Friday, April 29, 2011

Beer and dehydration

In a recent article by Slate, the discussion of beer is raised. This article describes the risks of surviving by drinking only beer and water. Earlier in class, we discussed the role of beer in early societies and the risk of dehydration. This interesting article describes what happened to an individual in Iowa who took on a strict beer diet. Beer has long been touted as healthy source of nutrition, until it was discovered to contribute to scurvy. I hope this article provides some interesting reading on the importance of beer.

During the 46-day feat, J. Wilson consumed only beer and water, emulating a centuries-old tradition once practiced by the Paulaner monks of Munich, Germany. How long could a man survive on beer and water? Not more than a few months, probably. That's when the worst effects of scurvy and protein deficiency would kick in. (Liver disease is a serious risk of chronic alcohol use, but it takes longer to arrive.) If you kept to a strict beer diet—and swore off plain water altogether—you'd likely die of dehydration in a matter of days or weeks, depending on the strength and volume of beer consumed. There's plenty of water in beer, of course, but the alcohol's diuretic effect makes it a net negative in terms of hydration under most conditions.
Scurvy would be an ironic cause of death for a beer-dieter, since the drink was long considered a prophylactic against the disease. For much of the 1700s, doctors administered beer, wort, and malt to prevent the lethargy, wounds, gum disease, fever, and eventual death caused by scurvy. Legendary British explorer Captain James Cook touted the anti-scorbutic effects of beer; his sailors' rations typically included a gallon per day. (The low-alcohol, made-from-concentrate brew would be unrecognizable today.) Beer's failure to quell major outbreaks of scurvy, like those at the siege of Gibraltar in 1780 and aboard the HMS Jupiter in 1781, helped disprove the theory. In 1795, the British admiralty adopted lemon juice as the official cure.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Death and Dowry in India

This article in the New York Times addresses some alarming violence based gender patterns in India. As discussed in class, there is a severe gender bias in the number of females to males in India...

In the 2001 census, the sex ratio — the number of girls to every 1,000 boys — was 927 in the 0-6 age group. Preliminary data from the 2011 census show that the imbalance has worsened, to 914 girls for every 1,000 boys.

Women’s groups have been documenting this particular brand of gender violence for years. The demographer Ashish Bose and the economist Amartya Sen drew attention to India’s missing women more than a decade ago. The abortion of female fetuses has increased as medical technology has made it easier to detect the sex of an unborn child. If it is a girl, families often pressure the pregnant woman to abort. Sex determination tests are illegal in India, but ultrasound and in vitro fertilization centers often bypass the law, and medical terminations of pregnancy are easily obtained...

The other side of this problem is that arrests appear to be slow to come if at all for deaths linked to dowry. Family's compete for a good groom and will promise a high dowry to secure a wedding. However, the dowry may be too high for the family to pay, and slow payments may lead to death or maybe the groom's family demands more money than agreed at the time of the wedding. Below is another excerpt from the same article.

Another form of violence against women — dowry deaths — is equally well-documented, and just as ugly, though Indians are so used to these that they have become almost invisible. The names of Sunita Devi, Seetal Gupta, Shabreen Tajm and Salma Sadiq will not resonate strongly for most Indians, though they were all in the news last week for similar reasons. Sunita Devi was strangled in Gopiganj, Uttar Pradesh, the pregnant Seetal Gupta was found unconscious and died in a Delhi hospital, Shabreen Tajm was burned to death in Tarikere, Karnataka, and Salma Sadiq suffered a miscarriage after being beaten by her husband in Bangalore.

Demands for larger dowries by the husband’s family were behind all of these acts of violence, so commonplace that they receive no more than a brief mention in the newspapers. National Crime Bureau figures indicate that reported dowry deaths have risen, with 8,172 in 2008, up from an estimated 5,800 a decade earlier.

Monobina Gupta, who has researched domestic violence for Jagori, a nongovernmental organization, draws a direct link between these killings and the abortion of female fetuses: “The dowry is part of the continuum of gender-based discrimination and violence, beginning with female feticide. Following the arrival of” economic “liberalization in 1992, the dowry list of demands has become longer. The opening up of the markets and expansion of the middle classes fueled consumerism and the demand for modern goods. For instance, studies show that color television sets or home video players have replaced black-and-white television sets, luxury cars the earlier Maruti 800, sophisticated gadgets basic food processors.

