Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Four Stone Hearth 68 :: 'Smokers Delight' edition @ remote central


Welcome once again to Four Stone Hearth, and specifically the 68th edition thereof - it's been a while since this anthropology blog carnival has been hosted here at remote central, so without further delay, here is the latest selection of anthropologically inclined posts from pretty much here, there and everywhere.

It will be immediately apparent that I haven't categorised these posts into any particular framework, opting instead for a meandering thread through which I hope some degree of continuity can be discerned. On this occasion I'm going to begin by referring readers to the latest batch of essays written by the students of Daniel Lende at Neuroanthropology, following on from the excellent set of posts written by his students in 2008.

A common theme running through these essays refers to the way in which humans respond to drugs and dependency, whether those drugs be legal or illicit, and this first post on tobacco makes for some sobering reading, especially when we consider the pictured cigarette at top and its constituent ingredients. Bearing in mind that virtually every packaged item of food and drink we buy in stores is required to display, or make reference to the contents of the product, it can surely only be a matter of time before tobacco manufacturers should be required to do likewise, and at the very least, produce a cigarette than contains merely tobacco and paper, free of additives and toxic materials as depicted above. Here's the report...

Tobacco Worse Than Cocaine? By Mariana Cuervo, Elizabeth Montana, Brian Smith, and Sadie Pitzenberger

I referred in an earlier post to Edward Bernays
(video, 10 mins, 20 secs in) and how he persuaded women a century ago to take up smoking against a background of social disapproval - he suggested to contemporary women in New York that by smoking cigarettes, they were lighting up so-called torches of freedom - whereas for many, the inherent dangers of smoking probably meant they were in fact, igniting their own funeral pyres. Bernays is credited with being instrumental in ushering in the age of consumerism, and rather than muse on whether consumerism itself can be considered a kind of drug, I'll refer readers to this next post from the same stable of writers...

John Barany, Abby Higgins, Melissa Lechlitner, Joanna Schultz, What's the Dope on Music and Drugs?,
Neuroanthropology

As was the case last year, this is a very nicely written and insightful set of essays, and I'm told there will be a specific post dealing with them all on
Neuroanthropology this coming Thursday, June 4th.

Talent: A Difference That Makes A Difference
from Greg Downey, also at
Neuroanthropology, looks at whether there is any such thing as latent talent. Here's a quote from his post...

For many readers, Ericsson’s work is a revelation, a way to—as Ericsson, Prietula and Cokely (2007) put it—‘demythologize’ the legend of the ‘natural’ expert or the gifted ‘prodigy.’ They point out that even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart actually trained vigorously from the age of four, and benefited from having a father who was not only himself an accomplished composer and famous music teacher, but also author of one of the first books on violin instruction.

Musical prodigies such as Mozart have been quoted as examples which suggest that genetic differences might account for an individual's capacity to excel at some activities. See Genes and Music over at Leherensuge for a brief report and an outward link to a paper 'Musical Aptitude Is Associated with AVPR1A-Haplotypes'.


Scintillating Zigzags and Surrealism: from Mind Hacks - this caught my eye, literally and metaphorically, principally because of the suggested visual connection between the patterns and shapes referred to by the artist, and some of the many similar designs - jagged lines, zig-zag patterns and so on - frequently seen in rock art and cave painting dating all the way from the Middle Palaeolithic, Upper Palaeolithic and through to the Neolithic and thence to the historical era. It has been speculated that some of these designs might be entoptic, meaning they were derived from those hallucinating after having ingested various mind-altering substances, in which there is a certain degree of shared experience of visual perception.

Bearded Lady Syndrome by AnneH at The Spittoon - I was recently referred to this site by one of the writers there - it transpires that
The Spittoon is so-named as a reference to the saliva that's needed to produce your own DNA sample. (At their linked site 23andme, you can even buy a kit -albeit at a cost of $399 - to trace your own ancestry.)

Although the finer details of genetics may elude some of us, I think this site's SNPwatch series should be essential reading for anyone interested in ongoing gene research and its application to the study of (palaeo-) anthropology - frequent updates mean this is a site worth keeping an eye on, especially as one of the stated aims is to make peer reviewed material accessible, or at least comprehensible to non-specialists. Posts carry the following advice...

SNPwatch gives you the latest news about research linking various traits and conditions to individual genetic variations. These studies are exciting because they offer a glimpse into how genetics may affect our bodies and health; but in most cases, more work is needed before this research can provide information of value to individuals. For that reason it is important to remember that like all information we provide, the studies we describe in SNPwatch are for research and educational purposes only.

