Saturday, July 24, 2021

Why could Stonehenge be stripped of world heritage site status?

Unesco says Stonehenge will be put on its danger list unless plans for the A303 road tunnel are changed. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Unesco has confirmed that Stonehenge could be stripped of its world heritage site status, over its concern that a road tunnel, backed by the government, would irreversibly damage an area of “outstanding universal value”.

A report to Unesco’s world heritage committee setting out concerns about the £1.7bn A303 road tunnel was approved unchanged on Thursday. Unless the designs for the two-mile (3.3km) tunnel are extended and changed, the committee recommends placing Stonehenge on Unesco’s list of world heritage in danger next year.

One of the two Beaker-period burials found near the site of the proposed Stonehenge road tunnel
Archaeologists unearth bronze age graves at Stonehenge tunnel site
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Last month the high court was told that a decision by Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, to approve the tunnel last November was unlawful because it did not properly consider damage that would be done to a string of prehistoric sites and many thousands of ancient artefacts.

Unesco’s committee found that if the high court confirms planning consent for the tunnel, Stonehenge should be placed on its danger list. It said that despite minor improvements to the original plan, the proposed cut-and-cover tunnel would irreversibly damage an area of “outstanding universal value”.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The final meal of the famous 'bog man' revealed: Tollund Man feasted on porridge and fish before being killed as a ritual sacrifice 2,400 years ago, study reveals

The amazingly well-preserved head of the Tollund Man - a man who lived during the
4th century BC

Tollund Man's gut contents had been analysed forensically when he was discovered in 1950, uncovering traces of cereals and wild plants. 

When Tollund Man was autopsied in 1950, his intestines were still preserved, and the alimentary canal from the stomach to anus was removed in one piece with its contents still in place.  

Now, experts from Silkeborg Museum in Denmark, say they have been able to reconstruct the last meal of Tollund Man in greater detail than ever before – right down to how it was prepared. 

The researchers used a few millilitres of material from the large intestine for analyses to give the 'most detailed study' yet on the gut contents of a bog body. 

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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Broxmouth Hillfort: Study reveals clues ancient people kept loved-ones mundane keepsakes

One of the graves at the site Pic: Broxmouth Project Archive

 They were a people who lived almost two thousand years ago, who would have been on nodding terms with the legions of Roman Britian and who may have decorated their homes with the severed limbs and heads of their enemies. 

Yet despite the gulf of time and taste in interior decoration which separates the ancient inhabitants of Scotland and its modern population today, it appears that holding onto mementos of loved ones was just as important then as it is now.  

A fresh analysis of artefacts uncovered at the Broxmouth hillfort site, near Edinburgh, has raised the tantalising prospect that everyday items were kept by iron Age people as an emotional reminder of those no longer there, and a ‘continuing bond’ with the deceased. 

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Scientists found fossils from a new species of human that’s 130,000 years old


Scientists from Israel stumbled upon an unexpected discovery while studying fossilized pieces of bone dug up near a cement plant. The fragments from a skull and lower jaw with teeth belonged to a person who lived in the area some 130,000 years ago, but the human is unlike anything we’ve known so far.

The researchers gave it a new name since we’re looking at a different species of human that has never been seen before. They’re calling it Nesher Ramla Homo, after a location southeast of Tel Aviv where it was discovered. This human had particular characteristics unseen in other skeletal findings from the same period. The researchers found that Nesher Ramla Homo had a flat skull, very large teeth, and a jaw bone with no chin. The species may have lived alongside Homo sapiens for more than 100,000 years, and they’re believed to be the precursor to the Neanderthal, the skull of which is seen above. The discovery might upend everything we knew about human evolution on Earth.

“The discovery of a new type of Homo is of great scientific importance,” Tel Aviv University’s Israel Hershkovitz said in a statement. “It enables us to make new sense of previously found human fossils, add another piece to the puzzle of human evolution, and understand the migrations of humans in the old world.”

The Nesher Ramla might have had unusual skull anatomy, but the study says they resembled pre-Neanderthal groups in Europe.

