Saturday, September 28, 2019

A 1,500-year-old mosaic depicting Jesus's feeding of the five thousand has been unearthed during an excavation of an ancient city near the Sea of Galile


A team from the University of Haifa found the Burnt Church in 2005, but only began the dig this summer (dailymail,Dr.Eisenberg)
A team from the University of Haifa found the Burnt Church in 2005, but only began the dig this summer (dailymail,Dr.Eisenberg)
A team from the University of Haifa found the Burnt Church in 2005, but only began the dig this summer.

The discovery of the so-called Burnt Church in Hippos, northern Israel, has enthralled archaeologists who have spent the summer combing it for historical evidence.
A fire destroyed the fifth-century church in 700AD but the mosaic-paved floor has been remarkably preserved throughout the centuries by a layer of ash.
Located in the heart of the Holy Land, Hippos overlooks the Sea of Galilee - also known as the Kinneret - where it was once the site of a Greco-Roman city.
The mosaic purports to capture one of the miracles referred to in the New Testament where Jesus used just five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people gathered on the banks of the water.
A team from the University of Haifa found the Burnt Church in 2005, but only began the dig this summer.
Head archaeologist Dr Michael Eisenburg said: 'There can certainly be different explanations to the descriptions of loaves and fish in the mosaic, but you cannot ignore the similarity to the description in the New Testament.
'For example, from the fact that the New Testament has a description of five loaves in a basket or the two fish depicted in the apse, as we find in the mosaic.'
He added that the generally accepted location of the miracle performed by Christ may have to be reconsidered in light of the new evidence.
The historian said: Nowadays, we tend to regard the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha on the north-west of the Sea of Galilee as the location of the miracle, but with careful reading of the New Testament it is evident that it might have taken place north of Hippos within the city’s region.
'According to the scripture, after the miracle Jesus crossed the water to the northwest of the Sea of Galilee, to the area of Tabgha/Ginosar, so that the miracle had to take place at the place where he began the crossing rather than at the place he finished it.
'In addition, the mosaic at the Church of Multiplication has a depiction of two fish and a basket with only four loaves, while in all places in the New Testament which tell of the miracle, there are five loaves of bread, as found in the mosaic in Hippos.
'In addition, the mosaic at the burnt church has a depiction of 12 baskets, and the New Testament also describes the disciples who, at the end of the miracle, were left with 12 baskets of bread and fish.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Two clay tablets indicate that most of the people living in the seventh century B.C.E. in a town, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem today, were foreign, not Israelites

Complete, fascinating report

Two clay tablets found in Hadid recording loans and land sales in the seventh century B.C.E. indicate that most of the people living in the town, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem today, were foreign, not Israelites, archaeologists say.

In fact, the former territory of the Kingdom of Israel may have had very few Israelites left during the 7th century B.C.E., archaeological evidence suggests. 

The two tablets, made of clay and inscribed in cuneiform, have been dated to the time of Assyrian rule over the Southern Levant: the eighth and seventh century B.C.E. They name several individuals, none with typical Hebrew names. 

The town of Hadid perches on a hill, covering a vast 50 hectares, making it one of the largest archaeological sites in Israel. 

It first arose, it seems, in the second millennium B.C.E., assuming it is the Huditi mentioned in the Karnak list of towns conquered by Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III. Numerous pottery sherds have been dated to the Late Bronze Age, meaning occupation of the site goes back at least 3,600 years. 

During the following biblical period, the settlement grew well beyond the mound. Among the structures uncovered in the excavation is a pillared four-room house, typical of the Iron Age in the Levant. And as said, the archaeologists uncovered evidence of non-Israelite influences.

Cuneiform tablet found at Hadid, with non-Yahwistic names. Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.

Both documents feature Akkadian, perhaps Babylonian, and Aramaean names of several individuals. No local, Yahwistic name is mentioned. 

Why would the area of the former Kingdom of Israel, north of Jerusalem, become thronged by non-Israelites?

During the mid-eight century B.C.E., the Assyrians under the leadership of Tiglath-Pileser III grew in all directions. Order was maintained in the realm by means of a program of mass deportation and transplantation of conquered peoples.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

First evidence for early baby bottles used to feed animal milk to prehistoric babies

