Thursday, June 30, 2011

No Family Plots, Just Communal Burials In Ancient Settlement

Human remains discovered beneath the floors of mud-brick houses at one of the world's first permanent settlements, were not biologically related to one another, a finding that paints a new picture of life 9,000 years ago on a marshy plain in central Turkey.

Even children as young as 8 were not buried alongside their parents or other relatives at the site called Çatalhöyük, the researchers found.

"It speaks a lot to the type of social structure that they might have had," study researcher Marin Pilloud, a physical anthropologist with the United States military at Joint Accounting Command, in Hawaii, told LiveScience

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Peking man differing from modern humans in brain asymmetry

Paleoanthropologists studying the fossil endocasts of Australopithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens have reported that almost all brain endocasts display distinct cerebral asymmetry. Peking man’s endocasts are good examples of ancestral brains and are useful in studying human evolution. However, studies examining brain asymmetries in fossil hominids are usually limited to scoring of differences in hemisphere protrusion rostrally and caudally, or to comparing the width of the hemispheres.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Butser Ancient Farm revamp is off to a flying start

AN OUTDOOR museum and archaeology centre has won £30,000 towards refurbishments.

The South Downs National Park Authority awarded the grant to Butser Ancient Farm, near Chalton.

The farm, which features a reconstructed Roman villa and Iron Age roundhouses, is an archaeological research site and now a well-established rural education centre, attracting 15,000 schoolchildren and 10,000 members of the public each year.

The grant will go towards a £200,000 revamp which will see a new entrance building.

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Prehistoric BBQ Leftovers Found

Stone Age barbecue consumers first went for the bone marrow and then for the ribs, suggest the leftovers of an outdoor 7,700-year-old meaty feast described in the July issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The remains, found in the valley of the River Tjonger, Netherlands, provide direct evidence for a prehistoric hunting, butchering, cooking and feasting event. The meal occurred more than 1,000 years before the first farmers with domestic cattle arrived in the region.

Although basic BBQ technology hasn't changed much over the millennia, this prehistoric meal centered around the flesh of an aurochs, a wild Eurasian ox that was larger than today's cows. It sported distinctive curved horns.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Archaeology: New Thracian grave found in northeastern Bulgaria

Ancient Thracian golden and bronze finds have been excavated by archaeologists in the town of Opaka, district Turgovishte, in northeastern Bulgaria, private channel bTV reported on June 23 2011.

During excavations of the grave park, scientists found a preserved Thracian tumulus from 2nd century CE full of rich funeral artifacts.

The sites yielded unique discoveries - six leaves of a golden wreath and bronze figurines - and provided more proof of the continued importance of the town of Opeka in northeastern Bulgaria.

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Cutting edge training developed the human brain 80 000 years ago

Advanced crafting of stone spearheads contributed to the development of new ways of human thinking and behaving. This is what new findings by archaeologists at Lund University have shown. The technology took a long time to acquire, required step by step planning and increased social interaction across the generations. This led to the human brain developing new abilities.

200 000 years ago, small groups of people wandered across Africa, looking like us anatomically but not thinking the way we do today. Studies of fossils and the rate of mutations in DNA show that the human species to which we all belong – Homo sapiens sapiens – has existed for 200 000 years.

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Iceman's Stomach Sampled—Filled With Goat Meat

Hours before he died, "Ötzi" the Iceman gorged on the fatty meat of a wild goat, according to a new analysis of the famous mummy's stomach contents.

The frozen body of the Copper Age hunter was discovered in 1991 in the Alps of northern Italy, where he died some 5,000 years ago.

(See pictures of a re-creation of the Iceman unveiled earlier this year.)

The circumstances surrounding Ötzi's death are not fully known, but the most popular theory—based in part on the discovery of an arrowhead in his back—is that he was murdered by other hunters while fleeing through the mountains.

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Lascaux's 18,000 year-old cave art under threat

MONTIGNAC, France (AFP) – They call her the Old Lady, for she is some 18,000 years old and frail, which is why she is protected by steel doors, security cameras and the gentlest nurturing the 21st century has to offer.

Tucked away on a hillside in Montignac, in the Dordogne region of southwest France, the dame of Lascaux is an Ice Age treasure.

Her walls are covered with remarkable pictures of horses, extinct bison and ibexes, painted when Man was still a hunter-gatherer and his survival far from certain.

But the cave is also at threat from invisible invaders: microbial contaminants resulting from some awful mistakes made last century.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Iron-Age brewing evidence found in southeastern France

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that the occupants of southeastern France were brewing beer during the Iron Age, some 2,500 years ago.

A paper in Human Ecology outlines the discovery of barley grains that had been sprouted in a process known as malting; an oven found nearby may have been used to regulate the process.

