The untimely death from cancer of former UK Labour cabinet minister, Dame Tessa Jowell, has triggered a wave of tributes from across the political spectrum. Her vision for securing the 2012 Olympics for London, her formative role in New Labour’s flagship Sure Start scheme, and most recently, her campaign for cancer research, have all been given many column inches.
Media literacy existed as a New Labour policy well before Jowell’s turn at the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). Her predecessor, Chris Smith, believed that the concept was a useful one for “arming the citizen-consumer” of media, to make responsible choices in a period of increasing deregulation.
To the dismay of some of her own policy advisors, Jowell seized the concept, made it her own, and became a fervent advocate at every opportunity. In an address given at BAFTA the year following the Communications Act, she referred to media literacy as “a coming subject” and one that “in five years’ time will be just another given”.
With the benefit of hindsight, Jowell’s optimism seems to have been misplaced. Media literacy, arguably, has never been lower on the political agenda. The plethora of initiatives that sprang up in the wake of the Communications Act have largely withered on the vine – and the process of recent reforms to the popular Media Studies A-level have seen the subject savagely “strangled”.
Yet Jowell’s argument for media education has never been more relevant. “It is important,” she insisted, “that we know when we are watching ‘accurate and impartial’ news coverage and when we are not”. These are prescient comments when you consider that they were made more than a decade before “post-truth” became the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year (in 2016) and when terms such as “fake news” or “Leveson Inquiry” had yet to pass anyone’s lips.
Jowell believed that education in media opened opportunities that could enrich the experience of individuals and society – but she was equally exercised about the role that education had to play in protecting against some of the dangers of modern media. She thought that media were dominated by powerful and potentially harmful commercial and political interests. She believed that children, in particular, should be provided with “critical life skills” to guide their media consumption.
“It is transparently important,” she told a media literacy seminar in 2004, “that they should be helped to get the most from all those screen hours, and be protected from what we know are some of the worst excesses”. She went on to ensure that, from 2006, the BBC Charter also contained requirements to promote media literacy.
Where did it go so wrong?
The key to understanding the marginalisation of media literacy as government policy is the role of the Department for Education – once known as the Department for Education and Skills(DfES). Media education was not seen as a serious curriculum priority at the DfES, and – despite New Labour’s early insistence on “joined-up government” – enthusiasm for media literacy never spread beyond the confines of DCMS.
There was widespread ignorance about media education among civil servants within DfES, many of whom had had highly traditional educational experiences themselves. A preoccupation with “driving up” standards, measurability and international comparison provided little incentive for the promotion of a field of study concerned with recognising and understanding forms of popular (or “low”) culture. This was despite the apparent economic value being attributed to the “creative industries” at the same time.
The byzantine operation of the DfES also made change of any kind difficult – particularly where it touched on what was actually taught in schools. In this case, there was the added disincentive of a policy being driven by a separate –and junior – department. Ultimately, media literacy was never to be widely embraced as an educational project in the way that Jowell had hoped.
Media literacy remains on the statute book and Ofcom continues to have a responsibility to promote it. But the way it is defined – and the level of resources provided to support it – ensure that it has largely been reduced to a form of market research, an undead policy. Jowell once proclaimed:
I believe that in the modern world, media literacy will become as important a skill as maths or science. Decoding our media will become as important to our lives as citizens as understanding literature is to our cultural lives.
It may be too much to hope that media literacy could yet be reclaimed as one of Tessa Jowell’s essential legacies.
The collapsing Nazi government ordered all U-boats in German ports to make their way to their bases in Norway on May 2, 1945. Two days later, the recently commissioned U-3523 joined the mission as one of the most advanced boats in the fleet. But to reach their destination, the submarines had to pass through the bottleneck of the Skagerrak – the strait between Norway and Denmark – and the UK’s Royal Air Force was waiting for them. Several U-boats were sunk and U-3523 was destroyed in an air attack by a Liberator bomber.
U-3523 lay undiscovered on the seabed for over 70 years until it was recently located by surveyors from the Sea War Museum in Denmark. Studying the vessel will be of immense interest to professional and amateur historians alike, not least as a way of finally putting to rest the conspiracy theory that the boat was ferrying prominent Nazis to Argentina. But sadly, recovering U-3523 is not a realistic proposition. The main challenges with such wrecks lie in accurately identifying them, assessing their status as naval graves and protecting them for the future.
