cognitive environments

From: Cohen, Izzy (
Date: Thu Aug 30 2001 - 04:26:43 GMT

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    Joe Fantin asks:
    Has anyone worked with ancient texts and attempted to reconstruct
    a cognitive environment? My question is simply, how much evidence
    of a concept's existence would convince you that it was there? ...
    widespread attestation in inscriptions, papyri, etc., would seem to
    suggest its existence. ... what would you need to see to conclude
    it existed?

    Unfortunately, I have worked in the *absence* of ancient texts in
    my attempt to reconstruct "sacred geography" in the form of body-
    part (anthropomorphic) maps in the mid-East and north Africa.

    There does exist the assertion of American Indian elders of the
    Blackfoot tribe that names for the body parts of Napi, their Creator,
    have become the names for areas and features in Alberta, Canada and
    northern Montana. [Compare mapa, nap(kin), and 'nap of the earth'.]

    Many place names in the areas that I worked with seem to be
    transliterations or loan-translations of Western Semitic body
    part names, such that these areas form a coherent male body in
    the mid-East and a coherent female body in north Africa.

    In the absence of paper or another suitable media for a map, naming
    places after body parts is a *very* interesting method of informing
    the members of a language community approximately where each named
    location is. For example, if I am living in Lebanon or Nubia
    (both related to Sanskrit nabhila = navel), I am at the "center"
    of a body and therefore at the center of its "map". If I wanted to
    go to Kurd(istan) or Lybia/Cyrenia (both named after the heart),
    I would know which direction to go.

    If you would like to see a bit map graphic of Napi in Canada
    and charts illustrating the bodies in the mid-East and north
    Africa, sent me an email. Let me know what graphics format
    you prefer: .jpg, .tif, .bmp, or whatever.


    Israel Cohen

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