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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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Listen to the experts on the Stonehenge tunnel


Helen Ghosh, Kate Mavor and Duncan Wilson’s response to John Harris’s article about the Stonehenge tunnel (Letters, 27 April) entirely misses the point. The Stonehenge world heritage site landscape is unutterably precious and you tamper with it at your peril – you cannot make it come back. There should be perpetual inquiry here and the UK government, the National Trust and English Heritage either value that or they don’t. The tunnel scheme will clearly compromise the archaeology. Whose interest would that be in? It would be better to trust the experts. The joint statement from 21 archaeological specialists working at the Stonehenge site from 14 UK universities and the international Icomos-Unesco team report recently provided detailed and empirically based rebuttals of the tunnel plans and clearly highlight various dangers it poses to the area’s archaeology and sense of place.
Professor David Jacques
Blick Mead project director, University of Buckingham


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Digital App Brings To Life One Of Scotland's Key Prehistoric Settlement Sites

A new online digital resource has been launched to bring to life one of Scotland's most important prehistoric settlement landscapes.


Led by the University of Glasgow the new digital resource aims to widen public engagement with the ongoing archaeological research in Perthshire.

Supported by a grant from Historic Environment Scotland, the SERF Project app was developed in collaboration with the 3DVisLab at the University of Dundee. It incorporates 3D images, enabling the user to grab, rotate and closely examine some of the artefacts which have been unearthed at the hillfort sites. It also features drone aerial footage of the hillforts, superimposed with artist’s reconstructions of what the sites may have looked like.

Dr Tessa Poller, Director of the SERF hillforts project and an archaeologist at the University of Glasgow, said: "This app is about wider public engagement surrounding the work we are doing, to not only show people the geographical area where these hillforts lie but to also explain how, throughout the various discoveries we have already made, we are able to challenge perceptions about what life must have been like back then.


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Uffington hill carving was worshipped as 'sun horse' in prehistoric Britain


A huge prehistoric geoglyph depicting a galloping horse is traditionally thought to have been a symbol of ownership, territory or group identity for the prehistoric humans living on the Berkshire Downs. But now scholars are taking a second look at the 110-metre-long hillside carving. A new archaeological interpretation argues that it is a representation of a sun horse, a mythical beast that pulled the sun across the sky like a chariot.
The Uffington White Horse in the south of England is one of the oldest giant carved hill figures, or geoglyphs, in the world. The elongated, stylised horse is best visible from the sky, but was built millennia before a human would see it from that vantage point. It is thought to have been carved into the hillside, exposing the white chalk bedrock, in the late Second Millennium BCE or the early First Millennium BCE.
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Indonesian ‘Hobbits’ Not Related To Homo Erectus

The most comprehensive study on the bones of Homo floresiensis, a species of tiny human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, has found that they most likely evolved from an ancestor in Africa and not from Homo erectus as has been widely believed.


The study by The Australian National University (ANU) found Homo floresiensis, dubbed "the hobbits" due to their small stature, were most likely a sister species of Homo habilis -- one of the earliest known species of human found in Africa 1.75 million years ago.

Data from the study concluded there was no evidence for the popular theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from the much larger Homo erectus, the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region with fossils discovered on the Indonesian mainland of Java.

Study leader Dr Debbie Argue of the ANU School of Archaeology & Anthropology, said the results should help put to rest a debate that has been hotly contested ever since Homo floresiensis was discovered.


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Primitive human 'lived much more recently'


A primitive type of human, once thought to be up to three million years old, actually lived much more recently, a study suggests.
The remains of 15 partial skeletons belonging to the species Homo naledi were described in 2015.
They were found deep in a cave system in South Africa by a team led by Lee Berger from Wits University.
In an interview, he now says the remains are probably just 200,000 to 300,000 years old.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Prehistoric cannibalism not just driven by hunger, study reveals

Humans are less nutritious than other forms of meat, findings show, indicating complex social motivations may be behind our ancestors’ cannibalism


Evidence of cannibalism found at a number of prehistoric sites indicate our ancestors as well as other hominins such as Neanderthals sometimes ate each other. 
Photograph: Nikola Solic/Reuters/Corbis

Thursday 6 April 2017 14.00 BST Last modified on Thursday 6 April 2017 14.14 BST
Cannibalism among prehistoric humans was more likely to have been driven by social reasons than the need for a hearty meal, research suggests.

