Month: April 2014

This week in anthropology, forensics, bioarchaeology, archaeology, and human evolution

Differences in core body temperature between men and women 

Lead in Rome’s water was 100 times higher than natural levels 

Study finds that Americans have more skepticism than confidence in scientific theories that are farther away from bodies in scope and time: global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and the Bing Bang

After death, resurrection through decomposition and purification of the body 

Two 26th dynasty tombs unearthed near Minya, Egypt 

Humans may have dispersed out of Africa earlier than thought 

What is anthropology? 

Darwin’s tragic error: How Hitler and the Nazi’s destroyed evolution and propagated racism 

West Suffolk: Roman skeletons discovered by Anglian Water in Barnham, Bardwell, Pakenham and Rougham

A tomb of 49,000 year-old Neanderthal bones discovered in El Sidron, a remote, mountainous region of Northern Spain, leads to a compelling investigation to solve a double mystery: How did this group of Neanderthals die? (video) 

Scientists use CT scan to examine Inca mummy, the Ice Maiden, discovered in Argentina 

15 ways to tell if a science news story is hogwash 

Students in Oklahoma know less about evolution after taking biology 

Where Ancient Romans poisoned by lead?

Examining the Egyptian mummy, Tamut 

New support for Southern dispersal theory (out of Africa along South and Southeast Asia) 

The mind bending power of color, finally getting scientific notice? 

Suspected mass grave excavated in Serbia, believed to have remains of 250 Albanians from Kosovo War 

Creationists say government, Smithsonian is pushing “religion of naturalism” and “religion of evolution” on students 

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old King Erik 

Everything from 4500-year-old site in California was excavated and then reburied

Using remote surveillance to monitor “uncontacted” Brazilian societies

Women undergoing foot surgery so they can wear designer shoes comfortably 

Stonehenge rock source identified 

Scientists discover little genetic variation among Neanderthals 

Education may insulate the brain against traumatic injury 

Ebola outbreak, crisis for primates and humans 

Durham academic finds 3,000 year old skeleton with clogged arteries 



This week in anthropology, bioanthropology, bioarchaeology, archaeology, and primatology

Replica of King Tut’s tomb almost complete in Luxor, Egypt

New findings in Rome make archaeologists’ believe city older than previously thought

Mummies with copper masks uncovered in Siberian Arctic 

Study suggests that Neanderthals and Cro-Magons did not coincide on Iberian peninsula 

Body modification practices in Omo Valley, Ethiopia 

Looting in Peru is more common now than in the Spanish colonial era 

How human culture influences our genes 

Archaeologists find 21 remains of German soldiers in WWI shelter 

New chemical tests planned for Bronze Age “Racton Man” 

An illustrated guide to a PhD

Tests on Chilean mummies suggests arsenic poisoning

Sacrificial and common graves reveal diversity in ancient city of Cahokia 

Unwrapping Ancient Egypt, practices of collecting and displaying of Egyptian materials, especially mummies 

China’s terra cotta warrior army heading to Indiana 

Scurvy, a Vitamin C deficiency, common in Columbus colony in La Isabela, Santo Domingo 

Orangoutang shot by poachers, has wounds attended to 

Epigenetics help explain early human appearance 

Why humans get autism and Neanderthals didn’t 

Giving animal cute names can help save species, Jane Goodall explains 

DNA tests begin on King Canute, UK 

Chimpanzees are very picky about where they sleep 

Vampire burial in Venice 

Physical impacts on skull shape of Trail of Tears and Civil War on Native Americans 

Jared Diamond, we could be living in a Stone Age by 2114

How do we explain the evolution of religion?

Has human evolution been propelled by war?

Ban Bossy in Academia, Female scholars of the world unite!

As a female working towards her Phd, a university career, and respectable academic career, I realize that there are particular hurtles females must overcome. True, women have more opportunities now more than ever. More women hold bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees now than they have in history. There are more women in STEM careers than ever. That being said, there is still room for improvement. Women are still underrepresented in academia. A huge gender pay gap exists in the US, some states even pay women $10,000 less than men on average. More startling, studies have shown that women are less likely to be hired than men, even when they preform the same tasks just as good as, or better, than their male peers.  Sexism is the job market and in academia still exists.

