[I was playing Legends: Arceus, but then after I finished exploring the Crimson Mirelands I dropped everything for, like, a week to perform an archaeological survey and write up the results in the style of an actual academic publication. Was this a good idea? No, obviously not, but I did it and here it is.]
Although the Galaxy Expedition Team’s understanding of the contemporary ecology, geography and society of the Hisui region has advanced dramatically in the short time since the expedition’s arrival here, the region’s ancient past is still largely an enigma. This is largely because no branch of the GET is explicitly dedicated to historical and cultural research. These tend to fall by default within the broad and somewhat nebulous responsibilities of the Survey Corps, as the branch whose members most often interact with Hisui’s indigenous peoples, the Diamond and Pearl Clans. In the interests of pursuing cultural research more actively, and at the recommendation of Survey Corps recruits assigned to the Crimson Mirelands of southeast Hisui, who had encountered several ancient “ruins” while exploring, the GET commissioned members of the Corps to identify sites of archaeological interest throughout the Mirelands and evaluate sites for possible future excavation by a joint crew drawn from the Survey and Construction Corps.
In a break with usual practice in survey archaeology, project staff were not instructed to catalogue surface finds. This is owing to the annoying propensity of the Hisui region’s characteristic dimensional anomalies to deposit artefact fragments of varying ages seemingly at random across the landscape. The resulting archaeological “noise” makes it extremely difficult to extract a meaningful chronology of human settlement from survey data using the standard methods of survey archaeology. Accordingly, the survey has focused primarily on mapping architectural remains that are visible from the surface, as well as features of the landscape that may be artificial in origin. This report discusses four major sites identified by the survey – the Gapejaw Bog Complex, Solaceon Ruins, Brava Arena and Shrouded Ruins – as well as the general characteristics of earth and stone archaeological features observed throughout the Crimson Mirelands.
This survey would not have been possible without the cooperation and guidance of numerous members of the indigenous Diamond and Pearl Clans, particularly Diamond Clan Warden Arezu, Pearl Clan Warden Calaba and Diamond Clan chieftain Adaman, all of whom have freely shared their knowledge and expertise with project staff. Staff also wish to acknowledge the contributions of numerous Pokémon recruited individually by members of the Survey Corps, as well as, and particularly, the regular invaluable aid of the “noble” Pokémon known as Wyrdeer and Ursaluna.
The majority of features identified by the survey were pathways and open areas of beaten earth; these are marked in green. Although every effort has nonetheless been made to document them in detail, most such pathways cannot be definitively identified as the results of human activity. Indeed, in many cases it seems more likely that they represent tracks frequented by wild Pokémon, particularly in the Pastoria Delta and to the east of the River Valor, where there is very little evidence for permanent human habitation. Furthermore, even where these pathways probably do represent repeated use by humans, their age cannot be reliably determined. The northern pathways through the Diamond Heath see significant contemporary use by members of the Diamond Clan participating in ritual activity at Brava Arena and could, in principle, have been created recently, but it is likely that some of these paths are in fact extremely old. The areas of Diamond Heath and Cloudpool Ridge, furthermore, are criss-crossed by so many tracks and pathways that the project staff were unable to document them all or even come to a consensus on which ones should be documented, aside from the single path to Brava Arena marked by the Diamond Clan with torch brackets. Many of the large flattened areas identified by the survey are the territories of large “alpha” Pokémon, and our default assumption is that they are responsible for flattening and clearing the terrain using their various powerful abilities. See here, in particular, the territories of an alpha Tangrowth (on the east bank of the Pastoria River, near one of the crossings into Gapejaw Bog), two alpha Ursaring (one on the plateau overlooking Gapejaw Bog, the other in the area appropriately named “Ursa’s Ring”), an alpha Vespiquen (overlooking Cottonsedge Prairie) and the tutelary “noble” Pokémon Ursaluna (atop the so-called “Sludge Mound”) and Lilligant (at Brava Arena).
