Mesa Verde National Park Discovery

mesa-verdeA recent discovery was made in Colorado at the Mesa Verde National Park.  It seems that what has been considered for a long time to have been an Ancestral Puebloan water reservoir – that has been standing for a thousand years – may not have actually been erected to store water.
Instead, it seems that the latest study concludes that given that it is on a ridge, US Geological Survey scientist Larry Benson pointed out that “it’s hard to believe that Native Americans who understood the landscape and were in need of water would have decided to build a reservoir on that ridge.” Thus those in the study believe that Mummy Lake – what was thought to have been a water reservoir – was actually instead “an unroofed ceremonial structure” a bit like ancient kivas and plazas common in the Southwest.  It also looks a bit like a Arizonian amphitheater that was also originally considered a water reservoir.
Around 20 years ago an evolving ritual landscape was discovered by researchers studying the Manuelito Canyon Community of New Mexico.  Throughout history, the Manuelitos changed the ritual focus of their community, developing ceremonial roads to connect their retired great houses and great kivas to the new complexes.  Benson’s group believes the same thing occurred at Mesa Verde, concluding that it is time for “new signage” on the structure…We could probably call it ‘Mummy Lake’ again.”

US Anthropology and the Lego Revolution

legoTop executives at Lego have been using German and US anthropology in their road to continued success.  This was done by placing anthropologist researchers into families, seeing how they interact, and, with a special focus on their play.

In an attempt to get Lego back on track, executives sought to demystify the notion that customers “no longer had to time to play” through research in the field of US anthropology.  They wanted to figure out if 21st century “plug and play” games were rendering old-school Lego play unpopular.

Interestingly what happened in this US anthropology research was that it was found that children these days do still have a lot of free time and in this time, they enjoy tackling challenging problems.  Further, when they weren’t being supervised, their behavior and actions were different to when they were being supervised.

Interestingly what has been found – by researchers Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen, (ReD Associates’ founding partners) – is that the way to really understand what’s going on is by anthropology.  That, as opposed to questionnaires and spreadsheets.  Culturally going in and experiencing what is happening is going to give us a much more accurate analysis of what children like to do.  At least, that is what Lego has found.  And they are pretty successful.

Spring is Here and its Time to Say “We Love Jazz!”

Jazz Appreciation Month at the US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan
Jazz Appreciation Month at the US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan

April is “Jazz Appreciation Month,” also known as JAM! In honor of this wonderful month which is a delight to the ears, let’s talk about a few of the young, up and coming jazz musicians of our day.

I don’t know what you think of when you hear the word ‘Azerbaijan,” but I think of one of my favorite musicians from that oil-rich country, Beyler Eyyubov. Before arriving on the shores of America, where he now lives in Brooklyn, Beyler Eyyubov played with some of the best jazz artists in his home country. Backing up singers like, Sevda Alekperzadeh, or jamming with the likes of Azerbaijan Honorary Artist Rain Sultanov, Eyyubov was beginning to make a name for himself before he moved to the US in 1997. I hope we will be hearing more from him soon.

Heading to a completely different part of the world, I would like to take some time to explore the world of jazz in Japan. The list here is long, but among my favorites are Satoko Fujii, an avant-garde jazz pianist and composer; guitarist Yoshiaki Miyanoue, who plucks the strings with his thumbs in the style of Wes Montgomery, who influenced Miyanoue in many ways; and Gota Yashiki, who is an acid jazz musician playing drum and bass for the band Simply Red.

Our trip through the literal world of jazz would definitely be incomplete without a stop in Africa. One of my favorites, who had a sad ending to his life, is Moses Khumalo. His instrument was the saxophone, and boy could he blow. The first time he performed in public was at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 1995, and he made a name for himself as a member of the band led by Moses Taiwa Molelekwa whose end by a weird coincidence, also ended tragically.

So celebrate JAM this month- listen to some of the world’s greatest sounds, and enjoy.

New Americans US Society Integration

cisnerosA non-profit organization to help support immigrant groups throughout America was recently launched by Henry Cisneros.  The former Mayor and Housing Secretary and current CityView Executive Chairman, set up the Cisneros Center to “identify best practices among these groups and promote an immigrant “road map” to accelerate their integration into U.S. society.”  The idea was also that it should be used as a kickback to the escalation in US immigrant populations.  Retired US diplomat Cecilia Elizondo Herrera will be the center’s CEO and first president in San Antonio with Nicolas Perilla as executive director in Washington DC.  José Estrada will be the center’s regional manager in Arkansas.

The Cisneros Center will seek to create awareness of the true “urgency” encountered by immigrants on education and other such issues common in their new lives.  It will be Cisneros’ “single, focused effort” in civic life. He believes that strong immigrant communities are what will “save our country.”

The main role of the Center will be to assemble nonprofit groups, academics, faith-based organizations and those with a foot in the door of immigrant communities to brainstorm the best ideas to deal with isolation.  As Perilla pointed out, there are “new gateways that have experienced dramatic demographic shifts in the last 20 years and are still in the process of building the infrastructure to serve them,” which have “so much potential,” but are lacking the necessary tools.

US Anthropologist Becomes Voice of the Dead

trophy-skullsTwo organizations – the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the US Army Central Identification Laboratory were the driving force behind a team of scientific anthropologists who are in the process of investigating American military remains that were unearthed in places around the world.