A team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, has found the first evidence that prehistoric babies were fed animal milk using the equivalent of modern-day baby bottles.
Possible infant feeding vessels, made from clay, first appear in Europe in the Neolithic (at around 5,000 BC), becoming more commonplace throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages.
The vessels are usually small enough to fit within a baby's hands and have a spout through which liquid could be suckled. Sometimes they have feet and are shaped like imaginary animals. Despite this, in the lack of any direct evidence for their function, it has been suggested they may also be feeding vessels for the sick or infirm.
The researchers wanted to investigate whether these were in fact infant feeding vessels (baby bottles) so selected three examples found in very rare child graves in Bavaria. These were small (about 5 - 10 cm across) with an extremely narrow spout.
The team used a combined chemical and isotopic approach to identify and quantify the food residues found within the vessels. Their findings, published today in the journal Nature, showed that the bottles contained ruminant milk from domesticated cattle, sheep or goat.
The presence of these three obviously specialised vessels in child graves combined with the chemical evidence confirms that these vessels were used to feed animal milk to babies either in the place of human milk and/or during weaning onto supplementary foods.
Prior to this study, the only evidence for weaning came from isotopic analysis of infant skeletons, but this could only give rough guidelines of when children were weaned, not what they were eating/drinking. The study thus provides important information on breastfeeding and weaning practices, and infant and maternal health, in prehistory.
This is the first study that has applied this direct method of identification of weaning foods to infants in the past and opens the way for investigations of feeding vessels from other ancient cultures worldwide.
Lead author, Dr Julie Dunne from the University of Bristol's School of Chemistry, said: "These very small, evocative, vessels give us valuable information on how and what babies were fed thousands of years ago, providing a real connection to mothers and infants in the past."
She continued: "Similar vessels, although rare, do appear in other prehistoric cultures (such as Rome and ancient Greece) across the world. Ideally, we'd like to carry out a larger geographic study and investigate whether they served the same purpose."
Project partner, Dr Katharina Rebay-Salisbury from the Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who directs an ERC-funded project on motherhood in prehistory, added: "Bringing up babies in prehistory was not an easy task. We are interested in researching cultural practices of mothering, which had profound implications for the survival of babies. It is fascinating to be able to see, for the first time, which foods these vessels contained."
Professor Richard Evershed FRS who heads up Bristol's Organic Geochemistry Unit and is a co-author of the study, added: "This is a striking example of how robust biomolecular information, properly integrated with the archaeology of these rare objects, has provided a fascinating insight into an aspect of prehistoric human life so familiar to us today."

Dishing the dirt on an early man cave

IMAGE: These are profiles of sediment showing a Denisova fossil poo gallery, including hyena, wolf and other unidentified. view more 
Credit: Dr. Mike Morley, Flinders University
Fossil animal droppings, charcoal from ancient fires and bone fragments litter the ground of one of the world's most important human evolution sites, new research reveals.
The latest evidence from southern Siberia shows that large cave-dwelling carnivores once dominated the landscape, competing for more than 300,000 years with ancient tribes for prime space in cave shelters.
A team of Russian and Australian scientists have used modern geoarchaeological techniques to unearth new details of day-to-day life in the famous Denisova Cave complex in Siberia's Altai Mountains.
Large carnivores such hyena, wolves and even bears and at least three early nomadic human groups (hominins) - Denisovans, Neanderthals, and early Homo sapiens - used this famous archaeological site, the researchers say in a new Scientific Reports study examining the dirt deposited in the cave complex over thousands of years.
"These hominin groups and large carnivores such as hyenas and wolves left a wealth of microscopic traces that illuminate the use of the cave over the last three glacial-interglacial cycles," says lead author, Flinders University ARC Future Fellow Dr Mike Morley.
"Our results complement previous work by some of our colleagues at the site that has identified ancient DNA in the same dirt, belonging to Neanderthals and a previously unknown human group, the Denisovans, as well as a wide range of other animals".
But it now seems that it was the animals that mostly ruled the cave space back then.
Microscopic studies of 3-4 metres of sediment left in the cave network includes fossil droppings left by predatory animals such as cave hyenas, wolves and possibly bears, many of their kind made immortal in ancient rock art before going extinct across much of Eurasia.
From their 'micromorphology' examination of the dirt found in Denisova Cave, the team discovered clues about the use of the cave, including fire-use by ancient humans and the presence of other animals.
The study of intact sediment blocks collected from the cave has yielded information not evident to the naked eye or gleaned from previous studies of ancient DNA, stone tools or animal and plant remains.
Co-author of the new research, University of Wollongong Distinguished Professor Richard (Bert) Roberts, says the study is very significant because it shows how much can be achieved by sifting through sedimentary material using advanced microscopy and other archaeological science methods to find critical new evidence about human and non-human life on Earth.
"Using microscopic analyses, our latest study shows sporadic hominin visits, illustrated by traces of the use of fire such as miniscule fragments, but with continuous use of the site by cave-dwelling carnivores such as hyenas and wolves," says Professor Roberts.
"Fossil droppings (coprolites) indicate the persistent presence of non-human cave dwellers, which are very unlikely to have co-habited with humans using the cave for shelter."
This implies that ancient groups probably came and went for short-lived episodes, and at all other times the cave was occupied by these large predators.
The Siberian site came to prominence more than a decade ago with the discovery of the fossil remains of a previously unknown human group, dubbed the Denisovans after the local name for the cave.
In a surprising twist, the recent discovery of a bone fragment in the cave sediments showed that a teenage girl was born of a Neanderthal mother and Denisovan father more than 90,000 years ago.
Denisovans and Neanderthals inhabited parts of Eurasia until perhaps 50,000 to 40,000 years ago, when they were replaced by modern humans (Homo sapiens).

