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  • August 11, 2013
  • 02:32 PM
  • 389 views

The day before death: A new archaeological technique gives insight into the day before death

by Perikis Livas in Tracing Knowledge

The day before the child’s death was not a pleasant one, because it was not a sudden injury that killed the 10-13 year old child who was buried in the medieval town of Ribe in Denmark 800 years ago. The day before death was full of suffering because the child had been given a large dose of mercury in an attempt to cure a severe illness.... Read more »

Birgitte Svennevig. (2013) The day before death: A new archaeological technique gives insight into the day before death. Eurekalert. info:/

  • August 8, 2013
  • 03:37 PM
  • 294 views

Possession Trance Disorder Caused by Door-to-Door Sales

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Some companies and organizations that employ door-to-door sales tactics are known for their cult-like practices (e.g., Amway, traveling magazine sales, and Jehovah's Witnesses). An unusual psychiatric report included this religious brainwashing element in presenting the case of a 47 year old Japanese housewife who felt possessed by God after a visit by a door-to-door salesman (Saitoh et al., 1996):In Japan, psychiatry has generally regarded the possessive state as symptomatic of religion- related mental disorders. ... Recently, there has been a proliferation of direct sales enterprises that incite anxiety in prospective customers in order to sell their products. Due to the prevalence of door-to-door peddling of items such as amulets and talismans to ward off curses and misfortune, the term ‘door-to-door sales’ has come to have a religious connotation.Recently, we treated a case of possessive state accompanied with suicidal tendencies which are thought to have developed in connection with door-to-door sales. Religious factors and elements of brainwashing were seen both in the conditions that promoted the possessive state and in the state itself.The patient grew up on a family farm in the Tokyo area. She was described as laconic, withdrawn, quiet, unsocial and nervous.When the patient was 47 years old, a male she described as a ‘salesperson type’ came to her home in May. He read her palm and asked for her husband’s family name and birth date. When she gave him this information he predicted that some misfortune would befall her husband. The patient’s husband had fallen in an accident a few days earlier, and she became extremely anxious. The man then said, ‘I have a talisman, a lucky name chop (family seal) which will protect your husband from misfortune’. Although she was hesitant at first, she finally agreed... When she paid for the chop the man recommended that she go to a certain room in a hotel in Saitama prefecture for a more in-depth palm reading ... where she was one of 20 women who received a lecture on subjects such as lineage, marriage, health and happiness.Approximately 1 week later, again at the salesman’s advice, she went to a rented room in a building in Tokyo where she received a scroll called a prayer book. At the same time she was urged to buy a sculpture which was called a ‘Fortune Tree’. Two days later she went to her bank with the salesman and a woman whom she did not know and paid the ¥5,400 000. The patient went to this room twice a month during June, July and August. The room was divided by a partition and she was shown biblical videotapes. In September, she complained of an inability to sleep, and stated, ‘I can hear God’s voice. He possesses me and is controlling my bodily movements’. Thereafter, she episodically gave orders to her family in an uninflected monotone, making unrealistic assertions such as, ‘Don’t eat that or you will die’ and ‘Don’t go out or you won’t come back’. In mid-September, she filed a complaint that she had been deceived into buying the ‘Fortune Tree’ at an exorbitant price. Shortly thereafter, she was taken to a private mental hospital and treated with the antipsychotic drug haloperidol. Two weeks later, she was able to recount her ordeal:... ‘I felt like God had taken over my body. I was ordered by Him to do this or do that. Even if I wasn’t talking, my mouth just moved on its own. I didn’t go so far as to be One with God, but it was almost like that. That’s why I gave orders to my husband and child as though I were God’. The patient showed no subsequent objective signs of abnormality, and was released 2 months after admission.The authors discussed her case in terms of the DSM-IV diagnosis, Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, along with depressive symptoms and somatic complaints. Her attendance at the video lectures was described as a form of brainwashing. More specifically, her condition would fall under the category of Dissociative Trance Disorder (possession trance), a disturbance in consciousness or identity with a culturally specific element:Dissociative trance involves narrowing of awareness of immediate surroundings or stereotyped behaviors or movements that are experienced as being beyond one's control. Possession trance involves replacement of the customary sense of personal identity by a new identity, attributed to the influence of a spirit, power, deity, or other person and associated with stereotyped involuntary movements or amnesia...This case is rare not only because of its association with a business practice, but also because possession is usually seen in more isolated communities with traditional belief systems, quite unlike contemporary Tokyo. Further ReadingPossession Trance Disorder in DSM-5ReferenceSatoh S, Obata S, Seno E, Okada T, Morita N, Saito T, Yoshikawa M, & Yamagami A (1996). A case of possessive state with onset influenced by 'door-to-door' sales. Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 50 (6), 313-6. PMID: 9014228