Also marked in green are two earthwork ramps, probably of human construction. One of these, massive in scale, leads directly up from one of the Pastoria River bridges to the subterranean shaft of the Solaceon Ruins, which are described below. The other ramp identified by the survey appears to have been built to allow access to steep hill to the south of the Diamond Clan’s current settlement, which project staff have internally dubbed the “Diamond Acropolis.” The raised earthen “ramparts” around the edges of this hill’s flat top are likewise hypothesised to be of artificial construction. The purpose of the “Acropolis” is unclear. In its current condition, it would make a serviceable hill fort, a defensive position to which local people could retreat in times of crisis, with a commanding view of the Bolderoll Slope and Scarlet Bog below. The top of the hill has been claimed as the territory of a powerful and aggressive “alpha” Onix, making its utility as an emergency fortification questionable at best; the natural assumption is that it was abandoned by its builders and later claimed by this Pokémon (Onix, like many Rock-types, are thought to be extremely long-lived; this alpha may have been occupying the Acropolis for a century or more). However, given the well-documented importance in indigenous Hisuian culture of maintaining cordial relationships with powerful wild Pokémon, several further hypotheses also occur. It is conceivable that the alpha would, if successfully persuaded that a crisis of sufficient magnitude was at hand, simply allow the Diamond Clan (or whatever precursor tribe formerly inhabited the Crimson Mire) to share its space and use the Acropolis as a hill fort. It is also possible that the Acropolis was established in the first place as a ritual space and used to make offerings to the already-established alpha, or even that it was intentionally ceded to the alpha as a token of alliance. Living members of the Diamond Clan have so far been unable to shed any light on this structure or their ancestors’ relationship, if any, with this particular Pokémon.
Finally, the reader’s attention is drawn to a line of four features on the west bank of the Pastoria River, as it passes through the Golden Lowlands. These are four promontories characterised by oddly regular size, shape and spacing, apparently connected by dirt paths. These may be natural features, but considering their unusually “standardised” appearance, it is also possible that they represent traces of ancient fortifications, presumably placed to help the builders control passage up and down the river below. We recommend a small test excavation to ascertain whether these promontory features are natural or artificial.
Stone Architectural Features
The most common architectural members identified by the survey are standing or fallen columns of white marble, which are marked on the survey map in bright red. These are usually fluted and composed of multiple drums. Where the capitals are preserved, they invariably resemble the Doric type; in some, but not all, cases there are unusual figure-8 carvings spaced around the echinus. Where the entablature is preserved, this is commonly decorated with Doric triglyphs. 77 such columns have been catalogued by the survey, all within five areas: crossings on the Pastoria River, the Gapejaw Bog Complex, the square building outside the Solaceon Ruins, Brava Arena and the Shrouded Ruins. No ancient quarry faces or matching sources of marble have yet been identified in the Crimson Mirelands; accordingly, it is currently hypothesised that the stone was quarried further north and shipped down the Pastoria River, indicating a fairly well-developed commercial relationship with other parts of the Hisui region. This would also imply that the marble used in the construction of the huge and impressive Shrouded Ruins complex, as well as the lesser quantities used at Brava Arena, were transported overland from the east bank of the Pastoria River, across much marshy ground and up several difficult slopes. It seems likely that this was done with the assistance of Pokémon.
Stone paving also survives, to a very limited extent, in each of the areas listed above; this is marked on the survey map in yellow. It is expected that excavation would reveal much more, and might help to determine which of the Crimson Mire’s beaten earth tracks are ultimately of human origin.
Stone archways, marked on the survey map in purple, occur at the Shrouded Ruins, outside the Solaceon Ruins and in Gapejaw Bog. In the first two of these cases, the archways are clearly part of the same architectural program as the marble columns; on this basis, the examples at Gapejaw Bog are likewise assumed to be roughly contemporary with other surrounding architectural features, pending further evidence from excavation.
There is currently no evidence for the destruction of any of these sites due to warfare, nor are there any more recent monumental structures in this area for which high-quality stone might have been robbed and reused. It is therefore presumed, pending further investigation, that most of the ruined stone buildings in the Hisui region were destroyed by earthquakes at some point after their abandonment. Hisui is known to be a tectonically active region, with a spine of ancient extinct volcanoes and ongoing volcanism at the region’s eastern edge. Major earthquakes have not yet been observed in the short time since the arrival the Galaxy Expedition Team, but are anticipated to be a significant hazard of life in Hisui.
