“Tantalizing clues like cave art, and Neanderthal-constructed tombs and other edifices, hint that humanity’s archaic relatives were capable of complex thought.
More evidence that Neanderthals were remarkably human lies in the genomes, as all non-African modern humans have about 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal genetic material, thanks to interbreeding.
Complex vocal communication is one trait that is often considered particularly human: Homo sapiens, that is. But Neanderthals, H. neanderthalensis, might have been able to pick up on more than just grunts.
For clues into what Neanderthals might have heard, researchers compared the tiniest ear bones, the ossicles, in anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals.
At first glance, the ancient little bones seemed to be dramatically different from those in humans today.
In fact, the structures were shaped more differently between the two human species than between gorillas and chimpanzees.
But when the team analyzed the function of the Neanderthal ear ossicles, they found that these bones transmit sound similarly as they do in modern humans.
Their results are reported in a paper published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”
[This is a really good story from The Christian Science Monitor. Over the past decade or so, lone voices in the paleontology community have suggested that Neanderthals may well have been capable of speech, but these ideas were treated as heresy. This story, and the original paper in PNAS, suggests otherwise. Another Must Read article – Ed.]
“The planet was cold. Vast sheets of ice extended over the northern half of North America and parts of northeast Asia, forming treacherous frozen barrens.
It was the height of the last ice age, a time known as the Last Glacial Maximum, which lasted from about 26,500 to 19,000 years ago.
The world looked entirely different from today – not only was the flora and fauna rather strange, but its very geography was unrecognisable.
So much water was locked up in ice that sea levels were around 120 meters lower than now, laying bare vast stretches of ocean floor along the coasts.
As the waters subsided between eastern Siberia and western Alaska, a swath of dry land emerged where woolly mammoths and other animals eventually roamed.
For thousands of years, Asia and North America were one continuous expanse-until the world warmed again, and rivers and streams carried meltwater from the ice sheets back to the ocean.
Today, if we think about this forgotten land, we imagine it as a narrow, frozen corridor that small bands of ancient Asian migrants hurried over as they made their way east to the New World, where they gave rise to the first people of the Americas.
But that picture is proving increasingly misleading.”
[This is an incredible story from Hakai Magazine that changes everything archaeologists thought they knew about the supposed narrow land-bridge between Siberia and Alaska. There is a good map of the now sunken continent, many artists depictions of life on it, and it is very well worth a visit to see the images and read the amazing full story. A MUST READ – Ed.]
“The oldest fossils known to date have been discovered in 3.7 billion-year-old rocks in Greenland by an Australian-led team of researchers.
The discovery of the fossilised bacterial communities, known as stromatolites, could be the first clear biological evidence of the earliest known life on Earth, according to a paper published today in Nature.
Before this find, the earliest accepted evidence for life were 3.48 billion-year-old fossil stromatolites from the Pilbara region in Western Australia.
Lead author Professor Allen Nutman of the University of Wollongong has been investigating ancient rock formations in the Isua Supercrustal Belt in south-west Greenland for more than 30 years.
The rocks were known to contain a unique carbon signature, but until now, it was unclear whether the signature had been created by ancient life forms or changes in the rock caused by heat and pressure.”
[Well done The Siberian Times! This really is a great story. These discoveries will certainly change the way we look at the peoples who were amongst the first to populate north America. It really is well worth reading the full story and seeing the many incredible images of what was found – Ed.]
“Archaeologists have learned a lot about the lives of Iron Age Europeans from the mummified remains preserved in bogs – including how they dressed.
But not even the best-preserved bog can withstand the ravages of time. And archaeologists could not identify the exact origin of fibres from hair, wool, or skin in such old, degraded garments.
But this is all about to change, thanks to a new method, which analyses proteins in the fibres to determine exactly what type of animal they came from.
‘With proteins, we could make a completely accurate species identification in 11 out of 12 samples and show that species identification that was carried out by microscopy on half of the samples was incorrect’, says lead-author Luise Brandt, who completed the research during her Ph.D. at the University of Copenhagen, but is now based at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.
The new technique can for the first time help archaeologists to differentiate between goats or sheep’s wool, for example, which would otherwise be difficult to do when studying hairs that had spent 2000 years in a bog, says Brandt.”
[A great story. It’s amazing how new scientific methods are helping archaeologists to learn much more detail about what really went on in the past. It beats the speculations of yesteryear. It really is well worth reading the full story – Ed.]
“Humans learned how to adapt unlike any other species during the last Ice Age.
Scholars have long theorized that the first humans to populate the North American continent likely traversed a long-vanished land bridge that once linked Siberia and Alaska over the Bering Strait.
A new study published today in the journal Nature, however, challenges the conventional view by finding that the entry route was not “biologically viable” until hundreds of years after the first Ice-Age humans arrived on the continent.
Archaeological studies have found that human colonization of North America by the so-called Clovis culture dates back more than 13,000 years ago, and recent archaeological evidence suggests that people could have been on the continent 14,700 years ago-and possibly even several millennia before that.”
“A great flood at the dawn of Chinese civilization was said to have swept away settlements, the water rising so high that it overran hills, mountains and even heaven itself.
It was the sage King Yu who tamed the waters by building ditches, the legend went, thus earning a mandate to rule and laying the foundation for China’s first dynasty, the Xia.
But until now, scientists could not pin down evidence that the flood, or Yu, or even the Xia Dynasty ever existed outside of the origin myths passed down through millennia.
