Art Historian: To modern audiences, this 5000-year-old stone sculpture may appear grotesque, even disturbing, but we must always bear in mind that ancient cultures had very different aesthetic sensibilities; to its contemporaries, this object was likely regarded as beautiful.
Stone-Carver From 3000 BC: I’m gonna make this thing creepy as hell.
The Most Dangerous Island on Earth - North Sentinel Island
Throughout human history a typical theme has been the domination of more technologically advanced societies over “simpler” or “more primitive” ones. In fact in the past 500 years, European societies would come to dominate the world, spreading their culture, often through force of arms or outright genocide. More often than not, the meeting of Old World peoples with New World natives tended to end very badly for the natives. Many cultures were wiped out, many more assimilated or adapted their cultures with European culture. Today there are few places where people living have not in some way been touched by the modern world. One notable exception is North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal.
Officially North Sentinel Island is territory of India, part of the Andaman Islands. In reality the people of North Sentinel Island are their own people, free from any known government or modern organization. Apparently, the Sentinelese are very much happy to keep it that way. Throughout their entire known history, the Sentinelese have been known to viciously fight against any trespass or incursion on their small island. Going back to ancient times the Indians called the island “Cannibal Island”, and told many tales of the dangerous and ruthless natives who inhabited it. Those tales were passed on to the ancient Greeks after the invasion of northern India by Alexander the Great, and thus the infamous legends of the island were mention by Ptolemy. Marco Polo recieved word of the island during his travels to China, writing about the islanders, “They are a most violent and cruel generation who seem to eat everybody they catch.”
Since then, every expedition to island has been met with extreme hostility, and as a result the island has been left untouched to this day. Throughout the 16th-18th centuries many an explorer or shipwrecked sailor met their end on the island at the hands of the Sentinelese. In 1867 a British merchant ship shipwrecked on the island, and its surviivg 110 man crew spent several days fighting off the islanders with guns and swords. Many were killed and wounded in the battle before rescue. This prompted an expedition of reprisal by the Royal Navy who landed marines on the island a short time later. Most of the Sentinelese had disappeared into hiding, knowing that they couldn’t fight a battle against such overwhelming force. In the end the British left in frustration with two elderly Sentinelese and four children.
Today the idea of angry natives attacking shipwrecked sailors or explorers might be something you’d only see in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, however Sentinelese resistance to the outside world continued so that even in the 20th century people tended to steer clear of the island. In 1974 a film crew from National Geographic landed on the island in modern boats in an attempt to make contact with the islanders with peace offerings of a box of coconuts, a baby doll, and a live pig. The Sentinelese met the crew fully armed and ready for war. As a result, a the National Geographic director took an arrow to the knee, the pig was mutilated alive, and the crew was forced to bug out under a hail of arrows and spears.
In 1981 the cargo ship Primrose shipwrecked on the island, and the Sentinelese immediately surrounded the ship, shooting at the crew with bows and several times attempting to board the ship. The crew not only radioed for help, but asked for an urgent airdrop of firearms so they could defend themselves. The drop was delayed by weather but the crew were able to fend off the attacks with a pistol, firefighting axes, and flare guns. They were rescued after a week long siege. The Sentinelese dismantled much of the ship and used the scrap iron for arrow and spearheads. It’s remaining hull can still be seen from google earth.
The only known man to peacefully visit the island was an anthropologist named Trilokinath Prandit in 1991, who several times landed on the island with gifts which he left upon the beach. When he did meet the natives they shot arrows at him and waved their genitals at him. However at one point he was able to make peaceful contact with some of the natives. However as as he left the island, the natives had a change of heart and began shooting arrows at him once more, he hasn’t been back since.
Today North Sentinelese Island is protected by the Indian Government and it is illegal to land there. The reasons for this are to keep the Sentinelese culture intact, and prevent the spread of disease from the island. Note that in history native peoples often suffered deadly diseases after making contact with newcomers. Another reason for creating a 3 mile exclusionary zone around the island is because in 2006 two drunk fisherman landed on the island and were murdered. Thus the Indian Government set up the contact ban to protect outsiders from the Sentinelese as much as protecting the Sentinelese from the outside world. In 2004 an Indian Coast Guard helicopter flew over the island to see if the Setinelese were OK after the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, and to offer help if needed. The helicopter found that the Sentinelese were not only OK after the tsunami, but didn’t want anything any aid at all as they fired arrows at the helicopter.