Other miscellaneous stone features are marked in blue. The majority of these are large cairns of unworked stone in the area of the Shrouded Ruins, and will be discussed in connection with the other structures there. Also marked in blue is a single standing stone at the centre of the Diamond Clan’s village, bearing little similarity to the cairns, or indeed to any of the other stone structures identified in the Crimson Mire. While members of the Diamond Clan have been reluctant to discuss the stone’s purpose or operation in great detail, it is believed to function as a sundial and perhaps also as an astronomical marker, aiding the highly time-conscious clan in keeping track of the hours of the day and months of the year.
In all cases, the stone architecture of the Crimson Mire is drastically different from any contemporary buildings in use by the Diamond Clan, the area’s current inhabitants, who do not appear to build in stone at all. Nor do they build cairns to mark significant sites or paths, preferring to use cloth flags and banners supported by wooden poles and frames, or place wood-and-iron torch brackets. While we currently assume that the contemporary indigenous peoples of Hisui are the descendants of the former civilisation whose remains are the primary subject of this survey, the apparent lack of continuity in settlement patterns and material culture is very puzzling. This may speak to a dramatic “break with the past” at some point in the Diamond Clan’s history, possibly associated with a natural disaster, a major political shift or a profound change in their relationships with Hisui’s wild Pokémon (particularly tutelaries such as the “alphas” and “nobles”).
There are four contemporary log bridges across the Pastoria River, all maintained by the Diamond Clan. All but the southernmost are positioned directly between pairs of standing columns on one or both banks, along with fragments of paved road; the southernmost bridge is positioned at the end of a beaten earth pathway leading to one of the entrances to the Gapejaw Bog Complex. Because of this association, it is suggested that these log bridges are direct replacements for ancient stone bridges long since destroyed, and furthermore that the course of the river has remained remarkably consistent since the date of these features.
The Gapejaw Bog Complex
The Gapejaw Bog Complex is the name given by project staff to the large collection of stone architectural features visible above the surface of Gapejaw Bog, a low-lying wetland area on the west bank of the Pastoria River. Given the area’s currently waterlogged conditions, which would have made construction all but impossible, it seems likely that excavation would reveal some form of ancient drainage system that is no longer operable. Water flowing from the mountains to the west could have been captured for irrigation on the plateau overlooking the bog, or excess water may simply have been redirected into the Pastoria River further downstream. Gapejaw Bog may even have originally been reclaimed land, created by diverting the Pastoria River and draining the resulting wetland. Any of these possibilities would attest to a fairly advanced water control infrastructure on the part of the complex’s builders.
Two river crossings appear to lead directly into the Gapejaw Bog Complex. At the northern crossing, columns and paved road are preserved on both sides of the river. At the southern crossing, there are no ancient stone architectural features in direct association with the modern log bridge itself, but the path on the west side leads directly to a wide stone stairway, flanked by standing marble columns, with a stone archway at the top of the stairs; it is difficult to interpret this as anything other than a monumental entranceway. As mentioned above, it seems likely that these log bridges replaced more permanent ancient bridges (probably stone, but conceivably also wood) that have since been destroyed, making it necessary for later generations, who wished to continue using the same crossing points, to conduct cheaper repairs with locally available materials.
A line of four standing columns, with their entablature preserved, appears to mark the southern extent of the Gapejaw Bog Complex. The complex is clearly bounded to the east by the Pastoria River and to the west by a steep hillside. The limits of the complex are only unclear in the north, where a gentle slope eventually leads up to the ridge separates Gapejaw Bog from the Golden Lowlands. Additional structures may be buried beneath this slope.
Many other columns, some standing and others fallen, are scattered about the area of the Gapejaw Bog Complex. With the exception of the four southern columns, those at the two entrances and possibly two near the northwest building, there is no clear alignment between these columns. It seems unlikely that they are part of a single monumental structure; if they are parts of multiple monumental structures, the location and orientation of these is unclear and no other elements of them are preserved. At present, most of the columns are thought to belong to open colonnaded walkways in various orientations.
