Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Hunters

A remote archeological dig.  Strange artifacts that shouldn't be there.  The terrifying realization of just what those artifacts mean.   We've talked before about using props to tell a story, but Dale Bigford has really outdone himself with his latest project.

In 1932, following the discoveries of the Natufian culture by Dorothy Garrod in the western Judean Mountains in the late 1920’s, Miskatonic University funded an expedition. The goal: to further explore the culture of this unknown society of hunter-gatherers, now credited with the invention of farming itself, and uncover the extent to which their society roamed in the holy land.
Professor Harold Windsor of Miskatonic University’s Archeological Department together with his protégé Mr. Albert Holmes, proceeded to Greater Lebanon to conduct surveys. Professor Windsor’s target: the triple mountain peaks of Mount Har-Hermon which straddles the Syrian/Lebanon border.

One of the things I really like is that there's nothing overtly Lovecraftian.  The artifacts are realistic conjectural items that don't seem the least bit unusual.  It's the tiny details, like the stone used for a blade and the wear patterns on it, that help build up the horrific details of what it all means.

The team, comprised of very reluctant local laborers, quickly uncovered what appeared to be the oldest religious temple complex yet known. Adding to this profound discovery was the fact that relics discovered onsite (one of the extremely rare Natufian tool caches) strongly suggested that this site was built by the Natufians. Until then no one believed a Mesolithic society was capable of organizing a labor force to construct a site as sophisticated as the one Professor Windsor had found. It was on par, and in ways surpassing the level of design and construction of the megalithic henges of Northern Europe, which it predated by 6,800 years. 

The elation however was short lived.

The site soon yielded a horrifying discovery: human bodies in profusion and the unmistakable signs of human sacrifice. A body presumably freshly killed had remained on the temples alter where it had died for over 12,000 years. In addition the bodies in and around the site all displayed signs of violent death followed by burning. The site had apparently been raided and destroyed in the middle of a ceremony.

Follow the link and check out the whole project.  It's an outstanding example of storytelling using props.


CoastConFan said...

This is a very subtle tableau and well researched. A lot of work and thought went into the selection of supporting items. I especially like the obsidian sickle, the in situ photos, and the subtleness of the engraved stones. The added adventurer elements such as the pith helmet, the early style cigarette lighter heighten expectation and fills in gaps. The use of a number of historic elements (or props in this case) in which fantastic elements are carefully integrated allow for slow disclosure and discovery as the puzzle falls into place and seemingly random or marginal information becomes key to the story.

It is difficult to suspend disbelief unless you have first believed, so you need a foundation to leap from before you can take to the skies (or the depths). H. P. Lovecraft was an admirer of Edgar Allen Poe and used the technique of slowly and carefully building up components of a story until they reached the horrific conclusion. That is why back story is so important and supporting props, something as elementary as correct boxing material, period paperwork can only form the basis of normalcy of the story, which can quickly slide into insanity from its perch of normalcy.

Take a page from H. P. Lovecraft’s On Writing Weird Fiction:
“… present an account of impossible, improbable, or inconceivable phenomena as a commonplace narrative of objective acts and conventional emotions. Inconceivable events and conditions have a special handicap to overcome, and this can be accomplished only through the maintenance of a careful realism in every phase of the story except that touching on the one given marvel. This marvel must be treated very impressively and deliberately—with a careful emotional 'build-up' —else it will seem flat and unconvincing.”

Complete text here:

Dr. Theda said...

Having studied archeology since early childhood and studying the Ancient Mid-East ( heavily for well over 30 years) this is pretty cool ... and very "realistic"...
They did a truly Great job on this one...