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There’s a new mega-mammal on the menu of America’s first hunters.

On a ranch in northwestern Sonora, Mexico, archaeologists have discovered 13,400-year-old weapons mingled with bones from an extinct elephant relative called the gomphothere. The animal was smaller than mastodons and mammoths, but most had four sharp tusks for defense.

The new evidence puts the gomphothere in North America at the same time as a prehistoric group of paleo-Indians known as the Clovis culture, whose beautifully crafted projectile points helped bring down giant Ice Age mammals, including mammoths. This is the first time gomphothere fossils have been discovered with Clovis artifacts.

“The Clovis stereotypically went out and hunted mammoth, and now there’s another elephant on the menu,” said Vance Holliday, a co-author on the new study, published today (July 14) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The archeological site, named “El Fin del Mundo” (the End of the Earth), marks two new extremes for both the Clovis and the gomphotheres. It is one of the oldest Clovis sites ever found, and the bones are the youngest gomphotheres ever discovered in North America. Until now, researchers thought gomphotheres vanished before humans reached North America. [In Photos: New Clovis site in Sonora]

“The implications are pretty simple, although certainly not trivial — early human explorers of interior North America opportunistically targeted the largest Pleistocene animals as part of their cultural pattern, and this pattern probably started almost as soon as people had made their way south into the lower 48 states,” said Gary Haynes, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, who was not involved in the study. The Pleistocene epoch spans from about 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.

An amazing find

The Sonora Clovis site is now scrubby desert, but it was once a spring-fed swamp that probably offered up a steady supply of fresh water. Nearby hills provided high-quality rock for the distinctive Clovis weapons, including spectacular quartz blades. “They are just mind-bogglingly beautiful,” said Holliday, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “There is definitely an aesthetic component to them.”

The blade makers also shaped chalcedony, chert, quartzite and rhyolite into blades and scrapers. However, four of the blades from the ranch are basalt, which is locally rare but looks remarkably similar to rocks at a Clovis site called El Bajio, about 112 miles (180 kilometers) to the east, the researchers reported.

The gomphothere remains are from two juveniles, probably each younger than 12 years old when they died, the researchers said. The scientists also found two bone ornaments, and a piece of burned bone.

The team, led by Guadalupe Sanchez, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Hermosillo, Mexico, excavated the cream-colored rock at the behest of the rancher who owns the land. He had noticed the bones and artifacts eroding from a small cliff, and invited the researchers to dig, Holliday said.

The scientists determined the site’s age through radiocarbon dating on charcoal. The researchers dated charcoal in layers with bone and Clovis weapons to 11,550 radiocarbon years ago, which doesn’t match up precisely with calendar dates. It’s equivalent to 13,390 years ago. (The discrepancy is because of changes in global radiocarbon concentrations over time.)

That age suggests the Clovis people were hunting large mammals in the Southwest for a span of several hundred years, Holliday said. [See Images of the Baby Woolly Mammoths]

The youngest Clovis sites are about 125 miles (200 km) to the north, along the San Pedro River (Rio San Pedro) in Arizona, Holliday said. “These hunters were around for a long time, at least 500 years,” he said. “It seems they were coming and going as they pleased, going from water source to water source and learning the land.”

However, other scientists said they would like to see more carbon dates from the site before reaching broad conclusions about the origins of the Clovis. “The Achilles’ heel is that there’s just one radiocarbon age,” said Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University in College Station, who was not involved in the study. “I think this is a very interesting and exciting archaeological discovery, but the age needs to be confirmed.”

America’s first culture

Though the Clovis people were not the very first settlers of the New World, they were probably North America’s first homegrown culture. Their trademark stone blades were the era’s equivalent of the iPhone — an innovative, disruptive technology — and rapidly replaced earlier bone and antler tools. “There are really no other artifacts like it on any other continents,” Holliday said. “This amazing technology just spread.”

Clovis points were so popular and widespread that they still litter the ground in many places, especially in the Southwest and Southeast, including Mexico.

But scientists do not agree on where the technology first emerged, or why the Clovis people invented it. The Sonoran site’s early age, combined with a similar age from a Clovis dig in Texas, suggests the culture may have risen in the South, Holliday said.

“This site opens up some new possibilities that the Clovis originated in the Southwest corner of North America or the southern half of North America,” Holliday said.

Earlier this year, a genetic analysis of a Clovis-era skeleton revealed that 80 percent of today’s Native Americans, including indigenous people in Mexico and South America, share direct genetic links with this single known Clovis ancestor.

Original article:
livescience.com

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‘Revolutionary’ Site Unearthed Near Mesa Verde – Archaeology Magazine.

 

 

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Ancientfoods:

The United States too had coffee houses in the past( well before Starbucks), where you could drink coffee, share conversation, music and so forth. I for one miss that and the dinners that served you coffee with your meal- just plain coffee. My personal mantra is Coffee is the Elixir of Life! I guess that speaks for itself.
There is a lot of history in this post so I thought I would share it.

Originally posted on Mysterious Croatia:

How about a cup of coffee?

