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UW Professor to Lecture During World Anthropology Day Feb. 16

February 8, 2017
man standing with hills behind him
Robert Kelly

University of Wyoming Department of Anthropology Professor Robert Kelly will lecture as part of World Anthropology Day Thursday, Feb. 16.

Kelly will discuss his latest book, titled “The Fifth Beginning: What Six Million Years of Human History Can Tell Us About Our Future,” at 4 p.m. in the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center. Both the lecture and book signing after the program are free and open to the public.

World Anthropology Day is a day for anthropologists to celebrate and participate in their discipline with the public around them.

In his book, Kelly explains how the study of the cultural past can predict the future of humanity.

“Many people think that history is over,” says Kelly, in an earlier UW release announcing the release of his book. “They might believe that the era of big change is over. An archaeological perspective tells us that’s wrong: There is change in store for us, and we have the potential to direct that change.”

In “The Fifth Beginning: What Six Million Years of Human History Can Tell Us About Our Future,” Kelly identifies four key points or “beginnings” in history: the origins of technology, the appearance of cultural behavior, the invention of agriculture and the origin of states and empires. He examines the long-term processes that resulted in these definitive changes in the organization of society.

He then presents evidence of a fifth beginning, one that started about A.D. 1500. The fifth beginning is brought about by long-term processes: a 5,000-year arms race, a capitalist economy’s global reach and the impact of a global system of communication on culture, he says in the earlier release. The cumulative and combined effect will be to bring about what he calls “global self-governance.”

A past president of the Society for American Archaeology and past secretary of the Archaeology Division of the American Anthropological Association, Kelly has written more than 100 articles, books and reviews. Since 1973, he has worked on the archaeology, ethnology and ethnography of foraging peoples, conducting archaeological research in the United States and abroad.

He currently researches the use of radiocarbon dates as measures of prehistoric population, ice patch archaeology in the Rocky Mountains and Paleoindian mammoth hunting. He is the current editor of the Society for American Archaeology’s flagship journal, American Antiquity.


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