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Archive for January, 2014

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HUNTING NOTCHES An ancient piece of carved bone (both sides shown) was probably the base of a spear point that inhabitants of Timor attached to a wooden or bamboo shaft. The artifact is slightly less than one inch long and about one-half inch wide.

Topic: Spear points
A 35,000-year-old piece of carved bone found on Timor, an island between Java and Papua New Guinea, indicates that complex hunting weapons were manufactured much earlier than previously thought in Australasia.

A team led by archaeologist Sue O’Connor of Australian National University in Canberra has unearthed, in a project that began in 2000, what it regards as the broken butt of a bone spear point. Three closely spaced notches and part of a fourth were carved on each side of the artifact, above a shaft that tapers to a rounded bottom.

Wear on the notches and residue of a sticky substance close to the bottom suggest the point was tied and glued to a slot on the side of a wooden handle or inserted into a split hollow shaft, the researchers report January 15 in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Until now, comparably complex hunting weapons made on islands near Timor dated to no more than several hundred years ago. Curiously, 80,000- to 90,000-year-old African bone spear points display notches similar to those on the Timor find, O’Connor says.

Stone Ag Islanders threw spears from boats at large fish and other sea prey, O’Connor proposes.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on January 29, 2014, to correct the description of the bone artifacts. They are thought to be parts of spear points, not harpoon points.

original article

science news.org
My links are not working with the wordpress update so you will have to look up the article.

by Bruce Bower
Jan 21, 2014

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Topic Ancient milk drinkers:

The mutation for milk-drinking evolved independently in different parts of the world over the last 10,000 years as a result of strong natural selection, but why was it so advantageous?

Among the more momentous developments in human evolution was the ability to digest milk beyond early childhood.

Mutations that enabled lifelong milk drinking appeared independently in several parts of the world over the last 7,500 years, according to growing evidence. And those genes spread rapidly. Today, about a third of adults around the world can drink milk without stomach problems, a trait known as lactase persistence.
But why was milk drinking so advantageous to humankind?

A new study debunks one leading theory: that milk provided a valuable source of vitamin D, which would’ve helped people absorb its calcium.

Newly analyzed human skeletons from an ancient site in Spain show that the milk-drinking gene spread just as rapidly in that sun-drenched climate as it did in other places, suggesting that milk must have been beneficial there for some reason other than its vitamin D content.

“Throughout the years, I have heard so many evolutionary hypotheses about lactase persistence because they are so fun to coin,” said Oddný Sverrisdóttir, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. “For decades now, people have hypothesized that it was because of lack of sunlight in the north of Europe that people would have had to supplement the lack of calcium and vitamin D by drinking milk.”

“Now, looking at this picture from Spain,” she said, “the calcium-assimilation hypothesis either didn’t affect the evolution of lactase persistence at all, or other forces were there as well.”

Sverrisdóttir has long been interested in how and why Europe’s early farmers began drinking milk, so she was excited when she got her hands on well-preserved samples of skeletal remains from eight people who lived in northeastern Spain about 5,000 years ago. That was well after the milk-drinking mutation had appeared in northern Europe, and she was eager to find out if those ancient Spaniards were drinking milk, too. So the first thing she did was test their DNA for lactase persistence.

“I thought at least one would have the mutation,” since so many of today’s Spanish adults can drink milk without health consequences, Sverrisdóttir said. “None did.”

To figure out whether the recent and rapid spread of lactase persistence in Spain was a fluke or if natural selection was at play, Sverrisdóttir and colleagues compared the mitochondrial DNA of modern Spaniards with the ancient samples. Mitochondrial DNA changes very slowly, making it ideal for tracing family trees over time.

And, the researchers report today in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, analyses showed that the ancient cave dwellers were indeed ancestors of people who live and frequently drink milk in Spain today.

Original article:

discovery.com

JAN 21, 2014 08:00 PM ET // BY EMILY SOHN

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Courtesy of Nara Prefectural Archaeological Institure of Kashihara
Yayoi period rice grains unearthed from the Akitsu archaeological site

Topic: Ancient Rice:

The Yomiuri Shimbun NARA—Eleven grains of brown rice believed to date back to the early Yayoi period, around 2,600 to 2,400 years ago, were found at the location of a former paddy in the Akitsu archaeological site in Goze, Nara Prefecture.

Due to the well-preserved condition of the grains, they were expected to provide clues about the rice cultivated by ancient people of the period, according to experts.

Kyoto University Prof. Tatsuya Inamura, an expert on plant production systems, revealed the discovery at a research meeting of Nara Prefecture’s Archaeological Institute of Kashihara on Jan. 12.

