lunes, 30 de abril de 2012

Pygmies: “old” populations, and a new “look” (?)

Over the years one issue that crops up repeatedly in human evolutionary genetics and paleoanthropology (or more precisely, the popular exposition of the topics in the media) is the idea that is that “population X are the most ancient Y.” X will always refer to a population within a larger set, Y, which is defined by relative marginalization or retention of older cultural folkways. So, for example, I have seen it said that the Andaman Islanders are the “most ancient Asian population.” Why? The standard model for a while now has been that non-Africans derive from a line of Africans which left the ancestral continent 50 to 100 thousand years ago, and began to diversify. Presumably Andaman Islanders have ancestry which goes back to this original dispersion, just as Europeans and Chinese do (revisions which suggest that Aboriginals may have been part of an earlier wave, still put the Andamanese in the second wave). The reason that the Andaman populations are termed ancient is pretty straightforward: they’re Asia’s last hunter-gatherers, literally chucking spears at outsiders. An ancient lifestyle gets conflated with ancient genetics.
This is a much bigger problem with the hunter-gatherers of Africa, the Pygmies, Hadza, and Bushmen. The reason is that these populations are of particular interest because they seem to have diverged from the rest of humanity rather early on. Both Y chromosomes and mtDNA confirmed this, and now autosomal analyses looking across the whole genome are confirming it. In other words, they’re basal to the rest of humanity. I believe this is moderately misleading. With the Bantu Expansion much of African genetic diversity disappeared. The hunter-gatherers seem exceptional long and bare branches on the phylogenetic tree because all their relatives are gone!
But the hunter-gatherers remain, and their genetic material has been collected for scientists to study. A new paper in PLoS Genetics puts the spotlight on Western Pygmies, and their relationship to their Bantu neighors. Patterns of Ancestry, Signatures of Natural Selection, and Genetic Association with Stature in Western African Pygmies:
Africa is thought to be the location of origin of modern humans within the past 200,000 years and the source of our dispersion across the globe within the past 100,000 years. Africa is also a region of extreme environmental, cultural, linguistic, and phenotypic diversity, and human populations living there show the highest levels of genetic diversity in the world. Yet little is known about the genetic basis of the observed phenotypic variation in Africa or how local adaptation and demography have influenced these patterns in the recent past. Here, we analyze a set of admixing Bantu-speaking agricultural and Western Pygmy hunter-gatherer populations that show extreme differences in stature; Pygmies are ~17 cm shorter on average than their Bantu neighbors and among the shortest populations globally. Our multifaceted approach identified several genomic regions that may have been targets of natural selection and so may harbor variants underlying the unique anatomy and physiology of Western African Pygmies. One region of chromosome three, in particular, harbors strong signals of natural selection, population differentiation, and association with height. This region also contains a significant association with height in Europeans as well as a candidate gene known to regulate growth hormone signaling.
The method here is simple. Previous work already confirmed that the height of a given Pygmy was strongly predicted by the amount of non-Pygmy ancestry they carried within their genome. Now the authors here are focusing on regions of the genome which not only show association with the phenotype in question, but signatures of natural selection. At this point I’m cautious enough about associations and positive results from tests for natural selection to be wary of accepting this on face value, but we have some priors here which should make this plausible. That is, there are strong functional rationales, and it isn’t as if the Pygmies are not distinctive in their height phenotype.
Let’s take the likelihood of natural selection for height as a given. What fascinates me is that the authors suggest that selection post-dates the divergence of the Western and Easter Pygmy populations. Why does this matter? Because it may give us a better clue as to the nature of the “pygmy” phenotype, which is common among relic hunter-gatherers the world over. The Bushmen, Pygmy, and various “Negritos” of Asia are small. Some have suggested this is an ancestral human type, or a natural adaptation, or an adaptation to the rainforest. On the other hand, the populations of Oceania are not small. To my knowledge the Indians of the Amazon are not the size of Pygmies. To put my own cards on the table I lean toward the proposition that the “pygmoid” body plan emerges when populations are driven to the margins, or, are being buffeted by disease and stress. It seems likely now that the closest relatives of the Philippine Negritos are the people of Oceania, most of whom are not small of stature. There are non-Bushmen Khoisan populations who are not small of stature. And, reportedly the isolated Andamanese of Sentinel Island are not of small stature!
The point here is that studying marginalized hunter-gatherers has limits in telling us about the nature of the human ancestors. It may be that Pygmies are in many ways derived in their phenotypes, relatively recent adaptations to contemporary exigencies. The results above even imply that the small stature of these populations may be a byproduct of the genetic correlation between various traits, and selection in one direction resulted in a correlated response in height. I would like to make a modest proposal: simply take these people on their own terms, and stop trying to slot them into a convenient paradigm. I doubt that Pygmies are going to be the great physicists of the 21st century because of their genetic variation (this was floated by Dierdre McCloskey on Dan MacArthur’s blog), nor do I think they are a special window in the very earliest of H. sapiens sapiens. They are who they are.
Addendum: Though I do know that some people would be curious about the evolutionary origins of other traits besides height in African hunter-gatherers.

Iranian, Foreign Archaeologists Return to Ancient Site in Southern Iran

TEHRAN (FNA)- A team of Iranian and Italian archaeologists is due to start the next season of excavation at a historical site near Estakhr in Fars Province.

A group of archaeological experts from Italy will conduct a series of studies in the ancient city of Estakhr, Director of the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research (ICAR) Mahmoud Mir-Eskandari said.

"The Italian group will use advanced equipments giving Iranian experts the chance to become acquainted with high-tech tools used in this field," he added.

The joint team will excavate the city for 45 days seeking probable signs of early mosques and ancient ruins, said Mir-Eskandari.

In an earlier research program, a team of Iranian and Italian experts led by Professor Pierfrancesco Callieri of the University of Bologna studied some parts of the area in 2008.

The new team is also planning to study the Sassanid city of Bishpur and several other cities in Fars province, Mir-Eskandari noted.

Estakhr is an ancient city located five kilometers north of Persepolis which was a prosperous city during the Achaemenid era.

Bienes arqueológicos en la provincia de Albacete

En Castilla-La Mancha se cuenta con bellos y emblemáticos espacios naturales. Además, el número de parques naturales y yacimientos es considerable y conceden a la comunidad autónoma una seña de identidad propia. El Consejo de Gobierno ayer dio una alegría a la región declarando Parque Arqueológico al Tolmo de Minateda, localizado en el municipio albaceteño de Hellín. Ser parte de la Red de Parques de Castilla-La Mancha, junto a Segóbriga en Saelices (Cuenca), la villa romana de Carranque (Toledo), el óppidum ibero-medieval de Alarcos (Ciudad Real) y la ciudad visigoda de Recópolis, en Zorita de los Canes (Guadalajara) ofrece una gran distinción a nuestro territorio. Los objetivos que pretende alcanzar esta red son la protección, mejora y transmisión a las generaciones futuras de aquellos elementos señeros del patrimonio arqueológico de la región; la intensificación en la divulgación de dicho patrimonio histórico; el fomento del desarrollo sostenible en el ámbito de los parques arqueológicos; y, por último, propiciar la corresponsabilidad y la colaboración de los entes públicos con competencia sobre dichos ámbitos al objeto de evitar posibles disfunciones en el ejercicio de éstas. La Red de Parques Arqueológicos de Castilla-La Mancha recibe unos 200.000 visitantes anualmente, por ello a partir de este momento nuestra provincia entra a formar parte de este gran entramado cultural y con esta medida se contribuye, como no podía ser de otra forma, a dinamizar el sector turístico, lo que siempre ha sido una gran apuesta por parte del Ejecutivo regional. Además, se perseguirá la promoción y ejecución de aquellas iniciativas que impliquen la conservación y divulgación del Patrimonio Histórico ubicado en el Parque Arqueológico. Esta declaración, también conlleva y permitirá conservar el espacio natural y cultural que conforma el Parque Arqueológico del Tolmo de Minateda.
Todo ello, y poco a poco, hará que el sistema económico pueda ir encontrando esa mejora que necesitamos. Turismo, conservación y crecimiento económico, bases para que la provincia de Albacete entre en la senda de la recuperación.

