Monday, June 28, 2021

Who Would You Listen To? Positive Example

I was listening to Patrick Wyman interview David Anthony (author of The Horse, The Wheel, and Language, which we have discussed here a few times). Because I have seen Anthony treat the data in his own field of archaeology with an "on the one hand, on the other hand" attitude, I was prepared to trust him when he moved into broader territory, talking about the cultural forces that caused biases in his field in the 20th C, and why some information was received and some was not.  He did not disappoint.  Those who can be trusted in one field are more likely to be trustworthy in another - not only in honesty, but in the intellectual honesty of pursuing knowledge fairly. 

In his research for his upcoming book The Dogs of War, he believes that the archaeological site accidentally found on the Steppe which had 30-40% identically-slaughtered and likely gnawed on dog and wolf bones (as compared to a more usual 1% - they did not usually eat dogs) were tied to an initiation ritual of boys becoming men by preparing for war, becoming dogs or wolves and eating them. He notes that the association of warriors as dogs or wolves shows up in many cultures descended from the Indo-European, even into nicknames in many widely-separated armed services to this day. That to us it "just seems natural" he considers part of the evidence.  It is less common in non-Indo-European cultures, except for the Uralic cultures (Finns, Estonians, Hungarians, Samoyeds) which were known to have contact in that time period. He claims that the Roman Lupercalia, a holiday of obscure but known to be ancient origin even to them, had become a purification festival (giving us our word February) but had previously been both a wolf/war festival and goat/fertility festival, with rituals and superstitions down unto late Roman times, including the sacrifice of a dog and a goat. It was on February 15, and he believes (he is not the first) that St Valentine's Day on Feb 14, which commemorating a martyr from the 3rd C is deeply related to the fertility side of the festival.  

It does seem a bit of a long kite string, from 3500BC to now, but it hangs together and he promises to include more supporting evidence in the book. Because of his track record, I am tending to believe this deep relationship.


james said... "There are documented accounts from the early twentieth century of a widespread belief that people could transform themselves into animals, or conversely that the essence of some animals could enter into people, producing human leopards, human crocodiles, and so on. This was more than folklore since it was actually the basis on which political control and a sense of cosmological order were maintained in human communities, most notably through religious sodalities such as the Poro corporation and the secret societies of the human leopards."
There are no wolves in the area, or they might have picked wolves instead.

Narr said...

I'm finishing some other books before starting on the Horse and Wheel. Thanks for the additional info.

Cousin Eddie

Assistant Village Idiot said...

You will like the part about drawing conclusions from the horses' teeth.

Narr said...

Straight from the horse's mouth.

Cousin Eddie