Friday, April 18, 2014

EXCERPTS FROM FROM AN OUTSTANDING BOOK -- THE SIXTH EXTINCTION BY ELIZABETH KOLBERT

While reading this book there were so many important facts that I decided to share them with any of you who could be interested. It's not exactly archaeology, but it pertains to the background that all archaeologists really need to know beginning in the 18th century and going back to the Neanderthals. Also, it comments on the state of the world today.

p.36: Cuvier's discovery of extinction (c. 1785) -- of "a world previous to ours" -- was a sensational event.

p. 37 Cuvier finally gave the mastodonte its name in a paper published in Paris in 1806.

p. 53 Without Lyell (father of geology) there would have been no Darwin. Darwin wrote, "I always feel as if my book came half out of Lyell's brains."

p. 81 Walter Alvarez dubbed the hundred mile crater beneath the Yucatan Peninsula "the Crater Doom" --more widely known named after the nearest town, as the Chicxulub crater.

p. 93 Thomas Kuhn, the 20th century's most influential historian of science. Kuhn's seminal work, the Structure of Scientific Revolution shaped not only individual perceptions but entire fields of inquiry. Kuhn made the term "paradigm shifts" -- the history of the science of extinction can be told as a series of paradigm shifts. This is in the chapter titled "Welcome to the Anthropocene."

p.102 The current theory is that the end-Ordovician extinction was caused by glaciation not by a "death star". This extinction lasted no more than 200,000 years and perhaps less than a 100,000. By the time it was over, something like 90% of all species on earth had been eliminated.

p.108 It seems appropriate to assign the term "Anthropocene" to the present in many ways human-dominated, geological epoch, observed Paul Crutzen, a Dutch chemist who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering effects of ozone-depleting compounds.

p. 113 Since the start of the industrial revolution, humans have burned through enough fossil fuels -- coal, oil,and natural gas -- to add some 365 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere...as a result of all this the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air today -- a little over four hundred parts per mission --is higher than at any other point in the last 800,000 years..

p.120 Ocean acidification is sometime referred to as global warmings "equally evil twin."

p. 132 Ken Caldeira, Stanford professor, published in Nature, "The Coming Centuries May See More Ocean Acidification Than The Past 300 Million years."

P.189 Ecologist Tom Lovejoy: (credited with the term "biological diversity") "in the face of climatic change, even natural climatic change human activity has created an obstacle course for the dispersal of biodiversity. The result which could be 'one of the greatest biotic crisis of all time."

p.239 Svante Paabo (Swedish) sometimes called the "father of paleogenetics." His present project is sequencing the Neanderthal genome. Most people alive today are slightly up to 4% Neanderthal. He "wants to show what changed in fully modern humans, compared with Neanderthals that made a difference."

p.266-67 In the center of the American Museum of Natural History's Hall of Biodiversity (in NYC) there's an exhibit embedded in the floor... arranged around a central plaque that notes there have been five major extinction events since complex animals evolved, over five hundred million years ago. According to the plaque, "Global climate
change and other causes, probably including collisions between earth and extraterrestrial objects," were responsible for these events. And further " Right now we are in the midst of the Sixth Extinction, this time caused solely by humanity's transformation of the ecological landscape."

In an extinction event of our own making, what happens to us" One possibility -- implied by the Hall of Biodiversity -- is that we too will eventually be undone by our "transformation of the ecological landscape." .. by disrupting these systems -- cutting down tropical rainforests, altering the composition of the atmosphere, acidifying the oceans, we're putting our own survival in danger.

A sign in the hall quotes Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich: "IN PUSHING OTHER SPECIES TO EXTINCTION, HUMANITY IS BUSY SAWING OFF THE LIMB ON WHICH IT PERCHES."

This is an amazing book, do read the whole thing and recommend it to many people, especially those who aren't sure about climate change.






Sunday, April 13, 2014

NEADERTHALS & HUMANS INTERBRED -- NEW STUDY LEAVES LITTLE ROOM FOR DOUBT

In recent months, numerous DNA studies of ancient humans have all converged on one conclusion - Neanderthals and Homo sapiens interbred. While for many this may seem unsurprising or even obvious, we must remember that until fairly recently the predominant scientific theory was that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens never came in contact with each other, let alone interbreed.