“It is similar to what is happening with female feticide,” she said. “As the middle class comes into more money, it is accessing more sophisticated medical technology either to ensure the birth of a boy or get rid of the unborn girl.”

What is the cost to the Indian family of having a girl, or to the boy’s family of forgoing a dowry? The economist T.C.A. Srinivasaraghavan puts the average dowry around 10,000 rupees, or $225. That average figure masks the exorbitant dowry demands that are often made by the family of the groom.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Agriculture, Food Production Among Worst Environmental Offenders, Report Finds

An new article in Science Daily states that,

"a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme observes that growing and producing food make agriculture and food consumption among the most important drivers of environmental pressures, including climate change and habitat loss."

To learn more about the United Nations Environment Programme report, read: Agriculture, food production among worst environmental offenders, report finds.

But first, here are a few comments related to both the report and your Activity 2: In analyzing your carbon footprints, most of you stated that food consumption made up the largest portion of your total carbon footprints. Many of you also expressed being perplexed, wondering how daily eating can have such immense impacts, especially given that your diets are not even close to glutenous.

Perhaps the reason why this doesn't seem to make sense is that you are considering the impacts of your individual food consumption patterns, rather than how your individual food consumption patterns are themselves impacted by industrial agricultural production practices. It is not necessarily that you are eating so much, but that the food you are eating is energetically expensive- it takes a lot of energy to grow/produce and possibly package and ship it.

Furthermore, factors (such as how much packaging is used on the food items you purchase, and how far your food is shipped before it hits your market of choice) are determined by food market management decisions, which are partially the result of widespread industrial practices, which are themselves the result of economic competition and other factors, etc. etc. All of this is normalized at the societal level. You also contribute to societal norms through your behaviors, such as those related to spending (purchasing power), voting, and consumption. We are all role models (for instance, since the 1990s, demand for organic foods has increased dramatically, with the result that now you can even buy "organic" at Walmart). Some of you pointed this out.

Then there are also simple, unalterable bio-physical facts that determine how much energy is consumed in food production. For instance, many of you noted that eating meat substantially increased your carbon footprints. Some of you wondered why. A major reason (but by no means the only reason) why beef is especially "expensive" in terms of energy use is simply because the amount of calories cows need to survive is much greater than the amount of calories you get from eating them. They simply use up a lot of the energy to sustain their bio-physical Life processes. Thus, a lot more grains must be grown to feed them than would be necessary to feed you. While this may be unalterable, farm management practices, such as the use of fertilizer (made from natural gas and other energy sources) to stimulate the growth of plants that are fed to cows, can be more flexible. The energy costs of running farms is also variable. Like the Miller family you read about, many farms could reduce their energy costs through investment in energy efficiency.

Lastly, according to the article, the new science report states that,

"impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth, increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."

However, I would disagree with the statement that nothing can be done. While we all need to eat, most of you pointed out many ways that we can eat more sustainably in order to decrease our local and global environmental impacts.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

Reading through your activity 2 assignments, I have been very impressed. So far, everyone has expressed a strong commitment to decreasing individual carbon footprints. Generally shocked to discover the ecological costs of your lifestyles, you are are enthusiastic and energetic about creating change. You care about the environmental legacy you leave to the future. Some of you have rightly pointed out, however, that change at the individual level, while significant when considered collectively, may not be enough. This is where we often get discouraged. However Lester Brown (U.S. environmentalist, founder of the Worldwatch Institute and Earth Policy Institute) provides a glimpse of the feasibility of creating change at the national and global levels in his inspiring short video Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ishi Updated

If you have never heard the story of Ishi, the "last wild Indian" in the United States, then I highly recommend that you read this article. If you have read that anthropological classic Ishi in Two Worlds by Theodora Kroeber, then the article provides some interesting updates and new information on Ishi and his remarkable life based on the research carried out by anthropologist Richard Burrill.
The story of Ishi is familiar in part because it’s so remarkable. Known across California and beyond as the “last wild Indian,” he simply walked out of the wilderness one hot August day in 1911 and into civilization. He was 49 years old, or so they estimated, and he was to become one of the most famous Native Americans in history.

What seems to surprise people about Ishi was his ability to embrace Western culture while remaining true to himself. He wasn’t the “savage” that people thought he would be; he was amazingly similar in emotions and behaviors to the white anthropologists who became his friends.

"We make a big thing about these people being Russian, or these people being Indian. But we all have the same basic needs—we all cry, we all laugh,” said Richard Burrill, a teacher and author who’s been writing about Ishi for decades. “There are many more similarities than differences, and that’s what anthropology teaches us.”
The entire article can be accessed HERE.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Green Marketing Lies

I've been thinking a lot about how to reduce waste and lower my own carbon footprint, and I think a lot of you would like to do this too. Going over your activities, however, I keep seeing the same laments, that you'd like to be less wasteful, but you just can't afford organic vegetables, free-range meat, and hybrid cars. It almost seems like being resource efficient is something only the very wealthy can manage.

But wait! In EVERY SINGLE ACTIVITY you all pointed out that lower income countries have a smaller ecological footprint than the much wealthier United States, how are those folks managing it?

Not that I'm trying to imply that you should all start living like rural peasants, but I think the problem is that you've all become brainwashed by a very intentional marketing scheme which is telling you that you have to buy more products in order to be more ecologically efficient, and that's not true. Those companies need you to buy their products to stay in business.

While it's true that a new Toyota Prius uses less fuel per mile than a 1988 BMW 325, the energy and resources put into that vehicle, and especially the resources that are used to keep the factory rapidly producing more cars (since it's normal in America to replace one's vehicle every 3 years or so) are much much greater than to continue using the same old car until it is actually worn out.

What do you think would create a smaller ecological footprint: every American deciding to purchase a new fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle, or every American deciding to only buy one car every 20 years?

What if instead of buying prewashed, chopped and bagged salad mix, you bought a much less expensive head of unpackaged lettuce instead? Instead of buying a box of frozen hamburger patties, get a package of ground beef and make your own.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that the trick to wasting less isn't spending more. It's buying less (an alarming logical system)

Neither Black Nor White: Three Multiracial Generations, One Family

Many scholars of race and ethnicity are looking closely at the results of the most recent U.S. census, the first census in 220 years to allow Americans to select multiple ethnic/racial identities (the first census was taken in 1790, after the American Revolution). Now that Americans are given the choice, how do they identify, and how will this affect the "official" racial composition of the country?

A new article from CNN suggests that more Americans than ever are identifying as multi-racial. So what about hypodescent and the "one drop rule"?

The "increase during the last 10 years shows how attitudes have shifted radically from the days of segregation the "one-drop rule," a defunct idea that said a person with one drop of nonwhite blood belonged only to a nonwhite race."

Considering that more multiracial people are now actually identifying as multiracial, you might wonder what this "new" category means in terms of a sense of identity? The CNN article Neither black nor white: Three multiracial generations, one family, tells the story of one family, whose members have been multiracial for three generations, in order to highlight changes in racial attitudes in the U.S. since the 1940s and the effects of this on multi-racial identity.

And here are some statistics from the 2010 census (taken from CNN article):

Multiracial Americans

9 million: People belonging to at least two races, up 32% since 2000

4.2 million: People younger than 18 belonging to at least two races, up 45.9% since 2000

57: Race combinations marked on the 2010 Census

1.8 million: People who marked black and white

1.7 million: People who marked white and "some other race"

1.6 million:
People who marked Asian and white

1.4 million: People who marked American Indian or Alaska Native and white

Note: The Census Bureau considers Hispanic/Latino an ethnicity, not a race. Respondents to the race question who reflected a Hispanic/Latino origin were classified as "some other race."

Source: 2010 U.S. Census

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


In class we are looking a our carbon footprints, but understanding and considering ecology is important too. This website is dedicated to understanding the connection water consumption and human needs.
You can determine your waterfootprint here. Water is important for consumption but it is also used to make products like paper and ethanol.The relation between consumption and water use

"The interest in the water footprint is rooted in the recognition that human impacts on freshwater systems can ultimately be linked to human consumption, and that issues like water shortages and pollution can be better understood and addressed by considering production and supply chains as a whole,” says Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra, creator of the water footprint concept and scientific director of the Water Footprint Network. "Water problems are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy. Many countries have significantly externalised their water footprint, importing water-intensive goods from elsewhere. This puts pressure on the water resources in the exporting regions, where too often mechanisms for wise water governance and conservation are lacking. Not only governments, but also consumers, businesses and civil society communities can play a role in achieving a better management of water resources."

How much water does it take to make 1 kg of beef, a cup of coffee? Which countries are using the most water per capita?

  • The production of one kilogram of beef requires 16 thousand litres of water. There is a huge variation around this global average. The precise footprint of a piece of beef depends on factors such as the type of production system and the composition and origin of the feed of the cow.

  • To produce one cup of coffee we need 140 litres of water. This, again, is a global average.

  • The water footprint of China is about 700 cubic meter per year per capita. Only about 7% of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China.

  • Japan with a footprint of 1150 cubic meter per year per capita, has about 65% of its total water footprint outside the borders of the country.

  • The USA water footprint is 2500 cubic meter per year per capita.

Remember, statistics can only provide data based on what was entered in. The average consumption of water will vary a lot more than what is reported on a per capita basis. For instance, the US has several industrial plants and research labs consume a very large amount of water. The high consumption will greatly increase the per capita average. The average consumption level of each person is therefore greatly exaggerated due to outliers in industry. For example, ethanol plants consume anywhere from 4-6 gallons of water to make one gallon of ethanol. A plant making 100 million gallons of ethanol would require 400 millions gallons of water. Such a large sum of water means that only states, like Nebraska with large reserves of water are able to produce ethanol. This large demand on natural resources is depleting the aquifer faster than it is able to replenish itself. Overtime, it has become clear that Nebraska will need to conserve its water supply by prohibiting additional irrigation systems and ethanol plants. These outliers contribute to countries overall water and ecological footprint. I wonder, how many gallons of water does UGA consume a day?

Monday, April 18, 2011

foraging in the urban zone

Here is a great article on foraging for greens in Washington DC, by NPR. The article discusses the abundance of foods available all around us. I knew about Vietnamese Americans who would be seen foraging along the roadside in Lincoln, NE and I thought that was really cool. Check out this healthy option, but don't go trying it until you know exactly what you are doing first.

Can we come up with a tasty, healthful salad, just by foraging the urban neighborhood around NPR's Washington, D.C., office? That would be the ultimate in locally grown food. But most of us don't know the first thing about foraging wild greens.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fantastic Maps

If the Chinese proverb (一畫勝千言) " a picture is worth a thousand words" is true, than maps can be downright effusive. The Worldmapper website evidences this with its display of fantastically colorful, informative maps.

For instance, what does global population mapped look like?

World Population (2000)

Here are some others:

GDP (Gross Domestic Product) Wealth (2002)

Human Poverty Index Rating (2002)

Ecological Footprint (2006)

Worldmapper features dozens and dozens of other map categories. Check them out.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Food Crisis Is Coming, But Urban America Already Has It Solved

Recent posts on this blog have focused on poverty, obesity, and food security (availability and access to food). Urban farming is not only an individual/ household subsistence practice intended to address these and other issues (such as urban crime and decay) at the individual, household, and community levels. Proponents of a new, progressive social movement proclaim that it is also the means for "growing" sustainable, livable futures and reinvigorated communities. It may even contribute to national security by reducing our reliance on foreign oil.

According to a recent article in The Indypendent, "Thirty cities have organized city-farming projects, up from only a handful a decade ago. New York City has 600 urban gardens alone, involving 20,000 residents who participate in maintaining and harvesting them. A movement in Detroit is fighting to create the world’s largest urban agricultural space, Hantz Farms, and LA’s South Central Farmers cooperative is engaged in an ongoing battle to return to the neighborhood which bore its name. Until its eviction by a developer in 2006, South Central Farm was the biggest in the country."

Why is urban agriculture on the rise and how is it used in the fight against poverty, obesity, crime, and urban decay? Why is it considered more environmentally sustainable than other forms of agriculture? To learn more, read: A Food Crisis Is Coming, But Urban America Already Has It Solved.

if you are interested to learn more about what UGA students and faculty are doing to promote urban agriculture see the Food for thought and P.L.A.C.E websites.

Can America's Urban Food Deserts Bloom?

As the blog article The Anthropology of Obesity featured on the Neuralanthropology website suggests, the recent rise in obesity worldwide can be attributed to different causes, depending on the framework of analysis. Some possible frameworks for examining the phenomenon of obesity are evolutionary perspectives, biocultural perspectives, and cultural perspectives.