U-boat wrecks like these from the end of World War II are the hardest to match to historical records. The otherwise meticulous record keeping of the Kriegsmarine (Nazi navy) became progressively sparser, breaking down completely in the last few weeks of the war. But Allied records have helped determine that this newly discovered wreck is indeed U-3523. The sea where this U-boat was located was heavily targeted by the RAF because it knew newly-built boats would flee to Norway this way.
The detailed sonar scans of the wreck site show that it is without doubt a Type XXI U-boat, of which U-3523 was the only one lost in the Skagerrak and unaccounted for. These were new types of submarines that contained a number of innovations which had the potential to make them dangerous opponents. This was primarily due to enlarged batteries, coupled to a snorkel, which meant they could stay permanently underwater. Part of the RAF’s mission was to prevent any of these new vessels getting to sea to sink Allied ships, and it successfully prevented any Type XXI U-boats from doing so.
With the U-boat’s identity correctly established, we now know that it is the grave site of its crew of 58 German servicemen. As such, the wreck should either be left in peace or, more implausibly, recovered and the men buried on land. Germany lost over 800 submarines at sea during the two world wars and many have been found in recent years. It is hopelessly impractical to recover them all, so leaving them where they are is the only real option.
Under international law all naval wrecks are termed “sovereign immune”, which means they will always be the property of the German state despite lying in Danish waters. But Denmark has a duty to protect the wreck, especially if Germany asks it to do so.
Hundreds of wartime wreck sites such as U-3523 are under threat around the world from metal thieves and grave robbers. The British cruiser HMS Exeter, which was sunk in the Java Sea on May 1, 1942, has been entirely removed from the seabed for scrap. And wrecks from the 1916 Battle of Jutland that also lie partly in Danish waters have seen industrial levels of metal theft. These examples serve as a warning that organised criminals will target shipwrecks of any age for the metals they contain.
Germany and the UK are among a number of countries currently pioneering the use of satellite monitoring to detect suspicious activity on shipwrecks thought to be under threat. This kind of monitoring could be a cost-effective way to save underwater cultural heritage from criminal activity and its use is likely to become widespread in the next few years.
The recovery cost is only a small fraction of the funds needed to preserve and display an iron object that has been immersed in the sea for many years. So bringing a wreck back to the surface should not be undertaken lightly. In nearly all cases of salvaged U-boats, the results have been financially ruinous. Lifting barges that can raise shipwrecks using large cranes cost tens of thousands of pounds a day to charter. Once recovered, the costs of conservation and presentation mount astronomically as the boat will rapidly start to rust.
The U-boat U-534 was also sunk by the RAF in 1945, close to where U-3523 now lies. Its crew all evacuated that boat, meaning that she was not a grave when recovered from the sea in 1993 by Danish businessman Karsten Ree, allegedly in the somewhat incredible belief that it carried Nazi treasure. At a reported cost of £3m, the operation is thought to have been unprofitable. The boat contained nothing special, just the usual mundane objects carried on a U-boat at war.
Similar problems were experienced by the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in the UK when it raised the Holland 1 submarine in 1982. In that case, the costs of long-term preservation proved much greater than anticipated after the initial rust-prevention treatment failed to stop the boat corroding. It had to be placed in a sealed tank full of alkali sodium carbonate solution for four years until the corrosive chloride ions had been removed, and was then transferred to a purpose-built exhibition building to protect it further.
The expensive process of raising more sunken submarines will add little to our knowledge of life at sea during World War II. But each time a U-boat is found, it places one more jigsaw piece in its correct place, giving us a clearer picture of the history of the U-boat wars. This is the true purpose of archaeology.
This year marks the forth year of our annual Research Photography Competition at BU. We received 31 submissions from BU academics, students across all levels and professional services.
Sharing research through photography is a great opportunity to make often complex subjects much more accessible to all. This year over 1,500 people from all over the world voted in the competition, showing the power of images to engage and inspire. The research behind photos this year included areas such as archaeology, dementia and forensic science, among others.
The photography theme this year was people. The theme was open to interpretation, with photographers choosing to take an image of their research team, show people who might benefit or be affected by the research or even take a point of view shot. This year’s winners were announced in the Atrium Art Gallery on Tuesday 20 March, with prizes presented by Professor John Fletcher, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation. Details of the winners can be found below.
