Post List

Anthropology posts

(Modify Search »)

  • December 23, 2010
  • 11:12 PM


by teofilo in Gambler's House

Sand Canyon Pueblo, which I discussed in the previous post, is one of the best-known prehistoric communities in the Southwest due to the multi-year research program conducted there by Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in the 1980s and 1990s.  Crow Canyon selected it for this research for a variety of reasons, including its short period of [...]... Read more »

  • December 23, 2010
  • 10:59 AM

Depression Treatment Increased From 1998 to 2007

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A paper just out reports on the changing patterns of treatment for depression in the USA, over the period from 1998 to 2007.The headline news is that increased: the overall rate of people treated for some form of "depression" went from 2.37% to 2.88% per year. That's an increase of 21%, which is not trivial, but it's much less than the increase in the previous decade: it was just 0.73% in 1987.But the increase was concentrated in some groups of people.Americans over 50 accounted for the bulk of the rise. Their use went up by about 50%, while rates in younger people stayed almost steady. In '98 the peak age band was 35-49, now it's 50-64, with almost 5% of those people getting treated in any given year.Men's rates of treatment went up by over 40% while women's only increased by 10%. Women are still more likely to get treated for depression than men, though, with a ratio of 1.7 women for each 1 man. But that ratio is a lot closer than it used to be.Black people's rates increased hugely, by 120%. Rates in black people now stand at 2.2% which is close behind whites at 3.2%. Hispanics are now the least treated major ethnic group at 1.9%: in previous studies, blacks were the least treated. (There was no data on Asians or others).So the increase wasn't an across the board rise, as we saw from 1985 to 1995. Rather the '98-'07 increase was more of a "catching up" by people who've historically had low levels of treatment, closing in on the level of the historically highest group: middle-aged white women.In terms of what treatments people got, out of everyone treated for depression, 80% got some kind of drugs, and that didn't change much. But use of psychotherapy declined a bit from 54% to 43% (some people got both).What's also interesting is that the same authors reported last year that, over pretty much the same time period ('96 to '05), the number of Americans who used antidepressants in any given year sky-rocketed from 5% to 10% - that is to say, much faster than the rate of depression treatment rose! And the data are comparable, because they came from the same national MEPS surveys.In other words, the decade must have seen antidepressants increasingly being used to treat stuff other than depression. What stuff? Well, all kinds of things. SSRIs are popular in everything from anxiety and OCD to premature ejaculation. Several of the "other new" drugs, like mirtazapine and trazodone, are very good at putting you to sleep (rather too good, some users would say...)Marcus SC, & Olfson M (2010). National trends in the treatment for depression from 1998 to 2007. Archives of general psychiatry, 67 (12), 1265-73 PMID: 21135326... Read more »

Marcus SC, & Olfson M. (2010) National trends in the treatment for depression from 1998 to 2007. Archives of general psychiatry, 67(12), 1265-73. PMID: 21135326  

  • December 23, 2010
  • 06:24 AM

The paradigm is dead, long live the paradigm!

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

Mitochondrial DNA and human evolution: Mitochondrial DNA from 147 people, drawn from five geographic populations have been analysed by restriction mapping. All these mitochondrial DMAs stem from one woman who is postulated to have lived ab7out 200,000 years ago, probably in Africa. All the populations examined except the African population have multiple origins, implying that [...]... Read more »

Reich, David, Green, Richard E., Kircher, Martin, Krause, Johannes, Patterson, Nick, Durand, Eric Y., Viola, Bence, Briggs, Adrian W., Stenzel, Udo, Johnson, Philip L. F.... (2010) Genetic history of an archaic hominin group from Denisova Cave in Siberia. Nature. info:/10.1038/nature09710

  • December 22, 2010
  • 11:56 PM

Prehistoric Zoning

by teofilo in Gambler's House

When I was working at Chaco and would tell visitors that I was going to graduate school for city planning, most people would remark on what a difference that sounded like.  And, indeed, there are a lot of differences between my life when I was at Chaco and my life here at school in New [...]... Read more »

