What is Anthropology? To answer this question, let us look at the different academic areas covered in anthropological research. It is a broad subject that deals with humans, ancient hominids, and even extends to great apes such as chimpanzees. The experts in the field primarily research the history and development of human anatomy and behavior, especially in its earliest stages.
Anthropologists also study human language, early culture and societies, biology, material remains, and the general habits of humans and primates that have developed over time. Historically, researchers conducted these studies in a variety of ways, but new technology opens the door for the expansion of anthropological research. In the future, this field might even incorporate non-human civilizations. The research is constantly evolving, and new theories and discoveries are coming to light all the time. Here are just a few current events in anthropology.
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Current Events in Anthropology: Understanding Facial Variation
The things that make each human unique are a mystery, even now. Diversity in facial variation such as pigmentation, shape, and even physical features are a focus of a ton of research. Mark D. Shriver, Penn State professor of anthropology, studies facial variation intensely, and has made a great career out of it. The focus of his research is understanding what makes our variations vary from human to human. The subject of this research comes from the fact that our bodies are largely alike, but our faces are where we hold major differences.
The main takeaway of Dr. Shriver’s latest research, Anthropometrics, DNA, and the Appearances and Perceptions of Traits 4, finds that much of our face is dictated by genetics. We know this to be true, because we look like the humans we come from. In fact, there are many who look, at one time or another in their lives, like a spitting image of a father or mother. We know thanks to Dr. Shriver, however, that a lot of that is environmental as well. Disney Research, providing a 12-camera system called the Medusa, assisted in an experiment in which human faces were sex swapped and ancestor swapped to see how they were perceived.
Are Faces Really all That Different?
The goal early on was to confirm a major belief that is held in much of the anthropology field. The ways we view humans is largely based on preconceived notions. For example, a white male is viewed as a white male for their skin color and sex. When eliminated, sex and physical attributes show faces to be more or less similar to one another. Modern influences make for modern opinions. The concept calls back to the early days of mankind. While these genetic differences may have existed, were they truly noticed?
Sure, early humans knew that some people looked different from others. Depending on lineage and ancestors, you are going to look a certain way. Plus, sun exposure, eating habits, and more functions of early life evolved into physical features on different populations. For that reason, Dr. Shriver’s study should tell us more about what similarities faces have. Diversity always looks at what is different. This study should be an interesting one since it focuses on what is the same. It helps remind everyone that humans are much more alike than different. An important distinction to make in a tumultuous time in the world.
Current Events in Anthropology: Questioning the ‘Social Brain Hypothesis’
Why is it that the brains of human beings and other primates were more prominent than those of other species? Is it because of social pressures? For many years, this was the prevailing theory, but it has now been disproven in a recent study. A lot of current events in anthropology come from the top minds in the field. Anthropologists like Dr. James Highamn of New York University disputed prevailing theories after in-depth research showed that diet affects the brain in major ways. According to the social brain hypothesis, the complexities of cognitive function reflect in the complexities of social life.
Recent studies show that diet affects brain size more than the influence of social interactions and obligations. Folivores develop a smaller brain when compared with that of frugivores. The results obtained by the New York University gave more importance to environmental causes for larger brains, as opposed to the social side.
In the new research findings, scholars Dr. DeCasien and Dr. Scott Williams used a sample of one hundred and forty ape/primate species. Compared to previous studies, this number is high. They even included a less common, tree-dwelling species known as phylogenies.
How did They Find This?
The experts looked at the effects of diet among folivores, frugivores, and omnivores. They looked deeply into their sociality complexity, mating systems and group size. The findings brought up the point that over time, diet has a significant effect on the size of the brain, unlike the previous claims that sociality has a larger impact.
Observations show that frugivores have bigger brains. The same applies to omnivores, which also show larger brains than folivores. However, the anthropologists denied the claim that there is a connection between brain size and vitamins and protein consumption. Instead, they came up with an interesting finding. They concluded that the preference for certain foods corresponded with varied cognitive function. Turning our eyes to more current events in anthropology, here’s some insight on European cooking methods.
Current Events in Anthropology: Earliest Europeans Did Not Cook With Fire
Recently in anthropology, researchers discovered that the earliest Europeans did not generally cook their food with fire. In Spain, there is a place known as Sima del Elefante, Atapuerca, where the earliest hominin remains were discovered. The hominins date as far back as 1.2 million years ago. Here, the researchers obtained the molars of the hominins for research. Researchers studied and tested the molars carefully, so that they might obtain some information about the early human diet.
Looking for the proof of plant use from the remains was not easy, but this research has been able to give enough evidence of general food consumption at the time. The evidence showed that these early humans got their carbohydrates, fiber, and protein from grass-like plants and meat. The researchers looked for any indication of processed starch granules, but absolutely no evidence developed to insinuate that the early humans consumed food in a raw state. There were also traces of non-consumable wood in the remains, suggesting that there were practices of oral hygiene.
What Was on the Menu?
Environmental studies show that fragments of insects, spores and conifer grains were most likely to have come from an area with forests. However, pieces of untouched plant fibers provide good evidence of non-processed material, suggesting raw consumption of foods.
