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Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

Topic Ancient Hunters

Finds from early stone age site in north-central Germany show that human ingenuity is nothing new — and was probably shared by now-extinct species of humans.

Archeologists from the University of Tübingen have found eight extremely well-preserved spears — an astonishing 300,000 years old, making them the oldest known weapons anywhere. The spears and other artifacts as well as animal remains found at the site demonstrate that their users were highly skilled craftsmen and hunters, well adapted to their environment — with a capacity for abstract thought and complex planning comparable to our own. It is likely that they were members of the species Homo heidelbergensis, although no human remains have yet been found at the site.

The project is headed by Prof. Nicholas Conard and the excavations are supervised by Dr. Jordi Serangeli, both from the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Prehistory, which has been supporting the local authority’s excavation in an open-cast brown coal mine in Schöningen since 2008. They are applying skills from several disciplines at this uniquely well-preserved site find out more about how humans lived in the environment of 300,000 years ago.

The bones of large mammals — elephants, rhinoceroses, horses and lions — as well as the remains of amphibians, reptiles, shells and even beetles have been preserved in the brown coal. Pines, firs, and black alder trees are preserved complete with pine cones, as have the leaves, pollen and seeds of surrounding flora.

Until the mining started 30 years ago, these finds were below the water table. The archeologists say they are now carrying out “underwater archaeology without the water.” Work continues almost all year round, and every day there is something new to document and recover.

Some of the most important finds of the past three years have been remains of a water buffalo in the context of human habitation, an almost completely preserved aurochs (one of the oldest in central Europe), and several concentrations of stone artifacts, bones and wood. They allow the scientists to examine an entire landscape instead of just one site. That makes Schöningen an exciting location and global reference point not just for archaeology, but also for quaternary ecology and climate research. A research center and museum, the “Paläon,” is to be opened in 2013 to to provide information to the public about the work going on in Schöningen.

Original article:
sciencedaily.com

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Universitaet Tübingen, via AlphaGalileo,
for silence daily.

Below: 300,000 year old spear

20120924-114419.jpg

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Topic Wild Ox

 

All cattle are descended from as few as 80 animals that were domesticated from wild ox in the Near East some 10,500 years ago, according to a new genetic study.

An international team of scientists from the CNRS and National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany, and UCL in the UK were able to conduct the study by first extracting DNA from the bones of domestic cattle excavated in Iranian archaeological sites. These sites date to not long after the invention of farming and are in the region where cattle were first domesticated.

The team examined how small differences in the DNA sequences of those ancient cattle, as well as cattle living today, could have arisen given different population histories. Using computer simulations they found that the DNA differences could only have arisen if a small number of animals, approximately 80, were domesticated from wild ox (aurochs).

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. Dr Ruth Bollongino of CNRS, France, and the University of Mainz, Germany; lead author of the study, said: “Getting reliable DNA sequences from remains found in cold environments is routine.

“That is why mammoths were one of the first extinct species to have their DNA read. But getting reliable DNA from bones found in hot regions is much more difficult because temperature is so critical for DNA survival. This meant we had to be extremely careful that we did not end up reading contaminating DNA sequences from living, or only recently dead cattle.”

The number of animals domesticated has important implications for the archaeological study of domestication.

Prof Mark Thomas, geneticist and an author of the study based at the UCL Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment: “This is a surprisingly small number of cattle. We know from archaeological remains that the wild ancestors of modern-day cattle, known as aurochs, were common throughout Asia and Europe, so there would have been plenty of opportunities to capture and domesticate them.”

 

Prof Joachim Burger, an author of the study based at the University of Mainz, Germany, said: “Wild aurochs are very different beasts from modern domestic cattle.

“They were much bigger than modern cattle, and wouldn’t have had the domestic traits we see today, such as docility. So capturing these animals in the first place would not have been easy, and even if some people did manage snare them alive, their continued management and breeding would still have presented considerable challenges until they had been bred for smaller size and more docile behavior.”

Archaeological studies on the number and size of prehistoric animal bone have shown that not only cattle, but also goats, sheep and pigs were all first domesticated in the Near East. But saying how many animals were domesticated for any of those species is a much harder question to answer. Classical techniques in archaeology cannot give us the whole picture, but genetics can help – especially if some of the genetic data comes from early domestic animals.

Dr Jean-Denis Vigne, a CNRS bio-archaeologist and author on the study, said: “In this study genetic analysis allowed us to answer questions that – until now –archaeologists would not even attempt to address.

“A small number of cattle progenitors is consistent with the restricted area for which archaeologists have evidence for early cattle domestication ca. 10,500 years ago. This restricted area could be explained by the fact that cattle breeding, contrary to, for example, goat herding, would have been very difficult for mobile societies, and that only some of them were actually sedentary at that time in the Near East.”

Dr Marjan Mashkour, a CNRS Archaeologist working in the Middle East added “This study highlights how important it can be to consider archaeological remains from less well-studied regions, such as Iran. Without our Iranian data it would have been very difficult to draw our conclusions, even though they concern cattle at a global scale”.

Original article:

eurkalert.org

Merch 27, 2012

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Topic: Let the games begin

 

Iron age burial site

Beer and bling in Iron Age Europe.

 

Original Article:

sciencedaily

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Topic: Diet and Ritual Neolithic Germany

 

Thanks to preservation under waterlogged conditions, a well in the federal state of Saxony, Germany,

 has revealed unprecedented information about woodworking skills, diet, and ritual in early Neolithic Europe. Found in early 2008 at Altscherbitz, during construction work on the Leipzig/Halle airport, the well was carefully isolated and extracted from the ground in one block for excavation under laboratory conditions under the direction of Rengert Elburg of the Saxony State Office of Archaeology.

Heavy oak timbers were used to line the well, held together by mortise and tenon joints secured by wedges, the first time this type of keyed tenon joint has been recorded for the early Neolithic. On one piece of wood, the last ring under the bark was present and this allowed the felling of the trees to be dated precisely to the winter of 5102-5101 BC.

Complete ears of emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum) and einkorn (Triticum

monococcum) were found in the base sediment, as well as fruits of the bladder cherry or Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi) and several complete rose hips, some of them still as red as the day they were picked over 7,000 years ago. Cultivated wheat, barley, peas, lentils, linseed, and poppy seed were all present, as well as weeds associated with human habitation and cultivation, including large quantities of henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), the poisonous solanaceous plant used in very small doses for its hallucinogenic properties.

At some stage the well shaft was deliberately filled with a rich mix of pottery, stone and bone tools, bark containers and numerous fragments of string and rope, all mixed in with layers of twigs. Above these layers, a pot was placed, formally closing the well.

This was clearly a vessel of some significance, Rengert Elburg says. Extensive damage to the exterior suggests that it started life as a heavily used domestic pot, with a very slight incised decoration, typical of Linear Pottery Culture. When it broke in two it was mended by gluing the halves together with pitch. The repair was reinforced by binding the two halves together through holes drilled on either side of the break. Then the outside surface of the pot was completely redecorated by covering it with a thin layer of pitch into which narrow strips of birch-bark were stuck in a design completely unrelated to the incised pattern underneath. Traces of wear on the base suggest that the pot continued in use with this new decoration for some considerable time before being carefully placed in the well.

Original Article:

world-archaeology.com

By Chris Catling Sep 6,  2010


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