Archive for the ‘anthropology’ Category

The Pleistocene Penis

December 17, 2014

Organisms with separate male and female sexes evolved from hermaphroditic ancestors.  Hermaphroditic species are still common.  Many species of plants and some species of animals are able to self-fertilize because they are both male and female.  One would think the evolution of an hermaphroditic organism to a species with separate male and female sexes happened so long ago that it would be impossible for biologists to study.  But, surprisingly, this is not true.  There are over 100 species of plants in the evolutionary process of transitioning between hermaphroditism to a state of separate sexes.  The most familiar species in this transitional state is the wild strawberry, Fragaria virginiana.

Biologists believe the evolution of separate sexes was the result of a beneficial mutation.  Organisms that have separate sexes have increased genetic variation, thus improving the chances the species will survive.  Hermaphrodites suffer higher rates of inbred defects and eventually are eliminated from transitioning populations by the hybrid vigor of male x female combinations.  In stressful environments organisms with separate male and female sexes can allocate resources to seed or pollen, not both–another advantage over the hermaphrodite.

Plants rely on wind and insect pollination.  Males and females of many primitive aquatic animals release sperm and egg in each other’s vicinity, relying on water flow to aid fertilization.  But the evolution of a structure to directly deliver a male’s sperm inside a female’s body was a great advance.  This structure is known as a penis.  The oldest known penis in the fossil record belonged to an extinct species of shrimp (Colymbosathon ecplecticas) that lived 425 million years ago. 

Mammoths and mastodons had the largest penises of any land mammal during the Pleistocene and theirs was comparable in size to those of modern day elephants.


This bull elephant is in the mood to mate.  Note the large penis.  Mammoths and mastodons had the largest penises of any Pleistocene land mammal.

Homo sapiens has the largest penis of any primate.  There’s no evidence Pleistocene humans ever practiced the bizarre and barbaric practice of genital mutilation known as circumcision.  Circumcisions originated in Egypt about 4400 years ago. Religious fanatics in the ancient Egyptian culture rejected the concept of sexual pleasure.  Circumcision spread throughout the Middle East and Africa and was always popular among religious nuts who thought sexual pleasure was bad.  According to the bible (an unreliable source), the early Jews practiced circumcision, but Moses outlawed the practice.  Joshua brought circumcision back because he wanted his men to focus on smiting gentiles rather than sexual pleasure.  Jews have continued this idiotic tradition ever since.  Circumcision became popular in the United States after the Civil War when once again religious nuts were trying to stop boys from masturbating.   It didn’t work–98% of circumcized males admit to masturbating.  Greedy physicians made up falsehoods, supporting the pro-circumcision crusade, so they could make money on a common but unnecessary procedure.  Even today, most American males suffer genital mutilation shortly after birth, though, thankfully, rates are declining.

About a decade ago, the American Academy of Pediatricians admitted there was no medical reason for male circumcisions.  However, in 2012 religious nuts pressured the AAP to restate their position.  The AAP now states, “the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks but the existing scientific evidence is not sufficient to warrant universal circumcision…the final decision should be left to parents to make in context of their religious, ethical, or cultural beliefs.”  So in other words, the AAP is saying it’s ok to torture a baby, if their parent’s religion tells them they are supposed to.  The words cowardly and callous come to mind.

The CDC recently released a report supporting the practice of circumcision because in Africa circumcized men are less likely to spread HIV than uncircumcized men.  Well, first of all, the CDC represents America not Africa.  Second, this reasoning is incredibly illogical.  The spread of HIV could be be completely eliminated if every man had their entire penis cut off, just like broken legs could be prevented with universal leg amputations.  Or less dramatic measures could be taken.  Men could use condoms or engage in sex with less dodgy partners.

There is no medical reason for male circumcision.  There is no significant statistical difference in rates of penile cancer or urinary tract infections between circumcized and uncircumcized men as some have falsely claimed.  There is no moral justication for torturing babies, and I think it is sickening how so many parents are willing to approve of such a stupid, barbaric, religious tradition.  The practice of circumcision, both male and female, should be outlawed.

uncircumcised vs circumcised adult penis

Comparison between a normal penis and the more common (in the U.S.) mutilated penis.

I’m glad I can’t remember my circumcision.  Most American males are strapped down when they are babies and have 12 inches of skin cut off from the most sensitive area of their body…all in the name of religion and tradition.  WHAT AN OUTRAGE!  Are people this insensistive, gullible, and stupid that they would subject their children to torture, just because some stupid rabbi or greedy doctor says they should?

The removal of the foreskin slices off the 5 most sensitive areas of the penis.  Circumcized men are 4.5 times more likely to use erectile dysfunction drugs than uncircumcized men.  These men probably wouldn’t need such medication, if their penises had not been mutilated with the approval of their brainwashed parents.


Ashman, T.

“The Evolution of Separate Sexes: A Focus on the Ecological Context”

In chapter 11 of The Ecology and Evolution of Flowers edited by Lawrence Hader and Spencer Barrett

Oxford University Press 2007


The Evolution of Soccer to Rugby to Football

October 3, 2014

On this blog I infrequently voice my fantasy of traveling in a time tunnel to Georgia as it was 36,000 years ago.  Here, I establish a secure homestead and enjoy living off the land in a wilderness untouched by man.  I bring as many modern conveniences back in time with me as possible because I’m not a masochist who believes in unnecessary suffering.  In fact I’ve even proposed bringing a few voluptuous models with me  (it’s just a fantasy afterall). As long as I had a sturdy house, electrical power, plentiful food and alcohol, and a naked woman’s backside in my vicinity; there would not be much about this modern world that I would miss.  I could look out the window and see a saber-tooth or a bear and be entertained to my satisfaction, though I’d bring a library of books, music cds, and dvds with me.  About the only thing from this modern world I would miss that I couldn’t bring back with me would be college football–easily the most exciting spectator sport ever invented.

Modern American football evolved from an ancient sport that may have originated thousands of years ago.  I wouldn’t be surprised if stone-aged tribes kicked and batted the inflated bladder of a wild boar around.  It seems natural that some playful participant would have suggested a friendly test of each tribe’s strength.  Could his tribe push the object past the other tribe?  There is no evidence of this, probably because football-like games predate written history.  The Romans played a game called harpastum.  From the ancient descriptions harpastum seems very similar to rugby, and the Romans copied this game from one played by the Greeks.  Who did the Greeks learn the game from?

The first written record of the word, “football,” dates to 1180 in England.  The English royalty outlawed “football” and “handball” between 1314-1667.  These early ordinances already differentiated games that included rules favoring advancing the ball with the foot vs. those favoring carrying the ball.  Whole towns played against each other in these brutal contests and I doubt the laws were enforceable–officials couldn’t imprison the entire town.

