Friday, April 11, 2014

Earliest evidence of human presence in Scotland found

Archaeologists have uncovered the earliest evidence of the presence of humans in Scotland it was announced today. 

Examples of te 14,000 year old flint tools unearthed at Howburn near Biggar [Credit: Historic Scotland] 

An assemblage of over 5,000 flint artefacts was recovered in 2005-9 by Biggar Archaeology Group in fields at Howburn, near Biggar in South Lanarkshire, and subsequent studies have dated their use to 14,000 years ago.  Prior to the find, the oldest evidence of human occupation in Scotland could be dated to around 13,000 years ago at a now-destroyed cave site in Argyll.

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Flint tools dated 14,000 years ago

Primitive tools dug up by archaeologists in South Lanarkshire have been dated at 14,000 years old - making them the earliest evidence of humans in Scotland.
The discovery follows a study of more than 5,000 flint artefacts recovered from fields at Howburn, near Biggar, from 2005 to 2009.
Experts observed striking similarities to previous finds in northern Germany and the south of Denmark, helping them date the tools to the very earliest part of the late-glacial period.
They now believe Howburn is likely to have hosted the very first settlers in Scotland.
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Log boat dating back 4,500 years found in Lough Corrib

A 4,500-year-old log boat is among 12 early Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval craft that have been located in Lough Corrib, along with several Viking-style battle axes and other weapons.
The vessels were discovered by marine surveyor Capt Trevor Northage while mapping the western lake to update British admiralty charts.
Investigative dives were subsequently carried out last summer by the underwater archaeology unit (UAU) of the National Monuments Service, and radiocarbon dating of samples was then conducted.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, who was informed of the finds recently, has described them as “exceptional”.
The three Viking-style battle axes recovered from one of the vessels will be a centrepiece in the National Museum’s Battle of Clontarf commemorative exhibition, which is due to open later this month.
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Leicester dig unearths Iron Age mint and Roman tile with dog paw prints

unearthed: The Roman tile with possible dog paw prints

Archaeologists believe they might have stumbled across an Iron Age mint which produced gold and silver coins for the coveted Hallaton Treasure.
The dig at Blackfriars, in the city, unearthed coin mould fragments which, combined with evidence from previous excavations, seems to confirm the site was a 2,000-year-old Corieltauvi tribe mint.
The Corieltauvi controlled most of the East Midlands, with Leicester as its capital.
Archaeologists believe the Blackfriars site could have produced some of the 5,000 silver and gold coins found in 2000, near the Leicestershire village of Hallaton.

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Viking artefacts, logboats found in Irish lake

A 4,500-year-old log boat is among 12 early Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval craft that have been located in Lough Corrib, along with several Viking-style battle axes and other weapons. 

A researcher documents one of the Lough Corrib finds [Credit: RTE News] 

The vessels were discovered by marine surveyor Capt Trevor Northage while mapping the western lake to update British admiralty charts. 

Investigative dives were subsequently carried out last summer by the underwater archaeology unit (UAU) of the National Monuments Service, and radiocarbon dating of samples was then conducted. Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, who wa

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Researchers say Neanderthals were no strangers to good parenting

Archaeologists at the University of York are challenging the traditional view that Neanderthal childhood was difficult, short and dangerous.

A research team from PALAEO (Centre for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins) and the Department of Archaeology at York offer a new and distinctive perspective which suggests that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group, used play to develop skills and played a significant role in their society.
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The cliff-hanging cists of Arran

In March 2012, the landowner and a local resident spotted a short stone cist exposed in the cliff face of a disused quarry at Sannox on the Isle of Arran. They alerted the West of Scotland Archaeology Service, which prompted Historic Scotland to commission GUARD Archaeology to undertake a rescue excavation. 

View of the site before excavation [Credit: © GUARD Archaeology Ltd] 

A GUARD Archaeology team, led by Iraia Arabaolaza, were sent to investigate the site; not an easy task given the high exposed location of the cist. The first thing the team did was to clean the exposed section of the eroding face of the sand cliff using a mechanical cherry-picker. This revealed not just the one but two cists. The subsequent excavation of the cists required the GUARD Archaeologists to wear harness and be tied to a fixed point at all times. However, the team successfully recovered and recorded the archaeological remains and brought them back to GUARD Archaeology's laboratory in Glasgow for specialist analyses, which has only just now been completed.

