anthro in the news 5/15/17

Credit: GaryckArntzen/Google Images Commons

French election and refugees 

An article in The Huffington Post by two anthropologists says that the French election is good news for refugees: “Macron’s win marks a small victory for the left and anti-populist movements, especially for the millions of forced migrants seeking refuge in Europe. Macron ran on an immigration platform that commended German chancellor Angela Merkel’s generous refugee policy and promised to prioritize asylum issues in his first six months in office.” The authors are Elizabeth Wirtz, doctoral candidate in anthropology at Purdue University, Mark Schuller, associate professor of anthropology at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the State University of Haiti.

anumerism as a way of life

The Conversation published an article by linguistic anthropologist Caleb Everett, Andrew Carnegie Fellow and professor of anthropology at Miami University, on anumerism, or the practice of not using many words for numbers:  “Numbers do not exist in all cultures. There are numberless hunter-gatherers embedded deep in Amazonia, living along branches of the world’s largest river tree. Instead of using words for precise quantities, these people rely exclusively on terms analogous to ‘a few’ or ‘some…’” In a new book, I explore the ways in which humans invented numbers, and how numbers subsequently played a critical role in other milestones, from the advent of agriculture to the genesis of writing.”


keynote speaker in Belize

Amandala (Belize) carried an article about a conference on The Writer as Inspiration for National Unity, Self-Confidence, and Pride, held as part of the 7th International Festival of Culture, in Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize. Keynote speaker was Herman Byrd, head of the Belize Department of Archaeology. In his address, he said: “I am confident that it will be a time of creative reflection, mutual encouragement and rekindling of your vocation. I speak to you this morning with profound admiration for your craft, dedication, and passion and, above all, with great appreciation for the critical role you play in your countries.”

take that anthro degree and…

…become a farmer. Will Reed, with his wife, established Native Son Farm in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 2010. In 2011, Native Son became a certified Naturally Grown farm and now comprises 20 acres on two sites. The farm feeds over 200 families through its CSA (community supported agriculture) program. Members in the CSA buy yearly subscriptions in exchange for a weekly supply of fresh, local, naturally grown vegetables whose variety follows the growing cycle. According to Reed, “I saw this as a part of right livelihood; a way I could support my family while providing a positive, life-giving service…I saw it as a way to come home to model an alternative view of things in a constructive way.” He has a B.A. in anthropology from Humboldt State University.

…work for a life insurance company. Mark Kibukosya is a financial procurement associate with Prudential Life in Thailand. Previously he was a research assistant for Amnesty International and a gender consultant for the World Vision Development Foundation. He has a B.A. in anthropology and an M.A. in gender and development from the University of Nairobi.

…work in maternal health. Lauren O’Connor is a health educator for pregnant and postpartum women at March of Dimes in White Plains, N.Y. She has a B.A. in in anthropology from Hartwick College and an M.P.H degree with a concentration in maternal and child health from Boston University.

many mummies

Several mainstream media, including Al-Jazeera, reported on the discovery of 17 mainly complete human mummies in a burial site in Egypt. The burial chamber was first detected last year by a team of Cairo University students using radar technology. According to Mohamed Hamza, dean of archaeology at Cairo University and in charge of the excavations, the mummies have not yet been dated but are believed to be from Egypt’s Greco-Roman period, a roughly 600-year span that followed the country’s conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.E.

the historic Silk Road

The Times of Malta reported on a lecture in Malta by Fang Lili, director of the Artistic Anthropology Research Institute of the Chinese National Academy of Arts. Her talk, entitled Belt and Road, was about the Chinese porcelain trade. Complementing the lecture was the inaugurations of an exhibit called, The Silk Road – Reflection of Mutual Learning.

human evolution update

The Guardian and several other mainstream media reported on revised dating of and rethinking about Homo naledi, an early human species whose remains are being recovered from the Rising Star cave in South Africa. A series of reports published May 9 in eLife describe the impressive amount of fossil material and findings from recent tests that indicate they are between 335,000 and 236,000 years old, thus much younger than previously thought. The Guardian quotes paleontologist Lee Berger, the lead scientist on the project and research professor at the University of Witwatersrand: “It means that this species of primitive hominid was actually around at the same time as Homo sapiens.”

Barbara J. King, professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, contributed a piece for National Public Radio (U.S.) about the revised dates: “This was, to put it mildly, a surprise.” She also comments on a new book by Berger, called Almost Human, which appeared simultaneously with the eLife publications: “Berger’s final chapter focuses on the new information coming out of Rising Star — the excavation of a second chamber with more Homo naledi individuals, the process of coming up with the recent date — and on making a case for intentional ‘depositing’ of bodies as the reason the fossils ended up in the two cave chambers…My own work about response to death is in the area of expressed grief in a variety of animals — not in care-taking of bodies after death. Still, based on what I have learned, I don’t think it’s out of the question at all that a human-like species with a small brain might have curated its dead in the way Berger describes.”

massive burial ground on Mississippi campus 

USA Today reported on the discovery of the burials of perhaps 7,000 bodies on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. They are former patients of the state’s first mental institution, built in 1855. The university, which wants to build on the land, has learned of the high costs of exhuming the burials and considering next steps. The article quotes biological anthropologist Molly Zuckerman, associate professor in Mississippi State’s department of anthropology and Middle Eastern cultures: “It would be a unique resource for Mississippi…It would make Mississippi a national center on historical records relating to health in the pre-modern period, particularly those being institutionalized.” She and others have formed the Asylum Hill Research Consortium, made up of anthropologists, archaeologists, historians and an expert in dating the wood of the coffins. [Blogger’s note: it’s that this massive site had so little historical presence until development of the land was initiated. No doubt, research on the burials and their stories will provide important findings about the people’s lives and deaths…and even the possible use of their bodies as cadavers by the medical school.]

the anthropology of comfort food

Credit: Bar Belle Blog

An article in Mother Jones highlights the research of biological anthropologist Laura González of San Diego Miramar College who has studied emotional eating and comfort foods. She has found that people link favorite foods with memories of childhood, family, and holiday traditions. She also offers evolutionary ties in, for example, her finding that people across various cultures often reach for warm food in times of stress. Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham theorizes that once human ancestors starting using fire to cook, they used less energy to digest, leading to stronger bodies and bigger brains—in short, cooked foods are adaptive and, according to Wrangham, a key factor in modern human evolution. By implication, warm foods give people comfort even today. [Blogger’s note: turning to certain liquids may be just as, or even more important than, turning to food for stress-relief. I am sure the bios can find an evolutionary root for liquids, too, warm or cold or room temp, sweet or bitter, alcoholic or not, sucked from a bottle or sipped from a porcelain cup.]

pollution in the Himalayas

The Hindu (India) reported on the growing air pollution in the Himalayas, focusing on the effects of high levels of sulphur from diesel emissions along the Manali-Leh highway of the northwestern region. Findings are published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. The article quotes co-author Brooke Crowley, assistant professor of geology and anthropology at the University of Cincinnati:  “We measured incredibly high amounts of sulfur close to the highway. Some of those values are the highest ever reported in the literature and were likely connected to truck traffic…At first glance, it’s easy to consider the region to be a pretty pristine place. But there are environmental impacts from humans.”

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