MAN and SHELLS: Molluscs in the History


by

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti

DOI: 10.2174/97816810822571160101
eISBN: 978-1-68108-225-7, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-68108-226-4



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Since the Paleolithic age to the present, molluscs – which include squids, octopuses and a variety of shellfish - have featured in dif...[view complete introduction]

Table of Contents

Authors

- Pp. i-iii (3)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Egidio Trainito and Mauro Doneddu

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Foreword by Nathalie Yonow

- Pp. v

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Foreword by Angelo Mojetta

- Pp. vii

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Preface

- Pp. ix-x (2)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti

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Acknowledgements

- Pp. xi

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti

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Not only Shells

- Pp. 3-27 (25)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Magic, Mythology, and Religion

- Pp. 29-55 (27)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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The Trumpet Conchs

- Pp. 57-66 (10)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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In art

- Pp. 67-91 (25)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Handicrafts and the Kitsch

- Pp. 93-103 (11)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Shells as Currency

- Pp. 105-118 (14)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Pearls and mother-of-pearl

- Pp. 119-148 (30)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Dyes, Tissues, and Materials

- Pp. 149-161 (13)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Madly in Love with Shells

- Pp. 163-187 (25)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Food for Man: Cooked and Raw

- Pp. 189-209 (21)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Farming Molluscs

- Pp. 211-237 (27)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Import and Export: Successes and Flops

- Pp. 239-255 (17)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Dangerous Molluscs? Myths and Reality

- Pp. 257-272 (16)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Threatened Species

- Pp. 273-285 (13)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Serving Science

- Pp. 287-315 (29)

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References

- Pp. 317-336 (20)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Subject Index

- Pp. 337-344 (8)

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

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Foreword

Foreword by Nathalie Yonow

Man has always had a close association with molluscs and their shells, be it for nutrition or inspiration, for art and culture, or for more practical purposes such as bartering, currency, and medicine. This association goes back to the Palaeolithic, the beginnings of Man: snails and bivalves were good renewable sources of pro- tein, and their shells could be utilised in many ways: early Man wasted nothing. Over time, these shells not only played an important role in the material survival of Man, but also allowed him to develop his culture, with symbolic values of great importance. At the dawn of history, shells assumed mythical meanings and rituals, objects of life and death, of high symbolic value, status, and magic.

Molluscs produce wonderful shells, and these shells display shapes and designs that have been and still are objects of astonishment for all, and sources of inspira- tion for artists of all epochs. The sciences, medicine, religion, literature, jewellery, world trade, and gastronomy all owe much to these producers of shells. They in- clude species very familiar to us, such as garden snails and nautilus, mussels and oysters, limpets and clams, and so many others. The contribution that molluscs have made, and continue to make to both experimental biology and medicine is immense. Gastropods and squids are still used as lab animals: they seem to have been designed by Nature itself to facilitate research on neurology and biochemis- try. Some species even produce chemicals which may be used by pharmacology in the cure of disease, and the shells themselves are currently being investigated for the repair of damaged cells causing paralysis (Centre for Paralysis Research at the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine, Indiana, USA). The shells of molluscs from all over the world, land, lakes, and ocean, contain very detailed imprints of past climate change and with isotope analysis, these signals have been extracted to demonstrate long-term climate variations.

This book is not simply a treatise of malacology: it is a tribute to a group of or- ganisms that has always fascinated and inspired Man, accompanying him throughout his history, a group of organisms that has had and continues to play an important role in the cultural evolution of Man. The book is not full of scientific detail, but instead full of prose and poetry, stories and anecdotes based on histori- cal facts, beautifully illustrated with images of ancient and modern artefacts cele- brating the amazing world of shells.

Swansea University, Wales, UK



Foreword by Angelo Mojetta

A first thought springs to mind after reading this essay by Riccardo Cattaneo- Vietti: the molluscs have finally been vindicated, all the attention they deserve, has been obtained. Although often poorly evaluated, there is no other group of or- ganisms which has interacted with Man since the dawn of civilization, and in such an extensive and widespread manner. Flipping, even summarily, through these pages, you will realize that molluscs have accompanied humanity in the course of his evolution, and perhaps even saved a part of it from the hunger, when their edi- bility was discovered and appreciated. Honour and glory to shellfish, then.

A second thought: molluscs can stimulate all the five human senses: a very rare, if not unique peculiarity. Does this seem a risky assertion? Absolutely not: try think- ing of your personal experience, when some molluscs crossed your path, and you will discover that they have interacted with you or you with them more often than you think, and always through one or more of your senses. The first contact with shellfish is certainly through taste. To find this out, just browse a cookbook or re- member what was the last shellfish or squid you ate. Closely related to taste, then, is the sense of smell. It is a sore point. More than the taste, molluscs can stimulate our dis-taste. If fresh or well-cooked shellfish emit pleasant aromas, very different from each other and difficult to describe: the iodized salty oysters, the abalones softness, the scallop delicacy, the fleshiness of the octopus, the toughness of the muricids. Big differences in flavours, that make each species unique. Not exactly the same occurs when their meat begins to decompose and putrefy. Try to forget some mussels for few days in your car and then you will understand what I mean! However, the mollusc, before being eaten and appreciated, must be collected: so sight is involved, a sense really stimulated by shellfish. Watch a shell, not just to recognize it, but to admire its shape and infinite varieties of colours. This is, and has been, the delight of generations of collectors, whose age ranges from five to one hundred. But the form also urges the touch, and there is no doubt that to hold a pearl, a cowrie, or a Nautilus shell can be the source of great enjoyment for eve- ryone. If you have read this far, you will note that there is still a last sense: hearing. To find out in detail about this, just read the Chapter 3, but maybe you just have think back to the last time you listened to the murmurs of the sea imprisoned in the shell whorl, holding its opening close to your ear. It is true that the science ex- plains that is not the sound of the sea, but it is so much more fun to believe it.It would be a shame to surrender to physical law, avoiding the chance to dream. Molluscs, apparently, also serve this purpose.

