Friday, February 28, 2020

Hunter-gatherer networks accelerated human evolution

Humans began developing a complex culture as early as the Stone Age. This development was brought about by social interactions between various groups of hunters and gatherers, a UZH study has now confirmed. The researchers mapped the social networks of present-day hunter-gatherers in the Philippines and simulated the discovery of a medicinal plant product.
Around 300,000 years ago, our ancestors lived in small communities as hunters and gatherers. This lifestyle likely played a central role in humanity's success, as it enabled humans to start sharing and combining their individual knowledge with others and in this way come up with innovative solutions. This unique capacity is what distinguishes us from our closest relatives, the chimpanzees.
Insights into this process can be gained by studying the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies, such as the Agta people, who live in the Philippines. An international research team has now investigated the social network of Agta hunter-gatherers to shed light on the evolution of culture. The study was led by Andrea Migliano and Lucio Vinicius from the Department of Anthropology of the University of Zurich as well as Federico Battiston from the Central European University in Budapest.
Inter-camp visits as social media
The researchers equipped 53 adult Agta living in woodland in seven interconnected residential camps with tracking devices and recorded every social interaction between members of the different camps over a period of one month. The researchers also did the same for a different group, who lived on the coast.
During this time, the tracking devices documented thousands of interactions and provided a comprehensive picture of the Agta's social structure. As expected, people most frequently interacted with members of their own camp, but the study also revealed inter-camp visits almost on a daily basis. "It is fair to say that 'visits between camps' is the social media of current hunter-gatherers," says first author Andrea Migliano, professor of anthropology at UZH. When we need a new solution for a problem, we go online and use multiple sources to obtain information from a variety of people. Hunter-gatherers use their social network in exactly the same way."
Simulated creation of medicine
The team of researchers then developed a computer model of this social structure and simulated the complex cultural creation of a plant-based medicinal product. In this fictitious scenario, the people shared their knowledge of medicinal plants with every encounter and combined this knowledge to develop better remedies. This process gradually leads to the development of a highly effective new medicinal product. According to the researchers' simulation, an average of 250 (woodland camps) to 500 (coastal camps) rounds of social interactions were required for the medicinal product to emerge.
Human interaction accelerates innovation
Next, the researchers simulated the same scenario using an artificial and fully connected network, where all individuals were connected to each other and immediately transmitted any new information to all members of the network. Surprisingly, in this scenario it took longer for the new medicine to develop - necessitating about 500 to 700 rounds. The reason is that the artificial network spread innovations one step at a time, whereas in the real hunter-gatherer networks new discoveries can also develop in parallel in small clusters, which ultimately results in quicker progress being made.
"Our findings indicate that this social structure of small and interconnected bands may have facilitated the sequence of cultural and technological revolutions that characterizes our species as we expanded within and then out of Africa," concludes last author Lucio Vinicius, from UZH's Department of Anthropology.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Anthropogenic seed dispersal: rethinking the origins of plant domestication

