Whether we know it or not, ritual pervades our lives, silently guiding our daily behavior. Like language, tool use, and music, ritual is a constituent element of what it means to be human, joining together culture, archaeology, and biology. The study of ritual, therefore, is a reflection on human nature and the society we inhabit.
In the days following the terrorist attack in Paris on 11 January, thousands of people took to the street in solidarity with the victims and in defense of free speech, and many declared ‘Je suis Charlie’ on social media around the world. The scene is familiar with what we have seen in several other countries in the aftermath of major terrorist attacks.
How far back in time European communities began to recognize and chart the movements of the sun, moon, and stars it is impossible to say, but for the mobile hunting bands of the Palaeolithic period, following large herds through the forests of Europe and returning to base camps when the hunt was over, the ability to navigate using the stars would have been vital to existence.
Although the number of Ebola cases and deaths has jumped dramatically in the short time since we wrote our December Briefing on the epidemic, there are signs of hope. Ebola is slowing down in areas where there was previously high transmission, in Liberia and in Eastern Sierra Leone for example.
Two of the biggest scientific breakthroughs in paleoanthropology occurred in 2010. Not only had we determined a draft genome of an extinct Neandertal from bones that lay in the Earth for tens of thousands of years, but the genome from another heretofore unknown ancient human relative, dubbed the Denisovans, was also announced. A one-hundred-year-old conundrum was finally answered: did we mate with Neandertals?
On 12 August 2014 at precisely 2:58 a.m., a 5.1 earthquake struck, centered at the hilltop lightning huaca San Catequilla de Pichincha. Since this initial earthquake, there were fifty-seven aftershocks, all centered at or close to this hill. Cerro Catequilla is situated where the Río Monjas empties into the Río Guayllabamba, approximately 15 km north of Quito in the Pomasqui Valley directly east of the town of San Antonio.
Refugee identity is often shrouded in suspicion, speculation and rumour. Of course everyone wants to protect “real” refugees, but it often seems – upon reading the papers – that the real challenge is to find them among the interlopers: the “bogus asylum seekers”, the “queue jumpers”, the “illegals”. Yet these distinctions and definitions shatter the moment we subject them to critical scrutiny.
The relationship between anthropologists and Christian identity and belief is a riddle. I first became interested in it by studying the intellectual reasons for the loss of faith given by figures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There are an obvious set of such intellectual triggers.
Most of us only think about teeth when something’s wrong with them — when they come in crooked, break, or begin to rot. But take a minute to consider your teeth as the extraordinary feat of engineering they are. They concentrate and transmit the forces needed to break food, again and again, up to millions of times over a lifetime. And they do it without themselves being broken in the process — with the very same raw materials used to make the plants and animals being eaten.
Osagie K. Obasogie, J.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Law at the University of California, Hastings with a joint appointment at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. His first book, Blinded By Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind, was recently published by Stanford University Press and his second book on the past, present, and future of bioethics is under contract with the University of California Press.
By Dr. Jingmai O’Connor
Understanding the internal organs of extinct animals over 100 million years old used to belong in the realm of impossibility. However, during recent decades exceptional discoveries from all over the world have revealed elusive details such as fossilized feathers, skin, and muscle.
By Jeannette D. Jones
There’s a legendary world in Deaf culture lore. It’s like Earth but it’s for people of the eye, so they call it Eyeth (get it? EARth, EYEth). In this world, people listen with their eyes with the comfort of being typical, just the way life is, unlike the existence of a Deaf person on Earth, heavily mediated through hearing devices, pads of paper, interpreters, lip reading, and gestures.
By Eckart Woertz
Syria and Egypt paradigmatically highlight the perils of food security in the Middle East. Oil exports of Egypt, the largest wheat importer of the world, ceased at the end of the 2000’s. Generating enough foreign exchange for food procurement became more difficult and plans for more self-sufficiency have failed in the face of limited water and land resources.
By Alberto Alesina, Paola Giuliano, and Nathan Nunn
The gender division of labor varies significantly across societies. In particular, there are large differences in the extent to which women participate in activities outside of the home. For instance, in 2000, the share of women aged 15 to 64 in the labor force ranged from a low of 16.1% in Pakistan to 90.5% in Burundi.
By Hannah Skoda
We are used to finding a stream of extreme violence reported in the media: from the brutal familial holocaust engineered by Mick Philpott to the terror of the Boston bombings. Maybe it is because such cases seem close to home and elicit reactions both voyeuristic and frightened, that they gain so much more emotive coverage than quotidian violence in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
By Eric Cline
The Trojan War may be well known thanks to movies, books, and plays around the world, but did the war that spurred so much fascination even occur? The excerpt below from The Trojan War: A Very Short Introduction helps answer some of the many questions about the infamous war Homer helped immortalize.