Friday, October 30, 2020

How dogs tracked their humans across the ancient world

Libyan rock art that may date back 7000 years depicts a hunter and his dog. 
JOE AND CLAIR CARNEGIE/LIBYAN SOUP/GETTY IMAGES

Sometime toward the end of the last ice age, a gray wolf gingerly approached a human encampment. Those first tentative steps set his species on the path to a dramatic transformation: By at least 15,000 years ago, those wolves had become dogs, and neither they nor their human companions would ever be the same. But just how this relationship evolved over the ensuing millennia has been a mystery. Now, in the most comprehensive comparison yet of ancient dog and human DNA, scientists are starting to fill in some of the blanks, revealing where dogs and humans traveled together—and where they may have parted ways.

“It’s a really cool study,” says Wolfgang Haak, an archaeogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. “We’re finally starting to see how the dog story and the human story match up.”

Dogs are one of the biggest enigmas of domestication. Despite decades of study, scientists still haven’t figured out when or where they arose, much less how or why it happened. A 2016 study concluded that dogs may have been domesticated twice, once in Asia and once in Europe or the Near East, but critics said there wasn’t enough evidence to be sure. A few years later, researchers reported signs of dogs in the Americas as early as 10,000 years ago, yet those canines appear to have vanished without a genetic trace. Other studies have found evidence of ancient dogs in Siberia and elsewhere, but scientists don’t know how they got there or how they’re related.

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Five distinct types of dog existed by end of last ice age, study finds

While DNA from modern European dogs has contributed to breeds around the world, traces of other ice age groups remain, including in chihuahuas.
Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

From tiny chihuahuas to fluffy Siberian huskies, dogs come in all shapes and sizes. But researchers have revealed there is more to canine diversity than meets the eye.

Scientists have found five distinct groups of dogs were already present at the end of the last ice age, and their legacy lives on in our pets today.

“[If] I walk through Wimbledon Common I am pretty likely to run across dogs that all have a little bit [of a] different history, tracing back as far as 11,000 years ago to different corners of the world,” said Dr Pontus Skoglund, co-author of the study and group leader of the ancient genomics laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute in London.

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Archaeologists reveal human resilience in the face of climate change in ancient Turkey

Microscope image of Iron Age oak twig from Tell Tayinat in Hatay, Turkey.
Credit: Brita Lorentzen

An examination of two documented periods of climate change in the greater Middle East, between approximately 4,500 and 3,000 years ago, reveals local evidence of resilience and even of a flourishing ancient society despite the changes in climate seen in the larger region.

A new study led by University of Toronto and Cornell University archaeologists working at Tell Tayinat in southeastern Turkey, demonstrates that human responses to climate change are variable and must be examined using extensive and precise data gathered at the local level. The study highlights how challenge and collapse in some areas were matched by resilience and opportunities elsewhere.

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

CBA Festival of Archaeology

 The Council of British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology runs from 24 October to 1 November.  The situation with the Corona Virus means that many of the events will be digital, although there will be a number of live events. Please use the search facility on their webpage to see the various events that are offered.


You can find their website here…

Please note that EMAS archaeological Society has offered a quiz on little known archaeological sites in South East England.

You can find a link to the quiz on the EMAS home page here…

Test your knowledge and see how much you know about the archaeology of the area!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Archaeologists strike gold on Crete


“I feel this year’s findings have been a vindication for [Yannis A.] Sakellarakis. He always claimed – and I did not believe it at the time – that the excavations at Zominthos were very important. He would say, ‘I feel just like [Arthur] Evans when he excavated Knossos,’” the director of the dig, Dr Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki, says of her late husband. It is she who continues to conduct the Athens Archaeological Society’s excavations at Zominthos, at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level, approximately 7 kilometers west of Anogia.

Findings indicate that the excavations at this site on a plateau in the northern foothills of Mount Ida (Psiloritis), once “inhabited by the descendants of the Knossos dynasty,” have not come to an end. On the contrary, it has many more secrets to reveal. Its location is strategic – exactly halfway between the Palace of Knossos and the Ideon Andron caves. It was an important economic, religious and cultural center. Access from the north gate of the palace was via a ramp, dating from the Protopalatial Period (approximately 1900 BC), that ended in a robust retaining wall. In the Neopalatial Period (1700-1600 BC) the ramp was covered with plaques twice.

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Surprising leap in ancient human technology tied to environmental upheaval

 

IMAGES FROM HUMAN ORIGINS PROGRAM, SMITHSONIAN

For 700,000 years, our species’ ancient relatives in East Africa led rather stable lives, relying on an enduring set of skills and survival strategies. They made large, simple hand axes from nearby stones, perhaps using them to slice up prey, cut down branches, or dig for tubers.

