Tag Archives: anthropology

Reassemblage: From the Firelight to the Screen

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Reassemblage (1982)

by Trinh T. Minh-ha 

 Produced by Jean-Paul Bourdier

Reassemblage is Trinh T. Minh-ha’s first film. It was filmed in Senegal and released in 1982. This film was part of a three year work on ethnographic field research in West Africa through the Research Expedition Program of the University of California, Berkeley. In Reassemblage Trinh explains that she intends “not to speak about/Just speak near by,” unlike more conventional ethnographic documentary film. The film is a montage of fleeting images from Senegal and includes no narration, although there are occasional statements by Trinh T. Minh-ha. None of the statements given by her assign meaning to the scenes. There is music, silence, sometimes Trinh views a movie, refusing to make the film “about” a “culture”.  It points to the viewers expectation and the need for the assignment of meaning. The audience is left with a sense of disorientation.

 

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An ethnographic study; by Vietnamese Feminist Filmmaker. Filmmaker Trihn Minh-ha’s experimental documentary “Reassemblage” is for all intents and purposes a film about the people of Senegal. But Trinh has a higher purpose in mind. The film if self-reflexive in that as it is as much about documentaries themselves as it is about the people of Senegal. Trinh calls into question the conventions of the documentary and how such films have the power to manipulate the way in which the audience sees. She constantly reminds her audience that they are watching a movie through many filmic techniques. For example, at times she cuts sound completely to emphasize the fact that she has the ability to manipulate what we are feeling. By taking away the music (African drumming in this case), a tool filmmakers often rely on to tell us how we SHOULD be feeling, we are left to our own devices and must figure out on our own what we are seeing, what it means to us, and why. At times this makes viewing her film fairly difficult, but ultimately it’s a rather interesting and thought-provoking experience.

via benitomaciascanton

Minhha

Trinh T. Minh-ha is a filmmaker, writer, academic and composer. She is a world-renowned independent filmmaker and feminist, post-colonial theorist. She teaches courses that focus on women’s work as related to cultural politics, post-coloniality, contemporary critical theory and the arts. The seminars she offers focus on Third cinema, film theory and aesthetics, the voice in cinema, the autobiographical voice, critical theory and research, cultural politics and feminist theory.  She has been making films for over twenty years and may be best known for her first film Reassemblage, made in 1982. She has received several awards and grants, including the American Film Institute’s National Independent Filmmaker Maya Deren Award, and Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. Her films have been the subject of twenty retrospectives. (Continued)

via Wikipedia

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hat tip: bright stupid confetti

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How animals made us human

What explains the ascendance of Homo sapiens? Start by looking at our pets.

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A prehistoric painting of a bull at Lascaux in southwestern France.
By Drake Bennett | Photo:  Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images

Who among us is invulnerable to the puppy in the pet store window? Not everyone is a dog person, of course; some people are cat people or horse people or parakeet people or albino ferret people. But human beings are a distinctly pet-loving bunch. In no other species do adults regularly and knowingly rear the young of other species and support them into old age; in our species it is commonplace. In almost every human culture, people own pets. In the United States, there are more households with pets than with children.

On the face of it, this doesn’t make sense: Pets take up resources that we would otherwise spend on ourselves or our own progeny. Some pets, it’s true, do work for their owners, or are eventually eaten by them, but many simply live with us, eating the food we give them, interrupting our sleep, dictating our schedules, occasionally soiling the carpet, and giving nothing in return but companionship and often desultory affection.

What explains this yen to have animals in our lives?

An anthropologist named Pat Shipman believes she’s found the answer: Animals make us human. She means this not in a metaphorical way — that animals teach us about loyalty or nurturing or the fragility of life or anything like that — but that the unique ability to observe and control the behavior of other animals is what allowed one particular set of Pleistocene era primates to evolve into modern man. The hunting of animals and the processing of their corpses drove the creation of tools, and the need to record and relate information about animals was so important that it gave rise to the creation of language and art. Our bond with nonhuman animals has shaped us at the level of our genes, giving us the ability to drink milk into adulthood and even, Shipman argues, promoting the set of finely honed relational antennae that allowed us to create the complex societies most of us live in today. Our love of pets is an artifact of that evolutionary interdependence.

