Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Four Stone Hearth #41 - Remote Redux Edition

Welcome once again to the anthropology blog carnival Four Stone Hearth, and specifically to this 41st edition - although I also hosted the previous edition, this week's slated hosts, 'Our Cultural World' are no longer online, and it is to be hoped their site returns at some point in the future. In the meantime, let's saddle up and take a look at the world of the anthropology blogosphere...

Walking the Berkshires we have news of the discovery of a sunken Spanish ship dating from the 16th century...

'Ask For Diamonds, Settle For Treasure'

"Not everybody can say that lightning struck them twice. But while sucking alluvial diamonds off the seabed in Namibia, a mining company found sunken treasure"

'A Very Remote Period Indeed' we have this...

'The Paleolithic of the Middle East'

"If you're interested in the Paleolithic archaeology of the Middle East and surrounding regions, I'd like to point you towards the web site of a recent conference that addressed specifically that topic."

From guest blogger Tobias at

Tobias Bondesson and the 333rd Coin

Being a detectorist is damn hard work! I get out of bed at the crack of dawn on my day off from work to perform the ritual of "sweep, beep, dig deep" for as many hours as I can before I really, really, have to head back home, lest I want my detecting privileges revoked by a higher power (i.e. girlfriend).

And what do I have to show for it? A bum knee, sore shoulders and a mild case of tinnitus are some of my more prominent achievements. On the other hand, metal detecting is the best hobby ever, which was without a doubt proven on April 30th, when I found a peculiar "bottle top" on Zealand in Denmark.

Christina we have this...

A Battle Fork!

"Eating, loving and fighting - three universal elements of human nature. We know, that a lot of fighting has occurred because of love. But that there is also a very direct connection between fighting and eating - and now with new evidence - is a fact that is new to me. We are not talking about mixing up eating and fighting in the sense of eating your enemies or having a feast after a fight. We are talking weaponry here."


Prehistoric Inca Neurosurgery

"A new study by two American anthropologists now provides evidence that the Incas performed trepanation to treat head injuries; that the procedure was far more common than was previously thought; and that the Incan practitioners of trepanation were highly skilled surgeons with a detailed knowledge of the anatomy of the skull."

Thadd Nelson at Archaeoporn asks...

How Long Will This Last?

"Biblical archaeology is full of great items tied to the biblical narrative, which later turn out to be questionable or down right dubious. This week the Israeli Antiquity Authority made an announcement that I could easily see falling into the abyss through which circles the wall at Jericho and the Ivory Pomegranate."

Next, we have two essays from Terry Toohill, part of his ongoing
'Human Evolution On Trial' series

Neanderthals et al

...Neanderthals and modern humans almost certainly both evolved from just a single species: Archaic Homo sapiens or Homo heidelbergensis. So this is a convenient point to pause and remind the jury of how separate races, kinds and species develop in the first place.

Mitochondrial Eve - 2nd edit

Studies conducted on nuclear DNA shows there is on average less difference between any two living humans than there is within most other species. This presumably shows we have a more recent common ancestry than do most other species. How long ago and in what form is a matter of debate. Beliefs range between just one couple created as recently as 6000 years ago to a population of reasonable size as long ago as two million years.

and two from a site called
Leherensuge, from where Basque blogger Maju considers the Aterian...

Aterian And The Coastal Migration Model

"It seems that Aterian, the North African paleolithic culture (attributable to Homo sapiens), occupies the whole range of dates between c. 85,000 BP to the Epipaleolithic, when new waves (Iberomaurusian, Capsian) may have arrived from Spain and Sudan."

Revision of Aterian, U6 And North African Prehistory In General

"Yesterday I let myself be carried away by the apparent antiquity of Aterian in North Africa. I was already persuaded that Aterian and the arrival of mitochondrial DNA U6 to North Africa was the same thing. True that I had arrived to such conclusions when I thought Aterian had much more recent dates... enfin."

Continuing the theme of Basques and archaeology, here's a brief post from me...

Basque Archaeologists in Search of the Lost Sahara

I had wanted to try and cover the so-called Salt Men of Iran, but I haven't been able to source the entire history of these discoveries in time for this carnival, so here's a link to a post at
Antiquarian's Attic, which not only includes the Zanjan Museum story, but a couple of others as well...

Pinin' For The Fjords

Moving out of the archaeological sphere, we head inside the human mind, as we first of all visit
Babel's Dawn...

Unique Properties of the Human Mind

"The traits we share with apes are important, and speech would be impossible without them..."

