WBEZ | anthropology http://www.wbez.org/tags/anthropology Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Items left at U.S.-Mexican border reveal hidden history of migration http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-03/items-left-us-mexican-border-reveal-hidden-history-migration-96094 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-03/migrant_station.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Millions have crossed the dangerous, high-security border between Mexico and the U.S. But we rarely hear about the actual, visceral experience of crossing. What do migrants bring? What do they eat and drink? How do they survive in the middle of the desert?</p><p>This curiosity is what led <a href="http://www.lsa.umich.edu/anthro/people/faculty/ci.deleonjason_ci.detail" target="_blank">Jason De Leon</a> to the border. Jason’s a professor at the University of Michigan and a trained archeologist. He collects the items migrants leave behind while crossing the border into the U.S.</p><p><a href="http://jasonpatrickdeleon.com/research/" target="_blank">His collection</a> is now the largest body of migrant artifacts in the country, including everything from shoes to backpacks, water bottles, prayer books, love letters – you name it. Jason joins <em>Worldview</em> to discuss the unusual project.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 03 Feb 2012 17:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-03/items-left-us-mexican-border-reveal-hidden-history-migration-96094 Chicago scientist dates artifacts that may rewrite ancient history http://www.wbez.org/story/anthropology/chicago-scientist-dates-artifacts-may-rewrite-ancient-history-84190 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-March/2011-03-24/P1000205.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Archaeologists have hard evidence that humans lived in North America much earlier than previously thought, and a Chicago researcher played a key role in nailing down the dates.</p><p>The earliest North Americans were long thought to be the Clovis people, who lived about 12,000-13,000 years ago. Now archaeologists have dug up stone tools and debris from underneath a Clovis site in central Texas.</p><p>Steven Forman brought samples back to his lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He used a technique called optical dating to determine when the sediment around the objects was last exposed to sunlight. The artifacts turn out to be about 15,000&nbsp; years old, from millennia before the Clovis people. And they appear to provide a missing link in understanding how some Clovis technology developed.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not the first evidence of cultures older than Clovis, but Forman said it may be the strongest.</p><p>&ldquo;It appears to be that this might be kind of watershed piece of science in which people say, yes, there is really compelling evidence for pre-Clovis occupation in North America,&rdquo; said Forman, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at UIC. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s no longer a red herring.&rdquo;</p><p>The new find will likely overturn the history of ancient humans in North America. The results are out today in the journal, Science.</p></p> Thu, 24 Mar 2011 15:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/anthropology/chicago-scientist-dates-artifacts-may-rewrite-ancient-history-84190 Evolving Culture: Where Do We Go From Here? http://www.wbez.org/story/animals/evolving-culture-where-do-we-go-here <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr/images/30-10-2010/muskox.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For billions of years, the environment and how it affected organisms' genes was the key to evolution. But in the past 10,000 years, for humans at least, genetic evolution has been nudged aside by something more powerful.</p><p>&quot;What we are able to do which other animals aren't able to do is to rapidly adapt to completely new environments,&quot; says Robert Boyd, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. &quot;Most animals -- all animals except humans -- would have to adapt to that by changing genetically.&quot;</p><p><strong>Humans Adapt With Their Wits</strong></p><p>Think about it. Let's say you want to live in Fairbanks, Alaska. If you're a musk ox, you can't build a shelter or buy insulations, so you make your own.</p><p>&quot;They have a very, very superfine sort of wool that's underneath a long skirt of hair,&quot; says biologist Perry Barboza, director of the Large Animal Research Station, a part of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. &quot;That provides an enormous amount of insulation. And on top of that, or beneath that, they have about 2 inches fat as well.