In the years before the Renaissance, Italy was divided into warring city-states, some which supported the Holy Roman Emperor, such as Modena, and some which supported the Pope, such as Bologna. In 1325, after hundreds of years of bitter fighting between the two, some Modenese soldiers slipped into Bologna and stole an oak bucket from a public well. When Bologna demanded they give it back, Modena refused, so Bologna attacked with an army of over thirty thousand. Two thousand were killed, and Modena still has the bucket today. Centuries later, the poet Tassoni wrote a mock epic about the war: La Secchia Rapita, the Stolen Bucket.
I was watching the documentary First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon the other night, and just as we learn from the work of the anthropologist Malinowski, our tribal ancestors were logical and rational, even though they have simpler lives and serious problems. One of the young tribesmen casually says, “A jaguar ate my grandmother,” as if he is talking about his car getting totaled. He later explains that when people die, they go downriver and up into the sky, and when asked about white people, he says with complete confidence that they too go downriver and up into the sky.
The tribespeople have never read a single word, and can only count up to ten, and must not need to count more than ten of anything that requires counting. To be fair, we typically count in tens, tens of tens, and tens of tens of tens to do most things.
After adjusting to life with the anthropologist, the tribespeople really like clothes. One young man says that now that they have worn clothes, they are ashamed to be naked. It is quite hot in the Amazon jungle even at night, and so I assume that clothes are not only beautiful ornamentation of the human body, but also cover parts of the body that attract unwanted attention. One young tribeswoman says that she really likes clothes, spoons, pans, and particularly a simple, plastic, purple pair of flip flops. They must make walking in the jungle much easier.