In a new manuscript, Dr. Robert Spengler argues that all of the earliest traits of plant domestication are linked to a mutualistic relationship in which plants recruited humans for seed dispersal
The plants we consume for food have changed drastically in the 10,000 years since humans began practicing agriculture, but hominids have been intensively interacting with the plants and animals around them since before the dawn of our species. As humans became aware of the ability to modify crops through selective breeding, the evolution of new traits in plants greatly increased. However, plants have been evolving in response to human selective pressures since long before people began consciously altering them through breeding.
In a new study published in Trends in Plant Science, Dr. Robert Spengler examines these evolutionary responses and theorizes that all of the earliest traits to evolve in the wild relatives of modern domesticated crops are linked to human seed dispersal and the evolutionary need for a plant to spread its offspring.
Domestication syndrome and the emergence of similar traits
Many of the earliest traits of domestication in plants are similar across different crop species, a phenomenon evolutionary biologists refer to as parallel evolution. For example, in all large-seeded grass crops - e.g. wheat, barley, rice, oats - the first trait of domestication is a toughening of the rachis (the individual stem that holds a cereal grain to the ear). Likewise, in all large-seeded legumes, such as peas, lentils, fava beans, and kidney beans, the earliest trait of domestication is a non-shattering pod.
Archaeobotanists studying early plant domestication agree that the evolution of tougher rachises in cereal crops was a result of humans using sickles to harvest grains. During a harvest, the specimens with the most brittle rachises lost their seeds, whereas the plants with tougher rachises benefited from having their seeds protected and saved for the following year. Humans then cleared away competitive plants (weeding), tilled soil, sowed seeds, and maintained the crops until the next harvest. We can assume that the same process occurred for legumes.
For nearly a century, scholars have been aware of the fact that this parallel evolution was the result of similar selective pressures from people in different centers of domestication around the world, leading to what many researchers call "domestication syndrome." In the simplest biological sense, Spengler suggests, humans provide better seed-dispersal services for food crops than those plants would have had in the wild, causing them to evolve traits that facilitated agriculture and improved their own chances of reproduction.
The Evolution of Seed-Dispersal Traits in Crops
Archaeobotanists have studied seed-dispersal traits in the wild relatives of cereal and legume crops, but few have discussed how the wild relatives of other crops dispersed their seeds. In this manuscript, Spengler steps away from the heavy focus on these few plants and looks at the wild seed-dispersal processes in other crops.
Spengler notes that before the last Ice Age, megafaunal mammals, including humans, were key for the evolution of larger fruits in the wild. While some plants have mechanical methods of seed dispersal, the most common way plants spread their seeds is by recruiting animals to do it for them. Bright red cherries, for example, have evolved to entice birds with red-green color vision. The birds consume the sugary fruit, then fly to a new area and deposit the seed from the cherry. Larger fruits, however, require larger animals to distribute them, meaning the progenitor plants for most of the fruits in our produce markets today evolved to be spread by large mammals. Paleontologists have previously noted the parallel evolution of larger fruits to entice larger animals in many unrelated plant families, a process that Spengler reveals to be mirrored in the evolution of crops cultivated by humans.
Spengler also theorizes that megafaunal mammals may have been key to the dispersal of seeds in the progenitors of small-seeded grains, such as quinoa, millets, and buckwheat. With smooth, hard-shelled seeds that grow at the top of the plant, no secondary defensive compounds or thorns, and a rapid rate of growth, the foliage of these plants are the perfect food for grazing animals. The small size of these wild seeds may have been an evolutionary adaptation that allowed them to pass successfully through the digestive systems of hooved mammals, which often only allow seeds smaller than 2mm to pass. Conceptualizing domestication as seed-dispersal based evolution, as Spengler proposes, explains why the first traits of domestication in all of the small-seeded annual crops were thinning of the seed coat, an increase in seed size, and breaking of dormancy - a reversal of the traits that allowed for seed dispersal by grazing mammals. The domestication process severed the mutualistic ties these plants had with their wild seed dispersers and made them dependent upon humans for dispersal.
Understanding Plant Domestication as Seed-Dispersal-Based Mutualism
During the Early and Mid-Holocene, plants in specific locations around the world started to evolve new traits in response to human cultivation practices. As human populations increased in size and became more concentrated, the selective pressures that people placed on these plants increased. In the wild, plants often evolve mutualistic relationships in response to heavy herbivory pressures. The same evolutionary responses, Spengler argues, can be seen in farmers' fields during the early steps towards domestication, with plants developing traits to better use humans as seed dispersers.
"Humans are the best seed dispersers that have ever existed, dispersing plant species all over the world," Spengler says. "We are currently removing all competitive plant species across the Amazon to spread soybean seeds - a plant that originally evolved traits for a mutualistic relationship with humans in East Asia. Likewise, most of the prairies of the American Midwest have been removed in order to grow maize, a crop that evolved to recruit humans in tropical southern Mexico. Humans are powerful seed dispersers and plants will readily evolve new traits to spread their seeds and colonize new areas more successfully."
Dr. Spengler is the director of the archaeobotanical laboratories at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. "It is important look at the domestication of plants from an evolutionary ecology perspective and seek to find parallels between the evolution of plants in the wild and during early cultivation," says Spengler. "By modeling domestication as an equivalent process to evolution in the wild and setting aside the idea of conscious human innovation, we can more effectively study the questions of why and how this process occurred."

