Ancient Human DNA Extracted From Ice Age Caves Without Human Remains

1 May

Preparing a sediment sample for DNA extraction. Photo by Sylvio Tüpke and Max Planck / Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Preparing a sediment sample for DNA extraction. Photo by Sylvio Tüpke and Max Planck / Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Ancient DNA has come a long way, baby. We now don’t even need the bones any more to pick up traces of prehistoric beings. This highly sensitive technique for analyzing ancient DNA was announced last week in Science.  Studying 85 sediment samples from seven 14,000 to 550,000 year old caves in Europe and Russia, senior author Matthias Meyer and his team of researchers first isolated all DNA from the soil samples. Unsurprisingly, most belonged to bacteria. About 0.05 to 10% belonged to mammals.

The authors then created a targeted enrichment of mitochondrial DNA, a type of bait, to identify the exact DNA to particular species, such as hominins as well as a variety of animals such as the woolly mammoth and woolly rhinos, cave bears and cave hyenas. Neandertal DNA was found in eight…

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Anthropology: A Love Story

15 Feb

Welcome to the AAA Blog

Why do you S_S-Classic-Heart-Pink_1024x1024 anthropology? The AAA is getting an early start to this year’s Anthropology Day celebration by spending our Valentine’s Day reflecting on why we fell in love with anthropology.

Read the anthropology love stories below from AAA President Alisse Waterston and our Executive Director Ed Liebow. Then share your own story with us in the comments!

Alisse Waterston, President, American Anthropological Association
President Scholar in Anthropology, Department of Anthropology
City University of New York- John Jay College of Criminal Justice

For Anthropology Day 2016, I said I love anthropology for helping me understand the world as it exists (which is not necessarily the world as I want it to be) and for providing me the intellectual tools to understand the human capacity for cleverness, creativity, connection as well as delusion and other dangerous capabilities. In our surreal political times, these human attributes seem to be on bloated display.

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Is sex a social construct like gender? Nope.

14 Feb

Why Evolution Is True

The video below, highlighted on Everyday Feminism, came with a few words on the website:

“Yes, trans women are women, but they’re still biologically male.”

Ever thought or said something like this? You might even have good intentions by stating what you think is a simple fact – after all, gender is a social construct, while sex is biological, right?

Actually, this “simple fact” of trans women being “biologically male” is inaccurate – and this misrepresentation of the truth is being used to justify some pretty hateful things.

So if you really want the facts, and to follow through on your good intentions by being a good ally, check out Riley J. Dennis’ explanation of why trans women are not biologically male.

With Love,
The Editors at Everyday Feminism

Well, I’d like to be a good ally, but not by denying the truth. And, in fact, sex is indeed biological—not a…

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Selective tool use in ants

10 Jan

Very interesting post from Jerry Coyne’s site. Enjoy!

Why Evolution Is True

You’re probably aware that tool use, once considered a uniquely human phenomenon, has now been documented widely in primates and birds. You may not know, though, that it’s also been seen in some insects, as in wasps that use pebbles to close off their burrows after laying eggs. Ants, too, have been seen to use debris from the environment to transport liquid food back to the nest; the ants that do this have a non-expandable crop, so they can’t simply suck up the stuff and then regurgitate it to their nestmates.

Now, in a new paper in Animal Behaviour by István Maák and his colleagues (link and free download below), we find that two species of the funnel ant Aphaenogaster not only use tools to suck up liquid food, but are selective in which tools they use. The authors collected colonies of A. senilis and A. subterranea, and presented…

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#AnthroForward Post-Election Resources

16 Dec

Welcome to the AAA Blog

On December 7th the AAA asked our members to join us in a live discussion on Twitter to share post-election resources and suggest ways we can proactively engage in positive activities in our own communities. Using #AnthroForward we were able to identify collective actions anthropologists can undertake and compile a solid set of resources to support the anthropological community. An archive of the Twitter chat can be found here. The following is a list of resources shared through the #AnthroForward discussion and emails from our members:

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Public Anthropology is More Important Than Ever

12 Nov

The Geek Anthropologist

As The Geek Anthropologist has expanded over the past several years, the editors have had a number of discussions about our identity as an online publication. Though our project, broadly speaking, is to provide anthropological sensibility to geek culture broadly defined, that ethnographic orientation also involves a predisposition towards activism. When Marie-Pierre first began the blog back in 2012, her posts on representations of indigeneity, fake geek girls, and the political ramifications of video games were informed by the importance of radical inclusion, respect and a recognition that anthropology is a platform for social justice as much as it is a discipline for studying human difference. As our team grew and the pieces we promoted began to diversify, we’ve discussed the extent to which our politics should inform the kinds of material we want to publish. These branding conversations occurred contemporaneously with the growing vitriol and anger in sub-groups of…

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Choosing Normal

11 Nov


On this Veterans Day 2016 many social scientists, myself included, are asking ourselves what it means to be “American” and whether this meaning changed on 11/9. Is an anthropological perspective of understanding, compassion, and inclusion still normal?

Lived experience in any human society is shaped by a complex interplay of cultural factors, especially its norms:

  • “Typical patterns of actual behavior as well as the rules about how things should be done” (Welsch and Vivanco 2016:265. Asking Questions About Cultural Anthropology).

In times of political upheaval our norms can be challenged and/or reinforced. In the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, some of our most fundamental norms of acceptable behavior were challenged and often flagrantly violated. To prevent these violations from becoming an emboldened “new normal,” we should vigilantly reinforce our shared values and oppose the following:

Anti-Semitism (or any religious discrimination)






Mocking the disabled


Scientific illiteracy


Sexual assault


These behaviors were not normal in the United States of 11/8/2016 and they remain unacceptable (and largely illegal) today. Starting in January 2017, we will be led by a character who personifies the worst attributes of the American past. Yet we retain the power to shape our own cultural norms. It has never been more critical to expect the best of ourselves and work tirelessly to encourage “the better angels of our nature” in others.