¿Y qué pasa con la investigación? (Cádiz)

Varios responsables de grupos de investigación de la Universidad de Cádiz explican sus circunstancias puntuales y cómo les está afectando la crisis y la supresión de ayudas económicas estatales y autonómicas
Beatriz Estévez / Cádiz 
 Estos días se está hablando mucho de las universidades públicas españolas con motivo de las medidas de ajuste que ha aprobado el Gobierno de Mariano Rajoy. El real decreto ley ya publicado, relativo al aumento de tasas de matrícula universitaria, al régimen de dedicación del profesorado y al procedimiento de creación, modificación y supresión de centros académicos y títulos de enseñanzas superiores está siendo debatido por distintos sectores de la enseñanza superior, así como por progenitores y estudiantes.

Se ha recortado un 62,5% del presupuesto para estas instituciones académicas y un 11,6% las becas a estudiantes. Se ha dado luz verde a la subida de los precios de las tasas de matriculación, por lo que cada alumno podrá pagar hasta 540 euros más por la primera matrícula universitaria, a razón de 60 euros al mes. Y también se ha establecido el incremento en el resto de las tasas, que se refieren a las segundas, terceras y cuartas matrículas en un 40%, 75% y 100% de subida respectivamente. Además, la Conferencia de Rectores de Universidades Españolas ha resaltado que el real decreto ley afecta de lleno al profesorado, porque "ven reducidas sus condiciones laborales y modificado unilateralmente el régimen de dedicación".

Opiniones, quejas, advertencias, reflexiones... pero entre tantas palabras suena poco una: investigación. Apenas se está hablando de cómo perjudican todos estos cambios -y la falta de recursos económicos - en la labor investigadora que se desarrolla en las universidades públicas españolas.

Es por ello que Diario de Cádiz ha preguntado sobre este asunto a responsables de varios proyectos de investigación de la Universidad de Cádiz, y lo primero que sale a flote es que el Gobierno central ha suprimido la convocatoria de proyectos de la AECID-Agencia Española de Cooperación y Desarrollo, y la Junta de Andalucía ha parado la ayuda a los grupos de investigación del Plan Andaluz de Investigación (Grupos PAI).

La eliminación de los proyectos de la AECID repercute directamente en la línea de investigación de varios grupos de la UCA. Entre ellos, el que dirige el catedrático de Prehistoria José Ramos, El Círculo del Estrecho, Estudio Arqueológico y Arqueométrico de las Sociedades desde la Prehistoria a la Antigüedad Tardía. A este equipo le afecta principalmente en la línea de colaboración que mantiene con la Universidad Abdelmalek Essaâdi y el Museo Tetuán, en trabajos de estudio de las sociedades prehistóricas y de la Arqueología de la región histórica del Estrecho de Gibraltar. Esto, explica Ramos, representa una situación "insostenible" para "jóvenes doctores que aspiran a poder consolidar su formación en becas I+D en estancias en el extranjero". "Tenemos los contactos en varias universidades, pero falta la convocatoria", añade.

Y con respecto a la paralización de ayuda de la Administración andaluza, el investigador augura que ello generará un "estancamiento de la actividad cotidiana, actualmente en condiciones muy duras".

José Ramos, que se define como un veterano investigador, lamenta estar viviendo "una situación que nos retrotrae a momentos de hace más de 20 años. En España se estaba consiguiendo una normalidad científica e investigadora, con reconocimiento internacional, en algunas áreas, en concreto en mi campo de Arqueología Prehistórica. Con este panorama, si no hay dinero para investigar, si los jóvenes investigadores no pueden obtener becas y continuar su formación, si los grupos no tienen financiación ni para enviar intercambios de publicaciones, nos podemos quedar estancados".

Puntualiza que desde su juventud estaba acostumbrado, al igual que otros muchos compañeros, a la máxima: la escasez agudiza el ingenio, "pero creo que estamos llegando a una situación muy frustrante y donde no se atisba una esperanza a medio plazo. Los jóvenes investigadores - agrega - deben tener esperanzas, que con su esfuerzo se pueden doctorar, y tras salidas al extranjero, tener la ilusión de volver a su país a aplicar los conocimientos adquiridos. Pero si la situación sigue así, tendremos una fuga de cerebros lamentable para un país como España, donde todavía tenemos mucho que aprender".
El catedrático de Universidad responsable del grupo Estructura y Dinámica de Ecosistemas Acuáticos, Juan José Vergara, señala que no hay una única realidad sobre este asunto, sino varias, y marcadas éstas por la circunstancia puntual de cada equipo de investigación. El que él lidera, por ejemplo, comenzó el pasado mes de enero (aunque concedido meses atrás) un proyecto de tres años que, ante los recortes, "tendrá más difícil conseguir la financiación adecuada en proyectos del Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, al haber menos recursos". Y a estos científicos también les afecta el cierre de la línea de subvenciones de la AECID en proyectos de cooperación científica, "pues manteníamos una fructífera relación con la Universidad de Costa Rica, y tenemos a dos estudiantes de Doctorado en nuestro grupo comenzando lo que iba a ser su tesis doctoral. Pero al cortarse la vía de financiación, ahora mismo el futuro de estos doctorandos es todo un interrogante, pues hay fondos para apenas un año, y no se pueden prorrogar por esta vía".

Juan Antonio Micó, responsable del grupo de Investigación y Desarrollo en Neuropsicofarmacología de la UCA, aborda este asunto separando "la situación económica de la UCA en cuanto a funcionamiento general, que viene provocada por un retraso en la dotación presupuestaria que le corresponde por parte de la Junta de Andalucía, de la dotación por proyectos de investigación. Son capítulos diferentes", defiende. Eso sí, aclara que la separación no es total. Existe, por ejemplo, según explica, una relación directa entre el trabajo que realiza el PAS en tareas de apoyo a la investigación y el que un grupo determinado se quede sin fondos para investigación. "Si la plantilla se reduce por motivos de la situación económica que afecta al capítulo de personal de la UCA, el problema afectará muy probablemente a la actividad investigadora del PDI".
Asimismo, el profesor de la Facultad de Medicina comenta que hay que diferenciar también entre financiación pública proveniente de fondos estatales, incluidos los europeos, de los provenientes de fondos autonómicos, o los provenientes de fondos privados de empresas o fundaciones: "Las empresas y fundaciones, con mayor o menor intensidad, vienen manteniendo sus compromisos con la universidad en forma de contratos de transferencia universidad-empresa. Otra cosas son los fondos estatales o autonómicos. Los fondos estatales han sufrido un recorte considerable, pero aún no estamos padeciendo las consecuencias, ya que vivimos de fondos de investigación anteriores, los proyectos son a 3-4 años; pero no hay ninguna duda de que lo vamos a sufrir en meses venideros cuando tengan que ser dotados los nuevos proyectos que se han solicitado o se solicitaran en breve. A nivel autonómico, sin embargo, los retrasos de la Junta de Andalucía en los compromisos de financiación de los grupos de investigación sí que están sufriendo retrasos que están afectando ya negativamente a la investigación", afirma.

