Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bronze-Age Battle Frozen in Time: Photos

he earliest probable evidence for a large-scale battle, described in the latest issue of Antiquity, reveals in gory detail what warfare was like during the Bronze Age.

The 3,200-year-old likely battlefield freezes in time the face-to-face combat that took place in northeastern Germany's Tollense Valley along the banks of the River Tollense.

Read the rest of this article...

Unique Canine Tooth from 'Peking Man' Found in Swedish Museum Collection

Fossils from so-called Peking man are extremely rare, as most of the finds disappeared during World War II. A unique discovery has been made at the Museum of Evolution at Uppsala University -- a canine tooth from Peking Man, untouched since it was dug up in the 1920s in China.

"This is an absolutely incredible find. We and our Chinese colleagues are overwhelmed. With today's technology, a canine tooth that has not been handled can tell us so much more than in the past, such as what they ate," says Per Ahlberg, professor of evolutionary developmental biology at Uppsala University.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Population genetics reveals shared ancestries

More than just a tool for predicting health, modern genetics is upending long-held assumptions about who we are. A new study by Harvard researchers casts new light on the intermingling and migration of European, Middle Eastern and African and populations since ancient times.

In a paper titled "The History of African Gene Flow into Southern Europeans, Levantines and Jews," published in PLoS Genetics, HMS Associate Professor of Genetics David Reich and his colleagues investigated the proportion of sub-Saharan African ancestry present in various populations in West Eurasia, defined as the geographic area spanning modern Europe and the Middle East. While previous studies have established that such shared ancestry exists, they have not indicated to what degree or how far back the mixing of populations can be traced.

Analyzing publicly available genetic data from 40 populations comprising North Africans, Middle Easterners and Central Asians were doctoral student Priya Moorjani and Alkes Price, an assistant professor in the Program in Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology within the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Iron Age cliff castle excavation finally reveals its secrets after 70 years

After a delay of 70 years, a new book has been published which sheds light on the history of a nationally important monument in Cornwall.

The work is the result of ten years' study by leading South West archaeologists into a landmark excavation of an Iron Age cliff castle near Newquay.

Titled Trevelgue Head, Cornwall: the importance of C K Croft Andrew's 1939 excavations for prehistoric and Roman Cornwall, the book is a fully illustrated account of archaeological excavations which took place on the headland during the summer of that year.

The Second World War halted work on the site and the results of the excavations have remained unpublished until now.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Early Bronze Age battle site found on German river bank

Fractured human remains found on a German river bank could provide the first compelling evidence of a major Bronze Age battle.

Archaeological excavations of the Tollense Valley in northern Germany unearthed fractured skulls, wooden clubs and horse remains dating from around 1200 BC.

The injuries to the skulls suggest face-to-face combat in a battle perhaps fought between warring tribes, say the researchers.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Standing Up to Fight: Does It Explain Why We Walk Upright and Why Women Like Tall Men?

A University of Utah study shows that men hit harder when they stand on two legs than when they are on all fours, and when hitting downward rather than upward, giving tall, upright males a fighting advantage.

This may help explain why our ape-like human ancestors began walking upright and why women tend to prefer tall men.

"The results of this study are consistent with the hypothesis that our ancestors adopted bipedal posture so that males would be better at beating and killing each other when competing for females," says David Carrier, a biology professor who conducted the study. "Standing up on their hind legs allowed our ancestors to fight with the strength of their forelimbs, making punching much more dangerous."

Read the rest of this article...

Golden Cap's ancient burial mounds excavated in Dorset

Work has started to excavate three Bronze Age burial mounds on Golden Cap in Dorset.

The 4,000-year-old mounds are at risk from coastal erosion and are being excavated by the National Trust before they are lost to the sea.

There are five burial mounds visible on the summit of Golden Cap, the highest point of the coast path through Dorset at 191m (626ft) above sea level.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Archaeological dig at Iron Age hill fort to open to the public

GUIDED tours of an archaeological excavation taking place at an Iron Age hill fort are to be held as part of a public open weekend.

