Anthropology

Kyle Bryner
Museum of Anthropology at WFU storage
Awarded $5,022 for the period 1/1/14 to 6/30/15
Source: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

The Museum of Anthropology will purchase wall-mounted storage screens to rehouse oversized ethnographic weaponry and framed object collections as recommended by an NEH review. The weaponry collections include arrows, bows, spears, harpoons, staffs, and tools too large to fit on compact storage shelves. The framed objects include two very large, recently conserved Comanche hides and historic mounted projectile point collections. All of the objects are used in educational programming, exhibits, and academic research and are available online for study. 

Steven Folmar

  • Psychological and social resilience in post-earthquake Nepal
    Awarded $24,998 for the period 7/15/15 to 6/30/16
    Source: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The project explores human responses to disaster and mental health resiliency, focusing on urban and rural communities in Lamjung District, Nepal, who experienced varying degrees of destruction following the 25 April 2015 earthquakes. Data collection includes direct observation of relief efforts, 100 interviews with victims, and comparing the survey responses of 300 young people on their current mental health status to measures taken from them in a previous study. Collecting such first-hand information during, not after, the recovery period will improve theory, global disaster relief efforts, and the resilience of survivors and provide training for researchers conducting similar studies.

  • Oppression and Mental Health in Nepal
    Awarded $159,937 for the period 7/1/12 to 7/31/14
    Source: National Science Foundation (NSF)

This project investigates the psychological dimensions of social oppression among three social groups in Nepal; specifically, whether the influence of social status on mental health is moderated by cultural models of society (CMS) by which people believe membership in their social group is essential and immutable or acquired and changeable. Following cross-cultural psychological studies in India and Nepal, the project focuses on CMS effects on depression and anxiety among 13-17-year-olds in three groups; high status (high caste), intermediate status (ethnic group), and low status (Dalit or untouchable). Education, which also has the potential to moderate folk sociologies and influence discriminatory behaviors, is another variable of interest. The sample of 300 respondants will include children of varying educational attainment in an ethnically and caste-diverse area of Nepal (Lamjung) where education is not universal. The sample will be drawn from an economic census and survey of 600 households, which will collect and measure important contextual variables.

Karin Friederic
A multi-pronged approach to combatting intimate-partner violence in rural coastal Ecuador
Awarded $15,965 for the period 4/1/2014 to 12/15/15
Source: Feminist Review Trust

Advances in knowledge of their rights and access to state-based justice offer powerful opportunities for some women in the region but not those plagued by extreme social and economic vulnerability. Many suffer increased violence and attempt suicide when their newly discovered rights conflict with the lack of means to change their circumstances. This project comprises three related interventions to build a more supportive socio-economic environment for men and women seeking to diminish intimate-partner violence.

Eric Jones     
A Settlement Ecology Analysis of the Ecological Factors Influencing the Spatial Distribution of Middle-Range Communities in the North Carolina Piedmont, AD 1000-1600
Awarded $125,236 for the period 9/1/14 to 8/31/17
Source: NSF

This multiscalar study of settlements in the North Carolina Piedmont (NCP) from 1000-1600 AD examines the role of ecology, including both natural and cultural landscapes, to determine why complex sociopolitical organizations arose and endured in some places and not others. It compares the settlement strategies of nonhierarchical Piedmont Village Tradition (PVT) communities, hierarchical Mississippian and PVT communities, and subgroups that represent their sociopolitical and cultural variability and how they vary by location. Methods include excavations to establish the variability in PVT settlement types; surveys to categorize all known PVT sites; GIS analyses to reconstruct past landscapes around each site; discriminant function analysis to determine the factors that most influenced settlement location; and GIS-based predictive modeling of landscape characteristics common to sociopolitically complex communities to determine their influence. Each phase of the project will be conducted with undergraduate students, who will gain archaeological field and laboratory training and experience in GIS and spatial analyses. Differential GPS equipment, computer and tablet hardware, GIS software, and archaeological field equipment will be added to the Anthropological Geographic Analysis (AGA) Laboratory. Digital spatial data will be compiled into a single database, permanently housed at WFU, and available to other researchers via tDAR. Results will be displayed in Museum of Anthropology exhibits, and participating students will organize public archaeology events that bring together the university, local, and Native American communities to learn about cultural preservation and heritage.

Ellen Miller

  • Paleontological exploration at Buluk, early Miocene, Kenya
    Awarded $24,340 for the period 6/5/13 to 6/15/14
    Source: National Geographic Society

Buluk is the only major early Miocene site to the east of the Rift Valley, and its distance from other sites will contribute to a regional understanding of early African mammalian and primate evolution. Its deposits have yielded remains of primitive Old World monkeys (cercopithecoids) and apes (hominoids) from shortly after the two groups diverged but before modern lineages appeared. Recent construction of a field research station at Illeret, Kenya, now enables its exploration. The project will document the initial phase of cercopithecoid and hominoid emergence and investigate the early Miocene transition from archaic to modern African fauna.

