How the Village Feast Paved the Way to Empires and Economics

Peasant Wedding, 1567, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. / Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna By Dr. Brian Hayden / 11.16.2016 Emeritus Professor of Archaeology Simon Fraser University Feasts helped to transform egalitarian hunters and gatherers into the kinds of societies that laid the foundations for early states and even industrial empires. They created hierarchies and inequalities, the[…]

Fossil Discovery in Morocco Adds 100,000 Years to Homo Sapiens

Jean-Jacques Hublin, MPI-EVA, Leipzig By Dr. Matthew Skinner / 06.07.2017 Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology University of Kent According to the textbooks, all humans living today descended from a population that lived in east Africa around 200,000 years ago. This is based on reliable evidence, including genetic analyses of people from around the globe and[…]

A New Festival in Madhya Pradesh Revives a Lost Indigenous Culture

The festival of Rani Kajal Mata / Screenshot from YouTube By Sangeeta Rane / 06.06.2017 Thousands of people have gathered in Verwada village in Barwani district to celebrate the newest festival in Madhya Pradesh – the festival of Rani Kajal Mata, an ancient, indigenous deity. The deity, a sacred rock, is the guardian goddess of the[…]

Experience a Culture in Its Own Setting

By Simon Yugler / 05.23.2017 Anthropologist Expansion of Consciousness or Cultural Appropriation? On an exceptionally sunny morning in Pisac, set in the Sacred Valley of Peru, I look out my window at the four blissed-out travelers, sprawled whimsically across the grass. They attended a full-moon Ayahuasca ceremony the night before, led by the well-loved ‘Sacred Valley[…]

Metaphors Be With You: A Cultural Analysis of Star Wars

By Dr. Lee Drummond / 03.09.2016 Professor Emeritus of Social and Cultural Anthropology McGill University [The mathematical physicist] von Neumann sometimes spoke of a “complexity barrier.” This was the imaginary border separating simple systems from complex systems. A simple system can give rise to systems of less complexity only. In contrast, a sufficiently complex system[…]

The Changing Nature of Sacred Spaces

The Multi-faith Chapel at Hebrew Senior Life / Newbridge On The Charles, Dedham, Massachusetts. Randall Armor, CC BY-NC-ND By Dr. Wendy Cadge / 04.26.2017 Professor of Sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Brandeis University Congregational membership in the United States is slowly declining. Data from the General Social Survey show that 17 percent of[…]

‘Anumeric’ People: What Happens when a Language has No Words for Numbers?

A Pirahã family. / Photo by Caleb Everett By Dr. Caleb Everett / 04.25.2017 Andrew Carnegie Fellow Professor of Anthropology University of Miami Numbers do not exist in all cultures. There are numberless hunter-gatherers embedded deep in Amazonia, living along branches of the world’s largest river tree. Instead of using words for precise quantities, these[…]

Ecuador’s Indigenous Cultures: Astride Orality and Literacy

Cofán Dureno indigenous activist in the Ecuadorean Amazon. / Rainforest Action Network, Creative Commons By Dr. Jorge Gómez Rendón / 12.19.2013 Professor of Anthropology University of Amsterdam Indigenous Languages in Ecuador: Survival and Change Distribution of Quechua sub-groups. Kichwa is shown in light blue / Wikimedia Commons Ecuador is the smallest of the Andean countries[…]

Why Native Americans Consider Water Sacred

An activist at a protest rally at the White House against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in Washington, D.C. Kevin Lamarque By Dr. Rosalyn LaPier / 03.21.2017 Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Montana Visiting Professor of Women’s Studies, Environmental Studies, and Native American Religion, Harvard Universtiy The Lakota phrase “Mní wičhóni,”[…]

The People Who Help You Die Better

A network of compassionate volunteers caring for their terminally ill neighbours is allowing more people in Kerala, India, to end their days at peace and at home. Jeremy Laurance meets the man leading the movement. By Jeremy Laurance / 02.26.2017 Thirty years ago a young anaesthetist, newly appointed as head of department at Calicut Medical College[…]

