Hunting Sharks

12 Feb 2021

At ... why did indigenous peoples in Brazil hunt shark? The full works. Tiger sharks, great whites and hammerhead sharks. Not only did they eat the meat but they used the teeth as arrow tips - and razor blades. From 8000 years ago up to the modern era, the 1500s AD, these people hunted sharks like others hunt for haddock - or blue fin tuna. The archaeology of coastal Brazil has often come up with sharks teeth but not much was thought was given to this as they clearly made nice beads, or fascinated the kiddywinks. It was assumed they were of no use as arrow  tips, the thinking being they would shatter easily. Tests revealed the opposite. Sharks teeth make good arrow tips. This led to more intensive research and it was discovered they were also used, as expected, in a number of domestic processes, such as boring holes in leather [for buttons and straps, peeling bark from trees, and in various composite tools with the teeth being used as,  well, teeth, to saw and slice. They could even be used to etch, to cut bone, and various tasks in the domestic sphere, quite apart from hunting and fighting. People make use of materials at hand. No flint meant a substitute. It was vital to cut meat into manageable portions, for example, and anything can be used to pierce leather. Why did they hunt sharks? Nobody knows but it could have a spiritual dimension, if the gods and sharks were perceived as physically similar in some kind of way. All the knowledge learnt from hunting sharks, and not getting eaten or your flimsy boat capsized, has been lost, since colonisation of the Americas. Such a pity. These people took incredible risks to put  food on the table and one would like to know why they thought the risk was worth it.

At ... here we have a pre-Inca culture from Peru, living in the clouds [high in the Andes]. The chachapaya people - the warriors from the clouds. They thrived long before the Inca came to power - and were eventually defeated and absorbed by them after a prolonged war. They lived on the eastern side of the Andes, overlooking the humid Amazon basin and its rainforest. The mountains were home to a loosely unified society of small kingdoms. Terrace, or hillside farming, was the secret of their success, and the backbone of their toil. They developed a strong fighting ethos in order to maintain themselves.

Over at ... Tanzanian rock art that depicts trios of anthropomorphic figures. These were found in a rock shelter in the interior, and possibly painted not that long ago. They seem to be humans, cattle, and giraffes, the everyday animal they came across. One seems to be an intriguing scene of stylised buffalo head with horns curving downwards. Now, I wonder what made them think of that?

At ... where the subject is a bit more ancient - but topical. Neanderthal gut bacteria. Modern humans seem to have inherited gut bacteria from earlier forms of humanity, including the Neanderthals. It keeps us alive, it would seem . Gut microbiota = symbiotic micro-organisms that populate gastro intestinal tracts. An ancestral part of human biology. The bactreria have some interesting functions - such as regulation of metabolism, and the immune  system. These protect us from pathogenic micro organisms - things that kill humans. Recent studies have shown that some aspects of modern life have a detrimental effect on our inbuilt resistance to disease and infection. These include over sanitisation, by far the worst thing it would seem. Dirt is not always bad, it would seem. Grubby hands and bits in the fingernails are not as harmful as we have been led to believe. Humans after all once lived much closer to nature and made use of natural products in all sorts of ways, even as bedding. Then we have the perennial bogeyman, processed foods. Not  enough roughage perhaps. An interesting piece of research. Something to ponder in lockdown. The idea, in the long term, in view of modern reductions of microbiotic diversity in the human gut, is to tease out diet and lifestyle strategies to maintain the human immune system. Why ditch all the bacteria that has evolved over thousands of years in order to protect us, just to be cleaner and equipped solely for softer forms of food, when a more nuanced form of eating might be more protective for our ultimate health and well being.