But by 320,000 years ago—around the same age as the earliest fossil evidence of Homo sapiens—these early humans drastically changed their ways. They began crafting smaller, more nimble points that could fly through the air as projectiles, some made from obsidian gathered from many miles away. They collected red and black pigments—substances later humans frequently used in symbolic ways such as cave painting.

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East Africa Sediment Core Offers Human Evolution Clues

 

(Human Origins Program, Smithsonian)

Human Origins Program, Smithsonian)WASHINGTON, D.C.—According to a Science News report, a 450-foot-long sediment core from Kenya’s Koora Basin holds one million years of environmental data that could elucidate details of human evolution. Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution said that chemical and microscopic studies of the layers in the sediment core revealed that some 400,000 years ago, volcanic eruptions reduced the size of lakes and the amount of available water, while the climate fluctuated dramatically. As large animals died out, they were replaced by smaller ones with more diverse diets, he explained. Between 500,000 and 320,000 years ago, hominins living at Kenya’s Olorgesailie site, which is located about 15 miles away from the core-drilling site, shifted from making cutting tools of local stone to the smaller, more carefully made objects made from imported materials that are characteristic of the Mesolithic. 

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Skull found of 5,000-year-old man who had ancient brain surgery with stone 'scalpel'

 

The skull bore signs of an ancient form of surgery (Image: Darya Veselkova)

Archaeologists have unearthed the skull of a man who underwent ancient brain surgery 5,000 years ago.

The scientists were blown away to find indications the Bronze Age man aged in his 20s had endured surgery with a stone 'scalpel'.

Remarkable 3-D imagery and pictures from Crimea show traces of trepanation - when a hole is deliberately made in the skull.

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Ancient hunters stayed in frozen Northern Europe rather than migrating to warmer areas, evidence from Arctic fox bones shows

 

The jaw of an arctic fox which shows signs of being killed by hunters

Ancient hunters stayed in the coldest part of Northern Europe rather than migrating to escape freezing winter conditions, archaeologists have found.

Evidence from Arctic fox bones show communities living around 27,500 years ago were killing small prey in the inhospitable North European Plains during the winter months of the last Ice Age.

Researchers have found no evidence of dwellings, suggesting people only stayed for a short time or lived in tents in the area excavated, Krak√≥w Spadzista in Southern Poland - one of the largest Upper Palaeolithic sites in Central Europe. Until now it wasn’t clear if people retreated elsewhere each winter to avoid the intense cold.

Dr Alexander Pryor, from the University of Exeter, who led the study, said: “Our research shows the cold harsh winter climates of the last ice age were no barrier to human activity in the area. Hunters made very specific choices about where and when to kill their prey.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Fossil footprints: the fascinating story behind the longest known prehistoric journey

 A section of the double trackway. Outward and homeward journeys following each other. Central Panel: Child tracks in the middle of nowhere. Left Panel: One of the tracks with little slippage. M Bennett, Bournemouth University., Author provided


Every parent knows the feeling. Your child is crying and wants to go home, you pick them up to comfort them and move faster, your arms tired with a long walk ahead – but you cannot stop now. Now add to this a slick mud surface and a range of hungry predators around you.

That is the story the longest trackway of fossil footprints in the world tells us. Our new discovery, published in Quaternary Science Reviews, comes from White Sands National Park in New Mexico, US, and was made by an international team working in collaboration with staff from the National Park Service.

The footprints were spotted in a dried-up lakebed known as a playa, which contains literally hundreds of thousands of footprints dating from the end of the last ice age (about 11,550 years ago) to sometime before about 13,000 years ago.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

New Secrets Unearthed at Minoan Palace of Zominthos on Crete


The Palace of Zominthos, on Crete. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

An elegant summer palace once belonging to the Minoan aristocracy at Zominthos on Crete, first discovered in 1982, has yielded many more of its priceless secrets in a recent dig.

It was found in this summer’s dig that the original structure may have been up to three stories high and to date back to 2,000 BC. This year’s excavations of the building, measuring 1,600 square meters, or 17,222 square feet, have also shown that the edifice contained ramps, a series of apartments and even religious altars.

Under the direction of Honorary Director of Antiquities Dr. Efi Sapouna- Sakellaraki, the aim of the new dig was to clarify what served as the access to the northern entrance to the main building and to verify what had been discovered through biomagnetic research north of the main building.

This year’s excavations disclosed to archaeologists that the usage of the building actually extended back as far as 2,000 BC — and possibly further. From 1,700 BC onward it expanded into the surrounding area, and this year’s work uncovered two new complexes further out form the main building.