Monday, February 23, 2015

Gallagh Man, a bog body from Co. Galway


In 1821 members of the O’Kelly family made a gruesome discovery as they dug turf near their home at Gallagh, Co. Galway. As they sliced through the dark peat, they suddenly came across the remains of dead body, which had lain there undisturbed for over 2,000 years. Remarkably, this ancient body was in a near perfect state of preservation.  The cold, acidic, oxygen-free conditions of the bog had prevented the remains from decaying and had mummified the human flesh. They had found a bog body.
An enterprising,  if somewhat morbid family, the O’Kellys saw an opportunity to make some money.  They re-buried the bog body and then charged visitors a small fee to excavate and view it. The remains soon became a macabre  tourist attraction and the O’Kellys continued to exhume and re-inter the bog body for the next eight years. Unfortunately, this caused the corpse to deteriorate and explains why it is a relatively poor state of preservation today. In 1829 the Royal Irish Academy finally intervened and purchased the human remains, which were subsequently preserved.
Read the rest of this article...

Ancient Orkney child remains excavated


Archaeologists have been excavating the site of a child's grave on an Orkney island.
The grave - which it is believed could be up to 4,000 years old - was uncovered on Sanday's shoreline by winter storms and high tides.
It is thought the skeleton could be that of a child aged between 10 and 12.
The find was made by Carrie Brown, of See Orkney tours, who called in local archaeologists.
Historic Scotland was alerted, and experts were sent to Sanday on Saturday.
Read the rest of this article...

Ancient shrines used for divination found in Armenia


Three shrines, dating back about 3,300 years, have been discovered within a hilltop fortress at Gegharot, in Armenia, according to an article published by Live Science. 


A shrine excavated at the entrance of a fortress' west terrace in Gegharot in Armenia.  The stone stele like would've been a focal point for rituals practiced there some  3,300 years ago 
[Credit: Professor Adam Smith] 

Local rulers at the time likely used the shrines for divination, a practice aimed at predicting the future, the archaeologists involved in the discovery say. 

Each of the three shrines consists of a single room holding a clay basin filled with ash and ceramic vessels. A wide variety of artifacts were discovered including clay idols with horns, stamp seals, censers used to burn substances and a vast amount of animal bones with markings on them. During divination practices, the rulers and diviners may have burnt some form of substances and drank wine, allowing them to experience “altered” states of mind, the archaeologists say.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, February 9, 2015

Remains of Bronze Age bowman found in Scotland


Archaeologists have discovered new artefacts suggesting a Highland village resident of 4,500 years ago fought with bow and arrow. 


Holes in the wrist guard could be for leather bindings  [Credit: AOC Archaeology] 

A Bronze Age burial cist in Drumnadrochit, near Inverness, was found last month, and researchers have now found shards of pottery and a wrist guard, for use when shooting using bow and arrow, at the same site. 

Now work is being done to glean as much information about the finds, and it’s hoped they’ll be able to determine the gender of the skeletal remains. 

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Scientists recreate ancient Siberian brain surgery techniques for first time


Experts undertake pioneering tests on skulls to finally understand how doctors carried out remarkable operations more than 2,300 years ago.

General view of the tracks of the trepanation on the male scull from Bike-III
Picture: Aleksei Krivoshapkin

More details about the remarkable brain surgery techniques carried out by the earliest Siberians 2,300 years ago have been revealed by scientists.
Neurosurgeons have been working with anthropologists and archaeologists over the past year following the discovery of holes in the skulls of three ancient sets of remains in the Altai Mountains.
Evidence at the time suggested they were examples of trepanation – the oldest form of neurosurgery – with speculation it showed the early nomads had learned the skilful technique from the medical centres of the ancient world, or had uncovered it at the same time as prominent doctors in Greece and the Middle East.
Read the rest of this article...

Face of Siberian tattooed princess finally revealed


Taxidermy expert uses painstaking techniques to create first ever replica of the ice maiden found preserved in the Siberian high altitude plateau.


