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Tag Archives: anthropology

Yellowstone #bison and #brucellosis…should they be released on public lands across the West?

Brucellosis spinesWonder why so many people are concerned with the Dept. of Interior’s plan to release Yellowstone bison to freely roam the public lands across the western United States?  Even if they release bison without brucellosis (and 40% of bison cows in Yellowstone test positive for brucellosis) the disease is now endemic in the elk population, and many bison, including those in Yellowstone, will contract the disease from elk.  Bison on ranches are vaccinated for this disease.  However, there is no plan to vaccinate these wild bison, or to care for them if they become sick.  If people are eventually allowed to hunt these wild bison, and eat their meat, here’s why you should care:  


Culture…how we create “us” and “them.”

Food Garden of EdenThis is a fascinating article from the perspective of anthropology.  Culture is created through a process of separating “us” from “them.”  And food is certainly one of the ways we do that.  For example, if you are member of a religious culture that does not drink alcohol, the group ethic says, “We don’t pollute our bodies with alcohol.  They do.  Therefore, they are polluted.”  Dietary rules are often used as ways of identifying “us” and reinforcing group solidarity.  And we’re not saying this is bad.  Group solidarity is what culture is all about.  Every group has to define who “we” are, and social rules are largely how we do it.  

Just as a personal example, we say, “Bison is a pure clean meat.  We eat bison.  We don’t eat unclean animals,” and by that we mean animals filled with growth hormones and antibiotics.  Now, of course, we do eat unclean animals all the time when we’re away from home.  Nonetheless, the group ethic that identifies our group–the group we think we belong to–has dietary rules.  They’re just not hard and fast rules, as is generally the case with a religion-based diet.  But in a way, aren’t we ascribing a “religious” value to our diet?  Ah, there’s a hint in there somewhere that growth hormones and antibiotics in food are “evil” and “impure” and, well…maybe even “ungodly.”   THAT is what Alan Levinowitz is talking about in this article.  http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/05/the-puritanical-approach-to-food/392030/

Does your diet have “religious” values? 

Cahokian civilization. Epic fire 900 years ago…

Cahokia- TownsendMural300dpi7x3-x

Was the epic fire that destroyed more than 100 buildings around AD 1170 an accident?  Maybe a ritual cleansing?  Or an act of warfare?  Archaeologists have lots of ideas, but the event did mark the beginning of the end.  People of the Morning Star is set about a hundred years before the great fire, but you can see the seeds of discontent building…


Tambora eruption 200 years ago in Indonesia affected the world.

The climate change caused by the Tambora eruption 200 years ago had effects that we still experience today.  Ever read the novel Frankenstein?  Mary Shelley was watching the world die around her when she wrote that classic book.  It all started on April 10, 1815 when a volcano in Indonesia, called Tambora, erupted and spewed 36 cubic miles of ash and rock into the air.  The debris blocked sunlight for two years.  Called the “year without summer,” it snowed in June in New England in 1816.  The cold summer caused worldwide crop failures, followed by global famines.  The death toll from Tambora would eventually rise to more 100,000 lives.

Tambora eruption 200 years ago caldera


1863, Idaho, in the span of four hours…

On a freezing January day in 1863, Colonel Patrick Connor led his troops against a Shoshoni village on the Bear River in Idaho, to punish them for recent depredations against White settlers.  It only took four hours to kill every man, woman, and child.  Though the next day, a baby was found alive high up in the branches of a tree, where someone had tried to hide it from the soldiers.  Wish we knew what happened to that baby…

Maybe archaeology will help us understand that horrible day a little better.


Idaho Bear-River-massacre-siteIdaho Bear-River-massacre-site 

Read more about it:  MASSACRE AT BEAR RIVER, by Rod Miller.

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