Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Prehistoric women's arms 'stronger than those of today's elite rowers'

Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins celebrate Olympic victory in 2012. Neolithic women’s arm bones were about 30% stronger than those of women today. 
Photograph: Francisco Leong/IOPP Pool/Getty Images

Prehistoric women had stronger arms than elite female rowing teams do today thanks to the daily grind of farming life, researchers have revealed, shedding light on their role in early communities.

The study of ancient bones suggests that manual agricultural work had a profound effect on the bodies of women living in central Europe between about the early neolithic and late iron age, from about 5,300BC to AD100.

“We think a lot of what we are seeing is the bone’s response to women grinding grain, which is pretty much seated but using your arms really repetitively many hours a day,” said Dr Alison Macintosh, co-author of the research from the University of Cambridge.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ancient sword and other incredible items discovered during dig at Glenfield Park


Archeologists have discovered an unprecedented collection of artefacts from the Iron Age at Glenfield Park in Leicestershire.
Prehistoric cauldrons, a complete ancient sword and third century BC brooch, and dress pins are among the nationally significant findings discovered by University of Leicester archaeologists.
The Iron Age site is believed to have been a ritual and ceremonial centre for a community that also hosted large feasts, while the findings represent the most northerly discovery of such objects on mainland Britain and the only find of this type of cauldron in the East Midlands.
Evidence also suggests the site was used over a long period of time by multiple generations and underwent striking changes in character.
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Monday, November 27, 2017

Bronze Age Burial Of 'Shaman' Discovered In Slovakia


Archaeologists found an interesting discovery when researching the area of the transport infrastructure for Jaguar Land Rover and accompanying industrial park in Nitra. They found a human skeleton from the Bronze Age that was probably a shaman. He was not buried in a standard grave but placed in hole serving a food storage.

“When the hole was not used anymore, people backfilled it with soil and this person was placed or thrown inside later. We don’t know whether he was thrown in or placed in, because the human was lying on his stomach,” said Klaudia Daňová, a scientific secretary from the Archaeological Institute in Nitra, as cited by the SITA newswire.

“Bronze decorations were placed near his ears. They were connected by little ear bones,” added Daňová for SITA. Archaeologists suggest that those are poultry bone but an analysis will be done to make sure.


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Fairy Tales Are Much Older Than You Think

How does the same story come to be known as “Beauty and the Beast” in the U.S. and “The Fairy Serpent” in China?
As Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm collected Germanic folktales in the 19th century, they realized that many were similar to stories told in distant parts of the world. The brothers Grimm wondered whether plot similarities indicated a shared ancestry thousands of years old.
Folktales are passed down orally, obscuring their age and origin. “There’s no fossil record [of them] before the invention of writing,” says Jamie Tehrani, an anthropologist at Durham University.
To test the Grimms’ theory, Tehrani and literary scholar Sara Graça da Silva traced 76 basic plots back to their oldest linguistic ancestor using an international folktale database. If a similar tale was told in German and Hindi, the researchers concluded its roots lay in the languages’ last common ancestor. “The Smith and the Devil,” a story about a man who trades his soul for blacksmith skills, was first told some 6,000 years ago in Proto-Indo-European. Now we tell a similar tale about the blues guitarist Robert Johnson.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When the Gloves Come Off – Why We Do Not Use Gloves to Handle Artifacts in the Field


Ever since we started publishing pictures of our crew holding artifacts without using gloves, we have taken some heat in the Facebook comment sections. People have been worrying (or even cringing) about bad effects of touching the artifacts with bare hands. Their worry is that this could contaminate the artifacts with body oils or DNA. This blogpost explains why using gloves in the field is not necessary.

Body oils and other residues

When artefacts are handled in museums, you will see the museum staff wearing gloves while holding the objects. This is done to protect the artifacts from getting into contact with body oils and other residues on the person’s hand. It may seem like an obvious conclusion that the artifacts should also be handled wearing gloves in the field. However, this is rarely seen in practice. Why is there a difference in procedures?

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Living With Gods review – 40,000 years of religious art, and this is it?

 Chosen for content over aesthetic merit … six Zoroastrian tiles, Parsi shrine, 1989-90, India. Photograph: © Trustees of the British Museum

After a few minutes in the exhibition that accompanies Neil MacGregor’s new BBC Radio 4 series on the power of religion, my skin started to sizzle and my blood to boil. I truly felt branded inside, marked out as a reprobate, for the premise of the show is that belief in God(s) is such a universal human trait that if you lack it, you may not be human.

