October 3rd, 2005


The Lucrative Turtle Trade

Today, in Prehistory of China, we discussed long gu, or Oracle Bones, used during the Shang Dynasty to ask the ancestors important questions.

DR. K: These bones were usually the shoulder blades of oxen, or the shells of turtles, boiled in beer to make them soft enough for carving. I'm not talking about weak Miller Lite, here.
BRANDON: Canadian Beer is 30%.
CHRISTI: With all that snow, it would have to be.
DR. K: Oh, this is stronger!
MEREDITH: 70 proof Kentucky Liquor?
DR. K: Much closer!
BRANDON: Seventy proof?
MEREDITH: When you live down here, you don't mess around. The Canadians may have snow, but this is Ohio.
STACEY: That'd do for just about anyone.
DR. K: So, if turtle shells where being used in Yunan, what does that tell us?
STACEY: They had a turtle ranch?
BRANDON: Do you need to ranch turtles?
MEREDITH: They're too slow.
STACEY: Easy prey.
CHRISTI: Actually, they were probably getting them for somewhere else.
MEREDITH: Some coastal city cashed in on the lucrative turtle trade.
BRANDON: Slaughtering turtles whole sale?
DR. K: Just wait 'til you hear what they were asking the ancestors. *draws a stick figure up on the board* Will enough of *these* satisfy you?
MEREDITH: *excitedly* Human sacrifice?
BRANDON: (to stacey) I'm so glad you sit between me and her.
DR. K: Yes, yes, human sacrifice. But before you get all excited about that *eyes Meredith* consider the amount of effort that went into these bones. What does that indicate?
MEREDITH: Infrastructure?
BRANDON: Religion?
CHRISTI: Government?
STACEY: Specialization?
DR. K: All those things, but especially the degree of specialization. Everyone had a task.
MEREDITH: Well, someone had to drink all that beer.

And that, my friends, is what higher education is ALL about.