7 March 2009

Part human

In an opinion piece on the consequences of "our ongoing inability to see animals outside our own fraught frame of reference", Charles Siebert mentions an image made by Nicolaes Tulp of a chimpanzee landed at the Hague in 1641
The creature — seated atop a boulder with its mostly hairless torso and limbs, tapered elfin hands and feet, and sweetly smiling face — looks like a potbellied forest nymph dreamily sleeping off a good drunk. Not a chimpanzee so much as an ape-human hybrid.
I haven't found a copy of this on the web (only this) but did find the image above by the late 17th century physician Edward Tyson.

Tyson's engraving is included in a set of materials about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. His Philological essay concerning the pygmies of the ancients was republished in 1894 with a preface by Bertram C. A. Windle which suggests that while in Tyson's day it may have been reasonable to suppose that apes were the pygmies of ancient times, human imagination can make create stranger things from less evidence.

P.S 9 March: Siebert's starting point is behaviour in chimps that humans find horrendous but which is occasioned by the way chimps have been treated by humans. An interesting but less dramatic example would be 'planned' stone attacks

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