“Welcome to Archaeo-Scope. In this series we take an archaeological perspective on modern culture; asking questions about current trends and observations from around the world. Today, I have a question about access for ALL to archaeological sites.”
- by Mikolaj Lisowski
"In 2011, a large scale rescue excavation on the open site of Widziszewo 17, Greater Poland province, Poland, uncovered a large number of archaeological features dated to a variety of periods. Most of the features, due to severe post-depositional taphonomic effects on the bones, yielded none or a very scarce number of osteoarchaeological remains. How ever, in one of the medium sized pits, feature 284, dated to the Middle/Late Neolithic Globular Amphora Culture, the excavation uncovered an extraordinary deposit of a few hundred identifiable bone fragments, including numerous complete long bones. The specimens were deposited randomly, in a tight cluster at the bottom of the pit. Cooperation between field archaeologists and an animal bone specialist resulted in the careful excavation and the accurate recording of the specimens using orthophotographic plans, which supported the subsequent zooarchaeological analysis. The excavated deposit consisted mainly of pig (Sus domesticus) remains, with only a small number of specimens from other species. Pigs were represented mostly by large fragments of bone or complete anatomical elements, and the analysis showed that whole limbs and large chunks of the carcass of at least six individuals were disarticulated and deposited in the pit. Investigations of the anatomical com position and taphonomic history of the assemblage, supported by bone refitting, allowed the recognition of distinctive patterns of butchery activity, cooking, and marrow extraction of certain parts of the pig carcass. Investigations of the dispersal of the remains provided an insight into their depositional history. Results lead to the suggestion that pig bones from feature 284 are remnants of the deliberate and regulated consumption of certain parts of pig carcass, which can be connected to a standardised feasting activity” (read more/open access).
***For the non-Palaeo zooarchaeologists. Happy Friday.
(Open access source: Assemblage PZAF:42-58, 2014 via Academia.edu)
EXCERPTS >|< Stone Age Tools (1947)
A series of Animated GIFs excerpted from Stone Age Tools, a demonstration by M. Leon Coutier, archaeologist and former President of the Societe Prehistorique Francaise, of his technique for making replicas of Palaeolithic tools and weapons, including hand-axes, scrapers, gravers and flint arrowheads. Filmed at the former Institute of Archaeology, Regent’s Park, London in June 1947. An important archeological record.
We invite you to watch the full video HERE.
Interview: Kristen Pearlstein and “An Analysis of Immigrant and Euro-American Skeletal Health in 19th Century New York City”
- from Wenner-Gren
“Kristen Pearlstein is an independent contractor with the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. In 2012, while a Ph.D. student at American University, she received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on ‘An Analysis of Immigrant and Euro-American Skeletal Health in 19th Century New York City,’ supervised by Dr. Rachel J. Watkins. We asked Kristen to answer a few question about her grant research working with the George S. Huntington Anatomical Skeletal Collection and exploring New York City’s lost social history through the marks it left on human remains.
Let’s begin with a bit of background. Could you briefly summarize the project you undertook with your Dissertation Fieldwork Grant?
My project compares the skeletal health of European immigrants to Euro-Americans from the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to understand the biological impact of socio-economic inequality and poverty in New York City during this time period. I evaluated the human remains of individuals who were unclaimed when they died and used as dissection cadavers for medical teaching purposes. The subjects most likely to be unclaimed were individuals who could not afford the cost of a burial, and were generally from a very impoverished segment of the population.
Skeletal health indicators from three ethnic groups – Irish, German, and Italian – were compared to health indicators from indigent U.S.-born individuals in order to determine how perceived social and economic disparities within and between immigrant and U.S.-born groups differentially impacted their skeletal health. Historical narratives show that different nationality groups had diverse experiences with discrimination and marginalization after migrating to this country. One hypothesis is that groups which experienced more prejudice had a lower health status. The Irish, for example, were maligned more than the Germans, and were more often relegated to occupations of manual labor. Therefore, I expected to observe more indicators of adverse health events in the Irish skeletal remains than in the German or U.S.-born groups. This physical evidence provides the basic data for my dissertation: the broken bones, herniated vertebral discs, tuberculous lesions, rampant systemic infections, severe arthritis, etc. I am finding that the U.S.-born group has a similar health profile to the Irish, so an interesting aspect of this study will be discerning why those similarities exist and where there are subtle differences between those two groups.
How did you originally become interested in this particular research question?
My sub-field interest is paleopathology, so my research was going to involve some aspect of human health and history. I was familiar with this particular anatomical skeletal collection from a long term rehousing project, but I did not envision the focus of this study until I took a history course on health and migration and spent time reviewing how 19th century immigrants were perceived in regards to social status and public health, with more prejudice directed toward some immigrant groups than others. I became interested in evaluating how these diverse experiences were expressed not just in the historical records, but in the actual skeletal remains. As I began my search for other studies of skeletal collections from that time period, I realized that hardly any literature expressly discussed immigrants. So I am excited that my research can contribute to this ongoing conversation about inequality and health and the experiences of different groups” (read more).