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Each Mediterranean island has its own genetic pattern


Researchers found a large proportion of North African ancestry in one of the studied individuals who lived in Sardinia during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC.


© David Caramelli
The Mediterranean Sea has been a major route for maritime migrations as well as frequent trade and invasions during prehistory, yet the genetic history of the Mediterranean islands is not well documented despite recent developments in the study of ancient DNA. An international team led by researchers from the University of Vienna, Harvard University and University of Florence, Italy, is filling in the gaps with the largest study to date of the genetic history of ancient populations of Sicily, Sardinia and the Balearic Islands, increasing the number of individuals with reported data from 5 to 66.
The results reveal a complex pattern of immigration from Africa, Asia and Europe which varied in direction and its timing for each of these islands. For Sicily the article reports on a new ancestry during the Middle Bronze Age that chronologically overlaps with the Greek Mycenaean trade network expansion.
Sardinians descend from Neolithic farmers
A very different story is unraveled in the case of Sardinia. Despite contacts and trade with other Mediterranean populations, ancient Sardinians retained a mostly local Neolithic ancestry profile until the end of the Bronze Age. However, during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC, one of the studied individuals from Sardinia has a large proportion of North African ancestry. Taken together with previous results of a contemporary central Iberian individual and a later 2nd mill. BC Bronze Age individual from Iberia, it clearly shows prehistoric maritime migrations across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to locations in southern Europe, affecting more than 1 percent of individuals reported in the ancient DNA literature from this region and time to date.
"Our results show that maritime migrations from North Africa started long before the era of the eastern Mediterranean seafaring civilizations and moreover were occurring in multiple parts of the Mediterranean", says Ron Pinhasi, a co-senior author of the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Vienna.
During the Iron Age expansion and establishment of Greek and Phoenician colonies in the West Mediterranean islands, the two Sardinian individuals analyzed from that period had little, if any, ancestry from the previous long-established populations. "Surprisingly, our results show that despite these population fluxes and mixtures, modern Sardinians retained between 56-62 percent of ancestry from the first Neolithic farmers that arrived in Europe around 8000 years ago", says David Caramelli a co-senior author, and Director of Department of Biology at the University of Florence.
Migration from the Iberian Peninsula documented
"One of the most striking findings is about the arrival of ancestry from the Steppe north of the Black and Caspian Seas in some of the Mediterranean islands. While the ultimate origin of this ancestry was Eastern Europe, in the Mediterranean islands it arrived at least in part from the west, namely from Iberia", says David Reich, a co-senior author at Harvard University, who is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "This was likely the case for the Balearic Islands, in which some early residents probably derived at least part of their ancestry from Iberia", says first author Daniel Fernandes, of the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Vienna.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Human Populations survived the Toba volcanic super-eruption 74,000 years ago

