Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Prehistoric women's arms 'stronger than those of today's elite rowers'

Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins celebrate Olympic victory in 2012. Neolithic women’s arm bones were about 30% stronger than those of women today. 
Photograph: Francisco Leong/IOPP Pool/Getty Images

Prehistoric women had stronger arms than elite female rowing teams do today thanks to the daily grind of farming life, researchers have revealed, shedding light on their role in early communities.

The study of ancient bones suggests that manual agricultural work had a profound effect on the bodies of women living in central Europe between about the early neolithic and late iron age, from about 5,300BC to AD100.

“We think a lot of what we are seeing is the bone’s response to women grinding grain, which is pretty much seated but using your arms really repetitively many hours a day,” said Dr Alison Macintosh, co-author of the research from the University of Cambridge.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ancient sword and other incredible items discovered during dig at Glenfield Park


Archeologists have discovered an unprecedented collection of artefacts from the Iron Age at Glenfield Park in Leicestershire.
Prehistoric cauldrons, a complete ancient sword and third century BC brooch, and dress pins are among the nationally significant findings discovered by University of Leicester archaeologists.
The Iron Age site is believed to have been a ritual and ceremonial centre for a community that also hosted large feasts, while the findings represent the most northerly discovery of such objects on mainland Britain and the only find of this type of cauldron in the East Midlands.
Evidence also suggests the site was used over a long period of time by multiple generations and underwent striking changes in character.
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Monday, November 27, 2017

Bronze Age Burial Of 'Shaman' Discovered In Slovakia


Archaeologists found an interesting discovery when researching the area of the transport infrastructure for Jaguar Land Rover and accompanying industrial park in Nitra. They found a human skeleton from the Bronze Age that was probably a shaman. He was not buried in a standard grave but placed in hole serving a food storage.

“When the hole was not used anymore, people backfilled it with soil and this person was placed or thrown inside later. We don’t know whether he was thrown in or placed in, because the human was lying on his stomach,” said Klaudia Daňová, a scientific secretary from the Archaeological Institute in Nitra, as cited by the SITA newswire.

“Bronze decorations were placed near his ears. They were connected by little ear bones,” added Daňová for SITA. Archaeologists suggest that those are poultry bone but an analysis will be done to make sure.


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Fairy Tales Are Much Older Than You Think

How does the same story come to be known as “Beauty and the Beast” in the U.S. and “The Fairy Serpent” in China?
As Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm collected Germanic folktales in the 19th century, they realized that many were similar to stories told in distant parts of the world. The brothers Grimm wondered whether plot similarities indicated a shared ancestry thousands of years old.
Folktales are passed down orally, obscuring their age and origin. “There’s no fossil record [of them] before the invention of writing,” says Jamie Tehrani, an anthropologist at Durham University.
To test the Grimms’ theory, Tehrani and literary scholar Sara Graça da Silva traced 76 basic plots back to their oldest linguistic ancestor using an international folktale database. If a similar tale was told in German and Hindi, the researchers concluded its roots lay in the languages’ last common ancestor. “The Smith and the Devil,” a story about a man who trades his soul for blacksmith skills, was first told some 6,000 years ago in Proto-Indo-European. Now we tell a similar tale about the blues guitarist Robert Johnson.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When the Gloves Come Off – Why We Do Not Use Gloves to Handle Artifacts in the Field


Ever since we started publishing pictures of our crew holding artifacts without using gloves, we have taken some heat in the Facebook comment sections. People have been worrying (or even cringing) about bad effects of touching the artifacts with bare hands. Their worry is that this could contaminate the artifacts with body oils or DNA. This blogpost explains why using gloves in the field is not necessary.

Body oils and other residues

When artefacts are handled in museums, you will see the museum staff wearing gloves while holding the objects. This is done to protect the artifacts from getting into contact with body oils and other residues on the person’s hand. It may seem like an obvious conclusion that the artifacts should also be handled wearing gloves in the field. However, this is rarely seen in practice. Why is there a difference in procedures?

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Living With Gods review – 40,000 years of religious art, and this is it?

