Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gold jewellery unearthed at prehistoric site in Bulgaria

As gold jewellery goes, it could be considered to be quite modest, but a 6,600 year old pendant discovered at the site of one of Europe's oldest prehistoric towns may be the world's oldest bling. 

The newly found gold jewel from the Solnitsata prehistoric town near Bulgaria’s Provadiya
[Credit: Cherno More News Agency] 

The tiny two-gram pendant was discovered during excavations at the archaeological site of Solnitsata in the Varna region of Bulgaria. 

Archaeologists believe the area may have been part of an advanced prehistoric society that was among the first to work out how to process and produce gold goods. 

The necropolis at Solnitsata, which means 'Salt Pit', is situated just to the north of the Bulgarian city of Provadia. 

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Paleolithic elephant butchering site found in Greece

Excavation with some of the elephant bones exposed.
Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

A new Lower Paleolithic elephant butchering site, Marathousa 1, has been discovered in Megalopolis, Greece, by a joint team of researchers from the Ephorate of Paleoanthropology and Speleology (Greek Ministry of Culture) and the Paleoanthropology group, University of Tübingen.
Marathousa 1 is located in an open-cast coal mine, on what was once the shore of a shallow lake. It has yielded stratified stone artifacts in association with a nearly complete skeleton of Elephas antiquus, as well as the exceptionally well-preserved remains of fauna (rodents, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks and insects) and plants (wood, seeds, fruit). The association of lithic artifacts with the elephant remains, as well as the discovery of cutmarks on elephant bones, indicate that Marathousa 1 is an elephant butchering site.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Genetic history of Europeans revealed

A study of ancient DNA has shed new light on European genetic history.
It confirms that farming spread across Europe due to the influx of ancient people from what is now eastern Turkey.
Many modern Europeans owe their taller stature to these early farmers - and a later influx of Bronze Age "horsemen" - say international researchers.
In the study, researchers mapped the genes of 273 ancient people who lived in West Europe and Asia from about 8,500 to 2,500 years ago.
Of these, 26 were part of a population that gave rise to Europe's first farmers.
Prof Ron Pinhasi of the School of Archaeology at University College Dublin, a lead researcher on the study, said: "We now have the first clear evidence that agriculture in Europe started with the first farmers coming from what is now Turkey.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Scientists discover the cause behind prehistoric climate change

Scientists now know why the climate underwent dramatic changes at the end of the last Ice Age.

The atmosphere plays an important role in the speed at which climate change can occur. During the last ice age, it meant that in some places on Earth temperatures increased by 10 degrees centigrade in a single decade. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Scientists have discovered the causes behind a period of dramatic climate change at the end of the last Ice Age, which will help predict how climate will change in the future.
Climate scientists are nervous about how man-made climate change may impact on the Gulf Stream--the ocean current that brings warm water from the tropics to the North Atlantic.
Changes to Gulf Stream, according to the new research, may not only result in a much colder Europe, but it might also lead to changes in ‘communication’ between the ocean and the atmosphere. Such changes could lead to the kinds of abrupt climate changes last seen at the end of the last Ice Age.
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Explore 4,500 British Museum artifacts with Google's help

The British Museum in London holds an array of beautiful and historically significant artifacts including the Rosetta Stone, which helped historians to understand the ancient hieroglyphics used in Egypt. Today, the organisation is teaming up with Google to bring its various collections online as part of the Google Cultural Institute. The search giant has been developing this resource for years by continually visiting and archiving exhibits around the world. With the British Museum, an extra 4,500 objects and artworks are being added to its collection, complete with detailed photos and descriptions.
The most important addition is arguably the Admonitions Scroll, a Chinese text which dates back to the 6th-century. The piece is incredibly fragile, so it's only visible in the museum for a few months each year. Through the Cultural Institute, you can take a peek whenever you like -- and because it's been captured at "gigapixel" resolution you can zoom in to see some extraordinary details. All of the objects are searchable on Google's site, along with a couple of curated collections about ancient Egypt and Celtic life in the British Iron Age.
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Early farmers exploited beehive products at least 8,500 years ago

Humans have been exploiting bees as far back as the Stone Age, according to new research from the University of Bristol published in Nature today.

Previous evidence from prehistoric rock art is inferred to show honey hunters and Pharaonic Egyptian murals show early scenes of beekeeping. However, the close association between early farmers and the honeybee remained uncertain.
This study has gathered together evidence for the presence of beeswax in the pottery vessels of the first farmers of Europe by investigating chemical components trapped in the clay fabric of more than 6,000 potsherds from over 150 Old World archaeological sites.
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Ancient hominids used wooden spears to fend off big cats

Human ancestors living in Central Europe between 320,000 and 300,000 years ago may have used wooden spears to fend off fearsome, meat-eating rivals — saber-toothed cats.
From 2011 to 2013, a team led by paleontologist Jordi Serangeli of the University of Tübingen in Germany found five teeth and a partial leg bone from two of these roughly 200-kilogram predators at a site where researchers previously discovered ancient wooden spears. Whatever hominid species made the spears must have needed them to defend against attacks by saber-toothed cats, the researchers propose online October 23 in the Journal of Human Evolution.  