&quot;</p><p>But musk ox can only survive in one kind of environment. Transport them to the desert, and they die within days because they don't have the physiology to get rid of excess heat.</p><p>Humans can live anywhere they like: in Fairbanks, where the winters get to 40 below zero, or Dubai, where the summers are routinely 100 and above. The reason is we don't have to make genetic adaptations to our environments in order to survive.</p><p>&quot;You could say that one of the most important tools for [humans] surviving in the north is the needle,&quot; says Aron Crowell, who is <a href="http://www.anchoragemuseum.org/expansion/smithsonian.aspx">Alaska Director of the Smithsonian's Arctic Studies Center</a>. The earliest humans used those needles to sew warm, waterproof clothing: fur jackets, sealskin boots and waterproof parkas.</p><p>Eskimos don't have a gene that tells them how to make a parka. That ability comes from cultural knowledge passed from generation to generation. Sure, we needed to evolve a brain that could conceive of the idea of using seal intestines to make a waterproof parka, but Boyd says having a big brain is just the start.</p><p>&quot;It's easy to see that it's not individual intelligence that makes us so good at adapting,&quot; he says. &quot;It's an important component, but we also need the ability to accumulate knowledge gradually over a whole population of people over hundreds or maybe even thousands of years.&quot;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9dwodDdvjk">Franklin Expedition</a> in the mid-1800s exemplifies this concept well, Boyd says. On May 19, 1845, two ships set out from England in search of the Northwest Passage through the Arctic. Neither returned. Almost 15 years later, a search party <a href="http://visionsnorth.blogspot.com/2009/04/it-is-perhaps-most-evocative-document.html">found a single sheet of paper</a> left in a tin can covered by stones on King William Island in the Canadian Arctic.</p><p>28 of May 1847 &hellip; Having wintered in 1846-7 at Beechey Island &hellip; after having ascended Wellington Channel and returned by the West side of Cornwallis Island. Sir John Franklin commanding the Expedition. All well.</p><p>But scribbled in the margins of the paper was a more ominous note.</p><p>Sir John Franklin died on the 11th June, 1847, and the total loss by deaths in the Expedition has been to this date 9 officers &amp; 15 men.</p><p>In the end, all perished, but not before the starving crew apparently resorted to cannibalism. Boyd says the irony is that there were Canadian Eskimos living near where the ships became frozen in the ice, and the Eskimos survived the harsh winter just fine.</p><p>&quot;The difference was the English sailors didn't have the knowledge to live in the Arctic, and they couldn't figure it out on their own,&quot; he says.</p><p><strong>Sharing Knowledge</strong></p><p>For the past 10,000 years, it's been cultural changes that have shaped how humans have evolved and coped with their environments -- not genetic changes.</p><p>And just as geneticists have been looking at ancient DNA to see how new genes emerged and spread, anthropologists and archaeologists are trying to do the same for the emergence and transmission of new skills.</p><p>Archaeologist Ben Potter of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, spends a lot of time visiting ancient sites of human habitation throughout the state. He says you can think of them like a laboratory to understand how humans coped &quot;when they're pushed to their limit, or when they are approaching an environment that they're not equipped for biologically.&quot;</p><p>Ten-thousand years ago, the latest development in arrowheads or stone microblades would be passed from parent to child or tribe to tribe. Now, the way cultural information is transmitted has changed dramatically. UCLA's Boyd says that today there are institutions whose whole function is to be engaged in cultural transmission.</p><p>&quot;Schools, religious institutions and other kinds of associations -- and then there are things like NPR who transmit to zillions of people,&quot; he says.</p><p>There's a torrent of cultural knowledge flowing over us all the time, and we get to decide how to use that knowledge to shape our future.</p><p>&quot;Where it's going to go? Your guess is as good as mine,&quot; he says.</p><p>Wherever it goes, if we don't like the outcome, we'll have only ourselves to blame.</p><p><em>This story was produced by Jane Greenhalgh.</em> Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1288486717?