Fve a hunch I know what he's made of. Remember your boot 
tree that was stolen last month?" 

"I think," said Sam, "it's time we left Atitlan!" 

Cfiapfer 13 

71 S SOON AS It was agreed we were to go home, I was all for 
2\ throwing my two pairs of pants, four blouses and one dress into 
a bag and taking the next launch. But "not so fast/' said Sam. "We 
still have to pack up some of the material from Chuitinamit. And 
Pepita has not quite finished the blouse she is weaving for my col- 
lection. And Antonio's hand still needs attention." I gave in with- 
out a protest, for archaeologists are not inclined to be creatures of 
impulse. After all, when you take up a profession that depends on 
a tape measure, abandon is apt to fly out the window. 

Through Antonio, Sam had been started on a new career. Antonio 
was one of the Atitlan constabulary who hung around the town 
hall. We had seen him frequently on our periodic visits of complaint 
to the Mayor, but as he, too, had been infected with the anti-Lothrop 
vims, he had never waxed more cordial than a mild glower. Until 
one night in Holy Week. During a religious ceremony in the plaza, 
at which Antonio had been officially delegated to set off some fire- 
works in order, we were told, to call God's attention to what was 
going on down below a rocket exploded in his hand, taking most 
of his thumb with it. Sam immediately offered to disinfect the 
hand and bandage it. "The witch doctor is good enough for me/* 
Antonio had muttered ungraciously, and off he went, a filthy 
handkerchief wrapped around the wound. 

Late that night there was a knock at our door. The handle began 


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to rattle. "Here It comes again/' I began to shake. "And you were 
sure we'd be left alone during Holy Week" 

"Sssh," said Sam, In a conspiratorial whisper. "Maybe if we keep 
quiet they'll go away/* 

But though we ignored them, the knocks continued. Finally a 
small voice quavered, "Senor, please. It is I, Antonio/" 

It seems there were no witch doctors available. They were either 
out celebrating or taking a vacation or too drunk to minister to the 
sicL It w r as clearly the wrong night to have an accident. So Antonio 
had gone home, his hand wrapped in the same dirty handkerchief, 
until the pain had become so acute that he had been forced to 
swallow his dislike for "those foreigners" and come to beg our help. 
Sam quickly produced his first aid kit, and with me as squeamish 
assistant, he cleaned and bandaged what was left of Antonio's 
thumb. "Come back tomorrow and let me look at it again/' said 
Lothrop, M.D. 

"Tomorrow night?" inquired Antonio hopefully. 

"Better let me see it in the morning/* said Sam. "It might be 

Antonio looked thoroughly unhappy. I thought for a moment 
he was going to cry. "Senor," he pleaded, "please may I come after 

It was natural, I suppose, for Antonio to want to keep his visits 
secret. He was a public official and he couldn't afford to be seen 
trafficking with the enemy. Each night, then, until the hand healed, 
he slunk furtively in and out of our yard. But somehow the news 
leaked out. One morning, several days after Antonio's accident, an 
Indian woman appeared, dragging along a little boy with a stomach 
so swollen it looked like a blimp. Cristina translated her excited 
outpourings, "She says you must do something about her little Jose 
whose stomach gets bigger every day. She says he must have some- 
thing bad growing in him. She says she has tried not giving him 
anything to eat, but it gets bigger anyhow." 

"Good heavens!" I was horrified. "What do you suppose Is 


<r Worms," said Sam simply. "Lots of the children have them. 
Fll give him some Eno's Fruit Salts. That can't hurt" So little Jose 
got his dose of salts, and Cristina was instructed to tell Mama to 
feed him or God would come down from above and punish her. 

The Enos and the advice were undoubtedly a success, for a few 
days later three more children with inflated stomachs were brought 
in for treatment. And then it started. We got up one morning to 
find a group of would-be patients filling the yard. Sam was asked 
to minister to stomach-aches, hiccups, morning sickness. His prac- 
tice was to include a boy with a hare lip, a blind man, a mentally 
deficient girl and, finally, a husband who found himself impotent. 

"Now you're in for it," I declared, laughing at Sam's expression 
of utter dismay. "If you can cure impotency with salts, youll make 
history. Whaf s more, we're almost out of Enos. What are you 
going to do?" 

"Go home," said Sam, with no hesitation at all. 

After Cristina had announced that the "doctor" was temporarily 
out of medicines and could do no curing until further notice, the 
crowd of patients dispersed, albeit unwillingly. They were obviously 
displeased. And that night was the worst night of all. We were 
hardly in bed before the familiar noises, discontinued during Holy 
Week, started once more. Now, though, there was nothing furtive 
about our visitors; their footsteps were assured, their behavior un- 
restrained. Angry mutters could be heard, the doorknob was twisted 
back and forth until I was sure it would drop off. "Sam, they've 
never been this bad." My voice was no longer a voice, it was a tremolo. 

"It's because of your skirmish with the Maximon." 

"It's because you didn't try to stop old Whoosis's hiccups." 

"Whatever it is, I'll send a wire for the launch," said Sam, "and 
well leave tomorrow afternoon." 

There was a series of violent blows. The door looked as if it were 
beginning to give. I grabbed Sam. "There must be dozens of them," 
I wailed. "Oh, please don't let them get me." 

Sam got up and lit the gasoline lamp. One chair was already 
wedged under the doorknob, and he carried over the other- : fwo 


chairs and the table to bolster It. Next his cot, then mine. This 
disposed of the furniture, but Sam grabbed the camera tripod and, 
flourishing it like a baseball bat, took tip his position as near the door 
as the barricade allowed. "Let them try to get you," he said. 

"My hero!' ' I began to laugh, although the laughter was slightly 
hysterical "If only I could take your photograph. In case we ever 
get home alive to show it" 

Outside there was a very loud crash and a sound of things breaking. 
This was followed by additional noises and a shriek. Then running 
feet "That will teach you, you Atitlan scum," shouted Maria. 

Sam removed the obstructions and unlocked the door. Carefully 
we crept into the yard. There stood Maria, candle in hand, sur- 
veying the smashed bits of what had once been four large clay water 
containers. The ground between kitchen and gate was littered with 
cooking pots, frying pans, a broom. Maria picked up the nearest 
frying pan and fondled it "I got one of them/' she said. "In the ear, 
I think" 

"We leave tomorrow;' Sam repeated. "DEFINITELY!" 

It was a lovely sunny day. We finished our packing, paid off 
Cristina and Jesus and bade a fond farewell to our only friends, the 
Mendozas. At two o'clock Sam, Maria and I climbed into Francisco's 
kunch. I took one kst look at Atitlan. It was as beautiful as ever 
and I looked at it without regret A group of Indian men and women 
stood around the dock and watched us, silently. They appeared sweet 
and gentle and simple, and I looked at them without regret As the 
boat backed into the lake we relaxed comfortably. Sam took my 
hand. "No more Indians," he exulted. "For a long time, I hope." 

"Oh Sam," I shouted, above the noise of the launch, "I wish I 
knew the Zutugil for 'goody/ " 

Part III 

Chapter 14 

MOST people's Ideas of archaeology. If they have any, are 
romantic and farfetched. Like mine used to be. To the 
uninitiated, archaeology means digging a hole and pulling out gold 
and precious stones. This is about as unlikely an event as for a high 
school girl to visit Hollywood and be invited to dance by Clark 
Gable. Sam warned me from the start. ""You have got to get over 
the notion/ 7 he insisted, "that all an archaeologist has to do is sink 
a pit Into the ground and, presto, out pop gold and emeralds. It 
just doesn't happen that way." But that was just the way It did 

Panama was the kind of experience Fve always dreamed about. 
It was the kind of experience Sam might have dreamed about too. 
A good archaeologist is chiefly concerned in making a discovery of 
scientific value, and if at the same time that discovery happens to 
be something hitherto unknown, he will do handsprings. An amateur 
like myself, on the other hand, goes for loot. In Panama we found 
both rolled into one. We didn't even have to hunt for the place; it 
was sitting there, just waiting to be plucked. And all as a result of 
pure accident. 

In the early part of the i goo's, the Rio Grande de Code in Panama 
changed Its course, probably due to log jams during the flood season. 
The new channel was some distance from the old one, and the 


river, in digging it out, chanced to cut through the edge of an 
ancient Indian graveyard. This act of God went unnoticed until 
many years later, when a group of natives, poling their way upstream 
in a canoe, spotted something shiny sticking out of the riverbank. 
They went right for it, of course, and when they saw several objects 
that looked like gold, they frenziedly dug them out with their hands, 
throwing hunks of earth, pottery and bone into the water in their 
rush. I -don't suppose they had the slightest notion of the value of 
their find or why it was there, but those glittering pieces probably 
looked good for at least a few drinks at the nearest bar. Actually, 
the bartender, who must have recognized a good thing when he saw 
one, was more generous than the men had hoped, and the local 
firewater which he gave them in exchange kept them unconscious 
and happy for weeks. 

The gold ornaments eventually reached the antique stores in 
Panama City. Here they were bought for Harvard University, which, 
after checking on the story back of the treasure, decided to organize 
an expedition to explore the site. Sam Lothrop was put in charge 
of the work, and with wife as self-appointed assistant, got ready to 
set out for Panama. 

I had never before taken part in an archaeological expedition 
where one lives in the wilds and where everything has to be planned 
ahead. Chile had been full of archaeology, but the work there had 
been more of a survey, the excavations on a small scale and close to 
the towns in which we stayed. In Guatemala, too, the excavations 
had been small ones, and we had been able to live within commuting 
distance of our dig. Now, though, we were to have technical help 
and all the workmen we could use, as well as a camp built to order. 
Gone were the days of inferior hotels, hostile neighbors and general 
filth. How we made out now was going to be pretty mfuch up to us. 

As soon as Sam broke the news of our impending trip, I went to 
Abercrombie & Fitch to buy the proper outfit. The salesman was both 
Interested and sympathetic, and by the time I was through he had 
turned me out the perfect Broadway explorer. He sold me two pairs 
of jodhpurs, three pairs of gabardine shorts in case the jodhpurs 


proved too hot to work in six polo shirts, one pair of heavy leather 
shoes (snake-resistant, he told me), a pair of rubber boots plus a 
mackintosh to keep me dry ("in case of rain, Miss"), and a topee 
to protect iny head from the sun. We agreed I was now prepared for 
almost anything. 

Unfortunately the purchases arrived when I wasn't home, and 
Sam opened them. "There's some mistake/ 7 he said when I came 
in. He looked genuinely puzzled. "Well have to call Abercrombie 
& Fitch and tell them to send for these things/' 

"It's my camping outfit," I stated bravely, in spite of a sinking 
feeling. "The man at Abercrombie's picked it out." 

"Oh, the man at Abercrombie's. How nice of him to plan our 
trip for us." Sam dumped the contents of the big box on the floor 
and examined them carefully. First he picked up the jodhpurs. "You 
might tell the man at Abercrombie's," said he, "that you're not going 
on a riding trip. When you do occasionally get on a horse, it won't 
be necessary to look smart and you can wear the same duck pants 
you'll use when digging. Any old ones as long as they'll wash." He 
hurled the jodhpurs back into the box. 

Next the shorts. "These," he said, "you can wear if you want to 
go in for Spectator Sports. But if you expect to help with the digging, 
you'd better plan on something that will keep your legs from getting 
covered with dirt." They, too, went back into the box. 

The heavy leather shoes brought forth an angry mutter that 
sounded like "d'ya want to smother in the heat?" Then the rubber 
boots and mackintosh. "You might tell your friend at Aber- 
crombie's" Sam was now going strong "that the rainy season 
only lasts from May to December and we don't dig then. As for the 
topee" he handled it with distaste "maybe the man at Aber- 
crombie's likes to picture you as a female Dr. Livingstone, but in 
Panama you don't wear such things." 

I began to cry. "How should I know. . . /' 

"It's all right, darling," said Sam contritely, "You can keep the 
polo shirts." 


My eventual wardrobe consisted of three pairs of men's dock pants 
which could be rolled up above the knees when I wasn't working, 
two pairs of old sneakers, some old tennis socks, an ancient straw 
hat, a sweater, in case it got cold at night, and the polo shirts. 

Our camp equipment was equally prosaic. As Panama is known 
to have excellent stores, we could count on buying camp beds, cook- 
ing utensils, lanterns, and other necessities down there. The only 
New York touch, therefore, consisted of three canvas water bags, 
specially made to hang from a tree or pole, which would keep drink- 
ing water clean and ? when the outside of the bag was soaked, cool. 

Of course we had a full set of excavating implements fine steel 
knives and small trowels and paintbrushes and whisk brooms. Some 
of these were new, but most of them had survived previous expedi- 
tions. Sam, as every other archaeologist, has his own special taste 
in what he uses to dig with, and I'm sure he'd be less upset at having 
to carve a roast beef with a butter knife than to End himself working 
on ancient remains without his own tried and true paraphernalia. 
So the few knives and brushes that he now grudgingly bought were 
set aside for me to break in. 

We had just three weeks in which to get ready, and I was in a 
constant state of excitement. Sam had brought photographs from 
the Museum of some of the specimens which had been acquired 
from Code the district in Panama which contained the site where 
we were to work and we pored over them nightly. I tasted triumph 
before we even started. After all, the small digs I'd known had been 
pretty much of a gamble, but this was almost as good as putting 
your money down on Number 26, let's say, after the ball had already 
begun to roll into that groove. We knew more or less where the 
Museum's collection had been found, so why wouldn't there be 
more where that came from? 

Sam was excited, too, although not exactly for the same reason. 
It seems that the pieces acquired by the Museum were entirely dif- 
ferent from anything. seen before. All that was needed to complete 
the story was to get more of them and to find out how they were 


buried and why. "Look/' Sam exclaimed, pointing to a little curlicue 
on one of the photographed objects. "Isn't that interesting? Fve 
never seen anything just like it." 

"It is interesting/' I answered grudgingly, "but this gold ornament 
is really wonderful." 

"Look at the rim of that bowl/' he fairly rhapsodized, handing 
me a picture of something that looked like an old cooking pot, 
"What an unusual angle it has." 

"Yes, indeed/' I said, putting the picture aside. I picked up a 
photograph of a gold pendant "Now this . . . /' I began. 

"Who cares about the gold?" cried Sam, "when you've got a 
unique culture here. Unique!" 

I cared about the gold, but I didn't think he expected an answer 
to his question. 

We sailed from New York just before Christmas, rather unex- 
pectedly accompanied by a friend and volunteer assistant whom, 
for want of a better name, I shall call Andy. Andy was a playboy. 
He knew nothing about archaeology and cared less, but he wanted 
to get away from the pitfalls of New York which to him meant 
the Stork Club, El Morocco and a complicated love affair and he 
thought that a hunt for Indian treasure was just his dish. 

On board we used to congregate in Andy's cabin because there 
was so much room. Having left in a hurry, he had brought with him 
nothing but the clothes he wore, six pairs of pyjamas, a shotgun for 
shooting duck, four bottles of Old Parr whisky, a traveling victrola 
and a bunch of records, among them three different versions of 
"Night and Day." 

"Night and Day" used to be my favorite song. It isn't any more. 
The first day at sea, however, I was perfectly willing to sit and 
listen while Andy played it over and over. It seems that this was 
their song. Andy was feeling virtuous but sorry for himself. I tried 
to cheer him up by pointing out how wise he had been to come away 
and how much better off he would be returning to New York with 
a. fresh point of view. It was foolish for him to brood, for, as I re- 


minded him, you can't have your cake eat it too. One more 
round of "Night and Day" (and Old Parr) and he agreed. 

Looking back on our conversation, I think Andy most have been 
putting on a very good act. He has since protested that this isn't 
so, but somehow his surprise did not seem very convincing when, 
later that day, we came upon the "complicated love affair" on the 
sun deck. It seems she had boarded the boat just before sailing time. 

The "complicated love affair" was undeniably effective. She was 
extremely well built, with perfectly straight blue-black hair, dark- 
blue eyes, shaded by incredibly long lashes, and a transparently- 
white skin. Her clothes were spectacular, and she must have changed 
them at least five times a day. To see that they were taken care of, 
she had brought along Mattie, a wonderful colored maid, whose 
only fault was a predilection for straight gin. 

Somehow I had never seen anyone less fitted for camp life. It 
was sacrilege to think of her beautiful body reposing on an army cot 
Her soft white hands would obviously be useless in excavating 
Indian graves, and I was certain that the only skeletons she knew 
anything about were the kind you keep in a closet. So, at Sam's 
suggestion, I gave her a serious talk about what the tropical sun 
would do to her complexion and I described in detail the kind of 
life one leads in the jungle. As a result, swathed in silver foxes and 
accompanied by a somewhat unsteady Mattie, she disembarked 
in Havana. In fact my picture of jungle life was so graphic (though 
pure invention) that we almost lost Andy too; and I wouldn't have 
blamed him, for if Fd believed all I was saying, nothing would have 
kept me from getting off at Cuba myself. 

When we reached Panama Sam made plans to leave for our 
future camp in order to arrange for the cutting down of the tropical 
growth and the construction of the shacks in which we were to live. 
And to round up workmen for the dig. "Ill come back for you and 
Andy in about a week," he told me. "Meanwhile you might order 
food supplies and engage a cook/' 

"But I haven't the slightest idea what food to order for an 


archaeological camp/* I protested. "Or what sort of cook to get I 
haven't the slightest idea. . . /* 

"You're a woman/' stated Sam somewhat obviously. 

"And what if I am? Fve never had any training in how to be a 
jungle housewife. Anyhow, I'd much rather go along with you." 

"Good-by," said Sam. 

"Please/' I begged hopefully. "Remember the mistakes I made 
at Abercrombie's." 

But Sam seemed to have supreme confidence in me or maybe he 
was in a hurry to leave. "Do your best/' he said vaguely, patting 
the Little Woman on the backside. "Just make sure the cook is good 
and the food -what -we need!' And left it at that. 

I wouldn't have had to worry about -which cook to engage. After 
four days of intensive search only one turned up who would even 
consider accompanying us. No servant, I was told, wants to leave the 
city and work in the wilds unless he has a criminal record or is a little 
crazy. I finally found a huge Negro, however, with the aristocratic 
name of Van van Battenberg, who was not only willing but pleased 
at the idea of cooking for us. He seemed perfectly sane; nor could 
I find any record of criminal activities. In fact the only thing against 
him was that he had never cooked before, and he made a point of 
our not discovering this until he could no longer conceal it which 
was the first meal he prepared at camp. 

Collecting food supplies was easier than I'd expected. I've always 
loved groceries and get the same pleasure browsing around among 
cans and jars as I do among books. So I picked the largest store I 
could find, and Andy went with me. We spent hours poking into 
obscure corners and pulling out discoveries to add to The Pile. First, 
though, I ordered all the tinned soups, vegetables and fruits I 
could think of. Andy said, "How about some queen olives?" 

"Of course/' I agreed. (After all, wasn't the Museum paying for 
them?) Then I picked out such condiments as Worcestershire sauce, 
catsup and Tabasco, so that in case I'd chosen the wrong canned 
goods we could alter the taste. 


Andy cried, "Eleanor, I've found some special cocktail crackers 
and one little tin of de foie from Strasbourg.** 

"Wonderful," I said. 

Between us we managed to unearth some green turtle soup ? one 
tin of hearts of palm, two tins of jumbo crab meat and, finally, a 
perfectly beautiful tin of truffles, I had a sneaking suspicion Sam 
might not entirely approve our choice, but I quickly pushed the 
thought aside. After all, he might have been more explicit. 

As we were leaving, Andy exclaimed, "Good heavens, we've for- 
gotten soda water and pickled onions for the martinis/' and he 
rushed back into the store. 1 didn't try to stop him. He was getting 
such pleasure in outfitting a potential barroom that I didn't have the 
heart to break the news there would be no ice. Or maybe I was afraid 
he might still back out. 


