Summary on the subject: Gender Issues and Hopewell Culture
Gender Issues and Hopewell Culture
In general, when considering third world countries, most would say that they have some very similar characteristics. Third world countries are often thought of as places that are impoverished, have significantly high birthrates, are economically dependent on advanced countries, and have not evolved socially in regards to equal rights issues. Although many of these characteristics do apply to Sri Lanka, the latter has definitely evoked some discussion on the topic of gender issues in underdeveloped countries. Issues such as decision making in the household, educated women and their role in society, and attitudes towards women in employment will be discussed. As stated earlier, most would agree that from a distant perspective Sri Lanka would seem to be socially underdeveloped in regards to equal rights. One way that this misconception is debunked is by looking at the roles of male and female in the household. There are many variables to take into consideration when looking at roles of family members and who has the balance of power; for instance, if the wife is working or not could be considered at both ends of the scale. If she is working than her husband may feel that because she is making a financial contribution she has more of a right to make important economic decisions that may effect the family. On the other hand he may feel as though her being away from the children is a detriment to their upbringing, and in turn is placing a burden upon the family leaving the wife with few domestic decisions. Another variable that has to be considered is if the residence is with the husband's family or if it is with the wife's family. In this case one would assume that whichever house was being resided in would have the balance of the say towards family decisions. The last variable that will be considered is that of marital duration. Does a longer marriage necessarily mean that the financial and domestic decisions of the household will become split evenly between the husband and wife? The answers to these questions were the focus of a study conducted by Anju Malhotra and Mark Mather in 1992. The study showed that when the wives were working, regardless of whether or not they shared their wages or kept them, they had an increase say on financial matters. However, the domestic decisions were not nearly as great, especially if the wages earned by the wife were kept for herself (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620). When looking at the balance of power in regards to household arrangement, the study found that the wife had almost no say on financial matters when living at the husband's parents house but did have some say on domestic issues. The opposite it true for when the family resided at the wife's parents house. The wife typically had a significant say on financial and domestic matters with the latter outweighing the two (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620). As far as marital duration is concerned, it seems as though as the family grows together there is somewhat of a role reversal. The husband becomes more concerned with domestic matters and the wife takes some responsibility for the financial decisions (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620). These findings led my research group to believe that the people of Sri Lanka are generally very similar to those of western societies in regards to household decisions.Education is not something we think about when speaking about developing countries, many assume that it is just not an option for underprivileged people. Although that is the unfortunate truth that effects many third world countries, it does seem that Sri Lanka is on its way to recovering itself. For many years the gender gap between male and female scholars needed to be decreased. In the early 1980's the percentage of the total amount of people with university degrees that were women was barely above 40%. A more alarming fact might be that the percentage with post-graduate degrees was barely above 25% (Ahooja-Patel K. 1979: 217). The majority of women pursuing a degree usually did so in the fine arts category or the education and teacher training fields, many staying away from disciplines such as business or engineering. Although these numbers may seem staggering Sri Lanka has shown some promise in terms of social welfare. Programs are now in place to encourage female education and to decrease the inequalities women face today. In the early 1990's the gender gap between literate males and females was only a 5% difference (Malhotra et al. 1997: 602). Many believe that the more westernized Sri Lanka becomes the more independent the thoughts and wills of women will expand, creating a country of little inequality. Women in the work force today in western society face many barriers; this is after years of trying to refine the social economic status of women. In Sri Lanka, because of its poor economy, employers may have actual complaints that may affect the profitability of their business. In general in Sri Lanka, men are usually preferred over women as employees. Some employers complain that because of the possibility of the need for time off to bear children that it may disrupt the flow of the work force. Many men could feel as though women were being treated with undeserved favoritism, which could cause conflict. Others feel that the financial burden of having to install proper facilities to accommodate women could create too much of a loss that they would not be able to overcome it. The topic of most discussions seems to revolve around the Maternity Amendment Act of 1978, which states that women workers are entitled to six weeks maternity leave with pay. It also states that they are allowed two nursing breaks of one hour each or two breaks of one half hour each when a day care center is available (Ahooja-Patel K. 1979: 219). Women cannot, under the law, be fired for any reason that stems from them being pregnant. An unfortunate fact that is slowly being eradicated is that many women are just not qualified for the jobs that are available in Sri Lanka. Because of the gender gap in education and training that has plagued Sri Lanka for years this trend will surely continue until the inequality has subsided. In many ways Sri Lanka has come very far in terms of gender equality when discussing kinship and education. However, women's economic situation has shown to be less favourable. The people of Sri Lanka acknowledge that women have a place in the work force but financially cannot accommodate them. Until the economic growth of Sri Lanka can develop further, people will continue to have the 'survival of the fittest' kind of attitude, which will continue to alienate and repress the women or Sri Lanka.