New archaeological work supports the hypothesis that human populations were present in India by 80,000 years ago and that they survived one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the last two million years
The Toba super-eruption was one of the largest volcanic events over the last two million years, about 5,000 times larger than Mount St. Helen's eruption in the 1980s. The eruption occurred 74,000 years ago on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, and was argued to have ushered in a "volcanic winter" lasting six to ten years, leading to a 1,000 year-long cooling of the Earth's surface. Theories purported that the volcanic eruption would have led to major catastrophes, including the decimation of hominin populations and mammal populations in Asia, and the near extinction of our own species. The few surviving Homo sapiens in Africa were said to have survived by developing sophisticated social, symbolic and economic strategies that enabled them to eventually re-expand and populate Asia 60,000 years ago in a single, rapid wave along the Indian Ocean coastline.
Fieldwork in southern India conducted in 2007 by some of this study's authors challenged these theories, leading to major debates between archaeologists, geneticists and earth scientists about the timing of human dispersals Out of Africa and the impact of the Toba super-eruption on climate and environments. The current study continues the debate, providing evidence that Homo sapiens were present in Asia earlier than expected and that the Toba super-eruption wasn't as apocalyptic as believed.
The Toba volcanic super-eruption and human evolution
The current study reports on a unique 80,000 year-long stratigraphic record from the Dhaba site in northern India's Middle Son Valley. Stone tools uncovered at Dhaba in association with the timing of the Toba event provide strong evidence that Middle Palaeolithic tool-using populations were present in India prior to and after 74,000 years ago. Professor J.N. Pal, principal investigator from the University of Allahabad in India notes that "Although Toba ash was first identified in the Son Valley back in the 1980s, until now we did not have associated archaeological evidence, so the Dhaba site fills in a major chronological gap."
Professor Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland, lead author of the study, adds, "Populations at Dhaba were using stone tools that were similar to the toolkits being used by Homo sapiens in Africa at the same time. The fact that these toolkits did not disappear at the time of the Toba super-eruption or change dramatically soon after indicates that human populations survived the so-called catastrophe and continued to create tools to modify their environments." This new archaeological evidence supports fossil evidence that humans migrated out of Africa and expanded across Eurasia before 60,000 years ago. It also supports genetic findings that humans interbred with archaic species of hominins, such as Neanderthals, before 60,000 years ago.
Toba, climate change and human resilience
Though the Toba super-eruption was a colossal event, few climatologists and earth scientists continue to support the original formulation of the "volcanic winter" scenario, suggesting that the Earth's cooling was more muted and that Toba may not have actually caused the subsequent glacial period. Recent archaeological evidence in Asia, including the findings unearthed in this study, does not support the theory that hominin populations went extinct on account of the Toba super-eruption.
Instead, archaeological evidence indicates that humans survived and coped with one of the largest volcanic events in human history, demonstrating that small bands of hunter-gatherers were adaptable in the face of environmental change. Nevertheless, the peoples who lived around Dhaba more than 74,000 years ago do not seem to have significantly contributed to the gene pool of contemporary peoples, suggesting that these hunter-gatherers likely faced a series of challenges to their long-term survival, including the dramatic environmental changes of the following millennia. In summarizing the wider implications of this study, Professor Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute says, "The archaeological record demonstrates that although humans sometimes show a remarkable level of resilience to challenges, it is also clear that people did not necessarily always prosper over the long term."

Latest Archaeology News


Ancient DNA from Sardinia reveals 6,000 years of genetic history

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 18 hours ago
Analysis of ancient DNA details the population history of Sardinia, providing new insight into its unique history and ancestral connections among the peoples of the Mediterranean UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO SHARE PRINT E-MAIL [image: IMAGE] IMAGE: THE S'ORCU 'E TUERI NURAGHI, ONE OF MANY DISTINCTIVE SARDINIAN BRONZE AGE STONE TOWERS DATING TO THE MID- TO LATE 2ND MILLENNIUM BC, AT A SITE INCLUDING IN THE STUDY.... view more CREDIT: GRUPPO GROTTE OGLIASTRA A new study of the genetic history of Sardinia, a Mediterranean island off the western coast of Italy, tells how genetic ancestry o...more »

Modern technology reveals old secrets about the great, white Maya road

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 18 hours ago
[image: IMAGE] IMAGE: BUILT AT THE TURN OF THE 7TH CENTURY, THE WHITE PLASTER-COATED ROAD THAT BEGAN 100 KILOMETERS TO THE EAST IN COBÁ ENDS AT YAXUNÁ'S ANCIENT DOWNTOWN, IN THE CENTER OF... view more CREDIT: PHOTO COURTESY TRACI ARDREN/UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI Did a powerful queen of Cobá, one of the greatest cities of the ancient Maya world, build the longest Maya road to invade a smaller, isolated neighbor and gain a foothold against the emerging Chichén Itzá empire? The question has long intrigued Traci Ardren, archaeologist and University of Miami professor of anthropology. Now, she a... more »

Prehistoric skeleton discovered in Southern Mexico

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Remains of woman provide important clues on settlement of the American continent University of Heidelberg [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *The skeleton was found in the Chan Hol underwater cave near the city of Tulúm on Mexico's Yucatán peninsula. view more Credit: Photo: Eugenio Acevez A prehistoric human skeleton found on the Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico is at least 10,000 years old and most likely dates from the end of the most recent ice age, the late Pleistocene. An international research team led by geoscientists from Heidelberg University studied the remains of the approximate... more »

Early North Americans much more diverse than previously believed

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
Ancient skulls tell new story about our first settlersAn 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 prof... more »

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

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
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... more »
Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
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... more »
Neanderthal-Denisovan etc.

Earliest interbreeding event between ancient human populations discovered

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 4 days ago
Neanderthal-Denisovan ancestors interbred with a distantly related hominin 700,000 years ago UNIVERSITY OF UTAH SHARE PRINT E-MAIL [image: IMAGE] IMAGE: AN EVOLUTIONARY TREE INCLUDING FOUR PROPOSED EPISODES OF GENE FLOW. THE PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN EVENT 744,372 YEARS AGO (ORANGE) SUGGESTS INTERBREEDING OCCURRED BETWEEN SUPER-ARCHAICS AND NEANDERTHAL-DENISOVAN ANCESTORS IN EURASIA.... view more CREDIT: ADAPTED FROM ALAN ROGERS For three years, anthropologist Alan Rogers has attempted to solve an evolutionary puzzle. His research untangles millions of years of human evolution by an... more »

Discovery at 'flower burial' site could unravel mystery of Neanderthal death rites

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 5 days ago
CAPTION The Neanderthal skull, flattened by thousands of years of sediment and rock fall, in situ in Shanidar Cave, Iraqi Kurdistan. CREDIT Graeme Barker The first articulated Neanderthal skeleton to come out of the ground for over 20 years has been unearthed at one of the most important sites of mid-20th century archaeology: Shanidar Cave, in the foothills of Iraqi Kurdistan. Researchers say the new find offers an unparalleled opportunity to investigate the "mortuary practices" of this lost species using the latest technologies. Shanidar Cave was excavated in the 1950s, when archa... more »

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

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
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: IMAGE] *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 accom... more »


Ancient engravings were likely produced with aesthetic intent and marked group identity.

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 5 days ago
Symbolic behaviour - such as language, account keeping, music, art, and narrative - constitutes a milestone in human cognitive evolution. But how, where and when did these complex practices evolve? This question is very challenging to address; human cognitive processes do not fossilize, making it very difficult to study the mental life of our Stone Age ancestors. However, in a new study published in the *Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences* journal PNAS, an interdisciplinary team of cognitive scientists and archaeologists from Denmark, South Africa and Australia takes u... more »

Dog domestication during ice age

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 5 days ago
Analysis of Paleolithic-era teeth from a 28,500-year-old fossil site in the Czech Republic provides supporting evidence for two groups of canids - one dog-like and the other wolf-like - with differing diets, which is consistent with the early domestication of dogs. The study, published in the *Journal of Archaeological Science*, was co-directed by Peter Ungar, Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas. The researchers performed dental microwear texture analysis on a sample of fossils from the Předmostí site, which contains both wolf-like and dog-like cani... more »

Canaanite temple at Lachish: gold artifacts, cultic figurines, and oldest known etching of Hebrew letter 'Samech'

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 6 days ago
[image: IMAGE] IMAGE: A CANAANITE STORAGE JAR WITH AN INSCRIPTION BEARING THE LETTER "SAMEK. " view more CREDIT: T. ROGOVSKI "And the Lord delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, which took it on the second day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls therein..." -Joshua, 10:32 The Biblical Book of Joshua tells the story of the ancient Israelites' entry into the Promised Land after a 40-year sojourn in the desert. Now, a team of archaeologists led by Professor Yosef Garfinkel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology and Profe... more »

Canaanite temple uncovered in Lachish, a city destroyed by Joshua

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 1 week ago
Complete article A Canaanite temple and many artifacts have been uncovered in a city that, according to the Bible, was destroyed by the Israelites when they entered the Land of Israel after 40 years in the desert. The discovery shed light on the extensive ruins of a structure dating back to the 12th century BCE in Lachish, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced Monday. “Joshua proceeded with all Israel to Lachish; he encamped against it and attacked it. God delivered Lachish into the hands of Israel. They captured it on the second day and put it and all the people in it to... more »

Monumental ninth-century b.c.e Omride ‘Royal Estate’ Found in Northern Israel

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 1 week ago
Archaeologists have discovered a monumental pillared building at Horvat Tevet, an ancient site in the Jezreel Valley just outside the city of Afula. They believe the complex served as an estate for Israelite officials to collect and redistribute agricultural products in the surrounding region. The ruins at Horvat Tevet were uncovered as part of an ongoing salvage excavation. Due to the planned construction of a new route for Israel’s Highway 65, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University have been hurriedly excavating the site for the past two years... more »
Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Complete report In 2012, a monumental Iron Age-temple complex dating to late 10th-early 9th century BCE was discovered at Tel Moẓa near Jerusalem by archeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The site, identified as the biblical city of Motẓa – within the boundary of the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18: 26) – served as an administrative center for the storage and redistribution of grain. Aerial photo of the temple at the end of the 2013 excavation. (Credit: SkyView, Israel Antiquities Authority) Horse Figurines. (Credit: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)The dig is the... more »
Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 3 weeks ago
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’... more »

5200-year-old grains in the eastern Altai Mountains redate trans-Eurasian crop exchange

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 1 week ago
Agricultural crops dispersed across Eurasia more than five millennia ago, causing significant cultural change in human populations across the ancient world. New discoveries in the Altai Mountains illustrate that this process occurred earlier than believed MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN HISTORY[image: IMAGE] IMAGE: DR. XINYING ZHOU AND HIS TEAM FROM THE IVPP IN BEIJING EXCAVATED THE TANGTIAN CAVE SITE DURING THE SUMMER OF 2016. view more CREDIT: XINYING ZHOU Most people are familiar with the historical Silk Road, but fewer people realize that the exchange of items, idea... more »

Arnhem Land, Australia: arliest evidence of Homo sapiens use of plant foods outside Africa and the Middle East.

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 5 days ago
Australia's first plant foods -- eaten by early populations 65,000 years ago -- have been discovered in Arnhem Land. Preserved as pieces of charcoal, the morsels were recovered from the debris of ancient cooking hearths at the Madjedbebe archaeological site, on Mirarr country in northern Australia. University of Queensland archaeobotanist Anna Florin said a team of archaeologists and Traditional Owners identified 10 plant foods, including several types of fruits and nuts, underground storage organs ('roots and tubers'), and palm stem. "By working with Elders and co-authors May Nango ... more »

Oral traditions and volcanic eruptions in Australia

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 1 week ago
[image: IMAGE] IMAGE: LAKE SURPRISE, BUDJ BIM VOLCANIC COMPLEX, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA. view more CREDIT: PHOTO VIA CREATIVE COMMONS. In Australia, the onset of human occupation (about 65,000 years?) and dispersion across the continent are the subjects of intense debate and are critical to understanding global human migration routes. A lack of ceramic artifacts and permanent structures has resulted in a scarcity of dateable archaeological sites older than about 10,000 years. Existing age constraints are derived largely from radiocarbon dating of charcoal and/or optically stimulate... more »

Wasp nests used to date ancient Kimberley rock art

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
12,000-year-old Aboriginal rock art from the Kimberley region, Western Australia, University of Melbourne [image: IMAGE] *IMAGE: *Wasp nests help prove Aboriginal rock art is twice as old as the Giza Pyramids. view more Credit: Damien Finch Mud wasp nests have helped establish a date for one of the ancient styles of Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley. University of Melbourne and ANSTO scientists put the Gwion Gwion art period around 12,000 years old. "This is the first time we have been able to confidently say Gwion style paintings were created around 12,000 years ago," said PhD st... more »

Easter Island society did not collapse prior to European

Jonathan Kantrowitz at Archaeology News Report - 2 weeks ago
Easter Island society did not collapse prior to European contact and its people continued to build its iconic moai statues for much longer than previously believed, according to a team of researchers including faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York. The island of Rapa Nui is well-known for its elaborate ritual architecture, particularly its numerous statues (moai) and the monumental platforms that supported them (ahu). A widely-held narrative posits that construction of these monuments ceased sometime around 1600, following a major societal collapse. "Our r... more »