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Livestock drove ancient Old World inequality

Tim Kohler
Kohler

Today, 2% of the world’s people own more than half its wealth. This rise of the superrich has economists, politicians, and citizens alike wondering how much inequality societies can—or should—accept. But economic inequality has deep roots. A study published this week in Nature concludes that its ancient hotbed was the Old World.

“Think about how people get rich in modern societies. They find clever ways to tie their current wealth into their future income,” Kohler says. “Because land and livestock could be passed to future generations, certain families got even richer over time.”

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Researchers Look for Dawn of Human Information Sharing

Luke Premo
Luke Premo

Every day, information washes over the world like so much weather. From casual conversations, tweets, texts, emails, advertisements and news stories, humanity processes countless discrete pieces of socially transmitted information.

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. Luke Premo, an associate professor of anthropology at Washington State University, would like to know when that was. Writing in the October issue of Current Anthropology, he and three colleagues challenge a widely accepted notion that cultural transmission goes back more than 2 million years.

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10 CAS undergrads receive Carson, Auvil research awards

Ten students in the College of Arts & Sciences are among 27 WSU undergraduates at Pullman and Vancouver to receive two types of awards from the Office of Undergraduate Research, part of WSU Undergraduate Education.

Students in anthropology, biological sciences, chemistry, environmental studies, and history received Carson and Auvil awards. They will work with faculty mentors throughout the 2017-18 academic year on research, scholarly, and creative projects that advance or create new knowledge in their specific fields.

“Awards are typically $1,000 and help to ease financial stress, so students can focus more on their research,” said Shelley Pressley, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

“We are fortunate to have generous alumni and friends whose gifts make these awards possible. Supporting undergraduates in their research also adds immeasurably to their educational experience at our top research university,” she said.

Awardees will present their research results at the seventh annual Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) on April 2, 2018.

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Prehistoric turkey DNA used to track ancient Pueblo migration

Tim Kohler
Kohler

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.

A new study co-led by archaeologists Tim Kohler, of Washington State University, and Brian Kemp, formerly at WSU, now at the University of Oklahoma, provides the first genetic evidence suggesting that many of Mesa Verde’s ancient farmers moved to the northern Rio Grande area in New Mexico, a region currently inhabited by the Tewa people.

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African farmers’ kids conquer the marshmallow test

Barry Hewlett
Barry Hewlett

Children of Nso farmers in Cameroon know how to master the marshmallow test, which has tempted away the self-control of Western kids for decades. In a direct comparison on this delayed gratification task, Cameroonian youngsters leave middle-class German children in the dust when challenged to resist a reachable treat while waiting for another goodie, a new study finds.

While Nso values and parenting techniques generally characterize small-scale farming populations, especially in Africa, hunter-gatherers are another story, says anthropologist Barry Hewlett of Washington State University in Vancouver. Traditional hunter-gatherer groups value individual freedom and consider everyone to be relatively equal, regardless of age. Parents usually don’t tell their kids what to do, and children show little deference to parents and elders.

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