Anthro in the news 7/7/14

  • Crypto-colonialism


Michael Hertzfeld. Source: Harvard University.

An article in The Himalayan Times (Nepal) described how the concept of crypto-colonialism, as introduced in 2002 by cultural anthropologist Michael Herzfeld of Harvard University, applies to Nepal as well as Greece and Thailand, where Herzfeld initially researched it. [Blogger’s note: A vimeo made in 2012 provides an update on Herzfeld’s thinking about crypto-colonialism].

  • Jewels of the desert
A girl and her Llama. Source: Thomas Quine.

Archaeologists from the University of Wroclaw have uncovered 150 graves of a little known community that inhabited the Peruvian side of the Atacama Desert prior to the 7th century C.E. According to archaeologist Jozef Szykulski of the Institute of Archaeology of Wraclow University, Poland: “These burials are of the virtually unknown people who inhabited the area before the expansion of the Tiwanaku civilization.”

He comments, further: “Items found in individual graves indicate that the people already had a clear social division…Members of the team discovered a large amount of jewellery, as well as lavishly decorated weaving tools…Inside some of the graves we found bows and quivers with arrows tipped with obsidian heads…This is a very interesting find, because bows are a rarity in Peru.” Discovery of a llama skeleton shows that llamas had been brought to the region earlier than scholars previously thought.

  • We’re getting older all the time

The Telegraph (U.K.) reported on findings by three researchers – Susan Antón of New York University, Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution, and Leslie Aiello of the Wenner-Gren Foundation — who reviewed a wide variety of studies and data and concluded that early hominids had started displaying aspects of behavior associated with the Homo genus far earlier than scholars previously thought, including making tools, evolving long limbs, and diversifying their diets to cope with climate change. Findings were published in the journal Science.

  • Modern Tibetans have Denisovan genetic heritage
Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 meters (16,000 ft). Source

The Los Angeles Times and several other media reported on the findings by ancient genetics researchers that Tibetans can trace part of their ancestry to this little-known group of early human ancestors. Scientists collected blood samples from 40 Tibetans and sequenced more than 30,000 nucleotides on a segment of DNA containing EPAS1, the gene that makes Tibetans adapted for life at high altitude. The scientists compared that sequence with those of 1,000 individuals representing the 26 human populations in the Human Genome Diversity Panel. They found the high-altitude gene in only 2 of the 40 Han Chinese people in the panel and no one else.

“Natural selection by itself could not explain that pattern,” said Rasmus Nielsen, a computational biologist at UC Berkeley and an author of the study. “The DNA sequence was too different from anything else we saw in other populations.”

Abigail Bigham, a biological anthropologist at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the study, is quoted as saying that the search for Denisovan DNA should extend to other groups: “When they looked in Han Chinese, they saw it in only two individuals…But other populations in Central Asia or East Asia — there are 49 other ethnic minorities in China that have different genetic backgrounds — would have been interesting to look at as well.”


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