Monday, November 28, 2016

5,000-Year-Old Hill Fort 'Damaged By Metal Detectors'

Cissbury Ring is the largest hill fort in Sussex [Credit: National Trust]

A 5,000-year-old hill fort is being damaged by the "illicit use of metal detectors", police say. The damage to Cissbury Ring, on the South Downs near Worthing, is irreversible, Sussex Police said.

The use of metal detectors on scheduled monuments is prohibited without a licence.

PCSO Daryl Holter said: "Illicit metal detecting is a shady unscrupulous act, and deliberate damage to this site is irreversible."

He said the site was protected by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and managed by the National Trust.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Vast 5,600-year-old religious centre discovered near Stonehenge

The centre was built more than 1,000 years before the stones of Stonehenge were erected

A reconstruction of part of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure at Windmill Hill, which would have been similar to the complex discovered near Stonehenge Historic England Archive/Judith Dobie

A huge, prehistoric religious and ceremonial complex has been discovered near Britain’s most famous prehistoric temple Stonehenge. 

Its discovery is likely to transform our understanding of the early development of Stonehenge’s ancient landscape.

Built about 5,650 years ago – more than 1,000 years before the great stones of Stonehenge were erected – the 200m-diameter complex is the first major early Neolithic monument to be discovered in the Stonehenge area for more than a century.

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A second Antiquity fortress has been found at the ancient rock shrine Hasara near Bulgaria’s Mineralni Bani. Photo: Mineralni Bani Municipality

A second previously unknown Antiquity fortress has been found by archaeologists a prehistoric and later Ancient Thracian rock shrine in an area known as Hasara near the town of Angel Voyvoda, Mineralni Bani Municipality, Haskovo District, in Southern Bulgaria.

In May-June 2016, the team of archaeologists led by Assoc. Prof. Zdravko Dimitrov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia announced the discovery of an Ancient Roman fortress with an Early Christian church at the ancient rock shrine near Bulgaria’s Angel Voyvoda.

The Ancient Thracians were found to have used the Hasara shrine at about the period of the Trojan War.

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Archaeological finds on route of Inverness West Link

Burnt grains and timbers found while excavating a grain-drying kiln at Torvean

Prehistoric and Bronze Age finds have been made during work to construct the new Inverness West Link road.
Pottery fragments and the remains of kilns used for drying grain were among discoveries made at Torvean.
Archaeologists who have been monitoring the building of the West Link displayed some of the items at Lochardil Primary School last week.
The new road is being built for Highland Council to ease traffic flow through Inverness.
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Friday, November 11, 2016

Prehistoric Greenlanders ate bowhead whales to survive 4,000 years ago

Bowhead whales in the Fram Strait between Svalbard and Greenlandfruchtzwerg's world/Flickr

The first humans to arrive at Greenland feasted on bowhead whales in order to survive, scientists believe. Through DNA analysis, researchers have reconstructed the diets of the first settlers, finding large marine mammals were a bigger part of their diet than previously believed.

How paleo-Eskimo cultures successfully migrated to Greenland is not entirely known. They first arrived around 4,500 years ago and there were several waves of settlement. However, most of our understanding of the culture is based on fossils analysed using traditional techniques. Because of this mostly consists of bones, a skewed picture of their diet emerges.

In a study published in Nature Communications, scientists from the University of Copenhagen looked at the DNA extracted from sediments that dated back to 2000BCE. Samples came from four well-described midden deposits and allowed the team to distinguish organic tissue, including fat, skin and microfossils. From this they could work out which species it belonged to.

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Shackle-Bound Skeleton Found in Etruscan Burial

The gruesome find suggests the ancient people had a dark side.

Archaeologists digging in central Tuscany have brought to light a dark side of the Etruscan civilization, unearthing a 2,500-year-old skeleton still bound by shackles on his neck and ankles.

The finding appears to be the first case of an Etruscan burial containing a shackled individual.

The unusual grave was found in Populonia, a unique Etruscan settlement built directly on the sea. There, in a simple pit dug into the sandy soil near the beach of Baratti, the archaeologists found the complete skeleton of a male between 20 and 30 years of age.

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The Fate Of Neanderthal Genes

The Neanderthals disappeared about 30,000 years ago, but little pieces of them live on in the form of DNA sequences scattered through the modern human genome. A new study by geneticists at the University of California, Davis, shows why these traces of our closest relatives are slowly being removed by natural selection.

Modern humans and Neanderthals interbred tens of thousands of years ago. New work shows how the difference in  population size has led to genes that survived in Neanderthals being removed from the modern human genome 
[Credit: WikiCommons/DrMikeBaxter]

“On average, there has been weak but widespread selection against Neanderthal genes,” said Graham Coop, professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology and Center for Population Biology, and senior author on a paper describing the work published in the journal PLOS Genetics. That selection seems to be a consequence of a small population of Neanderthals mixing with a much larger population of modern humans.

Neanderthals split from our African ancestors over half a million years ago, and lived in Europe and Central Asia until a few tens of thousands of years ago. Archaeological discoveries have shown that they had quite a sophisticated culture, Coop said. Thanks to DNA samples retrieved from a number of fossils, we have enough data on the Neanderthal genome to identify their genes among ours.

When modern humans left Africa about 50,000 to 80,000 years ago and spread through Europe and Asia, they interbred with Neanderthals. The first hybrid offspring would have been, on average, a 50-50 mix of modern human and Neanderthal genes, and could then have themselves bred with modern humans, Neanderthals or other hybrids.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

A 9,000-year-old axe sheds light on burial practices

Ireland’s earliest burial site gives up the secrets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors

Analysis of an axe that is more than 9,000 years old, found at Ireland’s earliest burial site, in Co Limerick, has shed light on the ancient burial practices of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Archaeologists believe the highly-polished stone axe, known as an adze, was made especially for the funeral of a very important person, whose remains were cremated and then buried at the site.

Microscopic analysis has revealed the shale tool, believed to be the earliest fully polished adze in Europe, was only used for a short time, and then deliberately blunted.

Situated on the banks of the river Shannon at Hermitage, Castleconnell, the burial site, dating back to between 7,530 and 7,320 BC, is twice as old as Newgrange.

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