• Unhappy 40th anniversary
David Vine, cultural anthropology professor at American University, published an article in The Huffington Post remarking on the painful 40th anniversary of the final deportations of Chagossians from their homeland in the Indian Ocean’s Chagos Archipelago in order to build a secretive military base on Chagos’s largest island, Diego Garcia. He writes: “Over a weekend of memorials, I was remembering a friend who died of a broken heart. Her death certificate may not say so, but she did. Aurélie Lisette Talate died last year at 70 of what members of her community call, in their creole language, sagren–profound sorrow… Madame Talate died of sagren because the U.S. and British governments exiled her and the rest of her Chagossian people from their homeland…” And, further: “In those same forty years, the base on British-controlled Diego Garcia helped launch the Afghan and Iraq wars and was part of the CIA’s secret ‘rendition’ program for captured terrorist suspects.”
• Paul Farmer: it’s not innovative to help the poor
WGBH radio interviewed medical anthropologist and humanitarian advocate Paul Farmer of Harvard University. In speaking about Partners in Health, which has moved many, including former President Bill Clinton, to call Partners in Health’s methodology innovative, is quoted as saying: “The idea that it’s somehow innovative to serve the poor is kind of sad, right? Because it’s not a new idea.”
• Research Institute in India launches student fieldwork program
The Karnataka State Tribal Research Institute in southern India will recruit 50 to 100 anthropology students every year to conduct studies on the education, economics and health of tribals, besides their society and lifestyle, throughout the State. The Institute was set up in Mysore in 2011. It is undertaking research, evaluation and training activities, besides organizing seminars and producing documentaries. The students will receive training and monthly salary.
• Jewels from the sky
Fox News carried an article about an ancient Egyptian iron bead found inside a 5,000-year-old tomb that was crafted from a meteorite. In an article in Nature, researchers say the bead has a Widmansttten pattern, a distinctive crystal structure found only in meteorites that cooled at an extremely slow rate inside asteroids when the solar system was forming. Further investigation showed that the bead was not molded under heat, but rather hammered into shape by cold-working: “Today, we see iron first and foremost as a practical, rather dull metal,” study researcher Joyce Tyldesley, an Egyptologist at the University of Manchester…”To the ancient Egyptians, however, it was a rare and beautiful material which, as it fell from the sky, surely had some magical/religious properties.”
• Cinderella not always the prince’s choice
Several media sources reported on research showing that men prefer women with large feet among the Karo Batak of northern Sumatra, Indonesia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. These findings contradict the Cinderella theory [blogger’s note: I just named it] that human males are hard-wired to prefer a universal set of physical features in female mates that have evolved over thousands of years ago including small feet. Geoff Kushnick, a lecturer in biocultural anthropology at the University of Washington, says that the Karo Batak preference for large feet in their female partners may be related to how large-footed women can move more easily when working in flooded rice paddy fields.
NBC News quotes Kushnick as saying that “There is a tendency for rural societies with less exposure to Western media to exhibit a similar preference…The results contradict the hypothesis that a preference for small feet should be found cross-culturally. Cultural and social influences play a stronger role in mate choice than some evolutionary psychologists are willing to accept.” Kushnick asked 159 Karo Batak adults to rate five drawings of barefoot women that were identical apart from subtle differences in foot size. Both men and women taking part judged the drawings with the largest feet as more attractive. Kushnick’s work is published in the journal Human Nature.
• Eight percent of people found to have chimp-like feet
According to an article in The Boston Globe, a study of 650 people visiting the Boston Museum of Science shows that 8 percent of them have feet with chimp-like flexibility. The study, carried out by Boston University anthropology professor Jeremy DeSilva, asked visitors to remove their shows and walk on a 20-foot-long mechanized gait carpet and a special plate that measured various characteristics of how their feet landed and pushed off when they walked. Findings are published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, presenting the first analysis of 398 adults. Eight percent had with a key characteristic of nonhuman primates: a flexible midfoot that can bend, and which may have helped with climbing trees.