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The earliest Bronze Age Mediterranean primate representations on frescoes are found at the Aegean sites of Knossos (Crete) and Akrotiri (Thera). By contrast, monkeys have so far been missing from Mycenaean frescoes in mainland Greece. A fresco fragment of a cultic scene from Tiryns changes this; it depicts a bipedal partial lower body, with a hanging tail. This image, previously interpreted as a human wearing an animal hide, had already been suggested to represent a monkey. A re-examination of this miniature fresco identified various features that seem to confirm the representation of a monkey, most probably of a baboon-like primate. Assuming that the fresco from Tiryns is part of a cult scene, similar to those from Akrotiri, this adds a further image to a small corpus of Aegean depictions connecting monkeys with important female figures or deities. Furthermore, the Tiryns fresco fragment indicates that primates were not entirely absent from local Mycenaean iconography.
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.
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.
Living atelines form a unique group that occupies an important place in the adaptive radiation of New World monkeys. The four (or five) genera, Alouatta, Ateles, Lagothrix (and Oreonax) and Brachyteles, that compose the group are distinguished from other platyrrhines by their relatively large size (c. 5–11 kg), strong inclination to herbivory (fruits and leaves), tail-assisted forelimb-dominated suspensory positional behavior with associated postcranial morphology, and a prehensile tail with a naked ventral grasping surface (Rosenberger and Strier, 1989; Strier, 1992). Although consistent in its phylogenetic unity, atelines are morphologically and behaviorally heterogeneous.
More precisely, howler monkeys, Alouatta spp., appear to have opted for an energy minimizing foraging strategy, feeding on high proportions of leaves through sitting and tail–hindlimb assisted postures, and exploiting small home ranges traveling short daily distances mainly by quadrupedally walking and clambering above branches (Rosenberger and Strier, 1989; Strier, 1992). On the other hand, the rest of the genera, grouped as atelins, appear to share several derived features related to more agile and suspensory locomotor and postural behaviors as well as a more energy maximizing foraging strategy (Rosenberger and Strier, 1989; Strier, 1992). Phylogenetic relationships between these genera have not been established yet, especially under the light of new data deriving from molecular studies (Harada et al., 1995; Schneider et al., 1996; Cavanez et al., 1999; von Dornum and Ruvolo, 1999; Meireles et al., 1999; Collins, 2004).
Among mammalian morphological specializations to arboreality, prehensile tails are the least studied. In carnivorans, two phylogenetically and ecologically distant representatives possess truly prehensile tails: the kinkajou Potos flavus, a neotropical procyonid and the binturong Arctictis binturong, a viverrid from south-east Asia. This paper examines osteological characters associated with tail prehensility by comparing carnivorans with and without prehensile tails. The prehensile-tailed taxa are characterized by: (a) a relatively longer proximal caudal region in length and number of vertebrae; (b) more robust distal caudal vertebrae, which possess expanded transverse processes. Comparable features have been also reported for prehensile-tailed primates, indicating evolutionary convergence. These features can be functionally associated with enhanced flexion–extension of the proximal part of the tail and increased strength and flexing capacity at the distal end of the tail. These tail movements are briefly described in free-ranging prehensile-tailed carnivorans.
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