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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Real Life Destination Truth!

What a wonderful world, or at least inter-webs!

Over on this blog Frontiers of Zoology the author has posted this image.

It's Aztec (I'm not 100% sure about that, but it's from that area and region) and looks to show a monkey (or ape, I can't see the rear but since there are no known apes in the Americas I'll go with monkey) covering his ears. That's not why I posted a comment there. I commented because the author has decided that this is an OLD WORLD monkey from Japan, and not a native NEW WORLD monkey. He's using this statue to claim that China and the peoples of S. America were exchanging animals and culture. Now this is ENTIRELY possible…. well sort of possible, there is other evidence that sort of supports this but it's nowhere near 100% fact. Now on to the sculpture!

As you can see it's stylized, it appears to be bald, the head doesn't have the same texture as the body, the face looks like it MIGHT also have some sort of hair, but that might just be weathering. It also appears to be smiling. It also appears to have a ruff of hair along the sides of it's face. It's hard to actually tell one way or the other. Also of note, the feet are wrong for any monkey or ape save man... or bigfoot;)

So what kind of monkey is it? Well the author would have us believe it's from Japan, you know those macaques that use the hot springs to stay worm in the winter. But Retrieverman, one of the commenters (who I agree with) said it appears to actually be a Bald SOUTH AMERICAN Uakarki . That's what got this whole thing started, the author decided that is was a macaque and that any other opinions on it are simply wrong because he believes he knows more about monkeys then the commenters. This is quite possibly true in this case I know some monkeys on sight but not all of them, BUT I do know how to tell the difference between animals.

So what is the linchpin of the authors argument? The nose. On a very stylized image the nose is narrow. Narrower than the bald uakari monkey's usually are. BUT the uakari monkey is from Brazil and not native to Mexico so it's entirely possible the STYLIZED image isn't 100% accurate to begin with (hell, I could argue the head is far to large for ANY monkey or ape and it's all made up!) and so to assume it's an old world monkey based on the nose alone alone is jumping the gun to say the least.

Normally I'd have left my comment and that would be it. But the author chimed back in and told me and Retrieverman that we didn't know anything about monkeys. I then went back and told him it was to stylized to make those assumptions. Some good back and forth always livens up the debate, I'm used to 'debating' people who have preconceived ideas so repeating things sometimes helps;)

That brings me to this morning. Retrieverman sent me an email about it so I checked back. It looks like my second comment was deleted. WHY? Because I repeated some of the stuff from my first comments and the author had this to say…

"I am calling a halt to repeated reiterations of the same point of view being posted by persons who refuse to recognise a basic Zoological principle: in this case, the shape of the nose. You simply cannot make a Cattarhinne into a Platyrhinne by rhetoric, and no amount of arguing will change the point. Next time, Brett, I would advise you against making a power play out of one of these discussions when your remarks betray an underlying ignorance of the subject. NO, you cannot have it your way just because you WANT to have it that way."

I might be ignorant of some monkey species, I don't specialize in that type of thing. BUT I do know HOW science works and the BASIC principle of Occam's razor can easily be used to negate your entire idea. I'm not interested in a power play, I'm interested in facts. What the author has provided are not facts, it's an idea, and not a very good one. His whole idea hangs of a stylized nose done by someone who most likely is simply sculpting something he's seen on another sculpture. I do art for a living, I also study animals for drawing, and for fun. I can tell you for a FACT that most artists simply don't draw animals well. Look at ANY old drawings, they are usually REALLY badly done because the artists simply aren't that good OR they don't have access to the animal. The sculpture in question isn't a good representation of ANY monkey OR ape and to make a grandiose proclamation that it is and call that science is an insult to the people who actually are scientists and study animals.

Go ahead make your claims against reason and logic and call it science, it will not make what you say true no matter how much you try to silence the descension, that ISN'T science either. It won't make the scientific community take cryptozoology seriously. What you are actually practicing good sir, is religion. So you can silence me on your blog, but I have my own blogs and a will to use them. Have at thee!




Retrieverman said...

The wrinkles on the monkey's forehead are likely there to denote hairlessness. A short-tailed, bald-headed monkey from the New World could only be one of the bald uakaris.

Wrinkles were always used on hairless dog sculptures to show that they didn't have fur:

I don't know if the sculptor had ever seen a uakari, but we do have lots of evidence that the peoples of Meso-America traded with those in South America. It is possible that the sculptor is basing the depiction upon an animal that he or she didn't even see.

However, I hold out the possibility that maybe a uakari made it to Mexico and became part of an Aztec menagerie. The Aztecs were crazy into animals. They had huge menageries that were full of all sorts of wild creatures-- some of them not native to the region. It is possible that maybe one of them had uakari in it. As monkeys go, they aren't very common, but if one wound up in the trade routes around northern South America, it could have made it to Mexico.