Por otro lado, manifiesta que la contratación de investigadores, a raíz de los nuevos decretos estatales y las normas emanadas de la Universidad, "es más complicada en cuanto que requieren una mayor dotación económica por parte de los grupos". "Esto nos ha cogido de sorpresa y sin fondos económicos para reaccionar y, por tanto, no hemos podido renovar muchos contratos de investigación. Muchos de estos jóvenes no han podido seguir sus investigaciones", comparte. Y concluye con la siguiente reflexión: "Creo que se podría haber hecho un esfuerzo en comprender que una cosa son los contratos de investigación para realizar un trabajo de transferencia para una empresa desde la universidad, y otra muy diferente un contrato de apoyo a la investigación para que un joven pueda realizar su tesis doctoral".

El responsable del grupo de Diseño de Circuitos Microelectrónico de la Escuela Superior de Ingeniería, Ángel Quirós, asegura que la situación de su equipo no ha cambiado de forma significativa, y el día a día lo desarrollan con normalidad. No obstante, reconoce que existen "grandes dudas" sobre las posibilidades de obtener financiación pública de las convocatorias pendientes de resolución, "pero esto es algo que no es nuevo", apostilla.

La también investigadora de la UCA Pilar Azcárate, responsable del grupo Desarrollo Profesional del Docente, resalta que las ayudas correspondientes al año 2011 no han sido resueltas, "y parece ser que van a quedar en suspenso, pero aún no hay nada seguro. Nuestro grupo funciona con la financiación de años anteriores y no hemos necesitado, por ahora, mayor financiación".

Más contundente en su respuesta se muestra el director del departamento de Filología de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras y responsable del grupo de Estudios del Siglo XVIII, Alberto Romero Ferrer. Expone que la falta de recursos económicos "se está notando bastante, muy especialmente a la hora de hacer visible la investigación, como en congresos y publicaciones, pues una parte importante de los recursos se suelen destinar a estas facetas".

El profesor aboga por realizar "cambios" en la "gestión de la investigación", y recalca que ésta debe fundamentarse en "criterios objetivos", algo que actualmente no sucede. O al menos no siempre, según sus palabras. Asimismo, otro asunto importante a tratar es, según el filólogo, la concesión de proyectos en los diferentes programas, "pues se observan concesiones muy llamativas, que no tienen ningún tipo de justificación académica, y sí, en cambio, una justificación de reparto entre amigos... Es una vergüenza", concluye el investigador.

Analizan restos cerámicos hallados en las obras del metro de Granada junto a Recogidas

Cultura tardará una semana en conocer la relevancia de lo encontrado en la zona

26.04.12 - 09:29 -

domingo, 29 de abril de 2012

Exhibition: Twilight of the Pharaohs (France)

by Barbara Ferguson and Tim Kennedy

Paris, FRANCE -- A jewel-box mansion in the middle of Paris holds a surprising exhibition that brings together, for the first time ever, precious treasures from the last period of the Egyptian Pharaonic dynasties.
It was here we met visiting Americans cruising through Paris on the Seine [available with Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways and CroisiEurope, to name a few]. They used a tour day in Paris to visit the exhibition.
The Twilight of the Pharaohs, Masterpieces from the last Egyptian Dynasties”, is an assortment of the world’s finest sculptures, reliefs, sarcophagi, death masks, items of worship and jewelry from tombs and temples.
It also refutes the previously accepted academic assumption that there was a decline in the artistic output at the end of the Egyptian Pharaonic dynasties.

Read more:

Unravelling mummies' secrets

Modern scanning and imaging techniques are allowing scientists to peek behind the mummy’s shroud and learn what life was like for the rich and privileged of ancient Egypt, writes ANTHONY KING
THE LADY TENTDINEBU reclines in a corner room of the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. Her brilliantly coloured encasement tells us she once lived in ancient Egypt. When she died around 800 BC in Thebes, her body was preserved for the afterlife. Today you can admire the texts and religious imagery decorating her mummified body.
Such mummies are providing modern science with a view into their ancient world. Modern imaging techniques allowed experts to suggest famed Tutankhamun died of malaria (about 1,324 BC). And medical scans show diseases such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) were common among ancient Egyptians; even cancer has been detected.
The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is running a special exhibition, Fascinating Mummies, until May 27th, which focuses on what scientists today can tell us about ancient Egypt.
Experts had unwrapped mummies in the past to study them, and this was often done in public as pure spectacle. “They have had a bit of a rough ride, the mummies. When they died they expected to rest for eternity in a wonderful afterlife. We wanted to give them back their dignity,” says Maureen Barrie from the Edinburgh museum.
The Egyptians believed speaking a person’s name gave them greater kudos in the afterlife, so the names of the mummies are listed at the beginning of the exhibition.
The sarcophagus, mummy-shaped coffins and mummy of Ankh-hor, a priest of a Theban temple who served around 650 BC, are displayed. They came from the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Holland, which brought more than 250 artefacts to the Edinburgh exhibition.
Recent CT scans revealed the shape and location of amulets and objects placed by embalmers between the wrappings and on his body. A scarab beetle – symbolising rebirth – was placed over the abdominal incision through which Ankh-hor’s organs were removed. Scans show he was about 1.6 metres tall, died between the ages of 32 and 50, and had good teeth – unusual in ancient Egypt. His brain was taken out, but his heart remained inside for judgment day.
Close by is a mummy discovered by a Scottish Egyptologist in 1857; scientific analysis has shown its black surface is due to a layer of beeswax and pistachio plant resin.A high-resolution scanner indicated she was slightly built and aged between 25 and 29. It also revealed amulets that can’t be seen on the surface, says Dr James Tate, head of conservation and analytical research at the museum. This includes a gold-foil scarab on the top of her head and a circular gold disc over her midriff.
Tate takes a replica of the scarab from his pocket. He explains that scan data from Edinburgh was used by a group at the University of Liverpool to produce this exact titanium model.
A scroll was detected lying under her right hand, against her right thigh, and Tate believes that ongoing research using micro-CT scanning to read rolled scrolls means that “someday we will read this scroll and learn her name”.
“Egyptians believed that they would live again after they died, in a kind of Egypt, only better. They would take scrolls of papyrus with them as a guide to the afterlife because it was a long and perilous journey,” says Dr Hanneke Kik of the Leiden museum. She guesses that the rolled scroll contains magical spells and hints on how to get across dangerous rivers or bypass demons.
Papyrus is a paper made out of a sedge plant that grew prolifically in the Nile delta. It grew only in Egypt in the ancient world, but they exported it throughout the Mediterranean, says Prof Brian McGing of Trinity College Dublin, an expert on papyrus.
“It only survives in Egypt because it must be kept dry and in darkness,” he says. There were few examples discovered until the end of the 19th century, when they were uncovered in ancient rubbish dumps, which had produced their own microclimate and preserved the scrolls.
McGing works on deciphering and translating Greek writing on ancient Egyptian papyrus. Perhaps 95 percent of papyrus discovered in the dumps and elsewhere was documentary, recording the routines of daily life: letters, tax receipts, official documents, land registers.
Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC, and his general Ptolemy took over after his death. This ushered in the Greek period (332 to 30 BC), which ended with the death of the last pharaoh, Cleopatra, who was of Macedonian extraction.
“It is a Greek dynasty with a huge explosion of documentation. And that is what I work with,” says McGing. Much of this material is now in digitised form, and technological progress has made it easier to read text and even to decipher previously invisible text markings.
During the Greek period, most Egyptians continued to live as they had done for centuries, and belief in the afterlife continued, with Egyptians continuing to fill their tombs with the necessary provisions. The National Museum of Ireland is home to a collection of magical figurines, or Shabtis, which were placed in tombs to perform any manual tasks that might be asked of the deceased in the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptians believed that what was written or depicted could come about magically in the next world. To ensure rebirth and safe passage into the afterlife, funerary texts (essentially magic spells) would be placed with the deceased.
The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin has a Book of Coming Forth by Day (better known today as the Book of the Dead) from around 300 BC. This illustrates the judgment of a woman’s soul, as the jackal-headed god Anubis weighs her heart against a feather. If it balanced with the feather, she could move on into the afterlife. If not, her heart was eaten by Ammit, the devourer.
“If you were a rich person you displayed this before you died, so that everyone could see what a wonderful book of the dead you had produced,” says McGing. “Some found in tombs were in absolute perfect shape. The ink is glistening on some of them.”

