Thursday, October 15, 2020

Ancient hunters stayed in frozen Northern Europe rather than migrating to warmer areas, evidence from Arctic fox bones shows

 

The jaw of an arctic fox which shows signs of being killed by hunters

Ancient hunters stayed in the coldest part of Northern Europe rather than migrating to escape freezing winter conditions, archaeologists have found.

Evidence from Arctic fox bones show communities living around 27,500 years ago were killing small prey in the inhospitable North European Plains during the winter months of the last Ice Age.

Researchers have found no evidence of dwellings, suggesting people only stayed for a short time or lived in tents in the area excavated, Kraków Spadzista in Southern Poland - one of the largest Upper Palaeolithic sites in Central Europe. Until now it wasn’t clear if people retreated elsewhere each winter to avoid the intense cold.

Dr Alexander Pryor, from the University of Exeter, who led the study, said: “Our research shows the cold harsh winter climates of the last ice age were no barrier to human activity in the area. Hunters made very specific choices about where and when to kill their prey.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Fossil footprints: the fascinating story behind the longest known prehistoric journey

 A section of the double trackway. Outward and homeward journeys following each other. Central Panel: Child tracks in the middle of nowhere. Left Panel: One of the tracks with little slippage. M Bennett, Bournemouth University., Author provided


Every parent knows the feeling. Your child is crying and wants to go home, you pick them up to comfort them and move faster, your arms tired with a long walk ahead – but you cannot stop now. Now add to this a slick mud surface and a range of hungry predators around you.

That is the story the longest trackway of fossil footprints in the world tells us. Our new discovery, published in Quaternary Science Reviews, comes from White Sands National Park in New Mexico, US, and was made by an international team working in collaboration with staff from the National Park Service.

The footprints were spotted in a dried-up lakebed known as a playa, which contains literally hundreds of thousands of footprints dating from the end of the last ice age (about 11,550 years ago) to sometime before about 13,000 years ago.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

New Secrets Unearthed at Minoan Palace of Zominthos on Crete


The Palace of Zominthos, on Crete. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

An elegant summer palace once belonging to the Minoan aristocracy at Zominthos on Crete, first discovered in 1982, has yielded many more of its priceless secrets in a recent dig.

It was found in this summer’s dig that the original structure may have been up to three stories high and to date back to 2,000 BC. This year’s excavations of the building, measuring 1,600 square meters, or 17,222 square feet, have also shown that the edifice contained ramps, a series of apartments and even religious altars.

Under the direction of Honorary Director of Antiquities Dr. Efi Sapouna- Sakellaraki, the aim of the new dig was to clarify what served as the access to the northern entrance to the main building and to verify what had been discovered through biomagnetic research north of the main building.

This year’s excavations disclosed to archaeologists that the usage of the building actually extended back as far as 2,000 BC — and possibly further. From 1,700 BC onward it expanded into the surrounding area, and this year’s work uncovered two new complexes further out form the main building.

Monday, September 28, 2020

How Neanderthals lost their Y chromosome

 


Neanderthals have long been seen as uber-masculine hunks, at least compared with their lightweight human cousins, with whom they competed for food, territory, and mates. But a new study finds Homo sapiens men essentially emasculated their brawny brethren when they mated with Neanderthal women more than 100,000 years ago. Those unions caused the modern Y chromosomes to sweep through future generations of Neanderthal boys, eventually replacing the Neanderthal Y.

The new finding may solve the decade-old mystery of why researchers have been unable to find a Neanderthal Y chromosome. Part of the problem was the dearth of DNA from men: Of the dozen Neanderthals whose DNA has been sequenced so far, most is from women, as the DNA in male Neanderthal fossils happened to be poorly preserved or contaminated with bacteria. “We began to wonder if there were any male Neanderthals,” jokes Janet Kelso, a computational biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and senior author of the new study.

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Friday, September 11, 2020

Bronze Age hoard unearthed near River Thames goes on display

 

A gallery assistant looks at a socketed axe on display during a preview of the Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands (Aaron Chown/PA)

Experts say the finds help build on the ‘fragmentary’ knowledge of the Bronze Age.

One of the largest Bronze Age hoards found in the UK – discovered near the River Thames – is going on show for the first time.

The treasure, mostly weapons and tools, was unearthed in east London by archaeology experts just as they were thinking of packing up for the day.

They came across 453 objects, in Havering, when they were asked to examine a site being developed for gravel extraction.

The find may have been a metal workers’ store, an offering to the gods, or have been kept for recycling.

