Archive for May, 2012

Topic: Ancient Hunters in East Asia

Cut marks on the rib of a large-sized herbivore

More than ten thousands of bone fragments were recovered from the Lingjing site, Henan Province during 2005 and 2006. By taking statistical analyses of the skeletal elements of the two predominant species in this assemblage, aurochs (Bos primigenius) and horse (Equus caballus), scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, found that hominids at this site have already practiced sophisticated hunting techniques and subsistence strategies and may be quite familiar with the ecological and anatomical characteristics and nutritional values of the large-sized prey animals and can accordingly take different processing and handling strategies at the hunting site, as reported in the journal of Science China Earth Sciences, 2012, 55 (2).

The Lingjing site is located in the west part of Lingjing town, about 15 km to the northwest of the Xuchang City, Henan Province and stands at an elevation point of 117 m. Initially discovered in the middle of the 20th century, this site was re-excavated by researchers from the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology during 2005 to 2006. Within an area of about 300 m2, the Lingjing site yielded nearly 20 fragments of human fossils, 10 thousands of stone artifacts and more than 10000 pieces of animal fossils. Within the Chinese Paleolithic cultural system, it is of the transitional status between the Early and Later Paleolithic Age. Animal fossils in statistics are primarily from the stratum bearing the hominid fossils – the “Lower Cultural Layer”.

Researchers assessed the differential influences and weights of a variety of taphonomic agencies in the formation of the assemblage, and found hominid hunting and the subsequent disarticulation, slaughtering, and their transport of the bone elements of the prey species are the main factors accounting for the formation of the present assemblage.

After observing the distributional patterns of cut marks on the long bones of animals from the site, researchers found that most cut marks were on the midshaft portions of the bone (185 pieces, 98.45%), whereas only two pieces of distal epiphysis and one piece of proximal epiphysis (1.06% and 0.53%) were cut-marked. And of all the cut-marked long bones, 34% and 41% specimens belong to the upper and middle limbs of herbivores respectively, whereas only 25% belong to the lower limbs. This data suggests that hominids at the Lingjing site first accessed the animal resources prior to the carnivores and cut off the meat on the long bones.

Mortality patterns for two dominant species of the Lingjing site indicate that both animals have the mortality profiles of prime-adults dominated and accompanied by a small proportion of juvenile individuals, implying that hominids there already had relatively mature and systematical living strategies and social organizations in this period.

The distributions of the long bone circumferences and bone lengths could partially reflect the differential modifications of the hominids and carnivores on archaeofauna. The long bone circumferences of most specimens of the Lingjing assemblage is less than 25%, which is identical to that of hominid sites, but much different from that of the carnivore lairs. The lengths of 1300 pieces of long bones measured, are mostly distributed in the area of 3–6 or 6–9 cm, clearly displaying hominids’ influences on the archaeofauna at the Lingjing site.

There is a big difference between the skeletal element profiles of aurochs and horse in the Lingjing assemblage. There are relatively more fragments of horse’s skulls and mandibles, but its long bones are almost absent from the site. Perhaps, just as modern humans did, hominids always preferred to transport all the skeletal parts of the horses back to their base-camps whereas they dropped most of the bones of the aurochs in the killing sites. As compared to the artiodactyls, skeletal elements of the equids have relatively stronger muscle attachment points, and even after a more detailed field processing (such as defleshings, etc.) there will still be a large amount of nutritional components attached to the bone surfaces. If hominids dropped the bones in the field, it will inevitably have resulted in the loss of much nutrients. Furthermore, the marrow cavities within the long bones of equids are significantly smaller and its marrow content is mainly inside the spongy parts of the bones, which cannot be efficiently utilized by ancient humans.

The taphonomic study of the Lingjing site shows that this fauna is not a consequence of a large-scale hunting activity, instead it is just a final synthesis of several episodes of small-scale hunting events. For homonids with limited resources, perhaps the most sensible choice is to move those skeletal elements which still have much nutritional contents adhered, back to the base-camp, where they not only have enough time, but also have technology and capacity to extract nutrition thoroughly from those bones.

“The study of skeletal element profiles is an essential tool to reconstruct hominid behaviors, their social activities or the functions of archaeological sites”, said study lead author Dr. ZHANG Shuangquan of the IVPP, “This study initiatively identifies hominid’s differential treatment of the bones of aurochs and horse in the Paleolithic record of East Asia”.

