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Malafouris L.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Journal of Anthropological Sciences | Year: 2010

Important recent developments in brain and cognitive sciences offer new avenues for productive cooperation between archaeology and neuroscience. Archaeologists can now learn more about the biological and neural substrates of the human cognitive abilities and use that knowledge to better define and identify their archaeologically visible traces and possible signatures. In addition, important questions and prevailing assumptions about the emergence of modern human cognition can be critically reviewed in the light of recent neuroscientific findings. Thus there is great prospect in the archaeology of mind for developing a systematic cross-disciplinary endeavor to map the common ground between archaeology and neuroscience, frame the new questions, and bridge the diverge analytical levels and scales of time. The term 'neuroarchaeology' is introduced to articulate this rapidly developing field of cross-disciplinary research, focusing on questions and problems that emerge at the interface between brain and culture over the longterm developmental trajectories of human becoming. Neuroarchaeology aims at constructing an analytical bridge between brain and culture by putting material culture, embodiment, time and long term change at center stage in the study of mind. This paper presents a critical overview of this new research field and introduces the notion of 'metaplasticity' to describe the enactive constitutive intertwining between neural and cultural plasticity. In this context, I summarize the main objectives, cross-disciplinary links, and theoretical grounding of this new approach to the archaeology of mind and outline some of the foundational issues and methodological challenges such a project might face. Source


Lei C.Z.,Northwest University, China | Zhang C.M.,Northwest University, China | Weining S.,Northwest University, China | Campana M.G.,University of Cambridge | And 5 more authors.
Animal Genetics | Year: 2011

The origins of the domestic water buffalo remain contentious. To better understand the origins of Chinese water buffalo, we sequenced the complete mitochondrial cytochrome b (MT-CYB) gene from 270 individuals representing 13 Chinese domestic swamp buffalo populations. We found genetic evidence of introgression of river buffalo into Chinese swamp buffalo herds. Swamp buffalo haplotypes can be divided into two highly divergent lineages (A and B), suggesting that Chinese native swamp buffalo have two maternal origins. We found that the →G transition in the buffalo MT-CYB gene stop codon resulted in buffalo haplotypes being terminated by one of two stop codons: AGA or AGG. AGA is common to river buffalo and lineage A of swamp buffalo, while AGG is specific to lineage B of swamp buffalo. Lineage A appears to have been domesticated in China. Further genetic evidence is required to clarify the origins of lineage B. © 2011 The Authors, Animal Genetics. Source


Barker G.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research | Richards M.B.,University of Huddersfield
Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory | Year: 2013

The origins of agriculture have been debated by archaeologists for most of the discipline's history, no more so than in Island Southeast Asia. The orthodox view is that Neolithic farmers spread south by sea from mainland China to Taiwan and thence to Island Southeast Asia, taking with them a new material culture and domestic rice and pigs and speaking the precursor of the Austronesian languages that are spoken in the region today. Opponents of this 'farming/language dispersal' theory have proposed models of acculturation, in which foragers acquired new material culture and food resources by trading with farmers. However, new work in archaeology, palaeoecology, palynology and anthropology, especially in Borneo, and in genetics and linguistics for the region as a whole, is suggesting that foraging/farming transitions in Southeast Asia were far more complex than either of these opposing 'grand narratives' of discontinuity (population colonisation) or continuity (acculturation) allows. Through the course of the Early/Mid-Holocene new material culture, technologies and foods were variously taken up, promoted or resisted in order to provision changes in the social and ideological constitution of societies. Whilst new readings of the data for foraging-farming transitions in the region vary, a consensus is emerging that it is more useful to focus on how materials and modes of life were used to underwrite changes in social networks than to seek to explain the archaeological record in terms of migrating farmers or acculturating foragers. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. Source


Cardini A.,University of Modena and Reggio Emilia | Cardini A.,University of Western Australia | Seetah K.,Stanford University | Barker G.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Zoomorphology | Year: 2015