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Fingerprints help identify age and sex of prehistoric painters in southern Spain

 

A Neolithic schematic art painting in the Los Machos rockshelter 
Photo: Francisco Martínez-Sevilla

Fingerprints are not just useful for catching criminals and unlocking your phone, they can help us to learn more about prehistoric artists too. According to a new study published in the journal Antiquity, researchers recently analysed two fingerprints discovered among the painted rock art in Los Machos rockshelter, in southern Spain. By looking at the ridges, which can reflect a person’s sex and age, they identified two prehistoric artists: a man who was at least 36 years old, and a young woman or juvenile, between 10 and 16 years old.

The study, done by a team of researchers from the University of Granada, Durham University, and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, shines a rare light on the artists who produced Spain’s rock art and the society in which they lived. Created between 4,500 and 2,000 BC and painted by finger, the prehistoric “schematic art” involves strokes, circles, geometric motifs, and human figures, and “probably relate to daily life, and are the materialisation of symbolic elements understood by the communities that inhabited the area around Los Machos” at the time, the team writes in Antiquity. “The true value of rock art lies in how it represents a direct expression of the thought processes of the people who created it. These individuals are very often missing from discussions of rock art sites.”

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When did we become fully human? What fossils and DNA tell us about the evolution of modern intelligence

 


Key physical and cultural milestones in modern human evolution, including genetic divergence of ethnic groups. Nick Longrich, Author provided

When did something like us first appear on the planet? It turns out there’s remarkably little agreement on this question. Fossils and DNA suggest people looking like us, anatomically modern Homo sapiens, evolved around 300,000 years ago. Surprisingly, archaeology – tools, artefacts, cave art – suggest that complex technology and cultures, “behavioural modernity”, evolved more recently: 50,000-65,000 years ago.

Some scientists interpret this as suggesting the earliest Homo sapiens weren’t entirely modern. Yet the different data tracks different things. Skulls and genes tell us about brains, artefacts about culture. Our brains probably became modern before our cultures.

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The Oldest Neanderthal DNA of Central-Eastern Europe

 




Image Credit : Jerzy Opioła

Around 100,000 years ago, the climate worsened abruptly and the environment of Central-Eastern Europe shifted from forested to open steppe/taiga habitat, promoting the dispersal of wooly mammoth, wooly rhino and other cold adapted species from the Arctic.

Neanderthals living in these territories suffered severe demographic contractions due to the new ecological conditions and only returned to the areas above 48° N latitude during climatic ameliorations. However, in spite of the discontinuous settlement, specific bifacial stone tools persisted in Central-Eastern Europe from the beginning of this ecological shift until the demise of the Neanderthals.

This cultural tradition is named Micoquian, and spread across the frosty environment between eastern France, Poland and the Caucasus. Previous genetic analyses showed that two major demographic turnover events in Neanderthal history are associated with the Micoquian cultural tradition. At ~90,000 years ago, western European Neanderthals replaced the local Altai Neanderthals population in Central Asia. Successively, by at least ~45,000 years ago, western European Neanderthals substituted the local groups in the Caucasus.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

About 30 previously unknown stones discovered at Carahunge (the Armenian Stonehenge)


About 30 previously unknown stones with holes have been discovered at Carahunge or Zorats Karer (the Armenian Stonehenge).

Other stones of astronomical importance have also been found during the measurement works carried out jointly by the Byurakan Observatory and the Armenian National University of Architecture and Construction.

The team carried out computer scanning of the monument and the adjacent area, aerial photo-scanning of the area. All stones with holes were photographed and measured.

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DES TOMBES GAULOISES AUX PORTES DE NÎMES (GARD)


À l'ouest du centre-ville de Nîmes, l'Inrap vient de mettre à jours des vestiges de l’âge du Fer à l’Antiquité ; sépultures, champs et voirie.

Sur prescription de la DRAC Occitanie, une fouille préventive menée par l’Inrap s’est déroulée de mai à août 2020, à l’ouest du centre-ville actuel de la ville de Nîmes, préalablement à la construction d’un immeuble d’habitation.

DES TOMBES GAULOISES
La découverte principale de cette opération est un ensemble funéraire en bon état de conservation dont l’emprise s’étend au-delà des limites de la fouille. Daté entre les VIe et Ve siècles avant notre ère, cet ensemble comprend trois sépultures à incinération, deux vases ossuaires en céramique grise monochrome et un dépôt de résidus en fosse. Le mobilier métallique associé, couteaux et fibules, indique qu’il s’agit pour deux d’entre elles de personnages appartenant à la sphère masculine.

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Europe's earliest bone tools found in Britain

One of the oldest organic tools in the world. A bone hammer used to make the fine flint bifaces from Boxgrove. The bone shows scraping marks used to prepare the bone as well as pitting left behind from its use in making flint tools
UCL INSTITUTE OF ARCHAEOLOGY

Archaeologists say they've identified the earliest known bone tools in the European archaeological record.

The implements come from the renowned Boxgrove site in West Sussex, which was excavated in the 1980s and 90s.

