Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tortoise banquet: Remains of the oldest feast found

In a cave 12,000 years ago, a group of people settled down to a dinner that has rarely been matched: 71 tortoises that had been roasted in their shells.

The discovery of the shells shows that feasting occurred 2500 years earlier than previously thought, at a critical stage in the transition from hunter-gathering to settled farming.

The remains of the feast were found in Hilazon Tachtit cave in Israel by Natalie Munro of the University of Connecticut in Storrs and Leore Grosman of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It is a burial ground that contains the bones of 28 people.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Acoustic archaeology: The secret sounds of Stonehenge

Just after sunrise on a misty spring morning last year, my fellow acoustician at the University of Salford, Bruno Fazenda, and Rupert Till of the University of Huddersfield, UK, could be found wandering around Stonehenge popping balloons. This was not some bizarre pagan ritual. It was a serious attempt to capture the "impulse response" of the ancient southern English stone circle, and with it perhaps start to determine how Stonehenge might have sounded to our ancestors.

An impulse response characterises all the paths taken by the sound between its source – in this case a popping balloon – and a microphone positioned a few metres away. It is simply a plot of the sound pressure at the microphone in the seconds after the pop. The first, strongest peak on the plot represents the sound that travelled directly from the source to the microphone. Later, smaller peaks indicate the arrival of reflections off the stones. The recording and plot shows the impulse response Bruno and Rupert measured with a microphone positioned at the centre of Stonehenge and a popping balloon at the edge of the circle

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Prehistoric ‘Iceman’ Gets Ceremonial Twist

A prehistoric man whose naturally mummified body was discovered frozen in the Italian Alps may have been toted up the mountain by his comrades, a new study suggests.
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The Iceman, also nicknamed Ötzi, lived between 5,350 and 5,100 years ago as part of a genetically distinct European population (SN Online: 10/30/08). Hikers noticed the Iceman poking out of a glacier in 1991.

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Eine neue Mammutfundstelle im Kanton Aargau

Sprengungsarbeiten beim Steinbruch der Firma Jura Cement in Wildegg (Kanton Aargau) förderten in einem bisher nicht dafür bekannten Gebiet Knochen und Stosszähnereste von Mammuts zu Tage.

Nach Sprengungsarbeiten zur Materialgewinnung im Steinbruch der Firma Jura Cement hat der zuständige Sprengmeister Knochenreste, einen Zahn und Elfenbeinbruchstücke entdeckt, die auf Grund der Grösse und Fundlage einen Mammut vermuten liessen. Darüber hinaus waren an der gesprengten Wand noch fünf kreisförmige Strukturen sichtbar, die auf weitere Reste von Stosszähnen hindeuteten.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bronze Age henge found in Hertfordshire

A Bronze Age henge has been discovered on land near Letchworth.

Archaeologists have found a circular area about 50 metres wide surrounded by a bank at Stapleton's Field in Norton.

North Herts Archaeology Officer, Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews said: "Henges are quite rare with only 60 known in the UK, so this is a significant find.

"It's interesting as the only other henge known locally is on Western Hills, which is visible from the site we are working on."

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dig unearths insight into life before the Romans

THE third phase of the Big Dig at Brading Roman Villa may well have been one of the toughest excavations eminent archaeologist Sir Barry Cunliffe had ever undertaken but it has yielded some treasures and a greater understanding of Brading’s history up to its Roman occupation.

With the three-week dig ending yesterday (Friday), Sir Barry’s team has unearthed, over the past two weeks, numerous pottery remains, ranging from pieces of amphorae to a tray for sifting sea water to extract salt.

The discovery of a second century BC saucepan became the earliest evidence of occupation on the site, pushing its history back as much as two centuries.
Examples of early jewellery were also found, which included an example of a small mid-first century AD brooch inlaid with enamel.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

'Mitochondrial Eve': Mother of All Humans Lived 200,000 Years Ago

The most robust statistical examination to date of our species' genetic links to "mitochondrial Eve" -- the maternal ancestor of all living humans -- confirms that she lived about 200,000 years ago. The Rice University study was based on a side-by-side comparison of 10 human genetic models that each aim to determine when Eve lived using a very different set of assumptions about the way humans migrated, expanded and spread across Earth.

