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While the Chalmer incident left a powerful impression on the mind of missionaries, the Rockefeller incident is the one that tends to linger most in the thoughts of those of us who are interested in the art and culture of this area. This latter event happened in the Asmat region, which is West through the Torres Straight and up along the coast of West Papua (Indonesian side) in relation to Goaribari Island where the Gope board that started this thread originated.

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.

Of the victim's life that cause us to react or not to their death. Whether it was the American, Michael Rockefeller, or the Solomon Islander named Tombat, the British Missionary Chalmer, or Limbang the Dayak ?reaction on an emotional level has more to do with what we know about that person than their nationality, race or religion per se.

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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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.

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.

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.

In other words creativity and virtuosity whether it be story telling , song , drawing on cliff walls, carving and shaping wood, stone or bone, personal adornment, basket making or any such skill that affords aesthetic pleasure and reveals what could be deemed artistic prowess is in short, a urn on?


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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.