Monday, February 28, 2011

Western Apache Ethnography and GIS Research Experience for Undergraduates

Subject: Summer Opportunity for Undergraduates


I am happy to announce the second season of the White Mountain Apache Tribe/University of Arizona Western Apache Ethnography and GIS Research Experience for Undergraduates, a National Science Foundation REU Site. Interested students may obtain more information and application instructions at the web address at the end of this announcement or simply by going to and clicking on the "Apply to a Field School!" Quick Link on the left side of the page. Applications received by March 18 will receive first consideration.

Thank you for distributing widely.

--Karl Hoerig

Western Apache Ethnography and GIS Research Experience for Undergraduates

The White Mountain Apache Tribe Heritage Program and the University of Arizona announce opportunities for student participation in the second season of the Western Apache Ethnography and GIS Research Experience for Undergraduates field school, a National Science Foundation- supported program, June 6-July 15, 2011.

Students participating in this REU will contribute to the creation of a Western Apache cultural and historical Atlas. Participants will learn field research techniques that will include:
  • Creating research plans and documenting research efforts;
  • Conducting archival, interview, survey, and participant-observation research;
  • Identifying the locations of historical sites and land modification areas from archival maps,
  • photographs, and land inspections;
  • Collecting and conducting initial analysis of qualitative and quantitative data relating to historical and cultural use of landscapes and natural resources;
  • Applying Geographic Information Science (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) tools and technologies to mapping and field data collection.

These tools will provide a firm analytical foundation for the systematic evaluation of cultural data. Students will design research projects, and will work collaboratively with fellow students, cultural advisors, and Tribal personnel to complete research projects that will result in draft entries for inclusion in the Atlas.

Participants will receive room and board at the Fort Apache/Theodore Roosevelt School campus, and a weekly stipend of $500 ($3,000 total for 6 weeks). Non-local students will be responsible for transportation to and from Tucson at the beginning and end of the program and will be expected to arrive in Tucson by Sunday, June 5, and to depart no earlier than Saturday, July 16.

6 hours of course credit from the University of Arizona will be available to participants who successfully complete the program (ANTH 395B Special Topics in Cultural Anthropology:
Application of Geographic Information Systems to Cultural Anthropology and ANTH 495B Special Topics in Cultural Anthropology: Ethnographic Field Methods). 2011 U.A. Summer School tuition and fees are anticipated to be approximately $3,200 for 6 hours of coursework; tuition scholarships may be available. Successful applicants will be required to enroll in the University of Arizona summer school in order to receive course credit for the program. This will require an admission fee (anticipated to be $50 for Arizona residents/$65 for non-residents) and submission of proof of current MMR vaccination. Program staff will provide additional information and guidance.

All participants in the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates must be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at an accredited college or university (i.e., have completed courses in an AA/AS or BA/BS program during the spring 2011 term and/or be enrolled for courses for the fall 2011 term).

A total of 8 students will be admitted to this program annually, 2010-2012. Members of the
Western Apache Nations (White Mountain Apache Tribe, San Carlos Apache Tribe, Tonto Apache Tribe, Camp Verde Yavapai-Apache Nation) will be given first consideration for this program, but other Native and non-Native students are encouraged to apply. Applications received before March 18, 2011 will be given first consideration. Applications will continue to be accepted until the program is full.

For more information please contact REU Director Dr. Karl Hoerig at This announcement and application form also available online:

Kansas vs Darwin

In honor of Charles Darwin's birthday (February 12) the producers of the documentary Kansas vs Darwin have provided free access to their award winning documentary on the Kansas school board hearings into whether or not evolution should be taught in the state's public schools.
Even before they took place, the 2005 Kansas school board hearings on evolution were recognized as a pivotal battle in America's ongoing war over teaching evolution in the public schools. Organized by believers in Intelligent Design and convened by creationists, the hearings provided a testing ground for the successful legal and political tactics that drive today's ongoing actions by anti-evolution organizations in the US and around the world. On the pro-evolution side, they inspired a worldwide boycott of the event by mainstream science.

Kansas vs. Darwin reveals the fascinating and sometimes baffling personalities behind the spectacle, with exclusive footage of the hearings and revealing, in-depth interviews with the major figures on both sides. Never revealing their own opinions, the filmmakers allow the characters to fight it out, with emotionally polarizing and often humorous results. The witnesses at the hearings include anti-evolution scientists, educators, and even a middle-eastern journalist. Their opinions are refuted in interviews with their pro-evolution counterparts.
Note: Click on the sunflower on the left to access the movie. It will only be available until march 12.

