Animals and Inequality in the Ancient World explores the current trends in the social archaeology of human-animal relationships, focusing on the ways in which animals are used to structure, create, support, and even deconstruct social inequalities.
The authors provide a global range of case studies from both New and Old World archaeology—a royal Aztec dog burial, the monumental horse tombs of Central Asia, and the ceremonial macaw cages of ancient Mexico among them. They explore the complex relationships between people and animals in social, economic, political, and ritual contexts, incorporating animal remains from archaeological sites with artifacts, texts, and iconography to develop their interpretations.
Animals and Inequality in the Ancient World presents new data and interpretations that reveal the role of animals, their products, and their symbolism in structuring social inequalities in the ancient world. The volume will be of interest to archaeologists, especially zooarchaeologists, and classical scholars of pre-modern civilizations and societies.
Drawing on the latest research in archaeozoology, archaeology, and molecular biology, Animals as Domesticates traces the history of the domestication of animals around the world. From the llamas of South America and the turkeys of North America, to the cattle of India and the Australian dingo, this fascinating book explores the history of the complex relationships between humans and their domestic animals. With expert insight into the biological and cultural processes of domestication, Clutton-Brock suggests how the human instinct for nurturing may have transformed relationships between predator and prey, and she explains how animals have become companions, livestock, and laborers. The changing face of domestication is traced from the spread of the earliest livestock around the Neolithic Old World through ancient Egypt, the Greek and Roman empires, South East Asia, and up to the modern industrial age.
The angry grizzly and the cuddly teddy: few animals possess such a range of personas as the bear. Here, Robert Bieder surveys the wealth of imagery, myths, and stories that surrounds the bear. Beginning with the dawn bear, the small dog-sized ancestor of all bears who hails from 25 million years ago, Bieder embarks on a fascinating exploration of the evolutionary history of the bear family, from extinct species such as the cave bear and giant short-faced bear to the mere eight species that survive today.
Bear draws on cultural material from around the world to examine the various legends and myths surrounding the bear, including ceremonies and taboos that govern the hunting, killing, and eating of bears. The book also looks at the role of bears in modern culture as the subjects of stories, songs, and films; as exhibited objects in circuses and zoos; and, perhaps most famously, as toys. Bieder also considers the precarious future of the bear as it is threatened by loss of habitat, poaching, global warming, and disease and discusses the impact of human behavior on bears and their environments.
Accompanied by numerous vibrant photographs and illustrations, and written in an engaging fashion, Bear is an appealing and informative volume for anyone who has curled up with Winnie-the-Pooh or marveled at this powerful king of the forest.
We usually think of cities as the domain of humans—but we are just one of thousands of species that call the urban landscape home. Chicago residents knowingly move among familiar creatures like squirrels, pigeons, and dogs, but might be surprised to learn about all the leafhoppers and water bears, black-crowned night herons and bison, beavers and massasauga rattlesnakes that are living alongside them. City Creatures introduces readers to an astonishing diversity of urban wildlife with a unique and accessible mix of essays, poetry, paintings, and photographs.
The contributors bring a story-based approach to this urban safari, taking readers on birding expeditions to the Magic Hedge at Montrose Harbor on the North Side, canoe trips down the South Fork of the Chicago River (better known as Bubbly Creek), and insect-collecting forays or restoration work days in the suburban forest preserves.
The book is organized into six sections, each highlighting one type of place in which people might encounter animals in the city and suburbs. For example, schoolyard chickens and warrior wasps populate “Backyard Diversity,” live giraffes loom at the zoo and taxidermy-in-progress pheasants fascinate museum-goers in “Animals on Display,” and a chorus of deep-freeze frogs awaits in “Water Worlds.” Although the book is rooted in Chicago’s landscape, nature lovers from cities around the globe will find a wealth of urban animal encounters that will open their senses to a new world that has been there all along. Its powerful combination of insightful narratives, numinous poetry, and full-color art throughout will help readers see the city—and the creatures who share it with us—in an entirely new light.
Marion Copeland Reaktion Books, 2004 Library of Congress QL505.5.C67 2003 | Dewey Decimal 595.728
The cockroach could not have scuttled along, almost unchanged, for two hundred and fifty million years – some two hundred and forty-nine before man evolved – unless it was doing something right. It would be fascinating as well as instructive to have access to the cockroach’s own record of its life on earth, to know its point of view on evolution and species domination over the millennia. Such chronicles would perhaps radically alter our perceptions of the dinosaur’s span and importance – and that of our own development and significance. We might learn that throughout all these aeons, the dominant life form has been, if not the cockroach itself, then certainly the insect.