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Latest Archaeology News

Click on titles for full reports

Neanderthals and Denisovans

One species, many origins

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 day ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *World map with land area resized to represent modern human genetic diversity and colour representing Neanderthal plus Denisovan ancestry. As can be seen, contributions from other populations to the Homo... view more Credit: James Cheshire/Mark G. Thomas In a paper published in *Nature Ecology and Evolution*, a group of researchers argue that our evolutionary past must be understood as the outcome of dynamic changes in connectivity, or gene flow, between early humans scattered across Africa. Viewing past human populations as a succession of discrete branches ... more »

Researchers provide first glimpse at what ancient Denisovans may have looked like

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 3 days ago
If you could travel back in time to 100,000 years ago, you'd find yourself living among several different groups of humans, including Modern Humans (those anatomically similar to us), Neanderthals, and Denisovans. We know quite a bit about Neanderthals, thanks to numerous remains found across Europe and Asia. But exactly what our Denisovan relatives might have looked like had been anyone's guess for a simple reason: the entire collection of Denisovan remains includes three teeth, a pinky bone and a lower jaw. Now, as reported in the scientific journal *Cell*, a team led by Hebrew U... more »

Denisovans gave modern humans an immunity boost

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 4 days ago
Garvan Institute of Medical Research [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *This map shows the frequency of the Denisovan TNFAIP3 gene variant in modern human populations of Island South East Asia and Oceania, it is found to be common east of... view more Credit: Owen Siggs Findings from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research show modern humans acquired a gene variant from Denisovans that heightened their immune reactions, indicating adaptation of the immune system to a changing environment. The breakthrough study, published in *Nature Immunology*, is the first to demonstrate a single DNA seque... more »

Denisovan finger bone more closely resembles modern human digits than Neanderthals

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Scientists have identified the missing part of a finger bone fragment from the Denisova Cave in southern Siberia, revealing that Denisovans--an early human population discovered when the original fragment was genetically sequenced in 2010--had fingers indistinguishable from modern humans despite being more closely related to Neanderthals. This finding uncovers an important piece of evidence to the puzzle surrounding Denisovan skeletal morphology and suggests that finger bone characteristics unique to Neanderthals evolved after their evolutionary split from Denisovans. The Denisovan... more »

Northern France was already inhabited more than 650,000 years ago

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 3 days ago
The first evidence of human occupation in northern France has been put back by 150,000 years, thanks to the findings of a team of scientists from the CNRS and the Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle at the emblematic site of Moulin Quignon in the department of the Somme. The site, now located in the gardens of a housing estate in Abbeville, was rediscovered in 2017 after falling into oblivion for over 150 years. More than 260 flint objects, including 5 bifaces or hand axes, dating from 650,000 to 670,000 years ago, have been uncovered in sands and gravel deposited by the river Somm... more »

Inequality: What we've learned from the 'Robots of the late Neolithic'

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 4 days ago
Santa Fe Institute [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Humble ox or Neolithic robot? view more Credit: Amy Bogaard Seven thousand years ago, societies across Eurasia began to show signs of lasting divisions between haves and have-nots. In new research published in the journal *Antiquity*, scientists chart the precipitous surge of prehistoric inequality and trace its economic origins back to the adoption of ox-drawn plows. Their findings challenge a long-held view that inequality arose when human societies first transitioned from hunting and gathering to agriculture. According to the researcher... more »

Extinction of Icelandic walrus coincides with Norse settlement

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 6 days ago
An international collaboration of scientists in Iceland, Denmark and the Netherlands has for the first time used ancient DNA analyses and C14-dating to demonstrate the past existence of a unique population of Icelandic walrus that went extinct shortly after Norse settlement some 1100 years ago. Walrus hunting and ivory trade was probably the principal cause of extinction, being one of the earliest examples of commercially driven overexploitation of marine resources. The presence of walruses in Iceland in the past and its apparent disappearance as early as in the Settlement and Comm... more »

Women also competed for status superiority in mid-Republican Rome

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 6 days ago
Purple clothing, gold trimmings, earrings and two- or four-wheeled carriages. Among the elite, competition for status superiority was just as vital to women as it was to men in Rome around 2000 years ago. This has been demonstrated in a thesis that investigates the domains and resources women had access to for status competition and how these were regulated by law. Elite status competition was a distinguishing feature of mid-Republican Rome (264-133 BCE). Struggles for superiority in status among the senatorial elite catalysed social growth and conflict, and the desire for glory su... more »