Science is also only just beginning to dispel the myth that Neanderthals were primitive cave men. But for some, the idea that up to 20% of Neanderthal genes are still present in the human race is still very hard to swallow. However, a new study, which utilized a more superior method of testing, leaves little room for doubt - many human beings alive today are the product of Neanderthal and Homo sapiens interbreeding.

The new research published in the April 2014 issue of the journal Genetics has utilized a technique that involves partitioning genomes into short blocks to calculate the statistical likelihood of distant or recent interbreeding and tracing back the biological ties that exist between humans and Neanderthals. The method can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches, and has further enabled the researchers to distinguish between two possible scenarios - the first is that Neanderthals occasionally interbred with modern humans after they migrated out of Africa, the second is that the humans who left Africa evolved from the same ancestral subpopulation that had previously given rise to Neanderthals.

"Although there has been mounting evidence for genetic exchange between modern humans and Neanderthals in Eurasia from a number of recent genetic studies, it has been difficult to rule out ancestral structure in Africa," said study co-author Dr Konrad Lohse, a population geneticist at the University of Edinburgh. "Our approach can distinguish between two subtly different scenarios".

"This work is important because it closes a hole in the argument about whether Neanderthals interbred with humans. And the method can be applied to understanding the evolutionary history of other organisms, including endangered species," said Mark Johnston, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Genetics.

By April Holloway
http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/new-study-leaves-little-room-doubt-neanderthals-humans-interbred-088978

UNKNOWN 54 ANCIENT SETTLEMENTS (DATING 6,000 BCE TO3,000 BCE) FOUND IN GREECE

An impressive discovery of ancient lacustrine settlements and a huge necropolis, dating back as early as 8,000 years ago, has been brought to light by an archaeological excavation in the area between the villages of St. Panteleimon, Anargyros Amyntaiou, and Vegora Philotas in Greece.

Although excavations took place in the region more than a century ago, in 1898, by the Russian Institute of Constantinople, nothing was ever reported or announced and excavations stopped for more than 100 years. In 2001,
excavations resumed in the area due to lignite mining operations by the Greek Electricity company, leading to the accidental discovery of the ruins by a group of workers. Since then, an incredible 54 ancient settlements have been discovered with 24 discovered in the last two years alone. The details of the findings have just been reported by an archaeological representative of the Government.

The discoveries include the remains of numerous rectangular buildings, measuring 4x6 meters and oriented southeast to southwest, arranged in 'neighborhoods' of 4 to 6 buildings in each. The floors of the buildings were constructed with successive layers of clay resting on wooden beams. Some of the larger buildings consisted of two levels with a balcony on the second floor, demonstrating remarkably advanced architecture for the period between 6,000 BC and 3,000 BC. Inside the buildings, archaeologists have found the remains of fireplaces, which would probably have been used for both heating and cooking. In order to avoid flooding they had created fortifications to protect the settlements. Each house was raised on layers of clay to avoid water gathering beneath.

Many tools, pottery, various jewellery and clay figurines were found including anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations. One of the most impressive artifacts was a chair with legs (as opposed to a seat with a solid base), which until now had only been found in Greece dating back to the 6th century BC. The findings also shed light on the dietary habits of the ancient people, as scientists have found the remains of wheat, lentils, and pomegranate, as well as blackberry and elderberry seeds.

The civilisation that occupied this area has since been named the 'Civilization of the Four Lakes', as most of the settlements were found in the vicinity of a set of lakes in the region. The civilization is believed to have settled in the area beginning around 6,000 BC and extending until 3,000 BC. It appears that a great fire destroyed the settlements, with many remains becoming submerged in the depths of the lakes.

The necropolis that was found consists of cist graves in an entirely circular and radial arrangement with each tomb accompanied by a large number of offerings like ceramic and bronze vases, jewellery, clothing, weapons and tools.More than 148 tombs have been found to date. The discovery of the remains of some women wearing elaborate clothing and valuable jewellery indicates the existence of a hierarchical social system. The discovery reflects an incredibly advanced civilization existing in northern Greece 8,000 years ago.

By John Black

http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/accidental-discovery-8000-year-old-settlements-and-necropolis-greece-001531

FIRST SETTLERS IN SCOTLAND -- EVIDENCED BY 14,000 YEAR OLD FLINT TOOLS

Archaeologists have uncovered the earliest evidence of the presence of humans in Scotland with an assemblage of over 5,000 flint artifacts which were recovered in 2005-2009 by Biggar Archaeology Group in fields at Howburn, South Lanarkshire. Subsequent studies have dated their use to 14,000 years ago. Prior to the find, the oldest evidence of human occupation in Scotland could be dated to around 13,000 years ago at a now-destroyed cave site in Argyll,
northwest Scotland.

Dating to the very earliest part of the late-glacial period, Howburn is likely to represent the first settlers in Scotland. The flint tools are strikingly close in design to similar finds in northern Germany and southern Denmark from the same period, a link which has helped experts to date them. The new findings were revealed by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, in her speech at the Institute for Archaeologists' annual conference, which is this year taking place in Glasgow. The definitive findings will be published next year in a report funded by Historic Scotland.

The hunters who left behind the flint remains at Howburn came into Scotland in pursuit of game, probably herds of wild horses and reindeer, at a time when the climate improved following the previous severe glacial conditions.
Glacial conditions returned once more around 13,000 years ago and Scotland was again depopulated, probably for another 1000 years, after which new groups with different types of flint tools make their appearance.

The nature of the physical connections made between the peoples in Scotland, Germany and southern Denmark is not yet understood. However the similarity in the design of the tools from the two regions offers tantalizing glimpses
of connections across what would have been dry land, now drowned by the North Sea.


http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2014/14000-year-old-flint-tools-from-earliest-human-occupation-of-scotland

Monday, April 07, 2014

NEOLITHIC CHAMBER TOMB (PORTAL DOLMEN) BEING UNEATHED ON ANGLESEY, THE ISLAND OFF WALES

A team from the Welsh Rock Art Organization has begun excavating Ynys Môn's least-known Neolithic chambered tomb - Perthi Duon, on Anglesey, in northwest Wales - one of eighteen existing stone chambered monuments that stand within a 1.5 kilometer corridor of the Menai Straits.

In 1723 the antiquarian Henry Rowlands reported three possible upright stones beneath the large capstone, however by the time the Reverend John Skinner sketched the site in 1802 it was in a ruinous state.

The probable orientation of the entrance is east-west, with its concealed chamber at the western end. The team have so far uncovered several significant features, including areas of compacted-stone cairn that would once have formed a kidney-shaped mound surrounding the chamber.

Team director Dr George Nash says that "This discovery, along with other excavated features clearly show this monument to be a portal dolmen, one of the earliest Neolithic monument types in Wales, dating to around 3,500 BCE. More importantly, the architecture of Perthi Duon appears to be a blueprint for other portal dolmen monuments within what is termed the Irish Sea Province. We hope, by the end of this excavation to gain a better understanding of the burial and ritual practices that went on at this site, some 5,500 years ago."

Edited from University of Bristol (21 March 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/qcduxlm
[4 images

STONEHENGE --NEOLITHIC HOUSES BEING RECONSTRUCTED -- THEIR PURPOSE?

Back in 2006 the remains of some Neolithic houses were discovered at Durrington Walls, close to Stonehenge (Wiltshire, England). The remains were dated at 2,500 BCE, which was approximately the same time that the Stonehenge sarsen stones were being erected. It is believed that the huts may have housed the construction workers or may even have acted as hotels for visitors to the sacred site.

Whilst being valuable archaeological finds in their own right, the house remains - together with information gained from similar dwelling remains found in Orkney - have provided enough information to enable reconstructions to be made. So a 60 strong team of volunteers are now nearing the completion of the erection of five dwellings adjacent to the new visitor center. The replicas are as authentic as possible, even down to replicating the harvesting of coppiced hazel rods using flint axes.
Susan Greaney, senior properties historian at English Heritage, is quoted as saying "One of the things we're trying to do at Stonehenge is to reconnect the ancient stones with the people that lived and worked in the surrounding landscape. We hope these houses will give visitors a real insight into what life was like at the time Stonehenge was built. They are the product of archaeological evidence, educated guesswork, and a lot of hard physical work".

