• Revenge against French fueling conflict in Mali and Algeria
An article in The Star (Toronto) about how Mali’s conflict spilled across its borders into Algeria this past week quoted Bruce Whitehouse, a cultural anthropology professor at Lehigh University, and a Fulbright scholar who has lived in Mali.
He says: “They want to get back at the French desperately and they have a history of carrying out a tit-for-tat response when it comes to French intervention …They clearly want to portray what they’re doing as a direct and balanced response to what’s being directed against them … It will bring a lot more pressure from the United States and European governments to get involved … (It) might be a good thing from Mali’s point of view. Algeria has what’s reckoned to be the most capable military there and they have experience and they know the terrain.”
• Mali: Where music is dangerous
An opinion piece in the Cyprus Mail says that Islamic extremism is stopping the music in Mali:
“We all have a favourite album. Mine is Talking Timbuktu, the collaboration between the great Malian musician Ali Farka Tourι and Ry Cooder. Arguably it’s some of the best guitar playing you’ll ever hear. Ali died in 2006, but his son Vieux carries the sound onward, that curious mix of African soul and heart with a blues base.
“So it was with utter horror that I heard Lucy Durán, who hosts the BBC programme World Routes and teaches the anthropology of world music at SOAS (University of London), say in an emotional comment this week that one of the terrible side effects of the extreme Islamic fundamentalism now invading northern Mali is the silencing of music. Outlawed under Sharia law, all instruments, radio, CD players have been destroyed, and as Lucy chillingly said, those seen playing guitars were threatened with having their fingers cut off.”
• Shot across the bow to economics #1: Consumer choice better informed by a new “gang” that includes cultural anthropology
An article in The Atlantic mentions anthropology as a member in a “new gang” of social and behavior sciences that does a better job of explaining consumer choice than economists do.
• Shot across the bow to economics #2: Cultural anthropology provides “behavioral insight” about U.K. voters
He said “the answer is better government, based on how people really behave, which quite often means less government and certainly less expensive government … [and] that elements of sociology, political science and anthropology should be used by the Government to ‘understand how societies function in a world full of real people.’” Lord O’Donnell said the so-called “behavioural insight team” in the Cabinet Office is already applying some of those principles to areas of government.
• Indies as cultural critique
An article in The Chronicle for Higher Education leads with the following: “Entering the fractious world of indies is a new and unusual interlocutor: Sherry B. Ortner. How did the well-known anthropologist come to write her latest ethnography on independent filmmaking? The story begins years ago with Sherpas. Ortner’s early fieldwork in Nepal was the basis of several books, starting in the late 1970s and culminating in the ethnography Life and Death on Mt. Everest: Sherpas and Himalayan Mountaineering (1999). Then came a shift that would eventually lead to Not Hollywood: Independent Film at the Twilight of the American Dream, forthcoming from Duke University Press.”
The article quotes her as saying: “I thought, either I’m going to write x-more-many Sherpa books or do something else.” Ortner is a professor of cultural anthropology at UCLA. In recent works, she has turned to looking at culture in the United States, including her book New Jersey Dreaming: Capital, Culture, and the Class of ’58 (2003), a study of her graduating class at Weequahic High. Wanting to take a wider view of American mores, she “settled on Hollywood as a font of certain kinds of major cultural themes.”
She planned a “Hortense Powdermaker redux,” or a “re-study” of that anthropologist’s Hollywood, the Dream Factory (1950). “But she soon faced a major problem: studio access: ‘I just couldn’t crack it,’ she says. One executive she interviewed had qualms about her using any quotes. ‘We’d have to go through the lawyers … You don’t want that, I don’t want that.’ The scholar says she didn’t ‘so much consciously give up on Hollywood’ as she became more and more interested in the independent scene — its blossoming when it did, its social world, and the ways it defines itself. Ortner argues that independent films, particularly the darker ones, are best understood as cultural critique. They grapple with the range of profound changes in American society under neoliberal capitalism, which she describes as “the more brutal form of capitalism that has become dominant in the United States since about the 1970s.”