Today we still no nothing about the language, culture, and ethnicity of the Sentinelese Islanders. The only pictures we have of them are from the occasional illegal drone which buzzes over the island, and is typically met with a hail of arrows. It seems that despite seeing things such as ships, helicopters, and robotic drones, the Sentinelese don’t want fuck all to do with the modern world.
The Ancient Babylonians knew about a form of trigonometry more advanced than the modern-day version – about 1,000 years before its supposed invention by the Ancient Greeks, academics in Australia say.
The astonishing claim is based on a 3,700-year-old clay tablet inscribed with a table of numbers.
Known as Plimpton 322, it is already known to contain evidence that the Babylonians knew Pythagoras’ famous equation for right-angled triangles, long before the Greek philosopher gave his name to it.
And researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have claimed it also shows the Babylonians developed a highly sophisticated form of trigonometry – the system of maths used to describe angles that has tortured generations of school pupils with sine, cosine and tangent.
I suspect a lot of the romaniticisation of past cultures springs from a basic misunderstanding of how laws and mores actually work.
Like, people look at a society and say: “See, this practice had laws against it with extremely harsh punishments, and the oral tradition is full of examples of people engaging in it meeting bad ends. That must mean that folks strongly disapproved of it and it rarely ever happened!”
Trouble is, that’s very often reading the evidence precisely backwards. When laws and stories remonstrating against nonexistent practices spring up, it’s usually out of prejudice toward some identifiable oppressed group that allegedly engages in those practices. Failing that, it’s typically the case that:
a. If there are laws against it, that means it was happening; and
b. If examples of people getting their asses kicked for doing it keep turning up in fiction and folklore, that probably means it was happening a lot.
There are a couple of big reasons why this is the case.
Firstly, performative outrage at practices that are in fact quietly tolerated is by no means a modern invention.
Secondly, with respect to the oral tradition in particular, you’ve gotta look at exactly who is telling these stories. As an obvious example, the greater part of the corpus of European fairy tales that we know today is derived from a body of oral tradition passed on primarily by and among working-class women (which makes all the classist, misogynistic bullshit the Grimm brothers inserted in their anthologies doubly grotesque); the fact that it’s full of examples of wealthy men getting their asses kicked for failing to respect women does not suggest that the originating cultures were egalitarian utopias. Indeed, in context it suggests rather the opposite!
It’s okay to say “I don’t have enough information to form an opinion on this subject”. It is okay to say “I have been presented with new information and I decided to change my opinion on the subject”
We have a whole big internet to look up information. We have all kinds of reputable, free scholarly studies (Google Scholar is a GREAT resource as well as ResearchGate) as well as website that shows the multiple sides of all kinds of arguments (ethical issues, science issues, law issues, among many other things).
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the experts. Don’t be afraid to ask for information from people who have been studying the field for a long period of time.
A Theyyam is a form of ritualistic worship from Kerala, India. There exists over 400 different Theyyams, in which a vast number of different traditions and customs are performed in order to worship cultural heroes and ancestral spirits.
It is said by some academics that this modern folk ritual is extremely ancient, displaying particular traits which existed in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic eras.
8:11[music or silence when studying] i’ve always studied w/o music, don’t know why really, i’m sure classical music works very well. i’ve spent today reading a dense but interesting ethnography, some of the statements in the introduction don’t sit quite right with me so i’ve been a lil sassy in my notes. don’t mind the messy handwriting, i’m so short on time these days😐
Seriously, though: popular archaeology gives us this picture of ancient cultures as almost perpetually preoccupied with elaborate and mysterious rituals, but if we honestly applied the same standards of judgment to modern cultures as we did to ancient ones, we’d totally classify football as a religious observance.
My name is Tas, and I’m from Sydney, Australia. Recently, I was thinking to myself “how cool would a Pen Pal Project be, but with language exchange?” So I decided to launch The Bi-lingual Mingle Project! Basically you just put in your target language (or languages) and your language of fluency- to find someone who has allignent language goals. ie. I am currently studying Spanish but fluent in English so my Pen Pal would be studying English and fluent in Spanish! I have attached the link to the project below and would love to create a space where an international audience can interact!! Please fill the doc. for your new Language Pen Pal!
Take “Cultural Anthropology” and “World Religion” courses for electives. It will shatter your little glass bubble and make you think before you comment on other cultures or groups.
Most of the intolerance and poor decisions made by a group toward another group is done out of ignorance. Understanding our neighbors in the world could help prevent so much tragedy and misunderstandings, and make the world a more peaceful place.
Knowing is half the battle; educate yourself with legitimate sources and open your mind.