Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Written Language of Ancient Scotland Discovered

Once thought to be rock art, carved depictions of soldiers, horses and other figures are in fact part of a written language dating back to the Iron Age.

The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843.

The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland.

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New Type of Human Discovered via Single Pinky Finger

A new type of prehistoric human has been discovered via DNA from a child's pinky finger found in a central Asian cave, a new study says.

"We had no inkling that this thing existed, and suddenly it's there. That in itself is a remarkable discovery," said Terry Brown, a geneticist at the University of Manchester in the U.K. and co-author of a news article released alongside the study Wednesday by the journal Nature.

If confirmed by further genetic testing, the discovery—dubbed X-woman—will mark the first time that a new human species has been identified solely on the basis of DNA (quick genetics overview).

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Neanderthal may not be the oldest Dutchman

People may well have been roaming the land we now call the Netherlands for far longer than was assumed until recently. There is evidence to suggest that the country was home to the forebears of the Neanderthals. Amateur archaeologist Pieter Stoel found materials used by the oldest inhabitants in the central town of Woerden. These artefacts were shown to be at least 370,000 years old, which takes us back to long before the time of the Neanderthals.

Our ancient forebears are often described as cavemen but that is not entirely accurate. There were no caves in this environment, explains Pieter Stoel:

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Friday, March 26, 2010

A New Human Relative from the Siberian Mountains

Have scientists identified a "homo incognitus" -- a previously unknown human species? Finger bones dating from 30,000 years ago were unearthed in southern Siberia. Its genes differ from those of modern humans as well as Neanderthals, and German scientists think they are onto a sensation.

John Krause checked his findings again and again. Somehow he couldn't believe what the analysis was showing. The scientist wanted to make sure he was right before phoning his boss, the renowned evolutionary genetics specialist Svante Pääbo. Did the DNA really stem from a previously unknown human form?

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Religious beliefs are the basis of the origins of Palaeolithic art

This statement isn't new, but for years anthropologists, archaeologists and historians of art understood these artistic manifestations as purely aesthetic and decorative motives. Eduardo Palacio-Pérez, researcher at the University of Cantabria (UC), now reveals the origins of a theory that remains nowadays/lasts into our days.

"This theory is does not originate with the prehistorians, in other words, those who started to develop the idea that the art of primitive peoples was linked with beliefs of a symbolic-religious nature were the anthropologists", Eduardo Palacio-Pérez, author of the study and researcher at UC, explains to SINC.

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DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'

Scientists have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human through analysis of DNA from a finger bone unearthed in a Siberian cave.

The extinct "hominin" (human-like creature) lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago.

An international team has sequenced genetic material from the fossil showing that it is distinct from that of Neanderthals and modern humans.

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Dig for Bronze Age King's Ditch in Herefordshire

Archaeologists have begun excavating a site in Herefordshire, which they believe may reveal a 3,000-year-old earth trench called the King's Ditch.

Border Archaeology firm is digging in the former Kemble car park in Aubrey Street, Hereford, near the cathedral.

It said the ditch was an important Bronze Age site that could yield historical treasures and it expected to find it about 4m (13ft) underground.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fingerbone points to a new type of human who fell off the family tree 30,000 years ago

A new species of ancient human that lived side by side with Homo sapiens and Neanderthals as recently as 30,000 years ago has been discovered, rewriting the history of humanity’s spread around the world.

The creature, nicknamed “X-woman” by researchers, is the first human cousin to be identified purely from a DNA sample — extracted from a bone fragment of a little finger found two years ago in a Siberian cave.

The discovery, which has amazed and delighted scientists, shows that the human family was more diverse in prehistoric times than had been appreciated. It suggests that many different kinds of humans left Africa separately and then thrived for thousands of years, before Homo sapiens emerged as the sole survivor.

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Fossil may be evidence of unknown hominid

A fossilised finger found in a Siberian cave contains mitochondrial DNA that may come from a previously unknown human ancestor.

Research published online today describes mapping the DNA from what appears to be a youngsters little finger. Either that or the middle finger of a Hobbit. The digit was found in 2008 in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia.

The sample was compared to the DNA of 54 modern humans and six Neanderthals - none matched. The boffins think the Siberian shared a common ancestor with modern humans - and Neanderthals - until about a million years ago.

