miércoles, 29 de mayo de 2013

Earliest Case of Child Abuse Discovered in Egyptian Cemetery

Joseph Castro

A 2- to 3-year-old child from a Romano-Christian-period cemetery in Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt, shows evidence of physical child abuse, archaeologists have found. The child, who lived around 2,000 years ago, represents the earliest documented case of child abuse in the archaeological record, and the first case ever found in Egypt, researchers say.
The Dakhleh Oasis is one of seven oases in Egypt's Western Desert. The site has seen continuous human occupation since the Neolithic period, making it the focus of several archaeological investigations, said lead researcher Sandra Wheeler, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Central Florida. Moreover, the cemeteries in the oasis allow scientists to take a unique look at the beginnings of Christianity in Egypt.
In particular, the so-called Kellis 2 cemetery, which is located in the Dakhleh Oasis town of Kellis (southwest of Cairo), reflects Christian mortuary practices. For example, "instead of having children in different places, everyone is put in one place, which is an unusual practice at this time," Wheeler told LiveScience. Dating methods using radioactive carbon from skeletons suggest the cemetery was used between A.D. 50 and A.D. 450.

 When the researchers came across the abused toddler, labeled "Burial 519," in Kellis 2, nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first. But when they began brushing the sand away, they noticed prominent fractures on the child's arms. The excavated in situ burial of 519 shown here.
CREDIT: Sandra Wheeler

She thought, 'Whoa, this was weird,' and then she found another fracture on the collarbone," Wheeler said. "We have some other kids that show evidence of skeletal trauma, but this is the only one that had these really extreme fracture patterns."
Signs of abuse
The researchers decided to conduct a series of tests on Burial 519, including X-ray work, histology (microscopic study of tissues) and isotopic analyses, which pinpoint metabolic changes that show when the body tried to repair itself. They found a number of bone fractures throughout the body, on places like the humerus (forearm), ribs, pelvis and back.
Whereas no particular fracture is diagnostic of child abuse, the pattern of trauma suggests it occurred. Additionally, the injuries were all in different stages of healing, which further signifies repeated nonaccidental trauma.
One of the more interesting fractures was located on the child's upper arms, in the same spot on each arm, Wheeler said. The fractures were complete, broken all the way through the bone — given that children are more flexible than adults, a complete break like that would have taken a lot of force.

After comparing the injury with the clinical literature, the researchers deduced that someone grabbed the child's arms and used them as handles to shake the child violently. Other fractures were also likely caused by shaking, but some injuries, including those on the ribs and vertebrae, probably came from direct blows.
The archaeologists aren't sure what ultimately killed the toddler. "It could be that last fracture, which is the clavicle fracture," Wheeler said, referring to the collarbone. "Maybe it wasn't a survivable event."
A unique case
Child abuse in the archaeological record is rare. One possible reason, Wheeler said, is that archaeologists didn't really pay much attention to child remains until about 20 years ago, believing that children couldn't tell them much about the past.

A few cases of possible child abuse have since come out of France, Peru and the United Kingdom, all of which date back to medieval times or later. "Certainly, our case has the best context in terms of the archaeology and skeletal analysis," Wheeler said.
Of the 158 juveniles excavated from the Kellis 2 cemetery, Burial 519 is the only one showing signs of repeated nonaccidental trauma, suggesting child abuse wasn't something that occurred throughout the community. The uniqueness of the case supports the general belief that children were a valued part of ancient Egyptian society.
By contrast, though Romans loved their kids immensely, they believed children were born soft and weak, so it was the parents' duty to mold them into adults. They often engaged in such practices as corporal punishment, immobilizing newborn infants on wooden planks to ensure proper growth and routinely bathing the young in cold water as to not soften them with the feel of warm water.
"We know that the ancient Egyptians really revered children," Wheeler said. "But we don't know how much Roman ideas filtered into Egyptian society," she added, suggesting that the unique child abuse case may have been the result of Roman influence.
The research will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Paleopathology.


martes, 28 de mayo de 2013

Arqueólogos inician segundas excavaciones en yacimiento Arguiñeta

Se descubrió el pasado año restos de un poblado formado por casas de madera y un cementerio de entre los siglos VI y XI

Un grupo de arqueólogos han iniciado ya el segundo trabajo de campo en el yacimiento de Argiñeta de Elorrio, tras haber descubierto el pasado año restos de un poblado y un cementerio de entre los siglos VI y XI.

Las excavaciones sobre el terreno las están llevando a cabo un equipo del Museo Arqueológico de Bizkaia gracias a un convenio firmado entre el Ayuntamiento de Elorrio y la Diputación foral para investigar el pasado de este enclave, declarado bien cultural, según ha informado hoy el consistorio.

Gracias al análisis de los materiales extraídos el pasado año de este yacimiento, el equipo de investigadores concluyó que en la zona hubo un poblado formado por casas de madera y un cementerio con sepulturas de distintos tipos, según ha informado hoy el Ayuntamiento de Elorrio.

Los arqueólogos dataron estos hallazgos entre los siglos VI y XI, si bien no descartaron que se pudiera haber dado una ocupación de comienzos de la era cristiana.

El nuevo trabajo de campo que llevan a cabo en la actualidad permitirá verificar o descartar estas hipótesis y ampliar la informhttp://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2013/05/21/paisvasco/1369153417.htmlación reunida hasta la fecha.

lunes, 27 de mayo de 2013

Archaeologist treats guests to 1,000-year-old recipes

Archaeologist treats guests to 1,000-year-old recipes

It seems the ancient Fremont people would have taken a real fancy to scones, Jell-O, funeral potatoes and Dutch Ovens.

Granted, Utah's signature foods were not exactly on Fremont menus 1,000 years ago, but these early state dwellers did chow down on bone, hide and connective tissues, from which gelatin is derived. They also consumed plenty of bread- and potato-related food items found in their maize, tubers and rhizomes, and engaged in some serious containment cooking.

Bon appétit!

Food sustains and even explains a little bit about the people who consume it.

Yes, people are what they eat and that is why Timothy Riley, archaeologist with Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum, is so interested in determining who the Fremont people were by what they ate. These mysterious people, who were both farmers and nomads, inhabited the region comprising Utah as well as parts of Idaho, Nevada and Colorado between 400-1350 A.D.

Plants and diet have always been a favorite topic for Riley and were the focus of a recent lecture he gave at USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum as part of Utah Archaeology Week. And best of all, he didn't just talk about what the Fremont people ate; he dished it out in the form of a four-course evening of sampling.

Riley began with cattail and spring onion salad followed by dusky grouse with pinion nuts and Juniper berries. After that came tasty venison steak with dried and roasted pumpkin seeds - a definite crowd pleaser.

By the end of the evening, the 30 or so people in attendance experienced the Fremont culture as though they had been guests in their pithouses. The similarities between then and now made dining with the Fremont not only bearable to the palate but really quite pleasant.

Of course in order to develop his menu, Riley had to get his hands a little dirty because he could only determine what went in the mouths of the Fremonts by carefully studying what came out of them.

Yes, his menu was based on fossilized human waste, called coprolites.

And Riley couldn't have been happier digging through the dung knowing it was for the greater good. There is much to be found in discards. What fascinated him was the amount of animal hair, fish, seeds, grass and fiber he found in Fremont waste.

Because such matter is not easily preserved, human coprolites are particularly rare and, shy of stumbling upon Fremont latrines, elusive. In fact, the best examples of Fremont feces finds date back to the 1960s and 70s from which Riley did his research. These samples were dug up by archaeologists at three Fremont sites in Utah, including the Hogup Cave site along the Great Salt Lake.

By studying the eating habits of the Fremont Indians, Riley knows when they were heavier into hunting and gathering and when they were more likely chilling in their pithouses as farmers. He can also tell you when they were physically healthiest - think Mediterranean Diet - and when they were likely dipping into their corn-only food storage.

