Anthro in the news 3/3/14

  • Parents beware: Don’t talk to your kids online

As reported in The Globe and Mail (Canada), Danah Boyd, cultural anthropologist, Microsoft researcher, and professor at New York University, recommends that parents who worry about the countless hours their teens spend on phones, tablets and computers: stop worrying. In her new book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, Boyd argues that teens need screen time to grow, learn and stay socially plugged in. And unlike those who fear social media is bad for our kids, making them sedentary and incapable of face-to-face interaction, she says the Internet is an essentially good (as well as inevitable) part of their lives. And they don’t need anxious parents monitoring everything they tweet or post. The Telegraph (U.K) also carried an article about Boyd and her new book.

  • Honey, can I trust you?

Fox News reported on research at Texas A & M University shows that most honey labels do not tell the truth: at least 75 percent of the honey in the U.S. is not what it says it is on the label. One lead honey investigator says the mis-reporting could be as high as 90 percent. Vaughn Bryant is an anthropology professor at Texas A & M University and is also known as the “honey detective.” He says pollen is so unique in all the different plants worldwide, that it is like a fingerprint. He can discover a honey’s unique “pollen print” which reveals where it’s from. Bryant keeps a library of 20,000 different types of pollen in his lab.

  • Mapping indigenous heritage sites for human survival

Environmental authorities have conducted heritage mapping on Gunbower Island in Australia, according to an article in The Northern Times. Cultural heritage sites located on traditional Barapa Barapa land have been identified in a partnership involving The North Central Catchment Management Authority, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, 19 traditional land owners, an archaeologist, and an ecologist. The three week program funded by an Indigenous heritage grant included groups from Kerang, Deniliquin and Mildura. NCCMA project officer, Robyn McKay, said the purpose of the program was to gain information on watering priorities for the forest: “We need to have a knowledge of cultural and spiritual values…We want a holistic approach to environmental water and incorporate those values into water plans.” She said the program provides skills, training employment and a connection with the country: “It is great to have indigenous evolvement in water plans.”

Archaeologist Colin Pardoe is interested in the population distribution in the region: “We will update the survey records and research earth mound distributions, family to village size along the lagoons…People consider aboriginals and traditional owners to be nomads but in reality people are fairly stable and lived in villages for months at a time. From 1850, within five years they had all disappeared. We will document the reliance on recourses, nets, bags, string and bulrush which was a major food source.”

  • Take that anthro degree…

…and become a businesswoman and an environmental philanthropist. Wendy Schmidt is president of the Schmidt Family Foundation and co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in sociology/anthropology and went on to get a graduate degree in journalism. The Schmidt Family Foundation was founded in 2006 to focus on climate and energy issues. The Schmidt Ocean Institute, which supports oceanic research, was created in 2009. Wendy serves as vice president of the SOI and president of the Family Foundation, making the major grant decisions. To date, the Schmidt Family Foundation has given away $451 million, and the ocean institute has gifted more than $100 million. The Schmidts have given additional gifts to academic and medical institutions.

…and become director for visual trends at Getty Images and lead a new initiative, The Lean In Collection, a partnership between Getty Images and Leanin.Org, the nonprofit founded by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, to contribute to women’s empowerment. Getty Images provides illustrations to 2.4 million clients in more than 100 countries. Its customers cover a broad spectrum from advertising and marketing to news media and from large corporations to individual bloggers. Getty is a young company, founded in 1995 to bring stock photos into the digital age. Pam Grossman was instrumental in forming the partnership with, an important step toward modernizing stock images. Grossman, a cultural-anthropology major, believes that images have an immediate emotional impact and deliver messages that affect us consciously and unconsciously on a deep level. The team she works with has been studying depictions of women for the decade she has been working with Getty. Last summer she noticed an uptick in discussions nationally about portrayals of women and girls and decided Getty should have a voice. She put together a presentation that got her an invitation to meet with, and the partnership arose from that meeting. Learn more about Pam Grossman from this article in the Seattle Times.

  • Very old cheese found in China

According to NBC News, researchers have identified clumps of a cheesy substance tucked around the necks and chests of Chinese mummies that are around 3,600 years old – and perhaps the world’s oldest cheese – depending on the definition of cheese. Archaeologists in China collected samples of yellowish material from 10 tombs and mummies at Small River Cemetery No. 5 in northwestern China’s Taklamakan Desert. The dry desert conditions contributed to the preservation of the mummies and items packed around them. Chemists in Germany analyzed the proteins in the clumps and determined that the yellowish material was a type of kefir cheese. It may have been left with the mummies as a tribute or as food for the afterlife. [With video].

  • Very old crossbow found in China

Remains of a crossbow have been found at the terracotta warriors site in in Xi’an, China. The site is a major tourist destination and a continued base for archaeological studies. Researchers have showcased their latest discovery – the remains of a crossbow, said to be by far the finest remnant of a weapon belonging to the military forces of the Qin Dynasty. [With audio].

