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WSU researchers extract nicotine from ancient dental plaque for the first time

Shannon Tushingham
Shannon Tushingham

A team of scientists including researchers from Washington State University has shown for the first time that nicotine residue can be extracted from plaque, also known as “dental calculus”, on the teeth of ancient tobacco users.

“The ability to identify nicotine and other plant-based drugs in ancient dental plaque could help us answer longstanding questions about the consumption of intoxicants by ancient humans,” said Shannon Tushingham, a WSU assistant professor of anthropology and co-author of a new study on the research in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports. “For example, it could help us determine whether all members of society used tobacco, or only adults, or only males or females.”

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International Business Times
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Ancient Origins

The Archaeology of Wealth Inequality

Tim Kohler

When the last of the volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius settled over Pompeii in A.D. 79, it preserved a detailed portrait of life in the grand Roman city, from bristling military outposts to ingenious aqueducts. Now researchers say the eruption nearly 2,000 years ago also captured clues to one of today’s most pressing social problems.

Analyzing dwellings in Pompeii and 62 other archaeological sites dating back 11,200 years, a team of experts has ranked the distribution of wealth in those communities. Bottom line: economic disparities increased over the centuries and technology played a role.
The research is being published this month in Ten Thousand Years of Inequality, a book edited by Smith and Timothy Kohler of Washington State University.

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Smithsonian Magazine

Demystifying the Changes to Bears Ears National Monument

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Less than a year ago, President Barack Obama established Bears Ears National Monument in an attempt to protect some 1.35 million acres of awe-inspiring red rock canyons in Utah. It holds an almost countless number of ancient dwellings and petroglyphs, in among unique geological formations. But yesterday, 85 percent of that land lost its National Monument protection, after President Donald Trump rescinded its protections and those of large portions of nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

William Lipe

On one hand, this appears to expose around two million acres to commercial activities, ranging from oil and gas extraction to mining and logging. But it’s not all going to be razed tomorrow. Significant portions of that land and its bounty do still hold other forms of protection. The key, says Bill Lipe, an archaeologist at Washington State University, is that the monument designation guarantees a higher standard for new development projects.

“Traditional economic uses such as grazing, as well as hunting and fishing, will continue, and » More …

Livestock drove ancient Old World inequality

Tim 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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Gears of Biz
Progress Daily
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Cosmos Magazine
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The Economist
Pacific Standard
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The Guardian

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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