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Farming Changed Human Bones, Suggests Study

Because the structure of human bones can inform us about the lifestyles of the individuals they belong to, they can provide valuable clues for biological anthropologists looking at past cultures. Research by Alison Macintosh, a PhD candidate in Cambridge University's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, shows that after the emergence of agriculture in Central Europe from around 5300 BC, the bones of those living in the fertile soils of the Danube river valley became progressively less strong, pointing to a decline in mobility and loading.

Macintosh presents some of her results at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Calgary, Alberta on April 8-12, 2014. Her research shows that mobility and lower limb loading in male agriculturalists declined progressively and consistently through time and were more significantly affected by culture change in Central Europe than they were in females.
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New method confirms Humans and Neandertals interbred

Technical objections to the idea that Neandertals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to a genome analysis method described in the April 2014 issue of the journal Genetics. The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples. 

A new genome analysis method confirms that Neandertals interbred with the  ancestors of Eurasians 
[Credit: John Gurche/Chip Clark] 

"Our approach can distinguish between two subtly different scenarios that could explain the genetic similarities shared by Neandertals and modern humans from Europe and Asia," said study co-author Konrad Lohse, a population geneticist at the University of Edinburgh. The first scenario is that Neandertals occasionally interbred with modern humans after they migrated out of Africa. The alternative scenario is that the humans who left Africa evolved from the same ancestral subpopulation that had previously given rise to the Neandertals.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Did Europeans Get Fat From Neandertals?

Fathead? Modern humans (right) in Europe may have inherited genes from Neandertals that process fat in their brains and bodies.

Neandertals and modern Europeans had something in common: They were fatheads of the same ilk. A new genetic analysis reveals that our brawny cousins had a number of distinct genes involved in the buildup of certain types of fat in their brains and other tissues—a trait shared by today’s Europeans, but not Asians. Because two-thirds of our brains are built of fatty acids, or lipids, the differences in fat composition between Europeans and Asians might have functional consequences, perhaps in helping them adapt to colder climates or causing metabolic diseases.
“This is the first time we have seen differences in lipid concentrations between populations,” says evolutionary biologist Philipp Khaitovich of the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai, China, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, lead author of the new study. “How our brains are built differently of lipids might be due to Neandertal DNA.”
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Pillage d’une nécropole antique à Prunay-Belleville

Depuis mi-février, les archéologues de l’Inrap interviennent à Prunay-Belleville, dans l’Aube, avant l’aménagement du gazoduc « Arc de Dierrey », réalisé sous la maîtrise d'ouvrage de GRT Gaz. Cette fouille, prescrite par l’État (Drac Champagne-Ardenne), vient de révéler trois ensembles funéraires majeurs : deux enclos de l’âge du Fer ainsi qu’un ensemble de sept sépultures antiques. Ces dernières, datées des IIe-IIIe siècles, très riche en mobilier funéraire, étaient particulièrement bien conservées. 
Mardi 4 mars, l’équipe de l’Inrap a constaté le pillage d’une partie des tombes gallo-romaines. Sur les lieux, la gendarmerie de Villenauxe-Grande a démarré une enquête. Une plainte a été déposée par l’Inrap.

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Study Finds Ancient Nomads Spread Earliest Domestic Grains Along Silk Road

This is a photo of the long-term settlement stratigraphy at the site of Tasbas. Mudbrick/clay oven (visible on right lower portion) contained earliest evidence for grain farming. Credit: Paula Doumani /Washington University in St. Louis (2011)

Findings push back earliest known East-West interaction along Silk Road by 2,000 years
Charred grains of barley, millet and wheat deposited nearly 5,000 years ago at campsites in the high plains of Kazakhstan show that nomadic sheepherders played a surprisingly important role in the early spread of domesticated crops throughout a mountainous east-west corridor along the historic Silk Road, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.
“Our findings indicate that ancient nomadic pastoralists were key players in an east-west network that linked innovations and commodities between present-day China and southwest Asia,” said study co-author Michael Frachetti, PhD, an associate professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University and principal investigator on the research project.
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More on Neanderthals’ Genetic Legacy

