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Miller draws upon Darwinís theories on sexual selection (which have generally been overshadowed by his more universally recognized thoughts on natural selection), and comes up with an engaging and very readable exploration of behavioral psychology and among other things, the evolutionary implications of the artistic impulse from the Pleistocene onward.

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.

Today, sports really out perform art works. People will pay more than $1000 to a ticket of basketball game. And not a lot of people will pay that amount to buy an art work. NBA players seems like to make more money than artists. It's really a pity.

This gradually resulted in the Homo sapien brain developing with these unique capacities that would foster creativity and the resultant sexual allure was on par, in terms of developmental importance, with those processes that are emblematic of natural selection responses to environmental factors such as geography, climate, predators, etc.

In some places headhunting definitively faded out long ago, in other parts of the world it was a practice that lingered as common place until the mid-20th century at least. I think it is fascinating how utterly repugnant such practices are to some societies, while conversely in others, they were not only condoned and encouraged but viewed as an absolutely essential component of community well being.

Boas was on to something, and Millerís 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.

The cultural context is fascinating as well, and some of you will be aware that the Goaribari Islanders were notorious warriors. It is reported that Authorities were still confiscating skull trophies in the late 1950. Other infamous incidents have become very well known indeed. For instance the events of April, 1901 are legendary.


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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.