 Chosen for content over aesthetic merit … six Zoroastrian tiles, Parsi shrine, 1989-90, India. Photograph: © Trustees of the British Museum

After a few minutes in the exhibition that accompanies Neil MacGregor’s new BBC Radio 4 series on the power of religion, my skin started to sizzle and my blood to boil. I truly felt branded inside, marked out as a reprobate, for the premise of the show is that belief in God(s) is such a universal human trait that if you lack it, you may not be human.

That is signalled by a large wall text at the start, suggesting that the correct name for our species may not be homo sapiens, but “homo religiosus”. As someone who doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t miss her, I felt a bit left out. Is belief really the all-pervasive force this exhibition claims?

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Fossil of 'our earliest ancestors' found in Dorset


The mammals ventured out at night to hunt insects

Fossils of the oldest-known ancestors of most living mammals, including human beings, have been unearthed in southern England.

Teeth belonging to the extinct shrew-like creatures, which scampered at the feet of dinosaurs, were discovered in cliffs on the Dorset coast.

Scientists who identified the specimens say they are the earliest undisputed fossils of mammals belonging to the line that led to humans.

They date back 145 million years.

''Here we have discovered from the Jurassic coast a couple of shrew-like things that are to date unequivocally our earliest ancestors,'' said Dr Steve Sweetman of Portsmouth University, who examined the ancient teeth.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

'Big, bad wolf' image flawed - scientists

Wolves are good at working together to get food rewards

New research casts doubt on the idea that dogs are naturally more tolerant and friendly than wolves.
In tests of cooperation skills, wolves outperformed their domesticated relatives.

Scientists say the findings challenge assumptions about how dogs were tamed from wolves and came to live alongside humans.
Previous evidence has suggested that the domestication process may have given dogs a more tolerant temperament.

"We still have very much this idea of the big, bad wolf and the cuddly pooch on your sofa," Dr Sarah Marshall-Pescini, who led the research, told BBC News.

"But, I think the simplest message is that the story is not quite as clear as that."

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Whisper it – Greek amphitheatre's legendary acoustics are a myth

Epidaurus. Ancient Greeks might have used all manner of devices to amplify sound, including placing hollow vessels at strategic locations.
Photograph: DEA / S. VANNINI/De Agostini/Getty Images

It has been held up as a stunning example of ancient Greek sound engineering, but researchers say the acoustics of the amphitheatre at Epidaurus are not as dazzling as they have been hailed.

Dating from the fourth century BC, and seating up to 14,000 spectators, the amphitheatre has long been admired for its sound quality, with claims that audiences are able to hear a pin drop, or a match being struck, at any seat in the house. Even the British archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler raved about the amphitheatre, declaring in clipped tones in a 1958 broadcast: “Even a stage whisper could be picked up by the furthest spectator with the cheapest ticket.”

But new research suggests such assertions are little more than Greek myth.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Prehistoric humans are likely to have formed mating networks to avoid inbreeding

Early humans seem to have recognized the dangers of inbreeding at least 34,000 years ago, and developed surprisingly sophisticated social and mating networks to avoid it, new research has found.


Detail of one of the burials from Sunghir, in Russia. The new study sequenced the genomes of individuals from the site and discovered that they were, at most, second cousins, indicating that they had developed sexual partnerships beyond their immediate social and family group.
Credit: By José-Manuel Benito Álvarez (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Early humans seem to have recognised the dangers of inbreeding at least 34,000 years ago, and developed surprisingly sophisticated social and mating networks to avoid it, new research has found.

The study, reported in the journal Science, examined genetic information from the remains of anatomically modern humans who lived during the Upper Palaeolithic, a period when modern humans from Africa first colonised western Eurasia. The results suggest that people deliberately sought partners beyond their immediate family, and that they were probably connected to a wider network of groups from within which mates were chosen, in order to avoid becoming inbred.

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Ax Linked to Ötzi the Iceman Found North of the Alps

Apart from a few scratches, the 2.6-inch-long (6.5 centimeters) blade is undamaged. 
Credit: Res Eichenberger

Archaeologists found a copper blade in Switzerland that's just like the ax Ötzi the famous "Iceman"was carrying when he died.

