This letter is in response to the Feb. 22, 2007, article by Jen Cintora entitled “Dreadful Comeback.” While the majority of her article was of the caliber expected of the Collegian, one particular point stood out as being particularly ill-informed. In the sidebar “Misconceptions.” the fifth point states: “It is a popular misconception that Rastafarians originated dreadlocks. Historical evidence has shown that cavemen worse dreadlocks simply because combs weren’t invented yet.” Let’s break this down and see where this statement might be misleading (at best).
First, “cavemen” are not “historical.” Any Anthropologist will tell you
that while prehistoric man did use caves for art and rituals, the “caves” were often rock overhangs and they primarily lived on savannahs, open plains, or other environments. But let’s give you, for the moment, that “cavemen” was meant as a general term for prehistoric man and that they, as was intended in this article, did exist.
These “cavemen” then, did have combs. Bone was a common medium for hair care technology. We have hundreds of artifacts showing that prehistoric “cave” men were not so deprived as the author suggests.
But let’s give her this as well, not all “cave men” had combs and some may have, at some point, gone into caves for various reasons. Dreadlocks may occur naturally with some hair styles in some environments, but they do require care and maintenance, as well as a concerted effort to grow them out in particular styles. In most cases, they must be intentionally grown to be dreads, or
else mattes and tangles are a more likely result of neglect.
But, in the spirit of forgiveness, we will add to the “caveman” and “comb” issues the fact that some cavemen may have, in fact, had dreadlocks as they look today, either intentionally or not. This raises the final issue, is that “Dreadlocks” are a symbol with culturally derived meanings based on historical and contemporary contexts of their use. While the Rastafari meaning behind Dreadlocks may not apply, there is still a strong social component to their use as an expression tool, and I do not know of many experts that would be comfortable assigning the same meaning to the combless dreadlocking cavemen of our distant past.
Considering that some of these issues were raised within the article itself and that a nod to research would have prevented some of these errors, we hope that in the future our journalistic counterparts will, if not fact check, at least try not contradict themselves in pat, pithy graphics attached to an otherwise interesting article. On our side, we will try not to get too upset when our field is rewritten for sensationalist purposes. again.
Anthropology department, CSU