Anthro in the news 12/20/10

• Australia’s first indigenous Rhodes Scholar
Adelaide University student Rebecca Richards is the first Australian indigenous Rhodes Scholar. She will study anthropology at Oxford and pursue her passion for repatriation of objects to indigenous communities in Australia as well as survival of their languages and cultures. She has custodial responsibilities for her family site and other women’s sites in the Flinders Ranges.

• Riches from a poor country
In the 1930s, 21-year-old Alan Lomax recorded many hours of music in Haiti. Lomax went on to become a renowned folklorist and ethnomusicologist. For decades, the recordings sat in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Discovered in the late 1990s, they have been meticulously edited and annotated by Gage Averill, dean of arts at the University of British Columbia. The recordings, which were released this year as a boxed set, Alan Lomax in Haiti, have received two Grammy nominations.

• Audio on science vs humanities
An audio debate on defining anthropology as a science or not between professor Peter Peregrine, president of the Society for Anthropological Science, and professor Hugh Gusterson, executive board member of the American Anthropological Association.

• Holiday lights as social capital
The Washington Post [note: WaPo link has gone dead, here’s another one] quoted biological anthropologist David Sloan Wilson of SUNY Albany in an article about the meaning of holiday lights in public areas: “One way that neighborhoods express their feelings of neighborliness is to decorate the house, not the inside but the outside…It’s an expression of goodwill, basically.”

• Like a bridge over Stonehenge
An Aboriginal archaeological site in Tasmania, perhaps 42,000 years old, will have a concrete highway bridge built over it. The decision to allow the project comes in spite of pleas from many archaeologists including Sandra Bowdler, emeritus professor at the University of Western Australia. She compared the project to building a bridge over Stonehenge.

• Neglect may outdo Vesuvius
Pompeii is crumbling. This World Heritage site, and one of the most famous attractions in Italy, is in danger again. Lack of maintenance and heavy tourist use are taking their toll, and only 20 percent of the site is considered adequately secured. Another problem is the many stray dogs. Moreover, in the words of Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, an archaeologist who supervised the site for the Culture Ministry from 1994-2009, “Pompeii is fragile.”

• Nutritional cannibalism as early English cuisine
Discovery News says it was a survival strategy. From 12,000 years ago in a cave in Somerset, England: British researchers Yolanda Fernandez-Jalvo and Peter Andrews have found evidence of cannibalism which they say could have been a survival strategy. They used experimental methods of identifying marks on bones to reveal human cannibalism. They asked four groups of Europeans to chew raw and cooked meat bones from several animals. They also studied chew marks on bones in museum collections. They found a distinct pattern from human chewing compared to chewing by other animals. Discovery News quotes Charles Egeland, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro: “distinguishing human chewing damage from other agents…is extremely important.” Findings will be published in the Journal of Human Evolution in January.

• Wolf-dogs of ancient Mexico
Jaw bones provide skeletal evidence that wolf-dogs were crossbred in the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan. Archaeologist Raul Valadez said the animal was the result of intentional selection. It may have been a symbol of strength and power. Several wolf-dog jaw bones were made into a garment found on a warrior’s skeleton.

• Oldest Chinese soup
Liquid and bones unearthed in a sealed bronze cooking vessel near the ancient city of Xian in northwest China are likely the 2,400 year-old remains of a pot of soup. Liu Daiyun of the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology told BBC News: “It’s the first discovery of bone soup in Chinese archaeological history.”

• Oldest human-bone tool
Restudy with new microscopic techniques of a 50,000 year-old human bone originally unearthed in 1926 in southwest France indicates it was used by Neanderthals to retouch stone tool edges. The researchers are Christine Verna of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and Francesco d’Errico of the University of Bordeaux. The findings are reported in the Journal of Human Evolution.

One thought on “Anthro in the news 12/20/10

  1. I’d really like to see that WaPo article on holiday lights but the link is broken. Can you email me some info about it? An author and date would be great. Thanks!

    [Web master’s note: The link has indeed become broken. Thanks for letting us know! It looks like it was an AP story, so we added a better link above.]


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