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I just like to add that in the seminal work, rimitive Art? By Boas, which was first published in 1927 I believe, Boas repeatedly cites the pleasure of virtuosity and the satisfaction of aesthetic creativity as one of the principal motivations for creating art.

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.

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.

Anyway, the general theme of the book is that breeding without adequate resources leads to starvation, so females inherently select males that control adequate territory with which to support the offspring. He documents a large number of examples of territorial competition among males, with death of one of the competitors being extremely rare.

The sort of most dramatic of the other plausible scenarios is that he became the victim of Asmat headhunters and all that implies. If that was how it happened, the bitter irony naturally is that the young Rockefeller was passionate about the area and had a great interest and respect for a smart people and culture.

In any case, as you say, tales of headhunting and cannibalism can be quite jarring. The really astonishing part of it in my opinion however, is just how relatively common such practices were around the planet.

To many of us, it doesn't matter a bit whether the victim is "us" (by this, I guess you mean people from the more technologically developed part of the world) or not. Killing others is disturbing and difficult to accept, even when it is for cultural reasons.

I also think that describing the death penalty as "Killing people for reasons the government is actually forbidding..." is a description that misses the mark, especially in democratic societies in which the government serves at the pleasure of the governed.

It is rather just to point out what I see as the striking malleability and cultural specificity of moral boundaries and how in cases like the one just mentioned, a few moments can totally change the acceptability of certain actions. While listening to military briefings in the news, often it is explicitly stated that an objective of some operations will be to "capture or kill" the enemy.

One of the editorial reviews has this summary: orenz presents his findings on the mechanism of aggression and how animals control destructive drives in the interest of the species.? From what I can glean from other review comments there, this control of the destructive drive in animals is contrasted with the apparent lack of same among humans.

While we are on the subject of good books, and the matter of behaviour and culture and how these things evolved, I was reminded of another very thought provoking and enjoyable book by Geoffery Miller, titled The Mating Mind?

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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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.