Researchers find earliest evidence of milk consumption

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *A jaw bone used in the study -- from the collections of the Dorset County Museum. view more Credit: Dr Sophy Charlton, University of York Researchers have found the earliest direct evidence of milk consumption anywhere in the world in the teeth of prehistoric British farmers. The research team, led by archaeologists at the University of York, identified a milk protein called beta lactoglobulin (BLG) entombed in the mineralised dental plaque of seven individuals who lived in the Neolithic period around 6,000 years-ago. The human dental plaque samples in the st... more »

Bones of Roman Britons provide new clues to dietary deprivation

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *A soldier's tombstone from Roman-era London view more Credit: Museum of London Researchers at the University of Bradford have shown a link between the diet of Roman Britons and their mortality rates for the first time, overturning a previously-held belief about the quality of the Roman diet. Using a new method of analysis, the researchers examined stable isotope data (the ratios of particular chemicals in human tissue) from the bone collagen of hundreds of Roman Britons, together with the individuals' age-of-death estimates and an established mortality model... more »

Largest coin hoard of the post-Conquest period found near Somerset

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has announced the discovery of the largest hoard from the immediate post-Conquest period ever unearthed. The hoard, which primarily includes coins depicting Harold II (1066), the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England and his successor, William the Conqueror (1066-87), first Norman King of England, is also the largest Norman hoard found since 1833, and the largest ever found from the immediate aftermath of the Norman Conquest. The hoard is in good condition and is made up of 1,236 coins of Harold II and 1,310 coins of the ... more »

Scotland's genetic landscape echoes Dark Age populations

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
University of Edinburgh [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *This is a genetic map of the British Isles, based on work by Professor Jim Wilson from the University of Edinburgh's Usher Institute and MRC Human Genetics Unit. view more Credit: The University of Edinburgh The DNA of Scottish people still contains signs of the country's ancient kingdoms, with many apparently living in the same areas as their ancestors did more than a millennium ago, a study shows. Experts have constructed Scotland's first comprehensive genetic map, which reveals that the country is divided into six main clusters of ge... more »
Israel and Near East

Tel Aviv University researchers discover evidence of biblical kingdom in Arava Desert

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 4 days ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *More than 6 m of copper production waste were excavated at Khirbat en-Nahas, Jordan. The excavated materials from here and other sites were used to track more than four centuries... view more Credit: T. Levy/American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU) Genesis 36:31 describes an early, pre-10th century BCE Edomite kingdom: "... the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned." But the archaeological record has led to conflicting interpretations of this text. Now a Tel Aviv University study published in *PLOS ONE* on September 18 finds that ... more »
Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 6 days ago
University of Heidelberg [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Some of the studied tin ingots from the sea off the coast of Israel (approx. 1300-1200 BCE). view more Credit: Photo: Ehud Galili The origin of the tin used in the Bronze Age has long been one of the greatest enigmas in archaeological research. Now researchers from Heidelberg University and the Curt Engelhorn Centre for Archaeometry in Mannheim have solved part of the puzzle. Using methods of the natural sciences, they examined the tin from the second millennium BCE found at archaeological sites in Israel, Turkey, and Greece. They we... more »

Canaanite-era settlement discovery: 4,500-year-old copper dagger blade and a collection of intact pottery containers.

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
A previously unknown center of Canaanite-era settlement was recently stumbled upon by a curious electrician on his way to work. A 4,500-year-old copper dagger blade and a collection of intact pottery containers were discovered by Ahmad Nassar Yassin, a resident of the northern Israel village of Araba. The items include northern-style 4,500-year-old storage jars and pouring vessels, as well as the bronze dagger blade, which would have been attached to a wooden handle. As was typical of the era, the artifacts, most likely including foodstuffs, were meant to accompany the occupant of ... more »

Archaeological team excavates at one of the major fortress-settlements in the Armenian Highlands

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *This drone photograph faces northwest over the Vedi Fortress site. Cliffs surround and protect much of the site, with two lines of fortress walls protecting the western approach to... view more Credit: @The University of Hong Kong A team of researchers and students from HKU unearthed huge storage jars, animal bones and fortress walls from 3,000 years ago in Armenia as they initiated the Ararat Plain Southeast Archaeological Project (APSAP) during the summer of 2019. APSAP is a collaborative research project between HKU and the Institute of Archaeology and Eth... more »