By the 19th century schoolboys often played soccer at recess.  According to legend, William Ellis, a student attending Rugby in 1823, had had enough of scoreless ties.  Before the bell rang ending recess, he picked up the ball and ran it into the goal.  This account is probably a myth, though the game as played in Rugby did change during this time period to one that allowed carrying the ball.  In reality rules varied depending on local preferences with some schools or regions favoring more handling of the ball, while others allowed less.  Handling the ball in soccer wasn’t completely outlawed until 1863.  Those favoring what’s known as rugby today didn’t codify their rules until 1871.

In the early 19th century America’s school kids played a game mostly resembling soccer, but the rules they used did allow some handling of the ball.  Players were allowed to bat the ball, and if they caught it, they were allowed a free kick on goal, not unlike modern Australian rules football.  Canadians introduced rugby to the United States in 1871, and it quickly became much more popular than soccer.  However, Americans thought scrums were a boring part of the game.  In rugby when a player is tackled, both teams have to fight for possession of the ball at the spot of the tackle.   The ball can stay hidden in the pile of men for a long time and the flow of the game is interrupted.  Walter Camp, a player/coach at Yale University, proposed changing the rule so that the team retained possession of the ball after the tackle.  Following this rule change, teams with the lead and the ball simply took a knee, necessitating another rule change also invented by Walter Camp.  Teams were given 3 downs to make 5 yards.  This rule lasted from 1880-1912 when it was changed to 4 downs to make 10 yards.  Canadian football still uses the 3 downs innovation, but they have to make 10 yards.  Walter Camp also invented the rule that the quarterback takes the snap from the center and hands off the ball to another player.  In the early days the center rolled the ball back with his heel.  But in 1891 the between-the-legs snap was invented.

Image result for rugby scrum

Rugby scrum.  Americans thought scrums were a boring part of the game so they invented the new line of scrimmage instead: the downed player’s team retains possession. This rule change caused the 2 sports to diverge.

Artist’s depiction of an early American football game.  Before the legalization of the forward pass and other rule changes that opened up the game, these contests were far more dangerous than modern day football.

Early American football was an even more dangerous sport than it is today.  Before the forward pass was legalized, the best strategy was to carry the ball straight ahead using masses of blockers lined up in a v-formation or otherwise bunched together.  All of the blockers would converge on 1 point of the defensive line, so that 4 or 5 players were slamming into 1 defender.  Even outside runs were a little used strategy because the concept of hashmarks hadn’t been established yet, and if the ball carier was forced out of bounds, the center had to snap the ball from the sidelines, greatly constricting the offense.  Early football was a defensive game with teams often punting on first down.  Field goals had a greater point value than touchdowns.  The team with the better kicker usually won because the better punter set his team up for more field goals or dropkicks by changing field position.  Field goals were reduced from 4 points to 3 points in 1909, and touchdowns were increased to 6 points in 1912, finally making touchdowns more valuable.

The high numbers of deaths in the early years of football led to rule changes to open up the game.  In 1906 lineman were no longer allowed to lineup in bunched formations, and the forward pass was legalized, despite the opposition of Walter Camp who coached powerful teams, specializing in mass momentum plays.  Nevertheless, teams didn’t often use the pass because a) the quarterback had to be 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage before he threw a pass and he was not allowed to run with the ball, b) a team lost possession if the pass was incomplete, c) it was illegal to pass the ball over the goal line, and d) the ball was made for kicking not throwing.  In 1912 the rule was changed so that an incomplete pass did not result in a turnover.  Some teams began to pass the ball more often after this, but the passing game didn’t really get going until 1933 when the ball was changed to better suit throwing it rather than kicking it.  Other restrictive rules were eliminated in 1933 as well.  Hashmarks were also introduced in this year, encouraging teams to call outside runs more often.

Audible signals predate the huddle.  The huddle was invented by a team of deaf football players  in 1892 but was not widely used until 1921.  Before this, teams lined up rapidly and called the plays at the line of scrimmage–much like modern day no huddle offenses.  Here’s a link to the earliest footage of a college football game.  It’s the 1903 game between Yale and Princeton, filmed by Thomas Edison

In the early days football, like soccer, only allowed 3 substitutions and once a player left the game, he could not return.  Players had to play offense and defense, and helmets were optional until 1939.  From 1941-1952 college teams were allowed unlimited substitutions.  The rule changed back to one platoon until 1964 when unlimited substitutions were once again allowed.  The NFL legalized unlimited substitutions in 1950.  Modern day substitution allows for more specialization.   Modern players are bigger, stronger, and faster, but these old school players must have had the edge in stamina.

I like college football more than pro.  In the NFL it is theoretically possible that a team with a 7-9 record could make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl.  This diminishes the value of each game, making them less exciting.  In college football 1 or 2 losses can be fatal to a team’s national championship hopes.  But even if this happens, rivalry games are still important and stoke more interest than late season NFL games which often have uninteresting matchups such as a 2-11 team going up against an 8-5 team or worse yet a 3-10 vs a 4-9.

The Georgia Bulldogs are my favorite team.  Todd Gurley is my favorite active player.


Todd Gurley leaping for a touchdown.  Beating Georgia Tech never gets old.


Revsine, Dave

The Opening Kickoff

Lyons Press 2014

Looking at Images of Naked Women Naturally Increases Men’s Testosterone Level

March 14, 2014

Warning.   If you are under the age of 18, stop reading or you might go blind and insane.  There are images of naked women on this post.

The subject matter of my blog is often humbling.  Many of the species of animals and even of plants discussed here have been extinct for thousands or millions of years.  I have covered environmental changes that occurred long ago, long before I was born, and long after I’m gone, the earth will experience many more changes.  Time is as vast as space, and it always marches forward.  There is nothing we can do to stop the passage of time.  Compared to the vastness of space and time, all of humanity is of a temporary insignificance for one day, humans will be extinct as well.  Everyone we know and love will age and die, and if we are fortunate enough to leave descendents, they will also age and die.  Eventually, even the sun will lose power, and Homo sapiens will certainly become extinct when this happens.  More probably, Homo sapiens will become extinct long before this real end-of-days apocalypse.

Though no one has ever been able to stop time and the process of aging, there are certain actions we can take to prolong our existence on earth.  As individuals, we can exercise vigorously, eat right, and avoid risky behaviors.  Studies also show that men who maintain active sex lives live longer.  However, sexual performance can become difficult because as men age, their testosterone levels decrease, resulting in a lower  libido.  The medical/pharmaceutical complex refers to this as “low T,” and they use this term to sell products that raise testosterone levels.  Drugs, such as Viagra, are also marketed to help older men get boners.  All this pharmaceutical crap is an unnecessary scam.  Instead, all an average  man has to do to raise his testosterone level is look at images of naked women.  Studies show that male monkeys who viewed images of sexually active female monkeys enjoyed a 400% spike in their testosterone levels.

Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta).  A scientific study found that looking at images of sexually active female macaques raised monkey testosterone levels by 400%, proving that looking at porn is a good, healthy, and cheap way of raising human male testosterone levels.  All it requires is an internet connection.  Free material is abundant.

Porn is beneficial to society, but there are many negative myths about it.  According to David Ley, a clinical psychologist from New Mexico, there is no such thing as a “porn addiction.”  The concept of a “porn addiction”  is not supported by the scientific evidence.  It’s not even listed as a disorder in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual–a textbook used by psychologists to diagnose patients.  This is surprising because the DSM lists all sorts of invented syndromes that crooked psychotherapists use as an excuse to bilk money from chumps.  Dr. Ley claims porn improves attitudes toward sex, increases the quality of sex, and increases the pleasure of long term relationships.  The increased availability of porn is correlated with lower rates of sexual assaults.  Dr. Ley notes that most men seeking treatment for “porn addiction” are homosexuals or religious men whose values conflict with their habit of viewing porn.  There is no scientific evidence that viewing porn causes a “rewiring” of the brain, and there are no published scientific papers linking porn with impotence.

A crooked cottage industry has been born to treat the fictional disorder of “porn addiction.”  Some institutes charge $37,000 to “cure” men allegedly suffering from a “porn addiction.”  Many church ministries charge $500 a day to treat these chumps.  Of course, these money-hungry crooks want society to think there is such a thing as a “porn addiction.”  Wendy and Larry Maltz even wrote a book called The Porn Trap.  They claim  porn can cause men to have difficulty establishing meaningful relationships, and it leads men to participate in risky sexual behavior.  They’re just wrong.  These men they treat would have the same problems, if there was no porn.  It’s a flaw in their character that they were born with.

Porn is nothing new.  Men painted hypersexualized images of women on cave walls 30,000 years ago.  Looking at naked women is an enjoyable activity that helps keep men young.  I look at naked women as part of a healthy routine that naturally raises my testosterone levels, so I don’t have to take unnecessary medication.

New Pictures 001

I had my wife take this photo of me after I had consumed a few beers.  I was in the process of saying, if alcohol is supposed to be so bad, why do I feel so good?  Believe it or not this 51 year old man can do a set of over 60 pullups.  I run 3 miles about 4 times a week and still  beat on the heavy punching bag for 20 minutes twice a week.  But the most important activity I use to maintain my health is to look at sexy women.  My wife was making fun of my habit the other day when she caught me checking out a waitress’s backside.  If a women wears skin tight blue jeans, I assume she wants men to look.

I like looking at women with big natural titties and thick jiggily buttocks.  These features are evidence of a woman’ s fertility.  Fertile-looking women are universally attractive to men, and inspire the human race to reproduce.  Below is a selection of fertile-looking women I like to look at.  They all claim to have natural breasts.  I’ll take their word for it.

Christina Hendricks.  She’s the only reason I watch the AMC series Mad Men.  Critics love that show but I think it kind of sucks.  I watch it hoping Ms. Hendricks will do a nude scene.  The only nude photo of her online is photoshopped and I suspect not as good as the real thing.  A shy guy could really hide his face in those bosoms.

Maritza Mendez.  With women like her on the other side of the border, I believe we should let all the Mexicans in…the more the merrier. President Obama, tear down that wall.

jenna shea nude cell phone pic

Jenna Shea.  She’s demonstrating my favorite posture, known as the Reverse Cowgirl.

September Carrino.  Wow! I think I just raised my testosterone level by 400%.  She’s got her own website.


Ley, David; et. al.

“The Emperor has no Clothes: A Review of the Pornographic Addiction Model”

Current Sexual Health Reports 2014

The Real Turok Son of Stone

February 24, 2013

Baby boomers enjoyed reading comic books about dinosaurs when we were kids, and Turok Son of Stone served as the ultimate fulfullment of our fetish for this genre.  Turok Son of Stone featured 2 Indian brothers trapped in a lost valley where dinosaurs still roamed.  It was a flimsy excuse to show Indians with bows and arrows battling dinosaurs and on occasion cave men.  The brothers always got close to escaping the valley but their hopes were dashed at the end of each issue, usually with an avalanche of rocks.  The title must have been quite successful–the series ran from 1956-1982 and was later revived for over 4 years in the mid-1990s.  The premise, of course, is scientifically untenable.  Dinosaurs became extinct millions of years before hominids evolved, and there were no lost valleys where they could have survived.  The writers of the mid-1990’s revival series realized the unlikely science behind this and at least made the explanation that the valley existed in a repeating time loop.  In reality humans never battled dinosaurs.  However, Australian aborigines did encounter and apparently conquer very large reptiles when they colonized that island continent.

Cover illustration from the once long-running and popular Turok Son of Stone comic book.

The Australian aborigine was the real Turok Son of Stone.  They conquered and drove into extinction 3 species of monstrous reptiles.  The man on the left has a boomerang; the man on the right has an atlatl or throwing spear.  They could kill anything with a dart from a throwing spear.

Australian aborigines proved that a man with a projectile weapon can kill any animal that ever lived on earth.  The aborigines first arrived on Australia ~40,000 years ago.  They likely came from India and New Guinea and were familiar with such dangerous animals as large monitor lizards, salt water crocodiles, and sharks.  Tribal memories must have included lions, tigers, leopards, bears, and wolves as well.  When they started exploring the strange land of Australia they were prepared to battle all manner of beast.  They slew megalania (Varanus priscus), a terrifying real life dragon that reached lengths of 25 feet and had a venomous bite.  The Komodo dragon is megalania’s closest living relative, and they seldom grow to more than 6 feet long.  They have been known to kill people.  Komodo dragons also sport a venomous bite fatal to buffalo, hogs, and deer.  Imagine how dangerous a 25 foot long monitor lizard would have been.  I’m sure aborigines suffered a steady casualty rate before hunting megalania into extinction. 

Some aborigines also probably lost family members to Quinkana fortirostrum, a land crocodile that grew to about 20 feet long.  Unlike modern crocodiles, it was equipped with long legs and chased its prey down.  It had knife-like teeth built for tearing prey apart.  The quinkana is named for the aborigine legend of spirits that hide in crevices but come out at night to feast on human fat.  It’s more likely real life quinkanas attacked people during the day when the cold-blooded monsters were more active.  Neither megalanias (also known as giant ripper lizards) nor quinkanas had any fear of man, explaining why they became extinct.  For millions of years neither species had to fear any animal other than larger members of their own species.  Quinkana fortirostrum evolved 24 million years ago, though similar species of land crocodiles are even older than that and co-existed with the dinosaurs.  Quinkanas were a successful predator for 24 million years, yet, they disappeared at the exact time man first appears in the fossil record of Australia.  That’s just too much coincidence for any alternative explanation of extinction. They just lost too many conflicts with men who also probably dug up their eggs every chance they got.  Megalania existed for at least 6 million years, but it too became extinct when man arrived on the scene.  A 3rd large reptile, an 18 foot long snake known as Wonambi naracoortensis, also succombed to man.

