University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

“Arms Raised in a V”

September 26, 2013

Museum Object Number: 61-1-2

I’ve been a fan of TED Talks for a while and somewhat recently I watched Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are. One of the things that struck me in the talk was the expression of power she refers to as “Pride”. The pride expression as Amy Cuddy describes it is “arms up in a V with the chin slightly lifted” and was demonstrated by Usain Bolt winning an Olympic race. Dr. Jessica Tracy, whom Amy Cuddy references in her talk, notes that the pride expression is cross culturally recognized and possibly universally recognized.

Almost immediately when I heard this I thought of two things, one was a lyric in the Pearl Jam song Jeremy, which I made the title of this post, and my second thought was the Penn Museum object 61-1-2 which is pictured to the left and quite coolly captured in this Penn Museum video.

Amy Cuddy talks about how universal and old these non-verbal expressions of power are and here is a pottery figure from Veracruz Mexico dating back to 500-700 AD, possibly proving her point. Elin Danien, of the Penn Museum, notes that this imposing figure has characteristics which may suggest that this figure represents a shaman. In many cultures, a shaman can be looked at as powerful and important  as they can heal and interact with the spirit world.

Over a thousand years ago, someone in the Las Remojadas culture fashioned this figure and knowingly or unknowingly depicted them in a classic non-verbal symbol of power and pride. With all the changes in technology over the centuries it’s neat to see something that links us to our ancestors which hasn’t changed.

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