Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Archaeologists unearth prehistoric ritual area around Bryn Celli Ddu

Bryn Celli Ddu, a Neolithic passage tomb on the Isle of Anglesey. 
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Previously unknown Anglesey landscape possibly includes cairn cemetery in what experts described as ‘really exciting stuff’

Archaeologists have uncovered a prehistoric ritual landscape that possibly includes a cairn cemetery around a 5,000-year-old burial mound aligned with the summer solstice sun on Anglesey.

Though far less famous than Stonehenge, the spectacle of sunlight shining down a long narrow passage to light up the inner chamber of Bryn Celli Ddu on the longest day of the year is unforgettable. Excavation now suggests the site had significance for prehistoric people that lasted for millennia after the earth mound was raised over a stone passage grave.

The monument, whose name translates as the mound in the dark grove, was first excavated in 1865 and heavily reconstructed in the 1920s, but excavations over the last three summers – with members of the public joining archaeologists – are unveiling 5,000 years of human activity in the landscape. 

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lavau Celtic Prince: 2,500-year-old royal tomb starts to reveal its secrets

Objects inside the tomb appear to show the cultural interactions between different worlds in the 5th century BCE.


The bronze cauldron emerges from the earth.Denis Gliksman, Inrap

In 2015, the small village of Lavau in eastern France became famous around the world when archaeologists uncovered the tomb of an ancient Celtic prince, dating back to the 5th century BCE.

The tomb of the Lavau Prince, as he is now known, hides many secrets, which researchers have attempted to unveil in the past two years. Some of the stunning artefacts recovered next to the deceased have now be sent to a French lab for analysis – and the first results are starting to emerge.

A number of objects, including the prince's belt, appear to be extremely valuable as they are unique. Other artefacts bear witness to the cultural exchanges which took place at the time between different civilisations.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Did Dutch hordes kill off the early Britons who started Stonehenge?

A gene study has shown that incomers could have ousted Stone Age Britons

During the building of Stonehenge, around 2500BC, gene records show Sone Age Britons were replaced by Bronze Age Beaker folk. Photograph: Peter Adams/Getty Images

The men and women who built Stonehenge left an indelible mark on the British landscape. However, researchers have discovered that their impact on other aspects of the nation may have been less impressive. In particular, their input into Britain’s gene pool appears to have fizzled out, having been terminated by light-skinned Bronze Age invaders who arrived just as Ancient Britons were midway through their great Stone Age project. In the end, these newcomers may have completely replaced the people who were building Stonehenge.

This startling conclusion is the result of a huge gene study of humans in prehistoric Europe. It shows that around 2500BC – when the main sections of Stonehenge were under construction – a race of people known to archaeologists as the Beaker folk arrived in Britain. Their genetic profiles were similar to individuals who were living in the Netherlands at the time. In just a short period, all genetic traces of early Stone Age Britons were replaced by those from these continental newcomers, although work on Stonehenge continued.

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Dig Finds UK's Oldest Sacred Site

Archaeologists say a sacred burial site uncovered in Shrewsbury in February is over 4,000 years old. They say the site, which was discovered at a Greek Orthodox Church, may be the country's oldest-known continuously used sacred ground.


Archaeologists excavate the site in Shrewsbury 
[Credit: Sarah Hart]

Finds suggest it has been used during every era since the late Neolithic period. Carbon dating of a wooden post extracted during the dig showed it was placed in the ground in 2,033 BC.

Archaeologists expected the post to be Anglo-Saxon. Other finds on the Oteley Road site included a calf, a pig and a dog that died while giving birth.

"The dates have shocked us all," said lead archaeologist Janey Green. "It appears the current Medieval church is built over the site of an ancient pagan burial ground that's been in use from the late Neolithic period through the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and through to today. The only other British site of a Christian church that is known to date back to the late Neolithic period is at Cranborne Chase, in Dorset, but it is a Norman ruin."

