Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Stonehenge ‘risks losing world heritage status because of road project’

Stonehenge faces the risk of being “de-listed” as a Unesco world heritage site if plans for a nearby road project featuring a tunnel go ahead, the High Court has been told. Campaigners, who are bringing a second legal bid to block the plans, claim the Government was “irrational to give no weight” to the UN agency warning that approval of the £1.7 billion scheme warranted its inclusion on the “list of world heritage in danger”.

Lawyers for Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) say this would mark “the first step being taken towards de-listing” and would be “the direct result” of the Government’s decision. SSWHS is challenging Transport Secretary Mark Harper’s backing of plans, which include the two-mile tunnel, to overhaul eight miles of the A303.

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Environmental stress rather than genetics influenced height differences in early Neolithic people: Study

Migrations of early farmers into Europe.
Credit: Nature Human Behaviour (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-023-01756-w

The difference in height between female and male individuals in northern Europe during the Early Neolithic (8,000–6,000 years before present, bp) may have been influenced by cultural factors, a paper published in Nature Human Behaviour suggests. The findings indicate that height differences during this period cannot be explained by genetic and dietary factors alone.

Culture and health are linked in the modern world; however, how this relationship evolved is unclear. Height is one indicator of health and being of a shorter height than expected based on genetics may indicate adverse environmental and/or dietary factors. Previous research has suggested that humans in the Neolithic did not reach their genetic height potential, but how this differed between regions and between sexes is unknown.

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Monday, December 11, 2023

Who Were the First Modern Humans To Settle in Europe? Scientists Shed New Light

A new study examines the early migration of humans to Europe, focusing on a study of 36,000-year-old skull fragments from Crimea. These findings connect these early settlers to the Gravettian culture, demonstrating their significant role in shaping early European civilization.

Before the permanent settlement of modern humans in Europe, other human populations migrated from Africa to Europe around 60,000 years ago. However, they did not establish long-term settlements. Around 40,000 years ago, a significant climate crisis, along with a super-eruption from the Phlegraean Fields volcanic region near present-day Naples, led to a decrease in the early European populations.

Discovering Europe’s First Modern Human Settlers

To determine who the first modern humans to settle definitively in Europe were, a team led by CNRS scientists analyzed the genome of two skull fragments from the Buran Kaya III site in Crimea dating to 36,000 and 37,000 years ago.

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'Beautifully made' Bronze Age gold torc fragment found at Erpingham

A tiny, twisted fragment of a gold torc made thousands of years ago has been uncovered by a metal detectorist.

The "beautifully made" Bronze Age piece was made from a twisted gold rod just 0.09in (2.4mm) thick and had been bent into an 0.43in (11mm) loop.

The piece was found in a field near Erpingham, Norfolk, in September and dates to between 1400-1100BC.

It could have been intended for reuse, or as "a neat little offering to the gods", said historian Helen Geake.

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Friday, December 8, 2023

Ancient finds at Wisley interchange

Archaeologists have been having a field day on Balfour Beatty’s £317m M25 junction improvement project in Surrey.

For more than a year now Balfour Beatty has been working with Oxford Archaeology, casing the site of its new junction 10 on the M25 at Wisley, where it intersects with the A3.

Remains discovered include a late Bronze Age / early Iron Age settlement believed to date from around 1,000 to 500 BC and evidence of post-medieval agricultural practices.

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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Humanity’s oldest art is flaking away. Can scientists save it?

Ancient humans painted scenes in Indonesian caves more than 45,000 years ago, but their art is disappearing rapidly. Researchers are trying to discover what’s causing the damage and how to stop it — before the murals are gone forever.

On the southwestern peninsula of Sulawesi in Indonesia, a vast series of karst mountains rise like great knobby boulders from the flat floodplain. Beneath the lush tropical vegetation that blankets the spires, there are hundreds of caves, crevices and rock shelters — carved over millennia by water seeping through the porous limestone. For tens of thousands of years, these eroded cavities provided shelter for the region’s ancient residents, who left behind a pictorial record of their time there. On the walls, archaeologists have found painted hand stencils, stick-figure people and ochre-coloured depictions of warty pigs and miniature buffalo.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Take a Virtual Tour of the Lascaux Cave Paintings

The Lascaux Caves enjoyed a quiet existence for some 17,000 years.

Then came the summer of 1940, when four teens investigated what seemed to be a fox’s den on a hill near Montignac, hoping it might lead to an underground passageway of local legend.

Once inside, they discovered the paintings that have intrigued us ever since, expanding our understanding of prehistoric art and human origins, and causing us to speculate on things we’ll never have an answer to.

The boys’ teacher reached out to several prehistorians, who authenticated the figures, arranged for them to be photographed and sketched, and collected a number of bone and flint artifacts from the caves’ floors.

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Closer look at the Menga dolmen shows it was one of the greatest engineering feats of the Neolithic

The capstone C-5 in Cerro de la Cruz Quarry #2. Drawing: Moisés Bellilty under guidance of José Antonio Lozano Rodríguez and Leonardo García Sanjuán. 

A team of archaeologists, geologists and historians affiliated with several institutions in Spain has found that the Menga dolmen represents one of the greatest engineering feats of the Neolithic. In their study, published in Scientific Reports, the group used new technology to learn more about the stone that was used to create the ancient burial site and to explore how wood and rope would have been used in its construction.

The Menga dolmen is an ancient burial mound located near Antequera, Málaga, Spain. It has been dated to approximately 5,700 years ago and is one of the largest known megalithic structures to be built in Europe. It was built into the top of a hill using large stones, the largest of which weigh more than 100 tons. In this new effort, the research team took a closer look at the composition of the stones used to build the burial mound, where they came from and how they were transported.

To learn more about the makeup of the stones, the research team used petrographic and stratigraphic analysis techniques, which showed that the stones were mostly calcarenites, a type of detrital sedimentary rock. In the modern age, they are known as soft stones due to their fragility. According to the researchers, such a soft type of rock would have been difficult to transport without causing damage—a finding that suggests a certain level of engineering sophistication.

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