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Subject: ‘Anthropology’

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The search for the ‘Missing Link’ led to Piltdown Man

Posted in Anthropology, Archaeology, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 12 March 2014

This edited article about Piltdown Man  first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 587 published on 14 April 1973.

Piltdown Man, picture, image, illustration

It was one of the most exciting meetings ever to take place at the Geological Society of London; had the skull in front of them once belonged to a creature half ape and half man?

The workman who had been digging in the Sussex gravel pit all day was glad of the diversion. With a quick swing of his shovel he cracked the round, light brown object into several pieces. Then he stared down in surprise. They were not bits of nut at his feet but splinters of bone.

“Best show them to Mr Dawson.” And within a few days the workman had handed over a large fragment to Charles Dawson, a local solicitor who was well known for his keen interest in fossils.

Dawson was interested all right. In his spare time during the next few years he explored the gravel bed himself and found several more pieces of bone that clearly were part of a fossilised skull, Finally in 1912, he took his discoveries to his friend, Arthur Woodward, who was in charge of the geological section of the British Museum in London.

Woodward was wildly excited and joined in the hunt. Finally he and his colleagues were able to reconstruct a whole skull of a primitive man. This they showed to a tense and expectant meeting of the Royal Geological Society. Next day, the little solicitor was the man of the hour. It was unbelievable, but a spare time explorer into the past had succeeded when all the experts had failed.

Charles Dawson had found the Missing Link!

But what exactly was the Missing Link? So far as Dawson and his friends were concerned, it was the long extinct creature who, in the long history of evolution, bridged the gap between apes and man. The quest for this “halfway” creature had gone on for almost half a century, ever since Charles Darwin had published his revolutionary book, “On the Origin of Species.”

Today, Darwin’s theory of the gradual evolution of life on Earth seems so sensible that it is hard for us to imagine the shock and horror it caused at the time. But for hundreds of years men had believed unquestioningly in the Old Testament’s poetic explanation of Man’s birth, and that he had made his appearance in much the same form as he exists today. They carefully ignored any fossil relics that suggested any form of primitive man, and were outraged at the idea of humans starting as some kind of primitive life form, millions of years ago.

“He means we are descended from apes!” people exploded. In fact, Darwin had said no such thing, but because of the apes’ near-human appearance, the idea was generally accepted. And the search for remains ofthe ape-man was begun.

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Christian missionaries were murdered by the Aucas Indians of Ecuador

Posted in Anthropology, Historical articles, Missionaries on Wednesday, 11 December 2013

This edited article about missionaries first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 488 published on 22 May 1971.

Ecuador, picture, image, illustration
The highest peaks of the Andes are found in Ecuador

It was Friday, 6th January, 1956. On a strip of sand by the Curaray River, which they called Palm Beach, five men in T-shirts and jeans worked busily. Anxiously, they looked at intervals towards the deep jungle of Ecuador.

Nate Saint, the pilot, fiddled with his yellow Piper Cruiser; Peter Fleming was cooking. Roger Youderian, Jim Elliot and Ed. McCullay shouted into the dense foliage, phrases of friendship and reassurance in an obscure Indian tongue.

Suddenly their calls were answered and three Indians stepped out on to the strand – a man, a woman and a girl. They were Aucas, members of a ferocious tribe of primitive Indians, who had slain the few white men bold enough to violate their territory. Now, at last, the five Americans from a missionary organisation had succeeded in overcoming the Aucas’ suspicion and resentment.

The Americans had worked slowly and systematically to make their missionary enterprise a success and had begun to fly regularly over the Aucan country. They discovered the Indians’ settlements and, dubbing one Terminal City, they began to drop gifts there. Kettles, knives and gaily-coloured clothing were trailed at the end of a long wire to entice the Indians into the open. One day, the villagers of Terminal City caught the line to which gifts had been attached and tied to it a present of their own – an elaborate head-dress.

