Anthropology


The Slave Trade painted by a French abolitionist artist.

By Daina Ramey Berry, University of Texas

People think they know everything about slavery in the United States, but they don’t.

They think the majority of African slaves came to the American colonies, but they didn’t. They talk about 400 hundred years of slavery, but it wasn’t. They claim all Southerners owned slaves, but they didn’t. Some argue it was a long time ago, but it wasn’t.

Ancient Greeks used onions as a performance-enhancing drug. Roman gladiators ate ashes and vegetables. If common-sense does not tell us that there was no ancient civilization with futuristic technology building pyramids, anthropology certainly can.

Historic sources claimed referred to gladiators  as "hordearii" ("barley eaters") because they had an inferior diet, heavy in beans and grains, the hallmark of poor status. Even 2,000 years ago people made fun of vegetarians, it seems. Though the diet was accurate, it was not all special, according to a new paper.

It is often believed that masculine men and more feminine women were prized in ancient societies and that modern culture is beyond gender simplifications, but a
team of psychologists, anthropologists and biologists that surveyed 12 populations around the world, from the primitive to the highly developed, find that isn't so.



Credit: EPA

By Rob MacKenzie, University of Birmingham

To exaggerate is human, and scientists are human.

Exaggeration and the complementary art of simplification are the basic rhetorical tools of human intercourse.

So yes, scientists do exaggerate. So do politicians, perhaps even when, as the UK’s former environment secretary Owen Paterson did, they claim that climate change forecasts are “widely exaggerated”.


Violent rhetoric appeals to disaffected young men because it gives them a challenge to express aggression as 'proof' of manhood. Credit: Sillouetted children playing as soldiers/Shutterstock

By David Plummer, Griffith University

Recent coverage of counter-terrorism raids in Australia featured hard-core gyms, anabolic steroids, nightclub bouncers, gangs and weapons. Footage from the Middle East regularly depicts truckloads of young bearded warriors bristling with ordnance.

"Keeping up with the Joneses" is a colloquialism for developing world desire to have the same or better status in society than peers. If someone gets a new car, you get a new car.

In some people, status is so important they suffer psychological distress if they lack status.

But it isn't just for the middle class in Western nations, say anthropologists at U.C. Santa Barbara, who found that the same need exists among the Tsimane, an egalitarian society of forager-farmers in the Bolivian Amazon. 



was the title of a history book I had as a boy.  Good things, in their way — without them, I wouldn’t be able to sit here talking to you all and meeting some very interesting people online.  But some decidedly unpleasant customers do all too often hitch a ride.


Evidence shows children are getting less unsupervised time outdoors. Credit: Brian Yap (葉)/Flickr, CC BY-NC

By Shelby Gull Laird and Laura McFarland-Piazza

In 1908 the famously plump Venus of Willendorf, thought to be a symbol of fecundity, was discovered during an excavation near the Austrian town of Melk. It has been dated to 30,000 years ago and is one of the world’s earliest examples of figurative art.

Now, a team of archaeologists have dated a number of stone tools excavated recently from the same site to 43,500 years ago. Results show they were part of the Aurignacian culture, which is generally accepted as indicative of modern human presence. It is agreed that modern humans dispersed into Europe, and began to replace Neanderthals, at least 40,000 years ago. The new research pushes this date back to a potentially much earlier time when temperatures north of the Alps were cool.

A new discovery of thousands of Stone Age tools has provided a major rethink about human innovation 325,000 years ago - and how early technological developments spread across the world. 

The researchers found evidence which challenges the belief that a type of technology known as Levallois – where the flakes and blades of stones were used to make useful products such as hunting weapons – was invented in Africa and then spread to other continents as the human population expanded.

They discovered at an archaeological site in Armenia that these types of tools already existed there between 325,000 and 335,000 years ago, suggesting that local populations developed them out of a more basic type of technology, known as biface, which was also found at the site.