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Ancient DNA suggests new hominid line

Genetic data unveil a shadowy, previously unknown Stone Age ancestor

A new member of the human evolutionary family has been proposed for the first time based on an ancient genetic sequence, not fossil bones. Even more surprising, this novel and still mysterious hominid, if confirmed, would have lived near Stone Age Neandertals and Homo sapiens.

“It was a shock to find DNA from a new type of ancestor that has not been on our radar screens,” says geneticist Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. These enigmatic hominids left Africa in a previously unsuspected migration around 1 million years ago, a team led by Pääbo and Max Planck graduate student Johannes Krause reports in a paper published online March 24 in Nature.

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Did Climate Change Drive Human Evolution?

There's a plan afoot among evolutionary scientists to launch a big new project — to look back in time and find out how climate change over millions of years affected human evolution.

A panel of experts from the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., has given its blessing to the plan. They say it could unveil a whole new side of human history.

Anthropologist Rick Potts, who heads the human origins department at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, has been pushing the idea that "climate made us" for years.

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Ancient 'X-Woman' discovered as man's early ancestors are pictured together for the first time

A mysterious species of ancient human has been discovered in a cave in southern Siberia.

Nicknamed X-Woman, scientists say the human lived alongside our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago.

The discovery, which could rewrite mankind's family tree, was made after analysis of DNA from a fossilised finger bone.

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Scientists reveal discovery of fourth human species

A fourth type of hominid, besides Neanderthals, modern humans and the "hobbit", was living as recently as 40,000 years ago, according to research published in the journal Nature .

The discovery by Svante Pääbo and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, is based on DNA sequences from a finger bone fragment found in a Siberian cave.

It further enriches the scientific picture of human life in the recent geological past. "Forty thousand years ago, the planet was more crowded than we thought," said Terry Brown, an expert in ancient DNA at Manchester University.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Farming's rise cultivated fair deals

Blanche DuBois, Tennessee Williams’ wide-eyed protagonist who relied on “the kindness of strangers,” had nothing on ancient farmers.

In rapidly expanding settlements, early cultivators had no choice but to bargain for daily goods with lots of folks they didn’t know. A fundamental redefinition of a fair deal soon followed, according to a new cross-cultural study.

Around 10,000 years ago, residents of large farming communities had to learn to make fair exchanges with strangers and to retaliate against selfish exploiters, researchers propose in the March 19 Science.

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Stone Age could complicate N.Sea wind farm plans

Energy firms taking part in a North Sea boom for offshore wind farms will have to watch out for remains of Stone Age villages submerged for thousands of years, an expert said on Tuesday.

A region dubbed "Doggerland" connected Britain to mainland Europe across what is now the southern North Sea until about 8,000 years ago, when seas rose after the last Ice Age.

It is now the site of a planned vast expansion of offshore wind power by 2020 to help combat climate change.

"We've begun to think about how we'd tackle any archaeological finds," Adrian Fox, supply chain manager of the Crown Estate which leases land off Britain, told Reuters during a conference in Oslo about offshore wind.

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New method could revolutionize dating of ancient treasures

Scientists today described development of a new method to determine the age of ancient mummies, old artwork, and other relics without causing damage to these treasures of global cultural heritage. Reporting at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they said it could allow scientific analysis of hundreds of artifacts that until now were off limits because museums and private collectors did not want the objects damaged.

"This technique stands to revolutionize radiocarbon dating," said Marvin Rowe, Ph.D., who led the research team. "It expands the possibility for analyzing extensive museum collections that have previously been off limits because of their rarity or intrinsic value and the destructive nature of the current method of radiocarbon dating. In theory, it could even be used to date the Shroud of Turin."

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23,000 year old stone wall found at entrance to cave in Greece

The oldest stone wall in Greece, which has stood at the entrance of a cave in Thessaly for the last 23,000 years, has been discovered by palaeontologists, the ministry of culture said Monday.

The age of the find, determined by an optical dating test, singles it out as "probably one of the oldest in the world", according to a ministry press release.