Evidence of cannibalism, in the form of cut marks, tooth marks and tell-tale bone breakage has been found at a number of prehistoric sites, including in France, Spain and Belgium, revealing that our ancestors as well as other hominins such as Neanderthals and Homo antecessor at least occasionally ate each other.
But how common cannibalism was and to what extent it was driven by the need for nutrition has been a matter of debate, with remains from some sites showing evidence of ritual treatment.

The latest study adds weight to the idea that cannibalism might have been driven by more than the necessity of hunger.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Geologists reveal how violent 'Brexit 1.0' separated Britain from Europe

Bathymetry map of the strait of Dover showing prominent valley eroded through the centre. Note the rock ridge made of chalk in southern Britain and northern France which would have connected across the strait prior to breaching.
Photograph: Imperial College London/Professor Sanjeev Gupta and Dr Jenny Collier

Once attached to the European mainland, a new study shows how catastrophic flooding led to Britain becoming an island about 125,000 years ago

Brexit might be causing political chaos but whatever Theresa May has up her sleeve it is unlikely to be as catastrophic as the first separation of Britain from the continent.

A new study has revealed how giant waterfalls and, later, a megaflood severed our connection to France, resulting in the creation of island Britain and the watery moat of the English Channel.

“A chance series of geological events set the stage for Britain becoming an island,” said Sanjeev Gupta, professor of earth science at Imperial College London and co-author of the research.

“If it weren’t for these events, in a sense the history of Britain would have been completely different,” he added, pointing out that if the ridge had never been breached, Britain would have remained attached to northern France with easy access to the rest of Europe.

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Evidence of ancient 'geological Brexit' revealed


The UK has now started the formal process of leaving the EU, but scientists say they have evidence of a much earlier "Brexit".
They have worked out how a thin strip of land that once connected ancient Britain to Europe was destroyed.
The researchers believe a large lake overflowed 450,000 years ago, damaging the land link, then a later flood fully opened the Dover Strait.
The scars of these events can be found on the seabed of the English Channel.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

A decorated raven bone discovered in Crimea may provide insight into Neanderthal cognition


The cognitive abilities of Neanderthals are debated, but a raven bone fragment found at the Zaskalnaya VI (ZSK) site in Crimea features two notches that may have been made by Neanderthals intentionally to display a visually consistent pattern, according to a study by Ana Majkic at the Universite de Bordeaux and colleagues, published in the open access journal, PLOS ONE on March 29, 2017.
Majkic and colleagues conducted a mixed-methods study to assess whether the two extra notches on the ZSK raven bone were made by Neanderthals with the intention of making the final series of notches appear to be evenly spaced. First, researchers conducted a multi-phase experiment where recruited volunteers were asked to create evenly spaced notches in domestic turkey bones, which are similar in size to the ZSK raven bone. Morphometric analyses reveal that the equal spacing of the experimental notches was comparable to the spacing of notches in the ZSK raven bone, even when adjusted for errors in human perception. Archeological specimens featuring aligned notches from different sites were also analyzed and compared with the ZSK raven bone specimen.
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Iron Age chariot and horse found buried together in Yorkshire


The two Iron Age horses, once used to pull the chariot are examined on site by archaeologists 
Henry Hayhurst-France/David Wilson Homes

The Ancient Brits loved their wheels. Indeed they seem to have been so attached to their sports-car-style chariots that they may even have thought they could use them to get to the next world.

Academic knowledge about these elegant high status prehistoric British vehicles is now set to increase significantly, following the discovery of an ancient Briton buried inside his chariot in East Yorkshire.

Although around 20 other similar chariot graves have been found over the past century or so in the UK (mainly in Yorkshire), this new discovery, unearthed on the outskirts of the market town of Pocklington at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, is the only example ever excavated by modern archaeologists in which the two horses, used to pull the vehicle, were also interred.