It is very likely that artistic convention is at work with this thing. The people who are depicted in art from this region and time have narrow heads and high cheek bones.

Trying to make claims about whether this is an Old World monkey just based upon a sculpture is a bit like trying to determine whether we have black mice with cream-colored faces in the US just because we have Mickey Mouse.

steve said...

I think we are going to have to weight until they find the rest of the set. "See no evil" and "Speak no evil" should clear the matter up.

steve said...

wait not weight

that is what i get for multi-tasking the kid's math at the same time

Retrieverman said...

Anonymous said...

If that person honestly studied the history of Mesoamerica and South America, they would know the style of their artwork distorts the actual anatomy of the animals.

Retrieverman said...

Does this look like a real dog?

Retrieverman said...

What about this one?

I guess they had dogs with human heads in Mexico!

BorderWars said...

That guy says "definitely, definitely" too much, which makes me think Rain Man... except all idiot and no savant.

I don't find his complete lack of argument (saying it is so, does not make it so, laying out evidence and then presenting a theory of inclusion and exclusion is a better method to persuade) convincing at all.

If we are to use this sculpture as an example of an item that seems out of place, thus it must represent trade with some other area, I would think we should weigh the image against all the monkeys in the world and see which monkey fits the most features. Jumping right to the japanese macaque (why, because they were on a GE commercial earlier in the day?) is a garden path tactic.

No wonder this idiot has only 11 followers. For that matter, does cryptozoology have ANY victories?

Jess Ruffner-Booth said...

That guy needs to grow up. Seriously.

And Brett is absolutely spot on about trying to discern species from a very stylized sculpture. And I'm not just saying that because he's been taking care of me while I'm sick and bringing me lozenges and things.

Let's take, for example, a very common animal (in the past) throughout Mexico, Central and South America, the Jaguar. Not only did the Jaguar figure prominently in the local mythology and religion, but it was a real animal that might eat you if you ventured too far into the jungle. Anybody at living during that time would be intimately familiar with what a Jaguar looks like:

But add in some stylization, a dash of mysticism, some religion, and season with a little symbolism, and here's what you get:

If Jaguars were no longer extant in Mexico/Central/South America, would we identify these sculptures as representing Jaguars? Would we hang on one feature of these sculptures, like the ears, or the nose, as a definite source of identification?

BorderWars said...

The actual problem for me is proving the provenance of the sculpture, especially the DATE. This image comes from some "guaranteed authentic" artifact peddling website?! Sorry, but every peddler we met in Egypt told us that their pieces were guaranteed authentic and ancient!

Nevermind that there were 12 copies of the little statuettes on the shelf, all the same. :c)

If this monkey is part of the trilogy of Three Wise Monkeys, it MOST CERTAINLY designates a line of contact with the Japanese.

BUT, the timing is really difficult to make some ANCIENT, even pre-Columbian claim! The original idea was 8th century Chinese, but it didn't morph into Monkeys until it hit Japan.

The famous depiction is from the 16th century!

Now, what's more likely, that the Japanese are in the New World within decades of the Spanish and Portuguese? OR... that the Spanish and Portuguese who are ALL OVER Japan in the mid 16th century, right when the monkeys are a meme, also brought this to the New World?

Burden of proof is on showing that said monkey is Pre-Columbian. I don't see any analysis that says so.

Retrieverman said...

I am taking his word for it that it's Pre-Columbian.

The wrinkles suggest that it might be.

Retrieverman said...

The Portuguese were given concessions in Japan about a hundred years before Columbus.

Then, they tried to make the Japanese Catholics.

Big effing mistake.

Japan shut its doors for another two or three hundred years. Then it let the Dutch in.

But they had to walk on a cross to prove they weren't there to convert them.

So what Chris says is a possibility, but I've never heard of a bald macaque.

I think this monkey is part of an exhibit somewhere and is authentic, but I can't find confirmaton.

Retrieverman said...

I looked up the citation. The man who wrote the book from which the image of the monkey statue was taken was a legitimate archaeologist (Harold Gladwin)-- one who would know the difference between a real artifact and a forgery.

However, the book it's from has been universally panned by all the anthropologists and archaeologists of the time.

So maybe the data is correct but the interpretation is screwy.

Brett said...

I have seen a similar image of a cat, same basic style, but I couldn't tell you what type of cat it is. I will say they don't actually look very Aztec, no noodlie things on them. I like Aztec art, its actually similar to some of what I do and really similar to Jack Kirby's New Gods stuff.

UGh, my head hurts from the stupid. His 'neanderthal skull sculpture' post is just as bad. Trying to use a sculpture like this to describe a species is foolish and childish. Oh, well. This is why those stupid ghost hunters shows are so fricken popular, people will believe anything!



Pai said...

I wonder what that guy would say about Chinese Foo Lion sculptures.

It's stupid to take a piece of artwork and try to use it as if it was a fossil or something.