Tag Archives: making anthropology public

How many Wives did he have? Polygyny Polyandry Polygamy: Food for Thought

Why might POLYGAMY be as common as it is?

The general term “polygamy” is often used as is in the form of a man married to many women.  In truth, there are several forms of alternative marriage arrangements in the world.  Three most common ones are when one man is married to many women (Polygyny), one woman is married to many men (Polyandry), or when several men and women are married together to one person (Polygamy).  Most societies (Middle East countries, African Nations, Tibet, South American, and Asian cultures) outside of industrialized western societies, gain economic, better survival, and religious moral values and expressions in such family organized arrangements.  Most societies have reasons for their motivation and social acceptances, which provides benefits to the adults and children.  This ensures a higher survival rate and better living conditions to many groups world wide, than if more societies practices monogamous relationships. 

Besides many of the industrialized western societies, monogamous relationships end in separation, divorce, or unfaithfulness, seeming to lack suitability for durability within those societies.  This could bring up the idea and understanding of monogamous relationships into question since currently the divorce rate in general is raising and marriage decreasing or happens later in life.   

I think polygamy might go beyond cultural beliefs; there were many accounts of evidences that could have supported the idea of polygamy as a better way to ensure human survival and success outside of westernized societies.  Social structure of marriage does become a part of someone’s believes form birth.  If a form of polygamist family structure is all ones knows, it is practiced for a reason; cultural, economical, religious, survival, improved living conditions, land, politics, etc. that then becomes the social “norm” and is accepted for what it is: Family.

What do you think?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygamy 

Wikipedia has a good page about Polygamy if you want to further your general understanding of this form of marriage.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

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Have Five Years of War Taught Americans NOTHING?: Food for Thought

http://cultureinscribed.wordpress.com/

From the Culture Inscribed blog, I read a write up they did on a Panel at California State University of Fresno where they had professionals and students engaging the issue of what has been learned about the five-year war in Iraq.  Go and read the blog and see if you think Americans have learned anything from the War on Terror.

I think that the topic of the Iraq war is often filled with raw emotion and not enough personal thought and research.  People want others to do the work for them in how they understand the war.  Developing thoughts and ways to “help solve and end the war” causing people to find themselves talking about other peoples opinions and other peoples facts and information.  They have not really done any real thinking about the Iraq war, war on terrorism, or America helping to rebuild Iraq.  People listen to what others say and I have found that there are many that have not talked to the soldiers or heard the people working on the different special projects in Iraq in the efforts to try to help them rebuild their great nation without the chaos of the past repeating itself.

 

People need to be better informed by their own efforts instead of relying on the mass media, politicians not personally involved, protestors or supporters that have nothing, but emotion drive fed by their favorite movie star.  Find the real stories from the people living it or do something about it over the past five years.  I believe that more of their voices need to be heard and considered valuable to see what people and Americans have really learned from this war.  Americans are in this war if they like it or not and too, many of them listen and learn from the masses sitting safely on the sidelines.

 

Article-physical/biological: The Tall and the Short of it

This article from ScienceDaily shows how biological anthropology is working for the medical profession.  Anthropologists and biologists work together to find new understanding of human genetics.  This is a one of the newer sub-fields in physical anthropology and it as really helped make anthropology more public in news and current human finds to help improve physical and biological living for people around the world.  When doing anthropologic research, often anthropologists will find sub-field overlapping such as this articles mentioning cultural and biological debate of nature and nurture over human weight.  The articles cultural addition shows the continuous struggle between the cultural and biologic anthropologists on the so-called more influence factor of this old and lasting issue.  I think it adds that extra spice and anthropology irony.  The old debates as they say are the best.  Enjoy reading the article and let me know what you think about genetic height. 

 

The Tall And The Short Of It: New Research Adds To Growing Body Of Knowledge Of Genetics Of Height

ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2008) — Scientists are beginning to develop a clearer picture of what makes some people stand head and shoulders above the rest. A team of researchers who last year identified the first common version of a gene influencing height has now identified a further twenty regions of the genome which together can make a height difference of up to 6cm.

 


 

The results, published together with two independent studies online today in the journal Nature Genetics, mean that scientists now know of dozens of genes and genetic regions that influence our height. This provides scientists with a fascinating insight into how the body grows and develops normally and may shed light on diseases such as osteoarthritis and cancer.

 

Unlike a number of other body size characteristics such as obesity, which is caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors (so called “nature and nurture”), 90 per cent of normal variation in human height is due to genetic factors rather than, for example, diet. Last year, a team of researchers including Dr Tim Frayling from the Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, and Professor Mark McCarthy from the University of Oxford identified the first common gene variant to affect height, though it made a difference of only 0.5cm.

Now, using DNA samples from over 30,000 people, many taken from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium — the largest study ever undertaken into the genetics underlying common diseases — and from the Cambridge Genetics of Energy Metabolism (GEM) consortium and the CoLaus Study in Switzerland, the researchers have identified 20 loci (regions of genetic code), common variations of which influence adult height.

“The number and variety of genetic regions that we have found show that height is not just caused by a few genes operating in the long bones” says Dr Frayling. “Instead, our research implicates genes that could shed light on a whole range of important biological processes.