Dr. Kelly Baker of Florida State University conducted an experiment in her classroom. She dressed in traditionally feminine clothing and asked her students to evaluate her on her self-prensetation to demonstrate how pliable gender identification can be. When she asked her students how they visualize a “professor” they said she didn’t fit the description. Rather,”they explained that professors seemed to be male, older (or younger), bearded, and white.”  Even in the 21st century, we are fighting against how people visualize the “traditional professor” in academia. Why is this? Have we simply been bombarded with images of the elderly, absentminded cookie-cutter professor in movies, television shows, and other media? Or have we made these inferences based on what we’ve seen in real-life classrooms? In the aforementioned venues, males are overrepresented in academia. Is that because universities don’t hire women? Are women not applying for these positions? Studies have shown that women are more likely to be adjuncts and part-time professors than men. Yet, like I already mentioned, women hold just as many if not more master’s and doctoral degrees than men. So why is there is underrepresentation of women in tenure-track positions?

Dr. Baker opines that it is possible that women aren’t, as Sheryl Sandberg coined, “leaning in” to their careers as much as they should. However Dr. Baker states that women can “lean in” until women’s “backs [are] permanently bent forward and still face discrimination, bias, harassment, and more recently, rescinded job offers.” There are gender-baises engrained in the system. I agree with her on both accounts.

I’d like to examine the idea that women are hesitant to “lean in.”

In her excellent blog, “The Professor is In,” cultural anthropologist Dr. Karen Kelsky gives amazing advice to women on how to succeed as a graduate student, during the job search, and as a professor. She gives wonderful advice on how to be confident, professional, and how to not self-sabatoage with diffident and passive language. The fact that most of her posts stem from emails she receives from women in academia, I am willing to believe that women sometimes unintentionally hold themselves back because they don’t want to appear pushy, unlikeable, or, dare I say it, bossy.

I believe that women start holding themselves back long before graduate school. Personally, I have witnessed how women held themselves back. Growing up in an area of the United States that placed a particularly non-negotiable value on male superiority on dominance, I immediately realized that  my actions, attitude, and personality were not welcome. Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, whenever I raised my hand or called out an answer in class, I was almost immediately mocked by one of my male peers. If I answered a question incorrectly, my male peers would call out, “wow, YOU were wrong?!” I always wanted to be in charge of discusses and projects, and despite the negative feedback I’d receive from my male peers, I loved school too much to care what they thought. What got me through the day-to-day was knowing that I had a clear goal in mind, that I wanted to be the best I could be.  I loved learning, thinking, helping my peers with their work and make them as passionate as I was.  My current location and circumstances were temporary, but my work ethic and determination would stay with me forever. 

In my small town, high school graduation was a big deal, so huge that there was  a special edition of the local newspaper to commemorate the event. There was a blurb about my success (my valedictorian speech, extra-cirrculars, and the top university I was going to attend). But who had the full page story on his success as a mediocre athlete? Who was everyone gushing over? And who ended up dropping out of his university the first year, and changing schools several times over the course of the next few years? That’s right, the best male student in my graduating class. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this bothered me. I let it bother me a little too much. So what did I do? It made me even more determined to succeed. No one was going to forget about me. I was a force to be reckon with. 

My male peers who weren’t accepted into the incoming class of my university said that they were victims of female privilege. They said that schools didn’t want to accept white, middle-class males because too many were applying. There was too much pressure to select girls and minorities. These guys made me feel guilty, like I had taken something from them. They made me feel as if I hadn’t earn my success, I was granted concessions I am female. It wasn’t until years later when I realized that my academic record, essays, and involvement was simply more impressive than theirs.  I was done with being blamed and being told I received special treatment. That makes me, and other females, suffer from impostor’s syndrome–why females won’t attribute their success to innate skill or ability, but rather, to luck and other people’s help–because there are these guys telling us that we didn’t succeed by our own merit.  I no longer have time to listen to those types of people. 