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Topic: More than a bunch of coconuts

UNDERWATER archaeologists are investigating the wreck of a wooden merchant ship that carried a cargo of coconuts discovered during pipe works in Schull Harbour.

The ship, believed to date back to the 16th century, is buried in the seabed in 10m of water just off the shoreline.

Contracted underwater archaeologist Julianna O’Donoghue suspended pipe laying works on the multi-million Schull Wastewater Treatment plant when machines struck and partly damaged the wreck last week.

The ship’s cargo of coconuts was uncovered during this process.

Little is known of the wreck’s origins at present as archaeologist’s work continues.

An exclusion zone is in place around the wreck site and experts are keen to discourage looters from gaining access to any valuable materials on board.

Connie Kelleher, underwater archaeologist with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said the wreck site is a protected site.

“We don’t want to reveal the exact location as we don’t want to make it a target for looters.

Because it’s over a hundred years old, it’s a protected wreck site. Nobody can legally dive on it without a licence from our department,” she said.

Believed to be a ‘sizeable’ vessel, the bulk of the wreck is buried in silt with only a small portion exposed.

Archaeologists are now working to determine how old it is and what it was doing in Irish waters, Ms Kelleher said.

“We don’t know too much about it as yet, only a small bit of wreck itself is exposed above the seabed.

Julianna is working to make sense of the wreck site, to record exactly what’s down there and document anything loose around the ship.

The site will then be assessed and we will look at how to protect it,” she said.

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By by Louise Roseingrave


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Topic: Olive press

Since the information for this olivepress is still so new I have looked to quoted several sources. All with links. 

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced, Tuesday, that a press for the production of olive oil was discovered last week in Modi’in, about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, during an archaeological excavation in advance of expansion of the city’s Keyser neighborhood by the Construction and Housing Ministry. A statement by the IAA called the press the grandest and most complete one found so far.

Archaeologist Hagit Torgë, who is directing the dig, said the press, which was used to produce industrial quantities of oil for food and light, about 1,400 years ago, “was preserved surprisingly intact with all its components.”

Original article:


The times of Israel says much the same thing but theyhave a photo.

An unusually well-preserved olive oil press was unearthed by archaeologists on the outskirts of the city of Modi’in in central Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.

The press “was used for industrial oil production for consumption and illumination about 1,400 years ago,” the IAA said. That means the press would have been active around the end of the period of Byzantine rule and the beginning of Muslim rule in 637 CE.

The Modi’in dig is being carried out ahead of a planned expansion of the city of 82,000.

The IAA said the press would be preserved and opened to visitors.

Original Article:


May 15, 2012

Picture of Modi’in



a link for more on Modi’in itself

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Topic Ancient Cotton and agriculture

Ancient Egyptian cotton unveils secrets of domesticated crop evolution.

Original article:

science daily

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Topic: Indian Village Life


500-year-old Indian village unearthed in Morganton | CharlotteObserver.com & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper.




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Topic Clovis Hunters

For decades, scientists thought that the Clovis hunters were the first to cross the Arctic to America. They were wrong — and now they need a better theory.

The mastodon was old, its teeth worn to nubs. It was perfect prey for a band of hunters, wielding spears tipped with needle-sharp points made from bone. Sensing an easy target, they closed in for the kill.

Almost 14,000 years later, there is no way to tell how many hits it took to bring the beast to the ground near the coast of present-day Washington state. But at least one struck home, plunging through hide, fat and flesh to lodge in the mastodon’s rib. The hunter who thrust the spear on that long-ago day didn’t just bring down the mastodon; he also helped to kill off the reigning theory of how people got to the Americas.

For most of the past 50 years, archaeologists thought they knew how humans arrived in the New World. The story starts around the end of the last ice age, when sea levels were lower and big-game hunters living in eastern Siberia followed their prey across the Bering land bridge and into Alaska. As the ice caps in Canada receded and opened up a path southward, the colonists swept across the vast unpopulated continent. Archaeologists called these presumed pioneers the Clovis culture, after distinctive stone tools that were found at sites near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1920s and 1930s.

As caches of Clovis tools were uncovered across North America over subsequent decades, nearly all archaeologists signed on to the idea that the Clovis people were the first Americans. Any evidence of humans in the New World before the Clovis time was dismissed, sometimes harshly. That was the case with the Washington-state mastodon kill, which was first described around 30 years ago1 but then largely ignored.

