Sunday, October 31, 2010

Making ideas harder to read may make them easier to retain

Daniel Oppenheimer, an associate professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton, along with Connor Diemand-Yauman, a 2010 Princeton graduate, and Erikka Vaughan, a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana, assessed whether changing the font of written material could improve the long-term learning
and retention of information presented to students. The study, which was part of Diemand-Yauman's senior thesis at Princeton, will be published in an upcoming volume of Cognition.

The authors theorized that by making the font harder to read the information would seem more difficult to learn. Based on the concept of disfluency, the students would concentrate more carefully on learning the material. Disfluency, which occurs when something feels hard to do, has been shown to lead people to process information more deeply. The study notes that making material hard to learn is contrary to the way that many educators teach, and that success often is defined as a student having a relatively easy time learning a new concept or lesson rather than being able to retrieve the information at a later time.

"This study could prove useful for improving educational practices," Oppenheimer said. "Fluency interventions are extremely cost-effective, and font manipulations could be easily integrated into new printed and electronic educational materials at no additional cost to teachers, school systems or distributors. Moreover, fluency interventions do not require curriculum reform or interfere with teachers' classroom management or teaching styles."

To test their theory, the authors conducted two different experiments.

In the first, 28 participants between the ages of 18 and 40 were brought to a lab at Princeton and asked to learn about extraterrestrials, to limit the amount of already known information that could influence the test. The material was presented in either easy or challenging fonts. The subjects were given 90 seconds to memorize information about the aliens, distracted for 15 minutes and then tested. Those who read about the aliens in an easy-to-read font (16-point Arial pure black) answered correctly 72.8 percent of the time, compared to 86.5 percent of those who reviewed the material in hard-to-read fonts (12-point Comic Sans MS or Bondoni MT in a lighter shade).

The second experiment took the lab findings to the field to test. Two hundred and twenty-two high school students in Diemand-Yauman's hometown of Chesterland, Ohio, were assigned material in easy and difficult fonts across subjects and grades on a randomized basis. In this study, the hard-to-read fonts were Haettenschweiler, Monotype Corsiva or Comic Sans Italicized. The control was whatever the teacher had been using previously -- usually Times New Roman or Arial.

The findings were similar to the Princeton study: Students reviewing material in hard-to-read fonts did better on regular classroom assessment tests than did their randomly selected counterparts reading the same material in easier fonts.

In the study, the authors caution that these findings need to be further investigated. They stress that if the material becomes illegible or otherwise unnecessarily difficult, it would hinder learning. The authors also suggest that students who are easily discouraged or less able might actually give up with the harder-to-read fonts rather than digging in and really learning the material.

"This is a no-cost policy fix that could really improve students' learning," Oppenheimer said. "While we do need to further test the theory, if we are right, schools across the country could potentially see significant results without making a dent in school budgets. The take home message here is clear: Small interventions can have a big impact."

Donahue, Elizabeth. 2010. "Making ideas harder to read may make them easier to retain". PhysOrg. Posted: October 29, 2010. Available online:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kashf al-Ghummah fi Nafa al-Ummah (The Important Stars Among the Multitude of the Heavens)

The first page. Follow this link to scroll through the 96 pages.

Follow this link and see more manuscripts.

al-Ghalawi, Nasir al-Din Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn al-Hajj al-Amin al-Tawathi. 1733. "Kashf al-Ghummah fi Nafa al-Ummah (The Important Stars Among the Multitude of the Heavens)". Global Gateway. Posted: n/d. Available online:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Call for action as indigenous suicide reaches crisis level

Indigenous communities are experiencing a suicide crisis, with the rate of deaths and attempts increasing, a Senate hearing has been told.

Speaking yesterday at a Senate community affairs committee, Greens indigenous affairs spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said urgent action was needed on suicide prevention in indigenous communities.

The opposition's indigenous affairs spokesman, Nigel Scullion, said he had been told six indigenous people younger than 18 in Northern Territory communities had killed themselves in the past four weeks.

Senator Siewert said the remote Aboriginal town of Balgo in Western Australia was also experiencing similar suicide numbers.

Health Department assistant secretary for mental health Leo Kennedy told the committee the department was aware of the high rates of indigenous suicides and would look to develop a response by the end of the year.

Balgo parish priest Father John Purnell told The Weekend Australian later he knew of 12 suicide attempts among local youth in the six weeks he had been based in the remote community, in the southeast Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Just $8.1 million of the government's $277m suicide prevention package will be rolled out this financial year, with only a fraction reaching indigenous health services.

Australian of the Year and mental health expert Pat McGorry said the rate of suicide in indigenous communities was two to three times higher than in the general community.

"If the road toll was increasing and was higher for certain areas of the community in the same proportion it would be seen as a crisis and an area for urgent action," Professor McGorry said.

Vasek, Lanai. 2010. "Call for action as indigenous suicide reaches crisis level". The Australian. Posted: October 23, 2010. Available online:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Race Is A Fiction

Wade Davis gives a Ted talk in Whistler talking about the concept of race as a fiction.


2010. "Race Is A Fiction". TED. Posted: October 23, 2010. Available online:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Left Brain Talks To The Right Hand, Study Finds

Our ability to speak and communicate seems to have its origin in the unlikely pairing of the left brain and the right hand.

At least that's the conclusion of a team of French researchers who looked at how our brains process syllables, as well as mouth and hand movements.

And it supports the theory that human speech evolved from sounds and hand gestures.

The team followed the brain activity of 16 right-handed people while they rested or watched a video. When the people heard syllables, areas in the left side of the brain involved in speech fired neurons in time with areas involved in hand and mouth motions.

But when the subjects heard smaller units of speech, called phonemes, these two areas were not synchronized.

The finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that our brains are hard-wired to process gestures and speech and language on the same side of the brain. For right-handed people, that's usually the left side.

It also supports the view that speech arose from a combination of short sounds and hand gestures that were intended to communicate something. Those gestures probably would have been carried out by the right hand, since that is usually the dominant hand.

There's lots of other evidence that gestures were involved in early language, says David Armstrong, who spent decades studying the origin of language before retiring from Gallaudet University, a university for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C.

For example, he says, a modern hand capable of sign language seems to have appeared well before the modern vocal tract.

Hamilton, John. 2010. "Left Brain Talks To The Right Hand, Study Finds". NPR. Posted: October 22, 2010. Available online:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Your Facebook Profile Photo Says About You

Choosing a Facebook profile photo is very serious business. It's the visual that will greet high school acquaintances, jealous exes, and your parents' friends when they search you out. The image you project is entirely determined by your photo choice.

While people think that the photo they choose is some sort of individual statement, they're usually wrong. Here are the 10 most misguided approaches that people take when picking out a profile photo. Each sends out all sorts of information that the person may not have intended. And while there are some sub-genres and lesser known variations, most of the pictures on the social networking behemoth fall into one of these categories.

The Portrait

How to Spot It: A clear photo of the subject from the waist (or higher) up and includes the entire face.

What It Says About You: That you are a normal, well-adjusted adult who is confident in your appearance. Basically, you're pretty boring. However, if it is a headshot, author photo, or other promotional material, it means you are a narcissistic careerist. If it is a self portrait, you are slightly annoying. If the photo is of you in your bathing suit, you are probably hot and insecure.

The Far and Away

How to Spot It: The subject is so far from the camera that you can discern there is a person in the frame, but can't pick out any details of his face or appearance.

What It Says About You: You are a private person who doesn't want any old gawker knowing what the hell you look like. You are probably slightly shy and reserved until people get to know you. Either that or you got fat or had a botched Lasik surgery and you don't want the mean girls from college knowing about your gut/lazy eye.

The Up Close and Impersonal

How to Spot It: The subject is so close to the camera that you can only see part of her face or appearance.

What It Says About You: You want people to think that you don't want to be recognized on Facebook, but you really do and you mask that in pseudo artiness. You had an imperfection when you were younger (lazy eye, acne, stutter, irredeemably bad haircut) and still haven't gotten over being teased. Now you're the kind of person who is alone at parties not because you're shy, but because once people talk to you, they get annoyed.

The Scrapbook Photo

How to Spot It: A picture of the subject when he was in his childhood, whether a candid shot or a school picture he made his mother dig out of a box in her attic.

What It Says About You: You are the type of person who thinks that everything in the past is better than it is now. You still listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, and love the same things you did back in high school/college, and you'll probably never change. You haven't amounted to much, and you looked much better as a child.

The Pet Show

How to Spot It:A photo of the subject's pet, usually without the subject.

What It Says About You: It depends on what kind of animal it is. Cat: You are a woman without a boyfriend. Dog: You are a gay without a boyfriend or Michael Vick. Snake: You are a teenage boy or death metal devotee. Fish: You watch too much The Real World. Dolphin: You have a tramp stamp. Gerbil or Hamster: You are Richard Gere. Unicorn: You are awesome. Rabbit: Who has rabbits as pets? You are a freak!

Family Photo

How to Spot It: A photo of the subject's children and/or baby usually without the subject.

What It Says About You: The only thing you have accomplished in your adult life is having children. You used to be fun and fabulous and have lots of friends, but now all you can talk about is play dates, potty training, and Dora the Explorer. But don't worry, being a mother/father is the most important job there is. No really. We mean that. Yup, totally.

