Saturday, 9 July 2011

Speaking of Bags

In a review of an exhibition of Australian bits and pieces at the British Museum, Peter Campbell in the London Review of Books reveals that he has 'always cherished the [rather silly, in my view] theory that the handbag, the artefact that freed human beings from the limitations of eating food where they found it, was crucial to our development as social beings'. I should have thought a box or a bucket might have done the trick equally well and the choice of the word 'handbag', rather than just 'bag', seems wilful, with its echoes of Lady Bracknell.

All the same, what he does go on to say, quite interestingly, is that 'there were special baskets made to carry the dried bones of a dead child or even to store a baby's umbilical cord, baskets lined with beeswax to hold honey, baskets to catch fish or to hold needles and thread' in 19th century Tasmania.

As someone who devotes at least 2.7% of each day to mental self-chastisement for her dreadful hording habits, I found that information very comforting. Even I have never felt the impulse to store a baby's umbilical cord.

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