Top: Size comparison between Megalania and modern day soldier.  Bottom: Quinkana, the extinct land crocodile.  Australian aborigines rapidly wiped out both animals, neither of which probably ever learned to fear man.  Animals that don’t fear man generally become extinct.  Imagine the bravery required to hunt these with a throwing spear.

Aborigines also drove most of Australia’s large mammals and birds into extinction.  Stirton’s thunderbird, a 1000 pound moa, and Genyornis newtoni, a 90 pound flightless chicken, both disappeared shortly after man colonized the continent.  The “duck of doom” is only known from a single 6 foot long femur.  Men must have found a giant flightless duck to be easy pickings.  The goliath kangaroo, a 400 pounder, couldn’t withstand the onslaught of man, and neither could Diprotodon australis,  a 4000 pound wombat.  Zygmaturas trilobus was an aquatic marsupial that occupied a niche similar to hippos and capybaras.  Men must have found them easy to ambush at water holes.  A tapir-like marsupial, Palorchocter azael, didn’t fare any better.  Men dug up, killed, and roasted too many Megalibigullia camgayis, an 150 pound echidna.  Man dethroned the marsupial lion, Thylacinus cynocephalox, as king of the beasts here. Propleopus oscellans, a large carnivorous kangaroo, was just as unsuccessful in its competition with man.

Illustration of an extinct species of carnivorous kangaroo.  It had wolf -like canines and ran rather than hopped.

Thylacines and a large subspecies Tasmanian devil survived the initial extinction event.  The former survived on Australia until about 3000 years ago, and the latter lasted until approximately 300 years ago.  These smaller predators could survive on the smaller game left after man wiped out the slower breeding megafauna, but competition with dingos, which were introduced to the continent about 5000 years ago, likely led to their demise.

Many people are under the false impression that marsupials survived on Australia for so long because they were isolated from placental mammals, and never had to compete with them until man arrived. This is not true.  Both placental and marsupial mammals originally co-existed on Australia, Eurasia, and the Americas.  Placental mammals did outcompete marsupials on 4 of these 5 continents, but marsupials did win Australia.

The Nature of the Picayune Creole Cookbook

November 21, 2012

In honor of Thanksgiving, the American holiday dedicated to gluttony, I offer this food-oriented essay.

Editors and journalists from the New Orleans Picayune newspaper published the Picayune Creole Cookbook in 1901 from recipes compiled in the late 19th century.  If the reader is interested in this cookbook, be sure to purchase the facsimile of the original published by Dover Publications and not the newer version published by Random House in 1987.  The ignorant clods who updated the original left out most of the historical recipes that made the original so unique and valuable for food historians.   The text of the original version is available for free online from the following link

The great variety of organisms consumed by Creoles during the 19th century makes the Picayune Creole Cookbook  an interesting one for naturalists as well as food historians.  Today, turtles are a regional specialty but have gone out of culinary style for most of the United States.  For 19th century Americans, turtle meat was an abundant and common source of protein.  The Picayune Creole Cookbook gives recipes for green sea turtles and diamondback terrapins.

Diamondback terrapin.  Reportedly a delicacy.

Diamondback terrapins live in saltmarshes all along the Atlantic coast from New England to Mexico.  Like so many other animals, they were formerly abundant but today are rare due to human consumption and coastal development.  I’ve never seen one.  Turtles were cooked in soups and stews, giving me the impression the meat is tough.  Turtle meat is not sold in stores around Augusta, Georgia and I’ve never eaten turtle.

The sheepshead was the most popular and “versatile” fish used in New Orleans around the turn of the century.  This species uses its human-like teeth to crush the shellfish that it feeds upon.  This diet is probably what makes them taste so good.

The teeth on a sheepshead look very human-like.  They eat clams and the teeth crush the shells.

Look at that beautiful…fish!

The Picayune Creole cookbook also has 5 recipes for eel, 4 for stingray, and 6 for frog.  Oddly enough, the only recipe for a freshwater fish species is for roe from green trout which is the name they used then for largemouth bass.  Most of the fish recipes are for marine species including pompano, bluefish, flounder, red snapper, red drum, and croaker.

One of the most interesting dishes in the book is Pigeon a la cardinale, known also as pigeon and crawfish–a combination I bet not a single person in the world will eat for supper tonight.  The dish calls for baking 3 pigeons between layers of bacon in a pan filled with beef broth and onions.  The crawfish are boiled separately.  After the pigeons and crawfish are done cooking, a little of the crawfish boil water is added to the beef broth and the pigeons are garnished with the crawfish.  The authors of the cookbook differentiate between domestic and wild pigeons.  The availability of passenger pigeons at the market was still a recent memory when they were compiling the recipes for this book.

The Picayune Creole Cookbook states that the pigeon and crawfish dish is “Creole to the letter.”  Now this dish is almost unheard of.  The above photo is the closest match I could find on google images.  It’s a roasted pigeon served with crawfish tails, softshelled crab, and vegetables, but not with bacon and a gravy made from pigeon, beef, and crawfish broth.  Passenger pigeons and crawfish were at one time both abundant, making pigeons and crawfish a practical dish.  Now, it’s not at all economical to make.

The canvasback duck (Nyoca vallosneria) was praised as the best-eating waterfowl because it ate wild celery (Vallosneria spiralis).  Some ducks eat a lot of fish, but canvasbacks are mostly vegetarian.  This diet gives their a flesh a savory quality.  They were simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice and broiled quickly.

Male and female canvasback ducks–reportedly the best tasting of all ducks.  Duck is one of my favorite foods.

The bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorous) known as the reedbird in the Picayune Creole Cookbook, apparently was common table fair when in season. The second part of its scientific name means rice-devourer.  It still is a pest for rice farmers.  Creoles shot these members of the blackbird family to protect their rice fields.  It only takes 5 minutes to broil small birds such as bobolinks (robins and larks were also prepared this way).  I’ve never eaten a bird smaller than a quail.  It takes at least 2 quail to equal the amount of meat from about 1/4th of a chicken.  It probably takes about 4 bobolinks to equal 1/4th of a chicken.

The bobolink, also known as the rice bird.  It’s a pest to rice farmers and table fair for Creoles.

It took me a while to figure out what a pababotte was.  I’ve determined that the pababotte discussed in the Picayune Creole Cookbook is probably the upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda).  The upland sandpiper is a denizen of the prairie.  Fossil specimens of this species were discovered at Kingston Saltpeter Cave in Georgia and Bell Cave in Alabama.  Both localities are in a region where upland sandpipers are absent today aside from an occasional vagrant.  This is evidence that small pockets of prairie existed within the mostly forested region of the upper south during the late Pleistocene.  Upland sandpipers were once an abundant bird but overhunting and agriculture have greatly reduced their numbers.  J.J. Audubon witnessed 48,000 upland sandpipers killed in a single day by a group of hunters in 1810.  Creoles serve them stuffed and braised, roasted, or broiled.

