Falling Down the Research Rabbit Hole

A while back, I bemoaned the fact that I couldn't decide what course to take in revising The Novel. I did a little bit of research, read a really fantastic book called 1491 (which you should read. Really.), and decided the culture I created in my story bore some resemblance to the Hopewell civilization. I embarked on a quest to learn more about the Hopewell. If only I'd known what I was getting myself into...

The Hopewell, for those who don't know, were a Native North American civilization who lived in the Midwest between approximately 100 BCE and 400 CE. They left behind mounds of various shapes and a ton of artifacts that indicate they had extensive trade networks and mad pottery skills. I found all that information on the Internet. What I couldn't find on the Internet or in a library was information about Hopewell governance, social organization, gender roles--the kind of day-to-day information I needed for my story. Thus began my quest.

After quite a bit of searching, I found a book that had the information I needed. It was one of those niche textbooks that cause college students to take on a lifetime of debt. It took months to find a copy I could afford.

Behold the wonder:

And a side view, for the full effect:

Yes, it's huge. And then there's the text: small and dense and in a language I don't speak: archaeology.

I can't get through more than a few pages at a time. It makes my eyes and my head hurt. Much of what I read I don't understand (see above about not understanding the language). I have picked up a few tidbits that I might add to The Novel, but mostly I am acquiring Far More Information Than I Will Ever Need or Use.

Ah, the sacrifices we writers make for our craft!