Once this break-through had been achieved, the missionaries waited eagerly for their first visit from the Aucas and they were overjoyed when the three natives stepped out of the jungle on to Palm Beach. After a friendly meeting, the Aucas departed. The missionaries had hinted broadly that they would like an invitation to visit the Aucan village and they hoped that their visitors would be able to arrange it. For a time nothing more was heard. The missionaries began to wonder if they had been over-confident. At last Nate Saint took his plane up to find out what was happening. Circling over Terminal City, he noticed that the village was largely deserted. Then, on the flight back, he noticed a group of about ten Aucas, apparently unarmed, making their way towards Palm Beach. “This is it, guys,” he told the others when he landed, “They are on their way.” And that night, over the radio he told his wife: “Looks like they’ll be here for the early afternoon service. Will contact you next at 4.30.”

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Pizarro’s lust for gold destroyed the civilisation of the Incas

Posted in Anthropology, Discoveries, Exploration, Historical articles, History, Royalty on Thursday, 14 November 2013

This edited article about the Incas originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 458 published on 24 October 1970.

The Inca gold, picture, image, illustration
The hidden gold of the Incas remains a fabulous treasure hoard that has never been found by James E McConnell

It was the most spectacular ransom in history and a treasure-hunter’s dream of bliss. Instead of searching for gold and silver the hard way, Pizarro and his band of greedy, valiant adventurers were being offered a fabulous fortune to release their captive, the Inca god-king, Atahualpa, and all the Spaniards would have to do was watch it piling up.

In return for his freedom Atahualpa had claimed that he could present his captors with a room-full of gold, the room being 22 ft. by 17. The gold was to reach a white line on the wall over 8 ft. high. It was not to be melted down in advance, but remain in the form it was brought – jewellery, jars and so on – which would give the Inca the benefit of the extra empty space. But Atahualpa further said that he would fill a small adjoining room twice over with silver. And it would all be done in two months!

The Spaniards, inflamed with gold-lust, could hardly believe their good fortune. It was November, 1532, and their successful, seemingly crazy invasion of Peru was nearing its tragic climax.

Pizarro was a daring, tough, illiterate soldier of fortune, who had been born about 1471. He was one of the men who discovered the Pacific with Balboa in 1513, and he later explored the west coast of South America.

At Tumbez, a northern outpost of the vast, and as yet unknown, Inca Empire, he got some idea of its might and – more important to a 16th century Spaniard – its plentiful gold. His imagination soared and he decided to conquer it! If Cortez could conquer Mexico in 1519 with a few hundred men, why should he not do the same to Peru?

After many setbacks trying to gain support for his plan, he received the King of Spain’s blessing to “discover and conquer Peru” and, with about 180 men and some horses and cannons, sailed south from Panama in December, 1530, to take on an empire of at least five million people.

The Incas, his unsuspecting adversaries, had burst out of their homeland in south-east Peru in the 14th century and later conquered all the other Indian tribes in what is now Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and part of Chile.

Their leaders formed a small ruling class, who were despots, but not particularly cruel. The Incas were fine builders and road-makers and were advanced farmers, but they had no system of writing, but instead used knotted cords called quipu for keeping records and sending messages. They were also without the wheel and communicated by relays of fast runners.

The Inca state and its ruler were all-powerful. Everything belonged to them, and ordinary people owned no property, worked for the state and had little freedom. But they were looked after and were reasonably contented with their planned existence. Their rulers were dictators with consciences. From the Spanish point of view, however, one thing mattered above all: the Incas appeared to have unlimited amounts of gold.

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In 1899 “Louis de Rougemont” exhibited himself as ‘The greatest liar on Earth’

Posted in Anthropology, Australia, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Oddities on Thursday, 14 November 2013

This edited article about originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 458 published on 24 October 1970.

Louis Grin, picture, image, illustration
Louis "de Rougemont" Grin ended his days selling matchbooks in London

A cynic would say that if one is going to lie at all, there is no point in going in for half measures. One of the greatest supporters of this theory was a Swiss with the cheerful name of Grin – better known to his followers as Monsieur Louis de Rougemont.