Garba Indian Dance Lessons & Spring Holi-Garba Night

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Garba Indian Dance Lessons & Spring Holi-Garba Night

7-10pm at Memorial Hall Ballroom

The Asha for Education chapter at UGA will be hosting Garba dance lessons and a spring time Holi-Garba night! Garba is a popular form of Indian Dance that is similar to Western folk dance. It involves vibrant and fast moving steps that follow a particular pattern and rhythm. Its tons of fun and easy to learn!

Interested in learning Garba before the event?

Come out & join us for FREE Garba Dance lessons at Tate Room 311 on Friday, March 4th from 6-7pm. Refreshments will be provided! Here is your chance to become a pro before the event on March 5th!

For more info, contact

For more information about what is a Garba dance, click here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

11,500 year Old Remains Found in Alaska

Since we saw the short clips on the Chukchi people in class, I thought you all might appreciate this recent archaeological discovery from Alaska.

The researchers discovered the remains of a home in a settlement created by people who probably migrated from northern Asia about 12,000 years ago. They got there by crossing the so-called Bering Land Bridge — a strip of dry land that connected what is now Russia and Alaska — and they left behind the foundations of a house, tools and the cremated remains of a child.

Ben Potter, an anthropologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, says the home dates back 11,500 years. (See here)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Biological Anthropologists Raise Red Flag on Early Human Origins Claim

Anthropologists are calling for more analysis before concluding animal remains dating back 7 million years are actually human remains. This report is very important because it addresses the scientific need for parsimony in explaining theory. Early human and primates share similar homoplasy or morphology and can therefore be difficult to definitively claim the fossils are or are not human. Claiming the fossils are human is extremely tempting, because there are very few fossils dating back this far that are human, making any finding very sexy and important to the career of the individual responsible for the finding.

"We are not saying that these fossils are definitively not early human ancestors," said co-author Terry Harrison, a professor in NYU's Department of Anthropology and director of its Center for the Study of human origins. "But their status has been presumed rather than adequately demonstrated, and there are a number of alternative interpretations that are possible. We believe that it is just as likely or more likely that they are fossil apes situated close to the ancestry of the living great ape and humans."

Read more about it here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sex and Evolutionary Anthropology


"The Threatening Scent of Fertile Women"

To riff off of Rich, I thought I'd post a link to a new article from the New York Times:

The Threatening Scent of Fertile Women. This article describes the results of new experimental research conducted by evolutionary psychologists (as you know from Rich's post, there are anthropologists who study evolutionary psychology too) at Florida State University. This research was designed to uncover links between human female fertility and relationship fidelity. Results of the study are explained from an evolutionary perspective. Some cultural anthropologists suggest that while compelling, arguments such as those posited by the “good genes” evolutionary explanation for adultery" (discussed in the article) may oversimplify the complexity of human behavior. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Love and Evolutionary anthropology

Anthropology studies many topics including love. Why do humans feel love? What is the evolutionary advantage to pair bonding? What happens to the brain when couples are in a relationship?

Anthropologist Helen Fisher is interviewed about her research on couples for Valentines Day. Humans require pair bonding in order to raise healthy children and there may be chemistry to support this action. I found it interesting that couples in long-term relationships have a strong sense of calm compared to couples who are in short-term relationships, who feel a sense of "addiction". I wonder if many couples struggle to move on from the short-term relationship into a long-term relationship once the feeling of addiction wears thin.

"I’ve long maintained that romantic love is an addiction — a perfectly wonderful addiction when it’s going well and a perfectly terrible addiction when it’s going poorly," said Rutgers research professor Helen Fisher, a member of Human Evolutionary Studies in the anthropology department in New Brunswick.

Read more about it here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Secrets of a Mind-Gamer: How I trained my brain and became a world-class memory athlete

Secrets of a Mind-Gamer: How I Trained My Brain and Became a World-Class Memory Athlete

This fascinating NYT piece of auto-journalism tells the story of a reporter's journey from a very average, memory novice to becomming a United States memory champion- Yep! There are national and world memory championships. Not just a good story, the article takes a foray into the history of memory development as skill, art, and science, all the while providing clues about how you can develop your own memory bank, or "palace" as you shall soon call it (after reading the article).

Anthropologically, the article is interesting because it shows how the expression of human genetic traits is socially and historically contingent and not just a product of genes and biology- meaning that genetic traits are plastic, or flexible. This plasticity allows us to adapt to environmental constraints and opportunities, which are themselves influenced by both bio-physical changes and cultural variability. This helps explain how and why we humans are so adaptable. For instance, reading the article, you can see that although the human capacity for memory has remained relatively unchanged throughout history, memory has been utilized in very different ways, and for very different purposes in different historical and cultural epochs. Changes in memory use through time can therefore be seen as adaptive responses to ongoing bio-physical and cultural processes of change.

As students in an introductory anthropology course, the article can of course be read in another, more personal way. It is, after all, akin to a mini-memory development manual. The author, Joshua Foer, makes clear that the techniques he used to become national memory champion are available to us all: “What you have to understand is that even average memories are remarkably powerful if used properly.”

What does he mean by "used properly"? This has something to do with biology. Recognizing the influence that socio-cultural processes have had on the expression or use of human memory does not diminish the fact that there are real, biological limits to human capacity for memory. This is due to the structure of the human brain, which has evolved in response to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the dominant mode of subsistence for most of human history on earth. All of the memory boosting techniques mentioned in the article are spatially oriented, reflecting how our need for spatial and visual memory, both historically and pre-historically, may have affected the evolution of brain development.

The excerpt below explains how our biological capacity for memory may have evolved:

"Like every other one of our biological faculties, our memories evolved through a process of natural selection in an environment that was quite different from the one we live in today. And much as our taste for sugar and fat may have served us well in a world of scarce nutrition but is maladaptive in a world of ubiquitous fast-food joints, our memories aren’t perfectly suited for our contemporary information age. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t need to recall phone numbers or word-for-word instructions from their bosses or the Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum or (because they lived in relatively small, stable groups) the names of dozens of strangers at a cocktail party. What they did need to remember was where to find food and resources and the route home and which plants were edible and which were poisonous. Those are the sorts of vital memory skills that they depended on, which probably helps explain why we are comparatively good at remembering visually and spatially."

So, remembering that we are both social and biological creatures, put on your memory caps and glasses and start developing your spatio-visual memory skills!

New Archaelogical Evidence may shape Evolution of Humans

Several human teeth have been discovered in the Middle East dating back 200,000-400,000 years in Qesem Cave a site found in 2000. The cave was occupied by prehistoric humans and this find may provide in sight with one of our common ancestors.

It is believed that Homo sapiens shared a common ancestor in Africa with Neanderthals. Scientists have long said one group migrated to Europe where they developed into Neanderthals, while the ancestors of modern-day humans remained in Africa and western Asia. These teeth could determine which species populated the Middle East during the time period from which they date, the end of the Lower Paleolithic. If the teeth prove to belong to Homo sapiens, they would suggest that humans either originated in what is today Israel and not Africa, or migrated out of Africa much earlier than previously thought.

Read more about it here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rapid Evolution in Response to Pollution

Last time in class we swiftly went over the process of Microevolution, changes in frequency of certain traits within a population. A kind of fish called the Atlantic Tomcod, which is a small bottom-feeder in the Hudson river, has undergone a dramatic change in just the past 50 years. In the 1950s, the tomcods in the Hudson river suffered an onslaught of chemical pollution caused by Electric companies dumping toxic PCBs into the river. Young fish that ate the toxins died of heart defects. However, a small portion of the fishies had a mutation which allowed them to tolerate PCBs. You can imagine that prior to 1950 there would be no real advantage to having such a tolerance, and mutated fish were just as likely to survive and reproduce as the others, and so the trait remained rare. Once PCBs were introduced into the ecosystem, the rare mutation that allowed some fish to survive became very important, because only the baby fish that inherited that trait from their parents could survive in the polluted river. Today, all of the tomcods in the Hudson River are PCB-tolerant, so even though today's tomcods look just like the tomcods from 50 years ago, microevolution has changed this species and its ability to survive in a disrupted habitat.

