Saturday, April 18, 2015

Study report revisits cave of prehistoric cannibals



In 2012, a detailed report of prehistoric cannibalism in Gough’s cave in Cheddar Gorge (Somerset), UK, attracted media attention with thenews that a group of prehistoric humans, otherwise known as Magdalenians, systematically and ritualistically consumed and utilized the remains of members of their own group about 14,700 years ago.   
Now, a new report published in the Journal of Human Evolution sheds additional light on the discovery, narrowing the time frame in which the cannibalistic events took place and the extent of the activity.
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More Evidence of Cannibalism Found in Gough’s Cave

(The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London)

Ancient human remains from Gough’s Cave, located in southwest England, exhibit signs of a sophisticated culture of butchering and carving of human remains, according to scientists from the Natural History Museum of London, University College London, and IPHES and the Universitat Rovira I Virgili in Spain. In 2011, scientists from the museum announced that the earliest-known skull cups had been found in Gough’s Cave. “We’ve identified a far greater degree of human modification than recorded in earlier research. We’ve found undoubting evidence for defleshing, disarticulation, human chewing, crushing of spongy bone, and the cracking of bones to extract marrow,” Silvia Bello of the Natural History Museum said in a press release. 

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Ältester Nachweis von Pilzen als Nahrungsmittel


Untersuchungen von altem Zahnstein ergaben, dass Menschen bereits in der Altsteinzeit Pflanzen und Pilze konsumierten.

Über die Nahrungsgewohnheiten der Menschen, die im Jungpaläolithikum, dem jüngeren Abschnitt der Altsteinzeit vor 18.000 bis 12.000 Jahren während der archäologischen Kulturstufe des Magdaléniens lebten, ist nur wenig bekannt. Besonders schwer lassen sich pflanzliche Nahrungsstoffe nachweisen, denn sie hinterlassen nur geringe Spuren im menschlichen Körper. Unter der Leitung von Robert Power vom Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie in Leipzig hat ein internationales Forscherteam den uralten Zahnstein von Menschen aus dem Magdalénien untersucht, deren Überreste man in der El Mirón-Höhle in Spanien ausgegraben hatte. Die Forscher konnten nachweisen, dass diese Menschen bereits im Jungpaläolithikum zusätzlich zu anderen Nahrungsbestandteilen auch verschiedene pflanzliche Nahrungsstoffe und Pilze auf der Speisekarte hatten.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Palaeolithic remains show cannibalistic habits of human ancestors


Aalysis of ancient cadavers recovered at a famous archaeological site confirm the existence of a sophisticated culture of butchering and carving human remains, according to a team of scientists from the Natural History Museum, University College London, and a number of Spanish universities.

Gough's Cave in Somerset was thought to have given up all its secrets when excavations ended in 1992, yet research on human bones from the site has continued in the decades since. After its discovery in the 1880s, the site was developed as a show cave and largely emptied of sediment, at times with minimal archaeological supervision. The excavations uncovered intensively-processed human bones intermingled with abundant butchered large mammal remains and a diverse range of flint, bone, antler, and ivory artefacts.
New radiocarbon techniques have revealed remains were deposited over a very short period of time, possibly during a series of seasonal occupations, about 14,700 years ago.

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Complex cognition shaped the Stone Age hand axe, study shows


Emory Health Sciences—The ability to make a Lower Paleolithic hand axe depends on complex cognitive control by the prefrontal cortex, including the "central executive" function of working memory, a new study finds.
PLOS ONE published the results, which counter theories that Stone Age hand axes are simple tools that don't involve higher-order executive function of the brain.
"For the first time, we've showed a relationship between the degree of prefrontal brain activity, the ability to make technological judgments, and success in actually making stone tools," says Dietrich Stout, an experimental archeologist atEmory University and the leader of the study. "The findings are relevant to ongoing debates about the origins of modern human cognition, and the role of technological and social complexity in brain evolution across species."
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Neanderthals manipulated the bodies of adults and children shortly after death


Since the Marillac site in France was unearthed, the discovery of fossil remains of animals (90% belonging to reindeer), humans and Mousterian tools has enabled the site to be identified as a hunting area for Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). But the most surprising thing about the site is the presence of a large quantity of bone remains of these hominids, many of which are yet to be analysed.

Now, a study published in the ‘American Journal of Physical Anthropology’ has for the first time analysed the fragments of three individuals found between 1967 and 1980 at the French site dating back some 57,600 years. These are an incomplete diaphysis (middle part of long bones) of a right radius, another of a left fibula and the majority of a right femur. The latter belonged to a child.

