February 16, 2013

"Isn’t it odd that the true enemy of society turns out to be that guy in the office down the hall?"

John Hawks extracts a juicy bit from that NYT article about the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon.

Hawks (who's a paleoathropologist) also has nice closeup of a museum reconstruction of Homo erectus (who seems to be an unusually nice person with lovely skin).

And: A story about a monkey midwife:
I think this is cool not because it shows that monkeys need midwives (they don't) but because it shows that the behavioral flexibility that may have enabled midwifery in early humans is very extensive among primates. A delicious placental incentive may seem inventive, but humans are mystifyingly strange in being among the few mammals who don't regularly consume the placenta after birth.
Note: don't regularly. Not: don't ever. I have Googled it. I know what people do.

23 comments:

Big Mike said...

The h. erectus reconstruction looks too light-skinned. Their fossils come from tropical areas where the current native h. sapiens have high melanin content in their skins.

Maguro said...

He looks like the Geico caveman.

Deirdre Mundy said...

When I googled it, most examples of placenta-eating seemed to center on Berkeley..... Maybe we should send some anthropologists there to live among the hippies and investigate.

Darleen said...

Big Mike

Except that homo erectus was not exclusive to North/east Africa ... they spread out over 2 continents (Peking Man is h.e.)

Michael K said...

The anthropologists have certainly proven Robert Conquest's Laws to be true.

Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

Anthropology is as good an example as Conquest's, the Church of England.

betamax3000 said...

Lesbian Placenta Stand workers. Nope, doesn't work for me.

edutcher said...

Don't say homo erectus.

Titus will get the wrong idea.

"humans are mystifyingly strange in being among the few mammals who don't regularly consume the placenta after birth"

We try very hard not to eat our young, either, but that seems to have changed for the moment.

betamax3000 said...

Placentos: the Fresh Maker.

Lem said...

omg..

Is that what Rubio was drinking?

betamax3000 said...

Fanta Placenta: it is a popular drink among the Elite.

Bob R said...

No animal needs a midwife if it wants to have its "natural" birth survival rates. I've helped with the delivery of a couple of hundred lambs. I'm sure 60%, 70% would have survived without any help. Counting twins, we had survival rates over 100% some years.

When you are out on those nice walks, try an old graveyard. See how successful truly "natural" birth really is.

bagoh20 said...

" Homo erectus (who seems to be an unusually nice person with lovely skin). "

Down girl. He's not exactly a feminist. It would never work out.

bagoh20 said...

I met erectus at the candy store.

He turned around and smiled at me.

You get the picture? [Spoken]: Yes, we see.

That’s when I fell for ... the leader of the pack.

Lem said...

Wait until Inga sees your new avatar... she will go gaga.

kentuckyliz said...

How can you have a survival rate OVER 100%?!

100% would be the maximum.

Any scientist with this lack of numeracy re: statistics is not worth any perusal.

Skyler said...

When my wife was expecting, we went to the requisite child birthing classes (which are generally worthless) and the teacher ended every class by encouraging us to look up recipes for the placenta.

I was looking for a statute against cannibalism, but apparently Texas doesn't have one.

Jim said...

I'll have some of that Kobe after-burger.

John Hawks said...

Thanks!

The Homo erectus is based on a North Chinese specimen; light pigmentation is not irrational but there is no evidence either.

On the subject of whether it might "work out" -- if you haven't seen Ann Miller hoofing to Pithecanthropus (who looks suspiciously like Jules Munshin)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urXu1Z1g61M

Mitchell the Bat said...

"Isn’t it odd that the true enemy of society turns out to be that guy in the office down the hall?"

An anthropologist of my acquaintance gave up on field work in Central America.

She complained you can't get any honest information from the locals.

They all assume you're working for the C.I.A.

Astro said...

All this publicity about Chagnon makes me want to read his book. Yet, it seems like that's the opposite of what some reviewers want. Villify

I've watched Hawks' Great Courses lecture series 'The Rise of Humans: Great Scientific Debates'. He's a good speaker, but the visuals are disappointing and he comes across as a camera hound. The video spends too much time on Hawks just standing there, lecturing, and not enough time actually showing the artifacts he's discussing, or any graphs, maps, drawings, photographs, re-creations, etc.

Paco Wové said...

Astro: that seems to be a problem with most of the Great Courses/Teaching Company/Whatever they call themselves now courses. Good material, lousy visuals. 'Course, better visuals = higher costs, so a cheapskate like me can't complain much.

Paco Wové said...

An old acquaintance of mine joked during her pregnancy that she couldn't find any "Placenta Helper" in the supermarket and she'd just have to make and sell it herself.

nick said...

We get a lot to eat already. It's not mystifyingly strange.