- Indus script encodes language, reveals new study of ancient symbols
- Native Americans descended from a single ancestral group, DNA study confirms
- Evidence suggests ancient people were skilled horsemen
- Chinese pottery may be earliest discovered
- Marsupial lion found in Aboriginal rock
- Acheulian human remains found in Morocco
- 85,000 years old villages found
- Middle East Oldest Village Found In Iran
Indus script encodes language, reveals new study of ancient symbolsApril 23rd, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) -- The Rosetta Stone allowed 19th century scholars to translate symbols left by an ancient civilization and thus decipher the meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
But the symbols found on many other ancient artifacts remain a mystery, including those of a people that inhabited the Indus valley on the present-day border between Pakistan and India. Some experts question whether the symbols represent a language at all, or are merely pictograms that bear no relation to the language spoken by their creators.
A University of Washington computer scientist has led a statistical study of the Indus script, comparing the pattern of symbols to various linguistic scripts and nonlinguistic systems, including DNA and a computer programming language. The results, published online Thursday by the journal Science, found the Indus script's pattern is closer to that of spoken words, supporting the hypothesis that it codes for an as-yet-unknown language.
The Indus people were contemporaries of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, inhabiting the Indus river valley in present-day eastern Pakistan and northwestern India from about 2600 to 1900 B.C. This was an advanced, urbanized civilization that left written symbols on tiny stamp seals, amulets, ceramic objects and small tablets.
In 2004 a provocative paper titled The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis claimed that the short inscriptions have no linguistic content and are merely brief pictograms depicting religious or political symbols. That paper's lead author offered a $10,000 reward to anybody who could produce an Indus artifact with more than 50 symbols.
Taking a scientific approach, the U.S.-Indian team of computer scientists and mathematicians looked at the statistical patterns in sequences of Indus symbols. They calculated the amount of randomness allowed in choosing the next symbol in a sequence. Some nonlinguistic systems display a random pattern, while others, such as pictures that represent deities, follow a strict order that reflects some underlying hierarchy. Spoken languages tend to fall between the two extremes, incorporating some order as well as some flexibility.
The new study compared a well-known compilation of Indus texts with linguistic and nonlinguistic samples. The researchers performed calculations on present-day texts of English; texts of the Sumerian language spoken in Mesopotamia during the time of the Indus civilization; texts in Old Tamil, a Dravidian language originating in southern India that some scholars have hypothesized is related to the Indus script; and ancient Sanskrit, one of the earliest members of the Indo-European language family. In each case the authors calculated the conditional entropy, or randomness, of the symbols' order.
They then repeated the calculations for samples of symbols that are not spoken languages: one in which the placement of symbols was completely random; another in which the placement of symbols followed a strict hierarchy; DNA sequences from the human genome; bacterial protein sequences; and an artificially created linguistic system, the computer programming language Fortran.
Results showed that the Indus inscriptions fell in the middle of the spoken languages and differed from any of the nonlinguistic systems.
If the Indus symbols are a spoken language, then deciphering them would open a window onto a civilization that lived more than 4,000 years ago. The researchers hope to continue their international collaboration, using a mathematical approach to delve further into the Indus script. source
My comment: After reading more about Indus civilisation, I must say I have few doubts about whether the symbols are really a language. The reason is that they considered written symbols for unholy- for something mundane. Or at least so scientists claim. And if that's true, then it's unlikely that the symbols represent something meaningful-maybe a note on quantity/quality, trademarks, stuff like that. But as for sentences and texts, I don't know. Of course, that doesn't mean they didn't have a written language, I believe they had. I just share the opinion that the chose not to use it too much. Anyway, as for the article, it's an excellent piece of science. It's about such lovely collaboration that I make that blog. And I have to say that a week or two after this article came out, another team tried to prove it wrong. I have my conspiracy theory on that, but I guess it doesn't matter. The point is that if the research is clean, it does prove that they had a written language. And that's cool, because people love to underestimate some civilisations (well, all non-mesopotamian or Egyptian civilisations to be precise). And those civilisations were really interesting.
Native Americans descended from a single ancestral group, DNA study confirmsApril 29th, 2009
For two decades, researchers have been using a growing volume of genetic data to debate whether ancestors of Native Americans emigrated to the New World in one wave or successive waves, or from one ancestral Asian population or a number of different populations.