Attempts to chronicle the cockroach’s intellectual and emotional life have been made only within the last century when a scientist titled his essay on the cockroach "The Intellectual and Emotional World of the Cockroach", and artists as radically different as Franz Kafka and Don Marquis created equally memorable cockroach protagonists.
At least since Classical Greece, authors have brought cockroach characters into the foreground to speak for the weak and downtrodden, the outsiders, those forced to survive on the underside of dominant human cultures. Cockroaches have become the subjects of songs (La Cucaracha), have competed in "roachraces" and have even ended up in recipes. In this accessible, sympathetic and often humorous book, Marion Copeland examines the natural history, symbolism and cultural significance of this poorly understood and much-maligned insect.
Hannah Velten Reaktion Books, 2007 Library of Congress SF197.V46 2007 | Dewey Decimal 636.2
From the milk we drink in the morning, to the leather shoes we slip on for the day, to the steak we savor at dinner, our daily lives are thoroughly bound up with cows. Yet there is a far more complex story behind this seemingly benign creature, which Hannah Velten explores here, plumbing the rich trove of myth, fact, and legend surrounding these familar animals.
From the plowing field to the rodeo to the temple, Velten tracks the constantly changing social relationship between man and cattle, beginning with the domestication of aurochs around 9000 BCE. From there, Cow launches into a fascinating story of religious fanaticism, scientific exploits, and the economic transformations engendered by the trade of the numerous products derived from the animal. She explores in engaging detail how despite cattle’s prominence at two ends of a wide spectrum: Hinduism venerates the cow as one of the most sacred members of the animal kingdom, while beef is a prized staple of the American diet. Thought provoking and informative, Cow restores this oft-overlooked animal to the nobility it richly deserves.
Boria Sax Reaktion Books, 2004 Library of Congress QL696.P2367S29 2003 | Dewey Decimal 598.864
Though not generally perceived as graceful, crows are remarkably so—a single curve undulates from the tip of the bird’s beak to the end of its tail. They take flight almost without effort, flapping their wings easily and ascending into the air like spirits. Crow by Boria Sax is a celebration of the crow and its relatives in myth, literature, and life.
Sax takes readers into the history of crows, detailing how in a range of cultures, from the Chinese to the Hopi Indians, crows are bearers of prophecy. For example, thanks in part to the birds’ courtship rituals, Greeks invoked crows as symbols of conjugal love. From the raven sent out by Noah to the corvid deities of the Eskimo, from Taoist legends to Victorian novels and contemporary films, Sax’s book ranges across history and culture and will interest anyone who has ever been intrigued, puzzled, annoyed, or charmed by these wonderfully intelligent birds.
Jill Bough Reaktion Books, 2011 Library of Congress SF361.B68 2011
Though donkeys have historically been among our most useful domesticated animals—from plowing fields to navigating difficult terrain—they have been much maligned in popular culture and given very little respect. So much so, that their perceived qualities of stupidity and stubbornness have made their way into the language of insult. But in Donkey, Jill Bough champions this humble creature, proving that after 10,000 years of domestication, this incredibly hard-working animal deserves our appreciation.
Bough reveals the animal’s historic significance in Ancient Egypt, where it was once highly regarded—even worshipped. However, this elevated status did not endure in Ancient Greece and Rome, where donkeys were denigrated, ridiculed, and abused. Since that time, donkeys have continued to be associated with the poorest and most marginalized in human societies. All that time and all over the world, donkeys continue to be used for innumerable tasks, and even today, donkeys are considered to be one of the best draught animals in developing nations, where they continue to make a vital contribution. Bough rounds out her account with a look at the variety of social, cultural, and religious meanings that donkeys have embodied, especially in literature and art.
With accounts that are both fascinating and touching, this cultural history of the donkey will inspire a new respect and admiration for this essential creature.
Victoria de Rijke Reaktion Books, 2008 Library of Congress SF505.D47 2008 | Dewey Decimal 598.41
The squat, noisy duck occupies a prominent role in the human cultural imagination, as evidenced by everything from the rubber duck of childhood baths to insurance commercials. With Duck,Victoria de Rijke explores the universality of this quacking bird through the course of human culture and history.
