“setting the table” exhibit proves appetizing

Gerard H.Gaskin; Food For Thought: Viewers examine a detailed exhibit on the culture of food and the way humans interact with it.

The Longyear Museum of Anthropology officially opened the exhibit titled “Setting the Table: Food, Place, Community” on Thursday, February 8 at 4:30 p.m. The turnout was impressive, with students, professors, and members  of the Hamilton community showing up to appreciate art and discuss the universally shared impact of food on community. In the spirit of appreciating food, refreshments were served at the exhibit’s opening, including cupcakes from Flour and Salt.

The exhibit draws inspiration from Colgate University faculty and students, including students enrolled in the Fall 2017 course entitled “Food” with Associate Professor of Sociology Christopher Henke.

In addition, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Native American Studies Jordan Kerber, worked with curators regarding food-related objects representing Native communities in the Longyear Museum’s archaeology collection.

The exhibit investigates why food is so essential on both an individual and a community-based level. As stated on the opening sign in the exhibit, “We eat for sustenance and for health, for identity and for tradition, for family and for love, for comfort and for strength. We eat to remember, to survive, to revitalize, to sustain, to nurture, and to commune.”

Crucial topics are addressed through art, including food systems, foodways, business, identity, health and well-being and cultural traditions. In addition to shaping identities and communities, food is also a means through which social and political change is activated.

Student curators organized, researched and executed sections of the exhibit. One particularly impactful aspect featured stories from international students about their favorite food dishes and their significance, including countries such as India and South Korea.

“We wanted to have a section on international voices, and the best way to do that was with international students at Colgate. We did a lot of research about how food and memory are tied together. We had students send us stories about identity, memory and their childhood, plus pictures,” student curator sophomore Olivia Miller said.

Sophomore Rupika Chakraverti, from Kolkata, India, shared one of the stories featured in this section of the exhibit; she spoke about the intersections between food, politics, rights and freedom, all connected through something as simple as beef rolls.

“When I think of food from home, I am filled not only with nostalgia, but also with a sense of pride… As Kolkata becomes one of the increasingly rare places left in India to freely eat beef without a fear of judgment, I grow more and more thankful to grow up in a city which at least tries to protect the freedom of its residents,” Chakraverti said.

Another section of the exhibit focused on local businesses in Central New York, including Flour and Salt, G&M Farms, Good Nature Brewery, Old Home Distillers, Chobani, Kriemhild Dairy Farms and the Common Thread Community Farm. This section raised questions about how to define “local food,” facilitating a sense of community through food, and the importance of sustaining small-scale economies.

The local business section was also coupled with history, including the fact that in 1930, there were 3,208 farms in Madison County, while today that number has drastically declined to 838.

Christy DeLair, PhD, the Associate Curator for the Longyear Museum of Anthropology, made the opening statements for the exhibit.

“[Food] presents challenges because [it] isn’t exactly a material we put into museums. We don’t have all of the objects in the museum that would allow us to tell some of these stories about local food, so we had to work with a lot of community members,” DeLair said.

Because Central New York has such a rich history of Native American communities in the area, the exhibit included a section about the impact of their food traditions. This raised attention to the issue of colonization and violence forcing Native Americans to relocate and become disconnected with their food traditions and beliefs.

“Each section of the exhibit touches on something different because there are so many facets to food and what it means to people. During my time at Colgate, I’ve watched Flour and Salt grow, so it was important to have a section in the exhibit about local businesses like that. We have all of these materials in the museum in addition to Native people, such as the Haudenosaunee, all around us,” student curator and junior Sierra Sunshine said.

The exhibit will continue to run through June 3, 2018.

Written by: Allegra Padula, Maroon-News Staff

Note: This post is republished from The Colgate Maroon-News, with permission

anthro in the news 3/12/18

Gowns made from recycled materials. Credit: James Wendlinger/The South China Morning Post

activist anthropology meets sustainable fashion

An article in The South China Morning Post reported on Sustainable Sunday Couture in Hong Kong which features Filipino domestic workers as models and dresses made from recycled materials. In addition to an exhibition of gowns at the Philippine consulate in Admiralty, the organizers of Sustainable Sunday Couture decided to use the city as a promotional catwalk. Julie Ham, the project coordinator and an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Hong Kong, and Chen Ju-chen, lecturer in anthropology at Chinese University who specializes in Filipino beauty pageants, are working with a group of volunteer models, make-up artists, dressers, and photographers for the project.

