language detectives Videos 

Language Detectives

Where did the Uto-Aztecan language originate? An interdisciplinary research project looked at a set of 100 words to understand the sound sequences of this language. Watch this video to see how an anthropologist and a computational biologist carried out this research. This is another in the Shelf Life series from the American Museum of Natural History. Museum curators Peter Whiteley, an anthropologist, and Ward Wheeler, a computational biologist, joined forces to trace the evolution of Native American languages by applying gene-sequencing methods to historical linguistics. I became fascinated by the idea…

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forensic anthropologist Archaeology Biology 

Want to Be a Forensic Anthropologist?

Meet Tanya Peckmann, a Canadian forensic anthropologist who uses science to solve crimes. This video is part of the Women in Action video series produced by Techsploration and published here through an agreement with GotScience.Org.  Techsploration’s Women In Action series delivers a quick overview of careers in sciences, technology, trades, and engineering. The series features short clips of various female role models. In addition to today’s forensic anthropologist, we have also featured a chemical engineer, a web designer, and others. The series introduces young women to careers in which females have been…

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Shelf Life: The Language Detectives Archaeology Videos 

Language Detectives of the Americas

Shelf Life: The Language Detectives This episode of the Shelf Life video series details how two curators at the American Museum of Natural History, Peter Whiteley and Ward Wheeler, have been working to trace the evolution of Native American languages. From the American Museum of Natural History The researchers focused on the Uto-Aztecan family of languages, which have been spoken in Central and North America for millennia. Languages from this group were used in the bustling streets of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan—a city larger than 16th-century London—and spoken by nomadic…

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This figure shows how a gorilla and a human to grip and move an object. The dots indicate positions in which the object can be gripped. (Yale University) Biology Engineering 

Better Understanding the Human Grip

The human hand is an evolutionary wonder: 26 percent of the bones in our bodies are in our hands. Now, scientists are coming to better understand the grip and special grasping ability of humans and other primates. In a new study, a research team found that even the oldest known human ancestors may have had precision gripping skills comparable to modern humans. This includes Australopithecus afarensis, a creature that predates the first known stone tools by about a million years. Manual dexterity is traditionally viewed as a key adaptation that…

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Endangered Primates: Researcher Gonedele Sere (left) holds a cocoa plant found at an illegal farm in the Dassioko Forest Reserve in Ivory Coast (Photo by W. Scott McGraw, Courtesy of Ohio State University) Animals Biology Environment 

Illegal Cocoa Farms Threaten Primates

When a team of researchers set out to count the endangered primates in Ivory Coast national parks and forest reserves, they expected to find monkeys. Instead they found that most of the protected areas had been deforested and turned into illegal cocoa farms. The team surveyed 23 protected areas in West Africa and found about three-quarters of the land in each area was being used for cocoa production. Most of the trees and the monkeys that lived in them were gone. Bitter Chocolate: Illegal Cocoa Farms “The world’s demand for…

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Mayan civilization: A round structure uncovered at Ceibal, from about 500 B.C. (Takeshi Inomata/University of Arizona) Archaeology 

How Mayan Civilization Came Together

Archaeologists working in Guatemala have unearthed new information about the Mayan civilization’s transition from a mobile, hunter-gatherer culture to an agrarian lifestyle. Until now, there have been two common assumptions about Mayan civilization: that nomadic and sedentary groups maintained separate communities, and that public buildings were constructed only after a population had fully put down roots (as was likely the case with these famous ancient Roman gold mines). These new findings challenge both assumptions. Developing a Unified Mayan Civilization Archaeologists go to great lengths, and depths, to uncover people and…

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Human evolution: The fossil mandible near where it was found (Brian Villmoare) Archaeology Biology Paleontology 

Fossil Sheds Light on Early Human Evolution

The discovery of a fossilized lower jaw bone in Ethiopia has pushed back evidence of the human genus — Homo — to 2.8 million years ago. The find predates all previously unearthed fossils of the Homo lineage by approximately 400,000 years. For decades, scientists have been searching in Africa for fossils documenting the earliest phases of the Homo lineage. However, specimens recovered from between 3 and 2.5 million years ago have been frustratingly few and often in poor condition. As a result, there has been little agreement on when the…

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