Studied since the discovery of the conspicuous mounds in Ross County Ohio, the Hopewell have been an archaeological enigma to many. The tradition is so named for the owner of the farm, Captain Hopewell, where over thirty mounds were discovered. Earlier studies focused more on the exotic grave goods such as precious metals, freshwater pearls, many of these objects had come from all corners of the continent from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, and north to the mid-Atlantic coastline (some say Hopewellian influence reached Nova Scotia). Earlier scholars of the Hopewell (1950’s through 1960’s) were well aware of the influence of the “Interaction Sphere”, yet concluded that the Hopewell, in terms of lifestyle were a cult and had no influence on daily life. Later studies suggest otherwise, as more and more information surfaces along with new insightful interpretations. It is widely accepted that the Hopewell are the “next generation” of the Adena. That is to say that the Adena gave rise to the Hopewell, who had, as speculated migrated into the Ohio River Valley from Illinois. The Hopewell have been described as a more elaborate and flamboyant version of the Adena. Whether the Hopewell overpowered the Adena or simply mingled with and mixed into the culture, is not certain, yet there has been no evidence of warfare to support the former. The result was a cultural explosion encompassing a vast majority of North America east of the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast. The Hopewell flourished in the Middle Woodland from 200 B. C. to AD 500. The environment was nearly what it is today. Temperate with lakes, streams, wetlands and flood-plains, the people took advantage of the seasonal weather in the Ohio River Valley via foraging as well as hunting and gathering. The cultivation of domestic strains of beans and maize was well on its way as it was implemented in small amounts, catching on later in the time period. The vegetation was a prairie/forest mix of deciduous trees, walnut, oak, various grasses and shrub. The fauna of the region included many species of waterfowl, turkey and other species in great abundance that are found today (perhaps in more abundance than found today). Larger fauna included buffalo, bison, deer, and elk and smaller animals such as rodents, raccoons, beaver and the like. Aquatic life included freshwater mussels and clams, many fishes (bass, catfish, etc) and turtles. As we will see, the people made abundant use of these flora and fauna as food, clothing, container, ceremonial and ornamental objects. As for changes through time in the environment, it is theorized (by some) that it did in fact shift to a wetter one, perhaps driving the people to higher ground or otherwise drier climates. Core settlement, as noted was along the Ohio River and its estuaries on flood-plains, as well as on or near wetlands. Major areas of population density include Newark and Chillicothe as well as Marietta. These areas provided a lush environment of flora and fauna species that were widely exploited over the centuries by the inhabitants. Living quarters, although scarcely studied, consist of scattering’s of small villages with larger settlements located near and around major mound complexes. Some of these smaller villages seem to have been occupied seasonally while settlement was more than likely permanent in the larger loci surrounding the mounds. Some dwellings have been found to consist of saplings stuck into the ground in a circle, brought together in the center and covered with elm bark or mats of woven grasses. Post molds from various areas in Ohio and Illinois indicate oval patterns as well as rectangular long-houses with rounded corners. Larger houses ranged from 18 to 25 feet long and one was as large as 44x48 feet, suggesting a large gathering place, perhaps for trading, council meetings or ceremonial practices. The dress of the people reflected their beliefs, trading practices and even wealth. Ornaments were worn head to foot. Women’s hair were pinned back with dowels of wood or bone in a bun or knot and a long sort of ponytail. When nursing, women wore their hair braided and tied up in a shorter ponytail that was held together by a mesh or net-like bag. Typical male hairstyle was a sort of mohawk on top with their hair pulled back into a bun in the back. As for male dress, a warrior wore a loincloth of dyed material with patterns on it (resembling a diaper; for lack of better description). He carried a long spear, an atl-atl, wearing various necklaces of bone, shell and stone beads including bear claws, shark tooth and other exotic items. The closest that these ancient north Americans came to an iron age is revealed in their use of copper as breast plates and helmets in warfare. Members of both sexes wore earspools (yo-yo shaped earrings) of copper as well as bracelets and necklaces. Mica was cut and shaped into various ornaments for