Like Ötzi's ax, this tool was made with copper that came from hundreds of miles away, in present-day Tuscany in central Italy. The discovery could shed light on Copper Age connections across Europe.

Bad fortune eventually made Ötzi the Iceman famous. About 5,300 years ago, he was shot with an arrow, struck in the head and left to die near a mountain pass high in the Alps. He was entombed in a glacier until 1991, when hikers near the Italian-Austrian border discovered his body.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Mysterious Stone Tools Unearthed at Bronze-Age Site in Wales

The stone tools found by the CRAG team vary in size, from around 220 millimeters (8.5 inches) in length, down to about 50 millimeters (2 inches).
Credit: Ian Brooks/CRAG

Amateur archaeologists excavating a Bronze Age site in the United Kingdom have discovered a cache of unusual stone tools unlike any that have been found before.

The tools appear to have been deposited deliberately — perhaps ceremonially — in what would have been a stream around 4,500 years ago, according to the researchers.

Around 20 of the roughly triangular stone hand tools, of various sizes, were found at the excavation site in the Clwydian Range, a series of hills in Denbighshire in northeast Wales, by the Clwydian Range Archaeological Group (CRAG) during four weeks of excavations in July and August. [See More Photos of the Stone Tools at the Bronze-Age Site]

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Antikythera Shipwreck Yields More Amazing Finds

For the third consecutive year, the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities has conducted an underwater excavation at the site of the Antikythera shipwreck. Work was carried out between the 4th and the 20th of September, under particularly good weather conditions, as has been announced by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.


Finds from the excavation at the site of the Shipwreck of Antikythera 
[Credit: Ministry of Culture and Sports]

During research, excavations continued in the sea area, from where come the remains of skeletons from last year’s operation, as well as components from the ship itself such as: sections of lead tubing, counterweights and aggregates of iron objects. At the same time, a multitude of shards of amphorae and other vessels were recovered in this year’s excavation season.

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Antikythera shipwreck yields bronze arm – and hints at spectacular haul of statues

Arm points to existence of at least seven statues from Greek shipwreck, already the source of most extensive and exciting ancient cargo ever found


This bronze arm was discovered with a bespoke underwater metal detector, which has revealed the presence of other large metal objects nearby under the seabed. 
Photograph: Brett Seymour/EUA/ARGO 2017

Marine archaeologists have recovered a bronze arm from an ancient shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, where the remains of at least seven more priceless statues from the classical world are believed to lie buried.

Divers found the right arm, encrusted and stained green, under half a metre of sediment on the boulder-strewn slope where the ship and its cargo now rest. The huge vessel, perhaps 50m from bow to stern, was sailing from Asia Minor to Rome in 1BC when it foundered near the tiny island between Crete and the Peloponnese.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New scientific dating research unravels the story of life in prehistoric Orkney Read

A new study, published today in Antiquity journal, is challenging the previously understood narrative for prehistoric life on Orkney. It was led by Professor Alex Bayliss of Historic England and is based on the interrogation of more than 600 radiocarbon dates, enabling much more precise estimates of the timing and duration of events in the period c.3200-2500 BC. 


Excavating the Smerquoy Hoose [Credit: © Colin Richards]

The study is part of a much wider project, The Times of Their Lives, funded by the European Research Council (2012-2017), which has applied the same methodology to a wider series of case studies across Neolithic Europe. That project has demonstrated many other examples of more dynamic and punctuated sequences than previously suspected in 'prehistory'.

Neolithic Orkney is well-preserved and is a time of stone houses, stone circles and elaborate burial monuments. World-renowned sites such as the Skara Brae settlement, Maeshowe passage grave, and the Ring of Brodgar and Stones of Stenness circles have long been known and are in the World Heritage Site (given this status in 1999). They have been joined by more recent discoveries of great settlement complexes such as Barnhouse and Ness of Brodgar.

The new study reveals in much more detail than previously possible the fluctuating fortunes of the communities involved in these feats of construction and their social interaction. It used a Bayesian statistical approach to combine calibrated radiocarbon dates with knowledge of the archaeological contexts that the finds have come from to provide much more precise chronologies than those previously available.