Now a team of researchers led by Wu Qianlong, a former Peking University seismologist, say in a study published this week in the journal Science that they’ve indeed found evidence that a flood submerged a vast swath of the country almost 4,000 years ago, possibly lending weight to a longstanding – though controversial – theory that the Xia Dynasty did exist as China’s first unified state.”
[This is a great story showing, yet again, that many or most so-called myths are in fact the accurate accounts of ancient catastrophes recorded by ancient peoples. It’s well worth a visit to read the full story and access the images and diagrams – Ed.]
“Archaeologists in Texas thought they’d made an important discovery in the 1990s, when they unearthed a trove of stone tools dating back 13,000 years, revealing traces of the oldest widespread culture on the continent.
But then, years later, they made an even more powerful find in the same place – another layer of artifacts that were older still.
About a half-hour north of Austin and a meter deep in water-logged silty clay, researchers have uncovered evidence of human occupation dating back as much as 16,700 years, including fragments of human teeth and more than 90 stone tools.
In addition to being some of the oldest yet found in the American West, the artifacts are rare traces of a culture that predated the culture known as Clovis, whose distinctively shaped stone tools found across North America have consistently been dated to about 13,000 years ago.
Indeed, an entire generation of anthropologists was taught that Clovis represented the continent’s first inhabitants.
But, along with a handful of other pre-Clovis finds, the Texas tools add to the mounting evidence that humans arrived on the continent longer ago than was once thought, said Dr. D. Clark Wernecke, director of the Gault School of Archaeological Research.”
[You can always rely on Wester Digs to publish ground-breaking stories – and this one is no exception. As more and more finds show evidence of pre-Clovis occupation of North America, discoveries such as this one are painting a very different picture of ancient America. Many good images to see so do read the full story – Ed.]
“How will the melting of ice in Greenland affect our climate?
In order to gain an idea how that process might look like, researchers have taken a look into the past.
In the early Holocene period – approximately 11,700 to 8,000 years ago – a large ice sheet melted in North America.
By analysing dripstones in caves (speleothems) and using computer simulations, an international team headed by Dr Jasper Wassenburg at Ruhr-Universität Bochum reconstructed the consequences: today, a negative correlation is observed in the amount of rainfall in north-western Africa and north-western Europe.
If a humid winter climate prevails in north-western Europe, the climate in north-western Africa is dry.
Due to melting ice sheets, this correlation was reversed in the early Holocene period; this resulted in both regions being humid respectively dry at the same time.
Radical climate change occurred. The researchers have published their report in the current edition of Nature Geoscience.”
[It’s good to see this study reported in Heritage Daily. Well done! We can always learn more about the changes in our climate today, and possibly predict changes in the future, only by studying the patterns that the ancient climate recorded in a wide variety of proxy datasets. Everything in nature has a rhythm. It’s well worth a visit to read the full story and the original journal article – Ed.]
“On the outskirts of Beijing, a small limestone mountain named Dragon Bone Hill rises above the surrounding sprawl.
Along the northern side, a path leads up to some fenced-off caves that draw 150,000 visitors each year, from schoolchildren to grey-haired pensioners.
It was here, in 1929, that researchers discovered a nearly complete ancient skull that they determined was roughly half a million years old. Dubbed Peking Man, it was among the earliest human remains ever uncovered, and it helped to convince many researchers that humanity first evolved in Asia.
Since then, the central importance of Peking Man has faded.
Although modern dating methods put the fossil even earlier – at up to 780,000 years old – the specimen has been eclipsed by discoveries in Africa that have yielded much older remains of ancient human relatives.
Such finds have cemented Africa’s status as the cradle of humanity – the place from which modern humans and their predecessors spread around the globe – and relegated Asia to a kind of evolutionary cul-de-sac.
But the tale of Peking Man has haunted generations of Chinese researchers, who have struggled to understand its relationship to modern humans.”
[Chinese archaeologists have persevered with their excavations for many years, and have now been able to suggest a credible alternative to the prevailing ‘Out-of-Africa’ paradigm. It’s well worth a visit to read the full story – Ed.]
“Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture could hold the largest Old Stone Age site discovered in East Asia.
More than 1,000 human bones and fragments, possibly from about a dozen men and women, have been uncovered so far by the excavation project in the Shirahosaonetabaru cave by Painushima Ishigaki Airport.
Some of the pieces date back 24,000 years, making them the oldest human remains found in Japan that can be precisely dated, researchers at the site said.
This is ‘one of the biggest Paleolithic ruins in East Asia’, said Naomi Doi, a former associate professor at the University of the Ryukyus. ‘I’m a lucky anthropologist.'”
[In October 1900, Captain Dimitrious Kondos was leading a team of sponge divers near the the island of Antikythera off the coast of Greece. They noticed a shipwreck about 180 feet below the surface and began to investigate. Amongst the artifacts that they brought up was a coral-encrusted piece of metal that later archaeologists found was some sort of gear wheel.
The rest of the artifacts, along with the shape of the boat, suggested a date around 2000 years ago, which made the find one of the most anomalous that had ever been recovered from the Greek seas. It became known as The Antikythera Mechanism.
In 2006 the journal “Nature” published a letter, and another paper about the mechanism was published in 2008, detailing the findings of Prof. Mike G. Edmunds of Cardiff University. Using high-resolution X-ray tomography to study the fragments of the anomalous Antikythera Mechanism, they found that it was in fact a bronze mechanical analog computer that could be used to calculate the astronomical positions and various cycles of the Moon – as seen from the Earth: – Ed]
Part of the Antikythera Mechanism
Antikythera Mechanism Research Project
2000-year-old analog computer recreated
More Antikythera Mechanism Information & Commentary: