The Okunev is a Bronze Age culture dated to the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE in Minusinsk Hollow of southern Siberia. Okunev people are considered as the Siberian ethnic grouping most closely related to Native Americans.
Undisturbed by pillaging grave robbers, the burial site of the woman, also containing the remains of a child, offers a wealth of clues about the life of these ancient people.
The head of the expedition Dr Andrey Polyakov said the grave of the 'noblewoman' dated back to the Early Bronze Age, between the 25th and 18th centuries BCE. "For such an ancient epoch, this woman has a lot of items in her grave," he said. "We have not encountered anything like this in other burials from this time, and it leads us to suggest that the items in her grave had some ritual meaning. We hope to get even more rare and spectacular finds next year, when will continue to study this unique (burial) mound and open the central burial plot," Polyakov added.
Archeologists believe the woman enjoyed a special status during her lifetime, as indicated by around 100 decorations made from the teeth of different animals, items carved from bone and horn, two jars, cases with bone needles inside, a bronze knife, and more than 1,500 beads that embellished her funeral costume.
There is particular excitement about an incense burner found in the grave because it contains sun-shaped faces which match previously discovered ancient rock art in Siberia. "The clay incense burner bearing three sun-shaped facial images, recovered from the grave, is the most important find of all," Polyakov said. "All such images previously discovered had been found only on cliffs or separate stones. Now there is the prospect to find out when they were made."
Excavations at the as the Itkol II burial site began in 2008 - with some 560 finds in total so far - but there is a sense that the best is yet to come. Another find is a stone slab with a rare image of a bull having a long rectangular body. These are not common in southern Siberia, but are known on the territory of modern-day Kazakhstan. Archeologists see this as an indication that Okunev people may have migrated to Khakassia from the south. Does this mean modern-day Native Americans originated from Kazakhstan and not southern Siberia, as previously thought? More scientific evidence is needed.
Edited from Siberian Times (19 August 2016)
An official statement stated that the site was discovered 14,000 feet above sea level on the way from Saser La to Ladakh. A charcoal sample collected from the excavation site was sent to Florida for carbon-dating. More samples derived from upper and lower deposits sent for dating indicated two radiocarbon dates of 8500 BCE and 7300 BCE respectively - both of which are a sign of frequent human activity at the site for nearly eight hundred years.
"The research so far carried out has proved the antiquity and nature of human activities to an extent, but their camping patterns, extent of camping area, tools and other cultural aspects are yet to be traced," experts said.
Edited from India Times (19 August 2016)
Archaeologists have known since the middle of the nineteenth century that today's Valencina de la Concepción outside Seville was at the heart of an important Copper Age settlement. In 1860, the Dolmen de la Pastora was first identified. It was the region's first big find from the Copper Age or Chalcolithic, which preceded the Bronze Age. The nearby settlement of Valencina was supported by farming and stockraising on the fertile coastal plain. It is Spain's largest known Copper Age settlement, of over 400 hectares. Grave goods found at the site show that the people of Valencina traded with Copper Age cultures far away.
TÃ¼bingen archaeologists headed by Professor Martin Bartelheim discovered the earthwork enclosure some 50 kilometers east of Valencina. Surveying the land in August 2015, they found circular earthworks enclosing about six hectares. Excavations at the site yielded bones, sherds and jewelry; radiocarbon dating and comparative analysis confirmed the site was used during the Bell Beaker Culture.
Just what the site was used for is still a mystery. It consists of several circular trenches with entrance-like openings at regular intervals. In the center was a deep, circular hole some 19 meters wide. In it, the archaeologists found large clay bricks with burn marks on it which may have served a ritual purpose. But they did not find human remains or indications of continuous settlement after the Copper Age, suggesting the site was used intensively for a relatively short period.
Doctoral candidate in the CultureResources group, Javier Escudero Carrillo, says: "The structure is very unusual for Spain, other circular earthworks like this are only found north of the Alps; but most are more than a thousand years older than this site. The stony ground here is not good for farming, but the site is strategically located near an ancient fort on the Guadalquivir River near the ore-rich Sierra Morena mountains, where copper and other valuable minerals were mined. Trails link the site with the fertile plain of Carmona, so that we may assume it was used by many passing through. That fits well with the interpretation of a site used for religious purposes."
Stone tools such as grinding stones and axe heads found at the site will be analyzed to discover how far away the material came from and how the tools were worked. Further information will be gathered from analyses of sediment and pollen as well as the isotopic analyses of animal bone samples, which will give clues as to the diet and lifestyle of the site's inhabitants more than four thousand years ago.
Edited from ScienceDaily (9 August 2016)
Wu Xinhua, the team's leading archaeologist, said that the mound is made of cobbles and mud and shaped like a cone surrounded by two stone walls. The diameter of the outermost wall reached 114 meters. The site, with a minor damage at its top, is one of the important sites yet discovered in Xinjiang, where archaeologists are studying the ancient nomadic culture that used to live in the vast prairie of the region.
The mound can be dated back to 2,500 to 3,000 years ago in the late Bronze Age, or even a bit earlier, a claim supported by aerial photography and data calculated from sites and burial graves discovered last year in Russia's Republic of Tuva and Mt. Tianshan in eastern Xinjiang.
Li Jun, deputy director of Xinjiang's Cultural Heritage Administration, said that the discovery will probably help to prove the peaceful interconnection of ancient cultures along the Silk Road, as the site discovered in Xinjiang showed many resemblances to those of other countries and regions in Central Asia.
Edited from China.org.cn (9 August 2016)
The archaeologist explained that research began in April this year with the help of the city of Los Olivos, volunteers and archeology students. Ruth Shady, discoverer of Caral, the oldest civilization in America, inaugurated the project and presented the excavation plan at a public event.
So far, preliminary excavations have revealed the presence of two buildings (terraced pyramids) which would be the most important in the valley and would make the hill called Cerro Pacifico the epicenter of this ancient civilization.
The mayor of Los Olivos, Pedro del Rosario, said the municipality will start the necessary procedures with the Ministry of Culture to declare the Cerro Pacifico a site of Cultural Heritage for the Nation. He also asked for the government's support to continue the excavations and subsequent investigation of the site.
The samples were sent to private museums in the United States and Japan for carbon-14 testing.
Edited from Living in Peru (8 August 2016)
The strength and depth of evidence pointing to the source being African was not even dented with the re-aging of Peking Man, using modern techniques, to over 780,000 years old. Despite this the mystery surrounding Peking Man and his place in modern evolution has puzzled and challenged Chinese palaeontologists and the discovery across eastern China of more early hominids in the intervening years, with ages varying from 80,000 to 1,700,000 years old, has only added to the confusion and contradictory claims.
There has even been some unsubstantiated claims by Western researchers that their Chinese counterparts have been manipulating data to favour evolutionary origins in China and nor Africa. These claims have been strongly rebuffed by the Chinese Academy of Science's Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology & Palaeoanthropology (IVPP) (Beijing), leading palaeontologist, Wu Xinzhi, who is quoted as saying: "This has nothing to do with nationalism. It's all about the evidence - the transitional fossils and archaeological artefacts. Everything points to continuous evolution in China from Homo Erectus to modern man".
Despite these claims and counter-claims the wealth of evidence now emerging from China is fascinating and exciting researchers around the world and will continue to do so as more and more evidence is uncovered. Michael Petraglia, an archaeologist from Oxford University (UK) is convinced there is more to come "The centre of gravity is shifting eastwards," he says.
Edited from PhysOrg (15 July 2016)
State of the art techniques, including DNA and chemical analyses of the bones are yielding some interesting results. So far the remains of at least 5 individual Neanderthals have been identified, mixed in with the remains of other animals, including reindeer and horses.
The study team from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural sciences and California State University (USA) have concluded that there is evidence of cannibalism from the Neanderthal bone fragments, identified by the smashing of bones to extract the marrow and the sharpening of some bone fragments to act as tools.
But was this part of a ritual or a matter of survival? Some evidence of malnutrition (hinting at starvation levels) may point to the latter, but this cannot be totally conclusive as other discoveries on other sites prove, Neanderthal tribes led complex and widely differing practices, even within relatively short distances of each other.
Anthropologist and study author, Helene Rougier, is quoted as saying "[Cannibalism] scares people, it doesn't mean that Neanderthals weren't a complex culture. We cannot treat them too simply"
Edited from NPR (14 July 2016)
The site is quite large, covering approximately 4 hectares, and so far the team has uncovered most of the elements of a typical Iron Age settlement, including roundhouses, storage and animal enclosures. The presence of this unfortified settlement coincides with the decline and abandonment of nearby hill forts, heralding in a more peaceful era.
One of the co-Directors of this year's dig, Dr Miles Russell, is quoted as saying "People think that towns were introduced by the Romans in the 1sdt. Century CE and that's simply not true. What we've here are all the elements of an urban system a good hundred years before the Romans arrived and it seems to be continuing up until the point that they left".
However, the most exciting find in this year's dig is the discovery of the skeletal remains of 8 bodies, the significance of which is explained by the other co-Director, Paul Cheetham: "Understanding of our Iron Age past is significantly improved by this finds, given the advances in scientific investigation, such as DNA and isotope analysis, which provide an insight into population movements and ancestry. Accessing skeletal information from this date in the UK is extremely rare, as most pre Roman tribes either practised cremation or placed bodies in rivers or bogs, so this data could completely change our understanding of the Iron Age".
Edited from Dorset Echo (7 July 2016)
The Cuween-Wideford Landscape Project was set up in 1994 to further explore this idea, initially focusing on Stonehall Farm, where a mid to late 4th millennium BCE dispersed settlement had graduated to a late Neolithic village in the late 3rd millennium BCE, and soon uncovering traces of similarly early activity at other sites. The programme quickly expanded to the whole Bay of Firth, about 7 kilometres east of the Stenness-Brodgar ritual complex.
In 2002 the team realised there were traces of older timber structures beneath several Neolithic stone structures at Wideford Hill, and this pattern was repeated across Orkney - a completely unexpected development, as wooden structures were not previously thought to have been part of the Orcadian Neolithic. These discoveries also undermined the long-held belief that stalled cairns and stone houses came together to Neolithic Orkney - using the same architecture, dividing internal space using pairs of orthostats, mimicking domestic architecture and creating houses for the dead.
Radiocarbon dating places the earliest stalled cairns circa 3600-3500 BCE, but stone houses do not appear until around 300 years later - tomb-builders seem to have lived in the nearby timber houses. Burial cairns were not modelled on dwellings, but the other way around.
Building in wood gives any structure a finite lifespan. Those wooden structures excavated show frequently shifting footprints, and little sign of decayed posts being replaced. Building in stone roots a structure in one location. At several sites the team noted building materials being recycled again and again as the settlements expand.
The excavated stone structures are generally significantly larger than the timber buildings they replaced, and could have accommodated many more people. It seems likely we are seeing the results of cooperation between larger groups, a more collectivist style of living, and bigger social units being brought together.
Edited from Archaeology.co.uk (04 August 2016)
The burial is located at a cape on Maloe More, the strait separating the mainland and the Olkhon island, close to Chernorud, some 260 kilometres north-east of Irkutsk. Overlooking the waters of Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake in the world, the site is a sacred burial place since Neolithic times and likely to contain more burials, possibly older than this one. The precise location is secret.
Bone samples have been sent for radiocarbon analysis, but the Russian team involved in the excavations believe the couple to be 4,500 to 5,000 years old.
The male skeleton is complete but rodents destroyed the upper part of the female. Near the woman was a large knife made of jade, some 13 centimetres in length and 7 centimetres in width. The man's skeleton had a ring made of rare white jade over one eye socket. Three more rings were on his chest. Pendants of red deer and musk deer teeth were found on the man's skull and around his feet, which likely decorated the hat and footwear.
"We also found some metal implement in a small leather bag between male's kneecaps," Adds Kichigin. "We can expect a lot of interesting discoveries on this archaeological site, so we plan to continue our work next year." Analysis of this summer's finds will begin in the autumn.
Edited from The Siberian Times (13 July 2016)
Habitual bipedal motion is a defining feature of modern humans compared with other primates, and had profound effects on the biologies of our ancestors and relatives. There has been much debate over when and how a human-like bipedal gait first evolved, largely because of disagreements over how to infer biomechanics from skeletal shapes. Aspects of group structure and social behaviour also distinguish humans from other primates, yet there is no consensus on how to detect these in the fossil or archaeological records.
In 2009, a set of 1.5-million-year-old hominin footprints was discovered near the town of Ileret, on the northeast shore of Lake Turkana, in the extreme northwest corner of Kenya - a trace fossil discovery of unprecedented scale for this time period, now extending to five distinct sites preserving a total of 97 tracks created by at least 20 different presumed Homo erectus individuals. Researchers found the shapes of these footprints indistinguishable from those of modern habitually barefoot people, most likely reflecting similar foot anatomies and mechanics.
Kevin Hatala, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and George Washington University, says: "Our analyses of these footprints provide some of the only direct evidence to support the common assumption that at least one of our fossil relatives at 1.5 million years ago walked in much the same way as we do today."
Based on experimentally derived estimates of body mass from the fossil tracks, the researchers have inferred the sexes of the individuals and, for the two most expansive excavated surfaces, developed hypotheses regarding the structure of the groups. For example, at each of these sites there is evidence of several adult males. Cooperation between males underlies many of the social behaviours that distinguish modern humans from other primates.
Edited from PhysOrg, Science Daily (12 July 2016)
The buildings are situated around a 10 metre diameter circular communal building dating to between 11,200 and 10,600 years BP, that was excavated between 2011 and 2012. More recent surveys and excavations show that the village would have covered an area of at least half a hectare.
