Thursday, January 30, 2020

New study identifies Neanderthal ancestry in African populations and describes its origin

Princeton researchers led by Joshua Akey discovered that all modern humans carry some Neanderthal ancestry in their DNA - including Africans, which was not previously known

IMAGE: A team of Princeton researchers led by Joshua Akey found that that African individuals have considerably more Neanderthal ancestry than previously thought, which was only observable through the development of... view more 
Credit: Matilda Luk, Princeton University Office of Communications
When the first Neanderthal genome was sequenced, using DNA collected from ancient bones, it was accompanied by the discovery that modern humans in Asia, Europe and America inherited approximately 2% of their DNA from Neanderthals -- proving humans and Neanderthals had interbred after humans left Africa. Since that study, new methods have continued to catalogue Neanderthal ancestry in non-African populations, seeking to better understand human history and the effects of Neanderthal DNA on human health and disease. A comparable catalogue of Neanderthal ancestry in African populations, however, has remained an acknowledged blind spot for the field due to technical constraints and the assumption that Neanderthals and ancestral African populations were geographically isolated from each other.
In a paper published today in the journal Cell, a team of Princeton researchers detailed a new computational method for detecting Neanderthal ancestry in the human genome. Their method, called IBDmix, enabled them for the first time to search for Neanderthal ancestry in African populations as well as non-African ones. The project was led by Joshua Akey, a professor in Princeton's Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics (LSI).
"This is the first time we can detect the actual signal of Neanderthal ancestry in Africans," said co-first author Lu Chen, a postdoctoral research associate in LSI. "And it surprisingly showed a higher level than we previously thought," she said.
The method the Princeton researchers developed, IBDmix, draws its name from the genetic principle "identity by descent" (IBD), in which a section of DNA in two individuals is identical because those individuals once shared a common ancestor. The length of the IBD segment depends on how long ago those individuals shared a common ancestor. For example, siblings share long IBD segments because their shared ancestor (a parent) is only one generation removed. Alternatively, fourth cousins share shorter IBD segments because their shared ancestor (a third-great grandparent) is several generations removed.
The Princeton team leveraged the principle of IBD to identify Neanderthal DNA in the human genome by distinguishing sequences that look similar to Neanderthals because we once shared a common ancestor in the very distant past (~500,000 years ago), from those that look similar because we interbred in the more recent present (~50,000 years ago). Previous methods relied on "reference populations" to aid the distinction of shared ancestry from recent interbreeding, usually African populations believed to carry little or no Neanderthal DNA. However, this reliance could bias estimates of Neanderthal ancestry depending on which reference population was used. The Princeton researchers termed IBDmix a "reference free method" because it does not use an African reference population. Instead, IBDmix uses characteristics of the Neanderthal sequence itself, like the frequency of mutations or the length of the IBD segments, to distinguish shared ancestry from recent interbreeding. The researchers were therefore able to identify Neanderthal ancestry in Africans for the first time and make new estimates of Neanderthal ancestry in non-Africans, which showed Europeans and Asians to have more equal levels than previously described.
Kelley Harris, a population geneticist at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study, noted that the new estimates of Neanderthal ancestry using IBDmix highlight the technical problem in methods reliant on reference panels. "We might have to go back and revisit a bunch of results from the published literature and evaluate whether the same technical issue has been throwing off our understanding of gene flow in other species," she said.
In addition to identifying Neanderthal ancestry in African populations, the researchers described two revelations about the origin of the Neanderthal sequences. First, they determined that the Neanderthal ancestry in Africans was not due to an independent interbreeding event between Neanderthals and African populations. Based on features of the data, the research team concluded that migrations from ancient Europeans back into Africa introduced Neanderthal ancestry into African populations.
Second, by comparing data from simulations of human history to data from real people, the researchers determined that some of the detected Neanderthal ancestry in Africans was actually due to human DNA introduced into the Neanderthal genome. The authors emphasized that this human-to-Neanderthal gene flow involved an early dispersing group of humans out of Africa, occurring at least 100,000 years ago -- before the Out-of-Africa migration responsible for modern human colonization of Europe and Asia and before the interbreeding event that introduced Neanderthal DNA into modern humans. The finding reaffirmed that hybridization between humans and closely related species was a recurrent part of our evolutionary history.
While the Princeton researchers acknowledged the limited number of African populations they were able to analyze, they hope their new method and their findings will encourage more study of Neanderthal ancestry across Africa and other populations. Regarding the overall significance of the research, Chen said: "This demonstrates the remnants of Neanderthal genomes survive in every modern human population studied to date."

Israel Antiquities Authority recovers hundreds of ancient coins from the home of known antiquities thief.

The Israel Antiquities Authority’s Theft Prevention Unit (“The Unit”) had there eyes on a resident of Kfar Kana for some time. Twice he had been caught red-handed using a metal detector without a permit and digging at antiquities sites without authorization. On both these occasions the perpetrator was tried in court, convicted, and sentenced to a fee. Nonetheless, the robber was undeterred. In collaboration with the Kfar Kana Police department, The Unit arrested the suspect for questioning, and searched his house. As a result, they recovered a cache of 232 ancient coins.

