(This is the last of the GBAC2012 posts and the second part of day 2. Part 1 of Day 2 is here.)
Costly signaling, artiodactyl DNA, and behavioral ecology, Oh my!
The day included a series of papers regarding ancient populations and “costly signaling”. Signaling, for those that are unaware, is essentially bragging. If you bring back a difficult to find resource it increases your image and status in the group. That “signal” was costly and your status is proportionally increased. It’s like when someone walks into the room with an Apple product. That’s right.
Fisher said that when hunting is used as a costly signal, “Good” hunters will have a higher reproductive success. That’s not always true, however. Fisher related a story from a Native American (the tribe name escapes me and I was too concerned with the image I was presenting with my iPad to write it down) where the individual had tried to increase his visibility to a certain girl using costly signaling. It didn’t work for him: “I thought that now the girls mother would send her to me at night. For many nights I waited and she did not come”. Nice. Fisher also suggested that non-local resources could have been used as costly signals due to the difficulty in acquiring them. In contrast to the other papers, Jones presented a paper that he started with, “The only costly signaling presented in our paper will be the presentation of the paper.” Nice.
Broughton is using ancient sources of DNA to determine the sizes of Artiodactyl populations. Those animals include pronghorn antelope, among others. He says that a decrease in population size over time should equal a decrease in genetic diversity. That has implications for human populations that use those resources.
George Jones discussed tools and life at Smith Creek Cave. Micro tools at the sit were expedient, simple, and used for game processing. There is evidence consistent with tool repair and caracas processing functions.
The last few papers of the day were about behavioral ecology and it’s applications to anthropology. Metcalfe mentioned that when archaeologists fail to get the results that were predicted then tend to see it as a failure in the theory, not a failure in the model. DH Thomas began is behavioral ecology paper by quoting Carl Sagan. He was talking about how scientists can hold a belief for many years then just change it or update with the discovery of new evidence. I don’t know if that’s entirely true for some scientists. Kuhn said that the only time a paradigm shift happens is when old scientists die and take their ideas with them.
That's it for GBAC2012 posts. I encourage everyone that attends a conference to blog about it and share the knowledge.
Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field.