“By identifying which genes affect normal growth, we can begin to understand the processes that lead to abnormal growth — not just height disorders but also tumour growth, for example.”

Half of the new loci identified by Dr Frayling and colleagues contain genes whose functions are well documented. Some help regulate basic cell division, which may have implications for cancer research: unregulated cell division can lead to the growth of tumours. Other genes are implicated in cell-to-cell signalling, an important process in the early development of embryos in the womb. Yet others are so-called “master regulators”, acting as switches to turn genes elsewhere in the genome on or off.

One locus in particular is also implicated in osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis involving the effects of wear and tear on the body’s structures. This locus reinforces a similar link identified by a previous study, and may be involved in the growth of cartilage.

However, of the twenty loci identified by Dr Frayling and colleagues, half contain genes about which little or nothing is known. The researchers compare these findings to their work last year which identified the first common gene for obesity, the FTO gene. Even though the gene has been shown without a doubt to be influence body size, its role is still unclear.

“There may be more than a hundred genes which affect our height, many of which will work in surprising or unpredictable ways,” says Dr Mike Weedon, lead author on the paper. “The challenge now for us is to understand how they influence growth in the body. This could open up new avenues for treating a range of diseases.”

Adapted from materials provided by Wellcome Trust, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS

Mother Nature VS Mothering: food for Thought

These are other peoples understanding and arguments about this controverisal debate.  Read these Nature vs Nurture articles and see where you stand on the issues of biology and psychology influences.

http://chronicle.com/free/v47/i04/04b00701.htm

http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/nature_nurture.html

http://home.att.net/~xchar/tna/ledoux.htm

What is the Nature/Nurture dichotomy? Is it helpful to discuse and what do you think?

Nature is the biological and physical aspects of human development programmed into people and will not change through education, culture or outside means.  Nurture is the cultural and behavioral knowledge and experiences a person is bombarded with through watching and interacting with others around them.  The human act of learning from others and ones environment is strong enough to change a person’s outcome within the world.  These forms of human development have been placed against each other, as the “classic dichotomy” between chemical reactions of the body and chemical reactions of the care one receives.

It is like science vs. sociology when in fact they are not as different as they try to be.  They are both a part of being human and a living species.  Biologically and socially, humans are linked to the need for social interaction for survival of the species through learned improvements.  In truth, the human development would not be important enough without the dichotomy being such a close fight.  I would say that if you behavior that humans can learn and change, they “evolve”, differently enough to make what they have learned seem biological, even to the point where it could evolve to a biological change, promoting new learned behaviors, which continue the cycle. 

 

It is a circle of human development both nature and nurture working together to created each other.  It might be as useful to ask another classic dichotomy: what came first, the chicken or the egg?

 

I think people needed to understand the dichotomy and see both sides of the coin to be able to decide where they stand on the issue.  These types are both within biological and cultural anthropology in how it is applied.  These different angles of application of anthropology have value points that help make important decisions for which a choice should go. 

On the first day, God created EVOLUTION and it was good?:Food for Thought

Article titles-(Links to the articles) These are the articles that have brought to mind the questions and debates over sciences and religion.  Who is right and who is wrong, or is it a different question all together?  You read them and desided where you stand on this anthropologic issue between the Titains.

  • Teaching Theories: The Evolution-Creation Controversy by Robert Root-Bernstein and Donald L. McEachron
  • Re-reading Root-Bernstien and McEachron in Cobb County, georgia: The controversies Continue Between Anthropology and “Intelligent Design” by Benjamin Z. Freed (none found– this article is in the Book Applying Anthropology: An introductory Reader by Aaron Podolefsky and Peter J. Brown)

http://talk.livedaily.com/showthread.php?t=544178

 

Where do you stand on the debate of Evolution-Creation Controversy?

 

The two titans of human development seem to be in a constant state of battle.  What you point out is true about twins and their nurture and biological similarities.  I have heard this debate and I have found that it should not be “Nature vs. Nurture”, but Nature and Nurture.  There are biological truths and no amount of nurture is going to really be able to change the outcome.  Yet, nurture and culture can seem as strong or stronger then biological tendencies.  In truth, they both shape a person.

I would say that the debate has been going on far longer than when you where in 5th grade.  I would say ever since science broke away form the restrain of religious control.  When science was no longer trying to prove that the religious views were in fact correct and realized there other possibilities were plausible, such as things happening that are unrelated to “God’s will” as the article Teaching Theories: The Evolution-Creation Controversy.  The article seems to suggest that they should not even be compared to each other, like oranges and apples and they have there time and place.  Scientific theory and religious belief have there place within our understanding of the world, culture, and important value that does not require them to conflict.  They fill different arenas of an individual’s life.

I think that as a Christian, or Buddhists, Islam, Wiccan, ancestral spirits etc, a belief in creation is not wrong or invalid; it has a place and purpose.  It can be right.  On the other hand, evolution seems to be the most supported theory with scientific reasoning methods.  This does not discount the religious belief.  They can work together for some people religiously and scientifically or others can keep them separate wait to see what else is discovered or revealed through divine channels.

