26 April 2010

Piggy DNA

Due to my recent move this month and the lengthy unpacking and settling in process, needless-to-say this blog was ruthlessly shoved to the back burner. I will try to rectify that in the next few weeks as I wade through all the exciting archaeology news that has been piling up!

Since it is late and I am quite tired at the moment, a short news item will have to suffice. From the LA Times last week, a story about pigs--an animal dear to my heart (?) based on its unexpected role in my dissertation (almost a whole year old now..wowzer!). Apparently today’s swine in China are traced back 8,000 years to the same region, revealing clues about animal husbandry and human migration.

Today's pigs in China have a pedigree dating back at least 8,000 years to some of the first domesticated swine, scientists say. The finding provides a more detailed picture about the history of animal husbandry and shows that pigs may have been tamed in places archaeologists had never before guessed.

The study, published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is part of an effort to chart the movement of domesticated pigs by comparing DNA samples from the animals across the globe. Tracking the swine could shed light on human migration over the last several millenniums, researchers said.

Photo from CuteOverload.com (one of the best websites ever) via National Geographic. 
"Sea Pig" not related to the Chinese pigs, but hey, he was too cute to pass up!

01 April 2010

Sex in the ancient world

This article from Speigel ("Did Prostitution Really Exist in the Temples of Antiquity?") is laughably prudish, a reminder of how very different our social stigma with sex and sexuality is from those in the ancient world. Whether or not there was temple-sponsored prostitution (the jury seems to be out, according to the article), the discussion of "perverse religious customs" instantly shows this is not unbiased journalism, but instead a story dripping with sensationalism. I suppose I cannot expect much more from Speigel, however, the fact that stories like this are rife within the popular media seems more alarming. 

Instead of opening a dialog about the changing values of sex and sexuality over time, these types of articles perpetuate an image of sexual deviance based on our modern Christian, Western moral code. For example, the author states:

"Mesopotamia was particularly known for its loose morals. A whore named Shamhat ("The Voluptuous One"), who appears in the Gilgamesh epic, beguiles the wild man Enkidu: "She unclutched her bosom, exposed her sex, and he took in her voluptuousness."

Yes, but "beguiled" Enkidu was not! In fact according to the epic, this whore transformed Enkidu in to a human man, essentially "civilizing him" with human food, drink, clothing, and sex.Also, lest we forget, prostitutes played many important roles in the biblical stories as well. Remember the whore who helped Joshua's spies? Mary Magdalene, follower of Jesus and (former) prostitute..The list goes on.. 
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