SNPwatch is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice; you should always seek the advice of your physician or other appropriate healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding diagnosis, cure, treatment or prevention of any disease or other medical condition.


See also New Research on FOXP2 Gene in Mice Reveals Insights to Origins of Language in Humans - The Spittoon.

and John Hawks chimes in with - How the FOXP2 Transgenic Mice Squeak

Whilst Edmund Blair Bolles at Babel's Dawn asks - Is Language a Technology?

Correspondence Between mtDNA and Y-haplogroups
- by Terry Toohill, guest blogger here at remote central, who has here mapped one set of data on top of the other.

As mentioned earlier, one of the aims of some anthropologists has been to make the field and its related discussions much more accessible to the public, and this following initiative seeks to bring anthropologists and interested others together online, as we see from the next two links...

The Open Anthropology Cooperative - A Worldwide Anthro-Community in the Making

Open Anthropology Collective

There are numerous groups to which one can subscribe, and doubtless many more besides will subsequently be added, so it's worth having a good browse of both sites.

Time now to dust off those glass cabinets and check out some fossils - starting right here...

Miocene Ape: Anoiapithecus brevirostris -
A Primate of Modern Aspect looks at a recent discovery of a Miocene ape dating back to 12 million years ago, from Els Hostalets de Pierola, which is near modern-day Barcelona in the Catalan region of Iberia. Although the evidence found was fragmentary, partial reconstructions of the cranial material suggest this creature had a remarkably flat face, unlike anything seen till the appearance of our human selves.

The abstract is available here, and Mundo Neandertal offers a nice article complete with links and images.

Ida Adapoid from the same author - zinjanthropus - includes detailed comment on what fossil teeth can tell us, while Greg Laden comments on the same topic, Ida the Fossil Primate, whilst Carl Zimmer at
The Loom, in Big Ratings For Darwinius Day. So How Was It, Cable-Viewers?, follows up a series of his own posts, and the curious way in which this story was initially publicised before being released to the public.

We conclude this section with a related post from Laelaps, namely A Discovery That Will Change Everything (!!!) ... Or Not.

This next section includes a few posts that I reckon deserve mention, containing all sorts of news, musings and observation - they line up as follows...

King of the Canopy from Anna's Bones

Quote of the Moment: Mr. Mike’s Everlasting Humility by Ed Darrell at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub


Evolution and Muslim Education - A Survey over at Moneduloides

Gay Marriage = Sex With Ducks - by Greg Laden

When Your Field School Goes Into the Toilet at Quiche Moraine

Laser Scanning the Hung-e Azhdar Rock Relief from Zenobia

How To Destroy The World With Nanotechnology - at Sorting Out Science

But Will It Include Recipes? John Hawks offers a starter course on Richard Wrangham's new book, 'Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human', for which he'll hopefully write a longer review in due course. Here's a snippet from another reviewer...

Put simply, Mr. Wrangham writes that eating cooked food — whether meat or plants or both —made digestion easier, and thus our guts could grow smaller. The energy that we formerly spent on digestion (and digestion requires far more energy than you might imagine) was freed up, enabling our brains, which also consume enormous amounts of energy, to grow larger.

The warmth provided by fire enabled us to shed our body hair, so we could run farther and hunt more without overheating. Because we stopped eating on the spot as we foraged and instead gathered around a fire, we had to learn to socialize, and our temperaments grew calmer.


I'm not sure if this 'conquest by cookery' idea would count as what has been described elsewhere as an umbrella theory, similar to the way in which Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT) seeks to explain a whole range of seemingly unconnected human traits of body and behaviour - but there do seem to be certain parallels, not the least of which is another (and in my opinion, highly improbable) attempt to explain our loss of body hair, which occurred in a currently unknown era of prehistory.

I can't imagine that sitting round a fire for a few hours per day would make humans hairless, especially as for the most part, only the front of the body would benefit from the heat, and there must have been plenty of instances of flying sparks and cinders landing on delicate parts of the anatomy that might instead have encouraged people to protect themselves - especially when cooking - from the heat and flames by covering themselves with whatever was to hand, such as animal hides. It seems more likely to me that body hair began to disappear with the advent of clothing, although it has been suggested by AAT proponents that the loss of body hair was mitigated by a layer of subcutaneous fat.

Staying with food, or at least its production by humans, Kris Hirst offers us this, as part of her continuing series of related posts...

Transition to Agriculture

as well as this

Swifterbant Site and Culture

Next, up, it's all aboard for...

