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Beasts of the Ice Age

Not so long ago, large creatures roamed the Pullman area. Formidable beasts journeyed through the plains of the Palouse during the last Ice Age.

Fossils of mastodons, distant mammoth relatives, were found a few hours from Seattle, according to Washington State Magazine. At the site in Sequim, WSU professor Carl Gustafson uncovered evidence humans hunted the giant beasts: a spear tip embedded in a fossilized rib. Gustafson’s finding revolutionized the timeline of human presence in North America, revealing humans arrived in North America at least 800 years earlier than previously thought.

Gustafson’s discovery remains one of the most significant in WSU history. He also unearthed mammoth bones in central Washington, according to the Seattle Times. After nearly 40 years of teaching, Gustafson retired from WSU in 1998. He passed away in 2016, leaving a legacy of mammoth proportions. You can visit the Conner Museum on the ground floor of Abelson Hall to see a fossilized mammoth femur and mastodon teeth in person.

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Daily Evergreen

UI study: COVID-19 antibodies passed to infants through breastmilk

Limited data is available about the risks and benefits associated with breastfeeding following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, however, scientists recently published a study which supports recommendations for lactating mothers to continue breastfeeding during and after illness.

Courtney Meehan.
Meehan

Washington State University anthropology professor Courtney Meehan made significant contributions to the research showing that breastmilk from women infected with COVID-19 provides natural protection to their infants against the virus.

Previous research from the scientists, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found the milk of breastfeeding women with the illness to contain no traces of the virus. The new study indicates long-lasting antibodies in relatively high amounts that neutralize or basically inactivate the virus.

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The Lewiston Tribune

How one society rebounded from ‘the worst year to be alive’

It was the worst time to be alive, according to some scientists. From 536 C.E. to 541 C.E., a series of volcanic eruptions in North and Central America sent tons of ash into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight, chilling the globe, and destroying crops worldwide. Societies everywhere struggled to survive. But for the Ancestral Pueblo people living in what today is the U.S. Southwest, this climate catastrophe planted the seeds for a more cohesive, technologically sophisticated society, a new study suggests.

Tim Kohler
Kohler

“This story makes sense to me,” says Tim Kohler, an archaeologist at Washington State University, Pullman, who has studied climate impacts on the Pueblo people of different eras but was not involved in the new work. He says the disturbance and subsequent reorganization of the Ancestral Puebloans provide clues to what makes societies resilient in the face of dramatic climate change.

Climate data from tree rings from northern Arizona suggest the region suffered abnormally cold temperatures and drought between the years 534 and 569. So the Ancestral Puebloans, like people around the globe, endured the harsh weather conditions of the time. Yet within a few decades, they had bounced back and reorganized into a larger, more cohesive civilization, the team reported last week in Antiquity.

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Science 

Honorary doctoral degree awarded to Professor Emeritus William D. Lipe

William Lipe.
Lipe

Washington State University has selected Emeritus Professor William D. Lipe, an internationally recognized leader in the field of archaeology, to receive its highest honor: an honorary doctoral degree. In a career spanning six decades, Lipe has significantly shaped the way archaeological resources are managed and how archaeology is conducted today.

The university will grant the degree to Lipe at the fall Commencement ceremony next Saturday, Dec. 11.

In the 1990s Lipe was president of the Society for American Archaeology, a professional society that he helped to transform into an authoritative resource for archaeological practice and professional ethics. The Society has recognized him with the Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor.

He has sat on the boards of a number of professional societies and is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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WSU Insider

The Ancient Art of Raising Turkeys

Across America, families are likely squirreling away turkeys into chest freezers for Thanksgiving. But earlier this month, Butterball CEO Jay Jandrain warned of a potential shortage of small birds during the holiday season. This threatens the long tradition of Thanksgiving turkey, which has nebulous origins in early colonial New England. Yet Indigenous people’s relationship with the ubiquitous bird goes back more than two thousand years.

William Lipe.
Lipe

“I can visualize the blanket-maker calming a familiar household-raised turkey so it could be held in that person’s lap while some of its mature body feathers were carefully and painlessly removed for use in the blanket,” William Lipe, a Southwestern archaeologist and professor emeritus at Washington State University, says.

After the great migration, the Pueblo people relied less on turkeys for sustenance. Their new territory once again offered plentiful big game to hunt. Still, some traditions lived on. Today, you can hear turkey gobbles in many New Mexican Pueblos.