(Source: Wenner-Gren Blog)
Polymorphism has fascinated evolutionary biologists since the time of Darwin. Biologists have observed discrete alternative mating strategies in many different species. In this study, we demonstrate that polymorphic mating strategies can emerge in a colony of hermaphrodite robots. We used a survival and reproduction task where the robots maintained their energy levels by capturing energy sources and physically exchanged genotypes for the reproduction of offspring. The reproductive success was dependent on the individuals’ energy levels, which created a natural trade-off between the time invested in maintaining a high energy level and the time invested in attracting mating partners. We performed experiments in environments with different density of energy sources and observed a variety in the mating behavior when a robot could see both an energy source and a potential mating partner. The individuals could be classified into two phenotypes: 1) forager, who always chooses to capture energy sources, and 2) tracker, who keeps track of potential mating partners if its energy level is above a threshold. In four out of the seven highest fitness populations in different environments, we found subpopulations with distinct differences in genotype and in behavioral phenotype. We analyzed the fitnesses of the foragers and the trackers by sampling them from each subpopulation and mixing with different ratios in a population. The fitness curves for the two subpopulations crossed at about 25% of foragers in the population, showing the evolutionary stability of the polymorphism. In one of those polymorphic populations, the trackers were further split into two subpopulations: (strong trackers) and (weak trackers). Our analyses show that the population consisting of three phenotypes also constituted several stable polymorphic evolutionarily stable states. To our knowledge, our study is the first to demonstrate the emergence of polymorphic evolutionarily stable strategies within a robot evolution framework” (read more/open access).
***I have no idea how legit this study is, but I now know I’m in the wrong field.
(Open access source: PLoS ONE 9(4): e93622, 2014)
- by Micaela Jemison
“Termites and ants are not something you’re likely to pour into a cereal bowl for breakfast or munch with toast and tea, but your ancient ancestors almost certainly enjoyed eating them—alive! In fact, new research on the insect-eating behavior of chimpanzees reveals termites and ants are a highly nutritious food that is easily accessible to chimps in the bush. Faced with the same conditions millions of years earlier, researchers say, our hominid ancestors may have gobbled down insects to ease the cravings of an empty stomach.
As a Ph.D. student, Robert O’Malley spent months following a chimpanzee troop in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, recording the insects that they ate and collecting samples to be analyzed at the National Zoo’s Nutrition Laboratory, a part of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). His findings further our understanding of chimpanzee diets and also give us strong insights into the diet of early hominids.
Dr. Goodall, I presume?
Made famous by the research of Dr. Jane Goodall, the Gombe chimpanzees have been studied by scientists for more than 50 years, spanning several chimp generations. By watching these chimpanzee families Goodall not only noted that they often eat insects but also made the discovery that they use tools to reach them.
“Chimpanzees go ‘fishing’ for termites and ants by using sticks or leaves to prod insect mounds. Termite soldiers attack the probe and the chimps pull it out and eat them,” says O’Malley, who works at the Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology at George Washington University. “Many studies have focused on the use of tools by chimpanzees to eat insects but very little has been done on the nutritional benefit of this behavior. We had so many questions: How do they decide which insects to eat…perhaps by observing others in their group? Just how many insects are they eating? Do they eat insects only because they taste good, or is there any real nutritional benefit that has made this a part of their feeding behavior?” To answer these questions O’Malley spent months constantly following the troop through the Tanzanian jungle” (read more).
***It has been speculated for awhile that our hominid ancestors ate insects, termites in particular. Ethological research on the nutritional value of foods and food preferences and how they interact with capture costs is useful. A better understanding of the dietary variability of extant primate can remind researchers of food sources that are less likely to be found in the archaeological record.
(Source: Smithsonian Science)
CNN Turns a Boring Royal Visit Into a Racist Nightmare in Just 13 Seconds [with appalling video footage]
- by Esther Bergdahl
“How long does it take for the most trusted news source to turn a boring non-story into a racist, xenophobic nightmare? About 13 seconds it turns out, and that’s only because CNN news correspondent Jeanne Moos takes her time narrating the intro.
Earlier this month, Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and chubby-cheeked baby George took their first visit overseas. There’s not much to say about royal trips abroad, aside from cute playdate photos with the commoners, but CNN, bless their hearts, found a way to make us sit up and wonder what century they belong in. Because if there’s anything Americans are good at, it’s finding new and horrible ways to make honoring indigenous traditions and experiencing other cultures about weird dances, things that baffle white people and butts.
You’ve got to watch this and see for yourself how bad it gets. Just when you think the segment has peaked, it expands the scope of its awfulness. Not just satisfied with comparing the traditional dances of Maori warriors (including those who welcomed former first lady Laura Bush during a visit to soldiers in Afghanistan) to Chippendales and horny emus, Moos gleefully highlights diplomats and world leaders “going native.”
So, how long does it take for CNN to transform into your weird, clueless right-wing relative who’s just discovered chain emails? About two minutes, it looks like. And if you need more, you’re in luck: CNN has a playlist available for your delectation called “The Wacky World of Jeanne Moos.”