Beer brewing's heritage stretches back to the Bronze Age in China and the Middle East, but this is the earliest sign of the practice in France, where wine-making had already taken hold.

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Protein from Bones of 600,000-Year-Old Mammoth Extracted Successfully

Researchers from the University of York and Manchester have successfully extracted protein from the bones of a 600,000-year-old mammoth, paving the way for the identification of ancient fossils.

Using an ultra-high resolution mass spectrometer, bio-archaeologists were able to produce a near complete collagen sequence for the West Runton Elephant, a Steppe Mammoth skeleton which was discovered in cliffs in Norfolk in 1990. The remarkable 85 per cent complete skeleton -- the most complete example of its species ever found in the world -- is preserved by Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service in Norwich.

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Early French had a taste for beer

Evidence of beer making in Mediterranean France, as far back as the 5th century BC, has been unearthed by Laurent Bouby from the CNRS - Centre de Bio-Archeologie et d'Ecology in Montepellier, France, and colleagues. Their analyses at the Roquepertuse excavation site in Provence reveal the presence of poorly preserved barley grains suggesting germination, as well as equipment and other remains of deliberate malting in the home. Taken together, these findings suggest that, as well as regular wine making, the French had an early passion for beer brewing. The work has just been published online in Springer's journal Human Ecology.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Prehistoric stone circle discovered in Yorkshire

A stone circle that was once part of a prehistoric cairn has been discovered by a group of amateur archaeologists on Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire, England.

A cairn is a large pile of stones that marked the grave of an important individual in prehistoric times. These stones were often taken away by later farmers for building walls or cottages, and sometimes all that's left is a circle of stones from the base, as is the case here. The team says the cairn measures 27 by 24 feet. It would have been pretty high back in its glory days.

One stone had a man-made circular impression archaeologists call a cup mark. These are found all over prehistoric Europe singly or in groups, but nobody knows what they mean.

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Bronze Age discovery at Hes East

University of York Archaeology students have unearthed a rare Bronze Age cremation urn during excavations on the University’s Heslington East campus.

The collared urn containing a cremation burial, together with a further cremation without a pot, was found by students from the Department of Archaeology on the Heslington East expansion in May.

This rare find, which dates back around 4,000 years, was found when the roundabout at Heslington East was being built.

It was lifted complete by specialist conservators from York Archaeological Trust.

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Bronze Age Brain Surgeons

You might shudder at the mere thought of ancient brain surgery, but recent studies of the practice at Bronze Age sites in Turkey suggest that early neurosurgeons were surprisingly precise and that a majority of their patients may have survived.

At Ikiztepe, a small settlement near the Black Sea occupied from 3200 to 1700 B.C., archaeologist Önder Bilgi of Istanbul University has uncovered five skulls with clean, rectangular incisions that are evidence for trepanation, or basic cranial surgery. The procedure may have been performed to treat hemorrhages, brain cancer, head trauma, or mental illness. Last August Bilgi also unearthed a pair of razor-sharp volcanic glass blades that he believes were used to make the careful cuts.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Stone circle found by amateur archaeologists on Ilkley Moor

Amateur archaeologists are celebrating discovering another prehistoric stone circle on Wharfedale's moors. The identification of the previously undocumented cairn on Ilkley Moor (West Yorkshire, England) marks the latest in a series of signficant finds made by a small team of local volunteers over the past year.

Paul Bennett, Michala Douglas and Paul Hornby stumbled upon the circle, which they believe is an ancient burial site, along with another smaller monument while searching the moor earlier this year. It follows previous discoveries by the group and their friends, which included the finding of a large tomb and several other cairns at Snowden Crags and Askwith Moor in 2010.

"The circle is upon Ilkley Moor, though we want to keep its exact location quiet until we've done more work on the site, which is going to take months. This is the third previously undiscovered, prehistoric circular monument we've found on the moors north and south of Ilkley in the last few months" Mr Bennett said. "This one seems to be another burial circle.

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Broken idols of Keros: British archaeologists explain Greek mystery

To say it has been an archaeological mystery may be an understatement: why are fragments of beautiful but deliberately smashed bronze age figurines buried in shallow pits on a small, rocky Greek island whose main inhabitants have always been goats?

Today, academics at Cambridge University will release findings that shed light on the 4,500-year-old puzzle of Keros, a tiny Cycladic island in the Aegean.

It appears Keros was the ceremonial destination for a ritual that involved islanders breaking prized possessions and making a pilgrimage with fragments for burial.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ancient Farmers Started the First 'Green Revolution'

The 1960s marked a turning point for agriculture in Asia: that's when plant breeders launched a "green revolution" in rice production, selecting variants of a single gene that boosted yields across the continent. A new study finds that prehistoric farmers were revolutionaries, too. They apparently harnessed that same gene when they first domesticated rice as early as 10,000 years ago.

