Thursday, December 22, 2011

Take a virtual look at Neolithic Stonehenge

ARCHAEOLOGISTS from Bournemouth University have created a virtual map of Neolithic Stonehenge.

Google Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge, is the first computer application of its kind to transport users around a virtual prehistoric landscape to explore Stonehenge.

It was developed using new field data gathered during investigations by teams from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol, Southampton and London as part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From Pembrokeshire to Stonehenge

Anew paper in Archaeology in Wales, produced by Dr Rob Ixer of Leicester University and Dr Richard Bevins of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales confirms, for the first time, the exact origin of some the rhyolite debitage found at Stonehenge. This work could now lead to important conclusions about how stones were transported from Pembrokeshire to Stonehenge.

Over a period of nine months, Bevins and Ixer have been carefully collecting and identifying samples from rock outcrops in Pembrokeshire to try and locate the provenance of rocks that can be found at what is today, one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites.

Their recent discovery confirms that the Stonehenge rhyolite debitage originates from a specific 70m long area namely Craig Rhos-y-felin near Pont Saeson. Using petrographical techniques, Ixer and Bevins found that 99% of these rhyolites could be matched to rocks found in this particular set of outcrops. Rhyolitic rocks at Rhos-y-felin are distinctly different from all others in South Wales, which gives almost all of Stonehenge rhyolites a provenance of just hundreds of square metres.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tax bill paid with 2,000-year-old Iron Age fire guard

A 2,000-year-old Iron Age fire guard has been accepted into Wales' national museum in lieu of inheritance tax.

The Capel Garmon Firedog, once one of a pair on the hearth of a chieftain's roundhouse, is regarded as one of the finest surviving prehistoric iron artefacts in Europe.

Previously on loan to the National Museum it will now be part of Wales' collections of Early Celtic Art.

It was discovered in a peat bog in 1852.

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Neanderthals built homes with mammoth bones

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 44,000 year old Neanderthal building that was constructed using the bones from mammoths.
The circular building, which was up to 26 feet across at its widest point, is believed to be earliest example of domestic dwelling built from bone.
Neanderthals, which died out around 30,000 years ago, were initially thought to have been relatively primitive nomads that lived in natural caves for shelter.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Scientists discover source of rock used in Stonehenge's first circle

Scientists have succeeded in locating the exact source of some of the rock believed to have been used 5000 years ago to create Stonehenge's first stone circle.

By comparing fragments of stone found at and around Stonehenge with rocks in south-west Wales, they have been able to identify the original rock outcrop that some of the Stonehenge material came from.

The work - carried out by geologists Robert Ixer of the University of Leicester and Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales - has pinpointed the source as a 70 metre long rock outcrop called Craig Rhos-y-Felin, near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire. It's the first time that an exact source has been found for any of the stones thought to have been used to build Stonehenge.

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Forget the cave! Neanderthals were homely creatures who built their own houses from mammoth bones

Forget the idea Neanderthals simply picked any old cave to sleep in for the night.

Researchers have discovered an elaborate 44,000-year-old Neanderthal house in Molodova, eastern Ukraine, made from mammoth bones, delicately decorated with carvings and pigments.

It had been thought Neanderthals, which died out around 30,000 years ago, were primitive nomads who lived in caves simply for shelter.

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'Bronze Age' artefacts found at Anglesey Abbey

"Potentially Bronze Age" artefacts found at Anglesey Abbey could prove the site was occupied up to 2,000 years earlier than had been thought.

The discoveries were made during work to build a new car park at the National Trust property near Cambridge.

Cambridge Archaeological Unit said the site, containing possible roundhouses, a granary, pottery and a shale bracelet fragment, could have been a farmstead.

It was previously thought the area was occupied from the early 12th Century.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

'New' ancient monuments come to light at Knowth

New and exciting archaeological finds have been made at the Knowth tumulus over the last few months, according to archaeologists working on the site.

The passage tomb cemetery at Brú na Binne has produced some extraordinary discoveries over the decades ever since Professor George Eogan made his first tentative exploration in and around the site.