“Our connection with animals had a very great deal to do with our development,” Shipman says. “Beginning with the adaptive advantage of focusing on and collecting information about what other animals are doing, from there to developing such a reliance on that kind of information that there became a serious need to document and transmit that information through the medium of language, and through the whole thing the premium on our ability to read the intentions, needs, wants, and concerns of other beings.”

Shipman’s arguments for the importance of “the animal connection,” laid out in an article in the current issue of Current Anthropology and in a book due out next year, draw on evidence from archeological digs and the fossil record, but they are also freely speculative. Some of her colleagues suggest that the story she tells may be just that, a story. Others, however, describe it as a promising new framework for looking at human evolution, one that highlights the extent to which the human story has been a collection of interspecies collaborations — between humans and dogs and horses, goats and cats and cows, and even microbes.

Shipman, a professor of biological anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, draws together the scattered strands of a growing field of research on the long and complex relationship between human and nonhuman animals, a topic that hasn’t traditionally warranted much scholarly discussion but is now enjoying a surge of interest. The field of so-called human-animal studies is broad enough to include doctors researching why visits by dogs seem to make people in hospitals healthier, art historians looking at medieval depictions of wildlife, and anthropologists like Shipman exploring the evolution and variation of animal domestication. What they all share is an interest in understanding why we are so vulnerable to the charms of other animals — and so good at exploiting them for our own gain.

The traits that traditionally have been seen to separate human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom are activities like making tools, or the use of language, or creating art and symbolic rituals. Today, however, there is some debate over how distinctively human these qualities actually are. Chimpanzees, dolphins, and crows create and use tools, and some apes can acquire the language skills of a human toddler.

A few anthropologists are now proposing that we add the human-animal connection to that list of traits. A 2007 collection of essays, “Where the Wild Things Are Now,” looked at how domesticating animals had shaped human beings as much as the domesticated animals themselves. Barbara King, an anthropologist at the College of William & Mary, published a book earlier this year, “Being With Animals,” that explores the many ramifications of our specieswide obsession with animals, from prehistoric cave art to modern children’s books and sports mascots. King’s primary interest is in the many ways in which myths and religious parables and literature rely on animal imagery and center on encounters between humans and animals.

“[W]e think and we feel through being with animals,” King writes.

Shipman’s argument is more specific: She is trying to explain much of the story of human evolution through the animal connection. The story, as she sees it, starts with the human invention of the first chipped stone tools millions of years ago. Shipman, who specializes in studying those tools, argues that they were an advance made for the express purpose of dismembering the animals they had killed. The problem early humans faced was that even once they had become proficient enough hunters to consistently bring down big game, they had the challenge of quickly getting the meat off the corpse. With small teeth and a relatively weak jaw, human beings couldn’t just rip off huge chunks, it took time to tear off what they needed, and it rarely took long for bigger, meaner predators to smell a corpse and chase off the humans who had brought it down.

Early chopping tools sped up the butchering process, making hunting more efficient and encouraging more of it. But this also placed early humans in an odd spot on the food chain: large predators who were nonetheless wary of the truly big predators. This gave them a strong incentive to study and master the behavioral patterns of everything above and below them on the food chain.

That added up to a lot of information, however, about a lot of different animals, all with their various distinctive behaviors and traits. To organize that growing store of knowledge, and to preserve it and pass it along to others, Shipman argues, those early humans created complex languages and intricate cave paintings.

Art in particular was animal-centered. It’s significant, Shipman points out, that the vast majority of the images on the walls of caves like Lascaux, Chauvet, and Hohle Fels are animals. There were plenty of other things that no doubt occupied the minds of prehistoric men: the weather, the physical landscape, plants, other people. And yet animals dominate. 

