Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oetzi the Iceman's nuclear genome gives new insights

Sampling the body of Oetzi (Samadelli Marco/EURAC)

 "The Iceman" has been the subject of constant study for more than 20 years

New clues have emerged in what could be described as the world's oldest murder case: that of Oetzi the "Iceman", whose 5,300-year-old body was discovered frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991.

Oetzi's full genome has now been reported in Nature Communications.
It reveals that he had brown eyes, "O" blood type, was lactose intolerant, and was predisposed to heart disease.

They also show him to be the first documented case of infection by a Lyme disease bacterium.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Scientists find clue to Neanderthal extinction

Washington: An international team of researchers, studying ancient DNA, have suggested that most Neanderthals in Europe already were largely extinct 50,000 years ago - long before modern humans first arrived in the continent.

The findings contradict the long-held notion that Neanderthal populations were stable in Europe for hundreds of thousands of years until modern Homo sapiens arrived.

The scientists say the Neanderthal human species already had died off as early as 50,000 years ago, but a small group recovered and survived for another 10,000 years in areas of central and western Europe before modern humans entered the picture.

Read the rest of this article...

DNA reveals Neanderthal extinction clues

Neanderthals were already on the verge of extinction in Europe by the time modern humans arrived on the scene, a study suggests.

DNA analysis suggests most Neanderthals in western Europe died out as early as 50,000 years ago - thousands of years before our own species appeared.

A small group of Neanderthals then recolonised parts of Europe, surviving for 10,000 years before vanishing.

Read the rest of this article...

Theory and method in the prehistoric archaeology of Central Europe

International Conference
„Theory and method in the prehistoric archaeology of Central Europe“
24th-26th October 2012
Mikulov – Czech Republic
Conference objectives:
  • discuss modern (and post-modern!) developments in current world archaeology
  • bridging the national and linguistic differences – English language
  • making sense of systematic research processes, scientific method and the approaches of the social sciences, and our part­ner disciplines in cultural anthropology
Find Call for Sessions here and feel free to send your proposal to theory_and_method(@) until the end of March 2012

Further information...

Monday, February 27, 2012

European Neandertals were on the verge of extinction even before the arrival of modern humans

New findings from an international team of researchers show that most neandertals in Europe died off around 50,000 years ago. The previously held view of a Europe populated by a stable neandertal population for hundreds of thousands of years up until modern humans arrived must therefore be revised.

This new perspective on the neandertals comes from a study of ancient DNA published today in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The results indicate that most neandertals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of neandertals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture. The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid.

"The fact that neandertals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the neandertals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought", says Love Dalén, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

Read the rest of this article...

Western Neanderthals already a fading light before arrival of modern humans

Newly published results from an international team of researchers show that most of an earlier population of Neanderthals in Europe had already died off around 50,000 years ago.
Previously, the established view was of a stable Neanderthal population in Europe from nearly 250,000 to 30,000 years ago and then they disappeared from the archaeological record after modern humans arrived, however this new research suggests the accepted paradigm must be revised.

A new perspective

This new perspective on the Neanderthals comes from a study of ancient DNA published today in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The results indicate that most European Neanderthals had died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After which, a smaller group of Neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived until modern humans entered the picture.

Read the rest of this article...

Bronze Age hoard declared treasure

A "significant discovery" of a Bronze Age artefacts in Carmarthenshire have been recorded as treasure. 

The museum says the hoard shows the type of weapons and dress items worn nearly 3,000 years ago [Credit: NNC]
The hoard of 13 bronze items found in a field at St Ishmael, near Kidwelly, last June, included a bracelet, fragments of a spearhead and an axe. 

The artefacts are thought to have been buried around 1000 to 800 BC, and were declared treasure by the Carmarthenshire coroner on Friday.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Scientists revive sacred sounds

Ancient peoples around the world seem to have designed their sacred spaces not only for ceremonial sights, but for ceremonial sounds as well, archaeologists say. In Peru, for example, a 3,000-year-old Andean ceremonial center's design was optimized for the blare of a priest's conch-shell trumpet. In Mexico, the Chichen Itza temple site features a staircase that can make hand claps sound like the chirp of a quetzal bird. And one of the best-known ancient monuments of all, England's Stonehenge, has a layout that's acoustically pleasing as well as astronomically significant. The big question is, did ancient societies really have acoustics in mind when they built their monuments? Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Neolithic settlers colonized Spain from N. Africa

The Neolithic period, around 10,000 BC in the Middle East, a time when the nomadic economy became permanent, founded on farming and breeding, could have arrived on the Iberian peninsula through a third route of expansion - North Africa. This is according to a study carried out by the Autonomous University of Madrid, the University of Seville and the Higher Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) and other Spanish, Portuguese and American universities. The study has been published in the journal "Quaternary Research".  Stone Circle in Cromeleque dos Almendres [Credit: ANSA] Until now, two routes had been traditionally accepted: one identifying a first expansion of the northern margin of the Mediterranean sea, and the second, by sea, which reached the Balearic islands from Cyprus. The new research, though, highlights a third route from North Africa, which would identify the Neolithic characteristics that are found in the south of the Iberian peninsula.  Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Solent's Stone Age village 'had modern high street links'

Work on an 8,000-year-old Stone Age settlement under the surface of the Solent in Hampshire is throwing up evidence of clear parallels of the modern "high street", archaeologists say.

