anthro in the news 11/7/16

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-49-39-amnot all hair is equal   

BBC News reported on the research of social anthropologist Emma Tarlo tracing the global industry in human hair, especially wigs, weaves, and extensions. Tarlo, professor of anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, is the author of Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair. While China is the biggest exporter and importer of human hair and harvests huge amounts from its own population, European hair is the most valuable because of its fine texture, variety of its colors, and relative scarcity. Tarlo is quoted as saying: “People who work in the industry are conscious of the fact Made in China is viewed as a negative label and market it in more glamorous ways instead.” [with audio]

welcome to the Drone Age9780262034678

Foreign Affairs published a review of five books on drone warfare including one by Hugh Gusterson,  professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University. The reviewer refers to Drone as “gently critical” and a “thoughtful examination of the dilemmas this new weapon poses.”


war veterans remember and re-visit

The Tribune-Review (Pittsburgh) reported about U.S. war veterans often revisit the places where they fought and reconnect with people there. The article quotes Paulette Curtis a cultural anthropology instructor at the University of Notre Dame who studies war. In the 1990s, she made several trips to Vietnam with veterans groups. For many veterans, trips to now-peaceful battlefields are a way to revisit places in an historically informed way: “It is a way to re-engage with a part of their history.” 

take that anthro degree and…

…become a professor of international studies. Victor Igreja is senior lecturer in international studies at the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia. He has a Ph.D. in medical anthropology from the Leiden University Medical Centre.

date push-back of human arrival in the Australian interior 

Source: Google Images/BBC News
Source: Google Images/BBC News

The Guardian described findings from an archaeological site in South Australia showing that humans arrived in the arid interior of Australia 10,000 years earlier than previously thought. Researchers excavating a rock shelter in the Flinders Ranges have unearthed artefacts dating from up to 49,000 years ago, 1,000 years or so after humans arrived in Australia. “The old idea is that people might have come from the East, from the Levant, out of Africa, and these modern humans may have come with a package of innovative technologies,” said Giles Hamm, from La Trobe University, Australia and first author of the research. “But the development of these fine stone tools, the bone technology, we think that happened as a local innovation…” Huw Barton, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Leicester has reservations. He suggests that the eggshells are not necessarily evidence of human activity, while small artefacts in the bottom layers might have trickled down from higher up, meaning humans might have first occupied the shelter nearer to 40,000 years ago. Peter Hiscock, professor of Australian archaeology at the University of Sydney, also urged caution. “The dates are deeply anomalous and either they stem from an analytical problem or else they reveal a revolutionary shift in the chronology for ancient Australia…Further scientific study must explore which is the most reasonable explanation.” The findings are published in the journal Nature.

climate change or over-hunting?

An article in BBC News reported on debates about the causes of megafaunal extinction, particularly mammoths, at the end of the Pleistocene, a few tens of thousands of years ago. The problem in trying to untangle the cause of the Pleistocene megafaunal extinction is that the evidence is scanty, so there has been an ongoing debate about how to interpret it. Climate change, with rising temperatures, is one popular argument.  The other main argument, the hunting hypothesis, first emerged in the 1870s after it was discovered that humans had lived alongside mammoths. In support of the latter:  “Significant climate changes were happening at the very time the first humans were arriving in the continents, which makes it difficult to determine which factor made the most difference in megafaunal survival,” says Gary Haynes of the University of Nevada in Reno. Agreeing with the overkill theory is Todd Surovell, an archaeologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. He points to the strong correlation between the arrival of humans into areas and subsequent waves of extinctions. Ross Barnett, a Pleistocene extinction expert at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, agrees as well:  “The Pleistocene/Holocene transition was not fundamentally different from many of the previous glacial/interglacial changes – except that modern humans were around.”

my child, my puppy

An article in Quartz reviews recent findings by several scientists on how teaching children is similar to training dogs. Evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare, associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, supports the view that kids are similar to dogs.  He is quoted as saying: “Researchers have shown that dogs hijack our oxytocin loop that is normally reserved for our babies…Just by looking at us, dogs and babies give us a boost in oxytocin, and they get one, too. It’s an efficient way of making us want to take care of them.”

dad bods are good bods 

k10807The Independent (Ireland) and other media reported about the survival advantages to men of gaining weight in middle as argued in a book by Richard Bribiescas, professor of anthropology, ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University. In How Men Age: What Evolution Reveals About Male Health and Mortality, he argues that fathers over 50 who are inclined to stretch out on the couch and watch sport, rather than actually play it, are likely to live longer. “Macho makes you sick,” says Bribiescas. The article mentions that other studies indicate that women prefer men with “love handles.”

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