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  • July 1, 2010
  • 12:08 PM

What's eating you? - Bugs, bacteria, and zombies

by Laelaps in Laelaps

The trailer for Shaun of the Dead.

Not all zombies are created equal. The most popular zombie archetype is a shambling, brain-eating member of the recently deceased, but, in recent films from 28 Days Later to Zombieland, the definition of what a zombie is or isn't has become more complicated. Does a zombie have to be a cannibal corpse, or can a zombie be someone infected with a virus which turns them into a blood-crazed, fast-running monster?

For my own part, I have always preferred the cla........ Read more »

  • June 29, 2010
  • 05:44 PM

Social Networks Help World Cup Spectators Cope With Chance

by Krystal D'Costa in Anthropology in Practice

Given the reduced volume of World Cup related posts in my Twitter and Facebook streams, it appears that soccer fever is abating the in US. The reach of the World Cup has been far this year, thanks in part to the role of social media outlets in encouraging discussion and raising awareness about the sport. For a few weeks, Twitter and Facebook were inundated with World Cup related posts, with

... Read more »

  • June 27, 2010
  • 01:15 PM

How did the victims of the Plinean Eruption of Vesuvius die?

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

Even at the most extreme edges of the flow of stuff out of the volcano Pompeii, at the far edge of the mud and ash that came from the volcano's explosion, the heat was sufficient to instantly kill everyone, even those inside their homes.

And that is how the people at Pompeii, who's remains were found trapped and partly preserved within ghostly body-shaped tombs within that pyroclastic flow, died. They did not suffocate. They did not get blown apart by force. They did not die of gas poisoning........ Read more »

  • June 23, 2010
  • 07:11 PM

Kadanuumuu: All about the torso!

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

A new fossil discovered by Yohannes Haile-Selassie has been announced this week in the PNAS. The partial skeleton, nick-named Kadanuumuu, or “Big Man,” is taxonomically consistent with other postcranial fossils belonging to Australopithecus afarensis. But, there are a few interesting and notable bones represented in this fossil which amend our understanding of how early Australopithecus [...]... Read more »

Haile-Selassie, Y., Latimer, B., Alene, M., Deino, A., Gibert, L., Melillo, S., Saylor, B., Scott, G., & Lovejoy, C. (2010) An early Australopithecus afarensis postcranium from Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1004527107  

  • June 23, 2010
  • 05:37 PM

Ancient "Big Man" Confirms That Humans Stood Tall Early

by Laelaps in Laelaps

The skeletons of Lucy (left) and Kadanuumuu (right). Both belong to the early human species Australopithecus afarensis. (Images not to scale.)

I never fully appreciated how small Lucy was until I saw her bones for myself. Photographs and restorations of her and her kin within the species Australopithecus afarensis had never really given me a proper sense of scale, and when I looked over her incomplete skeleton - formally known as specimen A.L. 288-1 - I was struck by her diminutive proportio........ Read more »

Haile-Selassie, Y., Latimer, B., Alene, M., Deino, A., Gibert, L., Melillo, S., Saylor, B., Scott, G., & Lovejoy, C. (2010) An early Australopithecus afarensis postcranium from Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1004527107  

  • June 22, 2010
  • 11:50 AM

Homo sapiens can bite hard, after all

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Three-dimensional models of hominoid skulls used in the study - (a) Hylobates lar; (b) Pongo pygmaeus; (c) Pan troglodytes; (d) Gorilla gorilla; (e) Australopithecus africanus; (f ) Paranthropus boisei; (g) Homo sapiens. They have been scaled to the same surface area, and the colors denote areas of stress (blue = minimal stress, pink = high stress). From Wroe et al, 2010.