A number of previously unknown large-scale monuments in the field lying immediately to the south-east of the large mound have recently come to light.

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We do have bigger brains than Neanderthals did

Modern humans possess brain structures larger than their Neanderthal counterparts, suggesting we are distinguished from them by different mental capacities, scientists find. 

We are currently the only extant human lineage, but Neanderthals, our closest-known evolutionary relatives, still walked the Earth as recently as maybe 24,000 years ago. Neanderthals were close enough to the modern human lineage to interbreed, calling into question how different they really were from us and whether they comprise a different species.

To find out more, researchers used CT scanners to map the interiors of five Neanderthal skulls as well as four fossil and 75 contemporary human skulls to determine the  shapes of their brains in 3-D. Like modern humans, Neanderthals had larger brains than both our living ape relatives and other extinct human lineages.

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Public urged to vote for Peak archaeology dig site

ARCHAEOLOGICAL excavations in the Peak District are in the running for a national award and support from the public can make all the difference.

The Fin Cop project is one of five shortlisted for the prestigious Archaeological Research Project of the Year Award by readers and editors of Current Archaeology magazine.

The excavations at Fin Cop, an Iron Age hill fort overlooking Monsal Dale, near Bakewell, rose to national significance when unexpected evidence of a prehistoric massacre was revealed.

Skeletal remains of several young women and children were found thrown into a ditch with the ramparts pushed over them more than 2,000 years ago.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

4,000-year-old Stone Age camp discovered by dog walker near Cannock

HISTORIANS believe they have unearthed evidence of a 4,000-year-old Stone Age camp in the Midlands – thanks to a dog walker.

Roger Hall discovered a handful of strange-shaped rocks while walking his pet pooch in picturesque Cannock Wood, Staffordshire,

But experts have identified them as flint ‘flakes’ – the off-cuts from tools crafted by Stone Age Man an astonishing 4,000 years ago.

If confirmed, they could mark the spot of the only neolithic camp known in our region, says Roger Knowles, a member of the Council for British Archaeology.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tools of a kind

Culturally speaking, ancient East Africans were a stone’s throw away from southern Arabia.

Stone tools collected at several sites along a plateau in Oman, which date to roughly 106,000 years ago, match elongated cutting implements previously found at East African sites from around the same time, say archaeologist Jeffrey Rose of the University of Birmingham, England, and his colleagues. New finds also include cores — or rocks from which tools were pounded off with a hammer stone — that correspond to East African specimens, the researchers report online November 30 in PLoS ONE.

East African sites that have yielded these distinctive stone artifacts extend southward along the Nile River to the Horn of Africa.

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Bronze Age boats discovered at a quarry in Whittlesey

Bronze Age boats, spears and clothing dating back 3,000 years and described as the "finds of a lifetime" have been discovered near Peterborough.

Archaeologists from the University of Cambridge have unearthed hundreds of items at a quarry in Whittlesey.

The objects, discovered at one of the most significant Bronze Age sites in Britain, have been perfectly preserved in peat and silt.

It is thought the settlement burned down in about 800 BC.

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The earth mother of all neolithic discoveries

French archaeologists have discovered an extremely rare example of a neolithic "earth mother" figurine on the banks of the river Somme.

The 6,000-year-old statuette is 8in high, with imposing buttocks and hips but stubby arms and a cone-like head. Similar figures have been found before in Europe but rarely so far north and seldom in such a complete and well-preserved condition.

The "lady of Villers-Carbonnel", as she has been named, can make two claims to be an "earth mother". She was fired from local earth or clay and closely resembles figurines with similar, stylised female bodies found around the Mediterranean.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Rock Shelter Inhabitants Slept in Comfort 77,000 Years Ago

The Sibudu rock shelter sits above the uThongathi river in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. Here, archaeologists have over the past decade uncovered finds that have shed fascinating light on the behavior and life-ways of early modern humans. Finds have included perforated shells interpreted to have been used like bead ornaments, sharpened bone points likely used for hunting, evidence of bow and arrow technology, and even snares and traps for hunting and glue production for the hafting of stone implements. Now, an international team of scientists have discovered within the shelter what they believe to be mats that were used as bedding and as a living surface.

