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College of Arts and Sciences Anthropology

Charting wealth inequality across millennia

Researchers at Washington State University and 13 other institutions have found that the arc of prehistory bends towards economic inequality. In the largest study of its kind, the researchers saw disparities in wealth mount with the rise of agriculture, specifically the domestication of plants and large animals, and increased social organization.

Their findings, published this week in the journal Nature, have profound implications for contemporary society, as inequality repeatedly leads to social disruption, even collapse, said Tim Kohler, lead author and WSU Regents professor of archaeology and evolutionary anthropology at WSU. » More …

Challenging notions about cultural transmission

handheld chopper rockEvery day students, faculty, staff and administrators throughout Washington State University process a vast torrent of messages. Between lectures, reading assignments, tweets, texts, emails, advertisements, news stories and casual conversations, they’re processing countless discrete pieces of socially transmitted information. Much of this information is so advanced that Cougs can go on to breed new species of grain, track unappreciated sources of greenhouse gas and study the winds on Saturn.

Anthropologists call this process cultural transmission, and there was a time when it did not exist, when humans or more likely their smaller brained ancestors did not pass on knowledge. » More …

CAS students receive Carson, Auvil undergraduate research awards

portion of the cover of printed programA total of 10 College of Arts and Sciences students received two types of awards from the WSU Office of Undergraduate Research.

Recipients of the Carson and Auvil awards will work with faculty mentors throughout the 2017-18 academic year on research, scholarly and creative projects that advance or create new knowledge in a specific field. » More …

The people’s plants

hat woven from long leavesThe Dominican boy had a leaf draped over his head, secured with a length of vine. Anthropologist Marsha Quinlan was intrigued.

“I asked him, ‘Is that a hat?’” she recalls. “And he explained that, no, he woke up with a headache and the leaf makes your head feel better. And I thought that was so cool!”

Quinlan was a graduate student at the time, on her first trip to the Caribbean island of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). And that was the moment she realized she had to delve further into ethnobotany. » More …

Holy smokes

smoke in the air over mountainsFor thousands of years, coyote and other types of wild tobacco have provided what many consider a versatile healing remedy and meditative, spiritual channel to the Creator. Much of the botanical lore was muddled, however, with the arrival of Europeans and subsequent cultural upheaval.

WSU researchers Shannon Tushingham and David Gang ’99 PhD are using a combination of archeology and high-end molecular chemistry to help identify and restore wild tobacco and other indigenous smoke plants used by Northwest Native groups.

» More …

Prehistoric turkey DNA used to track human migration

In the mid-to-late 1200s, some 30,000 ancestral pueblo farmers left their homes in southwestern Colorado’s Mesa Verde region and never returned.

Where these people went and why they left are two of American archeology’s longest-standing mysteries. » More …

Top Ten Senior Awards

Five of this year’s Top Ten Seniors are receiving a degree in the College of Arts and Sciences. A sixth is receiving two CAS minors.

For more than 80 years, Washington State University has recognized 10 of the top seniors in each graduating class. These five women and five men represent the Pullman campus’ highest standards in specific aspects of the college experience, including academics, athletics, campus involvement, community service, and visual and performing arts.

Read about all ten students on the WSU.edu homepage >>

WSU looks for practices to thwart antimicrobial resistance

The death last year of a woman in Reno, Nev., from an infection resistant to every type of antibiotic available in the U.S. highlights how serious the threat of antimicrobial resistance has become.

Washington State University scientists are addressing growing global concern about the spread of antimicrobial resistance in Africa, where the World Health Organization predicts that, by 2050, drug resistant tuberculosis and other bacteria could lead to the deaths of 4.15 million people each year. Their work identifying practices that lead to bacterial transmission could help save African lives and prevent the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria to the U.S. and other parts of the globe. » More …