anthro in the news 4/2/18

Cheapest guns in USA! Union, West Virginia. Credit: Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr

the social life of guns

The Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester) reported on a symposium held in Rochester, N.Y., that convened experts to discuss revising U.S. gun laws. The event was organized by Kate Mariner, assistant professor of anthropology and visual and cultural studies at the University of Rochester. Mariner is quoted as saying: “I think basically a gun violence conference at almost any time would seem as though the timing were impeccable because these kinds of things are happening all the time…We were planning this before the Las Vegas shooting happened.” The multidisciplinary conference brought together scholars and activists from Rochester and across the U.S. to share their research and experiences related to guns in American culture.

the social life of national stereotypes

American tourist and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Credit: Andy Hay/Flickr

The Telegraph carried an article about national stereotypes noting that, whether or not they are accurate depictions of an entire country, they do exist. Some are negative, some are positive and, no matter what, international travelers may come face to face with them. Jane Nadel-Klein, professor of anthropology at Trinity College in Connecticut is quoted as saying: “When I [an American] am in Britain, I tend to speak more softly, knowing that Brits tend to ‘hear’ Americans as loud, and not wanting to confirm that stereotype. And when I return home after doing fieldwork, having been immersed in local British culture, I find American voices loud – for a few days, that is, when I’m probably just as loud as everyone else.”


take that anthro degree and….

…become a professional clown and go into politics. Steve Lough, a professional clown, is seeking a role in U.S. politics. After working as a professional clown for 31 years, he was laid off in December 2017 from a job he had doing anti-bullying shows at elementary schools through the McDonalds Corporation. Now he is running for a Democratic nomination in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District. His campaign slogan — “Aim High! Vote Lough!” — is a play on the phonetics of his name, which is pronounced like “low.” Lough has a B.A. in anthropology from Dartmouth College and a degree from Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

mummy rights in question

Several media, including TODAY (Singapore), reported on results from DNA analysis of a tiny Chilean mummy, nicknamed Ata, showing that the remains, once rumored to be of an alien, are those of a human infant. Several Chilean scientists condemned the new study as unethical, and the government began an investigation into grave robbing. “It’s offensive for the girl, for her family, and for the heritage of Chile,” said Francisca Santana-Sagredo, a biological anthropologist at the University of Antofagasta and the University of Oxford. Chip Colwell, curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, said that the dispute over Ata is part of a long series of conflicts: “It’s hardly unique in the bigger story about human remains.”

the archaeology of children’s toys

Terracotta miniature bull, Indus Valley civilizations. Credit: Sindhishaan Gallery

ABC News (Australia) published an article by Michelle Langley, research fellow in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution at Griffith University. She writes: “While we have been steadily finding more and more evidence for how children learnt the necessary skills for adult life, those items which we most strongly associate with childhood — toys — are only just beginning to surface. New research into what children might have been playing with in the deep past suggests that archaeologists should be finding tiny copies of the everyday tools their parents were using — such as weapons, domestic utensils, baskets. They should also be finding clay figurines and dolls made from the raw materials most common to their environment. The challenge at the moment is determining which tiny items were children’s toys and which were votives used in adult ritual practices — for miniature artefacts could be either (or even both).”

very old footprints in Canada

An article in The New York Times described archaeological research on Calvert Island, western Canada, that discovered prehistoric human footprints. Archaeologist Duncan McLaren, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Victoria, led a team which included representatives from the Heiltsuk First Nation and Wuikinuxv First Nation. The area, which can only be accessed by boat, is covered with thick bogs and dense forests. At the close of the last ice age, from 11,000 to 14,000 years ago, the sea level was six to ten feet lower. The footprints were most likely left in an area that was just above the high tide line at the time. The findings, which document the presence of human inhabitants along the Pacific coast and thus support the validity of a coastal route of immigration (though perhaps not to the exclusion of inland routes), are published in the journal PLOS One

vast network of Amazonian settlements

Several media including The Guardian reported on archaeological findings of many prehistoric settlements across a large area in the Brazilian Amazon. “The idea that the Amazon was a pristine forest, untouched by humans, home to scattered nomadic populations … we already knew that was not true,” said Jonas Gregorio de Souza, of the anthropology department of the University of Exeter, and first author of the study. “The big debate is how populations were distributed in pre-Columbian times in the Amazon.” Writing in the journal Nature Communications, de Souza and his colleagues explain how the sites were first discovered by satellite imagery of the area and revealed by deforestation. The images show evidence of human activity including ditches enclosing sites for fortification, sunken roads, and earth platforms on which houses would have stood. What happened to all these settlements? The arrival of Europeans may have resulted in widespread deaths caused by contagious diseases which could have spread rapidly through the interconnected settlements. In other words, even without direct contact with Europeans, thousands of indigenous peoples could have been indirectly affected by diseases to which they had no immunity through the extensive social networks linking indigenous settlements. Researchers predict that further discoveries of settlements are likely. Models suggest earthworks might be found over a 400,000 square kilometer area with more than 1,300 sites, more than 60 percent of which have yet to be found.

 

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