The String Figures of Nauru Island - Dan Coopey

A Loop of String, Approximately 72" in Circumference

 Allied pilots, during World War II, who had to fly over certain remote and exotic areas such as Borneo (now called Kalimantan), were encouraged to carry a loop of string up to six feet long, the ends of which were tied together to make a single loop about three feet long.  The idea was that if they crash landed their plane in an area where non-English-speaking natives were likely to be present, the pilot should (when someone approached through the jungle), casually take the loop of string from his pocket and begin to make a "cat's cradle" string figure, and as many other string figures as he knew.  It is said that, on more than one occasion, this was actually tried. 

In each case, the story goes, the native watched with increasingly friendly interest, and then politely borrowed the loop to demonstrate some string figures popular in his own tribe.  It seems to me that such an anthropological First Contact technique might be useful in extraterrestrial First Contact as well.  You will find out if and how the ET pays attention to your activity, have something to talk about, and -- after you've handed the loop to the ET -- learn something about how dexterously the ET manipulates at least one kind of object.  If you're very lucky, the ET will show you patterns of its own culture.  After all, the string figure has been (sometimes independently) discovered and perfected by members of the tribes, areas, or nations: Apache, Austria, Australia, Borneo, Chaco, Cherokee, China, Chippewa, Clayoquaht,  Denmark, England, Eskimo, France, Germany, Hawaii, India, Ireland, Japan, Kabyles, Kiwai, Klamath, Korea, Kwakiutl, Lifu, Melanesia, Natik, Nauru, Navaho, New Guinea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Omaha, Onandaga, Osage, Pawnee, the Philippines, Polynesia, Pueblo, Pygmy, Salish, Scotland, Switzerland, Tannas, Tewas, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Uap, Ulungu, Wajiji, and Zuni. 

The best reference on how to weave with both hands a hundred intricate patterns supposed to represent natural and artificial objects is String Figures and How to Make Them77.

Perhaps the most important anthropologist ever, Dr. Franz Boas, was the first to publish a careful description of how a so-called primitive people (Eskimo) make string figures, in 1888.  Other cultures use "a thong of skin... a cord of cocoanut fibre ... [or] of human hair finely plaited.  A woven cord which does not kink as easily as a twisted cord will prove most satisfactory; unfortunately, it cannot be spliced, the ends therefore must be knotted in a small square knot or laid together and bound round with thread.”

 An extract from: Me Human, You Alien: How to Talk to an Extraterrestrial

By Jonathan Vos Post.

(c) 1996 by Emerald City Publishing

an excerpt from a book entitled THE HANDBOOK OF UFO CONTACT, to appear Spring 1997, New York: William Morrow & Co.