Thursday, November 20, 2014

Climate change was not to blame for the collapse of the Bronze Age


Scientists will have to find alternative explanations for a huge population collapse in Europe at the end of the Bronze Age as researchers prove definitively that climate change - commonly assumed to be responsible - could not have been the culprit.

Archaeologists and environmental scientists from the University of Bradford, University of Leeds, University College Cork, Ireland (UCC), and Queen’s University Belfast have shown that the changes in climate that scientists believed to coincide with the fall in population in fact occurred at least two generations later.

Their results, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that human activity starts to decline after 900BC, and falls rapidly after 800BC, indicating a population collapse. But the climate records show that colder, wetter conditions didn’t occur until around two generations later.

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Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no


In an extensive, multi-institution study led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center, researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans.

The study looked at the entire nasal complex of Neanderthals and involved researchers with diverse academic backgrounds. Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the research also indicates that the Neanderthal nasal complex was not adaptively inferior to that of modern humans, and that the Neanderthals' extinction was likely due to competition from modern humans and not an inability of the Neanderthal nose to process a colder and drier climate.

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Solent's Stone Age village 'washing away'


In 1999, a team of divers off the Isle of Wight came across a lobster busily digging out its burrow. To their surprise they found it was kicking out flints from the Stone Age. However, archaeologists now fear artefacts dating back more than 8,000 years are simply being "washed away". 


Diver recovering flint [Credit: Michael Pitts] 

Bouldnor Cliff is a submerged Stone Age settlement off the coast of Yarmouth which was covered in silt as great sheets of ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age. 

It is an important site because the muddy conditions have helped preserve organic materials from the distant past that do not normally survive on dry land. 

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Woolly mammoth could be cloned by South Korean scientists


Scientists are considering an attempt to ressurect the extinct woolly mammoth. But concerns have been raised about the ethics of such a project

The fierce debate over whether to clone a woolly mammoth has been reignited by a fresh attempt to bring the species back from the dead.
South Korean scientists believe the extinct 'Mammuthus' can be brought back to life using the DNA of an extremely well preserved mammoth found in the Siberian snow.
Insung Hwang, a geneticist at Sooam, the South Korean biotech company working on the project, said this week his team think it is an achievable goal, using the fresh blood samples they have recovered.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rare pre-historic basket found in North Uist set for imminent excavation


A pre-historic woven reed basket found last week in North Uist is to be excavated by specialist archaeologists within the next few days.
The discovery, made by a local resident, has excited islanders and archaeologists for its rarity and excellent state of preservation.
It was found last week, exposed in sediment on a stretch of beach at Baile Siar after recent gales. Storms frequently expose the remains of ancient settlements in this area.
The basket, about half a metre in length, contains a handful of worked quartz stones, and a handful of diverse animal bones.
Local archaeologist Kate MacDonald of Uist Archaeology spoke of her excitement at the find.
She said: “It’s rare to find well-preserved organic material. It indicates that this basket must have been kept under water from the day that it was placed, or lost, there. Perhaps it was in a freshwater loch until it was covered over by encroaching beach sediment.
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5,000 year old footprints found in Denmark


Archaeologists working on the excavations for the Femern Bælt Tunnel have discovered several well-preserved footprints dating back to the Stone Age. 


The Stone Age impressions were during the excavation of the Femern Bælt tunnel  [Credit: Copenhagen Post] 

The prints were left by fishermen looking to safeguard their weirs (river barriers used for fishing) in a storm 5,000 years ago, announced Lolland-Falster Museum. 

"It is quite surreal to have found human footprints," said archaeologist Terje Stafseth in a press release. 

"We normally find historical clues in the form of human waste, but here we have found an entirely different clue and a first in Danish archaeology: a physical print left behind by a human."

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First Europeans 'weathered Ice Age'


The DNA comes from a man who lived in westernmost Russia some 36,000 years ago

The genetic ancestry of the earliest Europeans survived the ferocious Ice Age that took hold after the continent was initially settled by modern people.
That is the suggestion of a study of DNA from a male hunter who lived in western Russia 36,000 years ago.
His genome is not exactly like those of people who lived in Europe just after the ice sheets melted 10,000 years ago.
But the study suggests the earliest Europeans did contribute their genes to later populations.
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Monday, November 3, 2014

Sound Illusions: Eerie Echoes May Have Inspired Prehistoric Cave Art


Humankind has a long-standing affinity for art. As far back as 40,000 years ago, people were decorating cave walls in Indonesia and in Europe, often with panoramas of thundering herds of wildlife. Now, a growing line of research suggests that the "thundering" part of that description is no coincidence.

Echoes, reverberations and other then-inexplicable auditory illusions may have inspired mankind's earliest artists, according to Steven Waller, a researcher at Rock Art Acoustics in La Mesa, California. In a talk to be presented today (Oct. 28) in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Waller weaves together a theory of ancient art that focuses as much on sound as on sight.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Archaeologists have discovered a sunken village from millennia ago


The first Stone Age settlement identified in Polish waters has been discovered in the lake Gil Wielki, Iława Lake District (Warmia and Mazury) by underwater archaeologists led by Dr. Andrzej Pydyn from the Department of Underwater Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.
The discovery was made in the project carried out in cooperation with the Warsaw branch of the Scientific Association of Polish Archaeologists.

"In shallow water in the reservoir we found a large amount of animal bones, remains of tools made of antler and numerous fragments of pottery, used at various times by ancient communities. Among them, the fragments that caught our attention relate to the tradition of late Neolithic, probably associated with the so-called Corded Ware culture" - told PAP Dr. Andrzej Pydyn.