we have to try

Jane Goodall, 2015. Credit: Wikipedia

The Huffington Post published an article about Dame Jane Goodall, as she nears her 84th birthday. The primatologist is angry that humanity has killed thousands of orangutans and frustrated that we, in our quest to grow and conquer, have changed the planet forever: “Goodness, if we could spend the same money learning about the world that we spend on wars…. We’re so stupid aren’t we? We seem to have lost the connection between our clever brains and our hearts.” But she has hope: “We truly have harmed the world, but I still think there’s a window of time for us to try and turn things around. It can never get back to the way it was … but we have to try.” Goodall is one of the most recognized scientists of our time. She was one of several pioneering women in the 1960s who forged a pathway through lecture halls filled with men. Her research on chimpanzees changed the understanding of animal intelligence and human evolution.

anthropology works to solve murders

AllAfrica republished an article from The Conversation Africa by Jessica Leigh Thornton, a postgraduate anthropology researcher at Nelson Mandela University. She is conducting research in the Eastern Cape province which has the highest murder rate in South Africa. She writes: “My ongoing research explores whether insights and approaches drawn from anthropology could further assist law enforcers in solving murders. I’m focusing particularly on whether different traditional and cultural styles of hunting can be anthropologically applied as a classification grid for offenders. It uses the act of hunting, a well known concept, to describe a murder. This would describe the murderer as a particular type of hunter. Stalking, baiting, trapping and making use of camouflage are terms that may be used to describe the action. Investigators will get insight into the offender’s pre- and post-murder behaviour, their ‘hunting” grounds,’ and who they may choose as a victim. Using a grid of this kind improves the readability of the profile for police officers, as it describes the offender in ways that are familiar to them. The classification grid is easier for officers to relate to, since they too are ‘hunting’ – for the killers…An anthropological approach may possibly assist police officers by providing a more holistic narrative of the surrounding elements. This could in turn contribute to solving more cases in the various sectors and procedures of a criminal investigation.”

politics in Zimbabwe politics

CNBC Africa carried an audio piece about the current state of politics in Zimbabwe. Over 100 days ago long-time leader Robert Mugabe was ousted, and Emmerson Mnangagwa took office promising change and progressive steps to a more democratic future. David Moore, professor of anthropology and development studies at the University of Johannesburg, discusses Zimbabwe’s political evolution.

take that anthro degree and…

…become a writer. India Amos is a freelance writer and blogger. In her latest piece, published by The Washington Post, she writes about not being able to find professional work with her B.A. in her home state of West Virginia: “After attending college out of state (where I earned a scholarship for representing geographic and financial diversity — there were no other first-generation, West Virginia residents at my liberal arts school that year), I considered moving home to work. However, armed with my bachelor’s degree in modern languages and anthropology, I was met with bleak professional options. In 2017, WalletHub ranked West Virginia the worst state for job prospects. With my particular background, my options seemed to be limited to working in libraries or waitressing. My classmates who didn’t move out of state are mostly working as cashiers and servers, and there are a select few who work for the city or became bankers. Since the decline in manufacturing and coal mining employment opportunities, our industries have shifted to prioritize jobs that relate to health care and social work. My years reading Margaret Mead’s ethnographies and learning Spanish and Italian did little to prepare me for either of those fields. And since I’d never done clinicals or spent time studying child development, I felt like a noncompetitive applicant for most jobs that required college degrees in Wheeling, my home town. I felt as if there was no place for my skills and passions, so I moved out of state.”

….work in a family business. Shloka Mehta is the Mumbai-based director of Rosy Blue Diamonds, one of the world’s largest diamond manufacturers, headed by her father. She also co-founded ConnectFor, an NGO that matches volunteers in the Mumbai area with NGOs that need them. Mehta has a B.A. in anthropology from Princeton University and a Masters in Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

forensic re-study points to Amelia Earhart

USA Today and several other media reported on an analysis of a collection of bones discovered on a South Pacific Ocean island 80 years ago that “likely” belonged to famed aviator Amelia Earhart. Richard Jantz, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Tennessee, determined the bones “have more similarity to Earhart than to 99% of individuals in a large reference sample.” Jantz said, “until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers.” Theories abound about what happened to Earhart and her navigator Frederick Noonan after they disappeared July 2, 1937, during an attempt to fly around the world. One speculation supported by Jantz is that Earhart was a castaway on Nikumaroro Island, east of Papua New Guinea. The study findings are published in the journal Forensic Anthropology.