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via The Boston Globe 

hat tip:  berfrois

 

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The Cosmic Serpent

 

Jeremy Narby – The Cosmic Serpent, DNA, Knowledge & Intelligence in Nature

Brought to you by Red Ice Creations

and DNA

We have anthropologist and author Jeremy Narby with us today from Switzerland who back in 1999 released the book “The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge”, in 2006 “Intelligence in Nature” was released and he talks with us about his research and anthropological work in the Peruvian Amazon, living next to the Quirishari and studying the source of their knowledge about plants. We talk about DNA, the roots of knowledge, intelligence in nature, communication with the entities beyond this world from deep within, experiences on Ayahuascha, difference in cultures and more. Topics Discussed: Ayaschanica People, Ayahuasca, Quirishari, Carlos Perez Shuman, Visionary Journeys, Anthopology, Visions, Art of Scientific Investigation, Computer, Origins of Knowledge, Francis Crick, LSD, Double Helix Structure, The Realm of Visions, Molecular intelligence, Serpent Symbolism, Coding System of Genes, Biospheric DNA Television, Ayahuasca DMT, di methyl-tryptamine, Datura, Dreamworld, Modification of Consciousness, Studying the Cosmos, Avatar, Shamanism.

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Art:  Amaruspirit

The Cosmic Serpent

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Waking the Dead: Scientists Reconstruct Nuclear Genome of Extinct Human Being

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have become the first to reconstruct the nuclear genome of an extinct human being. It is the first time an ancient genome has been reconstructed in detail.

The innovative technique can be applied to museum materials and ancient remains found in nature and can help reconstructing human phenotypic traits of extinct cultures from where only limited remains have been recovered. It also allows for finding those contemporary populations most closely related to extinct cultures revealing ancient human expansions and migrations. Finally, the discovery improves our understanding of heredity and the disease risk passed down from our ancestors.

The spectacular results of the research are being published in the journal Nature.

Professor Eske Willerslev and his PhD student Morten Rasmussen, from Centre of Excellence in GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, led the international team of scientists responsible for the findings.

Professor Willerslev, 38, and his team grabbed international attention last year when they reconstructed the complete mitochondrial genomes of a woolly mammoth and an ancient human. However, the current discovery is the first time scientists have been able to reconstruct the 80% of the nuclear genome that is possible to retrieve from fossil remains. From the genomic sequences, the team has managed to construct a picture of a male individual who lived in Greenland 4,000 years ago and belonged to the first culture to settle in the New World Arctic.

The discovery was made by analysing a tuft of hair that belonged to a man from the Saqqaq culture from north-western Greenland 4,000 years ago. The scientists have named the ancient human “Inuk,” which means “man” or “human” in Greenlandic. Although Inuk is more closely related to contemporary north-eastern Siberian tribes than to modern Inuits of the present day New World Arctic, the scientists wants to acknowledge that the discovery was made in Greenland.

Professor Willerslev discovered the existence of the hair tuft by coincidence after several unsuccessful attempts to find early human remains in Greenland.

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Continue reading via Science Daily


Geico-caveman-airport

The Government Employees Insurance Company, usually known by the acronym GEICO, is an American auto insurance company. GEICO is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway and, as of 2006, provided coverage for more than 10 million motor cars,trucks and other motor vehicles owned by more than 7 million policy holders. GEICO writes private passenger automobile insurance in the District of Columbia and in all U.S. states except Massachusetts.


Enzymatic Catalysis (EZ) / Recombinant DNA

The technique for making recombinant DNA was first developed in the early-1970s by Herbert Boyer and Stanley Norman Cohen. Their original paper described a method to use recombinant DNA to create transgenic bacteria. Their work was built on the work of Daniel Nathans, Hamilton Smith, and Werner Arber, who discovered restriction endonucleases. In 1978 the three were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for this discovery.

The use of cloning is interrelated with Recombinant DNA in classical biology, as the term “clone” refers to a cell or organism derived from a parental organism,[1] with modern biology referring to the term as a collection of cells derived from the same cell that remain identical.

At its most basic, recombinant DNA is just putting strands of DNA together that wouldn’t otherwise appear together. These could simply be multiple strands of cloned DNA from the same organism, combined to create something new or different. Usually, however, in the popular mind recombinant DNA is used to refer to so-called chimeric plasmids. These are DNA molecules which contain strands from multiple animals, named after the mythological creature which contained various animal parts.

