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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/“Man & Beast”

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about half man/half beast creations. As Halloween draws near, a British archaeologist says these chimeric creatures are the work of our ancient psyches.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Portishead “Numb” DUMMY (Go! Discs Ltd. – 1994) ]

CURWOOD: They are the monsters we love to fear – werewolves and vampires. Half human/half beasts that are everywhere in modern culture, from horror flicks to Halloween costumes. What you may not know is that forerunners of these chimeric creations were subjects of some of the world's oldest human artwork.

CHIPPINDALE: There are a lot in Australia with kangaroo heads and then other kinds of creatures in Australia - flying foxes - which are a kind of flying fruit bat. Particularly, you get fruit bat heads on human bodies.

CURWOOD: Archeologist Christopher Chippindale has studied more than 5,000 rock drawings in Australia, South Africa, and North America dating back 12,000 years. He found only one common theme: drawings of human bodies with animal parts. The reason, he says, may lie in psychology.

CHIPPINDALE: People have to deal with the dark. They have to deal with mysterious things that happen in the night and so they make a world in which the animals are a part and a world in which the animals and human beings interact.

CURWOOD: Mr. Chippindale sees a link between these early fantasies and the monsters that haunt us today.

CHIPPINDALE: We don’t believe in imaginary things but there’s still a sense of this in vampires and zombies. And otherwise, they crop up in the movies as something to frighten with you, even though you know they’re only pretend.

CURWOOD: And for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac. [LAUGHTER]

[MUSIC: Portishead “Numb” DUMMY (Go! Discs Ltd. – 1994) ]



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