2nd Semester - 2018
Here we are again with a new adventure, a new journey in space and time through the pages of Ligabue Magazine. This time we start on one of the largest islands in the world, Madagascar, and its fascinating funeral rites.
Giacomo Dei Rossi and Ranjatiana Randriantsara explain how for the Malagasy the passing away of loved ones doesn’t take place at the moment of their physical death, but when they no longer live on in memory: only when no one remembers them anymore, often after several generations, are people considered to be finally dead. Similarly, birth is not limited to the biological moment of being delivered into the world. A person is only “born” when acknowledged by society as a complete human being.
Giorgio Manzi tells the story of how we became bipeds. He goes back to when some primates no longer walked on all fours, which gorillas and chimpanzees still do, but developed the unique capacity among mammals for bipedal locomotion. It happened in Africa after a climate change had led to forests thinning out and being replaced by savannahs. To move in this environment, it was no longer much use knowing how to swing from one tree to another. Much better walk upright with the added advantage of seeing further and noticing predators earlier. Moreover, locomotion had to be economical, that is with a low energy expenditure. So walking upright on two feet was the best solution.
It is now a well-established fact that our “wine culture” first developed when the grapevine began to be grown in the mountains of the Middle East, from Anatolia to the Caucasus and Iran, around 6000 BC. The fascinating story of its spread is told by Patrick E. McGovern, an “amphibious” scholar, who moves between two disciplines: archaeology and chemistry. He has reconstructed the historical diffusion of wine by analysing the organic remains found in amphoras. The long line of amphoras starts in the Caucasus, passes through Greece and Carthage and arrives in Italy. It was Etruscans who then exported vines to the Montpellier area in France, while the later conquering ancient Romans took the prodigious plant to the areas of the Rhine and the Rhone.
Meal times have not always been the same. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the main meal of the day began to be consumed later, at least if you were rich and especially if you wanted to show it. Alessandro Barbero explains how luncheon at noon took the place of what was once called dinner, which was moved later and later into the evening and night. The idea that dining early was only for the poor and dining late was a sign of belonging to high society first emerged in early 18th-century England.
The Suez Canal has a well-known founding father, the Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps, and a little-known founding father, Luigi Negrelli from Trentino, and therefore at the time a Hapsburg subject. But it was actually Negrelli, who also served as general manager of the Austrian imperial railways, who designed the canal. Michele Gottardi recounts the events and stresses the role played by other Italians in the construction of the canal, for example Pasquale Revoltella, a Trieste banker born in Venice, who took over as the Hapsburg representative in the Suez Canal Company when Negrelli died.
A quite unexpected repercussion of the opening of the Suez Canal was the arrival in the Mediterranean of fish species from the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Luca Mizzan describes that development and other changes still taking place in the fauna of the Venice Lagoon: for example, the arrival of fish typical of rocky coasts, such as gilt-head bream, and the decline of fish once common on sandy beds, such as the sand steenbras. This is mainly due to the artificial reefs constructed to support Mose, a system of mobile barriers designed to protect the city of Venice from flooding.
The Venetians were experts in dyeing fabrics red, having learned the techniques from the Byzantines. After the Fourth Crusade and the Conquest of Constantinople in 1204, however, they gradually abandoned Tyrian purple and dyed silk with crimson and wool with scarlet. This we learn from Doretta Davanzo Poli, who also explains how red had a political value. Only the highest-ranking officials of the Serenissima Republic could wear the coveted, prestigious crimson of velvet robes and stoles: the doge, the procurators of St Mark, the chief admiral and few others.
At this point all I can add is a hearty Bon Voyage!