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Ancient Brands, Modern Logos And Astonishing Arachnid Art

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, November 12, 2009
Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011
Commercial brands began some 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia when traders needed some assurance of the value and origins of oils, wines and other products, an anthropologist believes.

While many scholars trace the beginning of branding to the Western Industrial Revolution, David Wengrow, an anthropologist at University College of London, presents evidence that labels and stoppers on ancient containers actually functioned as brand identifications that told a purchaser important information about contents. A Science Daily story "Cleopatra's Cosmetics and Hammurabi's Heineken" explains that as urbanization took hold in Egypt and Iraq, local economies began manufacturing alcoholic drinks, beauty products and textiles for sale, and traders and consumers needed to know something about where and how these commodities were made. Designs imprinted in the stoppers made for bottles of wines and oils evolved into logos. Wengrow suggests branding becomes vital because consumer products in any large complex society need to pass through a "nexus of authenticity."

Wengrow explains his theory in "Prehistories of Commodity Branding", in the February 2008 issue of Current Anthropology. He says branding has for millennia shown a deep need for humans to find value ingoods they consume.

One of the oldest Western logo is the red trangle for Bass Ale. It is made by the British Bass Brewing Company, founded in 1777, and the red triangle was trademark Number One registered British Trademark Act of 1875.

Ancient logos, their Nineteenth Century descendants and the promotional images used today by Microsoft, Nike and Coca Cola function pretty much the same way. Pavlov's dogs showed animals can learn to associate stimuli with an unrelated experience, and modern research suggests human affinity for certain brands may be similarly learned. Research by John O'Doherty, an associate professor of psychology at Caltech, shows two regioins of the brain-the ventral striatum and the ventral midbrain-may play an important role in choices we make about different brands of soup and soap. A story in the New Scientist explains our preferences for anitem are influenced by prior experiencesthat are recalled and activated whenwe make a later preference-based decision.

And speaking of the amazing ancient art of textiles...

"Gossamer Silk, From Spiders Spun," a New York Times article by Randy Kennedy, tells the astonishing story of a British art historian and an American fashion designer who managed to assemble thousands of large female Golden Orb Spiders from Madagascar and set them to spinning a wondrous gossamer fabric. Nicholas Godley, the fashion designer, set up a system in which hired handlers gently pull the thread dangling from the spider's spinneret. Then 24 spiders were placed in parallel harnesses as a spool tugded out the rest of the web in continuous strands. Next, the threads were twisted by human hands into the strands that served as the foundation for the cloth. Simon Peers, the art historian, had been fascinated by several centuries-oldefforts to harvest spider silk for weaving. The Times story reports that Peers has written the effort seemed "imbued with metaphor and poetry, with nightmare and phobia."
"Creepy, Crawly, Crafty: A Tapestry Woven by Eight-Legged Artists," an interesting Fast Company story by Ken Carone, is also accompanied by captivating pictures.

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