The free tours of the excavation in the North York Moors National Park are on offer on Sunday and Monday, May 29 and 30, at Boltby Scar, near Sutton Bank.

Excavations have taken place on Boltby Scar on at least two occasions in the past, but virtually no information from these activities survives and in 1961 the hill fort was levelled by bulldozer.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Clues to Neanderthal hunting tactics hidden in reindeer teeth

Scientists have found that our cousins the Neanderthal employed sophisticated hunting strategies similar to the tactics used much later by modern humans. The new findings come from the analysis of subtle chemical variations in reindeer teeth.

Reindeer and caribou are nowadays restricted to the northernmost regions of Eurasia and America. But many thousands of years ago, large reindeer herds roamed throughout Europe and were hunted by the Neanderthal people.

Kate Britton, an archaeologist now at the University of Aberdeen, and her colleagues were part of a team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, that studied the Jonzac Neanderthal site in France - a rock shelter believed to have been used over a long period of time as a hunting camp. The Jonzac site has many layers of flints from stone-tools and the bones of butchered animals riddled with cut marks.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rare performance of Iron Age horn

A CHURCH was filled with sounds from the Iron Age during a music event on Saturday.

Musician John Kenny was at Harborough’s St Dionysius Church during the afternoon playing his replica of a type of horn known as a carnyx.

The carnyx was a wind instrument of the Iron Age Celts, and is a kind of horn or trumpet with a mouth styled in the shape of a boar or other animal’s head.

The event was held as part of a day of music-themed events at Harborough Museum.

Read the rest of this article...

On Prehistoric Supercontinent of Pangaea, Latitude and Rain Dictated Where Species Lived

More than 200 million years ago, mammals and reptiles lived in their own separate worlds on the supercontinent Pangaea, despite little geographical incentive to do so. Mammals lived in areas of twice-yearly seasonal rainfall; reptiles stayed in areas where rains came just once a year. Mammals lose more water when they excrete, and thus need water-rich environments to survive. Results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Aggregating nearly the entire landmass of Earth, Pangaea was a continent the likes our planet has not seen for the last 200 million years. Its size meant there was a lot of space for animals to roam, for there were few geographical barriers, such as mountains or ice caps, to contain them.

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Prehistoric Cave Art Discovered in Basque Country

In a locally well known cave near an industrial town in Spain, researchers have unexpectedly discovered faint images of horses and hand prints dating back some 25,000 years.

Concerned that activity at a nearby stone quarry had destroyed much of the cave of Askondo, Diego Garate of the Archaeological Museum of Biscay in Bilbao, and Joseba Rios-Garaizar of the Max Planck Institute set out to determine if any archaeological material was still intact. They entered the cave outside the town of Mañaria and searched for bones, stones, and other artifacts. Only on their way out of the cave did they noticed the paintings that they and many others had missed before. “Without a doubt,” says Garate, “[it was] a gift of destiny.”

Read the rest of this article...

Neanderthals' Last Stand Possibly Found

A newly found prehistoric toolkit suggests Neanderthals may have lingered in Russia's Ural Mountains as recently as 33,000 years ago.

A Neanderthal-style toolkit found in the frigid far north of Russia's Ural Mountains dates to 33,000 years ago and may mark the last refuge of Neanderthals before they went extinct, according to a new Science study.

Another possibility is that anatomically modern humans crafted the hefty tools using what's known as Mousterian technology associated with Neanderthals, but anthropologists believe that's unlikely.

Read the rest of this article...

Butter in bog may be 2,500 years old

BOG BUTTER found in a timber vessel in a bog at Shancloon near Caherlistrane, north Galway, could be 2,000 to 2,500 years old, according to a specialist from the National Museum of Ireland.

The butter, weighing almost two stone, was found in a timber keg which may have been hewn from a tree trunk and shaped into a barrel using early Iron Age implements.