Once these plasmids have been created, they are introduced to an organism through a vehicle. The most common vehicles for recombinant DNA are the E. coli bacteria and subsequent derivatives. Once introduced, these plasmids replicate and can make actual changes in the organism itself manifest.

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Experimental epidemiology: The work of Chip Heath

Experimental epidemiology: The work of Chip Heath by Hugo Mercier

The aim of the post is to bring to the attention of experimentally minded anthropologists the work of Chip Heath and his collaborators. A professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Heath describes his research as examinining “why certain ideas – ranging from urban legends to folk medical cures, from Chicken Soup for the Soul stories to business strategy myths – survive and prosper in the social marketplace of ideas.” Heath has a knack for fun psychology experiments that test broader concepts of cultural transmission. In chronological order, here are some examples from his recent publications–I’ll bet that many of you will find stuff that is relevant to your own research or ideas for how to test your own hypotheses.

Bangerter, A., & Heath, C. (2004). The Mozart effect: Tracking the evolution of a scientific legend. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43(4), 605-623.

In this paper, the authors look at the “Mozart effect”, the belief that listening to classical music increases IQ. Among their many findings, they show that this effect spread more in states that had more education problems: anxiety regarding the ability to teach kids made people more receptive to such solutions.

Fragale, A. R., & Heath, C. (2004). Evolving informational credentials: The (mis) attribution of believable facts to credible sources. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(2), 225.

In an interesting variation on the source memory experiments, the authors demonstrate a nice example of ‘motivated’ source attribution. For instance, “When participants believed a particular suspect to be guilty, they misattributed evidence incriminating that suspect to the high-credibility source.”

Berger, J. A., & Heath, C. (2005). Idea habitats: How the prevalence of environmental cues influences the success of ideas. Cognitive Science, 29(2), 195-221.

In a series of experiment, the authors show that the success of different cultural items (catchphrases, proverbs, etc.) will be strongly linked to their ‘habitat’: the contexts in which they are relevant. Thus, they show that the success of ideas shrinks or increases with fluctuations in the prevalence of their natural habitat, and that those ideas that have a wider habitat are more successful.

Berger, J., & Heath, C. (2007). Where consumers diverge from others: Identity signaling and product domains. Journal of Consumer Research, 34(2), 121-134.
Berger, J., & Heath, C. (2008). Who drives divergence? Identity-signaling, outgroup dissimilarity, and the abandonment of cultural tastes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(3), 593-607.
Berger, J., Heath, C., & Ho, B. (2008). Divergence in cultural practices: Tastes as Signals of Identity. Manuscript in preparation.

In this set of papers, the authors show that our tastes are influenced not only by who we want to be like, but also by who we want to not be like. They develop an interesting model of taste as a form of signaling, predicting that we change our tastes when the signal they convey shifts or becomes noisy.

Fast, N. J., Heath, C., & Wu, G. (2009). Common Ground and Cultural Prominence: How Conversation Reinforces Culture. Psychological Science, 20(7), 904-911.

When people start interacting with people they don’t know, they will try to find some common ground. This process (among others) maintains the prominence of some cultural products. For instance, people who are already famous for some reason are more likely to be talked about than other people with similar accomplishment because they make for better common ground.

Loewenstein, J., & Heath, C. (2009). The Repetition-Break Plot Structure: A Cognitive Influence on Selection in the Marketplace of Ideas. Cognitive Science, 33(1), 1-19.

People form predictions based on a succession of samples very easily. Violations of these predictions typically carry an extra relevance. This papers show that this basic cognitive phenomenon can explain the success of jokes and folktales that have a pattern of “repetition-break”, as in the following (stolen from the paper):

A rabbit is hopping happily through the forest. On his way, he meets a giraffe who is about to smoke marijuana. The rabbit says to the giraffe, ‘‘Giraffe, you shouldn’t pollute your neck and hurt your lungs inhaling that harmful stuff! Let’s breathe in the fresh air as we jog through the forest.” The giraffe pauses, drops the marijuana, and follows the rabbit.
A little further through the forest, they meet an elephant about to snort cocaine. The rabbit says to the elephant, ‘‘Elephant, why do you want to ruin your precious trunk with that sinful powder? Sniff the spring flowers instead. Come jog with us and enjoy Mother Nature.” The elephant spills out the cocaine and jogs with the rabbit and giraffe.
Then they meet a lion who is about to use heroin. The rabbit says to the lion, ‘‘Lion, you’re the king of the forest! Isn’t that enough of a ‘‘high” for you? Join us for an invigorating jog together through the beautiful forest.”
The lion puts down the heroin and punches the rabbit on the nose. The giraffe and the elephant exclaim, ‘‘Why do you beat him? He is so nice.” The lion answers angrily, ‘‘Such a hooligan rabbit. Every time he takes Ecstasy, he convinces me to run with him in the forest like an idiot.”