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House “older than Stonehenge” found in East Ayrshire field

The field near Kilmarnock where man settled some 6,000 years ago. PIC: Scottish Water.

The remains of a pre-historic dwelling older than Stonehenge or the Callanish Stones have been found in a field in East Ayrshire.

Archaeologists believe the site near Kilmarnock is 6,000-years-old and was settled as man moved away from nomadic existence towards farming the land.

The discovery has been described as one of the most important of its kind in recent years.

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Storytelling flints and the original Oxen Ford: Oxford flood scheme archaeology begins


THIS tiny piece of flint is barely an inch long, but it tells an incredible story.

A stone flake reveals that 6,000 years ago, for just a few short minutes, a tribe of Mesolithic hunters stopped in this field in South Hinksey to sharpen their tools.

The miniscule fragment is just the first of thousands of discoveries archaeologists are hoping to make in 200 trenches across South Oxford in the next two months.

The team from Oxford Archaeology are excavating the area that in due course will become the Environment Agency's £120m Oxford flood alleviation channel.

They are looking for evidence of Saxon huts, Norman roads and even the very Oxen Ford, which our city is named after.

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Bronze Age Arrows and a Viking Sword – The 2017 Fieldwork Was Awesome!

Finally, the long wait was over and we were so ready for fieldwork!

We had chosen two large sites for the main fieldwork in 2017 – the Lauvhøe and Storfonne ice patches, both situated in the northeastern part of the Jotunheimen Mountains. More details on why these two particular sites were chosen can be found here.


he Storfonne ice patch, photographed in September 2014 during a major melt. Notice the light grey lichen-free zone surrounding the ice. This area was exposed by ice melt in the last 15-20 years. Photo: Lars Pilø, Secrets of the Ice/Oppland County Council.

Both sites had only seen short visits prior to this field-season. This had resulted in a number of artifact recoveries, especially arrows, found close to the melting ice. However, we knew that there were other finds on these sites, and that they were lying on the surface, exposed to the elements. The main job would be to rescue these artefacts. To achieve this, we planned to conduct a systematic and thorough survey of the lichen-free zone (where the ice has melted recently) surrounding the ice on both sites.

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Neanderthal brains 'grew more slowly'

The skeleton of a boy that shattered our view of Neanderthal brain development

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child's skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.
The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

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Ancient DNA sheds light on African history

Burials at Mount Hora in Malawi yielded DNA used in the study

DNA from ancient remains has been used to reconstruct thousands of years of population history in Africa.

Researchers sequenced the genomes of 16 individuals who lived between 8,000 and 1,000 years ago.
The data shows how the invention and spread of farming had a major impact on the genes of people in Africa - just as it did in Europe and Asia.

The findings are published in the journal Cell.

The results suggest that populations related to the indigenous people of southern Africa had a wider distribution in the past.

This southern African-like genetic background is found in hunter-gatherers from Malawi and Tanzania in the east of the continent. These hunters lived between 8,100 and 1,400 years ago.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ancient British stone circles were used for ‘Neolithic parties’, study finds

The Ring of Brodgar originally had 60 stones, but now has 27 
Colin Richards, Historic England

Orkney is home to a host of Neolithic stone houses, stone circles and elaborate burial monuments, but a new study into the area has allowed experts to add a new purpose to the prehistoric communities’ use of some of these sites – partying.

New research led by Professor Alex Bayliss at Historic England has challenged the previously understood narrative for prehistoric life on the islands and painted a clearer picture of how communities farmed, gathered together at festivals and buried their dead.

The islands are home to renowned sites such as the Skara Brae settlement, Maeshowe passage grave, the Ring of Brodgar – which originally had 60 stones and is 104 metres in diameter - and Stones of Stenness circles, which were granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999.

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Spanish researchers discover 30,000 year-old cave paintings


Cave drawings at Altamira.Museo de Altamira/D. Rodríguez

Researchers have discovered four new sets of cave paintings in Cantabria, northern Spain, the oldest of which was made nearly 30,000 years ago – making it one of the earliest known examples of prehistoric art in the world.

The team from the Museum of Prehistory of Cantabria, led by Spanish prehistorian Roberto Ontañón, used cutting-edge imaging techniques to identify the drawings.