The container of bog butter was found in a plot of bog where Ray Moylan from Liss, Headford, was having his annual supply of turf cut by local contractor Declan McDonagh.

Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stone Age cold case baffles scientists

In Asia’s northern hinterlands not far from the Arctic Circle, Stone Age toolmakers left an evolutionary calling card that’s hard to read.

Artifacts found in this desolate region imply that the toolmakers adapted to frigid temperatures and dark winters, says a team led by archaeologist Ludovic Slimak of the University of Toulouse, France. Around that time, modern human groups in Europe and southwestern Asia underwent pivotal cultural changes. Some groups even reached Arctic spots near the new finds and left behind artifacts associated with that human cultural transition.

The new Arctic discoveries present a much tougher call. The stone implements -- manufactured between 34,000 and 31,000 years ago at Byzovaya, a site in Russia’s Ural Mountains -- resemble scraping and cutting tools associated with 130,000- to 30,000-year-old European Neandertals, Slimak and his colleagues report in the May 13 Science. To complicate matters, groups of Homo sapiens that lived in northern Africa and southwestern Asia between 200,000 and 45,000 years ago made tools like those of Neandertals.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Neanderthal extinction debate rumbles on

Direct dating of a fossil of a Neanderthal infant suggests that Neanderthals probably died out earlier than previously thought. Researchers have dated a Neanderthal fossil discovered in a significant cave site in Russia in the northern Caucasus, and found it to be 10,000 years older than previous research had suggested.

This new evidence throws into doubt the theory that Neanderthals and modern humans interacted for thousands of years. Instead, the researchers believe any co-existence between Neanderthals and modern humans is likely to have been much more restricted, perhaps a few hundred years. It could even mean that in some areas Neanderthals had become extinct before anatomically modern humans moved out of Africa.

Read the rest of this article...

Prehistoric paintings found in Spain

Paintings depicting horses and human hands made by prehistoric humans around 25,000 years ago have been discovered in a cave in northern Spain, regional officials said on Wednesday.

The red paintings, found by chance by archeologists looking for signs of ancient settlements, were made around the same time as the Altamira Cave paintings -some of the world's best prehistoric paintings discovered in northern Spain in 1879.

"It was a chance finding," said archeologist Diego Garate. "Although they were difficult to spot because they are badly deteriorated, our experienced eye helped us to identify them."

Read the rest of this article...

Were Neandertals and Modern Humans Just Ships in the Night?

Researchers have long debated how long Neandertals stuck around after modern humans invaded their home territories in Europe and Asia around 40,000 years ago. Some say as long as 10,000 years; others think Neandertals went extinct almost immediately. A new radiocarbon dating study of a Neandertal site in Russia concludes that the latter scenario is most likely, and that Neandertals and modern humans were probably like ships in the night. But don’t expect this to be the last word on this contentious subject.

Neandertals and modern humans likely encountered one another at least twice during prehistory. The first time was at least 80,000 years ago in the Near East, as evidenced by findings of both Neandertal and modern human bones in caves in Israel. But the moderns, who came up from Africa, apparently did not venture any farther than the Near East at that time, possibly due to competition from the Neandertals who were then occupying much of Europe and Asia.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Neanderthals and Early Humans May Not Have Mingled Much

n improvement in the dating of fossils suggests that the Neanderthals, a heavily muscled, thick-boned human species adapted to living in ice age Europe, perished almost immediately on contact with the modern humans who started to enter Europe from the Near East about 44,000 years ago. Until now bones from several Neanderthal sites have been dated to as young as 29,000 years ago, suggesting there was extensive overlap between the two human species. This raised the question of whether there had been interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals, an issue that is still not resolved.

Read the rest of this article...

Archaeologists find 2,600-year-old Celtic Princess buried in Germany

German archaeologists are examining a Celtic grave in the Danube heartland when they found the remains of a Celtic princess, from 2,600 years ago, buried with her gold and amber jewelry.

