Anthropology / Everything Human

Ladders to Other Worlds

History

  • Icons

    The ladder acts as a central axis holding the universe together. According to anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons, for the Acoma, “the Earth Mother is held in position by the Galaxy arching overhead, and a stick-image of the Mother is called [a] center pole; it holds the four stratified skies and the four stratified earths together, so to speak, a pole of gravity.”

    Ladders to Other Worlds

    For many Pueblo Indians, the ladder is at once a practical tool and a powerful metaphor. The ladder is used to descend and ascend—and to cross multiple worlds.

  • Unearthed

    The remains of a 500-year-old Inuvialuit village are sliding into the ocean as the coast gives way. Archaeologists are moving quickly to excavate the most impressive of the semi-subterranean dwellings to understand the people who lived there.

    History Lost to Sea

    Researchers are racing to record—and save—the cultural treasures of the western Canadian Arctic before they fall victim to climate change.

  • The Dirt

    Lucas van Valckenborch painted a cold winter landscape set near Antwerp, Belgium, in 1575. Europe was then in the midst of the Little Ice Age.

    Cold Enough for Ya?

    Every winter, on either the first or second cold snap, I hear the question “Cold enough for ya?” as I get on the bus, exit the Metro, or eavesdrop on colleagues’ conversations. We hear these words often and smile or join in the complaint. Weather is inherently used to initiate a conversation, resuscitate a stalled one, or to serve as a point of shared misery. But in archaeology, …

  • Conflicted

    Parting Words

    I was fascinated to learn from an October 2015 article in the Independent newspaper the little-known fact that British “prime ministers leave secret instructions for nuclear missile submarine captains to follow in the event of a nuclear war.” It continued: “These orders are sealed in a letter only to be opened if the United Kingdom is destroyed. These instructions can either be to launch a nuclear attack, to …

  • "Race"

    The Black Lives Matter movement has brought issues of race to headlines across the United States.

    Why We Must Talk About Race

    I grew up a black woman in urban Los Angeles during the age of the civil rights movement. “Race” was all around me, woven into the fabric of my personal life, my community, my country. Perhaps it was inevitable that I would become a cultural anthropologist who studies how race works in the world. I’ve always wanted to know why. Why do we live in this community, and …

  • Kinship

    What did intermarriage have to do with the creation of colonial nations such as the United States and Australia? Quite a lot.

    Making Love—and Nations

    Why was love across ethnic boundaries in colonial nations so dangerous? For one thing, it threatened to wrench nations apart because it risked binding them together.