1HVERYTHING is set," announced Sam, when he got back 
JLi from the country, "except the living quarters. And they'll be 
finished in another week" 

"Are yon sure?" I asked. "Because I don't think it would be proper 
for Andy, you and me to share a grassy couch." 
' "There's no grass left/ 7 said Sam, being literal "And the houses 
are bound to be finished. What held us up was the lumber, and it was 
all there when I left" 

So a week later we left for the interior. Camp was some hundred 
miles from the Canal Zone and took about six hours, nonstop, to 
reach. It was called "Sitio Conte," after the family who owned the 
property, but we referred to it (when the Contes weren't around) 
as "Snakehaven/* The first ninety miles could be traveled by car, 
after which the road went on in the wrong direction and horses were 

Sam, Andy and I started off early one morning in a hired vehicle 
that had once been a Packard, vintage of 1918. "Gallant Fox/' I 
said, for it had all the instincts of a race horse, if not the performance. 
Whizzing along at twenty-five miles an hour, cutting corners, we 
galloped from one side of the road to the other, while Herman, the 
colored jockey, or driver, crouched forward with his arms around 
the wheel, frenziadly urging on his steed, 



Loving care had evidently been expended on Gallant Fox's insides, 
but the years had taken their toll of the body which housed them. 
Springs, sides and top had disappeared, and we bounced up and 
down and held on desperately so as not to be blown right out onto 
the road. "Fine for seeing the country/' I said with false enthusiasm. 
But there was nothing to see. Mile after mile of parched brown plains 
unrolled on either side, dotted with low and flat-topped hills. I felt 
cheated. "What kind of tropics are these?" I asked bitterly. "Not 
one palm tree. Not one cactus bush. Not even anything green!" 

"Cheer up," said Sam. "It gets greener beyond Penonome, where 
the road turns toward the Pacific." But after we'd bounced into 
Penonome, a town two hours from the Sitio Conte and our last 
link with civilization, we decided to give our shaken insides a rest. 
The palm trees could wait. 

Penonome is the capital of Code and the largest town in this 
district, boasting a population of over ten thousand. Because the 
Pan-American Highway cuts through its center, the main street is 
paved and wide, in sharp contrast to the dusty and stony side lanes 
which flank it. But except for its central avenue, Penonome is just 
like every other small town in the interior of Panama, 

There is the plaza in front of the main church. There are rows 
upon rows of one-storied wooden houses with tin roofs, backing on 
straggly and haphazardly planted gardens. There is a wooden amphi- 
theatre, enclosing a ring for the cockfights which take place every 
Sunday. There are stores liquor, drug and general which, between 
them, minister to every simple need. The drugstores sell nothing 
but drugs the sale of Eno's Fruit Salts and aspirin alone would keep 
them solvent the liquor stores sport bars where individual drinks 
are dispensed, and the general stores manage to include almost every- 
thing else. Except for fresh food, and the market takes care of that 

In Penonome, we were informed, the market was a large one and 
served not only the town but the surrounding countryside. Fve al- 
ways loved Latin American markets (except for the fleas) . They are 
a short cut to knowing a country what the natives wear, sell, how 
they act and I insisted on visiting this one, although Sam and Andy 


protested bitterly at being dragged away from their cold beer. I 
mumbled something about seeing the picturesque and quaint natives 
and how I hated to go alone because you always get stared at for 
being so different. So we went, 

The market was in a large square and consisted of a series of booths 
in front of which lines of people were gathered to examine the w r ares 
for sale. Sanitary inspectors were posted at intervals to see that the 
food was kept clean and properly protected by screens. There were 
no fleas. 

The natives, except for their color which ranged from pale yellow 
to dark brown, looked more or less as we did. The men wore white 
duck pants, polo shirts and large straw hats. The women wore 
cotton dresses made of material that had undoubtedly first seen light 
of day in the States. 

Except that the market was out-of-doors, we might have been in 
Dubuque, Iowa. Or in Peoria, Illinois. Or, on a larger scale, in 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "How picturesque" said Andy. "How 
quaint" said Sam. "How different" they both said. I didn't stoop 
to an answer, but as we returned to our beers I thought sourly that 
the U.S. might have stayed on its own home grounds. 

Next on the program was a courtesy caE on our landlords, the 
Conte family, who not only lived In Penonorne but were virtual 
rulers of the town. Their fame had even spread to Panama City, 
and Fd been regaled with so many strange tales about them that in 
my mind they had become a kind of case history, and when I finally 
met them it was just like meeting up with the Kallikaks or the Jukes. 

The Conte setup was something you rarely find outside Latin 
countries. There was Miguel, the oldest. Next in line came brother 
Hector, then brother Chalado, two maiden sisters, and a son, Miguel, 
Jr. There was also a son named Jesus who flitted in and out of the 
picture. Jesus was illegitimate and he was coal black in color, but 
neither of these facts seemed to embarrass the Contes, and when he 
was around he was an integral part of the family group that centered 
on Miguel 


For Miguel was the head, the patriarch the whole works, In 
fact and his relatives only existed to give him service. He had made 
a fortune in the cattle business and his property comprised thousands 
of acres, as well as thousands of heads of cattle. In addition, he 
owned a large general store which supplied Penonome and where 
we, for reasons of diplomacy if not necessity, bought most of our 

When we first knew Miguel he was almost eighty and already a 
legendary character. He had been the last Colombian governor of 
the province of Code before the revolution that separated Panama 
from Colombia, and when Panama became a republic he had gone 
right on being governor. He'd been so smart politically that he'd 
never missed backing a winner in the presidential elections, and his 
prosperity had increased with each succeeding administration. 

According to local gossip, Miguel had been the most virile man 
in the district and had taken any girl he wished. His children were 
reputed to number hundreds, although Miguel, Jr., known as 
"Cholo," was the only legitimate one. No mention was ever made of 
Cholo's mother, and we took for granted that she had given up the 
unequal struggle many years before. 

Miguel no longer went out. Shortly before we came to Panama 
he had made up his mind to die, and after making his peace with 
God and resigning himself to a life of celibacy, he simply retired to 
bed. Here, waited on by his sisters, who even chewed his food for 
him when his badly fitting teeth became too uncomfortable, he 
received occasional visitors. He would announce periodically that he 
was dying, but that did not prevent him from running his business 
from his self-styled deathbed. And seven years later, when we re- 
turned to Panama, he was slightly more shrunken but still going 

Miguel lived in a large old-fashioned house that fronted the 
main street, distinguished by its size rather than its beauty. Although 
I later became quite familiar with the layout I never could make 
out just what the architect had had in mind. Where most people 
have one drawing room, Miguel had two. He also had two living 


rooms, two and, for all I know, two kitchens. The only thing 

not In duplicate was the bathroom. This was at the extreme end of 
the house and always seemed a good half-mile walk from the spot 
you were in when yon asked for it Bathtub and washstand were in 
one little room, and the toilet, which had REAL PLUMBING that 
was brought into play by a chain haw enough to pull up a draw- 
bridge, was contained in a separate cubicle near the kitchen. This 
functional separation is common to most of Latin America, and 
you soon learn to avoid the euphemism of "1 wonder if I might wash 
my hands 7 ' or you find yourself ushered in to do just that and 
nothing more. 

When we arrived at the house a servant bo\ved us into Living 
Room No. i. The room was dark and musty and so crammed with 
furniture that I thought for a moment we had gotten into the store- 
room by mistake. There were three large tables, each holding a lamp 
smothered by a long-fringed shade, two couches, three rigidly stiff- 
backed love seats and a crowd of equally uncomfortable chairs, most 
of them covered in plush or brocade with rather dirty antimacassars 
to protect their virgin backs. It was a wonderful setup for musical 
chairs, but when I suggested a game Sam frowned, so the three of 
us each picked our own monstrosity and sank down into its iron- 
ribbed body. 

In a few minutes two rabbity and obviously frightened females 
twittered into the room. These were Miguel's sisters, who lived with 
him and took care of him. It was pathetically clear they had never 
done anything else. They looked somewhat like a pair of desiccated 
string beans and had so submerged their personalities that it was 
hard to tell them apart. Ike and Mike, as we called them, motioned 
us back to our seats and they themselves perched gingerly on the 
edges of two armchairs opposite us. We had come to see Miguel, of 
course, and they knew it, but the social amenities had to be gone 
through first. 

Mike and Sam simultaneously started the conversational ball 
rolling with "It's a nice day, isn't it." This was really a statement, 
not a question, and was followed by silence. I felt the next move was 


up to me. 'It is a nice day/' I confirmed brightly. Both Ike and Mike 
beamed, and Ike daringly added "not too hot/ 7 

"What did they say?" whispered Andy, who understood no 
Spanish whatsoever. 

"They remarked on how good looking you are/' I answered. 

"What nonsense," protested Andy, but he blushed. 

Then Ike became positively garrulous. "Have you had dinner?" 
she inquired. "Can't we offer you something to eat? Or to drink?" 
Sam looked suddenly hopeful, but as it was two o'clock and we'd 
just finished a large picnic lunch as well as three beers, I said "Oh, 
no, thank you very much." 

"What did she say this time?" asked Andy. 

"Just that the Panamanian girls would probably fight over you/' 

"I don't believe a word of it," said Andy, but he smoothed back 
his hair and tried hard not to smirk. 

The conversation now apparently exhausted, Ike and Mike diffi- 
dently suggested that we might like to see Miguel "Why yes," Sam 
allowed, as if the idea had never occurred to him, "we'd be de- 
lighted/' With that the sisters, barely able to conceal their relief 
at having concluded the polite preliminaries, arose and offered to 
escort us to his bedroom. 

Miguel's room was fairly small and dominated by an immense 
four-poster bed, in which his wizened little figure seemed lost. His 
eyes sparkled, however, and after he had quickly adjusted his teeth, 
which apparently were only used when absolutely necessary, his 
voice emerged surprisingly firm, if somewhat staccato. "Bring up 
chairs for our guests," he yelled at Mike. "Pull up the window shade," 
he snapped at Ike. "Fix my pillows so that I can sit up," he hurled at 
both of them. 

When everything was arranged to his satisfaction he waved his 
hand at his sisters to indicate "scram," and the two of them scurried 
out of the room as if pursued by a banshee. "Bring your chair up 
close," he cackled at me, cupping his right ear in his hand. "Closer. 
Closer. You're not afraid of old Miguel, are you?" This was ac- 


companied by another as he leaned over and pinched my 


"Nipe work," commented Andy, and I started to protest, but 
Miguel had already launched into a series of questions to which he 
evidently expected no answer: It was a nice day, wasn't it? Did we 
like Panama? Did Sam expect to ind a lot of gold? Wasn't the life 
going to be too rough for a lovely young girl like me? (This last 
with a definite leer in my direction.) What was Andy here for? 
Didn't I think Andy was good looking, ha, ha? The Panamanian girls 
had better be careful, ha, ha! 

I quickly translated the last remarks to Andy, who called me a liar, 
this time with conviction. At this point Miguel said "damn these 
teeth" and removed them. Here's where we have our inning, I 
thought, but I was wrong. "Waaf f o f ouf foinf fo Pafamaf ?" he went 
right on. "Wenf fo feepinf finf Faffardf?" Then something that 
sounded like "fee, fo, fum" but couldn't have been. "Fo damf," 
said Miguel and put back the teeth. 

It wouldn't have mattered anyhow. Miguel's questions were 
obviously rhetorical and his conversation another of those polite 
formalities which any relationship in Latin America demands. So 
it was a relief to all of us when brother Hector appeared. 

Hector was about ten years younger than Miguel and less wizened, 
but he lacked the old man's spark. His manner was as formal as his 
dress, which consisted of striped pants, a slightly dirty shirt with 
stiff collar, and a black frock coat a costume, incidentally, which 
on the other occasions that we saw him never varied. His brother 
apparently terrified him, and, except for a polite greeting to us, he 
contributed nothing but "Yes, Miguel." 

I could see the old man was getting tired and his hand kept 
wandering towards those "damn teeth/' so I rose and said we had 
to leave. Miguel shook hands all round and told Hector to see that 
the Lothrops (it came out something like Lowtroppes) had every- 
thing they needed. Hector said "Yes, Miguel/' and as we filed out 
Miguel settled back comfortably, dental fixtures already in hand. 


The moment we left the Presence, Hector became wildly con- 
versational "It was again a nice day, wasn't it?" I decided the 
weather had been pushed too far, particularly as ever) 7 day is a nice 
day during the dry season, so I got back at him by saying we'd had 
lunch, before he could produce conversational gambit number two. 
It didn't seem to bother him, though, for he went right on to; How 
did we like Panama?, and Would we do him the honor of paying 
a visit to his house which was only a short distance away? 

By this time I'd had enough of the Conte family to last me for 
a good month and I was sure that Andy and Sam felt the same. So 
it was with horrified surprise that I heard Sam say, "It would be a 

"Pleasure?" I repeated, my mouth dropping. 

"Got to be done," Sam murmured under his breath. "Panamanian 

"Who cares?" 

"What did you say, Senora?" asked Hector. 

"Just that it would be a pleasure" I told him. 

Hector's house was as ornate and uncomfortable as Miguel's, but 
there was less of it. His pride of ownership, however, was pathetic. 
It was as if the minute he entered home grounds he became a 
personage in his own right and shook off his customary role of handy 
man to his older brother. Hector acted as if each chair, each table, 
each picture, was a personal friend; so much so that I would not 
have been surprised if he'd introduced each one of us to each one of 
them separately. 

I was almost afraid to sit down for fear Fd bruise a pal, but Hector 
insisted, and he brought us tumblers of sweet but rather pleasant 
wine. By this time he had visibly swelled two sizes larger, and I 
waited fascinatedly for him to burst right out of his clothes. Every- 
thing held, though, and he settled back and began to talk about 
archaeology, with a "we fellow scientists must stick together" at- 
titude, which of course left me out. (Andy was already out on two 
counts, for the conversation was again in Spanish. ) 


"Ah, science, science/' Hector. "It has always been my 

greatest consolation, I have a diploma, you know." 

"A diploma?" I was slightly puzzled. 

"Would you like to see it?" he asked eagerly. 

"Love to/* I lied. So we all got up and trooped into a small 
library where, hanging in state on the wall facing us, was Hector's 
most precious possession. I was so impressed with the immense gold 
frame that I failed to examine what it embraced, but I oh'd and ah'd 
as if here were the equivalent of a Nobel prize. Hector merely 
nodded and accepted my admiration as nothing more than his just 

It was after we had left and were walking back to the car that 
I asked Sam about the "diploma." "What was it for, Sam? Chemis- 
try or physics or what?" 

"Oh ? that,** said Sam. "That was a certificate of membership in 
the National Geographic Society. You know a receipt they send 
to everyone who has paid for a yearly subscription to the National 
Geographic Magazine" 

'"And to think I ever thought the Kallikaks peculiar/' I mused out 

'Who are the Kallikaks?" asked Andy. 

"Oh, just a family I got to know at college/' I told him. 

Chapter 16 

I THOUGHT we were through with the Conte family, at least for 
the time being, bet Sam insisted there were still two more to go. 
"We must stop a moment/' he said, "to see Chalado at the Conte 
store and make arrangements to have supplies sent in to camp. And 
then we motor to Palo Verde, Cholo's ranch, where he will have 
horses to take us the rest of the way/* 

"Let's compromise and skip Chalado/' I suggested, but this was 

The Conte store was spread over one tremendously long and 
narrow room, layered with dirt and dust, and, like all Panamanian 
general stores in the country, carried just about everything from 
tractors to birdseed. There were hammers, screws, hinges, latches, 
tin buckets, brooms, mops, barbed wire, rope, canvas, hammocks, 
mosquito netting. There were bolts of calico and other cotton 
goods both for dresses and house furnishings buttons, ribbons, 
needles, thread. There was a large assortment of canned goods, as 
well as kitchen necessities. There were special gastronomic del- 
icacies as inducement for the local trade sweets made out of oranges 
and other fruits, which sat exposed on the counter and delighted the 
numerous little children who flocked around and poked at them with 
dirty fingers fresh out of their dirty mouths. And dried codfish, 
split flat and hung from wires pushed through the eyes, which gave 
off a most peculiar odor in the heat of the tropics. 

1 55 


There were even a few rather dull-looking archaeological speci- 
mens as a lure for the possible tourist. Conte's store was actually a 
combination hardware, haberdashery, grocery, notions and gift shop, 
the contents of which had piled up for years and at times must 
have surprised the owners themselves. 

Chalado Conte ran this emporium and he took us on a personally 
conducted tour. He was a nondescript little man who had a discon- 
certing habit of sucking in his upper lip with a kind of oscillatory 
noise. "Look at this complete line of groceries/' he said, kiss kiss. 
"Look at these wonderful archaeological specimens/' kiss kiss. And 
then, leading me to the counter, where he waved his hands wildly 
to dislodge the flies, "Do have a sweet, Senora," kiss kiss kiss. 

We got away after twenty-five minutes and a terrific struggle, Sam 
and Andy carrying the few token groceries we had bought for good- 
will purposes, and I with a butterfly net which Chalado had insisted 
on presenting me. "Well be back soon/' we shouted mendaciously 
as the car drove off. 

It took us about an hour to reach Palo Verde, which was as close 
to camp as we could get by car. Here Cholo was waiting for us and, 
as Contes go, he was a pleasant surprise. 

Cholo probably would have been quite a guy if it hadn't been 
for Papa. Although we had heard that he'd never dared marry, he 
had inherited a good deal of the old man's lust for life, and his 
progeny no doubt also dotted the neighborhood. He was a big hearty 
man in his middle forties, and although pretty much of a glorified 
errand boy, did the actual running of the cattle business. This 
enabled him to spend a good deal of time at his ranch house, con- 
veniently away from Miguel's gimlet eye. Here the Conte horses 
were stabled, and from here, riding like a demon, he would gallop 
almost daily over the countryside, rounding up cattle and seeing 
that his cowboys were on the job. 

We refused Cholo's hospitable invitation to sit down and have 
a little wine and prepared to start on our way so as to reach camp 
Before dark. The horses were saddled and waiting, and one of 
had been delegated to acwmp^ny us us guide, Here 


Andy a Until lie tried to mount the wrong 

end of the horse I hadn't realized he'd never ridden before. After 
he was hoisted on, however, he smugly triumphant, although 

I wouldn't have given a nickel for his chances of staying put. For- 
tunately for him, though, Panamanian horses are very small, and 
his long legs practically reached the ground, so that in spite of 
looking excruciatingly funny it was impossible for him to fall off and 
hurt himself. 

Tomas, Chclo's man, led the way through a series of open ields 
which seemed no different from pasture land in the States. After 
a while the country became less cultivated and we reached a narrow 
bridgeless river which, because of the recent rainy season^ appeared 
frighteningly high. The technique was to remove your feet from the 
stirrups, either hold them out at right angles or crisscross them 
against the horse's neck, and try to balance yourself while he waded 
through, the water usually just not touching the bottom of your 
saddle. We crossed several streams in this way and I was consumed 
with curiosity to see how Andy was making out, but he always slyly 
kept behind me and I was afraid to turn around for fear my precarious 
balance would be upset. For, the slightest list to port or starboard 
and the water lapped your backside. 

Meanwhile the country was getting greener, but it still was not 
my Idea of what tropics should be. This, Sam explained, was because 
the thousands of cattle which had been let loose to graze had pretty 
well eaten up the scenery. It seems that the cutting down of the 
jungle for purposes of cultivation went back to before the Conquest. 
By the end of the sixteenth century the Spaniards had killed off 
aU the natives in the district, and the land, which one of the Con- 
querors had described as open and suitable for maneuvers of cavalry, 
had reverted to jungle. But after 1900, with the influx of laborers 
into Panama to work on the Canal, the demand for beef grew, and 
ihe jungle was again cut down to provide pasturage. 