Upland sandpipers were more widespread during the Ice Age.

Until 1861 an old French woman produced Fois Gras in New Orleans.  She raised geese in small cages.  She kept their feet nailed to the cage floor and force fed them to enlarge their livers.  I’m sure the enlarged livers are rich and delicious, but the practice seems cruel and wasteful–the rest of the meat is flabby and unfit for eating.  Raising geese for Fois Gras is illegal in the U.S. today.

There are many recipes in the Picayune Creole Cookbook that don’t require extinct or rare animals to make.  One of the best I’ve tried is a soup made out of beef ribs, corn, and tomatoes.  I could live on lentil salad–a simple recipe of lentils tossed in a vinegarette.  The gumbo recipes from the book use less roux than most modern gumbos and instead are thickened with powdered sassafras leaves or okra.  A gumbo made out of a leftover turkey carcass is an excellent example of frugality but I prefere a more roux-heavy version.  There are 7 recipes for different types of sausages, and I’ve made several, though in the shape of hamburger patties rather than links stuffed in casings.  For the home cook I think this book is still useful and will never go out of date.

Native American Cannibalism and Dog-Eating

October 24, 2012

Last year, I wrote several Halloween inspired essays on topics such as Pleistocene vampire bats, dire wolves and lycanthropy, and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. (See ) Monstrous extinct animals abound in the pre-history of southeastern North America, and I can choose from  a lot of potentially terrifying topics for Halloween-themed essay material,  but none of the monsters of the past are scarier than Homo sapiens.  Flesh-eating zombies are popular in fiction today.  But the concept of mindless non-entities eating people is laughable nonsense when compared to the true history of live humans eating other humans.  Maybe this is because we assume people have compassion and empathy for their fellows, and it’s shocking when history proves this is not always the case.

I’ve written an irregular series on this blog fantasizing  about how I would live in Georgia 36,000 years BP, if I could bring some modern conveniences back in time with me.  I picked that time because it’s almost certain there were no people here yet.  As long as I had firearms and a secure dwelling, I wouldn’t be afraid of the animals, but I would be afraid of irrational pre-historic people. I’m sure cannibalism has existed among Homo sapiens for tens of thousands of years ever since before modern man evolved, but most of the evidence is gone.  However, there is plenty of documented evidence of cannibalism among various Native American tribes.  They were caught in the act during European colonization.

Indians roasting arms and legs.  Early Germanic tribes in Europe practiced cannibalism as well.  A recently discovered site in Herxheim, Germany dating to 7,000 BP unveiled evidence of spit-roasted humans.  The bones were cut and the marrow sucked out.

The Skidee Pawnee migrated from the Red River valley to Nebraska circa 1400.  They were part of the Caddoan culture.  The Caddoans believed they had to sacrifice a young woman to the morning star or their corn crop would fail.  Although they would sacrifice one of their own if necessary, they preferred to sacrifice a captured slave.  When the Skidee Pawnee raided a village, they’d kill all of the adults.  They’d carry the small children back with them to serve as food on the return journey, and they’d keep the older children as slaves, some of whom were used for the sacrifice to the morning star.  The slaves were treated well, and these ritual sacrifices were made quick and painless–the victim probably even thought they were about to be honored not killed.  But captives meant to be eaten were severely tortured as the following account by Andre Penicaut illustrates.

All the men and women in the village assemble around the flames where these poor fainting persons are tied.  Each family lights its fire before which they place a pot full of hot water, and, when the sun has arisen, four of the oldest savages, each one with a knife in his hand, make incisions in the arms, thighs, and lower legs of the ones hung up whose blood runs from their bodies to the extremities of their feet where four old men receive it in vessels.

They carry this blood to two other old men whose duty it is to have it cooked in kettles, and when the blood is cooked, they give it to their women and children to eat.  After they have consumed the blood, the two dead men are detached from the frame and placed on a table where they are cut up.  The pieces are distributed to the entire assembly of the village, and each family cooks some of it in its pot.  While the meat is being cooked they begin to dance.  Then they return to their places, take the meat from the pots, and eat it.”

The bible story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac is a reference to human sacrifice in Western culture.  The Judeo-Christian tradition changed this culture, but the story itself suggests human sacrifice was once widespread in Eurasia as well.  Ancient Semitic tribes shared with the Indians the bizarre belief that the Gods needed to be placated by sacrificing young people.

Before battles the Iroquois always pledged to the Sun God that they would eat their enemies.  The French Jesuit priests witnessed Iroquois eating captives.  The Iroquois tortured and ate the patron saint of Canada, Father Jean de Breboeuf.  They baptized him with boiling water, held fire-heated axes to his skin, cut off his tongue to stop him from praying, scalped him, and removed his still beating heart.  They drank his blood before they chopped him up and distributed his meat to be eaten.

Indian scalping an enemy.  Contrary to apologist historians, Europeans did not introduce scalping to Indians.  However, they did add monetary value to scalps.  Removing and saving the whole head was more common than scalping prior to European colonization.  It simply became more convenient to carry  scalps instead of heads when seeking monetary rewards.

Most of the Chippewa tribes abhorred cannibalism, but they would eat Iroquois in retaliation for Iroquois eating Chippewa captives.

There was a cannibal cult within the Kwakiutl tribes which lived in British Columbia.  Only the Hamatsa, the chief of the cannibal cult, was allowed to eat human flesh.  To become a Hamatsa, a man had to kill another Hamatsa, so the number of cannibal chiefs stayed constant.  Other people, usually his wives, brought him human flesh.  They killed people to eat, but they also ate corpses from those who died of natural causes.  The Hamatsa chief ate both fresh and dried human flesh.  Supposedly, the dried human flesh (jerky) was easier to eat.  Slaves were kept as food.  George Hunt witnessed an Hamatsa feast.  The chief ate a mummified human, then bought a slave in exchange for 100 blankets, and he killed her by biting her throat, and he ate her raw.

The Tonkaway lived on a narrow strip of land in south Texas between the Karankawa and the Comanche.  Besides cannibalism, the Tonkaway are infamous for infanticide.  All female babies were thrown to the dogs to prevent inbreeding.  Apparently, all wives were captured from other tribes.  If a parent had a bad dream, they killed the male babies too.  It’s frightening to contemplate this irrational belief system.  The Comanches especially hated the Tonkaway because the latter would eat captured Comanche braves.  The Comanches were ok with the brutal torture to death of prisoners, but not cannibalism.

The Karankawa inhabited the coastal region of Texas.  Although they were well known for cannibalism, the U.S. government used the Karankawas as allies in its wars against the Comanches and Apaches.

A scientific analysis of human feces found at the Cowboy Welsh site in Colorado proves the Anasazi Indians were cannibals.  The site dates to about 950 AD.  Here, at least 1200 lbs of human flesh were processed and eaten.  A mask made fr0m the skin of a human face was excavated from this site.  Imagine a kid showing up for trick or treat with a face mask made literally out of another person’s face.

Native Americans wouldn’t just kill and eat a family, but they’d eat the family dog too.  The Sious, Cheyenne, Paiute, Nez Pierce, and Hidatsa all ate dog until the early 20th century.  The Kickapoo were famous for their puppy stew.  The Aztecs raised fat little dogs which they castrated so the canines would grow even fatter.

Dog-eating in North America dates to at least 9400 BP.  Human feces containing part of a dog’s skull, dog meat, dog brains, fish, bird, and prickly pear fruit was found in Hinds Cave in south Texas.  Dog is still commonly eaten in parts of Asia.

A paleofecal sample.

9400 year old human coprolite found in Hind’s Cave, Texas that contained part of a dog’s skull.

A Korean dog stew.  Looks delicious.  I would eat it…or at least try it.  I have no qualms about eating dog meat.


Feldman, George Franklin

Cannibalism, Headhunting, and Human Sacrifice in North America: A History Forgotten

Alan Hood Company 2008

Humans Cultivated Figs During the Pleistocene

August 5, 2012

Israeli archaeologists found the burned remains of a house near the ancient biblical town of Jericho.  The site, named Gilgal 1, is much older than Jericho, dating to 11,400 BP.  They discovered 9 dried figs within the site of the house.  Scientists determined this variety of fig was a cultivated mutant that resulted in a sweeter fruit than any wild fig, and it had no seeds.  Most wild figs requre tiny pollinating wasps but this mutation did not–proof that it must have been propagated by people.  This makes the fig the oldest known cultivated plant, and it predates the known cultivation of cereal grains by thousands of years.  It’s the only known cultivated fruit dating to the Pleistocene.

This variety of fig is known as LSU purple, developed by the Louisiana State University agricultural department.  I grew these in my backyard.  The tree is incredibly productive, but the fruit is only of high quality, if there is little rain during the week they ripen.

Figs are easy to propagate.  Simply cut a 12 inch twig from an existing bush and plant it in a container.  Keep it well watered.  The leaves will die back as the twig grows roots.  Soon, the twig will refoliate and grow into a bush or tree.

My Celeste fig hasn’t been producing in recent years, so I cut a twig from it and planted it in this container last summer.  This is a 1 year old fig sapling.  It should begin producing Celeste figs within the next few years.

I grow 2 varieties of figs.  LSU purple figs are large and as the name suggests, purple.  They produce abundant good quality fruit as long as the weather is dry.  Any significant rain while they are ripening causes the fruit to split open which attracts insects.  This makes them kind of yucky, and the rain also dilutes the sugar content, making them less sweet.  Split figs not invaded by insects are still usable.  Slice them and place them in a simple syrup made from brown sugar and water and boil them for about 5 minutes.  They taste just like canned Kadota figs.  The other variety of fig I grow is Celeste, a small brown fig with a purplish tinge.  This variety is more resistant to splitting from heavy rain.  I find it puzzling that LSU developed a fig so unsuited for the humid environment of Louisiana.  I recomend Celeste over LSU purple, though the latter looks so much better.

My figs attracted 5 species of birds this summer including crows, mockingbirds, cardinals, brown thrashers, and red bellied woodpeckers.  They’re likely drawn to the insects that infest the fruit such as wasps, ants, fruit flies, and stink bugs.  The combination of fruit and insects provides the birds with a balanced diet.

This is a photo of my fig tree with a crow on it.  Click on the photo to enlarge it, and you should be able to see the crow on the upper right side of the tree.  I tried to take a better photo, but crows are just too wary.  I took this photo from inside my home. 

Two species of figs are native to North America but are restricted to a range from central Florida south to the tropics of South America.  Strangler figs ( Ficus aureus and Ficus citrifolia ) have a fascinating life history.  Mature trees produce up to 1 million edible fruits every year.  Birds eat the fruit and deposit the seed in their dung on another tree’s bark.  The fig seeds begin their life as an epiphyte tree parasite and start growing on a host tree (often cypress, oak, or palm).  Eventually, they send roots to the ground and kill the host tree.

A strangler fig that appears to have smothered its host–apparently a live oak.  Now it’s a dead live oak.  Strangler figs depend on a tiny species of wasp (Pegoscapus mexicanus) for pollination.

Strangler figs may have ranged farther north during warm climate phases of the past.  It’s possible strangler figs colonized the Georgia and Carolina coasts during the Sangamonian Interglacial (~132,000 BP-~118,000 BP) which may have remained frost free as evidenced by the presence of giant tortoises.  The early Pliocene and most of the Miocene were also mostly frost free and strangler figs probably colonized the entire southern half of the North American continent.

Figs are in the same family (Moracea) as the mulberry (Morus rubra).  Mulberries were a common fruit of the Indians and formerly grew abundantly in virgin forests.  It’s not endangered but I’ve rarely encountered them.  Perhaps mulberries, a temperate species, evolved from a tropical fruit that grew in North America during the Miocene.

The Nature of Paleolithic Art by R. Dale Guthrie

January 25, 2012

I recently finished reading The Nature of Paleolithic Art by R. Dale Guthrie.  Dr. Guthrie also authored Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe and dozens, perhaps hundreds, of articles for scientific journals, many of which I’ve read.  It took me almost a month to read The Nature of Paleolithic Art because it’s 500 pages and has small print and numerous pictures on every page that are worth careful examination.  The book is a brilliant creation, taking decades of research and writing to complete.  It’s well-written and the line drawings replicating the cave paintings show Dr. Guthrie is a talented and patient artist.  Because I can’t live in the Pleistocene as I so often fantasize on this blog, I wanted to get inside the heads of the humans who actually did.  Dr. Guthrie does this with his detailed analysis of their art.  Most books about paleolithic art have been written by art historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists, but this book is the first written from the point of view of a vertebrate paleontologist, making it unique.  I noticed didn’t have much information about this book, so I will remedy this with a chapter-by-chapter review.

The first chapter is entitled “Drawn from Life.”  It consists of a discussion of how this work compares to others on the subject.  This is where Dr. Guthrie introduces one of the important themes of his book: Most paleolithic art was drawn realistically and the images were not representations symbolizing magic or religion, a view held by many anthropologists.  I agree with Dr. Guthrie.  To me this seems rather obvious–too many scholars look for something deep and complex when there is a much simpler explanation.  The people living in Europe then depended on hunting and that is what they depicted.  This chapter also covers the ecology of Pleistocene Europe.  Humans lived on the ecotone between southern European forests and the vast mammoth steppe that stretched from the British Isles to Alaska.  And there are detailed descriptions of cave geology, preservation, and taphonomy.

