Log in

No account? Create an account
Anthropologist Community
A Little Help if you please 
17th-Apr-2011 08:25 am
So I've been on this kick lately.

I also am getting quite heavy into the whole mask and masquerade thing. Cannot remember the name of that one movie with all the people fucking with the masks in it, but that comes to mind. I've happened to find a site that has a ton of porn with masked folks on it. But I have to wonder what is the meaning to the mask, what does each mean, obviously there are masks which mean nothing and are simply worn to conceal identity, at times they are worn to conceal both identity and emotion, while at others the mask seemingly is a purposeful representation of social status and position of power, importance or used to demonstrate a level of submission or domination, perhaps the colors and designs are even made to show and display a message or a specialty.

Any thoughts, advice, or knowledge on these would be great. Better yet, what, where, and when are events and occurrences that take place have to do with the wearing of these sorts of masks outside of the obvious Halloween and certain national holidays found around the world, I expect everyone to comment on this, especially if you live somewhere which the mask is used quite often, or if you have a lot of knowledge or experience with such things.
17th-Apr-2011 12:40 pm (UTC)
Eyes Wide Shut?
17th-Apr-2011 01:15 pm (UTC)
Yup, thats the movie, got it now. Love the icon by the way! ;)
17th-Apr-2011 01:08 pm (UTC)
Get hold of Gimbutas "Gods and Goddesses/Goddesses and Gods (depending on edition) of Ancient Europe". I don't agree with all her interpretation but the photos are brilliant - and a huge proportion of figurines appear to be wearing masks.

By the way, look out for the man wearing a shirt with puffed sleeves and sailor collar and the one wearing knee breeches. A bit startling for anyone with preconceptions about prehistoric clothing in Europe.
17th-Apr-2011 01:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the first paragraph, most helpful. Didn't quite understand the second. And thanks for not rejecting my question.
17th-Apr-2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
Get hold of the book and look at the pictures. All will become clear!

I used the book when I was teaching and the class did a project on masks - we had a school trip to the Horniman Museum, which has some good ones, then I showed them the masks and masked faces from the book. The results were some very unusual and striking masks.

I find the subject of masks fascinating. When I was studying Human Skeletal Remains in Archaeology I wrote a paper on artificial cranial formation and possible representations of it, and I became aware how rare prehistoric representations of unmasked faces are.
7th-May-2011 12:40 am (UTC)
Your talking the occurance of unmasked faces in prehistoric burials?

Was artificial cranial formation a big thing in a culture, its something I've never really come across very often?
7th-May-2011 06:31 am (UTC)
That's representations with masks, not burials - sorry if I wasn't clear.

We first came across it when studying skulls from Arpachiyah (excavated by Agatha Christie's husband, hadn't been properly examined since the 1930s) and many of them were artificially deformed. At the end of the term Dr M told me to go off and find out as much as possible about it.

Somewhere I have hand-drawn maps showing the spread. It started in the Near East in the Neolithic, spread north of the Caucasus where it was present during the Kurgan period, did not spread east from there but did spread into eastern Europe and during the "Age of Migrations" went through Western Europe, reaching Gaul during the 5th century and Scandinavia by the 10th century. Forms of it, usually by using tight caps in infancy, persisted until the 20th century; very common in France in the 19th century (probably the origin of the typical description of Frenchmen as "bullet-headed" and didn't die out in the Netherlands until WWII.

I found a wonderful resource, a work by a Hungarian with masses of photographs of skulls - he had access to remains that Western archaeologists couldn't get at. What I found particularly interesting was that he had started off with the general perception that the Huns practised it, but finally concluded that a) it was extremely difficult to identify Huns and b) insofar as he could, they were the only people in the area at the time who did not practise it - mostly Gepids and Goths did.

However, the main thing is that it was much more common in Europe than most people realise.
7th-May-2011 06:38 am (UTC)
Additional comment on Goths, because their origin is relevant. The main source for their history is Jordanes, who is considered authoritative because he was of Gothic origin. However, the main source for his history was a Roman writer, not Gothic traditions, and though he does indeed say that the Goths originated in an area identified with Scandinavia, he says they left there at a date that works out as being in the Bronze Age. There does seem to have been a major movement from Scandinavia and the North Sea coast at that time, much of it up the rivers along one of the Amber Routes, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if some ended up in Eastern Europe or further east and stayed there for the next couple of millennia.