SHANGHAI, CHINA—Neanderthals and modern humans are thought to have interbred at least once—probably in the Middle East—after modern humans left Africa. As a result, today’s Europeans and Asians carry a small amount of Neanderthal DNA. A new analysis of some of those Neanderthal gene variants, and an examination of brain tissues, suggests that today’s Europeans have three times as many Neanderthal genes involved in the breakdown of fats than Asians have. “This is the first time we have seen differences in lipid concentrations between populations. How our brains are built differently of lipids might be due to Neanderthal DNA,” evolutionary biologist Philipp Khaitovich of the CAS-MPG Partner Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology toldScience Now. Khaitovich thinks the fatty acid genes may have helped Neanderthals and Europeans adapt to living in the Northern Europe’s colder climates.

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'Homo' is the only primate whose tooth size decreases as its brain size increases

Andalusian researchers, led by the University of Granada, have discovered a curious characteristic of the members of the human lineage, classed as the genus Homo: they are the only primates where, throughout their 2.5-million year history, the size of their teeth has decreased in tandem with the increase in their brain size.

The key to this phenomenon, which scientists call "evolutionary paradox," could be in how Homo's diet has evolved. Digestion starts first in the mouth and, so, teeth are essential in breaking food down into smaller pieces. Therefore, the normal scenario would be that, if the brain grows in size, and, hence, the body's metabolic needs, so should teeth.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Cabezo Pequeño del Estany. Image: University of Alicante

Researchers in Spain have applied new remote sensing and aerial imaging to the Phoenician colony of Cabezo Pequeño del Estany of Guardamar under the project “Cultural Transfers in the Ancient Mediterranean” to begin a new round of archaeological works on the site.
The settlement was first discovered by chance in the late 1980s when it was partially destroyed by an illegal cement quarry and subsequently excavated in several seasons of rescue archaeology under the direction of Antonio García Menárguez, director of the Archaeological Museum of Guardamar.
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Monday, March 31, 2014

3,000 year old cultivated fields unearthed in the Netherlands

Dr. Stijn Arnoldussen, an archaeologist at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, has unearthed prehistoric cultivated field sites constructed more than 3,100 years ago that were subsequently used for centuries. 

[Credit: Stijn Arnoldussen, University of Groningen, the Netherlands] 

Dr. Arnoldussen’s research focuses on long-term development of cultural landscapes from the Late Neolithic onwards, with specific attention for the interplay of funerary and settlement domains within the wider cultural landscape, and additionally on Bronze Age settlements as foci for patterned deposition and the nature and dynamics of the Celtic field system of the later Bronze Age and Iron Age. Side-projects include pottery analysis (from the Neolithic up to the Roman Period), analyses of Bronze artefacts, computer applications in fieldwork and editorial work for the Journal for Archaeology in the Low Countries. 

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

‘Little Foot’ fossil could be human ancestor

A short, hairy “ape man” who tumbled into a pit in South Africa millions of years ago is back in the running as a candidate ancestor for humans, scientists saidearlier this month.
A painstaking 13-year probe has “convincingly shown,” they said March 14, that the strange-looking creature named “Little Foot” lived some 3 million years ago — almost 1 million years earlier than calculated by rival teams.
If so, it would make Little Foot — so named for the diminutive size of the bones — one of the oldest members of the Australopithecus hominid family ever found.
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Excavation of Neolithic chambered tomb on Anglesey begins

An archaeological excavation of Ynys Môn's least known Neolithic chambered tomb – Perthi Duon, west of the village of Brynsiencyn on Anglesey – has begun. The work is being carried out by a team from the Welsh Rock Art Organisation under the direction of Dr George Nash of the University of Bristol and Carol James.
Perthi Duon, considered to be the remains of a portal dolmen, is one of eighteen extant stone chambered monuments that stand within a 1.5 km corridor of the Menai Straits.
The antiquarian Henry Rowlands reports in 1723 that beneath the large capstone were three stones, possibly upright stones or pillars. However, by the beginning of the nineteenth century the  was in a ruinous state, incorporated into a north-south hedge boundary, itself now removed.
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Neolithic houses at Stonehenge