subway construction reveals wonders

The New York Times reported on continually emerging archaeological discoveries as Rome expands its subway system. Two years after the remains of a second-century military barracks were found during the excavation of the Amba Aradam station, archaeologists presented the remains of a richly decorated domus, or house, that they believe belonged to the commander of the military post. The article quotes Simona Morretta, the state archaeologist responsible for the site: “we didn’t imagine that we’d find a house with a central courtyard,” a fountain and at least 14 rooms, one of which appears to have been heated.

anthropology professor Linda Spurlock helps bring names to victims in her down time

Linda Spurlock is a professor in the department of Anthropology on the weekdays, but in her down time, she does work that takes her mind out of textbooks and into the medical examiner’s office.

Spurlock is a consultant for the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s office as a biological anthropologist and facial reconstruction artist. She helps reconstruct skeletons and draw sketches of what the people would have looked like before death.

She has been more vigorously involved within the past two years by working on and off for the medical examiner’s office since the early 2000s. Specifically, in the last six months when her sketches have helped to identify two bodies.

 “I was the kind of person when I was younger that loved art class in grade school and high school. I never took formal training, I was always good at copying things. But workshops really improved me. They made you do about eight faces a day,” Spurlock said.

Coming from more of a science background, Spurlock decided to take art workshops to help improve on her skills and techniques. She gives much credit to her teachers, Karen T. Taylor, forensic and portrait artist, and Betty Pat Gatliff, a pioneer in forensic art and facial reconstruction.

Spurlock always had an interest in bones, but it was not until she was in Puerto Rico, holding remains in a prehistoric cemetery that she realized she could figure out what the person probably looked like.

“I was standing there holding the skulls and thought ‘I would love to put a face on these skulls.’ But I didn’t know how. So I got out some journal articles and tried to teach myself and made an attempt,” she said.

One of the hardest things that she encountered early on in her job was putting the emotions behind her and keeping her work specific to the science.

“You have to get rid of the deep, troubling emotions so that you can do a better job. You want to be wearing your scientific hat. You want to have a scientific approach so that you can a do better job for this person. If you let too much emotion creep into it the pictures don’t come out like they should,” Spurlock said.

When Spurlock receives a new case there have already been many steps and procedures done by the medical examiner to try and identify the body.

“When we start to get into more specialized questions about bone abnormalities or bone interpretations of skeletal remains recovered, that’s when I would need to reach out to somebody like Dr. Spurlock,” said Dr. Thomas Gilson, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner and Executive Director of Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Laboratory.

He went on to explain how Spurlock’s work has helped lead to successful identifications.

“We have tried in the past to do sketches of people, but Dr. Spurlock is two for two in my office. A lot of times when you are to that point when you have exhausted all of your leads, in terms of fingerprints or DNA profiles, you turn to the public to identify the person in the sketch,” Dr. Gilson said.

Before doing the sketches, Spurlock does extensive research to gain in-depth knowledge of the person she is going to be helping find the identity of. Each case she works on takes her an estimated fifteen to twenty hours in total.

From measuring the bones and doing a biological profile, to researching certain hairstyles and age appropriate facial features, the end result is a full face and profile sketch.

“What I do only opens up new investigative leads. I do a likeness and then the cops get a call and even then I have not identified them. They then have a to do a DNA match between the victim and the family. I’m part of a chain of events that leads towards the identity,” she said.

In the past six months, Spurlock’s sketches have helped identify two people, a four-year-old boy and a forty-year-old woman. Both sketches were released to the public and within hours, people were calling with names of the victims.

The most recent case she has helped with was of a 4-year-old boy whose remains were found in a plastic bag in the backyard of a home that was unoccupied. She was able to tell the age of the child by the development of the existing and incoming teeth. The image was sketched a few weeks after the medical examiner’s office had released information about the body to see if anyone had reported a missing person.

Fox 8 — Cleveland did a story on Spurlock and her work with the boy’s case and the same night the story aired, the boy’s mother called the police and identified the victim.

