Monday, October 4, 2010

Cretinism Strikes Back!

Just when you think you’re right, you’re wrong. That’s the beauty of the archaeological and anthropological worlds. Your theory one day, someone else’s the next.
That’s right folks, the new species vs. not a new species debate over the origins of Homo floresiensis has reignited.

A study from a Western Australian team has re-confirmed that the Flores hominid remains bare the hallmark features of modern humans affected by hypothyroid cretinism.
I know I tend to talk about this a fair bit, but I find it quite interesting, so deal with it. Also, I really don’t think we’re that far away from a “Is not!”/”Is too!” debate. I jest of course.
Professor Oxnard (awesome name) and his team claim that the results of their study confirm that:
the close grouping of H. floresiensis with the hypothyroid cretins, and the clear separation from both modern humans and from chimpanzees…leads them to conclude that the Liang Bua remains were indeed most likely cretins from a population of unaffected H. sapiens.

Oxnard explained that
"Cretinism is caused by various environmental factors including iodine deficiency -- a deficiency which would have been present on Flores at the period to which the dwarfed Flores fossils are dated."
The study has sought further evidence through drawing on modern human populations, arguing that their research is
"...consistent with recent hypothyroid endemic cretinism throughout Indonesia, including the nearby island of Bali,"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hu – man – i – ty

Definition: 1. Humans considered as a group; the human race.

2. The condition or quality of being human.

3. The quality of being humane; benevolence

4. A humane characteristic, attribute, or act; mercy,


When we dig into the past to examine human origins, what is often looked for is indications of humanity. It is believed to be a trait uniquely linked to being human, traits which have previously created a barrier between ourselves and animals.

Psychologist Sarah Bronsan of Georgia State University intends to find out whether or not humanely traits can be found in other species. Working with Capuchin Monkeys;
She argues that traits like fairness and curiosity are essential for any social animals to survive and live together.
Capuchin Monkeys are one of the most intelligent new world monkey species, and as such have been extensively studied in the wild, but also in captivity. The species are one of few monkey species which have been documented to make and use tools in the wild. Tools are predominantly made and used to access certain foods, but there have also been documented cases during the mosquito season where Capuchins will crush millipedes and use the remnants as a form of insect repellent.
But what Bronsan wants to examine is the extent of social complexities within the Capuchin species. Conducting a series of experiments aimed at fairness, Bronsan documented how Capuchins reacted when one individual was given a slice of healthy cucumber, while another was given a scrumptious grape. While both monkeys received the cucumber treat, no problems were observed. However, when one individual was given a grape instead, the other monkey reacted as many of us would if we found out our colleague was getting a $5000 bonus for performing the same tasks. In other words, the monkey went apeshit!

Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

But similar reactions have been demonstrated in the past. Check out this clip, where a Capuchin gets cheated in a game of blackjack.

Many animals have a sense of fairness. My two dogs for instance. Anyone with two dogs will surely be able to tell you that you can’t give one a piece of carrot, while giving the other a nice juicy steak. Riots ensue.
Of course there is still the argument of how being in captivity has influenced the behaviour of the Capuchins in this study. But undoubtedly, Bronsan and many others have shown that animals do share some of the same complex social rules as humans. The extent of which these social rules and humanely traits overlap, will likely be examined more thoroughly in the future.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Robot Tomb Raider

Just when you thought the only way Robots and Ancient History could intertwine would be in an episode of Stargate or Doctor Who, in walks a team from Leeds University to save the day!

A team of technicians from Leeds University in England have spent the last five years developing the “Djedi Project”. A venture which involves the use of robotics to unlock the engineering secrets to one of the worlds Ancient Wonders, the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The mission: to explore and determine the purpose of the two airshafts that lead from the Queen’s chamber in the great pyramid.

Previous examination of the airshafts have shown that they do not lead to the outer surface of the pyramid…Which many people thought a tad strange considering they were labelled as “airshafts”. Earlier missions in the 1990’s found that the southern shaft was blocked after 60m by a limestone door with copper handles. In 2002, a team succeeded in drilling through this door, only to find another door 20cm behind the one they’d just gone through. It was at this point that some experts started tearing their hair out in frustration, while others were left stunned and intrigued.

Zahi Hawass, Egyptologist and current Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, believes that
"With the help of the Djedi team, we hope to uncover the meaning of these airshafts by drilling through the doors that are blocking them……The team is hoping to gather as much evidence as possible to try to piece together the purpose of the airshafts, while at the same time ensuring that the Great Pyramid is not damaged in any way."

It is a pretty spiffy robot too I might add. Equipped with a micro snake camera; a mini ultrasonic device to determine the thickness and condition of stone walls; a mini beetle robot to explore more confined spaces; a precision compass; an inclinometer; and a Coring drill.

The only things missing are a laser and a computerised voice that shouts “excavate!” when the robot drills through the stone walls of the shaft.

But in all seriousness, this project isn’t just an excuse for a bunch of geeks and nerds to get together and have a party in the great pyramid. Experts believe that the project will help to answer questions about the remarkable engineering behind one of the most monumental structures of the Ancient World.

Dr Robert Richardson of Leeds University admits

"We have no preconceptions. We are trying to gain evidence for other people to draw conclusions…..We are preparing the robot now and expect to send it up before the end of the year. It's a big question, and it's very important not to cause unnecessary damage.”

I don’t know about you, but I for one will be following this study…mainly because I think robots are cool…and that a robot exploring the pyramids is so cool its subzero. But seriously, what if the great pyramid comes tumbling down like a load of bricks (excuse the pun) because of a beetle sized robot? Somehow I don’t think “Oops, my bad” will cover you for the total destruction of one of the most famous wonders of the world.

