Re: design and material culture

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Posted by Alan Nagel on November 23, 1998 at 17:45:02:

In Reply to: yomud Salanchak posted by James Allen on November 22, 1998 at 16:02:26:

This mat Wendel is showing looks for all the world like any number of Navajo weavings I have seen and in fact the Navajo are from the same genetic stock as the Turkoman.

Something I miss on this board is any attention whatsoever to the constraints that the materials of cultural production exercise on the products.

Specifically, should we not find it quite simple that decorating warps and wefts is an act that comes up with some very common design elements in cultures that are not necessarily related in any way more closer than by being human?

Triangles, squares, other motifs made by weft- and warp- parallel straight lines, and 45 degree diagonals across warps: these are constraints of the material facts of what's being used to do what.

We do not need to find any other explanations, in symbolic culture, belief systems, genetics, divine purposes, or elsewhere.

Now I'll grant you that if we had only one finger and a thumb, for example, or a beak and tri-toed feet, we might come up with some interesting alternative kinds of weaving. But 1) we don't and 2) the birds that do, attend strongly--perhaps exclusively?--to other functions than the decorative. And the genetic selection for birds OR orioles must not be confused with the genetic selection for humans: we are all birds of a feather, interbreeding happily (or not) amongst all our varieties. And even sometimes singing the same songs: we can at least learn each others, as few other birds can.


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