***”Can you imagine people being active participants in their own cultures in their own lands? How utterly barbaric!” -British Colonialism (representing cultural and literal genocide, rape, economic exploitation and theft since the 15th century)
****And its bastard offspring the American CNN reporter.
"Scientists have increasingly realized that DNA is only part of what makes us us — perhaps equally important is how our genes’ activity is modified by a process called epigenetics. Recently this cutting-edge field has turned its attention to some very old DNA: Researchers today announced they have reconstructed methylation maps for our extinct relatives. The findings might explain certain differences in appearances between Neanderthals, Denisovans, and us, as well as the prevalence of disease.
Epigenetics is a branch of science that explores how the expression of our DNA can be influenced by external factors without the DNA itself changing. Research in the field has focused on DNA methylation. This is when a chemical compound called a methyl group attaches to DNA. This can regulate an individual’s genetic expression and even be passed down through generations. DNA methylation has been linked to disease and also to an individual’s appearance and behavior. This is the first time, however, that an archaic pattern of methylation has been reconstructed for early humans.
Researchers set out to reconstruct the DNA methylation activity of Neanderthals and Denisovans, two species of archaic human that split from modern humans more than half a million years ago. The researchers could not use methyl measurement techniques that are currently standard procedure in labs because the methods require DNA to be destroyed, an impractical approach when dealing with rare archaic DNA samples” (read more).
***This story is on several news sites, often with some misleading titles. The authors clarify some qualifications about their findings that the media aren’t always making a point to note.The original research is paywalled, but here’s the link for those with access. Also, it’s interesting cos we don’t read a lot about epigenetics in palaeoanthropology.
(Source: Discover News)
- by Dr. Elizabeth Keenan (Fordham University)
"These days, everyone knows academia is a bad boyfriend (or girlfriend, depending on your sexual preference). Everyone has their own tale about how it keeps pulling them back in, with tantalizing offers of interviews and seductive whispers of funding, and then crushing their hopes into the tiny shards of a broken career.
This isn’t one of those columns. No, this is a column about having “The Talk.” Not the imaginary one you have with the academy itself—the one in which you finally kick it to the curb. I mean the one you’ll have repeatedly with everyone you’ve known professionally in the past decade of your life.
See, there’s a difference between bad relationships and academia. When you finally escape a bad relationship, most of your friends will suddenly confess, “I never liked him/her anyway!” Or they’ll join you in a round (or six) while you cry in your beer. They won’t tell you, “Well, why don’t you just give it another year? He’s a really nice guy when he isn’t ignoring you!” Or: “Surely if you just tried to make it work, she would stop cheating.”
And yet, in academia, you hear those things all the time. As soon as you tell someone, “I’m thinking of leaving,” they’ll come back at you with a list of reasons you should stay, give it another year, try harder, and maybe a job will open up. People who try to keep you in academia mean well: Either they have succeeded and don’t understand why you haven’t, or they’re in the same position as you and they’re terrified of leaving. But that doesn’t make talking to them any easier.
This can make the transition out of academia cripplingly lonely, especially if a lot of your friends and mentors are still on the inside. (And then there’s the problem that your friends outside academia won’t be able to relate, though they will try. At least some of them will buy you drinks.)” (read more).
***The problem is, whenever I think I’ll stay out for good, I realise that finding a non-academic job that’s an actual career job, not just a pay the rent and hope for the best job, is no easier to find than an academic job.
- by Sireen El Zaatari and Jean-Jacques Hublin
"This article presents the results of the occlusal molar microwear texture analysis of 32 adult Upper Paleolithic modern humans from a total of 21 European sites dating to marine isotope stages 3 and 2. The occlusal molar microwear textures of these specimens were analyzed with the aim of examining the effects of the climatic, as well as the cultural, changes on the diets of the Upper Paleolithic modern humans. The results of this analysis do not reveal any environmentally driven dietary shifts for the Upper Paleolithic hominins indicating that the climatic and their associated paleoecological changes did not force these humans to significantly alter their diets in order to survive. However, the microwear texture analysis does detect culturally related changes in the Upper Paleolithic humans’ diets. Specifically, significant differences in diet were found between the earlier Upper Paleolithic individuals, i.e., those belonging to the Aurignacian and Gravettian contexts, and the later Magdalenian ones, such that the diet of the latter group was more varied and included more abrasive foods compared with those of the former” (read more/not open access).
- from MacQuairie University
"Gain an introductory understanding of evolution, including how we evolved from primates and became human.
What’s it about?
Impressively, humans are the only creatures produced by evolution that are capable of understanding evolution. In Becoming Human: Anthropology, you can explore how evolution works and how variation arises.
Find out why, of all the orders of life, primates produced us. How did apes start to look like us, walk on two feet and grow big brains that over the past 200,000 years have figured out where we came from? This course will give you some thought-provoking answers” (learn more).
- Course starts on: 28/04/2014
- Course ends on: 27/05/2014
Studies about reading studies go back more than two decades