Researchers have never seemed to agree on how many years ago human beings started cooking food with fire. Some say that fire became common for cooking around 300,000 years ago. However, many researchers have disputed this, claiming that fire came into use closer to 1 million years ago. Some evidence from ancient sites in Africa show that the latter claim might in fact be true. For more current events in anthropology, we loo
Current Events in Anthropology: Natural Selection Removed Many Neanderthal Genes from Modern-day Humans
University of California research findings showed that only a few genes from Neanderthal DNA are present in modern human beings. The researchers believe that this happened due to natural selection. More specifically, the interbreeding Neanderthal gene variants that were ‘bad’ became overwhelmed by the other genomes that were stronger. Neanderthals can be traced back to early Africa, but over five hundred years ago some Neanderthals split to Europe and Asia, where they resided until about ten thousand years ago. Around this time, Homo sapiens also left their ancient home in Africa and interbred with these Neanderthals.
Due to the interbreeding, researchers expected the first batch of the hybrids to have half the Homo sapien genomes and a half the Neanderthal genomes. Only a range of one to four percent of the Neanderthal gene appeared in modern humans with European ancestry.
A report by Dr. Juric Ivan of the University of California, the lead author of this research, confirmed that most researchers believe people with non-African ancestry developed as a hybrid of the modern human and Neanderthal. Dr. Juric and co-authors published a book on natural selection to help people understand how modern human genomes got rid of the Neanderthal genomes and how these two split apart.
In their findings, they laid out that the Neanderthal would have some negative impacts on the modern human, through the process of natural selection removed the mix up with contemporary genomes. Dr. Juric said that in doing their research, they wanted to broaden their comprehension of this topic and fully understand why the genomes were overwhelmed.
The researchers concluded that these genes were able to stay and survive with the Neanderthal due to their small numbers. When their genes were mixed up with that of modern humans, they became the weaker half and couldn’t last for long due to natural selection. The genomes naturally could not persist due to the overwhelming population of contemporary humans. After many years, the majority of these genes simply submitted to their better half.
Current Events in Anthropology: New World’s First Dogs Came from Siberia: Study
Most current events in anthropology focus on humans, but sometimes studies involving different species produce interesting results. About ten thousand years ago, domestic dogs first appeared, according to our anthropological records. This came about six thousand years after the first evidence of human activity. Nevertheless, the exact timing of their arrival, as well as their associated geographic origins, are not easily found in historical records. A recent study looked at the origins of European canine migration and domestication to investigate the precise roots of ancient dogs in the American territory.
Greger Larson, a student at the University of Oxford, tried to determine the precise years in which dogs lived had their first contact with humans. Their first appearance dates back to the fifteenth century. The researchers were able to find some mitochondrial and other nuclear genes from old American dogs, as well as those from Siberia.
History of Humans and Dogs
Professor Larson insinuated that the history of humans reflects the history of domestic animals. He compared dogs with the people of America, and their experience of displacement in Europe. When comparing the dogs DNA to all other existing breeds, the results do in fact show that American canine DNA matches with the dogs from Syria.
Researchers also found cancer in dogs of about a thousand years, and it matched cancer found in older breeds. This particular type of cancer could only be from dogs that came to America in those early years.
The combined effects of disease, cultural persecutions and changes in biological systems led to their disappearance. These effects started upon the arrival of the Europeans. Researchers still believe there must be something fatal that occurred, but there is still not enough proof to explain this vanishing. As a result, researchers assume that cancer caused the deadly disappearance.
Current Events in Anthropology: Homo Naledi Had Small but Surprisingly Complex Brain
The University of Witwatersrand, Columbia University, and Indiana University pooled their resources to organize a team for the study of the Homo naledi brain. Insight on this genus always makes current events in anthropology. They put together the pieces of partial crania and skull fragments procured from about five adult samples of Homo naledi. One of the attached pieces produced a clear view of the convolutions on the left front lobe of the brain. The structure of the front portion of the Homo naledi brain matches that of human beings. However, it still differs from many other hominids.
Looking at the other members of the same genus, such as the Homo habilis and Homo erectus, it can be seen that they also possess similar features. These similarities are especially prominent on the frontal lobe. However, the frontal lobe looks very different in other species related to people, like the Australopithecus Africanus.
The researchers claimed it was still too early to predict the location or language of the Homo naledi. However, there is evidence that human communication and linguistic development both depend on the frontal lobe.
Homo naledi also showed some similarity in the back of the brain to that of humans. These similarities are not shared by many other primates, such as the Australopithecus. Current events in anthropology are riddled with new knowledge of the human mind. The structure of a human brain is mirror-like, with the left part of the brain relatively similar to the right part of it. This mirror-like feature on the brain is evident in fragments of the Homo naledi brain.
The small brains of Homo naledi raise new questions about the development of human brains and their size throughout the ages. Having big brains was costly to human ancestors. Some species needed to adapt different styles of living and collecting resources to survive. For example, many species need to eat larger quantities of food, with greater nutritional value. Many also relied on hunting (rather than gathering). This didn’t exactly work with the Homo naledi, whose body structure worked better for tool-making. Their teeth and long legs suggested high-quality dieting. Possessing similar brains to that of humans, insofar as they were small and complex, suggested that Homo naledi also possessed behaviors like those of human beings.