Here and there were scattered signs that the country had once 
teen lush. Gigantic trees had been left growing to provide shade for 
the pampered cattle. Fences had been installed to separate various 


properties, and in many rases the fence posts, because of the fertility 
of the land, had sprouted Into bushes. In a few spots, where the 
cattle had evidently believed the vegetation would disagree with 
their digestion, thickets had sprung up in tangled masses. On the 
whole, however, the cows had certainly gotten the better of nature. 

By the time we reached our camp site, it was late afternoon. "Here 
it is," announced Sam, 



"I don't see it/ 7 

"You're on it" 

I don't know just what it was I had expected the Sitio Conte to 
look like. Whatever it was, it didn't. It didn't look like anything. 
A three-acre field on the river had been cleared of all growth except 
for a half dozen or so mango trees. Had it not been for these, the 
site would have made a wonderful bowling alley or baseball field 
or outdoor parking lot. Not even part of a building reared its head. 

"Where . . . ?" I began, but Sam interrupted. 

"There/' he said, pointing to a large pile of lumber in a remote 
corner of the field. "I guess something happened." 

"I guess it did." 

There was nothing to be done, for it was long past the natives* 
working hour (if they ever worked). Fortunately we had brought 
cots, bedding, cooking utensils and a little food with us. So we set 
up the cots in the middle of the field, ate some cheese and crackers, 
and then, as there was no place to go and no light to see by, we went 
to bed. The setup gave me the kind of phobia that is the opposite 
of claustro, but Sam assured me that snakes are not apt to crawl up 
the legs of a cot, so I drenched my blanket with a layer of Flit to keep 
off lesser animal life and went to sleep. The last thing I remember 
was Andy, graduate of New York's better and more crowded night 
clubs, murmuring how he had always loved the great open spaces. 

At dawn, before I was up, the carpenters arrived. The master 
carpenter, whose name was Manuel, was mildly apologetic. <0 We 
didn't put up the houses/' he said (in my opinion a rather unneces- 


sary statement). '"We didn't know just where you wanted them/' 

"But I told you exactly where," protested Sam. 

"Did you?" remarked Manuel. **I don't remember. And I thought 
it better to wait until you came back and have It right." He oozed 
virtue. "*WeVe been here every day waiting for you." The virtue 
became reproach. 

"All right/' said Sam with admirable restraint, directing Manuel's 
attention to the markers, still In plain view, which he had left in the 
ground to outline our future residential quarters. "Let's have no 
more discussion. Hurry and get started." 

"But, of course, Sefior." Manuel sounded hurt. His tone implied 
that God must just have dropped the markers from the sky and 
why then was he, Manuel, to blame? "What would you like us to 
work on first?" 

"The main shack/" said Sam, pointing to the largest outline, "I 
think that's the best idea, don't you?" he asked me. "It's going to 
be the dining room, and until our own shack Is finished you and I 
can sleep there." 

"Oh, Sam/' I begged, "please, please let him do an outhouse 

"You can't sleep In an outhouse." 

"I don't care. The other Is more Important." 

"Whafs wrong with the field?" asked Sam, waving his hand 
toward the adjacent cow pasture. 

"If s full of ticks," I said, scratching. "And bulls." 

"Cows," Sam automatically corrected. 

"All cows are bulls to me. I don't stop to look at their sex. I run. 
Oh, please let's have an outhouse quickly." 

Sam looked amused and slightly superior, as if the Pioneer Woman 
he thought he had married had turned out to be nothing more than 
Weaker Sex, but he said "all right," and directed the men to dig a 
nice deep hole in an appropriate spot. I stretched out happily on my 
cot (the only article of furniture as yet available in our outdoor 
Paradise) and buried myself in a Penguin mystery. My contentment 
was short-lived. After two hours of steady digging, a yell from Manuel 


pierced the air. We rushed over to the pit under construction to 
be greeted by an excited group of men proudly pointing to a nasty- 
looking skull and a piece of a red pot. The projected outhouse had 
turned into an Indian grave. 

Sam's pleasure was considerably greater than mine. An archaeol- 
ogist viewing a bone is comparable in a way to a hound on the scent 
of the fox, and each moment I expected to hear a cry of "Yoicks." 
Sam, however, merely gave me an apologetic and rather pitying 
look which couldn't possibly conceal his triumph. "Pm sorry/* he 
beamed, and to the men, "Leave everything exactly as it is for us to 
work on later. Well start another hole over there." Any prospect 
of a tickless and cowless haven quickly faded. 

It's bad enough to want something and not get it, but if you 
want not to have something and get it anyhow, it's worse. Many has 
been the time that I have hung breathlessly over the edge of a trench, 
straining for the welcome sight of a bone or a hank of ancient hair 
and unable to see anything but just plain dirt. Here, though, I sat 
holding my thumbs and praying that the good earth would produce 
nothing in the way of foreign matter, and just as the pit was almost 
deep enough for me to relax, some little piece of pottery would turn 
up. "Pm sorry/' Sam kept saying without conviction, and on we'd 
move. After the third grave had materialized, I stopped looking I 
suppose with the idea, in reverse, that a watched pot never boils. At 
any rate, the idea was a good one. Hole No. 4 was virginal. The days 
of dodging bulls were over. 

Chapter 17 

1T\ O TELL how you live when you are on an archaeological expedi- 
j J tion? 77 I am always being asked. The people who pose this 
question usually fall into one of two categories. There is the it-must- 
be-wonderful-to-be-close-to-nature group and the how-I-admire-you- 
for-roughing-it-so-far-from-civilization group. Of the two I prefer the 
latter. Neither is correct. You are close to nature, all right, but it isn't 
always wonderful: in fact sometimes you are a little too close. After 
all 7 who wants to take a snake or a scorpion to his bosom? And when 
it conies to roughing it so far from civilization maybe you have not 
got all the comforts of home (no Frigidaire, no washing machine) , 
but there are compensations. Who cares, for example, about a wash- 
ing machine when you can get a laundress for fifteen cents a day? 

Having your own camp is the most satisfactory way to live when 
you are on an archaeological expedition, but an archaeologist avoids 
building one whenever possible? for it is an expensive proposition 
and a complicated one. However, if he can find no hotel or house near 
his work, he is forced to construct his own and it is usually as com- 
fortable as can be made. 

Our camp at the Sitio Conte was more or less a typical one for 
the tropics. It was clean and it was cheerful. There was no re- 
semblance, it is true, to those elaborate affairs one reads about in 
Egypt or Yucatan, where little black boys are always running around 



with iced drinks and the of the 

expedition and their wives for night, but on the 

whole we lived well. 

There were three houses, about the size of a one-car garage, 
which dotted the big ield at respectable intervals. There were two 
outhouses* a shanty for the cook, and a kitchen the latter con- 
sisting of an adobe hearth and an empty gasoline tin to serve as an 
oven, walled in on two sides to keep the wind from blowing out the 
ire. Andy had his own house and his own outhouse, Sam and I had 
ours, and between them and slightly larger was the third house a 
combination dining room, living room, workroom, as well as bed- 
room for a technical assistant who was to arrive later. 

The houses, so-called (for they were really one-room shacks ), 
consisted of a raised loor of wooden boards, walls the lower part 
also of boards and the rest of wire netting to keep out insect and 
animal life and a thatched roof. Cheesecloth had been placed 
under the eaves to catch any scorpions that might otherwise have 
dropped down on us. There was no need to worry about bad weather 
as the rainy season was over, but tarpaulins had been attached to 
the sides as protection from the wind and to provide some measure 
of privacy. They were so difficult to roll up and down, however, that 
I usually dressed or undressed lying on the loor beneath my cot. 

Under a tree outside each establishment a rough table had been 
placed to hold a tin basin and a pitcher. A hand mirror hung from 
a nail driven into the tree and served as a guide for the men to shave 
by. As the wind rarely permitted the mirrors to remain stationary, 
the medicine chest boasted an extra supply of court plaster. 

Underfoot, the earth was hard-packed mud. To accomplish this, 
the grass had first been cut down and then burned, and the fiery 
sun could be counted on to prevent it from bursting forth again until 
the rains arrived in the spring. With a temperature that at times hit 
140 degrees, this smooth hot floor had the advantage of discouraging 
snakes from slithering across its surface; and occasional sweepings 
could easily keep it clean so that dead leaves and other debris would 
not be blown in our faces. 


Two rough wooden piers jutted into the river. One w^s for the 
laundress to kneel on as she did her weekly wash and was also used 
as a landing place for occasional canoes. From the other we took 
our daily baths. 

The entire field was fenced in, right down to the water. This was 
done in the vain hope of keeping out the Conte family's numerous 
cattle, which, in spite of the lush grass on their own grazing grounds, 
liked to come in to eat the mangoes which had dropped off in our 
back yard. As the season wore on they became increasingly bold 
and the fence, after a continuous onslaught of horns, increasingly 
weak. As a result, we had a series of nightly visitors peering through 
the wire netting of our houses and stumbling over water buckets and 
tin basins. Things finally got so bad that I collected a large pile of 
stones each afternoon and spent most of each night developing my 
marksmanship. A cow is the only target Fve ever been able to hit. 

On the morning after our arrival the workmen appeared. There 
were six of them, although later, when graves were turning up all 
over the place, we got extras on a day-to-day basis. The foreman, who 
had picked out the other men and was responsible for them, had 
been recommended by Cholo Conte. His name was Eulogio Ramos 
and he was a rat. Anyone who thinks United States congressmen 
indulge in nepotism should have met Eulogio. The men he had 
selected to work for us included brother Teofilo Ramos, brother 
Jos6 Casada Ramos and nephew Victor Ramos. The girl who came 
each day to make the beds and clean the camp was daughter 
Concepcion Ramos. The laundress was aunt Maria Ramos. 

Somehow two outsiders had slipped into this group, probably 
because the number of available Ramoses had been exhausted. Their 
names were Bernabel and Justo, and they were expert at their job. 
As a matter of fact, with the exception of Eulogio, who considered 
himself above work and sat around all day smoking cigarettes (ours) 
and casting a very occasional eye on the digging, the men were both 
hard working and nice. 

The Panamanian native is as curious a race mixture as you can 


find. Panama is the of the New World, and since the 

opening of the Canal there is scarcely a nationality which is not 
represented there. The French, as everyone knows, copped the con- 
tract to build the Canal For this they imported extra labor Chi- 
nese, East Indians, and any other available. When the 
Americans took over the Canal they too imported workmen, chicly 
Negroes from the various Caribbean islands. These were only ad- 
mitted on condition that they go home when their work was finished, 
but many of them seemed to like it better where they were and when 
the time came to scram, hid in the country. I suppose it was a bit far 
for the Chinese and East Indians to go all the way back to Asia, so 
they stayed too. And then they began to mix. They mixed with each 
other, they mixed with the American Indians who were native to 
Panama, they mixed -with the whites. They got so mixed, in fact, 
that you can hardly tell who's who you're apt to see coal-black 
Chinese or yellow Indians or white men with kinky hair, broad 
noses and thick lips. 

Most of our workmen had black skins but none of them looked 
like Negroes. Justo, in fact, looked as if he had stepped right out 
of the Bible. Although he was very dark he had finely chiseled 
features, and a sad air and expressive hands added to his dignity. 
He worked quietly and well and rarely spoke. 

Bemabel was copper-colored, with big mustachios, and he was 
so good at his job that Sam at times allowed him to work on the 
delicate material. His only fault was that he was a continuous spitter. 
This annoyed me particularly, as I used to run around the excavations 
poking my face into everything that was going on, and I never dared 
get too near BemabeL 

Teofilo was the oldest Ramos brother and the father of Victor. 
How he'd allowed Eulogio to nose him out and ran everything I 
never discovered, but I suspect he was too good-natured to assert 
himself. Teofilo was ugly as a monkey and had a huge fieshy wart 
on his left cheek. This made him shy. He would bring me a present, 
though, two or three times a week oranges, or a few fresh eggs, or 
some strange wild iowers. The other men teased him unmercifully, 


but although Fm sure he suffered acute embarrassment he kept right 
on bringing me things. 

Jose Casada Ramos was everyone's favorite. He was young and 
gay, and although not very bright, had a wonderful sense of humor. 
He was always called Jose Casada, as if it were hyphenated, and the 
Casada part caused great merriment among his friends. Casada is 
Spanish for "married" and they used to tease him about his wives, 
although as far as I knew he only had one and I don't believe he was 
technically married to her. 

Jose Casada would have been very good looking except that every 
time he grinned (which was almost continuously), a large gap 
showed where Eve front teeth should have been. He would never tell 
how he had lost them, but I suspect it was in a fight, as he used to slip 
away at times on terrific benders and not turn up again for several 
days. He and Andy became fast friends, in spite of the fact that they 
could not talk to each other, and after work he would often sit 
outside Andy's house and listen to the victrola, sometimes accom- 
panying the music on a native drum. 

All the men were simple and unspoiled. Few of them had ever 
been out of the district in which they were bora and their education 
was slight, but they were always laughing and in good humor. With 
the exception of Justo, they talked constantly while they worked 
and it was mostly talk about food and getting drunk and having girls, 
and they teased each other about all these things. Our customs must 
have seemed very strange, and sometimes they teased us too, but 
it was all good-natured and because they felt we were friends. Even 
Andy, who succeeded in not learning a single word of Spanish in 
the six weeks he spent in Panama and ended up with the same three 
swear words he had picked up in New York before he came, got 
along fine with the men. 

Except for Sundays, our days were pretty much the same. At 6: 30 
each morning the cook wakened us by striking a gong. The gong was 
an old and bent tire frame, probably salvaged from a Model T Ford, 
which was attached by a rope to a tree near the kitchen and struck 


with a tin soup ladle. The was sounded again at seven to an- 
nounce breakfast. The workmen arrived at seven, too, and somebody 
had always to supervise them, in case they struck something impor- 
tant with their spades or picks without realizing it. It was usuallyfSam 
who started them off, and the first one of us who finished breakfast 
would go relieve him so that he could eat. The digging was within 
a hundred yards of the dining room, which made things easv. 

After breakfast I conferred with the cook, deciding on the day's 
mentis (which varied very little) and going over accounts. I'd then 
pop a head in on Concepcion, wherever she happened to be working. 
She was a pensive girl and unless she was watched was apt to sit 
with the broom on her lap, stroking it as if it were too good to be 
used on the floor. As she was very pregnant I thought this might be 
one of those obsessions women sometimes get at that time, but when 
I suggested to her father, Eulogio, that she stop work until she had 
her baby, he was outraged. I gathered there was no other Ramos 
who could temporarily replace her. 

Sam remained glued to the dig all day, and after I'd finished my 
housework I usually joined him. This was partly to encourage the 
workmen (who became as depressed as I when the good earth failed 
to yield anything ancient) and partly for fear we might miss some- 

Actually there were very few barren spells in the digging. This 
was fortunate, for nothing is so irritating as to sit uncomfortably 
for hours on the edge of a trench, dust blowing in your face, and 
look for something that isn't there. What's more, you've got to be 
careful where you place yourself. I learned that by experience. 

I had become automatically conditioned to watching for snakes 
and scorpions, but anything smaller I failed to take seriously. So 
that one day, coming upon a lovely log on the riverbank, of nice 
convenient size, I carried it to where the men were working and sat 
myself upon it. This was an unhappy idea, for the log turned out 
to be covered with tiny ticks which transplanted themselves from 
their home grounds to mine. The next two days were agony. 

Ticks are bloodsucking insects which bury their heads in your 


anatomy and, if left unmolested, hang on until they are fat and 
replete and only then drop off. This laissez-faire theory is obviously 
an unsatisfactory one, and there are two schools of thought on the 
subject of removing them. Thus you either get a friend to pull them 
out, tick by tick, with a pair of tweezers in which case half of the 
tick is apt to break off and the head remains in status quo or you 
have the same friend apply a lighted match to the tick's rear end, 
which irritates him sufficiently to cause him to withdraw entire from 
his grazing grounds. 

I have had occasion to try both systems and can state in no un- 
certain terms that the lighted match may hurt the tick but it hurts 
you more. Therefore, though I dislike halfway measures, I made 
Sam go to work on me with the tweezers, and with part of each un- 
welcome guest removed, I spent the next few days either standing 
up or on my knees. It was some time before I could sit down with 
any degree of comfort. 

Work stopped at noon each day for everybody to lunch. The 
workmen retired to the end of the field, where their women were 
waiting for them with containers of hot food. I occasionally peeked 
to see what they were eating. It was always a stew of some sort, with 
rice or potatoes and hunks of meat that might have been pig or 

After lunch we took a short rest until the one o'clock gong re- 
called us to work. At four we quit for the day. The workmen put 
away their digging implements and went home, while we, hot and 
dirty, tramped into the main house, w&ere a pitcher of fresh orange 
juice was waiting. 

Bathing was next on the program. Ladies' hour (that meant me) 
came first, after which the coast was left clear for the men. Fd hurry 
into our house, remove my dirty clothes (under the cot), put on 
a wrapper and slippers, grab a cake of soap and a towel, and wander 
down to the pier. The river was usually dark brown in color but 
seemed white compared to the dirt we had picked up working. The 
current was so swift that only the strongest swimmer could make 


headway it y but fortunately the water only about three 

feet deep. As It was, you to dig your into the muddy ooze 
and hold on to the soap like mad, for if it once slipped out of your 
grasp it would be floating downstream before you could even try to 
grab it. 

None of us wasted much time in the water as there were hundreds 
of tiny minnowlike fish which nipped in vulnerable spots unless 
we kept wiggling about or splashing. There was also a crocodile a 
bit further down the bank, which watched our ablutions with great 
interest, bet although he scared me to death every time I saw him 
(and more when I didn't), he did keep to his own side of the fence. 
You could never be sure, though, that he ? d continue being discreet 

We ate supper promptly at six. As it got dark soon after, this just 
gave the cook time to wash the dishes before he had to light his 
kerosene lamp. We ourselves boasted gasoline lamps (for each 
establishment) which gave a ine light when they worked. Unfortu- 
nately their innards were very delicate and the gasoline we fed 
them not always pure, so they were constantly getting indigestion 
and much of their time was spent being purged. However, what 
light we had was brought to the main house after supper, where Sam, 
and later the technician, usually worked on the notes they had taken 
that day, and where Fd read or write letters. By nine o'clock we were 
almost always ready for bed. 

On Sundays there were no workmen, but if something particularly 
interesting had turned up in the excavations the day before, we 
usually worked anyhow. Or the men would catch up on their paper 
work, while I put on a bathing suit and took a sun bath and a swim. 
Sunday was also my day to shampoo my hair. This was a cinch, as 
aH you had to do was soap your scalp and dip it into the water and 
the current rinsed it better than any spray. 

On special occasions we sent a message to the nearest village up- 
river ordering a dozen bottles of cold beer. These would arrive dur- 
ing the afternoon by dugout canoe, the beer nestling in a box filled 
with ice and sprinkled over with sawdust. We would first drink the 
beer and later, if any ice remained, use it in highballs. Andy's olives 


and soda water would be trotted out, and even if the highballs always 
tasted of sawdust, we felt gay and almost civilized. 

Although life at the Sitio Conte was different from anything I 
had known before, there were only a few aspects of it which I 
didn't learn to enjoy. Among these were the snakes. 

A solitary snake is bad enough, but we were deluged with them. 
Word had gone around that we were making a collection, and as 
a result there was hardly a snake within a radius of five miles that 
was not captured and carried into camp. We -were making a collec- 
tion, in spite of my protests. In Panama City we had met Dr. Her- 
bert Clark, head of the Gorgas Laboratory, who at that time was 
making a census of snakes throughout the country. "You say you are 
going to live in the province of Code?" he asked Sam enthusias- 
tically when he heard about the dig we planned. 

"Why, yes," answered Sam. "Are you interested?" 

