Episodes of Palaeolithic cannibalism have frequently been defined as ‘nutritional’ in nature, but with little empirical evidence to assess their dietary significance. This paper presents a nutritional template that offers a proxy calorie value for the human body. When applied to the Palaeolithic record, the template provides a framework for assessing the dietary value of prehistoric cannibalistic episodes compared to the faunal record. Results show that humans have a comparable nutritional value to those faunal species that match our typical body weight, but significantly lower than a range of fauna often found in association with anthropogenically modified hominin remains. This could suggest that the motivations behind hominin anthropophagy may not have been purely nutritionally motivated. It is proposed here that the comparatively low nutritional value of hominin cannibalism episodes support more socially or culturally driven narratives in the interpretation of Palaeolithic cannibalism.
According to a “parasite stress” hypothesis, authoritarian governments are more likely to emerge in regions characterized by a high prevalence of disease-causing pathogens. Recent cross-national evidence is consistent with this hypothesis, but there are inferential limitations associated with that evidence. We report two studies that address some of these limitations, and provide further tests of the hypothesis. Study 1 revealed that parasite prevalence strongly predicted cross-national differences on measures assessing individuals' authoritarian personalities, and this effect statistically mediated the relationship between parasite prevalence and authoritarian governance. The mediation result is inconsistent with an alternative explanation for previous findings. To address further limitations associated with cross-national comparisons, Study 2 tested the parasite stress hypothesis on a sample of traditional small-scale societies (the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample). Results revealed that parasite prevalence predicted measures of authoritarian governance, and did so even when statistically controlling for other threats to human welfare. (One additional threat-famine-also uniquely predicted authoritarianism.) Together, these results further substantiate the parasite stress hypothesis of authoritarianism, and suggest that societal differences in authoritarian governance result, in part, from cultural differences in individuals' authoritarian personalities.
Discussions about the underrepresentation of women in science are challenged by uncertainty over the relative effects of the lack of assertiveness by women and the lack of recognition of them by male colleagues because the two are often indistinguishable. They can be distinguished at professional meetings, however, by comparing symposia, which are largely by invitation, and posters and other talks, which are largely participant-initiated. Analysis of 21 annual meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists reveals that within the subfield of primatology, women give more posters than talks, whereas men give more talks than posters. But most strikingly, among symposia the proportion of female participants differs dramatically by the gender of the organizer. Male-organized symposia have half the number of female first authors (29%) that symposia organized by women (64%) or by both men and women (58%) have, and half that of female participation in talks and posters (65%). We found a similar gender bias from men in symposia from the past 12 annual meetings of the American Society of Primatologists. The bias is surprising given that women are the numerical majority in primatology and have achieved substantial peer recognition in this discipline.
The role of breakfast as an essential part of an healthy diet has been only recently promoted even if breakfast practices were known since the Middle Age. The growing scientific evidences on this topic are extremely sector-based nevertheless breakfast could be regarded from different point of views and from different expertises. This approach, that take into account history, sociology, anthropology, medicine, psychology and pedagogy, is useful to better understand the value of this meal in our culture. The aim of this paper was to analyse breakfast-related issues based on a multidisciplinary approach with input by specialists from different fields of learning.
The concept of “scientific culture” varies historically, and the examination of its continuities and transformations can help us understand the relationship between the scientific community and society. The views on the role of science in society go far beyond the advancement of a particular form of knowledge and its possible or promising fruit. They involve values, postures and practices to be disseminated and reveal expectations of social and cultural advancement. This article discusses four expressive visions of different moments in Brazilian history. The formulations of four influential authors in scientific and educational policies of the country at different times are presented and analyzed: Miguel Ozorio de Almeida, Anísio Teixeira, Maurício Rocha e Silva and Carlos Vogt.
Tall guys and fat ladies: Grimaldi’s Upper Paleolithic burials and figurines in an historical perspective
- Journal of anthropological sciences = Rivista di antropologia : JASS / Istituto italiano di antropologia
- Published about 3 years ago
The importance of the Grimaldi complex of caves and rock shelters is twofold: scientific and historical. Scientifically, it is one of the major Upper Paleolithic sites, considering the variety of mobiliary and parietal art, the number of single and multiple burials and associated grave goods, and the abundant lithic and fauna remains. Historically, the documentation of activity that took place in this site starting from the second half of the 19 th century and the studies carried out on the materials that have been recovered in the decades between 1870s-1910s, provide instructive examples of methods and goals of Paleolithic archeology and anthropology of the epoch. This paper combines the scientific and the historic interest of the site through a chronicle of the events that took place during the period of the most sensational discoveries, i.e. beginning with the identification in 1872 of the first Upper Paleolithic burial and ending with the results of the excavations carried out in 1901 at Grotte des Enfants published in four volumes a few years later. The paper discusses early interpretations and modern views on the different findings and documents changes in perspectives and goals of paleoanthropological research in over a century, raising some of the major issues of contemporary Upper Paleolithic studies.