The photos are currently displayed in an art exhibition in the Atrium Art Gallery which demonstrates the creativity of our BU researchers and the diversity of research being undertaken. It’s a really enjoyable way to find out about research in areas within and outside your discipline or interests, and value the work and efforts. Do drop in and see the images, if you have a few minutes to spare!
The winners of the 2018 Research Photography Competition are:
1st place: Virtual Reality: The best way to train surgeons of the future?
In recent years we have seen a decline in theatre operating training time for junior surgeons. Simulators have subsequently been increasingly integrated as training, selection and evaluation tools. To fully formally integrate simulation into orthopaedic training we require evidence that the simulators are valid representations of the operations they seek to replicate. This is one the current research focus at Orthopaedic Research Institute (ORI) and we pursue to validate and develop virtual reality orthopaedic simulators so that they may be adopted into mainstream clinical practice.
2nd place: Soil micro-organisms
By Hai Luu (Postgraduate student, Faculty of Science and Technology).
Ciliates protozoa are a distinct group of unicellular organisms. They are abundant phagotrophic micro-organisms in soil, playing important role in food webs by controlling the abundance of smaller microbes and recycling organic matter. Ciliates are characterised by some specific traits. Firstly, ciliates are dikaryotic organisms due to having two different cell nuclei; one is responsible for reproduction; the other one carries out cell functions. Secondly, they use cilia for locomotion and feeding. Interestingly, ciliates can reproduce asexually and sexually. From an ecological and functional point of view, ciliates can be used as bioindicators of soil quality – and this is the aim of our research. We are investigating the species richness and abundance of ciliated protozoa in natural and agricultural soils in order to assess their potential as bioindicators of soil quality. Soil quality plays an important role in agricultural production in terms of both quantity and quality, this links closely to quality of human life. This image shows Colpoda cucullus, a terrestrial ciliate commonly found in soils around the world, which was taken as a point of view shot through a microscope.
By Dr Nicole Ferdinand (Senior Lecturer in Events Management) and her MSc Events Management student researchers: Diane Nthurima (pictured on the left), Cindy Chen (pictured on the right), Rui Bao, Yi-Hsin Chen, Simona Georgieva, Amelie Lonia, Anh Thu Pham, Taylor Treacy and Sharif Zandani.
The photo is a joint entry by the co-creators of the Carnival U which consists of 10 enthusiastic and one BU academic. Together they are embarking on a journey to create a unique a fusion project. The students are working together with BU academic, Dr Nicole Ferdinand, CEL Learning and Teaching Fellow 2017/18, to create 4 workshops which target other university students interested in Carnival. They will engage in action research as part of the development of their workshops as well as evaluate the overall effectiveness of their co-creation efforts which will form the basis of an academic research paper. The project will also leave an educational legacy for other students wishing to develop event management, marketing and digital literacy skills.
The exhibition will be open until Thursday, 29 March at 2pm, in the Atrium Art Gallery on Talbot Campus. Please do fill in one of our feedback cards in the gallery after visiting the exhibition.
Huge numbers of pregnant women and new mothers are taking their own lives in Nepal as they deal with extreme poverty, natural disasters, domestic violence and oppression. Research shows suicide represents 16% of all deaths in women of reproductive age. The rate is higher than previously recorded and there has been a considerable increase over the past few years. But a new project which trained midwives about mental health issues might hold the key to turning this around.
Suicide is primarily associated with unwanted pregnancy or the feeling of being trapped in poverty or situations of sexual and physical abuse. A study of 202 pregnant women (carried out between September and December 2014) found that 91% of them experienced some kind of physical, emotional or sexual abuse – mostly at the hands of their husbands and/or mother-in-laws.
Pregnancy is a known trigger for mental health problems. But gender discrimination and domestic violence are making matters worse. In addition to these issues, natural disasters are also a huge contributing factor to the spiralling mental health problems of young mothers.
Lack of control
In Nepal, making decisions about seeking maternity care is not in the hands of the pregnant woman but usually lies with her mother-in-law or husband. When young women marry they move in with their husbands’ family and their lives are ruled by their in-laws. These women often have little say in seeking health care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period.