Early humans used tiny, flint 'surgical' tools to butcher elephants

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *The removal of meat from a bone using a replica of the Revadim tiny flake. view more Credit: Prof. Ran Barkai, Tel Aviv University The Acheulian culture endured in the Levant for over a million years during the Lower Paleolithic period (1.4 million to 400,000 years ago). Its use of bifaces or large cutting tools like hand axes and cleavers is considered a hallmark of its sophistication -- or, some researchers would argue, the lack thereof. A new Tel Aviv University-led study published in *Nature*'s *Scientific Reports* on September 10 reveals that these earl... more »

A 2,600-year-old seal bearing a prominent Hebrew name

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
[image: The “Adonayahu Asher Al Habayit” bulla (seal). Photo] The “Adonayahu Asher Al Habayit” bulla (seal). Photo. (photo credit: ELIYAHU YANAI CITY OF DAVID ARCHIVES) A 2,600-year-old seal bearing a Hebrew name was uncovered in dirt excavated in 2013 near the Western Wall, archaeologist Eli Shukron said on Monday. Complete report The seal is inscribed with the name of "*Adenyahu Asher Al HaBayit*," meaning "Adenyahu by Appointment of the House," the most prominent role in the king's court in the Kingdom of Judea that appears for the first time on the list of ministries of ... more »

“We Have Found Biblical Ziklag”

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
*The site, from the time of King David, was discovered near Kiryat Gat * According to the Biblical narrative, David found refuge in Ziklag while fleeing from King Saul. From there he went to Hebron to be anointed as King * Dozens of complete pottery vessels were found at the site, 3,000 years old* *How was Biblical Ziklag found?*Researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, believe they have discovered the Philistine town near Kiryat Gat, immortalized in the Biblical narrative. Ziklag is mention... more »

A First Temple Era Water Cistern near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
[image: The Forgotten Discovery: A First Temple Era Water Cistern near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem] The underground reservoir dating back to the First Temple in Jerusalem found on the edge of the Temple Mount. (*Israel Antiquities Authority, Vladimir Neychin*) At the southern corner of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a rare, preserved cistern from the First Temple period has been found, concealed from view and unknown to many. The Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered the cistern seven years ago, but difficult access to the site prevents public visits. The e... more »

Study of Dead Sea Scroll sheds light on a lost ancient parchment-making technology

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Massachusetts Institute of Technology First discovered in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds looking for a lost sheep, the ancient Hebrew texts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls are some of the most well-preserved ancient written materials ever found. Now, a study by researchers at MIT and elsewhere elucidates a unique ancient technology of parchment making and provides potentially new insights into methods to better preserve these precious historical documents. The study focused on one scroll in particular, known as the Temple Scroll, among the roughly 900 full or partial scrolls found in the y... more »

Archaeologists in Israel say they may have discovered the true location of Emmaus

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
*Complete, fascinating report* Archaeologists in Israel say they may have discovered the true location of Emmaus, the Biblical town where Jesus first appeared to two of his followers after being crucified and resurrected. *Haaretz* reports that researchers found the massive 2,200-year-old walls of a Hellenistic fortification believed to have been built by the Seleucid general who defeated Judah the Maccabee, the Jewish leader spoken of in the Hanukkah story. Since 2017, a Franco-Israeli team has been excavating a hill overlooking Jerusalem known as Kiriath Yearim, an area believed... more »

Archaeologists Find Rare Mosaic Possibly Pointing to Where Jesus Fed the 5,000

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Complete report [image: Photo Credit: Dr. Michael Eisenberg, courtesy] Israeli Archaeologists have discovered an unusually well-preserved mosaic apparently depicting the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 on the floor of an early Christian Church overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Researchers from the University of Haifa exposed the mosaic during excavations on the so-called "Burnt Church" at the Hippos-Sussita excavation site. Researchers believe the 6th century church was most likely burned down during the Sasanian conquest in the 7th century. The fire actually helped preserve the ... more »

Church of the Apostles Found? Archaeologists Claim Byzantine-Era Church is Highly Significant

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority have made what they claim to be a major discovery. They believe that they have found a Byzantine-era church that was built on the site of the home of two of Jesus Christ ’s earliest disciples, Peter and Andrew. If this is true then it could help to settle a long-running dispute over the location of the Biblical village of Bethsaida, later a city known as Julias. A team of Israeli and American archaeologists, from the Kinneret Academic College and Nyack College, New York made the discovery, near Lake Galilee in Northern Israel. The... more »

Clues to early social structures may be found in ancient extraordinary graves

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Reconstructed virtual E-W-cut through the burial Loc. C10:408, facing south. view more Credit: Benz et al., 2018 Elaborate burial sites can provide insight to the development of socio-political hierarchies in early human communities, according to a study released August 28, 2019 in the open-access journal *PLOS ONE* by an international team of archaeologists, anthropologists and neuroscientists of the Ba'ja Neolithic Project hosted at the Free University of Berlin in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. The interdisciplinary investigat... more »

