TESTIMONY OF MARY MARGARET OVERBEY, Ph.D.
ON BEHALF OF THE
 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION
 PRESENTED BEFORE THE
 APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS, HOUSING AND
 URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES
 U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FISCAL YEAR 2004
 IN SUPPORT OF THE
 NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

 April 9, 2003

    Mr. Chairman, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) appreciates the opportunity to present testimony before this Subcommittee in support of the National Science Foundation (NSF).   We recommend an appropriation of $6.39 billion for NSF in FY 2004. The AAA supports the goal of doubling NSF?s budget over the next few years and the recommended funding for NSF in the recent authorization legislation.

    By way of background, the AAA is the world?s largest professional association of anthropologists.  Founded in 1902, the purposes of the AAA are to advance anthropology as the discipline that studies humankind in all its aspects, to further the professional interests of anthropologists, and to disseminate anthropological knowledge to address human problems.  The AAA represents more than 11,000 archaeologists, social and cultural anthropologists, physical and biological anthropologists, and linguistic anthropologists.

    We thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Subcommittee for the strong support you have provided to NSF over the years.  Like you, we believe that NSF is a priority federal program, a good investment for our federal dollars.  We believe that a strong federal investment in NSF provides future benefits to the Nation that far outweigh the federal dollars expended.

    NSF plays a unique and critical role in advancing basic scientific research, nurturing the Nation's future scientists, cultivating collaboration among scientists around the world, and enhancing scientific knowledge and skills for K-12 students and the public.  NSF provides a model for fostering scientific creativity and discovery.  And the products of that creativity and discovery have contributed to the international leadership of the United States in scientific and engineering research and education.  Other countries are working to do the same, increasing their investment in basic science and technology research and innovation to assume an international leadership role.  More than ever, the US needs to invest strongly in science and technology to maintain our competitive edge internationally.

    We support NSF?s priority areas of research and education.  Anthropologists are contributing to at least three of these initiatives: Biocomplexity in the Environment, Human and Social Dynamics, and Information Technology Research.  We look forward to the efforts of the new initiative Workforce for the 21st Century and view it as another area to engage the expertise of anthropologists and the knowledge of anthropology.

    We wish to call attention to seven anthropology projects, recently and currently funded by NSF.  These projects represent cultural anthropology, archaeology, and biological or physical anthropology and illustrate the benefits that result from a federal investment in NSF. The projects represent a broad range of research in cultural anthropology, archaeology, and biological or physical anthropology.  Many are interdisciplinary in nature and US-based or international in scope.   Findings from this research are changing the way we view human history and human society.

     1.  In the search for the origins of human civilization, Winifred Creamer and Jonathan Haas at Northern Illinois University and the Field Museum, respectively, have discovered a complex society on the coast of Peru that predates the Inca and other forms of civilization in the Western Hemisphere. Working in the north-central coast of Peru, Creamer and Haas have identified 25 major yet previously undocumented archaeological sites in three adjoining valleys all dating to 3000 and 1800 BC ? the same time the pyramids of Egypt were being constructed. The related sites, referred to as the Norte Chico complex, appears to be the earliest centralized, hierarchical complex (civilization) in the Americas.  Among these is the site of Caral, dated to 2627 BC, that appears to be the oldest city in the New World.  The sites all share enormous platform mounds, round ceremonial plazas, and extensive areas of socially stratified residences.

    Research is currently focusing on 15 of these sites in two of three valleys, radiocarbon dating the monumental architecture and residential areas, examining the prehistoric diet, looking at mound building techniques, and studying incised drawings that may be related to the beginnings of Andean religion.  In addition, Creamer and Haas are involving the Peruvian people in the process, including undergraduate students in the research, holding a workshop for the local residents on how to analyze stone tools, and providing assistance to the local museum in developing an archaeology exhibit.

     2.  Globalization and integration of indigenous people into a larger economy is a worldwide phenomenon.  Does movement from an agrarian economy to a market economy and rural settings to urban ones induce stress and adversely affect an individual?s immune system? Thomas McDade at Northwestern University is looking at the effects of these changes on the immune function of children and adolescents in lowland Bolivia, where land is being forested and logged, and cattle ranching is expanding.  Local indigenous people who were previously farmers are now working for logging companies and cattle ranchers. Although these people are not physically moving, change is coming to them and their communities. McDade is looking at the impact of these social and economic changes on the overall health of children.  In the process, he is developing an effective, non-invasive and low-cost method to assess that health.  Using filter papers like those used for neonatal screening, he is collecting blood samples from pinpricks to screen for infectious disease and determine immune function.

    The research, in its first year, will help us understand how economic, social and cultural changes affect children physically.  While other studies indicate that the changes in Bolivia may be positive because cash and improved infrastructure enhance access to health benefits and services or negative because negative stress occurs and leads to poorer health, McDade anticipates a more complex outcome.  His previous work in Samoa indicates that those children who were well integrated into their families did not suffer the negative effects of stress, poorer health from suppressed immune function, unlike those who weren?t.  McDade?s research is also providing training and mentoring for students at Northwestern and students in Bolivia.

