anthro in the news 8/22/16

African slave heritage underwater

Slave Wrecks Project team members with Thiaw, center. Source: The Washington Post/Jane Hahn
Slave Wrecks Project team members with Thiaw, center. Source: The Washington Post/Jane Hahn

An article in The Washington Post describes efforts of the Slave Wrecks Project, funded by the Smithsonian Institution, to discover, excavate as appropriate, and preserve ships that sank while carrying African slaves to the New World. It highlights the work of Ibrahima Thiaw, an underwater archaeologist from Senegal. So far, there has been only one excavation of a wrecked slave ship, the São José, found thousands of miles from South Africa. Artifacts from the vessel will be displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, opening in September. [Blogger’s note: My colleague at GW, Steve Lubkemann, an underwater archaeologist and cultural anthropologist, is the founding co-director of the Slave Wrecks Project. He is also working to develop some slave wreck sites as underwater tourism destinations].


Zambia presidential election fraught

Location of Zambia in Africa. Source: Wikipedia
Location of Zambia in Africa. Source: Wikipedia

AllAfrica published an op-ed by social anthropologist Vito Laterza in which he examines the recent presidential election in Zambia including claims of rigging: “The campaign was marred by unprecedented levels of political violence, leading to several people being killed and many injured.” Moreover, he argues that such problems are “only likely to increase…as Zambia goes through the worst economic crisis in more than 10 years.” Laterza is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, focusing on politics, economy, and society in sub-Saharan Africa.


Dirks steps down

The Guardian and several other media reported on the resignation of cultural anthropologist and historian Nicholas Dirks as chancellor of the University of California Berkeley. Dirks joins several other top U.S. university administrators who have left their posts over concerns about their handling of campus sexual harassment cases.


Take that anthro degree and…

…become an art appraiser, gallery owner, and collector.  Lee Clark, of Bakersfield, California, has been an accredited art appraiser and owner of an art gallery. He began collecting Mexican art on his first trip there as a graduate student in 1960. His collection of more than 2,500 pieces spans the Stone Age to contemporary times and includes sculptures, ceramics, pottery, metal work, textiles, paintings, wood carvings and pieces made from straw. He is donating the collection to UCLA’s Fowler Museum. Clark has a B.A. and B.S. from Ohio State University, an M.A. in Latin American history, and a Ph.D. in anthropology.


What to wear in the Copper Age?

Ötzi’s clothing included items made from animal hides as well as grass cape. Source: Institute for Mummies and the Iceman
Ötzi’s clothing included items made from animal hides as well as grass cape. Source: Institute for Mummies and the Iceman

The Monitor and several other media reported on research revealing details about the clothing of Ötzi the Iceman, a mummy discovered in Italian Alps and dating from 3300 B.C.E. His leather and fur garments were made from both domesticated and wild animals. According to lead author Niall J. O’Sullivan, a Ph.D. candidate at University College Dublin: – “Most of the clothes were composed of cattle, sheep, and goat…This affirms previous observations about the Iceman…that he was indeed an agro-pastoralist.” In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers say: “The choices that Copper Age people made with respect to animals exploitation were likely dependent on availability, necessity, functionality and symbolism,”


Living with holes in their head

A multiply trepanned skull from Jericho, Palestine. Source: Science and Society/Creative Commons
A multiply trepanned skull from Jericho, Palestine. Source: Science and Society/Creative Commons

CNN carried a piece on the work of biological and forensic anthropologist John Verano of Tulane University He has examined skeletons and mummies throughout the Americas to learn about prehistoric human sacrifice, warfare, injury, and disease. An answer to the question of why trepanning was practiced is still elusive: Incan men and women “…survived five or seven operations, so it’s pretty amazing,” Verano said. “I have to admit, we don’t know why they did it.”


This little piggy went to market

For National Public Radio (U.S.), biological anthropologist Barbara J. King, professor emerita at the College of William and Mary, discussed a new book, Real Pigs: Shifting Values in the Field of Local Pork, by Brad Weiss, a cultural anthropologist at William and Mary. An email interview with him, for her monthly column on ideas shared and divergent, covers several topics related to raising and eating pigs.


Identity fusion through suffering

The Daily Mail (U.K.) carried an article describing research by Martha Newson, doctoral candidate in cognitive and evolutionary anthropology at the University of Oxford, on how loyalty to a football club is heightened by defeat as well as victory. The phenomenon, termed identity fusion, helps explain why fan loyalty is often so deeply entrenched, even when the club isn’t doing well. Newson is quoted as saying: “Our research suggests it is the intensity of emotion that counts, so their history of shared painful losses is as important as the joy of winning the league in creating ‘self-shaping’ experiences.” Around 150 football supporters who followed a number of different performing teams from around the U.K. took part in the study through an online survey. Co-author Harvey Whitehouse, professor and director of Oxford’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, said the findings have implications for dealing with terrorism, football hooliganism and gang violence: “We find that deeply unpleasant, painful shared memories can strengthen ties rather than breaking them…We hope further research can shed light on how self-shaping mechanisms can be harnessed to produce more positive outcomes. The reverse might also be possible…to ‘de-fuse’ individuals whose love of the group leads acts of terrorism or possibly, in the case of a few football fans, fighting on the terraces.” The research is published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE.


In memoriam

Paul W. Friedrich, University of Chicago cultural anthropologist, linguist, and poet, died at the age of 88 years. His scholarship ranged from agrarian reform in Mexico to Russian lyric poetry to ties between Thoreau’s Walden and Hindu scripture. Friedrich taught for five decades as a professor at the University of Chicago, while reaching across disciplines, cultures and languages in his research and writings. He described his work in an interview published in the Annual Review of Anthropology as a triangle in which the corners were cultural theory, language, and poetics—on both abstract and concrete levels. He immersed himself in a subject to elucidate the “hundreds if not thousands of little connections, many of them lying very deep.” Friedrich was a sought-after teacher at the University, known for his intensity and openness to new ideas. In recognition, a group of students published a collection of essays: Culture, Language and the Individual: A Tribute to Paul Friedrich.

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