Animal bones indicate the presence of domestic dogs and cats, and that villagers hunted wild boar and birds, and there is strong evidence for the cultivation of emmer wheat - a primitive cereal introduced from the continent. Large quantities of stone tools, stone vessels, and stone and shell beads or pendants were also found. At this time, the villagers did not produce pottery.
The organisation of the village, its architecture, the stone tools and the presence of agriculture and hunting are elements that are very similar to those already been identified in the early Pre-Pottery Neolithic Levant, between 11,500 and 10,500 years BP.
A statement by the Department of Antiquities describes the site as the earliest known manifestation of an agricultural and village way of life worldwide, demonstrating that although Cyprus was more than 70 kilometres from the mainland, the island was part of broader Near Eastern Neolithic developments.
Edited from Cyprus Mail, PhysOrg (12 July 2016)
Archaeologist Marco Mitri and a team from the North Eastern Hills University excavated the site near Lummawbuh village on the northern slopes of Sohpetbneng (heaven's navel) peak. Mitri said they found megalithic stone structures and iron implements dating to the prehistoric period spread over a 1.5 kilometre area on the ridge.
The excavation at Lummawbuh is the first one of a Neolithic site in Meghalaya. Radiocarbon tests confirm their finds dated to 12th century BCE.
The megalithic structures are used in the traditional mortuary practice which was popular among the tribesmen until a few decades ago.
"These Neolithic structures were first discovered in 2004 and it took at least a decade to confirm the existence of a settlement in the area till about 200 years ago," Mitri said.
Mitri's work, "Outline of Neolithic Culture of Khasi and Jaintia Hills" was published in 2009 by The British Archaeological Reports. Mitri also edited the 2010 book, "Cultural-Historical Interaction and the Tribes of North East India".
Edited from The Indian Express (11 July 2016)
Nina Kononenko and Robin Torrence of the University of Sydney and Peter Sheppard of the University of Auckland conducted experiments using cut obsidian - an obvious choice, due to its sharp, glass-like features. They focused on the Solomon Islands as a possible site of early tattooing activities for several reasons, including the region's long history of tattooing, easy access to obsidian, and obsidian artefacts suitable for creating tattoos found at a site called Nanggu dating back around 3,000 years. Prior research had suggested obsidian tools were used to tan hides, but a lack of large animals would have meant there were no hides to tan. To test the possibility that the artefacts had been used to create tattoos, the researchers gathered obsidian samples from island sites, fashioned them into roughly the same shapes as the artefacts and used them to create tattoos on pigskin, afterwards comparing microscopic views of both sets of tools.
The sample tools they created looked remarkably similar under the microscope to the artefacts, with characteristic chipping, rounding and blunting as well as thin scratches. In addition, the artefacts carried traces of ochre, charcoal, and blood - strong evidence of obsidian tools being used by early islanders to create tattoos.
Edited from PhysOrg (11 July 2016)
David Guilfoyle, who works for Applied Archaeology Australia, is the leader of the project has that: "The present-day mainland is 60 kilometres to the north of the island, and has documented evidence of human occupation in granite caves, extending at least 13,000 years before present,Ã® adding that "So we know people were living here when they could walk to this limestone ridge.Ã®
The area around the island rises from between 80m to 100m above the flat coastal plan, and would have been a distinctive feature for the inhabitants of the region in the late Pleistocene period. At the height of the ice age 18,000 years ago the caves, which are now underwater, would have offered shelter for these people. However, in the modern period the area is almost patrolled by sharks, who feed on the local wildlife.
The research has been described by Doc Reynolds, a traditional owner and senior heritage director for the Esperance Tjaltjaak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation: "This place would have looked like Uluru in the red centre of Australia Ã³ a massive feature surrounded by low, flat bushland and rocky outcrops. It would have drawn my ancestors here for the many resources it provided. From an Aboriginal perspective, it's been a mind-blowing cultural experience, to actually stand on an island that used to be joined to the mainland all those years ago, and you think that I may be the first Aboriginal person to stand on that island since."
Edited from ABC AU News (20 June 2016)
Ancient campsite found in Canada
As part of the investigations which are made for the planning of any major road, not just in Canada, an archaeological team was sent to see if there was anything of interest. What they found was actually so important that there was an immediate cessation of ground works and the by-pass would have to be permanently re-routed.
The find centred on a campsite, dated at 10,000 BCE, which would have been based on the shores of a long lost lake. So far over 600 artefacts have been unearthed, ranging from stone tools to arrow heads and a fire pit.
One of the First Nation tribes of this area of New Brunswick was the Maliseet and several members of the archaeological team were members of that tribe, including Shawna Goodall, who is quoted as saying "These are my ancestors. And just to be able to be the first one to hold things in 13,000 years - I get goose bumps every timer, (from) every single artefact. That never ores away, that feeling".
The other exciting part of the find is that it provides a missing link. Team Leader, Brent Suttie, is quoted as saying "We have a few sites down in the Pennfield area and then we have very famous sites in Debert, Nova Scotia that dates to 11,600 years old. We don't have anything between those two sites. This site just happens to fall within that".
Edited from CBC News, CTV News, Global News (23 June 2016)
Previous ideas had centred on the impractical use of tree trunks as rollers. Experiments using these failed badly as, unless the trunks were exactly the same diameter as each other and perfectly round, the immense weight of the stones rolling over them would either crush them or push them into the ground.
This new technique uses static 'rollers' with a smooth, low friction wooden sled being pulled over them. The experiment involved a slab of stone weighing a mere 1 ton and a team of 10 managed to pull it easily, at a steady speed of 1.6 km/hour. This lead to the belief that the 2 ton bluestones from the Preseli Hills in West Wales could have been transported in this way.
It was not possible to confirm if the same technique could have been used for the much larger (32 ton) sarsen stones, albeit the journey would have been much shorter. Even the organisers were surprised with the ease with which the experiment worked.
Event organiser, Barney Harris, from the Institute of Archaeology, is quoted as saying "All we can really tell from experiments like this is the minimum number of people involved. My preliminary calculations led me to believe it would take slightly more people. In the event, what I thought would take 15 people, at a minimum, actually needed only 10 people".
More experimentation, over a variety of surfaces (this experiment was conducted over the smooth manicured grass of Gordon Square, adjacent to UCL) before a more accurate, revised estimate of the construction period for Stonehenge can be made
Edited from Live Science (17 June 2016)
he Gobi desert is a vast area of 1,295,000 square kilometres, spread across northern China and Mongolia. It is an inhospitable, barren area, home only to hardy nomadic tribes who can withstand the harsh extremes of -43Â° C to +38Â° C. However, 40,000 years ago it painted a totally different picture, home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, interspersed with large lakes, which have long ago dried up under desertification. This period coincide with the Pleistocene and early Holocene occupation of the region.
A team of archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology, University of Wroclaw (Poland), has been conduction research across the southern end of the Gobi with amazing results. Not only have they found large, stone covered Iron Age tombs but also a variety of stone tools and a group of several items made of jasper, on what would have been a lookout point on one of the mountains.
Professor Szykulski, leader of the project, is quoted as saying "The accumulation of certainly valuable material in one place proves that it had great importance for the inhabitants of the region. Perhaps the discovery is related to a rite".
The aim of the project is to chart pre-history for this semi-arid area, between the Altai Mountains and the Gobi desert. Restricting the area to this region reduces the area to be covered but even so it stretches to a vast 50,000 square kilometres.
Edited from Science & Scholarship in Poland (10 June 2016)
Lead author George Busby, Statistical Geneticist at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, says: "As Africa has few written records of its history, it is somewhat unknown what important movements of people generated the populations in the continent today. Looking at and comparing the differences in the genomes of people alive today can help us better understand and reconstruct the historical interactions that brought their ancestors together."
The team used DNA analysis to characterise the structure of genetic diversity and gene flow - the transfer of genes between different populations - in a collection of 48 sub-Saharan African groups. They discovered that most sub-Saharan populations share ancestry with groups from outside their current geographic region as a result of gene flow within the last 4000 years.
Dr Busby explains: "Our research provides further genetic evidence that the spread of Bantu languages and agricultural technology from Central West Africa, known as the Bantu expansion, was likely to be accompanied by people who moved from Cameroon to the south and east within the last 2500 years. Additionally, we revealed that coastal populations in western, eastern, and southern Africa experienced small influxes of Eurasian genes as a result of different events over the last 3000 years. These findings show that groups from similar parts of Africa experienced admixture events at similar times and involving similar sources, suggesting that genetic variation in these areas of the continent has been shaped by shared historical events. It is also clear that our ancestors have always moved about and traces of these migrations are left in the DNA of people alive today."