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Grassy beginning for earliest Homo


ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY—In 2013, an ASU research team found the oldest known evidence of our own genus, Homo, at Ledi-Geraru in the lower Awash Valley of Ethiopia. A jawbone with teeth was dated to 2.8 million years ago, about 400,000 years earlier than previously known fossils of Homo. After the discovery, attention turned to reconstructing the environment of this ancient human ancestor to understand why there and why then.
But how do you re-create specific environments from millions of years ago to understand where our ancient ancestors lived?
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Friday, May 5, 2017

How migrations and other population dynamics could have shaped early human culture


STANFORD UNIVERSITY—Something odd happened in the transition from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic, around 50,000 years ago. Modern humans and their immediate ancestors had been using tools for a few million years prior, but the repertoire was limited. Then, all of sudden, there was an explosion of new tools, art and other cultural artifacts.
What caused that change has been the subject of much debate. Maybe brainpower reached a critical threshold. Maybe climate change forced our prehistoric kin to innovate or die. Maybe it was aliens.
Or maybe it was the result of populations growing and spreading throughout the land, Stanford researchers write in Royal Society Interface. That certainly could explain some other curious features of Paleolithic culture—and it could mean that a number of paleontologists' inferences about our genetic and environmental past are, if not wrong, not as well supported as they had thought.
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24 Bronze Age Axes Found In Farmer's Field In Norway

Some 3,000 years ago, 24 axes were cached in Stjørdal municipality, about 44 km east of Trondheim. They're now seeing the light of day once again.


One of the axeheads after it was dug up [Credit: Eirik Solheim]
In late April, a sensational discovery was made in a field in the village of Hegra, not far from the Trondheim International Airport in Værnes. Numerous axe heads, a knife blade and some fragments were lifted out of obscurity. The objects date back to the Late Bronze Age, approx. 1100-500 BCE.

Archaeologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) University Museum and Nord-Trøndelag County Council unearthed the findings with the help of with six private metal detector hobbyists from the area.

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3,000-year-old axes found in farmer's field in mid-Norway


Archaeologist Merete Moe Henriksen and conservator Ellen Randers present the Hegra discoveries. Credit: Julie Gloppe Solem


Some 3,000 years ago, 24 axes were cached in Stjørdal municipality, about 44 km east of Trondheim. They're now seeing the light of day once again.

In late April, a sensational discovery was made in a field in the village of Hegra, not far from the Trondheim International Airport in Værnes. Numerous axe heads, a knife blade and some fragments were lifted out of obscurity. The objects date back to the Late Bronze Age, approx. 1100-500 BCE.
Archaeologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) University Museum and Nord-Trøndelag County Council unearthed the findings with the help of with six private metal detector hobbyists from the area.

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Mycenaean Chamber Tomb With Grave Offerings Found On Greek Island Of Salamis

A Late Mycenaean chamber tomb with grave goods dating to the 13th-12th centuries BCE has been discovered in the centre of the main town on the island of Salamina, Greece, during a project meant to link a home with the central sewage network.


Late Mycenaean chamber tomb with grave offerings located in Salamina 
[Credit: Ministry of Culture and Sports]

Speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Friday, archaeologist Ada Kattoula of Western Attica, Piraeus and the Islands Antiquities Ephorate said it was the third tomb located in the area, following two discovered in 2009 during excavation to install the sewage pipes. Those finds had led to the discovery of 41 intact pottery vessels in very good condition, with inscribed decorations typical of the era, as well as pieces of roughly 10 more vessels, she said.

“The excavation conditions are extremely difficult because there are many springs in the area and the specific tombs, being carved into the rock, are prone to flooding. We needed pumps to empty the water. With great technical difficulty and significant assistance from the contractor we were able to investigate,” Kattoula said.

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Glockenbecher-Gräber im Salzlandkreis


Ein kleines Gräberfeld der Glockenbecherkultur (3. Jahrtausend v.Chr.) kam bei archäologischen Ausgrabungen des Landesamts für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt nahe Könnern-Cörmigk im Salzlandkreis ans Tageslicht.