headdresses in the form of animals, birds of prey talons, geometric figures, human hand, and bear claw. Mica would be integrated into clothing and on garments that would sparkle and reflect light, somewhat like sequins. Not much more is known about dress, due to the fact that textiles deteriorate rapidly in the archaeological record. Very little is known of social and political customs; ideas being drawn from ethnographic analogy (of Iroquois, the possible descendants) as well as being pieced together from archaeological contexts. More than likely the people operated under matrilineal kinship. They lived in long-houses dominated by the oldest female member of the family and when a couple was married, the husband would move into the wives’ house and become a part of their social unit. These new husbands had very little if any say in household matters. The children “belonged" to or were affiliated with their mothers family, the males owing allegiance to that unit. There were, however male chiefs who represented households and villages in tribal affairs. Evidence for hereditary monarchy is briefly described from a report in the 1950’s. It documents that a number of skeletons found in some mound structures had a rare physical trait. This trait was a bony growth in the ear that was genetically transmitted. Peoples found to harbor this growth were found in association with vast riches of pearls, beads, precious metals, large amounts of mica and the like, quite possibly the “inbred" mark of royalty within a tribe or tribes. The subsistence base of the Hopewell consisted of hunting, gathering and to a lesser extent cultivation of local plant species, depending upon where they lived. Hunting was done primarily with spears and projectile points, with the Indians making use of an instrument called and atl-atl. One would attach a spear to the atl-atl and hurl it at the target, the implement providing not only a more powerful throw, but giving the spear a more finely tuned trajectory. Also used at this time were the bow and arrow, a big step in technological innovation at the time. This is evident in the archaeological record with the finding of smaller projectile points such as the Squibnocket Triangle. As for throwing spears, larger projectile points were used, resembling the Jack’s Reef Corner Notched, broad knife blades and corner notched projectile points being preferred as well as being typical of the Hopewell. Associated stone tools were found that manufactured and maintained these weapons such as shaft straighteners. These were rocks that were about palm-sized and had a carved groove running down the center with which one would work a stick or small sapling through over and over to smooth away notches and small stems. One would hunt by stalking, say a deer. The hunter would move very slowly through the undergrowth wearing a decoy, perhaps antlers and/or head or skin of the animal. Once in range he would hurl the spear attached to an atl-atl to kill the animal. Other hunting methods were implemented such as the dead fall. The Indians would set a log up in a tree and when an animal pulled on a piece of bait it would trigger the log to fall and kill the animal. Snaring was also practiced using saplings, the animal being caught and possibly starving to death. Among the animals hunted were bison, deer, turkey, beaver, muskrat, duck, raccoon and elk. Freshwater fishes such as bass and catfish were caught using hooks made from seashells, and freshwater clams and mussels were harvested. As for plants, many, such as gourds (for their seeds and used as containers), sumpweed, goosefoot, sunflower, knotweed, little barley and maygrass were cultivated. Pigweed, lambsquarter and grapes were also collected. Tobacco was widely grown, evidenced by pollen core samples and the presence of pipes in the archaeological record. Elk scapula and flint hoes were used to cultivate gardens. A recent study has revealed that Middle Woodland environments had a vast quantity of exploitable food sources. For example, in one year an area of ten square miles could produce 182k-426k bushels of acorns, 100-840 deer, 10k-20k squirrels, 200 turkeys and many species of duck. At a site in Scoville, 92% of meat was from deer, 4% from turkey, 72% of nuts were hickory and 27% were walnuts. This site was not occupied from spring to mid-spring and middle to late fall, at the exact time of waterfowl migration, indicating that they left the area to hunt them. Surplus venison, bison, elk and other meats were smoked, dried and stored in pits lined with leather or bark. Fruits and vegetables were dried and stored as well as maize which was kept in bark barrels. Cornbread, succotash and hominy (a boiled cornmeal porridge) were baked/cooked. Maple trees were tapped to make syrup and sugar. Publications of the 1950’s and 1960’s claim that there was a strict division of labor. Men would hunt, fish, make weapons, canoes, bark barrels, snowshoes, paddles (oars), cleared land and participated in the harvest. It states that women would do the gardening, cooking, caring for children, gathered wild plants, made pottery, wove cloth, tailored clothing and trapped smaller animals. These seem to be sexist assumptions, as women could practice many of the “men’s work” as well as the fact that men would also be involved in many activities slated towards women such as caring for the children, pottery-making and weaving. Objective approaches to interpretation of past activities should always be taken, for we do not have all of the facts about these and other ancient peoples and never may. Now we come to trade, which along with burial practices has put the Hopewell on the archaeological “map” so to speak. Trade, on a continental scale had made their presence known, spreading and absorbing ideas from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast, this has been named the “Hopewell Interaction Sphere. ” There were artisans (possibly a separate class) who had individual specialties in different raw materials. These raw materials included copper (seemingly the choice metal of the people over gold and silver), stone, bone, and flint-knappers, specialists in mica and highly skilled ceramists. Ceramics underwent a change through time and were traded extensively. Normally they were tempered with gritty sand or pulverized limestone and paddled with a cord paddle or a wrapped stick. There were squat jars used in burials that were smaller and thicker rimmed and diagonally hatched or crosshatched (1-2% of most finds), and conical or spherically expanding flat-based pots with a flared mouth, used for cooking and storage, generally a utilitarian ware. Rocker stamping done with seashells was a popular design along with geometric patterns. Designs below the neck were, as mentioned, geometric patterns, broad shallow grooves that were made with a dull pointed tool (antler or stone tool). Flamingo, spoonbill and duck were common motifs (possibly noting their importance as a subsistence base) and the design was emphasized by texturing the figure or the background using a rocker-stamp technique with shells in a zigzag fashion. Other than bird motifs, concentric circles, wavelike patterns and geometric designs are incised on the pottery. Vase-like shapes, rounded off square vessels and trapezoidal forms have been found. The pottery was traded throughout the interaction sphere, with particular designs being favored in various regions. Uses include storage of foods, cooking vessels, and mortuary objects (broken ritually, perhaps to release the “spirit" of the vessel). Other clay objects found are highly stylized and detailed figurines in human form. They give us an idea of typical dress, custom and hairstyle (mentioned above). Women wore short sleeved robes tied at the waist with a wide sash, animal skin boots as well as wrist and arm bands with patterns on them. Men wore leather bib-like shirts and a type of loincloth (also mentioned above). Figurines discovered depict a woman standing with an object broken in half in her two hands, a woman carrying an infant on her back, a woman sitting with her hand on her lap and one of a woman nursing an infant. A male figurine depicts him sitting and holding a staff with two hands as if meditating. All of the peoples eyes are closed, evoking reflection and/or deep thought. They are highly lifelike and great attention to detail is paid as one can discern jewelry, headdress or hairstyle, clothing and ornament. The purpose of the figurines could be decoration or trade good evoking cultural values and norms. Pipestone, imported from Missouri was used for a variety of objects such as mortar and pestle, beads and small bowls. However, its main use was for animal (sometimes human yet that was primarily an Adena feature) effigy platform pipes (sometimes made of clay). They consisted of a flat rectangular base with a hole through the middle and a very lifelike depiction of various animals on top. Effigies included that of birds of prey, beaver, frog (or toad), a cougar or wildcat, bear and heron. Some are just plain old bowls. A large hole was borne into the top and tobacco or other herbs were smoked. Although I have not come across any speculation of why particular animals were chosen, I feel as though they are representative of particular clans or lineage’s, perhaps even moieties. Copper was the metal of choice for the Hopewell. It was imported from the Lake Superior region (along with silver). Copper was fashioned into rings, necklaces and bracelets, earspools, beads, panpipes, ax-heads, breast plates, masks and projectile points. Helmets were also made and decorated with antler and other objects. It was fashioned by cold-working and heating, pounding it into sheets to be cut and shaped into various forms. These objects have been found in Tennessee, New York, Iowa and Missouri. Mica, as described above was used for