Post List

Anthropology posts

(Modify Search »)

  • August 20, 2013
  • 10:50 AM

Forensics Techniques to Examine Iron Age House Fire Fatalities

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

When examining arson or domestic fire deaths, forensics specialists have a careful job to do in determining manner of death, and the relationship between death and the fire. There are five primary goals of forensics specialists examining fire related sites with human remains: 1) determine the identity of the deceased, 2) determine whether they were … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 18, 2013
  • 01:08 PM

Climate Change = Extreme Weather = More Climate Change

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

The last several decades of climate change, and climate change research, have indicated and repeatedly confirmed a rather depressing reality. When something changes in the earth’s climate system, it is possible that a negative feedback will result, in which climate change is attenuated. I.e., more CO2 could cause more plant growth, the plants “eat” the…... Read more »

Reichstein, Markus, Bahn, Michael, Ciais, Phillipe, & Et Al. (2013) Climate extremes and the carbon cycle. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature12350  

  • August 15, 2013
  • 05:07 PM

Antidepressant Use Peaks Just Before Divorce

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

People are almost twice as likely to be taking antidepressants or other psychotropic medication just before getting a divorce. This striking graph, from a new paper out of Finland, shows the data. The vertical bar represents the divorce date. The solid curve is the divorcees, and the other two are comparison individuals who were either [...]The post Antidepressant Use Peaks Just Before Divorce appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

  • August 13, 2013
  • 12:32 PM

Gibbon Moms Help Daughters Practice Their Singing for Future Mates

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Before their daughters grow up and leave home, mothers may impart some lessons in the womanly arts—for example, the proper way to whoop and hoot with your mate while sitting in a tree branch. As an adult, a female gibbon sings elaborate duets with her male partner. But before she leaves the family, her mother seems to take responsibility for the daughter's vocal lessons.

Young gibbons spend many years learning to vocalize like adults. By age six or so, "sub-adult" apes can match the vocal prowess of a grownup. Mothers and daughters often sing at the same time, though it's not clear why. Researchers traveled into the rainforests of Sumatra to make audio recordings of gibbon families and try to figure out whether these sing-alongs are significant.

Lead author Hiroki Koda of Kyoto University and his colleagues studied six families of agile gibbons (that's a species name, not just a descriptor). Koda explains that gibbons are monogamous, and male and female young grow up with their parents before departing the group to find their own partners. Each family in the study included a nearly adult daughter, and the researchers captured recordings of these daughters and their mothers singing together.

They found that some daughter gibbons were better than others at singing in sync with their mothers. They were also better at matching their mothers' tunes. But these talented daughters actually duetted with their mothers less often. Koda thinks that's because the ones who "showed more skillful songs" are the most mature, and are nearly ready to leave home. Daughters who still need the practice sing with their mothers more often.

Here, a mother and daughter gibbon match each other's calls as they sing together:

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

The researchers also found that mothers who sing more often with their daughters—the ones who are still giving lessons—modify their own songs more when they do so. Koda says this may be similar to the "motherese" that humans speak to their babies. Like human moms talking slowly and at a high pitch, gibbon moms alter their vocalizations when duetting with their daughters.

Koda says that in the past, primate calls have been seen as "completely different from human language development." Rather than learning from their parents, young monkeys and apes seem to figure out their calls on their own. But this is the first evidence of mothers helping offspring learn to vocalize in gibbons—or any other nonhuman primate.

By paying more attention to vocal interactions between parents and offspring, Koda thinks scientists might discover other examples of primate parents getting involved in their children's learning. (After that, maybe they'll discover primate parents getting too involved. "Don't you take that tone with me, young lady! I heard what you just hooted!")

Images: Top, singing gibbon by patries71, via Flickr (not, as far as I know, the study species). Bottom, a mother gibbon from the study by Hiroki Koda.

