Anthro in the news 2/10/14

  • Half an enchilada

In an article about U.S. immigration reform, The Arizona Republic discussed several views and then quoted Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, an anthropology professor and director of Arizona State University’s School of Transborder Studies. He said that most undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. for a better life for themselves, but especially for their children: “It’s all about sacrifice…They will swallow the poison in order for their children to have a milkshake.”

Luis Plascencia, an anthropology professor at ASU who focuses on migration policy, agreed, saying that if legal status short of citizenship is “…all you are going to get, then you’ll take it…Half an enchilada is better than no enchilada.”

  • In London: Threat to curry restaurants and late night curry tradition

Cultural anthropologist Sean Carey published an article in The Guardian about a major threat to London’s Brick Lane curry restaurants from a new ruling seeking to ban post-midnight curry meals.  The rationale is that the late curry culture is associated with excessive rowdiness. For those who are not aware of this tradition in the UK: after the pubs close, many people move on to have a curry meal between midnight and 2am. [Blogger’s note: curry is the most popular dish in England; you can see more of Sean Carey’s writings here on anthropologyworks].

  • Alzheimer’s disease and awareness about it

An article in The National (Abu Dhabi) discussed the need to raise awareness about the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the Middle East. The article noted that while much statistical evidence exists to show that Alzheimer’s is a growing problem worldwide (see the 2013 World Alzheimer Report), the figures do not tell the whole story. It then quotes extensively from medical anthropologist Margaret Lock’s writings in her new book The Alzheimer Conundrum, Entanglements of Dementia and Aging:

“Over the past decade, professional and media publications about Alzheimer’s have increased exponentially, and some highlight an entrenched problem not evident in simple tallies about the burgeoning numbers of elderly…If the burden that increasing numbers of demented elderly place on society, families and individual caregivers is to be engaged with constructively, then the ignorance, fear, stigma, shame, discrimination, denial and indifference commonly associated with dementia must first be exposed and overcome.”

Lock argues for a different approach to Alzheimer’s, one that focuses more on those who do not develop the disease.

  • Just in time for Valentine’s Day: A chat with Helen Fisher

USA Today provided an interview with biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, professor at Rutgers University and chief scientific advisor of The conversation covers the state of relationships as revealed by the second annual Singles in America study, beginning with the question: What was one of the most surprising findings that you came across while doing this study?

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a photographer and artist. Sydelle Willow Smith is the first recipient of the Gisèle Wulfsohn Mentorship in Photography, and her work is now displayed in a solo exhibition at The Photo Workshop Gallery in Johannesburg. The exhibit, Soft Walls, investigates the subtle ways in which African nationals and South Africans, through social relationships, make sense of their space, experiences and complexities.

…become a strip dancer and writer. Viva Las Vegas is the chosen name of the most famous dancer in Portland, Oregon. She is also an accomplished writer, with two books: Magic Gardens: The Memoirs of Viva Las Vegas and The Gospel According to Viva Las Vegas: Best of the Exotic Years. She also writes for the Portland Monthly, The New York Times and Village Voice. She majored in cultural anthropology at Williams College.

…write a book based on interviews with jazz musicians that explores the creative process. Radhika Philip, born in Bombay, moved to the U.S. and fell in love with New York City and jazz. According to available sources, she studied anthropology, perhaps at Columbia University [Blogger’s note: apologies for not being able to provide more details.]

Whether or not she majored in anthropology, its perspectives clearly influence the research she did for her book, Being Here. It is a compilation of interviews with New York City improvisational musicians exploring the values and practices that inform their music making.

  • Kathy Reichs in New Zealand

The Southland Times of Fairfax, New Zealand, profiled American forensic anthropologist and author, Kathy Reichs. One of only 82 forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, Reichs has published 16 books in the Bones series, which follows heroine Temperance Brennan. Her books have been adapted for TV into the series Bones, now in its ninth season. Reichs works as a producer and scriptwriter on the show and appeared in one episode as a stern professor.

  • Unearthing historic Varanasi, India

Is Varanasi older than its known history? In an effort to find an answer to this question, a group of archeologists led by former professor of archeology at Banaras Hindu University, Vidula Jayaswal, is carrying out an excavation in the city’s Kashi-Rajghat area with help from the Archaeological Survey of India. Jayaswal is the author of Ancient Varanasi:  An Archaeological Perspective.