However, I don’t think the Pyramid will be in any real danger. Why? I’m glad you asked.
Reason 1: HAWASS
There is no way this project and others like it would go through if Hawass thought it was going to damage the pyramid. Hawass makes a solid living off Egyptian cultural heritage and let’s face it, he’s hardly going to shoot himself in the foot now is he? And the project is five years in the making. It cannot possibly take 5 years to make a robot. I'd say a good three of those years where taken up by risk assessment reports and other red tape matters.

Well you would hope so wouldn’t you? Especially considering how much faith we have in them in other areas of life.

Reason 3: ALIENS DID NOT BUILD THE PYRAMIDSNot that this contributes to the issue at hand, I just thought I should mention it.

Check out these for more information:


It’s been almost a year since my last blog…I know, I know, more than a little bit slack on my behalf, but let me explain…


You see, there comes a time in one’s life, when life as you know it changes. We’ve all had that moment, the one where we feel like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole, expecting to wake up at any moment.

Only then to be taken by a group of suspect characters to a dishevelled apartment block, where a man clad in black leather offers you the choice between the blue pill and the red pill. A choice to remain trapped or to free your mind and become the one!.....

Okay, yes that is The Matrix. And no, I don’t really have a good excuse for my absence from the blogosphere. So what was I doing for almost 12 months you ask?

WELL! Nothing too exceptional (that would be in conflict with the title of this blog), I went travelling for a while, I studied, I got a new job, I partied, I did a lot of ordinary things like washing and ironing and eating and drinking, and I read some books. Like I said, pretty pathetic excuse right?

But I have returned! Like a Jedi, or something equally as awesome.*

And to mark my return, I have given the blog a bit of a renovation, just to give myself a bit of fresh start I guess. So welcome back to the unfortunate few silly enough to stumble across my little outbursts of crazy and sometimes nonsensical rants about nothing in particular. I would like to offer you all something amazing to come, but if we’re being honest….

Well its just going to be more of the same really. So if you like it, THANKS! And keep reading. If not, well, tough luck I guess. But if you don’t like it, why the hell have you come back for more? You really must be a sucker for punishment.

I mean seriously, of all the crappy blogs you could read, why come back to mine? Masochist much? You should probably see someone about that.

*Yes, Jedi = awesome, not nerdy or geeky, just awesome.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Genus New Genus New Genus


Poor little Flo! New species, not a new species, now not a Homo?! Life can be so cruel. But rest assured, Flo won’t be lonely, she can hang out with Pluto in the “we are no longer what scientists first claimed us to be” club. It’s very exclusive.

That’s right folks, in an article that will be printed in the Journal of Human Evolution have suggested that Floresiensis should not be classified as homo as evidence could suggest that her ancestors may have exited Africa before the evolution of the Homo genus.

Do you hear that? Yes that would be the multi-regionalists clapping their hands and squealing “hah ha!” *

And then of course Brown would say “And I would have gotten away with it too! If it wasn’t for you Teuku Jacob! And your little dog too!”**

But in all seriousness now, Flo has come a long way, from a member of the homo genus, to a diseased individual, then a relative of the australopithecines and now arguably a whole new genus.

As Brown concisely stated:

"What will come from this is either the redefining of the genus Homo or the argument that this species has so many unique characteristics and so many features shared with australopithecines that it probably belongs in its own genus,"

But what have we learned from this? Nothing is ever simple, static or unchanging.

And that Scooby Doo is secretly a multi-regionalist mole determined to fight the Out of Africa Model till the very end.***

*You know I right about this one
**I took a little creative liberty here, but I’m sure it carries the same sentiment
***It’s always the innocent ones you have to look out for

Monday, August 17, 2009

Underworld of the Pharaohs - Found

Who said archaeologists couldn’t be like Indian Jones?!

British explorer Andrew Collins* has found the ‘lost underworld of the pharaohs’. Apparently in his Indiana-esque travels, Collins stumbled upon an ‘enormous system of caves, chambers and tunnels' that lay hidden beneath the Pyramids of Giza!

Collins said the caves contain untouched archaeology, but are swarming with bats and venomous spiders. He also suggests you stay the hell away from the light and any diamond shaped floor tiles, oh removing the gold idol is a BAD IDEA!

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist! If only all archaeology was this much fun!

*he should so change his name to something cooler, like ‘Andrew Zaine Ignatius Timothy Lane Fox Collins’ – then he could say “yeah, whose got the best name now Pitt Rivers?!”**
**IMHO ‘Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers’ has the best name in archaeology/anthropology.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

News From Flores

Just when you thought the debate was nearly dead…

Enter Cladistics Analysis!

A team of anthropologists and archaeologists from ANU have released a new study analysing the evolutionary linage of the controversial H. floresiensis, found on the Island of Flores in Indonesia 2003.

The results published in the journal of human evolution suggest that not only is H. floresiensis a new species, but also that the species does not share an immediate ancestor, diverging nearly two million years ago. Furthermore:

The fact that the H. floresiensis population on Flores is a very early species
suggests that hominins emerged from Africa much earlier than previously thought.

So if you thought you just felt the earth move, it was probably seismic activity, but also a major paradigm shift. So get your popcorn out and get comfortable everyone, this is going to be an interesting ride!

p.s. I know I’m a little behind in the news of this but I’ve been busy having a life and being awesome.

p.s.s. hahaha I joke! I’ve just been busy doing assignments and working…what an exciting life I do lead!