I’ve been thinking about monuments lately and wondering what they might tell us about the past. Inspired by a poem I read recently, I’m giving a paper at the upcoming Society for American Archaeology conference where I will present a study evaluating the size of monuments at the Carson site (my research site). I won’t give my conclusions here, but I think the large earthen mounds at my site were likely sponsored by some very powerful leaders whose “sneer of cold command” can still be read in those earthen tumuli. That’s all I have to say for now, but I’ll leave you with Shelly’s sonnet which lead me to this paper.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.