That is signalled by a large wall text at the start, suggesting that the correct name for our species may not be homo sapiens, but “homo religiosus”. As someone who doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t miss her, I felt a bit left out. Is belief really the all-pervasive force this exhibition claims?

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Fossil of 'our earliest ancestors' found in Dorset


The mammals ventured out at night to hunt insects

Fossils of the oldest-known ancestors of most living mammals, including human beings, have been unearthed in southern England.

Teeth belonging to the extinct shrew-like creatures, which scampered at the feet of dinosaurs, were discovered in cliffs on the Dorset coast.

Scientists who identified the specimens say they are the earliest undisputed fossils of mammals belonging to the line that led to humans.

They date back 145 million years.

''Here we have discovered from the Jurassic coast a couple of shrew-like things that are to date unequivocally our earliest ancestors,'' said Dr Steve Sweetman of Portsmouth University, who examined the ancient teeth.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

'Big, bad wolf' image flawed - scientists

Wolves are good at working together to get food rewards

New research casts doubt on the idea that dogs are naturally more tolerant and friendly than wolves.
In tests of cooperation skills, wolves outperformed their domesticated relatives.

Scientists say the findings challenge assumptions about how dogs were tamed from wolves and came to live alongside humans.
Previous evidence has suggested that the domestication process may have given dogs a more tolerant temperament.

"We still have very much this idea of the big, bad wolf and the cuddly pooch on your sofa," Dr Sarah Marshall-Pescini, who led the research, told BBC News.

"But, I think the simplest message is that the story is not quite as clear as that."

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Whisper it – Greek amphitheatre's legendary acoustics are a myth

Epidaurus. Ancient Greeks might have used all manner of devices to amplify sound, including placing hollow vessels at strategic locations.
Photograph: DEA / S. VANNINI/De Agostini/Getty Images

It has been held up as a stunning example of ancient Greek sound engineering, but researchers say the acoustics of the amphitheatre at Epidaurus are not as dazzling as they have been hailed.

Dating from the fourth century BC, and seating up to 14,000 spectators, the amphitheatre has long been admired for its sound quality, with claims that audiences are able to hear a pin drop, or a match being struck, at any seat in the house. Even the British archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler raved about the amphitheatre, declaring in clipped tones in a 1958 broadcast: “Even a stage whisper could be picked up by the furthest spectator with the cheapest ticket.”

But new research suggests such assertions are little more than Greek myth.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Prehistoric humans are likely to have formed mating networks to avoid inbreeding

Early humans seem to have recognized the dangers of inbreeding at least 34,000 years ago, and developed surprisingly sophisticated social and mating networks to avoid it, new research has found.


Detail of one of the burials from Sunghir, in Russia. The new study sequenced the genomes of individuals from the site and discovered that they were, at most, second cousins, indicating that they had developed sexual partnerships beyond their immediate social and family group.
Credit: By José-Manuel Benito Álvarez (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Early humans seem to have recognised the dangers of inbreeding at least 34,000 years ago, and developed surprisingly sophisticated social and mating networks to avoid it, new research has found.

The study, reported in the journal Science, examined genetic information from the remains of anatomically modern humans who lived during the Upper Palaeolithic, a period when modern humans from Africa first colonised western Eurasia. The results suggest that people deliberately sought partners beyond their immediate family, and that they were probably connected to a wider network of groups from within which mates were chosen, in order to avoid becoming inbred.

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Ax Linked to Ötzi the Iceman Found North of the Alps

Apart from a few scratches, the 2.6-inch-long (6.5 centimeters) blade is undamaged. 
Credit: Res Eichenberger

Archaeologists found a copper blade in Switzerland that's just like the ax Ötzi the famous "Iceman"was carrying when he died.

Like Ötzi's ax, this tool was made with copper that came from hundreds of miles away, in present-day Tuscany in central Italy. The discovery could shed light on Copper Age connections across Europe.

Bad fortune eventually made Ötzi the Iceman famous. About 5,300 years ago, he was shot with an arrow, struck in the head and left to die near a mountain pass high in the Alps. He was entombed in a glacier until 1991, when hikers near the Italian-Austrian border discovered his body.

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