Making a mummy: Preparing for afterlife
Survival in the afterlife depended on keeping the body intact, and the art of mummification evolved over thousands of years. The first step was to wash the body. Then the brain might be removed through the nose with a hooked implement. Internal organs were taken out though a cut in the body and washed, dried and preserved in jars (examples of these limestone jars with jackal, human and falcon-headed lids can be seen in the National Museum of Ireland). The heart was left within the body for judgment day or an amulet was put in its place.
The corpse was covered in natron, a natural salt, for about a month. This dehydrated the body and removed fat, and acted as an anti-bacterial. The body was then rinsed and oils and unguents were applied to preserve skin elasticity.
An embalming priest wrapped the body to create the classic mummy, which was covered with a shroud. The lady Tentdinebu was wrapped in linen bandages and cartonnage, a sort of papier-mâché made of linen or papyrus and plaster.
Animals were mummified as offerings to the god. There was such a demand that researchers have identified production plants in which kittens were killed. There were also plenty of fakes. The Scottish museum had a “baboon” that was in fact a bird, and some animal mummies contained just clay.
But ancient Egypt wasn’t all about death and afterlife. The Chester Beatty Library has a papyrus scroll containing some three-quarters of known Egyptian love poems and one of the few mythological texts from ancient Egypt, The Contendings of Horus and Seth.
“When the original translations were done in the British Museum [in the 1930s], the scholar was embarrassed and didn’t want to translate it, because there is quite a bit of erotica and violence in it,” says Dr Jill Unkel. Dated to 1,160 BC, this papyrus is one of the oldest objects in the collection

Mass Grave Begins Revealing Soldiers' Secrets

It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Thirty Years' War, but until recently there was no trace of those who died there. Now a mass grave is shedding light on the mysteries of the Battle of Lützen. Were those who fought hungry young men or well-fed veterans? And where did they come from? 

The morning of November 16, 1632 was foggy, so the mass killing could only begin after some delay. It wasn't until midday that the mist cleared, finally allowing the Protestant army of Sweden's King Gustav II Adolf to attack the Roman Catholic Habsburg imperial army led by Albrecht von Wallenstein. The slaughter lasted for hours in the field at the Saxon town of Lützen.

"In this battle the only rule that applied was, 'him or me,'" says Maik Reichel. "It was better to stab your opponent one extra time just to ensure there was no chance of him standing up again." The historian und former German parliamentarian for the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) is standing at the edge of a field on the outskirts of Lützen. After the battles here, the ground was soaked with blood. "About 20,000 men fought on each side and between 6,000 and 9,000 were killed," estimates Reichel, who heads the museum in the city castle.When the soldiers in the religious war clashed on the outskirts of Lützen, the road from there to Leipzig was not yet called "B 87," but "Via Regia." The Red Cross nursing home and nearby supermarket that now stand on the battle site also didn't exist back then. The past is only present here when one goes looking for it. So far archaeologists have examined about one- third of the battlefield, in total 1.1 million square meters (11.8 million square feet). Theoretically, only another one-third could still be examined. The rest has been covered by the nursing home, supermarket and small garden allotments.
Still, archaeologists have managed to
recover thousands of objects from the battle. The top find was just recently discovered: a mass grave where victims of the brutal struggle were buried. It is likely one of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of similar graves. Systematic excavations helped researchers locate the dead soldiers, and recovery efforts between the street and blooming rapeseed plants have left the ground bare.
The Human Dimensions of War
The bloody battle at Lützen isn't known for its military significance. There was actually no clear winner. Instead it's famous for the death of Sweden's King Gustav II Adolf, also commonly known as Gustavus Adolphus. But the dead piled up all the same. Archaeologists are especially interested in the up to 175 unlucky soldiers buried in this mass grave. Because their work is better accomplished in a laboratory rather than a field, a complete chunk of soil was unearthed and transported to the city of Halle with the help of cranes and flatbed trucks. The 55-ton hunk of earth, split into two pieces for logistical reasons, is laced with bones that are now being analyzed in the laboratory of the Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology. A wooden casing ensures that the discovery doesn't crumble.
Not much is known about the battle's dead. Mercenaries from Scotland, England and Croatia fought next to Germans, Austrians and Swedes. They died from wounds inflicted by muskets, pistols, swords, knives and halberds, which are pole weapons with axe blades mounted on top. But who were these fighters? Were they spring chickens or old warhorses? Were they well-fed or emaciated? And where did they come from?
These are questions that will be answered by the analysis in Halle, about a 45-minute drive from Lützen. Visitors to this bright, lofty laboratory can get some idea of the human dimensions of the battle by climbing a ladder onto the frame encasing the two soil blocks.

Heiko Heilmann is already up there, scraping soil away from a bone with a wooden spatula. In his hands the dirt gives away to reveal the remarkably well-preserved skeleton of a former fighter. The excavation technician has already uncovered 20 bodies from one of the two blocks.
He starts by moistening the soil with a spray bottle. Then he carefully digs out the bones. The sight of the arms, legs, shoulders, pelvises and skulls is hard to take in. Loose bones are collected in aluminum trays. Little labels give the deceased provisional names such as "I1," "I2," I3," with the "I" standing for individual.
Buried Almost Naked
A few facts have already come to light. For example, the corpses were buried almost naked, presumably after being plundered. They were, at least, carefully laid to rest. The bodies were gathered from the battlefield and placed in a grave next to the street, arranged in two rows with their legs facing each other.

Several layers of dead probably lie within these two blocks, although researchers have only uncovered the first. The burials were not taken care of by the surviving soldiers, who were already on their way to the next battle. Instead the good citizens of Lützen had to take on the unpleasant job. They asked 200 soldiers in the neighboring garrison of Weissenfels for extra support.
The discovery at Lützen, being prepared by Heilmann with dental tools and brushes, is not unique, though. Researchers know of more mass graves in Germany from the Thirty Years' War. They have been found during the construction of a house in Höchstadt in central Franconia in 1985, excavated by a gravel dredge in Wittstock in Brandenburg in 2007 and exposed by pipeline engineers in Alerheim in southwest Germany in 2008. The grave at Wittstock has recently been put on display at the State Archaeological Museum in Brandenburg an der Havel.
Multi-Discipline Approach
But the grave at Lützen is an especially systematic and successful investigation, and its scientific results are comprehensive, even though the work is still in its infancy. The skull of "I9" shows clear traces of a blow. A lead bullet is lodged into the pelvis of "I2" from a shot to the buttocks. A strontium isotope analysis will uncover whether it was a Saxon, Swede or Scotsman that had to suffer that particular misfortune.
 The analysis will be conducted by researchers from the University of Halle in Bristol, England. Specialists there have already helped work on opening the tomb of medieval Queen Edith. The process works like this: People in differing regions of the world have different levels of the isotope of the metal strontium. Because the levels are integrated into the human body, they leave telltale signatures. With a little luck scientists can examine the bones to reconstruct where soldiers traveled in the years before their death. Teeth reveal information about their childhoods.
Anthropologists, chemists, historians, soil and weapons experts will conduct a joint analysis in the coming months. "We always work with other disciplines. Old school archaeology is out," says Alfred Reichenberger, spokesman for the Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology. The work will take a long time, that much is clear. But at some point there will be a visitor's center at the edge of the former battlefield, says Reichel, head of the Lützen museum.
The center will report on the horrors of the war and serve as a warning for today's generation. Because, as Reichel adds: "History doesn't repeat itself. But it has its habits.",1518,830203,00.html

Ancient graves found near Paulatuk, N.W.T.

