Monday, March 31, 2014

3,000 year old cultivated fields unearthed in the Netherlands

Dr. Stijn Arnoldussen, an archaeologist at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, has unearthed prehistoric cultivated field sites constructed more than 3,100 years ago that were subsequently used for centuries. 

[Credit: Stijn Arnoldussen, University of Groningen, the Netherlands] 

Dr. Arnoldussen’s research focuses on long-term development of cultural landscapes from the Late Neolithic onwards, with specific attention for the interplay of funerary and settlement domains within the wider cultural landscape, and additionally on Bronze Age settlements as foci for patterned deposition and the nature and dynamics of the Celtic field system of the later Bronze Age and Iron Age. Side-projects include pottery analysis (from the Neolithic up to the Roman Period), analyses of Bronze artefacts, computer applications in fieldwork and editorial work for the Journal for Archaeology in the Low Countries. 

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

‘Little Foot’ fossil could be human ancestor

A short, hairy “ape man” who tumbled into a pit in South Africa millions of years ago is back in the running as a candidate ancestor for humans, scientists saidearlier this month.
A painstaking 13-year probe has “convincingly shown,” they said March 14, that the strange-looking creature named “Little Foot” lived some 3 million years ago — almost 1 million years earlier than calculated by rival teams.
If so, it would make Little Foot — so named for the diminutive size of the bones — one of the oldest members of the Australopithecus hominid family ever found.
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Excavation of Neolithic chambered tomb on Anglesey begins

An archaeological excavation of Ynys Môn's least known Neolithic chambered tomb – Perthi Duon, west of the village of Brynsiencyn on Anglesey – has begun. The work is being carried out by a team from the Welsh Rock Art Organisation under the direction of Dr George Nash of the University of Bristol and Carol James.
Perthi Duon, considered to be the remains of a portal dolmen, is one of eighteen extant stone chambered monuments that stand within a 1.5 km corridor of the Menai Straits.
The antiquarian Henry Rowlands reports in 1723 that beneath the large capstone were three stones, possibly upright stones or pillars. However, by the beginning of the nineteenth century the  was in a ruinous state, incorporated into a north-south hedge boundary, itself now removed.
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Neolithic houses at Stonehenge

NEOLITHIC buildings are being painstakingly recreated in the new outdoor exhibition area of the Stonehenge visitor centre.
When complete, the houses will showcase what life would have been like at the time that Stonehenge was built. The re-created huts are based on archaeological evidence unearthed at the nearby Durrington Walls.
Volunteers are weaving hundreds of hazel rods through the main supporting stakes, thatching the roofs with hand-knotted wheat straw, and starting to cover the walls with a daub of chalk, straw and water.
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Shipwrecks Lost to Time That Archaeologists Would Love to Get Their Hands On

This 102-foot-long Roman barge from the first century A.D. was lifted in 2011 from the Rhône River in Arles, France. It was virtually intact after two millennia in the mud.

Finding modern ships lost at sea, even with the help of radar, sonar, and satellites, can be a herculean task. But trying to find a shipwreck from thousands of years ago is even harder. It's like looking for a wooden needle in a haystack after part of the needle has rotted away.

Underwater archaeologists keep looking, though, because finding one of these shipwrecks could yield a treasure trove of information—from how ancient peoples built their vessels to where they traveled and who their trading partners were.

Figuring out those connections would allow researchers to better understand ancient economies, and to put the cultures into a more global context, says James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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All Cannings 'Neolithic' long barrow takes shape

The first "Neolithic" long barrow to be built in the UK for 5,000 years, is attracting interest from all over the world.
The burial chamber at All Cannings near Devizes in Wiltshire will contain niches housing urns of cremated ashes, and is set to be finished later this year.
Developer Tim Daw, who owns the farmland on which it is being built, said he was "absolutely thrilled" with its progress.
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Iron Age woman's footless body found near West Knoyle

Along with the female skeleton were found the remains of a 10-year-old child and two males with sword wounds