The Wedding Photo

How to Spot It: Man, woman, dress, tux—you know, the usual. Even if it's a gay wedding, you know a wedding picture when you see it.

What It Says About You: You want everyone to think that you are a grown-up. You have settled down to a life of calm normalcy and Family Guy reruns. You're not playing the field and slutting it up anymore. No, you are married! Also, you are entirely defined by your relationship and don't have any friends of your own anymore. You probably spent too much on the ceremony and your mother-in-law hates you.

The Pop Culture Reference

How to Spot It:
This comes in many forms: a picture of a fictional character, concert, a movie poster, a book cover, reality star, musical act, or a celebrity. Basically it is anyone who is not the subject. Even if done ironically, it's all the same.

What It Says About You: You have no personality of your own. You define yourself (and others) completely by their entertainment choices, whether they be television, music, sci-fi, literary, or otherwise. Talking to you like reading a list of movie quotes from an IMDb page and you are full of useless knowledge on your favorite subjects. You own at least two T-shirts with stupid slogans on them.

The Art Portfolio

How to Spot It:
A photo that somehow tries to be artistic and usually fails. This can contain the subject or not. It is often in black and white.

What It Says About You: You tell people that you are an actor, writer, photographer, or artist, but you are really a waiter, blogger, bartender, Whole Foods checkout person, or trust fund baby. Unless you have a trust fund, you will probably never make more per year than the cost of the liberal arts college you attended. You are also at risk for herpes.

The Party Picture

How to Spot It:
The subject, often with someone else, clearly at a party. She may be holding a drink, drinking a drink, smoking a bong, holding a joint, playing beer pong, dancing on a banquette, or giving duck lips and gang signs.

What It Says About You: You are young and stupid and will be fired from at least one job for something you posted on Facebook. You are susceptible to peer pressure and have used a bathroom stall for something other than peeing at least three times in the past year. You will one day regret this picture and replace it with a wedding picture, and then pictures of your children.

Moylan, Brian. 2010. "What Your Facebook Profile Photo Says About You". Gawker. Posted: October 21, 2010. Available online:

Monday, October 25, 2010

New UGA research shows people are better at strategic reasoning than was thought

When we make decisions based on what we think someone else will do, in anything from chess to warfare, we must use reason to infer the other's next move—or next three or more moves—to know what we must do. This so-called recursive reasoning ability in humans has been thought to be somewhat limited.

But now, in just-published research led by a psychologist at the University of Georgia, it appears that people can engage in much higher levels of recursive reasoning than was previously thought.

"In fact, they do it fairly easily and automatically," said Adam Goodie, head of the Georgia Decision Lab at UGA, "if the game is one that is simple and engages the tendency to pay attention to competition."

The study was just published in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Co-authors of the new research are Prashant Doshi, of UGA's department of computer science, and Diana Young, now of Georgia College and State University. (She was at UGA when the study was done.) At UGA, the departments of psychology and computer science are both part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Decision-making is part of day-to-day life, but when it involves competition, the complexity grows exponentially. Think of the classic scene in The Princess Bride when Vizzini and the Man in Black argue over which of two wine cups is poisoned. ("The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right . . . and who is dead.") In games such as chess, "thinking ahead" and trying to ferret out your opponent's moves is what distinguishes a casual player from a Grand Master.

When people typically make decisions, especially in competitive situations, they try to choose the path that has the most advantageous outcome, said Goodie. And while sometimes the best path is obvious, often it's less clear, especially in games or military conflict.

"The question we asked was this: What level of reasoning do human beings engage in when they aren't master chess players?" Goodie said. "Previous findings had been extremely pessimistic, suggesting that people were about equally likely merely to acknowledge the immediate preferences of an opponent as they were to go beyond that to higher levels of reasoning. If they do go to a higher level, it seemed that they only thought one step ahead."

In order to find out how deeply people really go in working out how many "moves ahead" they can make, Goodie and his colleagues set up an experiment in which large samples of student participants (136 in one trial, 232 in another) "played" against a programmed computer.

Called the "3-2-1-4 Game," the experiment was laid out on four spaces in a square with numbers on them in that sequence, starting with 3. The students were told they were playing against another participant in another room, and they and their invisible opponent—actually the computer—would walk around the spaces together, starting together and stopping together, alternating on who decides whether to stop where they are or to continue moving forward. The complicating factor was that each would have a different probability of winning money depending on where they finished—with the students winning more on the highest possible number and the opponent winning more on the lowest.

"The ideal solution is to think ahead to what will happen if you get all the way around to 1," said Goodie, "and you have to choose whether to stay there or move to 4."

Contrary to previous literature, those in the experiment had no trouble with the game, ramping up from what is called "first-level reasoning" to "second-level reasoning" easily and consistently.

After discovering that participants had little trouble with the four spaces, the researchers made the game even more complicated by adding five stops in the order 3-2-4-5-1, with the same rules applying.

"To our surprise, participants had just as little trouble learning the game and playing it at the highest possible level," said Goodie.

In another popular film, WarGames, humans who appear unable to decide whether or not to launch nuclear missiles are replaced by a computer with chaotic and potentially disastrous results. The new research shows, as the film hints, that maybe people could have done the job all along.

EurekAlert. 2010. "New UGA research shows people are better at strategic reasoning than was thought". EurekAlert. Posted: October 19, 2010. Available online:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New discoveries concerning pre-Columbian settlements in the Amazon

The pre-Columbian Indian societies that once lived in the Amazon rainforests may have been much larger and more advanced than researchers previously realized. Together with Brazilian colleagues, archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg have found the remains of approximately 90 settlements in an area South of the city of Santarém, in the Brazilian part of the Amazon.

"The most surprising thing is that many of these settlements are a long way from rivers, and are located in rainforest areas that extremely sparsely populated today," says Per Stenborg from the Department of Historical Studies, who led the Swedish part of the archaeological investigations in the area over the summer.

Traditionally archaeologists have thought that these inland areas were sparsely populated also before the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th and 17th centuries. One reason for this assumption is that the soils found in the inland generally is quite infertile; another reason is that access to water is poor during dry periods as these areas are situated at long distances from the major watercourses. It has therefore been something of a mystery that the earliest historical account; from Spaniard Francisco de Orellana's journey along the River Amazon in 1541-42, depicted the Amazon as a densely populated region with what the Spanish described as "towns", situated not only along the river itself, but also in the inland.


The current archaeological project in the Santarém area could well change our ideas about the pre-Columbian Amazon. The archaeologists have come across areas of very fertile soil scattered around the otherwise infertile land. These soils, known as "Terra Preta do Indio", or "Amazonian Dark Earth", are not natural, but have been created by humans (that is, they are "anthrosols").

"Just as importantly, we found round depressions in the landscape, some as big as a hundred metres in diameter, by several of the larger settlements," says Stenborg. "These could be the remains of water reservoirs, built to secure water supply during dry periods."

It is therefore possible that the information from de Orellana's journey will be backed up by new archaeological findings, and that the Amerindian populations in this part of the Amazon had developed techniques to overcome the environmental limitations of the Amazonian inlands.


The archaeological sites in the Santarém area are rich in artefacts, particularly ceramics. A large and generally unstudied collection of material from the area is held by the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg. Collected in the 1920s by the Germano-Brazilian researcher Curt Unkel Nimuendajú, the material ended up in the Museum of Ethnography in Gothenburg and is essential for increasing our knowledge of the pre-Columbian Amazon. Brazilian researchers are therefore interested in joint projects, where new field studies are combined with research into the contents of the Museum of World Culture's collections from the same area.

The investigation area is situated near the city of Santarém, between the Amazon mainstream and its tributary; Rio Tapajós in northern Brazil. Maps: Per Stenborg.

"The Santarém area is presently experiencing intensive exploitation of various forms, including expansion of mechanized agriculture and road construction," says Dr. Denise Schaan at Universidade Federal do Pará. "This means that the area's ancient remains are being rapidly destroyed and archaeological rescue efforts are therefore extremely urgent."

"Our work here is a race against time in order to obtain archaeological field data enabling us to save information about the pre-Columbian societies that once existed in this area, before the archaeological record has been irretrievably lost as a result of the present development", states Brazilian archaeologist Márcio Amaral-Lima at Fundação de Amparo e Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa, in Santarém.

EurekAlert. 2010. "New discoveries concerning pre-Columbian settlements in the Amazon". EurekAlert. Posted: October 17, 2010. Available online:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Possible Geoglyphs Spotted in Peru

An Italian researcher may have discovered a huge network of earthworks representing birds, snakes and other animals in Peru, according to a study published on the Cornell University physics website arXiv.

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, assistant professor at the department of physics of Turin's Polytechnic University, used Google satellite maps and AstroFracTool, an astronomical image-processing program which she developed, to investigate over 463 square miles of land around Peru's Titicaca Lake .

She says she has identified shapes that were built by Andean communities centuries ago.

"This region is covered by terraced walls and raised fields, which are large elevated planting platforms with canals in between. The earthworks represent an almost unimaginable agricultural effort to improve soil, temperature and moisture conditions for the crops," Sparavigna told Discovery News.

According to the researcher, enhanced satellite imagery revealed that some of the land forms are not only the remains of an extensive ancient agricultural system, but also those of formations designed to represent birds, snakes and other animals.