The rice grains, which were first excavated in November, were brown and about four millimeters in length. The rice did not have husks. The grains are believed to have been so well-preserved because they were sealed in mud with high water content and were not exposed to air. It is rare to discover rice from the Yayoi period that has not undergone carbonization, according to Inamura.

Original article:

the japan news
Jan 21, 2014
The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Researchers discovered the remains of a large house with at least 21 rooms near the Giza pyramids and a nearby mound containing leopard teeth, the hind limbs of cattle, and seals with the titles of high-ranking officials. (This image was taken before excavation of the house was complete.)
Credit: Courtesy AERA.

Topic: find in Egypt
Note: offerings to the ancient gods of Egypt were presented during ritual but always eaten after by the priest/ess, or in the case of festivals by other participants, such as the common worker.

TORONTO — The remains of a mansion that likely held high-ranking officials some 4,500 years ago have been discovered near Egypt’s Giza Pyramids. Bones from young cattle and teeth from leopards suggest its residents ate and dressed like royalty.

Archaeologists excavating a city just 400 meters (1,312 feet) south of the Sphinx uncovered the house and nearby mound containing the hind limbs of young cattle, the seals of high-ranking officials, which were inscribed with titles like “the scribe of the royal box” and “the scribe of the royal school,” and leopard teeth (but no leopard).

The house, containing at least 21 rooms, is part of a city that dates mainly to the time when the pyramid of Menkaure (the last of the Giza Pyramids) was being built. [See Photos of the Discoveries at Giza Pyramids]

“The other thing that is just amazing is almost all the cattle are under 10 months of age … they are eating veal,” said Richard Redding, the chief research officer of Ancient Egypt Research Associates, at a recent symposium held here by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.

From his sample of 100,000 bones from the nearby mound, Redding said he couldn’t find a cow bone that was older than 18 months and found few examples of sheep and goat bones.

“We have very, very, high status individuals,” said Redding, also a research scientist at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan.

Leopard teeth

Besides cattle bones the archaeologists found two leopard teeth in the house and another two in the nearby mound. They, however, found no leopard bones, leaving them with a puzzle.

Redding consulted ancient drawings that date to the Old Kingdom (the age when pyramid building was at its height), between 2649 and 2150 B.C. He found that some high-ranking individuals, including members of the royal family, wore leopard skin that still had the head attached. This would explain why they found teeth — which could’ve fallen out of the head while the wearer was passing by — but no leopard bones.

High-ranking clergy known as “sem” priests were allowed to wear these leopard skins, and they could be members of the royal house, noted Mark Lehner, the director of Ancient Egypt Research Associates, in an email to LiveScience.

Redding was also puzzled that many cattle hind bones, yet few forelimbs, were found. For some reason the people of the house avoided eating the forelimbs of the cattle. Again Redding turned to ancient drawings. There, he found numerous examples of scenes where people presented forelimbs as offerings to deities, but almost no examples of hind limbs being offered. As such, the people of this house were likely eating the remains of offerings.

Clues to a priestly complex

This discovery may help the archaeologists identify offering places and dwellings of ancient priests. Since the elite house is full of hind limbs (the remains of offerings), Redding suspects that bone deposits that contain mainly forelimbs would be located in places where the offerings were being made. [Photos: The Lost City of the Pyramid Builders]

In 2011 Redding and his colleagues discovered what might be just such a place. Archaeologists call it the “silo building complex,” and it is located near a monument dedicated to Queen Khentkawes, possibly a daughter of the pharaoh Menkaure.

“My analysis of the bones from the small excavations at (the building complex) in 2012, showed a strong bias towards forelimb elements — as to be expected in priestly garbage,” Redding wrote in an email to LiveScience. “We will get larger samples this February, but right now my operating hypothesis is that the (complex) was occupied by royal cult priests.”

Located near a basin that may be part of a larger harbor, this building complex “is flanked by long bakeries and contains a set of grain silos,” Lehner said in his email. It “probably administered provisions and produced bread and other offerings.”

The complex dates to a bit after the Giza Pyramids were built and may have been constructed at the site of an earlier town where people involved in the building of the Pyramid of Khafre (the second largest pyramid at Giza) lived.

Original article:
livescience

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Image From Nordjyllands Historiske Museum

Topic: Iron Age village
During evaluation of land prior to the construction of a new hospital in Aalborg, Northern Denmark, archaeologists uncovered an Iron Age village dating back around 2000 years. The settlement differs from other sites of this period because of its well preserved condition, including a number of houses complete with fireplaces, chalk floors and cobbled paving.

The village covers an area of ​​approximately 4 ha., and excavation has so far located about 40 houses. However, this number is expected to increase greatly during full excavation, but initial reports show they are not all contemporary, and represent repeated reconstruction and rebuild over hundreds of years.

Usually, only traces of the postholes are left to understand the layout of a house, but the village had been covered over with a thick layer of soil, that had protected it after abandonment. Several of the houses had floors created out of chalk for the living area, while other parts of the buildings appeared to be used as stabling for animals. Preliminary studies show bones found were mainly from the butchering of cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, but the inhabitants supplemented their diet with fish from the nearby fjord.

In addition to discovering the core of the settlement, archaeologists also found traces of the quarry pits south of the village, where chalk was excavated for the house floors. Traces of cultivation was also noted in the form of ard marks (plough) and this could shed light on aspects of the village economy and agricultural production.

Early example of a cat

A surprise discovery was the skeletal remains of a cat – which has caused some excitement – as this domestic variety was first introduced to Denmark from the Roman Empire during the Iron Age – making this a very early example. Previously, the earliest known domestic cat came from a cremation grave in Kastrup, Jutland dating to c. AD 200.

The osteological finds have supplied a potential area of further work as the team uncovered a greater than expected quantity of horse bones. Horses were usually seen as a sign of wealth during this period, and the number of remains opens up questions concerning status.

Larger cultural landscape

The village forms part of a larger cultural landscape in southeastern Aalborg around the village of Sonder Tranders where there is evidence of many other settlements and burial sites.
The area at South Tranders is also rich in metal finds from the Viking and Middle Ages that have been discovered by detectorists.

The results of this investigation can now be combined to further develop understanding of the Iron Age from a south Scandinavian perspective.

The archaeologists from the North Jutland Historical Museum have so far evaluated 58 ha., of which 54 ha. has already been released to the construction of the hospital. They are currently waiting to see how large an area of ​​the village will be affected before deciding how much more work can be undertaken.

Source: Nordjyllands Historiske Museum

Original article:
past horizons
Jan 17, 2014

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A large quantity of Iron Age pottery was recovered along with the animal remains. Image: © Nordjyllands Historiske Museum

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South area excavation of Çatal Höyük, Turkey. Image: Ziggurat. Wikimedia (used under a CC BY-SA 3.0)

Topic: Ancient grain found

A cache of perfectly preserved Neolithic grain, the largest so far known in the Middle East, has been uncovered by Polish archaeologists working at Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey.

Çatalhöyük is one of the centres of urbanisation of the earliest farming communities and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.

”In a small room with an area of ​​approximately 7 square metres we discovered four containers formed from packed clay containing a large quantity of multi-row grains” – explained Prof. Arkadiusz Marciniak from the Institute of Prehistory in Poznan.

Well preserved

In total, between the two grain hoppers that were excavated the archaeologists recovered almost 5kg of grain. Such an amount in a well preserved state is of great importance to the investigation of early agriculture.

Archaeobotanical research has shown that it was an extinct species of wheat – popular in Neolithic times in the Middle East and Europe. The room in which the discovery was made lay in the north-eastern part of the house group – which consisted of residential buildings constructed around 8,200 years ago.
A period of decline

The find dates to a period when this once thriving settlement was in decline and inhabited by only a single household. The entire complex of structures will be fully investigated over the coming research seasons.

It is clear that the storage room in which the grain bins were located had burned down with carbonised grains suggesting a swift and hot fire. In addition to the grain bins, the archaeologists also recovered several ceramic vessels.

Çatalhöyük is located in the southern part of the Anatolian Plain in central Turkey and excavations began in the 1960s under the direction of James Mellaart. The research resumed in 1993 under an international team headed by Professor Ian Hodder of Stanford University with Polish archaeologists joining the project in 2001.

Çatalhöyük was inhabited continuously for around 1200 years between 7200 and 6000 BCE.

In its heyday, this densely built-up residential area covered several acres and had a population of up to 6000 inhabitants.

Source: PAP – Science and Scholarship in Poland http://www.naukawpolsce.pap.pl

Original article:

past horizons
Jan 14, 2014

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Containers for barley in the room where the stored grain was discovered. Image: A. Marciniak

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Interesting read,

British Museum blog

A very versatile Roman ovenSally Grainger, chef and author

In my previous post about Roman cooking I described a type of oven used to bake and roast food about 2,000 years ago. Known as a clibanus it was a sophisticated piece of cooking technology most likely used by the wealthy, and one with which I have spent many years experimenting.

These ovens were made with very course gritted clay and ranged in size from 15-50 cm in diameter, with walls of up to 10 cm high. A central hole seems to have been for regulating the temperature and could also allow cooks to keep an eye on the food baking inside. A flange allowed the fire to be placed on the top of the oven.

The sites in Italy where these ovens have been identified tend to be rather elite villa complexes where one could imagine the baking of delicate cakes and also warm…

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