Im Zuge des Neubaus einer Fernwasserleitung zwischen Dohndorf und Bernburg-Ost finden seit Herbst 2016 archäologische Untersuchungen durch das Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt statt. Nachdem zunächst die Anzahl und Art der Kulturdenkmale im Trassenverlauf durch Voruntersuchungen ermittelt wurde, werden nun 17 Fundstellen auf gut 30.000 m² Untersuchungsfläche dokumentiert. Die Grabungen haben Mitte März 2017 begonnen und werden voraussichtlich Anfang Juli abgeschlossen. Projektleiterin ist Frau Dr. Susanne Friederich, örtlicher Grabungsleiter Herr Thomas Kubenz. Insgesamt sind derzeit 14 Mitarbeiter beschäftigt.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

A Spanish quest to hand down prehistoric secrets

Photo: Extremadura Turismo
It's dark and surprisingly warm in a cave in western Spain that hides our most intimate connection to the prehistoric past – hand silhouettes painted tens of thousands of years ago.
Archaeologist Hipolito Collado and his team had not entered the Maltravieso Cave in the city of Caceres for close to a year to avoid damaging the 57 faded hands that adorn the walls, precious remnants of a far-flung piece of history we know little about.
 
Why did our ancestors or distant relatives paint hands in caves? Was it merely to make their mark, or part of a ritual to commune with spirits?
 
Do they tell us anything about the role of women during the Paleolithic era that ended some 10,000 years ago? And why are some fingers missing?
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Radiocarbon Dating Gets A Postmodern Makeover

For decades, radiocarbon dating has been a way for scientists to get a rough picture of when once-living stuff lived. The method has been revolutionary and remains one of the most commonly used dating methods to study the past, but according to Charlotte Pearson, it’s ready for a makeover.



Charlotte Pearson studies the past lives of trees to better understand the history of civilizations 
[Credit: Mari Cleven]
Pearson is an assistant professor of dendrochronology at the University of Arizona who studies the past lives of trees to better understand the history of civilizations. Dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating have intertwined histories, she explains, with roots firmly planted at the UA.

Andrew Douglass and Talkative Tree Rings

A 1929 edition of National Geographic boasts, “The Secret Of The Southwest Solved By Talkative Tree Rings.” The 35-page article, penned in whimsical prose, was written by Andrew Douglass, the UA scientist who invented tree ring science.

Douglass was a polymath. In addition to his work as an astronomer at the UA’s Steward Observatory, Douglass was the first to discover that tree rings record time: “Every year the trees in our forests show the swing of Time’s pendulum and put down a mark. They are chronographs, recording clocks, by which the succeeding seasons are set down through definite imprints,” he wrote in the pages of National Geographic.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Dog family tree reveals hidden history of canine diversity

Genetic map showing how dog breeds are related provides a wealth of information about their origins.


A new family tree of dogs containing more than 160 breeds reveals the hidden history of man’s best friend, and even shows how studying canine genomes might help with research into human disease.
In a study published on 25 April in Cell Reports, scientists examined the genomes of 1,346 dogs to create one of the most diverse maps produced so far tracing the relationship between breeds1. The map shows the types of dog that people crossed to create modern breeds and reveals that canines bred to perform similar functions, such as working and herding dogs, don't necessarily share the same origins. The analysis even hints at an ancient type of dog that could have come over to the Americas with people thousands of years before Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World.
The new work could come as a surprise to owners and breeders who are familiar with how dogs are grouped into categories. “You would think that all working dogs or all herding dogs are related, but that isn’t the case,” says Heidi Parker, a biologist at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and a study author.
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Prehistoric human DNA is found in caves without bones in 'enormous scientific breakthrough'

Becky Miller sampling sediment for genetic analyses at the archaeological site of 
Trou Al'Wesse, Belgium 
CREDIT:  MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR EVOLUTIONARY ANTHROPOLOGY VIA AFP

International scientists have uncovered prehistoric human DNA of two extinct human relatives - the Neanderthals, and the Denisovans- from caves without bones, an advance that could shed new light on human history and evolution.

The technique could be valuable for reconstructing human evolutionary history, according to the study published on Thursday in the journal Science.

That's because fossilised bones, currently the main source of ancient DNA, are scarce even at sites where circumstantial evidence points to a prehistoric human presence.

"There are many caves where stone tools are found but no bones," said Matthias Meyer, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who co-authored the study.

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