It is all too easy to think of human evolution in linear terms. From our 21st century vantage point we can look back thro........ Read more »

Wroe, S., Ferrara, T., McHenry, C., Curnoe, D., & Chamoli, U. (2010) The craniomandibular mechanics of being human. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0509  

  • June 22, 2010
  • 11:05 AM

Standardized Time and Power Relations

by Krystal D'Costa in Anthropology in Practice

Whose Time do we live in? Time zones have set standards in keeping with longitudinal boundaries so that we share a clock experience that is often managed by an urban center. I am not the first to note, however, that these standards of Time overlook local, social definitions of Time. Though these local definitions persist, they are not generally the norm adhered to when individuals interact both

... Read more »

  • June 22, 2010
  • 08:19 AM

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology in Switzerland – where we stand now

by M. Cornelissen in hazelnut_relations

As usual, the 2010 Jahrbuch Archäologie Schweiz vol. 93 includes a list of newly discovered and excavated sites. It is no surprise that the number of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites discovered or investigated in 2009 is relatively low in comparison to the number of sites from most later prehistoric, roman and medieval periods. The figure [...]... Read more »

Huber, R. . (2010) Neue Territorien in Sicht! Wildbeutergesellschaften der Alt- und Mittelsteinzeit. Archäologie Schweiz, 33(2), 15-21. info:/

  • June 22, 2010
  • 12:39 AM

Wetherill Day

by teofilo in Gambler's House

One hundred years ago today, Richard Wetherill was shot and killed by Chischilly Begay near the western end of Chaco Canyon.  That much is clear, but the circumstances surrounding Wetherill’s death are otherwise murky.  The same could be said for his life and legacy. Wetherill was an enormously important figure to the history of archaeological [...]... Read more »

  • June 20, 2010
  • 10:02 AM

The paternity myth: the rarity of cuckoldry

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

An urban myth, often asserted with a wink & a nod in some circles, is that a very high proportion of children in Western countries are not raised by their biological father, and in fact are not aware that their putative biological father is not their real biological father. The numbers I see and hear [...]... Read more »

  • June 18, 2010
  • 07:00 PM

Heat treating stone for tools: Ethnoarchaeological insights

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

I'm rereading a terrific paper by Kathryn W. Arthur (2010), in which she describes the acquisition and development of stone tool manufacture and maintenance among a group of Konso women in SW Ethiopia (the stone tools they produce they subsequently use in hideworking) . While I'll have much more to say about it in its own right, since I've been doing a bit of thinking about prehistoric heat treating of lithic raw material these past few days, I was struck by this passage:The majority of hidework........ Read more »

Arthur, Kathryn Weedman. (2010) Feminine Knowledge and Skill Reconsidered: Women and Flaked Stone Tools. American Anthropologist, 112(2), 228-243. info:/10.1111/j.1548-1433.2010.01222.x

Brown, K., Marean, C., Herries, A., Jacobs, Z., Tribolo, C., Braun, D., Roberts, D., Meyer, M., & Bernatchez, J. (2009) Fire As an Engineering Tool of Early Modern Humans. Science, 325(5942), 859-862. DOI: 10.1126/science.1175028  

  • June 17, 2010
  • 06:25 PM

Faith and Science at the World Science Festival - 2010

by Kristopher Hite in Tom Paine's Ghost

Before the event took place there was much consternation abuzz on the blogosphere over the cast of characters chosen to speak at the Faith and Science event held as part of the 2010 World Science Festival.  Sean Carrol of Cosmic Variance being the first vocal critic with Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne re-posting Carroll's critique on their respective homepages. Other discussions of the event can be seen at Thoughts from Kansas, Uncertain Principles, and evolutionblog. The panel inclu........ Read more »

  • June 16, 2010
  • 03:13 PM

The Evolution of Hip Hop (by Natural Selection)

by Eric Michael Johnson in The Primate Diaries

When most people think of evolutionary biology the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't lyrical poetry. However one of the earliest proponents of evolution, none other than Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus, presented his vision for the origin of life in the form of an epic poem in 1803. In his critically acclaimed work The Temple of Nature Darwin mused on the natural history of human beings:

Imperious man, who rules the bestial crowd,
Of language, reason, and reflection proud,
........ Read more »

Craze, P. (2010) The hip-hop Richard Dawkins?. Trends in Ecology , 25(7), 385-386. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2010.04.008  

  • June 16, 2010
  • 08:49 AM

Were The Americas Settled Twice?