From the Eider duck to the Brazilian teal to the familiar mallard, duck species are richly diverse, and de Rijke offers a comprehensive overview of their evolutionary history. She explores the numerous roles that the duck plays in literature, art, and religion—including the Hebrew belief that ducks represent immortality, and the Finnish myth that the universe was hatched from a duck’s egg. The author also highlights the significant role humor has always played in human imaginings of duck life, such as the Topographia Hibernia, a twelfth-century tome contending that ducks originated as growths on tree trunks washed up on a beach. But the book does not neglect the bird’s role in everyday life as well, from food dishes to jokes to beloved animated characters such as Daffy Duck and Donald Duck. Duck is an entertaining account of a bird whose distinctive silhouette is known the world over.
As much as dogs, cats, or any domestic animal, horses exemplify the vast range of human-animal interactions. Horses have long been deployed to help with a variety of human activities—from racing and riding to police work, farming, warfare, and therapy—and have figured heavily in the history of natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Most accounts of the equine-human relationship, however, fail to address the last few centuries of Western history, focusing instead on pre-1700 interactions. Equestrian Cultures fills in the gap, telling the story of how prominently horses continue to figure in our lives, up to the present day.
Kristen Guest and Monica Mattfeld place the modern period front and center in this collection, illuminating the largely untold story of how the horse has responded to the accelerated pace of modernity. The book’s contributors explore equine cultures across the globe, drawing from numerous interdisciplinary sources to show how horses have unexpectedly influenced such distinctively modern fields as photography, anthropology, and feminist theory. Equestrian Cultures boldly steps forward to redefine our view of the most recent developments in our long history of equine partnership and sets the course for future examinations of this still-strong bond.
Helen Macdonald Reaktion Books, 2006 Library of Congress QL696.F34M33 2006 | Dewey Decimal 598.96
A sacred god, a military tool, an erotic symbol: the falcon is a natural wonder of speed, power, beauty, and ferocity that has become embedded in human cultures in myriad ways. Helen Macdonald's Falcon examines the diverse symbolism and roles attached to the falcon throughout the centuries.
Macdonald presents a cultural and natural history of the falcon that spans the globe and several millennia. Her wide-ranging survey considers the many facets of the falcon, including conservation efforts; the sport of falconry; and the use of falcons in secret military projects by the Third Reich and the U.S. space program. Falcon also explores the rich imagery of the falcon over history, including the veneration of falcons as gods in ancient Egypt, their role in erotic stories, and even the use of falcons in advertising to promote photocopiers and jet planes.
Filled with illustrations and a wealth of fascinating facts, Falcon will be an enjoyable guide for ornithologists, amateur birdwatchers, and nature lovers alike.
Bringing together leading scholars from Belgium, Canada, France, and the United States, French Thinking about Animals makes available for the first time to an Anglophone readership a rich variety of interdisciplinary approaches to the animal question in France. While the work of French thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Felix Guattari has been available in English for many years, French Thinking about Animals opens up a much broader cross-cultural dialogue within animal studies. These original essays, many of which have been translated especially for this volume, draw on anthropology, ethology, geography, history, legal studies, phenomenology, and philosophy to interrogate human-animal relationships. They explore the many ways in which animals signify in French history, society, and intellectual history, illustrating the exciting new perspectives being developed about the animal question in the French-speaking world today. Built on the strength and diversity of these contributions, French Thinking about Animals demonstrates the interdisciplinary and internationalism that are needed if we hope to transform the interactions of humans and nonhuman animals in contemporary society.
Charlotte Sleigh Reaktion Books, 2012 Library of Congress QL668.E2S57 2012 | Dewey Decimal 597.89
As Kermit the Frog taught us—it’s not easy being green. With good reason, since you’ll likely be dissected in biology class or have your legs gobbled up by a hungry Frenchman. And yet, these slimy creatures have captured our imagination, appearing in everything from fairytales about frog princes to Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Jeremy Fisher and Arnold Lebel’s Frog and Toad. They even appear as a tasty chocolate snack in the Harry Potter series. Examining the significant role played by this slippery amphibian in art, literature, and popular culture, Charlotte Sleigh gives us an entertaining—and sometimes shocking—account of this both loved and misunderstood animal.