Intense criticism also rained down on competing theories of how people arrived, such as the idea that early Americans might have skirted the coastline in boats, avoiding the Bering land bridge entirely. “I was once warned not to write about coastal migration in my dissertation. My adviser said I would ruin my career,” says Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

But findings over the past few years — and a re-examination of old ones, such as the mastodon rib — have shown conclusively that humans reached the Americas well before the Clovis people. That has sparked a surge of interest in the field, and opened it up to fresh ideas and approaches. Geneticists and archaeologists are collaborating to piece together who came first, when they arrived, whether they travelled by boat or by foot and how they fanned out across the New World.

To test their ideas, some researchers are examining new archaeological sites and reopening old ones. Others are sifting through the DNA of modern people and unearthing the remains of those buried millennia ago in search of genetic clues. “There’s a powerful meshing of the archaeology we’re pulling out of the ground with genetic evidence,” says Michael Waters, a geographer at Texas A&M University in College Station.

Like those original Americans, researchers are exploring new frontiers, moving into fresh intellectual territory after a long period of stasis. “Clovis has been king for 50 years, and now we have to reimagine what the peopling of the New World looked like,” Erlandson says. “If it wasn’t Clovis, what was it?

Overthrowing king clovis

It took a chance finding halfway around the world to set this reappraisal in motion. In the late 1970s, Tom Dillehay, an archaeologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, uncovered the remains of a large campsite in southern Chile, close to the tip of South America (see ‘Routes to a new world’). Radiocarbon dating of wood and other organic remains suggested that the site was around 14,600 years old, implying that humans made it from Alaska to Chile more than 1,000 years before the oldest known Clovis tools2. But because the remote site was so hard for most researchers to examine, it would take nearly 20 years for Dillehay to convince his colleagues.

The case for pre-Clovis Americans has now gained more support, including from analyses of ancient DNA. One of the first bits of genetic evidence came from preserved faeces, or coprolites, that had been discovered in a cave in south-central Oregon by Dennis Jenkins, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon. Radiocarbon dating showed that the coprolites are between 14,300 and 14,000 years old, and DNA analysis confirmed that they are from humans3. The recovered DNA even shared genetic mutations with modern Native Americans.

Since the coprolite evidence emerged, in 2008, ancient DNA has also been used to reconstruct that long-ago mastodon hunt. Radiocarbon studies in the 1970s had suggested that the mastodon pre-dated the Clovis people, but some researchers explained that away by arguing that the animal had died in an accident. However, DNA studies last year4 showed that a fragment of bone embedded in the mastodon’s rib had come from another mastodon — strong evidence that it was a spear point made by humans and not a shard that had chipped off a nearby bone in a fall.

The case against Clovis got another major boost last year, when an excavation in Texas unearthed stone tools that pre-dated Clovis-style artefacts by more than a millennium5. “We found a solid site with good context, good artefacts and solid dating,” says Waters.

This slow avalanche of findings has all but buried the Clovis model — the problem now is what to replace it with. The abundant Clovis artefacts and sites discovered over the past century have set a high bar. Telling the story of the first Americans means coming up with a plausible explanation and definitive evidence to support it — a combination that researchers are struggling to achieve.

One idea they are exploring is that a small group of big-game hunters made it into the Western Hemisphere over land — but significantly earlier than previously thought. Another, more popular, theory argues that humans used boats to navigate along the coast of Siberia and across to the Americas.

There is also a controversial variant of the coastal migration model, put forward by archaeologists Dennis Stanford at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and Bruce Bradley at the University of Exeter, UK. Called the Solutrean hypothesis, it suggests that coastal migration from Asia could have been supplemented by parallel migrations across the Atlantic, bringing stone-tool technologies from present-day Spain and southern Europe to eastern North America.

DNA studies argue strongly against this hypothesis, and it gets little support from researchers. But some are hesitant to reject the idea outright, recognizing that the community was once before too conservative. “That’s what happened with the Clovis paradigm,” says Dillehay.

To move the field forward, researchers are using as many types of data as possible. Some key clues have emerged from studies of population genetics, in which researchers tallied the number of differences between the genomes of modern Native Americans and those of people living in Asia today. They then used estimates of DNA mutation rates as a molecular clock to time how long the diversity took to develop. That provides an estimate for when people split from ancient Asian populations and migrated to the Americas.