From guest blogger German Dziebel at

The Genius of Kinship: Human Kinship Systems and the Search For Human Origins

"...kinship studies, as we all know, were founded in the mid-19th century by the American lawyer, Lewis Henry Morgan, on the basis on Iroquois and other North American Indian tribes/nations. The birth of kinship studies coincided with the birth of anthropology as a romantic quest for the origins of Western civilziation. But by the end of the 20th century American Indian kinship structures are nowhere that prominent."


Although I'd previously selected an article I wanted to include from this site, Daniel Lende sent along a couple of entries from the same site - not written by himself but his anthropology students at Notre Dame University, as he explains in this linked post, titled 'Why A Final Essay When We Can Do This?'

My Notre Dame students are great! All eight of their group posts are now up. I am so proud of them and the effort that they put into this project.

Already their posts have been read more than 1400 times, and been linked to from sites like Mind Hacks and Sharp Brains and promoted at and Stumble Upon. I hope to see much more as the word continues to gets out.

The eight posts came out of my class on “Alcohol and Drugs: The Anthropology of Substance Use and Abuse,” and represent the range of perspectives brought to bear on substance use over the course of the semester. Though I guided each group through multiple revisions, each post represents an argument that the students developed on a particular topic.

Daniel suggested that I go with two essays in particular, and these are...

'The Problem Of Post-Conventional Outlaws' by By Peter Ninneman, Andy Scott, Amanda Clark, and Paul Roman, the introduction to which reads thus...

"What do Ken Kesey, an icon in the 1960s American acid scene, and Richard Nixon, who declared the first War on Drugs, have in common? These two cultural figures show us that the real problem with government attempts to control drugs is our culture’s problem with self-control. Our culture appears to increasingly value making up one’s own mind, making punitive measures more and more ineffective."

'It's Our Fault: Denial, Disease and Addiction', written by Danny Smith, Jimmy Wilson, Will Yeatman, Rachel Guerrera, and Mark Hinken - here are the introductory paragraphs...

"It’s our fault. But let’s spread the blame. The burden also lies on the shoulders of the educational community. And society itself. There is a serious misconception that exists. This misconception is that chemical dependence is not a disease. By not recognizing chemical dependence as a disease, society continues to hold harmful stereotypes about alcoholism and drug addiction.

The goal of this blog post is to address this major problem facing drug addicts and alcoholics. Society enables chemical dependence by causing denial. Denial helps create a vicious cycle that traps addicts. They tell themselves they do not have a problem and reject the idea to others that a problem exists."

I've also read through the other essays that comprise this project, and I'd recommend reading those as well, as they offer some very good insights into the very complex relationships linking alcohol and substance abuse, addiction, treatments and cycles of behaviour, as well as addressing the nature vs. nature debate. Had time and space permitted, I'd have included all these essays in this 4SH, so hopefully I'll address them in toto at some point in the future .

To end this section, here are some observations from
PK's Swedish Extravaganza...

'No Booze For You'

"So in Sweden, as I have probably mentioned before, you can’t buy a bottle of plonk in the evening, or on a Sunday. And the only place at all you can get a bottle of plonk is between 10:15 and 10:37 at the state alcohol monopoly shop called Systembolaget."

And now back to the post at
Neuroanthropology that initially caught my attention...

The Neural Buddhists Of David Brooks

"Richard Dawkins stands in nicely as the representative of the old science—genetic determinism, lumbering machines, neo-Darwinian atheism. Tom Wolfe, as Brooks points out, described this world view well in his essay Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died. On this site Greg fought the good fight against Dawkins’ memes in February, while I had fun taking on Dawkins’ protégé, Steven Pinker, and his argument about hard-wired morality back in January."

Casting our eyes outward from Planet Earth...


Vatican Says ET OK

One of the big stories going around the blogs right now is the claim by the Vatican that there may be extraterrestrials out there somewhere. This isn’t really too big of a surprise, believing in something that is possible (aliens) isn’t necessarily a huge jump for a group that believes in something much less possible (God).

Greg Laden

Astronomers Gone Wild - What's a Pope To Do?

"In 2006, the Pope fired the Vatican astronomer because this astronomer failed to accept the Pope's particular creationist view. That astronomer, Father Coyne, was the director of the Vatican Observatory for 28 years and an outspoken supporter of a theistic version of Darwinism.

Coyne was replaced with a Jesuit Father named Funes, who's expertise lie in the area of disk-shaped galaxies.

Now, Funes is spouting true heresy. He claims that there could be life on other planets, including intelligent life. Moreover, he claims that life elsewhere in the universe, even if it is human like, may exist without original sin."