Weaving the natural history of the frog together with its mythology, this witty book answers questions like why frogs have been so prominent in science throughout the years and what place the frog holds in religion. Sleigh also explores the frog’s many faces—the devilish and comic, sophisticated and chauvinist, the revolting and delicious. Featuring many images of frogs from nature and culture, Frog—the fiftieth entry into the Animal series—will draw pet owners, frog-leg devourers, and seekers of princes alike.
From the lazy, fiddling grasshopper to the sneaky Big Bad Wolf, children’s stories and fables enchant us with their portrayals of animals who act like people. But the comparisons run both ways, as metaphors, stories, and images—as well as scientific theories—throughout history remind us that humans often act like animals, and that the line separating them is not as clear as we’d like to pretend.
Here Martin Kemp explores a stunning range of images and ideas to demonstrate just how deeply these underappreciated links between humans and other fauna are embedded in our culture. Tracing those interconnections among art, science, and literature, Kemp leads us on a dazzling tour of Western thought, from Aristotelian physiognomy and its influence on phrenology to the Great Chain of Being and Darwinian evolution. We learn about the racist anthropology underlying a familiar Degas sculpture, see paintings of a remarkably simian Judas, and watch Mowgli, the man-child from Kipling’s The Jungle Book, exhibit the behaviors of the beasts who raised him. Like a kaleidoscope, Kemp uses these stories to refract, reconfigure, and echo the essential truth that the way we think about animals inevitably inflects how we think about people, and vice versa.
Loaded with vivid illustrations and drawing on sources from Hesiod to La Fontaine, Leonardo to P. T. Barnum, The Human Animal in Western Art and Science is a fascinating, eye-opening reminder of our deep affinities with our fellow members of the animal kingdom.
Richard J. King Reaktion Books, 2011 Library of Congress QL444.M33K532 2011
Other than that it tastes delicious with butter, what do you know about the knobbily-armoured, scarlet creature staring back at you from your fancy dinner plate? From ocean to stock pot, there are two sides to every animal story. For instance, since there are species of lobsters without claws, how exactly do you define a lobster? And how did a pauper’s food transform into a meal synonymous with a luxurious splurge? To answer these questions on behalf of lobster the animal is Richard J. King, a former fishmonger and commercial lobsterman, who has chronicled the creature’s long natural history.
Part of the Animal series, King’s Lobster takes us on a journey through the history, biology, and culture of lobsters, including the creature’s economic and environmental status worldwide. He describes the evolution of technologies to capture these creatures and addresses the ethics of boiling them alive. Along the way, King also explores the salacious lobster palaces of the 1920s, the animal’s thousand-year status as an aphrodisiac, and how the lobster has inspired numerous artists, writers, and thinkers including Aristotle, Dickens, Thoreau, Dalí, and Woody Allen.
Whether you want to liberate lobsters from their supermarket tanks or crack open their claws, this book is an essential read, describing the human connection to the lobster from his ocean home to the dinner table.
In his provocative book The Next Social Contract, Wayne Gabardi rigorously considers the fate of animals in the twenty-first century. He claims that if we are to address the challenges raised by the Anthropocene—the period where nonhuman beings tend to be mere extras, often subsumed under the umbrella notion of “nature”—we need to radically rethink our basic ethical outlook and develop a new, “more-than-human” social contract.
Gabardi’s wide-ranging and multidisciplinary analysis focuses on four principal battlegrounds of animal biopolitics in the twenty first century: the extinction of wild animals, the crisis of oceanic animals, industrialized farm animals and the future of industrial agribusiness, and the situation of contact-zone animals moving into human-occupied habitats.
In his recasting of the social contract, Gabardi envisions a culture shift in human-animal relations toward posthumanism that features the ethical and political prioritization of animal life so it is on par with that of human well-being.
Daniel Allen Reaktion Books, 2010 Library of Congress QL737.C25A45 2010 | Dewey Decimal 599.769
Although rarely seen in the wild, the otter is admired for its playful character and graceful aquatic agility, which were established in the popular imagination through books like Tarka the Otter and Ring of Bright Water. This, however, is just a very small part of their story—throughout history the otter has also been widely hunted for its fur and flesh. In Otter, human geographer Daniel Allen reveals how the animal’s identity has been shaped by this variety of human interactions.
