Friday, August 18, 2017

Bronze Age tombs unearthed during car park construction in Switzerland

The burial site of a Bronze Age warrior has revealed yet more treasures 
[Credit: SBMA - ARIA SA]

Workers digging the foundations for a new car park have unearthed the burial site of a Bronze Age warrior, revealing a rich source of artefacts including a sword, jewellery and other ornaments. 

The tombs were discovered in Sion, a town in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The artefacts were dated between 850 and 400 BC – a period when the Bronze Age was giving way to the second Iron Age.

A bronze sword with an ivory pommel was discovered among the remains of an adult male, along with numerous other ornaments, including a razor.

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13 million-year-old infant ape skull discovered in the Turkana Basin

Alesi partially excavated after careful removal of loose sand and rocks with dental picks and brushes. © Isaiah Nengo.

The discovery in Kenya of a remarkably complete fossil ape skull reveals what the common ancestor of all living apes and humans may have looked like. The find, announced in the scientific journal Nature on August 10th, belongs to an infant that lived about 13 million years ago. The research was done by an international team led by Isaiah Nengo of the Turkana Basin Institute and De Anza College, U.S.A.

Among living primates, humans are most closely related to the apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons. Our common ancestor with chimpanzees lived in Africa 6 to 7 million years ago, and many spectacular fossil finds have revealed how humans evolved since then.

In contrast, little is known about the evolution of the common ancestors of living apes and humans before 10 million years ago. Relevant fossils are scarce, consisting mostly of isolated teeth and partial jaw bones. It has therefore been difficult to find answers to two fundamental questions: Did the common ancestor of living apes and humans originate in Africa, and what did these early ancestors look like?

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New 13-million-year-old infant skull sheds light on ape ancestry

Alesi, the skull of the new extinct ape species Nyanzapithecus alesi (KNM-NP 59050)
[Credit: Fred Spoor]

The discovery in Kenya of a remarkably complete fossil ape skull reveals what the common ancestor of all living apes and humans may have looked like. The find, announced in the scientific journal Nature, belongs to an infant that lived about 13 million years ago. The research was done by an international team led by Isaiah Nengo of Stony Brook University-affiliated Turkana Basin Institute and De Anza College, U.S.A.

Among living primates, humans are most closely related to the apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons. Our common ancestor with chimpanzees lived in Africa 6 to 7 million years ago, and many spectacular fossil finds have revealed how humans evolved since then.

In contrast, little is known about the evolution of the common ancestors of living apes and humans before 10 million years ago. Relevant fossils are scarce, consisting mostly of isolated teeth and partial jaw bones. It has therefore been difficult to find answers to two fundamental questions: Did the common ancestor of living apes and humans originate in Africa, and what did these early ancestors look like?

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Engraved bones are 'evidence of cannibalistic rituals by early humans'

The researchers suggest the engravings may have been part of an elaborate post-death ritual carried that culminated in the deceased being eaten. Photograph: Bello et al (2017)
Engraved bones unearthed in a Somerset cave have revealed new evidence of macabre cannibalistic rituals carried out by early humans in Britain.
The latest analysis of the bones, which were first discovered in the 1980s in Gough’s Cave in the Cheddar Gorge, show signs of having been filleted using sophisticated butchery techniques, decorated and gnawed by fellow humans around 15,000 years ago.
Previous investigations of the remains, belonging to a three-year-old child, two adolescents and at least two adults, already pointed to the grisly possibility that the individuals had been eaten by fellow early modern humans.
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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Contents of 2,500-year-old sarcophagus discovered in Turkey's Balıkesir revealed


Researchers at the ancient Greek city of Antandrus, located in Turkey's Balıkesir province, have discovered the remains of a woman and a man, as well as numerous artifacts inside a 2,500-year-old sarcophagus, reports said Sunday.

According to a statement by project leader Professor Gürcan Polat from Ege University, the excavations, which started on July 10, shed light to the 5th Century sarcophagus.
"The bones most probably belonged to the people from the same family" Polat said.
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Ancient Greek quarry in Marseille 'partly classified' as historic monument

The Greek quarry dating from the 5th century BC in Marseille is going to be partly classified 
as a Historical Monument [Credit: AFP/Bertrand Langlois]

Discovered by chance during the construction of a building in the center of Marseille, a Greek quarry dating from the 5th century BC will be partly classified.

This represents a first victory for the residents against the French city’s authorities who were planning to build on the historic site, according to a report by French Agency, AFP.

“It’s a great step forward,” exclaimed with a smile a resident of the Sandrine Rolengo district where the quarry was discovered.

Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen, who visited the site recently, decided to protect part of the site.

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Slawische und eisenzeitliche Siedlung bei Theißen entdeckt

Blick auf die Ausgrabungsfläche mit Gruben und weiteren Befunden der slawischen Siedlung. 
Foto © LDA Sachsen-Anhalt

Bei Ausgrabungen im Zuge des Neubaus der Ortsumfahrung östlich des Zeitzer Ortsteils Theißen (Burgenlandkreis) wurden die Überreste einer ländlichen mittelslawischen Siedlung des 8.-10. Jh. und Siedlungsbefunde aus der Eisenzeit freigelegt. Die ältesten Befunde sind eine Hockerbestattung aus dem Endneolithikum und eine glockenbecherzeitliche umgebettete Bestattung.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Greeks really do have near-mythical origins, ancient DNA reveals

A Mycenaean woman depicted on a fresco at Mycenae on mainland Greece.