Now, after painstakingly comparing DNA samples from people in dozens of modern-day Native American and Eurasian groups, an international team of scientists thinks it can put the matter to rest: Virtually without exception the new evidence supports the single ancestral population theory.
"Our work provides strong evidence that, in general, Native Americans are more closely related to each other than to any other existing Asian populations, except those that live at the very edge of the Bering Strait," said Kari Britt Schroeder, a lecturer at the University of California, Davis, and the first author on the paper describing the study.
The team's work follows up on earlier studies by several of its members who found a unique variant (an allele) of a genetic marker in the DNA of modern-day Native American people. Dubbed the "9-repeat allele," the variant (which does not have a biological function), occurred in all of the 41 populations that they sampled from Alaska to the southern tip of Chile, as well as in Inuit from Greenland and the Chukchi and Koryak people native to the Asian (western) side of the Bering Strait. Yet this allele was absent in all 54 of the Eurasian, African and Oceanian groups the team sampled.In these earlier studies, the researchers concluded that the most straightforward explanation for the distribution of the 9-repeat allele was that all modern Native Americans, Greenlanders and western Beringians descend from a common founding population. Furthermore, the fact that the allele was absent in other Asian populations most likely meant that America's ancestral founders had been isolated from the rest of Asia for thousands of years before they moved into the New World: that is, for a period of time that was long enough to allow the allele to originate in, and spread throughout, the isolated population.
As strong as this evidence was, however, it was not foolproof. There were two other plausible explanations for the widespread distribution of the allele in the Americas.
If the 9-repeat allele had arisen as a mutation multiple times, its presence throughout the Americas would not indicate shared ancestry. Alternatively, if there had been two or more different ancestral founding groups and only one of them had carried the 9-repeat allele, certain circumstances could have prompted it to cross into the other groups and become widespread.
To rule out these possibilities, the research team, which was headed by Noah Rosenberg at the University of Michigan, scrutinized DNA samples of people from 31 modern-day Asian populations, 19 Native American, one Greenlandic and two western Beringian populations.
They found that in each sample that contained the 9-repeat allele, short stretches of DNA on either side of it were characterized by a distinct pattern of base pairs, a pattern they seldom observed in people without the allele. "If natural selection had promoted the spread of a neighboring advantageous allele, we would expect to see longer stretches of DNA than this with a similarly distinct pattern," Schroeder said. "And we would also have expected to see the pattern in a high frequency even among people who do not carry the 9-repeat allele. So we can now consider the positive selection possibility unlikely."
The results also ruled out the multiple mutations hypothesis. If that had been the case, there would have been myriad DNA patterns surrounding the allele rather than the identical characteristic signature the team discovered. source
My comment: Nice! Now, we have to ask why the Chukchi and the Koryak decided to colonize two new continents. Because if they lived in isolation for thousand of years, then it's unlikely that had so competition for resources. They just went out of curiousity. Or to conquer. But why did they spread only in that direction. And I think that they still could have colonised on two waves, as long as they are from the same tribe. And note, to colonize a continent (or two as in the case), you need quite a developed civilisation. I don't think two boats can result in thousand of people after some time-because people died in much greater rates back then. They were going to a new place, with new dangers, probably unknown to the people and if you don't know, you have to go for trial-> error-> experience. That would lead to big mortality. Thus, you'll need to send thousands of people to get the current population. So where those people came from. Did the Chukchi send most of their people to the new land? Are we seeing the left-overs from once great tribe? I can't but wonder. Because the math simply doesn't fit!
Evidence suggests ancient people were skilled horsemen
Archaeologists digging in northern Iran have unearthed evidence that the ancient people who lived there were skilled horsemen.
Reports from Iran suggest studies of the pelvises and leg bones of skeletons recovered from excavations in the Gohar Tappeh region had taken on a special shape as a result of a lot of horse-riding.
Ali Mahforouzi, who heads the archaeology team, said the regular use and close contact of horses with people suggested they may have been viewed by the inhabitants as sacred.
Mahforouzi noted that many horse statuettes, some shaped like drinking vessels, had been unearthed among the ruins of the area's religious monuments.
The archaeological dig, comprising Iranian, German and Polish experts, is providing researchers with a rare opportunity to study human habitation that goes back more than 13,000 years.