The Unit’s investigators identified coins from the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, representing about 2000 years of history. According to Dr. Eitan Klein, The Unit’s Deputy Director, coins are of particular scientific value because they can be used to date antiquities sites with great accuracy. Klein says, “A coin stolen from an antiquities site is an important piece of information that will be missing when archaeologists want to carry out an archaeological excavation, and in fact is a missing part of the historical puzzle of Israel.” 

  Photo: Yaron Bibas, Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
  Photo: Yaron Bibas, Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

  Photo: Yaron Bibas, Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Early North Americans much more diverse than previously believed

Ancient skulls tell new story about our first settlers

An analysis of four ancient skulls found in Mexico suggests that the first humans to settle in North America were more biologically diverse than scientists had previously believed. The skulls were from individuals who lived 9,000 to 13,000 years ago, in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene eras.
These findings complicate the story accepted until now, based on ancient skeletons analyzed from South America, which suggested the first settlers in the Americas were very similar, said Mark Hubbe, co-lead author of the study and professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University.
"The first Americans were much more complex, much more diverse than we thought," Hubbe said.
"We have always talked about the settlement of the Americas as if North America and South America were the same. But they are different continents with different stories of how they were settled."
Hubbe led the work with Alejandro Terrazas Mata of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico. Their work was published today (Jan. 29, 2020) in PLOS ONE.
Archaeologists discovered the four skulls between 2008 and 2015 in submerged caves in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. At the time the four people were living, the caves were above sea level.
The skulls were analyzed with a CT scan, which combines data from several X-rays to build a 3D image of each skull.
The researchers analyzed the scans for specific landmarks on each skull and measured their positions on a 3D grid. They then compared the position of the coordinates with skulls from reference populations from all over the world to determine which populations the skulls most resembled.
The oldest skull showed strong similarities to North American arctic populations, while the second-oldest skull was consistent with modern European populations. The third skull showed affinities with Asian and Native American groups and the fourth had affinities with arctic populations in addition to having some modern South American features.
These skulls are important because compared to South America, relatively few ancient skeletons have been found in North America, Hubbe said. Between 300 and 400 skeletons that are more than 8,000 years old have been found in South America, compared to fewer than 20 in North America.
"Not all the skulls we analyzed looked like the ones from South America. They are fairly distinct as far as the morphology," he said.
The results suggest that the initial populations that ventured from Asia into North America had a high level of biological diversity, Hubbe said. For whatever reason, that diversity was reduced as humans dispersed into South America.
"We always assumed that what was happening in South America was true in North America. Now we need to revise that.
"We need to stop talking about the settlement of the Americas. We should talk about the settlement of North America and the settlement of South America as very different."
Hubbe said the results also caution against trying to create overly simple narratives about human migration, especially in the Americas.
"Whatever we thought about the settlement of the Americas is probably not the whole story. We still have a lot to learn."

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

New study debunks myth of Cahokia's Native American lost civilization

Ancient poop levels point to repopulation of iconic pre-Columbian metropolis
University of California - Berkeley
A University of California, Berkeley, archaeologist has dug up ancient human feces, among other demographic clues, to challenge the narrative around the legendary demise of Cahokia, North America's most iconic pre-Columbian metropolis.
In its heyday in the 1100s, Cahokia -- located in what is now southern Illinois -- was the center for Mississippian culture and home to tens of thousands of Native Americans who farmed, fished, traded and built giant ritual mounds.
By the 1400s, Cahokia had been abandoned due to floods, droughts, resource scarcity and other drivers of depopulation. But contrary to romanticized notions of Cahokia's lost civilization, the exodus was short-lived, according to a new UC Berkeley study.
The study takes on the "myth of the vanishing Indian" that favors decline and disappearance over Native American resilience and persistence, said lead author A.J. White, a UC Berkeley doctoral student in anthropology.
"One would think the Cahokia region was a ghost town at the time of European contact, based on the archeological record," White said. "But we were able to piece together a Native American presence in the area that endured for centuries."
The findings, just published in the journal American Antiquity, make the case that a fresh wave of Native Americans repopulated the region in the 1500s and kept a steady presence there through the 1700s, when migrations, warfare, disease and environmental change led to a reduction in the local population.
White and fellow researchers at California State University, Long Beach, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northeastern University analyzed fossil pollen, the remnants of ancient feces, charcoal and other clues to reconstruct a post-Mississippian lifestyle.
Their evidence paints a picture of communities built around maize farming, bison hunting and possibly even controlled burning in the grasslands, which is consistent with the practices of a network of tribes known as the Illinois Confederation.
Unlike the Mississippians who were firmly rooted in the Cahokia metropolis, the Illinois Confederation tribe members roamed further afield, tending small farms and gardens, hunting game and breaking off into smaller groups when resources became scarce.
The linchpin holding together the evidence of their presence in the region were "fecal stanols" derived from human waste preserved deep in the sediment under Horseshoe Lake, Cahokia's main catchment area.
Fecal stanols are microscopic organic molecules produced in our gut when we digest food, especially meat. They are excreted in our feces and can be preserved in layers of sediment for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Because humans produce fecal stanols in far greater quantities than animals, their levels can be used to gauge major changes in a region's population.
To collect the evidence, White and colleagues paddled out into Horseshoe Lake, which is adjacent to Cahokia Mounds State Historical Site, and dug up core samples of mud some 10 feet below the lakebed. By measuring concentrations of fecal stanols, they were able to gauge population changes from the Mississippian period through European contact.
Fecal stanol data were also gauged in White's first study of Cahokia's Mississippian Period demographic changes, published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. It found that climate change in the form of back-to-back floods and droughts played a key role in the exodus of Cahokia's Mississippian inhabitants.
But while many studies have focused on the reasons for Cahokia's decline, few have looked at the region following the exodus of Mississippians, whose culture is estimated to have spread through the Midwestern, Southeastern and Eastern United States from 700 A.D. to the 1500s.
White's latest study sought to fill those gaps in the Cahokia area's history.
"There's very little archaeological evidence for an indigenous population past Cahokia, but we were able to fill in the gaps through historical, climatic and ecological data, and the linchpin was the fecal stanol evidence," White said.
Overall, the results suggest that the Mississippian decline did not mark the end of a Native American presence in the Cahokia region, but rather reveal a complex series of migrations, warfare and ecological changes in the 1500s and 1600s, before Europeans arrived on the scene, White said.
"The story of Cahokia was a lot more complex than, 'Goodbye, Native Americans. Hello, Europeans,' and our study uses innovative and unusual evidence to show that," White said.

