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A network of fish ponds supported a permanent human settlement in the seasonal drylands of Bolivia more than one thousand years ago, according to a new study published May 15, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Gabriela Prestes-Carneiro of Federal University of Western Para, Brazil, and colleagues.

Source: Ancient fish ponds in the Bolivian savanna supported human settlement

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Scientists analyzed bits of beer vessels from an ancient Peruvian brewery to learn what the beer was made of and where the materials to make the vessels came from. They learned that production was local and that the ingredients for the beer included pepper berries that would grow even in droughts. The authors argue that this steady, reliable access to beer helped maintain unity in the empire.

Source: The secret to a stable society? A steady supply of beer doesn’t hurt

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Source: Maya Beekeepers

Clay bee hive

Evidence of the handiwork of early Maya beekeepers has been unearthed at the ancient city of Nakum in northeastern Guatemala. Beneath a vast ritual platform dating from around 100 B.C. to A.D. 300, a team led by Jagiellonian University archaeologist Jaroslaw Zralka discovered a foot-long, barrel-shaped ceramic tube with covers at each end. Initially, Zralka and his colleagues thought the artifact might be a drum buried as an offering. But they soon learned that the tube was nearly identical to wooden beehives still made from hollow logs by Maya in the northern Yucatan. Most pre-Columbian beehives were also likely made from wood, but none of these have been discovered. The Nakum tube is the only known surviving example of an ancient Maya beehive.

“Honey was probably among the most popular products exchanged and traded by the pre-Columbian Maya,” says Zralka. “So beekeeping was a very important activity in their daily life, as well as in religious activities.” Near the beehive, Zralka and his team found nine unbaked clay heads arranged in a circle, perhaps depicting gods important to the continued success of Nakum’s beekeepers.

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Consuming the meat of large animals is generally thought to have been instrumental in human evolution. It allowed early hominins, such as australopithecines, to begin developing larger brains some 3.4 million years ago. At a time when early hominins were not yet able to manufacture and hunt with sophisticated tools, however, obtaining meat from animals that significantly outweighed them was a dangerous undertaking. Researchers now believe that our human ancestors may have first acquired the taste for meat by scavenging carcasses left behind by other predators. Even if most of the meat was rotten or had already been consumed, early hominins may have used stones and other tools to smash open bones and access fatty marrow deposits, an invaluable source of the nutrients required by their very large brains. “Targeting marrow not only enables a stone-wielding hominin to access a novel resource that can’t be accessed by most other carnivores, but it was a relatively low-risk food,” says Yale University paleoanthropologist Jessica Thompson. This combination of high caloric returns at a low cost may have served as the ideal gateway to a long-standing carnivorous habit.

 

Source: Marrow of Humanity

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Source: Migrant Farmers May Have Replaced Britain’s Hunter-Gatherers

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Dozens of thermopolia, or snack bars, have been found across Pompeii. Photograph: Massimo Ossana/Instagram

By/angela-giuffrida

Theguardian.com

Thermopolia used by poorer residents with few cooking facilities, archaeologists say

A well-preserved frescoed “fast food” counter is among the latest discoveries unearthed by archaeologists in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

The 150 or so thermopolia, or snack bars, dotted across the city were mostly used by the poorer residents, who rarely had cooking facilities in their home, to grab a snack or drink. Typical menus included coarse bread with salty fish, baked cheese, lentils and spicy wine.

An image of the 2,000-year old relic, found in Regio V, a 21.8-hectare (54-acre) site to the north of the archaeological park, was shared on Instagram by Massimo Ossana, the site’s outgoing superintendent.

“A thermopolium has been brought back to light, with its beautiful frescoed counter,” he wrote.

Dozens of other thermopolia have been found throughout the entire archaeological park. Regio V, which is not yet open to the public, is the most intensive dig at the site since the 1960s.

Excavations so far have yielded dozens of discoveries. In February, archaeologists found a stunningly preserved fresco depicting the mythological hunter Narcissus enraptured by his own reflection in a pool of water. Human remains have also been found, including the skeletons of two women and three children found huddled together in a villa. The remains of a harnessed horse and saddle were also found in late December.

Pompeii was destroyed in AD79 by an eruption that killed more than 2,000 people. The ruins were discovered in the 16th century and the first excavations began in 1748. Pompeii is one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world.

 

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An ancient woman from Romania shows an edgeto-edge bite (left). A Bronze Age man from Austria had a slight overbite (right).

 

By Ann Gibbons

Original article:

Sciencemag.org

Don’t like the F-word? Blame farmers and soft food. When humans switched to processed foods after the spread of agriculture, they put less wear and tear on their teeth. That changed the growth of their jaws, giving adults the overbites normal in children. Within a few thousand years, those slight overbites made it easy for people in farming cultures to fire off sounds like “f” and “v,” opening a world of new words.

The newly favored consonants, known as labiodentals, helped spur the diversification of languages in Europe and Asia at least 4000 years ago; they led to such changes as the replacement of the Proto-Indo-European patēr to Old English faeder about 1500 years ago, according to linguist and senior author Balthasar Bickel at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. The paper shows “that a cultural shift can change our biology in such a way that it affects our language,” says evolutionary morphologist Noreen Von Cramon-Taubadel of the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York system, who was not part of the study.

Postdocs Damián Blasi and Steven Moran in Bickel’s lab set out to test an idea proposed by the late American linguist Charles Hockett. He noted in 1985 that the languages of hunter-gatherers lacked labiodentals, and conjectured that their diet was partly responsible: Chewing gritty, fibrous foods puts force on the growing jaw bone and wears down molars. In response, the lower jaw grows larger, and the molars erupt farther and drift forward on the protruding lower jaw, so that the upper and lower teeth align. That edge-to-edge bite makes it harder to push the upper jaw forward to touch the lower lip, which is required to pronounce labiodentals. But other linguists rejected the idea, and Blasi says he, Moran, and their colleagues “expected to prove Hockett wrong.”

First, the six researchers used computer modeling to show that with an overbite, producing labiodentals takes 29% less effort than with an edge-to-edge bite. Then, they scrutinized the world’s languages and found that hunter-gatherer languages have only about one-fourth as many labiodentals as languages from farming societies. Finally, they looked at the relationships among languages, and found that labiodentals can spread quickly, so that the sounds could go from being rare to common in the 8000 years since the widespread adoption of agriculture and new food processing methods such as grinding grain into flour.

Bickel suggests that as more adults developed overbites, they accidentally began to use “f” and “v” more. In ancient India and Rome, labiodentals may have been a mark of status, signaling a softer diet and wealth, he says. Those consonants also spread through other language groups; today, they appear in 76% of Indo-European languages.

Linguist Nicholas Evans of Australian National University in Canberra finds the study’s “multimethod approach to the problem” convincing. Ian Maddieson, an emeritus linguist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, isn’t sure researchers tallied the labiodentals correctly but agrees that the study shows external factors like diet can alter the sounds of speech.

The findings also suggest our facility with f-words comes at a cost. As we lost our ancestral edge-to-edge bite, “we got new sounds but maybe it wasn’t so great for us,” Moran says. “Our lower jaws are shorter, we have impacted wisdom teeth, more crowding—and cavities.”

*Correction, 15 March, 11:10 a.m.: This story erroneously stated that the newly favored consonants led to the replacement of the Latin patēr to Old English faeder about 1500 years ago. Patēr came not from Latin, but from the Proto-Indo-European language that gave rise to Latin and other languages in Europe and Asia.

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