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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