I wasn’t what the males in my region considered to be the ideal female. Quiet? Hardly. Empathetic? If it was a competition, I was prepared to win. I didn’t understand our newest topic in math? I figured it out and was happy to help any one else, even if it wasn’t endearing and attractive to my male peers. Whenever I campaigned for any sort of student government position in my school, I was almost never elected. Was this because I was a detestable person? I don’t think that is true; I was well-liked by my teachers and peers, and was involved in more student organizations than anyone in my grade. I gave my campaign speech, a well thought-out, point-by-point outline on how I would improve life in our school, yet, everyone voted for the soft-spoken, quiet girl who wasn’t pushy or bossy. After that happened, my teachers approached me and said how they couldn’t believe that I wasn’t elected. Maybe I would have been elected if I fulfilled what the school thought “girls” should be. Would I go back in time and be nicer, more polite, less competitive, and less outspoken? Not at all. I realized later that my ability to stand up for what I believed in, to be a figure representing strength and a challenge to the antiquated norms, is far more rewarding, and closer to my personality, than being what guys wanted me to be. 

One event that stands out in my head was during college. I was in an upper level seminar of only 12 students. There were 10 girls, and two males. Part of our grade was a presentation we gave at the end of the semester; each student had to give a 20 minute talk on their final paper topic. Simple. As my peers gave their talks, I noticed a startling pattern. The guys always stood up for their presentations, using the laser pointer to change the slides. The women, on the other hands, always sat down and controlled the powerpoint from a wireless keyboard. The guys stood up and commanded everyone’s attention. The girls didn’t want to be the center of attention so they stayed in their seats. I was blown away. I was the last student to present, so YES, I stood up and gave my presentation. After my presentation, our professor, an amazing female archaeologist and art historian, made a point to tell me that she was glad that I stood up, and wondered why none of the other girls stood up for their presentations. Was it because they didn’t care about the class? Were they tired? Or did they not want to see too pushy and bossy? I’m not sure which option I hope is true. There were practical reasons for me to stand up and give my presentation: people speak better while standing and it was good practice for future presentations where sitting will not be permitted. I truly believed that standing made the room take notice, I wasn’t afraid to be the center of attention, in fact I love(d) it. I was not, nor will I ever be, afraid to own the room when I am speaking. 

Bottom line, attitudes need to change. They are changing, true, but not fast enough. Personally, I plan to embrace my personality and goals, charging forward no matter what changes and what doesn’t. I don’t know what all graduate school has in store for me, but I’m telling you now that I plan to give those presentations standing up.

This week in anthropology, archaeology, bioarchaeology, bioanthropology news

Skull of homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray 

9 Things you won’t see on display at the American Museum of Natural History 

AAA president defends social science research at NSF 

20 things you didn’t know about hoaxes 

Mausoleum go Augustus to be Restored, Rome 

Evolution of Irrationality in humans, learning from primates 

Pros and cons (and costs!) of taking your graduate studies abroad 

Tomb with pyramid entrance excavated in Egypt 

Looted bone boxes recovered in Jerusalem 

Maya skulls show evidence of wooden-club warfare 

Harvard discovered books bound with human flesh in library 

Illustrated story teaches kids natural selection 

Exhumed bones from Franco period bring crimes of Spanish dictatorship back to surface 

Traumatic skull injuries show that Maya used spiked clubs 

Byzantine monks used asbestos in wall frescos 

Byzantine mosaics uncovered in Israel 

Visit Angkor Wat using Good street view 

Things I wish I had known before beginning my Masters 

Jane Goodall celebrates her 80th birthday this week

Why anthropologists join an ebola outbreak team

10 reasons why everyone should love Jane Goodall 

Neanderthals genetic legacy among modern Europeans and Asians

Prehistoric artifacts found in Nashville ball park 

Tunisia returns stolen Mask of Gorgon to Algeria 

Early humans and saber-tooth cats co-existed 300,000 years ago 

New evidence exonerates rats as bearers of Black Death 

Did modern humans get fat from Neanderthals? Europeans have three times more Neanderthal variants in genes involved in lipid catabolism than Asians and Africans 

