Anthro in the news 6/18/12

• Being a citizen anthropologist
In an essay in the Huffington Post, Julia Hammett described her involvement in the Occupy movement in Reno, Nevada, and her role as a citizen anthropologist: “I have been an Occupier in Occupy Reno (OR) since it began last October. Many view Occupy as a youth movement, with Occupy Wall Street (OWS) as its epicenter, because of the financial meltdown; but its traditions are deep-rooted in human history, and Occupiers target social injustice worldwide. Each occupation acts independently according to its own governing processes, yet Occupiers are interconnected through social networking…” Hammett is a professor of anthropology at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and has conducted research in four regions of North America: California, the Great Basin, the Southeastern United States, and the American Southwest. Her research combines ecological, archaeological and historical data to analyze landscapes and land use patterns

• What is anthropology?
S.L. Malik, head of the anthropology department at Delhi University, published an article in The Hindustan Times describing the scope of anthropology.

• It’s getting older all the time: European cave art
An international team led by Alistair W. G. Pike of the University of Bristol has determined that the red disk in the cave known as El Castillo, Spain, is at least 40,800 years old. That makes it the earliest cave art in Europe, 4,000 years older than the paintings at Chauvet, France. In a report published online in the journal Science, Pike and his colleagues noted that the El Castillo art is “nonfigurative and monochrome (red), supporting the notion that the earliest expression of art in Western Europe was less concerned with animal depiction and characterized by red dots, disks, line and hand stencils.” [Blogger’s note: the new/older dates prompt serious rethinking of the accepted narrative of the winner modern humans arriving in Europe (very smart, great tools) versus the loser Neanderthals (not so smart, not such great tools) who supposedly succumbed in the face of the smarter incomers…but…maybe not such a simple takeover story?].

• Baby talk the gorilla way
Mother gorillas use “baby talk” in their facial and hand gestures when communicating with their infants, according to Eva Maria Luef of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, She filmed 120 hours of footage of gorillas at the Leipzig Zoo and two wild animal parks in Britain. The footage shows that adult female gorillas use more tactile gestures when playing with infants than they use with other adults, suggesting that “…older animals possess a certain awareness of the infants’ immature communication skills.” The research has been published in the American Journal of Primatology.

• Bonobo genome mapped, and so?
The media hopped on the news that scientists have now mapped bonobo DNA. According to a report from MSNBC, findings indicate what we already knew: modern humans (us) “are as close genetically to the peace-loving but little-known bonobo as we are to the more violent and better understood chimpanzee.” The study, published in the journal Nature, says that bonobos and chimpanzees share 99.6 percent of their genomes. Yet bonobos and chimps have distinctly different behaviors. Bonobos display what might be thought of as our better angels, said Duke University anthropologist Brian Hare. [Blogger’s note: I am sure there is a lot missing here in the msnbc coverage, and other mainstream media coverage, in terms of the bonobo genome…and what it might mean for human evolution].

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