June 19, 2015

This week at Forbes: Roman undies and private parts, Kennewick Man's ancestry, and the real palaeo diet

Got back into some Roman stuff this week, as I'm writing a chapter and kicking off a book, so we've got:

  • Fresco of Priapus from Pompeii Depicts Problematic Genitalia.  You don't even know how much I wanted to continue the alliteration all the way to "penis."  Alas, family newspaper and whatnot.  I don't buy this explanation, since there are plenty of other representations of Priapus, including within the villa itself.  Retro-diagnosing is interesting, as I think bringing any new ideas to bear on ancient history is a good thing, but this doesn't really address the context and interpretation of the fresco.  On the other hand, it makes more people look at ancient art and ancient penises, so it can't be all bad...
  • The Real Palaeo Diet Included Plants and Not Just Meat. This nifty, short article reports on the analysis of dental calculus from a 400kyo cave site in Israel.  The researchers found pollen, charcoal, mold, and other weird stuff on the teeth.  It's first direct proof that hominins ate plants that long ago and also shows they were cooking indoors and probably inhaling a lot of smoke.
  • Without a Doubt, Kennewick Man Was Native American, Anthropologists Say.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to write up any sort of lengthy, thoughtful piece on this that did justice to the ongoing concerns from Native Americans, scientists, legal scholars, reburial advocates, etc.  As I'm not a "real" journalist, I don't get access to embargoed articles.  So you can read what the NY Times, Nature, and others have to say, from science journalists who had more time to digest it than I did.
Next week, I'll have a review of the upcoming PBS series First Peoples, and probably another article or two.

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