As Allen explains, otters, while feared by some communities, were hunted to near extinction by others—killed for their valuable pelts in the north Pacific and chased with hounds for sport in Britain. In contrast, Allen describes how Native Americans revered the otter and how indigenous fishermen in parts of Asia trained otters to assist them. Sadly, now all thirteen species of otter are considered threatened, and their survival is by no means certain.
In this wide-ranging look at the otter, Allen incorporates anecdotes from folklore, sports, popular literature, media, and conservation studies in order to unravel this complicated cultural history. Otter isa lively book that offers a new way of thinking about this admired and endangered animal.
Rebecca Stott Reaktion Books, 2004 Library of Congress QL430.7.O9S76 2004 | Dewey Decimal 594.4
As everybody knows, oysters are the ultimate aphrodisiac. Casanova is said to have eaten 50 raw oysters every morning with his mistress of the moment, in a bathtub designed for two. Whether oysters truly have exciting properties is open to debate, but like all seafoods, they contain high amounts of phosphorus and iodine, which are believed to be conducive to stamina. Author and food expert M.F.K. Fisher wrote: "There are many reasons why an oyster is supposed to have this desirable quality . . . Most of them are physiological, and have to do with an oyster’s odour, its consistency, and probably its strangeness."
As well as an aphrodisiac, the oyster has since the earliest times been an inspiration to philosophers, artists, poets, chefs, gourmets, epicures and jewellers. It has been pursued by poachers and thieves, and defended by oyster-police and parliaments.
In Oyster, literary historian and radio broadcaster Rebecca Stott tells the extraordinary story of the oyster and its pearl, revealing how this curious creature has been used and depicted in human culture and what it has variously meant to those who have either loved or loathed it: the Romans carried much-sought-after British oysters across the Alps on the backs of donkeys to be eaten as delicacies at banquets in Rome, whilst by contrast Woody Allen once famously said "I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead – not sick, not wounded – dead."
Using many unusual images and anecdotes, Oyster will appeal to oyster lovers and haters everywhere, and for those too who have an interest in the way animals such as the oyster have woven themselves into the fabric of our culture.
From Mickey Mouse to the teddy bear, from the Republican elephant to the use of "jackass" as an all-purpose insult, images of animals play a central role in politics, entertainment, and social interactions. In this penetrating look at how Western culture pictures the beast, Steve Baker examines how such images--sometimes affectionate, sometimes derogatory, always distorting--affect how real animals are perceived and treated.
Baker provides an animated discussion of how animals enter into the iconography of power through wartime depictions of the enemy, political cartoons, and sports symbolism. He examines a phenomenon he calls the "disnification" of animals, meaning a reduction of the animal to the trivial and stupid, and shows how books featuring talking animals underscore human superiority. He also discusses how his findings might inform the strategies of animal rights advocates seeking to call public attention to animal suffering and abuse. Until animals are extricated from the baggage of imposed images, Baker maintains, neither they nor their predicaments can be clearly seen.
For this edition, Baker provides a new introduction, specifically addressing an American audience, that touches on such topics as the Cow Parade, animal imagery in the presidential race, and animatronic animals in recent films.
Brett Mizelle Reaktion Books, 2011 Library of Congress QL737.U58M59 2011
Known as much for their pink curly tails and pudgy snouts as their low-brow choice of diet and habitat, pigs are prevalent in popular culture—from the Three Little Pigs to Miss Piggy to Babe. Today there are more than one billion pigs on the planet, and there are countless representations of pigs and piggishness throughout the world’s cultures.
In Pig, Brett Mizelle provides a richly illustrated and compelling look at the long, complicated relationship between humans and these highly intelligent, sociable animals. Mizelle traces the natural and cultural history of the pig, focusing on the contradictions between our imaginative representation of pigs and the real-world truth of the ways in which pigs are prized for their meat, used as subjects in medical research, and killed in order to make hundreds of consumer products. Pig begins with the evolution of the suidae, animals that were domesticated in multiple regions 9,000 years ago, and points toward a future where pigs and humans are even more closely intertwined as a result of biomedical breakthroughs. Pig both examines the widespread art, entertainment, and literature that imagines human kinship with pigs and the development of modern industrial pork production.
In charting how humans have shaped the pig and how the pig has shaped us, Mizelle focuses on the unresolved contradictions between the fiction and the reality of our relations with pigs.
