Dimitris Xygalatas’ Article on Holiday Rituals and Traditions

Dimitris XygalatasIn a recent article published for the online media outlet The Conversation, Dimitris Xygalatas, UCONN Assistant Professor of Anthropology, examines the anthropological roots and effects of established holiday rituals, including reducing anxiety, promoting sharing, and maintaining and strengthening family ties. The Conversation is a not-for-profit media outlet for scientific and academic news, and reports a monthly online audience of 5.2 million users onsite, and reaches around 35 million people through “creative commons republication.”



Jackie Meier on the Ritual Neolithic Site of Kfar HaHoresh

Jackie Meier, a Ph.D. Candidate at UCONN’s Department of Anthropology, is the lead author on a PLoS One Paper entitled Provisioning the Ritual Neolithic Site of Kfar HaHoresh, Israel at the Dawn of Animal Management.

Abstract of the Paper:

It is widely agreed that a pivotal shift from wild animal hunting to herd animal management, at least of goats, began in the southern Levant by the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (10,000–9,500 cal. BP) when evidence of ritual activities flourished in the region. As our knowledge of this critical change grows, sites that represent different functions and multiple time periods are needed to refine the timing, pace and character of changing human-animal relationships within the geographically variable southern Levant. In particular, we investigate how a ritual site was provisioned with animals at the time when herd management first began in the region. We utilize fauna from the 2010–2012 excavations at the mortuary site of Kfar HaHoresh—the longest continuous Pre-Pottery Neolithic B faunal sequence in the south Levantine Mediterranean Hills (Early–Late periods, 10,600–8,700 cal. BP). We investigate the trade-off between wild and domestic progenitor taxa and classic demographic indicators of management to detect changes in hunted animal selection and control over herd animal movement and reproduction. We find that ungulate selection at Kfar HaHoresh differs from neighboring sites, although changes in dietary breadth, herd demographics and body-size data fit the regional pattern of emerging management. Notably, wild ungulates including aurochs and gazelle are preferentially selected to provision Kfar HaHoresh in the PPNB, despite evidence that goat management was underway in the Mediterranean Hills. The preference for wild animals at this important site likely reflects their symbolic significance in ritual and mortuary practice.


Jackie Meier

Dimitris Xygalatas’ photo essay in Sapiens

Sapien, the online journal of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, has published a photo essay by Dr. Dimitris Xygalatas, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCONN. The essay entitled “The Perennial Power of Ritual” focuses on the psychological, and cultural significance of ritual behavior, including its role in stress reduction, community building, providing guidance, and aggression management. The photo essay covers examples of ritual practice in Spain, Madagascar, Vietnam, Mauritius, and Guatemala.

Dimitris Xygalatas

Special issue of JAS edited by Thomas Hart

Read a recently published issue of Journal of Archaeological Science edited by UConn Anthropology alumnus Thomas Hart. This special issue examines new trends in phytolith scholarship and assesses the future direction of this field of research.
Special section on Issues and Directions in Phytolith Analysis

Thomas C. Hart

This special issue examines new trends in phytolith scholarship and assesses the future direction of this field of research. The papers presented represent a broader shift in phytolith research into a new phase called the “Period of Expanding Applications”. It is characterized by 1) a rapid increase in the number of phytolith publications; 2) a diversification of research topics; 3) a reassessment of the use of radiocarbon and other isotopes in phytoliths; 4) the development of digital technologies for refining and sharing phytolith identifications; 5) renewed efforts for standardization of phytolith nomenclature and laboratory protocol; and 6) the development of the field of applied phytolith research. This paper argues that interdisciplinary collaborations and a continued effort to understand the basics of phytolith production patterns are essential for the growth of the discipline and its application in archaeological studies…

A new study by Gideon Hartman published in PNAS

Congratulations to Gideon Hartman, leading author on a study just published in PNAS. The co-authors also include Natalie Munro and a graduate student Alex Brittingham.
Hunted gazelles evidence cooling, but not drying, during the Younger Dryas in the southern Levant
Gideon Hartman, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Alex Brittingham, Leore Grosman, and Natalie D. Munro

The Terminal Pleistocene Younger Dryas (YD) event is frequently described as a return to glacial conditions. In the southern Levant it has featured prominently in explanations for the transition to agriculture—one of the most significant transformations in human history. This study provides rare local measures of the YD by deriving gazelle isotopic values from archaeological deposits formed by Natufian hunters just prior to and during the YD. The results provide evidence for cooling, but not drying during the YD and help reconcile contradicting climatic reconstructions in the southern Levant. We suggest that cooler conditions likely instigated the establishment of settlements in the Jordan Valley where warmer, more stable conditions enabled higher cereal biomass productivity and ultimately, the transition to agriculture…

M. Singer on community impacts and perceptions of climate change

Merrill Singer’s research on community impacts and perceptions of climate change was published in Medical anthropology.

“I Feel Suffocated:” Understandings of Climate Change in an Inner City Heat Island.
Merrill Singer, Jose Hasemann and Abigail Raynor


Global climate change is contributing to a range of adverse environmental and weather shifts, including more intense and more frequent heat waves and an intensification of the urban heat island effect. These changes are known to produce a set of significant and differentially distributed health problems, with a particularly high burden among poor and marginalized populations. We examined community knowledge, attitudes, health and other concerns, and behavioral responses regarding mounting urban temperatures and related environmental health issues among Latinos living in the Northeast U.S. city of Hartford, CT. Our findings suggest the need for enhanced participation in knowledge dissemination and preparedness planning based on the co-production of knowledge about climate change and community responses to it. The special potential role of anthropology in such efforts is highlighted by our analysis.

New paper about environmental cues and fairness

It Depends Who Is Watching You: 3-D Agent Cues Increase Fairness

Jan Krátký, John J. McGraw, Dimitris Xygalatas, Panagiotis Mitkidis, Paul Reddish


Laboratory and field studies have demonstrated that exposure to cues of intentional agents in the form of eyes can increase prosocial behavior. However, previous research mostly used 2-dimensional depictions as experimental stimuli. Thus far no study has examined the influence of the spatial properties of agency cues on this prosocial effect. To investigate the role of dimensionality of agency cues on fairness, 345 participants engaged in a decision-making task in a naturalistic setting. The experimental treatment included a 3-dimensional pseudo-realistic model of a human head and a 2-dimensional picture of the same object. The control stimuli consisted of a real plant and its 2-D image. Our results partly support the findings of previous studies that cues of intentional agents increase prosocial behavior…..

D. Xygalatas’ research on moralistic gods published in Nature

Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality

Benjamin Grant Purzycki, Coren Apicella, Quentin D. Atkinson, Emma Cohen, Rita Anne McNamara, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan & Joseph Henrich

moralistic gods

Since the origins of agriculture, the scale of human cooperation and societal complexity has dramatically expanded. This fact challenges standard evolutionary explanations of prosociality because well-studied mechanisms of cooperation based on genetic relatedness, reciprocity and partner choice falter as people increasingly engage in fleeting transactions with genetically unrelated strangers in large anonymous groups. To explain this rapid expansion of prosociality, researchers have proposed several mechanisms. Here we focus on one key hypothesis: cognitive representations of gods as increasingly knowledgeable and punitive, and who sanction violators of interpersonal social norms, foster and sustain the expansion of cooperation, trust and fairness towards co-religionist strangers….