Welcome to the fourth edition of the Four Stone Hearth Anthropology Blog Carnival. The excitement that was generated from all the Neanderthal DNA papers will be a hard act to follow, but it looks like we have many excellent, thought provoking submissions. We’ll go field by field and due to my bias, we'll begin with Biological Anthropology.
Afarensis starts us off with a great review of a recent paper describing the results of an experiment where one species of baboon was mated (willingly or not, I don't know) with another species of baboons mainly to see if good (heterosis) or bad things (dysgenesis) resulted. The authors note that this is a good model with which to examine the likelihood of hybridization between homo species. One thing I remember from this paper was that the matings were always the male of one species with the female of the other species, or some sort of analogous asymmetry.
In light of all the exciting things happening in Molecular Anthropology these days, I'm happy that Kambiz from Anthropology.net submitted his piece on copy number variation (CNV in the human genome. Kambiz does a really thorough job of introducing the basic concepts and the major findings from the study. As we continue to study the genomes (and continue to develop better ways to look at it) we are finding more and more sources of complexity. If I remember correctly, the researchers were able to assess a small fraction of these CNVs (only the big ones) as most of them are small repeats. Kambiz reviews the health implications these CNVs might have and how they cluster human population-wise.
Martin Rundkvist's submission called Leave the Ghetto from his blog Saltos Sobrius is very thought provoking and throws up the question of whether distinct minority cultures and ethnicities should be maintained or encouraged under a nation-state system. He makes the argument that to reduce inequalities, the minority cultures/ethnicities must "assume places inside majority society through education and employment". Even with programs like affirmative action in the US, progress in this area is very slow, highlighting the extent to which the generational cycle of economic class is very hard to break. This goes hand in hand with the fact that when times are tough, humans tend to rely even more on their groups (ethnic or otherwise) as buffering and support systems. This provides me with the perfect segue to the next submission about how disconnected our modern lives may be.
William Klinger at Nomadic Thoughts has submitted his post entitled Social (dis)connections. He discusses a New York Times op-ed piece which talks about how our social lives have been transformed from many face to face interactions to interactions through text and voice. I have heard stories about how the circle of friends of average Americans has been getting smaller as we lead more individualistic lives. The author of this piece presents a balanced description of what may be going on. As Will Klinger puts it: "The reason Johnson’s post satisfies me is because it strikes a happy medium between a hypersensitivity to the effects of technology in our lives on the one hand and the unbridled technophilia that so many of my generation have succumbed to"
Over at Wanna be an Anthropologist, Paul Wren has submitted a post about Anthropology on the Moon. In it, he discusses how NASA plans to install a permanent base on the moon where people will be stationed. He then discusses all the things that anthropologists might like to study in this type of a living situation (development of culture, social dynamics, marriage and kinship) I've often wondered myself if there are anthropologists out there taking down data from TV shows like Survivor.
Lexis2Praxis has a post at Anthropology.net that examines the anthropology of the modern office space. Like any living environment of humans, each place develops its own set of cultural norms. These are discussed in the post. It reminds me of the movie Office Space. There is also a post on our networked culture and who gets to participate and who doesn't.
Lucy Jr. at The Second Sight has this entry which is a commentary on paleoanthropologists behaving badly over the Hobbit find in Flores Island, Indonesia. According to Lucy Jr., actions taken and the interpretation of the find was not so much of scientists interpreting a discovery, as a drama of passion, jealousy and old rivalries. Please click on the links of the characters in this story, as I was pleasantly surprised to see links to websites of actual researchers who, I assume, are working in Flores.
Stolen and Looted: Cultural History Lost and Destroyed for a Buck is the title of a post by Carl Feagans at Hot Cup of Joe. Here, we learn that many archaeological sites in Peru, Iraq, South East Asia and the American Southwest are under the threat of looting for archaeological treasures that can be sold for profit. Some quite stunning photos of looted sites are shown in the post...pretty surreal!! Also, check out his other post: Stolen and Looted: Who Does the Past Belong To? for related information.
K. Kris Hirst at Archaeology.com has submitted an interesting piece on Damascus Steel. Apparently this is a type of steel used to make blades around the 11 or 12th century AD that seems to be very sophisticated and must have required a high level of technology to make, thus mystifying archaeologists.
Last but not least, Johan Normark at Archaeolog has submitted a post on Polyagentive Archaeology. "The polyagentive approach primarily differs from the humanocentric archaeology in that it tries to decentralize the human, to give an account of active tangible archaeological materialities and intangibilities (anything that can be perceived but which is not solid or palpable). This approach also aims to initially de-culturalize and de-socialize the past by emphasizing what lasts, differentiates and repeats."
Well, there we are. I hope that everyone enjoys this. I think we had a good turnout from the Cultural Anthropologists and the Archaeologits. It would have been nice to have a few more bio submissions (I'll take some blame for that, given my lack of a submission) and some linguistic submissions.