As part of this project, head of the team, forensic anthropologist Marcella Sorg, has been trying to figure out the root of various “trophy skulls” that have appeared in Maine following the deaths of veterans from the second World War.  Also in this category are bones of enemy fighters that were taken as military service souvenirs and discovered by family members.

In her position, Sorg is often asked to investigate unknown human skeletal remains.  In this way, she can figure out the identity of the individual and if their death was caused by a murder. In her US anthropology work over the years, Sorg has found a “steady increase” in the amount of drug-related deaths over the last decade and a half.  Indeed, between 2011 to 2012 there was a quadrupling of heroin-related deaths.  Methadone deaths have been decreasing, since 2008 though.

Still, at the end of the day, even though US anthropologist Sorg spends a lot of time analyzing bones, she always tries to remember that at some point, they belonged to somebody’s mother, father, etc.

Banking Looking Up in Florida

According to Go Banking Rates, there were no banks in 2013 in Miami or South Florida that went under. The real estate sector boosted the banks in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties during 2013. As Richard Brown, the chief economist of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said in an interview, “Things are getting better. The real estate market turned on a dime.”

The South Florida banks aren’t yet at the pre-recession levels, but they are definitely healthier than they were when Florida led the country in bank closings during 2010, according to Brown and FDIC spokesman David Barr.

Many banks including First Southern Bank, Doral Bank and others see a bright financial future. As Karen Dorway, president of Bauer Financial, told the Sun Sentinel, the number of bad loans that are held by South Florida banks continues to drop.

California Prepares to Boost Earthquake Fault Line Map Efforts

marktwainearthquakeCalifornia experiences earthquakes on a regular basis, and small to medium shocks are almost common procedure. However, as history has shown, the fault lines that cut across the state can have much more dangerous effects.

The 1906 earthquake that hit San Francisco was especially devastating, taking hundreds of lives, leveling dozens of buildings and starting fires that lasted for days. Cities across the continent felt the tremors from the quake, including those on the East Coast. The California Artists Relief Society was formed to aid the victims of this crisis, and Robert Reid painted the famous “Spirit of Humanity” in support of their efforts.

Samuel Clemens, more commonly known as Mark Twain, was especially moved by Reid’s painting, according to a letter recently revealed by the Shapell Manuscript Foundation. He wrote: “I keep thinking about that picture – I cannot get it out of my mind. I think – no, I know – that it is the most moving, the most eloquent, the most profoundly pathetic picture I have ever seen. It wrings the heart to look at it, it is so desolate, so grieved. It realizes San Francisco to us as words have not done & cannot do. I wonder how many women can look upon it & keep back their tears – or how many unhardened men, for that matter?”

Today, efforts to map out the earthquake fault lines in the region are struggling. However, Governor Jerry Brown has promised to increase funding to such projects. “We’ll do whatever it takes,” he said. “We’re gonna map these things. It is a problem. It’s serious.”

Vero Beach Excavation

megafaunaArchaeologists are set to resume a Vero Beach, FL, excavation that is more than 13,000 years old.  If successful, it could suggest that mankind has been in North America longer than is believed by most industry excavators.

The site was originally discovered in 1915 during which time saber tooth cats, mammoths and ground sloths were unearthed. Further, it is noteworthy since it is one of only documented sites in the Western Hemisphere where human remains have been found right by those of megafauna that are now extinct.  Further, according to a Mercyhurst University report, the Vero Beach human remains were discovered alongside extinct animal remains dating back to the Pleistocene era (that ended around 11,700 years ago).

So what is going to happen next is that archaeologist James Adovasio and his team will lead this excavation.  But the fact that a human skull along with 44 other human bones were found suggests that it was from a man who lived 13,000 years ago and thus there was humankind around in the region at this time.  Since this discovery, the term “Vero Man” has been coined.

Another issue is that Vero had always had an infamous status since, according to Adovasio, “it was seen as such a threat to the then perceived wisdom that no humans had lived here during the last Ice Age.” The next step is for the team to use current techniques at the site.

US Anthropology Researches Thanksgiving Fare

by Bonni Strong
by Bonni Strong

Traditional food served on Thanksgiving has a really long history. Today, throughout America and in other countries (expats), the holiday has kept up very much with these traditions. Let’s take a look at how they came about and what people ate on November 27, 2014.

Interestingly, a lot of the typical food found at the Thanksgiving table hails from South America and Mexico. Senior Scientist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Bruce Smith, explained the reason for this: “Most likely this diffusion happened as a result of trading or other contact among American Indian tribes in this country.”

Wild turkeys were eating at the very first Thanksgiving. It took longer for domesticated ones to make it to the table and they were probably brought from Mexico to Europe and arrived in America via Europeans who settled the colonies.

Again with potatoes it was most likely the Europeans that brought the potatoes to Eastern America when they settled there. They were originally domesticated in South America around 10,000 years ago.

The most common type of squash – the cucurbita pepe – probably underwent two domestications (like the turkey), both in Mexico and eastern America. Some of the more common members of this species include: acorn squash, pattypan squash and spaghetti squash. The jack-o-lantern was the first plant domesticated in the Americas.

More than 8,000 years ago, corn was domesticated in Mexico but only arrived in southwest US around 4,000 years ago. Eastern North America got the crop in around 200 BC. And finally cranberries actually are originally from America, probably from New England. However, their name was most likely given by European settlers – craneberry originally – as the plant looked like a crane. American Indians were the first to use cranberries as food.

So don’t forget the cranberry sauce next Thanksgiving!