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Crete’s Late Minoan Tombs Point Way To Early European Migration


Researchers at the University of Huddersfield have visited Rethymnon in Crete, to collect samples from the late Bronze Age Necropolis of Armenoi, one of the world's finest archaeological sites. DNA analysis of the ancient skeletal remains could provide fresh insights into the origins of European civilisation.


View of the Late Minoan necropolis at Armeni [Credit: West Crete]

Dr Ceiridwen Edwards and PhD student George Foody were permitted to take bone samples and teeth from over 110 of the more than 600 skeletons discovered in the Necropolis, a rock-hewn burial site from the Late Minoan period dating to more than 4,000 years ago. During their two-week visit, the Huddersfield researchers – part of a team that included colleagues from Oxford University and the Hellenic Archaeological Research Foundation – also took DNA swabs from more than 100 contemporary Cretans. They sought people whose grandmothers were from Crete in order to analyse links to the Minoan period.

When the ancient DNA samples are compared with those of modern Cretans, there is the potential to find solutions to many issues surrounding the ancient migration of people and culture to an island where the Bronze Age Minoans and their successors the Mycenaeans laid foundations for later European civilisation and culture.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Evidence Of Craft Specialisation In Bead Production In Upper Palaeolithic France?

The organization of bead production during the Aurignacian has significant implications for understanding the role of these artifacts in Upper Palaeolithic societies, and the evolution of symbolic behavior and social organization more generally.


French Upper Palaeolithic beads [Credit: University College London]

In a special issue of the Quaternary International on The Role of Art in Prehistoric Societies a case study of Early Aurignacian beads in ivory and soapstone are presented, and related production debris, from four sites (Abri Castanet, Abri de la Souquette, Grotte des Hyènes at Brassempouy, Grotte d’Isturitz) in the Aquitaine region of France.

The data from the case study are used to evaluate three hypothetical models of production and exchange in the given regional context, and are evaluated in terms of the current, common criteria for the recognition of craft specialization in the archaeological record.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

400,000-year-old fossil human cranium is oldest ever found in Portugal


 A large international research team, directed by the Portuguese archaeologist João Zilhão and including Binghamton University anthropologist Rolf Quam, has found the oldest fossil human cranium in Portugal, marking an important contribution to knowledge of human evolution during the middle Pleistocene in Europe and to the origin of the Neandertals.
The cranium represents the westernmost human fossil ever found in Europe during the middle Pleistocene epoch and one of the earliest on this continent to be associated with the Acheulean stone tool industry. In contrast to other fossils from this same time period, many of which are poorly dated or lack a clear archaeological context, the cranium discovered in the cave of Aroeira in Portugal is well-dated to 400,000 years ago and appeared in association with abundant faunal remains and stone tools, including numerous bifaces (handaxes).
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How a 400,000-year-old skull fragment hints at ancient 'unified humanity'

The mix of traits on this new specimen found in Portugal has encouraged researchers to rethink their way of describing and classifying ancient human fossils.



At one point, any new human fossil from hundreds of thousands of years ago might have drawn intrigue. If the new bones looked different from others that had been found before, they may have even been hailed as a new archaic human species, and given a taxonomic name in the genus Homo.

But some scientists say evidence is mounting that paleoanthropologists in the past may have been too quick to categorize hominin fossils as distinct species. 

So when a chunk of a 400,000-year-old skull was unearthed at the Gruta da Aroeira archaeological site in Portugal, the scientists who reveal its discovery in a paper published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences didn't try to assign a taxonomic name to the specimen as a reflection of that new thinking.