Graves could be between 400 and 1,000 years old

Some ancient graves, dating between 400 and 1,000 years old, have been discovered at Tuktut Nogait National Park near Paulatuk, N.W.T.
At least four skeletons have been found above ground and covered with flat stones.
John Muffa Kudlak, who lives in the area, said Inuvialuit people have known about the graves for a long time.
“I have heard stories from the elders in the past what they were way before their parents,” said Kudlak.
A research project in Tuktut Nogait National Park is planned for this summer. The park’s management board met with members of the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee about including the graves in the research.
They said elders do not want the graves to be disturbed.
"Just for respect, we'd like to leave it alone and not try and touch any part of those burial sites, for research purposes or DNA testing or whatnot," said Diane Ruben, of the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee.
Parks Canada has a policy never to disturb historic grave sites within national parks.
Eric Baron, who works with the regional Parks office in Inuvik, said "there was never any question" that the graves would be left undisturbed.
Tom Nesbitt, who works with the park's management board, said that the graves do not need to be touched.
“There are other ways of finding the story of these people rather than excavating or disturbing the gravesites,” he said.
At most, photos will be taken of the graves to help figure out who was buried there. Nesbitt said the park management board will work with other archaeological evidence found, such as food cache sites nearby.

Warship excavation planned near Upper Marlboro

Ship believed to be flagship of fleet scuttled prior to War of 1812 battle

Archaeological dig at Upton could find remains of a Roman suburb

ARCHAEOLOGISTS hope to uncover up to 1,000 years of Northampton’s history when they investigate a building site on the west of the town.
A dig on the latest phase of the Upton development is planned to take place next month.
Early examinations of the nine- acre site have suggested there could be both Iron Age and Roman finds beneath the ground.
Steve Parry, from Northamptonshire Archaeology, said: “The exciting thing about this project is that it gives us the opportunity to look at quite an extensive area.
“And we believe occupation on the site runs from the early Iron Age through to the end of the Roman period. So it’s getting on for 1,000 years of settlement and farming on the site.”
Initial tests on the site, which were carried out more than a decade ago, suggest there could be a road buried beneath the ground with a number of buildings facing onto it.
It is believed the buildings could have been a suburb of the Roman settlement of Duston.
Mr Parry said: “We carried out extensive work on the site about 12 years ago and we identified a road with a series of properties coming off it.
“In the Roman period it would have perhaps been a suburb of the Roman town of Duston.
“There are certainly a number of plots leading off the road and it looks as though some of them had structures in them.
“So we’re fairly confident of what we’re likely to find, but there’s really no way of telling what might actually be down there.”
Work on the site is expected to start in May.
It is thought the archaeologists will work on the land for about a month.
After they have completed their work, it is planned to build a complex of new houses and shops on the site.
Doncaster-based developer, Keepmoat, was given planning permission to build on the site last year.
The development will include a pub, nursery, shops, restaurant and an old people’s home, as well as 324 new homes.

sábado, 28 de abril de 2012

El Museo de Segovia recibe un prendedor de oro de 3.000 años de antigüedad

La pieza fue descubierta por la Unidad de Arqueología de la IE Universidad en 1999. Distintos estudios de investigación datan la pieza, de origen irlandés, en el año 1.000 antes de Cristo. 
 Los fondos del Museo de Segovia albergan desde hoy una nueva joya arqueológica. La IE Universidad ha depositado un prendedor de oro, que fue descubierto tras las excavaciones realizada por la Unidad de Arqueología de la IE Universidad en 1999 en Coca. La pieza, según los estudios realizados por los investigadores Juan Francisco Blanco y Cesáreo Pérez, podría datar del año 1.000 antes de Cristo y se trataría de la primera joya prehistórica que aparece propiamente en el núcleo urbano de la villa.

El delegado territorial de la Junta, Javier López Escobar, ha estado presente en el Museo de Segovia durante el acto de entrega de la joya que ha realizado el director de la Unidad Arqueológica de la IE Universidad y codirector de las excavaciones, Cesáreo Pérez González. En el acto de depósito, también han estado acompañados por el director del Museo, Alonso Zamora.

La joya, que fue descubierta mediante trabajos de excavación realizados en la zona arqueológica de ‘Los Azafranales’, junto al cementerio caucense, pudo haberse fabricado en la actual Irlanda o Gran Bretaña. No obstante, a pesar del origen, la pieza, que data de la época del ‘Bronce Final Atlántico’ se pudo extraviar hacia los siglos VIII o VII antes de Cristo.

El buen estado de conservación de la joya y las investigaciones realizadas durante este tiempo han llevado a pensar que la pieza pudo ser utilizada como prendedor para el pelo o para sujetar algún manto o cinta a la cabeza. La pieza tiene una longitud de 82 milímetros, una anchura de 49 milímetros y pesa 10,438 gramos. Según indican los investigadores Blanco y Pérez, se trata de una joya compuesta resultado del ensamblaje de varios elementos, diez concretamente: dos conos de fino hilo de oro enrollado en espiral, dos clavillos con los que han sido cerrados y rematados decorativamente aquellos, cinco remaches y una aguja. Cada uno de los elementos ha sido fabricado por separado con distintas técnicas para después, ser ensamblados.

El hallazgo que recibe hoy el Museo Provincial tiene una especial importancia porque la pieza se ha conservado completa aunque uno de los conos se encuentra parcialmente deformado. Además, no es habitual encontrar este tipo de piezas de origen atlántico en yacimientos situados al sur del Duero.

¿Se comieron los humanos modernos a los neandertales?

  • Dos paleontólogos españoles plantean que se extinguieron al ser cazados
  • Los humanos modernos habrían acabado así con su competencia
 Rosa M. Tristán | Madrid

La desaparición de los neandertales de la faz de la Tierra pudo deberse a que fueron cazados, como los mamuts, por los humanos modernos llegados a Europa hace unos 40.000 años, que acabaron devorándoles como parte de su menú. Esta se la innovadora hipótesis que han planteado dos investigadores españoles del Instituto de Paleoecología Humana y Evoluciòn Social (IPHES) en su último trabajo.
Varias han sido hasta ahora las teorías que manejan los paleoantropólogos sobre las causas de la desaparición de esta especie humana: el cambio climático, la poca diversidad genética, su dispersión en pequeños grupos y, por supuesto, la competencia con los recién llegados 'Homo sapiens' desde África. Pero ¿y si fueron cazados como a otros animales para comérselos?
Los paleontólogos Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro y Policarp Hortolà así lo defienden en la revista 'Quaternary International', donde explican que los neandertales fueron una presa de caza más de nuestra especie, ya sea para consumirlos como alimento o para acabar con la competencia ante la escasez de recursos, aunque al final acabaran también en su estómago

Creemos que fueron perseguidos como piezas de caza, como los mamuts o como aún lo son los gorilas o los chimpancés, que son de la nuestra familia taxonómica. Y pudo ocurrir también el mismo fenómeno cada vez que una especie de 'Homo' más avanzada se superpuso a otra que lo era menos, como el 'erectus' o el 'floresiensis", señala Policarp Hortolá.
La hipótesis se fundamenta en estudios que prueban cómo la megafauna es más difícil de extinguir que la pequeña en un cambio climático como los que hubo en el Cuaternario. Animales como los mamuts se ha probado que desaparecieron cazados por 'sapiens'. "Entonces, ¿Por qué no los neandertales, que también tenían bajas tasas de reproducción?", se pregunta Martínez-Navarro.

Especie depredadora

Su trabajo se fundamenta en el hecho de que los 'sapiens' llegaron a Europa con una tecnología muy superior, lo que les convirtió en "la especie con la mayor capacidad destructiva de la Tierra", en palabras del paleontólogo. Por ello, señala, no sería extraño que se comportaran como otros carnívoros depredadores, cazando todo aquello que fuera susceptible de ser comido, y mejor si, encima, eran competidores. "También los leones matan a hienas o guepardos y se comen su carne", recuerda el investigador.
Todavía no hay ningún yacimiento en el mundo que pueda servir para probar esta teoría. Si se han encontrado huesos de neandertal con marcas de corte, en el de Zafarraya (Málaga), pero fueron canibalizados por sus congéneres.
Menciona que los restos encontrados en el yacimiento de la Grotta del Cavallo, al sur de Italia, confirman que los humanos modernos se dispersaron con mucha rapidez por el continente cuando aún estaba habitado por neadnertales.
Martínez-Navarro, en declaraciones a, recuerda que el canibalismo ha existido siempre en nuestra especie. Se ha documentado en la Gran Dolina de Atapuerta y también en algunas zonas del planeta durante el siglo XX. "La agresividad con los otros es una constante. Cuando los españoles llegaron a América violaban a las indias y mataban a los indios. Somos una especie territorial y agresiva", argumenta.
En definitiva, para los autores de este trabajo, aludir a los cambios climáticos no basta para explicar su fin total porque cuando hacía más calor las especies se dispersaban hacia el norte y con el frío bajaban al sur. Tendría mucho más que ver con el afán depredador humano, en su lucha por la supervivencia.

La necrópolis del Castillo de Doña Blanca

El enigmático solar de Puerto Chico

Aparece un posible enterramiento de cámara de época púnica o tardo púnica
Virginia León / Cádiz 
 Un nuevo enigma envuelve el último hallazgo arqueológico producido en la ciudad, en plena calle Puerto Chico. Un descubrimiento que podría corresponder a un enterramiento en cámara de época púnica (siglo V a.C) o tardo púnica (siglos IV o III a. C), según ha podido saber este periódico.

Ésta es la teoría que se rumorea en el mundillo de la arqueología gaditana, del que buena parte se personó durante la mañana de ayer junto a los restos, para vislumbrar con sus propios ojos de qué puede tratarse el curioso hallazgo. Los restos han aparecido en un solar de la calle Puerto Chico anexo al Campo del Sur, en el que la promotora San Miguel tiene previsto construir una promoción de viviendas privadas con garaje. Se trata de la misma empresa que lleva a cabo las obras del Pabellón Portillo, donde recientemente han aparecido numerosos enterramientos romanos y ajuares de la época.

Por otra parte, los vestigios arqueológicos aparecidos dan norte de los distintos momentos históricos en los que tuvo su uso la estructura localizada, que ha aflorado justo en el extremo del solar pegado a la calle Puerto Chico.

A simple vista, parece que la probable tumba hallada en el solar se prolonga hacia esta calle, con lo que su excavación no podría completarse.

De momento, comentan los expertos, es pronto para dilucidar con exactitud si la estructura que aparece es una tumba, aunque es la teoría que gana peso en la comunidad investigadora, a la que parece haber sorprendido las grandes dimensiones que presenta y su excavación en la propia piedra, que la hacen en cierto modo singular.

Lo que sí parece más claro es que pudo producirse un saqueo posterior en la estructura. Expolio que casi con toda seguridad se ha efectuado en época romana o en un momento romano tardío que, según apuntan las fuentes, estaría en torno al siglo IV o siglo V d.C.

Estos descubrimientos podrían arrojar nuevos datos sobre una parte de la historia gaditana aún por descubrir, la definición en términos arqueológicos del acantilado que existía en la edad antigua.

Por esta área también ansían localizar el Puerto Chico de la edad moderna, emplazamiento que los expertos sitúan en una zona más cercana a la antigua Comisaría de la Policía Local, aún por descubrir.

De momento, los trabajos que la promotora lleva a cabo continúan con normalidad, dada la localización de los restos anexos a la calle. Ahora falta desvelar el verdadero enigma que encierra esta curiosa estructura aparecida en Puerto Chico

New study chronicles the rise of agriculture in Europe

Analysis of Stone Age remains shows that farming moved north across the continent

This release is available in Danish and Swedish.
IMAGE:This is Ove Persson and Evy Persson at the Ajvide excavations in Gotland, Sweden.

An analysis of 5,000-year-old DNA taken from the Stone Age remains of four humans excavated in Sweden is helping researchers understand how agriculture spread throughout Europe long ago. According to Pontus Skoglund from Uppsala University in Sweden and colleagues, the practice of farming appears to have moved with migrants from southern to northern Europe.
Agricultural know-how wasn't the only thing that early European farmers introduced to the region. Based on their genetic data, Skoglund and the researchers say that Europe's first farmers eventually mixed their genes with the hunter-gatherers who lived there—a relationship that set the stage for today's modern European genome.
"We analyzed genetic data from two different cultures—one of hunter-gatherers and one of farmers—that existed around the same time, less than 400 kilometers (249 miles) away from each other," said Skoglund. "After comparing our data to modern human populations in Europe, we found that the Stone Age hunter-gatherers were outside the genetic variation of modern populations but most similar to Finnish individuals, and that the farmer we analyzed closely matched Mediterranean populations."
These findings likely have something to do with the expansion of farming across Europe, according to the researchers.
"When you put these findings in archaeological context, a picture begins to emerge of Stone Age farmers migrating from south to north across Europe," said Skoglund. "And the result of this migration, 5,000 years later, looks like a mixture of these two groups in the modern population."
The researchers report their data in the 27 April issue of the journal Science, which is published by AAAS, the nonprofit international science society.
Most experts agree that the agricultural way of life originated about 11,000 years ago in the Near East before it reached the European continent some 5,000 years later. But this new study should help scientists understand the impact of that agricultural revolution on human diversity.
Skoglund and his colleagues performed their analysis with the ancient remains of three hunter-gatherers who were associated with the Pitted Ware Culture and excavated from the island of Gotland, Sweden, along with those of a farmer, who was associated with the Funnel Beaker Culture and excavated from Gökhem parish, Sweden.
"We know that the hunter-gatherer remains were buried in flat-bed grave sites, in stark contrast to the megalithic sites that the farmers built," said Mattias Jakobsson, a senior author of the Science report, also from Uppsala University. "The farmer we analyzed was buried under such a megalith, and that's just one difference that helps distinguish the two cultures."
Ancient hunter-gatherers had a distinct genetic signature that was similar to that of today's northern Europeans, while the farmer's genetic signature closely resembles that of southern Europeans, according to the researchers. Interestingly, these ancient genomes don't share many similarities with modern-day Swedes, despite their discovery and excavations in Sweden.
"The fact that the hunter-gatherers are most similar to Finns, Orcadians and other extreme-northern populations suggests that they were indeed the last major part of the Mesolithic meta-population that populated large parts of Europe before the early farmers appeared," said Anders Götherström of Uppsala University, who is another senior author of the Science report. "And the fact that the farmer is most similar to southeastern Europeans makes sense too, as that is from where the spread of agriculture north and eastward started."
"The results suggest that agriculture spread across Europe in concert with a migration of people," added Skoglund. "If farming had spread solely as a cultural process, we would not expect to see a farmer in the north with such genetic affinity to southern populations."
The researchers suggest that Europe's early, intrepid farmers traveled north across the continent, settled in the northern regions and eventually mixed with resident hunter-gatherer populations. Consequently, the genomes of most modern Europeans were likely shaped by this prehistoric migration that first brought farming to the continent, they say.
The report by Skoglund et al. was supported by the Lars Hierta Memorial Foundation, Nilsson-Ehle Donationerna, Marie Curie Actions, the Danish National Research Council, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and the Swedish Research Council.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science ( as well as Science Translational Medicine ( and Science Signaling ( AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes some 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS. See

Human Genes Provide Clues to Rise and Spread of Agriculture in Prehistoric Europe

