Advertisement

The Builders of the Oceans – Part II: Corals from the Past to the Present (The Stone from the Sea)

Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

Abstract

At any scale, corals are live buildings. Their carbonate skeletons constitute three-dimensional frameworks allowing the delicate coral polyp to emerge from the sea bottom and populate vast areas of the ocean. The role that corals play in the oceans defies any attempt at simplification since it transcends the life span of the small polyp, geological time, and ecological space. Long after the polyps are gone, coral skeletons continue to play an important ecological role by hosting assemblages of disparate species utilizing the calcareous remains. However, the skeleton is one of the reasons coral has a privileged position in human culture. Coral has been regarded as mystic object and unique material of lapidary medical and apotropaic properties, this in great part due to the architecture and arrangement of the skeleton, growth morphologies, and color. Human history has been carved in chalk-white coral tombstones, on effigies, and on painted coral skeletons. Coral eyes of basaltic sentinels on Easter Island contemplate a plethora of coral artifacts scattered along the footpath of mankind: mortuary offerings, statues of pagan goddesses, helmets of Celtic warriors, military fortifications, and insular mosques shared the dream of the stone, when life seemed to depart from the mineral limbo, in the figure of the humble coral polyp. This chapter is the continuation of a personal journey into the coral forest of the world’s oceans (see chapter “The Builders of the Oceans – Part I: Coral Architecture from the Tropics to the Poles, from the Shallow to the Deep”). A selection of examples of human interactions with the “stone from the sea” will illustrate this complex and fascinating relationship with coral.

Keywords

Coral Amulet Apotropaic medicine History Folklore Mythology Fossil Archaeology Myth Superstition 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Our thanks to Adriana Bruggeman, Piero d’Altan, Corrado Camera for English translations of various texts in Old Dutch, Italian, and Latin.

References

  1. Abbot N. An Arabic papyrus in the Oriental Institute stories of the Prophets. J Near Eastern Stud. 1946;5:169–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agricola G. De Natura Fossilium (1546). New York: Dover Publications; 2004.Google Scholar
  3. Al-Nahar M. Ain Ghazal and Wadi Shueib: Neolithic Personal Ornaments. In: Finlayson B, Makarewaicz C, editors. Settlement, survey, and stone, essays on near eastern prehistory in honor of Gary Rollefson. Berlin. Ex Oriente; 2014Google Scholar
  4. Bayer FM. The alcyonarian and black corals (Anthozoa; Octocorallia and Antipatharia). In: de Wit HCD, editor. Rumphius memorial volume sponsored by Greshoff fs Rumphius fonds acting under patronage of the Kon. Inst, voor de Tropen. Amsterdam; 1959.Google Scholar
  5. Beauclair I. Black magic on Ifaluk. Am Anthropol. 1963;65:388–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beaumont J. Two letters written by Mr. John Beaumont Junior of Stony-Easton in Somerset-Shire, concerning rock-plants and their growth. Philos Trans. 1665–1678;11:724–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beck JW, Hewitt L, Burr GS, Loret J, Torris F. Mata Ki Te Rangi: eyes towards the heavens: climate and radiocarbon dates. In: Loret J, Tanacredi JT, editors. Easter Island. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum; 2003.Google Scholar
  8. Beer R. The handbook of Tibetan Buddhist symbols. Boston: Shambhala Publications; 2003.Google Scholar
  9. Bellucci G. Il feticismo primitivo in Italia e le sue forme di adattamento. Perugia: Unione Tipografica Cooperativa; 1907.Google Scholar
  10. Boccone P. An account of some of the natural things, with which the intelligent and inquisitive Signor Paolo Boccone, of Sicily, hath lately presented the Royal Society, and enriched their repository. Philos Trans. 1665–1678;8:6158–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Borrello MA, Bosch J, de Grossi J, Martín AE, Esteve X, Gorgoglione M, Mariéthoz F, Nadal J. Les parures néolithiques de corail (Corallium rubrum L.) en Europa occidentale. Rivista di Scienze Preistoriche. 2012;62:67–82.Google Scholar
  12. Bowen J. The coral reef era: from discovery to decline. Cham: Springer; 2015.Google Scholar
  13. Bowry S. Before museums: the curiosity cabinet as metamorphe. Museol Rev. 2014;18:30–42.Google Scholar
  14. Brown JA. Stone implements from Pitcairn Island. The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 1900;30:83–88.Google Scholar
  15. Burley D, Weisler MI, Zhao J-x. High precision U/Th dating of first Polynesian settlement. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(11):e48769. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048769.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Camel G, Cuninghame J. A description of some coralls, and other curious Submarines lately sent to James Petiver, Apothecary and Fellow of the Royal Society, from the Philippine Isles by the Reverend George Joseph Camel; as also an account of some plants from Chusan an island on the coast of China; collected by Mr James Cuninghame, Chyrurgeon & F.R.S. Philos Trans 1683–1775;23(1702–1703):1419–29.Google Scholar
  17. Carricart JP. Corales escleractinios, piedra mucar y San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz. Ciencia y Desarrollo. 1998;141:70–3.Google Scholar
  18. Chapman FS. Lhasa in 1937. Geogr J. 1938;91:497–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Codrington RH. On poisoned arrows in Melanesia. J Anthropol Inst G B Irel. 1890;19:215–9.Google Scholar
  20. De AG. Natura Fossilium (1546). New York: Dover Publications; 2004.Google Scholar
  21. De Grossi MJ, Rugge M. I resti faunistici della tomba neolitica di Carpignano Salentino. In: Fabbri PF, Pagliara C, editors. Prima di Carpignano. Documentazione e interpretazione di una sepoltura neolítica. Lecce: Terra; 2009.Google Scholar
  22. Dobson A. The diary of John Evelyn (1620–1646). 1London: McMillan; 1908.Google Scholar
  23. Duffin C. Natternzungen-Kredenz: tableware for the Renaissance nobility. Jewel Hist Today, SPRING 2012: 1–5.Google Scholar
  24. During ECL. Corals, pearls and prehistoric Gulf trade. Proc Sem Arabian Stud. 1983;13:21–9.Google Scholar
  25. During ECL. Of corals and ailments in the Ancient Near East. Proc Semin Arabian Stud. 1986;16:25–31.Google Scholar
  26. Elbert S. Uta-Matua and other tales of Kapingamarangi. J Am Folk. 1949;62:240–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Elworthy FT. On perforated stone amulets. Man. 1903;3:17–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Espinoza AM. New-Mexican Spanish folk-lore. J Am Folk. 1910;23:395–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fewkes JW. Prehistoric culture of Cuba. Am Anthropol. 1904;6:585–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Forbes HO. The orientation of the dead in Indonesia. Man. 1906;16:7–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Forbes TR. Chalcedony and childbirth: precious and semi-precious stones as obstetrical amulets. Yale J Biol Med. 1963;35:390–401.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  32. Gaddensden J. Rosa Anglica seu Rosa Medicinae Johannes Anglici. London: Simpkin, Marshall; 1929.Google Scholar
  33. Galasso M. Pesca del corallo in Sardegna. Evidenze archeologiche e documentali dalla preistoria ad oggi. 6th Conference DEGUWA In Poseidon’s realm. Bavaria: University of Erlangen; 2001.Google Scholar
  34. Gordon RL, Simon FM. Introduction. In: Gordon RL, Simón FM, editors. Magical practice in the Latin West Conference. Zaragoza: University of Zaragoza; 2010.Google Scholar
  35. Gulick LH. Micronesia. The ruins on Ponape, or Ascension Island. J Am Geogr Stat Soc. 1859;1:129–37.Google Scholar
  36. Hackenbroch Y. A set of knife, fork, and spoon with coral handles. Metrop Mus J. 1981;15:183–4.Google Scholar
  37. Harris NE. The idea of lapidary medicine: its circulation and practical applications in medieval and early modern England: 1000–1750. PhD Dissertation, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey; 2009. Available from https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/25823/
  38. Hildburgh WL. Notes on some Burmese amulets and magical objects. J R Anthropol Inst G B Irel. 1909;39:397–407.Google Scholar
  39. Hildburgh WL. Note on the gourd as an amulet in Japan. Man. 1919;19:25–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kelley S. The King’s coral body: a natural history of coral and the post-tragic ecology of the Tempest. J Early Mod Cult Stud. 2014;14:115–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kirch PV, Sharp WD. Coral 230Th dating of the imposition of a ritual control hierarchy in precontact Hawaii. Science. 2005;307:102–4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Kosuge S, Kiuchi H, Tanabe Y, Kamei K. Precious coral fisheries regulation in the western Pacific area in comparison with Sardinian regulation. In: Bussoletti E, Cottingham D, Bruckner A, Roberts G, Sandulli R, editors. Proceedings of the international workshop on red coral science, management, and trade: lessons from the Mediterranean. Silver Spring: NOAA Technical Memorandum CRCP-13; 2010.Google Scholar
  43. Law R. Human sacrifice in pre-colonial West Africa. Afr Aff. 1985;84:53–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. López L, Chávez X, Zúñiga-Arellano B, Aguirre A. Un portal al inframundoofrendas de animales sepultadas al pie del Templo Mayor de Tenochtitlan. Estudios de cultura Náhuatl. 2012;44:9–40.Google Scholar
  45. Maier M. Atalanta Fugiens (The Flying Atalanta) or Philosophical Emblems of the Secrets of Nature [internet]. 1617. Available from http://www.magia-metachemica.net/uploads/1/0/6/2/10624795/michael_maier_–_atalanta_fugiens.pdf
  46. Manley F. Chaucer’s rosary and Donne’s bracelet: ambiguous coral. Mod Lang Notes. 1959;74:385–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McCartney ES. Greek and Roman weather lore of two destructive agents, hail and drought (concluded). Class Weekly. 1934;28:25–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McKillop H, Magnoni A, Watson R, Ascher S, Tucker B, Winemiller T. The coral foundations of coastal Maya architecture. Res Rep Belizean Archaeol. 2004;1:347–58.Google Scholar
  49. McLaughlin R. The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean: the ancient world economy and the Kingdoms of Africa, Arabia and India. South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword; 2014.Google Scholar
  50. Mellaart J. Excavations at Çatal Hüyük, 1963, third preliminary report. Anatol Stud. 1964;14:39–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mingana A. On the meaning of the Persian word for pearl and coral. Man. 1925;25:41–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Morel J-P, Rondi-Costanzo C, Ugolini D, editors. Corallo di Ieri, Corallo di Oggi. Atti del Convegno di Ravello, 1996, Centro Universitario Europeo per i Bieni Culturali. Bari: Edipuglia; 2000.Google Scholar
