Anthro in the news 12/10/12

• After Sandy, get back or restore?

Some experts suggest a retreat from the U.S. seaside, but they believe that many people are likely to ignore warnings. An article in the Calgary Herald quoted cultural anthropologist Ben Orlove, who is with Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Sciences. He said:  the default plan “is just restore.”

Two Cheers for Anarchism

• Big thinker learns from peasants

The New York Times carried a feature article about Yale political scientist — and cultural anthropologist — James C. Scott showcasing his new book, Two Cheers for Anarchism. The article situates Scott on his farm which is northeast of New Haven, Connecticut. “I’m as proud of knowing how to shear a sheep as I am of anything,”  Scott is quoted as saying. He holds a  joint appointment in anthropology and political science at Yale and is the founder of Yale’s agrarian studies program, as well as an unofficial founder of the field of resistance studies, starting with his classic book Weapons of the Weak. In another book, Seeing Like a State, Scott added a milestone to the social science literature critiquing top-down development. Happy birthday (this past Sunday) to James Scott, and many more!

Happy Birthday, James Scott

• Mining can help indigenous people

Professor Marcia Langton. Source: Colin Murty, The Australian.

When addressing the annual Indigenous Business Enterprise and Corporations Conference in Perth, Australia,

Professor Marcia Langton said the most vocal public opinion in wealthy developed countries is that indigenous people were uniformly disadvantaged by major resource projects. She argued that this need not be the case and referred to benefits for indigenous people in the Pilbara where some 3,000 Aborigines are employed as a direct result of the mining industry: “Mining companies and indigenous parties have found cause to develop trust arrangements to serve the purpose of local wealth funds.” Langton is a cultural anthropologist by training and Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne.

• What has asbestos done for you lately?

Plans are in the making for a museum exhibit about asbestos in Ambler, Pennsylvania.  In the 1880s, Ambler was a company town, and asbestos was the company’s product. It was a good place to raise a family. Work was plentiful, and asbestos manufacturer Keasbey & Mattison Co. was community-minded, constructing affordable housing and a building for a library and an opera house. A century later, the factory closed, leaving behind concerns about the impact of asbestos on former workers, current residents, and the image of the area. University of Pennsylvania researchers have a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create an exhibit on the impact of Ambler’s asbestos-manufacturing era on residents. “There are certainly many lessons to be learned about what has happened,” said Frances K. Barg, an associate professor of family medicine and community health and a medical anthropologist. Barg is the project’s lead investigator: “Telling people’s stories honors the different kinds of problems they’ve had to overcome.” The Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia will host the exhibit and will provide an online permanent information source. [Blogger’s note: I imagine that many readers, along with me, are stretching our imagination about something called Chemical Heritage…and also Nuclear Heritage? Chemical Warfare Heritage? Weapons of Mass Destruction Heritage? Soon we will have more museum exhibits than living people can visit. Also, not feeling comforted that the Chemical Heritage Foundation is generously providing an online permanent information source].

• Architecture for people

An article in the South China Morning Post on December 8, talks about “a more human architecture” including new ideas on teaching and training architects for the future. Fresh ideas on architectural experimentations and evolving views on the profession’s social role emerged when deans and professors from 20 architecture schools from all over the globe converged at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in October for a symposium convened to mark the second decade of its School of Architecture. A school that is pioneering new ways to approach architectural design is the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley. “Maintaining the human being at the centre of architecture in the urban enterprise is an important dimension of our architectural pedagogy,” said UC Berkeley Professor Margaret Crawford. “The ideas of everyday life – people’s everyday cycles, their dreams, hopes and views of the future – are important information that really should be the basis of the work we do.” UC Berkeley projects are also multidisciplinary, with anthropology as one of the key disciplines.”A particularly significant dimension of anthropology is self-awareness and a self-critical attitude, which is often lacking in our designs schools,” she added. [Blogger’s note: Crawford is not an anthropologist but she certainly has an anthropological understanding].

