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Society

Essays and videos on social issues, history, political life and the future
Finding the First Americans | Aeon
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Archaeology

Finding the First Americans

Archaeology and genetics can’t yet agree on when humans first arrived in the Americas. That’s good science and here’s why

Jennifer Raff

Keeping the score | Aeon
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Anthropology

Keeping the score

The gifts we exchange are both generous and yet fraught with social rules and obligations. Marcel Mauss explained why

Gili Kliger

The generous philosopher | Aeon
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Thinkers and theories

The generous philosopher

Bruno Latour showed us how to think with the things of the world, respecting their right to exist and act on their own terms

Stephen Muecke

The meaning of Purgatory | Aeon
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Religion

The meaning of Purgatory

Think less of a holding pen for Heaven and more as a flow of love from the living, and the weirdness starts making sense

Magnus Course

The people of the cloud | Aeon
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Computing and artificial intelligence

The people of the cloud

Hot, strenuous and unsung. There is nothing soft and fluffy about the caretaking work that enables our digital lives

Steven Gonzalez Monserrate

Keeping our options open | Aeon
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Anthropology

Keeping our options open

Frantic human activity has reduced both cultural and biological diversity. Now we must protect the dwindling alternatives

Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Out of the forest | Aeon
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Human evolution

Out of the forest

We have thought of humans for a century or more as creatures of the savannah, shaped in every way by grassland life. Not so

Patrick Roberts

The polyglots of Dardistan | Aeon
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Language and linguistics

The polyglots of Dardistan

At the crossroads of south and central Asia lies one of the world’s most multilingual places, with songs and poetry to match

Zubair Torwali

Primitive communism | Aeon
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Anthropology

Primitive communism

Marx’s idea that societies were naturally egalitarian and communal before farming is widely influential and quite wrong

Manvir Singh

Composite | Aeon
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Information and communication

From mental image to sketch – how memories and emotions conjure up a face

23 minutes

Museum, 1972 | Aeon
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Art

From archaeology digs to display cabinets: how museums bring exhibits to life

37 minutes

Arctic summer | Aeon
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Ecology and environmental sciences

Life in one of Canada’s northernmost villages, where the land is sinking into the sea

24 minutes

Promethean beasts | Aeon
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Evolution

Promethean beasts

Far from being hardwired to flee fire, some animals use it to their own ends, helping us understand our own pyrocognition

Ivo Jacobs

Feeling, in situ | Aeon
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Mood and emotion

Feeling, in situ

What if emotions are not universal and hardwired but exquisite acts of meaning-making specific to context and culture?

Elitsa Dermendzhiyska

The return | Aeon
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Anthropology

On the run from COVID-19, an Indigenous family treks deep into the Amazon rainforest

17 minutes

The Margaret Mead problem | Aeon
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Anthropology

The Margaret Mead problem

Mead, so radical about gender and sex in her early work, doubled down on the differences between men and women later. Why?

Elesha J Coffman

Organism | Aeon
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Cities

The city as an emergent life form, with architecture as the skeleton and roads as veins

19 minutes

How equality slipped away | Aeon
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Anthropology

How equality slipped away

For 97 per cent of human history, all people had about the same power and access to goods. How did inequality ratchet up?

Kim Sterelny

We heal one another | Aeon
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Mental health

We heal one another

When a person is in distress, we can draw on deep, evolved mechanisms to calm the storm, through attention, touch and care

Brandon Kohrt

The Lion Man | Aeon
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Anthropology

Although his story is a mystery, the Lion Man forever binds us to our prehistoric past

2 minutes

The clothing revolution | Aeon
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Archaeology

The clothing revolution

What if the need for fabric, not food, in the face of a changing climate is what first tipped humanity towards agriculture?

Ian Gilligan

Safety is fatal | Aeon
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Anthropology

Safety is fatal

Humans need closeness and belonging but any society that closes its gates is doomed to atrophy. How do we stay open?

David Napier

What pastoralists know | Aeon
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Anthropology

What pastoralists know

Pastoralists are experts in managing extreme variability. In a volatile world economy, bankers should learn how they do it

Ian Scoones

Longhouse lockdown | Aeon
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Anthropology

Longhouse lockdown

On a regular cycle, the Nias islanders of Indonesia would retreat into enforced seclusion. What can we learn from them?

Andrew Beatty