"Coprolites actually do give you direct evidence that people were not just gathering these plants and using them for baskets and tools, they were also eating them and combining them and so the idea of menus and meals is something you can get at through coprolites."

And to his biggest surprise, despite the plethora of Fremont granaries throughout the region storing all that maize, what was most abundant in the coprolites were wild seeds.

Of the 30 coprolites he analyzed, 17 reflected no field-grown foods. The remaining samples revealed eight with corn and the other five with corn and other domestic foods. At the sites where corn had been the most heavily ingested, such as the Hogup site, they also found greater nutritional stress. Maybe they figured out, and a little too late, that strictly farming was not good for their health - more nuts and berries were in order.

After 1150, they evidently switched primarily to a hunter-gatherer diet and were the better for it - their muscle mass increased and their nutrient stress decreased, as reflected in the Harris lines in teeth and skeletal robusticity based on muscle attachments, Riley said.

"It looks like people who were eating a lot of maize were actually probably the least healthy," he said. "We see that a fair amount in hunter-gatherer versus agricultural populations. Hunter-gathers tend to have seasonal nutrition stress but they don't have long-term nutritional deficiencies the same way agriculturalists tend to."

After tasting the spring onion salad, the pinion nuts and pumpkin seeds, the palatable merits of mixing it up became especially apparent to Riley's guests. But it was not just about the food that was prepared but also how it was prepared that was important to the evening. Archaeologists have determined that the Fremont people used cooking slabs, (like pizza stones), hand-held grinding stones, called manos, parching trays, boiling baskets and ceramic vessels.

The food on this particular night was prepared primarily through boiling in ceramic vessels, which made for tender and moist morsels. So not only did Riley prepare and serve what he said he's 99 percent sure the Fremont people ate, he also cooked it up in the same ceramic fashion that they did. Utah's fascination with Dutch Ovens appears to run deeper than anyone could have imagined.


King Richard III Buried in Hasty Grave

The body of King Richard III was buried in great haste, a new study finds — perhaps because the medieval monarch's corpse had been out for three days in the summer sun.
The new research is the first academic paper published on the discovery of Richard III, which was publically announced in February 2013. A team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester found the body beneath a parking lot in Leicester that was once the site of a medieval church. The full study will be available online on Friday evening (May 24).
The archaeological analysis contains details only alluded to in the initial announcement of the findings. In particular, the archaeologists found that Richard III's grave was dug poorly and probably hastily, a sharp contrast to the neat rectangular graves otherwise found in the church where the king was laid to rest. [Gallery: The Discovery of Richard III]
Richard III's journey to Leicester
Richard III ruled England from 1483 to 1485, when he was killed during the Battle of Bosworth Field, the definitive fight in the War of the Roses.

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Historical records reveal that after the battle, Richard's body was stripped and brought to Leicester, where it remained on public display for three days until burial on August 25, 1485. The church where the body was interred, a Franciscan friary called Grey Friars, was eventually demolished around 1538. A former mayor of Leicester built a mansion on the site, but by the 1700s, the land had been subdivided and sold off, the location of the church lost.
With it went all memory of where one of England's most famous kings was buried. Richard III was immortalized by a Shakespeare play of the same name and made out to be a villain by the Tudor dynasty that followed his rule. Today, however, there are societies of Richard III enthusiasts called Richardians who defend the dead king's honor. One of these Richardians, a screenwriter named Philippa Langley, spearheaded the excavation that discovered Richard III's body.
Digging for Richard
The new paper, published in the journal Antiquity, outlines how archaeologists dug three trenches in a city government parking lot, hoping to hit church buildings they knew had once stood in the area. They soon found evidence of the friary they were looking for: first, a chapter house with stone benches and diamond-pattern fl
oor tiles. This chapter house would have been used for daily monastery meetings.


Baby Neanderthal Breast-Fed for 7 Months

A baby Neanderthal who lived in what is now Belgium about 100,000 years ago started eating solid food at 7 months old, revealing a new aspect of the evolution of breast-feeding.
The precision of this estimate is courtesy a new technique that uses elements in teeth to determine when breast-feeding started and stopped. Though researchers can't be sure the young Neanderthal's pattern was typical of its kind, such a breast-feeding pattern is not unlike that seen in many modern humans.
"Breast-feeding is such a major event in childhood, and it's important for so many reasons," study researcher Manish Arora, a research associate at Harvard's School of Public Health, told LiveScience. "It's a major determinate of child health and immune protection, so breast-feeding is important both from the point of view of studying our evolution as well as studying health in modern humans." [The Facts on Breast-Feeding (Infographic)]


sábado, 25 de mayo de 2013

Cementerio ilegal cerca de pirámides de Dahshur en Egipto será derrumbado

(El Cairo, 24 de mayo. EFE).En las proximidades de las primigenias pirámides de Dahshur, hay ciertas tumbas destinadas a desaparecer antes de acoger a los muertos. Son las del cementerio ilegal que desde hace meses ocupa la tierra de los antiguos faraones.
Una sucesión de muros y nichos desnudos rompe el paisaje desértico que lleva hasta la llamada Pirámide Roja, construida por el faraón Snefru, fundador de la IV dinastía y padre de Keops, que reinó hace unos 4.600 años.
Las pirámides de Dahshur forman parte del Patrimonio de la Humanidad.
Más alejada y menos conocida que las de Guiza, la primera pirámide del mundo en tener sus lados triangulares había convivido con monumentos similares, una necrópolis real y demás restos arqueológicos, pero nunca estuvo tan cerca como ahora de un cementerio contemporáneo.
Con su patrulla, el jefe de la policía egipcia en las ruinas de Dahshur, Mohamed Sibai, supervisa la zona y niega cualquier problema con los lugareños a raíz del nuevo camposanto, extensión de uno antiguo que ya está abarrotado de sepulcros.
“Esperamos derribarlo en un par de semanas. Aquí se esconden restos arqueológicos, pero aún no se han autorizado excavaciones para sacarlos a la luz”, apunta Sibai, con gesto relajado.
Más nerviosismo debieron sentir los policías que el pasado enero se enfrentaron a un gran número de hombres armados que, tras irrumpir de noche en el lugar, comenzaron a remover la tierra y levantar los primeros muros.
De esa forma, invadieron el sitio de Dahshur, que junto con otras pirámides históricas ubicadas a las afueras de El Cairo, forma parte del Patrimonio de la Humanidad.
“Las fuerzas de seguridad podían haber acabado con los muros antes, pero no tienen la autorización”
Tal acción puso en alerta a la Unesco, cuya directora general, Irina Bokova, visitó en marzo el país árabe y no dudó en abordar con el entonces ministro egipcio de Antigüedades, Mohamed Ibrahim, la situación de Dahshur y otras ruinas amenazadas como las de Tel el Amarna, en el sur.
El Gobierno se comprometió a detener las obras ilegales y a conceder a los vecinos otro terreno que pueda albergar el nuevo cementerio sin que esto afecte al rico legado arqueológico.
“Las fuerzas de seguridad podían haber acabado con los muros antes, pero necesitaban el correspondiente permiso”, asegura a Efe la arqueóloga y jefa de los inspectores de Dahshur, Wahiba Saleh.
Entre tanto vestigio, el nuevo cementerio incomoda también a algunos habitantes de la zona. Karim Sayed, que acaba de visitar una tumba familiar en el viejo recinto, culpa a vecinos de otras localidades por supuestamente haber construido allí, fuera de los límites legales. “Las pirámides son patrimonio de todos”, recuerda.
Foto: EFE 

viernes, 24 de mayo de 2013

The battle for Egypt’s ancient Roman site, Antinopolis

Archaeologists denounce the “disgraceful” plundering of the city, built by emperor Hadrian
Leading archaeologists have denounced the poor state of conservation of the Roman remains at Antinopolis in Egypt, the city built by the emperor Hadrian, who ruled Rome from 117AD to 138AD. The revolution that swept through the country in 2011 and the subsequent exit of its president, Hosni Mubarak, who is currently in jail facing corruption charges, have affected the security and conservations of many historical sights in the country, especially those that are far from major city centres. Antinopolis, located near the Nile over 30km south of the nearest large town, Minya, is a perfect target.
Until recently, the Roman hippodrome there was still intact, although it has now been swallowed by the ever-expanding cemetery for the neighbouring small town called Sheikh ‘Ibada. Out of the four hippodromes built by the Romans in Egypt, this was the only one that survived. Large areas are being prepared for redevelopment and parts of the ancient necropolis on the north of the site have already been converted into farmland. 

