Anthropology


The "average" Australian according to statistics is a 37 year-old woman with two kids, a mortgage and three bedroom house. But how "typical" are her consumer choices? Image from Shutterstock

Who is the “typical” or “average” consumer? Is there such a thing? What do they look like? How do they make decisions? Am I an average (or perhaps a below average) consumer?



The connections between technology, urban trading, and international economics which have come to define modern living are nothing new.

Back in the first millennium AD, the Vikings were expert at exploring these very issues.

Why did the first human populations migrate out of Africa? It is the biggest debate in anthropology but no one can be sure of the answer. When it happened can at least be an informed debate and two hypotheses dominate the cultural landscape - but they both involve a common denominator that might shed light on why.

One popular belief is that human populations expanded rapidly from Africa to southern Asia via the coastlines of Arabia 50,000 or 60,000 years ago while another is that dispersal into the Arabian interior began 75,000 or even up to 130,000 years ago, but during multiple smaller phases as increased rainfall provided sufficient freshwater to support expanding populations.

Both involve climate change. 

Early hominids didn’t have a lot of time to whip up coconut flour pancakes. Credit: United Artists

Reconstructions of human evolution are prone to simple, overly-tidy scenarios. Our ancestors, for example, stood on two legs to look over tall grass, or began to speak because, well, they finally had something to say. Like much of our understanding of early hominid behavior, the imagined diet of our ancestors has also been over-simplified.

In Manot, a karstic cave in the North of Israel close to the Lebanese border, excavations that began in 2010 have documented the peopling of the cave for over 100,000 years.

Around 30,000 years ago, the roof of the cave collapsed and sealed the archaeological layers until the 21st century. Beside stone tools and animal bones, some few human remains were preserved. The most spectacular finding was made on an elevated shelf within a small chamber of the cave: a very well preserved "calotte", the upper part of a braincase.

The facial bones which contain a lot of diagnostic traits were missing.

Bits of the self have historically been un memoire emotional aides. Cristiana Gasparotto

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many of us will think about sharing a token of our affection.

The ubiquitous card is often teamed with a staple of the season: chocolate, perfume or flowers. These gifts have become accepted expressions of romantic love in Western cultures and yet they often fail to embody a real emotional connection between the giver and recipient.

By Joel N. Shurkin, Inside Science -- Let's pretend it is 56 B.C. and you have been fortunate enough to be invited to a party at the home of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a great social coup. Piso, after all, was Julius Caesar's father-in-law and a consul of Rome.

What's for dinner?

The American century was the result of a can-do attitude born in the 19th century. As prosperity began to increase, collectives, such as unions, became the norm, and they were endorsed by many educated elites - but they were still promoting individualism in doing so.

That individualism rose as we shifted from blue-collar union jobs to the white-collar kind. Though American conservatives claim to care about small business and American liberals claim to care about unions, the white-collar service jobs that have replaced both have caused the individualism Americans are known for today - including distrust of centralized government, subjective definitions of words and invented baby names, and even family structure.
15 years ago, the name "Aidan" was barely a blip on the radar of Americans with new babies, ranking a lowly 324th on the Social Security Administration's list of popular baby names.

Then a popular character with that name was on the television show "Sex and the City" and though fathers dreaded that their child was going to have the same name as some other child of a mother who watched the show, it happened all across America anyway. Since then, that name has been in the top 20.