... Read more »

Satoh S, Obata S, Seno E, Okada T, Morita N, Saito T, Yoshikawa M, & Yamagami A. (1996) A case of possessive state with onset influenced by 'door-to-door' sales. Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 50(6), 313-6. PMID: 9014228  

  • August 8, 2013
  • 08:36 AM
  • 645 views

New Morbid Terminology: Quicklime

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

If you’re a fan of murder-mystery novels, you’ve probably run across quicklime before. It’s commonly cited in detective and mob stories as a method for quick and anonymous disposal of a body. Usually, the body is laid out on a tarp or placed in a burial, and then to prevent it from smelling and speed … Continue reading »... Read more »

M. VAN STRYDONCK,a, * L. DECQ,a, T. VAN DEN BRANDE, M. BOUDIN, D. RAMIS, H. BORMS, & G. DE MULDER. (2013) The Protohistoric ‘Quicklime Burials’ from the Balearic Islands: Cremation orInhumation. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. DOI: 10.1002/oa.2307  

  • July 30, 2013
  • 02:02 PM
  • 380 views

Interdisciplinary Insight into Incan Child Sacrifice

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

The hot news today is the recent PNAS publication of the results of an extensive interdisciplinary study to learn more about Incan child sacrifice. For a decade and a half, the child mummies excavated from the Andes in Argentina have captivated researchers with the high preservation, unique burial, and lack of visible cause of death. … Continue reading »... Read more »

Wilson AS, Taylor T, Ceruti MC, Chavez JA, Reinhard J, Grimes V, Meier-Augenstein W, Cartmell L, Stern B, Richards MP.... (2007) Stable isotope and DNA evidence for ritual sequences in Inca child sacrifice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(42), 16456-61. PMID: 17923675  

Wilson AS, Taylor T, Ceruti MC, Chavez JA, Reinhard J, Grimes V, Meier-Augenstein W, Cartmell L, Stern B, Richards MP.... (2013) Archaeological, radiological, and biological evidence offer insight into Inca child sacrifice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1305117110  

  • July 28, 2013
  • 08:24 AM
  • 400 views

Positivity: Retract The Bathwater, Save The Baby

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Last week I covered a new paper Brown et al (2013) in the journal American Psychologist. The article was strongly critical of a highly-cited paper that appeared in the same journal 8 years ago, Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing, by Barbara Fredrickson and Marcial Losada. See my original post – or [...]The post Positivity: Retract The Bathwater, Save The Baby appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

Fredrickson BL, & Losada MF. (2005) Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. The American psychologist, 60(7), 678-86. PMID: 16221001  

Fredrickson BL. (2013) Updated Thinking on Positivity Ratios. American Psychologist. DOI: 10.1037/a0033584  

  • July 25, 2013
  • 10:49 AM
  • 270 views

Lost Cities, Movie Sets, and Nature’s Periodic Cruelty

by Ian Jones in Dug-up Commonplaces

I have to admit that I was rather excited when I saw the headline “Star Wars home of Anakin Skywalker threatened by dune” in my BBC RSS feed (and not only because, like many Star Wars fans, I’d be happy to forget about Mos Espa along with the rest of The Phantom Menace). The first […]... Read more »