Climate changes in Africa may have aided human migration

In 1961, John Kutzbach, then a recent college graduate, was stationed in France as an aviation weather forecaster for the U.S. Air Force. There, he found himself exploring the storied caves of Dordogne, including the prehistoric painted caves at Lascoux.
Thinking about the ancient people and animals who would have gathered in these caves for warmth and shelter, he took up an interest in glaciology. "It was interesting to me, as a weather person, that people would live so close to an ice sheet," says Kutzbach, emeritus University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
Kutzbach went on to a career studying how changes in Earth's movements through space - the shape of its orbit, its tilt on its axis, its wobble - and other factors, including ice cover and greenhouse gases, affect its climate. Many years after reveling at Ice Age cave art, today he's trying to better understand how changes in Earth's climate may have influenced human migration out of Africa.
In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Kutzbach and a team of researchers trace changes in climate and vegetation in Africa, Arabia and the Mediterranean going back 140,000 years to aid others studying the influences underlying human dispersal.
The study describes a dynamic climate and vegetation model that explains when regions across Africa, areas of the Middle East, and the Mediterranean were wetter and drier and how the plant composition changed in tandem, possibly providing migration corridors throughout time.
"We don't really know why people move, but if the presence of more vegetation is helpful, these are the times that would have been advantageous to them," Kutzbach says.
The model also illuminates relationships between Earth's climate and its orbit, greenhouse gas concentrations, and its ice sheets.
For instance, the model shows that around 125,000 years ago, northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula experienced increased and more northerly-reaching summer monsoon rainfall that led to narrowing of the Saharan and Arabian deserts due to increased grassland. At the same time, in the Mediterranean and the Levant (an area that includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine), winter storm track rainfall also increased.
These changes were driven by Earth's position relative to the sun. The Northern Hemisphere at the time was as close as possible to the sun during the summer, and as far away as possible during the winter. This resulted in warm, wet summers and cold winters.
"It's like two hands meeting," says Kutzbach. "There were stronger summer rains in the Sahara and stronger winter rains in the Mediterranean."
Given the nature of Earth's orbital movements, collectively called Milankovitch cycles, the region should be positioned this way roughly every 21,000 years. Every 10,000 years or so, the Northern Hemisphere would then be at its furthest point from the sun during the summer, and closest during winter.
Indeed, the model showed large increases in rainfall and vegetation at 125,000, at 105,000, and at 83,000 years ago, with corresponding decreases at 115,000, at 95,000 and at 73,000 years ago, when summer monsoons decreased in magnitude and stayed further south.
Between roughly 70,000 and 15,000 years ago, Earth was in a glacial period and the model showed that the presence of ice sheets and reduced greenhouse gases increased winter Mediterranean storms but limited the southern retreat of the summer monsoon. The reduced greenhouse gases also caused cooling near the equator, leading to a drier climate there and reduced forest cover.
These changing regional patterns of climate and vegetation could have created resource gradients for humans living in Africa, driving migration outward to areas with more water and plant life.
For the study, the researchers, including Kutzbach's UW-Madison colleagues Ian Orland and Feng He, along with researchers at Peking University and the University of Arizona, used the Community Climate System Model version 3 from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. They ran simulations that accounted for orbital changes alone, combined orbital and greenhouse gas changes, and a third that combined those influences plus the influence of ice sheets.
It was Kutzbach who, in the 1970s and 1980s, confirmed that changes in Earth's orbit can drive the strength of summer monsoons around the globe by influencing how much sunlight, and therefore, how much warming reaches a given part of the planet.
Forty years ago, there was evidence for periodic strong monsoons in Africa, but no one knew why, Kutzbach says. He showed that orbital changes on Earth could lead to warmer summers and thus, stronger monsoons. He also read about periods of "greening" in the Sahara, often used to explain early human migration into the typically-arid Middle East.
"My early work prepared me to think about this," he says.
His current modeling work mostly agrees with collected data from each region, including observed evidence from old lake beds, pollen records, cave features, and marine sediments. A recent study led by Orland used cave records in the Levant to show that summer monsoons reached into the region around 125,000 years ago.
"We get some things wrong (in the model)," says Kutzbach, so the team continues to refine it. For instance, the model doesn't get cold enough in southern Europe during the glacial period and not all vegetation changes match observed data. Computing power has also improved since they ran the model.
"This is by no means the last word," Kutzbach says. "The results should be looked at again with an even higher-resolution model."