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Leopards Might Have Walked Alongside Neanderthals


Leopards may have roamed across Italy alongside Neanderthals, a new study finds.
Scientists analyzed an ancient, well-preserved bone discovered by amateur scientist Renato Bandera in the summer of 2014 and donated to the Paleoanthropological Museum of Po in San Daniele Po, Italy. The gray-brown fossil was the slender right shinbone of a leopard, and was found along the right bank of the Po River in northern Italy, near the harbor entrance of the city of Cremona. [In Photos: Rare and Beautiful Amur Leopards]
The region where this bone was discovered is well-known for its fossils. Other bones from this site have suggested that the area was once home to straight-tusked elephants, steppe bison, woolly mammoths, giant deer, rhinos and elk. However, fossils of carnivores such as bears, wolves, hyenas, foxes — and now, leopards — are very rare.
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Geoff Wainwright obituary

Influential archaeologist who helped to change the public experience of Stonehenge

Geoff Wainwright at Stonehenge, the proving ground for many of his ideas about the management of the historic environment. Photograph: Timothy Darvill

The young Geoff Wainwright once nervously approached Dame Kathleen Kenyonto inquire about employment prospects in archaeology. She apparently told him that without an inheritance or private income he had no hope. Luckily, he disregarded her advice and went on to become a big influence on archaeology in Britain and Europe.
Geoff, who has died aged 79, was fascinated by archaeology from an early age and in 1956, while still a student, excavated a Mesolithic settlement at Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire, two miles from his family home. His early excavations were traditional affairs, but led him to a realisation that empirical research required clearly defined questions, and methods that matched the scale of the problem.
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Pollen adds to intrigue over Bronze Age woman 'Ava'

A facial reconstruction of Ava was made last year

Analysis of pollen found on pottery buried with a young woman more than 4,100 years ago has identified plants used for medicinal purposes.

The woman's bones, including a skull and teeth, were discovered at Achavanich in Caithness 30 years ago.

Known as "Ava", an abbreviation of Achavanich, she is the subject of a long-term research project managed by archaeologist Maya Hoole.

Ms Hoole said the presence of the pollen "raises interesting questions".

Last year, forensic artist Hew Morrison created a facial reconstruction of Ava.

Now the results of other research have been published.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ancient skulls may belong to elusive humans called Denisovans


Fossil fragments (yellow) were put together with their mirror-image pieces (purple) to visualize the skull of an archaic human who lived in eastern China.

Fossil fragments (yellow) were put together with their mirror-image pieces (purple) to visualize the skull of an archaic human who lived in eastern China.
Z. Li et al., Science 355, 6328 (3 March 2017)
Ancient skulls may belong to elusive humans called Denisovans
By Ann GibbonsMar. 2, 2017 , 2:00 PM
Since their discovery in 2010, the ex­tinct ice age humans called Deniso­vans have been known only from bits of DNA, taken from a sliver of bone in the Denisova Cave in Siberia, Russia. Now, two partial skulls from eastern China are emerging as prime candidates for showing what these shadowy people may have looked like.

In a paper published this week in Science, a Chinese-U.S. team presents 105,000- to 125,000-year-old fossils they call “archaic Homo.” They note that the bones could be a new type of human or an eastern variant of Neandertals. But although the team avoids the word, “everyone else would wonder whether these might be Denisovans,” which are close cousins to Neandertals, says paleo­anthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Prehistoric Norfolk mine Grime’s Graves to open second pit to public


Tourists will be winched deep underground to see 4,000-year-old site where Neolithic miners used antlers to hack out flint


The remains of the ancient pits created an extraordinary pockmarked landscape. Photograph: English Heritage/PA Wire

A challenging descent by ladder, winch and harness into a prehistoric underworld will open to the public for the first time this year, allowing exploration of shafts and galleries cut deep under Norfolk heathland more than 4,000 years ago.

The extraordinary surface landscape of Grime’s Graves, pockmarked with hundreds of shallow depressions, puzzled people for many centuries until they were identified about 150 years ago as neolithic flint mines. 