(a) Schematic representation of genomic distance calculations between contemporary human populations and Neanderthals. The genomes of out-of-Africa individuals were compared with the genomes of individuals of purely African ancestry (YRI). Single nucleotide differences from the Neanderthal genotype in an African genome were referred to as ‘ABBA’, while sites with the Neanderthal genotype in an out-of-Africa genome were referred to as ‘BABA’. (b) Average proportions of NLS in contemporary African (AF), European (EU) and Asian (AS) populations calculated based on sequence data from the 1,000 genomes project13; blue: genome wide (n=1,158,559 sites), red: LCP genes (n=498 sites). The error bars show the s.d. of the NLS proportion estimates. (c) Genomic distances between 11 contemporary human populations and Neanderthals; blue, genome wide; red, LCP genes. The maximal bar length corresponds to a NLS frequency of 30%. Placement of ASW and CEU individuals in sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe, respectively, reflects their approximate historical geographical origins rather than their present location [Credit: Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms4584] Read more at: Follow us: @ArchaeoNewsNet on Twitter | groups/thearchaeologynewsnetwork/ on Facebook

Sensors and satellites deployed to save Pompeii 

Ancient nomads spread earliest domestic grain over Silk Road 

Developers destroy Roman wall in UK 

Homo is the only primate whose tooth size decreases as its brain size increases 

Indigenous societies’ “first contact” typically brings collapse, but rebounds are possible  

A Year in the Life of an Average Graduate School Applicant

I believe congrats are in order…to me! I officially accepted an offer to begin my Phd at Tulane University in the fall! After an amazing campus visit, I am pleased to report that the department had everything on my check-list along with extras I didn’t even know I wanted (hilarious department traditions, diverse personalities, and a resident mummy, you know, normal things). It’s been an eventful year for me, and that’s not even considering the time I put into the whole application process.  Luckily I had a lot of support and feedback from amazing friends and colleagues. It wasn’t all luck however: I also had to be quite the savvy, calculating, and determined aspiring social scientist to achieve this goal.  What if you have the drive and dedication need to achieve this goal, but don’t have the network of academics to help?  Turns out once I was accepted, tons of undergrads and other aspiring academics started bombarding me with questions and asking for advice. Well, look no further! I’m here to help.  (I was accepted to three out of the five programs I applied to, and offered funding from each, so I did something right). Below I’ve created a timeline interspersed with information to help with the process.

Approximately 1 year before applications are due (also corresponds to approximately six  months after graduating from undergraduate) 

You need to seriously consider if you should/need to attend graduate school.  It is not a place to hide out until the job market improves. It is not a place to relive undergrad. And more importantly, it is not a place to go just because you have no idea what to do with your undergraduate major. It’s a commitment, and I had to do A LOT of soul searching and take tests to see if I had a death wish/personality disorder (okay, the last two are jokes…but I think the GRE is sort of the same thing). Take the time and energy to consider your options, your ultimate goals, and even your strengths.  I spent time doing productive CV-building and networking activities (visiting sites, working on projects, etc.) as well as getting out of the US to give myself some space. Once you graduate, you find that all your peers immediately jump into new careers and seem to have direction and everything figured out. Being around that can be stressful and pressure you into making rash decisions just so you don’t feel like an unproductive hobo in comparison. To avoid this, I spent time abroad doing not-so-serious things as well. I went on glacial treks. I spontaneously took a 19-hour bus ride to a town I ended up not even liking that much. I worked as a bartender. All of these decisions seem irresponsible (and a little insane), but honestly, I had so much distance and alone time to allow myself to assess what I wanted. In the end, all I could think about was starting my PhD and beginning my career.  Whenever I was working at the bar, I kept talking to people about my research, and made attempts to education people on the archaeology in the region (side note, the number of beers a person consume correlates with how interested they become in archaeology). Trust me, when you have the chance to day-drink every day as a dysfunctional bartender and all you can think about digging in the dirt, you know this is something you desperately want.

9 months before applications are due (after you realize that yes, you want to do this) 

The main draw of a graduate program should be the cohort of professors, funding, opportunities for professional development, and the department’s resources (facilities, labs, collections, etc.).  Yes, I know it would be great to live in a cool new city. Yes, I know that living in the middle of nowhere sounds terrible, but if it is the perfect school, then you have to deal with that. If you are really serious about continue your education, then the city shouldn’t be the deciding factor. That being said, I lucked out that most of the programs I wanted to attend were in cool cities!