Common carp aquaculture in Neolithic China dating back 8,000 years

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 6 days ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *This is co-author Junzo Uchiyama preparing to measure common carp removed from the paddy field. view more Credit: Mark Hudson In a recent study, an international team of researchers analyzed fish bones excavated from the Early Neolithic Jiahu site in Henan Province, China. By comparing the body-length distributions and species-composition ratios of the bones with findings from East Asian sites with present aquaculture, the researchers provide evidence of managed carp aquaculture at Jiahu dating back to 6200-5700 BC. Despite the growing importance of farmed f... more »

Early rice farmers unwittingly selected for weedy imposters

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 6 days ago
Washington University in St. Louis [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *The common form of barnyard grass (top) has red stems, while the mimic has green stems -- more like rice. view more Credit: Jordan R. Brock/Washington University Early rice growers unwittingly gave barnyard grass a big hand, helping to give root to a rice imitator that is now considered one of the world's worst agricultural weeds. New research from Zhejiang University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Washington University in St. Louis provides genomic evidence that barnyard grass (*Echinochloa crus-galli*) benefited from ... more »

First ancient DNA from Indus Valley civilization links its people to modern South Asians

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Cell Press [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *This is a photograph of a red slipped ware globular pot placed near the head of the skeleton that yielded ancient DNA. There are lines as well as indentations on... view more Credit: Vasant Shinde / Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute Researchers have successfully sequenced the first genome of an individual from the Harappan civilization, also called the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). The DNA, which belongs to an individual who lived four to five millennia ago, suggests that modern people in India are likely to be largely descende... more »

Largest-ever ancient-DNA study illuminates millennia of South and Central Asian prehistory

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *The first sequenced genome from an archaeological site associated with the ancient Indus Valley Civilization came from this woman buried at the city of Rakhigarhi. view more Credit: Vasant Shinde/*Cell* The largest-ever study of ancient human DNA, along with the first genome of an individual from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, reveal in unprecedented detail the shifting ancestry of Central and South Asian populations over time. The research, published online Sept. 5 in a pair of papers in *Science* and *Cell*, also answers longstanding questions about... more »

Genes reveal kinship between 3 victims of Mongol army in 1238 massacre

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Skulls from mass grave in Yaroslavl, Russia, showing traces of violence view more Credit: Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Archaeology have used DNA testing to prove close genetic kinship between three individuals buried in a mass grave following the capture of the Russian city Yaroslavl by Batu Khan's Mongol army in 1238. This confirms the hypothesis made by archaeologists and anthropologists after studying the remains of 15 p... more »

Machu Picchu: Ancient Incan sanctuary intentionally built on faults

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 day ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Detailed mapping indicates the World Heritage Site's location and layout were dictated by the underlying geological faults. Photo taken 5 Nov. 2010. view more Credit: Rualdo Menegat Phoenix, Arizona, USA: The ancient Incan sanctuary of Machu Picchu is considered one of humanity's greatest architectural achievements. Built in a remote Andean setting atop a narrow ridge high above a precipitous river canyon, the site is renowned for its perfect integration with the spectacular landscape. But the sanctuary's location has long puzzled scientists: Why did the Inc... more »

Archeologists find remains of 227 children sacrificed between 1200 and Peru

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Archeologists in Peru say the 227 bodies they have unearthed from a site used by the pre-Columbian Chimu culture is the biggest-ever discovery of sacrificed children. Archeologists have been digging since last year at the huge sacrificial site in Huanchaco, a beachside tourist town north of the capital Lima... Huanchaco was a site where many child sacrifices took place during the time of the Chimu culture, whose apogee was between 1200 and 1400. Archeologists first found children's bodies at the dig site in the town's Pampa la Cruz neighborhood in June 2018, unearthing 56 skeleto... more »

Cooper's Ferry archaeological finds reveal humans arrived more than 16,000 years ago

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
American Association for the Advancement of Science Archaeological discoveries from the Cooper's Ferry site in western Idaho indicate that humans migrated to and occupied the region by nearly 16,500 years ago. The findings expand the timing of human settlement in the Americas to a period predating the appearance of an ice-free corridor linking Beringia and the rest of North America and support the growing notion that the very first Americans likely landed upon the shores of the Pacific coast. How and when human populations first arrived and settled in the Americas remains debated.... more »

First human ancestors breastfed for longer than contemporary relatives

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *The differences in dental morphology are obvious between *Australopithecus africanus* (TM1518 to the left) and early Homo (SK27 to the right), but these teeth are also different in their calcium... view more Credit: Vincent Balter By analysing the fossilised teeth of some of our most ancient ancestors, a team of scientists led by the universities of Bristol (UK) and Lyon (France) have discovered that the first humans significantly breastfed their infants for longer periods than their contemporary relatives. The results, published in the journal *Science Advanc... more »

