anthropology

Research: Prehistoric humans formed sophisticated social networks to minimize inbreeding

Artist's impression of an Upper Paleothic burial from Sunghir, Russia, issued by Cambridge University, credit Libor Balak, Anthropark

A paleolithic burial site in Russia has provided evidence that prehistoric humans formed complex mating networks to avoid inbreeding.

A new study examined genetic information from the remains of modern humans who lived during the early part of the Upper Palaeolithic, a period when modern humans from Africa first colonized western Eurasia, eventually displacing the Neanderthals who lived there before.

The humans buried at the site in Sunghir, Russia were no more closely related than first cousins. The findings suggest that they deliberately sought partners beyond their immediate family, and that they were probably connected to a wider network of groups from within which mates were chosen.

The work was carried out a research team led by the University of Cambridge (U.K.) and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and including SMU archaeologist David J. Meltzer, whose expertise includes the First People in the Americas. Their findings are reported in “Ancient genomes show social and reproductive behavior of early Upper Paleolithic foragers,” published in the Oct. 5, 2017 issue of Science.

The researchers’ work demonstrate that by at least 34,000 years ago, human hunter-gatherer groups had developed sophisticated social and mating networks that minimized inbreeding. The authors also hint that the early development of more complex mating systems may at least partly explain why modern humans proved successful while other, rival species, such as Neanderthals, did not. More ancient genomic information from both early humans and Neanderthals is needed to test this idea.

The human fossils buried at Sunghir are a unique source of information about early modern human societies of western Eurasia. Sunghir preserves two contemporaneous burials – that of an adult man, and that of two children buried together and which includes the symbolically modified remains of another adult.

To the researchers’ surprise, however, these individuals were not closely related in genetic terms; at the very most, they were second cousins. This is true even for the two children who were buried head-to-head in the same grave.

“What this means is that people in the Upper Palaeolithic, who were living in tiny groups, understood the importance of avoiding inbreeding,” said Eske Willerslev, a professor at St. John’s College and the University of Copenhagen, who was senior author on the study. “The data that we have suggest that it was being purposely avoided. This means that they must have developed a system for this purpose. If the small hunter and gathering bands were mixing at random, we would see much greater evidence of inbreeding than we have here.”

— University of Cambridge, SMU

> Read the full story from the SMU Research blog

Caroline Brettell inducted with class of 2017 into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Caroline Brettell, 2017 induction, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, MASMU anthropologist Caroline Brettell celebrated her election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences during a ceremony at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

The 228 new fellows and foreign honorary members — representing the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs and the nonprofit sector — were announced in April as members of one of the world’s most prestigious honorary societies. In addition to Brettell, the class of 2017 includes actress Carol Burnett, musician John Legend, playwright Lynn Nottage, immunologist James Allison and many others.

> SMU Forum: Caroline Brettell elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

An SMU faculty member since 1988, Brettell has held the Dedman Family Distinguished Professorship and served as chair in the Department of Anthropology and as director of Women’s Studies in Dedman College. She served as president of the Faculty Senate and a member of the University’s Board of Trustees in 2001-02, and was dean ad interim of Dedman College from 2006-08. Brettell is a member of the American Anthropological Association, the American Ethnological Society, the Society for Applied Anthropology, the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, and the Society for Urban, National and Transnational Anthropology, among others.

Brettell is the fourth SMU faculty member to be elected to the Academy. She joins David Meltzer, Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in Dedman College (class of 2013), Scurlock University Professor of Human Values Charles Curran (class of 2010), and the late David J. Weber, founding director of the University’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies (class of 2007).

> See the full list of American Academy of Arts and Sciences members

Caroline Brettell elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Caroline BrettellNoted SMU anthropologist Caroline Brettell joins actress Carol Burnett, musician John Legend, playwright Lynn Nottage, immunologist James Allison and other renowned leaders in various fields as a newly elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The class of 2017 will be inducted at a ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Brettell joins 228 new fellows and foreign honorary members — representing the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs and the nonprofit sector — as a member of one of the world’s most prestigious honorary societies.

“Caroline Brettell is an internationally recognized leader in the field of migration, and one of Dedman College’s most productive scholars,” said Thomas DiPiero, dean of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. “I couldn’t be happier to see her win this well-deserved accolade.”

