3.3 Million Year Old Stone Tools Predate Homo By 500,000 Years

21 May


Another nail in the “Homo” as first toolmakers coffin?

Originally posted on Anthropology.net:

149 stone flakes, hammers and anvils, found off at the Lomekwi 3 site on the shores of Lake Turkana, appears to have been crafted more than 3.3 million years ago — 500,000 years before our genus Homo. The authors reported their findings in Nature this week. Sonia Harmand and her team accidentally stumbled upon the ancient artifacts after taking a wrong turn and found a different place with stone tools on the surface of a site called Lomekwi 3. You can read more about their discovery at The Conversation.

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430,000 Year Old Shell Engravings By Homo Erectus from Trinil, Java

6 Dec Featured Image -- 301

Originally posted on Anthropology.net:

Wim Lustenhouwer/VU University Amsterdam. A shell found on Java in the late 1800s was recently found to bear markings that seem to have been carved intentionally half a million years ago. The photograph is about 15 millimetres wide. Wim Lustenhouwer/VU University Amsterdam. A shell found on Java in the late 1800s was recently found to bear markings that seem to have been carved intentionally half a million years ago. The photograph is about 15 millimetres wide.

The engraved shell pictured come from a freshwater mussel species that were collected in the 1890s by the Dutch paleontologist Eugène Dubois, from Trinil. The first H. erectus calvarium was also found there. Duboid brough home many other artifacts as well and were stored away in Leiden, Netherlands.

Henk Caspers/Naturalis. The shell, from a freshwater mussel, shows a hole made by a member of Homo erectus. Henk Caspers/Naturalis. The shell, from a freshwater mussel, shows a hole made by a member of Homo erectus.

Josephine Joordens from Leiden University opened these boxes to work on a project about marine life at Trinil, a site 80km insland. She found some perforations made with a sharp object suggesting someone used tools to crack these shells open. A visiting colleague photographed the shells and…

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Wanted: One Ethnocentric Anthropologist

17 Nov

Isn’t “narrow-minded anthropologist” an oxymoron?


Few professions are more antithetical to discrimination than anthropology. Understanding human differences is at the heart of everything we do. So, finding an anthropologist willing to tacitly approve of religious bigotry might be difficult. Nevertheless, I received a job listing from an academic institution attempting to do just that; they seek the elusive ethnocentric cultural anthropologist!


Can one even teach cultural anthropology while adhering to the restrictions below?

[BLANK] University, a Christ-centered community, prepares students spiritually, academically, and professionally to think with clarity, act with integrity, and serve with passion. Professors teach all truth as God’s truth, integrating all fields of learning around the person and work of Jesus Christ, bringing the divine revelations through sense, reason, and intuition to the confirming test of Scripture. All applicants must express a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and express their Christian testimony in a local church. In addition, professors agree to live in agreement with the Community Lifestyle Statement and affirm the theological commitments expressed in the Statement of Faith. Individuals who would fit this profile are encouraged to apply for current openings in our faculty.


In other words, non-Christians and/or Christians who do not share their narrow, dogmatic view of the faith need not apply. Presumably, LGBT anthropologists would be rejected since that would likely conflict with the “Community Lifestyle Statement.”


The world’s exceptionally well-qualified Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, non-religious, etc. cultural anthropologists are not good enough for BLANK University. Many of the most highly respected anthropologists in the history of the discipline would not be “a good fit” for this institution. Franz Boas (1858-1942), the “Father of American Anthropology,” would not be welcome there. Can you imagine turning away an applicant like Franz Boas because of his religious affiliation (or lack thereof)?


Worse, in the fine print, BLANK University awkwardly tries to appear non-discriminatory:

Because [BLANK] University is a Christian university, employment requires an evangelical Christian commitment and lifestyle consistent with the university’s mission. Within that mission, [BLANK] is an EEO employer and encourages minority and female applicants.


This kind of outrageous religious bigotry has no place in the 21st Century, and should not be excused because BLANK University is a private institution. I question the ethics and anthropological commitment of any applicant who would accept money from such an institution. Further, I’m proud to teach anthropology for four truly Equal Opportunity Employers who never inquired about my religious preference.

Happy Carl Sagan Day!

9 Nov

Today would’ve been the 80th birthday of my hero Carl Sagan (1934-1996).

Sagan Sphinx

Elsevier and other academic publishers still gouging libraries

30 Jun


This is why I have a strong preference for textbooks published by non-profit publishers.

Originally posted on Why Evolution Is True:

An article by Ian Sample in the June 17 Guardian summarizes a paper by Theodore Bergstrom et al.published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (reference and abstract below) about how academic publishers price their electronic journals when selling access to libraries (and hence members of a subscribing university).

Although many for-profit academic publishers keep the prices of their library contracts secret (they do this so they can charge different prices to different universities), state universities are required by law to divulge this information under the Freedom of Information Act. Using that , Bergstrom et al. wrote to 55 university libraries and 12 library consortia (e.g., the University of California system) to find out how much they paid for their journals (often sold as “bundles: groups of journals published by a single academic publisher).  They got information for 360 contracts. The the results are disturbing, especially…

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Land of the Beer Tank

25 Jun

Walking into my local grocery store, I noticed a large tube sticking out of a beer display. Looking at the display from the side, I realized what it was: a tank constructed out of Bud and Bud Lite.

Beer Tank

Archaeologists reconstruct past cultural systems based on the material remains they leave behind. I wonder what archaeologists of the future would interpret about the 2014 United States based on the beer tank! This monument to alcohol, commercialism, and militarism is begging for a cultural analysis (and I say this as a proud American).


Don’t Shoot, America!

10 Jun

At its heart, anthropology is a comparative discipline. We examine the minutiae of different cultural contexts and explore variation through time and across space. Doing so allows us to, among other things, shine a light on our own customs and behaviors. Using this perspective we can ask informed questions like “How do our familiar patterns compare to the ‘strange’ patterns of others?” or “Are there better ways of doing things?” Sometimes we end up discovering that we are the strange ones, when compared to global norms.



There was a school shooting near the college where I teach today. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the event is that it was not unusual. As other developed nations respond with disbelief and horror, I realize that such events have become familiar within my cultural context. A recent headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion says it best:

“‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens


Now that is the anthropological perspective in action! So here’s my question for readers from the U.S. and readers from everywhere else: Why has America become the world capital of mass school shootings?


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