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Monticello, un établissement métallurgique néolithique




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Britain’s Oldest Cremated Human Bone Discovered


It had been thought that the nomadic hunter-gatherers of Britain’s Mesolithic period may have abandoned their dead, but a deposit containing cremated human bone was uncovered by a team from Oxford Archaeology in southeastern England. The bone probably represents at least one adult, whose remains were recovered with a large amount of charcoal, perhaps from a pyre that would have had to have reached a high temperature to achieve the complete combustion of the corpse. “We were expecting this cremation to date to the Bronze Age: we were so surprised when the first radiocarbon date came back as Mesolithic that we did two more to double check!” said Nick Gilmour, excavation leader. Sharp flint blades were found in the same pit, and although they were not finished tools, they could have been used for cutting. Three similar Mesolithic cremations are known in Ireland, and several have been found in continental Europe. For another find dating to this period, see "Beachcombing in the Mesolithic."

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

France creates replica cave for spectacular prehistoric art


The replica cave art shows hundreds of animals - many no longer found in Europe
France has inaugurated a giant replica cave containing reproductions of prehistoric drawings of animals.
The original drawings, showing bears, panthers, rhinos and other creatures, are roughly 32,000 years old.
President Francois Hollande toured the site on Friday - a copy of the closely-guarded Grotte Chauvet in the Ardeche region of southern France.
The original is closed to the public. The copy, at nearby Vallon-Pont d'Arc, is expected to attract many tourists.
The Chauvet drawings are believed to be the oldest cave art in the world. The limestone cave, with hundreds of vivid charcoal images, was discovered by potholers in 1994 and is now a Unesco World Heritage site.
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Replica of prehistoric French grotto to open

The replica of the Chauvet cave at Pont d'Arc is to open its doors. Photo: AFP

A stunning replica of the 36,000 year-old Grotte Chauvet, home to the oldest figurative cave drawings in the world and an Unesco Heritage site, is to be officially opened by President François Hollande on Friday. Here's a look inside.
The grotto at Vallon-Pont d'Arc in the Ardeche region of southern France, is a reproduction of the closely guarded Grotte Chauvet, which was granted World Heritage status last year.
The French president will officially inaugurate the museum on Friday before its opening on April 25th.
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Excavating the Cromlech Tumulus on Slievemore: The story so far


Looking south across the western part of the site. The enclosure wall can be seen on the right of the picture whilst the western end of the ovoid building can be seen at the left. 
Image: Achill Archaeological Field School

Last year (2014), Achill Archaeological Field School detailed the background to an exciting excavationthat was about to begin on Slievemore Mountain, on Achill, the largest island in Ireland, located off the north west coast of County Mayo.

The site was first noted on the 1838 edition of the Ordnance Survey map where the labels ‘Cromlech’ and ‘Tumulus’ are used, apparently relating to two separate but adjacent sites a little to the west of a well known Neolithic court tomb. On later editions of the Ordnance Survey map and in most subsequent discussions the two terms are conflated and used to describe all of the visible archaeology in that location. Serious archaeological discussion of the site began in the 1890’s when Col. W.G. Wood Martin described the various elements as a ‘sepulchral complex’. Subsequent opinions have been divided over how the site should be categorised.

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Are Neanderthal bone flutes the work of Ice Age hyenas?


'Bone flutes' found accross Europe in caves are more likely to be the scavenged remains of cave bears finds this study. Credit: Cajus G. Diedrich

A study in Royal Society Open Science says that so called 'Neanderthal bone flutes' are no more than the damaged bones of cave bear cubs left by scavengers during the Ice Age.

The paper suggests that the 'flutes', which are often attributed as being the oldest musical instruments in the world, were misidentified when they were first discovered in the 1920s. The author of the paper, Cajus G. Diedrich, says the bones are the damaged remains of bear cubs left by the teeth of Ice Age spotted hyenas.

The cave bear bones, discovered in cave systems in Eastern Europe, appear to have aligned holes drilled into their lengths which makes them resemble broken flutes. In past work researchers have identified the holes as matching with a musical diatonic scale sequence, among the most widespread of musical scales known, and cited this as evidence that the bones are early musical instruments. Some musicians have even been able to create music from replicas of the bones.

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Embracing skeletons unearthed in Greece


Almost 6,000 years ago, the man was placed behind the woman with his arms around her body, and their legs were intertwined. They were buried. 


A rare ancient Greek gravesite containing two intertwined corpses was discovered  by an international team that included Michael Galaty, head of Mississippi  State University's anthropology and Middle Eastern cultures department  [Credit: Mississippi State University] 

Why they were interred in this manner is not yet determined, but the international team that discovered them in Greece is still searching for answers, according to team member Michael Galaty, a Mississippi State University archaeologist. 

