Anthro in the news 08/20/12

• Complexities of the conflict in Mali

AllAfrica’s coverage of a large peace rally in Bamako, Mali, included commentary from Kassim Koné, a social anthropologist. In his view, the demonstration is proof that Malians see the current crisis as a political rather than a military problem: “Political groups in the south are all positioning themselves, and are doing what they can to hang on to power. And they all want to have a major say in the government…” He added that the fact that the rally occurred during Ramadan “…is very significant. It means it [the crisis in the north] is both religious and political.”

• Take that anthro degree and…

…become a successful organic farmer. The Toronto Star ran a story about the rise of young, educated women in farming in rural Ontario. One of the farmers mentioned is Leslie Moskovits who earned a degree in anthropology and environmental studies at the University of Toronto. After doing an internship on a farm as part of her studies, she was inspired to take a different career path from working in an NGO. She is now the  owner of a 38-hectare pesticide-free vegetable farm and feels she’s saving the earth from the ground up. Moskovits said farming is empowering for women:  as a farmer, you can be your own boss and make creative decisions.

• Street views of Maya ruins

Google is adding interactive images of dozens of pre-Hispanic ruins to the “Street View” feature on its Google Maps website. Google Mexico and Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History announced that 30 sites have been added to Street View. Dozens more will be coming online this year with the eventual goal being 90 sites. The feature allows users to click on map locations to obtain 360-degree, interactive images composed of millions of photos taken at street level by specially equipped vehicles. Sites online include Chichen Itza, Teotihuacan and Monte Alban.

• Very old tomb in Oaxaca

The tomb of a high-ranking member of Zapotec society was found at a 1,200-year-old funerary complex in Mexico’s  southern state of Oaxaca, according to the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH).

The burial chamber contains human remains that are likely those of a male, according to INAH archaeology coordinator Nelly Robles Garcia. She further explained that the site of Atzompa, a small satellite city of Monte Alban, “…changes the perception we had in the sense that it was not as similar to Monte Alban as had been thought but, instead, developed its own architectural expressions.

• Very old seal showing man-lion combat

Tel Aviv University researchers recently uncovered a seal, measuring 15 millimeters (about a half-inch) in diameter, which depicts a human figure next to a lion. The seal was found at the site of Beth Shemesh, located between the Biblical cities of Zorah and Eshtaol, where Samson lived, according to the book of Judges. The scene engraved on the seal, the time period, and the location of the discovery all point to a probable reference to the story of Samson, whose adventures included a victory in combat with a lion

• Did they or didn’t they?

The sex lives of Neanderthals, especially in relation to modern humans consistently makes headlines in the mainstream media, around the world. As of last week, new research negated earlier reports of interbreeding. The new findings, by researchers at the University of Cambridge, suggest that common ancestry, not hybridization, better explains the average 1-4 per cent DNA that living people of European and Asian descent share with Neanderthals. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

• In memoriam

Donald Ortner, biological anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., died suddenly in April at the age of 73 years. A specialist on calcified tissue and disease during human evolution, Ortner had done fieldwork in Jordan, the United States, Europe, and Australia.  His major research interest was on disease during the Holocene and the impact of sedentism, urbanism and agriculture on human health.  His research on disease in archeological human skeletal remains spanned more than forty years. His latest research project was on the antiquity of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and brucellosis, for which domestic animals are an intermediate host.  Ortner published more than 125 scientific papers and was author or editor of several books. The department newsletter, Anthropolog, provides more information on his life and contributions.

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