"The dating matches the coldest period of the most recent ice age, indicating that the cavern's paleolithic inhabitants built it to protect themselves from the cold", said the ministry.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Human ancestors walked comfortably upright 3.6 million years ago, new footprint study says

A comparison of ancient and contemporary footprints reveals that our ancestors were strolling much like we do some 3.6 million years ago, a time when they were still quite comfortable spending time in trees, according to a study which will be published in the March 22 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Anatomical fossils have given scant confirmation about when our ancestors developed a fully modern gait. Although some researchers have argued that the 4.4 million-year-old ancient human Ardipithecus ramidus ("Ardi") described in October 2009 was adept at walking on her hind legs, many disagree.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

How discovery off the Norfolk coast holds the key to Norway's past

It is just eight inches long, but its discovery changed what we know about prehistoric Europe and our ancestors.

The harpoon, which was found by a Lowestoft fishing trawler in 1931, was yesterday under the lens of a Norwegian television crew, who are making a documentary on the origins of Norway.

It is 14,000 years old, but in perfect condition, the points carved into it still sharp. It would have been used for hunting by modern man in late Paleolithic or early Mesolithic times; a time before written records when people lived in hunter-gatherer communities.

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"Hobbits" Had Million-Year History on Island?

Newfound stone tools suggest the evolutionary history of the "hobbits" on the Indonesian island of Flores stretches back a million years, a new study says—200,000 years longer than previously thought.

The hobbit mystery was sparked by the 2004 discovery of bones on Flores that belonged to a three-foot-tall (one-meter-tall), 55-pound (25-kilogram) female with a grapefruit-size brain.

The tiny, hobbit-like creature—controversially dubbed a new human species, Homo floresiensis—persisted on the remote island until about 18,000 years ago, even as "modern" humans spread around the world, experts say.

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'Hobbit' island colonised much earlier than thought

Flores, the Indonesian island where skeletal remains of famous "hobbit hominids" were found in 2003, was colonised by humans much earlier than thought, scientists said on Wednesday.

Humans settled in Flores around a million years ago, at least 120,000 years sooner than previously estimated, they reported in the journal Nature.

Flores leapt into the headlines seven years ago when archaeologists found the skeletal remains of tiny humans who measured only a metre (3.25 feet) in height, weighed just 30 kilos (65 pounds) and had the brain the size of a chimp's.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hobbit origins pushed back

Stone tools reveal that hominins lived on the Indonesian island of Flores a million years ago.

When the remains of tiny hominins — nicknamed hobbits — were found on the isolated Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, it sparked an epic hunt to understand the origins of these diminutive cousins of modern humans.

Now, discoveries of stone flakes used as primitive tools on the island suggest that the hobbit's ancestors were there a million years ago, at least 120,000 years earlier than previously thought (A. Brumm et al. Nature doi:10.1038/nature08844; 2010). "Whatever species made it to the island 1 million years ago, it was probably an ancestor of Homo floresiensis," says William Jungers, an anthropologist at Stony Brook University in New York.

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Illegal metal detecting crackdown

Archaeologists are to team up with police in a bid to crack down on illegal metal detecting in Norfolk.

Norfolk has the highest number of recovered artefacts in the country declared treasure and a successful long-established working relationship with legitimate metal- detecting enthusiasts.

There were 109 cases of items found in Norfolk being declared treasure in 2008-09. Recent finds include a hoard of 24 Henry III short-cross pennies in Breckland, and an early Saxon gold spangle from south Norfolk.

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Evidence of 250,000-year-old man in Bingham

BINGHAM residents have discovered that an extinct human species existed in the area more than 250,000 years ago.

After four years of field-walking, results of Bingham Heritage Trails Association's investigation will be published shortly.

The group also discovered that the nearby Roman town of Margidunum was larger than previously thought with development along the Fosse Way.

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Estimate puts mankind's ancestors at 18,500 1.2M years ago

From the composition of just two human genomes, geneticists have computed the size of the human population 1.2 million years ago from which everyone in the world is descended.

They put the number at 18,500 people, but this refers only to breeding individuals, the "effective" population. The actual population would have been about three times as large, or 55,500.

Comparable estimates for other primates then are 21,000 for chimpanzees and 25,000 for gorillas. In biological terms, it seems, humans were not a very successful species, and the strategy of investing in larger brains than those of their fellow apes had not yet produced any big payoff. Human population numbers did not reach high levels until after the advent of agriculture.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How Nature Inspired the Alphabet

32,000 years ago, ancient humans gathered in a cave in Lascaux, France, where, by firelight, they created the first hand-drawn forms--scenes depicting man's relationship with the natural world. The favorite subject in those first drawings was the ancient ox, so impressive in stature and strength, that it was deified by our earliest ancestors. This reverence for nature remained as civilizations formed, and with it, written language. It is no wonder then that subtly hidden within our alphabet today lie the remnants of these ancient forms--many of which reflect the earliest relationships between man and nature. To find them, you just have to look a little closer.

