Anthro in the news 6/28/10

• Iran says thanks but no thanks to US help
“So why would we force it on them?” asks cultural anthropologist William Beeman, professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, Beeman explains that the ability of the United States to aid the Green movement in Iran is negated by decades of “interference in Iranian affairs” to the extent that any official American support of reform in Iran will “poison that movement with the plausible accusation of another round of American desire to dominate Iran.”

• Oh what a night
The annual all-night party at Stonehenge, England, draws thousands of people who wait for dawn at the Heel Stone. One participant with flowers in her hair said that “It means a lot to us…being British and following our pagan roots.” What Stonehenge now means to people is a story in itself. What it meant when it was in its heyday: “The truthful answer is that we don’t know exactly what it was for,” says Amanda Chadburn, an archaeologist who manages the site.

• Tall man walking
A second skeleton discovered in Ethiopia belonging to the same species as the world’s most famous fossil, Lucy, indicates that early human ancestors were walking on two feet by 3.6 million years ago. The new skeleton is that of a male about five and a half feet tall. Predating Lucy by 400,000 years, this new evidence suggests that little Lucy, who was a mere three and a half feet tall, was also a walker.

• Chimps fighting
A new publication about chimp “warfare” attracted major media coverage from the New York Times to the Economist. The question under consideration is: Do chimps fight for females or for land? The latest research based on field studies in Uganda says: land. John Mitani, a primatologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, presents his findings in Current Biology.

• In recognition and memoriam
Ellen P. Brown, cultural anthropologist, died June 11 of a brain hemorrhage. She had a B.A. in anthropology from Bryn Mawr and an MA and PhD in anthropology from Cambridge University. Her service with the US Peace Corps in Chad, where she remained for many years, led to a job for Exxon Mobil as a cultural broker between its pipeline project from Chad to Cameroon and local people.

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