Judging from the limited genetic diversity of modern Native Americans, Ripan Malhi, a geneticist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and others have argued that the founding population was small, perhaps just a few thousand hardy settlers. In a study of mitochondrial DNA from modern Native American and Asian populations, Malhi and his colleagues also found hints that the first American colonists paused on their way out of Asia6, waiting out the peak of the last ice age on the exposed Bering land bridge for perhaps 5,000 years — long enough to become genetically distinct from other Asian populations. When the glaciers blocking their path into North America began to melt around 16,500 years ago, the Beringians made their way south over land or sea, passing those genetic differences on to their descendants in America.

Other researchers say that there is a major problem with relying on population genetics to answer questions about the peopling of the Americas. At least 80% of the New World’s population was wiped out by disease, conflict or starvation after Europeans first arrived some five centuries ago. And the genes of many Native Americans today carry European and African markers, which confounds efforts to piece together the migration story. “If we look pre-contact, we’re going to find a lot more indigenous diversity,” says Malhi.

That means going back in time, by studying ancient genomes. “You’re going to see a lot of ancient-DNA studies coming out, and that’s going to tell a powerful story about the first Americans,” says Waters.

The chances of finding well-preserved bones from the first Americans are slim, but valuable information can be pulled from DNA samples that fall in between then and now, argues Eske Willerslev, who studies ancient DNA at the University of Copenhagen. Willerslev and his colleague Thomas Gilbert proved that point in 2010, when they extracted the first complete ancient-human genome from a 4,000-year-old hank of hair found in Greenland that had languished for decades in a museum storeroom in Copenhagen. The DNA helped to show that there had been multiple waves of migration into Greenland, and that modern Greenlanders arrived more recently7. Now, Willerslev’s lab is trying to extract similar information about population movements from ancient-human remains from sites all over the Americas.

Joining forces

When paired with sequences from modern populations, ancient DNA can help to refine the calculations made by population geneticists and test the claims made by archaeologists. In 2008, Brian Kemp, now at Washington State University in Pullman, extracted mitochondrial DNA from a 10,300-year-old tooth found in On Your Knees Cave in Alaska. When he compared the DNA sequences with those from modern Native Americans, he found that the mutation rate was faster than previously thought8. The results, he says, effectively rule out the possibility that humans came to North America as early as 40,000 years ago — a date based on equivocal evidence from archaeological sites in the eastern United States. The finding also argues against the idea that people used boats before the thaw to go around the glaciers and come down the coast. Instead, the DNA evidence supports the consensus that people didn’t migrate into the Americas — whether by boat or over land — until the end of the last glacial maximum, 16,500 years ago at most.

The DNA told researchers a few more things. The ancient man who died in that Alaskan cave had mitochondrial DNA most closely related to Native American groups living today along the west coast of North America. “Most of the people who descended from that type are still living near the coast,” Kemp says. So the first wave of migrants probably came down the coast and then spread east from there, developing tiny variations in their DNA as they went, Kemp says.

Dennis O’Rourke, a geneticist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, is using similar comparisons to fill in the map of ancient migrations in the New World. In the past ten years, dozens of similar studies have established a clear trend — comparisons of DNA from modern people with ancient DNA have shown that the geographic distribution of genetic groups in the Americas has been stable for millennia. “The patterns must have been established more than 4,000 years ago,” he says. That helps to constrain the timing of when people spread across the continent and when they stopped migrating, he says.

In Point Barrow, Alaska, O’Rourke recently began studying human remains from a cliff-top cemetery threatened by coastal erosion, where people have been buried for the past 1,000 years. By comparing the samples from ancient Alaskans to populations from Greenland, eastern Canada and elsewhere, O’Rourke hopes to learn more about the colonization of the Arctic, an environment similar to what the first Americans would have encountered towards the end of the last ice age.

O’Rourke’s collaborators are also collecting DNA samples from Inupiat people in northern Alaska. By matching up the modern and ancient DNA sequences from that region, they hope to refine the genetic clock and improve estimates for when people arrived in the Americas. Similar work is going on at a cemetery on Prince Rupert Island off northern British Columbia, where local Tsimshian people are working with archaeologists to gather ancient and modern DNA evidence.