The history of rice farming is very complex, but the basic facts are well established. All of today's domesticated rice belongs to the species Oryza sativa, which descends from the wild ancestor Oryza rufipogon. O. sativa has two major subspecies, japonica (short-grain rice grown mostly in Japan) and indica (long-grain rice grown mostly in India, Southeast Asia, and southern China).

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'Incredibly exciting' rare pre-Ice Age handaxe discovered on Orkney

An “incredibly rare" pre-Ice Age handaxe which may have been used to kill woolly mammoths, has been found on an Orkney beach.

The Palaeolithic - or Old Stone Age - tool, which could be anything between 100,000 and 450,000 years old, is one of only ten ever to be found in Scotland. The axe, which was found on a stretch of shore in St Ola by a local man walking along the beach, is the oldest man-made artefact ever found in Orkney.

The stone tool, which is around five-and-a-half inches long, has been broken, and originally would have tapered to a point opposite the cutting edge, but at some point in time, the point broke off and someone reworked the flint to its present straight edge.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Human ancestors in Eurasia earlier than thought

Archaeologists have long thought that Homo erectus, humanity's first ancestor to spread around the world, evolved in Africa before dispersing throughout Europe and Asia. But evidence of tool-making at the border of Europe and Asia is challenging that assumption.

Reid Ferring, an anthropologist at the University of North Texas in Denton, and his colleagues excavated the Dmanisi site in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. They found stone artefacts — mostly flakes that were dropped as hominins knapped rocks to create tools for butchering animals — lying in sediments almost 1.85 million years old. Until now, anthropologists have thought that H. erectus evolved between 1.78 million and 1.65 million years ago — after the Dmanisi tools would have been made.

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Bulgarian Archaeologists Embark on Alpine Mission to Thracian Kings' Residence

Bulgaria's National History Museum are starting the largest alpine expedition in the history of Bulgarian archaeology in order to excavate the residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom, the state of the most powerful tribe of Ancient Thrace.

Bulgarian archaeologists uncovered the unique residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom in July 2010, after its location was initially detected in 2005.

The residence is located on the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, in the village of Starosel, close to the resort town of Hissar in central Bulgaria, at about 1 200 m above sea level.

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Were ancient human migrations two-way streets?

The worldwide spread of ancient humans has long been depicted as flowing out of Africa, but tantalizing new evidence suggests it may have been a two-way street.

A long-studied archaeological site in a mountainous region between Europe and Asia was occupied by early humans as long as 1.85 million years ago, much earlier than the previous estimate of 1.7 million years ago, researchers report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Early human Homo erectus is known to have occupied the site at Dmanisi later. Discovering stone tools and materials from a much earlier date raises the possibility that Homo erectus evolved in Eurasia and might have migrated back to Africa, the researchers said - though much study is needed to confirm that idea.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Archaeologists unearth Britain's 'first building boom'

Researchers have developed a new dating technique that has given the first detailed picture of the emergence of an agricultural way of life in Britain more than 5,000 years ago.

A new analysis of artefacts recovered from the first monuments built in Britain shows that the Neolithic period had a slow start followed by a rapid growth in trade and technology.

Scientists say the new approach can be used to unravel the detailed sequence of events of many more important moments in human prehistory.

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A computer dating revolution (of the archaeological kind)

Innovations in programming are changing archaeologists’ perception of how settled life and early agriculture spread through Britain, David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent, reports.

The long-lost ‘history’ of prehistoric Britain, including our island’s first wars, is being re-discovered - courtesy of innovations in computer programming as well as archaeology.

Using newly refined computer systems, developed over recent years by programmers at Oxford University, archaeologists from English Heritage and Cardiff University have for the first time been able to fairly accurately date individual prehistoric battles, migrations and building construction projects.

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Archaeology dating technique uncovers 'property boom' of 3700 BC

English monuments, including Maiden Castle and Windmill Hill, found to have been built, used and abandoned in single lifetime

A new scientific dating technique has revealed there was a building spree more than 5,500 years ago, when many of the most spectacular monuments in the English landscape, such as Maiden Castle in Dorset and Windmill Hill in Wiltshire, were built, used and abandoned in a single lifetime.

The fashion for the monuments, hilltops enclosed by rings of ditches, known to archaeologists as causewayed enclosures, instead of being the ritual work of generations as had been believed, began on the continent centuries earlier but spread from Kent to Cornwall within 50 years in about 3700 BC.

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Autism May Have Had Advantages in Humans' Hunter-Gatherer Past, Researcher Believes

Though people with autism face many challenges because of their condition, they may have been capable hunter-gatherers in prehistoric times, according to a paper published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology in May.

