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That "Grimace" was Really a Greeting

Lisa Parr, and Menno Hoogland, Museo del Hombre, Dominica.

When it came to understanding the native peoples they encountered, 15th century era European explorers to the New World turned out to be mistaken about a lot of things - including the so-called "devil's grimace" they reported to encounter on these shores.. Actually, it was anything but.

Writing in the latest issue of Current Anthropology , co-authors Bridget Waller of the University of Portsmouth and Alice Samson, of Leiden University, found that research into facial expression in human and nonhuman primates shows that the bared teeth expression was used in social contexts "as an unambiguous signal of nonaggression, affiliation, and benign intent".

"This expression could likewise have functioned in the pre-Columbian Caribbean as a communicative signal in complex social interactions in both human and nonhuman (spirit, animal, natural) worlds and may have been essential for the maintenance of cohesive and stable interâ?? and intracommunity relationships."

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