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Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Neanderthals in the spotlight again! April, 2009

Today:

  1. Turkey’s Aegean Explored in Underwater Archaeology Excavations
  2. Early humans may have cared for disabled young
  3. 13,000 Clovis-era tool cache unearthed in Colorado shows evidence of camel, horse butchering
  4. Biodiversity Hotspot Enabled Neanderthals To Survive Longer In South East Of Spain
  5. Did modern humans eat Neanderthals?
Short stories:
  • Thousands of 6,000-year old cave paintings found in Peru’s Amazon region
  • Archaeologists find statue of ancient Yemeni queen

Turkey’s Aegean Explored in Underwater Archaeology Excavations

19 March 2009 | Archaeologists announced today they have begun underwater excavations of the prehistoric site of Limantepe in western Turkey.

The underwater research, headed by Professor Hayat Erkanal of the Archaeology Department of the Ankara University, explores the prehistoric settlement located in the coastal town of Urla near İzmir in western Turkey.

The harbour settlement was inhabited as early as starting from 6,000 years ago and, as such, it is one of the oldest known artificial harbours in the Aegean Sea. A big part of it, including a fortification wall, was submerged in the sea due to a massive earthquake which occurred in 700 BC, according to Erkenal.

Layers from three different periods have been found at Limantepe. The lowest layer belongs to the Early Bronze Age and dates from the third millennium BC onwards. The second one dates to the Middle Bronze Age from the first half of the second millennium BC onwards.

According to experts, evidence from these two early periods indicate cultural ties with the nearby prehistoric sites of Tepekule, Bayraklı within the city of İzmir and the Panaztepe site at the mouth of the River Gediz.

The third layer belongs to the Late Bronze Age and covers the time period from the fourteenth to the thirteenth century BC, with some artifacts discovered from this period suggesting a cultural proximity with the Mycenaean culture.

According to Erkanal, Limantepe was a major sea transportation centre with large political significant in the Aegean Region in 3000 BC. source

My comment: Ok, not much to say about this since it's too early to make any speculation about the civilisation that inhabited the city. An interesting question, however, is why this city is underwater, because the inundation after the melting of the glaciers are not supposed to have happened so late (the biggest should have been ~12500 year ago). I don't know why they don't mention in it this article. Maybe they are guessing it's an earthquake, but we saw an earthquake in the same place recently and it didn't lead to land going under the water....

Early humans may have cared for disabled young

A recently unearthed ancient human skull shows signs of a disorder that might have caused mental retardation. This offers the earliest evidence that ancestors of Homo sapiens did not abandon young with severe birth defects.

The 500,000-year-old skeleton belonged to a five to 12-year-old child who suffered from craniosynostosis. The rare congenital condition occurs when two of the flat bones that make up the skull fuse together along their margins (sutures) too early during fetal development, hindering brain growth.

Spanish researchers discovered the first pieces of the skull near Atapuerca, Spain, in 2001, but they only recently pieced enough of it together to make a conclusive diagnosis.

The child suffered from a form of craniosynostosis that occurs in about 1 in every 200,000 children. He or she was a member of the species Homo heidelbergensis, – early humans that lived in Europe up to 800,000 years ago and may have given rise to Neanderthals.

The discovery marks the earliest example of a human skeleton with signs of a physical deformity that that might have made the individual dependent on others for survival.

Most animals, including primates, sacrifice or abandon young born with crippling deformities, Gracia says. It's impossible to know whether the child suffered from any cognitive problems, but he or she would undoubtedly have looked different from family and friends, she says.

"The obvious conclusion is that [this child] was being helped by other members of the social group," says Erik Trinkaus, a paleoanthropologist at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri.

However, Matthew Speltz, a psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, says the link between craniosynostosis and cognitive problems is not so clear-cut. Speltz is leading an ongoing study to track the development of children born with various forms of the condition. source

My comment: That is unbelievable! Can you imagine that 500 000 years ago, the tribe helped that kid to survive? We don't even consider a tribe to have existed at that period. And yet, this child has survived 12 years somehow. I find this discovery for very crucial. We tend to underestimate our ancestors, but maybe we are very very wrong. If this happened 500 000 years ago, then what happened after 100 000 years. It's hard to imagine what happened at that time, at what pace, why, to what extent...

13,000 Clovis-era tool cache unearthed in Colorado shows evidence of camel, horse butchering

A biochemical analysis of a rare Clovis-era stone tool cache recently unearthed in the city limits of Boulder, Colo., indicates some of the implements were used to butcher ice-age camels and horses that roamed North America until their extinction about 13,000 years ago, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder study.

The study is the first to identify protein residue from extinct camels on North American stone tools and only the second to identify horse protein residue on a Clovis-age tool, said CU-Boulder Anthropology Professor Douglas Bamforth, who led the study. The cache is one of only a handful of Clovis-age artifact caches that have been unearthed in North America, said Bamforth, who studies Paleoindian culture and tools.

The Clovis culture is believed by many archaeologists to coincide with the time the first Americans arrived on the continent from Asia via the Bering Land Bridge about 13,000 to 13,500 years ago, Bamforth said.

In addition to the camel and horse residue on the artifacts, a third item from the Mahaffy Cache is the first Clovis tool ever to test positive for sheep, and a fourth tested positive for bear.

Dozens of species of North American mammals went extinct by the end of the Pleistocene, including American camels, American horses, woolly mammoth, dire wolves, short-faced bears, saber-toothed cats, woolly rhinos and giant ground sloths. While some scientists speculate ice-age mammals disappeared as a result of overhunting, climate change or even the explosion of a wayward asteroid, the reasons are still unresolved, Bamforth said.

"I was somewhat surprised to find mammal protein residues on these tools, in part because we initially suspected that the Mahaffy Cache might be ritualistic rather than a utilitarian," said Yohe. "There are so few Clovis-age tool caches that have been discovered that we really don't know very much about them.'

While the quality and patterns on several of the artifacts resemble Clovis stonework, "It was the camel and horse protein results that were the clincher for me," said Bamforth. "We haven't had camels or horses around here since the late Pleistocene." The artifacts that showed animal protein residues were each tested three times to ensure accuracy.

Bamforth believes the type of people who buried the Mahaffy Cache "lived in small groups and forged relationships over large areas." "I'm skeptical that they wandered widely, and they may have been bound together by a larger human network." A single individual could have easily carried all of the Mahaffy Cache tools a significant distance, he said.

One of the tools, a stunning, oval-shaped bifacial knife that had been sharpened all the way around, is almost exactly the same shape, size and width of an obsidian knife found in a Clovis cache known as the Fenn Cache from south of Yellowstone National Park, said Bamforth. "Except for the raw material, they are almost identical," he said.

"There is a magic to these artifacts," said Mahaffy. "One of the things you don't get from just looking at them is how incredible they feel in your hand --they are almost ergonomically perfect and you can feel how they were used. " . source

My comment: Yup-back on the article before. We really don't know so much. The last sentence is what is really striking me-he more or less said that the tools were VERY good. And note, the dating to 13 000 years ago is the earliest date this things were lastly used. They might be around from a lot more time. Reading this, I don't get how some people might believe that the Earth is only 5000 years old or that we're the best masters of the Earth. It's just...

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