Journal Club

Highlighting recent, timely papers selected by Academy member labs

Category Archives: Anthropology

Gossip drives social bonding and helps people learn

Oscar Wilde said the only thing worse than being talked about was not being talked about. Nevertheless, chit-chat about others has a dubious reputation. That’s unfair, say psychologists and social scientists, who argue that gossip is a useful communication tool, … Continue reading

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Small, sharp blades mark the change from Middle to Later Stone Age in coastal Kenya

The transition between the Middle and Later Stone Age is a controversial topic among archeologists. Recent findings offer a possible answer, suggesting that the shift occurred between 67,000 and 71,000 years ago, and has as its hallmark a sudden abundance … Continue reading

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In Mesopotamia, early cities may have faltered before climate-driven collapse

Some of the earliest cities, now buried in the soil of Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon, are thought to have collapsed because of rapid climatic change. Drought along with lower temperatures descended on these settlements some 4,200 years ago, forcing … Continue reading

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How an animal’s teeth can reveal where it’s been

  A careful measurement of isotope ratios in animals’ teeth could offer a new way to closely track their movements, according to a recent study that showed how the approach would work in Mongolian sheep and goat herds. Tooth enamel … Continue reading

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Models shift blame for Neanderthal extinction away from modern humans

Neanderthals vanished about 40,000 years ago, but the reasons for their demise remain shrouded in mystery and a source of debate among archaeologists. The timing coincides with the arrival of modern humans in Europe, which has led some researchers to … Continue reading

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Pollen frozen in a glacier reveals the legacy of human impacts in the heart of the Inca Empire

The Illimani glacier sits between the urban sprawl of La Paz, Bolivia, on one side, and the roads and plantations of the Amazon basin on the other. It was no doubt a very different landscape some 550 years ago, when … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Canines remember who cooperates, suggesting principles similar to those seen in human interaction

Human cooperation often comes down to one key understanding: You help me, I’ll help you. Social animals, including dogs, also help others, even nonrelatives. But many scientists assume that animal cooperation is a different breed. They see animals as less … Continue reading

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Journal Club: How traditional people tamed the Amazon rainforest

The Amazon rainforest is often thought of as an untamed wilderness. But a growing number of studies, for example one in 2015 and another in 2017, show that local people have domesticated the forests for millennia, weaving patches of useful … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Ancient diet helps tell the story of Easter Island

Famous for its towering stone human figures, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, has long been shrouded in mystery, with the demise of its people the subject of an intense debate. Now, new findings about what its residents ate hundreds of … Continue reading

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Journal Club: How social structure might drive the evolution of cumulative culture

Humans accumulate knowledge over generations, building vast bodies of expertise—a quality that scientists have long suggested helps make humanity unique. In order to explore how such “cumulative culture” arose, anthropologists examined the way in which hunter-gatherers known as the BaYaka … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Charred fossilized eggs suggest that humans contributed to Australia’s megafaunal extinction

A huge flightless bird known as Genyornis newtoni once roamed the Australian Outback along with a host of other giant animals. Now scientists have unearthed what may be the first reliable evidence that humans contributed to the extinction of these … Continue reading

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