&amp;gn=Evolving+Culture%3A+Where+Do+We+Go+From+Here%3F&amp;ev=event2&amp;ch=128245649&amp;h1=The+Human+Edge,Animals,Humans,Environment,Research+News,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&amp;c3=D%3Dgn&amp;v3=D%3Dgn&amp;c4=129604791&amp;c7=1007&amp;v7=D%3Dc7&amp;c18=1007&amp;v18=D%3Dc18&amp;c19=20100906&amp;v19=D%3Dc19&amp;c20=1&amp;v20=D%3Dc20&amp;c21=3&amp;v21=D%3Dc2&amp;c31=128245649&amp;v31=D%3Dc31&amp;c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001" alt="" /> Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1288486718?&amp;gn=Evolving+Culture%3A+Where+Do+We+Go+From+Here%3F&amp;ev=event2&amp;h1=The+Human+Edge,Animals,Humans,Environment,Research+News,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&amp;c3=D%3Dgn&amp;v3=D%3Dgn&amp;c4=129604791&amp;c7=1007&amp;v7=D%3Dc7&amp;c18=1007&amp;v18=D%3Dc18&amp;c19=20100906&amp;v19=D%3Dc19&amp;c20=1&amp;v20=D%3Dc20&amp;c21=3&amp;v21=D%3Dc2&amp;c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001" alt="" /></p></p> Sun, 05 Sep 2010 23:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/animals/evolving-culture-where-do-we-go-here Fast Feet: A Springy Step Helps Humans Walk http://www.wbez.org/story/home-page-top-stories/fast-feet-springy-step-helps-humans-walk <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr/images/30-10-2010/footscan.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It took a few million years for human ancestors to evolve into the walking, talking, texting and blogging creatures we've become. Along the way, the human body and brain have changed a lot. And we couldn't have done it without our feet.</p><p>Our ape-like ancestors had a foot built for grasping branches and climbing trees. But our foot is stiff, taut and springy, built for walking and running.</p><p>Brian Richmond, an anthropologist, runner and kids soccer coach, is trying to find out how our unique appendage evolved.</p><p>At his office at George Washington University, Richmond has some tantalizing clues to how the change took place.</p><p>&quot;These are the earliest footprints of early humans,&quot; he says, showing me an image of a track in what looks like dried mud. They were left in the African mud by one of our ancestors -- 1.5 million years ago. It's about a size 9.</p><p>And there's more than one; there's a whole trackway. The prints look like the diagrams of feet that dance instructors use to show how to do the salsa or the tango.</p><p>These Kenyan prints are the kind of discovery that makes a scientific career. For me, and I suspect for Richmond, they're even more exciting to behold than a bone or even a skull that old, because they represent an ancient <em>action </em>-- a <em>living </em>moment -- captured.</p><p>&quot;A fossilized footprint is basically fossilized behavior,&quot; Richmond says. &quot;It shows you what that individual did 1.5 million years ago that instant in time.&quot;</p><p><strong>Marvelous Feet</strong></p><p>And what do those prints tell Richmond? &quot;Sure enough, they were walking with a long stride, they had an arch in the foot the way we have.&quot;</p><p>Long legs and an arch in our foot. Our primate cousins -- gorillas, chimps, bonobos -- are flat-footed with no arch. The arch is actually the manifestation of a very complex apparatus <em>inside </em>our foot -- an apparatus for walking like no other in the world.</p><p>Richmond is trying to determine when humans developed these marvelous feet. He's doing it by working backwards, comparing our feet now to the climbing and grasping feet of apes and the feet of our early ancestors.</p><p>Blue-gloved and white-coated, Richmond leads the way into a brightly lit room at the GWU medical school. Metal gurneys are lined up in neat rows, each covered with a steel lid.</p><p>&quot;I look at the human body and see how it's put together from a functional perspective and an evolutionary perspective,&quot; he explains. &quot;I look at how it is different from other primates.&quot;</p><p>Richmond lifts a steel cover. Underneath, a cadaver lies pale and heavy, the head shrouded in gauze. In death, these donated bodies are instruments of learning. Richmond lifts a flap of skin -- the sole of the foot -- with a metal probe.</p><p>&quot;So here I've just pulled the skin back, and here you can see one of those characteristics that's really uniquely human, and that is the long tendon that runs from the heel, underneath the skin, forward, all the way to the base of the toes.&quot; It's called the plantar aponeurosis. It's a flat, broad tendon, whitish and taut. Along with spring ligaments, it gives the foot its arch and its stiffness.