The Incredible Human Journey - a BBC TV video clip, linked to at A Hot Cup of Joe, where Carl has also written a couple of helpful articles on how, and possibly why, people have been physically exploring, manipulating and shaping their heads over the course of prehistory and more or less into the present day, as we see from these two posts...

Artificial Cranial Modification: Head Shaping

from which we read...

Perhaps one of the best known instances of ancestor worship that involves skull modification comes from Jericho in the Near East. Fletcher et al[5] describe in detail the plastered skulls of Jericho and make a novel correlation between antemortem and postmortem deformations. The skulls they examine originate from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) B period of the Levant at about 10,500 – 8,700 years ago.

One of the skulls, in the British Museum was one of seven plastered skulls recovered by Kathleen Kenyon from there in 1953. The PPNB is an important period of human history because it represents a transition from a foraging lifeway to a more sedentary, agricultural one along with a marked increase in population densities and expansions within the Levant.

and...

Artificial Cranial Modification: Trephination

...while on a vaguely related note, we catch a glimpse of the Oase skull from Upper Palaeolithic Romania, which was in the news recently...

I Mapped the Reconstruction - illustrated at Mathilda's Anthropology Blog, whilst there is further discussion of the same skull and putative facial reconstruction over at Dieneke's Anthropology Blog, where skulls are also discussed in another post, namely...

Ancient mtDNA and Craniometric Evolution Of Amerindians

Most of the rest of these posts deal directly with archaeology, the first of which is...

Archaeology Misused in Jerusalem from Martin at Aardvarchaeology,

Meanwhile, back in his native Scandinavia we're advised...

How to Metal-detect Legally in Sweden

...which in turn echoes ongoing concerns raised in Britain by a recent report on the (mal)practice of 'nighthawking' over at the British Archaeology website...

Nighthawking Report Released

Alun Salt at Archaeoastronomy continues this legal theme, and much else besides in...

Blogging And The English Law - and Blogging And Honesty the latter of which looks not only at what we blog and why, but how in some cases, he opines that some bloggers feel unable to publish certain content because it might adversely affect their future careers and more or less lucrative work opportunities.

He also sent this along...

Hugely Important New Archæological Technique Not Quite So Important Once Actually Published

by Jonathan Jarrett at History News Network blog, Cliopatria, and described thus -
Jonathan Jarrett has a slightly negative view of the Rehydroxylation Dating technique. It's a very good look at the problems in the errors and he's right to say they can't be ignored

Staying with archaeology, the digging season gets under way for the summer, and if you happen to be in the northernmost reaches of Scotland this summer, and fancy turning your hand to field archaeology for a while, this next post is for you....

Okneyjar - Giving The Archaeology Buffs A Chance To Get Their Hands Dirty

Old Dirt - New Thoughts - A Remote View takes us even further north to Alaska, where we read this...

Just a quick heads-up to anyone interested in the Hamline Village History project. A geophysics survey team from Archaeo-Physics will be here on June 22nd to evaluate some of our potential excavation sites. They use a variety of high-tech equipment like ground penetrating radar, magnetometers, and electrical resistence meters to ’see’ what’s buried underground.

They can identify buried walls, burned areas, large concentrations of metal, and other anamolies in the soil. Ideally they’re going to tell us where to dig this fall, so I’m really excited about this work. Anyone interested in volunteering to help or just watching what happens is welcome to join us. Post a comment on the blog or email me and I’ll let everyone know where and when to meet.


Interesting Anthropology News from Afarensis, is an entry which does exactly what is says on the label, and includes a link to Archaeological Dig to Start in Early June at Site Where Vero Man Was Found - as well as a note on why humans suffer from Alzheimer's Disease, whilst other closely related primates such as the mighty chimpanzee, appear to be immune.

At least one blogger will be on the road this summer, as we read that the author of Middle Savagery, Colleen Morgan is off to the Middle East, as described in her post, In Between Times - presumably after having effected a virtual escape from (Re)Building Çatalhöyük: Changing Virtual Reality in Archaeology

My thanks go to those who kindly submitted content for this edition, those who posted articles that I was able to search out and include, as well of course to all the readers of this and previous Four Stone Hearth carnivals.

The previous edition of Four Stone Hearth was held at Sorting Out Science on May 20th, whilst the next will be published on June 17th at Wanna Be An Anthropologist.

Hosting slots are available for anyone wishing to apply, via the Four Stone Hearth website.

1 comment:

Regis said...

At any rate, I liked some of the vadlo mouse cartoons!

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