"Tremendously interested." I was waiting for him to pull the 
one about how he had always wanted to be an archaeologist, but 
he fooled me. "Code," he explained, "is the only province from 
which I lack material for my census. How about collecting snakes 
for me there?" 

"Oh, no," I said shuddering. "We're awfully sorry but. . * " 

"We'll be glad to do it," said Sam at the same time. 

"Sam," I cried. "Snakes!" 

"If they're there/' remarked Sam, "we might as well collect 

I didn't agree with him at all My idea was to let the snakes go 
their own sweet way, hoping they would feel we were friends and 
not get mad at us, but before I could express this sentiment 
Dr. Clark beamingly presented us with a large tank containing 
formaldehyde, a first aid packet, antivenin serum and a treatise on 
venomous snakes. 

Our program, as I understood it, was to collect all snakes possible., 
throw their heads into the tank of formaldehyde, stimulate business 
by paying out twenty-five cents for each poisonous and ten cents 


for each non-poisonous specimen brought In (the money to 1 be 
refunded us), and pray we have no use for the irst aid packet 

or the antivenin. The apparently been thrown in for 

good measure. 

The only advantage attached to this new sport was that snakes 
became a valuable commodity and few- reptiles had a chance to 
crawl Into our homestead unattached. In fact, almost every morn- 
ing before breakfast a Hue formed, usually of little boys, each hold- 
ing a long stick with a sort of vine looped at Its farthest end, the 
effect being that of a fishing rod. Through the loop dangled a snake, 
wriggling In lively fashion, In spite of the fact that Its back had 
been broken. 

Because I was not essential to the general dig, I was put In charge 
of the snake department. This meant determining whether or not 
a snake was poisonous, cutting off Its head and throwing It Into the 
tank, and paying off the collectors. Naturally they always claimed 
that their contribution was poisonous as this raised the ante fifteen 
cents. The only way you could tell was to pry open the mouth of 
the still squirming snake with a couple of sticks and see if you could 
spot a poison sac back of its fangs. 

This wasn't so easy. The sac Is hard to find under the best of con- 
ditions, and it takes a strong stomach and a steady hand to fool 
around with a snake, even If Its back Is broken. I'm not one of those 
fortunate but Irritating Individuals who jump out of bed In the 
morning bright-eyed and full of health In fact, it takes a good 
hour after my coffee is down before I can so much as smile so I was 
not a very happy choice for this job. However I did manage to take 
a quick look and to pay off, even If at times I let myself be persuaded 
a bit too soon of the poison content of the offerings. 

I even read the treatise on venomous snakes, although it merely 
added to my confusion. According to Dr. Clark, there are eight 
species of poison snakes in Panama the bushmaster, the coral 
snake, the sea snake, the fer-de-lance and four different kinds of 
vipers; the fer-de-lance and the vipers all belonging to a class called 
Bothrops. If you happen to be bitten by any of these, the first thing 


to do, says Dr. Clark, is to catch the snake and Identify it. This ? with 
due apologies to Dr. G, is frankly ridiculous. No one who has just 
been shot full of poison and scared to death is going to drop every- 
thing and go crawling after his assailant, thus laying himself open 
for another bite. And if he were so foolish as to try to catch him, 
what makes Dr. Clark believe that anyone without a picture book 
under his arm could tell which snake was what? 

The second step (after being bitten) is to ascertain if the snake 
has a lump, which Clark calls a '"food ball/' in its body. If it has, 
you're in luck, for the snake will have injected most of its venom 
into whatever that food ball once represented and presumably had 
little poison left over for you. Here again, you come up against the 
difficulty of catching the snake in order to look at its stomach. I 
don't like to keep on disagreeing with Dr. Clark, who must have 
given a lot of thought to the subject, but it strikes me that this is 
going to an awful lot of trouble just to get the mental satisfaction 
that the snake bit something else before he bit you. I should think it 
would be much more practical to believe the worst and treat the 
bite accordingly, 

As soon, says Clark, as you find out what bit you and if it bit 
anything else first, you should put on a tourniquet and apply suction 
to the wound. Then you inject the antivenin. The only catch here 
is that the antivenin has to be the same brand as the snake that bit 
you. Even if you were able to catch the snake and recognize it, the 
brand of antivenin that you happen to have with you may be just 
the kind that the snake isn't. Very few people except professional 
snake hunters are apt to carry more than one kind of serum, if that. 
Fortunately, however, Dr. Clark explains that eighty to eighty-five 
per cent of snake bites in Panama have been due to one of the species 
Bothrops and antibothropic serum can be used for any of these. 
What happens if you use it for a bushmaster or a coral snake, he 
doesn't mention. 

I am sure that fundamentally Dr. Clark is right in all he says, but 
he makes life unnecessarily complicated. I would suggest that if 
you are ever bitten by a Panamanian snake you quietly let the snake 


go its way, yell for to the bite you can 

get someone to cio it for you), is apt to 

be for Bothrops, whatever It to be) , pray. There 

is nothing you can do, anyhow, 
are no snakes. 

I dldn y t stay home, but all my made me snake-conscious. 

I used to dream about the creatures* In order to which 

snakes were poisonous Fd find myself going to murmuring, 

"If you get bitten by a fer-de-Iance, you'll never be able to 

dance. If you get bitten by a viper, youll certainly have to pay the 
piper. If you get bitten by a biisfamaster, you'd better get to a hos- 
pital faster. But if you get bitten by a coral snake* youll probably 
pass out anil never awake." 

For obvious reasons I kept these poetic effusions to myself, but 
when we finally returned Dr. Clark his tank of formaldehyde, con- 
taining eighty-four pickled snake heads, I couldn't resist attaching 
a card with "A tank foil of Bothrops, with love from the Lothrops." 

We got a pleasant answer, enclosing the results of the analysis 
of the eighty-four snakes and the money owing us. According to the 
analysis, oor catch Included four poisonous snakes one coral snake 
and three hog-nosed vipers (Bothrops). The rest were pronounced 
nonpoisonous and harmless. As I had been treasurer and had paid 
out quarters for fifty-one poisonous snakes, the bank was out $7.05. 
There was nothing for me to do but make up the difference out of 
my own pocket and vow never to fool around with snakes again. 


Cfiapfer 18 

T\TOTHING I had ever experienced or read or been told about 
1 \ archaeology prepared me for the dig at the Sitio Conte. It was 
like a circus. There was almost too much going on. It used to make 
me miserable not to be able to be in three places at the same time. 
I'd be flipping earth off a skeleton or getting ready to remove the 
contents of a grave, when Fd hear an exclamation from Sam or from 
one of the workmen and Fd know that something exciting had 
turned up somewhere else. The irst few times this happened I 
dropped what I was doing and rushed over to join the fun. But when 
it got to the point where I was spending all my time hopping out of 
one grave and into another, I had to give that up. 

Luckily you develop a very special feeling about what you your- 
self are doing, no matter what it is. "Did you see my pot, or my 
plate?" you are apt to ask about something you have merely cleaned 
or lifted out of the ground. "If s not as good as mine," is the answer 
you'll undoubtedly get. I don't know what makes the amateur digger 
so proprietary about the pieces he works on. After all, they're not 
his and he knows he may never see them again, but that doesn't 
seem to matter. Fortunately. 

Excavating started even before our camp was finished. Sam picked 
out the spot for the men to start a large trench, and they attacked 
the hard earth with pick and shovel, throwing the dirt to leeward. 



When a great mound had accumulated, some of them would climb 
on top and throw it further off so that the wind, which never let up y 
would not blow it back into the pit. 

The digging was always divided into trenches, and these were 
large enough for all the men to work in at the same time and usually 
contained numbers of graves. As soon as there was any evidence of 
a burial an attempt was made to outline it, and the men removed 
the top earth down to a little above grave level. Sometimes the out- 
line was easy to find, as the earth in the grave shaft was often softer 
and of a different color from that around it. Otherwise it was neces- 
sary to dig along the outer edge of the exposed objects until the 
contour showed up clearly. The procedure at all times was to make 
a sort of ditch in the surrounding earth so that the entire grave would 
be brought up like a table or platform. That way you didn't have 
to stand on your head when you worked. 

When this point was reached the men were switched to another 
spot and started all over again with picks and shovels, searching for 
further remains. They were perfectly amiable about what must have 
been frustrating work and they were completely without supersti- 
tion. In fact they joked about the burials, and though their humor 
was anything but sophisticated and rarely varied, it seemed to amuse 

"Aha," Jos6 Casada would say to Bernabel as a skeleton came to 
light "Here is Tio Fernando, that uncle of your father, the one you 
told us ran off and was never heard from again." 

"Nonsense/* Bernabel would retort "This must be one of your 
relatives. He's round-shouldered like all the Ramos family." 

Or Jos6 Casada, going into rapturous contortions at the sight of 
a bunch of bones, "Now that is a girl I could really go for." 

"She looks like an expensive girl, probably a two dollar one." 
This from Victor. 

"F1I bet she wouldn't have anything to do with you, she's too 
high-class," Teofilo would contribute. 

This game went on daily, whenever a pot, a bone, a piece of 
jewelry turned up. After which the men would cheerfully move 


on to attack fresh ground, leaving the trophies for us. Sometimes 
we had as many as four or five paves going at the same time. 

In the meantime, either Sam or Andy or 1 started on the grave 
Itself. If It happened to be a very large one, two of us worked on it 
from different sides. The idea was to get the skeleton or skeletons 
and all the accompanying objects to stand out clearly so that they 
could be photographed and drawn before they were taken op. A 
little trowel was used to remove any heavy dirt that might remain, 
then a knife, to give the objects a sharp outline, and a brush, to clean 
off any loose earth. When everything was spick and span photo- 
graphs were taken and a survey was made. Then the specimens were 
taken out; each one numbered and put in Its own paper bag, while 
notes were taken on their position, condition and anything else 
you could think up. 

I've never seen anything so complicated or elaborate or exciting 
or confusing as the graves we found. Later on, from historical ac- 
counts and from Sain as interpreter of what these meant, I learned 
a lot about the people whose earthly resting place we'd so ruddy 
disturbed. Only then did pieces of the puzzle fall into place and the 
picture begin to make sense. 

The ancient Panamanians believed that the soul did not die with 
the body. The dead man was expected to enjoy his women, his or- 
naments and his utensils In the other world, while his servants 
were all set to work for him there as formerly. As a result, when he 
passed away he was decked out In his best clothes and decorations, 
and his favorite food was deposited in jars or pots beside him. 
Most of the women with whom he'd ever had any traffic were put 
in with him, all dressed up in their fanciest costumes and laden with 

Strangely enough, only the chiefs and the nobility rated a burial 
with whichever surviving wives and retainers were apt to give 
them the most fun and service in the hereafter. The bodies of the 
common people were carried to some deserted spot and left for 
the beasts and buzzards to enjoy. 


The corpses of the chiefs were usually desiccated or dried out 
so that they'd keep without it being too hard on the olfactory senses 
of those left behind. This was done by setting them on a stone and 
lighting a fire around them until all the human juices ran out and 
they were smoked like a ham. That way they'd be preserved indefi- 
nitely and could be put in a niche aboveground for the consolation 
of their nearest and dearest. 

Certain families even maintained special houses or rooms where 
their ancestors were ranged In order along the walls, with spaces 
left for those who had been lost in battle. As a rule, though, they 
were put in the ground, but even so they had to be kept around for 
a while as the rainy season in Panama goes on for over half the 
year and it is impossible to dig a grave during that time. Of course 
if they happened to pop off in the dry season, they could be buried 
then and there. 

There were two different systems for burying the girl friends and 
the retainers who accompanied the head man. One was to kill them 
off by giving them poison and then lay them out neatly in the grave. 
A more intriguing way, though, was to bury the attendants alive. 
This sounds gruesome but apparently was not painful at all. First 
the pit was dug and a bench laid down in the center for the chief 
or nobleman to be placed upon. He was fixed up in his Sunday 
clothes, and flowers, food and water were put In with him. Then 
his favorite women climbed down into the grave and sat themselves 
on the bench surrounding him. 

Meanwhile the mourners aboveground made preparations for the 
funeral feast which lasted for one or two days. They all got very 
merry and danced around the grave and sang the praises of the 
deceased and of his girl friends who were about to be. At intervals 
(and these must have been frequent) chicha, the local corn liquor, 
was consumed both by those upstairs and those below. After every- 
one in the grave had passed out, those above who were still on their 
feet continued to drink and dance until there was no more liquor 
and then they filled in the pit with earth and called it a day. 

The chiefs women and servants not only volunteered but fought 


for the privilege of him to his Sam 

said this was because that you were with 

magical incantations you couldn't get to heaven, and the were 

the only ones whose funerals rated such pocus. But I've always 

had a sneaking feeling that it was because they it wasn't 

such a bad way of being out of life. 

The Sitio Conte was obviously the burial ground of a very high- 
class group of people. There must have been a lot of them, too, for 
it teemed with graves. Not only did you strike one wherever you dug, 
but there were so many that they were often on top of each other 
and came out in layers. It took a good deal of digging to get at them, 
for although the top graves were only three or four feet below the 
surface, the deepest ones were as far as twelve feet below. How the 
Indians had managed with primitive tools to push their ancestors 
down so far is a mystery. 

The largest graves were usually the deepest, and they were the 
richest, too. As they got nearer to the surface they got poorer. Eco- 
nomic times must have changed, and the men in the upper layer, 
who rarely had even a woman buried with them and very little 
jewelry, must have gone through something equivalent to the 1930 

Those in the intermediate-sized graves usually did have a woman 
with them, but only one. This didn't mean that it was all they had 
had when they were alive, for monogamy in pre-Spanish days was 
still a thing of the future. However, these men had probably only 
been sub-chiefs and when buried didn't rate anything more than 
one bride, about forty pieces of pottery and a mere snitch of jewelry. 

We found six really large graves and they were fantastic. Some 
contained three bodies and some more than twenty, with the chief 
occupant always placed in the center usually on a stone slab 
and surrounded by his wives and followers. In addition to the skele- 
tons, these graves had an average of two hundred pieces of pottery, 
as well as a raft of took, weapons, food, jewelry, fabrics and orna- 
mental objects. Here, obviously, were buried supreme chiefs of their 


It Is fun to try to reconstruct from some old bones and what's 
buried with them the character and mode of life of people who 
lived hundreds of years ago. At least it is fun for an amateur for an 
archaeologist it is a serious matter and the basic reason for his having 
taken up this science in the first place. 

Like any good archaeologist, Sam is disinclined to commit himself 
on the significance of any discovery until he has had a chance to 
study the appropriate historical accounts, comparative work of 
fellow scientists, chemical analyses of metals or clay, and a lot of 
other things which to me seem dry as dust. By that time Fd have 
lost interest. It would happen time and again, two, three years after 
a dig was completed, that Sam would come home, passion in his eye, 
and say something like "Remember the skeleton in Grave No. 18 
that was lying with his arms crossed under him and a broken tibia 
the one who had the incense burners buried with him?" "Of 
course/' Fd answer. "And what did you find out about Him or Her?" 
Naturally I didn't have the slightest idea what he was referring to, 
but I was brought up to believe that a wife should encourage her 

At the time, though, it is different. At the time you dig him up, 
you can't help having a proprietary interest in your skeleton. You're 
inclined to indulge in flights of fancy (in case you're not a scientist) , 
and I find that if you give your ancient remains a name, he assumes 
a definite personality and you digest your archaeological education 
more easily. 

The skeleton I called Oscar Wilde, for instance, gave me the first 
inkling that queer things had gone on in prehistoric times, too. Oscar 
was one of the big chiefs we found him placed in the center of the 
grave, laden with gold and there were three bodies buried with 
him, all male. Nor could this be explained away by just calling him 
a misogynist, for, heaped on and around the bodies, were women's 
ornaments and women's utensils such as stone metates for grind- 
ing corn. And grinding corn is definitely not a man's job. 

Then there was the girl I named Pavlova. Pavlova turned up lying 
on her face with her shins doubled over her thighs so that her feet 


rested on top of her a not a 

ballet dancer could have while alive. Poison had obviously 

been her lot. As a matter of fact, we'd already out the 

custom at the SItio Conte had to kill the chiefs and 

his women before they were buried. Their were always so 

neatly arranged (except for Pavlova who was probably an after- 
thought) that they must have been before being deposited In 
the ground. Pavlova only confirmed what we already knew. But she 
made it easy for me to remember. 

Just once did we find evidence of a different system of burial. That 
was when we dug up Romeo and Juliet two skeletons lying side 
by side, one with Its arm around the other's neck. There could be no 
doubt but that they had been buried alive and had shared death 
throes In the grave itself, clutched in each other's arms. Unfortu- 
nately the bones and teeth of the lovers were In such bad condition 
that no one was able to determine their sex, but they did add a ro- 
mantic touch to our excavations. 

Sam ? as might be expected, ignored the names I gave my ancient 
friends. He always took full descriptive notes on the skeletons and 
just a glance at these was enough to refresh his memory. Yd look at 
his little book and find listed: "Skel. No. jo: age adult, sex female, 
body extended, chest down, face south, arms straight, legs flexed." 
Or "SkeL No. 24: age adolescent, sex male, body exed, chest up, 
face north, arms bent, legs straight" 

This might have meant something to Sam, but to me it sounded 
like nothing more than setting-up exercises on the radio, and no 
matter how hard I tried I wouldn't be able to conjure up any kind 
of picture of skeletons 10 or 24. If they'd just had names attached 
like "Old Mrs. Tuttle" or "Baby Carlos/' it would have been a cinch. 

Lots of the time, of course, it was impossible to draw any conclu- 
sions from what we found. The graves were unbelievably compli- 
cated to start with. Then the dampness of the earth had played such 
havoc with the skeletons that often the bones had completely dis- 
integrated. And many of the funeral objects had been deliberately 


This Is what in archaeology Is termed 'Tailing" an object. The 
belief was general among prehistoric peoples that the spirits of 
inanimate things accompanied the spirits of the dead with whom 
they were buried. Just to be sure there would be no mistake, however, 
certain skeptics "killed" the objects before they put them In the 
ground, so that their souls would surely be released. The "'killing/' 
as a rule, took the form of making a hole in the bottom or sides of 
a piece of pottery, but those of the ancient inhabitants of the Sitio 
Conte who believed In this custom had apparently not been satisfied 
with such minor destruction. They'd gone ahead and trampled the 
pottery and sometimes even twisted the metal. It was as if you were 
to spread out your best dinner set and then jump up and down on 
It. At least that's what it looked like. 

And as if things weren't difficult enough, the people we were 
dealing with had had a nasty habit of destroying many of the older 
burials to make room for later ones. They'd often dug Into and 
thrown aside the old bones and grabbed anything worth while that 
went with them for the more recent corpse. 

According to Sam, this disrespect for the dead is most unusual. 
The filching here, however, had almost invariably been confined to 
graves either next to or under the new burial and to ones similar 
in style, so it looked as if the whole thing was a family affair. Those 
ancient ghouls probably argued that it was perfectly reasonable 
when burying your father, let's say, with his Lares and Penates, to 
add some of the things that your grandfather hadn't bothered to 
take with him or didn't think he'd need where he was headed for. 
"If Grandpa had wanted them," they no doubt reasoned, "why 
would they still be in the earth?" Their logic was doubtless good (for 
them), but it made it very confusing for an archaeologist who was 
supposed to work out such problems as why, when, where, and which 
was whose. 

Chapter 19 

M FTER you've been living in camp for a while, food becomes 
./I. just about the most important thing in the world. You are 
working hard and out-of-doors all day long (we, as a matter of fact, 
were always out-of-doors, for at the Sitio Conte even indoors was 
outdoors) and you get terribly hungry. Nor, when the day's work 
is over, have you much else to occupy your mind. There is no ques- 
tion of grabbing a quick bite so that you can get to the movies or 
the theatre on time, and, good friends as you and your camp mates 
may be, there are too few of them to contribute much variety. If 
the Browns or the Smiths could just run over for an occasional drink 
or game of bridge you might be able to divert into other channels 
that constant obsession with your stomach. As it is, you spend hours 
discussing the food at home that you might be having and carping 
about the food you ore having. 