  • December 22, 2010
  • 06:10 PM

DNA Reveals the Story of a Mysterious Group of Ancient Humans

by Dan Bailey in Smells Like Science

At the end of the last ice age modern humans were migrating out of Africa, Neanderthals roamed Europe, and new research has shown that a previously unknown population of ancient humans lived in Asia. All that remains of this mysterious group is a section of finger bone and a wisdom tooth. The group has been named the Denisovans after Denisova Cave in Siberia where the tooth and bone segment were found. A few months ago researchers completed an analysis of mitochondrial DNA from the finger bone and concluded that it had belonged to a child who lived about 40,000 years ago and was genetically different from both modern humans and Neanderthals.... Read more »

Reich, D., Green, R., Kircher, M., Krause, J., Patterson, N., Durand, E., Viola, B., Briggs, A., Stenzel, U., Johnson, P.... (2010) Genetic history of an archaic hominin group from Denisova Cave in Siberia. Nature, 468(7327), 1053-1060. DOI: 10.1038/nature09710  

  • December 22, 2010
  • 11:30 AM

Is habituation permissible from a biocentric perspective?

by seriousmonkeybusiness in This is Serious Monkey Business

Habituation: a necessary method for primate research, but is it ethical from a biocentric perspective?... Read more »

Doran-Sheehy, D., Derby, A., Greer, D., & Mongo, P. (2007) Habituation of western gorillas: the process and factors that influence it. American Journal of Primatology, 69(12), 1354-1369. DOI: 10.1002/ajp.20442  

  • December 20, 2010
  • 07:02 AM

Women and true crime tales of rape, murder & serial killers

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

I remember being fascinated by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.  And during my maternity leave after my first child was born, I watched most of the Jeffrey Dahmer trials on CNN aware of the irony inherent in rocking my sleeping newborn while tracking the testimony of Park Dietz.  So, naturally, when I saw the new [...]

Related posts:Men married to rich women are more likely to cheat
Keep your eye on this one: A Depravity Scale
New research on men: What do we know now?
... Read more »