“This is what makes us suggest that this Nesher Ramla group is actually a large group that started very early in time and are the source of the European Neanderthal,” Tel Aviv University physical anthropologist Hila May said in a statement. She added that science has never been able to explain how Homo sapien genes were present in the earlier Neanderthal population in Europe. The Nesher Ramla may be the missing link, as the species may have interbred with Homo sapiens.

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Massive human head in Chinese well forces scientists to rethink evolution

Chinese researchers have called the skull, found in Harbin in the north, Homo longi, or ‘Dragon man’, but other experts are more cautious about naming a new species. Photograph: Wei Gao
Ian Sample Science editor

The discovery of a huge fossilised skull that was wrapped up and hidden in a Chinese well nearly 90 years ago has forced scientists to rewrite the story of human evolution.

Analysis of the remains has revealed a new branch of the human family tree that points to a previously unknown sister group more closely related to modern humans than the Neanderthals.

The extraordinary fossil has been named a new human species, Homo longi or “Dragon man”, by Chinese researchers, although other experts are more cautious about the designation.

“I think this is one of the most important finds of the past 50 years,” said Prof Chris Stringer, research leader at the Natural History Museum in London, who worked on the project. “It’s a wonderfully preserved fossil.”

The skull appears to have a remarkable backstory. According to the researchers, it was originally found in 1933 by Chinese labourers building a bridge over the Songhua River in Harbin, in China’s northernmost province, Heilongjiang, during the Japanese occupation. To keep the skull from falling into Japanese hands it was wrapped and hidden in an abandoned well, resurfacing only in 2018 after the man who hid it told his grandson about it shortly before he died.

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New mystery human species discovered in Israel

Archaeologists also found tools, butchered animal bones and evidence of a campfire at the Nesher Ramla excavation site. Photo / Yossi Zaidner

An international group of archaeologists have discovered a missing piece in the story of human evolution.

Excavations at the Israeli site of Nesher Ramla have recovered a skull that may represent a late-surviving example of a distinct Homo population, which lived in and around modern-day Israel from about 420,000 to 120,000 years ago.

As researchers Israel Hershkovitz, Yossi Zaidner and colleagues detail in two companion studies published today in Science, this archaic human community traded both their culture and genes with nearby Homo sapiens groups for many thousands of years.

The new fossils

Pieces of a skull, including a right parietal (back of the skull) and an almost complete mandible (jaw) were dated to 140,000–120,000 years old, with analysis finding the person it belonged to wasn't fully H. sapiens.

Nor were they Neanderthal, however, which was the only other type of human thought to have been living in the region at the time.

Instead, this individual falls right smack in the middle: a unique population of Homo never before recognised by science.

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New prehistoric human unknown to science discovered in Israel

Skull found at the site among other items at Nesher Ramla.
(photo credit: DR. YOSSI ZAIDNER)

Hebrew U and Tel Aviv University researchers found remains of a new type of ‘Homo’ who lived in the region some 130,000 years ago.

A new type of early human previously not known to scientists has been discovered in Israel, Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University researchers announced Thursday as their extraordinary findings appeared in the prestigious academic journal Science.
Researchers believe the new “Homo” species intermarried with Homo sapiens and was an ancestor of the Neanderthals.

Tens of thousands of years ago, the busy central region of what is now a densely populated and traffic-jammed part of Israel, was a landscape that very much resembled the African savanna. It featured rhinos, wild horses and cattle and other large animals that were perfect game for ancient hunter-gatherers.
The site of Nesher Ramla, a few kilometers from the modern-day city, was probably close to a water reservoir where early humans could hunt animals. Today, the dig site is filled with many animal bones, stone tools for making fire and butchering, and human bones, including skulls, TAU anthropologist Prof. Israel Hershkovitz said.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Unique Bronze Age find just south of Alingsås

Credit: Mats Hellgren

A unique Bronze Age find was made on 8 April in a wooded area just to the south of the town of Alingsås. Following an archaeological examination by among others Johan Ling, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Gothenburg among others, it has emerged that this is one of the most spectacular finds ever made in Sweden. It comprises around 50 artifacts that are all largely intact. These exclusive objects would have belonged to one or more high-status women in the Bronze Age. 

