June 7, 2011

Gods and Animals

By Riley Wertenberger

Human interaction has always been fascinating to me – the way people act the way they do and how they use their resources to create communities, language, and ways of life.

These interests of mine, including the biology opportunites, lead me to study abroad in Peru. I have found that traveling broadens the mind and spirit!

Our cultural adventure began via tours of several museums of art and anthropology. At the National Museum of Anthropology and Architechture in Lima, there was a tablet of carved stone that stood about eight feet tall. The tour guide explained that the Chileca people used tablets like this in a temple to solidify a religion and exercise power over society. Each tablet had a separate god carved into the stone. A god would be sitting, fanged, and clawed with a crown of snakes. Some gods, depending on the animal represented, were used to strike fear into the people. Animals, food, pottery and people were offered to these gods, sacrificed for the god's pleasure and approval.

The use of animals in the artwork intrigued me as they were used to represent different things, much like they are used today. This representation made me curious about human vs. animal nature. Do we as humans believe that animals have a more pure spirit, free of sin? Is purity powerful? It seems so.

I believe that as human beings, we crave purity and justice and answers. We crave the knowledge of our origin and the power to control our future. For these reasons, we hope that if we serve gods, they will provide and bless us, here and after life on earth. The Chilecas did, at least!
 


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The Biodiversity Institute is home to about 60 graduate students and 30 research scientists and curators. They participate in field expeditions to all seven continents and represent areas such as entomology, ornithology, paleontology, parasitology and herpetology. As the authors of this blog, they share their experiences and adventures in collections-based biological research all over the world.

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