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    Genres are the drive belts of the job market
    (Taylor & Francis, 2022) Gershon, Ilana
    Many job applicants spend an inordinate amount of time struggling with the task of fashioning the most appealing biography of the increasingly skillful self out of interwoven genres that can also circulate individually. These struggles are most frequently articulated as questions of how best to manage different genres’ chronotopic expectations. Under neoliberalism, how workers are expected to represent their previous work lives has shifted significantly from earlier moments of capitalism: they are now expected to represent themselves as entrepreneurial selves. Over and over again in various workshops about job applicant genres, participants’ concerns over how to represent their employment history via different genres became the focus of the workshop. The focus on mastering a genre’s chronotopic expectations stood in for job applicants’ anxieties over representing themselves as the ideal neoliberal employee. The standardization and abstraction of time and the neoliberal expectations now linked to these genres has led to predictable conceptual quandaries for job applicants about how to connect oneself in appropriate ways to previous contexts that become articulated as dilemmas surrounding the pragmatics of producing genres’ chronotopes.
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    When Culture Is Not A System: Why Samoan Cultural Brokers Can Not Do Their Job
    (Taylor & Francis, 2006) Gershon, Ilana
    In independent and American Samoa, Samoan representatives have historically been successful at furthering their communities' interests when dealing with various colonial regimes. Yet during my fieldwork in California, I kept witnessing failed encounters between Samoan migrants and government officials. I argue that government officials helped create these problems through the ways they expected Samoan migrants to act as culture-bearers. I conclude by exploring how cultural mediators become the focal point for tensions generated by the contradictory assumptions government system-carriers and Samoan culture-bearers hold about how to relate to social orders.
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    The Worst of Anthro Job Ads for 2021
    (Wiley Periodicals LLC, 2022) Dennis, Dannah; Docot, Dada; Gendron, Danielle; Gershon, Ilana
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    Bullshit Genres: What to Watch for When Studying the New Actant ChatGPT and Its Siblings
    (Finnish Anthropological Society, 2023) Gershon, Ilana
    Another communication technology has been introduced, ChatGPT, drawing the attention of many pundits, occupying valuable space on every op-ed page, and inspiring a Hollywood writers’ strike and endless small talk, all steaming a bit with the intoxicating fumes of moral panic or outsized utopian enthusiasm. Research on artificial intelligence (AI) has existed for decades, entering many people’s daily lives in dribs and drabs. ChatGPT and its siblings, however, have focused so many people’s attention on the potential changes that AI could bring to work lives, entertainment, and social relationships that it seems worthwhile to take a moment now in 2023 to discuss what light linguistic and media anthropologists can shed on what is to come. I say this as one of a handful of media anthropologists also familiar with linguistic anthropology who happened to study people’s use of Facebook (alongside other media) only a few years after its introduction to the US media ecology (Gershon 2010). For more than a decade, I have been thinking about how media ecologies change with each newly introduced medium. Here, I lay out what I believe ethnographers of AI who engage with large language models (LLMs) might want to pay attention to in the next couple of years. My starting point is that it would be helpful to explore how people are responding to ChatGPT in terms of genre, that people’s reactions to ChatGPT is to treat it at its core as though it is a genre machine—that is, a machine intelligence that reproduces and tweaks genres in just the right way for human consumption.
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    Plague jobs: US workers' schismogenetic approaches to social contracts
    (Slovene Anthropological Society, 2021) Gershon, Ilana
    In this homage to David Graeber, I turn to Americans’ experiences working in person during the pandemic as an ethnographic lens for understanding how workers respond when implicit social contracts are violated and when ideas about the common good are being contested. Because the United States federal government and many state governments refused to mandate appropriate pandemic protocols, businesses became the source of pandemic regulation in the United States. During the pandemic, Americans have been made vividly aware of the tacit social contracts shaping their workplace commitments. Building upon Graeber’s insight that at the heart of work is a complex theory of contract and exchange, I explore how contractual sociality shapes Americans’ understandings of the political possibilities available to them at work. I focus in particular on the icon of the Trumpian Republican and how other Americans are responding by turning to historically grounded visions of the common good. In general, this article explores what the pandemic has revealed about Americans’ political imagination, about how to govern and be governed in the workplace, with a Graeberian focus on the role that contractual sociality plays in structuring this imagination.