various ornaments quite possibly even mirrors, was mined in the southern Appalachians. Obsidian, a glassy volcanic mineral obtained from Yellowstone, was professionally worked was made into large ceremonial bifaces as well as knives and other blades. Animal-related objects include turtle shells used for containers and such, sharks teeth, barracuda jaw, conch shells (used as containers and gorgets), and Busycon (giant sea snail, shell used for cups) were from the Gulf of Mexico along with alligator teeth and skulls. Local freshwater pearls from mussels were used as beads for necklaces, anklets and armlets or were sewn onto clothing. Bear and wolf teeth from the Rocky Mountains were used as pendants or beads, as well as mandibles from these animals. In one burial, the mandible of a wolf was found inserted into a gap in a skeletons teeth. Many of these objects were found in the main Hopewell concentration areas of Illinois and Ohio. Galena, a type of lead ore was used to make face-paint. Recorded findings at a site name 22 different types of exotic materials, 16 of them being minerals, yet only two native to Ohio. Value in terms of manufacture and symbolic meaning went hand in hand, as these objects displayed high prestige among the people. Several trading centers include Illinois, Scioto (Ohio), Missouri/Kansas, as well as other areas about the region. One researcher states that it was a big festival when the traders arrived home, there were games, dancing, food and music for two or three days, also stating that the Hopewell were less likely to be war-like, being more interested in trade. Reciprocity plays a role in exchange with the theory of the “Big Man. ” These individuals were pillars of the community, possessing great wealth and prestige. They would acquire large amounts of goods and then lend them to others in times of need. The lend-ees would then be obligated to the “Big Man,” perhaps having to work harder to pay back the favor. This, along with burial customs is the overall effect of the Hopewell interaction sphere facilitating the so-called “Big Idea." It was a philosophy, a way of life be it not all encompassing in the lives of distant trade partners, yet affecting them through ritual ceremonialism (in some areas as evidenced by presence’s of mounds) and trade-good manufacture. This dispersal reached Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, New York, the Northeast and eastern Rocky Mountain states and into the deep south. The best-known aspects of the Hopewell are their ceremonial and burial practices centering on earthworks and burial mounds. Earthworks included animal effigy mounds (coinciding with animal platform pipes. Correlation?), geometric shapes, and a particular recent find, the Great Hopewell Road. Found in Ohio, it runs from Newark to Chillicothe, in a straight line through swamps and streams, thought to be a spiritual or pilgrimage route, rather than one of trading. Burial mounds were usually enclosed by a raised embankment, symbolizing a sacred place. Earthworks were found in conjunction with burial mounds, near burial mounds or even distances away, some taking up hundreds of acres. The great “Serpent Mound" is a good example, yet is thought of as Adena. As for mortuary customs, three quarters of the bodies had been cremated, full fleshed burial was probably a privilege of higher ranked individuals, they were buried in full flexed position. Structures called Charnel Houses were erected where the dead were de-fleshed and then taken for cremation. First, brush was cleared from the burial area, including trees and topsoil. Clay was then lain down and then an inch of sand that was compacted. A large wooden structure (some with no roofs, possibly to expose flesh to the elements for removal) was built, sometimes with smaller rooms inside to accommodate others or extra grave goods and furniture. Cremations were done in clay lined pits dug into the floor after the bodies had been stripped of flesh and left there or placed inside the log cabin structure. They were then surrounded by high-quality grave goods mentioned above, artisans or craftsmen being interred with large amounts of their medium of specialty or trade including pearls, mica and obsidian. One mound was found with 12,000 pearls, 35,000 pearl beads, 20,000 shell beads, nuggets of copper, meteoric iron, silver, sheets of hammered gold and copper, and iron beads. These houses were left standing or were burnt down and then covered with a mound taking up to and including one million basket-fulls of earth. This was done periodically, layering burial on top of burial, perhaps indicating lineage, that it was that clan’s mound. Some of the skeletons had copper noses affixed to their skulls (nasal cavities). The mounds were probably reserved for those in high status positions, sizes ranging from ten to fifty feet high and larger. The number of these earthworks in Ohio alone reaches 10,000, however, many