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Mortal RitualsWhat the Story of the Andes Survivors Tells Us About Human Evolution$
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Matt Rossano

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231165006

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231165006.001.0001

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The Evolution of Taboo

The Evolution of Taboo

(p.33) Chapter Two The Evolution of Taboo
Mortal Rituals

Matt J. Rossano

Columbia University Press

This chapter recounts the dilemma that UAF Flight 571 survivors experienced in eating deceased bodies to survive hunger. In particular, it discusses how their dilemma mirrored the universality of taboo. A taboo is a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment. The universality of taboo suggests that historically, taboo performed some social function. It takes individuals beyond their narrow personal values, and identifies for them the broader set of common values that makes them part of a community. Also, it defines what is threatening or dangerous to a community and creates precautions for avoiding the danger.

Keywords:   UAF Flight 571, taboo, social function, prohibition, dilemma, cannibalism

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