From the recent spate of equine deaths on racetracks to protests demanding the removal of mounted Confederate soldier statues to the success and appeal of War Horse, there is no question that horses still play a role in our lives—though fewer and fewer of us actually interact with them. In Precarious Partners, Kari Weil takes readers back to a time in France when horses were an inescapable part of daily life. This was a time when horse ownership became an attainable dream not just for soldiers but also for middle-class children; when natural historians argued about animal intelligence; when the prevalence of horse beatings led to the first animal protection laws; and when the combined magnificence and abuse of these animals inspired artists, writers, and riders alike.
Weil traces the evolving partnerships established between French citizens and their horses through this era. She considers the newly designed “races” of workhorses who carried men from the battlefield to the hippodrome, lugged heavy loads through the boulevards, or paraded women riders, amazones, in the parks or circus halls—as well as those unfortunate horses who found their fate on a dinner plate. Moving between literature, painting, natural philosophy, popular cartoons, sports manuals, and tracts of public hygiene, Precarious Partners traces the changing social, political, and emotional relations with these charismatic creatures who straddled conceptions of pet and livestock in nineteenth-century France.
The rat has been described as the shadow of the human: from ancient times through today, it has followed man via routes of commerce and conquest to eventually inhabit nearly every part of the world. Rats have a bad reputation—they spread disease, destroy agricultural produce, and thrive in the darkest corners of human habitation—but they have recently found credibility as a major resource for scientific experimentation. Jonathan Burt here traces the fortunes of the rat in history, myth, and culture.
Central to Rat is the history of the relationship between humans and rats and, in particular, the complex human attitudes toward these shrewd creatures. Burt examines why the rat is viewed as more loathsome and verminous than other parasitic animals and considers why humans have had diametrically opposed attitudes about the rat: some cultures greatly admire the rat for its skills, while others consider the rat the scourge of the earth. Burt also draws on a wide range of examples to explore the rat's role in science, culture, and art, from its appearances in children's literature such as The Wind in the Willows to Victorian rat- and dog-baiting pits to its symbolic roles in folklore.
Rat offers an intriguing and richly illustrated study of one of nature's most remarkable creatures and ultimately finds that the rat exists as a perverse totem for the worst excesses of human behavior.
Animals, as Lévi-Strauss wrote, are good to think with. This collection addresses and reassesses the variety of ways in which animals were used and thought about in Renaissance culture, challenging contemporary as well as historic views of the boundaries and hierarchies humans presume the natural world to contain.
Taking as its starting point the popularity of speaking animals in sixteenth-century literature and ending with the decline of the imperial Ménagerie during the French Revolution, Renaissance Beasts uses the lens of human-animal relationships to view issues as diverse as human status and power, diet, civilization and the political life, religion and anthropocentrism, spectacle and entertainment, language, science and skepticism, and domestic and courtly cultures.
Within these pages scholars from a variety of disciplines discuss numerous kinds of texts--literary, dramatic, philosophical, religious, political--by writers including Calvin, Montaigne, Sidney, Shakespeare, Descartes, Boyle, and Locke. Through analysis of these and other writers, Renaissance Beasts uncovers new and arresting interpretations of Renaissance culture and the broader social assumptions glimpsed through views on matters such as pet ownership and meat consumption.
Renaissance Beasts is certainly about animals, but of the many species discussed, it is ultimately humankind that comes under the greatest scrutiny.
Louise M. Pryke Reaktion Books, 2016 Library of Congress QL458.7.P79 2016 | Dewey Decimal 595.46
No creature has quite the sting in our mythology and folklore as the scorpion. From the dawn of human civilization they have been a dangerous figure in our imaginations—poisonous, precise, and deadly quiet—but as Louise M. Pryke shows in this book, their bad reputation has overshadowed many exceptional qualities. Scurrying across hundreds of millions of years and across every continent except Antarctica, this book gives the scorpion its due as one of nature’s longest lasting survivors.
Indeed scorpions are older than dinosaurs. An ancient arthropod, their form—notable for its pair of pincers and an elegant tail that holds a menacing stinger high in the air in a permanent striking position—hasn’t changed since prehistoric times, though today there are some 1700 different species. Throughout our existence scorpions have served as a powerful cultural and religious symbol—sometimes dangerous, sometimes protecting—from the Egyptian goddess Serket to Zodiac astrology to folk medicine. A fascinating tour that takes us from the art of North Africa to the American Civil War to the markets of Beijing, Scorpion is an homage to one of earth’s oldest residents.