The princess had remained in her final resting place since about 609BC. Just months ago the German experts began to dig out the 80 tonnes of clay covering the grave to remove it bring it their offices where it could be examined.

Experts believe that the manner that she was buried, with expensive jewels, shows that she was of a high social rank. The brooches found are particularly beautiful with Celtic designs in gold and amber. According to BBC reports the remains of a child were also found in the grave. The child is presumed to be the princess'.

Read the rest of this article...

Caves in Spain Yielding More Early Human Finds

It is a tale of two caves. Each has a story to tell about ancient human occupants who scratched a living out of Ice Age Europe. They may have lived in one of these caves as long ago as 900,000 years B.P. (before the present era). Scientists in southeastern Spain have been methodically piecing together the stories in these caves through careful excavation and analysis of finds that may significantly expand our knowledge of early humans and how they lived in what is today southern Europe. What is more, their finds may help fill in an important chapter in human evolution.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Celtic Exhibition extended to 21 August 2011

The excellent Celtic exhibition held in Völklingen, Germany was originally due to close later this month. However, the exhibition has proved so popular, it has been extended until 21 August.

The exhibition - Die Kelten: Druiden, Fürsten, Krieger: das Leben der Kelten in der Eisenzeit – is held in the Völklingen Hütte.

Further details can be found here...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

25,000-year-old cave paintings discovered in Spain

Paintings depicting horses and human hands made by prehistoric humans around 25,000 years ago have been discovered in a cave in northern Spain, regional officials said on Wednesday.

The red paintings, found by chance by archaeologists looking for signs of ancient settlements, were made around the same time as the Altamira Cave paintings -- some of the world's best prehistoric paintings discovered in northern Spain in 1879.

"It was a chance finding," archaeologist Diego Garate told Reuters.

"Although they were difficult to spot because they are badly deteriorated, our experienced eye helped us to identify them."

Read the rest of this article...

Heidelberg Man Links Humans, Neanderthals

The last common ancestor of humans and Neanderthals was a tall, well-traveled species called Heidelberg Man, according to a new PLoS One study.

The determination is based on the remains of a single Heidelberg Man (Homo heidelbergensis) known as "Ceprano," named after the town near Rome, Italy, where his fossil -- a partial cranium -- was found.

Previously, this 400,000-year-old fossil was thought to represent a new species of human, Homo cepranensis. The latest study, however, identifies Ceprano as being an archaic member of Homo heidelbergensis.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No nuts for 'Nutcracker Man': Early human relative apparently chewed grass instead

For decades, a 2.3 million- to 1.2 million-year-old human relative named Paranthropus boisei has been nicknamed Nutcracker Man because of his big, flat molar teeth and thick, powerful jaw. But a definitive new University of Utah study shows that Nutcracker Man didn’t eat nuts, but instead chewed grasses and possibly sedges – a discovery that upsets conventional wisdom about early humanity’s diet.

“It most likely was eating grass, and most definitely was not cracking nuts,” says geochemist Thure Cerling, lead author of the study published in the May 2 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study co-author Kevin Uno, a University of Utah Ph.D. student in geology, adds: “This study provides evidence that Paranthropus boisei was not cracking nuts, but was instead eating mainly tropical grasses or sedges. It was not competing for food with most other primates, who ate fruits, leaves and nuts; but with grazers – zebras’ ancestors, suids [ancestors of pigs and warthogs] and hippos.”

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Burial practices in Neanderthals?

For decades the debate on the familial similarity of humans and Neanderthals has continue back and forth despite DNA evidence showing potential sub-species status. Their classification as human or otherwise determines whether they fall into the category of mortuary archaeology, the study of human funerary sites in the past. So far, it has been questionable whether or not Neanderthals showed the symbolic capacity necessary for the funerary behaviour displayed by humans. However, regardless of whether they are a sub-species or distinct species, new evidence is emerging which supports the idea that Neanderthals may have engaged in patterned mortuary behaviour.

Read the rest of this article...