In many poor families, husbands migrate for work leaving their young wives with family. Nepal has a real migrant workers economy with close to 50% of Nepalis relying on financial help from relatives abroad. Mental health problems can worsen for women who have been taken away from their own families. In other cases, young women face domestic violence due to their husbands’ drinking leading to mental health issues and suicide.
There is also a lack of understanding of pregnancy and childbirth-related mental health issues and husbands and mothers-in-law often fail to support these vulnerable young women. They in turn are reluctant to seek help due to the stigma associated with mental illness.
Cultural and social norms
Cultural practices and social norms, like gender inequalities and early marriage, hinder women who have a lack of choice when it comes to their role as mothers. There is also a preference for sons rather than daughters, who are seen as an “economic burden” in many families. If a woman is expecting a daughter, especially for the second or third time, this can also trigger mental health issues.
Depression and anxiety are common and affect ten to 15 out of every 100 pregnant women in the country. Postnatal depression is often reported, but less attention is given to more common and less obvious mental health issues.
Natural disasters and midwives
Recurrent earthquakes and floods exacerbate issues of depression and helplessness as women are forced to live in temporary shelters and have the burden of increased poverty.
For many rural Nepali women, the most qualified birth attendant they can expect to look after them is the Nepali Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs). But a study found that they received little or no formal training on perinatal mental health issues. Although there have been gradual improvements in health care for women during pregnancy, mental health support is leaving many women feeling that suicide is their only option.
As part of a Tropical Health and Education Trust project, funded by DFID, around 80 ANMs were trained on perinatal mental health issues. The project used UK-based volunteers in Nepal over two years.
The training helped raise awareness of mental health well-being and improved access to mental health care for pregnant women and new mothers. This is a vital first step towards improving community-based services for pregnant women in rural Nepal. But to offer hope to more young women there needs to be a significant increase in this type of training and awareness raising.
In the days before social media – and, presumably, media training – Gerald Ratner’s description of some of the products sold in his chain of jewellers as “total crap” became a byword for the corporate gaffe. Recently the chief executive of publisher Hachette Livre, Arnaud Nourry, seems to have suffered his own “Ratner moment” when he described ebooks in an interview with an Indian news site as a “stupid product”.
The interview, which was intended to address the future of digital publishing and specific issues facing the Indian publishing market, was widely misquoted and Nourry’s comments taken out of context. But there is no denying the fact that the publisher criticises his own industry (“We’re not doing very well”) and attacks ebooks for lacking creativity, not enhancing the reading experience in any way and not offering readers a “real” digital experience.
Some commenters on social media welcomed Nourry’s comments for their honesty. They highlight his seeming support for the idea that publishers should be championing writers and artists working to exploit the creative potential of digital formats to provide readers with experiences that may be challenging and disruptive, but also exhilarating and boundary pushing.
But many of the 1,000-plus commenters reacting to coverage of the story on The Guardian’s website spoke out against “fiddling for the sake of it” – claiming they were not interested in enhanced features or “gamified dancing baloney” borrowed from other media. They also listed the many practical enhancements that ebooks and ereaders do offer. The obvious one is the ability to instantly download books in remote locations where there are no bricks and mortar bookstores. But there are other less obvious enhancements, including being able to instantly access dictionary and encyclopedia entries (at least if you have wifi access) and the option to have the book read to you if you have visual impairments.
Elsewhere, Australian researcher Tully Barnett has shown how users of Kindle ereaders adapt features such as Highlights and Public Notes for social networking, demonstrating that even if ebooks are not that intrinsically innovative or creative, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t be made so by imaginative users.
Nourry clearly isn’t averse to the provocative soundbite – in the same interview he went on to say: “I’m not a good swallower” when asked about mergers and conglomeration in the publishing industry. On the other hand, he also seems very aware of the special place of books and reading in “culture, education, democracy” – so his use of the word “stupid” in this context is particularly inflammatory and insensitive.
My research on digital reading has taught me that debating books vs ereaders is always likely to arouse strong passions and emotions. Merely mentioning the word Kindle has led in some instances to my being shouted at – and readers of “dead tree” books are rightly protective and passionate about the sensory and aesthetic qualities of physical books that the digital version possibly can’t compete with.
