Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mandrillus caledoniae

Mandrill-snatched Scots’ bones to be returned to descendants

By Mirley Rellecco
Science reporter, BBC News

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A deputation on behalf of the Clan Macdunliffie will receive a collection of human remains at Edinburgh and transport them to ancestral burial grounds for proper interment.

The assortment of thighbones, ribs, a shin and several skulls are currently housed at Edinburgh City College.

“We’ve completed the necessary research with these articles,” said Dr. Fergus Podgreath, director of Anthropological Research at the school, “so we’re happy to ensure that they end up where they belong.

“What matters now is to continue study of the mandrill fossils and related artifacts found with the bones,” he added.

The Carrick mandrill (Mandrillus caledoniae), now believed extinct, once made the hills of southwestern Scotland its home.

It was often called “Crankie Auld Four-Hands” and “Marten’s Bane” for its startling habit of tearing a Pine Marten limb from limb to establish territory.

Most remarkable was its role in the funerary customs of the Groithelunic peoples (later almost exclusively absorbed into the Macdunliffie Clan).

The Groithelunes did not bury their dead straightaway, but first left the bodies exposed on a nearby heath.

Carrick mandrills would tear the corpses apart, selecting certain body parts for use during mating.

Male Carrick mandrills would communicate with potential mates by waving about fresh extremities of aggressor species.

Apparently, females were more likely to respond to suitors who could flag them down with pieces of human.

“The Groithelunes didn’t see it as desecration at all, since the mandrills were so selective in what they took,” explains Dr. Podgreath.

“They would record the state of the body for augural purposes before burial.”

The singular behavior of the Groithelunes was noted by early British historians, including Sir Thomas Browne in his Hydriotaphia (1658).

Speculative reconstructions of Carrick mandrills vary in appearance, but most experts suspect that its colourful rear end influenced the vibrant Kynnkleandonquodon tartan.

Published: 2008/07/07 14:38:44 GMT