Personally, Evolution and my belief of creation, limited by my human ability to comprehend God, do not cause me to lose sleep over the debate.  My faith is not shaken and I have not disregard science as a man made evil for trying to make my belief impossible and illogical.  They work harmoniously to the point that I understand them and the rest I do not worry about the lack of cohesion.  I just figure God and science will work it out some day.   

What was the worst mistake in human history?:Food for Thought

 The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race” by Jared Diamond (PDF/Adobe Acrobat) View as HTML

Easter’s End by Jared Diamond- example of a study about a vanished civilization

 Do you agree with Diamond? Was the Neolithic revolution our worst mistake? Can Technology save us from ourselves?

Diamonds perspective on human civilization is that it is a ticking time bomb unless something, if there is still time, can be done to stop the destructive people of human civilization.  He put forth several books that focus on this topic and the bomb of human.  I think that the historical evidences are striking in his favor of the end of the world being produced my people.  One of Diamonds best supporting historic evidences is the Easter Islands rise and fall and destruction of what he viewed a smaller interpretation of the world.

 I can see what he means and think that his conclusion holds great amounts of truth that people should not ignore.  Massive amounts of consumption and globalization of human beings networking together has and will cause the earth’s human population to grow astronomically out of control.  Over time, just like the Easter Island people, there will be nothing left of land and resource for the type of human growth we witnessing now.  The great empires of the past did not fall into ruin quickly, but slow slipped down to extinction.      

When you look at the evidences of human health, work and relaxation and efficiency, 3 out of 4 say that hunting and gathering was the better way for humans to live, not as an agrarian society.  There are six deadly sins of “civilized” living for humans: malnutrition, starvation, epidemic disease, social class division, warfare, and autocracy.  The Neolithic revolution happened most lily form the increase in human survival rates and basic human population growth growing beyond hunter and gather sustainability causing people to turn towards farming.  I thing that it could be the beginning of a long line of worst mistake humans have made such as nuclear war, resource exploitations, chemical warfare, genocides of selected “inferior” human groups, plant and animal extinction, pollution of the world resources, greed etc.  True that many of them came after the Neolithic revolution, but it could be said to be the beginning of the end.   

Technology is a double edge sword that will get us all killed or possibly save us, depending on how we use it.  Humans are such complex animals and unique drives of survival.  I think it could but not all of us.  I would say that technology would likely destroy the majority of human life and a few would have found away to survive with the use of different technology.  Humans in a civilized world tend to be more warfare and destructive people and it only takes a few to destroy many.  Countless wars and human atrocities in our history have shown the statement to be true.  I think some can be saves through technology, but more will be lost first before we all realize the consequences of our actions.– Adrienne Elder 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Where is the Anthropology?- April 2008

Here are the monthly directions if you have been paying attention or are new to the site and want to play along.  Something that I thought might help in showing the interesting ways that anthropology is all around is to presenting picture of the month. This will be of anthropology importance; a place, activity or a person that has to do with anthropology. I will give a clue a week to give everyone an opportunity to figure out what the picture is and the anthropological importance and how it applies.

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clue one:  This photo involves America politically and economically.  This country is very culturally different then typical westernized developed countries, but it is very active with them.  Where is this country and who are the native people?

clue two: In this country, you can find many Americans and a few other westernized people, but there numbers are dwindling over the years.  In this culture, all most all males are dominate, even the male children over females of all ages.  Who are these people and where in the world do they call home?

clue three: The language that the people speak is a form of Turkish, but they so not live in Turkey?  They are a small minority group in their country, but the city they live in, they are the majority.  This country is located near the beginning of human civilization.  Have you been able to guess where the picture is and who these people might be?

 

clue four: This is a war torn country, which Americans are starting to learn more about, but slowly.  This city has a large building structure that they have called the “castles” but the original purpose of building is unclear. 

Where is this city, what is the name of this city and who are these people? 

Which Sex is better?: Food for Thought

Is the equality between the sexes in the US? Will there ever be equality between the sexes in the US?

 

No.

It is possible that in the future, there could be equality between the sexes but there would have to be a lot more equality between other differences as well.  It might not be possible since America is continuously gain new immigrants and changing since it is labeled as the land of opportunity, it always for a new group to be at the bottom of the social food chain.  With such social discrimination, gender inequality would continue since it seems to be in our society’s nature and animalistic instinct to show dominance over outsiders before allowing them social acceptances to a point within the social hierarchy.  It would be a great thing to see happen, but I do not know if it could be possible in reality, it seems to have very little chance of it existing in the future, but anything is possible.

It is true that women in our society have come a long way, I would not consider what women have today equal to men.  Hillary Clinton is a woman in a man’s world and therefore acts like a man.  Her becoming elected would add to the list of job options for women in the future, but that does not mean that women are equal to men in such positions.  Other examples of inequality for women in the work world are women surgeons, they still have a hard time with being treated equal within the mostly male dominated field.  Women that mirror male behavior are in typically male dominated position, become labelled negatively for their aggressive tendencies and arrogances.  While a man is viewed as having confidences and authority. 