The autism spectrum may represent not disease, but an ancient way of life for a minority of ancestral humans, said Jared Reser, a brain science researcher and doctoral candidate in the USC Psychology Department.

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Ancient Hominid Males Stuck Close to the Cave While Females Traveled, Study Says

A University of Colorado-Boulder study suggests that two species of early hominids, Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus, sported males that generally preferred to stick close to home while their female counterparts traveled the countryside. The study results may also contradict the generally accepted theory that bipedalism in humans evolved in part to enable them to travel longer distances with greater efficiency.

The study, led by adjunct professor Sandi Copeland of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, acquired key data by directing lasers through a technique called laser ablation at 19 sample teeth from Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus individuals that had been recovered in previous excavations at the famed South African caves of Sterkfontein and Swartkrans. The specimens ranged in age from 2.7 to 1.7 million years.

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Guernsey prehistoric site to be excavated

Guernsey States' archaeologist hopes to get a better understanding of early prehistoric settlements in the island with a major new excavation.

The study is being carried out ahead of work to extend the runway safety areas at Guernsey Airport.

The site will be raised by 2-3m (7-10ft) during the work.

Dr Philip de Jersey said the Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement could provide a valuable insight into some of the island's earliest inhabitants.

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7000 years old prototype of European towns found in Bulgaria

Bulgarian archaeologists discovered what they believe to be the oldest town in Europe, local media reported. Dubbed a 'proto-town', the site is situated near the town of Pazardzhic, in the center of the country.

In 2008 the team of archaeologist Yasen Boyadzhiev found in the area a large ancient graveyard, which became known under the current name of the area, Yunatsite (The Heroes). Later the excavations were extended and yesterday the researchers announced they have found a surprisingly large settlement, which during 4700-4600 BC spread over 100 000 sq m.

The site possessed all the features of an urban center, Yasen Boyadzhiev was quoted to say. His team discovered vast fortified walls – one wall five meters wide and at least five meters tall, a ditch and then another defence wall, all running along each other.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Treasure discoveries: Metal detector unearths Iron Age skeleton and jewellery

A TREASURE hunter from Weymouth unearthed an Iron Age grave containing a skeleton of a woman and a number of her belongings.

An inquest into the treasure, which was discovered by Carl Walmsley of Westham, heard how a total of 14 items were found in the grave on land near Portesham.

West Dorset coroner Michael Johnston declared that the items, including a mirror, two brooches, a bronze amulet, a coin, tweezers and a number of glass and stone beads, were treasure at the inquest held at Dorset County Hall.

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2 million years ago, women wandered for mates when men stayed in

Women leaving home, staying away from parent's house and finding and settling with a mate far away from home, looks like all these are not signs of a modernizing society, but a practice that existed around 2 million years ago.

A study of the teeth of 19 australopithecines from South African caves suggests that females were the one to move out and away from their birth places, whereas, larger males used to stay back surprisingly close to their home and kin, a report in stated.

Debates have been on among researchers for several decades regarding human ancestors' living habits. Whether early human ancestors lived in close-knit social groups made up of related brothers and fathers, with new genes introduced by female mates gathered from other groups, has always been argued upon.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Marlborough mound mystery solved – after 4,400 years

For generations, it has been scrambled up with pride by students at Marlborough College. But the mysterious, pudding-shaped mound in the grounds of the Wiltshire public school now looks set to gain far wider acclaim as scientists have revealed it is a prehistoric monument of international importance.

After thorough excavations, the Marlborough mound is now thought to be around 4,400 years old, making it roughly contemporary with the nearby, and far more renowned, Silbury Hill.

The new evidence was described by one archeologist, an expert on ancient ritual sites in the area, as "an astonishing discovery". Both neolithic structures are likely to have been constructed over many generations.

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No cheese for Neolithic humans in France

An excavation of a southern French burial site from about 3,000 B.C. shows that the modern humans who expanded into the area from the Mediterranean lived in patrilocal communities and did not have the genetic mutation that allowed later Europeans to digest fresh milk.

Scientists analyzed DNA extracted from the bones of 53 people buried in Cave I of the Treilles, located in the Grands Causses region at Saint-Jean-et-Saint-Paul, Aveyron in France. They were able to get useful information from 29 of those samples, 22 men, two women ad five for whom it was impossible to determine sex. Most of them appeared to be closely related, with two of them having a 99.9979% probability of being father and son and two others having a 99.9985% probability of being siblings.

The researchers were able to deduce from their findings that the peoples in this region of France were of a genetic type more closely related to Basque and Spanish populations than current western European populations. They were also more closely related to peoples in Cyprus, Portugal, Turkey, Italy and Lebanon.

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