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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?

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.

The Rockefeller episode is different of course. Most significantly, this is something of an unsolved mystery. Michael Rockefeller disappeared, and there has never been definitive proof of what happened. A lot of theories have been put forward, some of which seem more plausible than others.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

Art can not be learned. Actually, art techniques can be learned. Art talent can not. People can only learn techniques and knowledge in art school. They can not learn art talent there. Without talent, one can not become a great artist.


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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.