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Citizen archaeologist discovers ancient ‘logboat’ in the Boyne Valley

Citizen archaeologist Anthony Murphy (pictured) appears to have found another potentially significant discovery in the Boyne Valley - a logboat that could date back to Neolithic times. Photo Ciara Wilkinson

A citizen archaeologist who discovered the world famous ‘Dronehenge’ near Newgrange, county Meath during the heatwave of 2018, appears to have found another potentially significant discovery in the Boyne Valley using a drone - a logboat that could date to Neolithic times.

Anthony Murphy said, “I went looking for a dolphin. I didn’t find him but I did find a logboat.”

Made by hollowing out a tree trunk, such logboats or dugout boats have, according to Dr Stephen Davis, UCD School of Archaeology, “an immensely long history of use in Ireland, with examples known from the Neolithic right the way up to Medieval times.” 

“Closer investigation will be able to show more - for example tool marks would be able to tell whether it was made with metal or stone tools, and radiocarbon dating give an approximate age,” he added.

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'Miracle' cave in South Africa may be the earliest known human dwelling EVER found, 1.8million-year-old stone tools suggest

The team explored layers deep within the ancient cave and were able to successfully establish the shift from Oldowan tools, sharp flakes and chopping tools, to early handaxes (pictured) over one million years ago 

Ancient tools found in a 'miracle' cave in South Africa suggest our earliest ancestors set up camp there more than 1.8 million years ago, according to palaeontologists. 

Experts from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa's Kalahari Desert, delving down to ancient layers within the historic site.

Few places in the world preserve a continuous archaeological record spanning millions of years, but this is one such site. Its name means 'miracle' in Afrikaans.

The new study, including work by geologists and archaeologists, confirms the existence of human-made stone tools dating back 1.8 million years. 

This marks it as the earliest cave occupation in the world and the site of some of the earliest indications of fire use and tool making among prehistoric humans. 

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Is This 10,000-Year-Old Carving Europe’s Oldest Known Depiction of a Boat?

Arock carving discovered in Norway may be one of Europe’s earliest examples of art depicting a boat, reports Garry Shaw for the Art Newspaper.

The image, found in Valle, on the Efjorden fjord in Nordland County, appears to be a life-size representation of a boat made from sealskin, writes Jan Magne Gjerde, a scholar at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology.

Based on the height of the surrounding shoreline, which was higher in the Stone Age than it is today, Gjerde dates the art to between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago. That makes it one of the oldest images of a boat in the world. Previously, the oldest known depictions of boats in northern Europe dated to between 7,000 and 7,500 years ago.

The image—a white outline carved into a rock surface—was probably originally about 14 feet long. A portion of the drawing eroded away over time, and it is now only clearly visible under particular weather conditions. A second carving at the site also appears to show a boat, but just a small part of it remains.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Early bronze age tomb uncovered near Marlborough

James Cameron at the site of the tomb in East Kennett (left) and exposed lintel at the tomb (right)

 A rare archeological find has been unearthed on a farm in East Kennett.

Wiltshire archeologists say it is likely to be a 4,500-year-old megalithic tomb.

They have since surveyed the site, and believe there may be several more of them in the same field.

The burial chamber was discovered back in the summer when the Sarsen capstone collapsed and a small sink hole appeared in an arable field.

“For I ages I thought it was just another badger set but when I examined it more closely you can see that it is lined with stones and there is some kind of chamber there,” said farm owner James Cameron.

“It isn’t very big, probably a few metres square and dates from the Bronze Age.” 

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Mesolithic Double Burial Discovered In France

Mesolithic tomb of Casseneuil being cleared
[Credit: Frederic Prodeo, Willford O'yl, Inrap]

The Mesolithic covers a period of 5,000 years, and yet less than fifty burials from this period are known in France. One of them, containing two human remains, has been excavated by a team from Inrap in Casseneuil (a commune in the Lot-et-Garonne department in south-western France) since the beginning of March.

