Anthro in the news 10/25/10

• How often do you think about…
The weather: Anthropologist of popular British culture, Kate Fox, finds that British people talk about the weather once every six hours and that 70 percent check the weather forecast at least once a day. Weather talk, she finds, is a way to facilitate conversation. She also learned that men are more optimistic about the weather than women.

• Chagos update
Cultural anthropologist Sean Carey published an article in the New Statesman about a recent meeting about the Chagos right of return that included Olivier Bancoult (leader of the Chagos Refugees Group in Mauritius), Roch Evenor (chair of the UK Chagos Support Association), and Henry Bellingham (Foreign and Commonwealth Officer for Africa and the Overseas Territories). Interestingly, no lawyers from either side attended the meeting. The two sides agreed to meet again in November. Carey notes that Bellingham may need to update his information sources rather than relying on Bush administration statements from 2004.

• Dead Sea Scrolls go digital
The 2,000 year-old Dead Sea Scrolls will go online next year. They will then become available to more than one billion internet users.  If their writers could only imagine…

• Paleo bread rising
Stone tools in Italy, Russia, and the Czech Republic indicate that human ancestors 30,000 years ago ground plants into flour from which they perhaps made bread-like products to supplement their largely meat-based diet. These findings throw into question the prevailing model of the Paleo diet as excluding processed food.

• When writing began
In Chicago, the Oriental Institute has mounted a new show, “Visible Language: Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond.” It includes a Sumerian clay object with impressed designs referred to as proto-cuneiform. The exhibit provides examples from Sumerian, Egyptian, Chinese, and Mayan writing in order “to present and describe four times in history when writing was invented from scratch,” said Christopher Woods, associate professor of Sumerology at the University of Chicago and curator of the show.

• Oldest hospital in Britain
Archaeologists have found the site of what may be Britain’s earliest known hospital. It is located in Winchester underneath a medieval infirmary and is dated to before the Norman conquest. Simon Roffey from the University of Winchester notes the importance of the pre-conquest date.

• Oldest door in Europe
Swiss archaeologists have found a 5,000 year-old door in Zurich which may be the oldest known so far in Europe. Several villages from the period have been found at the site where a car park is planned.

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