Then there is the concept of gender inequality over pay.  It is true these things could change, but I do not see such a monumental shift is American social hierarchy or structure in the near future with a female President turning American society upside-down.  Anything is possible, but probability is another issue.

I was Born that Way?: Food for Thought

Garfinkel’s Agnes was a report on a project about socialized gender and what would allow Agnes to pass as a “normal” women.  This particular story will bend your mind around the idea of gender biologically, socially and personally.  Article:

 

garfinkels-story-of-agnes.doc

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does Garfinkel’s Agnes teach us about gender?

 

Gender seems to be based on social acceptances and biological correlation.  The irony is that biological can be changed and adjusted for the behavioral and social acceptances of ones gender that is outwardly expressed.  Agnes story was presented in such away that the reader is to believe that Agnes is in fact a feminine women and has always been such, despite “her” male biology at birth.  The article could cause people that might normally consider Agnes a man with physiological sexual identity problems to be really a woman with unique biological abnormality.  Gender seems to be more a construction of society, cultural norms and individual identity more than true biology, which can be changed.

 

“That is just the way God made you” statement just does not seems to justifiable answer today’s individualism crisis of gender identity.

Where is the Anthroplology-March 2008: Strasbourg and American Tourists

Strasbourg, France

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Strasbourg was a city rich in history, like many in Europe.  This now French city has maintained an exciting past being located on the borders of the French and Germany line.   After the rule of Romans and the Holy Rome Empire, a revolution in 1332 resulted in a broad-based city government Strasbourg declared itself a free republic from the Holy Rome Empire. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

The city’s famous cathedral was construction in the 12th century, was completed in 1439, and became the World’s Tallest Building.  The reason for its uniqueness to the town is that it was built with only one steeple leaving it nonsymmetrical.  The first modern newspaper was published in Strasbourg in 1605.  Johann Carolus received permission by the city to print and distribute a weekly journal written in German.  During a dinner in Strasbourg in 1792, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle composed “La Marseillaise“. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

During the French revolution, Strasbourg’s status as a free city was revoked.  In 1794, there was talk of tearing its spire down, because it violated the principle of equality.  During the Franco-Prussian War and the Siege of Strasbourg, the Prussian army heavily bombarded the city.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg) 

In 1871 after the wars ended, the city was annexed to the newly established German Empire at the treaty of Frankfurt (Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen).  As part of Germany, Strasbourg was rebuilt.  Massive fortifications were established around the city, which most of it is still stand today.  “Those forts subsequently served the French army, and were used as POW-camps in 1918 and 1945.”  Following the defeat of Germany in World War I, the city was again restored to French. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

 765px-strasbourg_-_ponts_couverts_vus_de_la_terrasse_panoramiquesmaller.jpg

Having been influenced by Germanic culture, Strasbourg remained largely Alsatian speaking into the 20th century.  The fall of France in1940 during World War II, caused the city once again to be annexed by Germany.  After the war, Strasbourg was again returned to France.  The First World War did little damage to the city, but American bombers caused extensive destruction in1944.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

“In 1920, Strasbourg became the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, previously located in Mannheim, one of the very first European institutions. In 1949, the city was chosen to be the seat of the Council of Europe with its European Court of Human Rights and European Pharmacopoeia. Since 1952, Strasbourg has been the official seat of the European Parliament”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

 800px-europaparlamentsmaller.jpg

The cities lay out geographically was ideal for defenses with a river that was created to protect the center of the town.  Currently the city is larger then the town’s center, but it provided necessary defenses at the time of its construction.

In addition to this cities great history and European archaeology, any amateur anthropologist being observant to the different types of people visiting the city can currently examine cultural anthropology.  As I lived in Germany and traveled, my husband and I noticed cultural behaviors and clothing differences among American tourists, non-American tourists, European natives, and locals.  Often the people you could hear the best were Americans.  In truth, my ears picked up anyone speaking English since it was a rarity to hear.

In tourist groups with guides, American tourist seem just like any other tourists visiting the city’s sites, but there are still things that help in pointing them out.  What they choice to wear in public can often identify American tourists.  Some of the most common attire seems on these tourists are a form of athletic shoes, fanny packs, baseball hats, cowboy hats, and tourist souvenir shirts.  These clothing trademarks stand out against the European outing fashion.  When I would go out shopping for grocery’s to clothes the local people were dressed to impress.  I recall seeing many women ranging from 50-75 plus wearing fur costs, many of the other people looked like they had walked out of fashion magazines from New York City or Los Angeles.  People strutted their personalized looked when they walked out of the house.  I asked my Germany neighbor how some of the women could wear such high and pointy stilettos on the cabal stone walk ways, her reply was why would they not.  She then pointed out how easy it was to tell tourists from the locals because they would wear shoes that were athletic shoes, not matching their attire, or a more sensible shoe to allow for the walking around.   

On a deeper cultural level, American are stereotypically considered a nation where English is the most common language proving to most Americans a false security about not needing to learn as many other languages as people in other countries.  Often an American person will have taken one foreign language later in their teenage or college life and typically forgot most of that language.  Other people from different countries learn several different languages.  Germany people learn English and Germany when they are in elementary school and then learn another or two language in their teen years of schooling.  These languages are typically their weaker languages in later years, which is similar to Americans language development in secondary education. 

