Friday, November 28, 2014

People ate mammoth; Dogs got reindeer

Artist's depiction of cave painting of primitive hunt (stock image).
Credit: © Nomad_Soul / Fotolia

Biogeologists have shown how Gravettian people shared their food 30,000 years ago.

Předmostí I is an exceptional prehistoric site located near Brno in the Czech Republic. Around 30,000 years ago it was inhabited by people of the pan-European Gravettian culture, who used the bones of more than 1000 mammoths to build their settlement and to ivory sculptures. Did prehistoric people collect this precious raw material from carcasses -- easy to spot on the big cold steppe -- or were they the direct result of hunting for food? This year-round settlement also yielded a large number of canids remains, some of them with characteristics of Palaeolithic dogs. Were these animals used to help hunt mammoths?

To answer these two questions, Tübingen researcher Hervé Bocherens and his international team carried out an analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in human and animal fossil bones from the site. Working with researchers from Brno and Brussels, the researchers were able to test whether the Gravettian people of Předmostí ate mammoth meat and how the "palaeolithic dogs" fit into this subsistence picture.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Woolly mammoth skeleton fetches £189,000 at auction

Monty the woolly mammoth skeleton is displayed at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

A rare woolly mammoth skeleton has been sold for £189,000 at auction.
The skeleton, named Monty, is one of the most complete of the species and was bought by a private UK buyer at the sale by Summers Place Auctions in West Sussex.
It stands 3.5 metres tall and is 5.5 metres long (11ft tall by 18ft long), suggesting it may have been a male that weighed up to six tonnes. The skeleton, which is 30,000 to 50,000 years old, was estimated to command a price of between £150,000 and £250,000. It had been in a private eastern European collection for years and was only assembled, including tusks, for the first time when it came to the auction house.
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Stone age axe found with wood handle

Archaeologists in Denmark have uncovered an incredibly rare find: a stone age axe held within its wooden handle.
The 5,500-year-old Neolithic axe was found during archaeological surveys ahead of a multi-billion euro tunnel project.
The axe seems to have been jammed into what was once the seabed, perhaps as part of a ritual offering.
The lack of oxygen in the clay ground helped preserve the wooden handle.
The find was made in Rodbyhavn on the Danish island of Lolland, which is to be connected to the German island of Fehmarn via the tunnel link.
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Climate change was not to blame for the collapse of the Bronze Age

Scientists will have to find alternative explanations for a huge population collapse in Europe at the end of the Bronze Age as researchers prove definitively that climate change - commonly assumed to be responsible - could not have been the culprit.

Archaeologists and environmental scientists from the University of Bradford, University of Leeds, University College Cork, Ireland (UCC), and Queen’s University Belfast have shown that the changes in climate that scientists believed to coincide with the fall in population in fact occurred at least two generations later.

Their results, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that human activity starts to decline after 900BC, and falls rapidly after 800BC, indicating a population collapse. But the climate records show that colder, wetter conditions didn’t occur until around two generations later.

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Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no

In an extensive, multi-institution study led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center, researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans.

The study looked at the entire nasal complex of Neanderthals and involved researchers with diverse academic backgrounds. Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the research also indicates that the Neanderthal nasal complex was not adaptively inferior to that of modern humans, and that the Neanderthals' extinction was likely due to competition from modern humans and not an inability of the Neanderthal nose to process a colder and drier climate.

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Solent's Stone Age village 'washing away'

In 1999, a team of divers off the Isle of Wight came across a lobster busily digging out its burrow. To their surprise they found it was kicking out flints from the Stone Age. However, archaeologists now fear artefacts dating back more than 8,000 years are simply being "washed away". 

Diver recovering flint [Credit: Michael Pitts] 

Bouldnor Cliff is a submerged Stone Age settlement off the coast of Yarmouth which was covered in silt as great sheets of ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age. 

It is an important site because the muddy conditions have helped preserve organic materials from the distant past that do not normally survive on dry land. 

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Woolly mammoth could be cloned by South Korean scientists

Scientists are considering an attempt to ressurect the extinct woolly mammoth. But concerns have been raised about the ethics of such a project

The fierce debate over whether to clone a woolly mammoth has been reignited by a fresh attempt to bring the species back from the dead.
South Korean scientists believe the extinct 'Mammuthus' can be brought back to life using the DNA of an extremely well preserved mammoth found in the Siberian snow.
Insung Hwang, a geneticist at Sooam, the South Korean biotech company working on the project, said this week his team think it is an achievable goal, using the fresh blood samples they have recovered.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rare pre-historic basket found in North Uist set for imminent excavation

A pre-historic woven reed basket found last week in North Uist is to be excavated by specialist archaeologists within the next few days.
The discovery, made by a local resident, has excited islanders and archaeologists for its rarity and excellent state of preservation.
It was found last week, exposed in sediment on a stretch of beach at Baile Siar after recent gales. Storms frequently expose the remains of ancient settlements in this area.
The basket, about half a metre in length, contains a handful of worked quartz stones, and a handful of diverse animal bones.
Local archaeologist Kate MacDonald of Uist Archaeology spoke of her excitement at the find.
She said: “It’s rare to find well-preserved organic material. It indicates that this basket must have been kept under water from the day that it was placed, or lost, there. Perhaps it was in a freshwater loch until it was covered over by encroaching beach sediment.
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5,000 year old footprints found in Denmark

Archaeologists working on the excavations for the Femern Bælt Tunnel have discovered several well-preserved footprints dating back to the Stone Age. 

The Stone Age impressions were during the excavation of the Femern Bælt tunnel  [Credit: Copenhagen Post] 

The prints were left by fishermen looking to safeguard their weirs (river barriers used for fishing) in a storm 5,000 years ago, announced Lolland-Falster Museum. 

"It is quite surreal to have found human footprints," said archaeologist Terje Stafseth in a press release. 

"We normally find historical clues in the form of human waste, but here we have found an entirely different clue and a first in Danish archaeology: a physical print left behind by a human."

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First Europeans 'weathered Ice Age'

The DNA comes from a man who lived in westernmost Russia some 36,000 years ago

The genetic ancestry of the earliest Europeans survived the ferocious Ice Age that took hold after the continent was initially settled by modern people.
That is the suggestion of a study of DNA from a male hunter who lived in western Russia 36,000 years ago.
His genome is not exactly like those of people who lived in Europe just after the ice sheets melted 10,000 years ago.
But the study suggests the earliest Europeans did contribute their genes to later populations.
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Monday, November 3, 2014

Sound Illusions: Eerie Echoes May Have Inspired Prehistoric Cave Art

Humankind has a long-standing affinity for art. As far back as 40,000 years ago, people were decorating cave walls in Indonesia and in Europe, often with panoramas of thundering herds of wildlife. Now, a growing line of research suggests that the "thundering" part of that description is no coincidence.

Echoes, reverberations and other then-inexplicable auditory illusions may have inspired mankind's earliest artists, according to Steven Waller, a researcher at Rock Art Acoustics in La Mesa, California. In a talk to be presented today (Oct. 28) in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Waller weaves together a theory of ancient art that focuses as much on sound as on sight.

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