A skeleton of an Iron Age woman with her feet chopped off has been discovered in a field in Wiltshire.
The remains were found along the A303, near West Knoyle, by archaeologists ahead of a new water main being laid.
Wessex Water said the woman's feet were found "reburied alongside her" along with the carcasses of at least two sheep or goats "on her head".
Peter Cox, from AC Archaeology, said: "We're unsure why - but it must have some link to beliefs at the time."
The female skeleton was found alongside the remains of a child aged about 10 and two males with sword wounds to their hips.
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3,000 Year Old Skeleton Reveals Most Compelling Look At Metastatic Cancer In Antiquity

Lytic lesion in the spinous process of the 5th thoracic vertebra – photo credit Durham University

A team of British archaeologists from the British Museum and Durham University have discovered what they report is the oldest known complete example in the world of a human with metastatic cancer in a 3,000 year-old skeleton unearthed in the Sudan. Their findings are reported in the academic journal PLOS ONE.
The skeleton of the young adult male was found by Durham University PhD student Michaela Binder in a tomb in modern Sudan in 2013 and dates back to 1200 BC. Analysis of the remains has revealed evidence that this person was afflicted with metastatic malignant soft-tissue carcinoma that had spread from its original location across large areas of the body, making it the oldest convincing complete example of metastatic cancer in the archaeological record. Only about 200 skeletons and mummified individuals from around the world have been reported with different primary and secondary malignancies.
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Ancient Skeleton Yields Earliest Complete Example of Human Cancer

Archaeologists have found the oldest complete example in the world of a human with metastatic cancer in a 3,000 year-old skeleton. 

The findings are reported in the academic journal PLOS ONE today (17 March, 2014).
The finding came from a skeleton of a young adult male found by a Durham University PhD student in a tomb in modern Sudan in 2013. Dating back to 1200 BCE, it was estimated to be between 25-35 years old when he died and was found at the archaeological site of Amara West in northern Sudan, situated on the Nile, 750 km downstream of the country’s modern capital, Khartoum. It was buried extended on his back, within a badly deteriorated painted wooden coffin, and provided with a glazed faience amulet as a grave good.
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Monday, March 17, 2014

9,000-year-old 'ritual wand' discovered

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient “wand” carved with two realistic human faces in southern Syria, Live Science reported.

The roughly 9,000-year-old artifact was discovered near a graveyard where the bodies of 30 people were buried without their heads, which were found in a nearby area.

"The find is very unusual. It's unique," said study co-author Frank Braemer, an archaeologist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France.

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More on Burials in Greece linked to Macedonian kings

The director of the 17th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities Angeliki Kottaridi believes that the five tombs discovered in Vergina could belong to members of the Temenid dynast or even King Cassander himself. Mrs. Kottaridi made the bold revelation at the Thursday afternoon conference at the University of Thessaloniki. 

Funeral mourning representation found after excavations at the Royal Necropolis of Aegae, Vergina [Credit: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ/ΥΠΠΟ/STR] 

Cassander was one of Alexander the Great’s successors and husband to his sister, Thessaloniki, who established the Antipatrid dynasty. King Cassander became known for his hostility towards the memory of Alexander the Great and he is credited with changing the name of Therma to Thessaloniki. 

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Africans' ability to digest milk linked to spread of cattle raising

A cattle herder drives his animals in Tanzania. The study linked the spread of pastoralism with the ability to digest milk.  Credit: University of Pennsylvania

Babies are born with the ability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk, but most humans lose this ability after infancy because of declining levels of the lactose-digesting enzyme lactase. People who maintain high levels of lactase reap the nutritive benefits of milk, however, offering a potential evolutionary advantage to lactase persistence, or what is commonly known as lactose tolerance.

A new study led by University of Pennsylvania researchers -- constituting the largest examination ever of lactase persistence in geographically diverse populations of Africans -- investigated the genetic origins of this trait and offers support to the idea that the ability to digest milk was a powerful selective force in a variety of African populations which raised cattle and consumed the animals' fresh milk.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Natural Selection Led To Different Features In Europeans As Recent As 5,000 Years Ago, According To Researchers