Wiltermuth, S. S., & Heath, C. (2009). Synchrony and cooperation. Psychological Science, 20(1), 1-5.

This paper is a first stab at explaining the prevalence of goose-stepping and why it can create bonds among those who take part in it. The authors observed that people who had had to act in synchrony were more likely to cooperate, even at a potential cost to themselves (in public-goods game for instance).

Some of these papers can be found here, and others here.

Photo:  Woman ‘s Thoughts AkA,=,/,or, ; ) Complex Memetics by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE

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The Gates of Paradise are guarded by a pair of peacocks


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Originally, the phoenix was identified by the Egyptians as a stork or heron-like bird called a benu, known from the Book of the Dead and other Egyptian texts as one of the sacred symbols of worship at Heliopolis, closely associated with the rising sun and the Egyptian sun-god Ra.

The Greeks identified it with their own word phoenix φοίνιξ, meaning the color purple-red or crimson (cf. Phoenicia). They and the Romans subsequently pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle. According to the Greeks the phoenix lived in Phoenicia next to a well. At dawn, it bathed in the water of the well, and the Greek sun-god Helios stopped his chariot (the sun) in order to listen to its song. Featured in the painting Heracles Strangles Snakes (House of the Vettii, Pompeii Italy) as Zeus, the king of the gods.

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Stunning in its beauty, the Peacock is considered the manifestation of the celestial Phoenix on earth. Its mesmerizing colors and the “thousand eyes” look on its tail is considered to promote abundance and good luck in feng shui, as well as enhance one’s protection and awareness.

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In alchemical writings we meet a seemingly bewildering multiplicity of animal symbols – red lions, white eagles, stags, unicorns, winged dragons and snakes. Although at first glance all this complex mass of symbolism seems tortured and confused there is an inner coherence to these symbols, which the ancient alchemists used in specific ways reflecting their esoteric content.

In this article I wish to consider a particularly tight knit group of these animal symbols, the birds of alchemy – the Black Crow, White Swan, Peacock, Pelican, and Phoenix – which are descriptive of certain stages of the alchemical process.

With the Peacock stage, the alchemist has entered into the inner experience of the astral world, which initially appears as ever shifting patterns of colour. This experience is often symbolised in alchemy by the appropriate image of the peacock’s tail with its splendid iridescence of colour. In terms of this series of five stages, the turning point is reached with the Peacock. Up until this point the alchemist has experienced aspects of his being which he was formerly unconscious of – the etheric forces and the astral body. Essentially these experiences have happened to him, although he had to make himself open to the experiences through entering into the initial Black Crow state, however, in order to progress he must begin to work upon his inner being.

Birds in Alchemy

 


 

The peacock is a symbol of immortality because the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh that did not decay after death. As such, early Christian paintings and mosaics use peacock imagery, and peacock feathers can be used during the Easter season as church decorations. This symbol of immortality is also directly linked to Christ.

The peacock naturally replaces his feathers annually; as such, the peacock is also a symbol of renewal.

Early belief held that the Gates of Paradise are guarded by a pair of peacocks.

The peacock has the ability to eat poisonous snakes without harm.

Both Origen and Augustine refer to peacocks as a symbol of the resurrection.

Pythagoras wrote that the soul of Homer moved into a peacock—a hyperbole to establish the respect and longevity of the Greek poet’s words.

“By the Peacock” was a sacred oath, because the peacock was thought to have the power of resurrection, like the Phoenix.

A necklace of Amethyst, peacock feathers, and swallow feathers were a talisman to protect its wearer from witches and sorcerers.

