Animals and popular culture

As early as 20,000 years ago, some Primitive men portrayed on rocks, in caves and in the open air the main events of hunting, mostly by drawing animals (caves of Altamira, Pesche-Merle, etc.). Many of these drawings have now become important documents on the fauna that lived on Earth at some historical times and therefore on the climate and flora as well. All peoples in all continents have produced animal figures, either painted or sculpted, giving them a fantastic or divine dimension.
The first important civilisations to have settled along rivers (Nile, Tigris, Euphrates) have distinguished themselves for their strong culture based on deities with animal traits. For the Egyptians, Bastet (the Goddess of joy and sunshine and the protector of the pharaoh) was portrayed as a woman with the head of a cat or as a feline, Anubis (protector of mummification and lord of necropolises) was portrayed with the body of a man and the head of a jackal, he accompanied the dead in their journey to the afterlife and headed the tribunal of the afterlife.
Later on, animals have kept going hand in hand with man along the centuries, becoming part of folk cultures in the most bizarre ways. The protagonists of legends, fairy tales and myths are often drakes, talking animals or naughty monsters that have always been talking to man in the simplest and most straightforward way through funny, frightening or educational stories.
Some stories derive from well-founded fears, such as that of the wolf, that was really a serious danger, especially in the Middle Ages, when Europe was still mostly covered in forests and in the winter packs of hungry wolves moved closer to villages or even got inside towns. Man feared these animals, not only because of their potentially deadly attacks, but also because of rabies, a disease that was transmitted by their bites and that could not be treated at that time. This historical background is also the source of the werewolf, a man who turns into a wolf during full moon nights. In fact lycanthropy refers to a rare genetic disease, porphyria, which causes hypersensitivity to sunrays, the growth of down on the face and limbs, and finally a red-brown colour of the teeth.

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