“I am surprised and deeply honored to receive such a recognition,” said Brettell, Ruth Collins Altshuler Professor in the Department of Anthropology and director of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute. “It is overwhelming to be in the company of Winston Churchill, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jonas Salk and the ‘mother’ of my own discipline, Margaret Mead. And I am thrilled to have my favorite pianist, André Watts, as a member of my class. I am truly grateful to join such a distinguished and remarkable group of members, past and present.”

> See the full list of American Academy of Arts and Sciences members

Brettell’s research centers on ethnicity, migration and the immigrant experience. Much of her work has focused on the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex as a new immigration gateway city, especially on how immigrants practice citizenship and civic engagement as they meld into existing economic, social and political structures. She has special expertise in cross-cultural perspectives on gender, the challenges specific to women immigrants, how the technology boom affects immigration, and how the U.S.-born children of immigrants construct their identities and a sense of belonging. An immigrant herself, Brettell was born in Canada and became a U.S. citizen in 1993.

She is the author or editor of nearly 20 books, most recently Gender and Migration (2016, Polity Press UK) and Identity and the Second Generation: How Children of Immigrants Find Their Space, co-edited with Faith G. Nibbs, Ph.D. ’11 (2016, Vanderbilt University Press). Her research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Wenner Gren Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation, among many others.

An SMU faculty member since 1988, Brettell has held the Dedman Family Distinguished Professorship and served as chair in the Department of Anthropology and as director of Women’s Studies in Dedman College. She served as president of the Faculty Senate and a member of the University’s Board of Trustees in 2001-02, and was dean ad interim of Dedman College from 2006-08. Brettell is a member of the American Anthropological Association, the American Ethnological Society, the Society for Applied Anthropology, the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, and the Society for Urban, National and Transnational Anthropology, among others.

She joins David Meltzer, Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in Dedman College (class of 2013), Scurlock University Professor of Human Values Charles Curran (class of 2010), and the late David J. Weber, founding director of the University’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies (class of 2007) as the fourth SMU faculty member to be elected to the Academy.

“It is an honor to welcome this new class of exceptional women and men as part of our distinguished membership,” said Don Randel, chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “Their talents and expertise will enrich the life of the Academy and strengthen our capacity to spread knowledge and understanding in service to the nation.”

“In a tradition reaching back to the earliest days of our nation, the honor of election to the American Academy is also a call to service,” said Academy President Jonathan F. Fanton. “Through our projects, publications, and events, the Academy provides members with opportunities to make common cause and produce the useful knowledge for which the Academy’s 1780 charter calls.”

Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership of about 4,900 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. The Academy’s work is advanced by these elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs from around the world.

Members of the Academy’s 2017 class include winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Wolf Prize; MacArthur Fellows; Fields Medalists; Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts recipients; and Academy Award, Grammy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award winners.

> Read the full story, and learn more about selected members of the AAAS class of 2017, at SMU News

SMU students host first Refugee and Forced Migration Symposium Jan. 28-29, 2016

David W Haines

David W. Haines

A renowned expert in refugee resettlement and a Syrian refugee living in Dallas are featured speakers in SMU’s first Refugee and Forced Migration Symposium.

“Whose Protection? Interrogating Displacement and the Limits of Humanitarian Welcome” will also feature presentations from SMU graduate students. It is open to the public Thursday and Friday, Jan. 28-29, in 144 Annette Caldwell Simmons Hall.

Delivering the symposium’s keynote address is George Mason University Professor David W. Haines, a renowned expert on refugee resettlement in the United States. Haines’ lecture, “Remembering Refugees,” is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28 in 144 Simmons Hall, preceded by a 30-minute reception at 5 p.m.

Ghada Mukdad

Ghada Mukdad

SMU Anthropology Graduate Student Shay Cannedy and four of her peers organized the symposium, which continues from 3-5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, also in 144 Simmons, with remarks from Syrian refugee Ghada Mukdad and presentations from SMU graduate students.

Mukdad, who was stranded in the United States when the outbreak of civil war prevented her from returning home in 2012, will speak about the conflict in Syria and her own legal struggles to gain official refugee status. Ghada is the founder of the Zain Foundation, a global human rights advocacy group, and an advisory board member of the Syrian Civil Coalition, which advocates for the victims of Syria’s refugee crisis.