The Casseneuil burial site was discovered in 2008, during a preliminary inspection for the construction of a housing estate. The State (Drac Nouvelle-Aquitaine, regional archaeology service) commissioned the excavation, which is currently underway on a 1500 m² property. The radiocarbon dating recently obtained dates this double burial to around 9000 years before our era, i.e. an early period of the Mesolithic.

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Which Skills Were Valued in Early Neolithic Europe?


YORK, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of York, a recent review of stone tools recovered from early Neolithic cemeteries across Europe suggests that men and women were buried with different sorts of implements, and may have therefore performed different work-related activities during their lifetimes. Archaeologist Penny Bickle said that tools found in women’s graves were used to work animal skins, while men’s tools were associated with hunting and conflict. Bickle suggests the differences in tools reflect the variety of skills needed by members of the community. The presence of the tools in the graves is evidence of the value given to all of the jobs, she added.

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Swan Songs

Courtesy Filip Ondrkál)

Bronze lamp, four views

From 1881 to 1890, in locations including modern Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, a number of very similar bronze bird figurines dating to the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages (ca. 1300–500 B.C.) were unearthed. For more than a century, it remained unclear how these artifacts were used, but their similarity was seen as evidence of shared cultural practices and beliefs across a large swath of Europe at this time. Now, a team studying a recently discovered bronze waterbird, perhaps a swan, from the site of Liptovský Hrádok in northern Slovakia, has determined that the artifact, and likely the other similar examples as well, was originally attached to a small chariot, filled with animal fat or vegetable oil and used as a lamp during burial rituals and ceremonial activities. 

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Little Foot fossil shows early human ancestor clung closely to trees

Little Foot was discovered in the 1990s in a cave in South Africa and is the most intact ancient skeleton of any human ancestor. Credit: Paul John Myburgh

A long-awaited, high-tech analysis of the upper body of famed fossil 'Little Foot' opens a window to a pivotal period when human ancestors diverged from apes, new USC research shows. 

Little Foot's shoulder assembly proved key to interpreting an early branch of the human evolutionary tree. Scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of USC focused on its so-called pectoral girdle, which includes collarbones, shoulder blades and joints.

Although other parts of Little Foot, especially its legs, show humanlike traits for upright walking, the shoulder components are clearly apelike, supporting arms surprisingly well suited for suspending from branches or shimmying up and down trees rather than throwing a projectile or dangling astride the torso like humans.Little Foot was discovered in the 1990s in a cave in South Africa and is the most intact ancient skeleton of any human ancestor. Credit: Paul John Myburgh

A long-awaited, high-tech analysis of the upper body of famed fossil 'Little Foot' opens a window to a pivotal period when human ancestors diverged from apes, new USC research shows. 

Little Foot's shoulder assembly proved key to interpreting an early branch of the human evolutionary tree. Scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of USC focused on its so-called pectoral girdle, which includes collarbones, shoulder blades and joints.

Although other parts of Little Foot, especially its legs, show humanlike traits for upright walking, the shoulder components are clearly apelike, supporting arms surprisingly well suited for suspending from branches or shimmying up and down trees rather than throwing a projectile or dangling astride the torso like humans.

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

“Mixing between modern humans and archaic hominins was a common phenomenon.”

Kutubu island in Papua New Guinea. Different ancient humans encountered each other in this region.Marc Dozier

Around 45,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans expanding into the Pacific region encountered archaic hominins on their journey. It wasn’t long before they started having sex with them. So much sex, that it continued for millennia.

What the humans didn’t know is they were picking up genes that would help them adapt to and survive island living. These genes continue to benefit people living in this region today, new research suggests.

The Pacific region is home to a deep history of early human evolution. However, genomic studies in the region are just emerging, says Etienne Patin, a human population geneticist with Institut Pasteur in France. Patin is the new study’s co-author.

“Today, 95 percent of genomic studies focus on European-descent individuals, while they represent only 16 percent of the human population,” Patin tells Inverse.

His research, published Thursday in the journal Nature, examines whether or not sex between modern humans and other species of humans facilitated the genetic adaption to island environments still observed in some Pacific Islanders today. This population has the highest levels of combined Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry worldwide, the study suggests.

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