The Representation of Monkeys in the Art and Thought of Mediterranean Cultures: A new perspective on ancient primates
Series: BAR International Series 2192
Description: Paperback, 89 p., 105 b/w figures, 29,7x21 cm
From the introduction
People often ask me, “Why monkeys?” Then they ask, “Were there monkeys in the Mediterranean?” In answer to the first question, my interest in monkeys began in 1984, when my mother and I decided to convert our guesthouse into a primate sanctuary for baboons and macaques. After more than a decade of building cages, cleaning cages and digging drainage ditches, I decided to leave the monkeying around to my mother and do a Bachelor’s degree in French literature with a minor in Classics. All was going well until my third year as an undergraduate when I saw the blue monkeys of Thera – I knew there would never be any way out of the monkey business.
Over the years, I have come to realize that people almost always have a strong reaction to non-human primates. Some people praise their beauty, sensitivity and intelligence, while others mock their ugliness, promiscuity and stupidity. The same reactions are apparent in ancient Mediterranean cultures. The Egyptians and Minoans valued them highly. The Greeks and Romans were far less enthusiastic. In her essay on feminism and functionalism in primate studies entitled “Baboons with Briefcases vs. Langurs in Lipstick,” Sperling comments, “Primates are icons for us. They seem to live at the boundary of nature and culture, and the ways they appear in current Western symbolism reflect the political and socioeconomic discourses of the historical periods during which primate studies has developed as a discipline” (1991: 222), I would take the statement much further-primates have always been icons for humans. They are the animals that most closely resemble us, and how any given society interprets their behaviour and appearance reveals much more about its own cultural norms than about primates.
List of Illustrations [iii]
Monkeys in Egypt: From the Old Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Period 
Monkeys in the Near East 
Monkeys in the Bronze Age Aegean 
Monkeys in the Greco-Roman World 
The Greco-Roman Legacy