Cannedy and fellow graduate students Katherine Fox, Sara Mosher, Ashvina Patel and will each present a lecture based on their own research into refugee issues around the world, from Thailand to San Francisco.

“Given current large-scale refugee movements in Europe and the Syrian refugee controversies in Texas, we thought a symposium would be a good way to open discussion on the topic and bring forth something from our own research,” Cannedy says. “A lot of countries are rethinking their migration policies and how we treat asylum seekers, so it’s on the forefront of people’s minds right now.

“Some people view refugees and migrants as more of a security issue than a human rights issue,” Cannedy adds. “But the new Canadian administration, for example, emphasizes making a compassionate welcome rather than closing borders, so we’ll be talking about how different migration policies impact the lives of people who come into contact with them.”

— Kenny Ryan

> Read the full story from SMU News

For the Record: June 19, 2014

Faith Nibbs, Anthropology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, presented at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Annual Consultations with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of a panel on “Achieving Self-Reliance: Paving the Way for Safe, Lawful and Sustainable Livelihoods.” She is director of SMU’s Forced Migration Innovation ProjectRead more at the SMU FMIP blog.

Anthony Cortese, Sociology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has published “Muscle as Fashion: Messages From the Bodybuilding Subculture.” The article appears in Volume 16, No. 7 (July 2014) of Virtual Mentor, a monthly bioethics journal published by the American Medical Association.

Three cheers: SMU Honors Day 2014 is Monday, April 21

Photo from SMU Honors Convocation 2013 by Kim RitzenthalerEvery third Monday in April, SMU takes a day to celebrate the high achievements of students, faculty and staff members in two different ceremonies.

This year’s Honors Convocation and Awards Extravaganza take place on the afternoon and evening of Monday, April 21, 2014.

2014 Honors Convocation award recipients (coming soon)

Eric Bing will deliver the address during the 17th Honors Convocation – celebrating academic achievement at the University and department levels – at 5:30 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium. Bing is professor of global health in the Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development and in the Department of Anthropology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. He has a concurrent appointment with the George W. Bush Institute as senior fellow and director of global health.

Bing has developed and managed global health programs in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, including HIV prevention, care and treatment programs in Rwanda, Angola, Nigeria, Namibia, Belize and Jamaica. At the Bush Institute, he has initiated worldwide health initiatives, including serving as co-leader of the Institute’s Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership, an $85 million public-private program designed to combat cervical and breast cancer in Africa and Latin America. In addition, he has published more than 90 articles and abstracts. His book, Pharmacy on a Bicycle: Innovative Solutions in Global Health and Poverty, was released in May 2013.

Retired and current faculty will assemble for Honors Convocation in academic dress no later than 5:10 p.m. in the Perkins Administration Building lobby and will process together to McFarlin Auditorium. A reception will immediately follow the ceremony in the Dallas Hall Quadrangle.

Watch Honors Convocation via live streaming Monday, April 21 at smu.edu/live

Participating faculty members may RSVP online. Faculty members with questions regarding the procession can send an e-mail to ceremonies@smu.edu or call 214-768-3417.

Later, the University presents several awards for excellence – including its highest honor, the “M” Award – during the 2014 Awards Extravaganza at 7:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballrooms. SMU Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios will speak at the event. Awards Extravaganza honorees will be listed in SMU Forum the day after the ceremony.

Photo from Honors Convocation 2013 by Kim Ritzenthaler

Find more information on Honors Convocation at the Registrar’s website
Learn more about the Awards Extravaganza from SMU Student Life

For the Record: May 3, 2013

Anthony Cortese, Sociology, Dedman College, participated in an invited panel discussion, Outside the Silo: The Interdisciplinary Teacher-Scholar, at the annual meetings of the Southern Sociological Society, held March 23-27, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta. He also presented a paper, The Tucson and Norway Massacres: Deconstructing Competing Narratives, in a session on Types of Crime and Victims.

Ron Wetherington, Anthropology, Dedman College, has been selected as a panelist for the Texas Education Agency in the review of proposed new science textbooks for the state. He will assess high school biology texts for 2014 adoption by the state Board of Education. The review runs from May to July 2013.