The bone tools came from a horse that humans butchered at the site for its meat.

Flakes of stone in piles around the animal suggest at least eight individuals were making large flint knives for the job.

Researchers also found evidence that other people were present nearby - perhaps younger or older members of a community - shedding light on the social structure of our ancient relatives.

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Monday, August 10, 2020

"Woodhenge” discovered in prehistoric complex of Perdigões


Archaeological excavations in the Perdigões complex, in the Évora district, have identified "a unique structure in the Prehistory of the Iberian Peninsula", Era -Arqueologia announced.

Speaking to the Lusa agency, the archaeologist in charge, António Valera, said that it was "a monumental wooden construction, of which the foundations remain, with a circular plan and more than 20 metres in diameter".

It is "a ceremonial construction", a type of structure only known in Central Europe and the British Isles, according to the archaeologist, with the designations as 'Woodhenge', "wooden versions of Stonehenge", or 'Timber Circles' (wooden circles).

The structure now identified is located in the centre of the large complex of ditch enclosures in Perdigões and "articulates with the visibility of the megalithic landscape that extends between the site and the elevation of Monsaraz, located to the east, on the horizon".

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Burnt remains from 586 BCE Jerusalem may hold key to protecting planet


A new analysis of 1st Temple-era artifacts, magnetized when Babylonians torched the city, provides a way to chart the geomagnetic field – physics’ Holy Grail – and maybe save Earth

The Bible and pure science converge in a new archaeomagnetism study of a large public structure that was razed to the ground on Tisha B’Av 586 BCE during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. The resulting data significantly boosts geophysicists’ ability to understand the “Holy Grail” of Earth sciences — Earth’s ever-changing magnetic field.

“The magnetic field is invisible, but it plays a critical role in the life of our planet. Without the geomagnetic field, nothing on Earth would be as it is — maybe life wouldn’t have evolved without it,” Hebrew University Prof. Ron Shaar, a co-author of the study, told The Times of Israel.
In the new study published in the PLOS One scientific journal, lead author and archaeologist Yoav Vaknin harvested data from pieces of floor from a large, two-story building excavated in the City of David’s Givati parking lot. Minerals embedded in the dozens of floor chunks were heated at a temperature higher than 932 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius) and magnetized during the slash and burning of ancient Jerusalem, and therefore offered up geomagnetic coordinates.

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Detectorist 'shaking with happiness' after Bronze Age find

Items believed to be pieces of the Bronze Age harness were also found
CROWN COPYRIGHT

A metal detectorist was left "shaking with happiness" after discovering a hoard of Bronze Age artefacts in the Scottish Borders.

A complete horse harness and sword was uncovered by Mariusz Stepien at the site near Peebles in June.

Experts said the discovery was of "national significance".

The soil had preserved the leather and wood, allowing experts to trace the straps that connected the rings and buckles.

This allowed the experts to see for the first time how Bronze Age horse harnesses were assembled.

Mr Stepien was searching the field with friends when he found a bronze object buried half a metre underground.

He said: "I thought 'I've never seen anything like this before' and felt from the very beginning that this might be something spectacular and I've just discovered a big part of Scottish history.

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Metal detectorist unearths ‘nationally significant’ Bronze Age hoard

Bronze Age harness

A metal detectorist has discovered a hoard of Bronze Age artefacts in the Scottish Borders which experts have described as “nationally significant”.

Mariusz Stepien, 44, was searching a field near Peebles with friends on June 21 when he found a bronze object buried half a metre underground.

The group camped in the field and built a shelter to protect the find from the elements while archaeologists spent 22 days investigating.

Among the items found were a complete horse harness – preserved by the soil – and a sword which have been dated as being from 1000 to 900 BC.

Mr Stepien said: “I thought I’ve never seen anything like this before and felt from the very beginning that this might be something spectacular and I’ve just discovered a big part of Scottish history.

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Mystery ancestor mated with ancient humans. And its 'nested' DNA was just found.

An unidentified ancestor that interbred with humans may have been Homo erectus (skull shown here).
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Today's humans carry the genes of an ancient, unknown ancestor, left there by hominin species intermingling perhaps a million years ago. 

The ancestor may have been Homo erectus, but no one knows for sure — the genome of that extinct species of human has never been sequenced, said Adam Siepel, a computational biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and one of the authors of a new paper examining the relationships of ancient human ancestors. 

The new research, published today (Aug. 6) in the journal PLOS Genetics, also finds that ancient humans mated with Neanderthals between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago, well before the more recent, and better-known mixing of the two species occurred, after Homo sapiens migrated in large numbers out of Africa and into Europe 50,000 years ago. Thanks to this ancient mixing event, Neanderthals actually owe between 3% and 7% of their genomes to ancient Homo sapiens, the researchers reported. 

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