De Rougemont burst on his public through the pages of Wide World Magazine, which announced in August, 1898, that it had secured the exclusive story of a cultured Frenchman who had not only been shipwrecked off the coast of Australia, but had actually lived for the next thirty years as a cannibal chief!

It is easy to dismiss the magazine’s readers as gullible, but seventy-five years ago there were still many unexplored places in the world, and no radio or television. Travellers could, and did, bring back astonishing revelations of customs in far-off lands, most of which were perfectly true. And incredible though de Rougemont’s adventures must have sounded, they were furnished with such a wealth of detail that even intelligent people accepted them as authentic.

“Nobody,” one can imagine people saying as they devoured each instalment, “could possibly have made this up.”

As it happened, they were wrong. Monsieur de Rougemont not only could, but did.

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Thor Heyerdahl proved that Polynesians could have sailed from distant Peru

Posted in Adventure, Anthropology, Boats, Historical articles, History, Sea on Tuesday, 12 November 2013

This edited article about Thor Heyerdahl originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 454 published on 26 September 1970.

Kon-Tiki, picture, image, illustration
The Voyage of the Kon-Tiki by Ron Embleton

Norwegians have not only explored the polar regions, but have taken part in expeditions to many other parts of the world. During the years 1880 to 1917, Carl Lumholtz penetrated into the mysterious heart of Australia, as well as leading expeditions to Mexico, India and Borneo. Between 1878 and 1882 another Norwegian, Carl Boch, travelled to Borneo and Sumatra and to the interior of Siam. From one year to another exploration conquers new fields, and the tradition that runs from Erik the Red to Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen is still being carried on.

Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian explorer, is the hero of one of the best known modern adventures – the “Kon-Tiki” expedition. Heyerdahl was born in 1914, and spent several years studying ethnology (the study of races) and allied sciences prior to the expedition that catapulted him to world fame.

On 28th April, 1947, with five other Norwegians and one Swede, he set out on his “Kon-Tiki” adventure. Like Nansen, Heyerdahl made use of currents – not to cross the North Pole, but to drift right across the Pacific Ocean, from Peru to the South Sea Islands, a distance of some 4,000 miles.

I went to see Thor Heyerdahl in Oslo soon after his return from his momentous trip. There he showed me the raft, made of great balsa wood tree trunks, which he and his companions had built themselves. They had first cut the balsa logs in the Ecuadorian jungle, and floated them down the rivers to the Pacific. The raft was christened “Kon-Tiki” after the Sun God of ancient Peru, who, according to legend, had voyaged out across the Pacific accompanied by white bearded men, before the Incas came to power in Peru.

Thor Heyerdahl told me: “The raft was an exact copy of the old craft of Peru and Ecuador and was made by lashing nine of the huge logs together with hemp rope. We did not use a single spike, nail, or any wire rope, in the whole construction. We lashed thin balsa logs crossways over the main logs, and laid down a deck of split bamboos. We erected a small open cabin which we walled with plaited bamboo reeds, and roofed with leathery banana leaves.”

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The Samoyeds of Siberia are one of Earth’s last primitive peoples

Posted in Anthropology, Customs, Geography, Historical articles, History on Friday, 8 November 2013

This edited article about Siberia originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 452 published on 12 September 1970.

Samoyeds, picture, image, illustration
Samoyed sledge and camp at Caborova in Siberia

In the middle of a seemingly endless, flat, snow-covered plain, two reindeer trot along pulling a sledge. A large white dog runs alongside and occasionally looks up at a squat bundle of furs on the sledge. Huddled inside those ice-caked furs is his master. But for the flurries of snow kicked up by the panting reindeer and the dog, the team would not appear to be moving at all across that vast white desolation. Winter’s long night is over and the spring thaw is near, but it has been a hard winter.

