Four Stone Hearth #75

Welcome to Four Stone Hearth number 75. Four Stone Hearth is a fortnightly anthropology blog carnival. Topics covered span the four major fields of anthropology: archaeology, socio-cultural anthropology, bio-physical anthropology and linguistic anthropology. If you would like to host the carnival, please write to Martin Rundkvist. The next issue will be hosted at the Afarensis blog on 23 September. So without further preamble, let’s get on with the show.

Archaeology
Martin Rundkvist talks about his experience digging at a Middle Neolithic coastal site in Sweden. Among the finds were small potsherds and a fine example of Pitted Ware.

A recent article in the journal Nature reports on the “oldest handaxes” in Europe. John Hawks gives his interpretation regarding the significance of these bifaces, suggesting that although Lower Pleistocene hominins had the technology to produce bifacial handaxes, they were not a necessity.

Biological anthropology
Anybody who has been following anthropology news for the past few weeks will be well aware of the spirited reaction that a recent editorial in Scientific American generated. The article calls for the adoption of more open practices with regard to accessing human fossils. I have written a piece where I give my own take on the issue.

Matthew Wolf-Meyer reviews Jonathan Marks’ latest book “Why I am not a scientist”. Jonathan Marks is a controversial anthropologist, who sticks to his guns in this, his latest work. Ever thought provoking, Marks is bound to stir up some debate among anthropologists and scientists alike.

There has been a lot of debate regarding whether Central European farmers were the descendants of indigenous hunter-gathers or the result of a demic diffusion from the southeast. Dienkes reports on a new study which suggests that Central European farmers were in fact probably not descended from local hunter-gatherer groups.

Stephen Wang asks the age old question of how similar Neandertals were to us and how they thought about the world.

Linguistic anthropology
The Innovation in Teaching blog explains the concept of a “focused gathering”, a term coined by anthropologist Clifford Geertz. The post goes on to discuss how this concept helps us better think about classroom dynamics.

Socio-cultural anthropology
Over at Neuroanthropology, Daniel Lende has a revealing piece which looks at food crises in Lesotho and the role funerals play in coping with these food shortages. In another post Daniel takes on the recent “research” by researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, which is plagued by poor methodologies and a pseudoscientific approach to neuroscience. Greg Downey follows this up with his own take on some of the methodological flaws of the investigators, principally their inflexibility in the face of contradictory evidence.

Rex over at the Savage Minds blog suggests that the real question anthropologists should ask regarding internet addiction is not whether it exists but rather “how and in what forms do preexisting cultural structures predispose people to think something is true?”

Greg Laden debunks the fallacy that culture overrides biology. This part of a larger series on the common misperceptions that people have regarding biology.

Idris Mootee thinks that industrial designers need to think like cultural anthropologists. He uses the example of how different cultures adopt their own particular posture while sitting. By being aware of this, designers can better accommodate the needs of the end user. Joana Breidenbach of the Culture Matters blog is of a similar opinion:

“Design thinking has many overlaps with the anthropological approach, such as starting out with as little preconceived ideas about the research topic as possible and gaining an empathetic understanding through immersion during fieldwork.”
Lian explores the the archaeology of the worship of Celtic deities in Roman Britain.

Lorenz at the antropologi blog reviews Thomas Hylland Eriksen’s new book “Engaging Anthropology”. In it, he addresses the question of why anthropologists fail to engage the general public. In a similar piece that appeared in Times Higher Education, anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes asserts that part of the problem may lie with universities:

    “Scholars who want to reach diverse publics – through popular writing, speaking or participating in social activism – are not only under-rewarded by their universities, they are often penalised for ‘dumbing down’ anthropological thinking, cutting social theory into ‘soundbites’, ‘vulgarising’ anthropology, sacrificing academic standards or (in the US) for playing to the anti-intellectual, illiberal American popular classes.”

Anna Barros shows how trends are subject to selection. She demonstrates how memes can be transmitted from person to person and how they respond to selection pressures.

One more thing…
Each of the four fields of anthropology can offer us a glimpse into our past. Perhaps more importantly, they can take us on a journey and show us the steps which got us to where we are today. Photography offers yet another way of archiving the past. To use the clichéd metaphor – photographs are moments frozen in time. A Flickr photostream by Jason Powell wonderfully bridges the gap between the past and the present, through the medium of photography. Enjoy!

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

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