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Original Article:

By Karen Michelmore

abc.net.au

Archaeologists have uncovered a treasure trove of ancient artefacts — including evidence of a kangaroo cook-up — inside a remote cave in the far north-west of Australia.

An archaeological dig is underway in this cave, located about 10km from BHP Billiton’s Mining Area C iron ore mine in the West Australian Pilbara region.

The site in Western Australia’s Pilbara region is being leased by mining giant BHP Billiton, but of late a different kind of digging has been going on.

A team of scientists from Scarp Archaeology and BHP, led by Michael Slack, has already uncovered hundreds of ancient artefacts from the small cave in the Hamersley Ranges.

“The guys have just uncovered an ancient campfire that, given the depth below the surface and the relationship with the stones around it, we think is potentially around 20,000 years old,” Dr Slack said.

The remnants of the ancient camp fire consist of about 20cm of fine white ash and contains pieces of charcoal which will be sent off for radiocarbon dating.

“To make it even better, they found flake stone artefacts right next to the charcoal,” he said.

“So we’ll get a really good association between people and the campfire itself, and we’ll have a really clear idea of how old it is.”

It was possible the stone tools were used to cut the meat for the fire, as remnants of kangaroo bone were also found.

“We’ll have to have a look at them under the microscope, but they are the pieces that people were using in the site,” Dr Slack said.

“A family sitting around a campfire having a meal probably.”

Using garden trowels, the scientists are painstakingly digging centimetre by centimetre, through thousands of years of history.

“You only have to look at the ground in this cave and you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of little chips of stone, and these were all coming off stone artefacts that were used as tools,” Dr Slack said.

“Some of them just look really pretty, others you can see have lots of evidence of wear on the side.

“This little cave has hundreds of them on the surface which is very rare for the Pilbara.

“Quite often the caves have nothing … but they are lying around.

“We looked at a bunch of caves out here and as soon as we got to this one we thought, ‘wow we really want to come and do some archaeology here’ — it’s going to be really rich and there’s the potential there to tell a good story about what the Aboriginal people were doing here over possibly the last 40,000 years.”

Banjima man and traditional owner Garren Smith, who is working with the archaeologists, said stories about the site have been passed down over time.

“It’s good that they are doing this and getting the records, having a look at how old things are,” Mr Smith said.

“A lot of other young fellas and older people come out.

“A lot of stories have been passed on to us and now they’re just finding out about it.”

The site was discovered a decade ago by a survey party made up of Aboriginal traditional owners working with BHP Billiton as part of their mine compliance requirements.

Years later scientists returned to do a test dig in a 1m-square patch, and in the process uncovered a cache of stone tools, some of which are up to 32,000 years old, making it one of the oldest sites in the region.

“The artefacts span what’s known as the last glacial maximum, or what most people know as the last ice age, between 18000 years ago and 28,000 years ago,” Dr Slack said.

“It’s one of those jobs where you never know what the next hour or minute is going to find for you.

“It might be nothing, but every time you put a little trowel in the ground and touch something, it could be something really exciting,” he says.

Dr Slack, who is also president of the Australian Archaeological Association, said there are around 600 archaeologists working around Australia.

Fittingly, the Pilbara excavation coincides with National Archaeology Week, and is just one of many sites of archaeological interest around the country.

“There’s a growing number of these sorts of sites in Australia because there’s been a lot more research that’s been going on over the last 10 years in particular,” he says.

“But in terms of the size in Australia and the number of places that we know to be over 10,000 years, we are still only looking at dozens of places in the continent, in the period of up to 65,000-70,000 years [old].

“So they are really significant places to study and understand.”

 

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Piece of bone from medieval cemetery in Northern Finland.
Credit: Maria Lahtinen

 

Original Article:

sciencedaily.com

 

Researchers investigated the diet of people buried in the Ii Hamina, Northern Finland, cemetery from the 15th to the 17th centuries by analysing isotopes in the bones of the deceased. Isotopes preserve information on the various nutrient sources used by humans during their lifetime. A study reveals that the dominant protein source was small fish, such as roach or Baltic herring.