Boating down the Ganges in Varanasi, India (photo via
  • Archaeology of fishing

The Gainesville Sun reported on a field study of past and present fishing practices in Cedar Key, located off the western coast of Florida, by a doctoral student in archaeology at the University of Florida. Ginessa Mahar is researching changes in fishing technologies from 5,000 years ago to the present day. Early Indians in the region would have used net materials like palm fibers, which do not usually survive in the archaeological record. So, she is using indirect archaeological evidence to reveal practices in the past such as the species and sizes of the fish remains found. The project seeks to shed light on prehistoric social organization of the Indian groups. For example, for big net fishing, many people would have needed to work together, whereas hook-and-line fishing would be a more solitary task.

  • Archaeobunnies

Thanks to a family of rabbits, a major archaeological discovery has been made at Land’s End in Cornwall, England, including Neolithic arrow heads, flint tools, and hide scrapers. While formal excavation has not yet begun, a burial ground is likely. The Independent quoted team leader, Dean Paton:

“It’s a million-to-one chance rabbits should make such an astounding find…They dug two little burrows right next to each other and all these treasures were thrown out of the earth. No one knows the scale of it but it’s a gold-mine. A family of rabbits have just rewritten the history books.”

Big Heritage also plans to create an “archaeobunnies” children’s trail at Land’s End. Land’s End is the most south-westerly point of mainland Britain.

  • When did the camel cross the road?

(photo via wiki commons)

Fox News reported on findings by Israeli archaeologists who have used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the arrival of domestic camels in the Middle East. Results contradict the Bible’s Old Testament version of events which would place the arrival of camels between 2000 and 1500 BCE. Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures say camels were domesticated in Israel around 900 BCE. All the sites active in the 9th century in the Aravah Valley had camel bones, but none of the sites that were active earlier contained them. The arrival of domesticated camels promoted trade between the region and much more distant areas since camels can travel longer distances than donkeys and mules. One such trade route made possible by camels was the Incense Route that stretched from Africa through the Middle East to India.

  • French contributions to archaeology and contemporary social studies of Pakistan

Dawn (Pakistan) reported on a recent conference held at the Alliance Francaise Karachi on French Contributions to Pakistan Studies. Presentations reported on research by French paleontologists, archeologists, sociologists, political scientists, and biologists.

Highlights on the archaeological research: Archaeologist Jean-Francois Jarringe described the civilization of Mehrgarh in Balochistan from 8000 to 500 BCE. Aurore Didier and Roland Besenal described 20 years of archeological work in Makran, on the Baloch coast. The work of the French Archeological Mission in Sindh, led by Monique Kevran for 25 years, began in the Persian Gulf, where she found ceramics from Sindh in Oman. She came to Sindh to investigate and has stayed there ever since, working in Bhanbore.

In terms of contemporary social science studies: social historian, Michel Boivin, spoke on the establishment of the Centre for Social Sciences in Karachi where Pakistani students are trained in studying and researching culture and society in Pakistan and wider South Asia.

  • Unrest halts excavations in Pakistan

According to The News International (Pakistan), excavations have ceased at a dig in Balochistan because of ongoing unrest in the province. Members of two archaeological teams, one from Makran (Balochistan) and the other from Bhanbore (Sindh), met the media and exchanged views at the Alliance Française of Karachi. The leader of the Makran team, Aurore Didier, said she and her team had carried out excavations in Makran between 1987 and 2007 and have found evidence of a highly advanced civilization. Roland Besenval, also from the Makran team, said they had made some sensational finds, especially from the end of the 5th millennium BCE to the present day. Paul Wormser, the leader of the Bhanbore team, said they had unearthed important artifacts from the site, dating from the 1st century CE to the Mughal period, including evidence of an important port linking Pakistan with countries of the Persian Gulf, including Iran. The researchers are now collating information from decades of work for publication.

  • Footprints in the sand

BBC News and other media reported on the discovery of the earliest evidence of human footprints outside of Africa, on the Norfolk Coast of England. The footprints are more than 800,000 years old and are direct evidence of the earliest known humans in northern Europe. Analysis of images of the footprint images by Isabelle De Groote of Liverpool John Moores University confirmed that the hollows observed on the shore were indeed human footprints. Details are published in Plos One.

The footprints have been described as, “one of the most important discoveries, if not the most important discovery that has been made on [Britain’s] shores,” by Nick Ashton of the British Museum. “It will rewrite our understanding of the early human occupation of Britain and indeed of Europe.”

The article mentions the view of Chris Stringer, of the British Natural History Museum:

“This discovery gives us even more concrete evidence that there were people there…We can now start to look at a group of people and their everyday activities. And if we keep looking, we will find even more evidence of them, hopefully even human fossils. That would be my dream.”

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