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Anthropology headlines in CAS News

  • Prehistoric Pacific Coast diets had salmon limits

    Humans cannot live on protein alone – even for the ancient indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest whose diet was once thought to be almost all salmon.

    In a new paper led by Washington State University anthropologist Shannon Tushingham, researchers document the many dietary solutions ancient Pacific Coast people in North America likely employed to avoid “salmon starvation,” a toxic and potentially fatal condition brought on by eating too much lean protein.

    “Salmon was a critical resource for thousands of years throughout the Pacific Rim, but there were a lot of foods that were important,” said Tushingham the lead author of the paper published online … » More …

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  • A healthy sense of disgust can prevent sickness

    You might want to pay attention to those bad, queasy feelings. New research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Feb. 15, suggests that disgust could be the body’s way of helping humans avoid infection.

    “We found that people with higher levels of disgust had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers that were indicative of having bacterial or viral infections,” said Aaron Blackwell, a Washington State University associate professor of anthropology and co-author on the paper. “While the study shows that disgust functions to protect against infection, it also showed it varies across different environments, based on how easily people can avoid certain things.”

    » More …

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  • Breastfeeding mothers produce COVID‑19 antibodies

    Breastfeeding women who have COVID-19 transfer milk-borne antibodies to their babies without passing along the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a new study.

    “The results indicate that it is safe for moms to continue to breastfeed during a COVID-19 infection with proper precautions,” said Courtney Meehan, a WSU anthropology professor and co-author on the study. published Feb. 9 in the journal mBio.

    Meehan and WSU graduate student Beatrice Caffé were part of the multi-institutional research team led by University of Idaho nutrition researcher on the project.

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  • WSU scientists identify contents of ancient Maya drug containers

    Scientists have identified the presence of a non-tobacco plant in ancient Maya drug containers for the first time.

    Originally buried more than 1,000 years ago on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, the vessels also contain chemical traces present in two types of dried and cured tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum and N. rustica. The research team, led by anthropology postdoc Mario Zimmermann, thinks the Mexican marigold was mixed with the tobacco to make smoking more enjoyable.

    “While it has been established that tobacco was commonly used throughout the Americas before and after contact, evidence of other plants used for medicinal or religious purposes has remained largely unexplored,” Zimmermann said. “The analysis methods … » More …

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  • Tooth tartar could uncover the drug habits of ancient people

    Want to know whether an ancient Sogdian smoked cannabis or a Viking got high on henbane? A new method, which analyzes drug residue in the tartar of teeth, may soon be able to tell. The method, which found drug traces on 19th century skeletons—and more substances than standard blood tests in 10 recently deceased individuals—could trace humanity’s drug habits back hundreds of thousands of years.

    It’s a “new frontier,” says archaeologist Shannon Tushingham of Washington State University, Pullman, who investigates ancient tobacco use in North America, but was not involved in the new work.

    To study the history of medicines and drugs, most scientists scour smoking pipes … » More …

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