"They seem to be geoglyphs," Sparavigna said.

Geometric lines and images of animals that are best viewed from the air, geoglyphs are well-known in South America. Among the more famous geoglyphs are the Nasca Lines on the south coast of Peru and ring ditch sites in the Bolivian Amazon and Acre, Brazil. They feature impressive circular, oval, rectangular, square and D-shaped patterns.

"Past Andean and Amazonian societies imposed order, structure and aesthetics on nature through intentional design, engineering, and activities of everyday life," anthropologist Clark Erickson of the University of Pennsylvania told Discovery News.

"They created a complex environment of fields, paths, roads, canals, shrines, ceremonial centers, and settlements. One expression of this landscape transformation was the creation of geoglyphs or patterns made in earthworks," Erickson said.

The author of "Landscapes of Movement: The Anthropology of Trails, Paths, and Roads," Erickson conducted extensive research in the 1980s on the raised fields investigated by Sparavigna.

The landforms, "waru waru" or "suka kollus" as the farmers called them, were appropriate for agriculture. The canals in between the cultivated platforms provided a local micro-environment able to reduce frost risks for crops, while water in the canals and in ponds was probably used to cultivate aquatic plants and fish, as well as attract lake birds.

"These earthworks provide evidence for the impressive engineering abilities of the people who lived there in pre-Columbian times," Sparavigna said.

Built by excavating parallel canals and piling the Earth to form long and low mounds, the raised fields featured different forms and sizes. They were about 4 to 10 meters (13 to 32.8 feet) wide, 10 to 100 meters (32.8 to 328 feet) long, and 1 meter (3.2 feet) high.

Sparavigna believes that these elaborate earthworks were planned following the natural slope of the terrain while incorporating symbolic meaning.

According to the researcher, who recently discovered an impact crater in the Bayuda Desert in Sudan using Google Maps, several images seem to depict birds, with ponds representing their eyes.

Others appear to depict snakes, tortoises, fish, armadillos but also "abstract drawings," with patterns of stripes and other objects less easy to identify.

"The patterns are complex and some of this structure certainly reflects Andean concepts of cosmology, deep structure, social organization, measurement systems and art," said Erickson.

But he questioned Sparavigna's interpretation of the earthworks.

"The identifications of particular symbols such as birds, snakes, etc. are not convincing. For example, what appears to be 'a bird wing' in one image, is a modern plowed field with stacks of drying barley or wheat," he said.

According to Sparavigna, Ericskon's observation indicates that superimposed modern cultivations pose a threat to the geoglyphs.

"Modern agriculture can easily destroy them," said Sparavigna.

Gary Francisco Mariscal Herrera, the regional director of the National Cultural Institute of Puno, told the local radio station Onda Azul that the area might be soon declared a cultural heritage site in order to preserve the ancient structures.

Lorenzi, Rosella. 2010. "Possible Geoglyphs Spotted in Peru". Discovery News. Posted: October 14, 2010. Available online:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bilingualism Good for the Brain

Bilingual education is controversial in the United States, but a growing body of research shows that regularly speaking two languages comes with certain types of improved mental performance.

In a Perspective article appearing today in the journal Science, Jared Diamond of the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of "Guns, Germs and Steel" highlights studies of bilingualism that show this effect.

Diamond began wondering about the effects on the brain of multilingualism while camping with New Guinea Highlanders, all of whom could speak between five and 15 languages.

"What are the cognitive effects of such multilingualism?" Diamond asked in the new article.

"Being able to use two languages and never knowing which one you're going to use right now rewires your brain," said Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto, Canada, whose work Diamond cited repeatedly in the article.

"The attentional executive system which is crucial for all higher thought -- it's the most important cognitive piece in how we think -- that system seems to be enhanced," she noted.

Executive functioning allows us to keep a goal in mind, take actions to achieve that goal, and to ignore other information that might distract us from that goal, said Albert Costa, who studies bilingualism at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain.

"The question is: Would it be the case that bilinguals, by the constant need for controlling the two languages, develop a more efficient executive functioning system?" he said. "The results suggest that bilinguals may have this positive collateral effect."

"The effects are much stronger when you go to kids and older people," he added. These are ages where executive functioning is worse.

Bialystock has shown that bilinguals do better at tests that require multitasking, including ones that simulated driving and talking on a phone.

"Make no mistake: Everybody is worse," Bialystock said, "but the bilinguals were less worse."

Bialystock's studies focused on people who were truly bilingual. The longer people have spoken multiple languages, the greater the cognitive effects. There are even benefits when languages were taken up at later ages. "We have not seen a cutoff," she said.

Bilingualism comes with some cost, Bialystock and Costa agreed.

"For bilinguals, there are a couple of milliseconds before you can target the right word in the right language. Bilinguals have more 'tip-of-the-tongue' problems," Bialystock said.

"Bilingual children have on average a smaller vocabulary in each of their languages than monolingual children," she added. "There is a smaller vocabulary in each language, but they probably know more words altogether."

But having improved executive functioning, Bialystock argues, is more important than small differences in vocabulary or millisecond lags in word retrieval.

Still, all of these findings are somewhat abstract. It is difficult to take laboratory findings showing better executive functioning in bilinguals and demonstrate that they translate into better performance in the workplace or some other practical environment.

In one real-world application, Bialystock's recent work shows that multilingualism can provide health benefits to Alzheimer's patients.

"We have demonstrated in at least two separate studies of several hundred people altogether that -- all else being equal -- people who have spent their lives speaking two languages are better able to cope with the pathology of Alzheimer's," she said. "They show symptoms of the disease up to four years later than monolinguals. Once the disease starts to destroy areas of the brain, bilinguals are able to keep functioning."

"It's the same argument that you hear for doing crossword puzzles and such," she explained, though she argues that language provides a more intense and varying type of mental exercise, which is why the effect is so strong.

In total, the evidence suggests attitudes bilingualism should be better accommodated in monolingual societies, Bialystock said. "When people come from somewhere and join you in your country, don't make them give up their language."

While Costa said that the findings on Alzheimer's patients should be taken cautiously, he agreed that there are social benefits to be had from better accommodation of bilingualism in an increasingly international world.

"For a while it has worked to be monolingual," he said. "I don't think it's tenable anymore."

Marshall, Jessica. 2010. "Bilingualism Good for the Brain". Discovery News. Posted: October 14, 2010. Available online:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Culture Evolves Slowly, Falls Apart Quickly

Societies come together slowly, but can fall apart quickly, say researchers who applied the tools of evolutionary biologists to an anthropological debate.

Using archaeological records and linguistic analyses rather than fossils and genes, they created an evolutionary tree of political forms once found in Pacific islands.

The study, published October 13 in Nature, was intended to illuminate an issue of contention among archaeologists, anthropologists and historians: whether societies become more complex in incremental steps or sudden bursts, and whether they dissolve in similar fashion.

“The evolution of complex societies since the end of the last ice age has long been a major topic of investigation and debate,” wrote researchers led by anthropologists Thomas Currie and Ruth Mace of University College, London. “These debates have continued largely in the absence of rigorous, quantitative tests.”

According to the classic academic narrative of political evolution, post-ice age complexity — defined as increasing levels of social hierarchy — evolved slowly but surely, with mechanical predictability. First came egalitarian bands of closely-related people; then came larger but still-egalitarian tribes, with only informal leadership; these clustered into chiefdoms, with hereditary leaders; chiefdoms united into states, with bureaucracies and administrative offices.

To some scholars, however, this narrative is deterministic. They say that political evolution doesn’t proceed neatly from lower to higher complexity, but proceeds in bursts. To them, tribes, chiefdoms and states all represent distinct evolutionary trajectories rather than stages of a single progression. The critics also say that the tendency of societies to move from higher to lower complexity has been underestimated.

Making it all the more difficult to settle the debate is its basis in an incomplete archaeological record. But “just as evolutionary biologists use phylogenetic trees constructed using genetic data to test evolutionary hypotheses, anthropologists have recently begun to use cultural phylogenetics to test hypotheses about human social and cultural evolution,” wrote Currie and Mace.

The researchers focused their attention on Austronesia, a general name for Pacific islands inhabited by the descendants of people who left Taiwan 5,200 years ago and eventually settled much of southeast Asia and Oceania, from Madagascar in the west to Easter Island in the east.

As Austronesian settlers moved from island to island, their language bifurcated again and again, taking unique local forms that in many cases persist to this day. By comparing the languages, other researchers had been able to reconstruct a chronological narrative of the islands’ settlement.

Over 84 societies in this tree, Currie and Mace overlaid what’s known from archaeological records of their social structure, which underwent “spectacular political differentiation to give rise to examples of the entire range of political organization,” wrote Collapse author Jared Diamond in an accompanying commentary.

When they compared the resulting tree to trees generated by computational models of different anthropological narratives — linear and stepwise, varied and lurching — the researchers found a close match to the linear. Political complexity indeed grew slowly, bit by bit, with no sudden jumps from bands to chiefdoms or tribes to states.

“Political evolution, like biological evolution, tends to proceed through small steps rather than through major jumps in ‘design space,’” wrote Mace and Currie.

However, purely forward-marching models didn’t fit the data. There was evidence of societies marching backwards as well, and this didn’t follow the same step-by-step path. Societies could collapse.

