When Charles Darwin published the theory of evolution a century and a half ago, there were still some unanswered questions about the theory. But today, with so many advanced archaeological, biochemical and mathematical techniques at our disposal, there is resounding proof in its support. Jerry Coyne’s book is a persuasive account of the irrefutability of the theory of evolution. I approached reading the book with an open mind, allowing myself to either agree or disagree with the author if logic warranted. But as I progressed through the chapters it became obvious to me that evolution is not ‘one’ among ‘many’ contending explanations for the unity within diversity of life. To the contrary, it was strongly impressed upon me how evolution through natural selection is the ‘only’ explication.
Coyne cites numerous evidences in support of evolution. Firstly, the fossil records of various extinct species fit into a grand ‘tree of life’ where every surviving species . . . Read More
Discuss the conceptual dichotomy of civilization and the wilderness in African systems of thought, and the significance of civilization and/or wilderness for Mande art and artistic practice. Discuss Kongo views of supernatural power, and the embodiment of this power in the ‘personhood’ of Kongo minkisi.
Anderson and Kreamer capture the essence of the African idea of the wilderness in their article titled Wild Spirits: Strong Medicine, African Art and the Wilderness. They identify the Kponyugo masquerade as one essential artifact representing the idea o the wilderness. Practiced by the Senufo community in Ivory Coast, the masquerade is quite a spectacle that accompanies annual ceremonies or special occasions. It is a mélange of composite features, snarling snout, projecting horns and tusks, etc, which epitomize the dangers of life in the African ‘bush’. It is equally a statement on the perceived tranquility and safety of the village communal life. . . . Read More
Discuss the significance of the form and meanings of the arts of Ancient Ife and the royal arts of the Yoruba peoples. Discuss the different types of historic interactions and power relationships with Europeans as expressed in Afro-Portuguese ivories and the royal arts of the Benin Kingdom.
In the exhibition titled Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria, we learn how Ife art tried to juxtapose misery and glory, deformity and beauty, master and slave, disease and health. Made of copper alloys and terra cottas, the royal arts of the Yoruba people were informed by the myth of Obatala, whose legend is the art of deformity or sin or illness. Royal personages were commonly immortalized through art. Ooni, the ruler of Ife, wore elaborate textiles in the fourteenth century. The buffalo horn filled with medicines is a symbol of his authority. The staff on his hand also signifies authority. He also wears a beaded collar which usually holds a pair of . . . Read More
The simplistic version of history suggests a primitive/tribal way of life for indigenous Americans. Such a simplification detracts from the community a rich, ecologically informed culture, as well as an egalitarian social organization. The first chapter in the book by Roark, Johnson and team attempts to flesh out a complete picture of North American Indian culture before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.
One of the key characteristics of Native Americans is their unique genealogy, which derives from African and Asian populations. Although this connection is not the most intuitive, anthropological studies using genetic markers have substantiated this understanding. In the late medieval period, they were believed to have adopted a hunter-gatherer mode of life. It is an important revelation, for everywhere else in the world agriculture and urbanization has already become entrenched. Bison was a great stock prey during the time as the ecology of the Great Plains suited it . . . Read More
The Journey of Man, presented by Dr. Spencer Wells, is a very important documentary film that sends out a message of human solidarity. As Dr. Wells says in the introduction, it is the retracing of the all routes of human migration out of Africa in the last 50,000 years. It is a fascinating story constructed on a grand timescale. The drama and significance of this story lies in the high stakes involved for those early humans who ventured into alien territories. There are several facets and themes to the documentary film. But the most striking and profound is that of human solidarity amidst diversity. This essay will expound on this thesis.
