R.W. Moriarty Science Seminar Presents: Beasts of the Southern Wild: the African Aurochs in Art, Ritual, and DNA.
Speaker: Shayla Monroe
Aurochsen, the swift and powerful wild predecessors of domesticated cattle, have captivated human beings since our earliest encounters. In the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild, a young girl named Wink fixates on the mythical return of the aurochs, convinced that they are harbingers of the extreme climate change and the flooding that threatens her coastal Louisiana home. Dramatic shifts in weather patterns and ecology also served as the backdrop of interactions between early human populations and the African aurochs, Bos primigenius africanus. Rock art, archaeological remains, and aDNA analysis all tell an interlocking story of the African aurochs as a prevailing preoccupation in the lives and rituals of human communities at the dawn of social complexity in the Sahara and the Nile Valley, a time of intense environmental change. The genetic legacy of the aurochs in domesticated cattle on the African continent reveals an enduring entanglement between the genus Bos and the genus Homo that is unique in the long history of human-animal interactions.