Language evolution is like biological evolution – it happens minutely, generation by generation, so there’s no distinct breaking point between one language and the next language that develops from it. Therefore, it’s impossible to say that one language is really older than any other one; they’re all as old as humanity itself. That said, each of the languages below has a little something special—something ancient—to differentiate it from the masses.
Posted in Language
Fossil evidence points to an African origin of Homo sapiens from a group called either H. heidelbergensis or H. rhodesiensis. However, the exact place and time of emergence of H. sapiens remain obscure because the fossil record is scarce and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain. In particular, it is unclear whether the present day ‘modern’ morphology rapidly emerged approximately 200 thousand years ago (ka) among earlier representatives of H. sapiens1 or evolved gradually over the last 400 thousand years. Here we report newly discovered human fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and interpret the affinities of the hominins from this site with other archaic and recent human groups. We identified a mosaic of features including facial, mandibular and dental morphology that aligns the Jebel Irhoud material with early or recent anatomically modern humans and more primitive neurocranial and endocranial morphology. In combination with an age of 315±34 thousand years (as determined by thermoluminescence dating) this evidence makes Jebel Irhoud the oldest and richest African Middle Stone Age hominin site that documents early stages of the H. sapiens clade in which key features of modern morphology were established. Furthermore, it shows that the evolutionary processes behind the emergence of H. sapiens involved the whole African continent.
Read also: Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found in Morocco, Altering History of Our Species
There is an urgent need to invest in cultural diversity and dialogue. Integrating cultural diversity into a wide range of public policies – including those somewhat remote from the cultural field proper – can help renew the international community’s approaches to two key objectives: development and peace building and conflict prevention.
Regarding development, culture is increasingly recognized as a cross-cutting dimension of the three economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainability; for there is a cultural dimension to development that should not be underestimated. In this respect, efforts by the international community to adopt new strategies for safeguarding and managing natural resources have been significantly enhanced by the approach offered by cultural diversity, which highlights some of the ways in which indigenous knowledge can direct us towards more sustainable modes of living. It also shows us that poverty – which is an intolerable violation of human rights in terms of both the hardships and the loss of dignity it causes – must be approached in terms of each specific social and cultural setting. Regarding peace and conflict prevention, acknowledging cultural diversity places emphasis on ‘unity in diversity’, the shared humanity inherent in our differences. Far from representing a potential restriction on universally proclaimed human rights, cultural diversity furthers their effective exercise, strengthens social cohesion and provides sources of inspiration for renewing forms of democratic governance. For rights and freedoms are exercised in very varied cultural environments and all have a cultural dimension that needs to be acknowledged so as to ensure their effective integration in different cultural contexts. Similarly, ignoring the increasing multiculturalism make-up of societies would amount to negating the existence of large sections of the population, which compartmentalizes society and damages the social fabric by creating competition between the different communities over access to resources (for education, health, social services) rather than promoting a sense of solidarity. Finally, forms of democratic governance can be renewed by deriving lessons from the different models adopted by diverse cultures.
Recognizing cultural diversity as a resource to be promoted requires that we refine our understanding of it and of intercultural dialogue so as to rid ourselves of a number of preconceptions.
New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women’s unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies. Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women. Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have omitted virtually half the picture. Elizabeth Wayland Barber has drawn from data gathered by the most sophisticated new archaeological methods—methods she herself helped to fashion. In a “brilliantly original book” (Katha Pollitt, Washington Post Book World), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric.
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Posted in Women, Work
Tagged Women, work
Euripides (c. 484-407 BCE) was one of the greatest authors of Greek tragedy. In 5th century BCE Athens his classic works such as Medeia cemented his reputation for clever dialogues, fine choral lyrics and a gritty realism in both his text and stage presentations. The writer of some 90 plays, Euripides was also famous for posing awkward questions, unsettling his audience with a thought-provoking treatment of common themes, and spicing up the story with thoroughly immoral characters. This is probably why Euripides won only a few festival competitions compared to his great tragedian rivals Aeschylus and Sophocles, although he was tremendously popular with the public. The popularity of Euripides’ work has never diminished and his plays continue to be performed in theatres today.
Ancient Greek comedy was a popular and influential form of theatre performed across ancient Greece from the 6th century BCE. The most famous playwrights of the genre were Aristophanes and Menander and their works, and those of their contemporaries, poked fun at politicians, philosophers, and fellow artists. In addition to maintaining their comic touch, the plays also give an indirect but invaluable insight into Greek society in general and provide details on the workings of political institutions, legal systems, religious practices, education, and warfare in the Hellenic world. Uniquely, the plays also reveal to us something of the identity of the audience and show just what tickled the Greeks’ sense of humour. Finally, Greek comedy and its immediate predecessor Greek tragedy would together form the foundation upon which all modern theatre is based.
Tragedy begins in ancient Greece, of course, and the first great tragedies were staged as part of a huge festival known as the City Dionysia. Thousands of Greek citizens – Greek men, that is, for no women were allowed – would gather in the vast amphitheatre to watch a trilogy of tragic plays, such as Aeschylus’ Oresteia. Going to the theatre in ancient Greece was, socially speaking, closer to attending a football match than a modern-day theatre.
Because audiences were so vast, actors wore masks which symbolised their particular character, so even those sitting towards the back of the amphitheatre could tell who was who. In Latin, the word for such a mask was persona, which is to this day why we talk about adopting a persona whenever we become someone else – we are, metaphorically if not literally, putting on a mask. This is also the reason why the list of characters in a play is known as the ‘Dramatis Personae’. The Romans were the first civilisation we know of to allow women to act in plays. Although women would not be allowed on the English stage until after the Restoration in 1660, the Romans got there first. In Roman plays, the colour of characters’ robes would often signify their role, so a yellow robe signified that a character was a woman, a purple robe that he was a young man, a white robe an old man, and so on. However, the Romans are more celebrated for their comedies – witness the very different styles of Terence and Plautus – than for their tragedies.
My experience with the Intercultural Indigenous System of Learning and Studies (SIIDAE) in Chiapas gave rise to a dialogue on two different levels: intercultural and interdisciplinary. I understand dialogue here as a very complex model of translation that, at the same time, challenges the unilateral conception of translation. This article reports the decolonial challenges raised by SIIDAE during our dialogue and responds to these challenges by proposing an intercultural reflection on nthropological practice and on its geohistorical context, and by showing the need of an intercultural transformation of society and of anthropology itself.
In archaeological terms, the Roman period is exceptionally data rich. Most people are familiar with iconic monuments like Hadrian’s Wall and the city of Pompeii. Yet infinitely more important for understanding people’s lives across the Roman world are millions of artefacts unearthed during excavations. A great proportion of these artefacts, especially pottery vessels, are objects used by almost everyone from senator to slave to eat and drink from, and so hold essential information on the diversity of such practices among different social and cultural groups. However, this wealth of data is under-utilised due to its very complexity. For decades it has served to provide chronological sequences for individual excavations and to develop region-wide understandings of economic networks, rather than to answer socio-cultural questions. E.g., how can differing combinations of differing sizes, shapes and types of vessels, excavated from different contexts, provide more nuanced understandings of how individuals and communities throughout the Roman world used them and socialised around food and drink?