The second chapter is “Paleolithic Artists as Naturalists” which was perhaps one of the most interesting for me (well…that and the sex chapter).  He finds usable information about extinct species and extirpated subspecies from cave paintings.

Page from The Nature of Paleolithic Art.  The top drawings depict the most common large mammals living in Eurasia during the Pleistocene including Woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos, Megaloceros–a giant extinct deer, elk, caribou, aurochs–wild cattle, bison, musk-oxen,  horses, asses, ibex, sable antelope, cave bear, brown bear, lions, hyenas, wolves, and humans.

For example the cave paintings inform us that European lions had no manes, and horses in southwestern Europe had some striping, an adaptation for living in brushy habitat.  Dr. Guthrie shows the reader how the cave paintings represent real animal behavior–there are depictions of mating and flight response.

Chapter 3 is “Tracking down the Pleistocene Artists.”  Dr. Guthrie conducted a study that analyzed the hand prints on the cave walls.  Statistical differences between age and sex exist in the measurements of finger and palm size.  The cave painters made the hand prints by spitting a mouthful of red ocher over their hands.  Based on hand measurements, Dr. Guthrie determined most but not all the cave painters were boys aged 12 and under.

A statistical analysis of hand measurements suggests most the cave painters were boys aged 12 and under.  The kids making the hand prints were likely the same kids who were drawing the animals.

Although many cave paintings are masterpieces, most look like something a third grader might doodle.  The highest quality paintings are famous, but they’re vastly outnumbered by little known drawings that were done by less talented or less experienced artists.

It’s no coincidence that nearly every cave with paleolithic art was discovered by teenaged boys.  During the paleolithic just like in the present time, adventurous boys would be the most likely members of society to venture into caves.  Because life expectency was so low then, children made up a bigger percentage of the population then than they do now and teenaged boys would have been a significant segment of society.  Contrary to popular belief, paleolithic people didn’t live in caves but inhabited open air sites, temporary huts, and rock shelters.  This explains why most of the cave artists were young boys.

Chapter 4 is “Testosterone Events and Paleolithic Imagery.”  This one is about the evolution of human behavior and art.  He explains the evolutionary reason why paleolithic men and women differed in the partition of labor and why modern politically correct attitudes stifled early studies on the role evolution played in making men the hunters while women were better able to perform tedious tasks such as sewing clothes.  Younger men with higher levels of testosterone than women took more risks when hunting and were also more likely to explore caves.  Accordingly, the art on caves is more representative of a young male’s point of view.  Much information about women’s contributions is missing–the clothes they made are organic and long gone.  Boys painting on cave walls rarely drew people wearing clothes, even though they must have, considering the harsh climate.  There are rare exceptions.  The few pictures depicting clothes show paleolithic people wearing parkas, hoods, and boots.

Chapter 5 is “The art of Hunting Large Mammals.”  Dr. Guthrie begins by reviewing the evolution of hunting behavior in hominids.  He uses evidence from physiology, sociobiology, ecology, and accounts from the ethnographic record to show that hunting was a driving force in human evolution.  He believes hunting created the modern social bond between man, wife, and child.

Incidentally, Dr. Guthrie believes the red spots on some cave paintings of Pleistocene horses represent the tracking of blood from wounded animals.  This is an alternative explanation for the ones I gave in a previous blog entry–

Another page from the book.  These are line drawings of cave paintings.

The chapter on hunting is a long one covering paleolithic weapons, the use of disguises, tracking wounded game, and harpooning fish.

Chapter 6 is “Full-figured Women in Ivory and Life.”  He explains the common depiction of full-figured fat women represents the female sex when they were most fertile. In most hunter-gatherer societies, women are rarely fertile due to a combination of environmental stress and the care of an already existing baby or toddler.  Women were most likely fertile during times of plenty when they had no young children nursing.  Men evolved to identify when women were most fertile.  And, of course, young boys drew pictures on cave walls and sculpted the famous figurines because women with big boobs and big butts were what was constantly on their minds, along with hunting large mammals.

Dr. Guthrie doesn’t go so far as to suggest the possiblity that the Venus of Willendorf represents sex slavery as I did in a previous blog entry–

But he does dismiss the notions they represent fertility or goddess cults.

I don’t agree with Dr. Guthrie when he writes that paleolithic people chose their mates carefully.  The population was so low then that people probably had a hard time even meeting members of the opposite sex who were not related to them, and they had to accept what they could get.

Paleolithic people had many sexual items and enjoyed practices we consider modern.  Cave paintings prove paleolithic women wore lingerie.  Many cave paintings depict buxom women wearing nothing but bracelets, belts, and boots.  Paleolithic dildoes (made of stone) are very common.  One broken sculpture suggests they played bondage games.

Chapter 7 is “The Evolution of Art Behavior in the Paleolithic.”  Here, he discusses the evolution of play and how art is an extension of play.  Art contributed to the survival of paleolithic people because it helped make their brains more creative which did have practical uses.  Creativeness is heritable.

Chapter 8 is “Bands to Tribes.”  Very little paleolithic art is abstract, but the development of agriculture led to an increase in the use of abstract symbols in art.  Humans needed to invent abstract symbols to account for stored foodstuffs.  Agricultural civilization changed the human experience but not all for the better–humans suffered more malnutrition from starch-based diets, they contracted diseases spread from domesticated animals, and they experienced more warfare from being in economically unequal societies.  Not a single paleolithic drawing known depicts a shield or warfare, though individual man on man violence was rarely drawn.

Chapter 9 is “Throwing the Bones.”  This was the only chapter I found uninteresting.  It’s about the evolution of the belief in the supernatural.  There’s not enough concrete evidence left about early human’s supernatural beliefs, making this part of the book too vague and unnecessarily long-winded.  That’s really the only negative criticism I have of the book.  Sometimes, Dr. Guthrie overwrites and gives 5 or 6 examples when 1 0r 2 would have been enough.  Otherwide, I enjoyed the book very much.

Deep Sea Fishing 42,000 BP

December 7, 2011

The Jerimalai shelter during excavation <i>(Image: Susan O'Conner)</i>

Jerimalai Shelter in East Timor, Indonesia.  This is where archaeologists found the remains of deep sea fish caught by humans 42,000 years ago.

The people capable of deep sea fishing in what’s now Indonesia 42,000 years ago may have been related to the ancestors of Australian aborigines.