Shannon Woodruff, a Ph.D. candidate in the research lab of Nicolay Tsarevsky, Chemistry, Dedman College, was one of four national recipients of the Ciba Travel Award in Green Chemistry awarded annually by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The annual award sponsors the participation of high school, undergraduate and graduate students in an ACS technical meeting, conference or training program to expand the students’ education in green chemistry. Woodruff used his award in April to attend the 245th National Meeting of the ACS in New Orleans, where he presented his research on “Well-defined functional epoxide-containing polymers by low-catalyst concentration atom transfer radical polymerization.” Tsarevsky’s lab focuses on the synthesis of polymers with controlled molecular weight and architecture, and precise placement of specific functionalities including biomedical applications such as controlled delivery and imaging.

David Meltzer elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

David J. Meltzer

David Meltzer, Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in its class of 2013. He joins Scurlock University Professor of Human Values Charles Curran (class of 2010) as the second SMU faculty member to be elected to the Academy.

SMU anthropologist David Meltzer joins John Glenn, Martin Amis, Robert De Niro, Bruce Springsteen and other renowned leaders in various fields as a newly elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The class of 2013 will be inducted at a ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The new fellows and foreign honorary members — representing the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs and the nonprofit sector — join one of the world’s most prestigious honorary societies.

“I’m thrilled, honored and — after looking at when the American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded and by whom, and who has been elected to membership over the years — more than a bit humbled by it all,” says Meltzer, the Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Meltzer researches the origins, antiquity, and adaptations of the first Americans – Paleoindians – who colonized the North American continent at the end of the Ice Age. He focuses on how these hunter-gatherers met the challenges of moving across and adapting to the vast, ecologically diverse landscape of Late Glacial North America during a time of significant climate change.

Meltzer’s research has been supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, The Potts and Sibley Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution. In 1996, he received a research endowment from Joseph and Ruth Cramer to establish the Quest Archaeological Research Program at SMU, which will support in perpetuity research on the earliest occupants of North America.

Meltzer is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Charles Curran, SMU’s Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010.

Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Members of the Academy’s 2013 class include winners of the Nobel Prize; National Medal of Science; the Lasker Award; the Pulitzer and the Shaw prizes; the Fields Medal; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships; the Kennedy Center Honors; and Grammy, Emmy, Academy, and Tony awards.

> Read the full story from SMU News
> Visit the American Academy of Arts and Sciences online

Bing joins SMU faculty in concurrent appointment with Bush Institute

Eric G. Bing

Eric G. Bing has joined the faculties of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, in a concurrent appointment with the George W. Bush Institute.

Global health researcher Eric G. Bing has joined the SMU faculty as professor of global health in a concurrent appointment with the George W. Bush Institute.

At SMU, Bing has been named a professor of global health in the Applied Physiology and Wellness Department of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development and in the Department of Anthropology of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. He remains the senior fellow and director of global health at the Bush Institute.

Under the SMU agreement with the Bush Foundation, Bush Institute fellows can receive concurrent academic appointments at SMU following review and approval by the appropriate academic departments.

“Dr. Bing’s faculty appointment represents one of the many benefits of hosting the Bush Presidential Center at SMU,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The Center will bring us access to global experts who will enhance teaching and research at SMU through concurrent appointments with the Bush Institute. These are scholars with whom we otherwise would not have a relationship but who will now have productive interactions and collaborations with existing faculty, as well as students.”

As director of global health at the Bush Institute since 2010, Bing has initiated worldwide health initiatives, including serving as co-leader of the institute’s Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership, an $85 million public-private program designed to combat cervical and breast cancer in Africa and Latin America.

“It would be difficult to exaggerate the value that Dr. Bing brings to SMU,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden. “In his career he has directed or co-directed five global health research centers and received more than $140 million in grant support. His work in combating the spread of AIDS is a model for future Africa-United States projects.”

Before joining the Bush Institute, Bing was an endowed professor of global health for nearly 20 years at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. He has developed and managed global health programs in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, including HIV prevention, care and treatment programs in Rwanda, Angola, Nigeria, Namibia, Belize and Jamaica. For his efforts he was awarded the Alfred Haynes International Health Leadership Award in 2002, named in 2006 a Paul G. Rogers International Health Research Ambassador from Research! America and named 2010 Professor of the Year at Charles Drew University.

