Friday, February 20, 2009

Grad School Update

Sorry for the total lack of true posts lately, a new full fledged one will come in the near future, I promise. This post is really just to update you all on new grad school news. This new news being that I've been admitted to the PhD Anthropology (focus on Archaeology) program at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Damn. That's some good news I definitely wasn't expecting! Those of you who wrote me reference letters, they must have been pretty awesome, so thanks again!

Monday, February 16, 2009


No time for a real post, I have a midterm on the Socioeconomic applications of GIS in one hour. Basically I just want you all to read this article from the BBC discussing the preliminary results of the newly sequenced Neanderthal genome, and please focus on what the anthropologists are saying, not so much the reporter. The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology is......awesome.

I also like the fact that Prof. Paabo from the Max Planck Institute has put the the kibosh on cloning a Neanderthal from this sequence, for the time being anyway. Argue with me if you will, but cloning a Neanderthal would be...a bad idea to say the least...not to mention ethically problematic.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The BBC's Neanderthal extinction

I've just finished reading quite an interesting article on BBC news about Neanderthal extinction and I must say, I'm quite impressed that such a mainstream media source has given us so many sides (well 2...for and against, but that's much better than most mainstream media) of the climate based extinction argument put forth by Clive Finlayson and his gang. Though the title, "Did Climate Kill off the Neanderthals?" would seem like it would heavily favor the climate driven extinction theory, I assure you, it is a nice summary of the debate. I'm also quite impressed with the fact that a mainstream media outlet is picking up on a relatively recent archaeological debate, I feel like there usually a bit more of a time lag.

I tend to be a little biased on this subject. Being from a biology background I tend to lean a little bit (not too much now, I'm not a living throwback to the Enlightenment's psychic unity) towards an environmental determinist perspective, especially when we are dealing with our more remote hunter-gatherer ancestors whose adaptation to local environments was what survival essentially hinged upon. Thus I tend to side with Finlayson and Carrion in this debate, which is basically that perhaps Neanderthals weren't so cold adapted, and were more adapted to the more moderate environments of the Mediterranean woodlands. Finlayson also stresses however (and it is highlighted in the article), that the picture of Neanderthal extinction is much more complex than simply the environment went sour and the Neanderthals couldn't hack it. It is in my opinion that our cousins were very adaptable, and that climate change was only an overarching theme in their eventual extinction, with much more particularistic contributions to their demise, depending on geographical location. Thus we could have had some direct Modern vs. Neanderthal competition, especially as the Eurasian plains, which favored the early Modern human herd hunting strategy, were expanding further south into the shrinking Mediterranean woodland environments that Neanderthals seemed to be frequenting as their eventual extinction drew nearer. I've recently written a paper on this subject and clearly, Finlayson's work was one of my major sources, as you may be able to tell. Anyway, those are my two cents on the subject.

I have by no means given you the entire story with my biased little perspective there, so after you get the whole story by reading the article let me know what you think!

On a completely unrelated note, it appears that admissions season has begun, as I just heard from one of the schools which I had applied to for graduate studies with their verdict yesterday. You'll be happy to know (well maybe not, you probably don't care all that much, but I'M happy to know!) that I've been accepted into the MA Anthropology (focus on Archaeology) at Washington State University! I see this as a good sign and hope that the other schools I've applied to will be so kind as to admit me into their programs as well! I'll have to wait to hear from all the other schools before I make my final decision, but again, I hope that this is a good sign, and I will keep you updated as what's going on...whether you like it or not! And a big thank you to my reference letter writers (you know who you are)... it appears that your letters are doing the trick!