June 8, 2011

119th Four Stone Hearth

Four Stone Hearth is a biweekly blog carnival of all things anthropological.  In each edition, the host gives her readers a snapshot of anthropology blog posts around the web.  Feel free to comment below or to journey on to the authors' respective posts.  And do remember to bookmark Four Stone Hearth for future editions!



There were not a lot of contributed articles this week, so I'm going to highlight things that interest me as someone whose work focuses primarily on ancient bodies in the classical world.  Maybe this will give you deeper insight into the mental machinations of one particular flavor of anthropologist, or maybe you're not as jazzed about the secrets dead people hold as I am.  Let's start the timeline!

Palaeo- and Prehistoric Bodies and Lives

    Shanidar 3's ribs
    (credit: J of Hum Evo)
  • 2 million years BP.  One of the major bioanth news stories this week was on isotopic analysis of two australopith species, A. africanus and P. robustus, that the news media carried as "Female ancestors wandered, males stayed put."  The Daily Mail had a predictably poor take on the peer-reviewed study, but Rosemary Joyce brilliantly critiques them and other media outlets for terrible reporting in her blog piece, "I want a cave man, I want a brave man."  (Do also check out an unrelated piece by Joyce in Psychology Today on anthropomorphism and sexism.)
  • 70,000 years BP.  Who killed the Neandertal dubbed Shanidar 3?  Debate has been ongoing since it was suggested in 2009 that cuts to his rib suggest he was done in by an anatomically modern human.  Julien Riel-Salvatore over at A Very Remote Period Indeed weighed in on the controversy this week with his post "Who really killed Shanidar 3?"
  • c. 12,000 years BP?  A fun piece by Brian Kevin at Mother Jones about why audiences love man-vs-wild television entertainment and how it may be turning us into armchair anthropologists: "Attack of the palaeo-survival shows."

Bodies in Historical Periods

  • Egypt, c. 2,000 BC.  A.J. Walker, a medievalist by trade, takes a step back in time to discuss evidence of vampirism (or, the power and use of blood) in ancient Egypt, with a post appropriately titled "Vampirism in ancient Egypt."
  • Medieval Lapidary from Rome
    (credit: John Hawks)
    Roman Footprint
    (credit: Museum of London)
  • Rome, 1st century BC and beyond.  I've been quite jealous of John Hawks' trip to and tweets from Rome the past couple of weeks.  He wrote a nice piece called "Death and the anthropologist," in which he ranges from Etruscan sarcophagi to the Pyramid of Cestius to the Capuchin crypt to Keats' 19th century tombstone.  Hawks also posted some awesome pictures, like the jokingly named "Our Lady of Eternal Osteology" and a skeleton lapidary.
  • Britain, c. 2nd century AD.  The Museum of London has a blog about its "working life" showing behind-the-scenes work that goes on there.  Members of their Volunteer Inclusion Programme have been recataloguing artifacts from past archaeological excavations, including the site of Watling Court, where archaeologists discovered several phases of Roman occupation.  I was stunned by the preserved Roman footprint shown at the top of this blog post, and there is a very lovely and well-preserved hobnail-decorated Roman shoe as well.
  • Europe, 5th century AD.  Guy Halsall, the Historian on the Edge, has posted a transcript of a talk he gave on "Archaeology and migration: rethinking the debate."  It's long but quite good, as he attempts to decouple ethnicity and migration and calls for better ways to conceive of and study migration in the past.  I may need to devote an entire blog post responding to this, but my disappointment in Halsall's post was his lack of inclusion of isotope analysis.  He suggests it may be useful but doesn't mention the amazing isotope research that has come out of Britain and Germany in the past five or ten years. I don't agree that talking about ethnicity in the past is a lost cause, but we share many ideas about the problems with migration in archaeology - and in particular, the problems with understanding migration in a (post-)Roman context (which you can read about in my dissertation).
  • France, 14th century AD.  Wrapping up our timeline of historical bodies, Michelle Ziegler has a short post at her Contagions blog on "Trench fever and plague in 14th century France," briefly explaining recent screening of aDNA for a variety of disease-causing pathogens.

Other Items of Anthropological Interest
Skulls and babies?
That's it for this edition of Four Stone Hearth.  The carnival seems in need of hosts for the rest of the summer, so do head over and volunteer to host an upcoming edition on your blog!

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