The significances to American typically only knowing English fluently, causes several observation notes of interest.  I have seen tourists that speak loudly to others in their party, in English.  Often these types of people might compare people, food, architecture, and culture differences to “not be as good as the things back home”.  They typically have large need for personally space around themselves in a crowd of people they do not know.  Often English comments are discussed at a volume level load enough to hear from 10-20 feet away.  These commend are herd by many of the people walking by and often those comments are in the local tongue with a disgusted “American” inserted among the words.

I asked my Germany neighbor about how they felt about American tourists in their country.  For the most part, American tourists were just like any other tourists to her.  She did note frustration to careless comments Americans often made about different cultures loudly expressed in public.  Often locals would make comments about what they said, since most people understand English if they do not speak it very well in European countries due to their required education programs.  American act as if they are the only ones that understand what they say, but the truth is that many other people pick up on those “believed to be private English comments among the foreigners”.  Add the clothing typical to ideal American family vacationing in Europe and Americans stand out.

After living in Germany for over a year, I realized these silly differences in behavior, cultural, and interpretation of American tourists throughout Europe.  My husband and I found American tourists to annoying as the locals found them at times.  I realized know how a few loud and careless remarks made by Americans in other countries added to the perpetual believe of the rude, uncultured, or stupid American cliché that give Americans a bad name.  I learned that just because you do not understand your environment or culture around you, sometime others understand you.

I hope this personal insight to my experiences in Europe, focusing on the City of Strasbourg, as an example of tourism at an annoying level to the locals, has shown you that cultural anthropology is always around you. 

The only tip I would offer to future American tourists is to be more aware of your surroundings and the things you say.  It is ok to make comments that others will not like, just say them in your friend’s ear kept it among your comrades and maybe level some of the silly tourist cloths at home, if you are looking to blend in with the natives.  

Adrienne Elder

 note: the first half of this articles information came from Wikapidia and the second and third images. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StrasbourgAll other pictures on this article came from Adrienne Elder.

Where is the Anthropology?: The Mississippians of the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois

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The Cahokia Mounds, located in Collinsville Illinois, were created around 700 AD by people the archaeologists have called Woodland Indians.  Later, another group named by archaeologists as the Mississippian Indians, continued to build the mounds in 800 AD until they mysteriously abandoned the site in 1400 AD.  They have left no written record that has been found so the true tribal names of these groups are unknown to the excavation and scholars.  This is the largest known civilization north of Mexico City.  This particular site of the Mississippians is the largest in the United States with 109 out of the 120 mounds recovered out of several other mound locations scattered along the Mississippi river and a few sites located further west, east of the Appalachian Mountain range.  Out of the 109 Historical Preservation Agency of Illinois preserved 68 mounds covering 2200 acres (890 hectares) of land (Cahokia Mounds Museum Society, 2001, 1-2).  “The remnants of the Mississippian’s central city [is] now known as Cahokia for the Indians who lived nearby in the late 1600s” (Cahokia Mounds Museum website, 2003 http://www.cahokiamounds.com/Introduction.html).   

These two groups of prehistoric Indian cultures, mainly the Mississippians, developed a complex and long lasting society.  They had an “advanced civilization: widespread commerce; stratified social, political, and religious organization; specialized and refined crafts; and monumental architecture”, and agriculture system for corn/Maze, squash and other native plants (Cahokia Mounds Museum website, 2003 http://www.cahokiamounds.com/Introduction.html).  The cities structure had a large opening field surrounded by smaller mounds with the largest mound at the Northern end of the open field being the temple mound or “Monks Mound”.  Other mounds further out continue to diminish in size and social importance of the occupancies during the time of the Mississippians.  This town included a large wall around the town center that archaeologists have reconstructed in place to divide the social rankings of the city (Cahokia Mounds Museum Society, 2001, 9-12).  

 Cahokia Mound

There is evidence of a large trading system between other native groups during the time of the Mississippian and Woodland due to the location of the Cahokia site.  The Cahokia site is geographically located at the convergence of three major rivers; Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois and four ecozones; Mississippian Valley, Ozarks, Prairies, Eastern Woodland. The rivers junction creates fertile land from the expansive flood plain called the “American Bottom”.  “It stretched 70 miles along the Mississippi from present day Alton, Illinois, to Chester, Illinois, and was up to 12 miles wide from the river east to its bluffs” (Cahokia Mounds Museum website, 2003 http://www.cahokiamounds.com/settingstage.html).  Spring rains swelled the American Bottom land’s streams replenishing the lands for cultivation by renewing the nutrients essential for the wide-scale agricultural (Cahokia Mounds Museum website, 2003 http://www.cahokiamounds.com/settingstage.html). 