And whilst we're considering that, here's an article from Centauri Dreams

'First Contact Scenarios: How To Reply',

I was anticipating a particular punch-line in Michelle Nijhuis’ interesting article on communicating with extraterrestrials ("Creative Writing For Extraterrestrials" in Christian Science Monitor, May 15), and sure enough, it came where it should have, at the very end. Nijhuis quotes Jeffrey Lockwood (University of Wyoming):

“In a sense, all writing is writing for extraterrestrials.” Lockwood, who teaches creative writing at the University of Wyoming, understands a deep truth. Communication between two people of the same species can be profoundly mysterious and often filled with misconceptions. How, then, would we ever communicate with an extraterrestrial culture?

Back down to Earth again with this from


Alun Salt is retiring from Wikipedia to redirect his efforts to the forthcoming Google Knol, whose name reminds me of the Swedish word for "fuck". Check out Alun's farewell speech!

, an excellent blog which considers amongst other things, the diets of ancient humans and the animals they consumed, serves up...

Chickens in Oceania

"It is generally accepted that chickens were an important part of the ‘transported landscape’ of Oceanic populations (Storey et al., 2008: 240). This phrase refers to “the purposeful translocation of all or most of the plant and animal stocks required to recreate the range of subsistence items found at a colonist’s home island” (Storey et al, 2008: 240-241). It has been suggested that chicken was one of the first species to be intentionally introduced to Remote Oceanic sites, but data on this species does not feature prominently in site reports or articles."

On a related note,
Afarensis offers us the following...

Detecting Early Diet In Teeth

"There is an interesting new paper out in PNAS that looks at enamel chemistry to try and reconstruct early diet. The study is by Humphrey, Dean, Jeffries, and Penn. The abstract is below the fold."

Still on the topic of food, here's something from James Q. Jacobs, written in 2004, titled

The Cannibalism Paradigm: Assessing Contact Period Ethnohistorical Discourse

"In my experience it is commonplace in academic discourse, in educational media, and in popular media to assert that human sacrifice and cannibalism were practiced on a large scale in prehispanic America. At the same time, I have not been able to find a satisfactory eyewitness report of either activity in the numerous ethnohistorical writings from the Contact era. I employ the term "cannibalism paradigm" to describe this gap between the admissible evidence and the hearsay that informs modern beliefs about practices of consuming human flesh."

John Hawks reflects on evolutionary biologist Alan Mann in

"I Know Them to be Genuine'

This is a great profile of Alan Mann, on the occasion of the new human evolution exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology...

Kerim at Savage Minds has a somewhat unusual map of the world for us to consider, contained in a post called

A Taiwanese View of the World

"Since we are talking about how stereotypes explain “more about the people making the statements than the people described in them” I thought it worthwhile to take some time in order to translate this map which has been floating around the Taiwanese internets."

And from
Executed Today...

1181: Not Billy The Kid

"We have no source for whether William Bonney’s reply to the judge who sentenced him to hang was vindicated by the Almighty. But the judge’s sentence, due to be executed this day, assuredly never came to pass: two weeks before, Billy the Kid effected the last of his famous escapes."

1628: Johan Bernhard Reichardt, a 9-year-old Witch

"On this date (May 9th) in 1628, a prepubescent boy went to the stake at Würzburg, the victim of a witch-hunting spasm amid the confusion of the Thirty Years’ War."

Indiana Jones makes a welcome return to the silver screen this week, so here's two related posts, the first from Kris Hirst...

Harrison Ford Joins the AIA

This is really great news: the American movie industry's best known archaeologist (sorry Lara Croft) has been elected to the governing board of the best known archaeological community in the US: the Archaeological Institute of America.

...and back once more to Neuroanthropology, where Daniel Lende includes this somewhat different opinion of Indiana Jones...

The Kingdom of Indy, Skullduggery and All

"Archaeologist Winifred Creamer makes no bones about it: “You could say Indiana Jones is the worst thing to happen to archaeology, because Indiana Jones has no respect for anybody and anything. Indiana Jones walks a fine line between what’s an archaeologist and what’s a professional looter.”

...whereas archaeologist Cornelius Holtorf, writing for New Scientist opines...

Indiana Jones Is No Bad Thing For Science

"...the popularity of Indiana Jones owes more to his spirit of adventure and fortunate discoveries than to the fact that he happens to represent a stereotype that is terribly politically incorrect. The quintessential archaeologist might well roam in Yorkshire or Massachusetts, he might be gay or of Asian or African descent. In the latest film, Indy is in his sixties and self-consciously refers to his age. And the success of Lara Croft shows that the hero can equally well be a heroine."

And that's a wrap, so many thanks once again to everyone who submitted articles for this 4SH, and of course thanks to all those who have taken the time to read this edition. The next edition will be on June 4th, hosted at Neuroanthropology, who contributed so much to this one - so don't forget to get those submissions along in time. And if you'd like to host your very own edition, you're more than welcome to apply.

image 'Ground Control' (A gate to a remote ranch on the edge of Montana...) by stuck in customs from here

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