Monthly Archives: August 2022

In the (Not So) Far-Off Field

One consequence of the pandemic over the last few years is that field researchers such as myself have found it difficult to keep our research programs on a forward trajectory. I wrote a short piece for the school’s annual magazine about finding a research object right under my own nose.

Kushnick, G (2022). In the (Not So) Far-Off Field. In 2021: The Year in Review: School of Archaeology and Anthropology. ANU, Canberra.

From page 30:

“As anthropologists, we ply our trade by seeking insights on the lives of others, and sometimes ourselves, in far-off locales. This makes it easy to overlook the lessons to be learned from local sources. I was writing a chapter on what evolutionary theory can tell us about parenting and technology. Seeking apt illustrations for each example, I rummaged personal (Figure A) and open-access images. One of my case studies was the cultural evolution of baby bottles. The earliest were from Ancient Rome, but the only images I could find would have saddled me with hefty publishing fees.

What could I do?

My initial solution was to use something more recent—a porcelain bottle from 19th Century Japan. Then, as I walked to my classroom in AD Hope (miss that place!), something caught my eye. In one of the ANU Classics Museum’s cabinets was something that looked like the baby bottle of my desire. It’s label confirmed my suspicion and, just like that, I had the perfect image of one of the earliest infant-feeding vessels (Figure B). It was a timely lesson. The pandemic lockdowns and resultant fieldwork bans have meant that most of our research has had to focus on things that are right here under our noses.

Although these events occurred a couple years back (“the pandemic slowed down publishing,” my editors told me) the book was published in October 2021:

Kushnick G (2021). The cradle of humankind: Evolutionary approaches to technology and parenting. In: Weekes-Shackelford VA, Shackelford TK (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology and Parenting (pp. 115-134). Oxford University Press.”

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