The Mississippian people benefited from the American Bottom with the advantage in farming, economics, and society.  They interacted with nomadic Plains dwellers, Northeastern forest people, and other Mississippians in the Southeast providing resources and ideas to the Cahokian city.  From this central conjunction, Mississippians traveled by water and land “along trade routes already established by the Woodland and, to some extent, the Archaic peoples” (Cahokia Mounds Museum website, 2003 http://www.cahokiamounds.com/Mississippians.html).  In traded goods the Mississippians gained copper from The Great Lakes area, mica form the Appalachian and seashells from the Gulf of Mexico.  (Cahokia Mounds Museum website, 2003 http://www.cahokiamounds.com/Mississippians.html).
The Cahokia Mounds have been compared to the mounds and cities built by the ancestral people of the Maya, Inca and Aztec civilizations with many cultural and innovative advancements being of similar orientation.

“Despite striking similarities to features of cultures in Mexico and elsewhere, there is no scientific evidence that several Mississippian trademarks – flat-topped temple mounds, calendric systems, and ceramic styles – were the result of anything other than independent invention.  No Mexican artifacts have been found in the American Bottom or in any other part of this country outside the Southwest.

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But above all, the early Mississippians somehow acquired the knowledge of growing corn, or maize, a technology that had originated in Mexico 4000 years earlier and slowly spread to other parts of the Americas.  Coupled with improvements in the flint hoe, it was this adaptable and prolific plant, and the steady food supply it created, on which the powerful civilization at Cahokia was built.”

(Cahokia Mounds Museum website, 2003 http://www.cahokiamounds.com/Mississippians.html

These mounds are part of the mystery of human civilization in North America and are still being studied today.  The Cahokia Mounds Museum Society still conducts summer field studies of mounds and other sites on the premises.  The museum contains many of the artifacts and reconstruction based on materials found.  This site is continuing to provide archaeologists with more information about the ancient American civilizations that existed in the New world. 

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If you want to read and learn more about the Cahokia Mounds visit their website at: http://www.cahokiamounds.com/cahokia.html -Adrienne Elder 

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These are some articles that I have found on the Internet about the Cahokia from the Science Daily website. If you want to read the full articles go to Archaeology Spotlight Articles on the site.  There are the article summaries.

 Archaeologists Identify Oldest Existing Mound Complex In New WorldScienceDaily (Sep. 23, 1997) The earliest existing mound complex built by humans in the new world has been identified in Louisiana by a team of archaeologists and researchers from around the United States including Jim Feathers, a University of Washington research assistant professor of archaeology. Details of the discovery appear in the Sept. 19 issue of the journal Science.

Geological Origins Of Ancient Figures Yield Clues To Cahokian Society ScienceDaily (Mar. 15, 2000)— CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Nearly 1,000 years before St. Louis became known as the Gateway to the West, another expanding culture had created a major ceremonial mound complex that is now called Cahokia. By all accounts, Cahokia was huge, consisting of hundreds of platform mounds, supported by a population numbering in the thousands. At issue, however, has been whether Cahokia was part of a regional trade network that stretched from the Great Plains to the South Atlantic.    

Artifact Analyses Dispute Assumptions About A Prehistoric Society ScienceDaily (Aug. 3, 2001)— CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Fragments of red stone artifacts – bits of smoking pipes, decorative ear lobe spools and a figurine, all plucked out of rich prehistoric soil in the U.S. Midwest – used to tell one story about the complex culture and the ancient people who left them behind. Now they tell another. 

 Discovery Of Ax Heads Furthers Understanding Of Cahokian Society ScienceDaily (Aug. 6, 2001)CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A team of archaeologists, including students, working under a blazing summer sun on a high hill near O’Fallon, Ill., have made a rare find.  

New Technique Helps Solve Mystery Of Ancient Figurines ScienceDaily (Jul. 7, 2003)CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Thanks in part to new spectroscopic technology, researchers have solved a great mystery concerning some of North America’s oldest pieces of sculpture.  

 

Article: Linguistic-No Easy Answers In Evolution Of Human Language

Linguistics Anthropology is the study of human language since that is a characteristic that makes humans unique.  This article shows how bird songs in some birds are now helping in gaining a better understanding of the development of human language.  This brings together biologic, culture, archaeological, and linguistics together with science to learn more about the complex social interaction of human language and communication.  ENJOY, I did and learn about new bread discoveries in linguistic anthropology. 

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2008)The evolution of human speech was far more complex than is implied by some recent attempts to link it to a specific gene, says Robert Berwick, professor of computational linguistics at MIT. 

Berwick will describe his ideas about language in a session at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Feb. 17. The session is called “Mind of a Toolmaker,” and explores the use of evolutionary research in understanding human abilities. Some researchers in recent years have speculated that mutations in a gene called Foxp2 might have played a fundamental role in the evolution of human language. That was based on research showing that the gene seems to be connected to language ability because some mutations to that gene produce specific impairments to language use, and because our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, lack both these gene mutations and the capacity for language. But the claim that the gene mutation is directly connected to the development of language is very unlikely to be right, says Berwick, who holds appointments in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.This kind of straightforward connection is just not the way organisms are put together,” he says. When it comes to something as complex as language, “one would be hard-pressed to come up with an example less amenable to evolutionary study.” And the specific Foxp2 connection is based on a whole chain of events, each of which is speculative, so there’s little chance of the whole story being right. It’s so chaotic, it’s like weather forecasting,” he says. “The noise overwhelms the signal.”Rather, language is almost certainly the result of a far more complex and subtle interplay among a variety of factors, Berwick says, and it may never be possible to connect it to specific genetic changes. “There are some things in science that are very interesting, but that we’re never going to be able to find out about,” he says. “It’s a sort of romantic view some people have, that anything interesting can be understood.”

