1/16/2010

some updates:

Homo Erectus (pic):
The Paleoanthropologist John Hawks (blog) remarks: "Don't underestimate the range of body size in H. erectus - the Dmanisi sample is clearly small, maybe Bushman-sized, and the tall East African specimens are accompanied by many short ones as well. The "women invented culture" idea has been pursued in recent years by Chris Knight. He places the crucial events later in our evolutionary history, but is worth looking at as a model for how these events might be integrated." Several of his blog entires are about the Homo Erectus, e.g. these puzzling findings on Crete. This "Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans" tells the "epic of Homo sapiens and its colorful precursors and relatives. The story begins in Africa, six to seven million years ago, and encompasses twenty known human species, of which Homo sapiens is the sole survivor. Illustrated with spectacular, three-dimensional scientific reconstructions portrayed in their natural habitat developed by a team of physical anthropologists at the American Museum of Natural History and in concert with experts from around the world, the book is both a guide to extinct human species and an astonishing hominid family photo album". An exhibition of the Smithsonian Institute. Then I stumbled across an interesting remark on "marrow cults" at the Homo Erectus in Thomas MyEvilley's "The Shape of Ancient Thought" (p.220). McEvilley wonders if such cults continue in !Kung Bushman beliefs in an occult power of a (fictive) spinal channel system and turnes into part of magic physiological doctrins in Sumerian culture, then ancient india and finally entered through the teaching of Alcmaeon of Croton and Democedes of Croton Plato's theory of eros. And here are very interesting news on the simultaneous changes in hominid- and elephant-populations, apparently the homo erectus used fire for preparing meat, but not for preparing vegetables. Only a few weeks ago I found this thesis of Norbert Meuter, who came to similar conclusions about the homo erectus and who gives very interesting links to earlier, rather speculative, but astonishingly good fitting to later archeological data, texts by Susanne Langer. She in turn hints backwords to the developments of greek religion, where this new study was recently recommened, but I the libraries here still process the request...

If you are curious about how living was in the oldest great settlements, try this expert simulation of Çatal Höyük.

social brain:
Aside mirror neurons, the right temporo-parietale junction (rTPJ) shall be crucial for social skills: Rebecca Saxe at the MIT calls it "the core of our ability to read other people's minds" (german article). Here is an other interesting study. Face recognition is studied here. A new study "Cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations" is here. About social skill induced brain development a report here.

Technology anticipations:
Richard Sennet reports in his book on handycraft that the described counterintuitive ways how new technologies emerge is rather common. He tells about the history of srewdrivers, which were invented much earlier than one got an idea of it's proper uses and thinks, the internet is an other such case of a technology whose use still has to be found (making me wonder if language could be a similar open case).

Love in the time of dictatorship:
"A book suddenly disappears. Two days after it hits Minsk bookshops and Belarus’s internet retailers, it is suddenly “unavailable”. Neither inquiring readers nor embarrassed sales staff are given any explanation. It is as if the book never existed. But it does." (review, more)