     3.  William Dressler at the University of Alabama, Birmingham is doing somewhat related work in Brazil, examining the relationship of physiological, nutritional, social, cultural and psychological influences to stress.  Dressler has done previous research in the US and Brazil that demonstrates how individuals in communities respond differently to the same stress, with stress associated with cardiovascular disease and measured through blood pressure.  He has found that individuals in communities recognize and rank a common set of characteristics and values that mark its ?culture? so to say.  In the US, he has found that such things as home ownership, leadership or participation in a church, among other things, are highly ranked characteristics of an ideal culture. Those individuals whose lifestyle best fit with this ideal, or demonstrate ?cultural consonance?, have lower blood pressure and experience less stress than those who don?t.

    Dressler?s current work in Brazil expands the application of cultural consonance to the domain of family life.  Those family members who share the set characteristics and values of ideal family life should have better mental health, lower blood pressure and less stress than those who don?t, he hypothesizes, and preliminary findings seem to bear this out.

     4.  From where do human characteristics of fairness and altruism spring?  Is humankind by nature greedy?  Are those in market-oriented and developed countries more selfish than those in undeveloped subsistence-based societies?  Jean Ensminger and Joseph Henrich at California Institute of Technology are investigating the roots of human sociality through economic experiments or games in 16 societies across the globe, including the US, Africa, Latin America, and New Guinea, at varying economic levels.  The research builds on a study in 1998 by the MacArthur Foundation that brought together anthropologists with field experience to pioneer the use of experimental economic methods in small-scale societies.  The study resulted in the application of games to investigate human sociality and some surprising and counterintuitive findings.  For instance, they found that altruistic behavior and a sense of fairness increases with the level of a society?s integration into a market economy.  Previous thinking was that those who live in subsistence-based societies with rules in place for sharing food would be more generous and fair, but the researchers found the opposite to be true.  The NSF research expands on this research by applying these games to more societies to test the validity of these findings, and adding new games and dimensions of sociality to include trust and the prediction and replication of game behavior.

    5.  With NSF funding, Juan Martinez-Cruzado at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez is studying human genetic variation in Puerto Rico. Martinez?s work focuses on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), passed on solely through the mother, to estimate the ethnic contributions of those from European, Sub-Saharan African, and Native American ancestry in various geographic regions of Puerto Rico. He has found to date that the mtDNA frequencies are 61% Native American, 27% Sub-Saharan African, and 12% European ancestry in the Puerto Rico population.  Surprisingly there is no difference in this distribution among the various regions of Puerto Rico.

    The history of Puerto Rico has suggested that disease killed many Native Americans following Spanish colonization of the area in 1508 and that genetic admixture has occurred continuously since then.  The project findings, however, indicate that Native Americans were assimilated, both culturally and genetically, into the population.  The project is the first of its kind in understanding the human history of Puerto Rico.

     6.  With NSF funding, Kenneth Kidd and colleagues at Yale University, have been developing a database on human populations that provides for the first time information on gene frequency variation for the modern DNA polymorphisms detected in the bulk of the human genome.  The database, accessible through the Internet, is called ALFRED for ALlele FREquency Database.  ALFRED consolidates current genetic data along with data collected among human populations across the globe over the past 15 or so years.  Each frequency will have detailed descriptions and definitions of the polymorphic site studied, the protocols used, and the specific sample of the specific population studied.  The molecular definition of the polymorphism at the DNA sequence level is linked to the molecular databases and the description of the associated human population is linked to an ethnographic database.

    ALFRED provides an important bridge between the biological data on the human genome and social science data on human populations (like language, geographic location, population size, etc.).  ALFRED is a significant resource that is being used currently by researchers in their analyses it is also being used in educational settings as a teaching aid and resource reference for students.  ALFRED provides the necessary infrastructure to the increasingly interdisciplinary study and interpretation of the human genome. The website address to access ALFRED is http://alfred.med.yale.edu.

     7.  As you know, many of the exciting scientific discoveries that make the front-page news are the result of NSF-funded research.  This is especially true of anthropology where many of the fossil finds lead to reconfiguring the history of our human origins.  A recent discovery of the remains of a 1.8 million-year-old hominid, the earliest species of the genus Homo, by Robert Blumenschine at Rutgers University and colleagues is a good example.  Blumenschine and colleagues discovered the remains associated with stone tools and butchery-marked bones of large animals in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.  The hominid remains are among the best specimens and include an intact jawbone with the entire upper teeth and part of the lower face. Blumenschine has assigned the hominid remains to Homo habilis and suggested that a related hominid in Kenya Homo rudolfensis is not a separate species as claimed but one and the same.

    Blumenschine has been working with an interdisciplinary team of colleagues in Olduvai Gorge since1989 to understand the human history and activities associated with this important site. This international project involves researchers and students from the US, Europe and Tanzania.  With partial help from NSF, the first paleoanthropology lab was built in Tanzania allowing the analysis and storage of all fossil remains within the country.  Previously, researchers had to take everything to Nairobi, Kenya.  The project has also provided a unique educational opportunity for American and Tanzanian students, training them to enter into this field of study.

     As you can see, Mr. Chairman, these projects represent a diverse range of research?each unique, yet each important in understanding our human history, our human condition and our human relations.  They are but a few of the many examples of outstanding research supported by NSF.  NSF supports the best science, encouraging strong disciplinary and interdisciplinary research efforts.  We believe a solid federal investment in NSF results in a more robust US economy and ensures the Nation's leadership role in basic scientific research, science education, and scientific breakthroughs.

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