“It’s all about the results at the end of the day and Dr. Spurlock has had great results. The art piece of her skills is a very unique thing. To get two identifications from forensic sketches in a year, that’s exceptional,” Dr. Gilson said.

The success that Spurlock has had from her work has not only been recognized by professionals within her field, students have been made aware of her work and are amazed and proud of what she has done.

“Reading and hearing about what a Kent State professor has done in a world so different from teaching shows how diverse and skilled Dr. Spurlock is. The work that she has done to help identify the victims is eye-opening and remarkable,” said Hannah Morrow, sophomore zoology major.

Most of the time Spurlock does not learn if the victims she has drawn have been identified and many are left as cold cases. When a body is identified from the sketches it makes Spurlock proud of the work she has done to help the investigation.

Written by: Amber Selfridge

Note: This post is republished from KentWired.com, with permission

anthro in the news 3/5/18

A view of the U.S Congress building from Garfield Circle. Credit: 
Matthew Straubmuller/Flickr

speaking truth to power

STAT interviewed Kathryn Clancy, professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, about her activist work in addressing sexual harassment in science in the U.S. Last week, she took her findings to the U.S. Congress. Clancy has studied the many ways sexual harassment pervades science, from university research labs to field sites. She has surveyed researchers about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault during scientific field work. She has called out universities, which she says have not done enough to create change in research labs, to her thousands of Twitter followers. In the interview, she comments: “I have some thoughts I’m sharing in terms of things that I think we need more funding for and mandates that Congress could think about to improve the situation. We don’t need more unfunded mandates. Universities, if they’re going to start doing things right, they need money to do it right. If Congress really wants to eliminate sexual harassment, they have to figure out how to fund science better. [That] means creating some targeted funding initiatives toward empirically looking at how to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace. That would allow us to do a better job thinking about designing interventions.”

keep your eyes on guns

Credit: meketrefe/Pixabay

The Tri-City Herald (Washington State) published a commentary by Mark Mansperger, associate professor of anthropology and world civilizations at Washington State University-Tri-Cities. He writes: “Instead of taking a long-term strategy of turning our schools and other public places into fortresses, or implementing measures as senseless as arming teachers, let’s face the obvious and travel the path that rational people have done in most other advanced nations: Take meaningful steps to reduce the availability of guns.”

take that anthro degree and…

…work in higher education leadership. Charles R. Hale has been appointed dean of social sciences at the University of California at Santa Barbara. An anthropologist, he has done fieldwork in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras.  As the SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences, Hale oversees 12 academic departments and programs with more than 6,500 undergraduate and 400 graduate students. Previously a professor of African and African Diaspora studies and anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, he comes to his new position primed to embrace UCSB’s interdisciplinary approach to academics:  “I’ve always been an interdisciplinary scholar…I believe that social sciences need to strengthen core areas of excellence that traditionally have been discipline-specific, while constantly crossing boundaries and collaborating beyond our comfort zone.” He is known for his extensive work with the Miskitu, Creole and Garifuna peoples of Central America, on how societies transition from mono-ethnic governance toward the recognition of rights to autonomy, territory and other forms of multicultural citizenship. Hale’s research has been supported by funds from the National Science Foundation and the Ford, Wenner-Gren, MacArthur, and Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundations. At Texas, he was director of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) and led the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, which joined LLILAS with the renowned Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. At UCSB, Hale wants to emphasize the potential of social science to address issues of equity, sustainability, and democratic voice: “I’m keen on seeing how social science research can, first of all, be communicated effectively across broad publics so that people understand the importance of what we do, and that we are clear that our research is both excellent in scholarly terms and oriented addressing key social problems that need critical thinking…I’m interested in initiatives that are oriented toward problem-solving in society to take on those big questions, ideally from interdisciplinary perspectives…Often there’s a perception that the biggest problems of our society are resolved through technological advancements…I think that’s always part of the equation. But the stumbling blocks often end up being the socio-political conditions that make the hypothetical solutions actually work. That’s where social science research becomes absolutely essential.”