Twenty years ago, a speleologist – a scientist who studies caves – had informed archaeologists of the possible existence of ancient paintings in various rock cavities in Cantabria. However, the techniques available at the time were not sufficient to confirm the existence of the art.

The paintings, like much prehistoric artwork, had degraded so much over time that they were difficult to identify with the naked eye. To overcome this, Ontañón and his team used a 3D laser scanning method, which reproduced the artwork on a computer.

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Secrets of ancient Irish burial practices revealed


Carrowkeel neolithic passage tomb in Co. Sligo.

A new analysis of bones taken from a century-old excavation at Carrowkeel in County Sligo has revealed evidence of the burial practices and death rites of the ancient people of Ireland.
The findings, which have been published in the journal Bioarchaeology International, are part of a project applying modern techniques and research questions to the human remains. 
The team of researchers includes Sam Moore, lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology at IT Sligo, and the group’s work focussed on the 5300 years-old Passage Tomb Complex at Carrowkeel. This site is one of the most impressive Neolithic ritual landscapes in Europe.
“The bones were analysed from an original excavation of Carrowkeel in 1911, led by Prof R.A.S. McAlister,” explains Sam. “They were subsequently presumed missing or lost until a group of boxes with the name ‘Carrowkeel’ on them was discovered in the archive in the University of Cambridge in 2001. The bones date from between 3500 and 2900 BC."
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The enigma of early Norwegian iron production

Ancient Norwegians made top-quality iron. But where did the knowledge to make this iron come from? A professor emeritus from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology may have solved this riddle.


Where did the expertise to smelt iron ore come from?
And how did it actually get to Norway to begin with? 
[Credit: Colourbox]

For centuries, people in Norway’s Trøndelag region, in the middle of the country, made large amounts of first-class iron out of bog ore for use in weapons and tools. Production peaked at about 40 tonnes a year at around 200 AD. With production levels this high, it is likely that they exported iron to the European continent as well.

But where did the expertise to smelt the ore come from? And how did it actually get to Norway to begin with?

Arne Wang Espelund, a professor emeritus at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been interested in iron making since the 1970s.

He himself has helped to smelt iron with a method described in the 1700s by Ole Evenstad in Stor-Elvdal, just north of Lillehammer.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Bronze Age tombs unearthed during car park construction in Switzerland

The burial site of a Bronze Age warrior has revealed yet more treasures 
[Credit: SBMA - ARIA SA]

Workers digging the foundations for a new car park have unearthed the burial site of a Bronze Age warrior, revealing a rich source of artefacts including a sword, jewellery and other ornaments. 

The tombs were discovered in Sion, a town in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The artefacts were dated between 850 and 400 BC – a period when the Bronze Age was giving way to the second Iron Age.

A bronze sword with an ivory pommel was discovered among the remains of an adult male, along with numerous other ornaments, including a razor.

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13 million-year-old infant ape skull discovered in the Turkana Basin

Alesi partially excavated after careful removal of loose sand and rocks with dental picks and brushes. © Isaiah Nengo.

The discovery in Kenya of a remarkably complete fossil ape skull reveals what the common ancestor of all living apes and humans may have looked like. The find, announced in the scientific journal Nature on August 10th, belongs to an infant that lived about 13 million years ago. The research was done by an international team led by Isaiah Nengo of the Turkana Basin Institute and De Anza College, U.S.A.

Among living primates, humans are most closely related to the apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons. Our common ancestor with chimpanzees lived in Africa 6 to 7 million years ago, and many spectacular fossil finds have revealed how humans evolved since then.

In contrast, little is known about the evolution of the common ancestors of living apes and humans before 10 million years ago. Relevant fossils are scarce, consisting mostly of isolated teeth and partial jaw bones. It has therefore been difficult to find answers to two fundamental questions: Did the common ancestor of living apes and humans originate in Africa, and what did these early ancestors look like?

