Anthro in the news 10/22/2012

Blogger’s note: the past week was relatively quiet for anthropology. In fact, far more news coverage appeared for beer than for anthropology.

Members of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (from left: Angus Mack, Middleton Cheedy, Stanley Warrie, and Michael Woodley). Picture: Courtney Bertling. Source: The Australian.

Speaking truth to big mining

An anthropologist engaged by Fortescue Metals Group says his services were discontinued after he refused a demand to amend sections of his report discussing indigenous heritage where the company wanted to mine. In a statement made to a lawyer, Brad Goode says his “tenure with FMG was not continued” after he insisted on including references to the cultural significance of Kangeenarina Creek in the Pilbara and representing the wishes of the Yindjibarndi people to have a 50m exclusion zone either side of the creek.

Fieldwork debts

Catherine Sanders contributed an article to The Huffington Post on her debts to the people in Nepal who hosted her fieldwork. Sanders is completing her Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Montana and is a Research Associate at The ISIS Foundation, where her research informs health improvement projects in Nepal and Uganda. She says, “I’m writing about indebtedness today because I’m in serious debt to the people of Nepal. They had to feed me, teach me how to behave, and rescue me from baby cows for over a year. Some of those things you can pay for with money, but money doesn’t begin to touch most of them, and here’s why: being indebted in Nepal means placing a social contract alongside the money… They know that the one certitude is that their day will come, tomorrow most likely. Being in debt is saying, ‘when and if I can, I will be there for you, too.’ This terrified me. I didn’t know if I would be there for them, or even if I was, if I could offer them anything…I am in debt to the people of Nepal. I will never be able to pay it back. And I will never give up trying.”

Indigenous alcoholism policy in Australia

In Northern Australia, the threat of mandatory rehabilitation will be used to intentionally push problem street drunks out of public view and into the “scrub.” The government will also create up to 400 beds in alcohol rehabilitation facilities and a new body to manage NGO rehabilitation services. The article in The Australian quotes Richard Chenhall, a lecturer in medical anthropology at the University of Melbourne, as saying that there is little evidence that mandatory rehabilitation is more effective than previous measures: “The approach is more about getting problem drunks — read: Aboriginal people drinking in public spaces — off the streets,” he said. And, further, “The policy is effectively criminalising drunkenness…”

Archaeology under the axe

More than 200 staff and students staged a protest over the closure of a world-renowned archaeology centre at the University of Birmingham. The award-winning Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) at the University of Birmingham has been axed. Its experts helped excavate the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found and also played a leading role in recent discoveries at Stonehenge.

University of Northern British Columbia researchers dig on the shores of the Babine River. The ancient village may have been a crossroad for early First Nations people. Photograph by University of Northern British Columbia, The Canadian Press.

Ancient native village in Canada

Along the banks of British Columbia’s Babine River sits an ancient village that may have been used as a crossroad for First Nations dating back more than 1,300 years. “It’s just one of those places that hasn’t really been explored very well in terms of archaeology,” says Prof. Farid Rahemtulla of the University of Northern British Columbia, who, along with his team from the department of anthropology, were the first to search the site. Prof. Rahemtulla says there are eight to 10 long houses on the site, which could have housed many families.

After a preliminary dig in 2010 at the invitation of the Babine Lake First Nation, Prof. Rahemtulla and his crew were invited to return this year and excavate one of the homes. Layer upon layer, they dug up artifacts that seem to follow a historic time line; arrow heads and spear points, old musket balls and flints for flint-lock rifles, right up to cartridges from modern-day firearms.

Archaeo caving in Nepal

The Washington Post carried a note about an article in this month’s National Geographic about the work of Pete Athans, who leads a team of archaeologists who are doubling as mountaineers to excavate cliff-side caves in the Mustang district of Nepal. There are about 10,000 caves, which were used as dwellings, storage spaces and burial sites. The burial sites hold the most promise. Researchers have found murals, Buddhist manuscripts, and bones stripped of their flesh before they were buried. “This wasn’t whacking and hacking,” explains the team’s bone expert, Jacqueline Eng. “All evidence indicates there was no cannibalism here.” The burial style may have been related to the Buddhist practice of sky burial which reduces the body for removal by  vultures.

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