anthro in the news 11/20/17

Joanne Hammond started an online campaign to rewrite “stops of interest” signs to include precolonial and Indigenous history. She is one of the first contributors to Culturally Modified. Credit: Joanne Hammond/Republic of Archaeology

online magazine launch

An article from CBC News (British Columbia) describes the launch of a new online, open access magazine, Culturally Modified, edited by anthropologist Rick Budhwa, executive director of the Bulkley Valley Research Centre in British Columbia. Published twice a year, the magazine explores the different ways people value physical landscapes and seeks to promote discussion of cultural resource management across Canada. The first issue includes an article about what motivated residents to stay in their homes during a wildfire evacuation this past summer, a story about Witsuwit’en headstone pulls, and a reflection from archeologist Joanne Hammond about a project that imagines what roadside heritage signs in British Columbia would look like if they were written by indigenous peoples.  

first Thanksgiving: no turkey, no pumpkin pie

A possible side dish is sobaheg, a stew of meats and vegetables, which would have been cooked in a clay pot. Credit:

The Conversation published a piece by Julie Lesnick, assistant professor of anthropology at Wayne State University. She writes: “Most Americans probably don’t realize that we have a very limited understanding of the first Thanksgiving, which took place in 1621 in Massachusetts. Indeed, few of our present-day traditions resemble what happened almost 400 years ago, and there’s only one original account of the feast. As an anthropologist who specializes in reconstructing past diets, I can say that even though we don’t have a definitive account of the menu at the first Thanksgiving, letters and recorded oral histories give us a pretty good idea of what they probably ate. And we know for a fact that it didn’t include mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.”

mentally ill Trump or neoliberalism

NBC News published commentary by Rebecca Seligman, associate professor of anthropology and global health at Northwestern University and a Public Voices Fellow. She writes: “Our [Western neoliberal] emphasis on inner causes reinforces the idea that what really matters in a person’s behavior and choices is individual level factors, rather than the social and political contexts that shape and constrain people’s opportunities. In this respect, psychologically oriented models of selfhood align neatly with neoliberal ideologies, which emphasize personal responsibility for achievement rather than political and economic factors and power dynamics. So, while psychologically deconstructing our president may be an almost irresistible pastime, it may also have the effect of distracting our attention from other kinds of causes — including an underlying worldview that allows many people to believe that one man could fix our country better than any investment in structural change.”

take than anthro degree and… 

…become a social researcher. Takashi Tamai is a visiting researcher with the Research Center for Arts Vivendi at the University of Ritsumeikan, following a two-year appointment as advisor/researcher with the Embassy of Japan in Nigeria. An article in The Japan Times described his work for the Embassy: “Life as a diplomat was very different from life as a field anthropologist who was heavily in debt with college loans accumulated throughout his days at Keio and Tokyo universities. His friends describe him as being a “success story,” moving up from living in extreme poverty in the slums of Makoko, Lagos, to live in a wealthy community in Abuja. In Nigeria, his principal job was to tap funds to build small hospitals, elementary schools and infrastructure projects. The official development assistance scheme that he worked with assessed projects by identifying grass-roots demands and applying appropriate responses to them.” Tamai has a B.A. in policy management from Keio University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Tokyo.

…become a social justice activist and politician. Braxton Winston was recently elected as at-large city council member in Charlotte, North Carolina, after running on a platform of civil rights and social change. His top issue to address in Charlotte is civil rights. A statistic he frequently references is that the city is ranked the worst in the nation for economic mobility – meaning the ability of an individual or family to escape poverty. “We look at how we end up in a place where we are 50 out of 50 in upward economic mobility, in one of the most resource-rich cities in the nation…” he said. Winston hopes that initiatives can be undertaken to make sure everyone in Charlotte has an equal opportunity for success. Winston’s social activism and decision to get involved in politics were motivated by the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte in September 2016. Winston has a B.A. in anthropology from Davidson College

…work in e-commerce. Eliot Lee is web development project manager at Blizzard Internet Marketing in Grand Junction, Colorado. He has expertise in many domains of Web technologies, including user interface design, application development, web site architecture, web server management, and project management. Lee has a B.A. in anthropology from Michigan State University and an M.A. in applied anthropology from Northern Arizona University

historical archaeologist directs new archive

Nichibei (Japan) reported on the appointment of Kaoru (Kay) Ueda, the first curator at the Hoover Institution’s Japanese Diaspora Initiative at Stanford University. Her research is on long-distance diaspora ommunities in historical archaeology, combining the study of primary source documents and material culture. A native of Kobe, Japan, she hopes that her diaspora experience will help in her new role. The Hoji Shinbun Digital Collection project will digitize all prewar Japanese newspapers in America, as well as other collections. The archive will be available to researchers.

date push-back for wine-making

An article in The Economist draws on findings reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about the origins of large-scale winemaking in Georgia in 6,000 BCE, half a millennium or more before the previous date. A team of researchers led by Patrick McGovern from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology analyzed wine residue on pieces of clay jars found in the Caucasus Mountains. Previous work by McGovern pointed to Iran as the oldest known site. The new record in Georgia may not hold for long, however, because McGovern and his team are currently examining a site at the headwaters of the Tigris River in Turkey dating back to 9,500 BCE. Both China and Georgia may soon have to give way to an even older contender.

re-dating of Dali skull 

Yahoo News U.K. carried an article about new dating results for a skull found in Dali County in China’s Shaanxi Province in 1978. The analysis shows that it is highly similar to the earliest known modern human fossil found in Morocco. Modern humans therefore may not have solely descended from Africans, the “out of Africa model.” Instead a “multiregional model” may be more robust — small groups of early humans may have migrated out of Africa to Eurasia, and then Homo sapiens evolved from these groups. Sheela Athreya,  associate professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University, said, “If we’d found only the Moroccan skulls, and not the Dali skull, it would make sense to keep believing all modern humans evolved in Africa…But the similarities show that early modern humans may not have been genetically isolated from other parts of the world, like what we know today as China…I think gene flow could have been multidirectional, so some of the traits seen in Europe or Africa could have originated in Asia.”

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