The study will undoubtedly be criticized, especially for its rough categorization of subtle political differences into four hierarchical categories, wrote Diamond. But what’s most important is that the techniques of evolutionary biologists can be applied to anthropology.

Most anthropologists interpret the past “by narrative accounts of individual cases, less often by narrative comparisons of selected cases, and infrequently by comprehensive narrative surveys,” Diamond wrote. “My first reaction to Currie and colleagues’ paper was one of surprise: why hadn’t we used their method before, because it is so obviously superior?”

According to Diamond, cultural phylogenies might be devised for societies in southern and central Africa, which have highly diverse languages and rich political histories.

Analyzing political evolution in Europe and central Asia, where most languages have gone extinct and cultures have long intermingled, is “the grand challenge,” he said.

Keim, Brandon. 2010. "Culture Evolves Slowly, Falls Apart Quickly". Wired. Posted: October 13, 2010. Available online:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Family Affair: Man With 100 Wives Now has Facebook Page

The relatives of Kenya's most prominent polygamist,
Acentus Akuku have started a Facebook page, to
connect with each other, and to get as many of them
as possible to attend his funeral. Nicknamed "Danger"
because women found him irresistibly handsome
Akuku Danger was in his late 90's when he died from
natural causes earlier this month. He married more
than 100 women in his lifetime and fathered nearly
200 children.

Now one of his grandsons, Nickson Mwanzo, has
turned to the social network Web site to convince
Akuku's children, grandchildren, and great-
grandchildren, to come together for his burial,
scheduled for December.

MORE ABOUT YOURSELF," Mwanzo writes on the page

So far over 2,000 people are fans of the page, but
not all of them are relatives. Mwanzo told reporters
that the "Akuku Danger Family" page is also a tribute
to the man.

Condolences have been pouring in since his death.
One Facebook post says that Akuku left a lasting
mark, "not only among family" but with the "whole

Akuku Danger was legendary in Kenya. He married
his first wife in 1939, and his second wife soon after,
becoming a polygamist at the age of 22. He's outlived
12 of his wives. He married his last wife in 1992. He
had so many children that Akuku established two
elementary schools solely to educate his children, as
well as a church for his growing family to attend.

Today those schools still exist. At one school, 72
out of the 312 students are Akuku grandchildren; the
rest are children from the community. Many of his
children have grown up to become teachers, doctors
and lawyers. In interviews Akuku had told local
journalists he was responsible for naming all of his
children, as a way to bond with them.

Mark Njagi, an accountant in Nairobi. "I would never
consider getting more than one wife since this would
be too much drama."

The widows of Akuku Danger said they have mostly
happy memories.

Damaris, who is wife number 13, told the Daily
Nation that the secret to keeping everyone happy was
treating all of his wives equally. She said he bought
all of their clothes and provided them with everything
they needed.

"He would say he wanted us to look like queens," she

Members of the family told Kenya's Daily Nation
newspaper that despite the clan's enormity, everyone
got along well. Son and family spokesman Dr Tom
Akuku, told the newspaper his father valued
discipline and work ethic, but was not a tyrant.

"He was very democratic," said Dr. Akuku "He
managed the large family through dialogue and
regular meetings during which we talked freely and
bonded with one another."

To Kenyans, Akuku Danger represented the ultimate
symbol of traditional manhood and of a time
when gender relations seemed simpler than today.

Over Akuku's lifetime, traditional gender roles in
Kenya have changed somewhat. While marriage is still
the ideal, Kenyan women today are not as reliant on
the institution for financial stability. There are now as
many women in universities as men, and women hold
top level positions in companies. Women are also
having fewer children than is the historical norm,
even in rural areas.

Many Kenyans said these social changes, along with
the continued modernization of Kenya's economy,
make a lifestyle like Akuku's unrealistic today.

"I think he was gifted, or something like that," said.

Hughes, Dana. 2010. "Family Affair: Man With 100 Wives Now has Facebook Page". ABC News. Posted: October 12, 2010. Available online:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Discussions include:

  • Could a new way of talking boost our cognitive abilities? (03:32)
  • Might a rose by another name smell even sweeter? (04:24)
  • The diversity of world languages (07:17)
  • Do Russian speakers perceive color differently than we do? (08:13)
  • Languages without numbers (09:55)
  • Potential hazards of gendered nouns (11:48)

    Go to the website and read the comments, they present a good discussion.

    Blogging Heads. 2010. "Language and Thought". Talking Heads. Posted: October 9, 2010. Available online:
  • Monday, October 18, 2010

    Anthropology: “Excitment Brings Them in, and Jobs Keep Them”

    The future of anthropology

    The anthropology field is not a dying field; many students just think it is. While there may not be as many trips to the rainforest as there once were, businesses everywhere are hiring anthropologists to do research for their company.

    “I encourage students to follow their hearts, at least long enough to really do some research because if you find out you can make a living doing something you love, it’d be great to do,” said Sharlotte Neely, anthropology coordinator and professor of anthropology.

    Many of these new anthropologists are coming straight out of Northern Kentucky University. In fact, the Anthropology Department graduates more anthropology students than any other college in the state.

    “We actually do anthropology rather than just talk about it in a classroom,” said Douglas Hume, assistant professor of anthropology. “We have some really good professors that know what they are talking about, who are really energized and involve students in the learning process.”

    This extra attention that undergraduates receive from their professors also makes a difference in the quality of education in which the students receive. Anthropology professors at NKU are able to give students more of their time and allow them to become better involved than other universities such as the University of Kentucky or Ohio State University.

    These larger universities have many more graduate students that take away precious time from the undergraduates.

    “They (graduate students) take up huge amounts of professors’ time, so I think there is a tendency to teach larger classes of undergraduates or maybe hire some part-timers really cheaply to do the courses or have grad students teach them,” Hume said. “They don’t really want to have anything to do with the undergraduates because they are just cloning themselves, but here we involve undergraduates with what we do, which makes for a better undergraduate experience,”

    According to Hume, NKU only receives about eight to ten incoming freshman anthropology majors a year, but graduate 30-40 students every year. Students, like Chris Hutchinson, a senior, may take an anthropology course as a general education class and then find the field interesting. Hutchinson began his college career as a music major before switching to anthropology.

    “I took my very first class, which was cultural anthropology, and the class material was very abstract and like nothing I had ever really encountered in a high school,” Hutchinson said. “It drew me in to just sort of take more classes that I could as general studies, not knowing if I wanted to be a major yet. It was the professors’ enthusiasm that sort of brought me in and just the abstract and philosophical nature of anthropology that interested me the most.”

    Many students do come to college with an interest in the field. Television shows such as “Bones,” whose main character is a forensic anthropologist, has brought the field back to public attention. These shows do a good job of grabbing students’ interest.

    “I always joke that we ought to send the Discovery Channel a thank-you note because they do such a good job of making anthropology exciting,” Neely said.

    Other universities, ranging from Ball State University to Texas Tech University, have links on their web pages to the NKU Anthropology Career Guide because of its excellent advice at finding careers in the anthropology field. Though the students come to college with the interest in anthropology, many think that they will be unable to find a job after graduation. This is why the anthropology department has developed a career guide to help anthropology students see all the local businesses that hire NKU anthropology graduates.

    “For years we’ve had students who’ve said ‘Oh, I want to major in anthropology, but I better major in something practical so I can get a job,’ and it has always baffled me because I know we are teaching the kinds of skills that will get you jobs,” Neely said. “So I started actually doing the research and found out how many companies in the area have routinely hired our grads. Excitement brings them in and the jobs keep them.”

    The department helps prepare their students for jobs also. The anthropology professors at NKU regularly take students on educational trips to Ghana, West Africa, Ireland and Thailand. Last winter intersession, a group of students went to California to interview and work with farmers to find out about invasive plant species. The department also provides many local experiences for those students who aren’t able take a long-distance trip. There is an archaeological dig every year in southern Campbell County.

    “If you’re going back to school and have three kids you can’t just say ‘I’m going to Thailand for the summer,’ so we try to get a lot of stuff going here. You can be right in the area and go on an archaeology dig,” Neely said.

    Every year the Student Anthropology Society takes trips to sharpen skills and gain new experiences that will help them in their field. Neely explains that sometimes your skills in anthropology will be much different and still useful than other professional jobs.

    “They (the Student Anthropology Society) literally stay a couple nights in caves and practice making stone tools, which sounds like it is just fun and couldn’t have a practical aspect, but one of our grads a few years ago, Todd Young, is now the state naturalist at Big Bone Lick State Park and his job is to run things and show people how to make stone arrows.”

    Brewer, Matt. 2010. "Anthropology: “Excitment Brings Them in, and Jobs Keep Them”". . Posted: October 6, 2010. Available online:

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Making decisions is the third way we learn, research shows

    Experts have long believed there are two main ways our brains work: cognition, which is thinking or processing information, and affect, which is feeling or emotion. However, a new breakthrough was just made in regard to a third faculty of the brain: conation.

    “When people make ‘gut’ decisions or choices based on instinct, that’s really conation,” says Pierre Balthazard, associate professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, who worked on the new research. “Conation has always taken a back seat to the other two faculties of the brain, but we were able to discover some key things about how it works.”