The reindeer gallop on and the man peers up at the ice blue sky. His wizened Mongoloid face hardly showing from beneath a deep fur hood, for he is old and feels the cold these days. Perhaps he is counting the weeks until the brief Arctic spring, or perhaps he thinks of his son who has gone to work in the town over the mountains. He is proud of his son, for the young man can speak enough Russian to talk to the scientists who live beside the great river.

Someone interested in dogs might recognise the big beast next to the sledge as a Samoyed. But the wizened old man is a Samoyed as well. His people bred these fine dogs and gave them their name. His home is a snow covered tent beside the frozen Pechora river, 50 miles from the Arctic Ocean, just inside the Polar Circle. And surprising as it may seem, he is a European. The Samoyeds are the last truly primitive people in our continent and they live in that distant north-eastern corner of Europe that so often disappears off the top of the page in our atlases. Vast marshy plains and low treeless hills, from the White Sea in Europe to the Taymyr Peninsula in Asia – this is the homeland of the hardy Samoyed. It is some of the bleakest, coldest country in the Soviet Union, but it has its own beauty as well, and in the spring thousands of square miles of treeless Tundra are covered with flowers.

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Tasmania’s aborigines were massacred by the British settlers

Posted in Anthropology, Australia, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 16 October 2013

This edited article about Australia originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 427 published on 21 March 1970.

Aborigines, picture, image, illustration
Many aborigines today live in special reservations by Angus McBride

When settlers first arrived in Australia, they soon learned that they were not the first people to have set foot on that land. The “new” continent already had its inhabitants, a race of men different to any known in other parts of the world.

Usually of medium height, slender build, with black, wavy hair and of dark brown skins, the natives appeared to be one of the last remaining links with our stone-age ancestors.

Even today, nobody can be certain where the aborigines came from originally. Some theories suggest that they may first have arrived in the country about twelve to eighteen thousand years ago, during the last Ice Age when land masses were larger and it was easier for early men to have reached Australia.

Assuming that was true, they and their Tasmanian neighbours had had a long time in which to establish residence in the country. Sadly, it was to take considerably less time to uproot them after the first Europeans arrived.

Today, there are about 46,000 pure-blooded aborigines living on the mainland of Australia. In 1788, when the first colony was established, it is estimated that there were about 300,000.

From those facts, there is an all too common conclusion to be drawn. The arrival of the Europeans brought conflict, as it had done everywhere else in the world. The North American Indians, the New Zealand Maoris and the Black African had all had their traditional ways of life disrupted by European incursions into their territories. And the early settlers in Australia were no more obliging to its indigenous peoples.

Actually, it was not heartless official policy that was directed against the aborigines. At least there was that redeeming grace. In fact, official policy stated that they were to be treated as British subjects. It was more that British subjects were often treated badly themselves in those days, and, as such, the future of the aborigines looked none too hopeful.

In Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land), their future was to be very short. Settlers occupied what the aborigines regarded as their best hunting country, and before long they were going short of food. To make things worse, many of the settlers treated the natives brutally. Before long the aborigines sought revenge, and the culmination was the “Black War” which started in 1804.

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George Borrow, a true ‘lavengro’, spoke over forty languages

Posted in Anthropology, Bible, English Literature, Historical articles, History, Religion, Travel on Friday, 9 August 2013

This edited article about George Borrow originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 366 published on 18 January 1969.

George Borrow, picture, image, illustration
Author George Borrow watches a boxing match with the gypsies

In the spring of 1837 a tall, striking-looking Englishman set out on horseback to “ride forth from Madrid into the wildest parts of Spain”. At the time the country was split by civil war and the more desolate districts were overrun by murderous bands of gypsies and robbers.

But George Borrow feared none of those hazards; he was concerned with only one thing – selling “a cargo of Bibles” to “the wild people of the wild regions”.

To achieve this he bought a sturdy black stallion which had previously been owned by a smuggler, and hired an eccentric Greek servant called Antonio. A few days before he was due to depart, Borrow went down with “a severe cold which terminated in a shrieking, disagreeable cough”. He could scarcely stand, but after a barber-surgeon had drawn sixteen ounces of his blood, he felt well enough to commence his arduous journey.

