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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 3094 times)
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« Reply #195 on: February 10, 2009, 01:26:34 pm »

In one part of Africa the eyelids are coloured black; in another the
nails are coloured yellow or purple. In many places the hair is dyed
of various tints. In different countries the teeth are stained
black, red, blue, &c., and in the Malay Archipelago it is thought
shameful to have white teeth "like those of a dog." Not one great
country can be named, from the polar regions in the north to New
Zealand in the south, in which the aborigines do not tattoo
themselves. This practice was followed by the Jews of old, and by
the ancient Britons. In Africa some of the natives tattoo
themselves, but it is a much more common practice to raise
protuberances by rubbing salt into incisions made in various parts
of the body; and these are considered by the inhabitants of Kordofan
and Darfur "to be great personal attractions." In the Arab countries
no beauty can be perfect until the cheeks "or temples have been
gashed."* In South America, as Humboldt remarks, "a mother would be
accused of culpable indifference towards her children, if she did
not employ artificial means to shape the calf of the leg after the
fashion of the country." In the Old and New Worlds the shape of the
skull was formerly modified during infancy in the most extraordinary
manner, as is still the case in many places, and such deformities
are considered ornamental. For instance, the savages of Colombia*(2)
deem a much flattened head "an essential point of beauty."

  * The Nile Tributaries, 1867; The Albert N'yanza, 1866, vol. i.,
p. 218.
  *(2) Quoted by Prichard, Physical History of Mankind, 4th ed.,
vol. i., 1851, p. 321.

  The hair is treated with especial care in various countries; it is
allowed to grow to full length, so as to reach to the ground, or is
combed into "a compact frizzled mop, which is the Papuan's pride and
glory."* In northern Africa "a man requires a period of from eight
to ten years to perfect his coiffure." With other nations the head
is shaved, and in parts of South America and Africa even the
eyebrows and eyelashes are eradicated. The natives of the Upper Nile
knock out the four front teeth, saying that they do not wish to
resemble brutes. Further south, the Bakotas knock out only the two
upper incisors, which, as Livingstone*(2) remarks, gives the face a
hideous appearance, owing to the prominence of the lower jaw; but
these people think the presence of the incisors most unsightly, and on
beholding some Europeans, cried out, "Look at the great teeth!" The
chief Sebituani tried in vain to alter this fashion. In various
parts of Africa and in the Malay Archipelago the natives file the
incisors into points like those of a saw, or pierce them with holes,
into which they insert studs.

  * On the Papuans, Wallace, The Malay Archipelago, vol. ii., p.
445. On the coiffure of the Africans, Sir S. Baker, The Albert
N'yanza, vol. i., p. 210.
  *(2) Travels, p. 533.

  As the face with us is chiefly admired for its beauty, so with
savages it is the chief seat of mutilation. In all quarters of the
world the septum, and more rarely the wings of the nose are pierced;
rings, sticks, feathers, and other ornaments being inserted into the
boles. The ears are everywhere piereed and similarly ornamented, and
with the Botocudos and Lenguas of South America the hole is
gradually so much enlarged that the lower edge touches the shoulder.
In North and South America and in Africa either the upper or lower lip
is pierced; and with the Botocudos the hole in the lower lip is so
large that a disc of wood, four inches in diameter, is placed in it.
Mantegazza gives a curious account of the shame felt by a South
American native, and of the ridicule which he excited, when he sold
his tembeta,- the large coloured piece of wood which is passed through
the hole. In central Africa the women perforate the lower lip and wear
a crystal, which, from the movement of the tongue, has "a wriggling
motion, indescribably ludicrous during conversation." The wife of
the chief of Latooka told Sir S. Baker* that Lady Baker "would be much
improved if she would extract her four front teeth from the lower jaw,
and wear the long pointed polished crystal in her under lip."
Further south with the Makalolo, the upper lip is perforated, and a
large metal and bamboo ring, called a pelele, is worn in the hole.
"This caused the lip in one case to project two inches beyond the
tip of the nose; and when the lady smiled, the contraction of the
muscles elevated it over her eyes. 'Why do the women wear these
things?' the venerable chief, Chinsurdi, was asked. Evidently
surprised at such a stupid question, he replied, 'For beauty! They are
the only beautiful things women have; men have beards, women have
none. What kind of a person would she be without the pelele? She would
not be a woman at all with a mouth like a man, but no beard.'"*(2)

  * The Albert N'Yanza, 1866, vol. i., p. 217.
  *(2) Livingstone, British Association, 1860; report given in the
Athenaeum, July 7, 1860, p. 29.

  Hardly any part of the body, which can be unnaturally modified,
has escaped. The amount of suffering thus caused must have been
extreme, for many of the operations require several years for their
completion, so that the idea of their necessity must be imperative.
The motives are various; the men paint their bodies to make themselves
appear terrible in battle; certain mutilations are connected with
religious rites, or they mark the age of puberty, or the rank of the
man, or they serve to distinguish the tribes. Amongst savages the same
fashions prevail for long periods,* and thus mutilations, from
whatever cause first made, soon come to be valued as distinctive
marks. But self-adornment, vanity, and the admiration of others,
seem to be the commonest motives. In regard to tattooing, I was told
by the missionaries in New Zealand that when they tried to persuade
some girls to give up the practice, they answered, "We must just
have a few lines on our lips; else when we grow old we shall be so
very ugly." With the men of New Zealand, a most capable judge*(2)
says, "to have fine tattooed faces was the great ambition of the
young, both to render themselves attractive to the ladies, and
conspicuous in war." A star tattooed on the forehead and a spot on the
chin are thought by the women in one part of Africa to be irresistible
attractions.*(3) In most, but not all parts of the world, the men
are more ornamented than the women and often in a different manner;
sometimes, though rarely, the women are hardly at all ornamented. As
the women are made by savages to perform the greatest share of the
work, and as they are not allowed to eat the best kinds of food, so it
accords with the characteristic selfishness of man that they should
not be allowed to obtain, or use the finest ornaments. Lastly, it is a
remarkable fact, as proved by the foregoing quotations, that the
same fashions in modifying the shape of the head, in ornamenting the
hair, in painting, tattooing, in perforating the nose, lips, or
ears, in removing or filing the teeth, &c., now prevail, and have long
prevailed, in the most distant quarters of the world. It is
extremely improbable that these practices, followed by so many
distinct nations, should be due to tradition from any common source.
They indicate the close similarity of the mind of man, to whatever
race he may belong, just as do the almost universal habits of dancing,
masquerading, and making rude pictures.
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