Anthro in the news 3/10/14

Zein Al-Rifia/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images.
  • The past is also a victim in Syria

An article in The New York Times highlighted the loss of prehistoric and historic artifacts in Syria due to the ongoing conflict there. It mentioned the French archaeologists Pierre Leriche and Jean-Claude Margueron who both spent decades uncovering Syria’s rich past and how they find it too painful now to look at the present. Leriche and Margueron are just two of many archaeologists from Belgium, Britain, France, Italy and elsewhere who spent years uncovering Syria’s past. UNESCO experts and scholars in Syria describe it as a country in the process of obliterating its cultural history. The article quotes Pierre Leriche: “The situation now is absolutely terrible there.” He is a professor of archaeology at the École Normale Supérieure, one of France’s most prestigious universities, who worked for more than 25 years at a site on the Euphrates River. Noting reports of illegal excavation at about 350 places in that one site where he worked, he said: “They come with jackhammers. That means everything is destroyed.”

  • Take that anthro degree…

…and become a tourism entrepreneur and tour guide in Haiti.  Jean Cyril Pressoir, recently featured in The Gazette (Montreal), has lived all his life in Port-au-Prince (except for the three years spent in Montreal studying anthropology) and now runs Tour Haiti with his father. The company offers tailor-made private and group tours throughout Haiti. Pressoir takes visitors into his favorite restaurants and bars, organizes bike tours, museum visits, and hikes to distant waterfalls. According to Pressoir: “We may have tons of problems, but we have soul. We have magic. Haiti is authentic.”

  • The music in the stones

Several mainstream media carried articles about Stonehenge, perhaps because of the upcoming vernal equinox on March 20. According to a new study, many of the bluestones at the prehistoric stone circle in Wiltshire, England make “distinctive (if muted) sounds when hit with small hammerstones,” say researchers from the Royal College of Art, London, in a study titled, “Stone Age Eyes and Ears: A Visual and Acoustic Pilot Study of Carn Menyn and Environs, Preseli, Wales”. They suggest that some of the bluestone rocks at Stonehenge were brought from hundreds of miles away because of their unique acoustic properties.

  • Alabaster princess unearthed in Luxor

NBC News and several other media reported on the discovery of a statue of the daughter of King Amenhotep III, who was Tutankhamun’s grandfather and ruler of Egypt around 3,350 years ago. A team of Egyptian and European archaeologists discovered the statue of Princess Iset at the temple of her pharaoh father in the southern city of Luxor. The discovery is the first known representation of Iset alone with her father.

According to USA Today, Minister of Antiquities Mohammed Ibrahim said that the statue was once part of a larger statue that was nearly 14 meters (456 feet) tall and guarded the entrance to a temple. Ibrahim confirms that the statue is of Iset, the daughter of Amenhotep III. It is especially significant because it is the first depiction of her without her siblings.

  • Kudos: Prize-winning archaeology in Orkney

An archaeology project in Orkney has been recognized at a prestigious UK awards ceremony. The project at the Links of Noltland on the coast of Westray was named Rescue Dig of the Year at the Current Archaeology Awards. Commissioned by Historic Scotland and carried out by EASE Archaeology, the project sheds light on domestic and ritual life in prehistoric Orkney.

Richard Strachan of Historic Scotland, the project manager of the Links of Noltland dig, said: “I am delighted that this incredible project has been recognised with such a prestigious award. It is an endorsement of the national and international significance of the site, and the hard work of those involved in the project, all of whom faced challenging conditions.”

  • In memoriam

Paul Baxter, British social anthropologist, died at the age of 89 years. The Oromo Studies Association lauds him: “Dr. Paul Baxter was a distinguished British anthropologist who devoted his life to Oromo studies. He is one of the finest human being, who contributed immensely to the development of Oromo studies at the time when the scholarship on the Oromo people was extremely discouraged in Ethiopia. His death is a significant loss for his family, all those who knew and were touched by his humanity and kindness, and for the students of Oromo studies.”

Baxter, earned his B.A. degree from Cambridge University. Influenced by famous scholars such as Malinowski, Seligman, and Evans-Pritchard. He went on to Oxford University where he pursued a degree in social anthropology. Baxter went on to become Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Manchester, and donated his collection of field photographs in 2008. The negatives had been numbered in sleeves many years previously and a typewritten list with brief descriptions was donated at the time, also linked to prints in a fieldwork album. The negatives were subsequently scanned and are in the process of being catalogued using this original documentation.

In his long career, he studied the Oromo from northern Kenya to Wallo and Arsi to Guji. He edited several books on Oromo studies and published many other articles and book chapters in the field of social anthropology. His lasting legacy is that he educated so many scholars who have studied Oromo culture both in Kenya and Ethiopia. According to the Oromo Studies Association, “Dr. Paul Baxter’s passion and determination will inspire the generation of students of the Oromo studies. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family, friends, and Oromos and friends of Oromo studies during this difficult time.”

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