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  • News in Brief

    In Borneo, hunting emerges as a key threat to endangered orangutans

    Orangutan numbers on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo plummeted from 1999 to 2015, more as a result of human hunting than habitat loss, an international research team finds.

    Over those 16 years, Borneo’s orangutan population declined by about 148,500 individuals. A majority of those losses occurred in the intact or selectively logged forests where most orangutans live, primatologist...

    02/15/2018 - 12:00 Anthropology, Animals, Conservation
  • News

    Elongated heads were a mark of elite status in an ancient Peruvian society

    Bigwigs in a more than 600-year-old South American population were easy to spot. Their artificially elongated, teardrop-shaped heads screamed prestige, a new study finds.

    During the 300 years before the Incas’ arrival in 1450, intentional head shaping among prominent members of the Collagua ethnic community in Peru increasingly centered on a stretched-out look, says bioarchaeologist...

    02/13/2018 - 09:00 Anthropology
  • Editor's Note

    In play, kids and scientists take big mental leaps

    I know a lot of adults who don’t like to cook, but I’ve never met a child who doesn’t enjoy playing with a toy kitchen — or one who doesn’t want to help chop vegetables for dinner. Other versions of practical play: A cousin, at the age of just 4 or 5, asked for only one thing for Christmas — a snow brush. And on a beach trip last year, I witnessed a duo of 2-year-olds squealing with...
    02/07/2018 - 15:30 Science & Society, Psychology, Anthropology
  • Feature

    When it’s playtime, many kids prefer reality over fantasy

    Young children travel to fantasy worlds every day, packing just imaginations and a toy or two.

    Some preschoolers scurry across ocean floors carrying toy versions of cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. Other kids trek to distant universes with miniature replicas of Star Wars robots R2-D2 and C-3PO. Throngs of youngsters fly on broomsticks and cast magic spells with Harry Potter and...

    02/06/2018 - 11:45 Psychology, Anthropology, Archaeology
  • Feature

    Ancient kids’ toys have been hiding in the archaeological record

    Youngsters have probably been playing their way into cultural competence for at least tens of thousands of years. So why are signs of children largely absent from the archaeological record?

    A cartoon that Biblical scholar Kristine Garroway taped up in her college dorm helps to explain kids’ invisibility at ancient sites: Two men in business suits stare intently at an unidentifiable round...

    02/06/2018 - 11:45 Anthropology, Archaeology
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Death: A Graveside Companion’ offers an outlet for your morbid curiosity

    Death: A Graveside CompanionJoanna Ebenstein (ed.)Thames & Hudson, $40

    Death: A Graveside Companion makes for an unusual coffee-table book, with its coppery etched Grim Reaper on the cover. Yet you may be surprised by how much fun it is to pore through the book’s lavish artwork of skulls, cadavers and fanciful imaginings of the afterlife.

    There is, after all, a reason for...

    02/04/2018 - 08:00 Science & Society, History of Science, Anthropology
  • News

    Sharp stones found in India signal surprisingly early toolmaking advances

    Stone-tool makers in what’s now India redesigned their products in a revolutionary way much earlier than previously thought.

    Excavated stone artifacts document a gradual shift from larger, handheld cutting implements to smaller pieces of sharpened stone, known as Middle Paleolithic tools, by around 385,000 years ago, researchers say. That shift mirrors a similar change seen in tools from...

    01/31/2018 - 13:00 Archaeology, Anthropology
  • News

    An ancient jaw pushes humans’ African departure back in time

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    A fossil jaw unearthed in Israel is speaking up about when humans departed Africa. The jaw’s message, at least to its finders: That ancient exodus started much earlier than many researchers had assumed.

    Misliya Cave on Israel’s Mount Carmel has yielded what its discoverers regard as a partial Homo sapiens jaw with an estimated age of between around 177,000 and 194,...

    01/25/2018 - 14:00 Anthropology, Archaeology, Archaeology
  • News

    Human brains rounded into shape over 200,000 years or more

    Big brains outpaced well-rounded brains in human evolution.

    Around the time of the origins of our species 300,000 years ago, the brains of Homo sapiens had about the same relatively large size as they do today, new research suggests. But rounder noggins rising well above the forehead — considered a hallmark of human anatomy — didn’t appear until between about 100,000 and 35,000 years ago...

    01/24/2018 - 14:00 Anthropology, Human Evolution
  • Television

    ‘First Face of America’ explores how humans reached the New World

    A teenage girl climbed into an underground cave around 13,000 years ago. Edging through the ink-dark chamber, she accidentally plunged to her death at the bottom of a deep pit.

    Rising seas eventually inundated the cave, located on Central America’s Yucatán Peninsula. But that didn’t stop scuba divers from finding and retrieving much of the girl’s skeleton in 2007.

    “First Face of...

    01/22/2018 - 07:00 Anthropology, Archaeology, Ancestry