…be an elementary school teacher. Erin Thesing is an American elementary school teacher who worked for several years at schools in Philadelphia and the District of Columbia before moving to France. Last summer, she applied for a dream job at an international school in Paris, where she had long wanted to live. She had no expectation of being chosen, but in a big surprise, she was hired as a fourth-grade teacher and started there last fall. She is blogging about her experiences in Paris for The Washington Post. Thesing has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of New Hampshire and an M.A. in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania.

prehistoric burial site off Florida’s coast 

The Miami Herald reported on the discovery of a prehistoric Native American burial site found underwater off the Florida coast, the first discovery of underwater preservation from the Archaic Period in the Americas. Through sea level rise in the last ice age, the area was a pond that was 9 feet above sea level. Researchers intend to reconstruct the landscape of the area to learn how it was able to survive rising tides. The Bureau of Archaeological Research of the Florida Department of State is developing a long-term management plan for the site and is in contact with the Seminole Tribe. “We are happy to be working, shoulder to shoulder, with the Bureau of Archaeological Research and the residents of Manasota Key to identify a preservation plan that will allow the ancestors to continue to rest peacefully and without human disturbance for the next 7,000 years,” said Paul Backhouse, tribal historic preservation officer of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

oldest figurative tattoos

As reported by National Public Radio (U.S.) and other media, University of Oxford Egyptologist  Renee Friedman has used infrared imaging to reveal tattoos on mummies at the British Museum, likely dating from 3932 to 3030 B.C.E. She is quoted as saying that it was “a big surprise when these tattoos just popped out under infrared…It’s quite remarkable what has gone undetected that, now, new technology, a little hand-held pre-converted infrared camera, is unlocking — a whole new world for us of body modification at such an early time.” For a century, the markings were thought to have been meaningless smudges, but the infrared imaging reveals they are well-known motifs common to the predynastic period. The team’s findings were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

infant skull binding may have conveyed privilege in ancient Andes

Above-ground tombs at the cemetery site of Yuraq Qaqa (Colca Valley, Peru).

The idea of binding and reshaping a baby’s head may make today’s parents cringe, but for families in the Andes between 1100-1450, cranial modification was all the rage.

Like Chinese foot binding, the practice may have been a marker of group identity. Its period of popularity in what is now Peru, before the expansion of the Inca empire, was marked by political upheaval, ecological stress and the emergence of new cultural practices. In a study published in the February edition of Current Anthropology, Matthew Velasco, assistant professor of anthropology, explores how head-shaping practices may have enabled political solidarity while furthering social inequality in the region.

Velasco analyzed hundreds of human skeletal remains from multiple tombs in the Colca Valley of highland Peru and discovered that before 1300 most people did not have modified heads. He found that the number of individuals with cranial modifications increased over time, from 39.2 percent to 73.7 percent during the later portion of the Late Intermediate Period.

Skeletal samples of two major ethnic groups showed that the Collaguas employed methods to make their heads assume a longer, narrower shape, while the Cavanas sought to make their heads wide and squat. Eventually, the elongated head shape of the Collaguas became the predominant style of modification in the upper Colca Valley. According to Velasco, this shift toward embodying a shared identity may have strengthened ties between groups engaged in protracted conflict with outsiders, including the Incas.

“The increased homogeny of head shapes suggests that modification practices contributed to the creation of a new collective identity and may have exacerbated emerging social differences,” Velasco said. “Head shape would be an obvious signifier of affiliation and could have encouraged unity among elites and increased cooperation in politics.”

Velasco found diversity at the local level: modified and unmodified heads buried in the same tomb, despite having apparently different life experiences. “So it doesn’t seem that cranial modifications are strictly an ethnic distinction,” Velasco said.

Whether head modification conferred distinct privileges and higher status is unclear, but Velasco found bio-archaeological evidence that modified females possessed greater access to diverse food options and were less likely to encounter violence. Cranial modification thus appears to be a factor in societal inequality, Velasco said.

Examining bones for signs of disease gives researchers significant information about childhood health. For example, the marrow in cranial cavities expands with poor nutrition or anemia, leaving identifiable marks – porous lesions – on the adult skull. “But there’s no clear indication that infants who had cranial modification were at higher risk of infant mortality,” Velasco said. He noted that the brain is malleable, so the volume of the brain doesn’t change with cranial modification, just the shape of the cavity.

