Utah is Considering a Bad Archaeology Bill

As is well known Utah is currently considering a bill promoting creationism. But they also have a bill affecting archaeology in the works. This is HB 139. I haven’t had a chance to digest the entire thing yet but it looks kind of goofy. An alert Reader sent me a link to this story on the bill.

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Common Misperceptions About (or In) Anthropology

Chad Orzel over at Uncommon Principles has assigned more home work. He wants to know your least favorite misconceptions about your field. When I signed up with ScienceBlogs I didn’t realize there were going to be mid=terms!
My first annoying misconception actually concerns the uncertainty pricnciple. You see it is often invoked, within the field of cultural anthropology, as a criticism of field work – usually by those with post modernist leanings. People argue that the observer has unknowable effects on the observed, consequently any attempt at scientific analysis is tossed out the window. It is undeniable that the observer has effects on the observed. There have been a number of cases where an informan tries to use the relationship with the ethnographer to elevate their social status, for example, but the PoMo abandonment of science has led them into a bit of a rut.
My second annoying misconception is the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” syndrome. In this misconception folks watch the above named movie and think it is actually reflective of what archaeologists do (I can’t refrain from noting that Dembski and other ID proponents have a severe case of this syndrome). One symptom of this syndrome is the perception that any large, pointy bit of rock is an arrowhead…
My third annoying misconception is the “there are no transitional fossils” misconception, also known as the “Lucy was an ape” misconception…

African-Americans in the Americas by the end of the 16th Century

The above is a picture of Africa-American remains discovered in Campeche, Mexico. According to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Tiesler discovered the slaves’ remains buried in a colonial- era graveyard that was unearthed in 2000 during a remodeling of Campeche’s public square. The remains are from the late 16th century and the mid-17th century.
“This,” Price said, “is the earliest documentation of the African Diaspora in the New World. It does mean that slaves were brought here almost as soon as Europeans arrived.”


In the Campeche graveyard, Tiesler and other archaeologists found individuals of a number of different ethnicities, including Amerindians and Europeans.
They were also surprised and perplexed to find remains that appeared to be of African origin. Some of these latter individuals appeared to have teeth which had been filed, a decorative practice common in Africa.

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Egyptian Queens and Mourning Babboons

The above is a recently discovered (at Luxor) statue believed to date to between 1391 and 1352 B.C.E.:

“The statue, however, when it was removed, revealed itself as a queen of Amenhotep III, whose name appears repeatedly on the statue’s crown,” Bryan said. She said she theorizes that perhaps this statue is of the great Queen Tiy, wife of Amenhotep III and mother of the so-called heretic king Akhenaten, who came to the throne as Amenhotep IV but later changed his name because of his rejection of the god Amen in favor of the sun disk Aten.
“Tiy was so powerful that, as a widow, she was the recipient of foreign diplomatic letters sent to her from the king of Babylonia in hopes that she would intercede with her son on behalf of the foreign interests,” Bryan said. “Some indications, such as her own portraits in art, suggest that Tiy may have ruled briefly after her husband’s death, but this is uncertain.”

There is a blog about the dig called HOPKINS IN EGYPT TODAY

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Interesting 3,000 Year Old Iranian Skeleton

Via Anthropology in the News comes this interesting story.
What is so interesting about it you ask?
Note his posture, in particular the posture of the arm holding the dagger – raised as if attacking or defending. From the article:

“He is holding a 26-centimeter dagger and appears to be making a forward thrust,” said archaeologist Ali Mahforuzi, who led the excavation at Gohar Tepe, where the skeleton was found.
Gohar Tepe is located in northeastern Iran near the town of Behshahr and the Caspian Sea.
“Beside the skeleton, a number of dishes have also been found which seem to have been presented to the warrior,” Mahforuzi said. “One of the dishes has some holes in it containing the remains of coal.
“Archaeologists had discovered such dishes before, but they could not determine their practical application; but the traces of coal indicate that the dish has been used for burning agalloch (a soft, fragrant wood) or other types of incense.”

