Full text of animal behaviorist Dr. Kaeli Swift’s talk: What crows can teach us about death at TEDxSalem conference. In this talk Dr. Swift explores what animals, particularly crows, do around their dead and what this might teach us about the evolution of our own behaviors.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Dr. Kaeli Swift – Animal behaviorist
How many of you have ever found yourself thinking about death? Most people, I see.
Whether we want to or not, humans spend a great deal of time considering death. And it’s possible we’ve been doing so since shortly after Homo sapiens first began roaming the landscape. After all the first intentional human burial is thought to have occurred around a hundred thousand years ago.
What might those early people have been thinking as they took the time to dig into the earth, deposit the body, and carefully cover it up again? Were they trying to protect it from scavengers or stymie the spread of disease? Were they trying to honor the deceased?
Or did they just not want to have to look at a dead body?
Without the advent of a time machine, we may never know for sure what those early people were thinking. But one thing we do know is that humans are far from alone in our attention towards the dead.
Like people, some animals, including the Corvids… the family of birds that houses the crows, ravens magpies and jays also seemed to pay special attention to their dead. In fact, the rituals of corvids may have acted as the inspiration for our own. After all it was the Raven that God sent down to teach Cain how to bury his slain brother Abel.