    Balthazard recently analyzed the brains of more than 100 healthy people and found evidence they were all operating in the area of conation. Moreover, the findings indicate that people can be trained to compensate for strengths and weaknesses in conation, so their brains keep functioning efficiently, even in stressful situations.

    Balthazard already was well-known for doing research in the area of how to map the brain for leadership qualities, using advanced techniques to analyze brain signals. His research is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. In this case, he also worked with a world-renowned expert in the field of conation, Kathy Kolbe of the Phoenix-based Kolbe Corp., who has been assessing behaviors related to conation for 30 years. She created the basis for the new study, using data from a half-million people who completed her widely used Kolbe A Index.

    “My theory was that conation is the one human factor that’s equal among all people; we all start with instinct, but it’s how we use it that gives us our unique character,” she said. “You can manage your response to a situation, but ultimately, you do that based on various strengths hard-wired into your brain. That’s exactly what our research found.”

    Balthazard tested Kolbe’s theory by having subjects perform simple tasks. For example, he got a group of mostly high-level executives together at a table with several common objects on it, such as pencils and paper clips. He asked the participants to take one minute to rank the objects in order of importance. People’s strengths and weaknesses in the area of conation determined whether they easily performed the task or whether they found it very daunting and stressful. Balthazard could tell from brain-mapping the subjects beforehand exactly which ones would react in each way.

    “We can demonstrate conative stress naturally occurring in business environments, too,” Balthazard said. “What’s important is to be able to identify people’s strengths and weaknesses in this area to help them compensate for various situations, so they aren’t wasting brain power and can keep functioning in an optimal way.”

    Freeman, Debbie. 2010. "Making decisions is the third way we learn, research shows". PhysOrg. Posted: October 11, 2010. Available online:

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Community pressure saves micropalaeontology group

    A highly respected palaeontology group based at London’s Natural History Museum may escape the chop after an international campaign to ensure its future.

    Huge outcry greeted the announcement that the museum was to axe its micropalaeontology group as part of a wider cost saving effort. Scientists from across the world warned that expertise vital for understanding subjects from climate change to evolution would be lost (see: ‘Axe hovers over UK museum jobs’ and ‘Researchers unite behind museum’s threatened department’).

    Now the museum says that while three positions will be eliminated two new positions will be created “to meet the expressed needs of the micropalaeontology research community”. With the two new jobs earmarked for current staff this means only one job in the four-person department will go and it can continue to operate.

    Richard Lane, director of science at the museum, says the new-look section will focus on four areas: the development of the museum’s collections; doing research; training the wider community; and scientific consultancy work.

    “We changed because of the very large response we had externally,” says Lane.

    This response highlighted a number of opportunities, he says, a point that has wider relevance as UK scientists brace for spending cuts expected in the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October. Advocacy has the most impact, he says, when it identifies opportunities rather than just saying “please maintain the status quo”.

    The new jobs will mean savings will have to be made elsewhere in the museum, although Lane says these savings are not currently planned to include redundancies. Whether that will still be the case after 20 October is currently unclear.

    Cressey, Daniel. 2010. "Community pressure saves micropalaeontology group". The Great Beyond. Posted: October 11, 2010. Available online:

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Machu Picchu reveals new secrets: Inkaraqay

    Only ever seen by a few people over the past century, the Inca site of Inkaraqay located on an inaccessible and nearly vertical side of the Huayna Picchu mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu, is only now being revealed to the wider world.

    With the appearance of a fort hanging on to the sheer drop that gives way to the Vilcanota river and the well-known moon temple below, its huge walls and terraces covering 4,500 square metres are actually agricultural in nature.

    Accompanying the five levels of farming terraces is a ritual platform dedicated, as with the temple nearer the mountain’s foot, to the worship of the moon.

    “The architecture of these terraces is superior to even those of Machu Picchu itself,” says Piedad Champi, resident archaeologist. Specially designed water channels appear and disappear from terrace to terrace, bringing running water to every area without fail.

    “This was one of the sectors that provided food that they ate in Machu Picchu. It’s connected through a series of stairs that go to the Moon Temple and then around Huayna Picchu“, explains Champi, himself of the opinion that Machu Picchu was a retreat for emperor Pachacútec.

    This route is not for those who suffer vertigo. It involves a infinitely long and incredibly steep climb of seven hours. In some areas, quite unlike the way it would have been in Inca times, the path now involves climbs with ropes over sharp rocks. A guide, a machete and several types of snake anti-venoms are must-haves, although these are scarce among those working on restoring the site.

    “They’ve bitten my grandfather plenty of times”, one worker laughs, his mouth full of coca, “but they don’t bite me – they know me now”.

    Hebert’s grandfather, German Echegaray, has lived for 70 years at the foot of Huayna Picchu making a living from growing avocados, coffee and fruit for sale in Cusco. In the 1940s he removed most of the heavy brush from the terraces. “He wanted to make use of them for his produce. He didn’t discover the ruins though, loggers had long since passed through”, Hebert explains.

    Hebert, full of local knowledge, goes on to explain that there are 16 types of snake, but only one is deadly. There are even spectacled bears and ten types of orchids.

    Inkaraqay, along with a complex denominated Andenes Orientales (Eastern Terraces) are to eventually be integrated into the Machu Picchu Archaelogical park.

    Visit the site to see some spectacular photos.

    en Peru. 2010. "Machu Picchu reveals new secrets: Inkaraqay". en Peru. Posted: October 3, 2010. Available online:

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    600-year-old mosques discovered in RAK

    Two ancient mosques built about 600 years ago have been discovered in Ras Al Khaimah.

    The archaeologists confirmed one of the mosques was used during summer and the other during winter months. And both have a capacity to accommodate about 250 people, according to a report in 'Al Ittihad' newspaper.

    Archeological teams from the University of Oxford in the US, Britain and Spain in collaboration with the University of Gottingen of Germany discovered the two mosques in Al Fahleen area in Ras Al Khaimah.

    Christian Veldha, an expert with the Department of Antiquities and Museums of Ras Al Khaimah, said: “The discovery follows the excavation on the remains of the historical area of Nadod of Julfar, dating back about 500 years. The study was undertaken following the directives of Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah.

    Veldha said Julfar saw active commercial movement in the past. It was considered the main entrance to the Arabian Gulf for people coming from other regions for trade purposes.

    This latest discovery will throw light on the lifestyle of people during that period, he added.

    Nasser bin Tahnoon Al Naqbi, an archaeological researcher and an inhabitant of the region, said: "Al Fahleen area was inhabited since ancient times by Al Naqbeen tribe. A number of towers and Mount Al Hakab that surrounds the place protected its people from enemies.

    He added that the two mosques were built with gravel and plaster in accordance with the Islamic architectural style.

    Emirates 24/7. 2010. "600-year-old mosques discovered in RAK". Emirates 24/7. Posted: October 5, 2010. Available online:

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Southwest Alaska dig gives scientists rare window into Yup'ik culture

    What's being called the first large-scale excavation in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has yielded a treasure trove of ancient Eskimo objects, and sparked a race against global warming along the eroding Bering Sea coast.

    "In the time I'm giving this talk hundreds of artifacts are washing out to sea all over the delta region," said Rick Knecht, a longtime Alaska archaeologist now employed by the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

    At the 700-year-old site near the village of Quinhagak -- called Nunalleq or Yup'ik for "old village site" -- workers have discovered dozens of sod homes just under the tundra.

    They've recovered thousands of objects that had long been locked in ice. The list includes "miraculously preserved" bentwood bowls, knives with handles, whole clay pots, and carved figures, or "dolls," some with expressive faces caught in a smile or frown.

    Sometimes, they pulled items from puddles of melted permafrost.

    "It was melting as fast as we dug," Knecht said.

    The items are placed in a waxy chemical immediately to protect them because they can crumble in minutes if they dry out.

    The find includes what my have been a men's house, or qasgiq, a school where boys learned survival skills from men. Wood shavings lined the floor, perhaps dropped from carving lessons, a common guy activity.

    "Boy toys" littered the large house -- model kayaks of wood, slate arrow blades still attached to shafts, harpoon points.

    The women's tools, such as moon-shaped ulu knives for cutting through fish and bone-needles for sewing, were found elsewhere.

    The excavators, including villagers and college students who raised money to make the trip, feel like they're up against global warming.

    With the sea melting the coast and protective ice from artifacts, Quinhagak's village corporation, Qanirtuuq, with help from the Alaska Marine Grant Sea Advisory Program, called on Knecht for help. Kanektok River Adventures, a subsidiary of the corporation, also supported the project.

    Knecht, known for helping build Native museums in Kodiak and Unalaska, said he and others found the buried village by beachcombing for prehistoric artifacts in 2009 and following the trail of objects.

    That was the first day. Amazing discoveries came quickly, he said.

    The site, two miles south of Quinhagak and 450 miles west of Anchorage, isn't the only one in danger of vanishing from the delta.

    "These layers in the ground that are pages in your history book are being torn out by this sea level rise," Knecht told a room of villagers from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. More than 200 villagers gathered this week for the annual convention of the Association of Village Council Presidents, which provides social services in the region.

    The vast delta, with more than 50 communities scattered along the sea and rivers, is one of the world's largest areas unexplored by archaeologists, he said.