Philip Armstrong Reaktion Books, 2016 Library of Congress SF375.A75 2016 | Dewey Decimal 636.3
The ancient Egyptians worshipped them, the Romans dressed them in fitted coats, and the Christians associated them with their divine savior. In Sheep, Philip Armstrong traces the natural and cultural history of both wild and domestic species of ovis, from the Old World mouflon to the corkscrew-horned flocks of the Egyptians, from the Trojan sheep of Homer’s Odyssey to the cannibal sheep of Thomas More’s Utopia, from the vast migratory mobs of Spanish merinos all the way to Dolly—the first animal we have ever cloned—and Haruki Murakami’s sheep-human hybrids.
As Armstrong shows, humans have treated sheep with awe, cruelty or disdain for many thousands of years. Our exploitation of them for milk, meat, and wool—but also for artistic and cultural purposes—has shaped both our history and theirs. Despite all that we owe them we have often dismissed sheep as the least witted and least interesting of mammals: to be accused of “sheepishness” or behaving “like a flock of sheep” is to be denigrated for lack of courage, individuality, or will. Yet, as this book demonstrates, sheep actually possess highly sophisticated social skills and emotional intelligence. Above all, Sheep demonstrates that sometimes the most mundane animals turn out to be the most surprising.
A snake smells with its tongue, hears with its flesh, and breathes under the sand with one lung; it can copulate for days with one snake or with fifty at once; it has infrared radar; and it can induce spontaneous bleeding if threatened. With all these qualities, it is easy to see how snakes have such varied associations in cultures around the world: while celebrated in tattoos and tales, and for medicinal benefits, snakes are also so universally feared that they constantly endure intense persecution and rarely enjoy protected rights. Drake Stutesman explores here in Snake the fascinating natural history of the maligned serpentine.
Stutesman examines a wide range of sources to investigate the complex and widespread symbolism the snake has inspired, including the serpent's temptation of Eve in the Bible, Kaa in The Jungle Book, the Chinese zodiac, Indian snake charmers, and the Hollywood film Anaconda. She looks at the role snakes have played in human culture and science, from snake cuisine and the use of venom in medicine to the intriguing history of snake symbolism in art, architecture, cinema, and even clothing. Richly illustrated and written in an engaging style, Snake is an invaluable resource for snake enthusiasts and scholars, as well as for all who love, admire, or fear this fascinating and enduring animal.
Katarzyna and Sergiusz Michalski Reaktion Books, 2010 Library of Congress QL458.4.M53 2010 | Dewey Decimal 595.44
Both fascinating and frightening, the spider has a rich symbolic presence in the imagination. At once a representative of death, due to its fangs and dangerous poison, the spider can also represent life and creation, because of its intricate web and females who carry sacs of thousands of tiny eggs. In this wide-ranging book, Katarzyna and Sergiusz Michalskiinvestigate the natural history and cultural significance of the spider.
From ancient Greek myth to Dostoyevsky, the authors explore the appearance of spiders in literature and their depictions in art, paying particular attention to the sculptures of Louise Bourgeois. Horror stories, science fiction, folklore, and children’s tales are also investigated, as well as the affliction of arachnophobia and the procedures used to cure it. The association of the spider with women or mothers is explored alongside the role of the spider metaphor in Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis, and the Michalskis’ in-depth account concludes with a look at the unfavorable portrayal of the sinister spider in film.
A thorough and engaging look at the natural and cultural history of the spider, this book will appeal to anybody who admires or fears this delicate yet dangerous creature.
Peter Young Reaktion Books, 2004 Library of Congress QL666.C584Y68 2003 | Dewey Decimal 597.924
Tortoise is the first cultural history of these long-lived and intriguing creatures, which have existed for more than 200 million years. The book covers tortoises worldwide, in evolution, myth and reality, ranging across paleontology, natural history, myth, folklore, art forms, literature, veterinary medicine and trade regulations.
The tortoise has been seen as an Atlas-like creature supporting the world, as the origin of music and as a philosophical paradox. Peter Young examines the tortoise in all these guises, as well as a military tactical formation, its exploitation by mariners and others for food, as ornament (in tortoiseshell), as a motif in art, and in space research. He looks at the movement away from exploitation to conservation and even the uses of the tortoise in advertising. As well as examples of species, illustrations from around the world include monuments, sculptures, coins, stamps, objets d’art, drawings, cartoons, advertisements and X-rays.