If your food is important, your cook is just as much so, for you 
don't want to eat aU your- meals out of a can. Which is why, by 
unanimous agreement, we fired Van. Van had tried hard, but every- 
thing he prepared tasted the same. Or, rather, tasted of nothing at 
all. We had attempted to help matters by adding every kind of 
condiment possible to his dishes, but it was no use indigestion was 
the only result. So one day, tears streaming down his black face, 
and carrying two large packages containing his clothes and, as we 
later discovered, some of ours, Van departed. 



Through the Conte family we to cook. 

Patricio, or Pat for short, was a West Indian Negro, tall and very- 
thin unbelievably so, considering the amount of food he managed 
to pet away. We had a suspicion he put it away to sell to the 

natives, but this we were never able to prove. Pat spoke English 
and Spanish both in a kind of Calypso singsong and he always 
addressed me as "Mistress," which made me feel pleasantly wicked. 
It was "yes, Mistress" this and "yes, Mistress" that, although the 
"yes" didn't mean a thing, for, except when I lost my temper and 
made a scene, he said "yes" and went right ahead doing the equiva- 
lent of "no." 

Pat owned a flourishing junk shop in Panama City, which he had 
left in charge of his wife when he came to camp, bringing his small 
son to ran errands for him. It was hard to understand why he ? d been 
willing to leave the city unless it was because the wife nagged him 
and he wanted to get away from her. This seemed more than likely, 
for the third day after his arrival he suddenly yelled "Mistfess" as 
I was in the trench carefully brushing up a couple of old tibias, and 
I rushed out thinking the kitchen wall must have fallen in. 

Pat said, "Mistress, that Conception she don't work good. I just 
happen to know a better one who it just happens might come live 

I said, "No, Pat" 

He said, "Yes, Mistress/" 

"And don't call me Mistress." 

"Yes, Mistress," said Pat 

A week later he tried again. "That Conception . . . ," he began. 

"It's no use, Pat," I declared firmly. "Conception is here to stay. 
And don't call me Mistress." 

*Tes, Mistress," said Pat. 

This *^Mistress-that-Conception-she-don't-work-good'I-know-a- 
better-one" was offered me regularly every week and just as regu- 
larly I turned it down, in spite of the fit of sulks which followed. 
It wasn't that Conception was even slightly efficient, but I was tak- 
ing no chance on antagonizing the Ramos family and, besides, I 


was afraid that love might interfere with Pat's cooking. For, in spite 
of a bad disposition and a somewhat elastic idea of honesty, he was 
a really good cook. And that isn't easy in the kind of camp we ran. 

Three times a week one of the younger Ramoses rode to Rio 
Grande to get us fresh meat. Rio Grande was a village on the main 
highway, about an hour's ride from camp, and consisted of a bar 
and general store (the same) and about twenty thatched-roof hoeses 
scattered over an area of perhaps half a mile. Trucks made daily 
deliveries to this store, and as the cattle were slaughtered each day 
at sunrise and by Panamanian law had to be sold by 9 A.M. or thrown 
away, the meat was horribly fresh. Fresh! It was so fresh that I 
always expected it to get up from the plate and moo at me, and if 
you were ever foolish enough to dream about sinking a tooth into 
what looked like a juicy tidbit, you were apt to have a quick awaken- 
ing in order to save that tooth from the destructive inroads of what 
turned out to have the consistency of salt water taffy. 

Young Ramos always bought enough beef for two days and Pat 
did his best with it. The first day he would either cook steaks, 
pounded thin to make them a little less tough, or grind the beef into 
hamburgers. The second day's menus were less tasty, for as we had 
no ice the meat could only be kept by stewing it or by soaking it 
overnight in a bucket of salt water. In the latter case, the outside 
part would turn white and had to be cut off before the rest of it was 
cooked. Either way you lost. If the meat was chewable it had no 
taste, and if you could detect a slight flavor it meant such hard work 
ahead that your jaw and stomach were hardly on speaking terms. 

Chicken was an occasional welcome change. The chickens we 
bought from the workmen, but they were so scrawny that they had 
to be fattened up for several weeks before they were fit to eat. We 
kept them tied by a string to a treetop, so that wild animals or snakes 
could not get at them and so that they couldn't escape. Here they 
stayed, making singularly unpleasant noises and dropping messes 
on anyone so forgetful as to look for shade under their particular 
nesting ground. 

Every so often we had exotic and unusual dishes. The best of these 


was tepi$cuintli y the Indian for wild pig. These were 

about the size of an ordinary baby pig and when made into stew 
tasted like a slightly but very superior chicken. They only 

came out at night, and the workmen would hunt them with a 
flashlight and then shoot them. They were hard to get and we paid 
five dollars apiece for them, but in spite of this big bonus only three 
were brought in the entire season. Iguana, or lizard, was more com- 
mon, bet Pat had some superstitious reason for not wanting to 
cook these and nothing could make him give in. I tried my hand 
one day at iguana stew, but after one taste we unanimously agreed 
to do without this delicacy. 

Pat had no prejudice, however, about armadillos. An armadillo 
is a small creature with its body and head protected by an armor 
of bony plates, and it curls up into a ball when afraid. One specimen 
wandered into camp after we had been there some months and we 
adopted it as a pet. We called it Andy after our star boarder, although 
no one was able to determine the animal's sex. I tied a string around 
his neck and took him for daily walks, and little Andy became quite 
friendly and easy to manage. You might think it hard to get attached 
to an animal that rolls up into a ball every time you look at him, 
but little Andy got so he accepted me and stayed out when I was 
around. It was only with the others that he retired into himself and 
wouldn't play. 

We kept little Andy in an empty trench to prevent him from 
escaping, but in spite of these precautions he disappeared and I was 
heartbroken. The day after the tragedy, as I was eating an unusually 
good stew for lunch, a sudden suspicion struck me. I called Pat over. 
"What's this stew made of, Pat?" I asked. 

"Ain't it good, Mistress?" he countered, looking about as innocent 
as a man who's just murdered his mother, 

"Pat, is this armadillo stew?" 

"Mistress!" exclaimed Pat in a shocked voice. 

"Is this armadillo stew?" I repeated. 

"Armadillo," he said. "Well it might just so happen that it might 
be, and then again it might happen that it ain't." 


"Pat/' I asked firmly, "have we been eating little Andy?" 

"Yes, Mistress," he answered reluctantly. 

There was nothing I could do. I left the rest of little Andy on the 
plate, and Pat and I didn't resume friendly relations for a week. 

Staples such as rice, potatoes, lard, butter (bought in cans) were 
ordered from Conte's general store in Penonom6 and delivered to 
Cholo's ranch at Palo Verde, whence they were brought to camp 
with the mail two or three times a week. Eggs, oranges and bananas 
were obtained locally from the workmen and were both cheap and 
good. The rest of our meals were made up of canned soups, canned 
vegetables and canned fruit 

The water we drank came from the river and it naturally had 
to be boiled. Pat thought this was absolutely absurd (as has every 
native cook Fve ever had), and I had to sneak up on him daily to 
make sure he didn't cheat. Boiling the water eliminated any danger 
of disease, but it still tasted and looked awful. The color varied 
from pale to deep brown, depending on the mountain rains that 
flowed down and muddied the river, but if you let it sit overnight 
in a covered pail the sediment would sink to the bottom. Then if 
you closed your eyes and were thirsty enough, it didn't seem quite 
so bad. 

The trick was to try to make everything you ate or drank taste 
like something it wasn't. Except in the case of our two big gastro- 
nomic events the wild duck dinner which didn't come off and the 
caviar dinner which did. 

The idea of a succulent dish of roast wild duck had been in our 

minds ever since our arrival, but in spite .of the beautiful shotgun 

which Andy had carried with him for nearly two thousand miles, 

he lazily refused to move from camp. After a great deal of nagging 

and prodding, however, he reluctantly consented to take Jose 

Casada as guide and spend a day trying to bag us a really good meal. 

The two-man expedition set out at dawn. Jose Casada on one 

horse, carrying a package of food and the gun, led the way, and we 

had a hard time not to laugh at Andy, who brought up the rear hold- 


ing on to his steed with everything he had As he told me later, he was 
none too happy. The horse bothered him, he had no idea where he 
was going, and, in spite of his close friendship with Jos6 Casada, there 
existed the slight handicap that neither could understand a word 
of what the other said. 

After an hour's ride Jose Casada dismounted and tethered his 
horse, making signs to Andy to do the same. Waist-high grass was 
all that he could see, but there was nothing for him to do but follow 
his guide. As a matter of fact, Andy had had a lot of experience in 
duck-shooting and was an extremely good shot. 

It was the first time, though, that he had gone on an expedition 
without fancy duck blinds, decoys, retrievers and, doubtless, various 
bottles of brandy in case he got cold or damp. Here, in order to reach 
the water and spot any possible duck, he had to crawl through high 
grass and rushes, expecting each moment to look a snake in the eye. 
His slithering progress was uneventful, though, and in spite of being 
thoroughly scared he managed to knock down five duck 

Jose Casada, it seems, was all for continuing indefinitely, but 
Andy, emotionally shattered by his tour de force, made the well- 
known sign of thumb toward mouth which is the same in any 
language, and as a result the ducks were attached to the saddles and 
the two sportsmen rode off in search of the nearest bar. 

They reached the general store at Rio Grande some time in 
the early afternoon, where they downed various whiskys in rapid 
succession. Andy was right in his element, but Jose Casada, who 
was unused to anything stronger than the local chicha or cider and 
who had never tasted whisky, succumbed after his fifth and was 
carried into the back room and neatly kid out on the dirt fioor. 

There was nothing for Andy to do until his companion recovered 
except keep on drinking, with the result that after an indefinite 
additional number of whiskys he too had to be carried out and kid 
down next to his unconscious pal When Jose Casada came to, he 
saw Andy passed out and he therefore repaired to the bar to pull 
himself together. When Andy came to, Jos6 Casada was bade in 


his former comatose state and the procedure took place in reverse. 
It was unfortunate that at no point did the two show signs of life 
at the same time. 

During one of his waking spells Andy noted that it had grown 
dark, and vaguely realizing that we might be worried about him, left 
the recumbent Jos6 Casada and stumbled out and onto his horse. 
Just how he got home he is not clear about, but Dobbin must have 
known the way. We greeted him sleepily and after one look refrained 
from asking questions. His shooting prowess was evident to all of 
us the next morning, however, for when we arose, the smell of 
putrefying birds was wafted on the breeze from the spot where Andy's 
horse, still saddled and duck-encumbered, had spent the night. 

Andy refused for some time to give us details of his trip. Jos6 
Casada was equally reticent when he turned up three days later, 
merely stating that he had been delayed at the hospital in Penonom^ 
where he had been treated for what he told us was a kidney con- 
dition. We spent the rest of the season without eating duck. 

The caviar dinner was more successful. This came about as a 
result of my going to Panama City to meet my mother and father 
who were coming through on a cruise and were to have about 
twenty-four hours in port. They arrived in style, bearing as gifts 
most of the gastronomic delicacies of the United States. In a moment 
of depression I must have written home about the monotony and 
inferior quality of camp food and I had obviously given the im- 
pression that we were living in darkest Africa. At any rate, my 
graphic literary style had brought forth the kind of picnic hamper 
you might picture Doris Duke taking on a week's camping trip 
and, topping it off, a pound of fresh caviar. 

Now the caviar posed a really serious problem. It had been nicely 
preserved in the ship's icebox whence it had been rushed to the 
refrigerators of the Hotel Tivoli, where I was staying, but I was 
afraid that a six-hour trip through tropical heat would turn it into 
a soggy mess, its long journey all for naught. Of course I could have 
sat in the Tivoli and ordered toast, lemon and hardboiled egg and 
eaten it by myself, but somehow I thought it would taste better away 


from civilization to say nothing of Sam's Hieing caviar, too. I 
finally worked out a solution. 

Among the people we had met in Panama City was a young 
secretary attached to the American Embassy whose name was 
Johnny. Johnny had expressed a deep interest in archaeology and had 
hinted that he would look kindly upon an invitation to visit us and 
see the work at first hand. Johnny had a car. So I called him up and 
suggested that he drive me out to camp. Johnny accepted with 

We set forth the next day, On the ninety-odd mile drive to 
Penonoin6 you pass through six small villages and one vacation 
resort The caviar, fresh from the Tivoli icebox and wrapped in 
newspaper, was mshed to the car. When we reached the first village 
on our route we stopped at the nearest bar and ordered two beers, 
at the same time requesting the bartender to put our package on 
the ice. After staying long enough to give the caviar a chill we went 
on to the next village, where the procedure was repeated. And the 
next and the next. The vacation resort was a cinch, for we took two 
hours off for lunch and a swim and got the caviar thoroughly iced. 
The last part of the trip was made on horseback, and we urged on 
our steeds at top speed. It was rather like carrying the good news 
from Ghent to Aix. 

Our supper that night was wonderful. We ate caviar. We ate 
goose Ever. We ate galantine of chicken. It was our first and only 
excursion into higher gastronomic fields and we had indigestion all 
night It was worth it 

There seems to be a general impression that menus in an archae- 
ological camp must be queer ones. The supposed range is wide; you 
may be pictured smacking your lips over such delicacies as roast 
peacock and hummingbirds 7 tongues or even warding off starvation 
with a desperate diet of cactus soup and stewed rats. The minute you 
leave civilization, it is argued, your meals are bound to be different, 
and the fact that Mr. Campbell's cans are as well-known in tiny 
South American or African villages as in his home country is over- 


Our food was neither better nor worse than that of the average 
archaeological camp; on the whole it was both adequate and health- 
ful. The only disadvantage was its monotony. "God, not again!" 
Sam and Andy would chorus at mealtimes until I got really mad. 
(After all, you can't make scalopini of veal out of an old and tired 
Panamanian cow.) So they changed their tune. "What's this 
wonderful new dish called?" Sam would ask, holding up a limp piece 
of beef while.he reached for the Tabasco. "Ah, creme de la cremer 
Andy would exclaim enthusiastically as he poured half a bottle 
of Worcestershire into his canned vegetable soup. 

We used to sprinkle curry powder over the canned corn, ladle 
Chile sauce on the meat and drown everything else in Worcester- 
shire, until we got as tired of the condiments as of the food they 
disguised. When Sam's mother wrote that she was coming through 
Panama and asked what she could bring us drugs, clothes, books? 
a cable was despatched posthaste reading: "Bernaise Sauce Bernaise 
Sauce Sauce Escoffier Sauce Escoffier Any Sauce." She undoubtedly 
thought the tropics had affected our sanity, but she arrived with 
eight welcome bottles, and while they lasted, the cuisine of the 
Sitio Conte seemed as good to us as Voisin or "21." 

Chapter 20 

HPOWARD the middle of February, with half the field season 
J[ over, Sam decided to take two weeks off to visit the adjoining 
province of Veraguas. Andy, having had enoogh of the simple life, 
had departed for home and the "complicated love affair/' Our 
technician, whom I shall call Teck, had been with us for about a 
month and could be left in charge of the work at the Sitio Conte, 
It was a good time for us to go. 

Teck had arrived from the States equipped to do about every- 
thing which could be done on a dig. He had a large and complicated 
series of instruments with which to survey the site. He had a camera 
and a special drawing board on which to make pictures. He had 
plaster to construct molds of anything that could not be removed 
from the ground and gum arabic and synthetic resin to help him 
take out the very delicate material. With his magnifying glass, his 
instruments and his little pots of paste, he looked like nothing so 
much as a Sherlock Holmes hot on the trail of prehistoric murder. 
Teck was terrifically efficient.but, unf ortunately, had the irritating 
characteristics which usually accompany this quality. He was slow 
and careful and deliberate, and nothing could hurry him. He was 
thorough. He was so thorough that he was exasperating. So much 
so that we would all wait hopefully for him to make a mistake, and 
on the day when lunch was held up some twenty minutes while he 


removed an piece of one of the 

and the bone was off the he'd pot 

It too near the edge) to powder, was 

elation. Secret, of course. 

Teek loved to talk and, once started, he jest could not be stopped. 
He had been married for some years and "the wife" was at last 
about to make him a father. Although "the wife" and I still remain 
strangers, I have never known anyone so intimately. Her appearance, 
her cote sayings, what she ate, what she wore, what she liked, were 
thrust at me until I got a mental stomach-ache. S|ie wrote him 
almost every day and each symptom of her approaching mother- 
hood was mine not for the asking. It got so I spent my time avoiding 

So when Sam suggested a side trip to Veraguas I was delighted. 
Veraguas y though close to Code, has its own particular culture. For 
some years the Museum at Harvard had been buying archaeological 
specimens from this district, but as no data had accompanied the 
material ? they were anxious for Sam to authenticate their collection 
by enlarging it and by putting in a few days 7 dig to get the information 
straight from the horse's (or Indian's) mouth. 

Our first step was to get in touch with a Spaniard named Don 
Juan, through whom the Museum had obtained most of its spec- 
imens. Don Juan was as unlike his namesake as could possibly be 
imagined. About five feet tail, he was thin and mangy, with a 
straggling mustache that hung down unevenly on one side. His 
suit was a faded blue, stained and spotted, and although the spots 
increased daily I never saw him wear anything else. No one knew 
how he had happened to come to Panama, but in the 'jo's, when 
the Pan-American Highway was cut through Veraguas, he chanced 
to be on the spot, and as the road diggers hit upon ancient remains 
Don Juan was right there to pay out good money for objects hot 
out of the ground, which he in turn disposed of at an immense 
profit. After a while he had virtually cornered the archaeological 
market, and the natives throughout the province brought him all 
their finds. He was obviously delighted at taking us, a couple of 


gringo prospects, in tow. "Easy pickings/" he probably said to 

The first week the three of us spent touring the countryside in 
a hired car, searching for already opened ancient graves in order 
to note the types of burial and looking at private collections of 
pottery in the hope of doing some buying for the Museum. Although 
Don Juan had originally claimed to know the site of several cem- 
eteries, when the time came he suddenly developed amnesia. This 
no doubt was because there was no profit in showing moldy bones, 
whereas, in lading us to collections, he could enjoy his -accustomed 
role of middleman. 

Thus we visited house after house and Don Juan's system rarely 
varied. We would enter and look at the pottery. Don Juan would 
look at our host "Oh, Don Carlos," or "Don Jose/' or "Don 
Alfonso," he would say, as the case might be, "would you mind show- 
ing me where I can wash my hands." (A painfully obvious subterfuge 
as soap and water were completely alien to his anatomy! ) When the 
two returned, Don Juan, his hands as dirty as before, would ask Sam 
if there was anything he was interested in buying. "This," Sam might 
say, indicating a piece of pottery, and Don Carlos or Don Jose or 
Don Alfonso would then bemoan the fact that Sam had selected his 
best piece (whatever it happened to be) and either ask an outrageous 
price for it or flatly refuse to sell at all. 

In the first case, Don Juan would use his persuasive powers to 
reduce the tariff, barely bothering to conceal a conspiratorial wink 
at his buddy, or, in case of a downright refusal, he would shake 
his head sadly and escort us to the car. "Fll have one more try," he'd 
suddenly announce, rushing back to the house. "Maybe I can make 
the owner see reason." Needless to say he always returned with the 
desired article or articles, and either way his own pockets bulged 
more each day. 

As Sam's great interest on the trip was to put in a few days of 
actual digging, Don Juan made arrangements for us to stay with 
a native Panamanian family on whose property were known to be 
countless untapped graves. The head of the family was named 


Jesiis, and his was on a hill In the interior, 

from any automobile road. and 

Don Joan started as on our way, to follow a little 

later with an extra who would transport our folding 
other luggage. 

