Archive for the ‘Anthropology’ Category

During my last semester at Millersville University I conducted a research project on cross cultural communication between Americans and Argentines. My research targets American volunteers going to Buenos Aires. My final product was a blog.

How different could American and Argentine culture really be? Well, you’ll find out.

The first mistake you can make is to assume that everybody views the world the same way you do. This opinion will hinder communication across cultures. Although the information contained in this blog can help anyone going to Argentina, I’ve geared it towards volunteers; people who ABSOLUTELY need to learn proper communication skills in order to provide adequate aid work. Research has shown there to be a high failure rate among those who have a low cultural competence of the country in which they are working.

I’m assuming that all volunteers (humanitarian aid workers, human rights activists, etc.) have reached the conclusion about themselves that they care about others and wish to help them. The organization that you volunteer with will have its own procedures and ideas about how to provide services (whether it is education, healthcare, etc.). But my blog will help you learn critical elements of Argentine culture and communication styles that are very different from our own, yet quite essential to understand in order to build intercultural relationships and trust. Increasing your cultural competence of Argentina will also lower your anxiety when experiencing culture shock.

If you are interested in cross cultural communication in Argentina please check out my blog:

Argentine-American Cross Cultural Communication @ http://crossculturalargentina.wordpress.com/


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Class of 2012

I did it! I graduated May 12, 2012 from Millersville University!

Anthropology, B.A.
Concentration: Archaeology
Minor: History
Magna Cum Laude

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The debate of when early people migrated to Americas is as strong as ever. I’ve heard dates ranging from 40,000-10,000 BCE. That is a very broad range. Most archaeologists do agree that there most likely were multiple waves of people who made their way to this continent. This is one of the explanations given for the cultural variety that existed among native groups.

Lapa Do Santo petroglyph. "The Little Horny Man." Photo: Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies - University of São Paulo.

The oldest known petroglyph in the Americas was discovered in 2009 in Brazil. Radiocarbon dating estimates the petroglyph to have been carved 9,000-12,000 years ago. Assuming that people migrated over the Bering Straight (or at least sailed around the coast) they would have had to do so with enough time to migrate all the way to South America. Obviously, people would have had to migrated to central Brazil by the earliest date of the petroglyph at 12,000 years ago.

A brief report released by the archaeological team expresses their arguments for why this petroglyph is an important find.

Little is known, however, about the symbolic world of the first humans who settled the New World, because artistic manifestations either as rock-art, ornaments, and portable art objects dated to the Pleistocene/Holocene transition are exceedingly rare in the Americas.

Photo: Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies - University of São Paulo.

The figure definitely appears to be a human representation.

The figure was pecked in the bedrock and consisted of a small anthropomorphic filiform petroglyph with tri-digits, a c-like head, and an oversized phallus.

Walter Alves Neves, an archaeologist at the University of San Paulo says the team has named the figure “the little horny man.” The rock art was found about 13 feet below the ground surface. The figure is about 12 inches tall and 8 inches wide, with an oversized phallus about the size of the figures arm!

Lapa do Santo Cave archaeological site. Photo: Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies - University of São Paulo.

13 feet down. Photo: Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies - University of São Paulo.

No doubt this petroglyph will provide additional evidence to the story of early American occupation.

Rock-art similar to the one reported here can be found in at least two other rockshelters in the same region, Lapa do Ballet and Lapa das Caieiras. However, the stylistic similarity is not restricted to Lagoa Santa but extends to other parts of Brazil. Two stylistic traditions have been defined in Northeastern Brazil: The Nordeste and the Agreste Traditions. The Nordeste Tradition is indirectly dated to between 12 and 6 kyr, while the Agreste Tradition seems to be later, spanning from 9 to 2 kyr, although there is some controversy about these ages…Several authors have suggested that a short chronology for the occupation of the New World cannot account for the variability of the South American lithic industries in the Early Holocene… Both pieces of information converge to support a deep chronology for the peopling of the New World.

Read the full report here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0032228


Rock Art at the Pleistocene/Holocene Boundary in Eastern South America

Oldest American Rock Art Found in Brazil

‘Little Horny Man’: Rock Carving of Giant Phallus Discovered

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Mummies of the World, the largest exhibition of mummies and related artifacts ever assembled, presents a never-before-seen collection of naturally and intentionally preserved mummies.  This compelling collection, presented with reverence and dignity, includes ancient mummies and important artifacts from Asia, Oceania, South America, Europe, as well as ancient Egypt, dating as far back as 6,500 years.

Embark on a journey into the extraordinary world of mummies and mummification.  Through modern science, engaging interactives and multi-media exhibits, the exhibition reveals how the scientific study of mummies provides a window into the lives of ancient people from every region of the world, offering unprecedented insights into past cultures and civilization.

Wow! What a very cool exhibit! I visited this exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia a few months ago.  Some of the mummies were insanely well preserved. I was most fascinated with the South American mummies. Several of them still had hair, in fact one still had braids. The ‘tattooed woman’, a 13th century mummy from Peru, had many visible tattoos on her body and the clothing she wore was in great condition and still brightly colored. It is a great collection of mummies (even animals) from around the world, most being from South America, Egypt, and Eastern Europe.  The exhibit also includes CT scans of mummies in an attempt to conduct comprehensive, but noninvasive, research. I recommend going to see it if you get the opportunity.

The exhibition Mummies of the World began with a mysterious and rare find of 20 human mummies hidden in the basement of the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums in Mannheim, Germany in 2004.  The mummies, which once belonged to artist Gabriel von Max (1840–1915) were thought to have been destroyed or lost during World War II.  This startling discovery prompted the most important research project ever undertaken with regard to mummies.  Without documentation explaining who they were, where they were from or why they were collected, an international team of scientists from many disciplines studied the mummies.  Their studies and research, known as the German Mummy Project, is the largest mummy research project in the world.  The results of their research and studies are presented in the Mummies of the World exhibition, made possible through the collaboration of 21 world-renowned museums, organizations and collections from seven countries.

Below are photos of several mummies in the exhibit that really amazed me due to their preservation.

The Detmold Child is a Peruvian child mummy in a remarkable state of preservation, radiocarbon dated to 4504 – 4457 B.C. It is on loan from the Lippisches Landesmuseum in Detmold, Germany.

The mummified remains of a decorated howler monkey from Argentina wearing a feathered skirt and headdress. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The mummified remains of Johannes Orlovitz, one of the Vac mummies. The Orlovits family was with a group of mummies found in 1994 in a forgotten church crypt in Vac, Hungary. (AP Photo/Adam Lau)

13th century woman still bearing a full head of hair and tattoos around her mouth and breasts, was discovered in the desert of Peru.

An adult male mummy from the Pre-Columbian Atacama Desert in present-day Chile. (AP Photo/Adam Lau)

The Egyptian cat mummy dated to the Ptolemic period, and show how Egyptian cats were ritually embalmed in a lengthy process using salt and various resins. (The Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany)

For more information about the exhibit and mummies on display visit http://www.mummiesoftheworld.com/

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Apparently anthropologists are needed in the Andaman Islands!

I read this article, Outrage over Indian islands ‘human zoo’ video, and was quite disgusted. All people deserve to be treated with dignity. Sadly, this is an example of how aboriginal peoples are often mistreated.

Rights campaigners and politicians Wednesday condemned a videoshowing women from a protected and primitive tribe dancing fortourists reportedly in exchange for food on India’s Andaman Islands.

British newspaper The Observer released the undated video showing Jarawa tribal women — some of them naked — being lured to dance and sing after a bribe was allegedly paid to a policeman to produce them. (Read the rest of the article here)

The people of the Andaman Islands were also the subject of a short paper I wrote almost two years ago. The topic is quite different than the article posted above about human rights violations, nevertheless, combined they illustrate that anthropologists are desperately needed in the Andaman Islands. Aboriginal peoples need representatives to fight for their human rights and cultures and languages need recording before they too sadly may disappear.

Culture Dies When Language Dies

March 3, 2010

Last month a culture died, and so did 85 year old Boa Senior. Boa lived in the Indian Andaman Islands and

Boa Senior - Source: BBC

was the last woman alive to speak the Bo language. This language was significant to the world because it is thought to have originated in Africa and could possibly be over 70,000 years old. According to linguist Anvita Abbi, it may be one of the last remnants of pre-Neolithic languages. Abbi also said that as a result to Boa Senior’s death that “India had lost an irreplaceable part of its heritage.” The inhabitants of the Andaman Islands are thought to be some of the original inhabitants of India itself.

This is a dramatic case. Not only was the language lost, but so was the people itself. Boa Senior was all there was left in the world of her people, and now they are all gone. Quite often when languages die, the people themselves do not. However, it can be argued that when a language dies so does a great deal of the culture behind it. A language is unique to a people, and it ties them together. Why is it that Americans feel a stronger connection to England than to Germany when an estimated 40 million Americans have German ancestors (this is more than the number of people who claim English ancestry)? I believe it is language. My German ancestors that came to America adopted the English language and with it they forgot about their German culture. Another example of this takes place in Ireland. Everyone speaks English there now, but many strive to hang on to their Gaelic tongue. Irish culture is different from English culture, but they are becoming closer together everyday. I really believe this is because of language. Many Americans view most of Canada as an extension of the United States. However, not Quebec. The French Canadians of Quebec fight very hard to keep French the dominant language in the province while surrounded by the rest of English speaking Canada. The French language is part of the unique cultural heritage of Quebec, if they lose that, they’ll just be Canadians.

We express ourselves through language. Since English is native to me, I usually try to find the words in that language to express myself. However, us English speakers usually have to borrow words from other cultures because we just don’t quite have the right word to match an idea. ‘Déjà vu’, it is a feeling that is almost unexplainable. We’ve borrowed the French term that somehow just makes sense to us. Another great descriptive word that we have borrowed is ‘abyss’ from Sumerian. In English we would have to use multiple words such as bottomless, endless, void, darkness, loneliness, hopelessness to describe everything that we gather from just one simple borrowed word.

Language ties all of a culture’s many facets together. When a language dies, most times a new culture has taken hold on a people. Quite often there are remnants of that culture left behind and blended into another culture, such as ancient Sumeria’s culture, but it just isn’t the same. Celtic culture is not the same today as it once was. The English transmitted their language to Ireland, now the Irish feel much more connected culturally to the English than to their Celtic ancestors (some would argue this statement, but most would agree that Irish society has been transforming despite resistance). Most Irish have to learn Gaelic in College to be able to read old poems and stories. Not being able to read a story from your own culture surely is a perfect example of how when a language does, so does a big part of culture.

Alastair Lawson. “Last speaker of ancient language of Bo dies in India.” BBC News. 4 Feb. 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8498534.stm  – There is a clip of Boa Senior’s voice on this page!

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Last week I blogged about the information potential within the melting ice patches. You can read that the discovery in Canada’s  Northwest Territory here. Today I read a report of another ancient hunting tool revealed by the melting ice. This time the object was found high in the Rocky Mountains near the Yellowstone National Park.  It was University of Colorado’s Craig Lee that discovered the 10,000 year old atlatl dart. He says the dart still has visible personal markings made by the hunter. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a picture of any of these markings.

There is a very important point that Craig Lee brought up in a recorded interview about the importance of organic remains. This is a topic that I did not bring up in my last post but Lee’s comment is so important that I am driven to post again about these ice patch discoveries.

Ninety-five percent of the archaeological record that we usually base our interpretations on is comprised of chip stone artifacts, ground stone artifacts, maybe old hearths, which is a fire pit, or rock rings that would have been used to stabilize a house, so we really have to base our understanding about ancient times on these inorganic materials. But ice patches are giving us this window into organic technology that we just don’t get in other environments.

Craig Lee, University of Colorado at Boulder holding 10,000 atlatl dart. Photo: Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado

These discoveries are incredibly important because we may find artifacts that we’ve never seen before or have only few examples of due to their organic components. Dry climates with little precipitation have been known to preserve organic materials. An example would be a preserved wicker basket found in a dry cave. Most organic materials like wood and clothing would not have been preserved in a North American climate such as Canada or the northern United States experiences. It is rare to find organic artifacts preserved in this region. This type of archaeology needs to be supported. As I posted last week, once exposed to the environment these artifacts need to be removed from the soil because they will not survive long.

View video interview with Craig Lee


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The Moai of Easter Island are monolithic human figures commonly believed to be carved between 500 and 1000 years ago. There are roughly 887 Moai statues found, most of which have rather disproportional head to body ratio. These figures are huge, on average standing over 13 feet tall and weighing over 14 tons, they make quite the presence on the island. Hundreds of these Moai statues are still unfinished at the quarry site. Obviously, this is a good starting point to figure out how the statues were built and then transported. Like Stonehenge and other monolithic sites, the transportation and construction techniques are debated. After all, the architects did not leave behind written records of the construction. Even the construction of the pyramids of Egypt, built by a culture that did leave a great deal of written record, is debated.

Ideas about how the Moai were transported include efforts using ropes, wooden sleds, wooden rollers, or by a rocking process. Many Moai lay on their sides along the road. The main theory is that this was the road used for movement of the figures and that the Moai found toppled over were merely abandoned during transportation. For a long time this seemed like an acceptable theory based on the evidence. However, with 21st century technology we are able to go back and analyze archaeological sites and this often leads to new discoveries. University College London and the University of Manchester have recently used new geophysical surveying equipment on Easter Island and determined that each of these so called abandoned Moai were actually propped on platforms, just the same as the other upright Moai, and had just fallen from the platforms over time.

The UCL and U. Manchester study has concluded that the roads were not built to transport the Moai but rather for ceremonial purposes. University of Manchester’s Dr. Colin Richards says in regard to the road system:

“they lead – from different parts of the island – to the Rano Raraku volcano where the Moai were quarried. Volcano cones were considered as points of entry to the underworld and mythical origin land Hawaiki. Hence, Rano Ranaku was not just a quarry but a sacred centre of the island.”

The shape of these roads is concave in shape, obviously making it difficult to transport large objects using human energy. Dr. Sue Hamilton of University College London further explains why they came to the conclusion about the use of the roads.

“It all makes sense: the moai face the people walking towards the volcano. The statues are more frequent the closer they are to the volcano – which has to be way of signifying the increasing levels of importance.”

Based on the evidence, I would agree that the roads were ceremonial. However, does this absolutely disprove that the same roads were used to transport the Moai? “The truth of the matter is, we will never know how the statues were moved,” said Dr Richards of U. Manchester. I find it surprising that he would make such a definitive statement. After all, the original evidence of the fallen Moai indicated that they had been abandoned during transportation. It took 60 years for Dr. Richards to find new evidence to argue the contrary. There are many things we do not know. Sometimes it is acceptable to say ‘we may never know’. But never in regards to history should be say “we will never know.” In another 60 years we might have uncovered something on Easter Island to completely change what we know about their culture.

If you are interested in current research check out the Easter Island Statue Project.





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