After 30 years of excavating the area around Bouldnor Cliff, a boatyard was uncovered last summer, which teams have been working on ever since.

Since The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology spotted a swamped prehistoric forest in the 1980s, the Stone Age village was found by chance at the end of the last century.

Divers taking part in a routine survey spotted a lobster cleaning out its burrow on the seabed and to their surprise the animal was throwing out dozens of pieces of worked flint - which turned out to be the first sign of the village.

Read the rest of this article...

‘Welsh Stonehenge’ Halts Work on Windfarm

A multimillion pound windfarm could be scrapped after a Stone Age monument was spotted on the site using Google Earth.
Work to install the 15 wind turbines had already began after experts said they were unable to find anything of historical interest on the mountaintop in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

But a weekend rambler stumbled upon a row of stones while trekking across the site on the mountain and realised they were of historical interest.

Archaeologists were called in and discovered the stones on Mynydd Y Betws were between 3,500 and 5,000 years old and could have been part of an ancient site of worship.

Read the rest of this article...

'Digger nearly destroyed Betws Mountain's Neolithic stone row'

THE man who discovered the Neolithic stone row on Betws Mountain has told how the historic find came within 20 minutes of being destroyed.

Freelance archaeologist Dr Sandy Gerrard said a digger working on the construction of the 15-turbine MynyddyBetwswindfarm had to be halted in its tracks.

“In fairness to the developers they stopped work instantly – we have no criticism at all on that score,”
he told the Guardian.

“Asit is, the rowhas been cut in two places by the windfarm access road.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Neanderthals Used Red Ochre Pigment 250,000 Years Ago

We have seen cave paintings where the splashy red pigment was used to create images by ancient humans in present-day Europe tens of thousands of years ago. Scientists have said that ancient humans used it generally in Europe about 40,000 - 60,000 years ago, in West Asia as long ago as 100,000 years, and by the ancients in Africa as long ago as 200,000-250,000 years. Now, a new study suggests that Neanderthals were also using it in the present-day Netherlands region of Europe as far back as 200,000-250,000 years ago, if not earlier.

The study, conducted by a team of scientists led by W. Roebroeks of Leiden University, examined and analyzed a sample of red material retrieved from excavations originally conducted during the 1980's at the Maastricht-Belvédère Neanderthal site in the Netherlands. The excavations exposed scatterings of well-preserved flint and bone artifacts that were produced in a river valley during the Middle Pleistocene full interglacial period. During the coarse of the excavation, soil samples were also collected, a typical procedure when excavating a site. Within the soil samples were traces of a reddish material. The samples were subjected to various forms of analyses and experimentation to study their physical properties. They identified the reddish material as hematite, a common mineral form of iron oxide that was used for pigmentation by prehistoric populations.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Time Team: Mary-Ann Ochota quits Channel 4 archaeological show

Time Team has been thrown into disarray after Mary-Ann Ochota became the second presenter to leave the Channel 4 archaeological programme. 

Mary-Ann Ochota, 30, who holds a master’s degree in archaeology and anthropology from Cambridge University, has left the show after a row with Prof Mick Aston, the archaeologist.
Her leaving the show comes after Prof Aston, 65, also quit the show after producers hired Ms Ochota, a former model, as the programme’s co-presenter with Tony Robinson.
Prof Ashton, who has been on the show for 19 years, said he had been left “really angry” by changes which led to the introduction of co-presenter and some archaeologists being axed.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reply to my complaint to Channel 4 concerning Time Team Changes

As expected, a wishy-washy response - but the more people who write in, the better!

"Dear Mr Beard,

Thank you for contacting Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries regarding TIME TEAM.

We are sorry to hear that you are unhappy with the new format of the show and that Prof. Mick Aston has decided to leave. We are saddened by Mick 's decision to leave, he has been a fantastic member of the Time Team team and we wish him well in the future.

Please be assured your complaint has been logged and noted for the information of those responsible for our programming.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.


Doug Masterson

Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries"

Please take the time to send your own comments to Channel 4.  Use the link here...

See the original story " Mick Aston quits Time Team after producers hire former model co-presenter"...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Research: Neanderthal demise due to many influences, including cultural changes

Computer modeling shows interactions between Neanderthals and modern human ancestors

 As an ice age crept upon them thousands of years ago, Neanderthals and modern human ancestors expanded their territory ranges across Asia and Europe to adapt to the changing environment.

In the process, they encountered each other.

Although many anthropologists believe that modern humans ancestors "wiped out" Neanderthals, it's more likely that Neanderthals were integrated into the human gene pool thousands of years ago during the Upper Pleistocene era as cultural and climatic forces brought the two groups together, said Arizona State University Professor C. Michael Barton of the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity and School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

"The traditional story in textbooks doesn't fit well with what we know about hunter-gatherers. For the most part, they don't like to go far from home. It's dangerous," Barton said.

Read the rest of this article...