Ancient Celtic Knots inspire scientific breakthrough

Scientists have devised a new molecular technique, inspired by Celtic Knots and trees, which could be used in the treatment of multiple diseases.
Researchers at the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) in NUI Galway have discovered a new process that could be used in the industrial and medical fields.
“Polymerisation is the adding together of many smaller units,” says research assistant to the project’s leader Doctor Wenxin Wang, Ben Newland. “It is one of the most important processes in industrial manufacturing.”
The new process gives scientists a “simple method to produce large quantities of well-defined material”, which could be used in diagnostic, therapeutic and imaging processes in the body Newland says.


Caltrans dig near Novato unearths Miwok artifacts

By Mark Prado
Marin Independent Journal

ARCHAEOLOGISTS HAVE been huddled along Highway 101 north of Novato for the past month sifting the dirt for clues about how humans survived hundreds of years ago.
Arrowheads, parts of grinding bowls, stone tools and shells are some of what was uncovered at the Coast Miwok site established along the bay waters, which provided fertile ground to sustain an austere existence.
"It's a major site," said Nick Tipon, a member of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria Sacred Sites Committee, who monitored the dig that ended Thursday. "For us it is interesting to learn more about our past and our ancestors."
The work is being done because Caltrans will soon pave a frontage
road over the site as part of the Novato Narrows widening project. Caltrans brought in a team from California State University, Sacramento that has been at the site carefully digging through material.
"It's a lot of effort; all this soil is being moved by hand," said Brett Rushing, senior environmental planner in archaeology for Caltrans, as he stood at the hole-laden site Thursday morning. "Each centimeter is being moved by hand."
A crew of up to 25 archaeologists methodically dug earthen cubes out of the ground, sifted though the soil and used water to remove the dirt to bring the artifacts into light after hundreds of years. The site was known because about 100 years ago Nels Nelson, a Berkeley archaeologist, had documented

 shellmounds around San Francisco Bay.
When the Miwok Indians inhabited the area the bay was much closer to where Highway 101 in Novato is now situated, and the waters provided a wealth of food, including shellfish such as mussels and oysters. As the years passed, the amount of shells left by the native people created a mound, a telltale sign of the historic activity.
"They probably picked the high ground to begin with," said Mark Basgall, director of the Archaeological Research
 Center at CSUS. "This area probably would have been surrounded by brackish or saltwater marshes. There was also a freshwater creek nearby. It was an open camp and mainly a food processing area."
There was no evidence of roofed structures or anyone living on the site, he said.
"There are quite a few fragments of grinding tools," Basgall said. "They were doing shellfish, we have fish bone, some deer bone and rabbit bone."
The artifacts will be analyzed and carbon-dated and could end up as part of a public display at some point. Basgall said there were indications the site had been used over several hundred years.
"We have evidence of low-level occupation that dates back 2,500 to 3,000 years; then there is another occupation in the last 1,000 years when most of this was left behind," he said. "It all becomes pieces to a puzzle of who was here."


Bahrain digs unveil one of oldest civilisations

Excavations at an archaeological site in Bahrain are shedding light on one of the oldest trading civilisations.
Despite its antiquity, comparatively little is known about the advanced culture represented at Saar.
The site in Bahrain, thought to be the location of the enigmatic Dilmun civilisation, was recently discussed at a conference in Manama, the Gulf nation's capital, organised by the UN's educational, scientific and cultural body (Unesco).

The belief system here has a lot in common with those of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt”
The meeting was devoted to wide-ranging debate on heritage tourism; Bahrain is a Unesco regional headquarters and one of its key attractions is an abundance of ancient sites.
At Saar (named after the closest modern village), with the scorching sun rising ever higher in the sky, a Bahraini archaeologist patiently explained to a group of workers how to re-point a low wall in a state of near collapse.
This meticulous maintenance of the archaeological settlement marks a turning point in the way Bahraini specialists are dealing with the vast store of historical remains on the island.
According to Salman al-Mahari, the Bahraini archaeologist in charge, the Saar settlement divides into two: a residential zone and, at a small distance, the cemetery where the inhabitants buried their dead.

This site has provided a lot of information about daily life," he explains. "This has enabled us to compare finds made here with objects unearthed at other locations on the island. It is evident that this city and graveyard date back to the early Dilmun period."
Dilmun, one of most important ancient civilisations of the region and said to date to the third millennium BC, was a hub on a major trading route between Mesopotamia - the world's oldest civilisation - and the Indus Valley in South Asia.
It is also believed that Dilmun had commercial ties with ancient sites at Elam in Oman, Alba in Syria and Haittan in Turkey.
As Salman al-Mahari confirms, the team is now preserving what has been found to ensure that the historical findings are made accessible.
"For 4,000 years this site was underground so it was sheltered," he says. "Now after excavation, it is exposed to the elements. We have no immediate plans to carry out further excavations. We want to protect the site and to interpret what we have unearthed for visitors."
The Saar site is far from being the most significant relic of the Dilmun era. On the northern tip of the island, archaeological expeditions have uncovered seven successive levels of settlements at the Qal'at al Bahrain (the fort of Bahrain). Under the oldest and most extensive fort, three consecutive Dilmun cities as well as a Greek city dating back to 200 BC have been unearthed.
The site is impressive: the outer walls enclose an area of several hundred square metres. At its centre lie massive carved stones marking the entrance and walls of a chamber containing an altar once flanked by copper-faced pillars.

Next to it is another structure where the presence of blackened animal bones and charred earth suggest a chamber for sacrifices to the gods.
On the other side of the central altar, a flight of carved steps leads down to a pool, a deep, stone-walled well built over one of the numerous underground springs where one of three principal Sumerian deities - Enki, the water-dwelling god of wisdom - supposedly lived.
The abundance of sweet water flowing from springs which still supply the island with much of its drinking water was one of the cornerstones of Dilmun. The island was an oasis of fertility in ancient times in a mainly desolate region. This could have given rise to a legend that Bahrain may even have been the biblical Garden of Eden.
But as Abdullah Hassan Yehia, the keeper of the Qal'at al Bahrain, explains, the fertile nature of the island encouraged more than just agriculture (Dilmun was famed for its vegetable production). There is strong evidence of religious practices and beliefs that can be compared with those in other advanced societies of the time.
"The belief system here has a lot in common with those of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt," he says. "Belief in the after-life is shown by burying the dead with possessions such as tools, food, drinking vessels and gold. We've even found weapons."
Abdullah Hassan Yehia also explains that the Dilmun merchants had a monopoly of trade in copper, a precious commodity which was shipped from the mines of Oman to the cities of Mesopotamia. But he debunks the theory that Bahrain may have been used by prehistoric inhabitants of the Arabian mainland as a cemetery.

The island has approximately 170,000 burial mounds covering an area of 30 square kilometres or 5% of the main island area.
The majority of the burial grounds date back to the second and third centuries BC but some are as recent as 2,000 years old. The oldest and largest burial mounds, referred to as the "Royal Tombs", are found at Aali and measure up to 15m in height and 45m in diameter.
Archaeologist Salman Al-Mahari agrees: "There were a number of large population centres on the island. We have calculated that there would have been a significant number of deaths of both adults and children who would have been buried here," he says.
This sort of debate is exactly what Khalifa Ahmed Al Khalifa, assistant director of programmes at the Arab regional Centre for World Heritage is keen to encourage.

There has been a lot of academic work carried out over the past decades," he recaps. "The idea is to simplify and interpret all this academic information so that local people and international visitors can grasp the importance of our heritage."
Using Saar as an example, he continues. "It includes houses, restaurants, commercial outlets, a cemetery and a place of worship. These are all part of a modern city."
"One of the characteristics of Saar are its honeycomb-shaped burial complexes. This is the sort of thing that people find fascinating," he adds. "As long as it is presented in an easily digestible way."
While academic research continues int
o life 4,000 years ago in Dilmun, with an emphasis on trade, diet, gods, pottery and other industries as well as local burial customs, there is now a focus on making everything interesting to the layperson.
"It's quite a challenge that we're facing," says Khalifa Ahmed al-Khalif. "But with the help of new technology we'll be able to place Bahrain on the [ancient] global map."


jueves, 23 de mayo de 2013

Prehistoric Dog Lovers Liked Seafood, Jewelry, Spirituality

Jennifer Viegas

An analysis of ancient dog burials finds that the typical prehistoric dog owner ate a lot of seafood, had spiritual beliefs, and wore jewelry that sometimes wound up on the dog.
The study, published in PLoS ONE, is one of the first to directly test if there was a clear relationship between the practice of dog burial and human behaviors. The answer is yes.
"Dog burials appear to be more common in areas where diets were rich in aquatic foods because these same areas also appear to have had the densest human populations and the most cemeteries," lead author Robert Losey, a University of Alberta anthropologist, told Discovery News.

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The discovery negates speculation that dogs back in the day were just work animals brought along on hunting trips.
"If the practice of burying dogs was solely related to their importance in procuring terrestrial game, we would expect to see them in the Early Holocene (around 9,000 years ago), when human subsistence practices were focused on these animals," Losey continued. "Further, we would expect to see them in later periods in areas where fish were never really major components of the diet and deer were the primary focus, but they are rare or absent in these regions."
For the study, Losey and his team researched dog burials worldwide, but focused particularly on ones located in Eastern Siberia. Siberia appears to have been an ancient hotbed of dog lovers, with the earliest known domesticated dog found there and dating to 33,000 years ago. Dog burials in this region, however, span across a more recent 10,000-year period.
The researchers found that most of the dog burials in this area occurred during the Early Neolithic 7,000-8,000 years ago. Dogs were only buried when human hunter-gatherers were also being buried. When pastoralists later came through, they did not bury dogs, although they did sacrifice them from time to time.
"I think the hunter-gatherers here saw some of their dogs as being nearly the same as themselves, even at a spiritual level," Losey said. "At this time, dogs were the only animals living closely with humans, and they were likely known at an individual level, far more so than any other animal people encountered. People came to know them as unique, special individuals."
The burials reflect that association. One d
og, for example, was laid to rest "much like it is sleeping." A man was buried with two dogs, one carefully placed to the left of his body, and the other to the right. A dog was buried with a round pebble, possibly a toy or meaningful symbol, placed in its mouth. Still other dogs were buried with ornaments and implements, such as spoons and stone knives.


Who invented clothes? A Palaeolithic archaeologist answers

Hadley Freeman's answer to the question was chiffon-flimsy, so here's the lab-coat response
Who invented clothes?" It's one of those brilliant questions that children ask, before they learn that the big things we wonder about rarely have simple answers. It's the kind of thing that archaeologists like me get put on the spot about when chatting to kids, and we love to have a crack at answering.
Saturday's "Ask a grown up" section featured just that question, from eight-year old Harriet, with an answer by Hadley Freeman, fashion expert and fantastic writer. Hadley's response was, as usual, entertainingly breezy, with some refreshing encouragement to Harriet to experiment in developing her own style; but, like a fine chiffon, it was a little flimsy in substance.
I'm proud to be involved with ScienceGrrl, which aims to show girls that science is for everyone by providing diverse role models, and TrowelBlazers, a new project that is all about bringing to the fore the achievements of pioneering women archaeologists, geologists and palaeontologists. So I was kind of disappointed that a girl asking a genuine question about archaeology ended up with the barest of facts, as well as being told, even if it was meant lightheartedly, that the grown-up answering her question would rather she pay attention to what she looks like.
Hadley knows today's fashion world inside out and might not care much about pre-silk times, but I'll bet that Harriet wanted to find out more than what the Flintstones wear.
It's this kind of response that can, in aggregate, have a negative impact on children: being mentally curious ends up as something deeply uncool and not relevant to modern life. I'm not advocating force-feeding facts Vulcan-style when talking to young people – far from it. They like to be challenged and humour is a great way to do this. But I do think we should take every chance we get to pass on the incredible stuff that we've found out about our world thanks to science – including archaeology – and keep on showing girls that using their brains by asking big questions is, actually, absolutely fabulous.
So for Harriet, if you're reading: there's a whole lot we know about the invention of clothing. Many TV reconstructions and book illustrations of stone age (Palaeolithic) people really don't do them justice. People were already making finely worked bone needles 20,000 years ago, probably for embroidery as much as sewing animal skins, like the thousands of ivory beads and fox teeth that covered the bodies of a girl and a boy buried at Sunghir, Russia, around 28,000 years ago. This was some serious bling, representing years of accumulated work.
And – caveman stereotypes aside – stone age clothes weren't just animal skins. We've known since the 1990s that people were weaving fabric back then, revealed by impressions in baked clay from the sites of Pavlov and Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic. We don't actually know for sure that these were used for clothes, but the materials weren't heavy duty, and the variety in weaving styles suggests a long tradition. And at Dzudzuana Cave in Georgia, 30,000 year old spun plant fibres were found which had been dyed: pink, black and turquoise blue!
But what about the really old stuff (because 30,000 years ago isn't really old in human evolution)? As Harriet asks, who were the first fashionistas? People are still debating what, if anything, our close relatives the Neanderthals were wearing.
Neanderthals lived in Europe for much longer than our own species, and for some of that time, it really was an ice-blasted world. Research into how mammals – including humans – keep their body temperature at healthy levels suggests that even during the warmer parts of the last ice age, they would have needed decent body coverings. Skins thrown over their shoulders – Palaeo-pashminas? – wouldn't have cut it.
Another study looked at what modern day hunter-gatherers wear according to the local climate, and built a model predicting what Neanderthals would have needed to wear to stay warm. Even after correcting for Neanderthals being able to cope better with the cold, the results suggested they would have needed to cover at least 80% of their body during cold periods, especially hands and feet.
Quite astonishingly, there is physical evidence that Neanderthals more than 100,000 years ago were tanning animal skins – a stone tool from the site of Neumark-Nord in Germany has preserved scraps of organic material stuck to it that were soaked in tannin, the substance in oak bark used to make leather. It was probably part of the tool handle that got wet while the hides were being worked.
Although they lacked fine needles of the sort found much later, Neanderthals didn't need these to sew their leather, as their abilities to make stone and wood tools were easily enough to produce a sharp piercing object for threading thong.
Further back in time things get more fuzzy, but also really interesting. We have to get down and dirty – with lice. Body lice are adapted to living in clothes, and so must have evolved once humans started to wear them. DNA evidence suggests this happened at least 170,000 years ago and so people must have been wearing clothes even earlier than the oldest archeological evidence.
And here's the intriguing thing: when we get back this far, hundreds of thousands of years ago, we're talking about multiple kinds of humans. Even 40,000 years ago, there were still three "species" we know of: early members of our lineage, the Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans, a species represented by fragmentary remains of three individuals from one cave in Siberia. Given that very recent (and ongoing) genetic analysis is showing breeding between all three groups, very likely at different times and places, it's quite possible that the lice we have now hopped from one group to another, even if they weren't all wearing clothes all the time.
And I haven't even mentioned jewellery yet, the earliest examples of which keep getting pushed back in time: they currently stand at about 75,000 years ago, and maybe as much as 100,000 years ago. At one site in South Africa, we even have the first evidence of style as we know it, with a shift in the way shell beads were strung together over time. Beads aren't clothing in the strict sense, but they are a kind of fashion, so although we can't be sure exactly who wore the first clothes or when, it's clear that the history of human adornment does go back, in Hadley's words, "a very, very, very long time ago".
Becky Wragg Sykes (@LeMoustier) is a postdoctoral researcher working on Neanderthal archaeology. She blogs at www.therocksremain.org and is part of the TrowelBlazers team (@trowelblazers), along with Victoria Herridge (@ToriHerridge), Brenna Hassett (@brennawalks http://passiminpassing.blogspot.co.uk/) and Suzanne Pilaar Birch (@suzie_birch http://research.brown.edu/myresearch/Suzanne_Pilaar_Birch)

When Did Humans Begin Hurling Spears?

