Ethnobotany and Geography Ethnobotany and Geography • Ethnobotanical studies often focus on limited geographic areas: regions, countries, provinces, states, and even smaller areas. • This may seem to be a limited arrangement because it prevents making large scale comparisons between areas or plant uses, but it makes sense because the relationships of plants and people in a particular area are often incredibly intimate Why study plants of Polynesia? • In all traditional cultures the relationships of plants and people are reciprocal and dynamic • In traditional societies, most plant products are collected, produced and consumed locally • Michael Balick and Paul Cox feel that nowhere has the effect of the use of plants on human culture been more dramatic than in their use to manufacture sea craft that transport people and their crops across vast stretches of the ocean Long Ocean Voyages by Humans • Erik the Red journeyed 800 miles from Iceland to discover Greenland; his son Leif Eriksson went farther sailing nearly 2000 miles from Greenland to an area he called Vinland, which we know as a part of Newfoundland in Canada • Polynesians would commonly travel the 422 miles from Fiji to Tonga or 769 miles from Fiji to Samoa; Samoa to Tahiti (1059 miles) was not unheard of; the longest trips were from Tahiti to Hawaii (2700 miles) such trips did not occur often, but occurred often enough to populate almost all habitable islands in the Pacific and to allow trade and exchange of culture across the Pacific Polynesian Islands Tahiti with sailing canoes and other ships – painted in 1773 by William Hodges with Capt. Cook’s expedition Boats on Island of Kabara • The Camakau (thah-mah-cow) which is a single- hulled canoe of up to 15 meters in length and used in inter-island transport and warfare • The Drua (ndrro-ah) which has two hulls and requires up to 50 men to sail it • The Tabetebete (tahm-bay-tay-bay-tay) which is the largest of all Fijian sea craft with an intricate hull of fitted planks that could be up to 36 m long and 7.3 m wide - these vessels could transport up to 200 men, sail at 20 knots A Drua built about 1900 on Fiji Design of a camakau, traditional Fijian ocean- going craft Josafata Cama, traditional shipwright of Kabara Island Vesi tree – Intsia bijuga Selecting Vesi trees for ship building – Kabara Island Hollowing out a Vesi tree trunk for a canoe hull – Kabara Island Vika Usu weaving a sail from Pandanus leaves – Kabara Island Pandanus odoratissimus Young Pandanus leaves Canarium harveyi sap used for caulk Kabara Islanders and Sandra Bannock on first voyage of camakau Where did Polynesians come from? • Based on many characteristics such as blood types, linguistics, indigenous agriculture, and archaeological evidence it is generally thought the Polynesians came from the Lapita, an agricultural people who left Indo-Malaysia and journeyed west Polynesian Islands Sweet potato tubers Plans for a balsa wood raft – used along coast of South America -drawn by F.E. Paris in 1841 Thor Heyerdahl’s balsa wood raft – 1947 in action and model Possible Inca route to Pacific Islands and Kon-Tiki route Natural vegetation of Africa Features of Ethnobotany of Africa • It is a large continent with many different ethnic groups who have very different cultures and uses of plants • The continent is geographically very diverse, ranging from bare deserts to lush tropical rain forests. Ethnobotanical use of plants reflects the diversity of habitat, and there is correspondingly low use of plants in the desert regions and great use of plants in the rain forests • Humans originated in Africa. Therefore we should see the oldest relationships between plants and people in Africa Ethnosystematics • Ethnosystematics (folk knowledge of botanical classification – John Kokwaro) is highly developed in Africa because many plants are used in African ethnomedicine and because Africa is rich in dialects and languages due to the large number of ethnic groups. • Each group has names for the plants it uses and for describing the relationships of those plants. African Concepts of Disease 1. Naturally caused diseases – these are due to tangible material that affects the body’s organs. Such natural diseases are regarded as minor or normal because they can be described by the patient and treated by the healer in strictly physical terms. African Concepts of Disease 2. Acute or severe diseases – the common belief (fear) is that as soon as a disease becomes acute or severe, it is due to unnatural causes or intangible forces. This implies that a hostile person is using supernatural powers against the patient or the victim may have transgressed the moral code and incurred the wrath of ancestors. These diseases are characterized as being complicated and serious. They usually have persistent illness. Bewitched or cursed persons require special types of treatment, medicine, and traditional doctors. Traditional African Medical Practitioners 1. Herbalists usually use plants to treat patients. 2. Diviners are also herbalists but use divinatory procedures for treatment. 3. Spiritualists hardly use plants at all for treatment. 4. Great therapists utter prayers, incantations, and invocations Painting of an Herbalist Traditional Herbalist Seybatou Hamdy of Dakar, Senegal Sangoma – South African Diviner/Great Threapist Traditional African Medical Practitioners 5. Traditional midwives may be obstetricians, herbalists, gynecologists, or pediatricians. They provide health care before, during, and after birth, and also care for newborn infants and young children. 6. Traditional surgeons use special knives, sharpened and tempered according to esoteric procedures, for circumcisions and excisions. Cassava leaves, liquid from snails, and various other ingredients are used as agents to prevent excessive bleeding. 7. Traditional psychiatrists deal with a patients socioreligious antecedents, using a series of rites, that include chants, incantations, and ritual dances, and in which music is played using particular musical instruments.
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