In addition, all of these perspectives can be used to frame understandings of the social determinants of obesity, whether they are rooted in modern dietary changes, global economic practices (related to the global trade and distribution of food), or health behaviors.

However, whenever considering the claims made in any particular source of information, it is important to remember that all inquiry is limited. This means that to determine the validity of any information, considering what is left unexamined, is just as important as considering what is examined. In other words, every framework is partial - no one framework can encompass every aspect contained within a topic of inquiry.

That said, I would like to point out that although The Anthropology of Obesity states that, "obesity has become the plague of those most marginalized rather than an overindulgence of the rich. Economic status in the face of globalization has facilitated the increase of obesity through further marginalization of the poorest", it does not reveal how/why this is the case.

Luckily, much current research, as well as news commentaries, have shed light on the socio-structural linkages that exist between poverty and obesity. Many focus on what has come to be known as the blight of the "urban food desert", a widespread phenomenon that is creating obstacles to food security (availability and access to food) in low income, urban areas. The article Can America's Urban Food Deserts Bloom? does a good job explaining what a food desert is and how it contributes to obesity.

Lastly, it is always interesting to consider if, and how, current events impact our own lives. How does your local grocery fare in terms of its food selection and cost? Given your income, how does this affect your food choices and resulting health? Has this changed over the course of your life?

Freegansim: A Modern Day Foraging Movement

During our class lecture on subsistence, one of you asked if agricultural production is in fact "the worst mistake" in human history, why don't we return to a foraging, or a hunting and gathering lifestyle? Although many fewer communities than in the past participate in foraging today, it is worth noting that in many urban areas around the world, foraging is on the rise. It is the central practice of a new political and cultural movement intended to address capitalist-induced, global human waste - one meal at a time. Check out this short video to learn more about it. Then ask yourself, how different is this new form of foraging from traditional foraging in terms of its means and ends.

Also, another urban foraging story is that of ForageSF, an organization in San Francisco that offers "wild food walks" to the public. These walks, designed to teach people how to forage, are part of a larger ForageSF mission to "connect Bay Area dwellers with the wild food that is all around them."

Through a monthly box of all wild foraged foods, which we call a CSF, we deliver fresh, sustainably harvest wild food to city dwellers. From wild mushrooms to acorn flour, there is a wealth of edible forage just outside our doors that few people know about, and still fewer ever consume. Our goal is to push people out of the supermarket, to get them trying new foods harvested sustainably and fairly by their neighbors.

Learn more at: ForageSF.

Friday, April 15, 2011

living above the poverty line or on it?

This is a somewhat shocking realization about how much money it takes to live in the US. I think this article on NPR will be very interesting to most of us. How does the US measure poverty and is it time to revise this figure? Here is part of the article:

As President Obama and members of Congress debate national budgets, Shawn McMahon has been calculating individual and family budgets.

He's the research director for Wider Opportunities for Women, a group that works with low-income women and families. The nonprofit group just released its Basic Economic Security Tables index, which measures the minimum income workers need to achieve basic economic security.

"We're not talking about surviving," McMahon tells Morning Edition host Renee Montagne. "We are talking about economic security that allows people to live day to day without fear of a lot of the economic insecurity that we've been seeing in recent years."

According to the report, to achieve economic security the average minimum income needed for a family with two workers and two young children is $67,920 — that's with both parents working, and earning just over $16 an hour.

The Components Of Basic Economic Security

Monthly Expenses 2 Workers,
1 Preschooler,
1 Schoolchild
Housing $821
Utilities $178
Food $707
Transportation $1,019
Child Care $1,080
Personal and Household Items $460
Health Care $443
Emergency Savings $170
Retirement Savings $56
Taxes $1,060
Tax Credits -$334
Monthly Total (per worker) $2,830
Annual Total $67,920
Median Family Income $61,265*
The Federal Poverty Line
For A Family Of Four

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anthropology of Obesity

A new compilation of articles and information was generated on a new a rising concern over global obesity on the Neuralanthropology website. This is a new phenomenon that is quite surprising. Enclosed is a list of interesting articles researchers are using to help understand the rise of obesity. Ironically, it is the poor and not the wealthy that are seeing the highest increases in obesity. Here is part of the summary on this global epidemic:

Worldwide, multiple paradoxes have emerged as food distribution, access and consumption have changed dramatically. For the first time in history, in the course of a generation, households can go from malnutrition based on undernutrition to malnutrition based on overnutrition. Because of the health impact of obesity and of diet-related non-communicable diseases (e.g., adult-onset diabetes), many children will die before their parents.

