Archive for biological anthropology

Episode 19 The Culture of Teeth with Dr. Julia Boughner

Dr. Julia Boughner (photo by and included with permission from Dr. Boughner)

What do cultural practices have to do with how our teeth and jaws develop? Biological Anthropologist Dr. Julia Boughner works with dentists and oral surgeons to answer the question: why do modern humans in industrialized nations face dental problems that don’t affect primates, modern hunter-gatherers, and previous generations of humans? The key may be in what we eat and how we prepare it.

Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, our jaws have become smaller and weaker as our preferred foods became softer as humans (and our hominid ancestors) used hands, fire, and tools to do the work jaws used to do. Dr. Boughner explores evolution (and its misperceptions), science journalism, and how anthropology can be integral in developing safer and more effective dentistry.
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Episode 7 Ancient Bones & Peaceful Coexistence with Dr. Sara K. Becker

Dr. Sara K. Becker in Moquegua (photo courtesy of Sara Becker)

1000 years before the Inca civilization emerged in Peru and Bolivia, there were the Tiwanaku–a large nation consisting of a complex and ethnically diverse community of people. Today, amid the vestiges of Tiwanaku architecture, pottery, lithics, and other artifacts, Dr. Sara K. Becker’s focus is on the human remains. However, to understand the bones, as Dr. Becker says, you have to understand the culture. To do so, she collaborates with local communities and archaeologists to unlock the lives of this ancient group.

While another contemporaneous society routinely intimidated surrounding groups through physical violence, the Tikanawu managed to control vast regions through nontraditional and mostly nonviolent methods. When we examine the tensions and violence of many contemporary societies, Dr. Becker’s research becomes especially important: what can the ancient Tiwanaku teach us about how we can we live together in unified, diverse, and peaceful communities?

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Episode 1 Anthropology Beyond Indiana Jones with Dr. Angela Jenks

Dr. Angela Jenks, Asst. Teaching Professor at UC Irvine (photo courtesy of Angela Jenks)

From Indiana Jones to Bones to that graduate student kidnapped by pirates on Archer, there are many different representations of anthropology in pop culture, but what do real anthropologists do?

Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human. Which means that anthropologists study pretty much everything, including politics, art, medicine, religion, and our relationship with the environment. Some anthropologists take us into communities that are intensely different—ones we may not even know exist—and help us understand them from the inside. Other anthropologists use those same methods to get us to question the familiar—what feels normal to us, and why doesn’t it feel the same way to others?

In this first episode of The Anthropologist on the Street podcast, I have invited Dr. Angela Jenks to explain what anthropology is and why it is important. Dr. Jenks is an anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, a recipient of an award for excellence in teaching, and the first Teaching “Scholar-in-Residence” for the prestigious journal Cultural Anthropology. She talks to us about humanity, culture, and the paradox of being an American and an anthropologist, where we collectively share a culture of individuality.
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