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    Living with Monsters: Ethnographic Fiction about Real Monsters
    (Punctum Books, 2023) Musharbash, Yasmine; Gershon, Ilana
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    Spatial analysis of an Early Middle Palaeolithic kill/butchering site: the case of the Cuesta de la Bajada (Teruel, Spain)
    (Springer Nature, 2023) Moclán, Abel; Cobo-Sánchez, Lucía; Domínguez-Rodrigo, Manuel; Méndez-Quintas, Eduardo; Rubio-Jara, Susana; Panera, Joaquín; Pérez-González, Alfredo; Santonja, Manuel
    Kill/butchering sites are some of the most important places for understanding the subsistence strategies of hunter-gatherer groups. However, these sites are not common in the archaeological record, and they have not been sufficiently analysed in order to know all their possible variability for ancient periods of the human evolution. In the present study, we have carried out the spatial analysis of the Early Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 9–8) site of Cuesta de la Bajada site (Teruel, Spain), which has been previously identified as a kill/butchering site through the taphonomic analysis of the faunal remains. Our results show that the spatial properties of the faunal and lithic tools distribution in levels CB2 and CB3 are well-preserved although the site is an open-air location. Both levels show a similar segregated (i.e. regular) spatial point pattern (SPP) which is different from the SPP identified at other sites with similar nature from the ethnographic and the archaeological records. However, although the archaeological materials have a regular distribution pattern, the lithic and faunal remains are positively associated, which is indicating that most parts of both types of materials were accumulated during the same occupation episodes, which were probably sporadic and focused on getting only few animal carcasses at a time.
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    Entwined African and Asian genetic roots of medieval peoples of the Swahili coast
    (Springer Nature, 2023) Brielle, Esther S.; Fleisher, Jeffrey; Wynne-Jones, Stephanie; Sirak, Kendra; Broomandkhoshbacht, Nasreen; Callan, Kim; Curtis, Elizabeth; Iliev, Lora; Lawson, Ann Marie; Oppenheimer, Jonas; Qiu, Lijun; Stewardson, Kristin; Workman, J. Noah; Zalzala, Fatma; Ayodo, George; Gidna, Agness O.; Kabiru, Angela; Kwekason, Amandus; Mabulla, Audax Z. P.; Manthi, Fredrick K.; Ndiema, Emmanuel; Ogola, Christine; Sawchuk, Elizabeth; Al-Gazali, Lihadh; Ali, Bassam R.; Ben-Salem, Salma; Letellier, Thierry; Pierron, Denis; Radimilahy, Chantal; Rakotoarisoa, Jean-Aimé; Raaum, Ryan L.; Culleton, Brendan J.; Mallick, Swapan; Rohland, Nadin; Patterson, Nick; Mwenje, Mohammed Ali; Ahmed, Khalfan Bini; Mohamed, Mohamed Mchulla; Williams, Sloan R.; Monge, Janet; Kusimba, Sibel; Prendergast, Mary E.; Reich, David; Kusimba, Chapurukha M.
    The urban peoples of the Swahili coast traded across eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean and were among the first practitioners of Islam among sub-Saharan people1,2. The extent to which these early interactions between Africans and non-Africans were accompanied by genetic exchange remains unknown. Here we report ancient DNA data for 80 individuals from 6 medieval and early modern (ad 1250–1800) coastal towns and an inland town after ad 1650. More than half of the DNA of many of the individuals from coastal towns originates from primarily female ancestors from Africa, with a large proportion—and occasionally more than half—of the DNA coming from Asian ancestors. The Asian ancestry includes components associated with Persia and India, with 80–90% of the Asian DNA originating from Persian men. Peoples of African and Asian origins began to mix by about ad 1000, coinciding with the large-scale adoption of Islam. Before about ad 1500, the Southwest Asian ancestry was mainly Persian-related, consistent with the narrative of the Kilwa Chronicle, the oldest history told by people of the Swahili coast3. After this time, the sources of DNA became increasingly Arabian, consistent with evidence of growing interactions with southern Arabia4. Subsequent interactions with Asian and African people further changed the ancestry of present-day people of the Swahili coast in relation to the medieval individuals whose DNA we sequenced.