Edited from Times of Malta (21 March 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/k26esxm
[1 image]

Sunday, April 06, 2014

EGYPTIAN MUMMY DISPLAYS BIBLICAL TATTOO

A mummy of an Egyptian woman dating back to 700 A.D. has been scanned and stripped to reveal a tattoo on her thigh that displays the name of the biblical archangel Michael. The discovery, announced by researchers at the British Museum was made during a research project that used advanced medical scans, including Computed Tomography (CT) images, to examine Egyptian mummies at a number of hospitals in the United Kingdom last year.

The woman's body was wrapped in a woolen and linen cloth before burial, and her remains were mummified in the desert heat. As deciphered by curators, the tattoo on her thigh, written in ancient Greek, reads transliterated as M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael. Curators at the museum speculate that the tattoo was a symbol worn for religious and spiritual protection, though they declined to offer additional details.

Placing the name of a powerful heavenly protector on one's body by a tattoo or amulet was very common in antiquity, said Curator Tilly. "Christian women who were pregnant often placed amulets with divine or angelic names on bands on their abdomens to insure a safe delivery of their child," she said. "Placing the name on the inner thigh, as with this mummy, may have had some meaning for the hopes of childbirth or protection against sexual violation, as in 'This body is claimed and protected.' Michael is an obvious identity for a tattoo, as this is the most powerful of angels."
Christian Gnostics, religious cultists in that era, were especially interested in the names and functions of intermediary beings between humans and the divine, Tilley noted.

She added that Christians were not the only ones to use the names of angelic powers in ancient days. "Jews of antiquity were fascinated by the identity and nature of angels," she said. Villanova University biology professor Michael Zimmerman, who also has used advanced technologies to study Egyptian mummies, said this kind of find has been sought for years.

London's British Museum will reveal what it has learned about this and seven other mummies in "Ancient Lives: New Discoveries," an exhibition scheduled to run from May 22 to Nov. 30. John Taylor, lead curator of the ancient Egypt and Sudan department at the museum, told a local newspaper over the weekend that the exhibition will tell the story of the lives of eight people from antiquity, portraying them as full human beings, rather than as archeological objects.

Using sophisticated medical imaging usually reserved to study strokes and heart attacks, the research team discovered that these eight ancient individuals, whose remains have been held in the museum for some time, had many of the same traits that modern man does, including dental problems, high cholesterol levels and tattoos. The exhibition portrays one mummy that dates back to 3,500 B.C., as well as the tattooed female, aged between 20 and 35, who lived and died about 1,300 years ago. Researchers pointed out that regular Egyptians -- not only the royals -- were mummified. The tattooed mummy, the remains of which were found less than a decade ago, was so well preserved that archaeologists could nearly discern the tattoo on the inner thigh of her right leg with the naked eye. But medical infrared technology helped them see it clearly.

http://news.discovery.com/history/ancient-egypt/1300-year-old-egyptian-mummy-had-biblical-tattoo-140326.htm

MORE THAN ONE SPECIES AT DMANISI SITE IN GEORGIA?

An investigation centered around a new skull from Dmanisi (Republic of Georgia) concludes that the cave site may have hosted not one but two Homo species, one living around 1.8 million years ago and another several hundred thousand years later. [Dmanisi cave controversy, Past Horizons, October 21, 2013]

The Pleistocene site has yielded an impressive assemblage of hominin fossils, opening fresh perspectives for understanding the nature of the first Eurasian human settlers, and providing important data for reassessing the origin and evolution of the genus - however, the authors of a new study published in PLOS ONE have put forward a different interpretation.

Based on one of the lower jaws recovered previously (D2600), and which is considerably larger than the other ones found at the site, and which also morphologically fits with the newly described skull (D4500), the researchers point out the remarkable shape differences that do not depend on body size or sex. They state that the larger fossil exhibits a mosaic of primitive and derived features absent from the smaller specimens D211 and D2735, flagging the presence of a separate species. The small jaws come from a population closely related to early African Homo populations, with the larger jaw belongs to a poorly understood species - Homo georgicus.

