Thursday, February 23, 2023

Dwarfie Stane: Mysterious 5,000-Year-Old Rock-Cut Tomb On Dark Enchanted Island Of Hoy, Scotland

The Dwarfie Stane with the entrance to the tomb. Credit: Grovel - CC BY 3.0

A. Sutherland- - The "Dwarfie Stane" is a remarkable ancient and massive piece of red sandstone. This 5,000-year-old block is surrounded by mystery, which has not been solved until today.

There is no record of who, in what manner, and for what purpose or purposes, created this great tomb.

Known as the Dwarfie Stane, the curious stone lies in a steep-sided and remote valley between Quoys and Rackwick on the island of Hoy in Orkney, Scotland, and is believed to be Britain's only example of a rock-cut tomb.

The chamber was carved out between the Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age, probably around 3,000 BC. This estimation is based on similar tombs discovered in the region of the Mediterranean.

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Modern Humans With Bows and Arrows Invaded France 54,000 Years Ago

Reproduced arrowheads made using the same flint and shot from a bow, to compare fracturing with the points found in Grotte Mandrin. Experiments by Laure Metz, Toomaï Boucherat, Christian Trubère and Ludovic Slimak show they were indeed arrowheads.Credit: Ludovic Slimak

But they didn’t stay long. New finds in southern France indicate protracted struggle: Neanderthals and humans replacing one another, more than once

Around 54,000 years ago, a group of anatomically modern humans forayed into southern France, intruding deep into the stamping ground of Neanderthals. And they came prepared, bearing the first bow and arrow technology to reach Europe – a good 10,000 years earlier than we assumed. Not that it helped them survive.

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Grave of Elite Bronze Age Brothers With Mystery Disease Discovered

Photo of Tel Megiddo National Park in modern-day Israel. This was the site of the ancient city of Megiddo.  JAVAX/GETTY

The bodies of two Bronze Age brothers have been discovered in an ancient tomb in Israel, and they bear a mysterious disease that has left scientists puzzled.

The bones of the brothers—whose relation was confirmed by DNA analysis—both show signs of developmental abnormalities and extensive bone remodeling, characteristic of a chronic infectious disease. The identity of the disease, however, remains a mystery.

"There is no one infectious disease that seems to fit all of the lesion patterns perfectly," Rachel Kalisher, who led the study, told Newsweek. "Paleopathology is an extremely complex field of study that has to not only study modern clinical manifestations of a disease, but also think about how it could have manifested in the past."

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54,000-Year-Old Stone Points Are Oldest Signs of Bow and Arrow Use in Europe

The site of Grotte Mandrin, in France

Artifacts discovered in a rock shelter suggest Homo sapiens was launching stone projectiles in Europe 40,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Hundreds of stone artifacts and 54,000-year-old human teeth have been found in a rock shelter in the south of France, pushing back evidence for Homo sapiens wielding the bow and arrow in Europe by 10,000 years.

The shelter—Grotte Mandrin, near the Rhône River valley—has yielded 852 artifacts, including cut stone points, blades, and flakes, which indicate to researchers that projectile weapons were being used by ancient humans there. The team’s study is published today in Science Advances, and it builds on a paper published last year that established the ancient human presence based on 54,000-year-old teeth.

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This Man Underwent Brain Surgery 3,500 Years Ago

Two brothers’ remains were found buried together under the floorboards of their home. One had a hole in his skull consistent with surgery. Kalisher et al., 2023, PLOS One, CC-BY 4.0

While excavating a 3,500-year-old tomb in Tel Megiddo, Israel, scientists discovered a skull with a surprising feature: a square hole that’s clear evidence of an ancient brain surgery.

Nobody knows whose steady hands performed the operation, or what experience made the surgeon feel prepared to remove part of a living human’s cranium. Was the patient administered some anesthesia or a mind-altering substance? Or was he left to experience the operation in excruciating pain? And what desperate straits or last-ditch hopes led to such an extreme step?

“I can only hypothesize based off of the amount of pathological evidence that is on this individual that this was an intervention because of deteriorating conditions,” says Rachel Kalisher, a bioarchaeologist at Brown University. “But we don’t really have a clear answer.”

