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Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer to Speak at Le Moyne College

<p>SYRACUSE, N.Y. (For Immediate Release) … The Syracuse Chapter of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, and Le Moyne College will host two talks by anthropologist Diane Gifford-Gonzalez on Friday, February 16, at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Both lectures will be held in Grewen Auditorium on the Le Moyne campus.<br /> <br /> At 3:30 p.m., Gifford-Gonzalez will speak on "The Case of the Disappearing Fur Seals: How Bones, Isotopes, and Ancient DNA Are Helping Solve a Prehistoric Mystery.” Archaeological sites along the southern Californian to Alaskan coasts testify to a different distribution of eared seals than is historically documented. This is especially true of the northern fur seal which was among the most common pinnipeds in many archaeological sites up to about 1000 AD. Her research team has applied new age determination methods, bone isotope analysis, and ancient DNA to reconstruct prehistoric fur seals' foraging and reproductive habits. They have strong evidence for a substantial resident fur seal population along the coast of "Lower 48," with multiple rookeries on the Oregon and California coasts, and for substantial differences in the species' weaning behavior. The relevance of their work to ongoing debates about fur seal conservation and over aboriginal peoples' role in their disappearance well before European contact will be discussed.<br /> The 7:30 p.m. talk is titled “Before Farming and Villages: Early Pastoralists of the Sahara.” Emerging evidence from the Sahara and from cattle DNA suggests that ancient Africans followed a very different path toward food production than taken by ancient Near Eastern peoples. Sedentary life around Saharan lakes and rivers during the moist phase immediately after the Ice Age is richly evidenced, as is 9800-year-old pottery. Domestic cattle are found in northern Africa at least 8000 years ago, and DNA studies suggest they may have been independently domesticated in the region. In any case, pastoralists thrived there for nearly 5000 years, without any trace of domestic plants. How did this divergent path emerge? What finally led to domestication of sorghum, millet, yams, and other crops? Why does this seem puzzling? <br /> Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, a 2007 Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer, is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She specializes in zooarchaeology, having done fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, Netherlands, and the western U.S. Current research includes NSF-funded work on animal and human paleoecology around Monterey Bay, ethnicity and animal use at a colonial New Mexican Pueblo, and early pastoralism in Niger and Kenya. She has taught graduate seminars at the Universities of Nairobi and Tromsø, and the Chinese Academy of Science, authored over 50 academic articles and book chapters and received two distinguished teaching awards. She has served on editorial boards of major Africanist journals and governing boards of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists, the International Conference of Archaeozoology, Society for American Archaeology, and the Archaeology Division of the American Anthropological Association, and on the Academic Advisory Council of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. She is curator of the Monterey Bay Archaeology Archives and serves on the board of the Cabrillo College Archaeological Technology Certificate Program. <br /> Both lectures are free and open to the public. There will be a reception following the 7:30 p.m. lecture. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Syracuse chapter of Sigma Xi.<br /> The lecture is co-sponsored by the Center for Urban and Regional Applied Research, the Center for Peace and Global Studies, the developing Center for the Study of Environmental Change at Le Moyne and the lecture committee.</p>
posted on: 1/31/2007