By Francine Russo
On a mesa above 6,000 feet in elevation among the Sierra Madre peaks of Northwestern Mexico, the Rarámuri racers, carrying flaming torches under a star-studded sky, ran steadily. The teams had been at this rarajípare event since noon and would persist past midnight.
The runners maintained a roughly 10-minute-mile pace, racing back and forth on a more than 3-mile track. Around them, people shouted encouragement in the Rarámuri language: “ Iwériga!” (Breath! Soul!) and “Iwérisa!” (Stamina!).
By Michele Friedner
I grew up wearing two hearing aids and currently have two cochlear implants. From a young age, soon after I was diagnosed as deaf, audiologists and speech and language pathologists instructed my parents to make sure that I always wore my hearing aids. That way, I could “live up to my potential,” they said. According to the professionals, listening and speaking was essential to participating in “normal” life and becoming successful.
And indeed, hearing technology enabled me to fit in and perform well in mainstream educational settings — although it did not reduce the structural barriers that…
By Mary Shirley Mitchell
When I was a kid, every trip to the zoo featured a visit to the orangutan habitat. I was fascinated by the animals’ long fingers, how they took shelter when it started to rain, the affection they showed for their children, and the way they stretched after sitting too long in one position. Sometimes watching them felt like watching any other animal at the zoo, but sometimes it felt like watching people who happen to be visiting a nearby park. I swear I knew what they were thinking and feeling.
As an adult anthropologist, the sense…
By Richard Kemeny
On a dusty plain, east of the Tigris River in Iraqi-Kurdistan, lies the ancient settlement of Tell Surezha. This excavation site is a remnant of a period and place where the world’s first known urbanized civilization took shape as humans transitioned from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age around 7,000 years ago.
Archaeologists have been digging at Surezha since 2013, uncovering insights into early human behavior and the evolution of society. In 2019, Max Price was studying bones collected from the site by colleagues from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. …
By Cara Ocobock
As the Summer Olympics gear up to kick off in Tokyo, Japan, on July 23 — delayed a year thanks to the pandemic — sexism in sports has again become a hot topic. In February, Olympic organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori resigned after saying he thought women talked too much; in March, the games’ creative director Hiroshi Sasaki stepped down after directing demeaning comments at a female celebrity in Japan.
By Cyler Conrad
In retrospect, I was probably far too young to be whistling that captivating tune of resistance from the Hollywood classic The Bridge on the River Kwai, but I was enthralled. The visuals, the history, the war: I remember feeling genuinely engrossed in the film, despite being a young teenager and understanding little about the struggle portrayed on screen. As a millennial, born in 1989, I grew up with a fascination of wars past, especially movies about World War II. Nothing quite stood out like The Bridge on the River Kwai and the human experience it portrayed.
By Christine Weeber
In the weeks leading up to the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, I passed dozens of Donald Trump 2024 banners and thin blue line flags in support of police while traveling through rural Colorado and eastern Utah. A rare Black Lives Matter poster hung in a few windows.
The human rights issues that sparked uprisings in response to the murder of Floyd, an African American man, by White police officer Derek Chauvin, seemed a distant memory in this part of the country.
By Stephen E. Nash
Back in 1990, when I was in my third year of graduate school, then-President H.W. Bush signed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act ( NAGPRA) into law: an act under which federally recognized Native American tribes can formally request the repatriation of ancestors and their belongings, among other items, from museums and repositories.
I remember speaking with museum curators, directors, archaeologists, and biological anthropologists (all of whom happened to be non-Native, as was common at the time), many of whom thought NAGPRA would be the death knell for museums and collections-based scholarly research as…
By Monica L. Smith
If you’re watching a news show or reading a magazine article about vaccine hesitancy, you might find your program interspersed with advertisements for prescription medications: beguiling ads of cheerful, energetic people promising relief from everything from arthritis to late-stage cancer.
The juxtaposition seems completely illogical: How did some people develop a simultaneous rejection of certain medications and a whole-hearted zest for others?
As an archaeologist, I’m fascinated by the diversity of objects our ancestors have invented over millions of years, including those that people have used to introduce substances into their bodies. That includes culinary equipment…
By Sarah Ives
With over 131 million people fully vaccinated in the U.S. and numbers of new infections dropping nationwide, some have started to declare the “end” of the pandemic, despite surging cases across much of the world.
Whenever the pandemic officially ends, it will leave traces that will linger well into the future. As archaeologists know, even events in the deep past — long over and largely forgotten — continue to haunt the present.
SAPIENS is a digital magazine about the human world.