A 3.8-million-year-old fossil from Ethiopia reveals the face of Lucy's ancestor

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
Cleveland Museum of Natural History Curator and Case Western Reserve University Adjunct Professor Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie and his team of researchers have discovered a "remarkably complete" cranium of a 3.8-million-year-old early human ancestor from the Woranso-Mille paleontological site, located in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Working for the past 15 years at the site, the team discovered the cranium (MRD-VP-1/1), here referred to as "MRD," in February 2016. In the years following their discovery, paleoanthropologists of the project conducted extensive analyses of MRD, while ... more »

Monday, September 23, 2019

One species, many origins

IMAGE: World map with land area resized to represent modern human genetic diversity and colour representing Neanderthal plus Denisovan ancestry. As can be seen, contributions from other populations to the Homo... view more 
Credit: James Cheshire/Mark G. Thomas
In a paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, a group of researchers argue that our evolutionary past must be understood as the outcome of dynamic changes in connectivity, or gene flow, between early humans scattered across Africa. Viewing past human populations as a succession of discrete branches on an evolutionary tree may be misleading, they said, because it reduces the human story to a series of "splitting times" which may be illusory.
According to archaeologist Dr. Eleanor Scerri and geneticists Dr. Lounès Chikhi and Professor Mark Thomas, the quest for a single original location for modern humans is a wild goose chase. "People like us began to appear sometime between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago," says Dr. Scerri, group leader of the Pan-African Evolution Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and lead author of the study. "That is something in the order of 8000 generations, a long time for early people to move around and explore a big space. Their movements, patterns of mixing and genetic exchanges are what gave rise to us."
Making sense of a scattered record "The genetics of contemporary humans are very clear. The greatest genetic diversity is found in Africans," explains Prof. Thomas of University College London. "The old theory that we descend from regional populations spread across the Old World over the last million years or so is not supported by genetics data. Sure, non-Africans today have some ancestry from Neanderthals, and some have appreciable ancestry from the recently discovered Denisovans. And maybe other, as yet undiscovered ancient hominin groups also interbred with us, Homo sapiens. But none of this changes the fact that more than 90% of the ancestry of everybody in the world lies in Africa over the last 100,000 years."
"The problem is that knowing that we are an African species has led many to ask the question 'where in Africa'," he adds. "Superficially this is a reasonable question. But when we consider the genetic patterns alongside what we know of fossils, ancient tools, and ancient climates, the 'single region of origin' view just doesn't cut it, and we have to start thinking differently. This means different models, and we argue in the current paper that structured population models are the way forward."
"Viewed through the lens of dynamic changes in connectivity - or metapopulations, to be technical - the interpretation of the available data changes," states Dr. Chikhi of the CNRS Evolution et Diversité Biologique lab at the University of Toulouse and Principal Investigator at the Gulbenkian Institute of Science in Lisbon. "Instead of a series of population splits branching off an ancestral tree, changes in connectivity between different populations over time seem a more reasonable assumption, and appear to explain several patterns of genomic diversity not explained by current alternative models. Metapopulations are the kind of model you'd expect if people were moving around and mixing over long periods and wide geographic areas. We cannot objectively identify this geographic area today from genetic data alone, but data from other disciplines suggest that the African continent represents the most likely geographical scale."
"A dynamic interconnected patchwork of populations" The scientists argue that this view is not only better supported by the fossil, genetic and archaeological evidence, it also better explains the palaeoanthropological record beyond Africa.
"We see physically diverse early human fossils from across Africa, some very old genetic lineages and a pan-African shift in technology and material culture that reflects advanced cognition, including new technical and social innovations, across the continent. In other words, what you'd expect from a dynamic interconnected patchwork of populations that were at times more or less isolated from each other," says Dr. Scerri. "This would also help to explain the increasing evidence for unexpected populations, including in areas outside Africa such as the Hobbits on Flores," she adds.
The authors stress that all this means that the scientific community may finally have the means to address complex questions in human evolutionary studies that could not be addressed previously. Dr. Chikhi notes, "We have so much new data now from genetics, archaeology and fossils, and a better understanding of how past climates and environments affected early people. We have come to a point where the old models are constraining progress in our understanding of the past."
"A metapopulation model helps us to find a way to acknowledge the paleontological, archaeological and genetic evidence for a recent African origin with limited gene flow from non-African metapopulations, such as Neanderthals, without falling into overly polemic and restrictive debates," adds Dr. Scerri.
The authors state that any model that would claim to represent human evolution would have to satisfactorily explain patterns of variation in genetic, morphological and cultural data components, and be consistent with the climatic changes that have shaped our ecologies during most of the last one million years.
"A structured metapopulation model does this without denying any of the latest evidence. It doesn't require us to find a mythical region of origin, or to date clean splitting events whose meaning is far from clear. Population tree models force us to think in such terms, and this can be very misleading," says Dr. Chikhi.
How to understand our origins The researchers acknowledge that the past was a confusing place and that old models, while largely discredited now, have been helpful for making sense of a record with many gaps in it. Models can be very useful even when they are wrong, but when they are prioritized over the data they can constrain progress.
"Convergent evidence from different fields stress the importance of considering a metapopulation structure in our models of human evolution," says Prof. Thomas. Dr. Chikhi adds, "This complex history of population subdivision should thus lead us to question current models of ancient population size changes, and perhaps re-interpret some of the old bottlenecks as changes in connectivity."
"If we look at the available data through the lens of changes in connectivity, the record starts to make a lot more sense. We need such flexibility to be able to make sense of the past, or we get lost in a malaise of ever-increasing named species, failed trajectories and population trees that never existed," says Prof. Thomas. "Science always favours the simpler explanation and it is becoming increasingly difficult to stick to old narratives when they have to become over-complicated in order to stay relevant," he adds.
"Our African origins cannot be denied, but we definitely don't yet have the resolution to include or exclude different bits of evidence simply because they don't fit with a particular view. We need better reasons than that," says Dr. Scerri.