Dmanisi excavation director David Lordkipanidze of the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi disagrees with their conclusions, believing that shape similarities among skulls that fit the lower jaws indicate that only one Homo species occupied the site. Geologic studies show that the Dmanisi fossils are no younger than 1.76 million years old, he adds. However, the new study suggests the accumulation could cover an undetermined period of time. Most researchers acknowledge the high degree of size and shape differences at Dmanisi, although their interpretations differ.

According to Lordkipanidze and his team, the large variability exhibited by the Dmanisi hominins would lessen the differences used to identify species such as Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo ergaster or Homo erectus. All of these would thus belong to the same species, representing regional variants of a single lineage that would have inhabited the Eurasian and African continents during a considerable large period. However, if they
belonged to the same lineage, Dmanisi hominins would exhibit a sexual size difference greater than that observed in modern humans and chimpanzees.

The new study's authors expect that future discoveries at Dmanisi and revisions of the fossil record will shed light on the interpretation of these hominins, saying the evidence available at present suggests the first dispersion out of Africa was probably more complex than previously supposed, that different ecological niches may have been present in the area where the fossils were found, and that the possibility of there having been two species should be further explored.
Source: PLOS ONE
http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/03/2014/more-than-one-species-at-dmanisi-site-in-georgia



MAYBE NEADERTHALS DID TALK!

Ground-breaking research by an expert from the University of New England shows that our 'misunderstood cousins,' the Neanderthals, may well have spoken in languages not dissimilar to the ones we use today.

Pinpointing the origin and evolution of speech and human language is one of the longest running and most hotly debated topics in the scientific world. It has long been believed that other beings, including the Neanderthals with
whom our ancestors shared Earth for thousands of years, simply lacked the necessary cognitive capacity and vocal hardware for speech.

Associate Professor Stephen Wroe, a zoologist and palaeontologist from UNE, along with an international team of scientists and the use of 3D x-ray imaging technology, made the revolutionary discovery challenging this notion
based on a 60,000 year-old Neanderthal hyoid bone discovered in Israel in 1989. It was virtually indistinguishable from that of our own species. This led to some people arguing that this Neanderthal could speak," A/Professor Wroe said. However advances in 3D imaging and computer modelling allowed A/Professor Wroe's team to revisit the question.

"By analyzing the mechanical behavior of the fossilized bone with micro x-ray imaging, we were able to build models of the hyoid that included the intricate internal structure of the bone. We then compared them to models of modern humans. Our comparisons showed that in terms of mechanical behavior, the Neanderthal hyoid was basically indistinguishable from our own, strongly suggesting that this key part of the vocal tract was used in the same way.

"From this research, we can conclude that it's likely that the origins of speech and language are far, far older than once thought."

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by University of New England.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140302185241.htm

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ALTAMIRA CAVE OPENED TO VISITORS (EXPERIMENTALLY)

The vast cavern complex in the Cantabria region of northern Spain is covered in paintings of animals dated to between 14,000 and 20,000 years ago. For the past 12 years, visitors have had to settle for a replica in a museum, but now small groups of visitors are again being allowed into the cave as part of an experiment to determine whether the paintings can support the presence of sightseers.

Until August, on a random day of the week visitors will be invited to enter a draw, and five chosen for a guided tour including 37 minutes inside the cave. They will put on special suits, masks and shoes before entering.

Researchers will measure their impact on the cave's temperature, humidity, microbiological contamination and CO2 levels. The results will be used to determine whether or not the cave can be reopened to the public, a controversial decision that has pitted the local tourist economy against government scientists.

The site has been closed several times, starting in 1977 after scientists warned that body heat and CO2 levels from the 3,000 daily visitors were deteriorating the paintings. The cave was again closed to the public in 2002 after scientists blamed body heat, light and moisture for the appearance of green mold on some of the paintings. Since then, the regional government has been lobbying for the site to be reopened, against the recommendations of the government's main research body. A 2010 report made it very clear that the cave shouldn't be open to visitors, with lead researcher Sergio Sánchez Moral recently warning: "The consequences of doing so are immeasurable."

