Friday, September 14, 2007

Ram and an Army of Monkeys

Did Ram and an army of monkeys build a bridge between India and Sri Lanka? This religious and historical controversy is causing problems in India as reported by the BBC in Report on Hindu god Ram withdrawn.

The article notes, "The Indian government has withdrawn a controversial report submitted in court earlier this week which questioned the existence of the Hindu god Ram. The report was withdrawn after huge protests by opposition parties. The report was presented to the Supreme Court on Wednesday in connection with a case against a proposed shipping canal project between India and Sri Lanka. Hindu hardliners say the project will destroy what they say is a bridge built by Ram and his army of monkeys."

Scientists and archaeologists say the Ram Setu Bridge is natural. It is composed of a natural formation of sand and stones. This finding is offensive to some Hindus in India. Hence, the government retraction of the report.

I don't suppose it was possible for Ram to have built the bridge using naturally occurring stones and sand? Perhaps both the scientists and the devote Hindus are correct...

This has a real potential to block a plan for a canal. The article notes, " The canal project proposes to link the Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by dredging a canal through the shallow sea. This is expected to provide a continuous navigable sea route around the Indian peninsula. Once complete, the canal will reduce the travel time for ships by hundreds of miles and is expected to boost the economic and industrial development of the region."

It would be a shame if this project was blocked as it would benefit India economically. However, I certainly understand why many would not like to see the Ram Setu Bridge damaged. I see no easy answer here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ancient Hawaiian Society - Isolated Feudalism

I found this interestingshort article at As the site allows for the reproduction of articles by blogs and other websites, I am going to go ahead and reprint it here. The author of the article is Dave Sader.
Ancient Hawaiian Society - Isolated Feudalism
by Dave Sader

Polynesian Caste system

Tribal Polynesian culture and society evolved into rigid castes in ancient Hawaii. Ancient Hawaiians were born into specific social classes and did not have the ability to move into another, except in the case of falling into outcast status. Each Hawaiian class had assigned duties and responsibilities to the greater Hawaiian society. These Polynesian Hawaiian classes were more severe then the tribal Polynesians where some movement was allowed, such as a commoner becoming a priest.

The Ancient Hawaiian Classes (in order of social status)

Alii, the Hawaiian royal class.This class consisted of the high and lesser chiefs of the realms. They governed with divine power called mana and had the right to wear certain feathers and protective capes. The Alii's were a driving force behind the frequent warring throughout the Hawaiian islands as they contrived to extend their domains. Commoners were often required to prostrate themselves in their presents. They possessed the power to put a Kapu, a ban on someone or something.

Kahuna, the Hawaiian priestly class.

This class consisted of the priesthood that tended the temples and conducted religious activities in the villages. Kahuna's possessed the ability (along with Aliis) to place a kapu on places and things, forbidding commoners. Scientists and exceptional navigators also were deemed to have kahuna status. Akamia advisors would be considered Kahunas. A kahuna nui was a high priest.

Maka'ainana, the Hawaiian commoner class.

This class consisted of the farmers, fishermen, bird catchers, weapons makers, craftsmen and their families. In a feudal Polynesian society, they were charged with laboring for the overall economy. Ancient Hawaiian economy became complex over time. People began to specialize in specific skills. Generations of Hawaiian families became committed to certain careers: roof thatchers, house builders (tiki huts!), stone grinders, weapons makers, bird catchers who would make the feather cloaks of the ali'i, and canoe builders. Soon, entire islands began to specialize in certain skilled trades. Oahu became the chief kapa (tapa bark cloth) manufacturer. Maui became the chief canoe manufacturer. The island of ancient Hawaii exchanged bales of dried fish and had contact throughout Polynesia.

Kauwa, the Hawaiian outcast or slave class.

This class consisted primarily of people who were considered to be of low birth and thus born without mana. They were not allowed to move up in the caste system or improve their conditions. The mingling of members from other caste groups with the Kauwa was strictly prohibited by kapu. This caste also included prisoners captured in times of war. These prisoners forced to serve the ali'i or were more often used for sacrifice at the luakini heiau. Crushing of bones with club weapons or strangulation was common.

The ancient Hawaiian caste fueled a feudal system relative to feudal systems found in Europe circa A.D. 1000. Ali'i gave lesser ali'i parcels of land who would in turn govern over them. The lesser ali'i divided the land into plots to be farmed and cultivated by maka'ainana families. Harvests were returned to the lesser ali'i, each taking a portion before being sent to the supreme ali'i.

