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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Four Stone Hearth, No. 5

Welcome to the newest installment of the anthropology blog carnival, The Four Stone Hearth. The submissions this time are quite good, so let's get right to it:

Cheers to Carl at Hot Cup of Joe (Dallas/Ft. Worth, United States), who writes about GPS use in archaeological field work. I'll be using Mobile GIS technology (which utilizes GPS) in my own research next season in Honduras, so I found this post particularly interesting. He first summarizes a few features of GPS and how it can be used in archaeology, like for site discovery and remote sensing. Then Carl describes a few projects that highlight the benefits and limitations of GPS and offers some insight about the future of the technology:

The future of GPS in archaeological applications will certainly include data collection, particularly as equipment becomes readily available to excavation teams. The ease of use, increased rate of data collection, the quality of data, and the ability for a single surveyor to collect data will be appealing to archaeologists seeking to maximize their time. In addition, the ability to transfer data from the GPS to a laptop in the field for processing and rendering to a map further simplify the survey process and, perhaps, eliminate errors in calculation that can occur with optical methods.

A blogger after my own heart, Tim at Remote Central (London, England) highlights the almost always problematic relationship between religion and science. He describes a recent story involving leaders of the Pentecostal Church in Kenya and how they are trying to curb the teaching of evolution in classrooms by way of actually criticizing fossil evidence for human evolution. Tim provides extensive analysis of the situation and thoughtful comments, concluding that

...the light of spiritual enlightenment coupled with its scientific equivalent, should have combined to produce something that was even brighter - instead, the result so far has been sonic in aspect, a deafening cacophony of bitter accusation and recrimination, fueled by the deep resentments of two mighty adversaries engaged in a fight to the death, as they bid to gain control of a world, its opinions and ultimately its very soul.

Next up is Martin (Stockholm, Sweden), who writes at Salto Sobrius about, I am not kidding, Tolkien and Archaeology. Unfortunately, the world of Middle Earth doesn't agree with the archaeologist in Martin:

Actually, my studies of archaeology and neighboring subjects have somewhat diminished my enjoyment of Tolkien. They have made the flaws, joints and white spots in his work apparent like they never were to me as a child. Middle-earth doesn't really work when seen from anthropological and economic viewpoints. And Tolkien's world-building makes heavy use of models and interpretations of real-world history that are no longer accepted by scholars. But still he's one of my great favourites.

I found this post infinitely fascinating because I just fishing reading Tilley's A Phenomenology of Landscape, which is essentially a postprocessual treatment of Wales' and England's ancient landscape. Tilley argues that the relative location of megaliths and natural land features tell a story about how the ancient Mesolithic and Neolithic peoples viewed their world. Martin notes how the ancient monuments of Middle Earth contribute to the "landscape" of the book itself. Very interesting read.

Switching gears, Yann is back (Albuquerque, United States), talking about group competition and human cooperation. He's prompted by a recent Science article to explore the evolutionary bases for altruism and cooperation among humans. I'm glad he posted this because I read the article myself and had trouble digesting it, so it's helpful to read a different take on the issue. According to Yann,

...using the Price Equation for the evolution of altruism which takes into account the balance of a within-deme and between deme effect, and some estimates of group competition and within-group relatedness among modern hunter-gatherers, S. Bowles argues that with group competition and group relatedness being high enough (and he provides evidence that it may indeed have been) and with reproductive leveling due to monogamy (thereby reducing the amount of inter-group competition), human large scale cooperation can flourish.

Finally, but certainly not least, is Scott from Bipedal Locomotion writing about progressive evolution. He gives a great overview of the concept and offers a bit of his own perspective. I found this post easy to read and informative, so definitely check this one out. He concludes with a point that I think is completely missed by many people who claim to have an informed opinion about evolution, especially in the United States:

So, the take home message is essentially that biologic evolution is a series of processes continually acting on organisms, producing new morphologies, genotypes, and species. There is no single, inexorable direction that these processes take. Evolution is contingent on random, chance events, and our own existence, rather than an inevitability, may simply represent only one of numerous possible evolutionary outcomes.

Well, that's it for the fifth installment of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival. I had a great time reading all of the submissions and have since added a couple of blogs to my list. There really are some great writers out there and I can't wait to read more from them. Hope everyone has a nice holiday. Cheers!

Posted by Will at December 20, 2006 12:51 PM in Internet and Blogging


Thanks for the props! Who's Carl?

Posted by: Martin Rundkvist [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2006 01:33 PM

Oops! Got my names mixed up...thanks for pointing it out!

Posted by: Will [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2006 01:52 PM