• Diamond in the rough
Blogger’s note: We all saw it coming — the flood of reviews that would follow the publication of a book with a simple message, that “traditional” cultures have some good ideas and practices, using ethnographic content, written by a famous non-anthropologist, Jared Diamond. Diamond is probably the person who is most often mistaken-for-an-anthropologist in the world. Here are few highlights from the many reviews rolling in about The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
- In a blog post for NPR, biological anthropologist Barbara King asks why Jared Diamond makes anthropologists so mad. She provides an excellent round-up of some of the recent commentary: “Jared Diamond is once again inflaming my tribe. In his new book, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies, Diamond questions the practice of psychologists who base their claims about human nature entirely on people from WEIRD — Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic — societies. “In fact, Diamond writes, people in small-scale societies, people who gather and hunt, herd animals or farm, may have figured out better ways than WEIRD ways to treat people, solve social problems and stay healthy. So far, this sounds pretty much like an embrace of the cross-cultural diversity that we anthropologists work to understand, even to celebrate. “So what’s the backlash all about? In a beautifully written piece for The Guardian, Wade Davis says that Diamond’s ‘shallowness’ is what ‘drives anthropologists to distraction.’ For Davis, geographer Diamond doesn’t grasp that ‘cultures reside in the realm of ideas, and are not simply or exclusively the consequences of climatic and environmental imperatives.’ Rex Golub at Savage Minds slams the book for “a profound lack of thought about what it would mean to study human diversity and how to make sense of cultural phenomena.” In a fit of vexed humor, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for anthropological research tweeted Golub’s post along with this comment: “@savageminds once again does the yeoman’s work of exploring Jared Diamond’s new book so the rest of us don’t have to.” This biting response isn’t new; see Jason Antrosio’s post from last year in which he calls Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel a ‘one-note riff,’ even ‘academic porn’ that should not be taught in introductory anthropology courses.”
- A review in The National Post mentions Diamond’s “failed anthro footing,” saying, “While amusing to read, Diamond’s moralizing of the West is weakly substantiated. Take his advice to “Western” moms: go tribal. Hold your children more often (or always), breast-feed them on demand (or at least until they are three years old), and learn to place them upright in prams rather than lying them down so your child can share your perspective on life. These moral improvements will improve your child’s motor-neural skills and they will make society a better place. Too bad Diamond doesn’t have evidence to confirm any of this. There’s no proof tribal women do these things regularly, or that they do so willingly, or that tribal children grow up better, stronger or smarter because of such actions. Nor do we have evidence that Western moms and dads fail to do these things. Diamond says he’s not romanticizing tribal life, but it’s hard to figure out what he’s doing when he tells the individualized, non-communitarian parents of the West to adopt tribal “allo-parenting” techniques.
- A review in The Telegraph offers a more positive take: “Jared Diamond, the author of the fantastic Guns, Germs and Steel – notable not only for its hugely sensible discussions of race, empire and civilisation, but also for its clear-eyed and important look at the relative sizes of great ape genitals – has written a new book called The World Until Yesterday, it’s about what the West can learn from other civilisations. I’m always a bit dubious about that sort of thing, not because there is nothing that the West can learn — that’s clearly not true — but because it’s always difficult to walk a line between sensibly looking for useful information, and the sort of full-blown tie-dye hippy thing where you start using Ayurvedic medicine and talking about chakras. But I have no doubt that Diamond, who is a good scientist and spent years living with Papua New Guinean tribes, will be able to walk that line.”
• Reflections on Sudan studies
The Sudan Vision Daily carried an article about the anthropological research of Richard Lobban and Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, staring in 1970 when they launch their doctoral field studies and archival research. Later, in 1981 Carolyn and Richard, along with other colleagues incorporated the Sudan Studies Association.
• Snow activism in Syracuse, N.Y.
Knee-high snow build-up in Syracuse prompted citizen action, given the lack of code enforcement in the city.
