Faculty News

Field Research in Nepal: Community Perceptions of Recent Earthquake

Yangjin and I were talking about causality when the topic of glaciers came up. She was describing the interviews she and her fellow community researchers from Mustang, Nepal, had completed this summer as part of an NSF RAPID award called “Narrating Disaster: Calibrating Causality and Response to the 2015 Earthquakes in Nepal.” Yangjin moved her hands and shoulders, narrating, through the words of others, how this living earth, jigten, balances on the back of a mythical animal. Sometimes it is an elephant, other times a white ox, fish, tortoise, or pig. “When the animal shakes its tail, there is a small earthquake. This time people felt the whole body shaking.”

This causal explanation of Nepal’s devastating earthquakes will likely prove to be a common response in our research, particularly among the elderly. Other recurring explanations include discussions of the four elements – fire, water, air, and earth – which at once comprise and course through our planet. When these elements are out of balance or in need of release, events such as earthquakes, floods, or volcanic eruptions occur, locals explained.

The Recent Discovery of a Distant Cousin: Homo naledi

Prof. DeSilva and a team of scholars at universities around the world are quickly working to place the newest fossil discovery into the history of human evolution.

Detailed analyses of Homo naledi shows a mosaic of both early and modern human features.

The recent discovery of a new human ancestor in the Rising Star cave system of South Africa shook the family tree. The newest member—Homo naledi—has a mash-up of ancient and modern human features, and the announcement stirred some controversy over whether the specimens are truly a new species.

Two studies published today in Nature Communications only intensify the debate, suggesting that H. naledi was a tree climber, long-distance strider and potential tool-user. 

Welcome New Faculty

The Department of Anthropology welcomes four new members to its faculty - Jesse Casana and Jeremy DeSilva as Associate Professors, Sabrina Billings as Senior Lecturer, and Jennifer Carballo, Visiting Professor from the Peabody Museum at Harvard University.

Jesse Casana comes to Dartmouth from the University of Arkansas with over ten years experience teaching and in the field working numerous projects in the U.S. and the Middle East. His research focuses mainly on Archaeology in the Near East.

Jeremy DeSilva moves to Hanover from Boston. His experience includes work at the Boston Museum of Science and over eight years of teaching most recently at Boston University. His research interests include human evolution; South and Eastern African fossil record; Australopithecus; origins and diversification of upright walking; primate locomotion; functional and comparative anatomy of the foot; brain evolution and ontogeny; and the evolution of human birth.

What Americans Can Learn From a Vial of Tibetan Spit

Tibetans have developed unique biological traits to adjust to life at high altitude, and assessing these genetic differences may benefit all of us. Associate Professor Sienna Craig and colleague Cynthia Beall are working to understand the role that these unique genes may play in “the biology of diseases as diverse as osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, heart failure, and cancer.”

Craig writes about these biological discoveries, as well as the challenges of translating medical science between Tibetan and American cultures, in a recent article in Pacific Standard.

To access the full article, click here.

Art Sheds New Light on the Ecology of Ancient Egypt

Nathaniel Dominy, associate professor of anthropology and biological sciences at Dartmouth, is working to unravel 6,000 years of complex ecological interactions in the Nile Valley. His key for shedding light on this ecology? Ancient Egyptian artwork.

Using detailed depictions of fauna from ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and carved reliefs, Dominy and his colleagues have pieced together a chronological catalogue of animals that once lived along the valley.

Dominy, along with his former graduate student Justin Yeakel, and other collaborators, have published this research in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

In a recent article with Dartmouth Now, Dominy describes his experience with the project: "We are excited by this paper because it is the first high-resolution record of an expanding human population coming into contact with essentially an intact Pleistocene community of large mammals...We can watch those animals disappear from the artistic record, and, by inference, the landscape, one at a time."

For Watanabe's Students, New Zealand is Full of Lessons

A recent Dartmouth Now article takes us behind the scenes to meet the Dartmouth Anthropology professor who has spent four winters leading the Anthropology Department's Foreign Studies Program in New Zealand. Throughout the course of these four winters, Associate Professor of Anthropology John Watanabe has worked to "shepherd Dartmouth undergraduates through the cultural landscape of New Zealand."

Of his experience, Watanabe explains: "One of the things the students learn is that a place may not be as it seems. What initially appears familiar, with time may indeed seems strange."

To read the entire article, published on 6/24/14 by Dartmouth Now, click here.

To learn more about the Anthropology Department's Foreign Studies Program to New Zealand, click here.

Crossing Disciplinary Borders in the Classroom

A recent story from Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine documents the experience of Sienna Craig, an associate professor of anthropology, and Tim Lahey, an associate professor of Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine, as they worked together to co-teach a course for undergraduates titled "HIV Through a Bio Social Lens: 30 Years of a Modern Plague." Team-teaching this course allowed the professors to create "an environment that challenged students to reevaluate their assumptions about medicine and culture."

In the article, author Susan Green quotes Lahey: "Our goal was to benefit the students from cross-disciplinary teaching, and I think we did...What was unexpected and great was how much my practice and my teahcing were influenced by working with Sienna. The more projects like this we have, the better."

Read the full article here, published 8/12/14 by the Geisel NewsCenter, to learn more about this exciting collaboration.

Anthropology Welcomes New Faculty

For the 2014/2015 Academic Year, the Department of Anthropology welcomes:

Laura Ogden whose research interests include environmental change, conservation,political ecology, environmental anthropology, post-humanist philosophy.  Dr. Ogden obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Florida.

Ann Armbrecht whose research interests include bringing sustainability, accountabilityto the Botanical Industry, land conservation, socio-economic conditions.  Dr. Armbrecht obtained her Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Elizabeth Carpenter-Song (D-2001) whose research interests include ethnographic research, disparities, metnal illness, mental health services, marginalized families and rural poverty.   Dr. Song obtained her Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University.

Nadav Samin whose research interests include social and cultural life of the modern Middle East, genealogy religious affiliation, oral and nomadic traditions meet high textual culture of urban Islamic life.  Dr. Nadav obtained his Ph.D. from Princeton University.

Student Studies Prehistoric Canals in a Mexican Metropolis

Joseph Blumberg

Adventures in Archaeology

Professor of Anthropology Deborah Nichols’ approach to education transcends the classroom. “For most students, college offers the first opportunity to take courses about archaeology,” she says. “For some, doing archaeology in the field will be a transformative experience. They learn to dig with trowels, toothbrushes, and lasers while having a legitimate excuse to get dirty.”

Nichols recently facilitated adventures in archaeology for four Dartmouth undergraduates. The students are profiled in this four-part Dartmouth Now series.

Andres Mejia-Ramon ’16 was born in Mexico, and considers Naucalpan, Mexico, and East Longmeadow, Mass., his hometowns. He says the main reason he became interested in archaeology is that he has been surrounded by the ancient Mesoamerican cultures for most of his life.

NY Times Features Work of Dartmouth's Sergei A. Kan

The New York Times highlights the work of Dartmouth’s Sergei A. Kan in a story about amateur photographer Vincent Soboleff, a Russian-American who captured images of the Tlingit community of Alaska during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Kan, a professor anthropology and of Native American studies, is the author of the new book A Russian American Photographer in Tlingit Country: Vincent Soboleff in Alaska. “Mr. Kan’s rigorous study focuses on the pictures of people, particularly scenes of work, celebration, and play, as well as of the interface between Native and non-Native populations,” writes the Times.

Read the full story, published 7/17/13 by The New York Times.

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