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    Igbo-Ukwu Textiles: AMS Dating and Fiber Analysis
    (Springer Nature, 2022) McIntosh, Susan Keech; Cartwright, Caroline R.
    Thurstan Shaw’s excavations at Igbo-Ukwu revealed many artifacts and technologies that remain astonishing, unique, and incompletely understood, both within Africa and more broadly, even after 50 years. Among these are the textiles recovered primarily from Igbo Isaiah, where fragments were preserved by contact with the bronze artifacts gathered in what has been interpreted as a shrine. In the 1960s, an analysis of 20 textile samples was unable to identify the plant fibers used to weave the fabric. In this article, we report the results of new fiber identifications based on the SEM study of two Igbo-Ukwu fabric samples curated by the British Museum. The combination of bast fibers from one or more species of the fig tree (Ficus genus) and leaf fibers from Raphia sp. provides evidence of a complex indigenous weaving technology that has largely disappeared from Africa. An AMS date on one of the samples provides an important new element to our understanding of the culture and chronology of Igbo-Ukwu. A final section positions the Igbo-Ukwu cloth within the known history of textiles in Africa, emphasizing sub-Saharan West Africa over the past two millennia.
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    Reassessing the role of carnivores in the formation of FLK North 3 (Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania): A pilot taphonomic analysis using Artificial Intelligence tools
    (Elsevier, 2023) Vegara-Riquelme, Marina; Gidna, Agness; Uribelarrea del Val, David; Baquedano, Enrique; Domínguez-Rodrigo, Manuel
    FLK North (FLK N) (Bed I, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania) is one of the best examples of a palimpsest where felids, hyenids and hominins made use of the same space without or with minimal interaction between hominins and the other two carnivores. Felids have been interpreted as the main accumulators and carcass consumers followed by frequent hyenid intervention. The presence of hominins at this site has been documented through the discovery of stone tools. Here, we test previous taphonomic interpretations of this site through the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools (computer vision applied to bidimensional images of tooth pits) to taxonomically discriminate carnivore-made tooth marks. The bones we analyzed constitute a small sample, being a preliminary study of bone surface modifications (BSM) through the application of AI to a sample of the FLK N archaeofaunal assemblage (mostly to Level 3 fossils), pending access to the larger excavated collections. The results obtained in the present study show that the marks analyzed have been generated both by hyenids and felids. The slight predominance of hyena tooth marks is expected, since the bone sample used is dominated by long limb bones, and hyenas are the most likely agent causing long bone breakage, although felids also break bones of carcasses smaller than 150 kg as documented in the site. Felid impact, in at least three cases, is documented with tooth marks imprinted by felids and hyenas occurring on the same specimens. Felid-hyenid interaction is, thus, documented though the deep learning methods applied. The limited number of specimens where both agents are documented suggest that both hyenids and felids were independently breaking a substantial part of the bones at FLK N. This preliminarily modifies previous interpretations that attributed most long bone fragmentation exclusively to hyenas.
