Anthropology


The 66th Four Stone Hearth, a fortnightly collection of anthropology blogging is being hosted over at Aardvarcheology.  including a monster of a study on African population genetics.

Excerpt:

The scientists’ first step was to collect DNA from a diverse set of
Africans. Africa is the most culturally and linguistically diverse
place on Earth, so it was important to take a wide sample of
individuals from all corners of the continent. In total, they collected

Continuing along on my previous theme (having cleared my soul of the rant on etic viewpoints of cyberculture), many studies I've seen fail to convince the "internet native" because of a number of flaws that could easily be addressed.  For brevity, I'm listing them as bullet points with short discussion.

* Determine size, number of posters, average number of posts or interactions per day.  It's easier to think of these spaces as functioning somewhat like a large mall -- if you want to study one, you need to get a grasp on how many people usually show up and which areas or shops they frequent.  So too with message boards and other spaces (such as Second Life.)   To begin to understand the perspective, you first have to see it as the entity it is.
A detailed analysis of the feet of Homo floresiensis, the miniature hominins who lived on a remote island in eastern Indonesia until 18,000 years ago, may help settle a question hotly debated among paleontologists: how similar was this population to modern humans? A new research paper in Nature  may help answer this question.

While the so-called "hobbits" walked on two legs, they say, several features of their feet were so primitive that their gait was not efficient.
Did ancestors of Native Americans migrate to the New World in one wave or successive waves, from one ancestral Asian population or a number of different populations?   The topic has been debated for decades but after comparing DNA samples from people in dozens of modern-day Native American and Eurasian groups, an international team of scientists thinks it can put the matter to rest: Virtually without exception the new evidence supports the single ancestral population theory, according to the study  published in the May issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
African, American, and European researchers working in collaboration over a 10-year period have released the largest-ever study of African genetic data—more than four million genotypes—providing a library of new information on the continent which is thought to be the source of the oldest settlements of modern humans.

The study demonstrates startling diversity on the continent, shared ancestry among geographically diverse groups and traces the origins of Africans and African Americans. It is published in the April 30 issue of the journal Science Express.
In a previous article, I discussed the controversies associated with anthropological research and debunked myths regarding the true intentions of molecular anthropologists.  Furthermore, I also provided examples of Native American communities willing to work with researchers in order to reconstruct their ancestral heritage.   Native Americans, for the most part, are rational and scientists, for the most part, are respectful.
In the 19th century, the Rosetta Stone allowed scholars to translate symbols left by an ancient civilization and decipher the meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphics. 

But many mysteries remain about the symbols found on other ancient artifact, including those of a people that inhabited the Indus valley on the present-day border between Pakistan and India. Some experts question whether the symbols represent a language at all, or are merely pictograms that bear no relation to the language spoken by their creators. 
I promised myself that I would try to do a regular Wednesday blog about some aspect of my researches.  I thought I would start out with something I've been considering for awhile -- methodologies of studying large user communities on the Internet.

Only a few researchers such as Nick Yee have ventued into the complex realm of studying large communities online -- and they can get vast and complex.  MMORPGs such as the World of Warcraft that Yee studied can have over 10 million users worldwide and require a lot of time and human resources to maintain.  Even message boards listed on the Big Boards watch pose special problems when you step in to study them.
It's Earth Day, in case you can't tell by our swanky green Earth logo in the header, and that means people will be thinking about Nature (the bitch, not the magazine) and our impact on her.   I didn't say people would be thinking clearly, but they will be thinking.

So instead of shocking and awing you with my dark humor and divine genius, I will instead ask a question; what kind of science could you do if you got sent back to 10,000 BC?
In 1930, in the Highlands of New Guinea, a group of Australian brothers looking for gold stumbled across thousands of Stone Age people who had no concept of the outside world.

They happened to bring a movie camera.   And that's probably all I need to say.