Even defining something as complicated as language in a precise way is daunting, as ongoing disputes over the significance of language experiments with apes, parrots and dolphins have made clear. Berwick says, “If you can’t define what it is, why study it from an evolutionary point of view?”

It’s more likely, Berwick says, that the role of the Foxp2 gene in language is somehow peripheral to the capacity for language itself. He compares it to a printer in a computer system–it’s part of the overall system, but it’s not fundamental. Berwick thinks a more productive approach to studying the evolution of language is to examine it in terms of deeper, internal mechanisms.In his own research, Berwick has compared the structure of languages with the structure of bird songs, and has found interesting connections that may lead to a better understanding of some aspects of language.

Both bird songs and all human languages seem to share some underlying characteristics related to their metrical structure, Berwick says. There’s an underlying sing-song beat that is pronounced in poetry, music and in the songs of birds that may reveal a fundamental aspect of how our brains process language. Future research could probe this link further, even looking at possible connections between other specific genes, in both birds and humans, that might be connected to this sense of metrical structure.Ultimately, the important thing is to understand that language is, at bottom, something that takes place inside the human mind and is independent of any particular sound, sight or motion. The same internal mental construction could be expressed through verbal speech, through writing or through sign language without changing its basic nature, Berwick says. “It’s not about this external thing you hear,” he says. “It’s about the representation inside your head.”

Adapted from materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Article: Cultural-Cleopatra’s Cosmetics And Hammurabi’s Heineken: Name Brands Far Predating Modern Capitalism

This article talks about commodity brands and the debates the origins possibly not coming form the western civilization.  The article blends cultural and archaeological anthropology together to arrive at the conclusion of where fashionable name brands started.  I find it interesting how fashion and brands have been cultural important for centuries, based on this article.  This brings to mind a different observation about fashion and style in different cultures and the social significances and labels that seeming become attached.  The example that I have observed is the fashion clash of Europeans and the tourists.  But then again, outsiders to a culture never look like they real fit in, something about them causes them to stick out.

The article comes across as a think piece.  So read it and think about the connections it has to what you have noticed or read, it could be anthropological without you even realizing it.  Enjoy.

ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2008) — From at least Bass Ale’s red triangle–advertised as “the first registered trademark”–commodity brands have exerted a powerful hold over modern Western society. Marketers and critics alike have assumed that branding began in the West with the Industrial Revolution. But a pioneering new study in the February 2008 issue of Current Anthropology finds that attachment to brands far predates modern capitalism, and indeed modern Western society. 

In “Prehistories of Commodity Branding,” author David Wengrow challenges the widespread assumption that branding did not become an important force in social and economic life until the Industrial Revolution. Wengrow presents compelling evidence that labels on ancient containers, which have long been assumed to be simple identifiers, as well as practices surrounding the production and distribution of commodities, actually functioned as branding strategies. Furthermore, these strategies have deep cultural origins and cognitive foundations, beginning in the civilizations of Egypt and Iraq thousands of years ago.

Branding became necessary when large-scale economies started mass-producing commodities such as alcoholic drinks, cosmetics and textiles. Ancient societies not only imposed strict forms of quality control over these commodities, but as today they needed to convey value to the consumer. Wengrow finds that commodities in any complex, large society needs to pass through a “nexus of authenticity.

Through history, these have taken the form of “the bodies of the ancestral dead, the gods, heads of state, secular business gurus, media celebrities, or that core fetish of post-modernity, the body of the sovereign consumer citizen in the act of self-fashioning.” Although capitalism and branding find in each other a perfect complement, they have distinct origins. Wengrow shows that branding has for millennia filled a deep-seated need for us humans to find value in the goods that we consume.

Sure to be provocative, “Prehistories of Commodity Branding” is necessary reading for a wide range of people, from those interested in the workings of ancient societies to anyone who is interested in understanding how marketing has developed into a powerful force in our lives.Journal reference: Wengrow, David “Prehistories of Commodity Branding” Current Anthropology 49:1 .

Adapted from materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. 

Article Cultural-Human Culture Subject To Natural Selection, Study Shows

This article is current cultural anthropology at work at Stanford over natural selection affects on human culture.  This article is a little traditional about the cultural approach, but it applies.  Often anthropology sub-fields over lap.  This article shows how biology and cultural anthropology have overlapped in gaining a better understanding of Polynesian canoe-design and the cultural significance of the seemingly natural selection of Polynesian genomes.  I hope you find the article as interesting as I have.

ScienceDaily (Feb. 20, 2008)— The process of natural selection can act on human culture as well as on genes, a new study finds. Scientists at Stanford University have shown for the first time that cultural traits affecting survival and reproduction evolve at a different rate than other cultural attributes. Speeded or slowed rates of evolution typically indicate the action of natural selection in analyses of the human genome. 