While geneticists open up intellectual frontiers, archaeologists are searching for ways to test the migration theories in the field. Direct evidence for coastal migration will be hard to come by, because a rise in the sea level since the end of the last ice age has flooded the ancient coastlines. But researchers are turning up indirect evidence in many locations. Last year, for example, Erlandson demonstrated that humans lived on California’s Channel Islands as far back as 12,200 years ago9, which shows that they must have mastered the use of boats before that time.

And at the Monte Verde site in Chile, researchers have found evidence that the ancient occupants were fans of seafood10. “Monte Verde has ten different species of seaweed at the site,” Dillehay says. “Somebody was intimately familiar with seaweeds and the microhabitats where they could be found.” That lends support to the idea that the earliest Americans were seafarers, he says.

Dillehay’s recent findings, which came 30 years after the first excavations at Monte Verde, show that previously studied sites can become potential gold mines, says Waters. Because so many sites were either dismissed or forgotten during the ‘Clovis-first’ era, Waters says that “the field can really be pushed forward by going back and taking a look at sites that were put up on a shelf”. He is already planning to reopen sites in Tennessee and Florida, where evidence of pre-Clovis mammoth hunting was uncovered in the 1980s and 1990s.

Geneticists and archaeologists agree that the death of the Clovis theory has injected the field with excitement and suspense. “There’s a sense that there was something before Clovis,” says Jenkins, whose coprolite study shook the field four years ago. “But what it was and how it led to the patterns that we see in North and South America — that’s a whole new ball game.”

Original Article:


by Andrew Curry


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Topic Ancient farming in Cyprus

The communal building in Klimonas partially excavated. It measures 10 m in diameter. Credit: J.-D. Vigne, CNRS-

The oldest agricultural settlement ever found on a Mediterranean island has been discovered in Cyprus by a team of French archaeologists involving CNRS, the National Museum of Natural History, INRAP, EHESS and the University of Toulouse. Previously it was believed that, due to the island’s geographic isolation, the first Neolithic farming societies did not reach Cyprus until a thousand years after the birth of agriculture in the Middle East (ca. 9500 to 9400 BCE). However, the discovery of Klimonas, a village that dates from nearly 9000 years before Christ, proves that early cultivators migrated to Cyprus from the Middle Eastern continent shortly after the emergence of agriculture there, bringing with them wheat as well as dogs and cats.

The findings, which also reveal the early development of maritime navigational skills by these populations, have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

Sedentary villagers of the Early Neolithic began cultivating wild grains in the Middle East in about 9500 BCE. Recent discoveries have shown that the island of Cyprus was visited by human groups during that period, but until now the earliest traces of and the construction of villages did not predate 8400 BCE. The latest findings from the of Klimonas indicate that organized communities were built in Cyprus between 9100 and 8600 BCE: the site has yielded the remnants of a half-buried mud brick communal building, 10 meters in diameter and surrounded by dwellings, that must have been used to store the village’s harvests. The archaeologists have found a few votive offerings inside the building, including flint arrowheads and green stone beads. A great many remnants of other objects, including flint chips, stone tools and shell adornments, have been discovered in the village. The stone tools and the structures erected by these early villagers resemble those found at Neolithic sites from the same period on the nearby continent. Remains of carbonized seeds of local plants and grains introduced from the Levantine coasts (including emmer, one of the first Middle Eastern wheats) have also been found in Klimonas.

Small shell pendant left as an offering in the large communal building of Klimonas. Credit: J.-D. Vigne, CNRS-MNHN.


An analysis of the bone remains found on the site has revealed that the meat consumed by these villagers came from the hunting of a small wild boar indigenous to Cyprus (the only large game on the island at the time), and that small domestic dogs and cats had been introduced from the continent. This would indicate that these early farming societies migrated from the continent shortly after the emergence of agriculture there. In addition, their ability to move a whole group of people long distances shows that they had already mastered maritime navigation at the dawn of the Neolithic period.

The Klimonas site will be excavated until the end of May 2012, and a new round of excavations will begin in 2013. Uniting several laboratories, the research is funded by CNRS, the European LeCHE project, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (French National Museum of Natural History, or MNHN), INRAP, the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Ecole Française d’Athènes (French School at Athens).

Original Article:


May 15, 2012

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