World’s oldest animation, 5,200 years old

March 10, 2008

Leaping Goat - World's oldest animation
Film showing images from a 5,200-year old bowl from an ancient burial site in Iran.

An Italian team of archaeologists unearthed the bowl goblet in the 1970s from a burial site in Iran’s Burnt City, but it was only recently that researchers noticed the images on the bowl tell an animated visual story.

The oldest cartoon character in the world is a goat leaping to get the leaves on a tree.

According to an article in the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies:

The artefact bears five images depicting a wild goat jumping up to eat the leaves of a tree, which the members of the team at that time had not recognised the relationship between the pictures.

Several years later,Iranian archaeologist Dr Mansur Sadjadi, who became later appointed as the new director of the archaeological team working at the Burnt City discovered that the pictures formed a related series.

The bowl has some controversy associated with it. Some researchers claimed the tree on the bowl to be the Assyrian Tree of Life, but the bowl dates to a period before the Assyrian civilization.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Kris’s Archaeological Blog at

Now this is deeply cool. The Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) in Iran has made a short film using the images on a bowl from the Burnt City. The Burnt City (Shar-i Sokhta) is a site in Iran that dates to about 2600 BC, and has seen some decades of investigation. The bowl shows five images of a wild goat leaping, and if you put them in a sequence (like a flip book), the wild goat leaps to nip leaves off a tree.

Bugs Bunny has nothing to worry about yet, if you ask me.

Animate discussion, share the word:

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Capturing history: Jim Brown at IUPUI and the Delaware Tribes

March 10, 2008

While you’re over looking at IUPUI and wondering whether you’ve ever heard of the campus before (sure you have — you follow the NCAA basketball tournament, right?), take a look at this video about Prof. Jim Brown and his work to record the history of the Delaware Tribe in photojournalism.

The Order of the Arrow, the camping honor society within U.S. Boy Scouting, takes much of its Indian Heritage from a tribe of the Delaware group, the Lenni Lenape. The last speaker of the Lenni Lenape language died in Oklahoma a couple of years ago; it’s good to see more efforts to record the rest of the heritage before it, too, slips away.

Censoring Santayana’s dangerous idea

March 10, 2008

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

  • George Santayana (The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Last year a seventh grade kid approached me about a problem he had with the Texas history text. He pointed to a photograph of a Ku Klux Klansman, pointy-hood and all. It was a photo probably from the 1920s, in no way flattering to the Klansman, and it accompanied a couple of paragraphs explaining the resurrection of the Klan in that era. The book explained what some did to fight the Klan (not enough, but that’s a topic for another time).

“That’s racist, Mister!”

I asked him why he thought the photograph was racist.

“That’s a Klansman! They killed people!”

Yes, it’s a Klansman, and yes, Klansmen killed people unjustly. That’s part of history, a part of history we need to remember to prevent it from happening again. I explained that the photo did not endorse the Klan in any way, and that section of the book actually spoke against their actions.

You’re a racist, Mister! That picture is racist and should be cut out!”

Our conversation had taken an inexplicable (to me) turn, away from the content of the photo or the book, into uncharted realms of inanity.

“Why don’t you take your complaint to the principal, and tell your parents about it,” I said. “I think this is a conversation you and I should have with your parents present.”

Of course, the student did nothing I asked. Within a week I had a handful of other students complaining about the picture. Some of those conversations were better, but not much. Students had a difficult time understanding how reading about racism was not practicing racism. Learning about the mistakes of the past in order to avoid them, was the same as making the mistakes, the students argued.

This occurred shortly after several parents in another Texas school district had complained about the use of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it contains a slang term for “negro” now considered particularly offensive when used by whites. The complaining parents were black. Never mind that this great American novel’s point is that racism is wrong, slavery an abomination to a just God, and that Jim is much greater a man than those who held him captive in slavery.

I worry that too many people lack enough education in history to make rational decisions about what should be considered “good to read” and what should genuinely be kept out of curricula.

Case in point: A janitor and student at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) was investigated for creating a “hostile work environment,” and one of his offenses appears to have been his reading of a history of a defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in South Bend, Indiana. It is unclear from details we have, but it appears complainants could not tell the difference between reading the history of a Klan defeat, and reading a book promoting the Klan.

Should we worry? I’d like your opinions, and experiences if you have any; details of the Indianapolis case below the fold.

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