Study suggests agriculture was introduced from south to north in Stone Age Europe through human migration

Did agriculture in Stone Age Europe rise and spread through the gradual transfer and diffusion of the farming idea from agriculturalists to hunter-gatherers, or was it brought as a package by migrating agriculturalists? Was agriculture introduced from south to north, as the archaeological record suggests, or did it come from a different direction?
A joint Swedish-Danish research team may have finally found some answers.
Under the leadership of Assistant Professor Anders Götherström of Uppsala University, Sweden, and Assistant Professor Mattias Jakobsson, also of Uppsala University, researchers used advanced DNA techniques to study four skeletons of humans who lived in Sweden during the Stone Age, about 5,000 years ago. They analyzed the ancient remains of three hunter-gatherers of the Pitted Ware Culture , excavated on the island of Gotland, Sweden, and the remains of a farmer, a member of the Funnelbeaker Culture, excavated at Gökhem parish, also in Sweden.
"We know that the hunter-gatherer remains were buried in flat-bed grave sites, in stark contrast to the megalithic sites that the farmers built," said Jakobsson. "The farmer we analyzed was buried under such a megalith, and that's just one difference that helps distinguish the two cultures."

They then compared their findings with genetic data from living European individuals.
"After comparing our data to modern human populations in Europe", said study colleague and report author Pontus Skoglund of Uppsala University, "we found that the Stone Age hunter-gatherers were outside the genetic variation of modern populations but most similar to Finnish individuals, and that the farmer we analyzed closely matched Mediterranean populations.......The Stone Age farmer's genetic profile matched that of people currently living in the vicinity of the Mediterranean, on Cyprus, for example." Says Götherström, "The fact that the hunter-gatherers are most similar to Finns, Orcadians and other extreme-northern populations suggests that they were indeed the last major part of the Mesolithic meta-population that populated large parts of Europe before the early farmers appeared. And the fact that the farmer is most similar to southeastern Europeans makes sense too, as that is from where the spread of agriculture north and eastward started."
According to widely accepted interpretations of the archaeological record, agriculture is thought to have developed in the Middle East about 11,000 years ago. By about 5,000 years ago, it had spread to most of Continental Europe. But how it spread and how it affected people living in Stone Age Europe are questions that have been debated for many years. Was agriculture an idea that spread across Europe or a technique that a group of migrants took with them to different regions of the continent?
"The results suggest that agriculture spread across Europe in concert with a migration of people," said Skoglund. "If farming had spread solely as a cultural process, we would not expect to see a farmer in the north with such genetic affinity to southern populations."
The research outcomes thus support the scenario that the spread of agriculture was driven by people migrating from Southern Europe northward. The results also indicate that the farmers lived side by side with hunter-gatherers for generations, but eventually interbred, explaining the genetic variation that characterizes today's Europeans.
"What is interesting and surprising is that Stone Age farmers and hunter-gatherers from the same time had entirely different genetic backgrounds and lived side by side for more than a thousand years, to finally interbreed," Jakobsson says.
The full report of the research can be found in the April 27th issue of the journal Science, which is published by AAAS, the nonprofit international science society

Archaeologists Make Exciting Discovery Near Monticello

Monticello archaeologists have discovered two previously unknown archaeological sites that contain nineteenth century artifacts, including remains of slave homes
 Monticello archaeologists have discovered two previously unknown archaeological sites that contain nineteenth century artifacts, including remains of slave homes

Monticello archaeologists have discovered two previously unknown archaeological sites that contain nineteenth century artifacts, including remains of slave homes—some from Jefferson’s time.
The sites were discovered in April at Tufton, historically significant as one of Thomas Jefferson’s four quarter farms located about a mile and a quarter east of Monticello.
A preliminary assessment of the artifacts indicates the earlier of the two sites was occupied in the first few decades of the nineteenth century, most likely by enslaved field laborers who worked on the Tufton farm.
Archaeologists recovered significant Jefferson-era artifacts including: a padlock, which matches one found on Mulberry Row, a glass bead, a slate pencil, a metal coat button, along with scores of datable ceramic sherds in refined English earthenwares and some Chinese porcelain.
The second site contains artifacts that date from the mid through late-nineteenth century and contains above-ground remains of at least two houses: a stone foundation and a brick chimney stack. This indicates that after Jefferson’s death and the sale of his slaves to pay his debts, the site was occupied by slaves belonging to Tufton’s subsequent owners, the Macons, who acquired the tract in 1833. The earlier site also contains artifacts from the Macon period.
The Jefferson-era remains on the earlier site will give archaeologists an opportunity to assess how the material lives of slaves living on an outlying quarter farm compared to the lives of enslaved domestic workers and artisans living on Mulberry Row and enslaved field hands who cultivated the fields of Monticello Mountain and lived on its slopes. The later nineteenth-century remains offer the possibility of studying how the material lives of slaves changed from Jefferson’s time up to the Civil War, and then again after emancipation.
The archaeological sites are significant in size. The site with earlier artifacts measures about 875 by 500 feet, the later 750 by 200 feet.
“This is the biggest cluster of Jefferson-era artifacts we have found since we discovered Site 8 in 1998,” said Fraser Neiman, Director of Archaeology at Monticello. Site 8 was the main slave settlement on the Monticello home farms in the late 18th century. “Our initial hypothesis is that these newly discovered sites represent multiple, widely spaced single-family houses,” said Neiman.
Thomas Jefferson inherited Tufton and later gave it to his daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph. Tufton served as important agricultural land, providing large amounts of crops and food sources for the Monticello plantation. Beginning in 1817, Tufton was managed by Jefferson’s grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph.

Ancient hero stone with inscriptions unearthed

Belongs to 31 regnal year of Paranthaga Chola-I (AD 938)
An ancient hero stone with inscriptions has been unearthed at Karattampatti near Thuraiyur, about 35 km from here.
The hero stone was discovered from a field at a village during a field study taken up by a research team led by Subash Chandira Bose, advisor for the archaeological wing of the Centre for Cultural Studies, Coimbatore, following a tip-off given by Durairaj, a local resident.
Mr.Bose, in a press release, said the bas-relief hero stone measuring 30 centimetres in width and 92 centimetres in height has been carved within a rectangular vertical frame with excellent craftsmanship. It depicts a warrior holding a sword in his left arm.
The inscription belongs to the 31 regnal year of Paranthaga Chola-I (AD 938), also known as Madurai Kondan, he said.
The inscription on the stone says that the people of Viriyur had donated a non-taxable land to the daughter of hero known as Nagan who sacrificed his life to bring back a herd cows taken away by a group.
The inscription also refers to a few names of places such as Miamaa Nadu, Valluvappadi, Viriyur, Oottrathur Nadu, Paadaavur and Ainjurinimangal.
The field study was carried out by a research team comprising Iravindran, Ramkumar, Balakrishnan, Stapathi Palanisamy, with the help of Devaraj and Palaniyandi and a few school students, the release said.

The caves in which the purification baths were found were 'caves of refuge,' where Jews who lived in the area sought shelter under Roman rule.