The research is available online in the journal Theoretical Population Biology.

"Our findings underscore the importance of taking into account the random nature of population processes like growth and extinction," said study co-author Marek Kimmel, professor of statistics at Rice. "Classical, deterministic models, including several that have previously been applied to the dating of mitochondrial Eve, do not fully account for these random processes."

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Europe's prehistoric tombs built in bursts

Western Europe's massive prehistoric tombs were built in a burst of activity over a few centuries around 4000 BC, suggests dating evidence, rather than continuously throughout the Stone Age.

In the current European Journal of Archaeology, archaeologist Chris Scarre of the United Kingdom's Durham University, looks at the latest dating of "megalithic" prehistoric tombs stretching from Sweden to Spain. The mound-shaped burial sites are better known as "barrows" in Great Britain, or "passage tombs" for their intersecting halls of corbel stones.

"It trivializes the tombs to call it a fad, but building such structures seems to have become a fashion where great numbers were built and then there was a cessation for centuries," Scarre says, in an interview. Improved dating of materials such as birch bark, bone and stone left in the tombs now reveals the clustered construction times of the mounds, he says.

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Early humans were butchers 3.4 million years ago

Our ancestors were carving meat some 800,000 years earlier than previously thought. Marks on fossilised animal bones found in Ethiopia indicate that early-human butchers were using stone tools as early as 3.4 million years ago.

Shannon McPherron of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues say the find is evidence that Australopithecus afarensis – the only known hominin species present in the region at the time – used tools.

The finds suggest that the evolution of toolmaking and meat-eating among our human ancestors is more complex than existing theories admit.

They also add to a growing body of evidence that A. afarensis may have been more human-like and less primitive than some have assumed.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stone Age remains are Britain's earliest house

Archaeologists working on Stone Age remains at a site in North Yorkshire say it contains Britain's earliest surviving house.

The team from the Universities of Manchester and York reveal today that the home dates to at least 8,500 BC - when Britain was part of continental Europe.

The research has been made possible by a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council, early excavation funding from the British Academy, and from English Heritage who are about to schedule the site as a National Monument . The Vale of Pickering Research Trust has also provided support for the excavation works.

The research team unearthed the 3.5 metres circular structure next to an ancient lake at Star Carr, near Scarborough, a site comparable in archaeological importance to Stonehenge.

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Evolutionary Surprise: Freedom of Neck Played Major Role in Human Brain Evolution, Research Suggests

By deciphering the genetics in humans and fish, scientists now believe that the neck -- that little body part between your head and shoulders -- gave humans so much freedom of movement that it played a surprising and major role in the evolution of the human brain, according to New York University and Cornell University neuroscientists in the online journal Nature Communications (July 27, 2010.)

Scientists had assumed the pectoral fins in fish and the forelimbs (arms and hands) in humans are innervated -- or receive nerves -- from the exact same neurons. After all, the fins on fish and the arms on humans seem to be in the same place on the body. Not so.

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Tool Use by Early Humans Started Much Earlier

Small-brained human ancestors used stone tools to whack into large mammals some 800,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Fossilized bones scarred by hack marks reveal that our human ancestors were using stone tools and eating meat from large mammals nearly a million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study that pushes back both of these human activities to roughly 3.4 million years ago.

The first known human ancestor tool wielder and meat lover was Australopithecus afarensis, according to the study, published in the latest issue of Nature. This species, whose most famous representative is the skeleton "Lucy," was slender, toothy and small-brained.

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From Grunting To Gabbing: Why Humans Can Talk

Most of us do it every day without even thinking about it, yet talking is a uniquely human ability. Not only do humans have evolved brains that process and produce language and syntax, but we also can make a range of sounds and tones that we use to form hundreds of thousands of words.