Researchers investigated the diet of people buried in the Ii Hamina cemetery from the 15th to the 17th centuries by analysing isotopes in the bones of the deceased. Isotopes preserve information on the various nutrient sources used by humans during their lifetime. A study published in the Environmental Archaeology journal reveals that the dominant protein source was small fish, such as roach or Baltic herring.

The medieval cemetery of Ii Hamina is located next to the centre of the Ii municipality. Through investigations conducted at the cemetery, significant knowledge has been gained on past human generations in Northern Ostrobothnia and in Finland in general.

The study of the diet of medieval Ii residents indicated a very large share of fish-based food. Of all protein consumed, as much as 70% may have been fish. On the one hand, this is evidence of the importance of waterways; on the other hand, it indirectly indicates the insignificance of farming and dairying in the region.

Sufficient but unbalanced nutrition

A previous study already revealed that medieval residents of Ii had no significant trouble finding food.

“This new study confirms the notion that the diet in Ii was very likely sufficient,” says researcher Maria Lahtinen from the Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus, part of the University of Helsinki.

The recently published study indicates that the fish consumed by the residents of Ii was probably from the middle of the food web, in other words roach, Baltic herring or other species feeding on benthic and other invertebrates. Species-specific findings cannot, however, be gained through isotope analysis, so the species mentioned are based on guesswork.

Seal hunting, on the other hand, most likely did not play a significant role in medieval Ii, the study finds.

In prior studies, the dental health of the deceased has also been investigated, revealing a very protein-rich diet compared to today. On average, the population at that time was also shorter. These factors are evidence of an unbalanced diet.

Another finding in the new study was an individual whose bone isotope consistency differed from others. The diet of this individual was much closer to living habits based primarily on farmed food. The bones of altogether 98 buried individuals were analysed in the study, which makes it very likely that this individual was originally from somewhere else or in some way enjoyed a special status in the community.

 

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(Jon Arnold Images Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo)
The stunning landscape of Ifugao Province, located deep within the Philippine Cordilleras, reflects and defines the identity of the people who live there.

Recent archaeological research has pushed the date of Ifugao’s rice terraces forward by some 1,600 years.

 

Original Article:

archaeology.org

By KAREN COATES

 

Archaeologists uncover evidence suggesting rice terraces helped the Ifugao resist Spanish colonization

High in the Philippine Cordilleras, the terrain is a work of engineering and art so stunning it has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World. Steep, furrowed mountains are sculpted into terraces, stacked one atop the other, following the craggy contours of the land. In lush green paddies, people cultivate rice just as their ancestors did, passing the land down from one generation to the next.

Since 1995, UNESCO has included the rice terraces of Ifugao Province on its World Heritage list, describing them as expressions of “harmony between humankind and the environment.” Ecology, geography, and agronomy mingle with the culture, religion, economy, and politics of indigenous Ifugao life. “The rice terraces are emblematic of Philippine heritage; they exemplify human ingenuity and humanity’s ability to modify even the most marginal landscape,” says University of California, Los Angeles, anthropological archaeologist Stephen Acabado, who was born in the Philippines and has researched the region for years. This intricate agroecological system, he says, highlights the consonance between human needs and sustainable ecological management.

According to UNESCO and Philippine history books, the rice terraces were built 2,000 years ago by the ancestors of today’s Ifugao people. But this description is problematic, Acabado says, because it’s not based on any scientific evidence. Rather, it stems from the work of early twentieth-century anthropologists Roy Franklin Barton and Henry Otley Beyer, who calculated the terraces’ age based on the length of time they guessed it would have taken people to build them.