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Sequencing Plankton DNA

According to this from the NSF have been sequencing DNA from a range of planktonic microbes living at depths from 40 to more than 13,000 feet:

The interdisciplinary research team sequenced a total of 64 million base pairs, or subunits, of DNA from microbes and viruses they collected at each depth. In the process, they discovered thousands of new genes from novel and ecologically abundant microbes and found evidence of frequent gene exchange between organisms. The study also revealed variations in genetic composition at different depths–including differences among genes involved with carbon and energy metabolism.

Some of the results are interesting:

Microbes near the ocean surface, for example, had more genes devoted to taking in iron, a major element necessary for growth in that zone. Genomes from organisms below the ocean’s deepest and darkest layers displayed almost epidemic levels of DNA associated with “jumping genes,” or pieces of DNA that can move from one part of the genome to another.


“Plants and animals are twigs on the tree of life when compared to the diversity of microbes that surround us,” said Matthew Kane, director of NSF’s microbial observatories and microbial genome sequencing programs, which also supported the work. “By approaching ecology through genomics, we are starting to get a truly paradigm-shifting view of all life on the planet.”

Interesting, for the most part I have heard very little about how this kind of large scale DNA sequencing is going to affect ecology…

ID “Survey”

Added Later: krauze is claiming some sort of conspiracy about the poll he sent out. So let me clear it up for him, we did not receive marching orders from Elsberry. The response was the same because we all recognize a poorly designed survey (you didn’t mention choice H: ‘Intelligent design’ is a subset of the arguments previously labeled ‘creation science’ in your post, by the by) when we see one. Perhaps you should take a class in survey design….
I can’t speak for the rest of the science bloggers, but I do not mind the “scientific method” being applied to me, I just thought the survey was a transparent attempt at manipulation and the way the outcome is being spun kind of confirms that opinion. Word games seem to be the only thing ID has produced…

Like others I received the survey as well. I choose to cut and paste choice “H” presented by John. Apparently, I’m a non-conformist…
Anyway, I was watching Ghostbusters when some of the odd wording of the survey popped into my head.

You have been contacted because you contribute to a blog which has been identified as a “pro-science blog”.

says the email.
I will confess that my blog is most definately “pro-science” but this is where it gets interesting:

I am conducting a survey on outsiders’ perception of intelligent design

[emphasis mine - afarensis]
If Krauze is saying I am pro-science and an ID outsider, doesn’t that imply that Krauze thinks ID is not pro-science?

Recent Changes in the Human Cranium: Reprise

As I wrote in a recent post an article was recently published in the British Dental Journal comparing skulls from people who died from the black plague in 1348 (13 males and 17 females) to skulls of people who died in the wreck of the Mary Rose in 1545 (53 males, 1 female) and with skulls of modern individuals (16 males, 15 females, actually, the measurements were taken off radiograms). Eleven standard cranial measurements were taken and converted into angular and linear measurments. Below is a picture illustrating the angular and linear measurements.
Cranial Measurments
An ANOVA was then performed grouping by era. Results indicated that there were some statistically significant differences between the modern goup and the earlier samples – particularly in the area of cranial vault height and maxillary area. In particular, vault height measurements have increased and the maxillary measurements have decreased. So what does it mean?

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Seed Magazine and Challenger

Seed Magazine’s retrospective on the 20th anniversery of the Challenger explosion can be found here

Missouri Creationism: The Silly Season has Begun

Added Later: Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble provides hi own unique take on this bill. Can’t say I can argue with his characterization of the MO legislatures modus operendi.
According to Missouri Citizens for Science (a new blog I just stumbled across) a new creationist bill has been introduced in the Missouri House of Representitives by republican Robert Cooper, and makes for some interesting reading. [Added Later: The scary thing is Rep. Cooper is an MD]
The bill summary states:

This bill establishes the Missouri Science Education Act which
requires instruction for science courses in sixth through twelfth
grades to comply with its best practices within five years after
its passage. The bill defines “verified empirical data” and
“substantive amount” and specifies that information appearing to
be verified empirical data but is not verified must be separately
identified. Information that represents scientific thought, such
as theory, hypothesis, extrapolation, and estimation, among
others, must also be distinguished from verified empirical data
and may be presented in the light of critical analysis. Critical
analysis may discuss problems such as faulty logic, alternate
explanations, or conflicting experiments. A substantive amount
of critical analysis is required when teaching a theory of
biological origins or current scientific theory that deals with
prehistory or the future.
State assessments must comply with the

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