But, equally, my research has shown that enhancements in terms of accessibility and mobility offer a lifeline to readers who might not be able to indulge their passion for reading without the digital.
In my latest project, academics from Bournemouth and Brighton universities, in collaboration with Digitales (a participatory media company), worked with readers to produce digital stories based on their reading lives and histories. A recurring theme, especially among older participants, was the scarcity of books in their homes and the fact that literacy and education couldn’t be taken for granted. Our stories also demonstrated how intimately reading is connected with self-worth and helps transform lives disrupted by physical and mental health issues – making comments about any reading as “stupid” particularly damaging and offensive.
I would like to know if Nourry would still call ebooks stupid products after watching Mary Bish’s story: My Life in Books from our project. A lifelong reader who grew up in a home in industrial South Wales with few books, Mary calls her iPad her “best friend” and reflects how before the digital age her reading life would have been cut short by macular degeneration.
As well as demonstrating that fairly basic digital tools can be used to create powerful stories, our project showed that the digital also makes us appreciate anew those features of the physical book we may take for granted, the touch, smell and feel of paper and the special place that a book handed down from generation to generation has in the context of family life.
Athletes from Western nations have various protections, and many now share equal rights in most aspects of the law. But when they travel to compete in countries with regressive human rights records, these protections can be lost.
Australia competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, both of which were held in Russia. It will again send a team to Russia to play in this year’s FIFA World Cup and aims to compete in the 2022 edition in Qatar. Both countries have poor human rights records, particularly on LGBTI+ issues.
Sport is often lauded as a platform to advance human rights. But, for LGBTI+ individuals and athletes, this may not necessarily be true. The continued hosting of mega sporting events in countries with anti-LGBTI+ laws brings the role of sport in campaigns to advance human rights into focus.
Sochi became a platform for LGBTI+ rights when Western activists called for a boycott based on several human rights concerns. Their resistance increased in direct response to the implementation of laws in Russia outlawing sexual minorities.
The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
Athlete activists have begun to challenge the hosting of mega sporting events in countries like Russia that ignore human rights and reinforce systems of oppression. But what has really changed since Sochi for Olympians?
This year a country with a questionable stance on LGBTI+ rights is again hosting the Winter Olympics. South Korea scores only 13% on the Rainbow Index, which measures the impacts of a country’s laws and policies on the lives of LGBTI+ people. This is only a marginally better score than Russia’s 8%.
Although homosexuality is legal in South Korea, LGBTI+ rights remain highly volatile. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has courted controversy with comments opposing homosexuality, and sexual minorities continue to face significant stigma in the region.
Australia is taking 51 athletes to compete in South Korea, with two openly gay women on the team. One, Belle Brockhoff, has criticised the anti-LGBTI+ laws in host countries. She joined 26 other athletes who signed a letter opposing Kazakhstan’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics due to its anti-LGBTI+ policies.
However, it is not only host nations that can be called to account for their poor LGBTI+ records. Adam Rippon, an openly gay figure skater who has won bronze in Pyeongchang, recently said he did not want to meet Vice President Mike Pence as part of an official reception for the US team. Rippon argued the Trump administration does not “represent the values that [he] was taught growing up”.
A Fox News executive has criticised the inclusion of “African-Americans, Asians and openly gay athletes” in the US team. He claimed that “Darker, Gayer, Different” was now a more suitable Olympic motto than “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.
Current evidence suggests that anti-LGBTI+ discrimination is rising. Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBTI+ charity, reports hate crimes toward the LGBTI+ community have increased: one in five LGBTI+ people have experienced a hate crime due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year.
In the US, Donald Trump tried to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Several states have attempted to pass laws to restrict access to bathrooms for people who are trans or gender-diverse.
With increased visibility comes increased risk
An increasing number of athletes now openly demonstrate their sexual orientation, but many acknowledge it leaves them open to homophobic abuse – especially on social media platforms.
Mega sporting events can be problematic for LGBTI+ athletes as many may not be “out” and there can be serious implications if they were to do so.
The safety and welfare of LGBTI+ athletes made headlines when a journalist went undercover in the athletes’ village at the 2016 Rio Olympics to identify out or closeted athletes. Several athletes who were identified were from countries where being gay is criminalised or even punishable by death.
Sport is responding at a notably slow pace to the advancement of LGBTI+ human rights.