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New 13-million-year-old infant skull sheds light on ape ancestry

Alesi, the skull of the new extinct ape species Nyanzapithecus alesi (KNM-NP 59050)
[Credit: Fred Spoor]

The discovery in Kenya of a remarkably complete fossil ape skull reveals what the common ancestor of all living apes and humans may have looked like. The find, announced in the scientific journal Nature, belongs to an infant that lived about 13 million years ago. The research was done by an international team led by Isaiah Nengo of Stony Brook University-affiliated Turkana Basin Institute and De Anza College, U.S.A.

Among living primates, humans are most closely related to the apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons. Our common ancestor with chimpanzees lived in Africa 6 to 7 million years ago, and many spectacular fossil finds have revealed how humans evolved since then.

In contrast, little is known about the evolution of the common ancestors of living apes and humans before 10 million years ago. Relevant fossils are scarce, consisting mostly of isolated teeth and partial jaw bones. It has therefore been difficult to find answers to two fundamental questions: Did the common ancestor of living apes and humans originate in Africa, and what did these early ancestors look like?

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Engraved bones are 'evidence of cannibalistic rituals by early humans'

The researchers suggest the engravings may have been part of an elaborate post-death ritual carried that culminated in the deceased being eaten. Photograph: Bello et al (2017)
Engraved bones unearthed in a Somerset cave have revealed new evidence of macabre cannibalistic rituals carried out by early humans in Britain.
The latest analysis of the bones, which were first discovered in the 1980s in Gough’s Cave in the Cheddar Gorge, show signs of having been filleted using sophisticated butchery techniques, decorated and gnawed by fellow humans around 15,000 years ago.
Previous investigations of the remains, belonging to a three-year-old child, two adolescents and at least two adults, already pointed to the grisly possibility that the individuals had been eaten by fellow early modern humans.
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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Contents of 2,500-year-old sarcophagus discovered in Turkey's Balıkesir revealed


Researchers at the ancient Greek city of Antandrus, located in Turkey's Balıkesir province, have discovered the remains of a woman and a man, as well as numerous artifacts inside a 2,500-year-old sarcophagus, reports said Sunday.

According to a statement by project leader Professor Gürcan Polat from Ege University, the excavations, which started on July 10, shed light to the 5th Century sarcophagus.
"The bones most probably belonged to the people from the same family" Polat said.
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Ancient Greek quarry in Marseille 'partly classified' as historic monument

The Greek quarry dating from the 5th century BC in Marseille is going to be partly classified 
as a Historical Monument [Credit: AFP/Bertrand Langlois]

Discovered by chance during the construction of a building in the center of Marseille, a Greek quarry dating from the 5th century BC will be partly classified.

This represents a first victory for the residents against the French city’s authorities who were planning to build on the historic site, according to a report by French Agency, AFP.

“It’s a great step forward,” exclaimed with a smile a resident of the Sandrine Rolengo district where the quarry was discovered.

Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen, who visited the site recently, decided to protect part of the site.

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Slawische und eisenzeitliche Siedlung bei Theißen entdeckt

Blick auf die Ausgrabungsfläche mit Gruben und weiteren Befunden der slawischen Siedlung. 
Foto © LDA Sachsen-Anhalt

Bei Ausgrabungen im Zuge des Neubaus der Ortsumfahrung östlich des Zeitzer Ortsteils Theißen (Burgenlandkreis) wurden die Überreste einer ländlichen mittelslawischen Siedlung des 8.-10. Jh. und Siedlungsbefunde aus der Eisenzeit freigelegt. Die ältesten Befunde sind eine Hockerbestattung aus dem Endneolithikum und eine glockenbecherzeitliche umgebettete Bestattung.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Greeks really do have near-mythical origins, ancient DNA reveals

A Mycenaean woman depicted on a fresco at Mycenae on mainland Greece.

Ever since the days of Homer, Greeks have long idealized their Mycenaean “ancestors” in epic poems and classic tragedies that glorify the exploits of Odysseus, King Agamemnon, and other heroes who went in and out of favor with the Greek gods. Although these Mycenaeans were fictitious, scholars have debated whether today’s Greeks descend from the actual Mycenaeans, who created a famous civilization that dominated mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from about 1600 B.C.E. to 1200 B.C.E., or whether the ancient Mycenaeans simply vanished from the region.

