Anthropology in the News


I can’t help it. I am a bit of a Neanderthal

A 45,000 thighbone has kicked up a storm in the archaeology of our earliest ancestors. The bone was found in Siberia and then analyzed by the master of ancient genetics Dr Svente Paabo of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig. The results? The bone from Ust’-Ishim sets a new record for the earliest find outside of Africa and the Near East of a modern human. Homo sapiens sapiens. That’s you and me. [Read More]

Ebola: what you can do to understand global health disasters

Physician and Medical Anthropologist, Dr. Paul Farmer with three other prominent health care professionals recently returned from Liberia and Sierra Leone spoke recently in the Bay Area about Ebola and its effects on global health. One of the fundamental weapons in the assault on health crises like Ebola comes from Medical Anthropology and the study of local health systems in a fully globalized world. Professor Jim Quesada is a world authority on these issues; he leads a select group of graduate students at SFSU to understand human health on a world scale froma human perspective. If you want to be part of that team apply to join his graduate team (Applications for the MA in Anthropology).


Radically early prehistoric cave paintings in Indonesia

There is almost nothing as thrilling as seeing art made by our early human ancestors. The recent discovery of (very) early art in Indonesia is radically expanding the way that we understand the earliest human attempts to make art. The earliest of these images are 40,000 years old. This puts them at the earliest edges of European cave art, like that at the Chauvet Cave in France. [Read More]


Excavation of 700-year old lovers 

Sometimes archaeology uncovers things that make us stop for a moment. I was reading about the discovery of two 700-year old skeletons from the site of a lost chapel at St Morrell, near Leicester in England. Archaeologists dig up skeletons all the time, and there was little doubt that the team working at St Morrell would find ancient bodies in their excavations. What drew my attention was that two of the bodies buried there were placed in a grave holding hands. In a moment, my mind shifted from the science and analysis of skeletons, cause of death, health, age and sex of the individuals to less objective thoughts. [Read More]


Before Stonehenge, innovation and mystery in northernmost Scotland

"The more sites and artifacts that archaeologists discover, the less we know about the past”. Paradox? Perhaps not. Recent excavations in Orkney Islands off the northern tip of Scotland turned up unexpected and unprecedented remains. Here, at a time before long Stonehenge was constructed far to the south, people were building houses and decorating pottery and buildings in ways precious and stunning. Is this new site (dating to 5000 years ago) at the Ness of Brodgar a temple, a village, a workshop? A complex of sturdy long-lasting stone-walled buildings stand within stone walls. One building is huge: over 80 feet long and 60 feet wide. Its walls are 13 feet thick. [Read More]


Why people are wrong about the so-called Paleo-diet

I am worried about all of the talk about the so-called paleo-diet. Cookbook authors (esp. their publishers), diet supplement MLM saleforces, and tabloid columnists have been spreading the word about the advantages of eating like our prehistoric ancestors. Problem is that the words they are spreading are the wrong ones; their message is misguided.[Read More]


Digging up radioactive sites: the ruins of Chernobyl

Have you heard about the increasing popularity of Chernobyl tourism? Hundreds of radiation-tourists are visiting the ruined remains of the abandoned city. It is as if you were an archaeologist in the future swooping down into the 1980s of the former Soviet Union. Like some cancer-causing Pompeii, the empty apartment blocks are crumbing and returning the land to nature. Abandoned detritus from everyday life litters the streets and the homes and factories. These are the artifacts of the recent past. They discarded child’s doll tells a story more loudly and effectively than any newspaper article or government report.[Read More]


Robot excavates ancient underwater shipwreck

Lost in Space meets Indiana Jones in a deepwater excavation of a 2100 year old ship. Difficult not to get excited about the news from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and from Greece. The modern world has known about the Roman ship at Antikythera since 1900 and Jacques Cousteau studied it in the 1970s. The obstacle to more detailed excavation has been the depth of the wreck: over 1000 feet. [Read More]


Syria and Iraq antiquities threatened by war

Hard to read the reports from Syria about the destruction of archaeological sites in the chaos of the war there. No one seems to know what to do. No one seems to have any power to stop ISIS from blowing up mosques, churches and shrines. Prehistoric sites, Roman and Byzantine mosaics. Nothing is out of danger. One casualty of war is the bureaucratic structure of protecting remnants the past, many of which are unique. This happens everywhere with every conflict. What makes the Syrian conflict even more tragic is the way that the ISIS harvests resources (including antiquities) and sells them to raise the money they need to power their war machine. [Read More]


Why do archaeologists privilege King Richard III and the 1%ers of the 15th century England?

Very cool to learn about the recent work on the skeleton of Richard III. Written sources are fine, but they are almost always come from a particular perspective or bias, and they usually have all kinds of hidden subtexts and agendas. With Richard, the analysis that forensic archaeologists undertook of the actual skeleton and its injuries provides information that speaks louder and more accurately than the book-lore and legend and of English history. So, now we have a better idea about how he died and the role of battle injuries. [read More]


Caltrans destroys an ancient Pomo Indian site

If it’s true, then it is a disgrace and a disaster for everyone. Reports are appearing that Caltrans destroyed an ancient site of the Pomo Indian village while they were building a freeway bypass around the northern California town of Willits. Rumors have it that they made a “mapping error”. It is difficult not to share the anger of modern descendants of the people who lived there. Wouldn’t you be angry if someone destroyed an ancestral home of yours? I know that I would. [Read More]