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The present chapter provides a detailed review of the available material evidence concerning the representation of primates and their context in the Minoan civilization. More specifically, we analyzed the depictions of primates in two frescos from Knossos, Crete, and four frescos from Akrotiri, Thera/Santorini. Furthermore, we studied primate representations in portable objects from Crete. The material consisted of 2 figurines, 2 pendants, 2 pieces of jewelry, 12 seals with primatomorphic handles, and 17 seals/sealings with primatomorphic printing surfaces. In these pieces, we identified two kinds of monkeys, vervets (Chlorocebus spp.) and baboons (Papio spp.). Our analyses concur with previous reports and support the contentions that: (a) there was an extensive cultural exchange between Minoans and Egyptians, (b) Minoans were either first-hand observers of primates or were painters of detailed narratives, (c) some monkeys (vervets) are related to a leisure –yet naturalistic– context and some others (baboons –by then deified in Egypt) act as mediators in ritual contexts, (d) primates reach Minoan imageries in two time periods, and (e) the representation of primates among Minoans is an example of the earliest transmission of exotica into Europe.
Archaeoprimatology – a term originally coined by one of the editors – explores the interface between humans and nonhuman primates (hereafter referred to as ‘primates’) in antiquity. Hence, archaeoprimatology embraces, both theoretically and methodologically, the disciplines of archaeology and primatology. Archaeoprimatological research is still relatively limited despite its significant implications that range from the art history realm of past iconographic identification of primates to a better grasp of current primate conservation issues. Archaeoprimatology is a discipline that offers multiple perspectives to understand the roots of our perception and apprehension of our own taxonomic group, the order Primates. The edited volume in your hands –the first fully devoted to this discipline – is thus intended to serve as an effort to promote and expand archaeoprimatological studies.
This chapter presents a comprehensive review of the interaction between circum-Caribbean indigenous peoples and nonhuman primates before and at early European contact. It fills significant gaps in contemporary scholarly literature by providing an updated archaeological history of the social and symbolic roles of monkeys in this region. We begin by describing the zooarchaeological record of primates in the insular and coastal circum-Caribbean Ceramic period archaeological sites. Drawing from the latest archaeological investigations that use novel methods and techniques, we also review other biological evidence of the presence of monkeys. In addition, we compile a list of indigenously crafted portable material imagery and review rock art that allegedly depicts primates in the Caribbean. Our investigation is supplemented by the inclusion of written documentary sources, specifically, ethnoprimatological information derived from early ethnohistorical sources on the multifarious interactions between humans and monkeys in early colonial societies. Finally, we illustrate certain patterns that may have characterized interactions between humans and monkeys in past societies of the circum-Caribbean region (300–1500 CE), opening avenues for future investigations of this topic.
Archaeoprimatology, Ceramic period, Greater and Lesser Antilles, Island and coastal archaeology, Saladoid, Taíno, Trinidad, Venezuela
Primates are mammals with high cultural significance in ancient societies. The objective of this research is to explore the material culture and biological remains of primates found in Teotihuacan, one of the largest pre-Hispanic urban areas of Mexico. Remains of Mesoamerican spider monkeys (Ateles cf. A. geoffroyi) were found in the Pyramid of the Moon, Xalla, and the Plaza of the Columns. Portable material culture that resembles primates was recovered elsewhere within Teotihuacan, but mostly in Tetitla and La Ventilla. Murals with representations of monkeys were found at these last two Teotihuacan sites. Possibly, primates reached Teotihuacan because of relationships with peoples from more distant lands such as the Mayan region as well as the Oaxacan province ruled by Monte Albán. The rise of the presence of primates in Teotihuacan occurred during the Classic period (~200–550 CE); however, it is relatively scarce considering the large size of the city and the long period of time in which Teotihuacan had been researched. Nevertheless, the existence of monkeys in Teotihuacan, either as exotic animals or as portable objects, does also seem to indicate that they were disseminated within different parts of the city. Thus, living primates and their representations circulated with their symbolic value in Teotihuacan, particularly among members of the ruling elite, and likely among members of other neighboring Mesoamerican societies.
Archaeoprimatology intertwines archaeology and primatology to understand the ancient liminal relationships between humans and nonhuman primates. During the last decade, novel studies have boosted this discipline. This edited volume is the first compendium of archaeoprimatological studies ever produced. Written by a culturally diverse group of scholars, with multiple theoretical views and methodological perspectives, it includes new zooarchaeological examinations and material culture evaluations, as well as innovative uses of oral and written sources. Themes discussed comprise the survey of past primates as pets, symbolic mediators, prey, iconographic references, or living commodities. The book covers different regions of the world, from the Americas to Asia, along with studies from Africa and Europe. Temporally, the chapters explore the human-nonhuman primate interface from deep in time to more recent historical times, examining both extinct and extant primate taxa. This anthology of archaeoprimatological studies will be of interest to archaeologists, primatologists, anthropologists, art historians, paleontologists, conservationists, zoologists, historical ecologists, philologists, and ethnobiologists.
A review of Minoan frescoes and artefacts suggests interactions with two primate groups in sacred and leisure contexts, respectively. This demonstrates the early exchange of iconography and knowledge of monkeys between the Aegean and North Africa.