The name Grime’s Graves has Anglo-Saxon origins, given long after the mines fell out of use as metal tools replaced flint, and some of the convenient hollows were used as burial grounds in the Iron Age. Under the Normans the site was used to keep rabbits for their meat and skins, as the poor sandy soil was ideal for the animals’ warrens.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

'Patchwork' Early Human Fossils Suggest Intermixing

Two partial skulls (shown here in a digital reconstruction) of an early human were discovered at an archaeological site (shown here) in Xuchang in central China.
Credit: Xiu-Jie Wu

Fossils unearthed in China appeared to be strange patchworks of extinct and modern human lineages, with the large brains of modern humans; the low, broad skulls of earlier humans; and the inner ears of Neanderthals, a new study reported.
These new fossils suggest that far-flung groups of ancient humans were more genetically linked across Eurasia than often previously thought, researchers in the new study said.
"I don't like to think of these fossils as those of hybrids," said study co-author Erik Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis. "Hybridization implies that all of these groups were separate and discrete, only occasionally interacting. What these fossils show is that these groups were basically not separate. The idea that there were separate lineages in different parts of the world is increasingly contradicted by the evidence we are unearthing." [In Photos: New Human Relative Shakes Up Our Family Tree]
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Treasure hunters find Iron Age gold in farmer's field - the earliest ever discovered


Intricate jewellery found buried in a Staffordshire field is the earliest example of Iron Age gold ever found in Britain.

The collection, made up of four twisted metal neckbands, called torcs and a bracelet, was discovered by two metal detectorists just before Christmas. 

Experts say they would have been owned by wealthy powerful women who probably moved from continental Europe to marry rich Iron Age chiefs. 

The pair who discovered the find had swept the field 20 years earlier and uncovered nothing. But after abandoning a fishing trip to go treasure hunting they came across the horde, which could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

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Last of 'too silky' woolly mammoths blighted by bad mutations


Researchers comparing genomes of ancient and more recent Arctic island relatives find latter developed coats too soft for the cold


Scientists analysing genomes of the last woolly mammoths dwelling on island between Russia and Alaska found they were in the grip of mutational meltdown. Photograph: Andrew Nelmerm/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

Woolly mammoths were in the grip of a mutational meltdown before dying out, scientists have revealed, adding that the last surviving population of the hairy giants might have had silky, soft coats, a poor sense of smell and even heartburn.

Woolly mammoths died out in mainland North America and Siberia about 10,000 years ago owing to a combination of human hunting and a warming climate. However, small populations continued to exist on islands in the Arctic Ocean lying between Russia and Alaska until the creatures finally went extinct about 3,700 years ago.


Now scientists have carried out the most in-depth comparison yet of genomes from ancient mainland woolly mammoths and their more recent island-dwelling relatives, shedding light on their decline.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Neanderthal DNA contributes to human gene expression

The last Neanderthal died 40,000 years ago, but much of their genome lives on, in bits and pieces, through modern humans. The impact of Neanderthals' genetic contribution has been uncertain: Do these snippets affect our genome's function, or are they just silent passengers along for the ride? In Cell on February 23, researchers report evidence that Neanderthal DNA sequences still influence how genes are turned on or off in modern humans. Neanderthal genes' effects on gene expression likely contribute to traits such as height and susceptibility to schizophrenia or lupus, the researchers found.

"Even 50,000 years after the last human-Neanderthal mating, we can still see measurable impacts on gene expression," says geneticist and study co-author Joshua Akey of the University of Washington School of Medicine. "And those variations in gene expression contribute to human phenotypic variation and disease susceptibility."

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Did Stone Age People Build A Large Labyrinth In Denmark?


A series of Stone Age palisade enclosures have been discovered in Denmark in recent years and archaeologists are still wondering what they were used for.


The dark green dotted lines indicate where scientists have dug their trenches and excavated the site. The position of  where the palisade is believed to have been is marked in red. The light green dashed line shows the lack of finds 
Credit: Danish Geodata Agency/Pernille Rohde Sloth]

One of the latest additions is a huge construction, discovered by archaeologists from the Museum Southeast Denmark. The fence dates from the Neolithic period and seems to frame an oval area of nearly 18,000 square meters.

“It was actually somewhat overwhelming to experience that it is possible to reveal the traces of such a huge building from the Neolithic period. There are many suggestions for what they could’ve been used for, but to put it simply, we just don’t know,” says archaeologist Pernille Rohde Sloth who leads the excavation.

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