Every Saturday, a group from the Westside Residents Coalition goes out with their shovels, start chopping the ice and scooping the snow until they hit cement. A grant bought 50 shovels and pays for cocoa and snacks for those who show.
“I think everyone recognizes this is a problem. It’s just not clear how to solve it,” said John Burdick, professor of cultural anthropology and chair of the anthropology department at Syracuse University, helped start the group. One of his areas of academic interest in grassroots activism.
• “Snow:” you know it when you see it
According to an article in the Washington Post, a longstanding debate in anthropological linguistics began over a century ago with the writings of founding figure Franz Boas: “… Boas didn’t mean to spark a long argument. Traveling through the icy wastes of Baffin Island in northern Canada during the 1880s, Boas simply wanted to study the life of the local Inuit people, joining their sleigh rides, trading caribou skins and learning their folklore. As he wrote proudly to his fiancee, ‘I am now truly like an Eskimo … I scarcely eat any European foodstuffs any longer but am living entirely on seal meat.’ He was particularly intrigued by their language, noting the elaborate terms used to describe the frozen landscape: ‘aqilokoq’ for ‘softly falling snow’ and ‘piegnartoq’ for ‘the snow [that is] good for driving sled,’ to name just two.
“Mentioning his observations in the introduction to his 1911 book Handbook of American Indian Languages, he ignited the claim that Eskimos have dozens, or even hundreds, of words for snow. Since then, many linguists considered this assertion to be based on sloppy scholarship and journalistic exaggeration.
“The latest evidence, however, suggests that Boas was right all along. Igor Krupnik, a cultural anthropologist at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Washington, believes that Boas was right. Krupnik and others charted the vocabulary of about 10 Inuit and Yupik dialects and concluded that they indeed have many more words for snow than English does. Central Siberian Yupik has 40 such terms, while the Inuit dialect spoken in Canada’s Nunavik region has at least 53, including ‘matsaaruti,’ for wet snow that can be used to ice a sleigh’s runners, and ‘pukak,’ for the crystalline powder snow that looks like salt.”
• More linguistic wars: Everett said to be losing to Chomsky
According to The Canberra Times, the documentary, The Grammar of Happiness, will soon air in Australia. It portrays the David and Goliath contest between Daniel Everett and Noam Chomsky on the “theory of language” as universal (Chomsky) or shaped by specific cultural contexts (Everett who has lived with the Piraha Indians of the Amazon for many years):
“The makers of this documentary, Australia’s Essential Media and Entertainment, have cleverly used the conspiracy hook to draw us into a scholarly debate that in every likelihood would not otherwise have reached beyond academic journals. American Daniel Everett was a devout missionary when he first decamped to the Amazon more than 30 years ago to save the Piraha tribe. Realising they didn’t need the lessons of God, he began studying their language, identifying some peculiar traits (no words for colour, numbers, nor tenses) and controversially claiming their language lacks recursion, the ability to build an infinite number of sentences within sentences. The latter claim set him on a collision course with revered intellectual Noam Chomsky.
“If Everett’s claim that culture rather than genetics had shaped the Piraha language, the theory of universal language would be undermined. The issues come to a head when a team of cognitive scientists from MIT are prevented by Brazilian authorities from visiting the Piraha to gather fresh evidence. The film presents an interesting case study of anthropology and theories of language, while strongly suggesting the debate Everett is losing has less to do with science than political correctness.”
• Muslims in Hong Kong marginalized by language
The South China Post reported on how Muslims in Hong Kong can speak in fluent Cantonese and are accepted as Hongkongers, but are still marginalized in the city with local schools lacking Chinese language classes tailored to their second-language needs. The article quotes Paul O’Connor, adjunct assistant professor in the Chinese University anthropology department, who has studied the history of Muslims in Hong Kong since 2003:
“They need institutional apparatus to actually be able to access further education, vocational education; to actually contribute, to actually be able to fill in forms they get at the doctor’s office … Right now, they feel Hong Kong is a free society and a free place … but there will come a time where, if they’re increasingly peripheral and they cannot contribute to society, there’s going to be real disaffection.”