I was grateful no one but Sam was around to see my horse- 
manship. The trail nothing more than a narrow gash through 
tropical jungle growth and traversed a series of perpendicular Pikes 
Peaks that would have pot a roller to shame. Bushes crowded 

in on each side, slapping our faces, but as the path was muddy and 
slippery with roots cropping up at unpredictable intervals, both 
hands were needed just to hang on ? making it impossible to remain 
nnscratched and still keep yoor seat. I alternately slid (going down- 
hill) onto the horse's neck y where I locked my arms around his 
head and hooked my legs back of the saddle, or sat (going uphill) 
on his tail and tried to grab his mane and ears with my hands. This 
last technique didn't appeal to him and he gently but irmly 
deposited me in a bush, out of which I climbed with only minor 
wounds and walked the rest of the way. Sam, who was apparently 
having no trouble, finally looked around and saw me painfully 
limping along. "Why be so considerate of your horse?" he asked. 
"He's used to this sort of going." **You, you equestrian," I retorted 

We arrived at our destination around six, Just as the sun was 
. setting. Jesiis greeted us with enthusiasm and proudly ushered us 
into his mansion a small hut, constructed of thatch and adobe, 
which consisted of living room, bedroom and kitchen, and a nar- 
row, roofless porch in front. As the bedroom was already occupied 
by Jesiis's wife, who had given birth to a baby the night before, his 
mother, who had functioned as midwife, and five or six additional 
children, it was indicated that our cots should be installed in the 
living room. 

This was a dark and windowless chamber, containing exactly two 
articles of furniture a log bed in one corner and a hammock in the 
center, strung from one end of the room to the other. The floor was 


of earth and convenient for the family, who used it for spitting 
purposes. Jesus spat constantly, either out of nervousness or just for 
pleasure, his various children considered it smart to follow his 
example and Mama, who continuously chewed at a large, dead 
cigar, apparently found it necessary to keep on expectorating stray 
pieces of tobacco. 

From under the eaves came a steady cooing which proved to be 
pigeons. I have always loathed pigeons and see no use for them 
(except roasted on toast, or possibly carriers in an emergency). And 
these, which apparently never slept but cooed right through the 
night, certainly didn't make me change my mind. 

The entire family were obviously animal lovers for, in addition 
to the collection of pigeons, they owned two horses, a cow, a pig, 
three turkeys, four hens and a rooster, six ducks, three parrots, and 
four dogs of questionable origin. Any or all of these (except the 
horses and the cow) were inclined to wander in and out of the 
house at will, affectionately encouraged by the children. 

It did not take a detailed examination of our prospective bed- 
chamber to make us announce that we were fresh-air fiends and 
loved nothing so much as sleeping out-of-doors. Jesus was shocked 
and disappointed, but he finally agreed to install our cots under 
a nearby tree. By this time Don Juan and the equipment had ar- 
rived, and Jesus wandered off, machete in hand, to cut some poles 
so that a tarpaulin could be set up over our beds in case it rained. 

He had hardly gone before I heard a yell of pain and, rushing 
to the top of a hill from where the sound had come, I found Jesus 
stretched on the ground holding on to his ankle, his face contorted 
with fear. "Snake bit/' he gasped. 

I first screamed the news to Sam and then, remembering rules 
A and B of Dr. Clark's manual, looked for the snake. I looked 
and looked but it was nowhere to be found, and I finally elicited 
from a hysterical Jesiis that he had killed it with his machete and 
thrown the carcass down a nearby ravine. This was discouraging, 
but from the description I gathered it to have been a fer-de-lance 


(Bothrops) and I we as well go on 

as antibothroplc was the we ha4 us. Whether 

or not the snake had had a In its was 

matter. Obviously the only way to was to climb 

the ravine after it, and somehow the didn't to me. 

In exactly two minutes Sam Dr. Clark's kit 

was a small tin box and contained a tourniquet., a knife, a 
small bottle of iodine, a narrow pump and two different-sized 
rubber nozzles, or suction cups, to be attached to the pomp. Ac- 
cording to Burroughs Wellcome, who fathered the kit, which 
nozzle you use depends on what part of the anatomy the patient 
has been bitten. If there is a large area around the bite, like what 
happens when yon sit on a snake, you can use the big nozzle. This 
is a cinch, as on a lat surface the suction causes the rubber to stay 
put and you can apply all your energies to pumping out the venom. 
Jesus, unfortunately, had not sat on his snake. His wound was on 
the inside of his left heel, against the ankle bone, so that it was 
necessary to use the small nozzle, and one person had to hold it 
down while the other pumped. First, however, we applied a tour- 
niquet, and the men carried poor Jesus to the house and deposited 
him in the living-room hammock. 

By this time all the neighbors had collected, as well as the chil- 
dren and some of the animals. Jesus*s mother had been in the kitchen 
preparing our supper, but when the excitement started she gave 
that up and got some candles, which various spectators held high 
so that we could see what we were doing. We wouldn't have had 
much time for food in any case as Sam and I worked continuously, 
one of us holding down the nozzle and the other pumping out the 
venom. Occasionally we allowed Don Juan to participate but we 
didn't really trust anyone but ourselves. I was Florence Nightingale 
and Sam took on some of the better qualities of Dr. Pasteur. He 
had suggested that I keep a detailed record of our treatment for 
the benefit of posterity and the scientific world. This I did on the 
margins of a Penguin detective story, as no other paper could be 


found. However, I managed to write everything down clearly and 
succinctly, as I had visions of our record landing in some famous 
medical library. 

We kept up the treatment for about six hours. This consisted of 
applying a tourniquet and loosening it at regular intervals, taking 
Jesiis's pulse and pumping like mad. We didn't use the serum, as 
Sam decided it wasn't necessary. This was lucky, for we had brought 
only one dose, and I was sure that if a snake had got Jesus that 
quickly one would be sure to get Sam or me before we left. 

Although it seemed fairly certain that Jesus would survive, he was 
in a good deal of pain as well as horribly frightened. In a fit of 
generosity and pity, therefore, I opened our suitcase and unpacked 
our only bottle of whisky, which I thought might improve his state 
of mind. 

'What are you doing?" asked Sam as I was about to put the bot- 
tle into Jesiis's eagerly outstretched hand. 

"Giving him a drink, of course," I answered. "He needs it" 

"STOP!" yelled Dr. Pasteur Lothrop, withering me with a glance. 
"Don't you know that spirits increase the circulation and thus 
spread the poison more quickly?" 

"No, I didn't," I said meekly. So I took a swallow of it instead. 
In fact, each time Jesus groaned we both felt so sorry for him that 
we had to take a drink to keep from getting discouraged. By mid- 
night Fd lost interest in playing Florence Nightingale, but Sam 
stuck to his post for several hours more, until he was sure he had 
pulled his patient through. 

There was no longer any question of our sleeping in the great 
snaky outdoors, but as Jesus and his entourage occupied the living 
room, we put up our cots along the narrow porch, the jutting eaves 
giving at least a slight protection. There wasn't much time to sleep, 
anyhow. At dawn, as I was dreaming happily that I was being 
decorated for outstanding services as a nurse, an agonized grunt 
woke me. I thought, of course, it was Jesiis in his death throes and 
I quickly sat up to find the pig nuzzling my blanket and making 
unintelligible and horrid noises. Chasing him off did no good as 


he affectionately kept coming backy so ! got up to see how our 
patient was doing. Outside of a badly foot, seemed to 

be in pretty good condition and obviously feeling a great deal better 
than I did. 

I was cheerful, though, for I was already looking forward to the 
distinctly inferior but snakeless hotel in which we would sleep that 
night. It never occurred to me that Sam would go on with the 
expedition after the harrowing experience of the night before. I 
was wrong. "Why, of course we're staying," said he. "After all, Jestis 
is alive and doing well. (Doctor and nurse beamed smugly at each 
other.) All arrangements have been made. Don't you -want to see 
the dig?" 

"Naturally," I answered. *Tm just scared to death, thaf s all." 

"Nothing will happen/" declared Sam with false heartiness. And 
added rather unnecessarily, "Just be careful not to step on a snake 
and don't go wandering about after dusk." 

Don Juan had hired ive men to do the digging but by 10:30 not 
one had appeared. It turned out later that three of them had been 
beaten tip with sticks at a dance the previous night, one had been 
bitten by a snake (sic!) and the fifth had decided he didn't feel like 
working. None of this worried Don Juan, as he was being paid by the 
day, but after Sam threatened to go home and turn off the meal 
ticket a new quintet miraculously showed up. 

The graves were some two hundred yards from the house and 
entirely different in type from those at the Sitio Conte. These were 
small and deep (about twelve feet down) and shaped something 
like a bottle, becoming slightly more rounded as they grew deeper. 
No more than one man could possibly fit into any one grave at a 
time, and after he had reached the bottom he filled the hole so 
completely that an onlooker could see nothing more than his rear 
end as he bent over to do his work. 

We had arranged to pay the workmen's wages and a lump sum 
to Jesus for the privilege of using his property, in exchange for which 
any articles dug up were to be ours. Nothing emerged, however, 
except a lot of perfectly plain pottery. Of course, for all we were able 


to see, the earth might have been teeming with gold and other 
metals 7 and the diggers, who were expert at obstructing the view, 
could easily have lined their pockets with loot. In which case we 
probably bought it back from .Don Juan, among other specimens 
he sold us later on. 

I didn't hang around the dig for long as there was nothing to 
look at but the backside of a workman. There wasn't much else to 
do, so I got a book and sat on a convenient rock to read it (first 
making sure that there was no snake between the rock and me)-. 
This wasn't exactly a comfortable seat but it wouldn't have been 
bad accept for the children, who evidently looked upon me as a 
strange combination of comic artist and lunatic and fascinatedly 
tagged along wherever I went in order to see what peculiar thing 
Fd do next They never said a word, although they occasionally let 
out funny little giggles, and when I spoke to them they looked 
scared and retreated a few steps, creeping back, however, as soon 
as I was silent. This was so disconcerting that I never got beyond 
page two of my book. Anyone who has ever tried to read in a per- 
fectly quiet atmosphere with six pairs of eyes steadily trained his 
way will know what I mean. 

For the four days of our stay the small fry never let me out of 
their sight. At first I tried to charm them. "What's your name, 
little girl?" I started with. 'Tee hee," giggled Little Girl and 
retreated. "Would you like to see my book?" I continued idiotically, 
in a feeble attempt to break down the conversational deadlock. "TEE 
HEE," came back in unison from the group. "What's wrong with 
me?" I asked desperately. This elicited an absolute barrage of giggles, 
as well as nudges and fingers pointing my way. "Why don't you go 
home and leave me alone," I finally begged. "Go. GO." But they 
hung on even more closely. It got so that if I wanted to wash or 
perform other private functions I had to wait until they were 
stuffing down their food (thereby missing most of mine) or until 
it was dark and the Snake Problem reared its ugly head. 

The nights were no less nerve wracking than the days. Fve always 
been under the impression that animals slept when it was dark. 


This rale evidently did not apply to Jesiis' brood. Or it was 

the climate. At any rate, the cow, the goat, the three and 

two of the dogs were on the night and wandered restlessly 

about, making horrid peculiar to their kind. At dawn they 

subsided and the day took over. The ringleaders here were the 
pig, the ducks, hens and turkeys, the remaining two dogs; and 
each morning they did some sort of native song and dance around 
our beds. The pigeons were on twenty-four hour doty. 

I must admit the horses behaved normally. I've always loved 
horses. They know, all right, that I feel about as secure on their 
backs as if I were trying to walk a tightrope, and that unless I hold 
on to the pummel of the saddle we are apt to part company, but 
they're usually patient and try hard not to give me an inferiority 
complex. In this case, though, it wouldn't have mattered, as I was 
too numb and miserable to care about the figure I would un- 
doubtedly cut on the way out. By the time we were set to leave I 
was suffering from indigestion, a bad headache, violent insomnia 
(enforced) and was close to being a mental case. 

Our hosts seemed oblivious of my condition, and the old lady 
and Jesus (hobbling around with a cane) and the children all saw 
us off, grinning genially. I gave them a hollow smile and fell semi- 
conscious on to my steed's stalwart back. When I came to, we were 
back in 'what I had once foolishly and ungratefully considered a 
third-rate hotel. 

It was some time before we were in Panama City again and able 
to see Dr. Clark. I could hardly wait to tell him of our heroic role 
in saving a man's life and to give him the information we had so 
painstakingly culled in the process. Although Dr. Clark had spent 
the better part of his life studying snakes, I knew he had never 
happened to be on the spot at the very moment that a fer-de-lance 
had done its deadly work, and our firsthand report was bound to 
interest him. 

I had carried my Penguin book with its precious notations wher- 
ever I went, not trusting it for a moment to alien hands. I carried it 
to Dr. Clark's laboratory, too, and thrust it at him without a word, 


while Sam and I sat back and watched his face as he examined it. I 
was reminded of the time I had given the manuscript of a supposedly 
humorous article Fd written to a friend to read, while I'd settled 
in a comfortable chair and pretended to be engrossed in a book. 
Naturally I hadn't read a line but had slyly watched my friend's face 
while I occasionally turned the pages I wasn't looking at. Each 
time he chuckled or even smiled Fd glowed inside with secret 

Dr. Clark's face, however, was expressionless until he had slowly 
and carefully inished and kid down our contribution to science. He 
then looked up and, genuine astonishment in his voice, said, "And 
you mean to tell me this poor man survived after the treatment you 
gave him?" 

What we had done for Jesus, it seems, had been more or less cor- 
rect. The trouble was that we had done it much too hard and much 
too long. Using a tourniquet over such a lengthy period, Clark ex- 
plained, might have given him gangrene by interfering with his cir- 
culation, and our six-hour pumping job was five hours more than 
necessary and could have crippled him for life. 

Sam and I slunk back to our hotel without speaking a word and 
I took the Penguin book and quietly deposited it in the wastepaper 
basket. It was weeks before I recovered from this blow and I only 
consoled myself by deciding that it was Dr. Clark's fault for putting 
out a snake manual telling you what to do but not when to stop do- 
ing it. 

Chapter 21 

, said Sam, "will be known as Grave Member 26!" I was 
1 shocked It was as if you tried to give a true picture of the Colos- 
sus of Rhodes by describing it as a statue 105 feet high. Or the 
Pyramids of Egypt as a group of geometrical buildings. All correct 
as far as it went. Grave No. 26 had followed the discovery of Grave 
No. 25 and would precede that of Grave No. 27. But it might better 
have been called "The Grave of Graves" or "Locus Lothrop" or 
"Harvard's Happy Hunting Ground/" 

Grave No. 26 was the first grave to come to light after our re- 
turn to camp from Veraguas. One grave! One grave measuring 
twelve feet by ten. And what came out of that one grave could 
have stocked a good-sized store. It took more than two weeks, all 
of us working like mad, before Grave No. 26 was fully excavated 
and its contents removed. After which Sam, Teck and I collapsed 
in a weary heap with just enough energy left to count up the score. 

There were mirror backs of stone, stone axes and arrow points, 
metal, agate and bone pendants, agate and bone beads, quartz 
crystals, pierced sharks' teeth amd dog teeth for necklaces, a carved 
whale's tooth, the carved rib of a sea cow, incense burners and 
sting ray spines, these last for use as spear points. There were nearly 
two hundred and fifty pieces of pottery some painted in lovely 
colors and in perfect condition, some badly broken and incomplete. 



Almost all, however, had new when buried, showing 

that they had teen specially for use in the next world. 

The gold alone Included three of twenty- 

nine disks or plaques, quantities of ear rods, round cuffs for 
and legs, inger rings, boar tusks set in gold, jaguar teeth, carved 
whale's teeth encrusted with gold, chisels, pendants one in the 
shape of twin crocodiles, another a doubleheaded bat and 7 finally, 
two large emeralds in gold settings. 

The excitement around camp was terriSc. We hardly slept nights, 
waiting to see what the next day would bring forth. Breakfast and 
lunch were necessary evils which took us away from the other world 
in which we were living. We each had our own section to work in, 
and we each kept crying "took" as more things came to light, and 
nobody paid any attention as they were much too busy with their 
own discoveries. Except the workmen, who left what they were 
doing (they'd been banished to another trench) and ran over every 
few minutes to see what was new. 

Sam kept murmuring **but this is different I've never seen any- 
thing like this before." Teck indulged in a running conversation with 
himself about the pieces of carved bone, each of which put him in 
a state of rapture, As for me, for once I couldn't talk. I just gaped 
with delight. 

Almost right from the beginning it looked as if we were in for 
a big haul. Although the grave itself was comparatively small, we 
found, surrounded by their treasures, what had once been twenty- 
two bodies, crammed so close together that it was often impossible 
to tell whose bones belonged to whom. There was no question, 
though, as to which skeleton represented the head man. What was 
left of him for convenience 111 call him Caesar reposed on a 
large stone slab set in the center of the grave. His body had been 
placed sitting up, whereas his cohorts had been laid out in rows 
about him. His belongings were not only the cream of this grave 
but were much more elaborate than anything found in any other 

Some of the riches had probably been looted from other burials, 


for there was evidence that in originally digging the shaft of Grave 
No, 26 an earlier burial had been cut through and almost entirely 
destroyed, while, underneath, another one had been mangled and 
robbed of some of its spoils. Even so, Grave No. 26 must have been 
extraordinarily rich to start with and Caesar an extremely important 

On the earth which covered his body were strange little cabalistic 
signs which looked just as if some rodent had been buried by mistake 
and had scrabbled around trying to get out for a breath of fresh 
air. When I said this, Sam and Teck looked at me in such a way 
that I wished Fd kept quiet, and after bringing out a magnifying 
glass and other technical instruments, they pronounced the imprints 
to be designs of what had once been a textile which had disintegrated 
due to dampness. And heaped on top of what Fin still not sure 
weren't mouse tracks but which I suppose Fll have to accept as 
what-had-once-been-a-textile, were Caesar's treasures. 

Here we found all twenty-nine plaques, the three gold-bead neck- 
laces, the gold leg and arm cuffs, six pairs of ear rods, four gold finger 
rings and the larger of the two emeralds. And, interspersed with 
them, smaller gold ornaments, ornaments of stone and bone, and 
a great pile of weapons and pots and pans. Caesar had obviously 
been equipped to face almost anything anywhere. 

As Fve noted before, one of the first rules of archaeology is that, 
in excavating, the entire grave is neatened up and everything in it 
exposed before so much as a splinter is taken out of the ground. 
However when we struck Caesar's gold all rules were off. The orna- 
ments were so obviously valuable that it seemed like tempting fate 
(and the Panamanians) to leave them exposed, and Sam, Teck and 
I worked by lamplight until late hours, taking notes, drawing pic- 
tures and, finally, pulling out our treasure. 

And what treasure it was! The large plaques were slightly bigger 
than the ordinary dessert plate and were of beaten gold with designs 
in relief, always portraying a crocodile in some form or other. They 
were so handsome that any self-respecting crocodile should have 
been flattered at the way he'd been glorified. 


The twenty-five smaller gold were of a variety of 

and, although undecorated, were extremely effective. Like the big 
plaques, they had tiny along their edges, through which, Sam 

deduced, they had been sewn to their owner's shirt or shirts. Of the 
shirts themselves, of coarse, there was BO longer any trace. 

The ear rods, which were made to be Inserted through holes In 
the ears, were of different types and varied in length from two to 
seven inches. Some were of hollow and had been filled with 
gum to strengthen them. Others were of stone tipped with gold, 
and one pair had evidently been made of wood which had rotted 
away, leaving nothing but the gold ends. 

"What could old Caesar have wanted with five sets of ear rods?" 
I asked Sam. "Don't tell me he wore them all at once. y? I had a 
picture of him trying In vain to hold his head erect. The gold-tipped 
stone pair alone, which was a good six inches long and seemed to 
weigh a ton when I picked It up, must liarve stretched the lobes of 
his ears right down to his heels. 

