Anthro in the news 3/7/11

• Regime change is not enough
In an article in the Huffington Post, cultural anthropologist Paul Stoller of West Chester University argues that entrenched poverty in North Africa is the underlying reason for the recent popular protests in several countries and revolution/civil war in Libya. In Egypt, 40 percent of the population live on less than two dollars a day. The same is true, he points out, in other North African and sub-Saharan countries. Stoller says: “When present and future leaders in North and sub-Saharan Africa begin to listen to the poor…when they understand what it means to live on less than two dollars a day, then and only then will the poor begin to see their lives improve.”

• Send UN peacekeepers to Libya
William Beeman, chair of the anthropology department of the University of Minnesota, says that the UN should send peacekeeping forces to Libya to monitor the situation. The presence of UN forces would make US military intervention in Libya unnecessary.

• Another stroll to Tally’s Corner, DC
WaPo readers responded to last Sunday’s “Answer Man” article on the location of Tally’s Corner, the field site of cultural anthropologist Elliot Liebow‘s pioneering study of some low-income, African American men’s street corner life. Local details continue to emerge.

• Is Facebook good for friendship?
The Times (London) carried a yes/no “fight” between Cameron Marlow, data science manager at Facebook, and Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford University. Marlow says yes. Dunbar, adhering to Dunbar’s Law, says no.

• Egypt’s antiquities chief to resign
Zahi Hawass, longtime head of antiquities in Egypt, says he will resign. Hawass asserts that his resignation has to do with the looting of Egyptian archaeological sites. The current security of sites and collections is unclear as is their fate if Hawass resigns.

• PNeolithic sauna in Wiltshire, England
Remains of a 4500-year-old sauna have been excavated at Marden Henge close to the river Avon. English Heritage’s Jim O’Leary said that the building brings to mind sweat lodges of American Indians.

• Awesome in life and death
The Irish Times covered a new exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland of 100 objects associated with the great passage tombs. Archaeologist Alison Sheridan argues that the tombs were designed to be awe-inspiring status statements. Inclusion of beautifully carved mace heads and other objects added to the message of power and conspicuous consumption.

• Ochre mine makes Australia’s National Heritage List
Wilgie Mia, dated to 27,000 years ago, is one of the world’s oldest mines. It has long been a source of high quality ochre that is highly prized by Aboriginal Australians. The region also has the highest known density of pictographic rock art in Southern Western Australia and many sacred sites. The new Heritage site includes the mine, sacred territory, archaeological material, and thousands of examples of rock art.

• Early boat people in the Americas
Jon Erlandson, professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon, told the San Francisco Chronicle about new finds that support his theory of migration into California by boat, hugging coastal areas, rather than solely by land. Erlandson’s team has found exquisite spear points and other tools in the Channel Islands off southern California. He and Todd Braje, anthropology professor at Humboldt State University, plan to publish an article connecting the Channel Island finds with artifacts in Japan and Russia. Controversy is already roiling.

• It takes a team
In the second installment of the New York Times’ blog feature on “Scientists at Work,” anthropology professor Takeshi Inomata of the University of Arizona, describes ongoing studies of possible environmental causes of the collapse of Maya civilization. As part of a project funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Inomata is working with a team of natural scientists to explore the interrelationships between environmental and social change, particularly the role of drought. Inomata comments: “In contrast to archaeologists, who usually specialize in specific geographic regions, these researchers are global travellers. They have been taking lake cores from Japan, China, Cambodia, Bali, Easter Island, Egypt and Peru.”

• Canadians love archaeo
Artifacts tell the story of Canada, says T. J. Hammer, archaeological resource manager for the National Historic Sites Directorate. Parks Canada has around 12,000 archaeological sites in its purview and employs 31 archaeologists. Jonathan Moore, one of eight underwater archaeologists employed by the agency, has worked on a ship trapped in ice in 1853. He comments that Canadians have an appetite for knowledge about the past.

• Uncovering slavery in Rio
In preparation for the 2016 Olympic games to be held in Rio, a multibillion dollar project is renovating the harbor. In the process, archaeologists have found structures connected to the notorious early 19th century slave market called Valongo. Tania Andrade Lima, an archaeologist with Rio’s National Museum, is leading the work. She told the Guardian that Valongo represents a crucial part of the city’s history that was erased as Brazil sought to cover up its brutal enslavement period: “The Valongo wharf has a strong symbolism for Afro-Brazilian descendants in our city.” Three million Africa slaves were taken to Brazil between 1550 and 1888 when slavery was abolished.

• Too tall for own good
The average height of Australians has steadily increased over the last 100 years. Physical anthropology professor, Maciej Henneberg of the University of Adelaide, says that “We have reached the point where we cannot keep getting taller…Being very tall is not ideal. People who are very tall, they have problems with blood circulation. Excuse the comparison, but they are like giraffes.”

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