Christians thought, in early times, that the peacock’s blood could dispel evil spirits.

Peacock Symbolism


 


 

All the clips you missed (via Gawker)

After his monologue Letterman took a seat and eviscerated every part of Leno’s address to his audience last night, including his plea that we not blame O’Brien. “Nobody is blaming Conan,” Letterman said emphatically. Letterman then said that what’s going on now is “vintage Jay,” the same man he’s known for 35 years. At the end of his statement, Letterman had this to say about Leno: “You get fired, you get another gig! Don’t hang around waiting for somebody to drop dead.” Game. Set. Match:  Vintage Jay 

“Nobody is blaming Conan,” Letterman said.

Jays


The word “jay” has an archaic meaning in American slang meaning an impertinent person.

The term jaywalking was coined in 1915 to label persons crossing a busy street carelessly and becoming a traffic hazard.  The term began to imply recklessness or impertinent behavior as the convention became established.

 


 

I’ll always be a word man, better than a birdman… – Jim Morrison

 


 

Bill Hicks on Jay Leno

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Recorded in 1993, the track “Artistic Roll Call” from Bill Hicks’ Rant in E-Minor is as true today as it was back then:

Here’s the same bit via Howard Stern

(via disinfo)

 

 

 

 

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What Happened to the Hominids Who May Have Been Smarter Than Us?

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Two neuroscientists say that a now-extinct race of humans had big eyes, child-like faces, and an average intelligence of around 150, making them geniuses among Homo sapiens.

by Gary Lynch and Richard Granger

The following text is an excerpt from the book Big Brain by Gary Lynch and Richard Granger, and it represents their own theory about the Boskops. The theory is a controversial one; see, for instance, paleoanthropologist John Hawks’ much different take.

In the autumn of 1913, two farmers were arguing about hominid skull fragments they had uncovered while digging a drainage ditch. The location was Boskop, a small town about 200 miles inland from the east coast of South Africa.

These Afrikaner farmers, to their lasting credit, had the presence of mind to notice that there was something distinctly odd about the bones. They brought the find to Frederick W. Fitz­Simons, director of the Port Elizabeth Museum, in a small town at the tip of South Africa. The scientific community of South Africa was small, and before long the skull came to the attention of S. H. Haughton, one of the country’s few formally trained paleontologists. He reported his findings at a 1915 meeting of the Royal Society of South Africa. “The cranial capacity must have been very large,” he said, and “calculation by the method of Broca gives a minimum figure of 1,832 cc [cubic centimeters].” The Boskop skull, it would seem, housed a brain perhaps 25 percent or more larger than our own.

The idea that giant-brained people were not so long ago walking the dusty plains of South Africa was sufficiently shocking to draw in the luminaries back in England. Two of the most prominent anatomists of the day, both experts in the reconstruction of skulls, weighed in with opinions generally supportive of Haughton’s conclusions.

The Scottish scientist Robert Broom reported that “we get for the corrected cranial capacity of the Boskop skull the very remarkable figure of 1,980 cc.” Remarkable indeed: These measures say that the distance from Boskop to humans is greater than the distance between humans and their Homo erectus predecessors.

Might the very large Boskop skull be an aberration? Might it have been caused by hydrocephalus or some other disease? These questions were quickly preempted by new discoveries of more of these skulls.

As if the Boskop story were not already strange enough, the accumulation of additional remains revealed another bizarre feature: These people had small, childlike faces. Physical anthropologists use the term pedomorphosis to describe the retention of juvenile features into adulthood. This phenomenon is sometimes used to explain rapid evolutionary changes. ()

Read on (via Discover)

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First Contact Drawings from the Amazon

Do indians from the Amazon, when they put pen or pencil to paper for the first time, draw like children? The intense concentration and curiosity to make something appear on paper is similar. The differences lay in experience of age and the experiences of a different environment. Indians usually have no concept of a horizontal line, nor do they have the habit of looking from left to right as you do when reading, nor do they have a concept of top and bottom.

 

Continue reading…

 

Awi (2000) is a Dutch book with pictures by Michel Pellander, drawings by indians from various tribes and an accompanying text by Marion Hoekveld.

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