Ironically, obesity has become the plague of those most marginalized rather than an overindulgence of the rich. Economic status in the face of globalization has facilitated the increase of obesity through further marginalization of the poorest. Communities previously reliant on subsistence farming now must enter monetary work and rely on the cheapest, nutritionally devoid, factory produced food items. It is not uncommon now to observe communities experiencing a decrease in infectious disease and an increase in non-communicable diseases while simultaneously suffering from wasting and obesity....

In light of these phenomena, researchers everywhere are grappling with how to comprehend the multiple issues generated by skyrocketing obesity rates and rapid transition of dietary and physical behaviors. Anthropology with its holistic nature and ability to merge multiple paradigms is paramount for the study of obesity, its impact on multiple levels, and its historical and global causes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tsunamis and ITK

Often we are in such a rush to embrace modernity that we ignore the storehouse of knowledge so carefully safeguarded for posterity by our ancestors. In anthropology we term this indigenous traditional knowledge (ITK) that needs to be preserved before it is lost. As this article sadly explains, when we ignore this knowledge, we do so at our own peril.
Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan's destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day.

"High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants," the stone slab reads. "Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point."

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan's northeastern shore.

Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries.

... "People had this crucial knowledge, but they were busy with their lives and jobs, and many forgot," said Yotaru Hatamura, a scholar who has studied the tablets.

One stone marker warned of the danger in the coastal city of Kesennuma: "Always be prepared for unexpected tsunamis. Choose life over your possessions and valuables."
The entire article can be accessed HERE.

Globalizing obesity

A former UGA Anthropology professor Alexandria Brewis, who is now teaching at Arizona State University has show that being overweight is increasingly being stigmatized globally. (Here is a photo of an overweight dog as a proxy for the owner.) Here is a quote from here research findings:

Slim bodies often are idealized by Americans, who seem to have a disparaging attitude towards fatness. But, does the rest of the world view overweight bodies the same way?

Recent findings by a team of Arizona State University researchers show that rapid globalization has brought the stigma associated with obesity to other parts of the world, including those regions that previously viewed large body size in a neutral or positive light.

Read More about it here.
This recent phenomenon is very interesting and marks a new change in cultural attitudes towards health and wealth. When I traveled across China in the late 1990s, it was a sincere form of flattery to tell someone they had gained weight. While here the opposite is true. At that time, only people who were frequently dining out were able to be overweight. During my research in Vietnam, there were very very few overweight people visible in 2009. And interestingly, being thin is very important in Vietnam. And interestingly, I have listened to Vietnamese Americans discuss the pressure their families place on them about the importance of being thin in America. It seems the trend of restricting your diet and watching your weight is spreading across the globe. As societies become increasingly better off socio-economically, they are also striving to stay thin.

Why do you think this is true?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Prehistoric Human Brain Found in a Bog

File this under the CSI files:
A human skull dated to about 2,684 years ago with an "exceptionally preserved" human brain still inside of it was recently discovered in a waterlogged U.K. pit, according to a new Journal of Archaeological Science

The brain is the oldest known intact human brain from Europe and Asia, according to the authors, who also believe it's one of the best-preserved ancient brains in the world.

"The early Iron Age skull belonged to a man, probably in his thirties," lead author Sonia O'Connor told Discovery News. "Cause of death is rarely possible to determine in archaeological remains, but in this case, damage to the neck vertebrae is consistent with a hanging."

For more info click HERE.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Beer and the Rise of Civilization

Here is an article that discusses the rise of civilization and the invention of beer. According to the author's the desire to drink beer is what motivated people to develop agriculture.
Their argument is that Stone Age farmers were domesticating cereals not so much to fill their stomachs but to lighten their heads, by turning the grains into beer. That has been their take for more than 50 years, and now one archaeologist says the evidence is getting stronger.

Signs that people went to great lengths to obtain grains despite the hard work needed to make them edible, plus the knowledge that feasts were important community-building gatherings, support the idea that cereal grains were being turned into beer, said archaeologist Brian Hayden at Simon Fraser University in Canada. "Beer is sacred stuff in most traditional societies," said Hayden, who is planning to submit research on the origins of beer to the journal Current Anthropology.

