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Cultural Pedigrees: Some Recent Examples

Nature volume 142, pages 639640 (08 October 1938) | Download Citation

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SOME interesting examples of culture lag and pedigrees of cultural elements are afforded in several of the articles which appear in Antiquity of September. Of these, the most considerable is Dr. E. Cecil Curwen's note of “The Hebrides”, in which it is argued that “If we had visited Lewis even fifty years ago, we should have been able to study the life and manners of a Celtic-speaking race emerging from roughly the same state of culture as the Celtic people of the pre-Roman Iron Age in Wessex”. Dr. Curwen naturally devotes careful attention to the details of the still numerous, but disappearing, 'black house' and the now disused beehive sheilings, a survival of the megalith builders in use fifty years ago. Of the black houses he remarks that it is only since the recent introduction of tuberculosis that they have become unhygienic, and that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries centenarians were far more common in the island than they are now, even attaining the ages of 140 and more. A contribution to the pedigree of the St. George cult is made in an article, in translation, by Dr. Gawril Kazarov, in which he links St. George with the numerous pre-Christian rider-hero cult shrines and figures of Thrace. The hero cult survives in Bulgaria in folk-lore, the siting of shrines, and the overwhelming importance of St. George's day in the popular festal calendar. An inquiry on somewhat similar lines by Mr. Stuart Piggott traces Hercules, “the simple good-hearted strong man”, back to Akkad, c. 2550 B.C., and in post-classical Europe down to Harlequin, a polished and sophisticated version of the god of the underworld. The discerning will note that Antiquity shows no falling off in demonstrating practically that solid learning need not be dull.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/142639d0

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