anthro in the news 9/11/17

Super Mario games follow player character Mario’s adventures in the fictional Mushroom Kingdom. Credit: Pixabay.

games, technology, and nostalgia

CNBC reported on the revival of some classic video games and the consoles used to play them. Retro fixtures like Atari and Sega are making a comeback, even as the new crop of video games are more sophisticated than ever. The article quotes Jared Miracle, an anthropologist and education researcher who specializes in game studies at the Ocean University of China: “After some generations, all forms of art and media become classics…Think of ‘Donkey Kong’ as having status akin to ‘Oliver Twist.'”

improving bike safety

As reported by The Herald-Sun (Durham, North Carolina), researchers at Duke University are using North Carolina bicycle crash data to improve transportation policy in the city of Durham. Their findings led them to recommend the installation of more crosswalks, additional median islands, and expansion of bike lanes on roads with a high number of reported crashes. They also developed an interactive website that demonstrates how factors such as the time of day, weather conditions, and demographics affect crash risk. The project is an offshoot of an international study conducted by Harris Solomon, associate professor of cultural anthropology and global health at Duke. He originally studied traffic accidents in India which has a large population of bicycle riders.

technology, cars, and people

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on the research of corporate anthropologist Melissa Cefkin who works with engineers at Nissan Motor Corporation at the Nissan Research Center in Sunnyvale, California. While leading the human-centered systems practice, she focuses on driverless cars:  “The director of the lab here, whose area of expertise is artificial intelligence, works side by side with social scientists and strongly embraced the idea that autonomous vehicles need to really be developed through the lens of a very user-centered, socially-centered point of view.”

monument review committee for NYC

The Harry Belafonte 115th Street Library in New York City is an example of inclusive/progressive naming. Credit: the Library website,

As reported in The New York Post, the mayor of New York City has launched a committee to review the City’s monuments and “develop guidelines on how the City should address monuments seen as oppressive and inconsistent with the values of New York City,” according to the mayor’s office. Co-chairs of the 18-member panel are Ford Foundation President Darren Walker and Tom Finkelpearl, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs commissioner. Members include an anthropologist of the Native American Mohawk people, a historian of Chinese American people in New York, and the director of a gay and lesbian art museum. Harry Belafonte, an entertainer and civil rights advocate who had a Manhattan library named in his honor in May, was also tapped to join the group.

take that anthro degree and…

…become a medical doctor. Vikas Jayadeva is starting his first year of residency in family medicine at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. He recently published an article on the mental health of hijras in India. Jayadeva has a double B.A. in international affairs and anthropology from George Washington University, an M.S. in education from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School.

…become a professional athlete. Josh Martin is a new outside linebacker for the New York Jets. He has a B.A. in anthropology from Columbia University. He commented about his major: “It definitely sounds intimidating, but it was a bunch of fun…I learned a lot of cool stuff about different people. That’s one of my values — what different people bring to the table.”

a tomb full of treasures and possible tourism boost

The Huffington Post reported that Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a tomb of a prominent goldsmith who lived more than 3,000 years ago. This latest major find near the Nile city of Luxor also includes statues, mummies, and jewelry. Egypt’s ancient relics are a draw for tourists and authorities hope new finds can attract more visitors. Earlier this year, authorities announced they had discovered another New Kingdom tomb in Luxor belonging to a judge, and Swedish archaeologists discovered 12 ancient cemeteries near the southern city of Aswan that date back almost 3,500 years.

gender re-assignment corrects sexist assumption

Illustration by Evald Hansen based on the original plan of grave Bj 581 by excavator Hjalmar Stolpe; published in 1889.

As reported by News Limited (Australia), scientists using DNA data have re-assigned the gender from male to female of a buried Viking warrior discovered in Sweden in the 1880s. The warrior was tall, powerful, and buried with a sword, spear, shield, and battle knives. Two horses had been sacrificed as part of the internment ritual, and there was an elaborate game set, including board and pieces, placed on the deceased’s lap. The burial helped set the definition of a Viking warrior, but “What we have studied was not a Valkyrie from the sagas but a real life military leader, that happens to be a woman,” says the leader of the Stockholm and Uppsala Universities study, Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson.

excavating an Underground Railroad site

Cataract House, 1920s-1930s. Credit: The Niagara Falls Public Library

The Buffalo News carried an article about the upcoming excavation of an important Underground Railroad stop in Buffalo, New York. The Cataract Hotel at Niagara Falls was known for its elegant black waiters, many of whom had escaped from slavery in the American south. They, in turn, helped others to freedom in Canada, while doing their job serving dinner to rich white slaveowners. The hotel burned to the ground in 1945, and the site was razed and forgotten. Now, historians have established where the hotel was located, and excavations will  recover what can be found at the site. The archaeological team is led by Douglas J. Perrelli, director of the Archaeological Survey and a clinical assistant professor of anthropology at the University at Buffalo.

not the real thing but better than nothing

CTV News (Canada) reported that Peter Dawson, an archaeologist at the University of Calgary, is constructing digital 3D recreations of some of Alberta’s heritage sites in an attempt to create records of historic landmarks for monitoring deterioration and to offer future generations a glimpse of the past. Dawson is quoted as saying: “We work with my colleague, Dr. Derek Lichti in geomatics engineering, and with our graduate students using something called reality capture technology using 3D laser scanning and drones to digitally capture heritage sites…Then create things like as-built architectural plans and 3D models for community outreach and education.” The research group has created 3D digital records of several provincial landmarks including the Okotoks Erratic, the Brooks Aqueduct, the recently demolished Quon Sang Lung laundry building in Fort Macleod and the McDougall Memorial United Church that was destroyed by fire earlier this year.

tracing family roots: the allure of DNA testing

Having just read Michael Twitty’s omnibus book, The Cooking Gene, tracing his ancestors back to Africa and to white slaveholders in the American south, I am convinced that for many people there is a lot of value in DNA test results, at least as a first step. Twitty spent several years working with genealogists and consulting archival data as well.  An article in The Seattle Times, which has a more skeptical view, includes commentary from Jonathan Marks, professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte: “If testing ‘tells me I’m 95 percent Ashkenazi Jewish and 5 percent Korean, is that really different from 100 percent Ashkenazi Jewish and zero percent Korean?’…It’s all privatized science, and the algorithms are not generally available for peer review…That’s why their ads always specify that this is for recreational purposes only: lawyer-speak for, ‘These results have no scientific standing.’ ”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s