  • July 23, 2013
  • 08:32 PM
  • 375 views

How is gender bias in science studied? II. Learning from existing data

by Terrific T in Science, I Choose You

This is part 2 of my 4-part series about studying gender bias in science (See part 1). For studies using existing data, we look at information that is already available, and learn from the information through data analysis. The difficulty in these studies is that because you are not in control of how the information […]... Read more »

Schroeder J., Dugdale H. L., Radersma R., Hinsch M., Buehler D. M., Saul J., Porter L., Liker A., De Cauwer I., & Johnson P. J. (2013) Fewer invited talks by women in evolutionary biology symposia. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jeb.12198  

  • July 23, 2013
  • 05:00 PM
  • 93 views

If you got a fragment, yo I'll sort it

by JB in Bone Broke

There are around 206 bones in the adult human body. However, one of the joys* of working with prehistoric human remains is that taphonomy, mortuary practices and several thousand years worth of soil pressure all unite to produce a high degree of fragmentation of osteological material. As a result, when identifying and cataloguing archaeological human remains you're likely to come across a vast number of fragments, some of which can't be identified to a more specific level than "cranial vault fragment" or "large long bone fragment". When you're dealing with bags and bags of broken bones, it helps to have a strategy for quantifying and describing such fragments rapidly, so you can spend more time focusing on fun things like dentition, carpals, or your much anticipated daily trip to the little store across the street for a can of Coke Zero (that will remain ice cold for approximately 30 seconds, because this is Spain).  Below, I outline my strategy for dealing with unidentifiable or 'barely identifiable' fragments, and include some useful tools that you yourself can use when collecting data!... Read more »

  • July 22, 2013
  • 11:01 AM
  • 293 views

Mount Everest and Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake

by Colleen Morgan in Middle Savagery

It was probably the old-timey packaging that attracted my attention. Nestled in-between the CLIF and LUNA energy bars was a slim, indigo blue wrapper that would not have been out of place on old money, or a commemorative plate. On … Continue reading →... Read more »

Elizabeth Mazzolini. (2010) Food, Waste, and Judgment on Mount Everest. Cultural Critique, 1-27. info:/10.1353/cul.2010.0013

  • July 22, 2013
  • 09:05 AM
  • 260 views

Good To Know: Modern Effects Of Ancestor’s Diet

by Katja Keuchenius in United Academics



Humans have weird eating habits compared to other animals. They cook their meals, ascribe all sorts of cultural value to consuming and easily overeat themselves. Especially this last characteristic makes us wonder lately: to what extent are our eating habits tied to our genetic make up?
... Read more »

  • July 20, 2013
  • 10:39 AM
  • 254 views

Homosexuality Doesn’t Spread Via Social Networks

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Worries over the possibility that gay people are seeking to promote or spread their orientation are common. Sometimes these fears are expressed openly, and take the form of conspiracy theories. Then again, they can be unspoken reservations. But what’s the truth? A new study reassures us that Same-Sex Sexual Attraction Does Not Spread in Adolescent [...]The post Homosexuality Doesn’t Spread Via Social Networks appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

Brakefield TA, Mednick SC, Wilson HW, De Neve JE, Christakis NA, & Fowler JH. (2013) Same-Sex Sexual Attraction Does Not Spread in Adolescent Social Networks. Archives of sexual behavior. PMID: 23842784  