One explanation for the cranial modifications is offered by a 16th-century Spanish colonial document Velasco examined, which described groups molding skulls into the shape of the volcano from their origin myth. “If this is true, then cranial modification reflects a deeply religious worldview and was fundamental to a person’s being and existence, and not simply a fashion statement,” Velasco said.

A grant from Cornell’s Institute for the Social Sciences will allow Velasco to explore whether cranial modification marked children with a privileged life experience, as he suspects, such that individuals with modified heads were buffered from environmental and social stressors during childhood, such as malnutrition or exposure to pathogens. This pilot study represents the first phase of Velasco’s comparative investigation into the health and way of life of distinct socio-economic segments of the Colca Valley population, to better understand how regional landscapes of health and disease structured persistent inequalities under the Inca and Spanish colonial regimes.

Written by: Linda B. Glaser

Note: This post is republished from the Cornell Chronicle, with permission

anthro in the news 2/26/18

Panorama of Bois Cheri Tea Plantation in Mauritius. Credit: Vincent Lim Show Chen/Flickr

happy 50th birthday, Mauritius

African Arguments published a piece by Sean Carey, honorary senior research fellow in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Manchester and anthropologyworks contributor. He writes: “The story of how Mauritius defied the gloomy predictions of its fate is well told. A few years before independence in 1968, Nobel-prize-winning economist James Meade wrote the little island in the Indian Ocean off as a basket case. A few years after independence, writer V. S. Naipaul dismissed the nation as an ‘overcrowded barracoon’. Yet Mauritius proved them wrong and went on to become one of Africa’s most lauded nations. It regularly tops indices for political freedoms, rule of law and human development on the continent. It has had ten competitive elections and seven peaceful transfers of power. And it is frequently held up as an exemplar of political stability and cohesion, containing within it several ethnic groups – including Hindus, Muslims, Afro-Creoles, and Sino- and Franco-Mauritius – all living together in relative harmony.” So there.

exodus from Puerto Rico

Change-of-address requests to the U.S. Postal Service from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to locations in the states and Washington, DC. Credit: CNN analysis, U.S. Postal Service/CNN

CNN reported on the heavy flow of migration from Puerto Rico to the United States following Hurricane Maria.  Before the hurricane hit Puerto Rico on September 20, there already was an unprecedented migration from the Caribbean island to the mainland United States, at least in part because of Puerto Rico’s financial crisis. Academics are using words such as “exodus” and “stampede” to describe the massive post-hurricane outflow of people. CNN quotes Jorge Duany, professor of anthropology at Florida International University: “This is the greatest migration ever from Puerto Rico since records have been taken.”

take that anthro degree and….

…become a researcher, writer, and documentary filmmaker. Andrea Sandor is a qualitative senior research executive with Join the Dots in Manchester, England, and a published writer and documentary filmmaker. Sandor has a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Bard College, an M.A. in anthropology and a Certificate in documentary filmmaking from George Washington University.

it was a takeover: DNA analysis sheds light on Britain’s “Beaker folk”

Where did they come from and what happened to them? The Guardian carried an article about recent research on the so-called Beaker folk of Britain who are distinguished by their distinctive clay drinking vessels that were buried with them. A large international project, involving hundreds of researchers, is using samples of more than 400 prehistoric skeletons from across Europe. They have found new information about a period when a wave of migration moved westward across Europe, almost totally displacing the earlier population in many places, including Britain. The article includes comments from Ian Armit, an archaeologist from the University of Bradford, and a senior author of the study published in Nature: “…in Britain the effects were dramatic. The people buried with the beakers did not have the same DNA as those from an earlier period, and the effect endured. In the centuries after the Beaker burials the DNA shows that the earlier Britons did not just come slipping back out of the woods.”

Neanderthals are us

A drawing of the red ladder symbol from the La Pasiega cave. Dating shows it has a minimum age of 64,000 years. Credit: Breuil et al./The Guardian

