December 2009 Archives

Graduate alumnus (Ph.D. 1999) Brad Andrews has just been appointed to a tenure track position in the Department of Anthropology at Pacific Lutheran University. 
Kirk French (Lecturer in Anthropology) and Christopher J. Duffy (Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering) recently had their paper "Prehispanic Water Pressure: A New World First" accepted for publication by the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Ancient cultures have a wide range of water control management techniques, each associated with a particular purpose, including water for consumption, agriculture, flood control, drought relief, and rituals.  One technique that has received limited archaeological
attention is the purposeful creation of water pressure to perform useful work. Perhaps the earliest such example was found on the island of Crete in a Minoan palace and dates as early as 1400 BC.  Terracotta pipe segments with graded diameter reductions were used to create
fountains.  Although gravity and the weight of water are the most efficient means of generating water pressure in a closed conduit, natural conditions (climate, geology, topographic slope, etc.) that might lead to the construction of water pressure systems are less clear.  Here we show that the Classic Maya (AD 250-600) constructed a water pressure system with the potential to control the flow of water within an urban area.  By burying a conduit along a steep ephemeral channel passing through a residential group, upland springs could be diverted to build pressure in the conduit to provide a dry-season supply of water.  Up to 6 meters of hydraulic head could have been recovered to lift water from the pressurized conduit to a point of use.  Water pressure systems were previously thought to have entered the New World with the arrival of the Spanish. Yet, archaeological data, seasonal climate conditions, geomorphic setting, and simple hydraulic theory clearly show that the Maya of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico had empirical knowledge of closed channel water pressure predating the arrival of Europeans.
Attached is reprint of the article "You'll Never Guess Who Walked In!" that Pat Shipman recently published in American Scientist.


For the second time, a book written by Penn Staters Alan Walker and Pat Shipman has won a national award. Their book, The Ape in the Tree; A Natural and Intellectual History of Proconsul, was published by Harvard University Press in 2005. The book was awarded the 2009 W.W. Howells Book Award administered by the Biological Anthropology section of the American Anthropological Association.
Written for a general audience, the book offers unique insider's perspective on the unfolding discovery of a crucial link in our evolution: Proconsul, a fossil ape named whimsically after a performing chimpanzee called Consul.

The Ape in the Tree is written in the voice of Alan Walker, whose involvement with Proconsul began when his graduate supervisor analyzed the tree-climbing adaptations in the arm and hand of this extinct creature. Today, Proconsul is the best-known fossil ape in the world.

The history of ideas is set against the vivid adventures of Walker's fossil-hunting expeditions in remote regions of Africa, where the team met with violent thunderstorms, dangerous wildlife, and people isolated from the Western world. Analysis of the thousands of new Proconsul specimens they recovered provides revealing glimpses of the life of this last common ancestor between apes and humans.

The attributes of Proconsul have its profound implications for the very definition of humanness. This book speaks not only of an ape in a tree but also of the ape in our tree.

In 1997, the husband and wife team won the prestigious Rhône-Poulenc Award for The Wisdom of the Bones ( Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.)  A Royal Society and MacArthur fellow, Walker is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also an Evan Pugh Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Biology at Penn State. Shipman is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the author of ten books. She is an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Penn State.

The W. W. Howells Book Award has been given annually since 1993 to honor books that achieve the highest standard of scholarship and readability while bringing findings in biological anthropology to a wider audience. 
"Nina Jablonski will give a lecture entitled, "The Skin that Makes us Human" as part of an Arthur Sackler Colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences to be held at the University of California at Irvine from 10-12 December 2009.  The colloquium is entitled, "the Light of Evolution IV: The Human Condition", and is the last of a series of NAS symposia on evolution organized for the Darwin bicentennial.  The program of the colloquium can be viewed at:
The annual Holiday Bazaar will be held on Friday & Saturday, December 4-5, 2009 from 9:00 a.m-4:00 p.m. at the Matson Museum of Anthropology located on the second floor of Carpenter Building.  Carpenter Building is located near the Nittany Lion Shrine & the Nittany Lion Inn on the Penn State Campus.

There will be jewelry inspired by many cultures, handicrafts, and second-hand clothes.