  • July 18, 2013
  • 08:37 PM
  • 421 views

Dog-eared books

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Hi Julie, I loved hearing from Clare Browne about her research into timing of reinforcement in our first guest post last week, and it certainly stimulated lots of great comments and questions on Facebook and Google+.  I know you've been busy Chaser-ing around (lucky ducks, both!) and there's also all those amazing conferences happening this week, what with the ISAZ, IAHAIO and AVSAB events on in Chicago, so just a very quick post from me this week! You know how we recently put together out list of top ten books for the Science Book a Day team? Well, Chaser's upcoming book release reminded me that we should put them all in one place here, so that we (or anyone else looking for a canine science book or fourteen) could find them easily if needed.  Science Book A DayIn no particular order, here they are: McGreevy (2009) A Modern Dog’s Life. A fabulous book, written with humour and insight, that offers a modern take on what challenges and motivates our dogs and how we can best meet their needs.http://doyoubelieveindog.blogspot.com/2012/09/todays-favorites-paul-mcgreevys-books.htmlSearch to purchase: http://booko.com.au/9781742231051/A-Modern-Dog-s-LifeHorowitz (2009) Inside of a Dog.What’s it like to be a dog? This book covers the science of how dogs think and perceive the world and is accompanied by personal reflections on Horowitz’s own dog’s behaviour. Get to know the umwelt of the dog.http://doyoubelieveindog.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/tis-season-to-be-doggy-fa-la-la-la-laaaa.htmlSearch to purchase: http://booko.com.au/9781451672756/Inside-of-a-Dog Bradshaw (2012) Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet.This recent publication answers the very important question: “What’s good for dogs?” Exp... Read more »

  • July 18, 2013
  • 12:01 PM
  • 254 views

Getting Science Right: Comparing Japanese And Americans

by Katja Keuchenius in United Academics

How does one measure the ‘Americanness or ‘Japaneseness’ of someones personality? We asked Derya Güngör, research fellow of the Catholic University of Leuven. She recently published her research in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, about changing personalities of Japananese women that migrated to the United States.... Read more »

Derya Güngör, Marc H. Bornstein, Jozefien De Leersnyder,, & Linda Cote, Eva Ceulemans, and Batja Mesquita1. (2013) Acculturation of Personality: A Three-Culture Study of Japanese, Japanese Americans, and European Americans. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. DOI: 10.1177/0022022112470749  

  • July 16, 2013
  • 12:00 PM
  • 276 views

Asymmetric (Gender) Warfare & Japan's Rubella Virus Outbreak

by Rebecca Kreston in BODY HORRORS

Japan is in the midst of a rubella outbreak that has already infected over 5,000 people in just the first four months of this year. Since the early 2000s, the country has undergone cyclical five-year rubella epidemics, with community-wide outbreaks cresting in the spring and summer. But in the past two years the number of infections has surged dramatically from a hundred-odd cases every year into the thousands, and a weird epidemiological pattern has emerged thanks to a quirk in Japan’s vaccination policy in the 1970s: 77% of cases in the rubella outbreak have occurred in men over the age of 20.... Read more »

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2013) Nationwide rubella epidemic - Japan, 2013. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 62(23), 457-62. PMID: 23760185  

  • July 16, 2013
  • 03:06 AM
  • 384 views

The Paint on the Pots

by teofilo in Gambler's House

When I was working at Chaco, people would ask me a lot of questions. I usually knew the answers, but when I didn’t I was quite upfront about saying so. I would often try to find out the answers to questions that had stumped me, but I didn’t always succeed, and many of those questions […]... Read more »

  • July 12, 2013
  • 11:37 AM
  • 592 views

Hack Your Workout: These Songs Make People Take Bigger Steps

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish




Do you have a workout playlist? You may find yourself matching the stride of your power walk to the beat in your earbuds—but tempo isn't the only thing affecting how fast you go. Certain musical pieces seem to make people take longer strides, even while walking to the same beat. (Spoiler alert: Aqua.)

Marc Leman is a musicologist at Ghent University in Belgium. With his colleagues, he created a list of 52 songs with a tempo of 130 beats per minute, a speed they chose based on previous research. The playlist included a variety of genres, and all the songs were in 4/4 time.

Then the researchers gathered 18 "normally built" adults, strapped sensors to their legs, and sent them walking laps around a gymnasium. The subjects were explicitly told to walk in time to the beat of the music. Through headphones, they heard 30-second clips of the different songs, with periodic interludes of only a metronome sound.