Polynesian Feudalism

Feudalism is generally the system in place before evolvement into a nation state. Ancient Hawaii has often been called tribal. This is probably a misnomer. The state of Hawaiian organization when Capt. James Cook arrived had developed past tribalism, imagine a system of slaves (kauwa), peasants (maka'ainana), knights (kao warriors), priests (kahuna), Dukes (lesser alii) and kings (alii) in a Polynesian setting. However, the term "Polynesian tribal Hawaii" could be applied to an earlier time before chaste systems and economic specialization had occurred. I would consider this to be the state of affairs during the time of Polynesian expansion and settlement in Hawaii. Think of the ancient "barbarian" tribes of Europe before the fall of the Ancient Roman empire. (Northern Europe c.200 B.c. to c.900 A.D.).

For more information about Hawaiian Weapons, or Tiki Gods or Hawaiian Warriors check these links out!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Children of Llullaillaco Sacrificed with Alcohol

CNN has an article up titled Mummy of girl sacrificed by Incans prompts gasps. It details a display of a mummy of a 15 year old girl in Salta, Argentina who was killed 500 years ago in a sacrifice. The mummy is well preserved and the features on the girl are very clear. It looks almost like she just went to sleep.

The article notes, "Hundreds of people packed a museum in Salta, Argentina, to see 'la Doncella' -- Spanish for 'the Maiden' -- a 15-year-old girl whose remains were found in 1999 in an icy pit on Llullaillaco volcano, along with a 6-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy. Scientists believe the so-called Children of Llullaillaco were sacrificed more than 500 years ago in a ceremony marking the annual corn harvest. Dressed in fine clothes and given corn alcohol to put them to sleep, the victims were then left to die at an elevation of 22,080 feet."

Central and South American cultures were well known for using human sacrifice. Most of the victims did not die peaceful deaths. At least three children had an easy death passing out in the cold.

To keep the mummy preserved, the museum is pumping in chilled air through a low-oxygen atmosphere. There is a lot to preserve. Her face still shows the red pigment which was on her face. Around her mouth there are flecks of coca leaf, which is chewed by highland Indians to blunt the effects of altitude. I could not find a public domain copy of the mummy so I have not posted it here. However, it is well worth clicking through to read this article at CNN were a copy of the photo is included.

Monday, September 10, 2007

History of Japan

History of Japan. This is a brief history of the Asian nation of Japan. It gives very little attention to most of Japanese history and instead focuses on the last 250 years. I have been in Japan twice but it was only to change planes. I hope to really visit someday.

Wikipedia notes, "Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of China, Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea in the south. The characters that make up Japan's name mean 'sun-origin', which is why Japan is sometimes identified as the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan comprises over three thousand islands, the largest of which are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku, together accounting for 97% of land area. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic; for example, Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji, is a volcano. Japan has the world's tenth largest population, with about 128 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents."

From the site:

Traditional Japanese legend maintains that Japan was founded in 600 BC by the Emperor Jimmu, a direct descendant of the sun goddess and ancestor of the present ruling imperial family. About AD 405, the Japanese court officially adopted the Chinese writing system. Together with the introduction of Buddhism in the sixth century, these two events revolutionized Japanese culture and marked the beginning of a long period of Chinese cultural influence. From the establishment of the first fixed capital at Nara in 710 until 1867, the emperors of the Yamato dynasty were the nominal rulers, but actual power was usually held by powerful court nobles, regents, or "shoguns" (military governors).

The first recorded contact with the West occurred about 1542, when a Portuguese ship, blown off its course to China, landed in Japan. During the next century, traders from Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and Spain arrived, as did Jesuit, Dominican, and Franciscan missionaries. During the early part of the 17th century, Japan's shogunate suspected that the traders and missionaries were actually forerunners of a military conquest by European powers. This caused the shogunate to place foreigners under progressively tighter restrictions. Ultimately, Japan forced all foreigners to leave and barred all relations with the outside world except for severely restricted commercial contacts with Dutch and Chinese merchants at Nagasaki. This isolation lasted for 200 years, until Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy forced the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.

Within several years, renewed contact with the West profoundly altered Japanese society. The shogunate was forced to resign, and the emperor was restored to power. The "Meiji restoration" of 1868 initiated many reforms. The feudal system was abolished, and numerous Western institutions were adopted, including a Western legal system and constitutional government along quasi-parliamentary lines.