have been lost in this and other areas due to plowing and erosion. The Hopewell decline is as much a mystery as its origins and practices. The Hopewell exchange systems seem to have deteriorated around AD 500; Moundbuilding ceased, art forms were no longer produced. War and mass murder is unlikely, for there is no evidence for fighting (none even during the era). Perhaps it was the decimation of big-game herds of buffalo, deer and elk due to the technology of the bow and arrow. Support for this theory lies in the disappearance of atl-atl weights around the same time as the collapse. This, in conjunction with colder climatic conditions could have driven the animals north or west, as weather would have a detrimental effect on plant-life, drastically cutting the subsistence base for these foods. Along with this, food production of maize and other hardier plants would have been more important than trading exotic goods. Another theory suggests that they eventually dispersed for unknown reasons, moving perhaps south, integrating with the Mississippian culture or to the northeast, lending to the ancestral Iroquois theory. Whatever the case may be, the Hopewell have left their indelible mark on Ancient Native North American Culture in a way Archaeologists and Historians have never encountered.
According to archeological and physical record, tool use has had an enormous effect in the transformation of proto humans into modern humans. What stimulated tool use was the proto humans intrest in new and easier ways to do things. With the introduction of tools, body morphology changed and reproductive fitness increased. Evolution did not happened over night. It took 4.5 million years for humans to get where they are today. Scientists have concluded that about 3.5 million years ago, there was the first proto human. A proto human resembles extinct hominid populations that had some but not all the features of a modern homo sapien. Such features were prolonged moments of bipedality, change in the pelvis and the reduction of the sagittal crest. (Diamond 1992 pg 34) In order for this proto human to evolve into a human, it needed tools. Some of the tools might have been discovered by accident or by early creative geniuses? The way they discovered the tools is unknown, but the changes the tools made were to the physical morphology and the body behavior. They began to walk upright, gathered supplies, cut food, and used weapons. (Diamond 1992 pg.40) About 3 million years ago, after generations of learning how to use these tools, the hominid came out of the trees, and stayed mostly on the ground. The animal had an abundance of food and water and lived in a population of; on the ground proto-human animals. Some adapted to ground life and started to become bipedal, but more than half of them stayed on all fours. The bipedal hominids vision increased, making it able to see and do more. It obtained the ability to use weapons more effectively and efficiently because it had arms with agility. It found all the good meat and valued resources then eventually took over the whole community. Soon after the bipedal creatures gained control the hominids on four legs die off, precisely because they could not evolve quickly enough and produce healthy, if any, offspring. The bipedal community grew into the hundreds and thousands. Tough, healthy, and agile hominids, the strong survived and the females produced healthy offspring which is called reproductive fitness. The mouth became smaller and the brain increased in size. More brains equaled better tools, which lead to a faster, more efficient evolution. (Diamond 1992 pg 12) According to the bone and fossil evidence that I have learned, this is my interpretation how evolution might have happened. When a species develops tools, many things can a will change. The definition of a tool is, performing or facilitating mechanical operations. (Websters Ninth New Dictionary) Take for instance a hominid that walks on all four limbs. How easy would it be for a hominid, without agile arms, to mechanically operate a tool? It would be very difficult. This type of arboreal hominid, probably lives in a tree, swings from the branches, vision is not great, and is mostly a vegetarian. After the proto human began to walk on two feet there hands became free and moveable. Now give this hominid a sharp stick or a blunt object, practice as how to properly use it, and pg 3 maybe arm agility. Then over time (about 3 to 2.5 mya) the animal becomes a hunter, being able to strike a predator, protect, and gain control over resources. In the movie 2001 Space Odyssey, (Anthropology 100 9/5/97) Stanley Kubrick gives his interpretation on how we evolve. The movie shows groups of stem-primate type creatures who represent early proto-human communities. The creatures begin to explore their environment finding resources and developing new ways to do things. The communities battled other primate communities for the