Anthro in the news 12/31/2012

From the blogger: Here is the last aitn for 2012. I had to work hard to find any mainstream media mention of cultural anthropology, whereas archaeology continues to attract substantial media attention, and we can almost always count on something about Neanderthals to attract interest. Please check out anthropologyworks’ short piece on the cultural anthropologist who was most in the news in 2012. Stay tuned for 2012 highlights from aitn and my top dissertation picks for 2012. And Happy New Year!

Debt by David Graeber
Debt by David Graeber
• Debt as a best book of 2012

The Global and Mail (Canada) asked several writers and avid readers to comment on their top book of 2012, from contemporary fiction to classic literature and nonfiction. Novelist Sheila Heti chose Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

“I can’t think of anyone who shouldn’t read David Graeber‘s paradigm-shifting book on the ethics of debt. He’s an anthropologist and one of the Occupy movement’s greatest thinkers. Here, he shows how debt has been a central economic, political, and social tool throughout human history. It’s an essential read, particularly for those who, in the wake of the financial crisis, believed we were at the beginning of “an actual public conversation about the nature of debt, of money, of the financial institutions,” and were stunned not to see that conversation happen.” Heti’s most recent book is the novel How Should a Person Be?

• Hadrian’s auditorium found under streets of Rome

Several media sources, including the BBC, covered the findings in Rome of an ancient auditorium 18 feet below one of Rome’s most-trafficked junctions. Italian archaeologists announced the discovery of a 900-seat arts center dating back to the second-century reign of Emperor Hadrian.

Marble bust of Hadrian at the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums.
Hadrian bust, Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums/Wikipedia
Archaeologists believe the structure was an arts center or auditorium, built by Hadrian where, beginning in 123 C.E., Roman noblemen gathered to hear rhetoricians, lawyers, and writers recite their works. According to the archaeologists running the excavation, Hadrian’s auditorium is the biggest find in Rome since the Forum was uncovered in the 1920s.

• 800 year-old skeletons unearthed in Cholula, Mexico

Archaeologists in central Mexico uncovered the bones of 12 children and adults who may have been buried 800 years ago, according to an expert with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

The skeletons were discovered as the archeologists supervised the installation of a new drain in an old neighborhood of Cholula, a city located 120 kilometers north of the Mexican capital. They were found buried just a few centimeters below a paved section of asphalt, said archeologist Ashuni Romero Butron, who added “fortunately they were not damaged by erosion before the paving.” He said most of the 12 skeletons are complete and laboratory analysis is ongoing.

Relief from the Sanctuary of Khonsu Temple at Karnak depicting Ramesses III
Ramesses
• Judean temple found

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a rare temple and religious figurines dating back to the Judaean period nearly 3,000 years ago. The discoveries were made at Tel Motza, outside Jerusalem, during archaeological work ahead of new highway construction in the area. Anna Eirikh, a director of the project, said the discoveries were rare evidence of religious practices outside Jerusalem in the Judaean period. The findings date to the 9th-10th century B.C.E.

• Death of a pharoah

Scans of the mummy of Ramses III reveal that his throat was slit. The pharaoh Ramses III ruled Egypt in the 12th century B.C.E. A plot by his wife to kill him in order to place her son on the throne is documented in an ancient papyrus, but the exact circumstances of Ramses’ death have been unclear. ”The big cut is in his throat, and it was very deep and large,” said Albert Zink, an anthropologist at the European Academy, who was involved in the research. ”It would have killed him immediately.” Zink and colleagues from Egypt, Italy and Germany, published their findings in the British Medical Journal. [Blogger’s note: so now we know the immediate cause of death, but we still don’t know who did the deed].

• 4,000 year-old spear heads found in Sinaloa, Mexico

Spearhead
Credit: INAH
Researchers have discovered 4,000-year-old spearheads and other artifacts at a site in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, according to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Archaeologist Joel Santos Ramirez said that the find “will change the chronologies of the antiquity of human settlement in the northwest of the country.”

• Neanderthal genome mapping update

According to a piece in CBC news, renowned archaeological geneticist Svante Paabo is almost finished with the mapping the DNA of Neanderthals, a distant cousin of modern humans.

Paabo has found that many people today carry within their DNA about 3 to 5 percent in common with Neanderthals. Paabo says it is important to learn more about Neanderthal DNA to reveal the differences between us and them, differences that have seen modern humans survive and thrive over the millennia while Neanderthals have become extinct.

Svante Paabo with reconstructed Neanderthal skull. Frank Vinken/Max Planck Gesellschaft
Svante Paabo with reconstructed Neanderthal skull. Frank Vinken/Max Planck Gesellschaft
He is quoted as saying: “I really hope that over the next 10 years we will understand much more of those things that set us apart. Which changes in our genome made human culture and technology possible? And allowed us to expand and become 7, 8, 9 billion people and spread all over the world?”

• In memoriam

Glenys Lloyd-Morgan died at the age of 67 years after a career devoted to the understanding of Roman archaeology. She graduated from the archaeology department at Birmingham University in 1970 with a dissertation on Roman mirrors. In 1975, she joined the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, where she catalogued collections and did re-enactments as a Roman lady. Later, she became a finds consultant specializing in Roman artifacts. She was made a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1979.

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