Ever since the days of Homer, Greeks have long idealized their Mycenaean “ancestors” in epic poems and classic tragedies that glorify the exploits of Odysseus, King Agamemnon, and other heroes who went in and out of favor with the Greek gods. Although these Mycenaeans were fictitious, scholars have debated whether today’s Greeks descend from the actual Mycenaeans, who created a famous civilization that dominated mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from about 1600 B.C.E. to 1200 B.C.E., or whether the ancient Mycenaeans simply vanished from the region.

Now, ancient DNA suggests that living Greeks are indeed the descendants of Mycenaeans, with only a small proportion of DNA from later migrations to Greece. And the Mycenaeans themselves were closely related to the earlier Minoans, the study reveals, another great civilization that flourished on the island of Crete from 2600 B.C.E. to 1400 B.C.E. (named for the mythical King Minos).

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Mammut und viel Rohkost

Hinterkopf-Knochen eines anatomisch modernen Menschen der Fundstelle Buran-Kaya III. 
(© S. Prat)

Senckenberg-Wissenschaftler haben die Ernährung des anatomisch modernen Menschen untersucht. Sie konnten in ihrer aktuellen Studie widerlegen, dass sich der frühe Homo sapiens-Vertreter flexibler ernährte, als die Neandertaler.

Auf den Tellern unserer Vorfahren landeten, wie bei den Neandertalern, überwiegend Mammutfleisch und Pflanzen – eine Ernährung mit Fisch konnte nicht nachgewiesen werden. Das internationale Team vermutet daher, dass die Verdrängung der Neandertaler durch eine direkte Konkurrenzsituation erfolgte.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Bronze Age Iberia received fewer Steppe invaders than the rest of Europe

Archaeological remains of individual MC337 excavated from the site of Hipogeu de Monte Canelas I, Portugal, and analysed by the archaeologist Rui Parreira and the anthropologist Ana Maria Silva.
Credit: Rui Parreira

The genomes of individuals who lived on the Iberian Peninsula in the Bronze Age had minor genetic input from Steppe invaders, suggesting that these migrations played a smaller role in the genetic makeup and culture of Iberian people, compared to other parts of Europe. Daniel Bradley and Rui Martiniano of Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland, and Ana Maria Silva of University of Coimbra, Portugal, report these findings July 27, 2017 in PLOS Genetics.
Between the Middle Neolithic (4200-3500 BC) and the Middle Bronze Age (1740-1430 BC), Central and Northern Europe received a massive influx of people from the Steppe regions of Eastern Europe and Asia. Archaeological digs in Iberia have uncovered changes in culture and funeral rituals during this time, but no one had looked at the genetic impact of these migrations in this part of Europe. Researchers sequenced the genomes of 14 individuals who lived in Portugal during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and compared them to other ancient and modern genomes. In contrast with other parts of Europe, they detected only subtle genetic changes between the Portuguese Neolithic and Bronze Age samples resulting from small-scale migration. However, these changes are more pronounced on the paternal lineage.
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Amazingly well preserved 3,500-year-old lunch box discovered in Swiss Alps

An incredibly rare wooden container from the Bronze Age has been discovered on the Lötschberg mountain in Switzerland, still with detectable traces of the grains that the box contained.
The box was found at the summit of the Lötschenpass, a transit through a glacier, at an elevation of about 2,650 metres above sea level. It's thought to have remained frozen since it was lost or abandoned by its owner in 1500 BCE.
Such discoveries are rare. Only one other similar artefact has been discovered, found in another alpine pass, the Schnidejoch, about 25km to the west of the Lötschenpass. Perhaps the most famous discovery from the ice-packed Alps is Ötzi the iceman, a human discovered dating from about 3300 BCE.
Analysis of the box showed traces of spelt, emmer and barley, according to a study in the journal Scientific Reports. The research is the first time that such detailed information on food contents has been retrieved from a Bronze Age artefact.
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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

3,000 Year Old Necropolis Discovered Beneath Site Of Visigoth Graves In Spain

Spanish archaeologists excavating a Visigoth necropolis in Sena, in the northeastern province of Huesca, have uncovered what they say is a burial site dating to the 10th century BCE and that was part of the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture.


An urn that revealed the existence of the cemetery dating back more than 2,000 years [Credit: EFE]

Two urns and a lid were discovered in the graveyard. Hugo Chautón, the archaeologist overseeing the excavation, says Urnfield culture spread from central Europe into northeastern Spain around 1,000 years BCE. The name comes from the Urnfield culture’s custom of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns, which were then buried.

“This culture represents the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron,” said Chautón, “and provides valuable information about burial practices, particularly the move from burying the dead to cremating them.”

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