Friday, August 13, 2010

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 2

This week's selection of science and anthropology posts from around the web include a look at volcanic ash, witches, and the origin of turkeys.

Chris Rowan from the group geology blog Highly Allochtonous takes a minute to wonder, where did all the ash go from the Yellowstone caldera eruptions? There have been several eruptions in Yellowstone as North America has moved over the hot spot on which the park sits:
These eruptions excavated a lot of rock: the most recent eruption of the Yellowstone caldera, 600,000 years ago, pulverised 1000 cubic kilometres of crust into ash and threw it into the atmosphere. When it finally settled to the ground again, a lot of it had drifted or been blown hundreds of miles away from Yellowstone. 
The short answer? A large portion of the US. There was a large dispersal area that accumulated a thick layer of ash. And that's really what's so alarming—the quantity of ash that settled over such a large area. What does this mean? Given how much havoc Eyjafjallajokull caused earlier this year, it's eye opening when you consider that the ash spread from that eruption was only a "dusting."

At time travelling, Bonn Aure shares a portion of a paper he wrote in 2004 on Visayan sorcery and witchcraft and its potential connection to a mass grave. Bonn asserts that violent deaths are not exclusive to warfare. Violence can be provoked—and hunting witches can be a useful excuse for violence:
In the Visayas, it has been shown that the power of witches reside within the individual and not outside, say for example in another supernatural being. Although “witchhood” may have originated from the “cave spirits,” it is thought to be transmitted usually along kinship lines—the “germs” or kagaw being contagious. Scott, in his rendition of contact period Visayan culture, pointed out the possibility that families of suspected witches were put to death together with the witch-suspect.
Witches are viewed as terrifying and violent creatures in their own right, so the violence perpetrated against them is viewed as necessary to counteract their supernatural powers. This was an interesting cultural account of the relationship of fear and mythology.

And finally, does anyone think of turkeys outside of Thanksgiving? (I realize that's a very ethnocentric question, so if any of my international readers regularly make a meal of turkey, I apologize—feel free to share your recipe below!) Teofilo at The Gambler's House has turkeys on his mind. In light of a reported find of archaeological turkey remains in the southwestern region of the United States, he asks, where do these birds come from? They don't appear to be native to the region or related to their close neighbors in Mexico and in the wild:
Instead, the Southwestern domestic turkeys were closest genetically to two subspecies of wild turkey found to the east and southeast, in the southern Plains and the eastern US.  This strongly implies that turkeys were domesticated somewhere to the east and then introduced to the Southwest as domestic animals, presumably through long-distance trade contacts.
This post is submitted for your review, Readers, because it asks you to consider how resources may have been moved and shared—and also how they may have been used in the past.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share with you a new blog I discovered called Connection Disconnection, written by the Disconnected Geek. So far, it has been an honest account of a tech professional's (assumed based on the given pseudonym) battle with social anxieties. It's eye-opening in the sense that I think we take for granted that it's easy for everyone to make connections. In the era of the digital, that may be the case in certain circumstances, but this blog raises the issue that we still need to function offline.

That's it for this time. Remember readers, you're also invited to send me interesting reads that may be featured here. You can message me on Twitter @anthinpractice or send me an email.

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