Tag Archives: anthropology

Chris Knight Arrested

Sorry, this isn’t really Language Evolution related besides Chris Knight’s obvious connection to the subject but thought it would be of interest to readers of the blog.

Last night Chris Knight and Camilla Power were arrested after planning to execute effigies of Prince William at Westminster Abbey. They were arrested ahead of the royal wedding today.

A professor of anthropology at the University of East London, Chris Knight along with his partner, Camilla Power, also a anthropology lecturer at UEL, were arrested outside their home in southeast London at around 6.15pm.

They were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance and breach of the peace.

Dr Knight was seen laid down on the pavement during the arrest in an attempt to stop officers moving him into a police van. But the police prevailed and they were held in a police station overnight.

This is not the first time Dr Knight has caused trouble. He was sacked from his position in 2009, following claims that he incited violence at the G20 protests.

THE add that the camera man who was at the scene of the arrest asked Dr Knight: “Can I get your house keys so I can feed the rabbit?”

I do hope that the rabbit is OK.

 

Out of (Southern??) Africa

It is a largely unchallenged claim of anthropologists that the human race emerged from the continent of Africa. However, claims relating to our evolution before our nomadic ancestors left the land of our origin have been left largely abstruse.

A new paper published on PNAS.org this week attempts to address this very problem through genetic analysis of several hunter gatherer societies in Africa including speakers of the nearly distinct N|u language. This was done because hunter-gather populations remain divergent in their variations at a level which is no longer maintained in the African population as a whole.

580,000 Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were analysed to calculate genetic relationships and diversity between the groups and propose possible evolutionary paths and branches.

Henn et al. (2011) propose that the genetics of those groups found in the south of Africa are the most diverse, and therefore the oldest, of any diversity found among other modern humans. This has caused them to suggest that the origins of modern humans may in fact be in southern Africa as opposed to the much more accepted view which is that we emerged from the east of Africa.

This assumed eastern viewpoint is a result of the earliest modern human skulls being found in the east and also the fact that humans in the rest of the world all carry a subset of genes found specifically in eastern Africa. However, until now, the populations represented in the study by Henn et al. (2011) have not been represented in previous genetic studies when making estimates of the whereabouts of our evolutionary origins.

Some dispute has arisen regarding these conclusions because the current whereabouts of these hunter-gatherer populations within Africa is not evidence to suggest that this is always where these populations have resided. These groups may have moved about and migrated from their original place of origin just as the rest of humanity has. Henn has retorted that, though this is a possibility, typically only a subset of a group moves to a new area, and this subset is less genetically diverse than the parent population. This would mean that if a group of humans left eastern African for southern Africa they would be expected to be less diverse in the population who moved and this contradicts the genetic data found in Henn et al. (2011).

References

Henn, B. et al. (2011) Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA doi:10.1073/pnas.1017511108

The Bog

If you like wading through deposits of dead animal material, then you should go over and visit Richard Littauer’s new blog, The Bog. Having been exposed to his writings on both this blog, and through the Edinburgh language society website, I’m sure it will be worth a visit — for good writing, if not for your dire need to distinguish between forest swamps and shrub swamps. His first post is on Mung, the colloquial name for Pylaiella littoris, which is apparently a common seaweed. Here is his quick overview of the blog:

So, The Bog is going to be the resting place for various studies and explorations. Richard Littauer is the writer; he is working on his MA in Linguistics at Edinburgh University. He writes about evolutionary linguistics and culture at Replicated Typo, about general linguistic musings at a non-academic standard at Lang. Soc., about constructed languages on Llama, and about various philosophical things at Pitch Black Press. Since none of these blogs were a perfect fit for the scientific equivalent of a swamp-romp through subjects he doesn’t study, he set up this blog. Expect posts about ecology, biology, linguistics, anthropology, or anything in between.

The fact that it’s called the Bog has nothing to do with the British slang for ‘bathroom’. Rather, Richard (well, I) have an affinity with swamps for some unexplained reasons. Expect posts on swamps.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, then Richard is also well-known for being the world’s number one Na’vi fan.

Language Evolved due to an “animal connection”?

New hypothesis of language evolution. Language Evolved due to an “animal connection” according to Pat Shipman:

Next, the need to communicate that knowledge about the behavior of prey animals and other predators drove the development of symbols and language around 200,000 years ago, Shipman suggests.

For evidence, Shipman pointed to the early symbolic representations of prehistoric cave paintings and other artwork that often feature animals in a good amount of detail. By contrast, she added that crucial survival information about making fires and shelters or finding edible plants and water sources was lacking.

“All these things that ought to be important daily information are not there or are there in a really cursory, minority role,” Shipman noted. “What that conversation is about are animals.”

Of course, much evidence is missing, because “words don’t fossilize,” Shipman said. She added that language may have arisen many times independently and died out before large enough groups of people could keep it alive.

Nothing but wild conjecture as usual but still interesting.

Original article here.

The brain–artefact interface (BAI): a challenge for archaeology and cultural neuroscience

Just found an interesting paper on cultural neuroscience and the extended mind. Some of you might remember the author, Dr Lambros Malafouris, from Seed Magazine’s Revolutionary Minds series. I plan on providing a more thorough examination of paper at a later point. In the meantime, check out the abstract:

Cultural neuroscience provides a new approach for understanding the impact of culture on the human brain (and vice versa) opening thus new avenues for cross-disciplinary collaboration with archaeology and anthropology. Finding new meaningful and productive unit of analysis is essential for such collaboration. But what can archaeological preoccupation with material culture and long-term change contribute to this end? In this article, I introduce and discuss the notion of the brain–artefact interface (BAI) as a useful conceptual bridge between neuroplastisty and the extended mind. I argue that a key challenge for archaeology and cultural neuroscience lies in the cross-disciplinary understanding of the processes by which our plastic enculturated brains become constituted within the wider extended networks of non-biological artefacts and cultural practices that delineate the real spatial and temporal boundaries of the human cognitive map.

Reading Round Up

Here’s some stuff I’ve been reading over the last month or so:

Okay, so that brings you up to date with my reading from May through to July. Next round up will cover August. How fascinating :-/