Study focused on ancient skull and mandible remains at Crenshaw, a Caddo Indian site in southwest Arkansas.

Working with lead isotopes taken from tooth enamel of prehistoric animals, researchers at the University of Arkansas have developed a new method for assessing the geographic origins of ancient humans.
John Samuelsen, doctoral candidate in anthropology and research assistant at the Arkansas Archeological Survey, analyzed linear patterning of lead isotopes on teeth from a 600- to 800-year-old skull and mandible cemetery at the Crenshaw site in southwest Arkansas. The new method allowed the researchers to compare the ancient human teeth to those of prehistoric animals, as well as rocks and soil samples, taken from the same area.
The research, sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation, was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
The Crenshaw site along the Red River is a culturally significant multiple-mound ceremonial center of the Caddo Indians. Previous studies have yielded conflicting interpretations of what the human skulls and mandibles reflect. Some research suggests the remains belonged to victims of violence who came from outside the region, while other research suggests the remains represent a local Caddo Indian burial practice of their own ancestors.
Samuelsen emphasized that a full evaluation of the human remains will be addressed in a future study, but he and Potra found that teeth of five of the 352 individuals tested with the new method contained isotopic signatures consistent with those found in the teeth of prehistoric animals from several sites in the area. Moreover, their isotopic signatures were inconsistent with isotopes from humans and animals from other regions.
"While our focus in this article is to establish a method for using lead isotopes to evaluate ancient human geographic origins," Samuelsen said, "this does suggest that at least these five individuals were from southwest Arkansas."
Lead is a toxic trace metal that affects the health of biological organisms, but it is useful for determining geographic origins. Its isotopic content within human and animal tooth enamel, via food chain pathways, reflects the geology of the region in which an organism grew up. While the lead isotopes from animal teeth were successful at identifying local human remains, versus those from other geographical areas, those isotopes taken from nearby rocks were far too variable to be useful for the same purpose, Samuelsen said. Rock analysis was done by Adriana Potra, associate professor of geosciences, who co-authored the paper.
A major research concern with lead isotope studies is modern, human-caused lead contamination found on soil, rocks and human and animal remains. If modern lead from gas, mines or industrial sources has contaminated the remains, then the lead isotopes will not reflect their original locations. Even if they are uncontaminated by modern lead, the natural soil contains lead that can affect the results similarly. For these reasons, the researchers' study used three different methods to assess contamination and provided recommendations for future research.
With these concerns in mind, the researchers performed isotopic work within the metal-free, modular Radiogenic Isotope Laboratory, a "room inside a room" clean lab at the University of Arkansas. The isotopic and trace element data were collected at the Trace Element and Radiogenic Isotope Laboratory, with help from Erik Pollock, scientific research technician in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Barry Shaulis, research associate in the Department of Geosciences. High accuracy isotopic data were collected on a multi-collector, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer. Drilling of teeth was performed with a Leica M80 binocular microscope, housed by Celina Suarez, associate professor of geosciences.
The research project is supervised by George Sabo, director of the Arkansas Archeological Survey. Sabo is Samuelsen's graduate advisor. The research was funded by the Department of Anthropology and the Arkansas Archeological Society, in addition to the National Science Foundation. The study is being conducted in collaboration with the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma to help answer questions the tribe has about the cultural affiliation and origin of the remains.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Latest Archaeology News

Asia and Oceania

3,000-year-old teeth solve Pacific banana mystery

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 day ago
University of Otago [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *The findings were made from 3,000-year-old skeletons at Teouma, the oldest archaeological cemetery in Remote Oceania, a region that includes Vanuatu and all of the Pacific Islands east and South,... view more Credit: University of Otago Humans began transporting and growing banana in Vanuatu 3000 years ago, a University of Otago scientist has discovered. The discovery is the earliest evidence of humans taking and cultivating banana in to what was the last area of the planet to be colonised. In an article published this week in *Nature Hum... more »

Early humans arrived in Southeast Asia later than previously believed

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
American Association for the Advancement of Science New dates from the World Heritage archeological site at Sangiran on the island of Java suggest that that the first appearance of *Homo erectus* occurred more recently than previously thought, researchers report. The new findings place the arrival of the first hominins in Sangiran between 1.3-1.5 million years ago (Ma), suggesting that early humans migrated from Asia to Southeast Asia and Java nearly 300,000 years later than previously believed. The fossil-rich Sangiran dome in Java contains the oldest human fossils in Southeast Asi... more »

The last known settlement by a direct ancestor to modern humans

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 5 weeks ago
*Homo erectus*, one of modern humans' direct ancestors, was a wandering bunch. After the species dispersed from Africa about two million years ago, it colonized the ancient world, which included Asia and possibly Europe. But about 400,000 years ago, *Homo erectus* essentially vanished. The lone exception was a spot called Ngandong, on the Indonesian island of Java. But scientists were unable to agree on a precise time period for the site--until now. In a new study published in the journal *Nature*, an international team of researchers led by the University of Iowa; Macquarie Universi... more »
Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 month ago
An Indonesian cave painting that depicts a prehistoric hunting scene could be the world's oldest figurative artwork dating back nearly 44,000 years, a discovery that points to an advanced artistic culture, according to new research. Spotted two years ago on the island of Sulawesi, the 4.5 metre (13 foot) wide painting features wild animals being chased by half-human hunters wielding what appear to be spears and ropes, Complete report Using dating technology, the team at Australia's Griffith University said it had confirmed that the limestone cave painting dated back at least 4... more »

Scientists find that tin found in Israel from 3,000 years ago comes from Cornwall, England.