by in

A team of paleoanthropologists report in PLoS One analyzed the skulls of several dozen 11,000 year old Paleoamericans and compared them to the skulls of more than 300 1,000 year old Amerindians. They concluded that based on the morphology, there were two distinct waves of colonizers from Asia. While we know from a couple genetic [...]... Read more »

  • June 16, 2010
  • 07:45 AM

How Specific Are The Social Skills of Dogs?

by Jason Goldman in The Thoughtful Animal

Dogs are particularly good at tasks that involve communicating or cooperating with humans, which has led some researchers to speculate that they are really good at solving social tasks, more generally. For example, dogs can figure out where a human's attention is, are really good at picking up on eye-gaze and finger pointing cues, distinguish among different individual humans (by contrast, humans are really bad at distinguishing among different individual monkeys, for example), and at least in o........ Read more »

  • June 15, 2010
  • 11:34 AM

Anthropology, Primatology, and the Definition of Culture: Reply to Sperber

by Eric Michael Johnson in The Primate Diaries

Chimpanzees have culture (or not) depending on your definition.Image: Irish Wildcat / Creative Commons

Author's Note: The following is an expansion on my reply to anthropologist Dan Sperber on the PLoS ONE article "Prestige Affects Cultural Learning in Chimpanzees."

Culture is like art or pornography, it's hard for people to define but everyone knows it when they see it. Cultural anthropologists have long struggled to develop a consistent definition of the very thing that they study, a proble........ Read more »

Horner, V., Proctor, D., Bonnie, K., Whiten, A., & de Waal, F. (2010) Prestige Affects Cultural Learning in Chimpanzees. PLoS ONE, 5(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010625  

  • June 14, 2010
  • 06:58 AM

Population size predicts technological complexity in Oceania

by Wintz in A Replicated Typo

Here is a far-reaching and crucially relevant question for those of us seeking to understand the evolution of culture: Is there any relationship between population size and tool kit diversity or complexity? This question is important because, if met with an affirmative answer, then the emergence of modern human culture may be explained by changes [...]... Read more »

Kline MA, & Boyd R. (2010) Population size predicts technological complexity in Oceania. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society. PMID: 20392733  

  • June 14, 2010
  • 04:13 AM

The return of ex situ

by Jeremy in Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog

Although some have emphasized the need to breed crops for future climatic conditions, much of the world’s farming population relies on landrace populations, not formal breeding networks.
Undeniable, of course, and a good reason to not forget landraces, or farmers’ local varieties, when thinking about how agriculture will (or will not) adapt to climate change. And [...]... Read more »

  • June 11, 2010
  • 12:55 PM

Humans in the Philippines 67,000 years ago

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

So say Mijares and colleagues (2010), reporting the discovery of a small human third metatarsal from Callao Cave in the northern Philippines. The paper present a brief overview of fieldwork conducted at Callao since 2003 that exposed Pleistocene deposits at the site. The age of the layer in which the metatarsal was recovered was obtained through Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) and Uranium Series (U-Series) on two cervid teeth, one of which yielded an age of 66 +11/-9 kya.From Mijares et al. (2010:........ Read more »

Mijares, A., Détroit, F., Piper, P., Grün, R., Bellwood, P., Aubert, M., Champion, G., Cuevas, N., De Leon, A., & Dizon, E. (2010) New evidence for a 67,000-year-old human presence at Callao Cave, Luzon, Philippines. Journal of Human Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.04.008  

  • June 11, 2010
  • 08:26 AM

A Bonobo in the Hand or Two Chimps in the Bush?

by Jason Goldman in The Thoughtful Animal

Bonobo Week continues! I'm donating whatever proceeds I receive from my blogging shenanigans for the entire month of June to help the bonobos at Lola Ya Bonobo.

Imagine that you're wandering in the desert and you come across two magic lamps. One lamp grants three wishes. It's your standard sort of magic lamp with a genie in it. (No wishing for extra wishes, of course.) The second magic lamp is, well, a moody magic lamp. It's inconsistent. Sometimes it grants one wish, and sometimes it grants se........ Read more »

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