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Centuries Before Stonehenge, This Settlement Housed the First European Stone Monument Builders

Whether its Stonehenge, the pyramids, or a myriad of other ancient places, we’ve long been fascinated by impressive monuments from the distant past. But more often than not, the stories of the people who built these ancient marvels are lost to the mists of time.

It’s rare to get a glimpse into the lives of the laborers whose handiwork still towers over landscapes today. But a newly-described site in France reveals the likely home base of some of Europe’s first stone monument builders, dating back to the Middle Neolithic period (4700-3700 BC).

Described this week in the journal Antiquity, researchers reconstructed a 6500-year-old settlement where a group of workers may have lived just a few kilometers from their job site. They pieced together the details of life at the settlement, including how it met a destructive fate.

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Neanderthals spread diverse cultures across Eurasia (before we came along)

This artist's conception shows how Neanderthals might have faced down the mammoth task of butchering a freshly-killed elephant.

Two recent studies of Neanderthal archaeological sites (one on the coast of Portugal and one in central Germany) demonstrate yet again that our extinct cousins were smarter and more adaptable than we’ve often given them credit for. One study found that Neanderthals living on the coast of Portugal 90,000 years ago roasted brown crabs—a meal that’s still a delicacy on the Iberian coast today. The other showed that 125,000 years ago, large groups of Neanderthals came together to take down enormous Ice Age elephants in what’s now central Germany.

Individually, both discoveries are fascinating glimpses into the lives of a species that's hauntingly similar to our own. But to really understand the most important thing these Neanderthal diet discoveries tell us, we have to look at them together. Together, they show that Neanderthals in different parts of Europe had distinct cultures and ways of life—at least as diverse as the cultures that now occupy the same lands.

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Thursday, February 16, 2023

Stunning reconstruction reveals 'lonely boy' with deformed skull who died in cave in Norway 8,300 years ago

Here we see a gif of a skull that gets muscles, eyes and finally hair and coloring added to it in 10 steps.It took Oscar Nilsson, a forensic artist based in Sweden, months to complete a reconstruction based on the boy's skull. (Image credit: Oscar Nilsson)

About 8,300 years ago, a teenage boy with an unusual skull and short stature may have scampered along the rocky coast of what is now Norway, pausing to regain his balance as he clutched a fishing rod. Now, a new full-body reconstruction of the Stone Age teenager — nicknamed Vistegutten, Norwegian for "the boy from Viste" — is on display at the Hå Gamle Prestegard museum in southern Norway.

The boy's reconstruction was a months-long project, but researchers have known about Vistegutten since 1907, when archaeologists found his remains in a Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age, cave in Randaberg, along Norway's western coast. 

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Monday, February 13, 2023

Never-Before-Seen Minoan Artifacts Exhibited in Oxford Museum

Minoan ladies women artifact Never-Before-See Minoan Artifacts Exhibited in Oxford’s Museum. Credit: ArchaiOptix / Wkimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 

Over a hundred Minoan artifacts that have never left Crete and Greece before -including some which have never been displayed anywhere- launched on February 10 at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum.

Labyrinth – Knossos, Myth and Reality is the first UK exhibition focusing on Knossos, the center of the Minoan civilization, which had been excavated by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans in the early 20th century.

The selection of Minoan artifacts, many of which were discovered after World War II, has been lent by the Archaeological Museum and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Heraklion, Crete, and will be exhibited until July 30, 2023, alongside discoveries from the Ashmolean’s Sir Arthur Evans Archive.

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Sunday, February 12, 2023

Skegriedösen (Skegrie Dolmen) – 5,000-Year-Old Stone Chamber Tomb In Southern Sweden


Skegrie megalith grave in Skåne, Sweden. Image credit: Jorchr - CC BY-SA 3.0

Megalithic graves appeared more or less simultaneously in southern Sweden and were first used around 3500–3300 cal BC.

In comparison with other countries, Sweden has only about a hundred dolmens, mainly in Skåne, Halland, and Bohuslän. From the beginning, Sweden certainly possessed many more of them. Today, the existing number of these structures constitutes only a tiny part of what once existed.