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When did the first 'modern' human beings appear in the Iberian Peninsula?

Research carried out by a group of archaeologists from the Centre for Prehistoric Archaeological Heritage Studies of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (CEPAP_UAB) at the Cova Gran site (Lleida) has contributed to stirring up scientific debate about the appearance of the first 'modern' human beings on the Iberian Peninsula and their possible bearing on the extinction of the Neanderthals. The samples obtained at Cova Gran using Carbon 14 dating refer to a period of between 34,000 and 32,000 years in which this biological replacement in the Western Mediterranean can be located in time, although the study regards as relative the use of Carbon 14 for dating materials from the period of transition of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic period( 40,000 and 30,000). The results also support the hypothesis that there was neither interaction nor coexistence between the two species.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eggstinct - But Scientists Hope For DNA Clues

Scientists are hopeful of finding out more about ancient birds and why they died out after extracting DNA from a huge fossilised elephant bird egg.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology, discovered the eggshells in Madagascar.

The research team now plans to study eggshells from a number of archaeological sites in New Zealand to investigate how humans interacted with another giant bird, the moa, which became extinct 600 years ago due to hunting pressures.

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New centre for replica Iron Age attraction

A new eco-friendly visitors centre is set to be built at a replica Iron Age farm.

Butser Ancient Farm, in Chalton Lane, Chalton, has seen its visitors soar by 10,000 to 20,000 over the last 10 years.

A bid had now been launched to build a £150,000 visitors centre at the site, which was founded in 1972 as an archaeological research site.

Reconstructed roundhouses and a villa at the farm give an insight into the life of Romans and Celts in ancient Britain.

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DNA from fossilised eggshells could help reconstruct lives of extinct birds

Ancient DNA has been extracted from the fossilised eggshells of birds for the first time, and will eventually yield clues about their physiology, diet and how they went extinct

Scientists have collected DNA from the fossilised eggshells of birds that died hundreds and in some cases thousands of years ago.

The oldest eggshell to yield DNA came from an Australian emu that died around 19,000 years ago. It is the first time that scientists have succeeded in extracting ancient DNA from the fossilised eggshells of a bird.

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DNA of extinct birds extracted from ancient eggshell

Researchers have found that eggshells of extinct bird species are a rich source of preserved DNA.

An international team isolated the delicate DNA molecules of species including the massive "elephant birds" of the genus Aepyorni.

The Proceedings of the Royal Society B research demonstrated the approach also on emu, ducks and the extinct moa.

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Kerala's possible Mediterranean links unearthed by researchers

Did the Mediterranean region of megalithic age have any links with the state of Kerala in southern India?

A wide range of megalithic burials recently discovered in some northern districts of Kerala during a research project have thrown light on

possible links between the Mediterranean and Kerala coasts in the prehistoric stone age that occurred between 6000 BC and 2000 BC.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Neolithic remains delay bypass

THE CONSTRUCTION of a major dual-carriageway to bypass Ballymena, Co Antrim, is being delayed after the discovery of neolithic remains at the site.

Archaeologists have uncovered a rare late-neolithic ring fort, one of just four such forts found in Ireland.

Initial excavations took place over an eight-week period between June 2009 to September 2009, and a team of 20 archaeologists have recovered objects, including flint chippings, small blades and a leaf-shaped arrowhead.

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5,000-year-old Westray wife tours Scotland

A Neolithic carving found in the Orkney Islands last year is to go on tour around Scotland.

The 5,000-year-old figurine, known as the Westray Wife, was discovered in the Links of Noltland on the Orkney island of Westray and is the only Neolithic carving of a human form found in Scotland.

Measuring just 41mm by 31mm and made of sandstone, the Venus figure will go on tour around Scotland before returning to Orkney for the summer.

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Oldest Settlement Known to Man Identified

Archaeologists claim to have found the oldest continually habited village in the history of humanity.

Czech diggers have found remains of an about 150,000-year-old prehistoric settlement in Arbil, north Iraq.

