Anthro in the news 9/26/11

• Anthro on the road
Retired cultural anthropology professor, Bill Fairbanks, is on a long walk to learn about America. After teaching anthropology for 41 years at Cuesta College, he is now walking from his home in Los Osos, California, to Boston. He started his walk in 2009. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, Fairbanks says: “I needed a challenge. So, I figured I would just walk across the country and study it as I go.” Fairbanks jots down his thoughts and e-mails them in daily updates via his laptop to anyone who requests them.

• Remains from the Spanish conquest
Fourteen human skeletons estimated to date back to the 17th century have been found buried under an old pedestrian walkway in the city of Merida, capital of the southeastern state of Yucatan, Mexico. Agustin Peña Castillo, responsible for the work of archaeological preservation, said that several of the skeletons have “spade teeth” (incisors with a cupped, shovel shape on their inner side, a genetic trait typical of Indian populations).

• Message in a lock of hair
According to coverage in Science Daily, an international team of researchers has pieced together the human genome from an Aboriginal Australian. Professor Eske Willerslev, of the University of Copenhagen, who headed the study, explains: “Aboriginal Australians descend from the first human explorers. While the ancestors of Europeans and Asians were sitting somewhere in Africa or the Middle East, yet to explore their world further, the ancestors of Aboriginal Australians spread rapidly; the first modern humans traversing unknown territory in Asia and finally crossing the sea into Australia. It was a truly amazing journey that must have demanded exceptional survival skills and bravery.” Other commentary appears in the New Scientist which quotes Mark Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Findings are  published in the journal Science.

• On human evolution
The Philadelphia Inquirer carried an article about human evolution, and how to define “human” in its Arts and Entertainment section which quotes several biological anthropologists and archaeologists on their views about how to determine when we became human. [Blogger’s note: I have mixed feelings about seeing major questions about human evolution discussed in the Arts and Entertainment section].

• Kudos
Anthropologist Barbara King has been invited to guest-blog for National Public Radio. King is Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at William and Mary. The title of the blog, 13.7, refers to the age of the universe in billions of years. NPR describes the feature as the “intersection of science and culture.”

• In memoriam
Ivan Karp, died recently at the age of 68 years. Karp earned his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Virginia and joined the faculty of Emory University in 1994. At Emory, he served for many years as National Endowment for the Humanities professor and director of the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship. Karp is most known for making connections between cultural anthropology and the arts.

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