Machu Picchu: Ancient Incan sanctuary intentionally built on faults

IMAGE: Detailed mapping indicates the World Heritage Site's location and layout were dictated by the underlying geological faults. Photo taken 5 Nov. 2010. view more 
Credit: Rualdo Menegat
Phoenix, Arizona, USA: The ancient Incan sanctuary of Machu Picchu is considered one of humanity's greatest architectural achievements. Built in a remote Andean setting atop a narrow ridge high above a precipitous river canyon, the site is renowned for its perfect integration with the spectacular landscape. But the sanctuary's location has long puzzled scientists: Why did the Incas build their masterpiece in such an inaccessible place? Research suggests the answer may be related to the geological faults that lie beneath the site.
On Monday, 23 Sept. 2019, at the GSA Annual meeting in Phoenix, Rualdo Menegat, a geologist at Brazil's Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, will present the results of a detailed geoarchaeological analysis that suggests the Incas intentionally built Machu Picchu -- as well as some of their cities -- in locations where tectonic faults meet. "Machu Pichu's location is not a coincidence," says Menegat. "It would be impossible to build such a site in the high mountains if the substrate was not fractured."
Using a combination of satellite imagery and field measurements, Menegat mapped a dense web of intersecting fractures and faults beneath the UNESCO World Heritage Site. His analysis indicates these features vary widely in scale, from tiny fractures visible in individual stones to major, 175-kilometer-long lineaments that control the orientation of some of the region's river valleys.
Menegat found that these faults and fractures occur in several sets, some of which correspond to the major fault zones responsible for uplifting the Central Andes Mountains during the past eight million years. Because some of these faults are oriented northeast-southwest and others trend northwest-southeast, they collectively create an "X" shape where they intersect beneath Machu Picchu.
Menegat's mapping suggests that the sanctuary's urban sectors and the surrounding agricultural fields, as well as individual buildings and stairs, are all oriented along the trends of these major faults. "The layout clearly reflects the fracture matrix underlying the site," says Menegat. Other ancient Incan cities, including Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Cusco, are also located at the intersection of faults, says Menegat. "Each is precisely the expression of the main directions of the site's geological faults."
Menegat's results indicate the underlying fault-and-fracture network is as integral to Machu Picchu's construction as its legendary stonework. This mortar-free masonry features stones so perfectly fitted together that it's impossible to slide a credit card between them. As master stoneworkers, the Incas took advantage of the abundant building materials in the fault zone, says Menegat. "The intense fracturing there predisposed the rocks to breaking along these same planes of weakness, which greatly reduced the energy needed to carve them."
In addition to helping shape individual stones, the fault network at Machu Picchu likely offered the Incas other advantages, according to Menegat. Chief among these was a ready source of water. "The area's tectonic faults channeled meltwater and rainwater straight to the site," he says. Construction of the sanctuary in such a high perch also had the benefit of isolating the site from avalanches and landslides, all-too-common hazards in this alpine environment, Menegat explains.
The faults and fractures underlying Machu Picchu also helped drain the site during the intense rainstorms prevalent in the region. "About two-thirds of the effort to build the sanctuary involved constructing subsurface drainages," says Menegat. "The preexisting fractures aided this process and help account for its remarkable preservation," he says. "Machu Picchu clearly shows us that the Incan civilization was an empire of fractured rocks."