The archaeologists revealed a high number of items, mainly prehistoric stone tools, about nine metres under the ground in Arbil, capital of the Kurdish autonomous region.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Bronze age remains block broadband plan

THE cyber age’s bid to spread its message into a pristine landscape has perished between a rock and a hard place in a Bronze Age valley.

Age-old archaeological remains are standing in the way of plans to bring modern internet communications to a scenic area of Kerry.

A telecommunications mast which would provide broadband to the mid-Kerry area would be a "new alien intrusion" on a very beautiful and almost pristine landscape.

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Indonesian 'hobbit' challenges evolutionary theory

LIANG BUA, Indonesia – Hunched over a picnic table in a limestone cave, the Indonesian researcher gingerly fingers the bones of a giant rat for clues to the origins of a tiny human.

This world turned upside down may once have existed here, on the remote island of Flores, where an international team is trying to shed light on the fossilized 18,000-year-old skeleton of a dwarf cavewoman whose discovery in 2003 was an international sensation.

Her scientific name is Homo floresiensis, her nickname is "the hobbit," and the hunt is on to prove that she and the dozen other hobbits since discovered are not a quirk of nature but members of a distinct hominid species.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Iron Age hopes for Moray field

Experts believe they have discovered another Iron Age power centre in Moray.

Yesterday National Museums of Scotland curator Dr Fraser Hunter said investigations at a field at Burghead have possibly revealed “a high-status site”.

The archaeologist said the remains of four Iron Age roundhouses could lie buried beneath the soil.

He said: “In combination with the finds that have been discovered at the site, it suggests that this is one of the more important areas, one of the power centres of the Burghead area.”

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UT researcher among those challenging 'missing link'

47 million-year-old primate fossil is actually an ancestor to lemurs, not humans, researchers say.

Hollywood-like touches accompanied last year's announcement of a 47 million-year-old primate fossil as a possible "missing link" in the evolution of humans.

Researchers presented their findings about the gem known as Darwinius masillae at a movie premiere-like news conference at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. A book and a History Channel documentary — both called "The Link" — followed.

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Die Seefahrt: Wer hat's erfunden?

Bereits vor 130.000 Jahren erreichten Urmenschen die Mittelmeerinsel Kreta

Der Fund von Faustkeilen an der Südküste Kretas erschüttert die bisherige Lehrmeinung, dass die ersten Menschen, die längere Seereisen unternahmen, der Art Homo sapiens angehörten. Bisher nahm man an, dass die Geschichte der Seefahrt erst vor 60.000 Jahren mit der Besiedlung Australiens begann.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Neolithic man puts major bypass on hold

Thousands of years ago our Neolithic forebears were hunting wild game with flint arrows in the hills overlooking what is now Ballymena. Now they’re still making their presence felt, delaying a road dualling scheme that was aimed at easing congestion between the town and the M2.

The A26 Ballee Road East to M2 Ballymena bypass dualling scheme was due to be completed by the end of this month. But bad weather and the discovery of rare Neolithic remains have pushed that deadline back to late summer, costing tens of thousands of pounds.

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Stone Age Engravings Found on Ostrich Shells

Don’t laugh—researchers say a cache of ostrich eggshells engraved with geometric designs demonstrates the existence of a symbolic communication system around 60,000 years ago among African hunter-gatherers.

The unusually large sample of 270 engraved eggshell fragments, mostly excavated over the past several years at Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa, displays two standard design patterns, according to a team led by archaeologist Pierre-Jean Texier of the University of Bordeaux 1 in Talence, France. Each pattern enjoyed its own heyday between approximately 65,000 and 55,000 years ago, the investigators report in a paper to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Engraved Eggs Suggest Early Symbolism

What do Homo sapiens have that our hominid ancestors did not? Many researchers think that the capacity for symbolic behaviors—such as art and language—is the hallmark of our species. A team working in South Africa has now discovered what it thinks is some of the best early evidence for such symbolism: a cache of ostrich eggshells dated to about 60,000 years ago and etched with intricate geometric patterns.

This fits with other recent suggestions of symbolism from South Africa. For example, last year researchers reported pieces of ochre etched with what may be abstract designs and dated to 100,000 years ago at BlombosCave on the Southern Cape; similar etchings dated to about 77,000 years ago were previously reported from Blombos. The Blombos team argued that this represented a continuous, long-standing symbolic tradition, but some archaeologists question whether such etchings qualify as true symbolic behavior.

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