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Botswana and termites . . .

13 Mar

Botswana and termites . . .

Excerpt from a previous posting on Botswana:

In 1985 I traveled to Botswana under the auspices of the United States’ Department of State. At that time I was gainfully employed with the United States Customs Service, and the purpose of my travel was to represent our government and U.S. Customs in a law enforcement conference. The conference took place in Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana, at a complex that included a Holiday Inn, several restaurants and two Las Vegas-style casinos. Except for South Africa, every country in Africa was represented. That nation was not represented because it was not invited, ostensibly in criticism of its rule of apartheid.

Other postings on Botswana can be found here: Sojourn to Botswana, here: I downed a lion in South Africa and here: Botswana’s urinals. I have thoroughly enjoyed remembering and writing about my experiences in Africa, and I trust that visitors to my blog will enjoy reading about that nation and the trials, tribulations and triumphs I endured and/or enjoyed while enroute to Botswana, returning from Botswana and everything in between.

Be forewarned! As I manage—struggle—to retrieve memories from the dim past—way back in 1985—there will be more postings related to my trip, including more thoughts on Botswana, South Africa, Germany and England.

The unlikely subject of this posting? One of the most fascinating and destructive creatures on earth—termites!

On the outskirts of Gabarone, Botswana’s capital city, numerous termite towers can be seen, amazing structures that can reach heights up to thirty feet. The following information on termites was gleaned from Wikipedia and is probably enough, or more than enough, to satisfy any longing a visitor to this posting may have for such information:

The termite is the acknowledged master architect of the creature world. No other insect or animal approaches the termite in the size and solidity of its building structure. The world’s tallest non-human structures are built by Australian or African termites. If a human being were the size of an average termite, the relative size of a single termite nest is the equivalent of a 180 story building–almost 2000 feet high. It would easily be the tallest building in the world. How is it possible that this tiny creature has the engineering know-how to erect an edifice of this magnitude? Obviously this knowledge is innate to the termite. The process of construction, the materials and correct combination of materials to yield an elegant, structurally efficient and durable structure is simply awe-inspiring.

In tropical savannas the mounds may be very large, with an extreme of 9 metres (30 ft) high in the case of large conical mounds constructed by some Macrotermes species in well-wooded areas in Africa. Two to three metres, however, would be typical for the largest mounds in most savannas. The shape ranges from somewhat amorphous domes or cones usually covered in grass and/or woody shrubs, to sculptured hard earth mounds, or a mixture of the two. Despite the irregular mound shapes, the different species in an area can usually be identified by simply looking at the mounds.

Formlings, now better understood to depict termitaria (termites’ nests) and termites, are a pervasive category of San (Bushman) rock art north of the River Limpopo. This article investigates the associations of termites’ nests in San thought, belief, and ritual, in an attempt to explain formling symbolism and why termites’ nests, and not other subjects, were chosen for depiction. Unequivocal ethnographic testimonies of San spiritual world-view are compounded with iconographic analysis to show nuances of San understanding and perception of the spirit world. In turn, this ethnographic hermeneutic reveals a significant but previously unexplored facet of spirit-world imagery which evokes notions of creative and transformative power. This newly highlighted vignette of San cosmology unlocks aspects of San imagery, such as the interface between the natural and the metaphysical, that have hitherto been less understood.

Note: The River Limpopo separates South Africa from Botswana and Zimbabwe (from Wikipedia at this site: River Limpopo).

Since my duties while in Botswana did not require any close inspection of termite nests, my relationship and contact with such structures was limited to a cautious 360 degree visual inspection from a distance of several yards. That inspection and my Wikipedian research qualified me to share my new found knowledge with visitors to my blog.

So I shared said knowledge.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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