Inhabitants in the area evolved from being cave dwellers to urban dwellers.
The scientists have described the early inhabitants of the area as being well-built, who survived on a diet on poultry, seafood from the Caspian Sea, and other meat. They have yet to find evidence of vegetables in their diet.
Scientists says the remains of the horse-riding inhabitants of the area date back to about the third millennium BC.source
My comment: Hm, Hm. It's hard to tell you what I find odd, but few months ago, I posted and article about Kazakhstan horse domestication which dated back to 5000 BC or something like that (maybe the date is wrong, sorry). What I see in common is that Bulgars (let's code-name them like this, since we know so little about them), lived for some time in the territory of Kazakhstan. But nobody knows where exactly they came from. Some theories are that they came from around Iran (I know "around" sounds weird, but it's a big territory including parts of Iran, Afghanistan and northern parts of Asia, so I think "around" is ok). There are some very weird coincidences in names in Bulgaria and Afghanistan, also a Madara rider found in Afghanistan (a rock relief found in Bulgaria), common words between Bulgarian and Farsi. And now the shared legacy in horse riding-because Bulgars were famous for their horse-riding army. There's something here, but I simply cannot decide what it is. Oh well, time will show :)
Chinese pottery may be earliest discoveredJune 2nd, 2009 By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID , AP Science Writer
(AP) -- Bits of pottery discovered in a cave in southern China may be evidence of the earliest development of ceramics by ancient people.
The find in Yuchanyan Cave dates to as much as 18,000 years ago, researchers report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The find "supports the proposal made in the past that pottery making by foragers began in south China," according to the researchers, led by Elisabetta Boaretto of Bar Ilan University in Israel.
The pottery found at Yuchanyan "is the earliest so far," Boaretto said.
Lu noted that the dates reported in this paper "are slightly older than the dates (of pottery found) in Japan. However, the accuracy of radiocarbon dates in the limestone area has been under debate for many years."
Patrick E. McGovern, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania, noted that figurines have been found in what is now the Czech Republic that go back as far as 35,000 years. But those were not actual pottery vessels, he said. source
My comment: Lol, it's fun how it's all about the competition. China vs. Japan. Anyway, let's not go into politics, but simply enjoy the dating. That is 18 000 years ago. Civilisations keep on getting older and older. Isn't it fun?
Marsupial lion found in Aboriginal rock art
Acheulian human remains found in Morocco
|www.chinaview.cn 2009-05-26 07:04:29|
RABAT, May 25 (Xinhua) -- A Moroccan-French archaeology team has discovered the rear part of a human mandible that dates back to the prehistoric Acheulian phase.
The mandible, which belongs to a young human, holds a premolar and a molar, the report said.
The fossil was uncovered on May 14 in the Thomas I quarry site in Casablanca, along with stone tools "that characterize the Acheulian civilization" and remnants of gazelles, antelopes, warthogs, bears, monkeys, said the report.
A French-Moroccan team last year, uncovered a complete mandible of Homo erectus at the Thomas I quarry. The mandible was found in a layer below one where the team had previously found four human teeth (three premolars and one incisor) from Homo erectus, one of which was dated to 500,000 B.C. source
Middle East Oldest Village Found In Iran
Monday, 25 May 2009
Iranian and English archeologists have discovered the Middle East's oldest village which dates back to at least 9800 BC in western Iran, Press TV reported.
The unique archeological discovery reveals Iran was the main Neolithic center of the Middle East.
"The historical site dates back to 9800 BC and evidence suggest inhabitance in the site continued until 7400 BC," said Hassan Fazeli, the director of Iran's Archeology Research Center.
Archeologists believe such findings prove that Iran's dwellers moved out of caves around 11,800 years ago and settled in plains. source
85,000 years old villages found
Sharjah: New archaeological discoveries in Sharjah's Jebel Fayah showed that human settlements existed in the area over 85,000 years ago.
The two-month excavation showed the existence of a deeper layer at the depth of four metres below the surface, which dates back to at least 100,000 years.
This coincides with the time when man left Africa and reached Australia around 50,000 years ago.
It can be assumed that some of the ancestors of Australia's first residents stayed in the rocky shelters on the foot of Jebel Fayah mountain.source