In addition, there are masonry walls belonging to three smaller rectangular buildings within the complex; preserved wall segments are marked on the survey map in dark red. Each building has at least one preserved rectangular doorway (marked in pink). One of these, the west building, is also associated with an archway; it is therefore conceivable that two other archways within the complex also belong to small buildings whose remains are not visible to surface survey. There is also some preserved stone paving near the centre of the complex, following a raised strip of relatively dry land between two pools. Based on the orientation of other architectural features, it does not seem likely that all the edges of pools within the complex area correspond to original paved roads; this alignment is probably a fortuitous coincidence that has allowed the paving to remain visible in this one instance.
Owing to the complex’s position on a major river, adjacent to two crossings (which, as previously mentioned, are hypothesised to mark the exact positions of ancient stone bridges), and its combination of monumental “public” architecture with smaller-scale, more closed and utilitarian structures, we suggest that the Gapejaw Bog Complex was a commercial area, perhaps a covered market. The smaller rectangular buildings, in this scenario, would have been shops, workshops or both. The colonnades and paved streets would have connected the other buildings in the complex, providing a pleasant shaded and sheltered environment for people moving about the area, while simultaneously directing them towards “public” and away from “private” areas of each structure. The preserved archway associated with the west building may have been a “public” entrance to the shop for customers, with the understated rectangular doorways oriented away from the rest of the complex being more “private” entrances for proprietors and suppliers (however, if any other building in the complex shared this arrangement, the relevant architecture has not been preserved).
A market facility in Gapejaw Bog would have been well-positioned to load and unload goods from boats travelling up and down the Pastoria River. Officials based at the complex would also have been ideally placed to extract tolls from boats passing through the Crimson Mirelands. If the “promontories” further up the river do in fact represent ancient fortifications, these may have been meant to aid in enforcing that control. A docking facility has not been identified in the area of the Gapejaw Bog Complex. Considering the narrowness of this section of the Pastoria River and the small size of the boats such a facility would have served, it is possible that any docking facilities were constructed entirely of wood, which would not have long since rotted away on the surface (however, given the waterlogged conditions of Gapejaw Bog, ancient wooden architectural features may be preserved below ground). It is equally possible that the Gapejaw Bog Complex was not served by any permanent docking facility at all; passing boats could have simply been tied to rocks on the riverbank or beached near the south entrance, where there is a gentle slope to the east bank. Heavy cargo could have been loaded and unloaded with the aid of temporary, moveable scaffolds.
Although there are two river crossings leading into the Gapejaw Bog Complex, it is unlikely that this was a major site for moving goods or people across the Pastoria River. A steep ridge divides the bog from the Golden Lowlands to the north, and the foothills of Mount Coronet allow no easy passage further to the west. Trade goods moving between the Crimson Mire and the more distant Obsidian Fieldlands would have needed to be taken across the river further to the north, opposite the Solaceon Ruins, where there is a mountain pass leading west out of the Golden Lowlands. The occupants of the Gapejaw Bog Complex would have been in a position to control trade up and down the Pastoria River, but not across it. Land-based trade may simply have been less lucrative than riverine trade at the time of the complex’s construction, or the land trade routes may even have had some association with ritual activity at the Solaceon Ruins that made a greater commercial build-up around the northern crossing points somehow inappropriate.
Excavation of Gapejaw Bog is expected to be extremely difficult, owing to both the waterlogged conditions and to the aggressive temperament of the wild Croagunk whose breeding grounds appear to be located in the bog. Draining the bog for excavation would also pose an unacceptable disruption to the local Pokémon. However, those same waterlogged, anaerobic conditions present a potential opportunity for recovering wooden or even cloth artefacts, which are rarely preserved in soil. Such artefacts would be invaluable for comparison to the contemporary material culture of the Diamond Clan, whose architecture so far seems wildly different from that of the older sites catalogued here. While it is impossible to recommend excavation at this time, we believe that continued observation of Gapejaw Bog will pay dividends in the future. In particular, high priorities should be placed on building peaceful relationships with the local Pokémon and on developing excavation techniques that will minimise disturbances to their lives and life cycles. It may also be possible to conduct small-scale test excavations on the drier northern slopes, which may well conceal more buildings.
