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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Science supports whale shark 'power animal' theory

click to enlarge Whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium (Photo by Joeff Davis)
  • Whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium (Photo by Joeff Davis)

Marine biology meets archeology at Emory's Michael C. Carlos Museum in a discussion on the connection between ancient Latin American spirituality and … whale sharks. Rebecca Stone, curator of the museum's Mesoamerican collection, speaks alongside the Georgia Aquarium's Bruce Carlson about the interplay between zoology and shamanism.

The talk begins tonight, April 2 at 7p.m. in the museum reception hall. (And don't forget those "wonderful" King Tut photos… .) Contrary to previous scholarship (including her own), Stone now believes that a certain, centuries-old statue is modeled after whale shark anatomy, an interpretation corroborated by certain migration patterns still observed in the Caribbean and off the coast of South America today.

click to enlarge Ceramic female shaman statue (Photo courtesy Michael C. Carlos Museum)
  • Ceramic female shaman statue (Photo courtesy Michael C. Carlos Museum)

More from the Carlos Museum:

Recent research and conversation with Dr. Carlson has led Dr. Stone to re-evaluate the imagery on a ceramic female shaman effigy in the collection, and to interpret her shape and markings as representing a whale shark.

Dr. Stone and Dr. Carlson will look at the animal itself and present information about its appearance, behavior, and habitat. Then they will discuss why the whale shark would have been seen as a "spirit companion" in the ancient Americas.

The statue was originally thought to represent a jaguar, the "power animal" most commonly revered in Mayan and Aztec art. Still, a whale shark is a hell of a lot better than, say, a penguin.

(Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons and the Michael C. Carlos Museum)

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