O’Connor has interviewed 37 young Muslims about their daily lives and perceptions of society since 2006. Many of them believe in infinite opportunities, but the realities of not being able to read and write Chinese as well as native Chinese students — despite speaking fluent Cantonese — are a barrier once they leave school.
• Talking the talk in California
Researchers from Stanford University have launched a new research project, Voices of California, to determine if Californians have accents. So far, they have visited Redding, Merced and Bakersfield. Penelope Eckert, professor of linguistics and anthropology at Stanford, believes there’s more to it than vowel shifting and vocabulary: “It’s really important to portray California as it is,” Eckert told Stanford News. “People have this view of California based on Hollywood, and California really is a very diverse state.” Eckert and her researchers say they’ve found distinctions between coastal California and Central Valley, such as influences of southern twang from Dust Bowl migrants. The presence of many Latinos in California affects language as well. Participants talk about their lives as well discuss special words, expressions, and pronunciations. Each reads a list of words that researchers think have distinctive pronunciations in California.
• Moon landing site now part of New Mexico cultural heritage
In 1999, a student asked New Mexico State University anthropology professor Beth O’Leary a question during a presentation she was giving on cultural preservation. He asked if federal preservation laws applied to the moon. It stumped her. So she went on a mission with some colleagues known as the “Apollo 11 Preservation Task Force,” to establish guidelines to protect the Apollo 11 Tranquility Base, or the spot where humans first landed on the moon.
“This is all part of human heritage. We need to think outside of the box and look at ways to preserve certain things,” O’Leary said. “If that goes, what do you show your kids? What do you tell your kids about your lives and your country and your heritage?” Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin “…. created an archaeological site,” O’Leary said. They show what kind of technology humans were working with at the time, comparable to early arrowheads, spears and the first evidence of fire. So this site deserves protection, just as national monuments are well-preserved and protected on Earth. Otherwise those 1969 footprints will be erased by lunar robots or future astronauts. O’Leary and the team have also added the lunar site to the historic registers of New Mexico and California. O’Leary says: “It became a property listed in the New Mexico register … We’re hoping to put it on more state registers.”
• Cadavers are making a comeback
Several years ago, there was a move away from cadavers in anatomy classrooms to “virtual learning.” Now there is a renewed emphasis on learning from human cadavers. An article in the San Jose Mercury quotes Richard Baldwin, laboratory manager for the anthropology department at UC Santa Cruz. “You never know what you’re going to get,” he said. The organs, he noted, can be damaged by disease or have subtle differences in placement — things that students won’t see in a digital anatomy atlas, no matter how accurate it is. Cabrillo College student Gordon Landon, a personal trainer and aspiring public health specialist, said the anatomy class helps him point precisely to a muscle and explain how an exercise is working it. But he admitted that the first day he spent with the cadavers, he was sick to his stomach and had to leave the lab or risk throwing up. Baldwin has had several UCSC students who, reeling from the loss of a grandparent or other family member, decide to drop the class and return another year. Some never return.
• Take that anthropology degree and…
…become a famous movie producer. Gigi Pritzker, an heiress who produces movies, is poised to expand her company atop the one that got away from Warner with a film version of ”Ender’s Game” set for release on November 1. A tale of violent interplanetary warfare, it is intended to extend the young adult line of those recently merged studios, whose blockbusters, ”The Hunger Games” and the ”Twilight” films, have had about $4 billion in worldwide ticket sales. Pritzker, now 50, is the daughter of the entrepreneur Jay Pritzker, who created the Hyatt hotel chain, and whose death in 1999 left her with a fortune valued by Forbes Magazine last year at $1.9 billion. In an interview, she declined to discuss her wealth last week. But she did explain that her father was supportive when, after studying anthropology at Stanford University, and then taking courses in documentary filmmaking, she joined a friend to found Odd Lot, a New York-based company that made music videos and public service advertisements, among other things. Successes like those, Pritzker said, suggest there is a path that can lead from small, and almost accidental, adventures in the film business to something resembling a major enterprise. ”It’s only in looking back that you see, maybe there was a pattern,” Pritzker said by telephone from her home in Chicago, “‘I’m very opportunistic by nature.” This week will find Pritzker at the Sundance Film Festival.