Solaceon Ruins (Exterior)
The area around the Solaceon Ruins is not as heavy with architectural remains as other areas of interest in the Crimson Mire, but there are two points of interest. The first is a pair of river crossings, very similar to those at Gapejaw Bog and likewise probably of great age. The southern of these two crossings is directly aligned with the earthwork ramp and monumental entrance of the Solaceon Ruins and is likely associated in some way with the ruins’ still-mysterious function. The original stone bridge may, for instance, have been part of a processional route used by groups approaching the Solaceon Ruins to make offerings or participate in ritual activity. The second bridge is oddly placed, further north along the Pastoria River and very close to where the river’s banks become sheer cliffs. There are almost no traversable paths north of this bridge, and likely would not have been in antiquity either, so it seems redundant with the main bridge serving the ruins. A second bridge would scarcely even have reduced traffic at all, as any foot traffic or land vehicles using the northern bridge would still have had to pass around the front of the Solaceon Ruins on the east bank of the river. These considerations perhaps lend credence (albeit very tenuous and circumstantial) to the idea that the southern bridge had a specific ritual function linked with the ruins, and was not always available for secular use.
To the south of the ruins’ entrance are the remains of a single building, comprising several marble columns like those already described in Gapejaw Bog, as well as a marble archway. The extant columns describe a square peristyle. The archway faces northeast-southwest, and an adjacent cliff face makes it clear that the “front” of the building faced southwest, the same direction as the subterranean Solaceon Ruins structure. Such elaborate architecture for such a small building is strongly suggestive of a shrine or other cultic structure. The back half of the structure, accessed through the arch, may have housed idols, offerings or other sacred paraphernalia. Alternatively, it is possible that what is now visible is only a small part of the original structure. An archway surrounded by monumental columns is suggestive of an entranceway to a larger complex, perhaps a subterranean shaft and chamber like those of the Solaceon Ruins, extending down and backward into the earth to the northeast. However, no trace of such a buried shaft is visible on the cliff face.
A single standing column, located at the north corner of this building and marked on the survey map in pale blue, appears to levitate approximately 30 cm above the ground. This has been tentatively attributed to some action of the well-documented, but so far poorly-understood, dimensional anomalies of the Hisui region. Project staff and other members of the Survey Corps have been firmly instructed not to disturb the column in any way, not to leave any items or tame Pokémon unattended in its vicinity, and on absolutely no account ever to place items or parts of their anatomy between the column and the ground.
Despite the name, the subterranean shaft and chamber of the Solaceon “Ruins” are the best-preserved ancient architecture of the Crimson Mire. However, this does not make the site any less enigmatic. The configuration of a long shaft dug into the earth and leading to a large subterranean chamber, in other cultures around the world, is commonly used for tombs. However, there is no evidence that the shaft of the Solaceon Ruins was ever sealed, as a tomb normally would be; moreover, there are no burials or grave goods within the main chamber, nor any indication that there ever were. The structure appears to be composed of massive ashlar blocks of dark grey stone, of a completely different kind to the white marble favoured for most other monumental architecture in the Crimson Mire, but it seems logistically impossible that the Solaceon Ruins could have actually been constructed from stone blocks and subsequently buried, as the main chamber lies directly underneath a minor mountain ridge. Pending a geological examination, it seems more likely that the interior walls of the ruins are actually cut from the rock of the mountain itself and faced with non-functional skeuomorphic seams and joins to give the appearance of ashlar masonry (the blue-grey paving of the floor, on the other hand, appears to be a different kind of stone brought from elsewhere – but also different again from the white marble of other sites in the region). This hypothesis is supported by the ceilings of both the shaft and the main chamber, which seem to be carved to give the appearance of support beams – a feature which this structure does not need, and which would not be made from stone if it did. Whatever the construction method, it seems virtually certain that powerful wild Pokémon were employed, suggesting that the strong relationships between the Pokémon and indigenous humans of Hisui extend deep into the past.