Also, to anthropologists, see if the department shares your thoughts and preferences on theoretical approaches…

Additionally, funding is a huge part of the decision. If you are continuing your education in a field that doesn’t have the largest or a guaranteed payout, then try to avoid going into debt. Check out funding opportunities, the competitiveness of the stipends within the department, and for how long you receive funding. Also, it might be worth checking out graduate programs abroad, since they are sometimes considerably cheaper than programs in the US, and are only for a year.

Check to see the application requirements (CV, statement of intent, writing sample, etc.). Some applications might require additional essays. For instance, one school required that my friends write an essay about how they could add diversity to the department. Also, it might take over a month for your undergraduate institution to send your transcript, so take care of that asap.

See what other graduate students are researching. It is similar to your research goals?  Do they seem like they are participating in conferences? Publishing? You want to be around an active cohort of students. Maybe email a few students. Ask them questions about their advisor. I found that I learned A LOT from quick exchanges with students. I wanted to be around a supportive group of scholars, and it is obvious when students view potential incoming students as threats and will not be welcoming. I also wanted to have a supportive, even-tempered advisor. I was lucky that I was able to meet a few professors before applying; some were fantastic and encouraging, and others acted like I was wasting their time. Trust your gut–if you feel uncomfortable around a potential advisor, then you probably won’t get along with them as a student.

At this point, I recommend emailing professors who share your research interests and ask if they are taking students in the year you plan to enroll. They have just accepted that fall’s new cohort of students, and it’s before midterms/finals for their undergraduate students, so they are less busy (just kidding, they are always busy), and more likely to email you back.  Better point: they’ll have an idea of how many PhD students are leaving, and how big the newest class is, so they’ll have an idea of how many students their department will take the next year. In some cases, students are rejected not because they are qualified, but because there are a limited number of positions. Some departments/professors might not take students in certain years. So if someone doesn’t email you back, or a professor doesn’t encourage you to apply, don’t take it personally. (But spell check and reread your emails, just to make sure).

Work on your CV/Resume. If you don’t have a CV/Resume, make one now. If you have one, great job! Just make sure you update it. This might seem super far in advance, but trust me, if you don’t read it at least 45894076 times before submitting it with you application, there will be the smallest, stupidest mistake on it. Keep it simple, NO crazy fonts (if you write it in Comic Sans, congratulations, you are the Jerry of your friends). Bold and capitalize all headers, avoid italics (they are annoying), and make sure you have everything in order according to date (higher- more recent, lower – older). As for placement:

1) academic history

2) awards/honors

3) field/lab research

4) publications (if several, maybe put this before field/lab research)

5) conference posters/symposiums

6) leadership

7) volunteer work/community service

Depending on the nature of your graduate work, some of these things might need to be reshuffled. If you are going into public health and you volunteered at a clinic for 2 years, then you should considering moving that up the list. Basically, the items of highest importance should go first. 

6 months before applications are due 

TAKE THE GRE (and/or required tests). Some studies say you should take the GRE while you are still an undergrad because you are better at studying and retaining information while in school. Other people say that you should take it when you have more time to study, so wait until after you leave school. Then some people don’t take it seriously at all, manage to get a decent score, and get into their first choice. Those people are the worst. Kidding! It simply depends on your personal study habits. Personally, I could only study for a few hours a day before I’d collapse in on myself like a dying star, so I would spread out my study schedule. I suggest to take the test as soon as you are sure that you are applying to graduate school. It is NOT fun to schedule the test close to deadlines only to realize that you won’t have your scores before a deadline and have to spend $50 to change the date. Trust me.