  • Paleontological exploration at Buluk, Northern Kenya
    Awarded $17,796 for the period 5/26/09 to 8/15/10
    Source: Leakey Foundation

Part of the Turkana Basin Institute’s (www.turkanabasin.org) larger Origin of Rift Valley Ecosystems (ORVE) research initiative, the paleontological excavation at Buluk, Kenya, explores one of only a few sites that yield remains of both monkeys and apes from a period after the two groups diverged but before modern lineages evolved. The work contributes directly to understanding human origins. First, understanding the evolution of primitive Old World monkeys and apes increases our ability to interpret the primate context within which humans evolved, and Buluk is uniquely situated to test a hypothesis generated by molecular research against the fossil record. Second, work at Buluk contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of rifting on Oligocene-Miocene regional ecologies; habitat fragmentation during the Miocene may be at the root of the evolution of modern primate and human forms.

  • Geology, Paleontology, and Paleobiology of the North African Early Miocene
    Awarded $25,360 for the period 9/1/08 to 8/31/09
    Source: NSF

This international collaboration aims to enhance our understanding of North African mammalian and primate evolution through geological and paleontological work at Wadi Moghra, an early Miocene site in the Western Desert of Egypt. Dietary and ecological hypotheses derived from studies of dental morphology will be tested against stable isotope analyses. Results will contribute to regional and pan-African interpretations of the transition from archaic to more modern fauna and flora. Broader impacts include: 1) enhancement of a professional partnership between US and Egyptian researchers; 2) training of students, especially Egyptian students, so that vertebrate paleontology can be developed and sustained by Egyptian scientists in their own country; and 3) providing information that can help to balance long-term developmental and economic interests, such as oil and gas exploration, with identifying and preserving areas of scientific, cultural, and tourist value.

  • Fossil mammals from Khasm El-Raqaba, Eastern Desert, Egypt
    Awarded $13,575 for the period 6/26/08 to 7/15/09
    Source: National Geographic Society

Funding supports paleontological and geological fieldwork at Khasm El-Raqaba, Eastern Desert, Egypt, a rich deposit preserving small mammals and reptiles. The initial goal is to determine the age of the fauna. If some prove to be late Eocene-Oligocene (34-23 million years [Ma]), they will be similar in age to fauna from the Fayum, Egypt, and expand our view of Oligocene African faunal evolution. If some are early Miocene (22-18 Ma), they will represent the only known microfauna of that age anywhere in Egypt. If middle-to-late Miocene (11-10 Ma), they will be the same age as the those found at the Sheik Abdullah karst, Western Desert, and comparisons between the two localities will elucidate biodiversity and biogeography as they relate to climate change.

  • Geology, Paleontology, and Biogeography of the North African Early Miocene
    Awarded $60,000 for the period 5/1/05 to 4/30/07
    Source: NSF, US/Egypt Joint Science and Technology Fund

    This international collaboration investigates early Miocene North African mammalian and primate evolution. Two locales in Egypt’s western desert are critical for our understanding of the earliest phases of higher primate evolution and for interpreting major mammalian biogeographic dispersal patterns in the Neogene of the Old World. Wadi Moghra in the northeastern end of the Qattara Depression is an important site for primate and mammalian evolution. A suite of fossil mammals (14 families) have been recovered there, including one of the world’s earliest known Old World monkeys (Miller, 1999). Moghra also contains the remains of an as yet unnamed ape (Hominoidea), so it documents the presence of two lineages shortly after their initial divergence. Much less is known about the Siwa oasis. Representatives of four terrestrial mammalian taxa have been recovered there (Hamilton, 1973), but the exact location of the original fossil-bearing beds has been lost.

    This project will: 1) study the sedimentology and stratigraphy of Wadi Moghra to reconstruct the ancient deposits and link specific fossil materials to them; 2) use the biostratigraphy of Moghra to test hypotheses about early Miocene North African mammalian and primate evolution; and 3) locate, renew collecting, and tie the stratigraphy of the lost mammals at Siwa to what is known about Moghra to gain a better understanding of regional mammalian evolution in the North African early Miocene. Moghra and Siwa are particularly important because, although located in Africa, they are physically closer to Eurasia, which means they occupy a pivotal position for documenting the nature and extent of contact between Miocene African and Eurasian faunas.
  • Adaptive Diversity among the Earliest Known Old World Monkeys
    Awarded $17,675 for the period 1/15/04 to 1/14/05
    Source: Leakey Foundation

Buluk, Kenya, is an early-middle Miocene (17 million years ago) locality that contains the remains of one of the earliest known Old World monkeys. At present, almost everything known about their evolution comes from work at a single site, Maboko Island, Kenya, leaving substantial questions about the range of their initial adaptations and their divergence from apes. This project will explore the degree of adaptive diversity and paelobiology of these earliest cercopithecoid monkeys by collecting new fossils from the Buluk site and making detailed museum comparisons with other fossil and extant Old World monkeys. Results will elucidate the origin and early evolution of Old World monkeys, including their divergence from apes, and provide a framework within which to interpret future cercopithecoid discoveries. The Buluk project will test hypotheses about what constitutes intra- versus interspecific and generic variation, and the methods used have clear application to parallel problems in early human evolution. This research is relevant to the university’s mission, Pro Humanitate, as the split of Old World monkeys from apes was the last major divergence before the one in which hominids diverged from apes, so that investigations provide a context within which to interpret the evolution of our own line.