The main chamber is comparable in size to the large “temple” at the Shrouded Ruins, and is completely empty. It is maintained as a sacred site by members of the Pearl Clan, who scrupulously prevent any build-up of detritus. As there is little indication that it was ever possible to seal the entrance, it is unlikely that the main chamber ever served as either a tomb or a treasury. It may have been a communal meeting space, although its acoustics do not seem well-suited to such a purpose. We are left with little choice but to assume that it was a ritual space, but cannot offer any more specific conjecture at this time. Given the structure’s southwestern aspect, the setting sun may be visible from within the main chamber on certain significant dates, but this is yet to be verified. Given the illusionistic tendencies of the ruins’ architecture and the obvious skill of the masons involved in their construction, it is also entirely possible that additional concealed passages and chambers exist, accessible from the main chamber by mechanisms yet unknown (though we must emphasise that this is, like almost all discussion about this site, pure conjecture).
The chamber’s most obvious feature is a stone plaque in the middle of the back wall (marked in orange on the survey map), bearing an inscription that was generously translated for project staff by Calaba, a Pearl Clan Warden responsible for the stewardship of multiple sacred sites in the Crimson Mire. It reads:
All lives touch other lives to create something anew and alive.”
Multiple interpretations of this text have been proposed in service of different hypotheses about the putative social, political or ritual function of the Solaceon Ruins, none with any more evidence than the others. The most popular among the project staff suggests that the ruins were the site of partnership bonding rituals between humans and Pokémon, similar to those performed today in parts of Alola. No Pokémon have been observed to frequent the ruins today; in fact they even seem to avoid the entrance ramp.
The architecture of the Solaceon Ruins seems wildly different from that of the other ancient sites of the Crimson Mire, and the structure may have been built by a different culture altogether. If so, considering the orientation of other nearby features such as river crossings around the Solaceon Ruins, it seems most likely that the ruins predate the other sites identified by this survey. Their function, in that case, may well have changed more than once between their original construction and their current stewardship by the Pearl Clan.
Brava Arena is the contemporary name for a circular plateau at the northern edge of the Crimson Mire, which may be approached by a long wooden staircase leading up from Cloudpool Ridge. The entrance is paved with stone and flanked by a pair of marble columns similar in style to those observed elsewhere in the Crimson Mire, but perhaps a slightly darker grey in colour. A paved “landing” halfway up the staircase is marked by more columns and a rectangular altar (marked on the survey map in blue), made of the same grey stone as the columns. The surface of the altar has two bowls for offerings, one recessed into the surface of the altar and one with raised sides; each bowl is decorated with a single large blue-green stone. The good condition of the wooden staircase seems to be owed to ongoing maintenance of the site by the Diamond Clan. It seems likely that, in antiquity, the stairs were stone of the same type as the paving.
The contemporary function of the arena is to serve as a venue for cult activity related to the “noble” Pokémon Lilligant, who acts as an important tutelary figure for the Diamond Clan. The altar, like similar altars observed elsewhere in Hisui, is used by Wardens to make offerings of food, usually accompanied by prayers of honour and fealty, which may or may not precede a specific request to the noble. The role of noble Pokémon in the indigenous societies of Hisui is still poorly understood (although not, it should be noted, because of any reticence on the part of either clan’s Wardens, who have consistently been remarkably generous with their time and knowledge; certain unprecedented disruptions to the normal behaviour of the noble Pokémon, which are beyond the scope of this project to investigate, have made it very difficult to make progress in this area). However, it is clear that their tremendous power is real, as is their vital importance in mediating the delicate relationships between the humans of Hisui and the other wild Pokémon around them.