This article explains the whole thing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

SIlk Road Repaved

Authorities in China have decided not to pull Caucasian looking mummies from the Penn Museum. The Museum will now open up the full exhibit which opened last Sunday. There is no explicit reason given for the initial dispute or why the decision was changed. However, it seems safe to say these issues pertain to ethnic and racial issues that continue to resonate today.
The mummies that were to be displayed appear to have Caucasian features, as Uighurs do, "and they have become part of the larger ethnic argument . . . as evidence of ancient claim to the land," the Times goes on to say.

"Chinese authorities were reluctant to allow Western researchers access to the mummies, until more recent DNA studies showed their origins were European, not Uighur."

The collection offers insight into the daily lives of ordinary people in the region 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, including clothing, health, diet and culture.
Read more about this here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Last Acceptable Racism

There has been a standing debate on the use of indigenous people's as sports mascots for as long as there have been sports mascots. Defenders often make the claim that they are "honoring" the people in question by using certain images and terms. In the linked article, David Kimelberg makes the argument that the treatment of Native Americans in media and pop culture would be disgusting and abhorrent if committed against any other race or ethnic group. Kimelberg argues that the perpetuation of overt racism towards Native Americans is partly due to the fact that the legacy of cultural genocide has largely convinced non-Natives that American Indians aren't part of the modern world anymore, but mere characters in stories, history books, and the USA's legendary past.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Creationism still passes as science in many High schools

Disregarding court decisions, many high school teachers continue to teach Creationism according to a recent national study. In some cases students are told that they are required to learn evolution in order to pass the state exam but do not have to believe it. As students learning anthropology, what does this say about cultural values and science in America? What does it say about the validity of science in society?

...Researchers found that only 28 percent of biology teachers consistently follow the recommendations of the National Research Council to describe straightforwardly the evidence for evolution and explain the ways in which it is a unifying theme in all of biology. At the other extreme, 13 percent explicitly advocate creationism, and spend at least an hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.
That leaves what the authors call “the cautious 60 percent,” who avoid controversy by endorsing neither evolution nor its unscientific alternatives...
Read more about in the New York Times this here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Linguistic Profiling, African American English Origin, Gullah

This short video clip on BEV (Black English Vernacular) from the Documentary Do You Speak American provides an example of the influence of prestige dialogs and also provides a history of the roots and development of BEV.

A Bump in the Silk Road?

Here is an article from the Washington Post about an archaeological find that has implications for current ethnic and racial tensions in western China. Because of Chinese national security concerns about the Uighurs in Xinjiang province, this mummy may have been pulled from an exhibit on Silk Road artifacts.

... hundreds of mummies that have been discovered in China's Xinjiang province have long caused controversy, because their Caucasian features point to European origin - a simple archaeological fact that has had political and potentially explosive ramifications since they were discovered in this region of occasionally violent ethnic clashes.

The mummy that was supposed to go on display this weekend has Caucasoid features that are almost perfectly preserved - fair skin, auburn hair and round eyes. The woman's body, dubbed the Beauty of Xiaohe, is so intact that many have described her as looking as though she is simply taking a nap.

To read the article, please click here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

For a Hmong Hero, a Lavish Farewell

This article describes the funeral of General Vang Pao, a war hero and important leader of the stateless Hmong. The Hmong, an ethnic group who live across the US can be traced back to Laos. They were recruited by the CIA and Anthropologists to fight the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war. Here are some slides of the event. (Read the NYTimes article)

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

If Vang Pao had died a simple farmer like so many other Hmong here, his funeral would have been an elaborate affair.

For three days, as Hmong custom has it, his family and friends would have mourned in high-pitched chants, feasted on freshly slaughtered beef and burned a giant pile of paper money to buy his soul into the spirit world.

But Gen. Vang Pao was no plain Hmong elder, and his death last month at age 81 has brought forth no ordinary grief. He is known to his people as the general, the hero of the Central Intelligence Agency’s long-ago secret war in the jungles of Laos, a man who was leaving behind 25 children, 68 grandchildren and an uprooted nation of Hmong refugees who regard him as something near a king.

So his funeral — six days and nights, with 10 cows slaughtered and stir-fried each day — has become a send-off for the ages.