</p><p>Imagine a thick rubber band stretching from your toes to your heel. Step down and the rubber band stretches and absorbs energy. As you roll forward, it transfers weight to your toes. And when the tendon snaps back, it even returns some of the energy in each step back up your leg.</p><p>We also have short toes, and a big toe that's in line with the other toes -- also for better walking and running.</p><p>So, when did this elegant appendage evolve? The Kenyan prints <em>seem </em>to show an arched foot. And that was 1.5 million years ago -- so sometime before that.</p><p><strong>Seat-Of-The-Pants Science</strong></p><p>But footprints also reveal a lot about <em>how </em>a person walks: their posture, their stride, even the angle of their leg bones. So Richmond is filming people walking in sand and comparing their footprints to the Kenyan ones. &quot;So that when we have a footprint,&quot; he says, &quot;we can work backward and reconstruct what the steps were like in that individual, even at 1.5 million years ago.&quot;</p><p>If they're similar, then those ancestors probably were built -- and walked -- much like we do. If they're not, Richmond may learn how they were different.</p><p>This is where graduate student Kallista Bernal comes in.</p><p>&quot;I'm standing here while they're trying to put these reflective markers on my joints,&quot; Bernal explains.</p><p>We're in a windowless laboratory at GWU. There's a 4-by-8-foot sandbox in the middle of the floor. Bernal is dressed in tights and a T-shirt, getting ready to walk the walk. &quot;Can I wear a toe ring?&quot; she asks.</p><p>No toe rings, but more than a dozen reflective markers are stuck to her hips, legs and her bare feet. She will walk through the sandbox as cameras focused on those markers produce a sort of stick-figure computer animation of her gait -- the turn of her ankles, the angle of her thighs, even the curl of her toes.</p><p>&quot;Each footprint that I make, we're going to do 3-D scans, and try and figure out, based upon how I move and in what type of sediment I step in, how my footprints change,&quot; she says.</p><p>She gets the go-ahead and strolls through the sand as casually as she can under the watchful eyes of several researchers and a row of cameras. She leaves a nice set of prints in the sand. Richmond measures them with a laser and photographs them.</p><p>It's seat-of-the-pants science -- there's no precedent for it. And Richmond isn't sure what he'll find out. He needs to analyze hundreds of prints to make good comparisons between us -- that is, Kallista Bernal -- and the Kenyan ancestor.</p><p><strong>Evolving Into Us</strong></p><p>That ancestor was probably <em>Homo erectus</em>, which emerged about 1.8 million years ago. They made tools, hunted, used fire and were taller and had a bigger brain than their predecessors.</p><p>&quot;They were starting to change their way of life,&quot; Richmond says. &quot;They would go much farther. And a lot of people think it's mainly in terms of finding meat, and meat became a new and important part of the diet. That also led eventually to us populating the world more.&quot;</p><p>Eventually, <em>Homo erectus</em> evolved into us, modern humans. And we can thank them for inventing that spring in our step that gave us -- literally -- the get-up-and-go to hunt, to populate Africa and eventually to walk ourselves all over the world. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1288486717?&amp;gn=Fast+Feet%3A+A+Springy+Step+Helps+Humans+Walk&amp;ev=event2&amp;ch=128245649&amp;h1=The+Human+Edge,Science+Headlines+E-Mail+Newsletter,Humans,Environment,Research+News,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories&amp;c3=D%3Dgn&amp;v3=D%3Dgn&amp;c4=128575033&amp;c7=1007&amp;v7=D%3Dc7&amp;c18=1007&amp;v18=D%3Dc18&amp;c19=20100719&amp;v19=D%3Dc19&amp;c20=1&amp;v20=D%3Dc20&amp;c21=3&amp;v21=D%3Dc2&amp;c31=128245649,122101520&amp;v31=D%3Dc31&amp;c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001" alt="" /> Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1288486734?&amp;gn=Fast+Feet%3A+A+Springy+Step+Helps+Humans+Walk&amp;ev=event2&amp;h1=The+Human+Edge,Science+Headlines+E-Mail+Newsletter,Humans,Environment,Research+News,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories&amp;c3=D%3Dgn&amp;v3=D%3Dgn&amp;c4=128575033&amp;c7=1007&amp;v7=D%3Dc7&amp;c18=1007&amp;v18=D%3Dc18&amp;c19=20100719&amp;v19=D%3Dc19&amp;c20=1&amp;v20=D%3Dc20&amp;c21=3&amp;v21=D%3Dc2&amp;c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001" alt="" /></p></p> Mon, 19 Jul 2010 10:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/home-page-top-stories/fast-feet-springy-step-helps-humans-walk