Several media, including The Guardian, reported on findings, published in Science, that Neanderthals painted on cave walls in Spain 65,000 years ago, tens of thousands of years before modern humans arrived. The discovery overturns the widely-held belief that modern humans are the only species to have expressed themselves through works of art. In caves separated by hundreds of miles, Neanderthals daubed, drew and spat paint on walls. “I think we have the smoking gun,” said Alistair Pike, professor of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton. “When we got the first date for the art, we were dumbfounded.” An international team led by researchers in the U.K. and Germany dated calcite crusts that had grown on top of ancient art works in three caves in Spain. Because the crusts formed after the paintings were made, the material gives a minimum age for the underlying art. What the creators sought to express with their efforts, however, is unknown: “We have no idea what any of it means,” said Dirk Hoffmann at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. It is not the only question left unanswered. “It’s fascinating to demonstrate that the Neanderthals were the world’s first artists, and not our own species,” said Paul Pettitt, professor of palaeolithic archaeology at Durham University. “The most important question still remains, however. What were Neanderthals doing in the depths of dark and dangerous caves if it wasn’t ritual, and what does that imply?” In a second paper, published in Science Advances, Hoffman and others show that dyed and decorated seashells found in the Aviones sea cave in southeast Spain were made by Neanderthals 115,000 years ago, pointing to a long artistic tradition. “To my mind this closes the debate on Neanderthals,” said João Zilhão, a researcher on the team at the University of Barcelona. “They are part of our family, they are ancestors, they were not cognitively distinct, or less endowed in terms of smarts. They are just a variant of humankind that as such exists no more.”


in Madagascar, caring is a community affair

Professor Douglas Hume with his research assistants in Mahatsara, Madagascar, in summer 2012; they were conducting an ethnographic interview with an informant (not pictured). Provided by Douglas Hume

The act of caring for yourself, or self-care, varies from culture to culture. People all across the world demonstrate care for themselves based on their needs or the needs of their larger community.

According to Dr. Douglas Hume, department chair of sociology, anthropology and philosophy, the Malagasy— or people native to Madagascar—care for others in the community and, in turn, find that they are able to care for themselves.

Initially, Hume conducted research for his dissertation at the University of Connecticut, and then visited Madagascar three times after; his trips spanned between seven weeks all the way to six months.

While there, Hume conducted research for an alternative approach to farming: terrace farming.

“They’ve hit a point where the arable land–they’re having to go back to it too fast and it’s not fertile anymore; they can’t grow enough food…,” Hume said. “They’re trying to do it on their own, trying to get some money. It’s really difficult and slow.”

Provided by Douglas Hume
Dr. Douglas Hume with seminary students in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in the summer of 2012 after he spoke with the students about religion in the United States.

Elements of self care are completely different in Madagascar than in the United States, he said.

“(In America) if you need money, you whip out a credit-card. If you lose your job, you go get unemployment insurance,” Hume said. “In these communities, none of that exists.”

In Madagascar, if you need money or food, natives seek out a friend or family member, according to Hume.

“We have welfare, insurance, banks and all these other kinds of stuff that handle that. We don’t rely on family as much,” Hume said. “Maybe some of our close family—moms, dads, brothers, sisters—but going to your uncle to ask for money, that’s really awkward and weird. We wouldn’t do that, but there it’s normal,” said Hume.

While studying French in Paris, Hume recalled a time where the Malagasy manager of the dorm he was living in visited a family member and was turned away.

“He went over to visit him, unannounced. He knocked on the door and the family said ‘Oh, we’re having dinner and we didn’t know you were coming, so you’ll have to come back later.’ And he was pissed. He’s like ‘Oh my god. They’ve totally become French—or European.”

In Madagascar, Hume noted that if you were to show up at someone’s house hungry, they would give you food and let you in.

“I think, the self-care thing there is conceptualized differently because they have a different sense of connection with the rest of the community that it’s not all on you,” Hume said.

The culture is more socio-centric than ego-centric, he explained.

Emerson Swoger
Hume in his office, which is decorated with several tapestries from the places of his research.

“It’s more about the group than the individual,” Hume said. “They don’t necessarily think of them caring for themselves, but care from the community that results in care for themselves.”

The culture is based on friendships and relationships, and mostly everyone knows each other, Hume added.

“The community that I work in, the main village, has 70 adults in it. Everybody knows each other. A lot of them are related to each other, so you know people,” Hume said.

When walking around on NKU’s campus, Hume said you might not see anyone you know. But in Madagascar, it’s more community-oriented; with that comes a different  mentality.

“I think, part of that idea of self-care is different there, that it’s more community-based,” Hume said.

Written by: Natalie Hamren, Assistant News Editor of The Northerner

Note: This post is republished from The Northerner, with permission