José Antonio Lasheras, director of the Museo de Altamira, defends the decision. The tours, he says, are part of a carefully calculated equation to find a balance between conservation efforts and making the country's heritage as accessible as possible. "It's a controlled risk," he says.

Edited from The Guardian (26 February 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/pwua8v4
[3 images]

BRONZE AGE GRAVE IN BRITAIN (4,000 YEARS AGO) REVEALS UNUSUAL POSSESSIONS

Some 4,000 years ago a young woman's cremated bones were carefully wrapped in a fur along with her most valuable possessions, packed into a basket, and carried up to one of the highest and most exposed spots on Dartmoor (south Devon, England), where they were buried in a small stone box covered by a mound of peat.

The bundle contained a treasury of unique objects: a tin bead and 34 tin studs, which are the earliest evidence of metal-working in the south-west of England; textiles, including a unique nettle fiber belt with a leather fringe; jewellery, including amber from the Baltic and shale from Whitby; and wooden ear studs, which are the earliest examples of wood turning ever found in Britain. The site chosen for her grave was no accident. At 600 meters above sea level, White Horse hill is so remote that getting there even today is a 45-minute walk across heather and bog, after a half-hour drive up a military track from the nearest road.

Analyzing and interpreting one of the most intriguing burials ever found in Britain is now occupying scientists across several continents. Experts in Britain, Denmark and the Smithsonian in the US have been working on the fur. It is not dog, wolf, deer, horse or sheep, but may be a bear skin, from a species that became extinct in Britain at least 1,000 years ago.

"I am consumed with excitement about this find. I never expected to see anything like it in my lifetime," Jane Marchand, chief archaeologist at the Dartmoor National Park Authority said." It has not yet been possible definitively to identify the sex of the fragmented charred bones, though they suggest a slight individual aged between 15 and 25 years. "I shouldn't really say her - but given the nature of the objects, and the fact that there is no dagger or other weapon of any kind, such as we know were found in other burials from the period, I personally have no doubt that this was a young woman," Marchand said.

Apart from the basket, this burial had the belt; the ear studs - identical to those on sale in many goth shops - made from spindle wood, a hard fine-grained wood often used for knitting needles, from trees which still grow on the lower slopes of Dartmoor; and the unique arm band, plaited from cow hair and originally studded with 34 tin beads that would have shone like silver. There were even charred scraps of textile that may be the remains of a shroud, and fragments of charcoal from the funeral pyre. Although tin - essential for making bronze - from Cornwall and Devon became famous across the ancient world, there was no previous evidence of smelting from such an early date. The necklace, which included amber from the Baltic, had a large tin bead made from part of an ingot beaten flat and then rolled. The archaeologists are convinced it was made locally.

The cist, a stone box, was first spotted more than a decade ago by a walker on Duchy of Cornwall land, but it was only excavated three years ago when archaeologists realized the site was eroding so fast any possible contents would inevitably soon be lost. It was only when they lifted the top slab that the scale of the discovery became apparent. The fur and the basket were a wet blackened sludgy mess, but through it they could see beads and other objects. "As we carefully lifted the bundle a bead fell out - and I knew immediately we had something extraordinary," Marchand said. "Previously we had eight beads from Dartmoor; now we have 200."

The jewellery and other conserved artifacts will feature in an exhibition later this year at Plymouth city museum, but although work continues on her bones, it is unlikely to answer the mystery of who she was, how she died, and why at such a young age she merited a burial fit for a queen.

Edited from The Guardian (9 March 2014)
http://tinyurl.com/ksgt6pw
[2 images

Monday, March 03, 2014

MEXICO'S EARLIEST KNOWN TEMPLE PRECINCT EXCAVATED -- DATE IS 1,500 YEARS EARLIER THAN SIMILAR TEMPLES DESCRIBED BY COLONIAL EUROPEANS

Excavations at Mexico’s Valley of Oaxaca have recovered the region’s earliest known temple precinct, which, according to a new study by the American Museum of Natural History, existed about 1,500 years earlier than similar temples described by colonial Europeans. Archaeological investigations during the past 20 years suggest that the temple precinct was staffed by a specialized priesthood. The findings are described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Museum research associate Elsa Redmond and curator Charles Spencer, both in the Division of Anthropology, led the excavations at the archaeological site known as El Palenque. The data document a 300-100 BC walled enclosure that included three multi-room temples and two priests’ residences.

Perforating tools, along with animal and human remains in a room with hearths, suggest that the officiating priests performed bloodletting rituals, animal sacrifices, and possibly human sacrificial rituals. Cooking and producing cloth for priests were likely carried out in a specialized facility. A masonry-lined vaulted tunnel was found leading to the public plaza, which Redmond and Spencer suggest might have been used by priests and other individuals to secretly access the plaza on special ceremonial occasions.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

SHIMAO RUINS IN CHINA REVEAL A LARGE NEOLITHIC CITY BUILT 4,300 YEARS AGO.

Archaeologists have uncovered a number of altar relics, including jade artifacts and pits for offerings, at the Shimao ruins, a Neolithic city in China. The findings suggest a religious culture at the time in which human
sacrifice played a part.

The Shimao ruins, located in China's Shaanxi Province, were first discovered in 1976. Until 2012, they were believed to be part of a small town. However, last year, archaeologists realized that the ruins were part of a much larger city extending over an area of 4.25 square kilometers. It was built about 4,300 years ago and abandoned roughly 300 years later during the Xia Dynasty (2100-1600 BC), the first dynasty in China described in historical chronicles.

The city contains a central area with inner and outer structures and walls surrounding the outer city. Remains of palaces, houses, tombs, sacrificial altars and handicraft workshops are scattered around the site. The discovery of many important remains like the earliest preserved murals, partial jade ware and large quantities of pottery shards indicated that the Shimao site played an important core position in the Chinese northern cultural sphere.

The sacrificial altar, located outside the walls of the Shimao Ruins, measures 8 meters in height and had a three-tiered structure with a stone base 90 meters long. The pits for offerings, which are up to 3 meters deep, were found nearby, said Sun Zhouyong, deputy head of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.

Last year, archaeologists excavated over 80 human skulls dumped in groups - and the rest of their bodies were nowhere to be found. The grisly discovery was made in two pits, with 24 skulls in each, in front of the east gate of the city ruin while others were later uncovered along the eastern city wall. An analysis on the remains revealed that most of them belonged to young women, who may have been sacrificed as part of the rituals

Based on the location of the skulls, archaeologists believe that they are related to the construction of the city wall and may have been part of a religious ritual or foundation ceremony launched before construction of the inner city began.

http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/sacrificial-altar-uncovered-ancient-neolithic-city-china-001391

PERFECTLY PRESERVED ARTIFACS FOUND 52 FEET UNDER BALTIC SEA OFF SWEDEN DATE TO 11,000 YEARS AGO

Evidence of a Stone-Age settlement that may have been swallowed whole by the Baltic Sea has resurfaced near Sweden, revealing a collection of well preserved artifacts left by nomads some 11,000 years ago. The newly discovered site was in fact some sort of a dump in which nomadic Swedes discarded objects, according to a report by the Swedish daily
The Local.

Buried 52 feet below the surface at Hanö, a sandy bay off the coast of Skane County in Sweden, the items include wood pieces, flint tools, animal horns, ropes, a harpoon carving made from an animal bone and the bones of an aurochs and an ancient cattle which became extinct in the early 1600s. "There's wood and antlers and other implements that were thrown in there," project leader Björn Nilsson, archaeology professor at Södertörn University, told the Local.

Amazingly, the artifacts have been perfectly preserved because of the abundant oxygen-consuming"gyttja" -- a black, gel-like sediment which is formed when peat begins to decay. "Around 11,000 years ago there was a build up in the area, a lagoon or sorts ... and all the tree and bone pieces are preserved in it. If the settlement was on dry land we would only have the stone-based things, nothing organic," Nilsson said.

Nilsson's team is continuing to excavate the area, looking for a potential burial site. "What we have here is maybe one of the oldest settlements from the first more permanent sites in Scania and in Sweden full stop," Nilsson said.

http://news.discovery.com/history/archaeology/11000-year-old-settlement-found-under-baltic-sea-140221.htm