  • Neolithic human remains found in Ireland

According to the Irish Mirror, Archaeologists at the Institute of Technology at Sligo, Ireland, have found bones of a child and an adult in a small cave high on Knocknarea mountain, dating to 5,500 years ago, placing them among the earliest human bones found in the county. The find represents important fresh evidence of Knocknarea’s Neolithic (Stone Age) links and a prehistoric practice known as Excarnation. The adult was aged 30 to 39 and the child of 4 to 6 years. It was not possible to establish gender. The article quotes Marion Dowd of IT Sligo, Ireland’s only specialist in the archaeology of Irish caves: “It’s an enormously exciting discovery…This might see like a small quantity but it has yielded fantastic results.”

It was a chance discovery by IT Sligo archaeology graduate Thorsten Kahlert while he was investigating a series of little known caves on the slopes of Knocknarea: “I was surveying one small cave when something on the cave floor caught my eye…I took a closer look and realized it was a human foot bone.” Further examination revealed other bones strewn on the cave floor.

  • Indus Valley collapse due to climate change

The Times of India reported on a study confirming that the Indus Valley Civilization, which spanned present day northwest India and Pakistan, declined due to climate change.  Researchers have found evidence that strongly demonstrates an abrupt weakening of the summer monsoon in the region 4,100 years ago. The resulting drought coincided with the beginning of the decline of the urban-based Indus Civilization suggesting that climate change could be why many of its major cities were abandoned. The new research is part of a project led by the University of Cambridge and Banaras Hindu University which has been funded by the British Council U.K.-India Education and Research Initiative to investigate the archaeology, river systems and climate of northwest India using a combination of archaeology and geo-science. The multidisciplinary project hopes to provide new understanding of the relationships between humans and their environment and also involves researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and the Uttar Pradesh State Archaeology Department.

Researchers say that the latest finding now links the decline of the Indus cities to a documented global scale climate event and its impact on the Old Kingdom in Egypt, the Early Bronze Age civilizations of Greece and Crete and the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia whose decline has previously been linked to abrupt climate change. British scientists discovered snail shells preserved in the sediments of an ancient lake bed. By analyzing the oxygen isotopes in the shells they were able to tell how much rain fell in the lake thousands of years ago. The results shed light on a mystery surrounding why the major cities of the period were abandoned. Climate change had been suggested as a possible reason for this transformation before but until now there was no direct evidence.

The article quotes David Hodell from Cambridge’s department of earth sciences: “We think that we now have a really strong indication that a major climate event occurred in the area where a large number of Indus settlements were situated…We can now confirm widespread weakening of the Indian summer monsoon across large parts of India 4,100 years ago.” Hodell together with University of Cambridge archaeologist Cameron Petrie and Gates scholar Yama Dixit collected Melanoides tuberculata snail shells from the sediments of the ancient lake Kotla Dahar in Haryana.

  • Mass slaughter of mammoths: Neanderthals found innocent

The Guardian carried an article about possible Neanderthal responsibility for the mass slaughter of mammoths. Heaps of mammoth and woolly rhino bones found piled up at the foot of a cliff were thought to be the grim results of Neanderthals driving the beasts over the edge. The piles of bones are a major feature at La Cotte de St Brelade on Jersey, one of the most spectacular Neanderthal sites in Europe. But the claim that they mark the remains of mass slaughter has been put in doubt by a fresh investigation showing that it would have been impossible to stampede mammoths to their deaths at the site. The plateau that ends at the cliff edge was so rocky and uneven that mammoths and other large beasts would not have ventured up there. Even if they had, the Neanderthals would have had to chase them down a steep dip and back up the other side before the animals plunged to their deaths.

The article quotes Beccy Scott, an archaeologist at the British Museum: “I can’t imagine a way in which Neanderthals would have been able to force mammoths down this slope and then up again before they even got to the edge of the headland…And they’re unlikely to have got up there in the first place.” [Blogger’s note: I imagine that you, like me, are still wondering what did cause the heap of bones at the foot of the cliff].

  • Kudos

Michael Tan, has been appointed Chancellor of the University of the Philippines flagship campus in Diliman. Tan, a medical anthropologist was Dean of the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. He will serve from March 1 this year through February 28, 2017. Tan said he wants a campus “where spaces are safe, nurturing, shared, connected and sustainable…I envision a UP Diliman moving toward honor and excellence in those spaces, rooted in the past while looking to the future with boldness, guided by transdisciplinary tools of navigation…Finally, I envision a UP Diliman in terms of a shared culture of academic citizenship built on collegiality, a sense of justice and fairness and ethics.” Tan described himself as a firm believer of “servant leadership,” one who does not lead by walking ahead of others but instead side by side. He is the first social scientist to become UP Diliman Chancellor.

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