An increasing volume of archaeological research and effort has come to focus particularly on the genetic evolution and development of human beings since the last Ice Age. While the last glacial period ended about 10,000 years ago, promising, new research suggests that substantial evolution of the human species can now be evidenced even in peoples from as recently as 5,000 years ago — a relative blink of an eye in geological terms — thanks to cutting-edge analyses of skeletons unearthed on the European continent.
The new findings are the result of a team of scientists from around the world from different academic disciplines, forming an interdisciplinary research team that has been able to uncover new insights into some of the most recent evolutionary changes to the human species. Anthropologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), geneticists at University College London (UCL), and archaeologists from Berlin and Kiev all collaborated in a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealing that ancient DNA from these European skeletons shows the impact of natural selection on the human genome as “recently” as the past 5,000 years, resulting in a rapid, dramatic change of appearance in people on a continent that is now dominated by a heterogenous mixture of different physical traits in an otherwise small geographical area.
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Burials in Greece linked to Macedonian kings

A Greek archaeologist says she has discovered 20 new burials near Macedonia's ancient capital in northern Greece, and some could tentatively be associated with the early Macedonian kings. 

Five new royal tombs have come to light during excavations at the royal necropolis of Aegae, in Northern Greece [Credit: Greek Reporter] 

Excavator Angeliki Kottaridi says two of the poorly preserved graves excavated in a cemetery between 2012-2013 "might perhaps be linked" with Alexander I and his son, Perdiccas II. 

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

30,000-Year-old Giant Virus Reawakened From Permafrost Ice Still Infectious

There’s a science story making the rounds this week that could easily pass as a plot for a low-budget science-fiction flick. A team of French scientists have awakened a giant virus that was encapsulated for 30,000 years in 100 feet (30 metres) of permafrost ice taken from coastal tundra in Chukotka, East Siberia. The most chilling (no pun intended) B-movieish aspect of this is that the huge (in this context meaning large enough to be seen under a microscope) ancient microbe is still infectious. Its host targets, fortunately, are amoebae, but other such reawakened viruses may not be as discriminating.
There is concern in the scientific community that resurrection of this long-dormant virus raises apprehension that other unknown pathogens entombed in frozen soil may be unleashed by climate change could pose potential risks for human health.
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Whitehorse Hill burial

The excavation of a prehistoric cremation burial discovered within a cist at Whitehorse Hill on northern Dartmoor has revealed nationally important remains which have captured the interest of experts from all over the country. This was the first excavation of a burial site on Dartmoor for 100 years.

This is now considered to be the most important assemblage of prehistoric grave goods ever recovered from Dartmoor and indeed from the whole of the South West of England. The survival of the organic remains is also seen to be of international importance.

This individual, whose cremated remains were placed in a cist on this remote spot on Northern Dartmoor, over four thousand years ago, was apparently of some importance to the local community. Who was it, what was their gender, what type of animal hide was used to wrap the cremated remains? The answers to these and many other questions are part of this unfolding and fascinating story which hopefully will tell us much more about the lives of prehistoric people on Dartmoor and the landscape they lived in. 

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

4,000-year-old Dartmoor burial find rewrites British bronze age history

Stone box contains earliest examples of wood-turning and metal-working, along with Baltic amber and what may be bear skin

Parts of a necklace and wooden ear studs found on Dartmoor
Some 4,000 years ago a young woman's cremated bones – charred scraps of her shroud and the wood from her funeral pyre still clinging to them – was carefully wrapped in a fur along with her most valuable possessions, packed into a basket, and carried up to one of the highest and most exposed spots on Dartmoor, where they were buried in a small stone box covered by a mound of peat.
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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Archaeologists found bones of a Stone Age child and an adult in tiny cave

Dr Marion Dowd of IT Sligo in the Knocknarea cave which contained Neolithic human bones
Archaeologists at IT Sligo have found bones of a Stone Age child and an adult in a tiny cave high on Knocknarea mountain near the town.
Radiocarbon dating has shown that they are some 5,500 years old, which makes them among the earliest human bones found in the county.
The find represents important fresh evidence of Knocknarea’s Neolithic (Stone Age) links and a prehistoric practice known as “excarnation”.
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Bronze Age rock art uncovered in Brecon Beacons

Rare, prehistoric rock art which could be more than 4,000 years old has been discovered in the Brecon Beacons.
The Bronze Age discovery was made late last year by national park geologist Alan Bowring.
Experts claim the stone probably served as a way marker for farming communities.
Similar stones have been found in other parts of Britain but they are thought to be rare in mid Wales.
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