anthro in the news 2/26/18

Panorama of Bois Cheri Tea Plantation in Mauritius. Credit: Vincent Lim Show Chen/Flickr

happy 50th birthday, Mauritius

African Arguments published a piece by Sean Carey, honorary senior research fellow in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Manchester and anthropologyworks contributor. He writes: “The story of how Mauritius defied the gloomy predictions of its fate is well told. A few years before independence in 1968, Nobel-prize-winning economist James Meade wrote the little island in the Indian Ocean off as a basket case. A few years after independence, writer V. S. Naipaul dismissed the nation as an ‘overcrowded barracoon’. Yet Mauritius proved them wrong and went on to become one of Africa’s most lauded nations. It regularly tops indices for political freedoms, rule of law and human development on the continent. It has had ten competitive elections and seven peaceful transfers of power. And it is frequently held up as an exemplar of political stability and cohesion, containing within it several ethnic groups – including Hindus, Muslims, Afro-Creoles, and Sino- and Franco-Mauritius – all living together in relative harmony.” So there.

exodus from Puerto Rico

Change-of-address requests to the U.S. Postal Service from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to locations in the states and Washington, DC. Credit: CNN analysis, U.S. Postal Service/CNN

CNN reported on the heavy flow of migration from Puerto Rico to the United States following Hurricane Maria.  Before the hurricane hit Puerto Rico on September 20, there already was an unprecedented migration from the Caribbean island to the mainland United States, at least in part because of Puerto Rico’s financial crisis. Academics are using words such as “exodus” and “stampede” to describe the massive post-hurricane outflow of people. CNN quotes Jorge Duany, professor of anthropology at Florida International University: “This is the greatest migration ever from Puerto Rico since records have been taken.”

take that anthro degree and….

…become a researcher, writer, and documentary filmmaker. Andrea Sandor is a qualitative senior research executive with Join the Dots in Manchester, England, and a published writer and documentary filmmaker. Sandor has a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Bard College, an M.A. in anthropology and a Certificate in documentary filmmaking from George Washington University.

it was a takeover: DNA analysis sheds light on Britain’s “Beaker folk”

Where did they come from and what happened to them? The Guardian carried an article about recent research on the so-called Beaker folk of Britain who are distinguished by their distinctive clay drinking vessels that were buried with them. A large international project, involving hundreds of researchers, is using samples of more than 400 prehistoric skeletons from across Europe. They have found new information about a period when a wave of migration moved westward across Europe, almost totally displacing the earlier population in many places, including Britain. The article includes comments from Ian Armit, an archaeologist from the University of Bradford, and a senior author of the study published in Nature: “…in Britain the effects were dramatic. The people buried with the beakers did not have the same DNA as those from an earlier period, and the effect endured. In the centuries after the Beaker burials the DNA shows that the earlier Britons did not just come slipping back out of the woods.”

Neanderthals are us

A drawing of the red ladder symbol from the La Pasiega cave. Dating shows it has a minimum age of 64,000 years. Credit: Breuil et al./The Guardian

Several media, including The Guardian, reported on findings, published in Science, that Neanderthals painted on cave walls in Spain 65,000 years ago, tens of thousands of years before modern humans arrived. The discovery overturns the widely-held belief that modern humans are the only species to have expressed themselves through works of art. In caves separated by hundreds of miles, Neanderthals daubed, drew and spat paint on walls. “I think we have the smoking gun,” said Alistair Pike, professor of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton. “When we got the first date for the art, we were dumbfounded.” An international team led by researchers in the U.K. and Germany dated calcite crusts that had grown on top of ancient art works in three caves in Spain. Because the crusts formed after the paintings were made, the material gives a minimum age for the underlying art. What the creators sought to express with their efforts, however, is unknown: “We have no idea what any of it means,” said Dirk Hoffmann at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. It is not the only question left unanswered. “It’s fascinating to demonstrate that the Neanderthals were the world’s first artists, and not our own species,” said Paul Pettitt, professor of palaeolithic archaeology at Durham University. “The most important question still remains, however. What were Neanderthals doing in the depths of dark and dangerous caves if it wasn’t ritual, and what does that imply?” In a second paper, published in Science Advances, Hoffman and others show that dyed and decorated seashells found in the Aviones sea cave in southeast Spain were made by Neanderthals 115,000 years ago, pointing to a long artistic tradition. “To my mind this closes the debate on Neanderthals,” said João Zilhão, a researcher on the team at the University of Barcelona. “They are part of our family, they are ancestors, they were not cognitively distinct, or less endowed in terms of smarts. They are just a variant of humankind that as such exists no more.”


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