natural resources in their environment. One of the primates begins to break some objects with a bone it picked up. The primate then realizes that this bone can do major damage. When one community learns to use bones as weapons, then that group can take over the resources in a certain area and be selected for, which increases reproductive fitness. This scenario could have happened but the truth is nobody knows exactly how and why things turned out the way they did. Not just hominids use tools. Wood-peckers, vultures and sea otters are among the other animal species that evolved by using tools to capture food, but these creatures are not as heavily dependant as we are. (Diamond 1992 pg 36) Without tools evolution might have taken much longer. Tools had a major affect on teeth, hair, behavior, and even language. (Diamond 1992 pg 12) When developing and using tools, the species takes control over the environment and makes it work for them. One major change in the physical aspect of evolution is the morphology of the body. Proof of this came from the discovery of Lucy, the 2.5 million year old homo - pg 4 erectus, half monkey half human. (Haviland Eighth Edition pg 140-141) The head grew so the brain could expand, allowing hominids to think and create new tools. The mouth became smaller and teeth turned into herbivore teeth, enabling speech to develop. The widening of the pelvis was a major and critical change, it allowed the animal to walk on two feet. This change in the pelvis allowed all proto-humans to stand at long periods of time, making it more free and taller which increased vision. Having the features of better vision and maneuverability made it easier for the hominids to control the environment instead of letting the environment control them. Being able to control the environment leads to better food, healthier bodies, better reproductive fitness and increases the quality of life. If you think about how primitive early hominids were and you look at modern day humans. How could a bone or stick make so much of a change in our bodies? The whole process is amazing and until science gets the whole story, we may never know the whole truth about how tools shaped our lives today. Who would have thought that a 0.1 percent difference in DNA could have made such a change? (Diamond 1992 pg 54) One thing is for sure, without tools evolution would have taken much longer.
In the country of Sudan, in Northern Africa, there is a procedure that is tradition and is performed on most women called female genital mutilation, or FGM, which used to be known as female circumcision. It has been a normal practice for generations, but is now the subject for international controversy on the morality and safety of this procedure. It is now known that 82 percent of Sudanese woman have an extreme form of genital mutilation done on them, normally at a young age. This form of mutilation is called the Pharaonic form and includes the total removal of the clitoris and labia, and stitching together of the vulva, leaving only a small hole for urination and menstrual cycle. This is normally done without any type of anaesthetic or professional medical care. There is also a more moderate form of mutilation, called Sunni, where only the covering of the clitoris is removed. This practice started and became tradition in foreign countries in order to ensure that women practice chaste behavior, and to suppress female sexuality. It has also been attributed to religious beliefs of monogamy although most religions do not support this type of practice. In today's society it has become more of a traditional and social norm, and has less to do with religious beliefs. This problem is not only in Sudan; it is practiced in the majority of the continent of Africa as well as other countries. In other cultures, such as Australian aborigines, genital mutilation is a part of the rite of passage into maturation, and is done on both men and women (Bodley, p.58). FGM has often been referred to as female circumcision and compared to male circumcision. However, such comparison is often misleading. Both practices include the removal of well - functioning parts of the genitalia and are quite unnecessary. However, FGM is far more drastic and damaging than male circumcision because it is extremely dangerous and painful. It is believed that two thirds of these procedures are done by untrained birth attendants, who have little knowledge of health. They are often unconcerned with hygiene, and many use instruments that are not cleaned or disinfected properly. Instruments such as razor blades, scissors, kitchen knives, and pieces of glass are commonly used. These instruments are frequently used on several girls in succession and are rarely cleaned, causing the transmission of a variety of viruses such as the HIV virus, and other infections. There are many side effects of this procedure including trauma, stress or shock from the extreme pain; and