 Heather Pringle

Archaeologists have long debated when early humans began hurling stone-tipped spears and darts at large prey. By throwing a spear, instead of thrusting it, humans could hunt buffalo and other dangerous game from a safe distance, with less risk of a goring or mauling. But direct evidence of this hunting technique in early sites has been lacking. A new study of impact marks on the bones of ancient prey shows that such sophisticated killing techniques go back at least 90,000 years ago in Africa and offers a new method of determining how prehistoric hunters made their kills.
Other researchers have used indirect methods to study the use of projectiles, such as analyzing impact fractures on ancient stone points or identifying traces left by hafting on the points. Such evidence suggests that early humans created throwing spears as early as 500,000 years ago in Africa. But that kind of evidence leaves room for doubt and is frequently disputed.
Archaeologist Corey O'Driscoll of South East Archaeology in Canberra became interested in the traces left by hurled spears after reading studies of the wounds that medieval weapons inflicted on humans. In preliminary work, European archaeologists had fired reproductions of Upper Paleolithic points made of antler at the carcasses of oxen and deer, then studied the marks that they left on the bones. But many archaeologists remained unconvinced by the findings, seeing little clear difference between projectile marks and cut marks from butchering. O'Driscoll decided to build on these studies for his undergraduate honors thesis.
He and a colleague knapped flint reproductions of spear and arrow points from the Middle Stone Age in Africa and attached them to wooden shafts. With a group of University of Queensland students, he ran 15 experiments, throwing replica spears and firing replica arrows with bows or a calibrated crossbow at lamb and cow carcasses. After boiling the carcasses or burying them for rapid defleshing by microbes and insects, O'Driscoll found 758 wounds on the bones, which he examined microscopically, and compared to 201 cut marks in an experimentally created reference collection of butchered animal bones.

He found "quite a difference between the butchering marks and projectile impact marks," he says. His study revealed six types of distinctive projectile impact wounds, from drag marks to fracture marks and punctures. O'Driscoll also noted that most projectile impact marks were located on vertebrae or rib bones and that 17% percent of the marks overall—and 50% of the punctures—held microscopic bits of embedded stone from the flint points, due to the high velocity of impact. By contrast, none of the butchering marks contained such stone fragments, another key distinction.
These findings prompted O'Driscoll and the University of Queensland's Jessica Thompson to take a new look at three bone specimens from large unidentified mammals—a rib and two vertebrae—from Pinnacle Point Cave in South Africa. Thompson had earlier detected embedded stone fragments in marks on these bones. Using O'Driscoll's diagnostic criteria, the pair identified projectile impact marks on all three bones. Two dated to between 91,000 and 98,000 years ago—making them the oldest direct evidence of the use of projectile weapons, according to a paper presented at the Society for American Archaeology meeting in Honolulu in April. (O'Driscoll's thesis will be published by the Australian Archaeological Association in June.) A third bone dated even earlier, between 153,000 and 174,000 years ago.
"This is great work," says Curtis Marean of Arizona State University, Tempe, noting that the projectile impact marks, "have a clear and recognizable morphology."
Archaeologist Tiina Manne at the University of Queensland also finds the identification of projectile impact marks—at least on the two later bones—highly persuasive. "This strongly suggests that projectile technology at Pinnacle Point was in use by at least 90 to 95,000 years ago," she says. But she's less convinced by the evidence on the oldest bone, noting that only a "single grain" of stone from the projectile point was embedded in the bone.
Despite this reservation, Manne says that these "exciting" findings can help researchers recognize projectile impact marks on bone in many times and places. They have "incredibly wide-ranging applicability and the potential to further our understanding of when this technology was adopted elsewhere


Archaeology dig near Helena searches for ancient pollen

Pat Hanson
DEER LODGE — Most people think of archaeology as the study of artifacts such as shards of pottery, tools, and arrowheads.
However, an archaeological dig in 2011 at Beaver Creek Rock Shelter near Nelson, east of Helena, led Darla Dexter to study pollen found at the site.
Dexter, a 1994 graduate of Powell County High School in Deer Lodge, became interested in archaeology while taking a Native American Studies class with Lauri Travis, at Carroll College in the fall of 2011.
Last May she joined archaeologist and anthropologist Travis and others for a two-week dig. The Beaver Creek Rock Shelter was used by Indian tribes for more than 2,000 years as a temporary shelter for two or three people at a time, so fire hearths, bones, shells and rock flakes chipped off during the shaping of arrowheads were found.
Dexter was surprised some of the artifacts were 3 to 4 inches from the surface.
“I was expecting things to be much deeper. I didn’t know how long the earth takes to bury something when there are no major environmental changes like floods,’’ she said.
Pollen is of interest to archaeologists because they are looking for any climate changes that may have dictated human behavior, Dexter said. For example, when the climate supports plants with berries, the people will eat the berries. If there are no “easy meals,” they will turn to other sources of food.
Dexter collaborated with Travis and with Carroll’s librarian/botanist Kathy Martin, who called her a “great student” to write a paper about the pollen findings. Her paper, “Late Holocene Plant Use at Beaver Creek Rock Shelter,” is expected to be published in an upcoming edition of a Montana archeological journal.
The pollen became interesting for her paper, Dexter said, because the lab discovered pollen types only in the layers with signs of human occupancy, such as fire hearths.
“This is important,” Dexter said, “because it tells us that the plants were important enough to have been brought in by the people. My research was to try and find out why they brought the plants with them. Archaeologists often assume that plants were brought into shelters for food, but our research showed that the majority of the uses were medicinal.”
The microscopic pollen of five different plant families was found in dirt samples. Dexter took the plant families and matched them with 61 Montana native plant species. Martin took Dexter’s list and researched their native habitats in Montana. Eleven of the plants were found outside of Lewis and Clark or adjacent counties indicating those plants were brought from a greater distance.
Dexter said the lack of facts about trade routes and boundaries made her study difficult, but the use of ethnographical literature, based on oral traditions, helped determine each plant’s use.
Dexter graduated from Carroll College earlier this month “with distinction” and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She received an award for scoring in the top 15 percent in the nation on the PRAXIS II test, a content knowledge assessment covering many different subject areas that education majors are required to take for licensure.


miércoles, 22 de mayo de 2013

Archaeology’s Hidden Secrets

Ancient Ivory: Metal traces on Phoenician artifacts show long-gone paint and gold
Ancient ivory carvings made by Phoenician artists some 3,000 years ago have long hidden a secret, even while being openly displayed in museums around the world: The sculptures were originally painted with colorful pigments, and some were decorated with gold.
Researchers based in France and Germany report chemical analyses showing that 8th-century B.C. Phoenician ivory artifacts bear metal traces that are invisible to the naked eye (Anal. Chem. 2013, DOI: 10.1021/ac4006167).
These metals are found in pigments commonly used in antiquity, such as the copper-based pigment Egyptian blue or the iron-based pigment hematite. The metals are not normally in ivory nor in the soil where the artifacts were long buried, explains Ina Reiche, a chemist at the Laboratory of Molecular & Structural Archaeology, in Paris. Reiche led the research, which was performed on ivory originally unearthed in Syria and now held at Baden State Museum, in Karlsruhe, Germany.
Phoenicians were seafaring Semitic traders who pioneered the use of an alphabet later adopted in ancient Greece, and they controlled the valuable royal-purple pigment trade throughout the Mediterranean during the period 1500–300 B.C.
Scholars had suspected that Phoenician ivory sculptures might initially have been painted, but to date most studies had examined just a few spots on ivory surfaces, Reiche says. Her team used a synchrotron to do X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to analyze the entire surface of the artifacts with micrometer resolution, revealing the spatial distribution of the lost pigmentation.
“Knowledge of an object’s original appearance can help us understand why it was so visually powerful to ancient viewers,” says Benja
min W. Porter, an archaeologist at the University of California, Berkeley. And there are plenty of important objects to examine, he adds. “This technique is transferable to other kinds of ancient art whose pigments have been weathered, from the palace wall reliefs of the Assyrian empire to Egyptian tomb paintings to everyday ceramic vessels whose decorations have been worn.”