At present, we believe that the arena has always had a cultic purpose. The offering altar, like other artificial stone features of the Crimson Mire, bears little resemblance to any contemporary artefacts of the Diamond Clan. As it appears to be made of the same stone as the adjacent monumental columns, which are in turn of an identical style to those found elsewhere in the mire, it is, for the moment, presumed that all of these features are of approximately similar age. Whether Brava Arena has always been occupied by a noble Lilligant – indeed, whether it has always been occupied by this specific noble Lilligant – is unknown. References made by members of the Diamond and Pearl Clans to sacred “bloodlines” suggest that this Lilligant was preceded by another noble Lilligant, and in turn by yet another (it should be noted that testimony from other regions and cultures suggests that Pokémon “bloodlines” can sometimes run through multiple different species, even species unconnected by the phenomenon of evolution, but it is not clear how this would apply to the noble bloodlines of Hisui). The implication, as currently understood, is that “alpha” Pokémon may battle one another for territory and even displace one another, but noble Pokémon stand above the fray. Once again, we are led to believe that the traditions of the indigenous clans and their close relationships with Hisui’s wild Pokémon are built on extremely ancient ritual practices which, thanks to their obvious efficacy, have persisted even through the extinction of the cultures that created them.
The last and most remote site identified by this survey has been dubbed the Shrouded Ruins and is located east of Brava Arena on a high plateau overlooking Lake Valor. It is accessible on foot only via a single pass from Cloudpool Ridge. The site is dominated by the remains of a single large, approximately square structure, referred to as the “temple” on account of its superficial resemblance to a Greek peristyle temple. The “temple” appears to have consisted of a square peristyle of Doric columns (similar to those found elsewhere in the Crimson Mire) surrounding a walled “inner sanctum,” of which only four arched entrances remain (it is unclear how thoroughly enclosed the “sanctum” originally was, or whether it was roofed; it is hoped that excavation might recover roof tiles, if any exist). The primary entrance seems to have been from the west, where a monumental stone staircase flanked by more columns leads up to a gap in the peristyle. Although the temple faces in the direction of Brava Arena, the sites are not visible to one another, due to a mountain ridge running between the two. Unlike the arena, the temple is not currently known to be the site of any Diamond Clan ritual activity. The entire temple is situated on a raised area of land which may conceal a buried podium or other stone foundations.
Within the area of the “sanctum” is a large stone tablet covered in stylised depictions of several different creatures; most have not yet been identified but some appear to be Pokémon still worshipped by the Diamond and Pearl Clans today, including Lilligant and Wyrdeer. Although its precise meaning and purpose are currently opaque, this tablet is the strongest indication that the Shrouded Ruins may have been a ritual site. Behind the tablet there are four low rectangular stone blocks, all of the same size. Their top edges appear to have originally been finished with gold, which persists in some places, and extensive pigment traces remain from sky-blue friezes on each block. Similar blocks have been found at the entrance to the Deertrack Heights ritual site in the Obsidian Fieldlands, lending credence to the idea that they have some cultic purpose, but not offering any clues as to what that purpose might be. They may be altars, but if so it is not clear why each site has more than one; they are also very different from the altar at Brava Arena and the similar altar at Grandtree Arena in the Fieldlands, with no elaborately carved offering bowls. It is also conceivable that they are statue bases, but no tradition of monumental sculpture has so far been observed in Hisui, in either the contemporary or ancient indigenous cultures.
The land outside the temple to the west and south is dotted with large cairns of unworked dark grey stone. Cairns of this type appear nowhere else in the Crimson Mire. It is unclear whether the cairns are contemporary with the temple; if so, or if they are even older, one would not expect the delicately balanced stacks of stones to have remained intact through whatever events destroyed the temple, but it is entirely possible that they could have been restored at a later date. If the cairns are younger than the temple, it is odd that there are none within the temple’s perimeter. Cairns are not invariably ritual features; in some cultures they are landmarks, like trail markers or milestones, but in such cases it is unusual to see so many in a single place. They may have been built as a memorial of the destruction of the temple – or, perhaps, as a sign of whatever force destroyed it. A culture that had witnessed an important building destroyed by a natural disaster might understandably want to leave an enduring warning against building on the same site far into the future.
