Interesting Anthropology in The News: Prof. Steve Steve Say It Ain’t So!

National Geographic has an interesting article about recent fossil finds that shed light on the ecological interaction between pandas and Gigantopithecus:

Huang said he believes the ape lost out in a three-way struggle with giant pandas and early humans over food and habitat.
Ancient panda fossils have been found before near Giganto ape remnants, and early human fossils in China have been found in the vicinity of ancient pandas.
If early humans–armed with primitive weapons like stone axes and fire–migrated like the panda through what is now southern China, they likely had contact with the giant apes, Huang said.

Prof. Steve Steve, how could you?
The article also sheds some light on the evolutionary history of pandas:

Huang said that the Hainan panda fossil provided a new piece in the puzzle of the panda’s eight-million-year-long evolution from a meat-eater into a reclusive bamboo-eater.
The earliest pandas were fierce carnivores, scientists say. While technically classified as omnivores, today’s pandas primarily depend on bamboo, which they spend an average of 12 hours a day eating.
The new fossils suggest the panda of 400,000 years ago, which was slightly larger than the modern giant panda, had by that time already become completely dependent on bamboo for survival, Huang said.

Science Daily reports on Where And Why Humans Made Skates Out Of Animal Bones:

Formenti and Minetti did their experiments on an ice rink by the Alps, where they measured the energy consumption of people skating on bones. Through mathematical models and computer simulations of 240 ten-kilometre journeys, their research study shows that in winter the use of bone skates would have limited the energy requirements of Finnish people by 10%. On the other hand, the advantage given by the use of skates in other North European countries would be only about 1%.
Subsequent studies performed by Formenti and Minetti have shown how fast and how far people could skate in past epochs, from 3000BC to date.

The research is being published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.
The New York Times has an interesting article on A Question of Blame When Societies Fall:

At the seminar, Dr. McAnany suggested that the very idea of societal collapse might be in the eye of the beholder. She was thinking of the Maya, whose stone ruins have become the Yucatan’s roadside attractions. But the descendants of the Maya live on. She recalled a field trip by local children to a site she was excavating in Belize: “This little girl looks up at me, and she has this beautiful little Maya face, and asks, ‘What happened to all the Maya? Why did they all die out?'”
No one visits Stonehenge, she noted, and asks whatever happened to the English.

The Archaeology Channel has an interesting video by and about the Nimiipuu – the Nez Perce – called Surviving Lewis & Clark: The Nimiipuu Story.

6 Responses

  1. “No one visits Stonehenge, she noted, and asks whatever happened to the English.”
    I wonder why? Perhaps because it wasn’t the English who built it?

  2. Yeah. Well. The city of Rome has been around for 2000. Theancient Romans “died out”, but the city still stands. Theancient Maya civilization with its temples and cities died out for various reasons, but modern Maya people are still around — and they’ve tended to be pretty oppressed. Perhaps that’s the reason. But what do I know? I’m nt an archaeologist!
    Anne G

  3. Re. the Maya: My understanding is that the urban Maya population collapsed following a period of sustained interurban warfare. The cities had always been supported by a rural, agricultural society, and those portions of the urban population not directly killed by warfare, sacrifice, or despotism gradually moved away and joined their rural brethren on farms and in villages. Eventually, the urban populations became so small that the cities could no longer sustain themselves.
    Mayan language and culture, on the other hand, is largely unbroken and continuous, despite the upheavals of de-urbanization, christianization, and colonization.
    Is this no longer the accepted view? Or am I misreading something?

  4. Perhaps because it wasn’t the English who built it?
    From a genetic point of view, it was, actually. The modern population of England are still mainly the descendents of the original upper palaeolithic post-glacial colonisers of the place. With additional input from all over the place, of course, but there’s not much evidence of wholesale population replacement except locally.

  5. “Englishness”, “Mayanness” etc. are not genetic concepts though, nor even ethnic, but primarily cultural. Englishness has no roots in the culture of the Stonehenge builders.

  6. But there is a genetic continuity between the builders of Stonehenge and current populations in England whatever the impact of cultural evolution, migrations (and culture change arising therefrom), etc. The larger point that the above was trying to make is that the Maya – the ones that built all the pyramids and invented the calendrical system, etc, are still here.

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