Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Brian Fagan's "The Intimate Bond"

Brian Fagan was born in England and spent several years doing fieldwork in Africa. He is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of New York Times bestseller The Great Warming and many other books, including Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World, and several books on climate history, including The Little Ice Age and The Long Summer.

Fagan applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
The sacrificial beast processed to the altar, where a priest would scatter grain upon it and then drink a libation. He would then pour the remainder of the wine between the beast’s horns, some hair from the area being burnt as an offering to the gods. The animal was then stunned before its throat was cut and the carcass disemboweled . . . . Every detail of the ritual had to be absolutely correct, or the ceremony and the sacrifice had to be repeated.
Page 99 of The Intimate Bond comes at the end of a chapter on the symbolic ambiguity that surrounded bulls in ancient times. They were symbols of strong leadership, sacrificed to the gods, yet were a vital source of meat, creating a dilemma for those who revered them. Intimate is a history of the changing relationship between humans and animals that focuses on this ambiguity, so p. 99 is a good jumping off point. Ice Age hunters respected, even revered, their quarry. Then they tamed dogs, followed about 12,000 years ago by pigs, sheep, goats, and then cattle. This was when the relationship began to change from one of partnership and respect to one of exploitation, not only for meat and dairy products, but, later, as load carriers when we tamed pack animals, starting with the donkey. These humble beasts I call the “pickup trucks” of ancient times, which opened the first international trade routes across semi-arid lands in what is now the Middle East. They are the unsung heroes of history, working quietly in the shadows, unlike the horse and the camel, both domesticated somewhat later. Camels opened up the Sahara and worked Eurasia’s Silk Road. Horses annihilated distances on the steppes and brought the Mongols to the frontiers of Europe. The Intimate Bond traces the futile, wasteful history of cavalry warfare, epitomized by the Battle of Waterloo and the Charge of the Light Brigade, and shows how an emerging passion for cats, dogs, and other pets coincided with the rise of campaigns against animal cruelty in Victorian times. The Intimate Bond is a multi-faceted account of our complex, ambivalent relationship with animals that forms the background to the current debates over animal rights. This was a very sobering, often disturbing book to write. And I’ll never look at a donkey the same way again.
Visit Brian Fagan's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Great Warming.

The Page 99 Test: The Attacking Ocean.

Writers Read: Brian Fagan.

--Marshal Zeringue