…become a successful Chinese micro-blogger. Bloggers use allusions, pictograms, word-plays and nicknames to get round the internet blocks and to evade the censors. They have helped push China to dump unpopular construction projects, to start paying real attention to concerns about pollution and environmental degradation and come down harder on obvious corruption. Hundreds of millions of Chinese voices clamoring for change are hard to ignore, even for hardened Chinese government officials. Elain Sui, a 25-year-old university student from the southern city of Guangzhou, checks her weibo account before she even gets out of bed every morning. She says microblogger power has changed her homeland: “China has changed a lot because of Sina Weibo. Sina Weibo is one of the most important platforms for Chinese people.” She has a degree in anthropology, so she is interested in the way people adapt to different situations. “There might be too much censorship…but I think it’s changing because the government doesn’t have the energy any more. I think weibo is really a good platform for people to express themselves. The Chinese government is changing now. Communication with citizens is more important than censorship.” Nonetheless, Elain didn’t want her photo taken and did not provide her full Chinese name.
…become an aviation museum curator. Sarah Willett was hired a few weeks ago as curator in the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum in Tyler, Texas. “I’ve already learned a lot about aviation, but I still have a lot to learn.” Willett, who has a B.A degree in anthropology and a masters degree in museum science from Texas Tech University, faces the huge task of identifying and creating a computerized record of hundreds of thousands of objects. Topics span from flight pioneers such as Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, to the space age. Several rooms are devoted to the history of air combat. The exhibit chronicling the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia over East Texas in 2003 includes the famous photos of glowing shuttle debris streaking across a blue sky taken by Tyler cardiologist Dr. Scott Lieberman. Around the corner from that is a flight simulator once used to train commercial airline pilots.
…become an activist for sex worker safety. Isabel Chen, a University of British Columbia medical student has launched an online fundraiser for a pilot project to provide 100 sex trade workers in Vancouver’s downtown eastside with a GPS-enabled panic button that would send a text message to summon help. While the panic button idea isn’t new, Chen is proposing to use GPS-enabled texting technology to create a mobile safety net for sex workers. Once the panic button is pressed, it would send a text message alert to a specified phone number, giving the user’s GPS coordinates. “We figured out a way to keep it low cost and relatively low tech and still preserve a woman’s sense of anonymity rather than having to give over her coordinates to the police or a private company,” said Chen. She earned a B.A. in cultural anthropology and a Master’s of Public Health at Yale University.
…become a U.S. army strategist and then a public policy student. Nathan K. Finney is a United States Army Strategist currently attending the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He holds a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Kansas and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona. He recently blogged about Values and National Security: The Value of an Education in Power.
• Archaeology workshops for prisoner rehab in Wales
Archaeology is being used in a Bridgend prison to help rehabilitate offenders. Parc Prison has been holding special workshops to contribute towards the rehabilitation of its inmates. The project, called Motivating Offender Rehabilitation through Archeological Recording, Investigation and Analysis, is a pilot scheme run by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment body.
• New BBC series on invention
University of Bristol industrial archaeologist, Cassie Newland, will be presenting the new landmark BBC Two series, The Genius of Inventions, which starts on January 24. Newland, a teaching fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology joins Michael Moseley and Professor Mark Miodownik as they explore how inventions changed the lives of ordinary people over the centuries. The series will run for four weeks and will look at speed, power, communication and the visual image. Newland is an expert on the development of telegraphy during the nineteenth century. She completed her Ph.D. in Bristol’s Department of Archaeology and now teaches on the MA in Historical and Landscape Archaeology.