  • December 20, 2010
  • 05:24 AM

The Almond of Horror

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Remember the 90s, when No Fear stuff was cool, and when people still said "cool"?Well, a new paper has brought No Fear back, by reporting on a woman who has no fear - due to brain damage. The article, The Human Amygdala and the Induction and Experience of Fear, is brought to you by a list of neuroscientists including big names such as Antonio Damasio (of Phineas Gage fame).The basic story is nice and simple. There's a woman, SM, who lacks a part of the brain called the amygdala. They found that she can't feel fear. Therefore, it's reasonable to assume that the amygdala's required for fear. But there's a bit more to it than that...The amygdala is a small nugget of the brain nestled in the medial temporal lobe. The name comes from the Greek for "almond" because apparently it looks like one, though I can't say I've noticed the resemblance myself.What does it do? Good question. There are two main schools of thought. Some think that the amygdala is responsible for the emotion of fear, while others argue that its role is much broader and that it's responsible for measuring the "salience" or importance of stimuli, which covers fear but also much else.That's where this new paper comes in, with the patient SM. She's not a new patient: she's been studied for years, and many papers have been published about her. I wonder if her acronym doesn't stand for "Scientific Motherlode"?She's one of the very few living cases of Urbach-Wiethe disease, an extremely rare genetic disorder which causes selective degeneration of the amygdala as well as other symptoms such as skin problems.Previous studies on SM mostly focussed on specific aspects of her neurological function e.g. memory, perception and so on. However there have been a few studies of her "everyday" experiences and personality. Thus we learned that:Two experienced clinical psychologists conducted "blind" interviews of SM (the psychologists were not provided any background information)... Both reached the conclusion that SM expressed a normal range of affect and emotion... However, they both noted that SM was remarkably dispassionate when relating highly emotional and traumatic life experiences... To the psychologists, SM came across as a "survivor", as being "resilient" and even "heroic".These observations were based on interviews under normal conditions; what would happen if you actually went out of your way to try and scare her? So they did.First, they took her to an exotic pet store and got her to meet various snakes and spiders. She was perfectly happy picking up the various critters and had to be prevented from getting too closely acquainted with the more dangerous ones.What's fascinating is that before she went to the store, she claimed to hate snakes and spiders! Why? Before she developed Urbach-Wiethe disease, she had a normal childhood up to about the age of 10. Presumably she used to be afraid of them, and just never updated this belief, a great example of how our own narratives about our feelings can clash with our real feelings.They subsequently confirmed that SM was fearless by taking her to a "haunted asylum" (check it out, even the website is scary) and showing her various horror movie clips, as well as through interviews with herself and her son. They also describe an incredible incident from several years ago: SM was walking home late at night when she sawA man, whom SM described as looking “drugged-out.” As she walked past the park, the man called out and motioned for her to come over. SM made her way to the park bench. As she got within arm’s reach of the man, he suddenly stood up, pulled her down to the bench by her shirt, stuck a knife to her throat, and exclaimed, “I’m going to cut you, bitch!”SM claims that she remained calm, did not panic, and did not feel afraid. In the distance she could hear the church choir singing. She looked at the man and confidently replied, “If you’re going to kill me, you’re gonna have to go through my God’s angels first.” The man suddenly let her go. SM reports “walking” back to her home. On the following day, she walked past the same park again. There were no signs of avoidance behavior and no feelings of fear.All this suggests that the amygdala has a key role in the experience of fear, as opposed to other emotions: there is no evidence to suggest that SM lacks the ability to experience happiness or sadness in the same way.So this is an interesting contribution to the debate on the role of the amygdala, although we really need someone to do equally detailed studies on other Urbach-Wiethe patients to make sure that it's not just that SM happens to be unusually brave for some other reason. What's doubly interesting, though, is that Ralph Adolphs, one of the authors, has previously argued against the view of the amygdala as a "fear center".Links: I've previously written about the psychology of horror movies and I've reviewed quite a lot of them too.Justin S. Feinstein, Ralph Adolphs, Antonio Damasio,, & and Daniel Tranel (2010). The Human Amygdala and the Induction and Experience of Fear Current Biology... Read more »

Justin S. Feinstein, Ralph Adolphs, Antonio Damasio,, & and Daniel Tranel1. (2010) The Human Amygdala and the Induction and Experience of Fear. Current Biology. info:/

  • December 19, 2010
  • 03:43 PM

More Volcano Stuff

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The effect of the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano on the prehistoric population of northern Arizona has long been a topic of interest to archaeologists.  As I’ve mentioned recently, in the 1930s and 1940s Harold Colton of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff came up with a theory to explain the settlement dynamics of [...]... Read more »

  • December 17, 2010
  • 08:28 PM

Water Collection at Wupatki

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Wupatki is a very dry place even by the standards of the Southwest, with annual precipitation averaging about 8 inches.  Human habitation in such an arid landscape is therefore highly dependent on capturing as much available moisture as possible.  It appears that the prehistoric inhabitants took advantage of the volcanic ash laid down over the [...]... Read more »

Schroeder, A. (1944) A Prehistoric Method of Collecting Water. American Antiquity, 9(3), 329. DOI: 10.2307/275790  

  • December 17, 2010
  • 04:57 PM

Of Political Orgasms and the Scientific Method

by David Berreby in Mind Matters

This week's theme is epistemological unease in the sciences: Complaints in a number of disciplines that studies didn't really find the effects they're reporting. One reason for these worries is that many studies nowadays are never repeated. So today I'm going to consciously and rationally resist ...Read More
... Read more »

  • December 16, 2010
  • 12:50 AM

Speaking of Wupatki

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The paper by Glenn Davis Stone and Christian Downum that I mentioned in the last post, which evaluated the archaeological record of the Wupatki area of northern Arizona in the light of Ester Boserup‘s theory of agricultural intensification, was based largely on the data from an extensive archaeological survey of Wupatki National Monument done by [...]... Read more »

  • December 14, 2010
  • 06:19 PM

Looking to the Past in Search of New Drugs

by Dan Bailey in Smells Like Science

Scientists have often looked to nature in the quest for new drugs to treat everything from cancer to infectious diseases, and they’ve found effective drugs in unexpected places – sea sponges, the bark of the Pacific yew tree, a throat swab from a chicken. But archaeologist Patrick McGovern and an interdisciplinary group of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are using a different approach: they’re looking to the past in search of new drugs.... Read more »

  • December 13, 2010
  • 04:48 PM

At a Loss for Words: Modern Lessons From a Lost Language

by Krystal D'Costa in Anthropology in Practice

It's hard to imagine that knowledge could be lost today. Technology seems to have put the ability to know almost everything within our grasp. So when researchers announced that they had "found" a previously unknown Peruvian language earlier this year, it was strangely tantalizing. Here was knowledge that we couldn't Google. We could plumb the archives and look for clues that might offer answers, but true understanding would not be easily attainable. And in all likelihood, we would have to resign ourselves to not knowing.

The back side of the Magdalena document shows
translations for numbers from Spanish to a lost language.
Photo by Jeffrey Quilter.
In a public-friendly article, Jeffrey Quilter and colleagues (2010) announced in September that they had uncovered a remarkable find at an archaeological dig in Northern Peru: It wasn't a funerary mask or ornate pottery or even a mummy, but a page. A letter actually, dating to 17th-century and detailing a minor trade event in the church complex where it was found. It is an interesting artifact by itself that could offer a glimpse into the life of the colonial community being uncovered. However, on the back of the letter someone had scribbled a number list in a previously unknown language, making the page more than just a record of church concerns. Though the list is short, it is enough to help researchers understand that they have in their hands the details of a number system that has not been previously recorded. As the researchers note, the history of the document itself—how and why it was created and then discarded—is tied to larger aspects of Peruvian history. And this history can help us understand the linguistic dynamics of cultural contact—which may be extended in some ways to the digital age.
Many People, Many Languages
The site of Santa Maria Magdalena de Cao is on the North Coast of Peru and provides a glimpse at life in a colonial town. Occupied from the late 16th- to the late 18th-century, the town was a redducion, a Spanish-style town where conquered populations were forced to live together under colonial rule. These towns naturally would have been sites of “mixing”: over time, the meeting of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds would have yielded to new forms of cultural identity with a tendency toward that of the conqueror.
It is perhaps wise to pause here for a moment and note that some form of this sort of “mixing” had been going on well before the Spanish arrived as a colonial presence in South America, particularly at the hands of the Inka (Inca):A highly complex linguistic and cultural landscape that had been created through millennia of human interactions was still present in the mid-16th-century era of the Spanish intrusion. The palimpsest of societies and tongues owing to historical processes of the rise and fall of empires and movements of people was augmented by a variety of specific cultural practices as well, such as the placing of colonies forcibly, as under Inka imperial policy (Quilter et. al. 2010: 361).Indeed, there may have been many indigenous languages in Peru in prehistory that may have been absorbed after Inkan conquests. For example, between 100 and 800 CE, the North Coast of Peru was home to a culture known as the Moche