To make these sounds — and talk — humans use the same basic apparatus that chimps have: lungs, throat, voice box, tongue and lips. But we're the ones singing opera and talking on the phone. That is because over thousands of years, humans have evolved a longer throat and smaller mouth better suited for shaping sound.

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Cannibal cavemen of Spain uncovered

More evidence that The Flintstones didn't tell us the whole story about cavemen. Our prehuman ancestors cannibalized one another for the "nutritional value" starting about a million years ago, finds an analysis of bones left in a Spanish cave.

In the journal Current Anthropology, a team led by archaeologist Eudald Carbonell of Spain's University of Rovira and Virgili, report fossil evidence of continuous cannibalism - cut marks and butchering remains - as a way of life among the Homo antecessor inhabitants of the Atapuerca Mountains archeological site.

From a sample of some 1,039 bones that included mammoths, buffalo, cats and other butchered species found in the cave level deposited more than 800,000 years ago, there also emerged 159 bones from 11 H. antecessor individuals, they report:

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Archaeologists unearth Britain's oldest house

Deceptively spacious - many original features - but in need of some modernisation. Archaeologists have discovered what they believe is Britain's oldest house - constructed in the Stone Age, some 11,000 years ago.
Possibly Britain's oldest house unearthed at Star Carr (Credit: University of York)

The circular residence - measuring just three and a half metres across - was discovered at one of the country's most important prehistoric sites, Star Carr in North Yorkshire.

Other finds there, including animal skulls, and antler headdresses suggest the area could have been used for ceremonial rituals.

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Bone discovery pushes date for first use of stone tools back 1m years

Butchered bones found near site of 'Lucy', a probable human ancestor, who lived 3.2m years ago

The ancestors of early humans used stone tools to butcher animal carcasses nearly 1m years earlier than previously thought.

Archaeologists revised the date after spotting distinctive cut and crush marks made by stone tools on animal bones dating to 3.4m years ago.

The remains, including a rib from a cow-like creature and a thigh bone from an animal the size of a goat, were recovered from riverbed sediments in Dikika in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia during an expedition last January.

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Archaeologists find Britain's oldest house - constructed 11,000 years ago

Archaeologists have found Britain's earliest house - constructed by Stone Age tribesmen around 11,000 years ago. The discovery is likely to change the way archaeologists view that early period.

Just 3.5 metres in diameter, the circular post-built house pre-dates other Stone Age buildings in the UK by up to a thousand years.

Located at one of Britain's most important prehistoric archaeological sites, Star Carr in North Yorkshire, the newly discovered building may have been home to a Stone Age hunter - or conceivably even a prehistoric priest or shaman.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Obsidian used as ancient scalpel found in Turkey's Samsun

A piece of obsidian (volcanic glass) dating back 4,000 years and believed to have been used as a scalpel for surgery has been unearthed during excavations carried out in the Black Sea province of Samsun.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, Professor Önder Bilgi, the chairman of the excavations, said that the work in the ruins of the İkiztepe village in Samsun’s Bafra district had begun in 1974.

“During this year’s excavations, which started July 15, we discovered a piece of obsidian that was used as a scalpel in surgeries. Obsidian beds are generally situated in the Central Anatolian region of Cappadocia. We think obsidian was brought to this region through trade,” Bilgi said. “As this stone is very sharp and hygienic, it was [likely] used as a scalpel in brain surgeries. Glass scalpels are still available.”

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Yorkshire Dales stone circle investigated

A circle of stones in the Yorkshire Dales first discovered in 1896 have been uncovered again.

Archaeologists, in Hartlington near Burnsall, have been trying to establish fresh theories as to what the stones were.

Initially it had been thought they might have formed the floor of a corn drying kiln.

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Environmentalists outraged as ring forts levelled

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners want the "full weight of the law" to be brought to bear following the destruction of two ancient ring forts.

Friends of the Irish Environment have written to Environment Minister John Gormley calling for prosecutions to follow the recent destruction of two north Cork ring forts -- fortified settlements with raised walls of stone or banks of earth.

The demolished ring forts were located in the townland of Knockacareagh, near Killmurray in north Cork.