There are no cairns behind the temple to the east. However, there is, sitting on a hillock overlooking the cliffs and Lake Valor, an unidentified stone object tentatively labelled an “idol.” This is a single, large, worked stone, grey-brown in colour, with a truncated cone shape. The object appears to have a deep, forked crack running across its upper surface and down its sides; however, upon closer inspection, the unusually regular “crack” seems to be a deliberately carved decoration, and we do not believe the object has suffered any actual damage. Project staff have reported intense feelings of unease, dread and paranoia while working in close proximity to the “idol,” which has made it difficult to gather further information about it. Its placement appears to line up perfectly with the central axis of the temple, which is again suggestive of some ritual function; it may be an abstract cult statue.
Although it seems very likely that the Shrouded Ruins were once a ritual site, very little else is clear about them. In particular, given the strong continuity of many other apparently ancient ritual sites in Hisui, it is curious that we see no contemporary ritual activity by the Diamond Clan here. Given the many unanswered questions posed by this site, its excavation should be a high priority, with a view to identifying artefacts and inscriptions that might clarify the purpose of the “temple,” and to establishing a clear chronology for its construction and eventual abandonment.
All four sites described in this report raise important questions about the ancient past of Hisui, but all four also demand different approaches. Brava Arena’s ongoing use as a ritual site by the Diamond Clan and the disruption that an excavation would cause currently outweigh any information we could hope to gain about the site’s history by digging there. Excavation may become a possibility in the future if the Diamond Clan’s leadership is satisfied with their inclusion in other projects and sufficiently interested in the potential benefits of further archaeological study. This is far from a certain outcome, and the Survey Corps should be prepared for the possibility that excavation at Brava Arena will never be acceptable. Any investigation of the main subterranean structure of the Solaceon Ruins that might damage the stonework should likewise be considered “off the table” for the time being, but in any case it is not clear what value such an investigation might have. Limited excavation of the earthwork entrance ramp, on the other hand, is likely to be acceptable to the Pearl and Diamond Clans, and might provide useful chronological data in the form of a foundation deposit, or items discarded during its construction. The “shrine” near the ruins is also a good candidate for further study, and its small size will make it a good test case for further cooperation between the Survey Corps and the indigenous peoples, as well as for the incorporation of Pokémon abilities into excavation techniques.
The Gapejaw Bog Complex, as previously discussed, is a very tempting but also very difficult prospect for future excavation. Bog excavations are tricky and require specialised support, but regularly produce types of artefacts that are rarely preserved at other sites. The Survey Corps has also identified Gapejaw Bog as a crucial area for the ecology and biodiversity of the wider Crimson Mire. Like Brava Arena, the future excavation of this site should be dependent on the success of other projects in the Crimson Mire. In this case, the Survey and Construction Corps will need to demonstrate their ability to work around – and with – the local wild Pokémon to minimise disruptions. Further research on Croagunk behaviour will also be essential.
The Shrouded Ruins present mainly logistical difficulties due to their remote location and the difficult terrain that must be traversed to reach them. To the extent that these limits can be overcome, we recommend excavations on the plateau should be a priority. Although the Shrouded Ruins are not currently a site of Diamond Clan ritual activities, it seems overwhelmingly likely that further investigation there will reveal artefacts and information of spiritual significance. Any excavation should therefore be undertaken with their active participation. Finally, we recommend that all personnel keep a safe distance from the “idol” at the eastern end of the plateau until its suspected psychic properties can be better characterised.
We also wish to reiterate that any of this project’s successes are owed in part to the cooperation and generosity of the Diamond and Pearl Clans. We recommend that, as part of any future archaeological investigations in the Hisui region, selected members of both clans should be offered advisory positions within the Survey Corps, and that all excavations should be planned in consultation with tribal leadership and with due deference to their sacred sites and traditions. It should be emphasised that those traditions – including those with a more “mystical” cast that have been regard by some members of the Galaxy Expedition Team with scepticism – have been key to the survival of both clans, and may yet be essential to ours as well. All of this, of course, should be an addition to – not a replacement for – the Survey Corps’ existing outreach and goodwill efforts towards the indigenous peoples of Hisui.
[Special thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, Miame Irohara, Name (Required), James Crooks, hugh_donnetono, Hamish Fyfe, Esserise, Leo MR and PLCM; I dunno if this is what you were paying for, but it is certainly… a thing that I wrote]