Email and ask previous professors/employers if they’d be willing to write your recommendation letters. I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT leave this to the last minute. That being said, it is almost 134% CERTAIN that your recommenders will turn in their recs last minute. That’s okay, they are totally used to doing that, but you cannot expect them to drop everything and write your recommendation 2 days before it’s due. You will be expected to supply 3 recommendations (maybe less depending on the program). Have three back-up recommenders. If possible, pick recommenders who have a connection to your potential advisor’s research and to the department. If you took a few classes from a professor who is an alumnus from your grad school, it would be a good idea to have them write your rec. Ask professors who know you best, they will write the most personal recs that will stand out from other generic letters. Not to sound simplistic, but applying to grad school is like a game, you have to play your strengths and take advantage of your resources.

Ask current graduate students for their statements to get an idea of what professors look for in statements of intent. I read dozens of statements, and everyone’s was different. I was able to express myself while following a well-organized format.

3-1 month(s) before applications are due

If you haven’t already, starting writing down ideas for your statement. I recommend that you start seriously writing your statement about two months before applications are due. You will need to revise it several times. You will need people to read it. For my first statement, I had several people read it. After I had it completely edited, I used the outline to write other statements, but still had people read those statements as well. Ask for help! The more people who read and edit your statement, the better. Ask people who know you well to read your statement since they have a better idea of your writing style and long-term goals.

Some schools give a page or word limit. One school asked for 3-5 pages, then another school wanted 750-1000 words. Even better, some schools don’t tell you anything.  In general, your statement shouldn’t be longer than two pages. Mine were at least two pages, single spaced, double spaced between paragraphs. Your potential advisor (and the rest of the department) have to read hundreds of statements a semester– so be succinct, eloquent, and get to the point.  Your primary goal is to demonstrate that 1) you have the experience 2) you have thought out a specific research goal and 3) you have shown that you are a perfect fit for the department.

Basically a statement should include…

-Introduction (your name, where you went to school, who you studied under, what you want to study, and who you want to study with)

-Your background (what have you done in the past that has lead you to apply for grad school, so list all relevant experience)

-Your research focus (should be like an upside-down pyramid, with big picture, then narrow down to your specific topic)

-Why this particular school would be perfect for your research goals (it has these professors, these facilities, etc.)

-Future career goals, and summary (I find that putting these two together in the final paragraph made for a neat and orderly ending)

Me writing my statement

A lot of people have different styles and want to stand out. Here are things you should avoid…

-Don’t point out your weaknesses in your statement. This might seem obvious, but I’ve heard that this is actually a huge mistake students make. Don’t apologize for a low GRE score. Don’t point out that you have a terrible GPA. Don’t tell the professor that you have little or no experience. Your statement is meant to demonstrate that you are a perfect candidate for this program, so it should have nothing but positive information.

-Don’t write a long statement. Stick to the program’s guidelines.

-Use appropriate language, don’t “beg” your potential advisor to read your statement (avoid words like “please”). Avoid diffident and passive language (“I would like to study *blank*”), and instead use strong, confident phrases and active verbs (My research investigates *blank* /My research focus is *blank*).

And last…remind your professors to write their recommendations! In fact, send reminders at least once a week until applications are due! Don’t worry if they don’t send them right away, I know for a fact that graduate schools expect professors to send in recs late, so if they take a few extra days, don’t flip out.

Last but certainly not least, send a quick email to your potential advisor letting him/her know that you are still interesting in their program and you look forward to submitting your application for consideration. Basically, remind your potential advisors of who you are. 

Week applications are due

PROOF READ!!!! Harass you recommenders to submit their recommendations! (just kidding, politely remind them, they are doing this as a favor to you after all.) Call the graduate school and make sure all documents are were they are supposed to be. 

After submitting your application

Enjoy the brief moment of elation and then freak out. This is really happening! Send thank you letters/emails to your recommenders. Let them know that what they did for you was very nice. Plus, if you don’t get into any programs, then they’ll have to do this whole, fun process again! But that won’t happen since you followed my helpful advice!

My last bit of advice…BE YOURSELF! I cannot stress this enough. Don’t say what you think the professors and department want to hear. State what you want to research and what interests you most. Be candid and passionate about your ideas and goals. It is glaringly obvious when a student has no idea what he/she wants to study and when he/she is saying what they think people want to hear. Do yourself a favor and take the time and energy to shape your ideas and set some goals. It will pay off! Now go apply to graduate school!