  53. Nebesky-Wojkowitz R. Prehistoric beads from Tibet. Man. 1952;52:131–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nuttall Z. The island of Sacrificios. Am Anthropol. 1910;12:257–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Opler ME. The influence of aboriginal pattern and white contact on a recently introduced ceremony, the Mescalero Peyote Rite. J Am Folk. 1936;49:143–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Perea S. Magic at Sea: Amulets for Navigation. In: Gordon RL, Simón FM, editors. Magical practice in the Latin West conference. Zaragoza: University of Zaragoza; 2010.Google Scholar
  57. Piquereddu P. Magia e ornamenti preziosi. In: Piquereddu P, Pau A, editors. Gioielli: Storia, linguaggio, religiosità dell’ornamento in Sardegna. Sardegna: Ilisso Edizioni; 2004.Google Scholar
  58. Pohl T, Al-Muqdadi V, Ali MH, Al-Mudaffar N, Ehrlich H, Merkel B. Discovery of a living coral reef in the coastal waters of Iraq. Nat Sci Rep. 2014;4. doi:10.1038/srep04250.Google Scholar
  59. Quercia A. Il corallo nei santuari del Mediterraneo antico. Il caso di Tas Silg. (Malta). In: D’Andria F, De Grossi J, Fiorentino G, editors. Uomini, piante e animali nella dimensione del sacro. Seminari di studi di bioarcheologia. Lecce: Edipuglia; 2008.Google Scholar
  60. Richards ZT, Shen CC, Hobbs J-PA WCC, Jiang X, Beardsley F. New precise dates for the ancient and sacred coral pyramidal tombs of Leluh (Kosrae, Micronesia). Sci Adv. 2015;1(2):e1400060. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1400060.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  61. Rickard TA. Drift iron: a fortuitous factor in primitive culture. Geogr Rev. 1934;24:525–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rumphius GE. Herbarium amboinense : plurimas conplectens arbores, frutices, herbas, plantas terrestres & aquaticas, quae in Amboina et adjacentibus reperiuntur insulis adcuratissime descriptas iuxta earum formas, cum diuersis denominationibus cultura, usu, ac virtutibus, quod & insuper exhibet varia insectorum animaliumque genera, plurima cum naturalibus eorum figuris depicta [internet]. Amsterdam: Apud Fransicum Changuion, Joannem Catuffe, Hermannum Uytwerf; 1750. Available from http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/569
  63. Schrickel M, Bente K, Fleischer F, Franz A. Importation ou imitation du corail à la fin de l’âge du Fer? Première approche par analyses du fmatériau. In: Colin A, Verdin F, editors. L’âge du fer en Aquitaine et sur ses marges. Mobilité des hommes, diffusion des idées, circulation des biens dans l’espace européen à l’âge du fer. Bordeaux: Aquitania; 2011.Google Scholar
  64. Segal C. Pindar’s Seventh Nemean. Trans Proc Am Philol Assoc. 1967;98:431–80.Google Scholar
  65. Stephen AM. The Navajo. Am Anthropol. 1893;6:345–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Taramelli A. La necropoli punica di Predio Ibba a S. Avendrace, Cagliari (scavi del 1908). Monumenti Antichi Reale Accademia dei Lincei. 1912;21:45–170.Google Scholar
  67. Targioni G. Le collezioni di Giorgio Everardo Rumpf : acquistate dal granduca Cosimo III de’Medici, una volta esistenti nel Museo di fisica e storia naturale di Firenze [internet]. Firenze: Tipografia Luigi Nicolai; 1903. Available from https://archive.org/details/anannotatedcata01socigoog
  68. Theodoropoulou T. The Sea in the temple? Seashells from the sanctuary of the ancient town of Kythnos and other marine stories of cult. In: Ekroth G, Hjohlman J, editors. Bones, behaviour and belief. The osteological evidence as a source for Greek ritual practice. Stockholm: Acta instituti atheniensis regni sueciae; 2013.Google Scholar
  69. Tripati S. Marine investigations in the Lakshadweep Islands, India. Antiquity. 1999;73:827–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Trupp T. Looking for the individual: an examination of personal adornment in the European Upper Palaeolithic. MA Thesis. Victoria: University of Victoria; 2007.Google Scholar
  71. Zammit-Maempel G. Fossil sharks’ teeth a Medieval safeguard against poisoning. Melita Historica. 1975;6:391–410.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Energy, Environment and Water Research Center of The Cyprus Institute (CyI)NicosiaCyprus
  2. 2.Enalia Physis Environmental Research CentreNicosiaCyprus
  3. 3.Instituto Español de OceanografíaCentro Oceanográfico de BalearesPalma de MallorcaSpain

Personalised recommendations