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 day ago
Complete article Scientists have revealed tin ingots from more than 3,000 years ago found in Israel. They have established that ancient tin ingots found in Israel actually came from what is now modern-day Britain. Archaeologists believe it shows that tin was transported over long distances about 3000 years ago. Moreover, the researchers may have solved the mystery of the origin of the tin that was so vital for Bronze Age cultures. The origins of Bronze-age tin ingots have been investigated by researchers from the University of Heidelberg and the Curt Engelhorn Center for Archaeom... more »

Study reveals 2 writers penned landmark inscriptions in 8th-century BCE Samaria

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 day ago
Discovery illuminates bureaucratic apparatus of ancient kingdom of Israel, say Tel Aviv University researchers American Friends of Tel Aviv University [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Ostraca (ink on clay inscriptions) from Samaria, the capital of biblical Israel. The inscriptions are dated to the early 8th century BCE. Colorized Ostraca images are courtesy of the Semitic... view more Credit: American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Colorized images courtesy of the Semitic Museum, Harvard University. The ancient Samaria ostraca -- eighth-century BCE ink-on-clay inscriptions unearthed at the b... more »

Ancient Potter's Secret 'Piggy Bank' Uncovered in 1,200-Year-Old Ceramics Kiln in Israel

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
*1,200 year old hoard of gold coins found in Israel Antiquities Authority excavations at Yavneh* “Hanukka Gelt” was found last week during archaeological excavations in Yavneh during excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) prior to the development of a new neighborhood at the behest of the Israel Lands Authority. The archaeologists were surprised to discover a broken clay juglet containing gold coins dating to the Early Islamic period. The excavations revealed an ancient industrial area which was active for several hundred years, and the archaeologists sugges... more »

Findings Point to Site of Jerusalem’s Millennia-Old Marketplace on Pilgrimage Road

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Photo Credit: Ari Levi, Antiquities Authorities Helene Machline, Israel Antiquities Authority Archaeologist, with the table portion. The top of a rare 2000-year-old measuring table used for liquid items such as wine and olive oil has been discovered in what appears to have been a major town square along the Pilgrimage Road in Jerusalem. The discovery was made during excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the City of David National Park. The top part of the measuring table / Ari Levi, Israel Antiquities AuthoritiesIn addition to the measuring table, tens of st... more »

7,000-year-old seawall in Tel Hreiz, Israel reveals earliest known structure built against sea level rise

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 5 weeks ago
[image: IMAGE]Flinders University *IMAGE: * Photographs of finds from the Tel Hreiz settlement: (a-b) exposure of stone-built features in shallow water. (c) wooden posts dug into the seabed. (d) bifacial flintadze. (e) in situ stone bowl made... view more Credit: All photographs by E. Galili with the exception of Fig 3G by V. Eshed Ancient Neolithic villagers on the Carmel Coast in Israel built a seawall to protect their settlement against rising sea levels in the Mediterranean, revealing humanity's struggle against rising oceans and flooding stretches back thousands of years. An ... more »

Roman Fish Sauce - Made in Ashkelon

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 5 weeks ago
Archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently discovered ancient vats for producing fish sauce about 2km south of Ashkelon. Fish sauce (garum) was a popular condiment in the Mediterranean diet during the Roman and Byzantine periods, but archaeologists have rarely found the installations used to produce it. These vats are among the few discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean. “ Long before pasta and pizza, the ancient Roman diet was based largely on fish sauce. Historical sources refer to the production of special fish sauce, that was used as a basic condiment... more »

Beach-combing Neanderthals dove for shells

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
Did Neanderthals wear swimsuits? Probably not. But a new study suggests that some of these ancient humans might have spent a lot of time at the beach. They may even have dived into the cool waters of the Mediterranean Sea to gather clam shells. The findings come from Grotta dei Moscerini, a picturesque cave that sits just 10 feet above a beach in what is today the Latium region of central Italy. In 1949, archaeologists working at the site dug up some unusual artifacts: dozens of seashells that Neanderthals had picked up, then shaped into sharp tools roughly 90,000 years ago. Now, ... more »
Near East and Egypt

Anthropologists confirm existence of specialized sheep-hunting camp in prehistoric Lebanon

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 day ago
Early evidence of complex system of hunter-gatherer practices just before domestication University of Toronto TORONTO, ON - Anthropologists at the University of Toronto (U of T) have confirmed the existence more than 10,000 years ago of a hunting camp in what is now northeastern Lebanon - one that straddles the period marking the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural settlements at the onset of the last stone age. Analysis of decades-old data collected from Nachcharini Cave high in the Anti-Lebanon mountain range that forms the modern-day border between ... more »

Celebrated ancient Egyptian woman physician likely never existed

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 5 weeks ago
For decades, an ancient Egyptian known as Merit Ptah has been celebrated as the first female physician and a role model for women entering medicine. Yet a researcher from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus now says she never existed and is an example of how misconceptions can spread. "Almost like a detective, I had to trace back her story, following every lead, to discover how it all began and who invented Merit Ptah," said Jakub Kwiecinski, PhD, an instructor in the Dept. of Immunology and Microbiology at the CU School of Medicine and a medical historian. His stud... more »

Rare find: human teeth used as jewelry in Turkey 8,500 years ago

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 month ago
University of Copenhagen - Faculty of Humanities [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *The two drilled 8,500-year-old human teeth found at Çatalhöyük in Turkey. view more Credit: University of Copenhagen At a prehistoric archaeological site in Turkey, researchers have discovered two 8,500-year-old human teeth, which had been used as pendants in a necklace or bracelet. Researchers have never documented this practice before in the prehistoric Near East, and the rarity of the find suggests that the human teeth were imbued with profound symbolic meaning for the people who wore them. During excavatio... more »

Archaeologists has uncovered — for the first time — two “head cones” in the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 month ago
Ancient Egyptians wearing head cones of wax were excavated from graves at Amarna, south of Cairo. A. Stevens et al., via The Amarna Project and Antiquity Publications, 2019 via The New York Times. Complete report Painted throughout ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics are scenes of people at boisterous banquets. On top of the dark, braided heads of some revelers sat peculiar white cones. Archaeologists have long puzzled over the purpose of the mysterious headgear, and whether they were real items worn by people, or just iconographic ornaments, like halos crowning saints in Christia... more »

First ancient DNA from West Africa illuminates the deep human past

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 day ago
A team of international researchers dug deep to find some of the oldest African DNA on record, in a new study published in Nature Saint Louis University [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *The Shum Laka rock shelter in Cameroon, home to an ancient population that bears little genetic resemblance to most people who live in the region today. view more Credit: Photo by Pierre de Maret. A team of international researchers, which includes a Saint Louis University Madrid anthropologist, dug deep to find some of the oldest African DNA on record, in a new study published in *Nature*. Africa is the homel... more »

Early humans revealed to have engineered optimized stone tools at Olduvai Gorge

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
University of Kent Early Stone Age populations living between 1.8 - 1.2 million years ago engineered their stone tools in complex ways to make optimised cutting tools, according to a new study by University of Kent and UCL. The research, published in the Journal of *Royal Society Interface*, shows that Palaeolithic hominins selected different raw materials for different stone tools based on how sharp, durable and efficient those materials were. They made these decisions in conjunction with information about the length of time the tools would be used for and the force with which th... more »

Early modern humans cooked starchy food in South Africa, 170,000 years ago

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
The discovery also points to food being shared and the use of wooden digging sticks to extract the plants from the ground University of the Witwatersrand [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: **Hypoxis angustifolia* growth habit. view more Credit: Prof. Lyn Wadley/Wits University "The inhabitants of the Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains on the Kwazulu-Natal/eSwatini border were cooking starchy plants 170 thousand years ago," says Professor Lyn Wadley, a scientist from the Wits Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa (Wits ESI). "This discovery is much ... more »

Ostrich eggshell beads reveal 10,000 years of cultural interaction across Africa

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 month ago
Ostrich eggshell beads are some of the oldest ornaments made by humankind, and they can be found dating back at least 50,000 years in Africa. Previous research in southern Africa has shown that the beads increase in size about 2,000 years ago, when herding populations first enter the region. In the current study, researchers Jennifer Miller and Elizabeth Sawchuk investigate this idea using increased data and evaluate the hypothesis in a new region where it has never before been tested. *Review of old ideas, analysis of old collections* To conduct their study, the researchers recorded... more »

Pre-Hispanic history, genetic changes among indigenous Mexican populations

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 day ago
Recent highlights from the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford University Press) [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *To better understand the broad demographic history of pre-Hispanic Mexico and to search for signatures of adaptive evolution, an international team led by Mexican scientists have sequenced the complete protein-coding... view more Credit: Ruben Mendoza, National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity (LANGEBIO) - UGA, CINVESTAV As more and more large-scale human genome sequencing projects get completed, scientists have been able to trace... more »

Gold bar found in Mexico was Aztec treasure

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 4 days ago
Complete article The 1.93-kilogram bar was found by a construction worker during excavations for a new building along the Alameda. Photo: MNA-INAH. A gold bar found in a Mexico City park in 1981 was part of the Aztec treasure looted by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadors 500 years ago, a new study says. The 1.93-kilogram bar was found by a construction worker during excavations for a new building along the Alameda, a picturesque park in the heart of the Mexican capital. For 39 years, its origins remained a mystery. But thanks to specialized X-rays, Mexico's Nation... more »

The colors of the Pachacamac idol, an Inca god, finally revealed

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 week ago
CNRS [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *In the last picture, the red arrows mark the presence of red pigments containing mercury. view more Credit: © Marcela Sepulveda/Rommel Angeles/Museo de sitio Pachacamac The legend of Pachacamac will not soon die. Since the 16th century, Spanish chroniclers have said that Hernando Pizarro had destroyed the idol of the deity when he conquered the Inca Empire in the Andes. But a carved wooden post representing Pachacamac was discovered on the archaeological site of the same name in 1938, so it was considered that the Spaniards may have been wrong in thinki... more »

Caribbean settlement began in Greater Antilles

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 5 weeks ago
Rigorous reexamination of radiocarbon dating of sites on 55 islands shoots down the idea that colonization moved step by step from south to north University of Oregon [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Students from the University of Oregon, North Carolina State University and University College London work at a Grand Bay cultural site on Carriacou Island, located in the Grenada Grenadines in... view more Credit: Photo by Scott Fitzpatrick EUGENE, Ore. - Dec. 18, 2019 - A fresh, comprehensive look at archaeological data suggests that seafaring South Americans settled first on the large norther... more »

Ancient dietary practices in Mexico

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 month ago
New research from anthropologists at McMaster University and California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), is shedding light on ancient dietary practices, the evolution of agricultural societies and ultimately, how plants have become an important element of the modern diet. Researchers examined plant remains found on ceramic artifacts such as bowls, bottles and jars, and stone tools such as blades and drills, dating to the Early Formative period (2000-1000 BCE), which were excavated from the village site of La Consentida, located in the coastal region of Oaxaca in southwest ... more »

Exhibition at The Met to Explore Superb Artistic Achievements of Ancestral Caribbean Civilizations

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 month ago
*Exhibition Dates:* December 16, 2019–January 10, 2021 *Exhibition Location:* The Met Fifth Avenue, Floor 1, The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, Gallery 359 Deity Figure (zemí) (detail), ca. A.D. 1000. Dominican Republic (?). Taíno. Wood (Guaiacum), shell, 27 x 8 5/8 x 9 1/8 in. (68.5 x 21.9 x 23.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 A special exhibition highlighting the artistic achievements of early Caribbean civilizations will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginni... more »

Late Neolithic Italy was home to complex networks of metal exchange

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 day ago
Analysis reveals where prehistoric Italian communities got their copper, from Tuscany and beyond PLOS [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Articulated burial and dismembered human remains from Ponte San Pietro, tomb 22. The chamber tomb is typical of the Rinaldone burial custom, central Italy, c.3600-2200 BC. Reprinted from Miari 1995 under... view more Credit: Dolfini et al, 2020 During the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, Italy was home to complex networks of metalwork exchange, according to a study published January 22, 2020 in the open-access journal *PLOS ONE* by Andrea Dolfini of Newcastle Univer... more »

The Vikings erected a runestone out of fear of a climate catastrophe

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
University of Gothenburg [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Rök runes. view more Credit: Helge Andersson Several passages on the Rök stone - the world's most famous Viking Age runic monument - suggest that the inscription is about battles and for over a hundred years, researchers have been trying to connect the inscription with heroic deeds in war. Now, thanks to an interdisciplinary research project, a new interpretation of the inscription is being presented. The study shows that the inscription deals with an entirely different kind of battle: the conflict between light and darkness, warmth ... more »

Magnitude of Great Lisbon Earthquake may have been lower than previous estimates

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
The magnitude of the Great Lisbon Earthquake event, a historic and devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Portugal on All Saints' Day in 1755, may not be as high as previously estimated. In his study published in the *Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America*, Joao F. B. D. Fonseca at the Universidade de Lisboa used macroseismic data -- contemporaneous reports of shaking and damage -- from Portugal, Spain and Morocco to calculate the earthquake's magnitude at 7.7. Previous estimates placed the earthquake at magnitude 8.5 to 9.0. Fonseca's analysis also locates the epi... more »

Over-hunting walruses contributed to the collapse of Norse Greenland

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Church ruins from Norse Greenland's Eastern Settlement. view more Credit: James H. Barrett The mysterious disappearance of Greenland's Norse colonies sometime in the 15th century may have been down to the overexploitation of walrus populations for their tusks, according to a study of medieval artefacts from across Europe. Founded by Erik the Red around 985AD after his exile from Iceland (or so the Sagas tell us), Norse communities in Greenland thrived for centuries - even gaining a bishop - before vanishing in the 1400s, leaving only ruins. Latest research fro... more »
Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 4 weeks ago
Roman emperors faced a high risk of violent death in their first year of rule, but the risk slowly declined over the next seven years, according to an article published in the open access journal *Palgrave Communications*. When statistically modelled, the length of time from the beginning of their reign until their death followed a set pattern, similar to that seen in reliability engineering, interdisciplinary research by Dr Joseph Saleh, an Aerospace Engineer from the Georgia Institute of Technology, US suggests. Historical records show that of 69 rulers of the unified Roman Empire... more »

Large scale feasts at ancient capital of Ulster drew crowds from across Iron Age Ireland

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 4 weeks ago
[image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *One of the analysed pig jaws for the study. view more Credit: Dr Richard Madgwick People transported animals over huge distances for mass gatherings at one of Ireland's most iconic archaeological sites, research concludes. Dr Richard Madgwick of Cardiff University led the study, which analysed the bones of 35 animals excavated from Navan Fort, the legendary capital of Ulster. Researchers from Queen's University Belfast, Memorial University Newfoundland and the British Geological Survey were also involved in the research. The site had long been considered a cen... more »

New archaeological discoveries reveal birch bark tar was used in medieval England

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 4 weeks ago
University of Bristol [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Skeleton from grave 293, Anglo-Saxon child burial. view more Credit: Oxford Archaeology East Scientists from the University of Bristol and the British Museum, in collaboration with Oxford Archaeology East and Canterbury Archaeological Trust, have, for the first time, identified the use of birch bark tar in medieval England - the use of which was previously thought to be limited to prehistory. Birch bark tar is a manufactured product with a history of production and use that reaches back to the Palaeolithic. It is very sticky, and is wate... more »

Archaeologists find Bronze Age tombs lined with gold

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 5 weeks ago
The family tombs are near the 2015 site of the 'Griffin Warrior,' a military leader buried with armor, weapons and jewelry. University of Cincinnati [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *UC archaeologists found a sealstone made from semiprecious carnelian in the family tombs at Pylos, Greece. The sealstone was engraved with two lionlike mythological figures called genii carrying serving vessels... view more Credit: UC Classics Archaeologists with the University of Cincinnati have discovered two Bronze Age tombs containing a trove of engraved jewelry and artifacts that promise to unlock secrets a... more »

Ancient 'chewing gum' yields insights into people and bacteria of the past

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 5 weeks ago
University of Copenhagen The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *During excavations on Lolland, Denmark, archaeologists have found a 5,700-year-old birch pitch. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have succeeded in extracting a complete ancient human genome from the pitch... view more Credit: Photo: Theis Jensen. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have succeeded in extracting a complete human genome from a thousands-of-years old "chewing gum". According to the researchers, it is a new untapped source of ancient DNA. During excavations o... more »

Long-distance timber trade underpinned the Roman Empire's construction

Jonathan KantrowitzatArchaeology News Report - 1 month ago
The ancient Romans relied on long-distance timber trading to construct their empire, according to a study published December 4, 2019 in the open-access journal *PLOS ONE* by Mauro Bernabei from the National Research Council, Italy, and colleagues. The timber requirements of ancient Rome were immense and complex, with different types of trees from various locations around the Roman Empire and beyond used for many purposes, including construction, shipbuilding and firewood. Unfortunately, the timber trade in ancient Rome is poorly understood, as little wood has been found in a state a... more »

Thursday, January 23, 2020

3,000-year-old teeth solve Pacific banana mystery

University of Otago
Humans began transporting and growing banana in Vanuatu 3000 years ago, a University of Otago scientist has discovered.
The discovery is the earliest evidence of humans taking and cultivating banana in to what was the last area of the planet to be colonised.
In an article published this week in Nature Human Behaviour, Dr Monica Tromp, Senior Laboratory Analyst at the University of Otago's Southern Pacific Archaeological Research (SPAR), found microscopic particles of banana and other plants trapped in calcified dental plaque of the first settlers of Vanuatu.
The finds came from 3000-year-old skeletons at the Teouma site on Vanuatu's Efate Island.
Dr Tromp used microscopy to look for 'microparticles' in the plaque, also known as dental calculus, scraped from the teeth of the skeletons. That allowed her to discover some of the plants people were eating and using to make materials like fabric and rope in the area when it was first colonised.
Teouma is the oldest archaeological cemetery in Remote Oceania, a region that includes Vanuatu and all of the Pacific islands east and south, including Hawaii, Rapa Nui and Aotearoa. The Teouma cemetery is unique because it is uncommon to find such well-preserved archaeological burials in the Pacific. Bone generally does not preserve in hot and humid climates and the same is true for things made of plant materials and also food.
The first inhabitants of Vanuatu were people associated with the Lapita cultural complex who originated in Island South East Asia and sailed into the Pacific on canoes, reaching the previously uninhabited islands of Vanuatu around 3000 years ago.
There has been debate about how the earliest Lapita people survived when they first arrived to settle Vanuatu and other previously untouched islands in the Pacific. It is thought Lapita people brought domesticated plants and animals with them on canoes - a transported landscape. But direct evidence for these plants had not been found at Teouma until Dr Tromp's study.
"One of the big advantages of studying calcified plaque or dental calculus is that you can find out a lot about otherwise invisible parts of people's lives," Dr Tromp says. Plaque calcifies very quickly and can trap just about anything you put inside of your mouth - much like the infamous Jurassic Park mosquito in amber - but they are incredibly small things that you can only see with a microscope."
The study began as part of Dr Tromp's PhD research in the Department of Anatomy and involved collaboration with the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, Vanuatu National Herbarium and the community of Eratap village - the traditional landowners of the Teouma site.
Dr Tromp spent hundreds of hours in front of a microscope finding and identifying microparticles extracted from thirty-two of the Teouma individuals. The positive identification of banana (Musa sp.) is direct proof it was brought with the earliest Lapita populations to Vanuatu.
Palm species (Arecaceae) and non-diagnostic tree and shrub microparticles were also identified, indicating these plants were also important to the lives of this early population, possibly for use as food or food wrapping, fabric and rope making, or for medicinal purposes, Dr Tromp says.
"The wide, and often unexpected range of things you can find in calcified plaque makes what I do both incredibly exciting and frustrating at the same time."