Edited from PhysOrg (21 June 2016)
Ana Polo-Diaz, a researcher at the University of the Basque Country explains: "This is a piece of pioneering work in the studies on agro-pastoral communities on the Iberian Peninsula. We have evidence that the human groups that occupied San Cristobal during the Chacolithic used the shelter as a pen for goats and/or sheep and that this use, although repetitive throughout hundreds of years, was not ongoing but of a temporary nature linked to a seasonal exploitation of the rich natural resources available on the Sierra de Cantabria. We also know thanks to the microscopic study of the sediments that every now and again they used to burn the debris that had built up, probably to clean up the space that had been occupied and that this combustion process was carried out in line with some specific habits: they used to pile up the debris and on top of them pile up woody remains, perhaps to help to get the fire going before going on to burn the debris."
Analyses of micro-sediments and mineral remains of the skeleton of plants makes it possible to determine the grazing available around the shelter. Pollen reveals that a forest grew in the immediate surroundings of San Cristobal during the period, in which hazelnut trees predominated along with deciduous oaks, and grazing areas and farmland fairly close to the shelter.
Charcoal remains indicate a clear change in the selection of woody materials: during the oldest phase a predominance of pine followed by yew, in the latter phase increased use of species such as oak, holm oak, the rose family, and box.
Correlating data with that from neighbouring sites and the immediate area reveals that San Cristobal was part of a network of shelters and enclosures, and the people were very likely the same ones using the dolmens of the Rioja Alavesa region.
Edited from Popular Archaeology (9 June 2016)
Working with three researchers from the Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Zhejiang Province, China, anthropological archaeologist and University of Toronto Mississauga professor Gary Crawford found the ancient domesticated rice fragments in a probable ditch in the lower Yangtze valley, south and southwest of Shanghai. The remains document an early stage of rice domestication and the ecological setting in which early cultivation was taking place. The rice plant remains also had characteristics of japonica rice, the short grain rice used in sushi that today is cultivated in Japan and Korea - the first confirmation that it grew in this region of China.
Archaeological evidence for the initial steps leading to domesticated rice in China is elusive.
Crawford and his colleagues spent about three years exploring the five-hectare site, called Huxi, situated in a flat basin about 100 metres above sea level. Digging 1.5 metres below the ground, the team also unearthed sophisticated pottery and stone tools, as well as animal bones, charcoal and other plant seeds.
This study builds on Crawford's previous research into early agriculture in China, in which he examines ancient settlements, tools, and plant and animal management efforts in different regions of the country, to better understand the transition from hunters and gatherers to farmers.
"The question I ultimately want to answer is, what pushed them to move wholeheartedly into the farming regime? Why did they reduce their emphasis on hunting and expand into crop production?" Crawford says. "People did what they needed to do to make their lives more manageable and sustainable, and the unintended consequence was farming. With this rice discovery, we're seeing the first stages of that shift."
Edited from EurekAlert!, PhysOrg (22 June 2016), Nature (21 June 2016)
Abdisalam Shabelleh, site manager from Somaliland's Ministry of Tourism, says: "These paintings are unique. This style cannot be found anywhere in Africa." Then he points to a corner, where the paint fades and peels off the rocks. "If nothing is done now, in 20 years it could all have disappeared."
Amazed by the remarkable condition of the paintings as well as their previously unknown style, Xavier Gutherz, the former head of the French archaeology team that discovered the site in 2002, asked for the cave's listing as a Unesco world heritage site, but that was refused because Somaliland is not recognised as a separate nation. "Only state parties to the World Heritage Convention can nominate sites for World Heritage status," said a Unesco spokesperson. Requests for funding from donor countries face the same legal and diplomatic headache.
The cave paintings have become one of the main attractions for visitors to Somaliland. Around a thousand visitors each year endure rugged terrain with armed escorts to reach Laas Geel, and numbers are growing.
Archaeologists say that Laas Geel may only be one of many treasures awaiting discovery in the vast rocky plains stretching towards the tip of the Horn of Africa.
Edited from Mail Online, News24 (26 June 2016)
Dr Sergei Alkin, from Novosibirsk University, was the first academic to closely examine the rocks, where paintings were made with red and orange ochre, an earthy pigment containing iron oxide.
Dr Alkin says the site is rare. "It is large and contains many images, while generally on the rocks in this area show between one and three poorly preserved drawings."
Preliminary dating suggests the find is around 4,000 years old.
"The rock art is not just paintings or engravings," Dr Alkin said. "They are associated with the rituals and ceremonies. Usually at the site under the images are the altars, there are various tools, and arrowheads. Today this place is remote and scarcely populated, but in the times when Largi rock art was created it was relatively well inhabited. In addition, we want to explore the neighbourhood in search of other petroglyphs."
The artists are likely to have been people of Tungus or Mongolian origins. Scientists hope analysis of the composition of the ochre will help locate the source of the raw material.
Edited from The Siberian Times (20 June 2016)
A total of seven graves were found in the necropolis of Kamenovo when it was first discovered in September 2015, however these were all graves of women and children. The newly discovered grave is the first male grave to be found there.
The newly found grave of the male who was buried holding a stone axe dates to 4,500-4,300 BCE. Inside the grave, archaeologists also found a bead from a Mediterranean seashell. Seashell beads were also found in some of the graves discovered in 2015.
Head archaeologist Yavor Boyadzhiev has explained that the male grave has been found in a shallow layer, almost right under the modern-day surface in the yard of a former elementary school.
The man was buried in a fetal position, lying on his left side, holding the stone axe in his hands, with his body oriented in an east-west direction. Boyadzhiev says the bodies of women and children discovered so far were buried in a similar way, and some of the graves were organised in rows.
Boyadzhiev says that, while the sex of the person in the newly found grave is not yet confirmed, it seems certain that he was a male because of the stone axe sceptre found in his hands: all 15 similar prehistoric stone axe sceptres to have ever been discovered in Bulgaria have been found in male graves. There are no traces that the stone axe was ever used. Its purpose was likely symbolic.
Shortly before finding the necropolis, the same archaeological team discovered a 6,500-year-old workshop for flint tools. The team plans to continue researching the workshop, which they believe began operating in the early Copper Age, around 4,800 BCE, within a settlement. The people extracted flint from nearby deposits, processed it, and distributed the tools they produced all over the southern Balkan Peninsula.
Edited from Archaeology in Bulgaria (14 June 2016)
The team's idea is to investigate how a simple aperture, for example an opening or doorway, affects the observation of slightly fainter stars. They focus this study on passage graves, which are a type of megalithic tomb composed of a chamber of large interlocking stones and a long narrow entrance. These spaces are thought to have been sacred, and the sites may have been used for rites of passage, where the initiate would spend the night inside the tomb, with no natural light apart from that shining down the narrow entrance.
These structures could therefore have been the first astronomical tools to support the watching of the skies, millennia before telescopes were invented. Kieran Simcox, a student at Nottingham Trent University, and leading the project, comments: "It is quite a surprise that no one has thoroughly investigated how for example the colour of the night sky impacts on what can be seen with the naked eye."
The project targets how the human eye, without the aid of any telescopic device, can see stars given sky brightness and colour. The team applied these ideas to the case of passage graves, such as the 6,000 year old Seven-Stone Antas in central Portugal. Dr Fabio Silva, of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, explains that, "the orientations of the tombs may be in alignment with Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus. To accurately time the first appearance of this star in the season, it is vital to be able to detect stars during twilight."
The first sighting in the year of a star after its long absence from the night sky might have been used as a seasonal marker. The timing of this could have been seen as secret knowledge or foresight, only obtained after a night spent in the depths of a passage grave, since the star may not have been observable from outside. However, the team suggest it could actually have been the result of the ability of the human eye to spot stars in such twilight conditions, given the small entrance passages of the tombs.
Edited from Royal Astronomical Society, NAM2016 (30 June 2016)
To understand the scale of the logistics behind hunting and slaying an elephant we must bear in mind that the head alone, of a modern day African elephant weighs in excess of 400kg. The extinct elephant roaming the planet in the Pleistocene era was approximately twice this size.
The head of an elephant is actually exceptional nutritious, taking together its constituent parts of brain, tongue ears and trunk, providing the correct balance required of meat and fat. There is even evidence in the Bolonar Cave in Valencia of the skull and jaw bone being crushed to extract the marrowbone.
Great cooperation was needed, not only to kill the animal but also to transport the heads back to their campsites. One site, at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov in the Dead Sea Rift valley, had evidence of the remains of 154 elephants. The leaders of the team, Aviad Agam and Ran Barkai are quoted as saying "The repeated evidence of transportation of elephants' head parts to residential sites indicates it was chosen to be transported back."
Edited from BBC News (22 June 2016)
Using aerial drone photography, high-resolution 3D as well as other techniques, the all-female team was able to map the cave entirely and make real time descisions concerning the excavations. Kruger stated that: "This is the first time ever, where multiple digital data imaging collection has been used on such a scale, during a hominin excavation," adding that "These methods provided researchers with a digital representation of the site from landscape level right down to individual bones."
Ashley Kruger, a PhD candidate in Palaeoanthropology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits, used the mapping technologies on site, stating, "These methods provided researchers with a digital representation of the site from landscape level right down to individual bones," says Kruger.
Homo naledi is an extinct species of hominin, assigned by the anthropologists to the genus Homo, found the Rising Star Cave by recreational cavers Rick Hunter and Steven Tucker in 2013.
Kruger's publication has already come out in the South African Journal of Science, with a number of papers planned for publishing. The research will continue on site, hoping to answer the question of how the site was formed, if anything can be gained from fossil positioning, as well as answer how the bodies came to the cave.
Edited from Past Horizons (3 June 2016)
The oldest plank-built vessels in the region are Bronze Age boats found at Dover and in Yorkshire, dated to between 3,500 and 4,000 years ago. At Bouldnor Cliff, 11 metres underwater off the northwest shore of the Isle of Wight in the south of England, Garry Momber and the Maritime Archaeology Trust have found something up to twice that age.
In 2005, at the bottom of a 7-metre high underwater cliff, Garry saw something. "Among the branches of an old tree was a collection of coloured flints, some of which had been superheated."
Two years later the team had enough money to investigate further. Their 2 by 3 metre excavation revealed charcoal, flint tools, wood chippings, well-crafted functional items, and dozens of pieces of well-preserved timbers. Most of the timbers were oak, still in position where they had fallen over 8,000 years ago. Some had been shaped and trimmed, while others had been charred to make them easier to work.
One piece, just under 1 meter long and about 8,100 years old, had been split - a technique which doesn't appear elsewhere in the British archaeological record for another 2,500 years, when it was used during the Bronze Age to build deeper log boats, by removing 1/4 of the tree and hollowing out the remaining 3/4.
When it was felled, the tree would have been a couple of metres wide and several tens of metres high.
The team also found a scalloped out end-piece, timbers that formed the end of the structure, and cord which would have united the various elements. Taken together, these would make Bouldnor Cliff the oldest known boat-building site in the world. "The trouble is we still need more evidence to be 100% certain," says Garry.
Garry and his team will return to the site in June. You can follow their progress at DigVentures on Facebook, and TheDigVenturers on Twitter.
Edited from DigVentures (2 June 2016)
Anindya Sarkar, head of the department of geology and geophysics at IIT-Kharagpur, says: "We have recovered perhaps the oldest pottery from the civilisation. We used a technique called 'optically stimulated luminescence' to date pottery shards of the Early Mature Harappan time to nearly 6,000 years ago and the cultural levels of pre-Harappan Hakra phase as far back as 8,000 years."
The team's excavations at an unexplored site - Bhirrana - also yielded large quantities of animal remains like bones, teeth, and horn cores of cow, goat, deer and antelope.
The researchers believe that the Indus Valley Civilisation spread over a vast expanse of the sub-continent. While earlier phases were represented by pastoral and village farming communities, and mature Harappan settlements were highly urbanised with organised cities, a developed material and craft culture, and regular trade with Arabia and Mesopotamia, the Late Harappan phase is characterised by large-scale de-urbanisation, drop in population, abandonment of established settlements, lack of basic amenities, violence, and even the disappearance of the Harappan script.
The study shows that the pre-Harappan humans started inhabiting this area in a climate favourable for settlement and agriculture.
"The monsoon was much stronger between 9000 years and 7000 years ago, and probably fed these rivers making them mightier with vast floodplains," explains Arati Deshpande Mukherjee of Deccan College, which helped analyse the finds.
The researchers say that, with the declining monsoon, the Indus Valley people shifted their crop patterns from large-grained cereals like wheat and barley to drought-resistant species like rice. As the yield diminished, the organised storage system of the Mature Harappan period gave way to more individual household-based crop processing and storage systems, acting as a catalyst for the gradual decline of the civilisation rather than any abrupt collapse.
Edited from Times of India (29 May 2016)
Chief site archaeologist Diego Garate says that an estimated 70 drawings were found on ledges 300 meters underground in the Atxurra cave in the northern Basque region, describing the site as being among the top 10 in Europe. The engravings and paintings feature horses, buffalo, goats, and deer, dating to between 12,500 and 14,500 years ago.
Garate says access to the area is so difficult and dangerous that it is unlikely to be open to the public.
The cave was discovered in 1929 and first explored in 1934-35, but it was not until 2014 that Garate and his team resumed their investigations and the drawings were found.
"No one expected a discovery of this magnitude," said Jose Yravedra, a prehistory professor at Madrid's Complutense University. "There a lot of caves with drawings but very few have this much art and this much variety and quality."
Garate says one buffalo drawing depicts what must be the most hunting lances of any in Europe. Most have four or five lances but this has almost 20.
Yravedra says that, given the cave's hidden location and the number, variety, and quality of its drawings, the site was being classified as a "sanctuary," or special Palaeolithic meeting ritual place, like those at Altamira in Spain, or Lascaux in France.
Regional officials hope to set up a 3-D display of the art so that the public can appreciate it.
Edited from Phys.org (27 May 2016)