Although all the music had the same tempo of 130 beats per minute—which subjects stepped in time with—their actual walking speed varied as they took longer or shorter strides. Leman says that to certain songs, people walked 10 percent faster than they did to others (or to the metronome beat).

The researchers dubbed the fastest-walking songs "activating," and the songs that made people walk slowest "relaxing." The full playlist is here, ranked from most relaxing to most activating. These were the top 10 most relaxing songs, to which walkers made the least forward progress:




And here are the tunes to which people covered the most ground:




Right around the middle was "Dragostea din tei," better known by some as "the Numa Numa song." Test subjects probably got slowed down by the requisite arm flailing.

Separately, the researchers asked subjects to rate the musical selections on a variety of adjectives: Was the song happy or sad? Tender or aggressive? Known or unknown to the listener?

Some of the responses were tied to how speedily the songs made them walk. For example, pieces described as "stuttering" rather than "flowing" made people take shorter strides. Pieces that subjects found especially "aggressive" or "loud" (although the volumes of all the songs had been matched in their headphones) made people walk faster. So did songs they described as "bad" rather than "good." (This may explain "Barbie Girl").

The musicologists, meanwhile, tried to find more scientific explanations for the powers of certain songs. Leman says this was surprisingly difficult. They did find that more activating songs tended to have simpler melodies, with fewer notes per beat. These pieces often had a strong bass line, as well as clear downbeats ("one two three four..."). The group is still working on figuring out what kinds of music make people move the fastest.

For his own exercise playlist, Leman is a fan of jazz, though he says it's not always great at getting a person moving. He thinks syncopation, which interrupts the regular beat of the music, is an important factor in making a piece relaxing rather than activating. Instead of marching straight ahead, syncopated jazz music seems to encourage you to walk with more horizontal motion, Leman says: "You want to swing."


Image: by Malingering (via Flickr)

Marc Leman, Dirk Moelants, Matthias Varewyck, Frederik Styns, Leon van Noorden, & Jean-Pierre Martens (2013). Activating and Relaxing Music Entrains the Speed of Beat Synchronized Walking PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067932

... Read more »

Marc Leman, Dirk Moelants, Matthias Varewyck, Frederik Styns, Leon van Noorden, & Jean-Pierre Martens. (2013) Activating and Relaxing Music Entrains the Speed of Beat Synchronized Walking. PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067932  

  • July 12, 2013
  • 04:59 AM
  • 298 views

Flaked Glass Tools & Leprosy in Paradise

by Colleen Morgan in Middle Savagery

Back in 2008 I worked with my good friends James Flexner and Jesse Stephens on Moloka’i, the 5th largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. We recorded surface middens and opened up very small excavation test pits in the leprosarium on … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • July 11, 2013
  • 02:10 PM
  • 229 views

