Anthro in the news 2/27/12

• Possible cholera spike in Haiti
Paul Farmer of the Boston-based group Partners in Health says  that Haiti could see a spike like the one that occurred last year. The number of cholera cases nearly tripled from almost 19,000 last April to more than 50,000 two months later. Partners in Health will launch a vaccination campaign in the coming weeks to stem the spread of the waterborne disease. Haiti has the highest cholera infection rate in the world. Health officials say more than 7,000 people have died and another 522,000 have fallen ill since the disease surfaced in Haiti months after the January 2010 earthquake.

Manipur, India

• Tracing Kuki origins in Manipur, India
A team of the Kuki Research Forum has carried out an expedition to three cave sites in the Sajik Tampak area of Chandel district, Manipur state, India. Speaking to The Sangai Express, vice chairman of the Forum, anthropologist Helkhomang Touthang said that the cave expedition was conducted to understand the history and activities of the early Kuki people.


• Very old Mexican gameboard

The board, used in ancient times to play a game known as patolli. Credit: Herbert Ortega/INAH

Archaeologists carrying out restoration at the Dzibilnocac site in the southeastern state of Campeche discovered a Mayan game board dating from more than 1,000 years ago, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said. A member of the team that found the artifact, Heber Ojeda, estimates the board was used between the 7th and 10th centuries during the Late Classic period of Dzibilnocac. Etched into the surface of the board are 58 rectangles of varying sizes and players would have used beans as game tokens. A member of the team that found the artifact, Heber Ojeda, estimates the board was used between the 7th and 10th centuries during the Late Classic period of Dzibilnocac. Judith Gallegos Gomora is quoted as saying that the board was designed for patolli, a game of chance described in Mayan codices and colonial Spanish chronicles.


• Neanderthals taking an exit
New findings from an international team of researchers show that most Neanderthals in Europe died off around 50,000 years ago. The previously held view of a Europe populated by a stable Neanderthal population for hundreds of thousands of years up until modern humans arrived is therefore thrown into question. This perspective comes from a study of ancient DNA published in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The results indicate that most Neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of Neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture. The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid. “The fact that Neanderthals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the Neanderthals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought,” says Love Dalén, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm

• Learning from Nubian skeletons in Michigan
A group of undergraduate students in the forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology program at Michigan State University are studying Nubian bones which date between the 6th and 15th centuries of the present era. The students hope to learn how the Nubians lived as well as how they died. The collection is on loan to MSU from the British Museum. The bones are from the Mis Island, located along the Nile River in present-day Sudan and now underwater due to a dam project that flooded the island. “We don’t know much about Nubia,” said Carolyn Hurst, a doctoral student who runs the lab with Todd Fenton, an associate professor in the MSU Department of Anthropology. Hurst continues: “So much of the focus is on Egypt. We don’t have internal texts from Nubia telling us about their society, so these bones are our chance to study it and learn about it.”

• In memoriam
Marie Colvin, a journalist who was killed on February 22 in the city of Homs, Syria, earned a BA in anthropology from Yale University before turning to journalism. She was a veteran correspondent known for reporting on war’s human consequences. She had for years worked in conflict zones and high risk areas. Her family has started a fund in her honor. The Marie Colvin fund is intended to direct resources to charities that her family says she would have supported.

Robert E. von Kaupp explorer, independent anthropologist,archaeologist, filmmaker, pilot, mountaineer, and scuba diver, died in January. He made documentary films of indigenous peoples and customs in remote areas of Ecuador, Mexico, Bali and Indonesia. He donated his collection of Mexican masks to the Smithsonian Institution. Von Kaupp received bachelor’s degrees from the Institute of Ethnology at the University of Paris, Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California, and the University of the Americas in Mexico City; he received a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of the Americas; and he received a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts. Von Kaupp made his first trip to Peru when he was 25 years old. For the rest of his life, he studied pre-Incan and Incan architecture of the Central Andes. He published dozens of monographs and articles.

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