"There've only been a couple of prehistoric examples of this behavior around the world, but even when couples are buried together, they're beside each other and not typically touching," he said. "This couple was actually spooning. We assume they were partners of some kind, and because of DNA analysis, we do know they are male and female." Not only does Galaty head MSU's anthropology and Middle Eastern cultures department, but he also serves as interim director of the university's Cobb Institute of Archeology.

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Climate change is destroying Greenland’s earliest history

The settlement Qajaa at Ilulissat Ice Fjord in West Greenland. Over the past 3500 years this has been home to the three main Greenlandic cultures, attracted by the bountiful fishing opportunities at this boundary between water and ice. They have all used area to dispose of their tools of wood, bone, and even skin, forming an ancient rubbish dump known as a kitchen midden. These deposits have been preserved ever since in the permafrost of West Greenland. (Photo: Bo Elberling)

The frozen ground around Ilulissat Ice Fjord in western Greenland is a treasure trove for archaeologists.
The permafrost in this area, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, acts like a giant freezer, preserving the remains of the three major cultures of Greenland’s past in deposits known as kitchen middens -- essentially ancient dunghills created by the early cultures on Greenland.
These are the Saqqaq, Dorset and Thule peoples, who at various times in the last 3500 years all lived in the old settlement of Qajaa, in south Greenland.
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Jewelry Styles Suggest Northern Europeans Resisted Farming


Previous scholarship has shown a link between foraging and farming lifestyles and the adoption of particular ornaments. Now, for the first time, a team of researchers from the Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHUS), a collaborative arrangement between France’s National Center for Scientific Research and New York University, has studied the beads and bracelets worn by Europeans during the early Neolithic period to trace the spread of farming on the continent. They examined more than 200 bead types from more than 400 European archaeological sites spanning a 3,000 year period. Ornaments linked to farming populations, such as human-shaped beads and bracelets composed of perforated shells, spread from eastern Greece and the shores of the Black Sea to France’s Brittany region, and from the Mediterranean Sea northward to Spain. 

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Friday, April 10, 2015

L’australopithèque Little Foot a 3 670 000 ans


Des chercheurs d’institutions américaines, canadiennes, sud-africaines, et françaises publient cette semaine dans la revue Nature la datation de Little Foot. Découvert au nord-ouest de Johannesburg, au cœur du berceau de l’Humanité, dans la grotte de Silberberg (Sterkfontein), ce squelette presque complet d’un australopithèque est exceptionnel. Treize années ont été nécessaires à l’équipe de Ron Clarke (université de Witwatersrand, Afrique du Sud) pour dégager Little Foot (ou StW 573) de sa gangue rocheuse, des millions d’années après sa mort.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Woolly mammoth could roam again as extinct DNA merged with elephant


Harvard University spliced recreated genes from a woolly mammoth into the DNA of an elephant and found they functioned normally


A major step forward in bringing back the woolly mammoth has been taken by scientists at Harvard University who have inserted DNA from the extinct mammal into the genetic code of an elephant.
Geneticists have studied DNA from mammoths which were preserved in Arctic permafrost looking for genes which separated them from elephants, such as hairiness and ear size.
They then replicated the genes and spliced them into the genetic code of an elephant where they functioned normally.
It is the first time that mammoth genes have been alive for more than 3,300 years - although so far it has only been done in the lab.
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Did a volcanic cataclysm 40,000 years ago trigger the final demise of the Neanderthals?


The Campanian Ignimbrite (CI) eruption in Italy 40,000 years ago was one of the largest volcanic cataclysms in Europe and injected a significant amount of sulfur-dioxide (SO2) into the stratosphere. Scientists have long debated whether this eruption contributed to the final extinction of the Neanderthals. This new study by Benjamin A. Black and colleagues tests this hypothesis with a sophisticated climate model. 


Figure 4 in B.A. Black et al.: This image shows annually averaged temperature  anomalies in excess of 3°C for the first year after the Campanian Ignimbrite (CI)  eruption compared with spatial distribution of hominin sites with radiocarbon ages  close to that of the eruption [Credit: B.A. Black et al. and the journal Geology] 

Black and colleagues write that the CI eruption approximately coincided with the final decline of Neanderthals as well as with dramatic territorial and cultural advances among anatomically modern humans. Because of this, the roles of climate, hominin competition, and volcanic sulfur cooling and acid deposition have been vigorously debated as causes of Neanderthal extinction.

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