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Editor’s Selections: Roman lead poisoning, Dyslexia, Intelligence in context, and A. bosei’s teeth

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Part of my online life includes editorial duties at, where I serve as the Social Sciences Editor. Each Thursday, I pick notable posts on research in anthropology, philosophy, social science, and research to share on the News site. To help highlight this writing, I also share my selections here on AiP.

Bloggers in the social sciences have been busy in the last week. You’ll find no shortage of interesting posts. There were some tough calls to make, but choose I must:

  • The fall of one of the most powerful empires to have existed continues to fascinate us 1500 years after the fact. At Powered by Osteons, Kristina Killgrove investigates whether lead poisoning might have played a role in the Roman Empire’s undoing.
  • One in ten people are on the spectrum for dyslexia. Dr. Stuart Farrimond makes a brief case for the genetic preservation of dyslexia, suggesting that it would have granted our evolutionary ancestors much needed benefits for survival in a world that was vastly different from out.
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you just didn’t feel smart? Greg Laden explains that intelligence may be a socio-cultural signal that varies from context to context.
  • What big teeth you have, A. bosei! At Lawn Chair Anthropology, Zachary Cofran tries to make sense of A. bosei‘s dentition, which does not seem suited for its diet.

I’ll be back next week with more from anthropology, philosophy, and research.

Krystal D'Costa About the Author: Krystal D'Costa is an anthropologist working in digital media in New York City. You can follow AiP on Facebook. Follow on Twitter @krystaldcosta.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Hasufin 2:14 pm 01/31/2012

    According to at least a few books – the one I’m recalling is _Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day_ (but I’m sure he has cited sources in the back; if I remember I’ll check) the Romans were aware of the risks of lead poisoning, and rich people sited their homes to get less tainted water – this may account for some of the variation in lead poisoning, much like today you’d find a variety of health factors based around economic status. However, they felt, accurately I think, that lead poisoning was a lesser risk than waterborne diseases; it’s worth noting that although the Roman empire built unprecedented cities for the era, they were largely (not wholly, of course) free of the epidemics which scourged Europe in later centuries. I don’t know if it was ever addressed in such a fashion, but lead poisoning seems to have been considered the lesser of two evils.

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