Those Pearly Whites: The Archaeology of Teeth – Their Historical and Anthropological Value

Upper teeth of a Neanderthal who lived about 40,000 years ago. Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg By Dr. Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg / 03.02.2017 Professor of Anthropology The Ohio State University “Show me your teeth and I’ll tell you who you are.” These words, attributed to 19th-century naturalist George Cuvier, couldn’t be more correct. The pearly whites we use every[…]

The Face of Rural America and Its Indispensable Contributions

The view from Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. Cropped from nicholas_t/flickr By Dr. Kenneth M. Johnson / 02.20.2017 Professor of Sociology and Senior Demography University of New Hampshire Rural people and issues generally receive little attention from the urban-centric media and policy elites. Yet, rural America makes unique contributions to the nation’s character and culture as well[…]

How Ordinary People are Changing the World

By Christina Sarich / 02.11.2017 India Plants 50 Million Trees in a Single Day Over 800,000 volunteers planted saplings across the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh recently. The tree-planting initiative was part of a $6.5 billion-dollar effort to reforest at least 12 percent of India by 2030. It wasn’t a publicity stunt, nor was it[…]

Songs of Worship: Singing to the Divine in Different Traditions

Image from A-1 Pictures & Satelight By Dr. David Stowe / 02.09.2017 Professor of English and Religious Studies Michigan State University The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Photo by George Frey/Reuters This Saturday, Feb. 11, many Jews will celebrate Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Singing, which commemorates one of the most vivid musical performances in the Hebrew[…]

Ancient DNA Reveals Genetic Continuity between Stone Age and Modern Populations in East Asia

In contrast to Western Europeans, new research finds contemporary East Asians are genetically much closer to the ancient hunter-gatherers that lived in the same region eight thousand years previously.  02.01.2017 Researchers working on ancient DNA extracted from human remains interred almost 8,000 years ago in a cave in the Russian Far East have found that[…]

‘Lines that Speak’: The Gaidinliu Notebooks as Language, Prophecy, and Textuality

Bihu dancers in Assam, India / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Arkotong Longkumer Lecturer in Religious Studies University of Edingburgh 6:2 (2016) Abstract This article navigates my experience of returning copies of the “Gaidinliu notebooks” from the Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford) to the Zeme Nagas of Assam, India. The notebooks were confiscated in 1932 by the[…]

Adult Adoption – The Secret to Preserving Centuries-Old Japanese Family Businesses

01.10.2016 Japan has one of the highest adoption rates in the world, with over 80,000 legal adoptions recorded every year. Yet when it comes to adopting children, the Asian country is lagging way behind most developed countries. That’s because around 98% of Japanese adoptees are bright young men in their 20s and 30s. At the[…]

Clothes for Spirits: Opening and Closing the Cosmos in Brazilian Umbanda

Gira em terreiro de Umbanda / Photo by Bruno Gonzalez, Creative Commons By Dr. Diana Espírito Santo Professor of Anthropology Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile 6:8 (2016) Abstract In this article I argue for alternative models to understanding the relationship of spirit cosmologies to their social surround. In my ethnography, I show that fluidity and[…]

An Audience with the Chief

Photo by Chris Brazier By Chris Brazier / January 2017 ‘Bonjour, Monsieur Chris.’ ‘Bonjour, Monsieur François,’ I respond, naturally enough. The mouths of the men sitting on the mat around me drop open in shock. I have, it seems, committed a grave faux pas: no-one is allowed to address the Chief by name, only by his title.[…]

The ‘Born-Free’ Generation

Masixole Mlandu, a University of Cape Town (UCT) student protest leader, during a national shutdown protest. Cape Town. 2015. By Sipho Mpongo / 12.21.2016 All Photos by Sipho MPongo In 1994, South Africa celebrated its first universal elections. The event marked the end of apartheid, the institutionalized system of racial segregation that characterized the country[…]