Marine biologist and journalist, Italy


Preface

All the facts in natural history, taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren like a single sex. But marry it to human history, and is full of life.



Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), Address on Nature (1836)

From the Paleolithic age to present, Molluscs have always played a role, often un- known, in History.

Their shells show shapes and designs that have been and are still object of aston- ishment for all and source of inspiration for the artists of all time. But not only: sciences, medicine, religion, literature, art, jewellery, world trades, and, of course, gastronomy, owe much to these producers of shells. They include species very familiar to us, such as garden snails and octopuses, mussels and oysters, clams and squids, others strange and unknown.

Today, the shellfish are major food resources for many populations: their demand from the international market is always in growth: they are also intensively farmed both at sea and on land, taking into account that for some "wild" popula- tions, the threat of overexploitation is real.

Over time, the shells did not only play an important role in the material survival of Man, but also allowed to develop his culture, taking on symbolic values of great importance. At the dawn of history, shells assumed mythical meanings and rituals too: objects for life and death, of high symbolic value and magical: amulets, sexual symbols, ornaments of beauty.

Shells and Molluscs have been also a constant source of inspiration for artists: their geometries inspired many architects, while an incredible number of painters and sculptors of all time have copied their shapes. Since the Renaissance, the shells are very popular, objects of desire for many, and now a hobby involving tens of thousands of fans around the world. The shells often show such refined beauty to arouse a sense of pleasure, an aesthetic pleasure in the myriad of pas- sionate collectors who, in all times and in all over the world, always looking for and preserved, sometimes in almost pathological way.

Sometimes, they were used as musical instruments: rattles and trumpets made with shells accompanied the children to play and the rites of war and peace of many people, in at least four continents, while some cowries were “true” money in three continents for over half a millennium.

Molluscs have had also an important role in the history of clothing: the Phoenici- ans learned to extract purple to dye clothes from Molluscs and until the last centu- ry in southern Italy fine "silky" tissues were made spinning the byssus from a Mediterranean bivalve.

The contribution that Molluscs have given and continue to give to the experi- mental biology and medicine is great. Gastropods and squids were and are still used as lab animals: they seem to have been designed by Nature itself to facilitate researches on neurology.

This book wants to be just a tribute to a group of organisms that, consumed as food since prehistoric times, has always fascinated, and inspired Man, accompa- nying him in his history: a group of organisms that has and continues to have an important and little known place in the cultural evolution of Man.

No conflict of interest arised in this work.

Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti
Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
Università Politecnica delle Marche (Ancona, Italy)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A special thanks to Nathalie Yonow (Swansea) and Angelo Mojetta (Milan): without the benefits of their experience and expertise, this book would be im- poverished both in scope and interpretation.

We are grateful to Drosos Koutsoubas (University of the Aegean, Mytilene, Gree- ce), Simon Thrush (NIWA, New Zealand), Ester Cecere (CNR, Istituto Talasso- grafico, Taranto), Carla del Vais (Museo Civico di Cabras, Oristano, Sardinia), Salvatore Sebis (Oristano, Sardinia), Giorgio Bavestrello, Maria Cristina Bonci, Antonio Guerci, Paolo Modenesi, Paolo Povero (University of Genoa), Renata Manconi (University of Sassari), Simone Bava (MPA Bergeggi), Vanessa Bracali (Vigo, Spain), Marino Vacchi (ISPRA, Rome), Ferdinando Boero (University of Salento), Gian Carlo Carrada, Giovanni Fulvio Russo, Roberto Sandulli (Univer- sity of Naples), Lorenzo Senes (Aquarium of Genoa), Carlo Ossola (Milan), Gio- vanni Battista and Antonio Figari (Genoa), Giovanna De Rege (Rocca Grimalda, Alessandria), Giulio Melegari (Milan), for their indispensable suggestions and continued support during the writing.

DEDICATION:

She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore,
For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore
Then I’m sure she sells sea-shore shells.


Terry Sullivan, Tongue-twister (1908) inspired by Mary Anning (1799-1847), the most famous English fossil "hunter"

Qui zase Bernardin de Ca’ Donao
Che morì in tel pescar cape de deo,
co la camisa curta e l’cul bagnato
Del Milecinquecento. Ora pro eo.


(Here Bernardin de Ca’ Donao lies. He died fishing scallops with a short shirt and a wet ass. In the 1500 year. Pray for him)

A scallop fisherman’s epitaph in Venice (16th century)



TO GIANNI ROGHI

This book is dedicated to the memory of Gianni Roghi (1927-1967), Italian jour- nalist, diver, photographer, mollusc expert, and curious explorer of the world. Keen collector of shells, Roghi left us from the pages of Mondo Sommerso, the first world magazine dedicated to diving activities, a series of articles on malacol- ogy which were, for the youth of those times, a treasure of knowledge, research, and inspiration.

Cover: a painted Nautilus shell from Bali, Indonesia (20th century).

List of Contributors

Author(s):
Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti
Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
Ancona
Italy




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