bleeding, hemorrhaging and infections that can be fatal from improperly cleaned instruments. There can also be painful and difficult sexual relations and obstructed childbirth. The effects of this one procedure can last a lifetime, both physically and pyschologically. Today, 85 to 114 million girls and women in more than 30 countries have been subjected to some form of genital mutilation. It was declared illegal in Sudan in 1941, although that did little to stop this age-old tradition. To this day, about 90% of women are still being subjected to the mutilation, especially if it is a family tradition. In various cultures there are many "justifications" for these practices. Many older women feel that if they have an uncircumcised daughter, she will not be able to find a husband and will become a social outcast. Family honor, cleanliness, protection against spells, insurance of virginity and faithfulness to the husband, or simply terrorizing women out of sex are sometimes used as excuses for the practice of FGM. Examples similar to this are found in other cultures, such as the Maasai, an African cattle peoples tribe. A clitoridectomy is performed on adolescent girls in this tribe as part of their rite of passage, and signifies that they are ready for marriage. This practice is openly accepted by these women as another ritual and a normal precondition of marriage (Bodley, p.121). The efforts to stop procedures of this kind are mounting though, especially with the help of women ages 16 to 30 who realize the dangers of this practice. These women can help to save their daughters and many other women from this if they are educated of the dangers. It ends up damaging their health, as well as their socio-economic lives; which is why it needs to be put to a stop. It is also unnecessary in today's society. These women have joined together to create the Sudan National Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices, and are now working to eliminate it completely. They have also joined together with government support and are a part of the National Plan of Action for the Survival, Protection and Development of Sudanese Children, where they work to educate people of the dangers of this procedure. In the United States and other Western countries, both female and male circumcision is practiced, although male circumcision is much more common. Female mutilation is still an issue in Western countries though, and needs to be dealt with. These countries commonly used FGM as a means to deal with unruly, insane or temperamental women earlier in this century. Routine circumcision as a preventative or cure for masturbation was also proposed in Victorian times in America. In females, it was once thought that the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement. The procedure of circumcisions, on both men and women, became commonplace between 1870 and 1920, and it consequently spread to all the English-speaking countries such as England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As a form of social control it fell out of fashion some time in the 1930's or 1940's. However, it has continued to the present in some form or another. In the United States alone it is estimated that about ten thousand girls are at risk of this practice in today's society. A bill was recently presented to the U. S.government in 1994 prohibiting female genital mutilation to be performed, unless done for a medical reason by a trained professional. Although we are fighting for preventative measures, this surgery is still routinely performed on women in the United States. Some doctors believe and act upon the idea that excision does not prevent sexual pleasure but enhances it. FGM is also entering the United States with some immigrants who are holding on to their customs and identity. On the United States level, and in other places around the world, there are finally numerous efforts being made in order to abolish this practice both locally and internationally. Many laws have been passed over the last decade, in the United States and other Western countries, prohibiting any kind of mutilation on young girls, other than for medical purposes. In the future, leaders are hoping to enforce these rules in other smaller countries, where the government can do little to stop these unlawful acts, especially in Tribal peoples and other communities were laws are not strictly enforced.
1. Ahooja-Patel, Krishna. 1995. Employment of Women in Sri Lanka: the Situation in Colombo. p. 213-233.
2 Baker, Victoria, J. 1998. A Sinhalese Village in Sri Lanka: Coping with Uncertainty.
3. Cisneros, Susana, P. 1995. Supporting Women in the Informal Sector: A Peruvian Experience. p.159-186.
4. Malhotra, Anju., M. Mather. 1997. Do Schooling and Work Empower Women in Developing Countries? Gender and Domestic Decisions in Sri Lanka. p.599-627.
5. Perera, Lakshmi. 1995. Women in Micro - and Small-Scale Enterprise Development in Sri Lanka. p.101-116.