'The face is very accurate to how Princess Ukok actually looked'
[Credit: The Siberian Times/Marcel Nyffenegger] 

The first replica face has been created of the famous tattooed Siberian princess found mummified and preserved after almost 2,500 years in permafrost. A Swiss expert has used special taxidermy techniques to build an accurate reconstruction of the ice maiden who was uncovered by archaeologists in 1993.

Known as Princess Ukok, after the high altitude plateau on which she was discovered, her body was decorated in the best-preserved, and most elaborate, ancient art ever found. While her discovery was exciting, particularly given how intact her remains were, her face and neck skin had deteriorated, with no real clue as to what she once looked like.

Read the rest of this article...

Big-toothed fossil may be primitive new human

Penghu 1 mandible. Its morphology suggests the presence of a robust, primitive type of hominin so far unrecognised in the Pleistocene Asian fossil record (Y Kaifu)

The first known prehistoric human from Taiwan has been identified and may represent an entirely new species that lived as recently as 10,000 years ago, according to a new study.
The newly discovered big-toothed human, 'Penghu 1', strengthens the growing body of evidence that Homo sapiens was not the only species from our genus living in Europe and Asia between 200,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Anthropologists have learned that Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo floresiensis (aka. the 'Hobbit') lived in Europe and Asia within that time frame.
Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Anthropology: Ancient skull from Galilee cave offers clues to the first modern Europeans

Interior of the Manot Cave in Israel's Galilee, where a 55,000-year-old skull sheds new light on human migration patterns.

The discovery of a 55,000-year-old partial skull in Northern Israel provides new insights into the migration of modern humans out of Africa. The rare find is reported in the journal Nature this week by an international team of Israeli, North American and European researchers.

A key event in human evolution was the expansion of modern humans of African origin across Eurasia, replacing all other forms of hominin (humans and their predecessors), around 40,000-60,000 years ago. However, due to the scarcity of human fossils from this period, these ancestors of all present-day non-African modern populations have largely remained a mystery.
Now, researchers describe a partial skull that dates to around 55,000, which was found at Manot Cave in Israel's Western Galilee. 
Read the rest of this article...

Skull discovery suggests location where humans first had sex with Neanderthals

Views of the human skull, with missing jaw, found in western Galilee, northern Isreal and estimated at 55,000 years old. Photograph: Tel Aviv University and University of Vienna

An ancient skull found in a cave in northern Israel has cast light on the migration of modern humans out of Africa and the dawn of humanity’s colonisation of the world.
For most palaeontologists that might be enough for a single fossil, but the braincase has offered much more: a likely location where the first prehistoric trysts resulted in modern humans having sex with their heavy-browed Neanderthal cousins.
Discovered in a cave in western Galilee, the partial skull belonged to an individual, probably a woman, who lived and died in the region about 55,000 years ago, placing modern humans there and then for the first time ever.
Read the rest of this article...

Scan finds new tattoos on 5300-year-old Iceman


A new study has used advanced imaging techniques to identify previously unknown tattoos on the ribcage of the 5300-year old man known as Ötzi, bringing his total number of tattoos to 61.
But first, some context
In September of 1991 hikers in the Ötzal Alps along the border of Austria and Italy happened upon the mummified corpse who became an archaeological celebrity. After Ötzi died at the hands of unknown attackers one late spring or early summer around 3500 BC, his body and belongings were left in a small gully where they were entombed beneath an alpine glacier. A combination of glacial meltwater and extreme cold resulted in natural mummification of his body.
Read the rest of this article...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Maybe Early Humans Weren't The First To Get A Good Grip

An example of a human precision grip — grasping a first metacarpal from the thumb of a specimen of Australopithecus africanus that's thought to be 2 to 3 million years old.