Major sporting codes have shown they are not ready to tackle trans and gender diversity. For example, the Australian Football League recently banned transgender player Hannah Mouncey from joining its women’s competition.
There is still much work to be done around athletes with intersex variations, sex testing in elite-level competition, and transgender and transitioned athletes.
Hope for the future?
One particular social inclusion legacy to come from a mega sporting event is Pride House International. This initiative provides a safe space for the LGBTI+ community to engage with a sporting event.
In addition, the Principle 6 campaign, launched in response to Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, led to the expansion of that particular part of the Olympic Charter to include sexual orientation as something sport should be free from discrimination on.
It will be interesting to see whether the 2018 Winter Olympics can contribute to the advancement of LGBTI+ rights within South Korea and beyond. However, more scrutiny must be directed to the human rights records of potential host nations when awarding mega sporting events.
Western society has a rather specific view of what a good childhood should be like; protecting, sheltering and legislating to ensure compliance with it. However, perceptions of childhood vary greatly with geography, culture and time. What was it like to be a child in prehistoric times, for example – in the absence of toys, tablets and television?
In our new paper, published in Scientific Reports, we outline the discovery of children’s footprints in Ethiopia which show how children spent their time 700,000 years ago.
We first came across the question of what footprints can tell us about past childhood experiences a few years back while studying some astonishingly beautiful children’s footprints in Namibia, just south of Walvis Bay. In archaeological terms the tracks were young, dating only from around 1,500 years ago. They were made by a small group of children walking across a drying mud surface after a flock of sheep or goats. Some of these tracks were made by children as young as three-years-old in the company of slightly older children and perhaps young adolescents.
The detail in these tracks, preserved beneath the shifting sands of the Namibian Sand Sea, is amazing, and the pattern of footfall – with the occasional skip, hop and jump – shows they were being playful. The site also showed that children were trusted with the family flock of animals from an early age and, one assumes, they learnt from that experience how to function as adults were expected to within that culture.
No helicopter parents
But what about the childhood of our earlier ancestors – those that came before anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens)? Children’s tracks by Homo antecessor (1.2m to 800,000 years ago) were found at Happisburgh in East Anglia, a site dating to a million years ago. Sadly though, these tracks leave no insight into what these children were doing.
This assemblage of tracks is capped by an ash flow from a nearby volcano which has been dated to 700,000 years ago. The ash flow was deposited shortly after the tracks were left, although we don’t know precisely how soon after. The tracks are not as anatomically distinct as those from Namibia but they are smaller and may have been made by children as young as one or two, standing in the mud while their parents and older siblings got on with their activities. This included knapping the stone tools with which they butchered the carcass of the hippo.
The findings create a unique and momentary insight into the world of a child long ago. They clearly were not left at home with a babysitter when the parents were hunting. In the harsh savannah plains of the East African Rift Valley, it was natural to bring your children to such daily tasks, perhaps so they could observe and learn.
This is not surprising, when one considers the wealth of ethnographic evidence from modern, culturally distinct human societies. Babies and children are most often seen as the lowliest members of their social and family groups. They are often expected to contribute to activities that support the mother, and the wider family group, according to their abilities. In many societies, small boys tend to help with herding, while young girls are preferred as babysitters. Interestingly, adult tools – like axes, knives, machetes, even guns – are often freely available to children as a way of learning.
So, if we picture the scene at Melka Kunture, the children observing the butchery were probably allowed to handle stone tools and practice their skills on discarded pieces of carcass while staying out of the way of the fully-occupied adults. This was their school room, and the curriculum was the acquisition of survival skills. There was little time or space to simply be a child, in the sense that we would recognise today.
However, these observations contrasts to the story that emerged last year based on tracks from the older Homo Homo erectus (1.5m-year-old) at Ileret, located further south in the Rift Valley, just within the northern border of Kenya. Here the tracks have been interpreted as the product of adult hunting groups moving along a lake shore, rather than a domestic scene such as that at Melka Kunture. However, these scenes aren’t mutually exclusive and both show the power of footprints to provide a snapshot into past hominin behaviour.
But it does seem like the overwhelming parenting lesson from the distant past is that children had more responsibilities, less adult supervision and certainly no indulgence from their parents. It is a picture of a childhood very different from our own, at least from the privileged perspective of life in Western society.