Now, ancient DNA suggests that living Greeks are indeed the descendants of Mycenaeans, with only a small proportion of DNA from later migrations to Greece. And the Mycenaeans themselves were closely related to the earlier Minoans, the study reveals, another great civilization that flourished on the island of Crete from 2600 B.C.E. to 1400 B.C.E. (named for the mythical King Minos).

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Mammut und viel Rohkost

Hinterkopf-Knochen eines anatomisch modernen Menschen der Fundstelle Buran-Kaya III. 
(© S. Prat)

Senckenberg-Wissenschaftler haben die Ernährung des anatomisch modernen Menschen untersucht. Sie konnten in ihrer aktuellen Studie widerlegen, dass sich der frühe Homo sapiens-Vertreter flexibler ernährte, als die Neandertaler.

Auf den Tellern unserer Vorfahren landeten, wie bei den Neandertalern, überwiegend Mammutfleisch und Pflanzen – eine Ernährung mit Fisch konnte nicht nachgewiesen werden. Das internationale Team vermutet daher, dass die Verdrängung der Neandertaler durch eine direkte Konkurrenzsituation erfolgte.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Bronze Age Iberia received fewer Steppe invaders than the rest of Europe

Archaeological remains of individual MC337 excavated from the site of Hipogeu de Monte Canelas I, Portugal, and analysed by the archaeologist Rui Parreira and the anthropologist Ana Maria Silva.
Credit: Rui Parreira

The genomes of individuals who lived on the Iberian Peninsula in the Bronze Age had minor genetic input from Steppe invaders, suggesting that these migrations played a smaller role in the genetic makeup and culture of Iberian people, compared to other parts of Europe. Daniel Bradley and Rui Martiniano of Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland, and Ana Maria Silva of University of Coimbra, Portugal, report these findings July 27, 2017 in PLOS Genetics.
Between the Middle Neolithic (4200-3500 BC) and the Middle Bronze Age (1740-1430 BC), Central and Northern Europe received a massive influx of people from the Steppe regions of Eastern Europe and Asia. Archaeological digs in Iberia have uncovered changes in culture and funeral rituals during this time, but no one had looked at the genetic impact of these migrations in this part of Europe. Researchers sequenced the genomes of 14 individuals who lived in Portugal during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and compared them to other ancient and modern genomes. In contrast with other parts of Europe, they detected only subtle genetic changes between the Portuguese Neolithic and Bronze Age samples resulting from small-scale migration. However, these changes are more pronounced on the paternal lineage.
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Amazingly well preserved 3,500-year-old lunch box discovered in Swiss Alps

An incredibly rare wooden container from the Bronze Age has been discovered on the Lötschberg mountain in Switzerland, still with detectable traces of the grains that the box contained.
The box was found at the summit of the Lötschenpass, a transit through a glacier, at an elevation of about 2,650 metres above sea level. It's thought to have remained frozen since it was lost or abandoned by its owner in 1500 BCE.
Such discoveries are rare. Only one other similar artefact has been discovered, found in another alpine pass, the Schnidejoch, about 25km to the west of the Lötschenpass. Perhaps the most famous discovery from the ice-packed Alps is Ötzi the iceman, a human discovered dating from about 3300 BCE.
Analysis of the box showed traces of spelt, emmer and barley, according to a study in the journal Scientific Reports. The research is the first time that such detailed information on food contents has been retrieved from a Bronze Age artefact.
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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

3,000 Year Old Necropolis Discovered Beneath Site Of Visigoth Graves In Spain

Spanish archaeologists excavating a Visigoth necropolis in Sena, in the northeastern province of Huesca, have uncovered what they say is a burial site dating to the 10th century BCE and that was part of the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture.


An urn that revealed the existence of the cemetery dating back more than 2,000 years [Credit: EFE]

Two urns and a lid were discovered in the graveyard. Hugo Chautón, the archaeologist overseeing the excavation, says Urnfield culture spread from central Europe into northeastern Spain around 1,000 years BCE. The name comes from the Urnfield culture’s custom of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns, which were then buried.

“This culture represents the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron,” said Chautón, “and provides valuable information about burial practices, particularly the move from burying the dead to cremating them.”

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