It began last Friday, his body borne on a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of downtown Fresno, throngs of grieving Hmong lining the way. Scottish bagpipers played “The Green Hills of Tyrol” and two T-28 planes, the aircraft piloted by Hmong guerrilla fighters in the Vietnam War, flew overhead.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Culture: Guatemalan Tribes Wear History Well

Today in Class Dr. Dujovny described how Bengali clothing in Northern India became an identity marker in the wake of political unrest. This got me thinking about all of the rich meaning imbued in traditional Mayan dress in Guatemala, a country known for its exquisite textile tradition. Recently, the Los Angeles Times featured an article on just this topic:

Culture: Guatemalan Tribes Wear History Well : What comes off the backstrap looms in rural villages is more than folk art to these indians.
Check it out!

Although this article touches on just about every aspect of today's lecture, its main focus is the ways in which politics and history drive identity expressions through traditional dress in Guatemala. For instance, the article states:

"Although denying that the army wants to destroy the use of Mayan language and dress, Duran told The Times that "we cannot have one nation inside another nation. We are trying to create a country where the people identify themselves as Guatemalan, not Mayan."

Sound familiar? It goes on to state:

While anthropologists and historians are not in complete agreement, the consensus is that the [colonial] white invaders either created or encouraged the weaving of distinct colors and patterns for each tribe and region in Guatemala as a form of identification and control.

The idea was to make it easy for the Spaniards to see and identify any Indian in order to ensure he was working and living where ordered. It also served what American anthropologist Sheldon Annis describes in his book "God and Production in a Guatemalan Town" as a means to "create a new class of being . . . an identifiable work force, tribute payers, potential soldiers and the usually pliant objects . . . of the conquerors." It was nothing less than the creation of a caste society...

Even though the policy on language has changed, to a large degree that colonialist approach is in place today, even to the point that members of military intelligence are still taught the colors and patterns of traje [clothing] in order to keep track of Indians.

[The photo comes from:]

The Uniqueness of Humans

Here is a must see video by professor Robert Sapolsky that comes in place of our movie on language.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Species Inflation: Taxonomy and conservation

Here is a interesting article relating to Linnean taxonomic systems and DNA evidence. The economist suggests that over eager taxonomists are over inflating the number of new species for the benefit of conservation. Does this provide evidence of scientists and bias? worth reading to consider how economists and biologist clash. (See Here)

Social Networking’s Hidden Tradeoff

This article addresses issues in human behavior and economics and how the advertisers are tapping into smart phones. Being aware of how technology is influencing our behavior and informing the market is interesting and important. We are being "watched" far more than we realize. (Click Here)

Social Networking’s Hidden Tradeoff

We all love free stuff. Whether it’s tiny sample tooth paste tubes or a free smartphone app. But don’t you wonder why people give away stuff for nothin’ (or is this just the cynical New Yorker in me)?

Well, it turns out that there is a tradeoff for that free iPhone or Android app, or that free “extension” to your web browser. In many cases when you install it, the freebie takes a bit of your personal browsing information and sends it back to the app designer who may then sell it to a third party or use it to sell you something.

For example, that link shortener. I use it all the time. But until I spoke to one of the software folks, I thought that shortener was a public service. Naive me. When your link gets sent to to be sliced and diced, those folks learn something about your preferences. After all, you just told them what site you are visiting, no?

There is a HUGE amount of such data being collected and massaged. And what’s being done with it is the topic of a Science Friday hour with Hillary Mason, lead scientist at Take a listen and you might learn what happens to your info…and what the the “ly”in means. Care to take a guess…and why?

An Earlier Departure Out Of Africa?

In the news there is always something new being discovered about human origins. This article describes the latest artifact evidence on human expansion out of Africa. A cache of stone tools found in the United Arab Emirates suggests humans may have left Africa earlier and from a different route than previously thought. (See Here)

An Earlier Departure Out Of Africa?

Hand axe pre-form.


Because sometimes you have to change the tone of your voice depending on who you're talking to.

Race Remixed in the US

Race and ethnicity are important ideas in society and in anthropology. This article explores how complex the issue of identity and labeling is in the US. Categories and labels can provide ways to include and exclude people; and they can also set limitations in the number of categories to choose from. More and more individuals are becoming increasingly aware of their diversity in America and are selecting more categories to describe their ethnicity. (See Here)

Dynamic Change

Though it sometimes seems that culture is timeless and unchanging, as I mentioned in class, it is really dynamic and can often adapt rapidly. I was thinking of this when I saw these two juxtaposed photos of Shanghai in 1990 and 2010. It's a pretty amazing transformation.

Photo culled from HERE.