"He may have liked to change them off/" said Sam. "And then 
there was always the chance he might mislay some of them up 
there/' he went on, pointing vaguely toward the sky. He wasn't 
trying to be funny, either. It just goes to show what archaeology 
sometimes does to people. 

The gold ornaments, as well as the stone and bone and pottery, 
had been spread over and around Caesar without any attempt at 
order. And scattered all through the earth as if they'd been carelessly 
spilled out of a hat, were hundreds of Immense gold beads which, 
when matched, made up three necklaces. The most spectacular one 
consisted of a hundred and twenty hollow ping-pong balls this 
was literally the size and when strung was so long that it could 
be looped double to the waist. 

When Eulogio saw these he said, rather sourly, "When I was a 
child we used to play marbles with those." 

"You what?" asked Sam. 

"We used to play marbles/' he repeated. "Tou know, marbles. 
The otter-boys and I would fill them with clay to make them heavy 


and then we'd roll them. This way/ 7 He threw back his arm as if 
he were in a bowling alley and demonstrated. 

"But where did yon find them?" asked Sam. 

"There were hundreds and hundreds of them/' Eulogio said. 
"When I was about eight, the river changed its course and cut 
new banks, and these things turned up all around. We thought they 
were some form of tin." 

"Whatever happened to them?" I asked, always the practical 

"Oh, eventually we lost them all." He sighed reminiscently. "It 
was a good game, though." 

In my mind's eye I could see the gold beads rolling over the 
ground, sliding down the bank into the river, burying themselves 
in the muddy bottom. In fact I was so fascinated by the picture of 
a group of little black boys shooting marbles with prehistoric ping- 
pong balls that I paid but little attention to the work I was doing. 

I must admit I didn't have the slightest idea what it was; all I 
saw was a dull and dirty green hunk. "What's this funny stone?" I 
asked Sam. He took a look and said, "Probably a piece of jade," 
which seemed pretty thrilling at the time, and he picked it up and 
dipped it into a bucket of water which was conveniently sitting 
nearby. Just then the midday sun happened to hit it full force and 
green lights shot out and nearly blinded us. 

I yelled like any amateur, while Sam, giving me a warning look, 
quickly slipped the stone out of sight and smiled vaguely at the 
workmen who had rushed over to see what the excitement was 
about. They may have thought I'd seen a snake. They may even have 
suspected the truth. At any rate, no explanations were ever given. 

That afternoon, after everyone had gone home, we took out our 
prize and just looked at it. It was decided to dirty it up again, as 
we were afraid what might happen if word got around that we 
had found an emerald. With a little plastic, earth and water, Sam 
performed such a workmanlike job that our jewel looked like noth- 
ing so much as a piece of rubble, and then he began to worry that 


someone might ind it and throw it as a of rock. 

In fact it was obvious that whatever we did the was going to 

be a headache until we got it out of the country. I was sorry I hadn't 
just grabbed it in the first place and kept quiet. 

My reasons for this were not entirely unselfish. The emerald was 
truly spectacular. It not only looked gigantic to us, it was gigantic 
actually weighing 189 carats and measuring ae inch by an inch 
and a half. It was something you might conceivably imagine in 
Tiffany's window but certainly not in the wilds of Panama. 

The stone was magnificent in spite of being in anything but per- 
fect condition. Interior light, which nowadays you get by cutting 
facets on the outside surface, had been produced by drilling eight 
small holes into it. Someone had tried, too, to cut a hole right 
through the center, probably to enable it to be worn on a chain, 
but this had apparently proved too difficult and the idea had been 
abandoned halfway through. As a result, the stone was chipped and 
slightly cracked, but it was still green and sparkling and beautiful. 

The emerald must have had quite a history, too. According to 
Sam, Panama produces no emeralds and this one was therefore a 
trade piece. "From Ecuador," he finally pronounced, after squinting 
at it carefully. "This is the type drilling they used down there. Yes, 
it all fits in/' he went on, as if he were Hercule Poirot or some other 
famous detective. "The ancient Panamanians used to send ships as 
far south as the coast of the Inca Empire. They probably made the 
trade down there/" 

I decided to give his little gray cells a bit more exercise. * r What 
did they trade it for, Hercule I mean Sam?" 

"God knows/' he disappointed me by saying. "Of course a lot 
of sea shells native to Panama and Central America have been 
found both in Ecuador and in Peru. . . ." 

"A fine detective you are/' I broke in. "You're not trying to tell 
me the Ecuadoreans would let the Panamanians palm off some old 
shells for a magnificent emerald?" 

"You've got a false sense of values/' said Sam witheringly. 'There 
are other things in the world as important as emeralds." But I knew 


he didn't mean it. He was just as excited about our mammoth jewel 
as I was. 

Near the emerald was buried its setting. Or, rather, a rough cast- 
ing for the setting. This was a massive hunk of gold weighing the 
equivalent of five old-time twenty dollar gold pieces and designed 
to portray a mythological monster. Although it hadn't been finished 
and the socket was not worked smooth, it had obviously been created 
for the emerald to fit into it and, together, to make a pendant. 
Though the emerald had come from far away the setting, because 
of its similarity in style to the rest of the gold in Grave No. 26, must 
have been the result of home talent. 

Sam refused to make any definite statement as to why the pendant 
had been deposited in the earth unfinished. "However/' said he, "it 
looks and don't quote me please as if the pendant had been 
specially made for this burial and the work took so long that the 
burial couldn't wait. So they put it in as was/' 

This didn't satisfy me. "I should think it would have been an in- 
sult to Caesar to bury something with him that wasn't even fin- 

"Not at all," said Sam. "The Indians, naturally, would expect it 
to be finished in the other world. They may even have buried the 
artisan who did the preliminary work along with it so that he could 
complete the job later on. An important leader, naturally, would 
rate that kind of service." 

I saw nothing natural in any of this, but people who work like 
mad to create beautiful things and then put them in the ground 
and jump on them are apt to do almost anything. Fortunately the 
emerald was one trophy they hadn't been able to hurt 

The dig at the Sitio Conte turned out to be one of the most 
spectacular digs ever undertaken in the New World. From the point 
of view of what might be described either as loot or as archaeological 
artifacts, depending on who was doing the describing, it was enough 
to make the most blase individual's eyes pop. But what was even 
more important was that, in Code, an unknown civilization had 


come to life. It wasn't Aztec or Maya or !nca ? as Invariably 

assume those being the only Latin American to get any 

publicity It was absolutely new. 

Sam was as surprised at this discover}- as Sir Isaac Newton must 
have been when the apple hit him. "But what Is so strange about 
that?" I asked him. "It's exciting, yes, but exciting things do some- 
times happen." 

"I didn't expect anything like this In Panama/" said Sam. "Pan- 
ama is the gateway to South America and, as such, should show 
evidences of the great migrations to that continent which must have 
taken place thousands of years ago/' 

"And doesn't it?" 

"Not a sign/' mourned Sam. "Archaeologists have been unable 
to discover any remains or temporal} 7 camp sites dating back to 
those days. Instead we find a settled and complex community show- 
Ing permanent occupation for some centuries before the Conquest/ 7 

"But aren't you pleased to have found something new and won- 
derful? Columbus didn't discover what he expected to, either, but 
nobody complained/' 

Sam acknowledged my comparison with a deep bow. "Of course 
I'm pleased/' he admitted. "It's just that this upsets all previous 
theories. Panama Is a place you would expect people to have passed 
through, not settled In." 

"Why?" I asked, probably for the hundred thousandth time since 
I married an archaeologist. 

"The culture of South America Is as highly developed as any 
known In the New World," Sam explained patiently, "and the peo- 
ple must have arrived there from somewhere. And how else except 
through Panama?" 

"Why not by boat?" I cried triumphantly. 

But Sam demolished that theory In no time at all "And how did 
the prehistoric horses and animals of the camel family, such as 
llamas and alpacas, get south? Do you by any chance think the In- 
dians could have squeezed a horse into one of their tiny boats?" 

"You win/' I admitted. "But where does that leave us?" 


"With a permanent population that shouldn't have existed and 
no sign of the transitory one that did exist/ 7 

"What a science!" I said admiringly. "You find some ancient pots 
and pans and make a liar out of history." 

Chapter 22 

THERE comes a time toward the end of every field season, no 
matter how interesting it has been or how much you've enjoyed 
it, when, more than anything in the world, you want to go home. 
You become stale, your co-workers seem deliberately to be trying 
to annoy you and the dusty flavor of ancient remains sticks in 
your throat. You have looked upon artistic antiques and scientific 
discoveries until your eye is jaundiced and you would be more than 
willing to trade In any pre-Columbian jug, no matter how beautiful, 
for a twentieth-century aluminum frying pan. And throw in a few 
bones for good measure. 

My low point came after we had finished with Grave No, 26. We 
had reached the peak of our work anything else would be an anti- 
climax and my relations with Teck had gone downhill until I 
felt the two of us could not be contained much longer in the same 

In all fairness I must state that to my knowledge there has never 
been an archaeological expedition which did not end up with the 
participants wishing to slit each other's throats. Two friends of 
ours, well-known archaeologists, headed a dig some years ago in 
the wilds of Central America, aM^vhich time one of them wrote a 
letter to Sam, announcing in all seriousness that his companion 
was trying to murder him. If the attempt proved successful, he 



stated, he wished the letter to be on so the 

not escape punishment. Our frieed the un- 

scathed, bet to this day he his were and he sees 

nothing humorous in the situation. 

Now that an interval of years has I look on Teck 

more kindly and even appreciate his many qualities. Now 1 

realize that I was obviously a victim of "expedition nerves'* a dis- 
ease which anyone who has been cooped up in a camp for 
more than a month inevitably acquires. The disease breaks out for 
any reason, big or small; or for no reason at all. If your campmate 
is disagreeable, naturally you dislike him. If he is agreeable, you 
dislike him even more. If he is inefficient in his work, you resent it 
If he is efficient, yon resent it twice as much. The way he eats his 
food, blows his nose, the things he says, the things he doesn ? t say 
all, all combine to foment undying hatred (which fortunately is 
not apt to last after you once get home). 

As a seasoned trooper Sam recognized these symptoms and ap- 
plied the only possible remedy. He kept both Teck and me so busy 
and consequently so weary that we had no energy left to scrap. 

"I'd like a detailed survey of that grave/' he'd say to Teck. 'And 
after you're finished, do check the measurements of that last trench. 
I want to be sure we have them right/' 

And to me: "Please clear that smashed skeleton in Grave 27." 
(A fiendish job!) "And Yd appreciate your bringing all the bags 
with pottery in them" (there were hundreds! ) "over to the main 
house so I can sort them for packing. And when you're finished 
with that . . ." 

There was no doubt that Sam knew what he was doing. By the 
time he was through with Teck and me we had barely enough 
strength left to speak. Any attempted slap, if either of us had been 
so inclined, would have turned out to be more of a love pat. 

Sam kept our minds occupied, too. We would give a party for 
our workmen, he decided, before we left. It was to be a dance, and 
as the Museum was footing the expenses we called it the Harvard 
University Ball The workmen were to supply (for proper compen- 


sation) both the orchestra and the liquor the former to consist 
of Panamanian drums, which certain of the natives knew how to 
play, and the latter of chicha, or homemade beer, with which they 
were all familiar. 

Panamanians love parties, and the natives frequently give dances 
at which they sell food and drink and to which people come from 
near and far. News of these is generally passed about by word of 
mouth some days ahead so that those living in distant places can 
make their preparations. The formal announcement is marked by 
the rolling of the drums as festivities begin and gives any nearby 
friends who might have missed the glad tidings a chance to join in. 
There is no question of arriving too late, for a party is apt to go on 
all night, and when the liquor holds out, continues for days. 

Because we wished to restrict our ball pretty much to the work- 
men and their families and friends, and to avoid having the rough- 
necks who often came on from distant towns, we announced the 
party for a certain date but actually planned to give it two days be- 
fore that time. At noon of the day itself the workmen were informed 
of the change, and they were allowed to go home early to wash up 
and put on their best clothes. Some days before, we had ordered 
eighty gallons of chicha to be made by various members of the 
Ramos family, and as Eulogio had been let in on the secret of the 
changed date, we could count on its being ready. 

Chicha is the local maize beer. It is made by grinding corn and 
then boiling it, after which the mixture is set aside to ferment. On 
the second day it is fit to drink and on the fifth it reaches full ma- 
turity. The women of the family do the actual work, but the young 
girls help by chewing extra kernels of corn and spitting them into 
the brew. This far from sanitary process hastens fermentation, but 
it seems to be done even when there's no particular hurry, so the 
natives must think it adds a special fillip to the taste. 

Actually, chicha has a refreshing and pungent flavor and a not 
inconsiderable effect. The workmen occasionally brought us a jar 
as a present and would stay for a short time after work to drink it 
with us. The liquid was milky white in color and was scooped out 


with a gourd that had been brought along for the occasion, from 
which each drank in turn. We were considerately allowed to drink 
out of oor own glasses, and if you could only forget how the chicha 
had been made y it tasted pretty good. It was impossible to refuse 
to join in, and after I repeated to myself often enough that alcohol 
kills all germs I got so I could it down without being conspicu- 

The night of the ball we ate early, for activities had been called 
for seven. Long before that, however, the chicha had been carried 
in in big clay jars and deposited in a cool spot Before seven, too, 
the drummers arrived six of them and began to tune op. 

The Panamanian dram is a cylinder of hard wood about two 
feet high, the head of which has been covered by deerskin pulled 
tight and held down by rawhide cords. Through these,, wooden 
wedges are jammed to tighten it even more. The instrument is 
placed on the ground and held between the knees and the feet, 
and the actual drumming is done with the fingers. The result is 
a strange and somewhat monotonous rhythm, the note of which 
can be altered by lifting the base of the drum off the ground with 
the toes. If you wear shoes, you might as well give up before you 

Earlier in the winter Jose Casada had tried to give me a lesson. 
He'd brought his drum over one night after supper, and he and I 
sat in front of the main house and practiced while Andy, Sam and 
Teck stayed inside and groaned. I took the dram and clutched it 
between my knees and hit the top of it with my fingers as Fd been 
told to do. The noise that emerged was a cross between a honk and 
a caw. 

Jose Casada took it back and touched it carelessly with the flat of 
his hands, producing a rhythm which would have made a jitterbug 
weep with envy. "Maybe you'd better take off your shoes/* he sug- 

I had visions of chiggers (a cute little insect which burrows under 
your toenails and lays eggs there), athlete's foot and various other 
diseases, but I had to show Jose Casada I was a good sport so I 


removed my sneakers, took over the drum and touched the top 
exactly the way Fd seen him do it. What came out was a cross be- 
tween a honk and a caw. 

"Maybe Fd better get my shotgun/' yelled Andy, "and have a try 
at that bird/' 

"All right/' I said. "I give up/' This was greeted by sighs of relief 
from within and we all sat around and celebrated my failure. I 
tried again on several other occasions, but as I never seemed to 
graduate beyond animal noises I finally had to admit defeat What 
was so maddening was that it looked so easy. 

I thought of this as I listened to the drummers we'd engaged 
getting ready. Even their tuning up sounded like Beethoven's Fifth 
compared to what I'd been able to achieve, and by the time they 
really got going, they were wonderful. By 7:30 the party was in full 
swing. The Conte family and our white neighbors from across the 
river had not yet arrived, but most of the other guests, who varied 
in color from yellow to dark brown, were there in force. One old 
crone named Dona Ines rode in on horseback wearing nothing but 
an old-fashioned corset laced up the back, and carrying her dress over 
her arm. I thought surely she'd been the victim of an attack but it 
seemed she just wanted to keep her best costume clean. She tethered 
her horse, slipped on the dress and joined in the fun. 

Our gasoline lamps had been suspended from the trees and lit 
up a fairly level square of ground on which the dancers disported 
themselves, the drummers lining one side and the spectators the 
other three. The women who weren't dancing formed a chorus and 
chanted to the accompaniment of the drums. When they once 
got on to a tune they hung on to it for an hour or more, and the 
spectators sat around and clapped their hands in rhythm. Whenever 
any of them got dry, which was not infrequently, they dropped out 
and repaired to the chicha jars. 

The dancing itself was amusing to watch. Only one kind of dance 
is performed. The man selects his partner and the two dance op- 
posite and then around each other, the girl with a handkerchief 
which she flips gaily in rhythm with the music. The two never touch. 


When a couple Is are the ioor, so 

to speak, and the rest and yell 

After a man gets tired of his partner, he her, off by 

himself, and picks another. else in and 

takes his place. 

We had rum and a little whisk} 7 for our special guests, and the 
drummers, who really worked hard, were given some rum, too, with 
which to lace their chicha. As the evening wore on the music be- 
came somewhat frenzied and the dancing freer. Jose Casada the 
first apparently with sufficient courage asked me to dance aed 
I grabbed Sam's handkerchief and performed various pseudo-pdka 
steps around him while the audience cheered. After that, others of 
the Ramos family stepped in, and though I didn't have the slightest 
idea what I was doing, I went right ahead and did it anyhow. 

We had carefully ordered what we thought would be the right 
amount of chicha to last more or less until midnight, and in order 
not to be thought stingy, had arranged for an extra supply to be taken 
to a house about a mile away. Our calculations had been fairly ac- 
curate, for by 12:30 the eighty gallons had been consumed, and by 
one o'clock the party was being continued elsewhere and we were 
able to fall wearily into bed. 

Unfortunately we y d failed to reckon on the affection in which 
our friends held us, for at sunrise back they came, staggering under 
the weight of a fresh supply of chicha. Where they had obtained it 
was a mystery. By that time the alcohol had taken pretty general 
effect and there was no way of heading off the unwelcome guests. 
We huddled in bed, therefore, I with a pillow over my head to 
drown out the sounds which, as time wore on, became more and 
more bloodcurdling. Actually no one tried to break in. I discovered 
later that our workmen had formed a special guard to see that we 
were treated with respect and even in their cups had seen to it that 
no rash person approached too close to the houses. I only wish I'd 
known about this at the time. 

The party was still going on when we got up that morning, but 
at eleven o'clock the last feeble guy fell to the ground. Our camp 


looked like a battlefield. Bodies were stretched out all over the site. 
Some had been lucky enough to collapse under the trees, but others 
were exposed to the full rays of the sun. From time to time one of 
the women would wander in and try to stir up some life in her man, 
but in general the casualties were dead to the world and were left 

Needless to say there was no work done that day. We stayed in 
our houses, only emerging to take a photographic record of the 
results of the Harvard University Ball. If after-effects mean any- 
thing, it had definitely been a successful party. 

The time was drawing near for us to leave, as the rainy season 
in Panama begins in April and once it takes hold, it is impossible 
to work. The men, therefore, were told to fill in empty trenches 
with the piled-up earth that had accumulated, and Sam, Teck and 
I spent our days packing up archaeological specimens. To me the 
packing was painful work. Not for a moment were delicate and 
valuable articles such as gold or bone put in my inexperienced hands. 
Nor was I allowed much truck with the unbroken or more important 

My job was almost entirely concerned with the thousands of 
fragments or, in archaeological parlance, sherds, which made up the 
collection. The pieces of each broken pot, as well as could be 
determined, had been kept together and put in a paper bag at the 
time of removal from the ground, with a catalogue number scrawled 
across the bag to identify it. It was up to me, then, to take, bag by 
bag, these smashed and uninteresting-looking bits of clay and wrap 
them in newspaper in such a way that they would take up as little 
room as possible and would not break further. 

To do this you nest the pieces one inside the other, always re- 
membering to stuff them with plenty of paper and starting with the 
small ones and working up to the large. Of course what happens is 
that after what was once a pot is neatly wrapped and carefully 
deposited in the bottom of a packing case, you find one small piece 
which has dropped out and you are in endless trouble. Or, when 


everything to be going well, one of the of a 

the newspaper and you to all again. After 

about an hour you're sure your Is broken. And that your eyes 
will never focus properly. My wasn't in the work anyway, 

and 1 was constantly the to 

extra little piece or break off protruding edge. 