Update: Brain growth in Homo erectus, and the age of the Mojokerto fossil

by zacharoo in Lawn Chair Anthropology

The Mojokerto calvaria. You're looking at the left side of the skull: the face would be to the left. Check it out in 3D here.A few months ago I posted an abridged version of the presentation I gave at this year's meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, about brain growth in Homo erectus. This study, co-authored with Jeremy DeSilva, adopts a novel approach (see "Methods" in that earlier post) to analyze the Mojokerto fossil (right). The specimen is the only H. erectus non-adult complete enough to get a decent estimate of brain size (or rather, the overall volume of the brain case) - probably 630 to 660 cubic centimeters (Coqueugniot et al. 2004; Balzeau et al., 2004). So to study brain growth in the extinct species, we just have to connect a range of estimated brain sizes at birth (around 290 cubic centimeters, based on predictive equations by DeSilva and Lesnik, 2008) to that of Mojokerto. But, the speed of brain growth implied by this comparison depends on how old poor Mojokerto was when s/he died.Most recently, Hélen Coqueugniot and colleagues (2004) used CT scans of the fossil to examine the fusion of its various bones, to suggest the poor kid died between six months to 1.5 years, if not even younger. Antoine Balzeau and team (2005) also studied scans of the fossil, and their analysis of its virtual endocast presented conflicting age estimates, but they argued the poor kid was probably no older than 4 years. Earlier studies had suggested the kid was up to 8 years. Now, for my previous post/conference presentation, we assumed the Coqueugniot estimate was correct - but what if we consider a full range of ages for Mojokerto, from 0.03-6.00 years?Brain size, relative to newborns' values, at different ages in humans (black circles) and chimpanzees (red triangles). Homo erectus median and mean are the thick solid and dashed blue lines, respectively, and the 90% and 95% confidence intervals are indicated by the thinner, dotted blue lines. Data are the same as in the previous post.The plot above depicts brain size relative to newborns: each circle (humans) and triangle (chimpanzees) represents the proportional size difference between a newborn (less than 1 week) and an older individual, up to 6 years. Obviously, relative brain size gets bigger in humans and chimpanzees over time. Interestingly, even though humans and chimps have very different brain sizes, the proportional brain size changes overlap a lot between species, especially at younger ages. Ah, the joys of cross-sectional samples.But what's especially interesting here are the blue lines on the graph, indicating estimates of proportional size change in Homo erectus, assuming Mojokerto's skull could hold 630 cc of delicious brain matter, and that the species' skulls at birth could hold about 290 cc, give or take several cc. The thick solid and dashed lines just above 2 on the y-axis are the mean and median of our estimates - Mojokerto's brain averages around 2.2 times larger than predicted newborns. Such a proportion is most likely to be found in humans between 6 months to a year of age, and in chimpanzees between around 6 months and 2 years. The confidence intervals, the highest and lowest bounds of our estimates for Homo erectus proportional size change, are the thinner dashed lines on the graph. They help us constrain our estimates, and further suggest that the proportional difference found for H. erectus is most likely to be found in either chimpanzees or humans around 1 year of age - just like Coqueugniot and colleagues predicted!!!Thus, independent evidence - brain size of Mojokerto and estimated brain size at birth in Homo erectus - corroborates a previously estimated age at death for the Mojokerto fossil, the poor little Homo erectus baby. This further supports our estimates of brain growth rates in this species, as described in the previous post.So to summarize, fairly scant fossil evidence compared with larger extant species samples using randomization statistics, argue for high, human-like infant brain growth rates in Homo erectus by around 1 million years ago. Our ancestors were badasses.Remember, if you want the R code I wrote to do this study, just lemme know!Those referencesBalzeau A, Grimaud-Hervé D, & Jacob T (2005). Internal cranial features of the Mojokerto child fossil (East Java, Indonesia). Journal of human evolution, 48 (6), 535-53 PMID: 15927659Coqueugniot H, Hublin JJ, Veillon F, Houët F, & Jacob T (2004). Early brain growth in Homo erectus and implications for cognitive ability. Nature, 431 (7006), 299-302 PMID: 15372030DeSilva JM, & Lesnik JJ (2008). Brain size at birth throughout human evolution: a new method for estimating neonatal brain size in hominins. Journal of human evolution, 55 (6), 1064-74 PMID: 18789811... Read more »

  • July 7, 2013
  • 07:18 PM
  • 294 views

Lessons from Bolivia

by teofilo in Gambler's House

I often read articles on the archaeology of other parts of the world to gain a better understanding of the context for Chaco. The areas I focus on for this are primarily those that had interesting things going on contemporaneous with the Chacoan era, but I also look to some extent on archaeological phenomena in […]... Read more »

  • July 5, 2013
  • 09:38 AM
  • 255 views

Delete Some of Your Facebook Friends, 150 Is Max

by Katja Keuchenius in United Academics


It’s tempting and easy to think we are now much more civilized, intelligent and worldly human beings than those hunters and gatherers from the past. But, in fact, our brains barely evolved since then. Societies may have changed dramatically , we are still bound to move about in groups of just a 150 friends.... Read more »

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