Mick Aston quits Time Team after producers hire former model co-presenter

Mick Aston, the archeologist, has quit Time Team after producers hired a former model as the programme’s co-presenter. 

The 65-year-old, who has been on the show for 19 years, said he had been left “really angry” by changes which led to the introduction of co-presenter Mary-Ann Ochota and some archaeologists being axed.
In an interview with the magazine British Archaeology, Prof Aston, the show’s former site director, said: “The time had come to leave. I never made any money out of it, but a lot of my soul went into it. I feel really, really angry about it.”
He was responding to changes first proposed by producers at Channel 4 in late 2010, which included a new presenter to join Tony Robinson and decisions to “cut down the informative stuff about the archaeology”.

Read the rest of this article...

Click here to contact Channel 4 to tell them what you think of their decision.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Stonehenge as you've never seen it

Archaeologists reveal a new way of viewing Stonehenge using Google Earth software

Millions of people have used Google Earth's geo-modelling software to take a tour of the moon, Mars, foreign countries, or – let's be honest – to compare their homes with those of their neighbours. But now a new project developed by Bournemouth University academics is giving surfers access to a virtual prehistoric landscape: Stonehenge.

The World Heritage site near Salisbury is now more accessible than ever, archaeologists claim, thanks to Google's Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge project. Their last few years of findings, combined with the search giant's technology, allows surfers to visit the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls, to scout around prehistoric houses, to see reconstructions of Bluestonehenge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue and to explore the great timber monument called the Southern Circle. The sites look as they would have appeared more than 4,000 years ago – and all from the comfort of your desk.

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient Greek Pills Found in Greek Shipwreck

In 130 BC, a ship fashioned from the wood of walnut trees, bulging with medicines and Syrian glassware, sank off the coast of Tuscany, Italy. Archaeologists found its precious load 20 years ago and now, for the first time, archaeobotanists have been able to examine and analyse pills that were prepared by the physicians of ancient Greece.

DNA analyses show that each millennia-old tablet is a mixture of more than 10 different plant extracts, from hibiscus to celery.

“Medicinal plants have been identified before, but not a compound medicine, so this is really something new,” says Alain Touwaide, director of the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions, which has the world’s largest digital database of medical manuscripts.

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Did Early Humans Ride the Waves to Australia?

Everybody is African in origin. Barring a smattering of genes from Neanderthals and other archaic Asian forms, all our ancestors lived in the continent of Africa until 150,000 years ago. Some time after that, say the genes, one group of Africans somehow became so good at exploiting their environment that they (we!) expanded across all of Africa and began to spill out of the continent into Asia and Europe, invading new ecological niches and driving their competitors extinct.

There is plenty of dispute about what gave these people such an advantage—language, some other form of mental ingenuity, or the collective knowledge that comes from exchange and specialization—but there is also disagreement about when the exodus began. For a long time, scientists had assumed a gradual expansion of African people through Sinai into both Europe and Asia. Then, bizarrely, it became clear from both genetics and archaeology that Europe was peopled later (after 40,000 years ago) than Australia (before 50,000 years ago).

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Archaeologists and pagans alike glory in the Brodgar complex

Archaeologists are notoriously nervous of attributing ritual significance to anything (the old joke used to be that if you found an artefact and couldn't identify it, it had to have ritual significance), yet they still like to do so whenever possible. I used to work on a site in the mid-1980s – a hill fort in Gloucestershire – where items of potential religious note occasionally turned up (a horse skull buried at the entrance, for example) and this was always cause for some excitement, and also some gnashing of teeth at the prospect of other people who weren't archaeologists getting excited about it ("And now I suppose we'll have druids turning up").

The Brodgar complex has, however, got everyone excited. It ticks all the boxes that make archaeologists, other academics, lay historians and pagans jump up and down. Its age is significant: it's around 800 years older than Stonehenge (although lately, having had to do some research into ancient Britain, I've been exercised by just how widely dates for sites vary, so perhaps some caution is called for). Pottery found at Stonehenge apparently originated in Orkney, or was modelled on pottery that did.

Read the rest of this article...

Study Reveals Possible New Key to Human Evolution

For the first five years of life, human cognition slowly comes to fruition, receiving and storing information and experience from the environment and enabling humans to advance beyond the capabilities of their primate cousins, according to a study published online in Genome Research.  An international team of researchers have identified extended synaptic development in the prefrontal cortex of the human brain that sheds new light on the evolution of human cognition and suggests another reason why the human family diverged from other primates 4-6 million years ago.

"Why can we absorb environmental information during infancy and childhood and develop intellectual skills that chimpanzees cannot?" asks study author Dr. Philipp Khaitovich of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "What makes the human brain so special?"

Read the rest of this article...

Estonian students find Iron Age life smoky and cold

Ever wondered what it was like to endure an Iron Age winter?

Five students in the small Baltic state of Estonia, who have abandoned modern conveniences for a week in a replica wooden hut built on the site of an ancient hill fort, have discovered that Iron Age accommodation was mainly cold, dark and smoky.

"You can't heat and be in the building and after dark there is no light," said Kristiina Paavel, 24, one of the students.

Read the rest of this article...