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    A taphonomic analysis of PTK (Bed I, Olduvai Gorge) and its bearing on the interpretation of the dietary and eco-spatial behaviors of early humans
    (Elsevier, 2023) Organista, Elia; Moclán, Abel; Aramendi, Julia; Cobo-Sánchez, Lucía; Egeland, Charles P.; Uribelarrea, David; Martín-Perea, David; Vegara-Riquelme, Marina; Hernández-Vivanco, Lucía; Gidna, Agness; Mabula, Audax; Baquedano, Enrique; Domínguez-Rodrigo, Manuel
    Here, we present a thorough taphonomic analysis of the 1.84 million-year-old site of Phillip Tobias Korongo (PTK), Bed I, Olduvai Gorge. PTK is one of the new archaeological sites documented on the FLK Zinj paleolandscape, in which FLK 22 level was deposited and covered by Tuff IC. Therefore, PTK is pene-contemporary with these sites: FLK Zinj, DS, AMK and AGS. The occurrence of these sites within a thin clay unit of ∼20 cm, occupying not only the same vertically discrete stratigraphic unit, but also the same paleosurface, with an exceptional preservation of the archaeological record in its primary depositional locus, constitutes a unique opportunity to explore early hominin behavioral diversity at the most limited geochronological scale possible. The Olduvai Bed I sites have been the core of behavioral modelling for the past half a century, and the newly discovered sites, excavated with 21st century technology, will increase significantly our understanding of early human adaptive patterns. Here, we present PTK as another assemblage where faunal resources were acquired by hominins prior to any carnivore, and where stone-tool assisted bulk defleshing was carried out. The abundance of juvenile individuals extends our understanding, as in Kanjera (Kenya), about the hunting skills of early Homo sensu lato. The increasing number of sites, where bulk defleshing of small and medium-sized carcasses took place is underscoring the importance of meat in the diets of some of the early hominins, and their patterned use of the space for food processing and consumption. The patterning emerging has a profound importance for the evolution of some of the features that have traditionally been used to identify the behavior of the genus Homo.
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    Computer vision supports primary access to meat by early Homo 1.84 million years ago
    (PeerJ, Inc, 2022) Cobo-Sánchez, Lucía; Pizarro-Monzo, Marcos; Cifuentes-Alcobendas, Gabriel; García, Blanca Jiménez; Beltrán, Natalia Abellán; Courtenay, Lloyd A.; Mabulla, Audax; Baquedano, Enrique; Domínguez-Rodrigo, Manuel
    Human carnivory is atypical among primates. Unlike chimpanzees and bonobos, who are known to hunt smaller monkeys and eat them immediately, human foragers often cooperate to kill large animals and transport them to a safe location to be shared. While it is known that meat became an important part of the hominin diet around 2.6–2 Mya, whether intense cooperation and food sharing developed in conjunction with the regular intake of meat remains unresolved. A widespread assumption is that early hominins acquired animal protein through klepto-parasitism at felid kills. This should be testable by detecting felid-specific bone modifications and tooth marks on carcasses consumed by hominins. Here, deep learning (DL) computer vision was used to identify agency through the analysis of tooth pits and scores on bones recovered from the Early Pleistocene site of DS (Bed I, Olduvai Gorge). We present the first objective evidence of primary access to meat by hominins 1.8 Mya by showing that the most common securely detectable bone-modifying fissipeds at the site were hyenas. The absence of felid modifications in most of the carcasses analyzed indicates that hominins were the primary consumers of most animals accumulated at the site, with hyenas intervening at the post-depositional stage. This underscores the role of hominins as a prominent part of the early Pleistocene African carnivore guild. It also stresses the major (and potentially regular) role that meat played in the diet that configured the emergence of early Homo.
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    Antropologia e deficiência: uma conversa com Rayna Rapp e Faye Ginsburg
    (Open Edition Journals, 2022) Fietz, Helena Moura
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    Anthropology and disability: an interview with Rayna Rapp and Faye Ginsburg
    (Open Edition Journals, 2022) Fietz, Helena Moura
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    The Dorothy Garrod Site: a new Middle Stone Age locality in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania
    (Springer Nature, 2022) Maíllo-Fernández, José Manuel; Marín, Juan; Martín-Perea, David Manuel; Uribelarrea, David; Solano-Megías, Irene; Asiaín, Raquel; Baquedano, Enrique; Domínguez-Rodrigo, Manuel; Gidna, Agness; Medialdea, Alicia; Steven, Hekima Mwamakimbula; Chilonzi, Daniel Haruni; Arteaga, Carlos; Mabulla, Audax
    Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) is a key site for the study of human evolution as well as the origin of modern humans and the Middle Stone Age (MSA). In this study, we present a new MSA location named Dorothy Garrod Site (DGS), found in the main branch of Olduvai Gorge. The site has only one archaeological level, located stratigraphically in the Upper Ndutu. Although it has not yet been possible to radiometrically date it, it has yielded numerous archaeological remains with a functional association between the faunal remains and the lithic industry. The fauna identified includes Alcelaphini, Hippotragini, and Equidae, some of which present percussion marks and evidence of burning. The lithic industry involved knapping using discoid methods. The retouched blanks are denticulates and retouched flakes with, up to now, a total absence of points. DGS is therefore a new site that will aid our understanding of modern human occupations in northern Tanzania in a period for which there is a dearth of properly contextualised archaeological evidence.