Protests halt excavation on ancient mausoleum

BEIJING, May 14 (Xinhuanet) -- A museum in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, has suspended the excavation of what is thought to be an imperial mausoleum following protests from archaeologists and the public.
The department of archaeology at the Nanjing Museum admitted it plans to build a heritage park and a museum on the site of the mausoleum, and said it will further consult experts before putting forward new protection measures.
It also denied in a statement released on Saturday that any business programs were involved in the excavation.
In November, archaeologists from the Nanjing Museum discovered two 16-by-7-meter tombs in Xinhe, a village in the city's Qixia district. The tombs were later suspected to be the mausoleum of Chen Qian, the second emperor of the Chen Dynasty (AD 557-589), which is also known as the Southern Chen Dynasty.
In January and February, the Nanjing Museum and the city's cultural, radio, press and publishing bureau held two news conferences announcing the construction of a heritage park and a museum that will occupy 80,000 square meters.
In April, heritage conservation activists began to protest by reporting to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and posting on the Internet after discovering that the two tombs had been excavated.
"Imperial mausoleums, even the suspected ones, should definitely not be excavated," said Xie Chensheng, an expert on heritage conservation. "In fact, the excavations are generally carried out to rescue relics found in construction sites. It's a rule that people shouldn't take the initiative to excavate tombs."
In the late 1950s, Beijing excavated the mausoleum of Emperor Wanli and his two queens of the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644). But due to the limited technology of the conservation and recovery of unearthed relics, large amounts of the artifacts, especially textiles, were destroyed.
Soon after the excavation of Wanli's mausoleum, the State Council said that imperial tombs may not be excavated. In 1987 and 2012, the State Council again said that the safety of cultural relics is the most important and imperial tombs should remain undisturbed, according to Yao Yuan, a cultural scholar from Nanjing University.
"The establishment of any cultural program is no excuse for digging into an imperial mausoleum," Yao said.
Yao and two other Nanjing residents have submitted an application to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, Nanjing urban planning bureau and the city's administration of cultural heritage, calling for a public hearing on the excavation.
"The archaeological department (in Na
njing) has violated the principles of protecting the integrity and maintaining the original appearance," the application read.
So far they have received no answer from the departments.
(Source: China Daily)


domingo, 19 de mayo de 2013

Remains of Nubian soldier who lived 1,400 years ago found in Egypt

Cairo, May 16 (EFE).- Archaeologists found the 1,400-year-old remains of a Nubian soldier in Aswan, a city in southern Egypt, Minister of State for Antiquities Ahmed Eisa said.

The soldier's remains were discovered in a field that dates to the Late Roman Period and Early Middle Age near the border of Egypt and Nubia.

The find shows that conflicts broke out periodically along the frontier between Egypt and Nubia, a region that covered parts of southern Egypt and northern Sudan.

The soldier's remains are in good condition and he appeared to be between 25 and 35 at the time of his death, the ministry said, adding that he was stabbed just under the chest.

The body was buried with stones from a border wall that apparently collapsed during the fighting.

Boys Killed Pets to Become Warriors in Early Russia

In Russia, dismembered dogs point to ancient initiation rite.

Heather Pringle
Published May 14, 2013
At first, archaeologists Dorcas Brown and David Anthony were deeply puzzled. While excavating the Bronze Age site of Krasnosamarkskoe in Russia's Volga region, they unearthed the bones of at least 51 dogs and 7 wolves. All the animals had died during the winter months, judging from the telltale banding pattern on their teeth, and all were subsequently skinned, dismembered, burned, and chopped with an ax.
Moreover, the butcher had worked in a precise, standardized way, chopping the dogs' snouts into three pieces and their skulls into geometrically shaped fragments just an inch or so in size. "It was very strange," says Anthony.
To him and Brown, both of whom teach at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, the skilled and standardized method of butchering the dogs pointed to some sort of ritual. Pam Crabtree, an archaeozoologist at New York University, who was not a member of the team, agrees. She notes that the butchery pattern was entirely different from those used in prehistoric Europe and other parts of the world for slicing off dog meat to eat.
"The bone was chopped into small bits, and it was not the way you would do it if you were looking at getting the major muscle groups," Crabtree says.
So how to account for the mysterious remains at Krasnosamarskoe? Why did someone apparently sacrifice these animals?
Ancient Rite of Passage
In search of clues, Anthony and Brown combed the mythology, songs, and scriptures in Eurasia's early and closely related Indo-European languages. Many ancient Indo-European speakers associated dogs with death and the underworld. Reading through prayers composed by tribes in India possibly as early as 1400 B.C., the researchers found a description of secret initiation rites for boys destined to become roving warriors.
At the age of eight, the boys were sent to ritualists, who bathed them, shaved their heads, and gave them animal skins to wear. Eight years later, the initiates underwent a midwinter ceremony in which they ritually died and journeyed to the underworld. After this, the boys left their homes and families, painted their bodies black, donned a dog-skin cloak, and joined a band of warriors.
Brown and Anthony think that similar rites may have taken place at Krasnosamarskoe at the onset of the raiding season, which ran from the winter solstice to the summer solstice. And they speculate that part of the ceremony required the boys to kill their own dogs. The dead canines ranged in age from 7 to 12 years, suggesting that they were longtime companionspossibly even hounds raised with the boys from birth.
"That makes a lot of sense," concludes Brown. To take on the mantle of a warrior, an innocent boy had to become a killer.
Recent research conducted by military psychologists, moreover, suggests that the transition from civilian to soldier can be very difficult. I
n other words, "you have to train people to kill," says Brown.
For the Bronze Age boys at Krasnosamarskoe, this training may have included killing one of their childhood companionstheir faithful dog.


Nueva vida para la necrópolis paleocristiana de Tarragona

El cementerio romano, con tumbas desde el siglo I a. C., estaba cerrado desde 1992


La necrópolis paleocristiana de Tarragona, cerrada desde el año 1992, vuelve a estar abierta al público desde este fin de semana. El Departamento de Cultura de la Generalitat organizó ayer la primera visita al recinto en veinte años, coincidiendo con el Día Internacional de los Museos. El espacio renace con un nuevo itinerario por los recovecos de lo que es considerado como el conjunto funerario tardorromano a cielo abierto más importante del Imperio en Occidente. Las obras de puesta de largo, iniciadas en enero, han sido financiadas por Cultura con un coste de 225.000 euros. “Cataluña recupera una de sus joyas, es increíble que aún no estuviese realizada la restauración”, afirmó ayer el consejero de este departamento, Ferran Mascarell.
Los trabajos, realizados por un equipo multidisciplinar, se han centrado en recuperar la imagen que podría haber tenido el vestigio en época romana y en trazar por él un recorrido coherente. También se han protegido enterramientos degradados, puesto de relieve restos de interés y delimitado visualmente las diferentes áreas con pavimentos cromáticos. La funcionalidad del cementerio es clave para entender el proceso de implantación del primer cristianismo en la urbe, explicaron ayer Jacqueline Pacheco, arquitecta de los Servicios Territoriales del Departamento de Cultura en Tarragona, y Josep Anton Remolà, arqueólogo del Museo Nacional Arqueológico de Tarragona (MNAT). Ambos han sido los encargados de pilotar las actuaciones.
La revitalización del yacimiento, declarado Patrimonio Mundial por la Unesco en 2000, era una exigencia de la localidad por su valor histórico: Está ubicado en lo que un día fue una extensa zona suburbial de la antigua Tarraco, donde coexistían edificaciones residenciales, talleres y entierros. Los restos arqueológicos están vertebrados por un vial romano paralelo a la orilla del río Francolí, que conectaba el suburbio portuario con las principales salidas de la ciudad, como la Vía Augusta. Al este del vial se encuentran los restos de una antigua casa romana (domus) y al oeste se conserva un sector de la necrópolis paelocristiana. Esta abarca restos romanos de un periodo muy extenso de tiempo, desde el siglo I a. C. hasta el siglo VII d. C. En el área del cementerio se han recabado unas 2.051 inhumaciones que abrazan desde el siglo III d. C. hasta el periodo visigodo. “Pero continúa habiendo tumbas sin excavar”, explicó Remolà.
Los restos fueron depositados en ataúdes de madera, humildes losas, ánforas o sarcófagos de mármol, plomo y piedra e incluso mausoleos, dependiendo de la clase social a la que pertenecían. También se celebraron entierros colectivos en el lugar, que abarca 2.000 metros cuadrados. Además, los arqueólogos manejan la hipótesis de que los restos se encontraban colocados tanto alrededor como en el interior de una basílica. En ella se ha querido identificar una tumba con inscripciones alusivas a tres mártires de Tarraco, Fructuoso, Augurio y Eulogio, quemados vivos en la arena del Anfiteatro. Ballesteros recordó ayer otro hallazgo en los terrenos; el de la conocida como muñeca de Ivori, que data del siglo IV d. C. Aparecida dentro de un sarcófago junto a los despojos de una niña de seis años, que sobrepasa los 20 centímetros de altura y, además, su espalda, codos y rodillas están articuladas.
La necrópolis, recordó Remolà, fue descubierta en 1923. El hallazgo ocurrió durante la construcción de una factoría de la Compañía de Tabacos en la orilla de río. El sacerdote Joan Serra i Vilaró se dedicó con intensidad durante una década a excavar los terrenos. Por eso el espacio encierra otra curiosidad: Tanto apego sentía por la necrópolis el canónigo de la catedral de Tarragona que ordenó ser enterrado en ella. Hoy su tumba preside el espacio. “Su cuerpo fue embalsamado y colocado en una especie de búnker de hormigón”, narró Remolà.
Mascarell aseguró que la intervención de la necrópolis sigue siendo el paso previo de otro proyecto más ambicioso; el de trasladar a La Tabacalera el MNAT, la Biblioteca Pública de Tarragona y el Depósito Nacional Arqueológico. Pero la promesa tendrá que seguir aguardando porque la operación, que debería contar con la implicación del
Estado, la Generalitat y la administración local, permanece paralizada. “Estamos centrados en definir bien el proyecto porque es fundamental para articular todo el sistema museístico arqueológico de la ciudad de Tarragona y del futuro del país”, concluyó el consejero.


jueves, 16 de mayo de 2013

Brain Structure, Not the Frontal Lobe, Responsible for Advanced Human Intelligence, Say Evolutionist Researchers

The evolution of the human brain was as much about structure and interconnected parts as it was about increasing size, say researchers
Using phylogenetic or 'evolutionary family tree' techniques, Professor Robert Barton from the Department of Anthropology at Durham University analyzed data developed from previous animal and human studies to examine the speed at which evolutionary biological change in the brain occurred. His results could be a game-changer when it comes to understanding how the brains of our distant ancient ancestors changed during the course of human evolution. He and his research colleagues at Durham and Reading universities have concluded that, contrary to popular scholarly conception, the frontal lobes of the brain did not evolve comparatively faster than their primate cousins after the human lineage split from the chimpanzee lineage about 5-7 million years ago. It was actually just as much, if not more, about the evolution of the overall brain structure.
"It has been thought that frontal lobe expansion was particularly crucial to the development of modern human behaviour, thought and language, and that it is our bulging frontal lobes that truly make us human", says Barton. "We show that this is untrue: human frontal lobes are exactly the size expected for a non-human brain scaled up to human size. This means that areas traditionally considered to be more primitive were just as important during our evolution. These other areas should now get more attention."
Barton and colleagues maintain that many of the advanced cognitive abilities that distinguish us from other animals are made possible by more extensive
brain networks linking many different areas of the brain. They point to the structure of these extended networks more than the comparative size of any particular brain region as the key.
The frontal lobes are an area located at the front of each cerebral hemisphere in all mammals, and have been traditionally thought to be critical for intelligence, or cognitive thinking. While this may be at least in part true, Barton and colleagues are now suggesting that scientists begin to focus on the evolution of other parts of the brain and how they are interconnected and contribute to the total functionality that defines human intelligence.
A detailed report of the study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


Prehistoric ear bones could lead to evolutionary answers

The tiniest bones in the human body – the bones of the middle ear – could provide huge clues about our evolution and the development of modern-day humans, according to a study by a team of researchers that include a Texas A&M University anthropologist.

Darryl de Ruiter, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M, and colleagues from Binghamton University (the State University of New York) and researchers from Spain and Italy have published their work in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science).
The team examined the skull of a hominin believed to be about 1.9 million years old and found in a cave called Swartkrans, in South Africa. Of particular interest to the team were bones found in the middle ear, especially one called the malleus. It and the other ear bones – the incus and the stapes – together show a mixture of ape-like and human-like features, and represent the first time all three bones have been found together in one skull.
The malleus appears to be very human-like, the findings show, while the incus and stapes resemble those of a more chimpanzee-like, or ape-like creature. Since both modern humans and our early ancestors share this human-like malleus, the changes in this must have occurred very early in our evolutionary history.
"The discovery is important for two reasons," de Ruiter explains.
"First, ear ossicles are fully formed and adult-sized at birth, and they do not undergo any type of anatomical change in an individual lifetime. Thus, they are a very close representation of genetic expression. Second, these bones show that their hearing ability was different from that of humans – not necessarily better or worse, but certainly different.
"They are among the rarest of fossils that can be recovered," de Ruiter adds.
"Bipedalism (walking on two feet) and a reduction in the size of the canine teeth have long been held to be 'hallmarks of humanity' since they seem to be present in the earliest human fossils recovered to date. Our study suggests that the list may need to be updated to include changes in the malleus as well."
de Ruiter recently authored a series of papers in Science magazine that demonstrate the intermediate nature of the closely related species, Australopithecus sediba, and provide strong support that this species lies rather close to the ancestry of Homo sapiens. The current study could yield additional new clues to human development and answer key questions of the of the human lineage.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-prehistoric-ear-bones-evolutionary.html#jCp

Reconstruction of the face of an ancient Maltese woman

Heritage Malta surprised guests at the Malta Fashion Week with an exhibition entitled 'Jewellery through the times' showing that Malta's first residents were not the aggressive, dirty individuals with unkempt hair which most imagine them to have been. The exhibition was followed by a fashion show of replica prehistoric jewellery, which preceded the main highlight: changing the misconception related to the image of prehistoric people by means of a unique reconstruction.
The items featured in the fashion show were replicas of objects worn by individuals who lived on the Maltese islands some 5600 years ago. The artefacts exhibited were discovered at various prehistoric sites and form part of the permanent display at Heritage Malta's National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.
Heritage Malta also launched a 3D virtual reconstruction of facial features based on one of the prehistoric skulls (over 5,000 years old) found at the Xagħra Stone Circle in Gozo. It revealed, for the very first time, what one of the earliest Maltese actually looked like. It was a face which was much closer to what one would expect from a woman of our day and age rather than that of a person who lived on the islands over 5,000 years ago.