or Mochica. Given the breadth of the region it is likely more than one language was spoken, but this is not definitively known. The archaeological record tells us that Northern and Southern regions of the Moche subsequently developed into the Lambayeque and Chimu respectively, and the Chimu appears to have conquered or absorbed the former, and gone on to become a rival to the Inka empire. However, contact with the Inka left traces on the Chimu society:There is substantial evidence to suggest that the Inka actively worked to co-opt or coerce local elites into Inka cultural practices as a means of political control, and it is well known that they also brought the sons of local leaders to Cuzco for training in such practices (Quilter et. al. 2010: 361).For this coercion to be effective, a common language would be of immense importance. To this end, the Inka helped spread the Quechua language family, a dialect that is widely used throughout the Andes, though they themselves may have spoken another language. The use of Cuzco Quechua would have helped solidify the goals of empire.
Learning to Count
Similar linguistic practices were employed by colonial powers via the Catholic Church to establish the state’s authority. In fact, the Spanish helped spread some version of Quechua themselves to teach the Gospel, and consequently impose Spanish law and order on the local people. Church records suggest that there were at least two but possibly three distinct languages spoken on the North Coast: Quingnam, the language of the Chimu monarchs, Mochica, a dialect spoken along the coast, and Pescadora, the language of the North Coast fisherfolk. It is likely that the fisherfolk spoke a distinct language in keeping with the socioeconomic organization in the region. Within these three languages, there would have been numerous dialects, so it is no surprise that the Church would have worked to reduce the number of languages that they would have had to work with.
The document suggests an attempt to learn the number system of a regional dialect. The author wrote out the Spanish names for the numbers 1 – 3, and the Arabic numerals for 4 – 10, 21, 30, 100 and 200, giving us the following:uno-chari
21. maribencor chari tayac
30 apar becor
100 chari pachac
200 mari pachac
It clearly lays out the system’s combinatory rules, and suggests that by learning this sequence, the rest of the sequence could be filled in. Interestingly, pachac appears to have been borrowed from Quechuan, but the list does not yield any other real linguistic clues about origins. The other numbers are unique and distinct, and numbers themselves function as narrow, repetitive systems within languages.
But we know enough to know what it is not. That is to say, Mochica survived into the 19th-century, and we have word lists that reveal no similarities to the found list of numerals. Records remain also from the Inka, allowing for comparisons and showing no similarities. No trace of the Quingnan and Pecadora languages remain, so they cannot be definitively ruled out. But the one potential connection to Quechuan suggests some point of contact with the larger language family.
There is a possibility that the numbers may be part of a trader’s language within Pescadora. Missionary records make reference to two Pescadora languages, with the possibility of one being a pidgin: a simplified trade language modeled after higher-status language(s), with shared grammatical and semantic features taken from the borrower’s native tongue (365). Pidgins are common in communities with high mobility that are engaged in trade because they help with communication between the two groups and facilitate commerce. The letter on which the numbers were scribbled reference a commercial transaction, perhaps the number system was a note for a potential transaction of its own. But without additional information, this is pure speculation—fun to imagine, but speculation nonetheless.
Language Lost Today?
Lost languages are not ... Read more »