By Eli AshkenaziThe caves in which the purification baths were found were "caves of refuge," where Jews who lived in the area sought shelter under Roman rule, particularly during the Jewish revolt that ended with the destruction of the Second Temple.
According to Shivtiel, the effort needed to build mikvehs under such difficult circumstances indicates that these cave dwellers were probably kohanim.
"These people saw it as an imperative to build a mikveh in their shelter, in a cave on a steep cliff," he said.
Shivtiel and Vladimir Boslov of the Hebrew University's cave research unit have already discovered 500 caves of refuge during the comprehensive survey they've been conducting under the auspices of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
To reach this particular cave, the two researchers had to scale a cliff "with our fingernails," as Shivtiel put it.
"The preparation of mikvaot in these refuge caves, sites that are difficult to access and are not meant for routine living but for times of distress, teach us the deep religious need for facilities for ritual purity," said Shivtiel. "The preparation of mikvehs in these places is not amazing just because of the physical difficulty in digging them, but because in doing so one needs to cope with all the specifics of Jewish law that a mikveh demands, primarily a source of flowing water and an immersion area that has a specific volume."
The mikveh builders at Arbel assured supplies of natural water by either building the ritual baths directly under still-dripping stalactites or by digging tunnels from the mikvehs to outside the rock wall, so that runoff from rainwater could accumulate.
Three of the mikvehs on the cliffs were documented by archaeologist Ronny Reich of Hebrew University, but Shivtiel and Boslov discovered two more.
Other findings that they and others have uncovered in the Arbel region show that these cave dwellers lived at subsistance level and in crowded conditions. They had water, food and light, as evidenced by the water-storage pits, niches for candles, and remnants of cooking pots and pitchers, but no more than that.
Shivtiel, who consulted with rabbis to identify the mikvehs, said they were distinguished from other water cisterns by three things: steps heading into the bath, a water supply from a natural source and enough water to immerse one's entire body.
"Preparing a mikveh is beyond what is needed to sustain life," Shivtiel said. "The Jewish group most likely to see it as an integral part of their lives would be a group that was part of the mishmarot kehuna [priests who did shifts at the Temple]."
Previous research has shown that when the priests found refuge in the Galilee after the destruction of the Second Temple, at least one group moved to Arbel.

Ancient Egyptian Mummy Suffered Rare and Painful Disease

Around 2,900 years ago, an ancient Egyptian man, likely in his 20s, passed away after suffering from a rare, cancerlike disease that may also have left him with a type of diabetes.
When he died he was mummified, following the procedure of the time. The embalmers removed his brain (through the nose it appears), poured resin-like fluid into his head and pelvis, took out some of his organs and inserted four linen “packets” into his body. At some point the mummy was transferred to the 2,300 year-old sarcophagus of a woman named Kareset, an artifact that is now in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, Croatia.

The mummy transfer may have been the work of 19th-century antiquity traders keen on selling Kareset's coffin but wanting to have a mummy inside to raise the price.
Until now, scientists had assumed a female mummy was inside the Egyptian coffin. The new research reveals not only that the body does not belong to Kareset, but the male mummy inside was sick. His body showed telltale signs that he suffered from Hand-Schuller-Christian disease, an enigmatic condition in which Langerhans cells, a type of immune cell found in the skin, multiply rapidly.

They tend to replace normal structure of the bone and all other soft tissues," Dr. Mislav ?avka, a medical doctor at the University of Zagreb who is one of the study's leaders, said in an interview with LiveScience. "We could say it is one sort of cancer."
Scientists still aren't sure what causes the disease, but it is very rare, affecting about one in 560,000 young adults, more often males. "In ancient times it was lethal, always," said ?avka, who added that today it can be treated. [Top 10 Mysterious Diseases]
?avkaand colleagues examined the mummy using X-rays, a CT scan and a newly developed technique for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

The disease seems to have taken a terrible toll on the ancient man's body, with images revealing it destroyed parts of his skeleton, leaving lytic lesions throughout his spine and skull. The scans also showed what looks like a giant hole in his skull's frontal-parietal bone, and destruction of a section of one of his eye sockets, known as the "orbital wall."
The mummy-embalming procedure may have worsened some of the disease-caused damage, ?avka said.
Even so,the effects of the disease would have been "very, very painful," and would have affected the man's appearance, particularly in the final stage, ?avka told LiveScience.
In addition, it may have led him to suffer from a form of diabetes. The scans show that his sella turcica, part of the skull that holds the pituitary gland, is shallow, which suggests that this gland was also affected by the disease.
"That could have lead to diabetes insipidus," the researchers write in their paper. The condition would have made it difficult for his kidneys to conserve water, something that would have worsened the man's predicament. "Probably he was all the time thirsty, hungry and had to urinate," ?avka said.
Perhaps cold comfort for him now, but his death does offer clues to the ancient world. Scientists have long debated whether or not cancer was common in ancient times.
Some believe that with lower life expectancies and fewer pollutants cancer's prevalence was very low. On the other hand, some scholars believe cancer was more common than thought, but simply very hard to detect in ancient remains.
The researchers point out this mummy is the third known case of Hand-Schuller- Christian's disease from ancient Egypt, suggesting the condition was as common among the ancients as it is today. "Tumors are not diseases of the new age," ?avka said.
The new findings are detailed in the most recent issue of the journal Collegium Antropologicum.

viernes, 27 de abril de 2012

Hallado en Ávila un verraco a medio tallar de granito del siglo I en una tierra de labor

  • Su singularidad reside en que está esculpido sólo por una de sus caras
  • Se utilizaban para colocar sobre las tumbas de incineración

El Museo Provincial de Ávila ha incorporado a su colección la escultura zoomorfa de un verraco que data de los siglos I-II después de Cristo y que cuenta con características únicas, lo que le hace ser "singular", ya que se encuentra tallado por una sola de sus caras.
Según ha explicado durante su llegada al contenedor cultural el jefe del Servicio Territorial de Cultura, Alejandro Núñez, se trata de una "escultura zoomorfa con forma de toro, tallada en granito de la zona" de Aldea del Rey Niño, un barrio anexionado de la capital abulense.
Allí fue descubierto este verraco el pasado mes de marzo por la Patrulla Verde de la Policía Local, que de forma casual pasaba por la finca "Valdeprados" y observó lo que podía ser un verraco y se lo comunicó tanto a la Guardia Civil, como a la Junta.
El hijo del propietario de la finca, Félix Sanchidrián, ha comentado que esta escultura zoomorfa de 1,7 por 1,10 metros, llevaba "sobre una piedra" en torno a veinte años, momento en el que salió a la luz cuando los dueños "estaban preparando el campo para arar y sacaron varias piedras".
Todas ellas se las llevaron para "hacer una pared", pero al ver la que correspondía a este verraco cuya importancia y significado desconocían, la separaron y la colocaron "sobre una piedra en la que ha estado durante 20 años".
Según el arqueólogo territorial del Gobierno autonómico en Ávila, Francisco Fabián, se trata de "una pieza importante, porque está a medio hacer y eso de cara a la didáctica y a las investigaciones puede servir de mucho".
Tanto Fabián como Núñez han subrayado el hecho de que se trate de una pieza "única" por esta circunstancia, aunque no se han atrevido a especular sobre los motivos por los que su autor pudo dejar esta pieza a medio terminar.
"No lo vamos a saber nunca", ha apuntado el arqueólogo territorial en torno a los motivos de su estado actual, si bien considera que este tipo de verracos eran "los que estaban encima de una tumba de incineración romana", lo que confirmaría que se trata de un testimonio de los siglos I-II después de Cristo.
El jefe del Servicio Territorial de Cultura ha agradecido la colaboración de los dueños de la finca en la que apareció la escultura zoomorfa, que han firmado un acuerdo con la Administración autonómica, de manera que la pieza ha pasado a formar parte desde hoy del Museo Provincial de Ávila como depósito.
En este contexto, ha subrayado el hecho de que la sociedad esté "concienciada sobre la importancia del legado cultural", lo que propicia que se produzcan este tipo de colaboraciones.
Este verraco, considerado un caso único de escultura zoomorfa a medio tallar en la provincia, ha sido depositado hoy en el Museo Provincial, después de ser trasladada desde la finca de la Aldea del Rey Niño en un camión del que ha sido bajada mediante una polea.
En la actualidad se considera que hay cerca de medio millar de verracos repartidos por las provincias de Salamanca, Zamora, Toledo, Cáceres y Ávila, que alberga cerca de la mitad de todas ellas, según Francisco Fabián