Part of the reason it's hard to tell Huns from Goths is that the Goths lived in tented carts, as apparently the Huns did, and we don't even know much about the language of the Huns because nearly all the names we have are in Gothic
9th-May-2011 06:40 am (UTC)
Wow, most interesting, thank you! Do you teach anthro? Would love to attend you if so?!
9th-May-2011 07:25 am (UTC)
No, it's just an interest. I did a lot of evening classes, first in Field Archaeology in South East England (which had a very big historical component as well as a lot of hands-on stuff), then Archaeological Draughtsmanship, then many, many years of Human Skeletal Remains in Archaeology, which was definitely hands-on, producing bone reports. I had two specific functions in the class; one was to do the drawings, including reconstructed faces, and the other was background reading. I really need to locate my artificial cranial deformation material and get it on line.
10th-May-2011 02:01 am (UTC)
It must really be something to work in or learn anthropology or archeology in an of the old world countries and regions, because you are already in an area where some of the most ancient and practiced groups of humans had existed and they actually created a record of their being there. Unfortunately here, we don't get too much of that, field and deep research work,a and if we do, its not that often we could observe a historic record as kept by a group of people but only up to a certain point.
10th-May-2011 06:08 am (UTC)
Just to clarify: I've never studied anthropology - archaeology and anthropology are distinct disciplines in the UK, and though the two can be studied jointly, it's not necessarily the case. Archaeologists draw on anthropology as they draw on metallurgy and other areas, but anthropology focusses more on living cultures and we tend to be very cautious indeed in extrapolating backwards.

I think the biggest effect is that when looking at excavations in the UK we are always aware of dealing with either our own ancestors (particularly in the case of the Cheddar Gorge finds) or at the very least the people involved in developing our culture. I think there must be a difference in how one views the people one is studying, depending on whether they are "us" or "them". It came as no surprise to find that medieval housewives in Yorkshire were so houseproud that they literally swept the floors out of the house, but it did come as a shock to discover that my ancestors' main method of disposing of the dead, into the Early Middle Ages, was to leave them by the settlement wall. When it comes to European sites in the New World, they are so recent that many archaeologists find the period fairly boring, being well into the "Modern" period.

As to ancientness, basically human settlement of the British Isles only goes back to the end of the last glaciation, about the same as the Americas, though there is growing indication that that was somewhat earlier.
17th-Apr-2011 01:45 pm (UTC)
It's a common habit in Japan for hayfever sufferers to wear surgical face masks in public during the tree-bukkake months. That is, perhaps, not what you're looking for, but it's an interesting construction of hygiene norms.

For masks and identity, you could look into historical and modern Herne the Hunter myths.
17th-Apr-2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
You said relevant and helpful things here, and yet all I can think about is how much I love the phrase "tree bukkake months."

Japanese people are interesting about the surgical masks. When swine flu was going around, people in the USA were wearing them to protect themselves from their neighbors, while in Japan people were wearing them to protect their neighbors from themselves. The difference in emphasis is sort of telling.
17th-Apr-2011 05:48 pm (UTC)
The use of the surgical mask as a fashion accessory is also pretty interesting.
17th-Apr-2011 08:36 pm (UTC)
Agreeing on "I love the phrase "tree bukkake months." lol.

When I was in Japan, the surgical masks were ubiquitous. Doctors recommended them to filter out some of the pollution (they also advised wearing heavy makeup to protect the skin!) Drivers, especially motorcyclists, wore them as a matter of course and came home with gauze terribly blackened.
It occurs to me you might look at make-up, stage and theatrical. I've just remembered Ursula le Guins story about the child who was afraid to see her mother stripped of all the cosmetic adjuncts, in case there was really nothing there at all, and I think that's an idea worth exploring in conjunction with masks.
I've met a lot of people who really don't like to be seen until they "put their face on."

Edited at 2011-04-17 08:41 pm (UTC)
17th-Apr-2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
Erving Goffman uses the metaphor of a mask to talk about everyday life, identity, and roles.
The title is The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.

It's not literally talking about masks, of course, but that's the first thing that popped into my mind.
17th-Apr-2011 03:22 pm (UTC)
Lucha Libre immediately comes to mind.
17th-Apr-2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
I too haver been getting into this and I'm glad you brought it up. Any info people give you will be most helpful to me too so thank you!
18th-Apr-2011 03:46 am (UTC)
If you haven't seen it, you should really check out The Masks episode of The Twilight Zone.
11th-May-2012 04:22 pm (UTC)
Anyone with an interest in masks and masquerade would probably enjoy the novel Nameless by Sam Starbuck. The genre is magical realism, and the maskmaking being done by one of the main characters becomes central to the story. It's available in paperback or as an e-book. I highly recommend it.

Edited at 2012-05-11 04:23 pm (UTC)
This page was loaded Apr 25th 2018, 2:29 pm GMT.