Anthro in the news 08/27/12

Class conflict in Spain
An article in the New York Times describes class conflicts in a time of austerity and joblessness and demonstrations in rural areas that echo the civil war years. José Luis Solana, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Jaén, was quoted as saying that even if some of the claims made by the farm unions were questionable or exaggerated, ”an agrarian reform and proper land distribution in Andalusia is one of the missing elements of our transition to democracy” – both in terms of social justice and improved economic efficiency.

Lessons from the Hadza
Herman Portzer contributed an op-ed to the Sunday New York Times in which he reports on findings from a study of their everyday energy expenditure. Results suggest that Hadza energy expenditures are not markedly different from those of people who live in modern, sedentary contexts, pointing more toward diet as the cause of obesity in many developed, Western populations. Portzer is an assistant professor of anthropology at Hunter College and co-founder of the Hadza Fund which supports the Hadza people of East Africa.

Low-end globalization
The South China Morning Post carried an article about China-Africa trade ties, noting that Hong Kong will play an important role in the emerging relationships. The article focused, however, on the cultural gap between Chinese and African people and the lack of attention to interpersonal relationships between Chinese and African people. It mentioned the work of Gordon Mathews, an anthropology professor at Chinese University and author of Ghetto at the Centre of the World, a book on Chungking. Mathews, who coined the term “low-end globalization,” estimates that at least 20 per cent of the mobile phones sold in Africa have passed through Chungking.

Healthcare tourism south of the border
Matthew Dalstrom published an article in the Huffington Post on health care tourism from the United States to Mexico. Dahlstrom, assistant professor of anthropology at Rockford College, points out that, in the United States, rising health care costs, decreasing insurance coverage, and the great recession have made it increasingly difficult to afford health care, especially for elderly retirees. Dahlstrom is researching the growing number of U.S. retirees who travel to Mexico for health care. One of the most popular locations is Nuevo Progreso, in northeast Mexico. Nuevo Progreso has bars, restaurants, and stores selling tourist items as well as over 70 dental clinics, 60 pharmacies, and 10 doctors’ offices that advertize low prices, high quality health care, and English-speaking employees.

Forensic anthropology of migration attempt failed
Argentinian forensic experts have traveled to southern Mexico to exhume 96 bodies thought to be those of Central Americans who died as they tried to get to the United States. Six experts from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) are working with local and federal authorities in the cities of Tapachula and Ciudad Hidalgo in the state of Chiapas.

Holocaust archaeology
Several mainstream media sources around the world carried an article about an Israeli archaeologist, Yoram Haimi, who has decided to investigate his family’s unknown Holocaust history by excavating in a Nazi death camp. After learning that two of his uncles were murdered in the infamous Sobibor death camp, he embarked on a landmark excavation project that is shining new light on the workings of one of the most notorious Nazi killing machines, including pinpointing the location of the gas chambers where hundreds of thousands were killed. Haimi is quoted as saying, “I feel like I am an investigator in a criminal forensic laboratory.”

What lurks beneath a parking lot: Richard III’s grave?
Over the centuries many explanations have arisen about the final resting place of Richard III. Archaeologists are hoping to find his lost grave under a car park in Leicester, which they believe was once the site of a church where the medieval monarch was buried more than 500 years ago.

Possible victims of human sacrifice in central Mexico
Mexican researchers found 15 graves with entire human skeletons estimated at more than 850 years old at an archaeological site in the central state of Queretaro, according to the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH). Most of the remains are of young men, and they may been been victims of human sacrifice. The discovery is located in Tancama in the Sierra Gorda mountains of Queretaro. The pre-Columbian settlement of Tancama prospered between 250 and 800 C.E. and was at its height between 500 and 750 C.E..Jorge Alberto Quiroz, head of the dig at Tancama, said that the skeletons were taken to the Comparative Archaeological Collections Department of INAH in Mexico City.

The Amphora, Credit: EFE

Very old wine
Archaeologists in Vélez-Málaga, Italy, have re-discovered a Roman amphora, dating from the first century. The amphora had been lost for years, but was found again in 1960 before being forgotten once again. The vessel still contains wine which may be in “perfect conditions” because it is hermetically sealed.

Those who went out to sea in ships…
The Telegraph carried a review of a new book by archaeologist Brian Fagan, Beyond the Blue Horizon, a “fascinating history of man’s first attempts to master the oceans…Brian Fagan, a British-born emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, has a passion for the sea. A great sailor himself, his book takes us deep into prehistory as he investigates how we began to navigate the oceans. It is a fascinating story. From the Polynesian and Aboriginal peoples to the “Monsoon World” of the Indian Ocean, from the classical world’s Mediterranean trade routes to the Atlantic adventures of the northern peoples, this is history on a grand scale.”

Oldest human fossils in Southeast Asia
A skull recovered from a cave in the Annamite Mountains in northern Laos is now considered to be the oldest modern human fossil evidence in Southeast Asia. The discovery pushes back the clock on modern human migration through the region by as much as 20,000 years and indicates that ancient wanderers out of Africa left the coast and inhabited diverse habitats much earlier than previously appreciated. Findings are presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It’s a particularly old modern human fossil and it’s also a particularly old modern human for that region,” said University of Illinois anthropologist Laura Shackelford, who led the study with anthropologist Fabrice Demeter, of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. Shackleford added, “There are other modern human fossils in China or in Island Southeast Asia that may be around the same age but they either are not well dated or they do not show definitively modern human features. This skull is very well dated and shows very conclusive modern human features.”

In memoriam
Roderick Sprague, professor emeritus of anthropology and director emeritus of the Laboratory of Anthropology at the University of Idaho, died at the age of 79 years. An American anthropologist, ethnohistorian, and historical archaeologist, he taught at the University of Idaho for thirty years. His expertise included environmental impact research, trade beads, American Indian burial customs, and the Columbia Basin area. He published more than 120 scientific papers and articles plus more than 100 unpublished reports to agencies specializing in historical archaeology, culture change theory, and artifact analysis including such areas as glass trade beads and buttons. He conducted research and burial excavations at the request of 10 different American Indian tribal governments in the Plateau, Great Basin and Northwest Coast with repatriation a standard procedure many years prior to the enactment of the federal Native American Grave Protection and repatriation Act. For 40 years, he was senior co-editor for the Journal of Northwest Anthropology, edited 96 of the 98 issues of the University of Idaho Anthropological Reports, and served for 20 years as Review Editor for Historical Archaeology. He did legal work for five different Northwest Tribes and two tribes outside of the area involved testimony in 5th District Federal Court. He continued to conduct research and serve as an expert witness for Northwest tribes after retirement.

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