    The Yup'ik artifacts known to man were collected recently, within 150 years, often by explorers gathering items for museum archives, Knecht said.

    Nunalleq is already providing clues into Yup'ik pre-history and the broader Eskimo culture that includes Aleuts and Inupiat, such as where they originated. More will be discovered.

    "We need to know how deeply rooted this culture is," Knecht said.

    An analysis of hair strands -- apparently the remains of haircuts in the possible men's house -- showed that people ate caribou and salmon year-round.

    "They had a steady supply, from drying and storing," he said.

    Leadership in the village of Quinhagak agreed today to let Knecht do DNA analyses of the hair, which might tell if the piles of locks came only from males. If so, it could be a good sampling of the village's male population.

    Teams of diggers also found many big animal shoulder bones that may have been used as snow shovels. Woven reed mats were found in house walls, helping keep out the sod. What Knect called "wooden tally sticks" probably kept scores in games.

    One treasure included a small ivory carving of a head that may have been lashed to a kayak or some other object, judging from a series of holes in the back. The face contains a smaller face below it, the inua or yua, the Eskimo motif representing the spirit of all things, Knecht said.

    There were signs the residents had contact with other cultures, including polished coal beads that may have followed trade routes from the Gulf of Alaska, and calcite lip plugs, or labrets, found in the Aleutian Chain.

    The items are being analyzed at labs in Scotland, but they belong to the Yup'ik people, he said. They will return to Quinhagak, a village of 700.

    AVCP hopes to build a repository and a museum to store artifacts in Bethel, said Myron Naneng, president.

    The repository will give young people the chance to see the richness of their culture.

    "By having a repository, you'll be in control of your own cultural heritage. That's a basic human right that you need to have," Knecht said.

    Other villages aware of sites that may be disappearing should contact Knecht or Steve Street, AVCP archaeologist, at (907) 543-7355. Knecht's email address is r DOT knecht AT abdn DOT ac DOT uk.

    The archaeologists are working on a plan to "triage the sites," Knecht said. That includes training villagers as local archaeologists.

    DeMarban, Alex. 2010. "Southwest Alaska dig gives scientists rare window into Yup'ik culture". The Tundra Drums. Posted: October 7, 2010. Available online:

    Alex DeMarban can be reached at alex AT alaskanewspapers DOT com.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    "Lost" Language Found

    Koro, a language previously unknown to linguists, has been discovered in the mountains of northeastern India. Researchers with National Geographic's Enduring Voices project recorded the language—spoken by only about 800 people—for the first time.


    2010. ""Lost" Language Found". National Geographic. Posted: October 5, 2010. Available online:

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    No evidence for Clovis comet catastrophe, archaeologists say

    New research challenges the controversial theory that an ancient comet impact devastated the Clovis people, one of the earliest known cultures to inhabit North America.

    Writing in the October issue of Current Anthropology, archaeologists Vance Holliday (University of Arizona) and David Meltzer (Southern Methodist University) argue that there is nothing in the archaeological record to suggest an abrupt collapse of Clovis populations. "Whether or not the proposed extraterrestrial impact occurred is a matter for empirical testing in the geological record," the researchers write. "Insofar as concerns the archaeological record, an extraterrestrial impact is an unnecessary solution for an archaeological problem that does not exist."

    The comet theory first emerged in 2007 when a team of scientists announced evidence of a large extraterrestrial impact that occurred about 12,900 years ago. The impact was said to have caused a sudden cooling of the North American climate, killing off mammoths and other megafauna. It could also explain the apparent disappearance of the Clovis people, whose characteristic spear points vanish from the archaeological record shortly after the supposed impact.

    As evidence for the rapid Clovis depopulation, comet theorists point out that very few Clovis archaeological sites show evidence of human occupation after the Clovis. At the few sites that do, Clovis and post-Clovis artifacts are separated by archaeologically sterile layers of sediments, indicating a time gap between the civilizations. In fact, comet theorists argue, there seems to be a dead zone in the human archaeological record in North America beginning with the comet impact and lasting about 500 years.

    But Holliday and Meltzer dispute those claims. They argue that a lack of later human occupation at Clovis sites is no reason to assume a population collapse. "Single-occupation Paleoindian sites—Clovis or post-Clovis—are the norm," Holliday said. That's because many Paleoindian sites are hunting kill sites, and it would be highly unlikely for kills to be made repeatedly in the exact same spot.

    "So there is nothing surprising about a Clovis occupation with no other Paleoindian zone above it, and it is no reason to infer a disaster," Holliday said.

    In addition, Holliday and Meltzer compiled radiocarbon dates of 44 archaeological sites from across the U.S. and found no evidence of a post-comet gap. "Chronological gaps appear in the sequence only if one ignores standard deviations (a statistically inappropriate procedure), and doing so creates gaps not just around [12,900 years ago] but also at many later points in time," they write.

    Sterile layers separating occupation zones at some sites are easily explained by shifting settlement patterns and local geological processes, the researchers say. The separation should not be taken as evidence of an actual time gap between Clovis and post-Clovis cultures.

    Holliday and Meltzer believe that the disappearance of Clovis spear points is more likely the result of a cultural choice rather than a population collapse. "There is no compelling data to indicate that North American Paleoindians had to cope with or were affected by a catastrophe, extraterrestrial or otherwise, in the terminal Pleistocene," they conclude.

    EurekAlert. 2010. "No evidence for Clovis comet catastrophe, archaeologists say". EurekAlert. Posted: September 29, 2010. Available online:

    Vance T. Holliday and David J. Meltzer, "The 12.9-ka ET Impact Hypothesis and North American Paleoindians." Current Anthropology 51:5 (October 2010).

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Ancient New Guinea settlers headed for the hills

    First human arrivals rapidly adapted to mile-high forests 50,000 years ago

    Excavations in Papua New Guinea’s western highlands have turned up the oldest well-documented evidence of people in Sahul, a land mass that once joined the island to Australia.

    Stone tools and plant remains indicate that, as early as 49,000 years ago, people lived 2,000 meters, or 1.2 miles, above sea level in Papua New Guinea’s Ivane Valley, say archaeologist Glenn Summerhayes of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, and his colleagues.

    By at least 50,000 years ago, modern humans occupied lowland rainforests and savannas of southeastern Asia’s land mass known as Sunda. From there they crossed the open ocean to Sahul, presumably in seacraft of some kind. Rising sea levels separated Papua New Guinea from Australia roughly 10,000 years ago.

    Many researchers assume that modern humans spread from Africa to Sahul along the coast and preferred living at low altitudes. That idea gets drubbed by the new discoveries, Summerhayes says. Shortly after reaching Sahul’s shores, settlers headed uphill to the Ivane Valley’s thin air, cold temperatures and harsh habitat, the scientists conclude in the Oct. 1 Science.

    “Early occupation of such adverse environments contributes to a model in which small numbers of foraging peoples moved around the Sahul landscape, colonizing new areas and then returning back to where they had been,” Summerhayes says.

    Despite the challenges at high altitudes, prehistoric people had the mental savvy to survive, archaeologist Chris Gosden of the University of Oxford in England writes in a comment published in the same issue of Science. Crucial survival skills in their intellectual arsenal included an ability to remember complex travel routes and to identify potentially edible and possibly lethal plants, Gosden says.

    Swift settlement of southern as well as northern Sahul occurred shortly after 50,000 years ago (SN: 3/15/03, p. 173), proposes archaeologist Matthew Spriggs of Australian National University in Canberra. “Finding the first human sites is a bit of a needle-in-the-haystack problem, but people in northern Sahul could have walked to and from what we now know as Australia,” he says.

    Previous reports that people reached northern Australia at least 60,000 years ago, based on measurements of stored radiation that indicate when an artifact was buried, have drawn skepticism because of possible shifting of sediment layers and artifacts over time.

    Prior research on Papua New Guinea, conducted by Summerhayes and others, has located human occupations with radiocarbon dates as old as 41,000 years along the coast and at one Ivane Valley site.

    In 2007 and 2008, Summerhayes’ team found seven more ancient camps in the highland valley. Radiocarbon measures of charcoal from one site, Vilakuav, put it at between 49,000 and 43,000 years old. Other sites dated to between 41,400 and 26,000 years ago.

    Each camp yielded various stone tools. Investigators found sharp implements indented in the middle, known as waisted axes, at four sites, including Vilakuav. Already known from later Stone Age sites on Papua New Guinea, waisted axes were used to clear trees and open patches of forest to sunlight so that edible and medicinal plants could grow faster, Summerhayes suggests.

    Sahul settlers made stone tools where they camped, he notes. Finds included large stones from which sharp flakes had been removed and shards of rock produced during toolmaking.

    Starch grains found on several stone tools came from yams, a food that must have been gathered in its natural range at lower altitudes, the researchers say.

    Charred nut shells from high-altitude Pandanus trees turned up at Vilakuav and at three other sites. Ancient settlers ate these nuts and probably a pineapple-like fruit that grows on Pandanus trees, the scientists suspect.

    Excavations at Vilakuav also produced burned bone fragments from unidentified animals that had been hunted, in Summerhayes’ view. Available game probably included animals still found in the region — possums, tree kangaroos, bats, frogs, anteaters, lizards, snakes and birds.