Limited signs of wear on teeth from one saber-toothed cat, found about 100 meters from the spear excavation, indicate that the creature was relatively young. Pits, scrapes and other marks on the leg bone of an adult male, found in spear-bearing sediment, indicate that hominids used the bone as a hammer for making stone tools.

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Neolithic tomb discovered on Irish hilltop

A hilltop tomb recently discovered close to the edge of Tievebaun mountain on the Sligo/Leitrim border may be more than 5,000 years old , according to the archaeologist who found it. 

The tomb at Tievebaun discovered by archaeologist Michael Gibbons  
[Credit: Michael Gibbons] 

Michael Gibbons said a series of discoveries in this area – including animal enclosures, field systems, and booley settlements – suggests that there are layers of history spanning the Neolithic period, the iron age, the bronze age and the post medieval period on these uplands. 

Mr Gibbons, who discovered other tombs in this area a decade ago, said that the hilltop tomb, which was a sacred site up to 3,500 BC, was probably not discovered before now because of its dramatic setting on the edge of the mountain. 

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New Drought Atlas Maps 2,000 Years of Climate in Europe

Numerous droughts have hit European agriculture over the ages, but their overall extent has been known mainly from scattered historical documents. Here, an English calendar page, circa 1310, shows men harvesting wheat. (Queen Mary’s Psalter, Wikimedia commons)

he long history of severe droughts across Europe and the Mediterranean has largely been told through historical documents and ancient journals, each chronicling the impact in a geographically restricted area. Now, for the first time, an atlas based on scientific evidence provides the big picture, using tree rings to map the reach and severity of dry and wet periods across Europe, and parts of North Africa and the Middle East, year to year over the past 2,000 years.

Together with two previous drought atlases covering North America and Asia, the Old World Drought Atlas significantly adds to the historical picture of long-term climate variability over the Northern Hemisphere. In so doing, it should help climate scientists pinpoint causes of drought and extreme rainfall in the past, and identify patterns that could lead to better climate model projections for the future. A paper describing the new atlas, coauthored by scientists from 40 institutions, appears today in the journalScience Advances.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Ice Age engravings found at Jersey archaeological site

A dig in Jersey has yielded a stash of hunter-gatherer artefacts from the end of the last Ice Age, including stone pieces criss-crossed by carved lines.
They are similar to engravings found from the same period in continental Europe, but are the first of their kind in the British Isles.
Archaeologists are in the early stages of analysing the finds, but estimate them to be at least 14,000 years old.
This places the camp among the earliest in northern Europe after the freeze.
It would also mean that the markings pre-date theearliest known art in the UK, which was found carved into stone walls and bones at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire in 2003.

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Rare Unlooted Grave of Wealthy Warrior Uncovered in Greece

Archaeologists hail the burial, untouched for 3,500 years, as the biggest discovery on mainland Greece in decades.

The text message from the trench supervisor to archaeologists Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker was succinct: “Better come. Hit bronze.”
The excavators exploring a small stone shaft on a rocky promontory in southern Greece had found an unusual tomb of an ancient warrior. The burial may hold important clues to the origin of Greek civilization some 3,500 years ago.
Along with the well-preserved skeleton of a man in his early thirties, the grave contains more than 1,400 objects arrayed on and around the body, including gold rings, silver cups, and an elaborate bronze sword with an ivory hilt.
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Anglesey dig unearths largest neolithic site in Wales

The largest ever Neolithic discovery in Wales has been made by archaeologists investigating the site of a new school.
More than 2,000 artefacts possibly dating back as much as 6,000 years have been discovered on the site at Llanfaethlu on Anglesey .
The ruins of three buildings have also been uncovered by the CR Archeology team who have been on site since November 2014.
Archeologist Cat Rees said: “Until about 50 years ago all we knew about this period in North Wales came from the megalithic tombs and chance finds but this changed with the discovery at Llandegai, Bangor of a single house.
“To date less than five have been found in the whole of North Wales.
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Early Neolithic feasting rituals in Scotland

Between 2008 and 2012, archaeologists from Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division and later GUARD Archaeology Ltd, led by Maureen Kilpatrick, undertook a series of excavations at Snabe Quarry near Drumclog in South Lanarkshire, for Lafarge Tarmac Ltd, which uncovered five clusters of prehistoric pits and an undated sub-circular enclosure. 

Excavations at Snabe Quarry near Glasgow have revealed the  remains of feasting events from the fourth millennium BC  [Credit: © GUARD Archaeology Ltd] 

One cluster comprised sixteen pits to the east of the sub-circular enclosure, one of which yielded a late Mesolithic radiocarbon date. Another cluster of fourteen pits were also found to the west of the enclosure while further to the south-west another small cluster of seven pits contained domestic hearth charcoal waste. Radiocarbon dates from the early seventh millennium BC and early fourth millennium BC from this charcoal indicate the widely differing times this place in the landscape was occupied.

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