Friday, 5 January 2018

Pintupi art

"Women's Dreaming" by Narrabri Nakamarra (image source)

Some of the last people to emerge - or be forced - from the Australian Outback are the Pintupi - and some of them have gone back.

More artwork here and here.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Homo Sapiens: Was the first wave out of Africa much earlier?

The New York Times has reported (July 4, 2017) research to suggest that homo sapiens evolved 300,000 years ago in Africa and left the continent around 30,000 years later - far earlier than had been thought previously.

400,000 years ago, Neanderthals developed separately in Africa and it had been supposed that there was some interbreeding with homo sapiens there around 100,000 years ago, as well as outside North Africa some 50,000 - 60,000 years ago.(2) But if modern humans had already started migrating long before, perhaps for the northern and eastern emigrants the interbreeding happened after the African exodus.


Thursday, 28 September 2017

AUSTRALIA: thwarted love

Bill Harney on a love triangle in 1940s Arnhem Land:

I have found that native tradition, with its prohibitions and fixed customs, really eliminates those things we know as sin and morals...

Some people tried to break down this code, but it always brought trouble in its wake. I well remember an aboriginal couple who were married 'Christian way in church'. The woman was not aware that the union was a fixed one - not as in the tribe, where the people can become divorced by mutual consent.

The marriage irked her so much that she decided to break it up and take to herself another man of the tribe. Her method was simple and ingenious.

She became the friend of another native man I knew and, unknown to him, used him as a means of arousing her husband to such a jealous madness that he crept upon the man, who he thought was his wife's lover, and killed him with a spear.

I found it all out too late, and even then I could not stop the self-satisfied smile on the real killer's face, as her husband went to jail whilst she returned to her true lover.

"Life Among The Aborigines" by W. E. Harney, Robert Hale Limited (1957) - pp. 15, 31-32

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Tonga now free of elephantiasis

Like many places around the world, the Pacific islands have long been plagued with the mosquito-born disease lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis. Now (as of end July 2017) the World Health Organization has declared Tonga free of it. The Marshall Islands were declared free a few months earlier, in March.

The disfiguring and sometimes fatal disease was noted by the late eighteenth century explorer James Cook in his travels in the South Seas, but it has a much longer history. It was known in Goa since at least the sixteenth century and thought to have been present in the Middle East thousands of years before.

Filariasis was present in Tahiti (French Polynesia) in 1954 when the writer H E Bates visited there (at the suggestion of the filmmaker David Lean). In the third volume of his autobiography ("The World In Ripeness", 1972), Bates tells (p. 136) how a fellow passenger in the plane that took him there was an American doctor carrying a box of giant mosquitoes that he hoped would eat the smaller local ones that are a vector for the disease. Sadly, it's still a risk there, but of the 22 Western Pacific countries and territories in the WHO's eradication programme (see p. 18 here), 4 (Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue and Vanuatu) have succeeded and the work goes on.