In this most compelling story of natural history, the pivotal moment was the great Ice Age that set in 50 thousand years ago. Up until this point, the entire human population (technically of the species Homo sapiens) were confined to just the African continent. This is understandable, for . . . Read More
Charles Darwin’s publication of the theory of evolution through natural selection is one of the pivotal moments in the history of science. But the theory was unveiled only in the middle of 19th century, by when great strides have already been made in other fields of science. Yet, when compared to the complexity and cumbersomeness of theories in the fields of astronomy, quantum physics or discrete mathematics, Darwin’s theory is remarkable for its simplicity. Despite this fact the theory has generated a lot of controversy – both among the general public and among intellectuals. Leading the aggression are the religiously orthodox, who see a threat to the tenets of their faith. To overcome their insecurities they adopt one of two approaches. First, they try to reject evolution as valid scientific theory for want of adequate evidence supporting it. When this fails, they co-opt the theory into a religious understanding and project the process of evolution as God’s . . . Read More
Episode 1: Different But Equal
n the first episode of the documentary series titled ‘Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson’, a historical-colonial perspective of Africa and its people is given. The title ‘Different But Equal’ hints at how African people were treated to the contrary by Westerner colonialists. Although early travelers to ancient African kingdoms thought highly of the region’s culture and natural riches, more recent accounts see them as inferior. The exoticism of Africa and its culture is used as rationale to justify its inferiority and hence its rule. In this context, it is fair to claim that the history of Africa of recent centuries is representative of the history of European colonialism.
Dr. Basil Davidson informs the viewer how the African continent is one of the most geographically diverse in the world. Ranging from tundra to tropical rainforests, from savannahs to arid deserts, from fertile plains to . . . Read More
The Giant Buddha Statues of Afghanistan, also called the Buddhas of Bamiyan, are two of the oldest and culturally significant monuments. But, unfortunately, by decree of the Islamic religious fundamentalist group, the Taliban, they have been destroyed in 2002. Yet, documentary and photographic evidence of the site prior to 2002 offer a rich historical narrative on the two statues. Also, since 2002 numerous new discoveries of ancient statues, caves and paintings surrounding the two giant statues have been made. The Giant Statues are unique in several respects. They are sculpted into naturally formed mountain cliffs. The Buddha figures are unusual in that they are in a standing posture. Usually Buddha statues, paintings and miniatures show him in sitting position. (Wriggins 1996) Incidentally, a big statue of Buddha in the reclining position is unearthed recently in the area proximal to the two Giant Statues.
The Giant Statues were built in 6th century AD . . . Read More
My visit to the Art Museum in Seattle has been an illuminating experience. I felt privileged to be able to look at art objects of ancient civilizations and learn about the richness and sensibilities of cultures long lost. I was able to look and learn about a broad assortment of artifacts. For this report, I’ve chosen an Egyptian work that is related to death/funerary rites, namely, The Relief of Montuemhet and his wife Shepenmut, ca. 665 B.C. This pigment on limestone exhibit was originally excavated from tomb 34 and its dimension is 13 9/16 x 10 7/16 inches. The work is on display in the fourth floor of Seattle Art Museum, in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries. There is a lot that could be read from the selected exhibit, especially pertaining to death and funerary rites of Ancient Egyptian civilization.
The artwork in question belonged to the tomb of Montuemhet – referred to by Egyptologists as TT34. This tomb is located on the West Bank of . . . Read More
The book ‘Did God Have a Wife?’ was written by Syro-Palestinian archaeologist William G. Dever and published in the year 2005. This is a fascinating piece of scholarship that delves into the evolution of early religious ideas and practices in Ancient Israel. Given the importance of Israel (and the greater Middle East) to the understanding of Judeo-Christian religious traditions, a foray into its primitive forms and foundations is of value. The core theme of the book is to illustrate the common substrate upon which Judaism, Christianity and Islam later evolved, as well as exhibiting the polytheism of the ancient Israelite religion. The God of this ancient Israelite religion, namely Yahweh, was said to have a consort by name Asherah. The author also proves how she was an integral part of the Canaanite pantheon of Gods. Hence, the intriguing and slightly provocative title of ‘Did God Have a Wife?’ chosen for the book.
The book assembles relevant evidence from . . . Read More