The Nature of Culture: an eight-grade model for the evolution and expansion of cultural capacities in hominins and other animals
- Journal of anthropological sciences = Rivista di antropologia : JASS / Istituto italiano di antropologia
- Published almost 3 years ago
Tracing the evolution of human culture through time is arguably one of the most controversial and complex scholarly endeavors, and a broad evolutionary analysis of how symbolic, linguistic, and cultural capacities emerged and developed in our species is lacking. Here we present a model that, in broad terms, aims to explain the evolution and portray the expansion of human cultural capacities (the EECC model), that can be used as a point of departure for further multidisciplinary discussion and more detailed investigation. The EECC model is designed to be flexible, and can be refined to accommodate future archaeological, paleoanthropological, genetic or evolutionary psychology/behavioral analyses and discoveries. Our proposed concept of cultural behavior differentiates between empirically traceable behavioral performances and behavioral capacities that are theoretical constructs. Based largely on archaeological data (the ‘black box’ that most directly opens up hominin cultural evolution), and on the extension of observable problem-solution distances, we identify eight grades of cultural capacity. Each of these grades is considered within evolutionary-biological and historical-social trajectories. Importantly, the model does not imply an inevitable progression, but focuses on expansion of cultural capacities based on the integration of earlier achievements. We conclude that there is not a single cultural capacity or a single set of abilities that enabled human culture; rather, several grades of cultural capacity in animals and hominins expanded during our evolution to shape who we are today.
The impact of changing climate on terrestrial and underwater archaeological sites, historic buildings, and cultural landscapes can be examined through quantitatively-based analyses encompassing large data samples and broad geographic and temporal scales. The Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) is a multi-institutional collaboration that allows researchers online access to linked heritage data from multiple sources and data sets. The effects of sea-level rise and concomitant human population relocation is examined using a sample from nine states encompassing much of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the southeastern United States. A 1 m rise in sea-level will result in the loss of over >13,000 recorded historic and prehistoric archaeological sites, as well as over 1000 locations currently eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), encompassing archaeological sites, standing structures, and other cultural properties. These numbers increase substantially with each additional 1 m rise in sea level, with >32,000 archaeological sites and >2400 NRHP properties lost should a 5 m rise occur. Many more unrecorded archaeological and historic sites will also be lost as large areas of the landscape are flooded. The displacement of millions of people due to rising seas will cause additional impacts where these populations resettle. Sea level rise will thus result in the loss of much of the record of human habitation of the coastal margin in the Southeast within the next one to two centuries, and the numbers indicate the magnitude of the impact on the archaeological record globally. Construction of large linked data sets is essential to developing procedures for sampling, triage, and mitigation of these impacts.
Landscapes and features of the everyday world were scarcely represented in Paleolithic art, especially those features associated with the human landscape (huts and campsites). On the contrary, other figurative motifs (especially animals) and signs, traditionally linked to the magic or religious conceptions of these hunter-gatherer societies, are the predominant themes of Upper Paleolithic art. This paper seeks to present an engraved schist slab recently found in the Molí del Salt site (North-eastern Iberia) and dated at the end of the Upper Paleolithic, ca. 13,800 years ago. This slab displays seven semicircular motifs that may be interpreted as the representation of dome-shaped huts. The analysis of individual motifs and the composition, as well as the ethnographic and archeological contextualization, suggests that this engraving is a naturalistic depiction of a hunter-gatherer campsite. Campsites can be considered the first human landscape, the first area of land whose visible features were entirely constructed by humans. Given the social meaning of campsites in hunter-gatherer life-styles, this engraving may be considered one of the first representations of the domestic and social space of a human group.
Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organization
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published 5 months ago
Do human societies from around the world exhibit similarities in the way that they are structured, and show commonalities in the ways that they have evolved? These are long-standing questions that have proven difficult to answer. To test between competing hypotheses, we constructed a massive repository of historical and archaeological information known as “Seshat: Global History Databank.” We systematically coded data on 414 societies from 30 regions around the world spanning the last 10,000 years. We were able to capture information on 51 variables reflecting nine characteristics of human societies, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems. Our analyses revealed that these different characteristics show strong relationships with each other and that a single principal component captures around three-quarters of the observed variation. Furthermore, we found that different characteristics of social complexity are highly predictable across different world regions. These results suggest that key aspects of social organization are functionally related and do indeed coevolve in predictable ways. Our findings highlight the power of the sciences and humanities working together to rigorously test hypotheses about general rules that may have shaped human history.