By contrast, Acabado’s archaeological investigations show that the adoption of wet-rice agriculture, accomplished by planting seedlings in flooded fields, is much, much younger in Ifugao than previously thought—1,600 years younger, in fact. While some terraces likely existed in Ifugao centuries before that, Acabado says, evidence suggests they were used for growing taro, not rice, and that those terraces were small. Imagine the difference between a backyard garden and the expansive farm fields that define much of the American Midwest. That’s the kind of difference Acabado believes existed between the earliest Ifugao terraces and what we see today. According to him, the spectacular landscape that garnered Ifugao World Heritage status dates to an era that coincides with the arrival of Spanish colonizers. For Acabado, that changes everything.

The dominant historical narrative told throughout the Philippines is a story of small, remote minority populations that moved higher and higher into the mountains over millennia as waves of new people arrived and settled in the lowlands. It is accepted that Spanish colonizers were unable to conquer the Ifugao because the terrain they occupied was so rugged. This paints the highlanders as essentially outside the march of history, as bystanders, while colonization and modernization swept through other corners of the Philippines. This account is what Acabado recalls learning in school. By the time he reached college, he realized it was based on colonial notions of indigenous people. “I started to think about how to decolonize our history,” he says.

Acabado knew it was important to date the terraces archaeologically. When the evidence connected the timing of the origins of Ifugao wet-rice cultivation with the arrival of the Spanish, he envisioned an entirely different narrative, one of determined people who took refuge in the mountains when faced with the prospect of colonization. “They were not mere spectators on the sidelines of history,” says Acabado. Rather than retreating, they reshaped their culture through the development of an intricate agricultural system that depended on organization, social unity, and ritual feasts. “Wet-rice agriculture was an expression of imperial resistance,” Acabado says. “It also facilitated political integration.”

Contrary to previous thought, it is also now known that colonial-era Ifugao were not isolated. Archaeological findings of ceramics and glass beads show they had established continuous contact and trade across China and elsewhere in Asia between 1600 and 1800. The Ifugao also introduced new foods—domesticated pigs and water buffalo—to the highlands.

With the intention of scientifically documenting local history, Acabado joined other archaeologists from the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, and elsewhere to launch the Ifugao Archaeological Project (IAP) in 2012. The organization sponsors an archaeological field school and contributes to local heritage conservation projects. “Most of what we know about our history is contained in our oral history,” says Marlon Martin, chief operating officer of Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMo), a nonprofit cultural conservation group that collaborates with the archaeologists. “IAP’s research has made things clearer and empirical,” he says.

The position that the IAP takes does have its detractors. The Archaeology Division of the National Museum in Manila released a statement in September of 2017 signed by eight scientists and researchers saying, “We do not agree that the rice terraces are as young as [he] claims.” They emphasize the need for further research before drastically rewriting history. Their criticism centers on the fact that Acabado’s excavations focus only on one area of Ifugao, known as Kiangan.

Acabado says, “I could not agree more with their assessment that a region-wide research program in and around the Ifugao highlands is necessary.” This could aid his goal of adding indigenous perspectives to a government-designed education system that he thinks remains rooted in its colonial origins.

Standard textbook lessons throughout the Philippines portray highland people in stereotypical terms as “primitive,” “warlike,” and “savage,” says Pia Arboleda of the University of Hawaii’s Filipino and Philippine Literature Program, who studies indigenous oral histories. She thinks mainstream Philippine society doesn’t take into account the diversity of the country, which is home to dozens of ethnic groups. “People don’t really like to accept that we are a multicultural, multiethnic community,” she says. “An entire generation of Ifugao has been made to believe, by the formal education system, that the terraces are 2,000 years old,” says Martin. SITMo helps Acabado’s team conduct educational programs on the archaeologists’ scientific findings.

Acabado notes an additional flaw in the standard view of Ifugao history. It implies that Ifugao ancestors did little beyond growing rice for 2,000 years. This has never made sense to him, because elsewhere in the world, the emergence of intensive farming typically coincides with scientific and other developments. He sees the Ifugao shift to wet-rice cultivation as a story of strength.