The special tool-wielding power of human hands may go back further in evolutionary history than scientists have thought.
That's according to a new study of hand bones from an early relative of humans calledAustralopithecus africanus. Researchers used a powerful X-ray technique to scan the interior of the bones, and they detected a telltale structure that's associated with a forceful precision grip.
"It's clear evidence that these australopiths were using their hands and using grips that are very consistent with what modern humans did and what our recent relatives like Neanderthals did," says Matthew Skinner, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Kent, in the United Kingdom. He was part of the team that published the new work online Thursday in Science.
Read the rest of this article...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Stone Age artefacts found in Norway's melting glaciers


Around 7,000 years ago the Earth was enjoying a warm climate. Now glaciers and patches of perennial ice in the high mountains of Southern Norway have started to melt again, revealing ancient layers. 


A small knife with a wooden handle, probably from the Iron Age, was one of the  treasures found by archaeologists at the glacier Lendbreen in Oppland County,  Norway during the 2014 summer season [Credit: Oppland County] 

“Actually we should be slowly approaching a new ice age. But in the past 20 years we have witnessed artefacts turning up in summer from increasingly deeper layers of the glaciers,” says Lars Pilø. 

He is an archaeologist working for Oppland County, and has for many years done fieldwork in glaciers and ice patches, finding things our ancestors discarded or lost.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Stone Age man wasn't necessarily more advanced than the Neanderthals



A multi-purpose bone tool dating from the Neanderthal era has been discovered by University of Montreal researchers, throwing into question our current understanding of the evolution of human behaviour. It was found at an archaeological site in France. "This is the first time a multi-purpose bone tool from this period has been discovered. It proves that Neanderthals were able to understand the mechanical properties of bone and knew how to use it to make tools, abilities usually attributed to our species, Homo sapiens," said Luc Doyon of the university's Department of Anthropology, who participated in the digs. Neanderthals lived in Europe and western Asia in the Middle Paleolithic between around 250,000 to 28,000 years ago. Homo sapiens is the scientific term for modern man.
The production of bone tools by Neanderthals is open to debate. For much of the twentieth century, prehistoric experts were reluctant to recognize the ability of this species to incorporate materials like bone into their technological know-how and likewise their ability to master the techniques needed to work bone. However, over the past two decades, many clues indicate the use of hard materials from animals by Neanderthals. "Our discovery is an additional indicator of bone work by Neanderthals and helps put into question the linear view of the evolution of human behaviour," Doyon said.
Read the rest of this article...

Recreating the ancient Greek drinking game Kottabos


Years before beer pong was invented, the ancient Greeks played kottabos to pass the time at symposia (drinking parties) where privileged men reclined on cushion couches and played the game that is found illustrated on ancient artworks. Women of fine society didn’t attend symposia but hetaires (courtesans) played the sloppy game where winners received all sorts of prizes, such as sweets and even sexual favours. 


Banqueter playing the kottabos game; kalos inscription in the name of Leagros.  Side A of the neck of an Attic red-figure neck-amphora, ca. 510 BC. From Vulci  [Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen/WikiCommons] 

Assistant Art History Professor Heather Sharpe of West Chester University in Pennsylvania tried to recreate the game with her students. It wasn’t as easy as it appears “because we do have these illustrations of it, but they only show one part of the game – where individuals are about to flick some dregs at a target.”

Read the rest of this article...

Parasiteneier aus der Keltenzeit in Basel gefunden

Ei eines Spulwurms (Ascaris sp.) mit der typischen gewellten Membran. Foto: IPNA

In Proben aus der früheren keltischen Siedlung «Basel-Gasfabrik» sind Archäologen der Universität Basel bei Laboranalysen auf Eier von Darmparasiten gestossen – und schliessen damit auf eine mangelhafte Hygiene der damaligen Bevölkerung. Mittels spezieller Methoden der Geoarchäologie fanden sie drei verschiedene Parasitenarten, wie sie in der Fachzeitschrift «Journal of Archaeological Science» berichten.

Read the rest of this article...