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That particular event is extremely well documented, and despite happening over 100 years ago, seems to be an occurrence that left quite an impression - and one that remains on the minds of missionaries and their ilk to some extent if the frequency of references to the incident are any indication.

However, what is probably the most well known incident of this sort in the greater Papuan region, was not directly related to missionary activities. I am referring of course to the disappearance in November, 1961 of Michael Rockefeller while on a collecting expedition for the Museum of Primitive Art (when the museum was closed in 1976 the bulk of the collection went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Chinese calligraphy is an abstract art form. Chinese calligraphy is unique in term of the tools, materials and the spirit inside the art works. Chinese calligraphy is the soul of Chinese culture.

Yet it struck me that headhunting quite often, though not always, occurs in the context of inter-tribal or inter-village warfare. So, would placing headhunting in the context of war mitigate the abhorrence some of us might feel toward the institution of headhunting? Interestingly, it strikes me that for natives of, as Steve P. aptly designated it ?

It was then that the famous missionary Rev. James Chalmers and a party of 12 lost their heads and were eaten by Goaribari headhunters. Another missionary reported witnessing over 10,000 skulls in the long houses of Goaribari.

My aim in making the comment was actually just to provide an example that could give voice to other potential points of view, which is to say that of those who are more inclined to cite actor more instinctual urges, which might be construed as the impetus for headhunting activity in some cultures, and how I could see why people might reasonably draw that conclusion as well.

Much to the chagrin of some modern evangelical types, she offered these words to the descendants of those who executed the missionaries, “I think my ancestor was wrong to come in and try to change you.

Taking heads isn't my cup of tea, but I have less difficulty understanding the cultural bases of doing so than I do of the apparent inhumanity of, say, the Yanamano or (closer to home) of the Nazi movement of the middle third of the 20th century in what might arguably have been the most culturally advanced society in Europe at the end of the 19th century.

One point: mortal combat among animals of the same species is not common. The more usual pattern is stylized or ritualized combat over resources (usually territory), in which one member concedes without being killed or injured.

The argument is that such individuals are more desirable to the opposite sex and hence are more likely to pass their skills and aesthetic tendencies on to progeny? Reinforcing the creative/artistic tendencies of the species in the following generations.

Of course there are critics of these ideas, as there always are with anything of this sort, especially when ideas like Miller manage to exceed the boundaries of the specialized scientific community and generate interest among aymen but critiques aside, Miller perspective makes a lot of sense to me in general.

If there

Artists made great contribution to the world. But what they got is usually much less than what whey gave. Many great artists lived a suffering lives. After they are dead, their art works become invaluable.

Boas was on to something, and Miller’s ideas strike me as complimentary and mutually reinforcing. While Boas only mentions the personal creative satisfaction of the artisan him or herself, the idea that creative virtuosity could serve as an appeal to prospective mates, seems like a fairly reasonable extension of his conclusions on art motives? and one that could reinforce the artisans own pleasure in the aesthetically creative act.

A final comment or two on head hunting? for the majority of us who will read this discussion, I think it is safe to say that if this phenomenon is of interest at all, then at most we may possibly gain an intellectual understanding of why various societies might indulge in headhunting, but our own deeply ingrained cultural praxis will prevent us from ever looking at headhunting the way someone who is an autochthonous member of a headhunting society might.

Of course, people from outside headhunting cultures, that become the victims of headhunting will always have a degree of sensational interest attached to their stories just because of the relative novelty of the event.
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It's actually difficult to tell what is art. No one can deny that some sports are also art. Or people will argue some plays are art works of sports.


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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.