    Farming began in Papua New Guinea’s highlands about 9,000 years ago. Today, Gosden points out, farming populations thrive where small bands of foragers once scrounged out a living.

    Bower, Bruce. 2010. "Ancient New Guinea settlers headed for the hills". Science News. Posted: September 30, 2010. Available online:

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Sifting through South Africa's archaeologically rich lands

    Morris Sutton, a Tennessee factory-manager-turned-archaeologist, feels the wonder of hunting for fossils and Stone Age tools and uncovering a time when mankind was in its adolescence.

    When Morris Sutton picks a chipped, ordinary-looking rock from the soil, he's the first to touch the stone tool since an ancestor of man used it nearly 2 million years ago.

    In his dim, cool cavern at the bottom of a 30-foot ladder, he feels the wonder of it, breathing in the loamy smell, peering through a window deep into time.

    Sutton, 47, an archaeologist, was a Memphis, Tenn., factory manager who grew tired of the flat horizon of commerce and manufacturing and of laying off fellow employees.

    So he quit to pursue his hobby: hunting for fossils and Stone Age tools. He went back to college to study archaeology and later moved to South Africa, where he is a postdoctoral researcher with the Institute for Human Evolution at Witwatersrand University.

    South Africa is a mecca for archaeologists; its fossils cover an unbroken sweep of prehistoric time, from the first smudge of life through the dinosaur era to early hominids and beyond. Some of the world's most significant fossils were discovered here: the Taung child, Little Foot and, in April, a young male hominid, believed to be a new species, Australopithecus sediba, whose remains appear to be nearly 2 million years old.

    "You can look at the latest forms of life and the first evidence of life and all the way through the dinosaurs, all the way through the first emergence of hominids and our ancestors, right through to today. There's nowhere else in the world where you can find that," says Andrea Leenen, head of the Paleontological Scientific Trust, a South Africa not-for-profit organization that sponsors paleontological research.

    At Witwatersrand University, the fossil treasures include several eggs of a small dinosaur species, preserved just as they were hatching. Thousands more items sit on shelves and in boxes, not yet chipped out of their rock casings. It will take decades to process them.

    Fossil hunters are famous for their egos, jostling for media attention and research funds and holding sniffy debates about whose find is the oldest or the closest ancestor of man.

    The soft-spoken Sutton doesn't fit the stereotype of an Indiana Jones-style wunderkind, desperate to unearth the oldest human ancestor. He calibrates his assertions cautiously as he clambers over a rough, dry landscape pocked with caves.

    Dixon, Robyn. 2010. "Sifting through South Africa's archaeologically rich lands". Los Angeles Tiimes. Posted: September 27, 2010. Available online:

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Native Island Tribe Redefining Survival: Slide Show

    Go to the website to see the slide show. Enjoy!

    Living Legend

    Many Kalinago members bear a striking resemblance to natives in the Orinoco River Basin of South America because their ancestors are said to have come from that region.

    Mixed Memory

    Several years ago, some tribal members raised concerns that the Kalinago’s bloodline was becoming diluted by mixing with outsiders. A heated debate ensued after one chief proposed that the Kalinago only marry each other. The mandate never took off, but it did broaden cultural perspectives. These days, the Kalinago are focusing less on whose physical features seem more indigenous and more on what common life ways bond them together.

    Serenity in Survival

    Kalinago young people say dressing in their native costumes for special occasions and performances is one of the best ways to reinforce their sense of cultural pride.

    Important Marketing Tool

    The Kalinago have learned that jewelry, costumes, and headdresses help audiences to appreciate their indigenous roots.

    Dancing towards Sustainability

    Dance performances like this one are an excellent tourist attraction for Kalinago Village, the single most-important generator of income in Dominica’s Carib Territory.

    Bolder and Prouder

    Thanks to the 2006 construction of the Kalinago Village cultural center, children like this don’t need to be shy about their identity.

    Starting Young

    A young Kalinago boy is already learning how to play drums and perform traditional music at Kalinago Village.

    Rugged Land

    Because Dominica is so mountainous and rugged, the Kalinago people were protected from some of the most aggressive years of colonization in the West Indies. On other islands, the vast majority of Carib and Arawak natives were slaughtered, died of disease, or committed suicide to avoid enslavement.

    Natural Wonders

    Dominica’s rugged, mountainous terrain has helped to protect native peoples and plants.

    Looking Back

    The Kalinago have survived in Dominica for thousands of years. Their endurance hinges on breaking the poverty cycle so that future generations aren’t tempted to stray so far from their ancestral lands.

    Gage, Julienne. 2010. "Native Island Tribe Redefining Survival: Slide Show". Discovery News. Posted: N/A. Available online:

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Sign Language Made Easy

    Sign Language made Easy:

    Technology comes to help those who sign (deaf/Deaf and hearing) to communicate more completely.

    A unique and fun way to learn sign language wearing special gloves and working with an interactive technology program.

    Includes a phone app to help people discover ASL words they may have forgotten.

    Experts say learning sign language is on par with an English speaker trying to learn Japanese. It's not easy. And for this reason about 75% of hearing parents can't sign fluently to their deaf children.

    2010. "Sign Language Made Easy". Live Science. Posted: Available online:

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Lost language unearthed in a letter

    Archaeologists say scrawl on the back of a letter recovered from a 17th century dig site reveals a previously unknown language spoken by indigenous peoples in northern Peru.

    A team of international archaeologists found the letter under a pile of adobe bricks in a collapsed church complex near Trujillo, 347 miles north of Lima. The complex had been inhabited by Dominican friars for two centuries.

    "Our investigations determined that this piece of paper records a number system in a language that has been lost for hundreds of years," Jeffrey Quilter, an archaeologist at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, told Reuters.

    A photograph of the letter recently released by archaeologists shows a column of numbers written in Spanish and translated into a language that scholars say is now extinct.

    "We discovered a language no one has seen or heard since the 16th or 17th century," Quilter said, adding that the language appears to have been influenced by Quechua, an ancient tongue still spoken by millions of people across the Andes.

    He said it could also be the written version of a language colonial-era Spaniards referred to in historical writings as pescadora, for the fishermen on Peru's northern coast who spoke it.

    So far no record of the pescadora language has been found.

    The letter, buried in the ruins of the Magdalena de Cao Viejo church at the El Brujo Archaeological Complex in northern Peru, was discovered in 2008.

    But Quilter said archaeologists decided to keep their discovery secret until the research showing evidence of the lost language was published this month in the journal American Anthropologist.

    "I think a lot of people don't realize how many languages were spoken in pre-contact times," Quilter said. "Linguistically, the relationship between the Spanish conquistadors and the indigenous was very complex."

    See a related story: Lost language unearthed in a letter found in Peru at MSNBC.

    Schmall, Emily. 2010. "Lost language unearthed in a letter". Reuters. Posted: September 23, 2010. Available online:

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Long-Sought Viking Settlement Found

    The Vikings, the famed Scandinavian warriors, started raiding Ireland in 795 and plundered it for decades, before establishing two Irish outposts, according to the Annals of Ulster, a 15th century account of medieval Ireland. One outpost, Dúbh Linn, became Dublin, the other, Linn Duchaill, was lost in time. Perhaps until now. A team of archaeologists announced on Friday that it has found the lost Viking settlement near the village of Annagassan, 70 kilometers north of Dublin. "We are unbelievably delighted," said archaeologist and team leader, Mark Clinton, an independent archaeological consultant.

    The Annagassan locals have long believed they lived near an ancient Viking town or fort. The stories of Viking raids were told to local children by schoolteachers, and there were also occasional finds that underscored this story. For example, a few years ago, a set of handcuffs once used to shackle Viking slaves was found by a farmer ploughing land. The modern search for Linn Duchaill began 5 years ago when a local filmmaker named Ruth Cassidy, a member of the Annagassan and District Historical Society, enlisted the help of Clinton, a family friend, to find the lost Viking town. They searched through 2005, 2006, and 2007 and were on the point of despair when they came across a flat area—ideal for lifting boats out of the water for shipbuilding and repairs—a couple of kilometers up the River Glyde. They managed to secure funding to pay for a geophysicist, John Nicholls, to survey the site. Nicholls found a series of defensive ditches about 4 meters deep, running in lines. The pattern of ditches does not seem compatible with the typical Irish structure of the period, a ring fort, and no evidence of a Norman settlement, such as moat or castle remains, was found. That left just one other option: Vikings.

    Despite this evidence, the researchers struggled to secure funding for excavation work. But the local Louth County Museum eventually offered funds to excavate at three locations. The team found 200 objects in 3 weeks, convincing them that they had found a major Viking shipbuilding town. There is evidence of impressive engineering, with an artificial island constructed out of the landscape to offer protection from attacks by the indigenous Irish. There is evidence of carpentry, smelting, and ship repair, with ship rivets dotted around the site. These features alone would make the site significant as few Viking longphorts—or shipbuilding towns—have been excavated. The team also found hacked coins, which Clinton says were a typical "calling card" of the Vikings, but there is also a total absence of pottery—the Vikings used wooden bowls. There are "high status" early Christian objects, too, probably stolen from the Irish.