The Philippines as a whole suffers a dearth of archaeologists, says Grace Barretto-Tesoro, an IAP member. Her institution, the University of the Philippines Diliman, is the only one in the country that grants archaeology degrees. “There are foreign archaeologists who come and go,” she says. Much more comprehensive study is needed. Acabado conducted his first Ifugao excavations in 2007 while working on his Ph.D., and he has followed up with multiple digs since 2012. It’s hard to archaeologically date agricultural features because of the nature of agricultural soils. “They keep on churning,” he explains, as the dirt is turned with each new season. Unlike most archaeological sites, Ifugao is a land in action. People still use the fields today. Terrace walls frequently collapse from old age and wear and tear. Acabado had to devise a methodology to address those issues.

He examined how the terraces were constructed and discovered that the foundations were made of large boulders that stay in place even when the walls they support collapse. Acabado was able to design a statistical model for dating the surrounding soils based on the idea that despite the constant churning of those topsoils, whatever substance remained under the terrace foundations would logically be the oldest.

 

By listening to the oral stories of Ifugao people today, researching possible historical migration routes, and tracing plausible passages that followed riverbeds from lowlands to highlands, he found evidence of dates that were progressively younger the higher he looked in the mountains, and hypothesized that early migrants settled in areas they could manage and farm. In addition, Acabado and his colleagues have searched for direct evidence of wet-rice production in what is thought to be the first Ifugao village, Old Kiyyangan, which was settled about 1,000 years ago. “It wasn’t until 1650 that we see a clear, unambiguous appearance of wet rice and also grasses that are associated with wet rice,” Acabado says.

Researchers collected 12 sediment samples from two trenches for pollen, phytolith, and starch analyses. The earliest rice remains appear in terrace sediments dating to roughly 675 years ago, but it isn’t until between 470 and 530 years ago that the results show a marked increase in these rice remains. This supports a later date for the expansion of wet-rice cultivation in Ifugao. Further, the team tested cooking-pot residues to determine what locals were eating in precolonial times. They found evidence of taro and a substance similar to sugarcane—but no wet rice. “With that knowledge,” says Acabado, “we argue that there would have been terraces in the region, but not for rice.” Small-scale terraces such as those found in Hawaii and other Pacific Islands would have been used for taro, but not until the Spanish arrived did the region see a distinct population increase and a massive undertaking in the change to wet-rice production. That’s when Acabado suggests that Ifugao’s iconic sculpted landscape came to be.

Initially, Acabado thought it logical to find wet rice at the same time as a population increase because it’s a more productive crop than taro and can feed more people. “It also has a longer shelf life. Much, much longer. It can last for 20 years in a perfect environment, as opposed to taro, which can last for only two weeks at most,” he says. But further research showed that wet-rice production in Ifugao supported only 10 percent of the population. The vast majority continued to eat other carbohydrates, likely sweet potatoes, taro, and dry rice grown in swidden fields. Paddy rice was an elite meal, accessible only to society’s upper classes.

Why did the Ifugao start growing wet rice at all? Why not stick to taro? The answer gets to the heart of Acabado’s theory. When the Spanish arrived in the Philippines, the Ifugao consolidated their power in the mountains. They shifted to a form of agriculture that required social organization to manage the control of water, hard labor, access to land, and shared resources. The upper classes owned the land, the lower classes worked it. Wet-rice production was not an economic move, Acabado believes, but one of social structure. The Ifugao performed rituals for every stage of the agricultural cycle, and in anthropological literature, such rituals are portrayed as cohesive activities key to group organization. That organization is what Acabado thinks allowed the Ifugao to collectively fend off the Spanish. “It was just really amazing how the data fell into place to support the model,” says John Peterson, IAP member and director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Guam. Peterson has decades of archaeological experience in the American Southwest and the Pacific. He says IAP data suggest early Ifugao taro terraces date to about 1,500 years ago. Those terraces preadapted the region for an expansion to wet-rice paddies.

Using basic tools and materials as the early Ifugao might have, the researchers constructed their own terrace system. It took the team 11 days to build a 10-level system of stone walls more than six feet high. Acabado says, “It is not unthinkable that [early Ifugao] were able to modify the landscape in a very short amount of time.” IAP hopes to change the terraces’ age in the UNESCO description to reflect the new archaeological evidence. “We’ve got to address that,” says Peterson. But what would this take?

The Philippines national government must submit a modification request to UNESCO. “This will be treated as a new nomination,” says Feng Jing, chief of Asia and the Pacific for UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in Paris. “It is up to the State Party of the Philippines.” That means the national government must agree that a change should be made. However, the government is not ready to draw conclusions, as noted in the National Museum’s statement. “I have differing views from experts,” says Lila Ramos Shahani, secretary general of the Philippine National Commission for UNESCO. “Scholars often differ in their views, and it’s my job to listen to all of them.” The conversation has prompted her to attempt to organize a conference with the National Museum.

In the meantime, Acabado’s scholarship is highly regarded in the Philippines. “The government accepts Stephen’s work as contributory to arriving at some understanding of the complexity of the terracing issue,” says Jesus Peralta, a consultant to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. It takes time for new research to work its way into the educational system, he says. “The story behind the terraces is much more complex than we think.”

Historically, rice and rice farming have framed Ifugao identity. But times are changing, and so is local culture. “Many young people no longer farm,” Peralta says. Thanks to a government that makes higher education inexpensive and accessible, they leave their villages for city jobs, or they go to college. Consequently, terraces sometimes fall into disrepair. For several years, along with World Heritage status, UNESCO placed the rice terraces on its list of endangered sites. They were removed from the list in 2012 after the success of a movement aimed at preserving the landscape and its traditions. “The foundation of Ifugao culture is the rice,” Martin says. “All religious rituals of the Ifugao have a reference to rice and rice gods, and ancestors who owned rice terraces.” His group aims to preserve that legacy.

This is not easily accomplished. For one thing, Acabado says rice production in Ifugao is actually no longer economically viable. During one of his expeditions, he talked with a landowner who paid $1,000 in costs associated with one season of rice production—but earned only $700 back. Nonetheless, Acabado believes that there are greater incentives for the Ifugao to continue cultivating. “It’s not about the money,” he says. “It’s more about the prestige and also about continuing their heritage.”

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A) Modern distribution of the sweet potato family (yellow line) and genus (white line). B) Fossil leaf of Ipomoea meghalayensis. C) Modern leaf of Ipomoea eriocarpa, showing similar size, shape and vein pattern. Credit: Indiana University

 

 

 

Original Article:

physical.org

 

Sweet potatoes may seem as American as Thanksgiving, but scientists have long debated whether their plant family originated in the Old or New World. New research by an Indiana University paleobotanist suggests it originated in Asia, and much earlier than previously known.

IU Bloomington emeritus professor David Dilcher and colleagues in India identified 57-milion-year-old leaf fossils from eastern India as being from the morning glory family, which includes sweet potatoes and many other plants. The research suggests the family originated in the late Paleocene epoch in the East Gondwana land mass that became part of Asia.

“I think this will change people’s ideas,” Dilcher said. “It will be a data point that is picked up and used in other work where researchers are trying to find the time of the evolution of major groups of flowering plants.”

Previous fossil evidence had suggested the morning glory family may have originated in North America about 35 million years ago. But molecular analyses had supported the idea that it originated earlier and in the Old World. The new research provides evidence for that conclusion.

The discovery also suggests the morning glory family and the nightshade family, which includes potatoes and tomatoes, diverged earlier than previously thought. Together with the recent, separate discovery of 52-million-year-old nightshade fossils in Argentina, it suggests that morning glories developed in the East and nightshades in the West.

The 17 fossils analyzed in the study are the earliest recorded fossils for both the morning glory family, known as Convolvulaceae, and the order Solanales, which includes morning glories and nightshades.

Morning glory fossils are rare because the plants’ soft structure was not easily preserved in rocks.

Dilcher’s collaborators, Gaurav Srivastava and Rakesh C. Mehrotra of India’s Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, discovered the fossils in Meghalaya, a state in northeastern India.

The researchers used microscopic analysis of the shape and structure of the leaves, comparing details of the leaf veins and cells with plants in the genus Ipomoea. Using such analysis to examine evolutionary relationships has been a hallmark of Dilcher’s paleobotany research career.

The leaves the researchers studied are in the genus Ipomoea, which includes sweet potato but also hundreds of other plants, most of which don’t produce food for humans.

“We don’t know that these were sweet potatoes,” said Dilcher, emeritus professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the Department of Biology in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences. “We can’t say there were delicious sweet potatoes there. There may have been, or there may not.”

The morning glory family is widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions and includes about 57 plant genera and 1,880 species. The sweet potato is the world’s second most important root crop, and other members of the family are medicinally and culturally significant.

The study will publish online May 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

 

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CHEMICAL ANALYSIS CONDUCTED ON ANCIENT POTTERY PROVES OLIVE OIL EXISTED IN ITALY 700 YEARS SOONER THAN WHAT’S PREVIOUSLY BEEN RECORDED.

Chemical analysis conducted on ancient pottery discovered from the Early Bronze Age proves Italians started using olive oil 700 years sooner than what’s previously been recorded.

Source: Italy’s oldest olive oil discovered in peculiar pot

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An international team of scientists including a professor of the Faculty of Soil Science, MSU studied burial sites dated back to the Bronze Age at the border between Kalmykia and Stavropol Territory and found traces of domestic barley on the walls of vessels. Local residents did not have agriculture at that time, so the barley was likely received from the peoples of leaving at the foothill of Caucasus in exchange for other goods.

Source: MSU scientists found the seeds of domestic plants in the burial sites of ancient nomads

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I found the following article written in 2017 while I was researching the post on fish traps I published last week. Some how I missed it last year. JLP

 

Rocks alignments representing the remains of an intertidal fish trap, Kodiak Island, Alaska. (Photo courtesy the Alutiiq Museum)

Original article:

Ktoo.org

A local archaeologist says there may be the remains of a historic Alutiiq fish trap on the north end of Kodiak Island.

Those types of man-made formations are rare to discover in the region, he said.

The Alutiiq Museum is in its second year of documenting ancestral sites on Afognak Native Corporation lands. Museum archaeology curator 

Patrick Saltonstall noticed something while surveying one area on the shoreline at low tide.

He identified it as a fish trap, which he calls a corral.

“They’re like stone walls on the inter-tidal zone so when the tide came in, all the fish went to go up stream, would float in over the corrals or the trap, and then when the tide went out, they’d be stranded in the pens, so then you catch a whole lot of fish.”

He says it can be challenging to determine whether a corral is natural or man-made, but he sees evidence of it being a fish trap.

“I could tell that there were some boulders that they used that there were there already, but almost all of it was bringing boulders in,” he said. “It’s like a wall, like 5 feet across and maybe 2 feet high now, but it was probably much higher (back) in the day.”

corral like this one on the island, but they’re common in southeast, which he said could because the people there used them more frequently.

“A lot of the places down there are more protected, they aren’t as open to the ocean as Kodiak is, so maybe the lower energy they tend to be preserved better,” he said. “Whereas in Kodiak after a big storm a lot of these things might get demolished.”

Archaeologists found what looks like petroglyphs nearby, he said, speckled dots and incised lines carved into slate.

“What the cool pattern is is they all seem to be associated with fishing localities,” Saltonstall said. “You look at the typical petroglyphs, you know with faces, whales, drummer, they’re associated more with whaling or with villages.”

It’s hard to determine the age of either the corral or the petroglyphs, but based on nearby archaeological sites, the carvings could be dated back to about 500 years ago.

 

 

 

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