• Fog of war: no luck in search finding buried Spitfires in Burma
Several news sources carried pieces about the failed expedition to find Spitfires allegedly buried in Burma at the end of the Second World War. A British team of archaeologists and documentary makers, sponsored by the computer company Wargaming, set off for Burma in the new year. The team hoped to recover Spitfires at Mingaladon, a Royal Air Force airfield that now serves as the Rangoon airport. Archaeologists believe there are no planes buried at the sites where they have been digging, and they have concluded that evidence does not support the original claim that as many as 124 Spitfires were buried at the end of the war. Wargaming.net, the firm financing the dig, has also said there are no planes. But project leader David Cundall, a Lancashire farmer, says they are looking in the wrong place. He told the BBC that he feels very frustrated but is determined to keep up his campaign, remaining convinced that Spitfires are buried in Burma.
• Medical malpractice in the Renaissance: death by gangrene for Medici warrior
The legendary Renaissance warrior Giovanni de’ Medici did not die from an improperly amputated leg, as widely believed, but an infection. Led by Gino Fornaciari, professor of forensic anthropology and director of the pathology Museum at the University of Pisa, the exhumation of his body aimed at establishing whether the surgery carried on the celebrated condottiero (mercenary soldier) was improperly performed. Although he had acquired a reputation for invincibility, Giovanni of the Black Bands (1498-1526) died at only 28 after being hit by a cannon ball, in a battle in Lombardy on November 25, 1526. He was fighting the Imperialist troops marching to the sack of Rome. Resulting amputation of his leg apparently led to gangrene.
• Whose bones are these?
In the run-up to Mexico’s bicentennial celebration in 2010 of independence from Spain, then-President Felipe Caldéron oversaw an elaborate parade to escort the bones of 13 of the nation’s founding fathers from their resting place at Mexico City’s iconic Angel statue to a national museum. The parade included full military honors and crypts with skulls and other skeletal fragments of war leaders placed on velvet and transported in horse-drawn carriages. Millions of Mexicans from across the country paid their respects. But not all of the bones, it turns out, belong to the “founding fathers.” One was a woman, others belonged to children, and some came from deer. Jose Antonio Pompa, a top member of the investigating team from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH says the mix of bones is explainable since the bodies of many of the national heroes were treated carelessly, allowed to mingle with other dead in cemeteries, and only decades later recovered and given their proper place.
• Archaeology in a conflict zone
Despite much turmoil in the region, an Italian archaeologist is digging at a famous site that sits on Turkish-Syrian border. According to an article in The New York Times, the Syrian civil war is not the first conflict to complicate Professor Nicolò Marchetti‘s efforts to turn Karkemish, an ancient city site on the banks of the Euphrates, on Turkey’s southern border and inside a restricted military zone, into a public archaeology park. Before his team started digging, under the watchful eyes of armed Turkish soldiers, he had to make sure that land mines planted in the 1950s had all been cleared away. Marchetti teaches Near Eastern, or pre-classical, archaeology at the University of Bologna and has led excavations at Karkemish on and off for two years after being granted the first access allowed to anyone in decades. The aim is to open a first stage to tourism by October 2014. That goal remains realistic, he said during a tour of the site late last year.
• Searching for Maori origins
A Hawaiian linguistics professor believes eastern Polynesian ancestors, including Maori, began their colonization of the Pacific from remote atolls near the Solomon Islands, not Samoa as has long been believed. It is from these coral outcroppings, which barely break the Pacific Ocean and sustain tiny populations, that the original homeland of Pacific peoples, Hawaiki, may be located. Professor William Wilson has been a key figure in the revitalization of the Hawaiian language movement. In a paper published in Oceanic Linguistics, Wilson argues that while anthropologists and linguists have assumed East Polynesia, including New Zealand, was settled from Central Western Polynesia, most likely Samoa, his study suggests otherwise. The paper details 73 lexical and grammatical structures that are shared by the outlier and eastern Polynesian languages but not by Samoan or any other western Polynesian languages. He believes outlier populations, sophisticated navigators, voyaged to Samoa and back to the outlier atolls. After a time, the language evolved and it was from the atolls that the ancestors of Maori and others eventually set out. Otago University archaeologist Professor Richard Walter said it sounded plausible and should be tested archaeologically.