    Other Viking experts are cautiously optimistic that the long-lost Viking outpost has been found but emphasize the settlement needs to be solidly dated before the case is closed. "If the settlement found can be identified as Linn Duchaill, its value for linking archaeology to the written sources is very important," says Peter Pentz, an archaeologist at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. "In addition, it appears that the site is almost untouched by later activity, unlike those of Dublin—some longphorts developed into urban settlements—and thus it might provide important knowledge of this particular type of settlement."

    "It's really, really exciting," adds Christina Lee of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, an expert in Viking studies of Ireland and Britain. "I'm looking forward to hearing about the finds and the dating of the finds. It's a really important step in thinking about the westward expansion of the Vikings, and the importance that Ireland had for the Viking world is something that hasn't been recognized. Ireland in the Viking age is of strategic importance."

    One lingering question is why Linn Duchaill was abandoned while Dublin thrived. One theory is that because Dublin has better 24-hour access to the sea, it meant that the Vikings there could take to their ships and head out when they were under attack. At Linn Duchaill, tidal fluctuations would cut off access for several hours a day.

    Duke, Sean. 2010. "Long-Sought Viking Settlement Found". Science Magazine. Posted: September 22, 2010. Available online:

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Volcanoes Killed Off Neanderthals, Study Suggests

    Catastrophic volcanic eruptions in Europe may have culled Neanderthals to the point where they couldn't bounce back, according to a controversial new theory.

    Modern humans, though, squeaked by, thanks to fallback populations in Africa and Asia, researchers say.

    About 40,000 years ago in what we now call Italy and the Caucasus Mountains, which straddle Europe and Asia, several volcanoes erupted in quick succession, according to a new study to be published in the October issue of the journal Current Anthropology.

    It's likely the eruptions reduced or wiped out local bands of Neanderthals and indirectly affected farther-flung populations, the team concluded after analyzing pollen and ash from the affected area. (See volcano pictures.)

    The researchers examined sediments layer from around 40,000 years ago in Russia's Mezmaiskaya Cave and found that the more volcanic ash a layer had, the less plant pollen it contained.

    "We tested all the layers for this volcanic ash signature. The most volcanic-ash-rich layer"—likely corresponding to the so-called Campanian Ignimbrite eruption, which occurred near Naples (map)—"had no [tree] pollen and very little pollen from other types of plants," said study team member Naomi Cleghorn. "It's just a sterile layer."

    The loss of plants would have led to a decline in plant-eating mammals, which in turn would have affected the Neanderthals, who hunted large mammals for food.

    "This idea of an environmental cause for the Neanderthals' demise has been out in the literature. What we're trying to do is point out a specific mechanism," said Cleghorn, an anthropologist at the University of Texas, Arlington.

    Other theories propose that modern humans played a vital role in the fall of the Neanderthals, either through competition, warfare, or interbreeding. (See "Neanderthals, Humans Interbred—First Solid DNA Evidence.")

    If the volcanoes theory is correct, the Neanderthals' end was much more tragic: dying slowly in a cold and desolate landscape bereft of food sources.

    "It's hard to say what it would have been like to be the last few groups out there, seeing other groups less and less over the years," Cleghorn said.

    Uniquely Powerful Eruption

    The Neanderthals were a hardy species that lived through multiple ice ages and would have been familiar with volcanoes and other natural calamities. But the eruptions 40,000 years ago were unlike anything Neanderthals had faced before, Cleghorn and company say.

    For one thing, all the volcanoes apparently erupted around the same time. And one of those blasts, the Campanian Ignimbrite, is thought to have been the most powerful eruption in Europe in the last 200,000 years.

    "It's much easier to adapt to something that's happening over a couple of generations," Cleghorn said. "You can move around, you can find other places to live, and your population can rebound.

    "This is not that kind of event," she said. "This is unique."

    Neanderthals Had Short Bench?

    There may also have been small bands of Homo sapiens living in Europe at the time, Cleghorn said. They too would have been affected by the eruptions.

    But modern humans likely avoided extinction because they had larger populations in Africa and Asia, she said, while most Neanderthals were in Europe around this time. (Related: "Neanderthals Ranged Much Farther East Than Thought.")

    "With their small population groups, Neanderthals did not really have a great source population," Cleghorn said.

    "They didn't really have the numbers and the density" to rebuild their populations after the eruptions.

    "Not Convinced" by Volcanoes Theory

    The researchers acknowledge that there are gaps in the volcanoes theory. For instance, the time line needs to be better defined—did the volcanic eruptions occur in a period of months, years, or decades?

    "At this point, it's impossible to pin down a reliable date" for the eruptions, Cleghorn said. "We can't say, This eruption happened 50 years before the next eruption. We just don't have that kind of resolution."

    It's also unknown exactly how long it took the Neanderthals to die out—or how long after the eruptions modern humans began settling Europe in force, she said.

    Anthropologist John Hoffecker, though, suggests that modern humans had already begun crowding out Neanderthals in Europe long before the eruptions in question.

    Judging from discoveries of modern-human artifacts in former Neanderthal strongholds, Hoffecker said, "Neanderthals were clearly in trouble well before 40,000 years ago, because modern humans were occupying certain places, such as Italy, where Neanderthals had been present. So something clearly had gone wrong there."

    Perhaps, he added, the volcanic eruptions just dealt the final blow.

    "I'm not entirely convinced that's the case either," said Hoffecker, of the University of Colorado. "But at least that's a plausible scenario that's consistent with the chronology."

    Study co-author Cleghorn counters that the modern human populations living in Europe 40,000 years ago were small and isolated, and only after the Neanderthals were gone did Homo sapiens populations explode.

    "If modern humans were making any forays into European Neanderthal territory prior to this, they were doing it only on the very margins," Cleghorn said.

    "What was keeping them from moving very quickly into the heart of Europe? We think Neanderthals were still holding their own and might have held out for much longer, if it hadn't been for the devastating impact of these eruptions."

    Than, Ker. 2010. "Volcanoes Killed Off Neanderthals, Study Suggests". National Geographic News. Posted: September 22, 2010. Available online:

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Clues to child sacrifices found in Inca Building

    Bodies buried with artifacts offer peek at poorly understood practice

    The remains of seven children apparently killed in a ritual and buried beneath a 500- to 600-year-old building in Peru’s Cuzco Valley have given scientists new glimpses of the sketchily understood Inca practice of sacrificing select children in elaborate ceremonies.

    The children were buried at the same time, apparently after having been killed in a sacrificial rite that honored Inca deities and promoted political unity across the far-flung empire, say anthropologist Valerie Andrushko of Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven and her colleagues.

    Chemical analyses of the bones indicate that at least two of the children came from distant parts of the Inca realm, Andrushko’s group reports in a paper published online September 15 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

    Archaeological evidence of Inca child sacrifices has come mainly from youngsters’ naturally mummified bodies found frozen on several Andean peaks. Human figurines and other valuable objects lay near those bodies.

    “It was surprising that figurines and other artifacts found with children buried at this low-altitude site are nearly identical to finds at high-altitude child sacrifices,” Andrushko says.

    Items surrounding the remains of six youngsters buried together in the Inca structure included gold and silver female figurines, red shell figurines of females and llamas, fancy pottery and a piece of clothing covered in gilded metal discs.

    An additional child interred about 3 meters from the others lay near a silver figurine of a man adorned with a shell headdress and cloth fragments. Miniature gold, silver and shell figurines of men and llamas surrounded the larger figurine.

    Accounts of Inca life written by Spanish conquerors described a ritual in which children from throughout the kingdom were selected for sacrifice based on their physical perfection. Those chosen were brought to the capital city of Cuzco for special ceremonies and then escorted to sometimes distant sacrificial sites.

    In a 2007 study, isotopic analyses of hair samples from four Inca youths found more than a decade ago on two Andes summits indicated that they had eaten increasing amounts of maize for about four months before death, apparently at mountain way stations.

    Such investigations are rare, remarks anthropologist Tamara Bray of Wayne State University in Detroit. “We have so little scientific information about who these children were or where they may have come from,” she says.

    The new report focuses on an apparent child sacrifice discovered during a 2004 dig directed by study coauthors Arminda Gibaja of the National Institute of Culture in Cuzco, Peru, and Gordon McEwan of Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y. Excavations took place at an Inca site called Choquepukio, located about 30 kilometers east of the Inca capital.

    Children buried in the Choquepukio building ranged in age from 3 to 12, based on their tooth development. Not enough skeletal material survived to make sex determinations. The researchers measured ratios of strontium isotopes in children’s teeth to determine if they had grown up locally. Strontium isotopes get absorbed by teeth to varying extents during childhood depending on concentrations of different forms of strontium in local soils and water.

    Comparisons to strontium signatures for Inca adults from the Cuzco region indicated that two children definitely had not been raised there. Preliminary strontium data from other Inca sites suggests that one child came from southern Peru and the other from northwestern Bolivia, Andrushko notes.

    Further research is needed to establish whether residents of other parts of the Inca realm possessed a strontium signature like that of Cuzco-region natives, she adds.

    Her team could not determine how the Choquepukio children died. Spanish accounts described strangulation of sacrificed youngsters. A neck bone called the hyoid often fractures when adults are strangled but rarely fractures in children because it hasn’t fully formed.

    Bower, Bruce. 2010. "Clues to child sacrifices found in Inca building". Science News. Posted: September 22, 2010. Available online: