Anthro in the news 12/9/13

Marlene McKay
Marlene McKay. Credit: Liam Richards/Canadian Press

• Violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada: stop it

Canada paused on Friday to remember the 14 young Montreal women who were murdered by a misogynistic madman. As part of the tribute, the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition unveiled a public art display of shoes in the square at City Hall to illustrate the lifetime loss of girls and women who are fatal victims of violence, often domestic abuse that forces them out onto the streets.

An article in The Toronto Star quoted Marlene McKay, a Métis anthropologist who has studied marginalized aboriginal women as well as the “broken women from Saskatoon’s 20th Street.” She said that history has inflicted so much pain and lowered the self-worth of Canada’s aboriginal women that the fact hundreds are missing has become little more than a sociological footnote. Feminism, she says, is still pretty much an F-word in indigenous culture: “We are just entering that conversation.”

• Belize in the news

The Huffington Post carried an interview with Joe Awe, a Belizean activist, entrepreneur, anthropologist, Mayanist, tourism lecturer at a junior college, and one of Belize’s top tour guides. Awe shares facts and ideas about Belize’s history, culture, ecotourism, economy and sustainable development.

• Take that anthro degree and…

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela/Wikipedia

…become head the Industrial Development Group with interests in mining and petroleum. Makaziwe Mandela is the daughter of Nelson Mandela and his only surviving child from his first marriage. She she earned a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

…become a parish priest. Russell Pollitt is a Jesuit Priest in Johannesburg, South Africa. He majored in sociology and cultural anthropology and has a master’s degree in theology. After ordination as a priest in 2006 he was appointed parish priest of Holy Trinity in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

During this time he was also the Catholic Chaplain to the University of Witswatersrand and the University of Johannesburg. Currently he is doing a course in Portland, Oregon, after which he will return to South Africa.

• Global politics of maritime archaeology in the South China Sea

Underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio‘s team was exploring the wreckage of a 13th-century Chinese junk off the coast of the Philippines when it made an unwelcome discovery about China’s maritime muscle in the 21st century.

Territorial Claims WSJ
Credit: WSJ

With territorial disputes escalating in the waters off China, the Chinese government has begun asserting ownership of thousands of shipwrecks within a vast area that covers almost all of the South China Sea, which it says has been part of its territorial waters for centuries.

China has ordered its coast guard to prevent what it considers illegal archaeology in the waters it claims, and it is pouring money into a state-run marine-archaeology program. Chinese archaeologists are preparing their first comprehensive survey of undersea sites, including sites in disputed areas.

• Archaeology field school is on campus

According to an article in The New York Times, the new site of the University of Toronto Mississauga’s historical archaeology field school is on campus, next to the mansion that is the residence of UTM’s vice president and principal.

The field school, held during alternate summers and the subsequent autumn semesters, allows third-year anthropology students at UTM to apply their classroom lessons in the field. In past years, it was held at historical sites throughout Ontario, but this year the faculty decided that the campus itself had the potential to be a learning laboratory.

Michael Brand, the professor and historical archaeologist who ran this year’s field school and teaches the accompanying course, said he suspected that the area was once the site of Mount Woodham, one of three homes built by the Canadian artist Charlotte Schreiber and her husband.

• Stonehenge: ready for the solstice


After 30 years of planning and archaeological controversy, Stonehenge is ready for the 2013 solstice, on Saturday 21 December, which comes three days after the opening of the first phase of a £27m rebuild of facilities at the site in Wiltshire.

Demand to take part in the annual celebrations, which have already been attracting increasing numbers, is expected to beat all previous years. Julian Richards, archaeologist and author of a new guidebook to Stonehenge, is quoted in The Guardian as saying: “There has been a growth in Druid orders and in the number of people interested in pagan festivals.”

• Neolithic site in China with 80 burials, most female

According to BBC News and several other sources, archaeologists have found more than 80 skulls in the ruins of a Neolithic Chinese city in Shannxi Province. The remains are mainly those of young women, thought to have died in ancient sacrifices or foundation-laying ceremonies. Archaeologists found the skulls in pits in front of the east gate and along the city wall of the Shimao Ruins in northwest China. No limb bones have yet been found, says Sun Zhouyong, deputy head of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.

• Everything in its place, Neanderthal style

Science News reported on recent findings that Neanderthals had a sense of how to organize their living space. According to an international group of anthropologists and archaeologists led by Brigitte Holt from the University of Massachusetts, Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) organized their living spaces in ways that would be familiar to modern humans.

“There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organized use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans. But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organized and purposeful when it came to domestic space,” said Julien Riel-Salvatore from the University of Colorado Denver, who is the first author of a paper published in the Canadian Journal of Archaeology.

The findings are based on excavations at Riparo Bombrini, a collapsed rock shelter in northwest Italy where Neanderthals lived for thousands of years. Neanderthals butchered animals, made tools, and gathered round the fire in different parts of their shelters.

• DNA reveals early human complexity

The Wall Street Journal and many other media reported on recent findings by geneticists led by Matthias Meyer at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany using the oldest known human DNA. The evidence, dating to more than 300,000 years ago, is from a fossil thigh bone found in a cave at the site of Sima de los Huesos in northern Spain.

The appearance of the bones from the site suggest a physical resemblance to Neanderthals. But the genetic analysis reported in Nature shows that their maternal DNA, drawn from special cell structures called mitochondria, was different than that of Neanderthals and also unlike that of early modern humans. It was most closely related to a hominin species called the Denisovans, whose distribution to date was limited to Siberia and Southeast Asia.

• Paranthropis boisei update

A 1.34-million-year-old partial skeleton of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei – including arm, hand, leg, and foot fragments – found at the Olduvai Gorge site in Tanzania represents one of the most recent occurrences of this hominin before it died out in East Africa.

During Olduvai excavations in 2010-2011, anthropologist Charles Musiba of the University of Colorado Denver with colleagues unearthed the partial skeleton of a large adult individual who is represented by various teeth and skeletal parts.

“This is the first time we’ve found bones that suggest that this creature was more ruggedly built – combining terrestrial bipedal locomotion and some arboreal behaviors – than we’d previously thought. It seems to have more well-formed forearm muscles that were used for climbing, fine-manipulation and all sorts of behavior,” said Musiba, a co-author of the paper published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Tanya Luhrmann
Tanya Luhrmann. Credit: University of Louisville
• Kudos

Tanya Luhrmann is the winner of this year’s Grawemeyer Award in religion for her book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God.

She explored a type of prayer in which God becomes active and present in one’s life. It’s both rooted in ancient Christian traditions, while also a product of the 1960s, a time of radical religious transformation in the U.S.

The Grawemeyer Awards are five annual prizes given in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education, and religion. H. Charles Grawemeyer, industrialist, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist, created the Grawemeyer Awards at the University of Louisville in 1984. The endowment draws nominations from around the world.

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