  • December 13, 2010
  • 04:54 AM

Live not by visualization alone

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

Synthetic map
In the age of 500,000 SNP studies of genetic variation across dozens of populations obviously we’re a bit beyond lists of ABO blood frequencies. There’s no real way that a conventional human is going to be able to discern patterns of correlated allele frequency variations which point to between population genetic differences on this [...]... Read more »

Olivier François, Mathias Currat, Nicolas Ray, Eunjung Han, Laurent Excoffier, & John Novembre. (2010) Principal Component Analysis under Population Genetic Models of Range Expansion and Admixture. Mol Biol Evol . info:/

  • December 12, 2010
  • 05:34 PM

Speaking of Ester Boserup

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The paper I discussed earlier on the connection between plow-based agriculture and highly inegalitarian gender roles was based on a theory proposed by Ester Boserup.  Boserup was a Danish economist who had a lot of interesting ideas about the relationship between population growth and agricultural intensification.  She’s best known for arguing that intensification of agricultural [...]... Read more »

  • December 10, 2010
  • 09:52 AM

No Substitute for IRL Relationships for Adolescents

by Krystal D'Costa in Anthropology in Practice

Credit: Scott Hampson
It's no secret that the Internet is a black hole when it comes to time. Fifteen minutes on Twitter spirals into an hour or two of witty banter. A quick stop on Facebook to read statuses or water crops becomes three hours looking at photos from someone's vacation or wedding. (And email? Fuggedaboutit!) But it's easy to be online—simple and almost instantaneous access to all your friends and connections, and none of them need to know you're in your pajamas. And you can reinvent yourself online, which is handy for those of us with histories of awkwardness (or present awkwardness for that matter). The Internet is always with us. It's in our pockets and bags on our phones, and wherever free WiFi can be found for those with netbooks, tablets, and laptops, which provides us with a handy way to escape uncomfortable situations—how many of your with smart phones have checked (or pretended to check) email, Facebook, or Twitter at a party where the conversation wasn't going quite right? 
For adolescents and teens in particular unmonitored access can quickly lead to problematic Internet use (PIU), which in turn can develop into Internet addiction. In a relatively small study, researchers Milani, Osaualdella, and Di Blasio (2009) discuss the ways online social interactions can help adolescents develop a sense of belonging, particularly in instances of self-imposed or group-driven social isolation. Online social interactions in these cases offer simple ways of restoring a sense of normalcy:the association between loneliness and the negative consequences of Internet use is effectively mediated by the preference for online social interactions, which allows individuals with particular problems in this are to perceive themselves as more secure and more at ease than in traditional face-to-face interactions [Caplan 2007 by Milani et. al. 2009] (681).Using a sample of Italian students, Milani and colleagues demonstrated the potential relationship between PIU, quality of interpersonal relationships, coping skills, and capacity to internalize/externalize social norms. To this end, they employed the following tools:an Italian-version Internet Addiction Test (IAT) (cutoff score for PIU is 50, and effective dependence is 80); 
Test of Interpersonal Relationships (TRI), which measures the quality of relationships;
an Italian-version Children's Coping Strategies Checklist (CCSC), which measures coping skills;
and a Questionnaire for the Recording of Internet Use Habits, which measured participants' browsing habits.
Approximately, 37% (of a sample population of 98) participants had an IAT score of 50 or higher. The small sample size for this study is a bit problematic, but the researchers believe that their data demonstrates that adolescents with PIU have less quality relationships in their lives: These individuals scored higher on sub-tests within the CCSC for avoidance behaviors as a coping strategy. Avoidance behaviors can be a predictor for PIU as the authors report that there is a connection between Internet dependency and certain personality traits, such as preference for solitary activities and low social openness (2009: 681).This, adolescents with poor interpersonal relationships and a predisposition for adopting an avoidance coping strategy are at a greater risk of developing PIU (683).The bottom line is that socializing online cannot substitute for real life connections, particularly for adolescents who are still learning and developing strategies for coping with real world situations and relationships. This is not necessarily new news, but as the DSM-V considers whether to include IAD, studies such as this confirm the impact of digital technologies on our lives, and invite a closer look as potential long-term effects.

Cited:Milani, L., Osualdella, D., & Di Blasio, P. (2009). Quality of Interpersonal Relationships and Problematic Internet Use in Adolescence CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12 (6), 681-684 DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2009.0071

... Read more »

  • December 10, 2010
  • 03:50 AM

The Antikythera Mechanism

by GrrlScientist in GrrlScientist

Two years ago, a paper was published in Nature describing the function of the oldest known scientific computer, a device built in Greece around 100 BCE. ... Read more »

  • December 8, 2010
  • 04:19 PM

The men of the north: the Sami

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

Ole Magga, Norwegian politician
On this blog I regularly get questions about the Sami (Lapp*). That’s because I often talk about Finnish genetics, have readers such as Clark who are of part-Sami origin, and, the provenance and character of the Sami speak to broader questions about the emergence of the modern European gene pool. More precisely [...]... Read more »

Maki-Torkko, Elina, Aikio, Pekka, Sorri, Martti, Huentelman, Matthew J, & Camp, Guy Van. (2010) A genome-wide analysis of population structure in the Finnish Saami with implications for genetic association studies. European Journal of Human Genetics. info:/10.1038/ejhg.2010.179

  • December 7, 2010
  • 08:58 PM

A tale of two foreigners in Japan

by Lachlan Jackson in Language on the Move

This is the first in a series of blog posts about my experiences undertaking an ongoing research project. In this series I will be detailing some of the methodological challenges I encounter as well as the strategies I adopt to … Continue reading →... Read more »

Maher, J. C. (2005) Metroethnicity, language and the principle of cool. International Journal of the Sociology of Languages, 83. info:/

join us!

Do you write about peer-reviewed research in your blog? Use to make it easy for your readers — and others from around the world — to find your serious posts about academic research.

If you don't have a blog, you can still use our site to learn about fascinating developments in cutting-edge research from around the world.

Register Now

Research Blogging is powered by SMG Technology.

To learn more, visit