“Coffee is far more than a beverage. It is an invitation to life, disguised as a cup of warm liquid. It’s a trumpet wake-up call or a gentle rousing hand on your shoulder … Coffee is an experience, an offer, a rite of passage, a good excuse to get together.” ― Nichole Johnson

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Morning coffee, lunch coffee, afternoon coffee, sometimes even evening coffee…There is no bad time for drinking coffee, there is only bad coffee and bad coffee friends. Locals have perfected the art of “taking a coffee”, as it is called, often making a single coffee last for hours. This is mostly because the experience is not really about drinking coffee, but more about socializing.
Tourists descending upon Croatia, especially the coast, are quite often surprised when they see how relaxed the atmosphere is and how eagerly the citizens of Split for example…

View original 373 more words

Suddenly there was a word for chili peppers. Information about archaeological remains of ancient chili peppers in Mexico along with a study of the appearance of words for chili peppers in ancient dialects helped researchers to understand where jalapeños were domesticated and highlight the value of multi-proxy data analysis. Their results are from one (Kraig Kraft et al.) of nine papers presented in a special feature issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on plant and animal domestication edited by Dolores Piperno, staff scientist emerita at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Curator of South American Archaeology at the National Museum of Natural History and Greger Larson of Durham University in England.

Humans evolved about 200,000 years ago. We spent 95 percent of human history as hunter-gatherers. Why did agriculture begin to emerge in human cultures about 12,000 years ago? Was it the result of a prime mover: divine inspiration, environmental change or population growth? What cultural and natural processes led to the domesticated species that supply most of the world’s foods today? The complexity of these questions requires multidisciplinary research. Bringing together scientists from a wide range of disciplines involved in domestication studies, Larson and Piperno organized a meeting funded and hosted by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Centre in 2011. The PNAS special feature is a result of the meeting.

“Having archaeologists and geneticists talking to and collaborating with each other and a suite of new techniques to play with is radically changing the way we think about domestication,” said Piperno.

The overview paper (Larson and Piperno et al.) that introduces the special issue emphasizes the need to use both archaeological and genetic evidence to sort out the unique processes of domestication that occurred at about the same time around the world from “predomestication cultivation”—plants cultivated over many generations that still have features of wild plants—and the presence of animals in association with humans to truly domesticated organisms that exhibit very specific traits like large seeds, bigger flowers, reduction in physical and chemical defenses in plants and altered coat color, floppy ears and baby faces (facial neotony) in animals.

Papers in the special feature cover both older and more recent issues in the study of domestication. New genetic screening techniques and the ability to sequence DNA from ancient specimens led Greger Larson and his group at Durham University (Linus Flink et al.) to caution that using modern genetic data alone to guess which genes may have been involved in domestication origins may be misleading. They compared DNA from 80 chickens excavated from 12 different archaeological sites in Europe dated from 280 BC to the 18th Century to modern chicken DNA. Sequencing revealed that yellow-skinned chickens were probably not common early in the domestication process. Their work suggests that yellow skin became the norm only about 500 years ago, probably as a result of global commerce.

Addressing a long-debated question—why hunters and gatherers became farmers—Gremillion, Barton, and Piperno review theories and explanations for agricultural origins, making the case that evolutionary approaches are essential because they offer coherent, empirically testable reconstructions of human behavior.
The authors of the overview paper (Larson and Piperno et al.) expect more exciting results as researchers from around the world and from many disciplines work together to nail down the environmental and ecological contexts of domestication and the shift from hunting and gathering to cultivation and herding. As they say in the paper abstract: “It is difficult to overstate the cultural and biological impacts that the domestication of plants and animals has had on our species. … the next decade will yield even more substantial insights not only into how domestication took place, but also when and where it did, and where and why it did not.”

Original article:

Phys.org

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Smithsonian archaeologist, Dolores Piperno, measures a teosinte plant growing under past climate conditions. Credit: Sean Mattson, STRI

Digging in the Cupboards | Valley News.

An enigmatic box from a bygone era, filled with pottery, seeds and animal bones, has been discovered in the University of Bristol’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology. The box was found while researchers were emptying current laboratory spaces in preparation for the installation of a new state-of-the-art radiocarbon dating facility.

Index cards nestled amongst the objects in the box provided a clue to the origins of the material. Key words such as ‘Predynastic’, ‘Sargonid’, and ‘Royal Tombs’ suggested the remains came from the famous excavations by Sir Leonard Woolley in southern Iraq at the site of Ur during the 1920s and early 1930s.

The discovery is very exciting because environmental finds were rarely collected then, especially from this part of the world. Further investigation revealed that these were the remains of food offerings from a royal tomb at least 4,500 years old.

The original excavation was sponsored jointly by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and the finds were divided between London, Philadelphia and Baghdad, following the tradition of the era.

British Museum Ur collection

The British Museum has now offered the remains a new home, where they will join the rest of the museum’s collection from Ur – holdings which are currently both on display (rooms 55-56) and part of a major digitisation programme sponsored by the Leon Levy Foundation and undertaken with the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Dr Hodos from the University of Bristol said: “The remaining mystery is how this material came to be at Bristol in the first place. The environmental remains themselves were published in 1978 in Journal of Archaeological Science. The authors of that study were based at the Institute of Archaeology, London, and at the University of Southampton, and none of them had any known connection to the University of Bristol that might explain how the material came to reside here. If anyone can shed light on this mystery, we would love to hear from them.”

Original article:
news360.com

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In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East | The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

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