Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bullfighting – No Longer a Spanish Past-time

Albert Einstein had once said, ‘If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence should be injury to animals’. For all animal rights activists, a final adieu to the turgid spectacle of bullfighting in Spain  definitely is a moment to rejoice, though it is equivalent to a granular speck extricated from a copious sand-mound. In Spain, some have denounced it outright while for others it is a welcome break-away from an archaic, nay barbaric tradition. For a nation brought up on a fizzy fiesta of flamenco music & dance, decades of armed rebellion for Basque independence and the international dispute over Gibraltar, bullfighting has been an indelible cultural earmark, believed to have lasted since the reign of Emperor Claudius almost 2000 years ago. As Barcelona recently hosted the last of the controversial sport, it definitely marked a watershed in Hispanic history.

The fight itself as it unfolds makes for compelling study. In the Spanish lingo it is known as corrida de toros and the team consists of the matador and his assistants, 03 banderilleros and 02 picadores who appear during the first two stages, known as the tercio de varas and tercio de banderillas to provoke and tire the raging bull. The matador himself appears at the third stage called the tercio de muleta performing a number of passes, then jabs at the animal using sharp lances and finally subdues it using a sword or espada which is pushed over the horns and deep between the shoulder blades. If the sword goes in to the hilt, it is an estocada but if it hits the bone it is a pinchazo or media-estocada. An estocada usually results in the bull dropping down immediately and dying but if it survives, the matador takes the descabello, a sword with a protruding shaft, which he stabs straight into the bull’s neck severing the spinal cord.

Now what does one make of this scenario of unfettered blood & gore? If anything, it presents a sad picture as the Spaniards appear to take pride in the killing of a poor, helpless creature. Despite a custom having spawned generations on end, the raw and raucous undercurrents of it in making capital out of an animal’s protracted suffering cannot be justified. Going by the all-pervading law of nature, a spirit of mutual conviviality has to exist between all living species. It is again nature’s decree that man is bestowed with faculties superior to animals, so prudence dictates that we ought to be their guardians rather than oppressors. Such emotional palliatives apart, a tradition that has lasted through centuries is always going to evoke mixed reactions when it draws to a close. For the moment, Spain witnesses the dawn of a new epoch, even as the conscience-keeper of time and faith attempts to cull out a sordid chapter, whose contents no longer makes for worthy settings, from a nation’s chequered history.

Usage of Stone Tools In The Pre-Historic Age

Some interesting facts have come to light as per the latest findings of archaeologists during their latest excavations in far-off Kenya with regard to the tools used by human species in the pre-historic age.

Pre-historic classification based on Christian Thomas’ system deduces that stone, mainly flint was used as a weapon and a tool throughout the old stone (Paleolithic) and the middle stone (Mesolithic) ages. Chipped stone used by the earliest human species from Africa, were in fact, pieces of quartzite, a sort of metamorphosed rock formation. Such stone artifacts are easier to date as quartz itself is the commonest rock forming mineral resistant to chemical breakdown. As the quartz crystals themselves take millions of years to form, the stone weapons that have been located could have been chipped off rock structures extending to the earliest years of the old-stone age, about 3.5 million years ago.

The collection of picks and axes as mentioned in the report, which supposedly date back by 1.76 million years, relate to the Acheulean tool tradition, distinctly attributed to the Homo Erectus species, which existed about 1 to 2 million years ago, originating in Africa and extending beyond. However, the fact remains that the usage of stone tools had started much earlier. The first of the stone choppers that is believed to have existed was Australopethicus, a genus of extinct primates which pre-dates the hominid lineages of Homo Habilis & Homo Erectus.

According to noted anthropologists, Homo Habilis, which appeared about 2.3 million years ago, was scabrous in the use crude stone tools made from solid rock, some of which have been found in the Omo Valley in Africa. But the tools that have been recently recovered and have been in the news, definitely belong to a more complex school, requiring greater operational skills with their sharp, clean edges formed by removing flakes on either side along one face, to cut the sinewy portions of animal flesh. These have been ascribed to the Homo Erectus species as with their evolution, came the Acheulean hand-axe tradition that shaped stones to serve as scrapers, knives, hatchets & picks. The use of such tools enabled the species to move about untrammeled and occupy different habitats, leading to improved communication and better understanding among individuals. Having said so, it often becomes difficult for tools to be classified specifically to Homo Erectus or Homo Habilis, as the existence of both these species overlaps for at least 200,000 years.

Yet, the current findings establish beyond doubt that though in the course of hominid evolution, stone tools have existed in various forms almost 2 to 3 million years ago, the emergence of flaked stone tool-making constitutes a definitive evidence of a marked technological shift in the prehistoric age. Archaeological evidence has exhibited an increase in the complexity of stone technology up to varying degrees, which have helped extrapolate the more sophisticated stone-tool production modes that have evolved over a period of time.