Led by Professor Lyn Wadley of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in collaboration with Christopher Miller of the University of Tübingen, Germany, Christine Sievers and Marion Bamford of the University of the Witwatersrand, and Paul Goldberg and Francesco Berna of Boston University, USA, the team has revealed at least 15 layers containing what they suggest to be deliberately laid plant bedding dated from 77,000 to 38,000 years ago. Consisting of layers of compacted leaves and stems from rushes and sedges spread out up to three square meters, at least some of the bedding contained evidence of plants that are also known to have medicinal and insecticidal properties.

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Solving the Mystery of a 35,000-Year-Old Statue

Archeologists have discovered previously unknown fragments of a figurine known as the "Lion Man," and are piecing it back together. Could the 35,000-year-old statue actually represent a female shaman? Scientists hope to resolve a decades-long debate.

Using a hand hoe and working in dim light, geologist Otto Völzing burrowed into the earth deep inside the Stadel cave in the Schwäbische Alb mountains of southwestern Germany. His finds were interesting to be sure, but nothing world-shaking: flints and the remnants of food eaten by prehistoric human beings.

Suddenly he struck a hard object -- and splintered a small statuette.
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Earliest Human Beds Found in South Africa

"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise," wrote Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard's Almanack. That may have held true a couple of hundred years ago, but when it comes to our ancient human ancestors, researchers don't know much about how—or even where—they slept. Now a team working in South Africa claims to have found the earliest known sleeping mats, made of plant material and dated up to 77,000 years ago—50,000 years earlier than previous evidence for human bedding. These early mattresses apparently were even specially prepared to be resistant to mosquitoes and other insects.

Early members of our species, Homo sapiens, were nomads who made their living by hunting and gathering. Yet they often created temporary base camps where they cooked food and spent the night. One of the best studied of these camps is Sibudu Cave, a rock shelter in a cliff face above South Africa's Tongati River, about 40 kilometers north of Durban. Sibudu was first occupied by modern humans at least 77,000 years ago and continued to serve as a favored gathering place over the following 40,000 years. Since 1998, a team led by Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, has been excavating at Sibudu, uncovering evidence for complex behaviors, including the earliest known use of bows and arrows.

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World's 'oldest beds' found - and the cavemen who slept on them 77,000 years ago even used mosquito repellent

Humans were making themselves comfy on plant mattresses as long as 77,000 years ago, a study has found - and our ancestors were surprisingly clever at getting a good night's sleep.

Scientists discovered early evidence of bedding made from compacted stems and leaves at a rock shelter in South Africa.

At least three different layers at the Sibudu site contained bed remains, left by people who slept there between 38,000 and 77,000 years ago - and as well as providing a place to sleep, the leaves contained insecticide chemicals that would have kept mosquitoes at bay.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Scientists Discover Some Keys to Human Brain Evolution

The questions surrounding why and how the human brain has evolved over the past six million years as compared to other primates in the evolutionary timeline have been central in the discussions of human origins research for many years. When and how did this happen? Some possible clues may have emerged as a result of new research by an international team of scientists in China and Germany, suggesting that changes in the activity levels of certain genes of the human brain during brain development may have been the cause, and that these changes were controlled by key regulatory molecules called microRNAs.

As reported in the open-access journal PLoS Biology, the researchers analyzed brain genetic activity in humans, chimpanzees and macaques across their lifetimes, beginning with newborns. They targeted two key brain regions: the cerebellum, which controls movement, and the prefrontal cortex, which plays a major role in cognitive behavior, such as abstract thought, innovation and social interaction. What they found was that the human gene activity displayed a markedly different pattern during individual life-time human brain development from that of chimpanzee and macaque primate counterparts. Moreover, the distinquishing patterns were most pronounced in the prefrontal cortex, where, for example, genes showing the human-specific changes were four times as numerous as those showing the chimpanzee-specific changes. Many of the genes showing the human-specific patterns were identified as having neural functions, suggesting a connection to cognitive development.