The monotony of this was somewhat relieved by Cholo Conte, 
who rode over almost every day; for when he arrived I was let off 
work to take on hostess duties. Cholo's ostensible purpose in coming 
was to see If he could be of any assistance, but we all knew (and he 
knew we knew) that his father had sent him to make sure we were 
not making off with something to which we weren't entitled. 

According to the contract between Harvard University and the 
Conte family, the latter were paid outright for the use of their 
property and were promised duplicates of everything found 
whether metal, bone, stone or pottery. Any piece that was unique 
was to go to Harvard. In addition, the Conte family were to receive 
the bullion value of all the gold objects that were being sent to the 
States, and these were set aside to be weighed In Panama City. 

The division of the spoils had taken place on one momentous 
day before the packing started. Everything (except the broken pot- 
tery) had been spread out on benches or set on the ground. The 
pottery fragments, It was unanimously agreed, were to be repaired 
in the States and duplicates later returned to Panama. The Contes 
had to trust us here, for many of the pots were so badly broken that 
it was impossible to tell what was what. 

As a matter of fact, Cholo Conte was a thoroughly nice person 
and inclined to be easygoing. It was old man Miguel who was the 
sharp one, and as he was unable to travel, he had sent over brother 
Hector on "Division Day" to make sure that Cholo wasn't getting 
cheated. Hector ran around from bench to bench sniffing like a 
bird dog, and I even caught him peering under our beds to see if 
we might have tried to hold out anything. The conversation went 
something like this: 

HECTOR: "What a perfectly beautiful pair of gold plaques!" 


SAM (politely) : "They are beautiful, Don Hector, but I am sure 
if you will examine them carefully you will see that they are not a 
pair. The design on each is entirely different" 

HECTOR: "Ah, yes, you are right, Don Samuel But I am sure I 
have seen the replica of this one. It must be on one of the other 

ELEANOR (to herself) : "Try and find it, Hector. Just try and find 

Hector, obviously having been primed by his brother, disputed 
everything. It was all done politely, but his minute examination and 
discussion of each piece dragged on so long that the two Contes not 
only stayed for lunch but for a time I thought we would have to give 
them supper. Cholo was clearly embarrassed by Uncle Hector and 
made up for it by presenting me with three pots that were duplicates 
and therefore belonged to his side. This made me unpopular all 
around, for Hector glared in annoyance and Sam later tried to 
persuade me that the Museum was entitled to my booty. Fve still 
got it, however. 

We were about ready to go home. The Conte family had removed 
their share of the spoils and the packing of the Museum's lot was 
to be finished up by Teak, who was staying an extra two weeks for 
that purpose. With the exception of Sam's digging implements and 
a few personal possessions, we had disposed of everything else. 

"The custom at the end of a dig," Sam had explained, "is to give 
each workman his pick and shovel, and I think Pat should be allowed 
to choose his favorite pot and pan. The rest of the camp equipment 
we can auction off/' 

"Why auction?" I'd asked. 

"There isn't any point in taking all these things back with us/' 
Sam had said, "and although I would like to give them away, I feel 
the Museum should get back something on their investment." 

The auction at first was a complete failure. All the workmen, as 
well as their families, attended it with interest, but they merely 


and gaped, "Won't anyone give me a bid?'' 
Sam, pointing to the dining-room table. 

"Nineteen cents," Eulogio finally ventured, nor did anyone com- 
pete with him. Teofilo went as as seven cents for the 
mirrors, and the remaining pots and brought In bids 
ranging from three cents to a dime. 

'What about the cots and mattresses?" Sam fairly pleaded, 
skipping In desperation to the prize articles. "Practically new and 
in wonderful condition." 

There was no response. Eulogio finally slipped over and whispered 
In his ear: "We wouldn't know what to do with them. We sleep In 

"Oh, Lord/' exclaimed Sam. *Td forgotten. I suppose we might 
as well give everything away. At this rate the most we can possibly 
make for the Museum Is a couple of dollars/' 

The moment It was announced that the auction was free it be- 
came madly popular. Ever} 7 bucket, every broom ? every fork was bid 
for, and now the cots and mattresses went like hot cakes, although 
just what they were to be used for was not explained. Our guests 
were orderly and polite, discussing among themselves who was to 
get what, but they looked determined, and It was obvious that when 
they came to claim their bids after our departure there would be no 
mistakes. The auction was the strangest Pve ever attended. 

It was while Eulogio and Teoilo were In our house deciding who 
was entitled to the water pitcher that Teofilo noticed a pink slip 
hanging over a chair. "I think my wife would love to have that," 
he said shyly. 

"All right" I couldn't help but laugh. 'Take it for her/* 

With that there was a scramble. "Please" begged ConcepcI6n, 
"may I have this?" as she picked up my tooth powder. "I'd like to 
have these pants," said Victor. "I could use this belt/' said Jos6 
Casada. "How about this, how about that/' came from the others. 

Sam and I quickly put aside what we absolutely needed and 
distributed the rest All was well until Sam held up a new shirt 


which he had bought in New York and which had turned out to 
be two sizes too small for him. This caused a near riot. It seemed that 
every man at the Sitio Conte insisted on being dressed by Brooks 

"We'll have a raffle/' suggested Sam. And breaking off all but 
one of a number of matches, he gave them to me to hold out. Jose 
Casada looked so stricken at the prospect of losing the prize that I 
steered the unbroken match his way, and his ecstatic toothless grin 
at the result was worth any possible pangs of conscience. 

When everyone had gone I took inventory and found I was left 
with the blouse, duck pants, socks and sneakers which I planned 
to wear on the trip out, one extra set of underwear, a brash and 
comb, a toothbrush, a bottle of Alka Seltzer, a little face powder and 
one lipstick. Fortunately Sam and I had a few clothes stored in 
Panama City, for we were both cleaned out. 

The actual day of departure finally arrived. And curiously enough, 
although I had been thinking of nothing else for weeks, suddenly 
I was terribly loath to leave. Our one-room shack looked cosy and 
comfortable, and I was sure I'd never again have such good friends 
as Jose Casada, Teofilo and Bernabel. I even felt slightly sad at say- 
ing good-by to Teck. 

We were seen off in style. Concepcion was dressed up in my 
sweater (although it was a sizzling day) , her nose covered with tooth 
powder and her lips smeared scarlet with my lipstick. Jose Casada 
was bursting out of his Brooks Brothers shirt, which barely reached 
his middle. Teofilo sported a pair of Sam's pants, and his wife, not to 
be outdone, was wearing my slip over her dress. 

Our bags had left at dawn by oxcart and we were to pick them up 
at Palo Verde. Cholo had ridden into camp to escort us out and he 
had brought his best (and gentlest) horse for me. I climbed on while 
our friends stood sadly around. The men took off their hats and 
yelled "Good-by" and "Good morning" and "O.K." and "Bastard" 
(Andy's contribution), which was all the English they knew; and 
I cried. I didn't want to go back to civilization at all. 


A GREAT deal Is expected of an archaeologist's wife. The mo- 
ment a woman gets involved with an archaeologist legally, she 
is supposed to take on the wisdom of the ages, a terriic interest in 
humanity past and present and an omniscience that most frighten 
the ordinary citizen. Jnst why this is so I have never understood. If 
you marry a man it is presumably because you like the man and not, 
necessarily, his profession. Marrying a mortician or a dentist, for 
instance, does not presuppose a passionate interest in and a knowl- 
edge of embalming or filling teeth. Yet an archaeologist's bride is 
expected to emerge from the marriage ceremony with a fullblown 
understanding of history, sociology, linguistics and philosophy, to 
say nothing of the less frivolous aspects of anatomy. 

Occasionally an archaeological wife responds to this pressure and 
becomes so serious and so erudite that by contrast her scientific 
husband seems a master of frivolity. She bones up on bones, she 
grows a mental gray beard, her interests comprise nothing that is 
less than eight hundred years old. She develops an intellectual 
arrogance which makes her scorn to straighten the hem of her skirt, 
powder her nose, curl her hair, or in any way interfere with what 
God has seen fit to give her. With such a female, vanity flies out the 
window the moment archaeology flies in. 

Every so often you will find the other extreme the archaeological 
wife who perversely encases herself in a shell of flightiness that is 



proof against any form of education. She flutters through archaeo- 
logical life. She approaches a dig as if it were a reception, wearing a 
costume which should make even a skeleton sit up and take notice. 
"What's this, honey?" she gurgles, breaking off a vertebra or pushing 
a painted jar out of place with her toe. At this point, Honey, if he 
is wise, will send Mrs. Honey home, for it is obvious she has made 
up her mind to learn nothing. To her, B.C. is something to be 
avoided as assiduously as B.O. 

These, though, are the exceptions, for as a rule an archaeologist's 
wife is a pleasant person and a better mate than most. She is a good 
sport and apt to have a sense of humor. Those qualities are essential; 
without them she won't survive long in her chosen role. For if she 
cannot learn to laugh about the difficulties she encounters and stand 
them without too many complaints, she had better go home and 
marry a banker or a baker or a bond salesman and live in the style 
to which archaeology has not accustomed her. 

Some wives take to archaeological life naturally. Some have to 
learn. I was in the latter class and it took me longer than most. Con- 
sidering that I was brought up in an atmosphere of Dutch Cleanser 
and taught that a bedbug was Public Enemy No. i and soap more 
important than diamonds, I suppose this was to be expected. And 
if my batting average is still far from perfect at least I have learned, 
if not to lap up discomforts, to make them as painless as possible. 

Necessity is a good teacher. Take the question of food, for in- 
stance. I was weaned on a theory that if you ate something that had 
been exposed to dirt or touched by hands less sterile than those of 
a surgeon about to undertake an operation, it would make you sick. 
And though I soon realized the absurdity of this principle I still 
preferred to close my eyes to anything I suspected to be hygienically 
impure. No peering into kitchens for me. Let the cook keep tasting 
the broth with the same dirty spoon, let the chop fall on the floor 
as long as I wasn't there to see it. But in many places to which 
archaeology leads you, neither your fastidiousness nor your digestion 
is spared. You see what you eat and you eat what you see or you 


At one of my first meals in the backwoods of Chile I a 

fly In my stew. "Hey/' I said to the waiter in my Spanish. "Look! 
Fly." The waiter, who must have been myopic, the 

until it was almost in contact with his nose and clucked sympatheti- 
cally, whether at the ly or at me 1 never knew. Then he dipped in 
thumb and forefinger and removed the hapless intruder, returning 
me the purged stew. I ate nothing that meal. Bet the next time I 
found foreign matter in my food (and there was a next time and a 
next) I didn't call the waiter. I removed my own fly. And ate my 
lunch. If Fd been hungry enough I would have eaten the fly. Or 
the waiter's finger. 

It is more difficult to get used to the insects which are a part of 
archaeological life, although if you follow certain rales you may be 
able to reduce the number and species that are out to get you. Lice 7 
I've found, can usually be avoided if you don't get in close contact 
with the native population and learn to curb your enthusiasm about 
hugging some cute little Indian tot Chiggers, which like to make 
their home underneath your toenails, can rarely fulfill this ambition 
if you don't amble about in bare feet, though on occasion they have 
been known to burrow miraculously right through your shoes. If 
your work takes you into the wilder parts of the country, you will 
ran into ticks; if you live in small and primitive towns, you will 
almost surely encounter bedbugs. Tick bites can be kept to a mini- 
mum if you are careful about sitting down on strange logs and don't 
walk or ride through long grass. The only way I know to avoid bed- 
bugs is not to go to bed. 

But even if by some lucky fluke you manage to duck the assaults 
of these various pests, there are always fleas! You have about as much 
chance of going through an archaeological season without acquiring 
fleas as a man in a Turkish bath has of not perspiring. But you soon 
learn there is no use in letting any particular species of bug worry 
you, for something is going to get you no matter what you do, and 
once an insect has bitten, the itch is the same. Fortunately you can 
always scratch. 

The bathroom problem is one that even philosophy cannot 


simplify. When you are on a dig you usually have your own camp 
with adequate sanitation, but when you travel in obscure regions, 
sniffing for archaeological ground and hobnobbing with Indians, 
you live in any hotel or boardinghouse which will give you a so- 
called bed. And here you are apt to find life at its most miserable. 
"Oh 7 United States/ 7 you mourn, 'land of running water and enamel 
fixtures, where there are more bathrooms per square person than 
anywhere in the world, why did I ever leave you?" You develop the 
same obsession for hygiene that a fat woman on a calory diet does 
for chocolate creams. And no amount of training or experience can 
improve the situation or make you mind it less. All you can do is take 
typhoid shots, put a clothespin on your nose and pray you'll soon 
be able to move on to more sanitary fields. 

Most people go all starry-eyed as soon as they hear you are married 
to an archaeologist and murmur envious phrases about the wonder- 
ful and romantic life you must lead and how, secretly, archaeology 
is the one thing in the world they would most like to have gone in 
for. "Why didn't you, then?" is a question I always feel like asking. 
And "What's wonderful about snakes and lice? Have you ever gone 
three weeks without a bath? How do you go about pursuing ro- 
mance?" are others. 

In Panama, if Sam so much as kissed me, a technician, six work- 
men and a couple of cows were apt to be watching. In Guatemala, 
unless we kept our door open all day, we got neither light nor air, 
while at night the Indians frightened any romantic thoughts out 
of our heads. In Chile, the bathing facilities where our work took us 
were often so sketchy that after a few days we stayed as far away 
from each other as possible. 

But it is only because the individuals who make glib assumptions 
about the glories of archaeology are themselves usually wedded to 
a life of comfort and ease dreamers who yearn for adventure from 
the depths of an armchair that I long to shock them. For funda- 
mentally they are right. Archaeology is wonderful. 

Anyone who has the time and the money can travel. The average 
tourist, however, flits comfortably from the Cafe de la Paix in Paris 


to a gondola in Venice or; If he is more about Ms education, 

depends on Mr. Cook to organize matters and sees life with his nose 
in a Baedeker. I to do a little better than that. Before I was 
married I spent hours and hours imbibing foreign atmosphere 
visiting Soho, motoring along the Mediterranean, bicycling in 
Brittany, drinking beer in Munich, squirming at bull ights in Spain, 
ogling Norway's fiords, dislocating my neck to see Michelangelo's 
frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. I have gaped at the Mona Lisa, at 
the spires of Oxford, at the Elgin Marbles, at the Tower of Pisa, at 
Napoleon's tomb, at sixteen Venuses, and at ninety-five Madonnas 
with children. I loved every minute of it (or at least every other 
minute), and my trips were a good deal more comfortable than 
any since, but I've gotten more satisfaction and a better under- 
standing of the people of the country (both dead and alive) out 
of one archaeological trip than out of all the rest of my travels 
put together. 

On a dig you get to know everyone from the wealthiest country 
squire to the poorest workman swinging a pick; as well as gov- 
ernment officials with whom you draw up a contract, bankers to 
whom you go for credit, storekeepers who equip you, bakers, 
butchers, mailmen, individuals who arrange your transportation 
ranging from aeroplanes and steamships to oxcarts and mules. There 
is no aspect of life not yours for the seeing. 

What's more, archaeology has the appeal of an Easter egg hunt or 
a paper chase, and it is a thousand times more exciting. For even if 
there are no painted hard-boiled eggs concealed behind cushions nor 
rhymed jingles to interpret, the suspense is greater. In archaeology 
neither you nor anyone else knows what you are going to find; the 
prize has been hidden for centuries. 

No hunt has ever thrilled me as much as the first grave in Chile 
I was given to work on by myself. Sam was busy in a nearby trench, 
and when our workman's pick struck evidence of ancient remains, he 
told me to explore them. The tiniest pottery edge was sticking out 
above the surface of the ground. "Go at it slowly," said Sam. "Re- 
move all the surrounding earth and then work in toward the object 


itself, for there is no way of telling how big it may be." So I took my 
little trowel and my knife and carefully flicked away at the earth 
until I reached something solid. Bit by bit the pottery came to life; 
first the delicately curved rim, next the sides covered with intricate 
designs, then the base. And there, discovered by me (or so I felt 
at the time), was a magnificent painted bowl, as beautiful as any 
art object in a museum. What's more, it was mine for the time 
being, anyway. 

Archaeology also has the appeal of a crossword puzzle or a word 
game, and it is a thousand times more exciting. When you work on a 
game or puzzle, either you know the correct answer or you can look it 
up in the back of the book In archaeology you create your own an- 
swers and conclusions. 

I remember a grave in Panama which when uncovered and cleared 
was an apparently senseless mess. There were nine or ten skeletons 
laid out in parallel rows, some on top of others. There were layers 
upon layers of pottery, most of it smashed to bits. There were 
metal tools, bent and worn. There was jewelry scattered haphaz- 
ardly about. And underneath everything else there were four large 
turtle shells. 

It would be nice, if inaccurate, to be able to say that Sam took 
one quick glance and announced: "This is the grave of a chieftain, 
his two wives, his three girl friends, his three children and his favorite 
skve. The chief died of smallpox, one wife also contracted the 
disease, and the other wife as well as the rest of his entourage were 
given arsenic and thrown in with him. The chief had a nasty dis- 
position and was disgustingly greedy about food. He was mean to his 
wives and beat up his girl friends. The only kindness he showed was 
to his pets, the turtles. He died in 1 399 and good riddance too." 

What Sam actually did say was: "The people who dug this grave 
must have had a hell of a 'killing' complex to have deliberately 
smashed up so many things. What a mess!" In spite of the mess, 
though, he was able to deduce the sex and approximate age of each 
skeleton, some of their religious beliefs (they were all buried with 
their heads facing east) , the food they liked best (turtle meat, beans, 


and core ) , many of their interests (the was 

with all the of a warrior; one weaving instru- 

ments and another the for pottery). 

It Is this detective work which archaeology its significance 

its greatest fascination to clues and use dues to 

enlarge your knowledge, to dig up a few bits of bone, of stone, of 
clay, and pot them together to reconstruct a lost world. 

That world, unfortunately, does not come to life very quickly. 
I have found myself dying of curiosity while on a dig ? but the satis- 
faction I got was zero. "What does this mean?" I'd ask Sam. "How 
old is this grave? Why does this skeleton seem to be chewing his toe? 
Why did this woman own four necklaces and two bracelets and her 
girl friend none? Why did this man have ten females boned with 

And Sam would shake his head and say, "I don't know." Or 7 *Td 
rather not commit myself until I have further information/' Or, 
"I'm not quite sure yet." And always, "Wait until we get home/' 
Not that the answers are sitting waiting for you at home. YouVe 
got to work to get them. The specimens that yon have dog up must 
first be delivered to the museum, to be reassembled, cleaned, 
mended, drawn and photographed. Then follows a period of histori- 
cal research and a study of comparative material. Months and 
months usually go by before you learn the inside story of Skeleton 
XYZ or the saga of Trench 6, Grave 14. 

Toward the end of a eld season, though, you forget all that 
looms ahead before your curiosity can be satisfied, and you feel like 
a mystery fan who reads a detective story in serial form and who lacks 
the last installment You want to get home and find out the solu- 
tion. What you want too, of course, is just to get home, for any 
reason at all. 

Each time we wind up an archaeological trip I look forward to the 
same things. No scratching. Lying in bed late, soaking in a hot bath. 
Plumbing. Ice water and fresh milk. Raw celery and lettuce. Plumb- 
ing. Movies and theatres. Plumbing! 

And what happens? About a month of these delights and I get 


restless. It never falls. home from work, sinks Into a com- 

chair in his comfortable apartment and tries to 

appear ecstatically happy. So do I. We look at each other. I usually 
say it first "This is the life! It's wonderful; no doubt about it. But 
when oh when are we going where?"