The book will appeal not only to tortoise lovers but also to readers of cultural histories around the world.
"Peter Young’s Tortoise, on the other claw, can be warmly recommended."—Jonathan Bate, The Times
James Owen Reaktion Books, 2012 Library of Congress QL638.S2O94 2012 | Dewey Decimal 597.57
Leaping effortlessly from bright streams into the human imagination, the trout has an ancient fascination that can be traced back to Stone Age cave dwellers, and it thrives today in our diet, religion, folklore, history, science, literature, and, of course, fishermen’s tales.
James Owen reveals here why the trout beguiles us so. Taking myriad forms, the fish has a vitality and physical beauty that brings to mind pure waters and quiet, outdoor spaces. This biography of the trout showcases the animal as sacred fish, edible fish, farmed fish, and a fish of scientific investigation. In telling this story, Owen follows the trout around the world: starting in Europe and North America, he then follows the voyage that took the creature from England to Australia in the nineteenth century. Along the way, he presents a diverse cast of characters, from obscure British saints and fly-fishing nuns to visionary inventors, jazz singers, and counterculture novelists—all united by this magical animal.
Trout will delight and surprise anglers who have ever cast a fly and anyone who has caught a glimpse of its stunning camouflage.
A hiking trail through majestic mountains. A raw, unpeopled wilderness stretching as far as the eye can see. These are the settings we associate with our most famous books about nature. But Gavin Van Horn isn’t most nature writers. He lives and works not in some perfectly remote cabin in the woods but in a city—a big city. And that city has offered him something even more valuable than solitude: a window onto the surprising attractiveness of cities to animals. What was once in his mind essentially a nature-free blank slate turns out to actually be a bustling place where millions of wild things roam. He came to realize that our own paths are crisscrossed by the tracks and flyways of endangered black-crowned night herons, Cooper’s hawks, brown bats, coyotes, opossums, white-tailed deer, and many others who thread their lives ably through our own.
With The Way of Coyote, Gavin Van Horn reveals the stupendous diversity of species that can flourish in urban landscapes like Chicago. That isn’t to say city living is without its challenges. Chicago has been altered dramatically over a relatively short timespan—its soils covered by concrete, its wetlands drained and refilled, its river diverted and made to flow in the opposite direction. The stories in The Way of Coyote occasionally lament lost abundance, but they also point toward incredible adaptability and resilience, such as that displayed by beavers plying the waters of human-constructed canals or peregrine falcons raising their young atop towering skyscrapers. Van Horn populates his stories with a remarkable range of urban wildlife and probes the philosophical and religious dimensions of what it means to coexist, drawing frequently from the wisdom of three unconventional guides—wildlife ecologist Aldo Leopold, Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu, and the North American trickster figure Coyote. Ultimately, Van Horn sees vast potential for a more vibrant collective of ecological citizens as we take our cues from landscapes past and present.
Part urban nature travelogue, part philosophical reflection on the role wildlife can play in waking us to a shared sense of place and fate, The Way of Coyote is a deeply personal journey that questions how we might best reconcile our own needs with the needs of other creatures in our shared urban habitats.
Joe Roman Reaktion Books, 2006 Library of Congress QL737.C4R578 2006 | Dewey Decimal 599.5
One hundred years ago, a beached whale would have been greeted by a mob wielding flensing knives; today, people bring harnesses and boats to help it return to the sea. The whale is one of the most awe-inspiring and intelligent animals in nature, sharing a complex relationship with humans that has radically evolved over the centuries. Joe Roman offers in Whale a fascinating and in-depth look at the cultural and natural history of these majestic aquatic mammals.
From the Biblical prophet Jonah to Moby-Dick to recent discoveries of cetacean songs and culture, Roman examines the whale's role in history, art, literature, commerce, and science. Whale features vibrant illustrations, ranging from Stone Age carvings to full-color underwater photographs, which vividly bring to life the rich symbolic meanings surrounding the whale. Roman also examines the ecological and evolutionary history of the whale as well as contemporary issues of conservation. Whale is an engaging volume that will appeal to all those interested in the important role that these kings of the ocean have played in human culture.