• On Fijian origins
Commentary by Christopher Griffin in The Fiji Times states that recent discussion on the origins of the first Fijians following upon Margaret Wise’s Fiji Times (8/12) coverage of a presentation to lawyers at Natadola by Alisi Daurewa have been “a little confusing, to say the least, especially the alleged connection between Lapita culture and Tamil Nadu” [South India]. Dr. Christopher Griffin has a first degree in sociology and doctorate in social anthropology and formerly taught sociology at the University of the South Pacific in Samoa. He. Before retiring to Fiji he lectured at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, where he is an Honorary Senior Fellow.
• India-Australia relations 4,000 years ago
People from India migrated to Australia and mixed with Aborigines 4,000 years ago. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, report “evidence of substantial gene flow between Indian populations and Australia about 4000 years ago” The researchers believe the Indian migrants may have introduced the dingo to Australia. They also suggest that Indians may have brought stone tools called microliths to their new home. Findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “For a long time, it has been commonly assumed that following the initial colonization, Australia was largely isolated as there wasn’t much evidence of further contact with the outside world,” explained Prof Mark Stoneking, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
• Early Nevada textiles on display
Sandals, mats and bags dating to at least 9,000 years ago give a rare glimpse of prehistoric life documented at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. Archaeologist Pat Barker will discuss the prehistoric textiles in the Great Basin at the museum’s Frances Humphrey lecture series 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday.
“Because of the excellent preservation due to the Great Basin’s dry climate, Nevada is a great place to study textiles,” Barker said. “Looking at children’s sandals and footwear with holes where the ball of the foot or heel would have been connects us to prehistoric people in a real way.”
Working for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and now as a museum volunteer, Barker has been studying the museum’s collections for more than a decade. He attended the University of California, Riverside, earning a doctorate degree in anthropology and is president of the Great Basin Anthropological Association and a board member of the Nevada Rock Art Foundation.
• Exercise for your brain
ABC News carried an article about tips for doing well on the upcoming free Mensa IQ test. One of them includes the value of exercise to promote brain power, as demonstrated by anthropological research: “According to a study published in January by David Raichlen of the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, there is strong evidence that bouts of exercise and a long-term training regiment increases the size of brain components and improves cognitive performance.”
The New Zealander of the Year title is awarded to someone who has made a major contribution to the nation, outstanding service to the country, and inspiration through achievement. One of the finalists this year is Dame Anne Salmond. Dame Anne is a Distinguished Professor of Maori Studies and Anthropology at Auckland University and the author of seven award-winning books on Maori life and early contacts between Europeans and islanders in Polynesia. The finalists were selected from 700 nominations, and the winners will be announced at a gala dinner on February 28.
Kathryn Weedman Arthur, professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, was awarded the Gordon R. Willey prize from the American Anthropological Association, which published her article in its journal, American Anthropologist.
The prize is given to the best archaeology paper published in the journal during the past three years as determined by its officers. She is recognized for documenting the use and creation of stone tools by Ethiopian hide workers and providing evidence that challenges entrenched assumptions about history, invention and the roles of women.
“Man the toolmaker” and “woman the gatherer” are ideas that have been embedded in Western analysis of ancient and prehistoric cultures since the Victorian era, Arthur said. As such, very little of material culture, the discovered objects that help archaeologists understand the daily lives of long-past peoples, is attributed to women. “In our Western-centric reconstructions of the past, women bear children while men hunt, butcher, explore, lead rituals and produce technology – including stone tools,” Arthur wrote in the introduction to her prize-winning article, “Feminine Knowledge and Skill Reconsidered: Women and Flaked Stone Tools.” In the Konso region in southern Ethiopia, Arthur found a group of skilled women creating and using stone-flake scrapers to process raw animal hides with methods that provide a window to prehistory. She has interviewed women hide workers, learning their methods, and indexing their tools and materials.