Mysterious Minoans Were European, DNA Finds

The Minoans, the builders of Europe's first advanced civilization, really were European, new research suggests.
The conclusion, published today (May 14) in the journal Nature Communications, was drawn by comparing DNA from 4,000-year-old Minoan skeletons with genetic material from people living throughout Europe and Africa in the past and today.
"We now know that the founders of the first advanced European civilization were European," said study co-author George Stamatoyannopoulos, a human geneticist at the University of Washington. "They were very similar to Neolithic Europeans and very similar to present day-Cretans," residents of the Mediterranean island of Crete.


Ancient Mayan pyramid destroyed for road fill

Brad Lendon, CNN

(CNN) -- A Mayan pyramid that has stood for 2,300 years in Belize has been reduced to rubble, apparently to make fill for roads.
Local media in the Central American country of 334,000 people report the temple at the Noh Mul site in northern Belize was largely torn down by backhoes and bulldozers last week.
"This is one of the worst that I have seen in my entire 25 years of archaeology in Belize," John Morris, an archaeologist with the country's Institute of Archaeology, told local channel 7NewsBelize. "We can't salvage what has happened out here -- it is an incredible display of ignorance."
The institute's director, Jaime Awe, called the destruction "one of the worse set of blows I have felt philosophically and professionally."
Mayan pyramid bulldozed to make gravel
"What happened there is both deplorable and unforgivable," Awe told News5 in Belize.
Though the pyramid was grown over with trees and brush, there could be no mistaking what it was, Morris said.
"There is no way that one can say that they did not know. Even for you guys as laypeople can look and you'll see the building," 7NewsBelize quoted Morris as saying.
The pyramid was the center of a settlement of about 40,000 people and 81 buildings over 12 square miles, according to 7NewsBelize. It stood about 65 feet tall and was built around 250 B.C. with hand-cut limestone bricks, archaeologists said.
The limestone is quality material used to upgrade local roads, and it's prized by contractors, local opposition legislator John Briceno told CTV3 News.
"The Mayas use good material to build their temples, and these temples are close to (the village of) Douglas so that means that they have to use less diesel, less wear and tear; they can do more trips per day, and at the end of the day they can make more money," CTV3 quotes Briceno as saying.
And there was plenty of the material in Noh Mul.
"Like a huge palace or building or a huge temple, it woul
d have had many rooms in there, multilayered rooms so you have rooms for people living, and you would also had several tombs in there of the people who lived in this area here," Morris told 7NewsBelize.
Awe said archaeologists would try to go through the rubble for artifacts.
"I'm hoping that there will be bits and pieces that we can acquire from any kind of work that we do there. But to say that we can try to preserve the building anymore; that is impossible," he told News5.
The mound sits on private land, and archaeologists said they would ask police to take action against both the landowner and contractor, according to reports.
"It is against the law; it is against the nature act to willfully destroy an ancient monument," Awe told News5. "Any willful destruction of an ancient site or monument has penalties of 10 years' imprisonment or $10,000 for this kind of destruction."
Work at the site stopped when the archaeologists were alerted to it, but the site's scientific value has been severely compromised, they said.
Its value will now be as something else, Moore told 7NewsBelize.
"It's a monument of ignorance, and unfortunately that's the way it is," he told the station. "Now we will probably have to look at this and say that it is a good example of what not to do."


lunes, 13 de mayo de 2013

Localizan en Irak una puerta semejante a la Ishtar de la antigua Babilonia

Una puerta monumental, semejante a la de Ishtar (siglo VI a. C.), ha sido localizada durante excavaciones en la que fuera la antigua ciudad de Babilonia, en Irak, informa hoy el diario estatal Al Sabah.
Bagdad, 12 may.- Una puerta monumental, semejante a la de Ishtar (siglo VI a. C.), ha sido localizada durante excavaciones en la que fuera la antigua ciudad de Babilonia, en Irak, informa hoy el diario estatal Al Sabah.
El responsable del proyecto de reconstrucción de Babilonia, el británico Jeff Allen, citado por el periódico, explicó que la nueva puerta, dedicada también a la diosa Ishtar, era uno de los accesos de la muralla interior de la ciudad.
El hallazgo se ubica a siete metros bajo tierra en la que fue la calle Al Mawkeb de Babilonia, por lo que se requerirá de un gran esfuerzo para sacarlo a la superficie, predijo Allen.
El arqueólogo precisó que los expertos dieron con esta pieza cuando extraían tierra de la calle y encontraron estatuas de animales pertenecientes a la puerta, hecha de ladrillo.
La otra puerta de Ishtar, que es el nombre de la diosa del amor, la guerra, la vida y la fertilidad, fue reconstruida en 1930 en el Museo Pérgamo de Berlín a partir de los restos descubiertos en Babilonia durante las campañas arqueológicas alemanas entre 1902 y 1914.
Fue creada en el año 575 a. C. por Nabucodonosor II en el lado norte de la ciudad y a través de ella se accedía al templo de Marduk, donde se celebraban las fiestas propias del año nuevo.
Se compone de numerosos ladrillos vidriados y está decorada con dragones, toros, leones y seres mitológicos.
Babilonia fue capital en la que reinaron Hamurabi (de 1792 a 1750 a.C.), a quien se debe uno de los primeros códigos legislativos de la humanidad, y Nabucodonosor (del 604 al 562 a.C.) constructor de los Jardines Colgantes, considerados una de las Siete Maravillas del Mundo.
(Agencia EFE)


domingo, 12 de mayo de 2013

Hallan en Villajoyosa bancales anteriores a la llegada de los romanos

Hasta el momento sólo se han hallado terrazas agrícolas de tal antigüedad en la edad del hierro tardía de Galicia y Salamanca
Una investigación de la Universidad de Alicante y de Vilamuseu sobre la evolución del paisaje agrícola ha descubierto bancales de los siglos IV-III a.C. dos antes de la implantación romana.
Según ha informado el Ayuntamiento de La Vila en un comunicado, hasta el momento sólo se han hallado terrazas agrícolas de tal antigüedad en la edad del hierro tardía de Galicia (siglos II-I a. C.) y en las terrazas romanas excavadas en Las Cavenes (Salamanca) (siglos I y II d. C.), de lo que se deduce que los bancales de la Vila serían los más antiguos conocidos de la fachada mediterránea y posiblemente de toda la península ibérica.
La importancia de este estudio radica en que la revisión de otras excavaciones de la Vila nos da una secuencia completa, ya que los bancales excavados en 2004 en las los viales del Plan Parcial 25 (Puntes del Moro) se fechan en época romana republicana (s. II-I a. C.) y los del solar del IES 3 (partida de Plans) en 2008 son de época altoimperial (s. I d. C.), según el estudio.
Esta investigación se enmarca dentro del proyecto del Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad HAR2012-37003, Arqueología de la conquista e implantación romana en Hispania. Estrategias y modelos de control territorial en el este de la provincia Citerior (ss. II-I aC), dirigido por el profesor Ignasi Grau Mira.
En este proyecto Vilamuseu participa como ente promotor observador (EPO), con su director Antonio Espinosa al frente.
A raíz de esta investigación, el concejal de Patrimonio Histórico, Pepe Lloret, ha explicado que estos testimonios son tan escasos en el panorama arqueológico debido a la «dificultad de detección de unas estructuras tan sencillas».
«Apenas una pared de mampostería de piedras calizas con un relleno detrás, y es precisamente el material arqueológico que aparece asociado al muro de la terraza el que da la fecha de su construcción, mientras que la datación de su abandono la proporcionan las capas que cubren los bancales cuando caen en desuso», ha añadido.