Anthro in the news 2/21/11

• Social knowledge for good social policy
Sean Carey, cultural anthropologist at Roehampton University and frequent guest blogger at anthropologyworks, published an article in the Guardian on how social anthropology speaks to big social questions such as multiculturalism and public services. The message: find out how communities work before forging policy. He takes you to Brick Lane in London’s East End for an example of successful multicultural policy.

• How is flood insurance working for you?
A Louisiana Sea Grant is supporting a two-year study by anthropology and geography faculty and students from Louisiana State University. The goal is to learn how flood insurance affects residents of SW Louisiana and how people view flood insurance. Findings will lead to improved relationships between people and the federal agencies that administer the National Flood Insurance Program.

• Cruel cuts
In Scotland, following announced plans of cutting anthropology courses at Glasgow University, playwright Sir Tom Stoppard put his name on an open letter against the cuts. The letter was also signed by several hundred academics.

• A smooth stone between the bricks
The Washington Post profiled the research of Mark Leone, archaeology professor at the University of Maryland, on African slaves’ lives in America and their religious beliefs. Leone and his team have been working at the Wye plantation, outside Easton, Maryland, for six years. Findings include West African-style charms buried at the entrance to the slave quarters and a smooth field stone laid within the brickwork of a furnace. The stone may have been related to the Yoruba belief of a connection between the stone and Eshu-Elegba, the deity of fortune.

• From the field: excavating Maya civilization
In its “scientists at work” column, the New York Times blog featured two archaeologists at the Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala: Takeshi Inomata, professor of archaeology at the University of Arizona, and Daniela Triadan. The site was first excavated in the 1960s. Inomata and Triadan discuss the changes in excavation methods since then and the importance of building relations and working collaboratively with local Maya people.

• Archaeologist most quoted and mentioned
Head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, archaeologist Zahi Hawass has been prominent in the media since the political uprising began on January 25. In an essay on “Egypt: The Cultural Revolution,” in the Sunday New York Times, Robyn Creswell notes that Hawass was particularly favored by ex-president Mubarak in his recruitment of intellectuals: “The ideology…was straightforward. It affirmed the regime’s role as a bulwark of modernity, democratic reform, and social order…” Canada’s Globe and Mail asks if Hawass, given his close links to Mubarak, is the “next Egyptian icon to topple?”  Here is a link to Zahi Hawass’ blog.

• Shock and awe architecture in the Neolithic
11,000 years ago, the concept of a tower was new. Archaeologists propose that a tower built at Jericho at that time was all about agro power and threatening messages to herding peoples. They argue that the tower was not related to conflict since no invaders were present in the area at the time. So, they suggest, the tower was meant to frighten herders into settling down, taking up farming, and working harder.

• Hominid or not hominid, that is the question
Science News picked up on an article published in Nature by Bernard Wood of George Washington University and Terry Harrison of New York University. It’s all about whether fossils get to be part of the human ancestor line-up (hominid), or not. Fossils found in Ethiopia, by Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley, and dated to 4.4 million years ago, are the bones of this contention. White says: hominid. Wood and Harrison say: not.

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