• Tracing modern journeys to New Zealand

Lisa Matisoo-Smith

New research aims to find out by mapping the nation’s genetic heritage for the first time. The research could provide a snapshot of the lineage of all human history, says biological anthropologist Lisa Matisoo-Smith, who is leading a two-year study: “The longest journey – from Africa to Aotearoa.” The study will collect DNA from about 1,000 Kiwis in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin.” For example, we will be able to see if the genetic history of the population of Dunedin, with its strong Scottish heritage, is significantly different from that of Auckland or Wellington,” Matisoo-Smith said. Matisoo-Smith, who is of Estonian stock, emigrated from the United States 25 years ago and has a New Zealand-born daughter who has since returned to the U.S. She said her personal kinship is a good example of the mobility the study aimed to track. The survey will analyze variations in genetic markers.


• Graves of missing boys at a Florida reform school

A team of University of South Florida anthropologists will announce the finding of additional graves at the former Dozier School for Boys, a state-run reform school in Marianna, Florida. The school was closed in 2011 after years of reports and a state investigation revealed a pattern of severe beatings and torture of youths sentenced to stay there. The property contains a cemetery with 31 metal crosses, but school records show 84 boys died at the institution between 1911 and 1973. The report includes a video.

• Whose crystal skull is this?

Crystal Skull

A Belize archeologist is suing the makers of an Indiana Jones film for using a likeness of a so-called Crystal Skull, which he says is a stolen national treasure. Dr. Jaime Awe claims the skull was stolen from Belize 88 years ago, and that filmmakers had no right to use a model of it in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In a lawsuit filed in Illinois, Awe is demanding the return of the Crystal Skull. The legal action also targets Lucasfilm, its new owner the Walt Disney Co., and Paramount Pictures which released the film by Steven Spielberg, for allegedly using a replica “likeness” of the skull. Awe, head of the Institute of Archeology of Belize, claims that the skull was found by the daughter of an adventurer named F.A. Mitchell-Hedges under a collapsed altar in temple ruins in Belize, and taken to the U.S. in 1930. [Blogger’s note: beyond the film, a Lego game also rides on the Crystal Skull/Indiana Jones connection].


• No fishing

Sicilian cuisine is famous for fish, clams, mussels, shrimp. But 20,000 years ago, around the time of the last ice age, the first modern humans who arrived in the region ate very little seafood, according to a study based on human skeletons.

Source: New York Times

“The source of the dietary protein consumed mainly originated from the meat of medium to large terrestrial herbivores,” said the report’s first author, Marcello Mannino, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. The remains were found in a cave on the small island of Favignana, which thousands of years ago was part of Sicily. Sicily itself was connected to the mainland by a land bridge, allowing humans to cross over. Mannino and his colleagues did an isotopic analysis of the remains to determine what the settlers were eating. They reported their findings in the journal PLoS One.

• Ancient palace found in China

China announced the discovery of an ancient palace near the tomb of the country’s first emperor in the northwestern part of the country, a region already famed for its terracotta warriors. The palace “`is the largest complex ever found at the cemetery,’ the Xinhua news agency said on Saturday, quoting Sun Weigang, a researcher at the archaeology institute of northern Shaanxi province, where the site is located. Qin Shihuang, a ruler during the Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE), presided over China’s unification and declared himself its first emperor.

• Mammoth steak for dinner tonight?

French archaeologists have uncovered a rare, near-complete skeleton of a mammoth in the countryside near Paris. Near the skeleton were tiny pieces of tools that suggest that prehistoric hunters might have eaten mammoth meat. The archaeologists say that if that hypothesis (or educated guess) is confirmed, their find would be the clearest evidence that ancient cavemen interacted with the prehistoric elephants in this part of Europe. “Evidence this clear has never been found before, at least in France,” said Gregory Bayle, chief archaeologist at the site. “We’re working on the theory that Neanderthals came across the carcass and cut off bits of meat.” Two tiny pieces of flint were found among the mammoth bones indicating that Neanderthals cut into the body, though it is unlikely that they killed the creature.

Sculpture in the town of Khanty-Mansiisk, Siberia. Source: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky.

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