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    Neo-taphonomic analysis of the Misiam leopard lair from Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania): understanding leopard–hyena interactions in open settings
    (The Royal Society, 2022) Domínguez-Rodrigo, Manuel; Organista, Elia; Baquedano, Enrique; Cifuentes-Alcobendas, Gabriel; Pizarro-Monzo, Marcos; Vegara-Riquelme, Marina; Gidna, Agness; Uribelarrea, David; Martín-Perea, David
    Misiam is a modern wildebeest-dominated accumulation situated in a steep ravine covered with dense vegetation at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). It is interpreted here as a leopard lair to which carcasses have been transported for several years. Felid-specific bone damage patterns, felid-typical skeletal part profiles, taxonomic specialization and the physical presence of leopards observed by the authors show that leopards at Misiam can be specialized medium-sized carcass accumulators. Hyenas also intervened at intervals in the modification of the retrieved faunal assemblage. This makes Misiam a carnivore palimpsest. Here, we additionally show that leopards only transport and accumulate carcasses on occasions, that they can seem highly specialized despite being dietary generalists, and that such a behaviour may be prompted by seasonal competition or during the breeding season or both. Misiam is the first open-air leopard lair with a dense bone accumulation reported. There, leopards engaged in intensive accumulation of carcasses during the wet season, when the southern Serengeti short-grass plains undergo the effect of the famous wildebeest migration and this migratory species reaches the gorge. The ecological importance of this behaviour and its relevance as a proxy for reconstructing prehistoric carnivore behaviours are discussed.
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    Sabertooth carcass consumption behavior and the dynamics of Pleistocene large carnivoran guilds
    (Springer Nature, 2022) Domínguez-Rodrigo, Manuel; Egeland, Charles P.; Cobo-Sánchez, Lucía; Baquedano, Enrique; Hulbert, Richard C.
    Apex predators play an important role in the top-down regulation of ecological communities. Their hunting and feeding behaviors influence, respectively, prey demography and the availability of resources to other consumers. Among the most iconic—and enigmatic—terrestrial predators of the late Cenozoic are the Machairodontinae, a diverse group of big cats whose hypertrophied upper canines have earned them the moniker “sabertooths.” Many aspects of these animals’ paleobiology, especially their prey preferences and carcass consumption behavior, remain unsettled. While skeletal anatomy, dental morphology and wear, and isotopic profiles provide important insights, the most direct way to resolve these issues is through the fossil remains of sabertooth prey. Here, we report on a taphonomic analysis of an early Pleistocene faunal assemblage from Haile 21A (Florida, USA) that preserves feeding damage from the lion-sized sabertooth Xenosmilus hodsonae. Patterns of tooth-marking and bone damage indicate that Xenosmilus fully defleshed the carcasses of their prey and even engaged in some minor bone consumption. This has important implications for Pleistocene carnivoran guild dynamics, including the carcass foraging behavior of the first stone-tool-using hominins.