One of the most basic but problematic issues in modern morphometrics is how many specimens one needs to achieve accuracy in samples. Indeed, this is one of the most regularly posed questions in introductory courses. There is no simple and certainly no absolute answer to this question. However, there are a number of techniques for exploring the effect of sampling, and our aim is to provide an example of how this might function in a simplified but informative way. Thus, using resampling methods and sensitivity analyses based on randomized subsamples, we assessed sampling error in horse teeth from several modern and fossil populations. Centroid size and shape of an upper premolar (PM2) were captured using Procrustes geometric morphometrics. Means and variances (using three different statistics for shape variance) were estimated, as well as their confidence intervals. Also, the largest population sample was randomly split into progressively smaller subsamples to assess how reducing sample size affects statistical parameters. Results indicate that mean centroid size is highly accurate; even when sample size is small, errors are generally considerably smaller than differences among populations. In contrast, mean shape estimation requires large samples of tens of specimens (ca. >20), although this requirement may be less stringent when variance in a population is very small (e.g. populations that underwent strong genetic bottlenecks). Variance in either centroid size or shape can be highly inaccurate in small samples, to the point that sampling error makes it as variable as differences among spatially and chronologically well-separated populations, including two which are highly distinctive as a consequence of strong artificial selection. Likely, centroid size and shape variance require no <15–20 specimens to achieve a reasonable degree of accuracy. Results from the simplified sensitivity analysis were largely congruent with the pattern suggested by bootstrapped confidence intervals, as well as with the observations of a previous study on African monkeys. The analyses we performed, especially the sensitivity assessment, are simple and do not require much time or computational effort; however, they do necessitate that at least one sample is large (50 or more specimens). If this type of analyses became more common in geometric morphometrics, it could provide an effective tool for the preliminarily exploration of the effect of sampling on results and therefore assist in assessing their robustness. Finally, as the use of sensitivity studies increases, the present case could form part of a set of examples that allow us to better understand and estimate what a desirable sample size might be, depending on the scientific question, type of data and taxonomic level under investigation. © 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Source


News Article | March 4, 2016
Site: http://www.techtimes.com/rss/sections/environment.xml

In a rock art discovered about 14 years ago, researchers found figures of all sorts including tiny handprints that were so little they could have belonged to a baby human. Scientists now believe that these tiny hands were not likely from a human, but rather lizards. Way back in 2002, archaeologists stumbled upon a rock shelter in Egypt where they found thousands of decorations painted on the walls that could date back to 8,000 years old. The rock art contained figures of animals, humans and headless drawings found in what they now call, the Cave of Beasts. This included 13 tiny handprints in the cave that spurred great interest from experts. The cave became popular because of these hand prints. One of the most popular is a touching scene that shows a pair of baby hands inside the outlines of a large pair. Researcher Emmanuelle Honoré of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research was not convinced that the handprints belonged to a human baby since they were much smaller than usual. She decided to compare the measurements of these handprints to those taken from babies born in a French hospital. Since the size of the cave handprints were so small, they also included measurements from premature infants. The results showed that the handprints are less likely from humans. The handprints and the position of its fingers showed that they were flexible. Further investigation led her to narrowing her ideas into lizards or young crocodiles. "Evidence suggest that the hand stencils belong to an animal, most probably a reptile," the researchers concluded in the study. "The identification of non-human pentadactyl hand stencils is unique in the field of rock art and raises new perspectives for understanding the rock art at Wadi Sūra, and the behaviour and symbolic universe of the populations who made it," they added. Lizards still live in the area today and considered protective creatures. The discovery that those handprints are not from humans became a shock to the researchers. The researchers speculate that the art may have included prints of important cultural or religious symbols like lizards, which up to this day still exist in the area and are considered protective animals of nomadic tribes. "We have a modern conception that nature is something that humans are separate from. But in this huge collection of images we can detect that humans are just part of a bigger natural world," Honoré said. "It's very challenging for us as researchers to interpret these paintings since we have a culture that's totally different [from the one that created it]," she added. The findings of the study shed light on new perspectives for understanding the behavior of people who made this art in the past. The study was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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