“We are extremely pleased that Dr. Bing has joined the SMU faculty in addition to his work at the Bush Institute,” said James K. Glassman, executive director of the George W. Bush Institute. “It is the latest example of the excellent cooperation between our two institutions.”

“It’s an honor to join the SMU faculty,” said Bing. “Across campus, in every college, there is an abundance of talent and resources, supported by strong leadership at all levels.  SMU is an ideal place to build effective and productive partnerships that not only cross the campus, but the world.”

Bing has published more than 90 articles and abstracts. He received his medical degree from Harvard University School of Medicine, a Master’s of Public Health and a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from UCLA, and an M.B.A. from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.  His book, Pharmacy on a Bicycle: Innovative Solutions in Global Health and Poverty, is scheduled to be released in May 2013.

Written by Nancy George

> Read more from SMU News

Research: How hiding in plain sight saved the Jicarilla Apache

Book cover of 'Becoming White Clay' by B. Sunday EiseltNorth America’s Jicarilla Apache tribe cloaked themselves in trade, diplomacy, and intermarriage and nearly escaped incarceration on an American Indian reservation. How they did it has been a mystery of the historical American Southwest – until now.

“In some ways, the Jicarilla still remain invisible,” according to SMU anthropologist Sunday Eiselt.

The Jicarilla Apache, an amalgamation of nomadic tribes that in the 18th century migrated off the plains and settled in the northern Rio Grande of New Mexico, were accustomed to armed resistance, guerrilla tactics and inter-tribal warfare.

They fought alongside the Pueblo Indians in the Revolt of 1680 and later resisted Comanche raiders, sometimes as contract fighters and security guards for the Spanish and American trade caravans. Then quietly, deliberately and peacefully they slipped off the radar of Spanish colonization and U.S. Manifest Destiny until 1888, when the Jicarilla became the last Native American tribe forcibly settled on a reservation.

“This was not an accident of history,” says Eiselt. The Apache, particularly the Jicarilla, were experts at invisibility — not just physically, but also socially and economically. For example, Jicarilla warriors on raids would paint themselves during the journey to the plains with white clay to avoid detection by their enemies.

The protocol beckoned supernatural or spiritual protections to bring the warriors home safely. Just as white clay was a warrior strategy for self-preservation, it stands as a metaphor for the primary message of the book.

“By ‘becoming white clay’ in their social and economic dealings,” Eiselt contends, “the Jicarilla turned the tables on non-Indian expansion and disappeared into the cultural fabric of the Southwest’s Pueblo colonies as other Native Americans were being forced onto reservations.” The Jicarilla, without firing a shot, not only avoided confinement and even extermination for nearly two centuries, they rescued their culture from extinction.

“The Jicarilla essentially colonized the colonies,” says Eiselt, an expert on the Jicarilla. “They became invisible to government authorities because they were always on the move, they intermarried with the Pueblo and Hispanic peoples, and they established long-standing trade with them. They disappeared by becoming essential, an everyday part of the frontier society of New Mexico, which sustained Spanish, Mexican and ultimately U.S. interests.”

Encapsulation of one society within a larger, dominant or more powerful society is a phenomenon known as enclavement. As a strategy it was not new to the ancestors of the Jicarilla. In fact, enclavement may have occurred multiple times as their Athapaskan ancestors migrated from Canada to the American Southwest beginning as early as the 12th century, Eiselt says.

“Few scholars recognize how significant the Jicarilla contribution was to the survival of the traditional cultures of New Mexico,” says Eiselt, whose new book “Becoming White Clay” (University of Utah Press, 2012) is a comprehensive study of one of the longest-lived and most successful nomadic ethnic group enclaves in North America. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of research into the Jicarilla, even though they’ve always been there and their contribution to New Mexican history is almost entirely underappreciated.”

“Sunday Eiselt has produced the definitive work on Jicarilla Apache history and archaeology,” says Ronald H. Towner, University of Arizona. “She uses a strong theoretical approach to enclavement and combines history, archaeology and ethnohistory to not only describe past Jicarilla movements and cultural development throughout the Southwest, but to explain how and why Jicarilla social organization at different scales structured that development during times of warfare, removal from traditional lands and economic stress. Eiselt’s scholarship is second-to-none.”

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

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