He travelled north-west to the province of Leon, where he had a bad attack of fever. “We were compelled to take our abode,” he wrote, “in a wretched hovel . . . I felt myself unable to proceed . . . being exhausted with illness, fatigue and want of food.”

As soon as Borrow recovered, he and Antonio again pushed onward, and this time it was their horses which became ill. They were forced to lead the animals through hills infested by brigands who thought nothing of torturing their victims.

On reaching Cape Finisterre Borrow was arrested as a spy working for Don Carlos de Bourbon who had laid claim to the Spanish throne. Fortunately the Bible salesman was able to prove his innocence, and was released after having accomplished “what has long been one of the ardent wishes of my heart. I have carried the Gospel to the extreme point of the Old World”.

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A German geologist was determined to find King Solomon’s Mines

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Archaeology, Bible, Geology, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 31 July 2013

This edited article about Zimbabwe originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 356 published on 9 November 1968.

Mauch discovers Zimbabwe, picture, image, illustration
Mauch discovering the ruins of Zimbabwe by Walter Stanley Paget

“Bravo! That’s it!”

Carl Mauch wiped the sweat off his forehead and peered past his native guide. Below him stretched the plains . . . and five miles away, in a haze of heat, there towered a bare-flanked, green-topped hill, shimmering faintly in the African sun. Around its summit it wore, like a crown, a rampart built of stone.

Mauch had found Zimbabwe.

His guide, a local Karanga tribesman, was unimpressed. The hill on which they were standing, he argued, was the one of interest. Here could be found a pot of great magic, the pot-that-moves-by-itself. What were old walls compared with such a marvel?

What indeed? Mauch did not bother to explain that nowhere, in the vast African lands where Bantu natives roamed, was there evidence of buildings made from stone before the white man came.

Why was Mauch searching for old stone ruins in that year of 1871? What brought him to that part of Africa that today is Rhodesia?

He was a German geologist, born at Wurtemburg in 1837. He already had the discovery of two African goldfields to his credit when in 1867 he heard a story that seemed unbelievable. It came from a fellow-countryman and missionary, the Rev. A. Merensky.

Deep in the African interior, said Merensky mysteriously, lay great ruins built of stone. “A marvel, Herr Mauch! What native builds with stone, eh? None! None!”

But that was not all. If the work had been done by others, then Merensky thought he knew who. And his theory was startling: “The ruins, my dear Mauch, can only be those of – King Solomon’s gold mines!”

They lay, he said, somewhere to the west of the port of Sofala, on the east coast of Africa. Had not King Solomon, as the Bible said, brought his gold from distant Ophir? “Ophir, sir – only the name has changed so slightly, that is all – Ophir, Sofala – eh, eh?”

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In the Balinese Ketjak dancing demons triumph over the monkeys

Posted in Anthropology, Customs, Dance, Music on Tuesday, 30 July 2013

This edited article about traditional Balinese dance originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 352 published on 12 October 1968.

Balinese ketjak, picture, image, illustration
The Monkey Men of Bali by Robert Brook

One of the strangest and most impressive of the world’s dances is the Balinese Ketjak. It goes back for so many centuries that its origins are lost, yet its power remains and it is now one of the most popular of all spectacles with visitors to Bali.

There are 150 performers in this dance, and they spend most of the time crouching close to the ground. The most important aspect is their finger movements, and at one stage they pretend to change into monkeys.

Ketjak takes place at night. The dancers are illuminated by the reddish glare of a large branched torch which looks like a primitive candelabra. The torch is placed in the centre of a temple courtyard.

In the weirdly flickering light, the dancers quietly enter the courtyard and form five or six circles, one inside the other. The dancers are all male and they wear loin-cloths, garlands of brilliantly coloured flowers and fantastically woven hats.

For some moments there is a dramatic silence. Then from the throats of the performers there comes a powerful rhythmic chant, so deep that it is almost a growl.

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