Many archaeologists underestimate the technological capabilities of primitive men.  Most are convinced that early men could not traverse great nautical distances, despite the known presence of aborigines on the island continent of Australia as early as 50,000 BP.  The lack of marine technology among Australian aborigines, who could barely master building a raft that could stay afloat on a river, has long puzzled them.  Likewise, many reject the hypothesis that some or all American Indians are descendents of people originally arriving via coastal routes. I don’t understand why they reject this possibility.  People able to construct fabulous boats may have made the decision to move inland.  Without a written language, the knowledge of how to navigate across great oceanic distances could have been lost in 1 generation.  All it would take to lose the technology would be the death of a few men with the know how.  Oral tradition may have included memorized story telling, but reciting the steps of how to build a marine worthy vessel would have been too dry to sing around the fire at night.

Evidence that men were capable of deep sea fishing as long as 42,000 years ago was recently unearthed at the Jerimalai Shelter in East Timor, Indonesia.  Scientists discovered 38,000 fish bones from 23 different species including those that primarily inhabit deep ocean–tuna, shark, and parrottfish.  (As far as I know, the complete list hasn’t been published yet, or I surely would have that information on my blog.)  The fish bones date to 42,000 years BP.  A fish hook made out of a clam was found here, but this artifact only dates to about 16,000 BP.  How the more ancient fishermen caught tuna is a complete mystery.  No fish hooks of that age have been excavated here, and of course hand lines and nets are organic and have probably decayed into dust.  It’s surprising that they were able to successfully catch tuna.

Tuna grow even bigger than this.

The Pacific tuna (Thunnus orientalis) is a fast warm blooded fish capable of swimming at speeds up to 40 mph.  They grow to 500 lbs., though the ones the ancient fishermen caught were juveniles much smaller than their maximum size.  Still, the ability to navigate a boat into deep water, catch large strong fish, and return to shore is amazing, considering the primitive technology they utilized.

Archaeologists are also aware of another amazing oceanic journey that took place during the Pleistocene.  Stephen Loring, a museum anthropologist, examined the Manley projectile point, an artifact originally found in Vermont, and he had a eureka moment.  He knew this type of arrowhead was made about 12,000 years ago.  But he realized this particular one was made from Ramah chert–a kind of rock found only in Labrador.  (All rock is 99.9% silica.  Geologists can determine the origin of a rock by analyzing the remaining .1%)  Labrador is 1000 miles from Vermont.

Ancient mariners stumbled upon quality chert for tool making 12,000 years ago while cruising the coast of Labrador.

Blade made out of Ramah chert.  The Ramah chert blade comes from rock only found in Labrador.  This blade was made about 2800 years ago, but the Manley projectile point was found in Vermont and dates to about 12,000 years ago.  The land route at this time was blocked by glacial ice.  That means ancient people traveled 1000 miles along the coastal waters to reach the stone quarry.

The only way an Indian could travel back and forth from what’s now Vermont to Labrador 12,000 years ago was by sea because the land route was blocked by a mile high glacier and meltwater streams and ice impeded a sea shore journey.  Moreover, they had to navigate in and around numerous icebergs, so their route was at least 1000-1600 miles.  Archaeologists argue amongst themselves over whether the ancient mariners paddled or sailed, but they have no doubt the journey was accomplished at least once. 

Archaeologists are searching for evidence that Paleo-indians colonized America via a coastal route, but the proof will be difficult to find.  Sea levels rose following the end of the Ice Age, and any evidence that exists is deep underwater.  Boats made out of skin and wood have likely long since decayed into nothingness.


Guest, Amy

“A Story of Ancient Mariners”

Mammoth Trumpet (26) 4 October 2011

The Venus of Willendorf: Pleistocene Sex Object?

October 14, 2011

Photo of the Venus of Willendorf from google images. This ancient figurine is small enough to fit in the human hand.  The genital area was originally covered in red ochre.

This masterpiece dates to between 24,000 and 22,000 BP and was found in a loess deposit near the Danube River, Austria in 1908.  Over a dozen figurines similar to the Venus of Willendorf have been discovered in central Europe and most date to this time period.  The existence of these figurines inspires two questions that archaeologists may never be able to answer.  What did the figures symbolize, and how did the models get so fat in a pre-agricultural society?

During this time period there was no written language.  Writing and numbers weren’t invented until agriculture became well developed, and the political powers needed a method of dividing the harvest equitably or, more often,  in favor of the elite.  Without a written record we can only guess what the figurines meant.  There are several lines of conjecture.  Some think the figurines symbolize a queen-based matriarchal society.  Others believe they symbolize mother earth.  A third possibility is that they represent charms for women hoping to get pregnant.  I reject all of these ideas.  I doubt there was a society then organized enough to consistently be matriarchal.  The myth of a mother earth probably didn’t exist until the ancient Greeks began to form a civilization.  And I don’t think primitive women were eager to become pregnant then because there was a high rate of deaths and no relief from the pain.  Instead, I believe they represent sex objects, probably even sex slaves.  I’ll explain this further in the next paragraph because it also involves care and feeding.

Archaeologists are certain the Venus of Willendorf was sculpted using a real model.  It’s anatomically accurate and only a person familiar with a real fat woman would be capable of sculpting such a figurine.  This is astonishing.  22,000 years ago, all humans on earth were hunter/gatherers.  Most of them, especially the women must have been scrawny.  A few tribes in Africa and South America still live as hunter/gatherers, and none of their women come close to approaching the corpulence of the Venus of Willendorf.  Ice Age people in central Europe lived on a diet of mostly lean wild game, fish, and wild plant foods.  It must have taken a considerable effort for a group of men to fatten a woman to this size before bread, cakes, and other high carbohydrate foods were invented.  I propose that the men in a tribe chose their best looking or most congenial woman and kept her penned in a dwelling, perhaps one of the houses they made from mammoth bones or more commonly wood.  Here, she lived a sedentary lifestyle, while the men hunted and gathered for her, and they gave her the choicest most fattening foods available to them–the brains, liver, and marrow of large mammals; bear lard; whole salmon and its caviar; sacks of hazlenuts; wild honey; etc.  The men shared her–some stayed with her, while the others searched for food and vice versa.  They took turns searching for the choicest foods.  In exchange for bringing her food she gave them sex.  The men, whose turn it was to look for food, carried the figurine of her with them and used it to fantasize and maturbate around the campfire.  If they met strange men from other tribes, they showed them the figurine and promised to share her in exchange for quality food.   The more men belonging to this club, the fatter the woman would get. 

This arrangement gave this culture a survival advantage, at least for awhile.  A well nourished woman would be more likely to survive childbirth and bear healthy children.  There’s a probability that the men kept her lactating as well and could nurse milk for extra nutrition.  Perhaps that’s a contributing factor of why most Europeans evolved the capacity to digest milk as adults.  Eventually, this culture disappeared but it may be a precursor to the modern cultural expectation that men should be the family provider.

A modern day Venus.  A fat tummy is no longer considered attractive by most men but the big boobs and buttocks are still popular.  Photo from google images.