This study of cultural evolution compares the rates of change for structural and decorative Polynesian canoe-design traits. “Biological evolution of inherited traits is the essential organizing principle of biology, but does evolution play a corresponding role in human culture?” said Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California-Los Angeles and author of Guns, Germs and Steel. “This paper makes a decisive advance in this controversial field.

The Stanford team studied reports of canoe designs from 11 Oceanic island cultures. They evaluated 96 functional features (such as how the hull was constructed or the way outriggers were attached) that could contribute to the seaworthiness of the canoes and thus have a bearing on fishing success or survival during migration or warfare. They also evaluated 38 decorative or symbolic features (such as the types of carved or painted designs). They analyzed mathematically the rates of change for the two groups of canoe design traits from island group to island group.

Statistical test results showed clearly that the functional canoe design elements changed more slowly over time, indicating that natural selection could be weeding out inferior new designs. This cultural analysis is similar to analyses of the human genome that have been successful in finding which genes are under selection. The field of cultural evolution is controversial because not all historians, social scientists or even biologists agree that cultural change can be understood in an evolutionary context. Some say that human beliefs and behaviors are too unpredictable. But Nina Jablonski, chair of the Anthropology Department at Pennsylvania State University, said she is sold on the research.

“This paper is revolutionary in its approach … one of the most significant papers to be written in anthropology in the last 20 years,” she said. Authors of the study said their results speak directly to urgent social and environmental problems. “People studying climate change, population growth, poverty, racism and the threat of plagues all know what the problems are and what we should be doing to solve them,” said Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford.

Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb and other books on dilemmas facing contemporary human society, said he does not understand why more effort is not going into urgently needed solutions. “What we don’t know, and need to learn, is how cultures change and how we can ethically influence that process,” he said.Deborah S. Rogers, a research fellow at Stanford, said their findings demonstrate that “some cultural choices work while others clearly do not.”  

“Unfortunately, people have learned how to avoid natural selection in the short term through unsustainable approaches such as inequity and excess consumption. But this is not going to work in the long term,” she said. “We need to begin aligning our culture with the powerful forces of nature and natural selection instead of against them. “Examples of cultural approaches that are putting humans at risk include “everything from the economic incentives, industrial technologies and growth mentality that cause climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity, to the religious polarization and political ideologies that generate devastating conflict around the globe,” Rogers said.”

If the leadership necessary to undertake critically needed cultural evolution in these areas can’t be found, our civilization may find itself weeded out by natural selection, just like a bad canoe design.” This research is scheduled to appear Feb. 19, in the online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Deborah S. Rogers and Paul R. Ehrlich are affiliated with the Center for Conservation Biology.

Adapted from materials provided by Stanford University.

Article Archaeology-New Technique Helps Solve Mystery Of Ancient Figurines

This is an article that highlights the Where is the Anthropology? for February 2008 on the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois.  This is the full text taking about new finds and discovers at the site and the new information that is being gathered through archaeology research and volunteers.

  

ScienceDaily (Jul. 7, 2003)CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Thanks in part to new spectroscopic technology, researchers have solved a great mystery concerning some of North America’s oldest pieces of sculpture. 

With the use of PIMA — a non-invasive Portable Infrared Mineral Analyzer — an interdisciplinary team of scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has identified the source and meaning of “spectacular late prehistoric” figurines found in several locales in the South and the Southeast — in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee. According to lead researcher Thomas Emerson, an archaeologist and the director of ITARP (Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program), the figurines were made of Missouri flint clay from quarries near St. Louis. Artisans at Cahokia, the earliest and largest North American mound society, which was centered in southern Illinois, in all likelihood produced the iconic figurines in the 12th century during an “artistic explosion,” but the objects were moved at various times and to various places, where they eventually were found. There now is evidence that after they were moved, some of the flint clay icons were recarved and retrofitted as smoking pipes, indicating a radical change in their significance. “There is a vast difference between bowing to an ancestral being and smoking one,” Emerson said. The figures appear to have been disbursed only after Cahokia began to decline in the middle or late 13th century, suggesting that the transfers were associated with “the collapse of the old order.” Determining when Cahokia-made figures arrived at their new locations “is an important link in the interpretive chain,” the researchers wrote in the spring/summer issue of American Antiquity. In their research, Emerson and his team analyzed 13 museum specimens originally found in the South and Southeast to identify the mineral composition of the raw material. Figures included a resting and a conquering warrior, various squatting and kneeling men, frogs and frog pipes and a “chunky” game player. Cahokian-style figurines arecharacterized by a highly developed realistic portrayal of human or near-human figures; they are dressed in specific costumes and shown carrying out specific deeds. Occasionally, however, they seem to portray mythical acts or beings. The transported figures probably were used for long periods of time in their new locations. Their importance “doesn’t lie in economic power but rather in symbolic and ideological power.”  The association of these highly symbolic figures with Cahokia allowed the researchers to propose that many of the themes — for example, fertility and warfare — that later appear in Eastern Woodlands native cosmology, such as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex,” were first codified in Cahokia in the 12th century.” Other researchers were Randall Hughes, Illinois State Geological Survey; Mary R. Hynes, ITARP; and Sarah U. Wisseman, Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials.

Adapted from materials provided by University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign.