Anthro in the news 10/10/11

• Myths about Afghanistan live on
“Ten Years In, Afghan Myths Live On” is an op-ed that appeared in the New York Times on October 8. It is co-authored by my colleague, Ben Hopkins, a historian at George Washington University, and Magnus Marsden, an anthropologist at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Hopkins and Marsden are co-authors of a new book, Fragments of the Afghan Frontier. In the op-ed, the authors point out that the “West” today is replicating the errors of the British in Afghanistan by adhering to stale and useless caricatures of the Afghan people.

• All night long
Slate took on the issue of sexuality last week and highlighted the work of Barry and Bonnie Hewlett, anthropology professors at Washington State University. The Hewletts believe they have found a society with a lot of sexual interaction going on. They have done long-term research with the Aka people of the Central African Republic. In a report published last year in African Study Monographs, the researchers discuss their findings from research that was prompted by hearing people report having sex three or four times per night.

• Toddlers share
An article in the Toronto Star discussed findings, published online by the journal PLoS ONE, that children as young as 15 months have a well developed sense of sharing. Marco Schmidt, a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, and co-author of the study, observed 15-month-olds as they watched videos of people sharing crackers or milk.

• My language, my self: speaking up for Punjabi language
The Times of India reported that linguistic anthropology experts raised the issues of marginalization and distortion of Punjabi language in education, media and common use, during a seminar organized at the Punjabi university. Joga Singh, head of the Linguistic Anthropology and Punjabi Lexicography department at Punjabi University, insisted on the need of making Punjabi a medium of instruction at all levels of education.

• New thinking about ancient “temples”
Science Daily reports that ancient structures uncovered in Turkey and thought to be the world’s oldest temples may not have been religious buildings. Findings are published in the October issue of Current Anthropology. Archaeologist Ted Banning of the University of Toronto argues that the buildings found at Göbekli Tepe may have been houses for people, not the gods.

• Digging up old roads
Science Daily reports findings of a University of Colorado Boulder team who excavated a Maya village in El Salvador buried by a volcanic eruption 1,400 years ago. They have found an ancient road that was covered by a blanket of ash. The road, known as a “sacbe,” is roughly 6 feet across and is made from white volcanic ash. In Yucatan Maya, the word “sacbe” (SOCK’-bay) means “white way” and describes an elevated ancient road typically lined with stone and paved with white lime plaster and that sometimes connected temples, plazas and towns.

• Bloodless takeovers: empire building the Inca way
Science News picked up on recent findings that Inca empire-builders adopted a range of largely nonviolent takeover tactics starting around 1000. This view comes from anthropologists Valerie Andrushko of Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Elva Torres of the National Institute of Culture in Cuzco, Peru. They have studied head injuries, which are suggestive of warfare. They find that head injuries appear on only a small proportion of skeletons excavated at Inca-controlled sites located near Cuzco. “It appears that the Inca relied less on warfare to conquer other groups and more on political alliances, bloodless takeovers and ideological control tactics,” Andrushko says. Their findings are published online in the September 30 issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

• Paleolithic diet survivors
William Leonard, the Weinberg professor and chair of the anthropology department at Northwestern University, was featured on a Discovery Channel show considering whether modern-day humans could adapt to a Paleolithic diet and lifestyle. “I, Caveman,” which aired Oct. 2, followed 10 people for 10 days as they lived as cavemen and cavewomen in high-altitude Colorado. “They wanted to ask the question of how well or how poorly modern humans can make it as Paleolithic hunter-gatherers,” Leonard said.

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