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    Palaeogenomic analysis of black rat (Rattus rattus) reveals multiple European introductions associated with human economic history
    (Springer Nature, 2022) Yu, He; Jamieson, Alexandra; Hulme-Beaman, Ardern; Conroy, Chris J.; Knight, Becky; Speller, Camilla; Al-Jarah, Hiba; Eager, Heidi; Trinks, Alexandra; Adikari, Gamini; Baron, Henriette; Böhlendorf-Arslan, Beate; Bohingamuwa, Wijerathne; Crowther, Alison; Cucchi, Thomas; Esser, Kinie; Fleisher, Jeffrey; Gidney, Louisa; Gladilina, Elena; Gol’din, Pavel; Goodman, Steven M.; Hamilton-Dyer, Sheila; Helm, Richard; Hillman, Jesse C.; Kallala, Nabil; Kivikero, Hanna; Kovács, Zsófia E.; Kunst, Günther Karl; Kyselý, René; Linderholm, Anna; Maraoui-Telmini, Bouthéina; Marković, Nemanja; Morales-Muñiz, Arturo; Nabais, Mariana; O’Connor, Terry; Oueslati, Tarek; Quintana Morales, Eréndira M.; Pasda, Kerstin; Perera, Jude; Perera, Nimal; Radbauer, Silvia; Ramon, Joan; Rannamäe, Eve; Sanmartí Grego, Joan; Treasure, Edward; Valenzuela-Lamas, Silvia; van der Jagt, Inge; Van Neer, Wim; Vigne, Jean-Denis; Walker, Thomas; Wynne-Jones, Stephanie; Zeiler, Jørn; Dobney, Keith; Boivin, Nicole; Searle, Jeremy B.; Krause-Kyora, Ben; Krause, Johannes; Larson, Greger; Orton, David
    The distribution of the black rat (Rattus rattus) has been heavily influenced by its association with humans. The dispersal history of this non-native commensal rodent across Europe, however, remains poorly understood, and different introductions may have occurred during the Roman and medieval periods. Here, in order to reconstruct the population history of European black rats, we first generate a de novo genome assembly of the black rat. We then sequence 67 ancient and three modern black rat mitogenomes, and 36 ancient and three modern nuclear genomes from archaeological sites spanning the 1st-17th centuries CE in Europe and North Africa. Analyses of our newly reported sequences, together with published mitochondrial DNA sequences, confirm that black rats were introduced into the Mediterranean and Europe from Southwest Asia. Genomic analyses of the ancient rats reveal a population turnover in temperate Europe between the 6th and 10th centuries CE, coincident with an archaeologically attested decline in the black rat population. The near disappearance and re-emergence of black rats in Europe may have been the result of the breakdown of the Roman Empire, the First Plague Pandemic, and/or post-Roman climatic cooling.
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    Diet, economy, and culinary practices at the height of precolonial Swahili urbanism
    (Elsevier, 2022) Quintana Morales, Eréndira M.; Craig, Oliver E.; Prendergast, Mary E.; Walshaw, Sarah; Cartaciano, Christina; Mwebi, Ogeto; Nguta, Esther; Onduso, Veronicah; Fleisher, Jeffrey; Wynne-Jones, Stephanie
    Swahili cuisine is known across Africa and globally as a highly distinctive product of a cosmopolitan, coastal, urban society. Here we present a comprehensive study of precolonial Swahili diet and culinary practices at the coastal town of Songo Mnara, positioning archaeological and ethnographic understandings of cuisine in a long-term coastal tradition. We explore contemporary food cultures and then present the first direct evidence for precolonial cuisine by combining ceramic lipid residue analysis with archaeobotanical, zooarchaeological, and faunal and human stable isotopic data. Integrating these datasets produces a detailed picture of diet at the site of Songo Mnara during the peak of precolonial Swahili urbanism. Lipid residue analysis demonstrates how plant and animal products were consumed and valued in ways not discernible from plant and animal remains alone. We also note special treatment for particular foodstuffs, including an association of fish consumption with high-status spaces and vessels, and preferential management of cattle for milk. A more complex picture of urban life emerges, recognizing influences of taste, class, and culture. Our findings demonstrate the potential of multi-layered anthropological studies for exploring cuisine and urban life in coastal contexts across the globe.