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Decrypting the enigmatic Phaistos Disk


The decoding of the Phaistos Disk has puzzled specialists for over a century, however new findings describe the disk as “the first Minoan CD-ROM’ featuring a prayer to a mother. Gareth Owens, Erasmus coordinator at the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Crete, speaking at the TEI of Western Macedonia on Monday, said the disk is dedicated to a “mother”. 


Discovered in 1907 in the Minoan palace of Phaistos in Crete, the disk has been the  subject of many an interpretation attempt. However, the small total body of text - it consists  of only 241 signs on both sides, based on 45 individual signs - defies any  decisive conclusion [Credit: Yves Brise/Flickr] 

“The most stable word and value is ‘mother’, and in particular the mother goddess of the Minoan era,” said Dr. Owens. He says there is one complex of signs found in three parts of one side of the disk spelling I-QE-KU-RJA, with I-QE meaning “great lady of importance” while a key word appears to be AKKA, or “pregnant mother,” according to the researcher. One side is devoted to a pregnant woman and the other to a woman giving birth.

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Forscherteam identifiziert 3500 Jahre alte Königsstadt


Marburger Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler haben die Identität einer 3500 Jahre alten Königsstadt enthüllt. Bei Ausgrabungen des Vorgeschichtlichen Seminars der Philipps-Universität in Kayalıpınar (Türkei) entdeckten sie Keilschrifttafeln, die erstmalig den hethitischen Namen des Ortes nennen: Samuha. Zu diesem Ergebnis kommt Professorin Dr. Elisabeth Rieken vom Marburger Fachgebiet Vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft und Keltologie bei ihrer kürzlich abgeschlossenen Bearbeitung der neuen Textfunde.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Stunning new finds from Antikythera


A Greek and international team of divers and archaeologists has retrieved stunning new finds from an ancient Greek ship that sank more than 2,000 years ago off the remote island of Antikythera. The rescued antiquities include tableware, ship components, and a giant bronze spear that would have belonged to a life-sized warrior statue. 


WHOI Diving Safety Officer Edward O'Brien "spacewalks" in the Exosuit, suspended  from the Hellenic Navy vessel THETIS during the 2014 Return to Antikythera project  [Credit: Brett Seymour, Copyright: Return to Antikythera 2014] 

The Antikythera wreck was first discovered in 1900 by sponge divers who were blown off course by a storm. They subsequently recovered a spectacular haul of ancient treasure including bronze and marble statues, jewellery, furniture, luxury glassware, and the surprisingly complex Antikythera Mechanism. But they were forced to end their mission at the 55-meter-deep site after one diver died of the bends and two were paralyzed. Ever since, archaeologists have wondered if more treasure remains buried beneath the sea bed.

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Découverte d’un nouveau pré-Néandertalien en France : l’homme de Tourville-la-Rivière


Une équipe d’archéologues de l’Inrap a mis au jour, sur le site préhistorique de Tourville-la-Rivière (Seine-Maritime), les vestiges d’un pré-Néandertalien. Cette découverte fait aujourd’hui l’objet d’une publication dans la revue internationale PLOS ONE par un groupe de chercheurs du CNRS, de l’Inrap, de l’université nationale australienne, du Centre national de recherche sur l’évolution de l’Homme à Burgos (Espagne) et du département d’Anthropologie de l’université Washington à Saint Louis.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Neolithic finds unearthed at Scilly Isles site


Archaeologists have discovered one of the largest hauls of Neolithic pottery in the south west on St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly. 


The Old Quay site on the edge of the sea at St Martin's  [Credit: The Cornishman] 

Thousands of pottery shards, dating back between 3,500 and 3,000 BC, have been uncovered thanks to a project run by volunteers. 

Reading University lecturer and archaeologist Dr Duncan Garrow headed the Stepping Stones project with Fraser Sturt, of Southampton University. 

Dr Garrow called the find of an age that preceded the Bronze Age "significant and intriguing ".

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Sardinian archaeologists find Bronze Age 'giant'


Archeologists working in Sardinia's southwestern region have uncovered a new 'giant', officials reported on Thursday. 


The newly discovered Bronze Age stone figure at the Monte Prama excavation site in Oristano [Credit: ANSA] 

Archaeologists from the Superintendency of Cagliari and Oristano and Cagliari and Sassari universities dug up another monumental sandstone giant at the Monte Prama excavation site in Oristano on Thursday morning. 

The Monte Prama site is home to the Giants of Monte Prama, ancient stone figures from the Bronze-age Nuragic civilization that were discovered en masse in the early 1970s.

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Prehistoric Stone Tools Evolved Independently Within Local Populations, Say Researchers


Suggestion challenges the traditional Out-of-Africa human migration theory for new stone tool introduction into Eurasia.


It wasn’t exclusively the arrival of new people from Africa with new technology that changed the stone tool repertoire of early humans in Eurasia a few hundred thousand years ago—it was local populations in different places and times gradually and independently wising up to a better industry on their own.

So suggests Daniel Adler, associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, and colleagues based on a recently completed study in which the researchers examined thousands of stone artifacts recovered from Nor Geghi 1, an Armenian Southern Caucasus archaeological site that features preserved lava flows and artifact-bearing sediments dated to between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago.  The artifacts, dated at 325,000 – 335,000 years old, were a mix of two distinct stone tool technology traditions—bifacial tools, such as hand axes, which were common among early human populations during the Lower Paleolithic, andLevallois, a stone tool production method typically attributed to the Middle Stone Age in Africa and the Middle Paleolithic in Eurasia. The researchers argue that the coexistence of two technologies at Nor Geghi 1 provides the first clear evidence that local populations developed Levallois technology out of existing biface technology.
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