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Found: Britain's oldest house at 10,500 years old is uncovered by archaeologists

It is cramped, draughty and unlikely to win any design awards.

But according to archaeologists, this wooden hut is one of the most important buildings ever created in Britain.

The newly discovered circular structure is the UK's oldest known home.
Built more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge, it provided shelter from the icy winds and storms that battered the nomadic hunters roaming Britain at the end of the last Ice Age.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Britain's Prehistoric Funerals - Six Feet Under, or a Bronze Age Mound?

You might never have heard of Irthlingborough, in Northamptonshire, but an excavation there in the 1980s revealed some pretty spectacular archaeology, as explained in the first of a series of HKTV videos (Watch the Video).

The archaeologists found a round burial mound with cremations buried in the sides.

Below the cremation burials, there was a lattice of rotted cattle bones, which had been placed on the top of a heaped stone cairn. Below the cairn was a wooden platform that had now collapsed, and below the platform, at the heart of the mound, was a chamber, with a man’s body inside.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Neanderthal's Cozy Bedroom Unearthed

Anthropologists have unearthed the remains of an apparent Neanderthal cave sleeping chamber, complete with a hearth and nearby grass beds that might have once been covered with animal fur.

Neanderthals inhabited the cozy Late Pleistocene room, located within Esquilleu Cave in Cantabria, Spain, anywhere between 53,000 to 39,000 years ago, according to a Journal of Archaeological Science paper concerning the discovery.

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Archäologen untersuchen Hügelgräberfeld in Rumänien

Im Nordwesten Rumäniens entdeckten Forscher bereits Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts ein großes Hügelgräberfeld der späten Bronzezeit (ca. 1300 bis 1100 v. Chr.), die sogenannte Tumulusnekropole von Lăpuş. Doch erst eine Grabung im Rahmen eines internationalen Projekts der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München widmete sich intensiv einem vermeintlichem Grabhügel, der sich jedoch rasch als eine mehrphasige, längsovale Baustruktur entpuppte. Zwei Kultbauten konnte ein Forscherteam um Professor Carola Metzner-Nebelsick, Lehrstuhl für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, identifizieren. In den Details ihrer Form und Bauweise sind beide bislang einmalig im bronzezeitlichen Europa, so die Archäologin. Im August 2010 startet Sie erneut eine Kampagne, um insbesondere den jüngeren Kultbau weiter auszugraben und zu erfassen. Die Forscherin verspricht sich zusätzliche Informationen über die zeitliche Einordnung der dort praktizierten Rituale.

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'Fantastic' dig ends at Marden Henge in Wiltshire

Excavation work has finally come to an end at prehistoric site, Marden Henge near Devizes.

It was the first investigation of the site since 1969.

Marden Henge no longer has any standing stones and is said to be one of Britain's least understood ancient sites.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Neolithic stone network found on Orkney

Archaeologists revealed today that they have discovered the first evidence in the UK of stonework painted with a pattern, suggesting Neolithic people enjoyed decorating.
It comes a week after the researchers, working at the Brodgar peninsula on Orkney, found plain painted stones thought to be around 5,000 years old at the spot.

The site, described as a possible Neolithic temple precinct, is between the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar.

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Archaeologists in major neolithic painting find in Orkney

Archaeologists revealed yesterday that they have discovered the first evidence in the UK of stonework painted with a pattern, suggesting Neolithic people enjoyed decorating.

It comes a week after the researchers, working at the Brodgar peninsula on Orkney, found plain painted stones thought to be around 5,000 years old at the spot.

The site, described as a possible Neolithic temple precinct, is between the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar.

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Scientists give Bronze Age Gristhorpe Man a face and voice

ACADEMICS in Yorkshire have given a voice and a face to a man who died more about 4,000 years ago.

Using state-of-the-art computer programme and forensic techniques, scientists have reconstructed the face of the Gristhorpe Man.

The skeleton of the Bronze Age man, thought to be a warrior chief, was discovered in Gristhorpe, near Filey, in 1834, and boiled in horse glue to preserve it.

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