Hiroki Koda, Alban Lemasson, Chisako Oyakawa, Rizaldi, Joko Pamungkas, & Nobuo Masataka (2013). Possible Role of Mother-Daughter Vocal Interactions on the Development of Species-Specific Song in Gibbons PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071432

... Read more »

  • August 13, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

Mercury Poisoning And The Day Before Death

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

As archaeologists, we are usually pretty happy to have any evidence of death such as a clear sign of cranial trauma or a obvious disease like advanced tuberculosis. However, most of the time the skeleton its self is not the most helpful in trying to determine what caused their death. They may have a number … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 12, 2013
  • 08:06 PM

Black Dog Syndrome: A Bad Rap?

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Hi Mia & Julie – Firstly, thanks so much for letting me drop a verse in the rap song of your blog! I feel so awesome being featured. It’s like being Lil Wayne or something. Anyway…I’m just recently back from ISAZ 2013, where I had a most excellent time chatting with other anthrozoologist-y types. As you know, I just graduated from the Anthrozoology Master’s Program at Canisius College, so I was uber-excited to have a chance to share my research with colleagues in the field. ISAZ did not disappoint. Pauleen Bennett & Heather at ISAZ 2013Now I get to share with you two and it just gets better and better! :-)My master’s thesis research project (advised by the oh-so-awesome Christy Hoffman) looked to answer the question: “Does Black Dog Syndrome Exist?”Animal welfare folks are probably familiar with the concept of Black Dog Syndrome (BDS) that Julie introduced last week: it’s the idea that dogs with black coats have a harder time than other dogs getting adopted, and as a result, may face higher rates of euthanasia and longer stays in adoption programs. Popular media - but is it correct?A lot of popular media articles focus on this concept (like here, here, here and here) but the research results have been mixed: in a study published earlier this year, participants rated an image of a black dog as significantly less agreeable, less conscientious, and less emotionally stable than a yellow dog (Fratkin & Baker, 2013). Yet research into factors influencing shelter dogs’ lengths of stay (LOS) found that LOS was not significantly correlated with coat color (Brown, Davidson, & Zuefle, 2013; Protopopova, Gilmour, Weiss, Shen, & Wynne, 2012).To dig deeper into the questions of whether potential adopters discriminate against black dogs in a shelter and whether black dog discrimination is reflected in shelter stats, I conducted a two-part research project: Shelter Visitor Pilot Study – examined interaction between potential adopters and shelter dogs Shelter Data Analysis Study – investigated relationships between LOS and coat color, age, sex and breed, as well as the impact of these variables on likelihood of euthanasiaAnd what I found may surprise you. There was very little evidence to support the concept of Black Dog Syndrome! From Heather's ISAZ 2013 posterI know animal shelter workers are going “WHAT!?” right now – I know because I AM a shelter worker – but the truth is, even if many potential adopters come to the shelter with a negative bias toward black dogs, it’s not resulting in crazy-long shelter stays or greater risk of euthanasia for black dogs. In fact, according to analysis of shelter statistics, black dogs were adopted out faster than average at both shelters in my study. Black dogs were also less likely than expected to be euthanized (good news for black dogs, eh?).When shelter visitors video-recorded their walk through the adoption area, I found that they spent about equal amounts of time looking at every dog, regardless of coat color. Visitors also rarely made specific comments with regards to coat color, although one guy did say: “I like black. Black dogs ... Read more »

Fratkin Jamie L., & Baker Suzanne C. (2013) The Role of Coat Color and Ear Shape on the Perception of Personality in Dogs. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People , 26(1), 125-133. DOI: 10.2752/175303713X13534238631632  

Protopopova Alexandra, Gilmour Amanda Joy, Weiss Rebecca Hannah, Shen Jacqueline Yontsye, & Wynne Clive David Lawrence. (2012) The effects of social training and other factors on adoption success of shelter dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 142(1-2), 61-68. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2012.09.009  

  • August 12, 2013
  • 01:56 AM

So Apparently That’s Not Paint

by teofilo in Gambler's House

“Never read the comments” is generally sage advice, so it’s likely that many of my readers have missed the interesting comment thread in response to my previous post. I won’t try to summarize it all here, but the gist is that a potter showed up and took issue with my use of the word “paint” […]... Read more »

  • August 11, 2013
  • 02:32 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. to purchase: (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. to purchase: 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

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  

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