No one knows precisely how these massive stones were moved and laid in their place.

Today we visit Skegriedösen (Skegrie Dolmen), located in Skegrie Parish in Trelleborg, Skåne, Sweden's most southern county. This dolmen (in Swedish - 'dös') is a stone chamber grave from the Neolithic times.

What we see today are the large boulders. All organic building materials such as reeds, birch bark, cloth, animal skins, and wood have disappeared over time.

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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Nearly 600 obsidian handaxes from 1.2 million years ago found in Ethiopia show early humans were smarter than we think

Credit: FrankvandenBergh / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A trove of nearly 600 obsidian handaxes, dating back at least 1.2 million years, has been unearthed in Ethiopia, indicating the presence of a prehistoric “knapping workshop”.

Knapping is the technique used to create handaxes, which are often referred to as humanity’s “first great invention.”

Made by chipping shards off a piece of stone to make a sharp edge, handaxes were not attached to handles, but held in the hand. They have a distinctive teardrop or pear shape. They were made out of flint or, later, obsidian – a type of volcanic glass.

The first handaxes in the palaeontological record date back to at least 1.5 million years ago and were found in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge. Handaxes are believed to have spread throughout Africa, south Asia, the Middle East and Europe around 500,000 years ago. They were still being made as recently as 40,000 years ago.

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Did Humanity Really Arise in One Place?

San hunter-gatherers—descended from the oldest distinct lineage of Homo sapiens—are one of many communities helping to rewrite the story of humanity’s origins.Martin Harvey/Getty Images

New evidence is prompting researchers to rethink Homo sapiens’ origin story—and what it means to be human.

AS A UNIVERSITY STUDENT in the early 2010s, I recall how beautifully simple our origin story was: Homo sapiens evolved in East African savannas around 150,000 years ago. Then, sometime around 70,000 years ago, a mutation occurred that endowed these individuals with the capacity for complex, symbolic behavior. This set them apart from any other species and allowed them to leave Africa and take over the world, replacing all other humans they encountered.

This “East Side Story” made sense, based on major finds in the 20th century. The oldest fully modern H. sapiens skulls, dating to at least 233,000 years ago, were found in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley. “Lucy,” the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis, was also unearthed in Ethiopia. The earliest stone tools, dated to 3.3 million years old, were discovered in Kenya.

Neanderthals hunted enormous elephants that fed 100 people for a month

The extinct straight-tusked elephant was even larger than modern African elephants, making it unclear if Neanderthal hunters could take one down, but a newly analysed trove of bones suggests it was possible

Neanderthals regularly hunted and butchered elephants in Europe thousands of years ago, according to an analysis of marks made by stone tools on a trove of bones.

The find suggests the ancient humans either lived in larger groups than previously suspected or that they had ways of processing the flesh so it didn’t spoil, says Wil Roebroeks at Leiden University in the Netherlands, given the amount of meat involved. “These elephants are really big calorie bombs.”

There has long been debate over whether Neanderthals, distant cousins of modern humans, could have hunted the straight-tusked elephants (Palaeoloxodon antiquus). These extinct giants stood 4 metres tall, making them larger than modern African elephants and woolly mammoths.

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Perception versus reality: Implications of elephant hunting by Neanderthals

Reconstruction of Pleistocene hominins exploiting an elephant.

Neanderthals hunted elephants at Neumark-Nord 1 (Germany), a finding that has major implications for our understanding of social and cultural aspects of Neanderthal behavior.

Few members of the hominin lineage have been more maligned in popular culture than Neanderthals. From their discovery and the earliest depictions of Neanderthals at the turn of the 20th century, there has been an “othering” of our closest hominin cousins, to the extent that calling someone a cave man or Neanderthal is taken as an insult that implies being stupid or backward. Scientists have not been immune to this, and, indeed, many have pushed aspects of the incompetent Neanderthal trope through much of the 20th century [e.g., (1)]. However, some researchers voiced the need to moderate the conversation, and by the 1990s, many archaeologists began to characterize Neanderthals as successful big game hunters (2). This view, though, did not seem to extend beyond standard large game on the European landscape (e.g., horses, cattle, and deer).

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