NEOLITHIC buildings are being painstakingly recreated in the new outdoor exhibition area of the Stonehenge visitor centre.
When complete, the houses will showcase what life would have been like at the time that Stonehenge was built. The re-created huts are based on archaeological evidence unearthed at the nearby Durrington Walls.
Volunteers are weaving hundreds of hazel rods through the main supporting stakes, thatching the roofs with hand-knotted wheat straw, and starting to cover the walls with a daub of chalk, straw and water.
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Shipwrecks Lost to Time That Archaeologists Would Love to Get Their Hands On

This 102-foot-long Roman barge from the first century A.D. was lifted in 2011 from the Rhône River in Arles, France. It was virtually intact after two millennia in the mud.

Finding modern ships lost at sea, even with the help of radar, sonar, and satellites, can be a herculean task. But trying to find a shipwreck from thousands of years ago is even harder. It's like looking for a wooden needle in a haystack after part of the needle has rotted away.

Underwater archaeologists keep looking, though, because finding one of these shipwrecks could yield a treasure trove of information—from how ancient peoples built their vessels to where they traveled and who their trading partners were.

Figuring out those connections would allow researchers to better understand ancient economies, and to put the cultures into a more global context, says James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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All Cannings 'Neolithic' long barrow takes shape

The first "Neolithic" long barrow to be built in the UK for 5,000 years, is attracting interest from all over the world.
The burial chamber at All Cannings near Devizes in Wiltshire will contain niches housing urns of cremated ashes, and is set to be finished later this year.
Developer Tim Daw, who owns the farmland on which it is being built, said he was "absolutely thrilled" with its progress.
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Iron Age woman's footless body found near West Knoyle

Along with the female skeleton were found the remains of a 10-year-old child and two males with sword wounds

A skeleton of an Iron Age woman with her feet chopped off has been discovered in a field in Wiltshire.
The remains were found along the A303, near West Knoyle, by archaeologists ahead of a new water main being laid.
Wessex Water said the woman's feet were found "reburied alongside her" along with the carcasses of at least two sheep or goats "on her head".
Peter Cox, from AC Archaeology, said: "We're unsure why - but it must have some link to beliefs at the time."
The female skeleton was found alongside the remains of a child aged about 10 and two males with sword wounds to their hips.
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3,000 Year Old Skeleton Reveals Most Compelling Look At Metastatic Cancer In Antiquity

Lytic lesion in the spinous process of the 5th thoracic vertebra – photo credit Durham University

A team of British archaeologists from the British Museum and Durham University have discovered what they report is the oldest known complete example in the world of a human with metastatic cancer in a 3,000 year-old skeleton unearthed in the Sudan. Their findings are reported in the academic journal PLOS ONE.
The skeleton of the young adult male was found by Durham University PhD student Michaela Binder in a tomb in modern Sudan in 2013 and dates back to 1200 BC. Analysis of the remains has revealed evidence that this person was afflicted with metastatic malignant soft-tissue carcinoma that had spread from its original location across large areas of the body, making it the oldest convincing complete example of metastatic cancer in the archaeological record. Only about 200 skeletons and mummified individuals from around the world have been reported with different primary and secondary malignancies.
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Ancient Skeleton Yields Earliest Complete Example of Human Cancer

Archaeologists have found the oldest complete example in the world of a human with metastatic cancer in a 3,000 year-old skeleton. 

The findings are reported in the academic journal PLOS ONE today (17 March, 2014).
The finding came from a skeleton of a young adult male found by a Durham University PhD student in a tomb in modern Sudan in 2013. Dating back to 1200 BCE, it was estimated to be between 25-35 years old when he died and was found at the archaeological site of Amara West in northern Sudan, situated on the Nile, 750 km downstream of the country’s modern capital, Khartoum. It was buried extended on his back, within a badly deteriorated painted wooden coffin, and provided with a glazed faience amulet as a grave good.
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