Anthro in the news 12/22/14

  • On U.S.-Cuba relations

An article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the possible opening up of U.S.-Cuba relations quoted cultural anthropologist Kathleen Musante of the University of Pittsburgh who travels to Cuba frequently with students: “I think we all miscalculated the pressures on Raul Castro…The economy in the last three or four years has appeared as desperate as it was after the Soviet Union’s collapse. I think there is no going back now.”

  • Op-ed: Not another Bush presidency

Susan Greenbaum, professor emerita of cultural anthropology at the University of South Florida, published an opinion piece in Al Jazeera pointing out aspects of Jeb Bush’s Florida governorship and his political views in general.

“In the end, Bush’s impossible balancing act between a moderate face and a reactionary heart may dim the glow that surrounds his potential candidacy. The more voters pick through the Bush legacy in Florida, the less they will find to like.”

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a researcher on Women, Peace and Security with RESDAL (Latin American Security and Defense Network). Maud Farrugia has a degree in cultural anthropology from Cambridge University, is multilingual (French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German) with work experience in Argentina, Chile and Colombia with vulnerable populations including pregnant teenagers, low economic resource groups, and indigenous people.

  • Stonehenge discovery versus proposed tunnel construction

BBC News and several other media reported on the discovery of a site near Stonehenge that is an untouched 6,000-year-old Mesolithic encampment which “could rewrite British history.” Archaeologist David Jacques, from the University of Buckingham, made the discovery at Blick Mead in October and said the carbon dating results had just been confirmed. He raised concerns about possible damage to the site over plans to build a road tunnel past Stonehenge. The Department of Transport said it would “consult before any building.”

  • Possible evidence to anchor Biblical account of David and Solomon

The Daily Mail and several other media reported on the discovery of bullae (clay stamps or seals; singular is bulla) that could support existence of the Bible’s David and Solomon. Many scholars either dismiss King David and King Solomon as mythological figures or dispute the era in which they ruled over the Israelites, as told in the Old Testament of the Bible. But the discovery of six official clay seals may prove that there was a ruler in the region during the 9th and 10th century BCE. Although the bullae do not directly reference David or Solomon, they suggest the presence of a government and political activity during their respective supposed reigns.

The clay seals were found at Khirbet Summeily, an archaeological site in Tell-el Hesi to the east of Gaza in southern Israel, by James Hardin, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures at Mississippi State University. Hardin, co-director of the Hesi Regional Project, has been excavating there since 2011.

Read more here.

  • Neanderthals and the origin of elder care

An article in The Huffington Post on retirement systems and care of the “post-working elderly” [in rich countries] leads in with a quippy bit about Neanderthal elder care:

“Ever wonder what cavemen did to afford retirement? Best we can tell — since early man’s principal occupation was basically his own survival — most of them died on the job and didn’t worry too much about retiring. The Neanderthals are known to have cared for sick community members (and we assume those too old for hunting) by sharing food with them. And thus the idea of providing retirement benefits in an organized way probably entered our DNA, said no responsible scientist ever.”

Kudos

So far, so good: Forensic anthropologist Lori Baker is a finalist for the 2014 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year. She spent this year digging in South Texas to uncover remains of illegal immigrants who died in their attempt to enter the U.S. A professor at Baylor University, Baker works to bring closure to the families of those who died in search of a better life. She is quoted as saying: “We’re better than leaving the dead forgotten, no matter how they came here…I want people to know Texas, and the Texas spirit, is better than that.” Let’s hope Baker is the finalist.

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