Read the whole thing HERE.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

God and Asherah

"You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him...He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many ... or so we like to believe." - Dr. Francesca Stavrakopulou

Apparently this has been known to theologians and biblical historians for while now, but I was very interested by some new research presented by Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, of the Exeter department of Theology and Religion. The research states rather conclusively that early followers of the Abrahamic tradition, the predecessors of Jewish, Islamic, and Christian religions, and the people who wrote and lived most of the Old Testament, were not strictly monotheistic, but worshiped a male deity, Yahweh, as well as his female counterpart, Asherah. A careful reading shows that Asherah was worshipped along with Yahweh in the Temple of Jerusalem, which you might remember from Sunday School was built by King Solomon, son of King David (that guy who sling-shotted Goliath)

Asherah is mentioned multiple times in the Old Testament, either by name or as "The Queen of Heaven," however, in some English translations the name Asherah has been interpreted as "Sacred Tree" or else omitted altogether.

"They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree." - 1 Kings 14:23, New International Version

But if you were raised Catholic like me, you would have read this one:

"For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree." 1 Kings 14:23, King James Bible

But it becomes clear that there arose a conflict between Asherah-worshipers and another sect.

"This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire." - Deuteronomy 7:5, New International Version

So why the selective translation? Selectively choosing what parts of the historical record become part of the Biblical Canon has been controversial probably since the Council of Nicea in 325 AD (that's when Emperor Constantine decided to make Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire). Along with the existence (as a deity, let's not get into actual existence) and theological role of Asherah, scholars have yet to throughly account for biblical texts such as the Apocrypha, the Gnostic gospels, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as these seem to include contradictions to what are considered the central tenets of this modern religion.

Perhaps it is alarming to some people to think that their predecessors practiced religion differently, or comforting to believe that their modern belief in a male monotheistic deity is founded in a long unbroken tradition. From an anthropological perspective, we should consider this as further evidence of culture and identity as dynamic forces. Especially in these times when markers like religion can illicit strong reactions of hate and violence, we should remember that over time, belief systems prove to be very mutable and maybe someday those ideas which we hold most strongly will be effaced, mistranslated, and misrepresented yet be no less meaningful to our descendants.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011:

13th Annual International Street Festival
12 p.m. - 5 p.m. at Downtown Athens

The International Student Life Office at UGA is Bringing the World to Athens! This year, the International Student Life Office at UGA will be hosting the 13th Annual International Street Festival on Saturday, April 9th, 2011 from 12 – 5 p.m. on College Avenue between Broad and Clayton Streets in downtown Athens.

This year’s Festival promises to be exciting and dynamic and will include musical and dance performances from more than 15 countries. More than 30 international and multicultural student organizations will have educational displays including artifacts, fashions, interactive games and cultural demonstrations.

The event is FREE and open to the general public. Last year over 5,000 people attended the International Street Festival, and we hope to see you attend this year on April 9th! For questions, please contact the International Student Life Office at (706) 542-5867 or email us at

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pre-Clovis Site in Texas

In class we talked about Clovis tools and how they represent the lithic technology used by early inhabitants in the Americas.

Of course, new archaeological sites are always being discovered, and recently a site just north of Austin, Texas - called the Buttermilk Creek Complex- revealed a cache of pre-Clovis tools dated 13,200 - 15,500 years old.

Clovis tools (on the left) are recognizable for their distinct laurel-leaf shape and fluting on both sides. The pre-Clovis tools from Buttermilk Creek (on the right) are a demonstrably different style.

Pre-Clovis sites are rare and difficult to confirm. We can imagine that early inhabitants of the Americas were nomadic, and weren't building houses or other features that would impact the landscape and survive in the archaeological record. Many archaeologists and specialists in related fields are still resistant to the idea of pre-Clovis cultures existing at all, since they complicate the long-standing Bering Land Bridge hypothesis for the peopling of the Americas. There is only a brief window of time when the Land Bridge was exposed and not covered in glaciers, so pre-Clovis people must have traveled by an alternative route earlier than ~12,000 years ago, perhaps by boat.

Some people suggest that sites like Monte Verde, Chile are contaminated with organic materials that falsify dating techniques. However, pre-Clovis culture may soon become an archaeological fact rather than theory as the number of sites grows. (LINK TO ARTICLE)