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Historic Cwmbran finds declared treasure

TREASURE dating from the late Bronze Age was found in a Cwmbran field, an inquest in Newport was told yesterday.

The plain pegged spearhead fragment and the single runner casting jet were found by David Harrison while metal detecting in Llantarnam in March last year.

A casting jet is a plug of metal which fits into a mould and is knocked out when the object is completed.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Russian scientists to clone woolly mammoth

Scientists from Russia and Japan are undertaking a Jurassic Park-style experiment to bring the woolly mammoth out of extinction.

The scientists claim that a thigh bone found in August contains remarkably well-preserved marrow cells, which could form the starting point of the experiment.

The team claim that the cloning could be complete within the next five years.

But others have cast doubt on whether such a thing is possible.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Neandertals’ mammoth building project

Extinct hominids may have been first to build with bones
Neandertals are stumping for bragging rights as the first builders of mammoth-bone structures, an accomplishment usually attributed to Stone Age people.

Humanity’s extinct cousins constructed a large, ring-shaped enclosure out of 116 mammoth bones and tusks at least 44,000 years ago in West Asia, say archaeologist Laëtitia Demay of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and her colleagues. The bone edifice, which encircles a 40-square-meter area in which mammoths and other animals were butchered, cooked and eaten, served either to keep out cold winds or as a base for a wooden building, the scientists propose in a paper published online November 26 in Quaternary International.
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'New' ancient monuments come to light at Knowth

Excavations unearth new features from Neolithic period

One of the wall stones with a finely carved spiral uncovered by archaeologists at Knowth. Photo: Kevin O'Brien, OPW
New and exciting archaeological finds have been made at the Knowth tumulus over the last few months, according to archaeologists working on the site.

The passage tomb cemetery at Brú na Binne has produced some extraordinary discoveries over the decades ever since Professor George Eogan made his first tentative exploration in and around the site.

A number of previously unknown large-scale monuments in the field lying immediately to the south-east of the large mound have recently come to light.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Town and Country in Roman Essex: Settlement Hierarchies in Roman Essex

The Town and Country in Roman Essex project is a large scale regional study based on correspondence analysis of finds assemblages, including coins, pottery, registered finds, animal bone and vessel glass. By comparing quantified finds datasets from different individual sites and whole classes of site, such as urban centres, small towns, villas, nucleated settlements and lower-status rural sites, the project looks at how consumption is influenced by factors such as the influence of command and or/market economies, cultural identity and site status/function. The project also attempted to assess the viability of conducting such research and report on any relevant issues, relating to the recording, archiving and publication of finds assemblages.

Data was primarily gathered from existing published or archive sources and was collected from sites in Essex, south-east Cambridgeshire and London dating to the period c 50BC-AD250. The database includes linked tables on small finds, glass, pottery and coins, as well as for the following aspects of the animal bone assemblages: NSIP, MNI, tooth-wear, MNE and metrics for bone elements.

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Trail of 'stone breadcrumbs' reveals the identity of 1 of the first human groups to leave Africa

A series of new archaeological discoveries in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, reveals the timing and identity of one of the first modern human groups to migrate out of Africa, according to a research article published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

An international team of archaeologists and geologists working in the Dhofar Mountains of southern Oman, led by Dr. Jeffrey Rose of the University of Birmingham, report finding over 100 new sites classified as "Nubian Middle Stone Age (MSA)." Distinctive Nubian MSA stone tools are well known throughout the Nile Valley; however, this is the first time such sites have ever been found outside of Africa.

According to the authors, the evidence from Oman provides a "trail of stone breadcrumbs" left by early humans migrating across the Red Sea on their journey out of Africa. "After a decade of searching in southern Arabia for some clue that might help us understand early human expansion, at long last we've found the smoking gun of their exit from Africa," says Rose. "What makes this so exciting," he adds, "is that the answer is a scenario almost never considered."

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