Anthro in the news 2/11/13

Message in the chicken wings

Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to an article in The Huffington Post by Jim Yong Kim, “One bit of bad news for millions of Americans during the Super Bowl was that chicken wings were suddenly more expensive. The cause, in part, was the U.S. drought last summer. The drought was the most widespread in more than 50 years, and it drove up the cost of chicken feed.  In all, 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded in the United States. The bad news for the 850 million undernourished people around the world is that erratic weather is affecting food production globally. High and volatile food prices have become the new normal, and more and more extreme weather events are partly to blame.  Climate trends have already affected food production around the world, driving up prices for everything from bread and tortillas to chicken wings.” Kim is president of the World Bank, a medical doctor, and cultural anthropologist.

Take care of this land

Dame Anne Salmond

Dame Anne Salmond published an op-ed in The New Zealand Herald, entitled “Let’s Look after Our Beautiful Land.” She writes, “Around the world, consumers are demanding that food, wine and timber are sustainably produced…But at home, domestic policies that head in the opposite direction put both at imminent risk. The Resource Management Act, for example, is being reviewed to weaken rather than strengthen environmental standards. The Department of Conservation is being eviscerated. The global Forestry Stewardship Council standards for sustainable production of timber are being flouted, with officials turning a blind eye. The Land and Water Forum, which aimed to agree on higher water-quality standards, has been hijacked.No wonder the integrity of our “clean, green” reputation is being assailed by news forums around the world. Expect much more of this in future…Industry, national and regional government and ordinary Kiwis need to link arms, get behind our 100 per cent Pure New Zealand brand and make it real. This is where we need some big ideas…” Dame Anne Salmond is a distinguished professor of Maori studies and anthropology, University of Auckland.

Talking about “race”

Race: Are We So Different?

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported on a presentation by cultural anthropologist Yolanda Moses in which she discussed the the exhibit “Race: Are We So Different?” running at the the Rochester Museum & Science Center through April 28. Key points are that racial categories are cultural constructions and changes in skin color are the most recent human adaptation. Further, racial categorization in the U.S., with its damaging social, educational and financial consequences, will diminish the future growth of America if it remains unchanged. Moses is professor of anthropology and associate vice chancellor for diversity, equity and excellence at the University of California, Riverside, and one of the founders of exhibit that was created with support from the American Anthropological Association and co-author of a book related to the exhibit.

• Happy 100th birthday, Mary Leakey

Mary and Louis Leakey. Wikimedia Commons

In recognition of how British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey carved a place for women in the field of early human evolution, Google Doodle celebrated her life on her 100th birthday, February 6, 1913. She gained recognition for discovering important early human fossils and other remains including footprints, while working in East Africa with her husband, Louis Leakey. Despite her legacy, there are some feminists who characterized Mary Leakey as an under-appreciated woman in a man’s field. They note that her field partner and husband, Louis Leakey, would often present her findings as his own.

• I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty

On Monday, confirming what many historians and archaeologists had suspected, a team of experts at the University of Leicester concluded on the basis of DNA and other evidence that the skeletal remains found under a parking lot are those of King Richard III. The conclusion is said to have been reached “beyond any reasonable doubt.” It brings an end to the oblivion that has been Richard’s fate since his death on Aug. 22, 1485, at the Battle of Bosworth Field, 20 miles from Leicester.

• Miraculous women in Ice Age art

According to an opinion piece in The Times (U.K.), a recently opened exhibit at the British Museum “confirms, our distant ancestors were accomplished artists, but what they were trying to achieve with their images (if anything) is uncertain…The most curious Ice Age objects are the so-called ‘Venus figurines’, small sculptures that can be held in one hand, showing mainly naked women with large breasts, bulbous buttocks, swollen stomachs and distended vulvas – they appear to be pregnant…” The writer goes on to explain his interpretation of the figurines: “My starting point is a suggestion made to me some years ago by Randall White…professor of anthropology at New York University. He observed that there must have been a time when ancient men and women had not made the link between sexual intercourse and birth – the interval of nine months being too long. Women would then have seemed exceptionally miraculous creatures, swelling up for no apparent reason and producing an infant. No wonder the Great Goddess was one of the earliest religions.”

• Let’s go Europe

Location of jawbone discovery on the Balkan Peninsula.

Canadian scientists studying an ancient jawbone unearthed in a Serbian cave have now calculated its age at about 500,000 years old, a stunning find that helps fill a gap in the understanding of the evolution of our human ancestors. According to several media sources, including Canada’s National Post, the fossilized bone fragment found buried deep in the soil of a Serbian cave is causing scientists to reconsider what happened during a critical period in human evolution. At first, lead researcher Mirjana Roksandic, an anthropologist with the University of Winnipeg, believed the specimen might be up to 250,000 years old. But recent tests conducted by McMaster University earth scientist Jack Rink places it as much earlier in the human evolutionary timeline. Findings appear in the online, open-access journal PLoS One.

• Nina Jablonski on human evolution and skin color

Nina Jablonski‘s research on the evolution and meaning of human skin pigmentation is featured on Academic Minute. Jablonski is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University.

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