Human Sacrifice

Human-Sacrifice

Yesterday morning I came across an interesting study which shows that the practice of human sacrifice is more prevalent in highly stratified societies.  Study on Human Sacrifice

In equal societies people tend to work together for the good of the commune.  Where a society develops a ruling class the position of that class is maintained by the labour of the low status individuals.  In many societies the position of the ruling class is supported by organised religion.  One facet of this religion is the act of human sacrifice.

The victims of sacrifice tend to be those from the lowest strata of society, especially slaves or captives.

There is a positive counter argument to all of this.  A highly stratified society is one that can be planned.  Specialist workers can be supported by the labour of the peasant class.  As a result you can have architects, scribes, taxation etc and build a civilization.

The greatest monuments ever constructed by mankind were the products of civilizations that were highly stratified.  Mesopotamian ziggurats, pyramids in Egypt, central America and Cambodia, Harappan step wells etc.  In one sense the subjugation of a peasant class was a pre-requisite for the creation of civilization.  Human sacrifice as a religious act is simply one mechanism for protecting the position of the ruling class.

It is interesting to look at the modern workplace and observe the stratification that exists.  Serfs, peasants and slaves have been replaced with minimum wage workers on zero hours contracts, or unpaid interns.  Partners in law and accounting firms and senior medical consultants all earn large salaries by harnessing the work of their juniors.  What are the modern equivalents of human sacrifice?  Workplace references?

*Spoiler Alert:  Walking Dead Season 6 Finale*

Last night in the Walking Dead we were finally introduced to the character called Negan, leader of the Saviours.  In his speech to Rick Negan laid out all the elements of the new world order.  And it sounds very much like Bronze Age civilization.

The Saviours are a warrior class.  Like the Spartans of ancient Greece they specialize in fighting and killing.  Like the people of the “Iron Isles” from Game of Thrones their motto could be “we do not sow”.

The Saviours need food to survive, but farming is hard work.  So they are outsourcing the farming to a new peasant class.  The peasants need only sufficient weapons to protect themselves from the walkers.  Negan will round up all their projectile weapons and leave them with only knives and spears.

This further cements the position of the Saviours as the warrior elite, as they become the only ones with guns.

Finally, to cement his position of absolute control, Negan practices Human Sacrifice.  It is a raw and powerful demonstration of the mechanism that underlies the academic study into sacrifice in Pacific Island societies.  We see them engage in a manhunt with fatal consequences.  At the end of the episode Negan practices a highly ritualised form of sacrifice.  He has named his weapon, a common feature of bronze age warrior societies.  The demonstration of raw power is aimed not at Rick and his group, but rather at the Saviours themselves.

Of course the question everyone is asking……who did he choose?  Season 7 bait!

Rosetta Stone

The most visited object in the British Museum

The most visited object in the British Museum

It was on this day in the year 1799 that Pierre-Francois Bouchard discovered the Rosetta Stone.  Bouchard was a new man, made up by the French revolution.  Blinded in one eye during a chemistry experiment he went on to become a military engineer.  He joined the expedition to Egypt with Napoleon.

In 1799 he was given the job of repairing an old Mameluke fort in the port town of Rosetta (modern Rashid).  During construction he noticed the inscribed stone, which had been used to build the walls of the fort.  An intelligent man, Bouchard immediately recognised the importance of the find.  A single stone bearing the same inscription in three scripts, Greek, Demotic and Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs.

Plaster casts of the stone were taken and dispatched to linguistic scholars for translation.

The stone itself fell into British hands in 1801 when they drove the French out of Egypt.  It was moved to London and has been on display almost continuously since 1802.

Translation of the text took somewhat longer.

The Greek text was translated by 1803.

It was not until 1822 that Jean Francois Champollion released a translation of the Egyptian elements of the text.  Even then it took many years of work before scholars could confidently translate other ancient Egyptian texts.

Egypt and France both claim rights to the stone, which is  still held in the British Museum.

The Rosetta stone had impacts beyond the translation of Egyptian texts.  The lessons learned in Egypt have helped to unlock other pictographic alphabets such as Mayan.

The term “Rosetta Stone” is now often used to signify a key to unlocking an understanding of a field of knowledge.

And death shall have no dominion; by Dylan Thomas

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

At world’s end!

So, the Mayan Calendar has counted down to the end of the world, and time is no more.  I sit today outside of that time, beyond the life envisaged by the Mayan civilization.  And what thoughts occur, now I have outlived their ken?

Prospero:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158

Yes, before us others have seen that life is but an illusion.  Indeed our very presence in this universe is signified neatly by Beckett in his play “A Breath”, as filmed by Damien Hirst below using hospital waste, look out for the swastika, symbol of both life and death;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1ZON66BbB0

Life is short, the revels soon are ended.  So what are you going to do with the rest of yours?  What difference do you plan to make?  Figure it out, and get busy tryin’ or get busy dyin’.

 

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.