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Saturday, 21 November 2009

The past continues to speak to us, November, 2009

Today:

  1. Gulf exploration yields evidence of raw materials used by early Americans
  2. Stone tools, rare animal bones discovered -- clues to Caribbean's earliest inhabitants
  3. Early human hunters had fewer meat-sharing rituals
  4. Early modern humans use fire to engineer tools from stone
  5. Neanderthals wouldn't have eaten their sprouts either
  6. Archaeologists find cache of tablets in 2,700-year old Turkish temple
A little personal message before everything. From now on, I'll publish here on weekly basis. It's too much work and because of the many links (at least officially) Google freezes my account for 2d time and this blog for probably 3d. I'm not giving up to Google, not me, as you know, but right now I'm way to busy to deal with them too. So, this time, it is official.
I'm also limiting my comments to only important articles. So far I haven't seen any interest from my readers toward a discussion of what I say and since this was the point of my comments, I'll just skip them. The articles, however, are too interesting for me to skip, so this is my weblog. I hope you'll still enjoy it.

As for this post, I have highlited the interesting for me parts. The articles are extremely short and offer some interesting insights on human past. Enjoy!

Gulf exploration yields evidence of raw materials used by early Americans

In one of the more dramatic moments of an underwater archaeological survey co-led by Mercyhurst College archaeologist James Adovasio along Florida's Gulf Coast this summer, Andy Hemmings stood on an inundated river's edge where man hasn't set foot in more than 13,000 years.

Donning full scuba gear, Hemmings stood in 130 feet of water on a peninsula at the intersection of two ancient rivers nearly 100 miles offshore from Tampa. The last time humans could have stood in that spot, mammoth and mastodon roamed the terrain.

"The successful tracking of the St. Marks-Aucilla River and the Suwannee River, between 50 and 150 kilometers respectively, represents what we believe to be the most extensive delineation of submerged prehistoric river systems ever done anywhere in the world," Adovasio said.

Another pivotal find is the identification of chert at three dive sites along the river systems; chert is a superior quality fine-grained stone used by prehistoric peoples to make tools.

"There is no doubt," Adovasio said, "that we have found the haystacks and are one step closer to uncovering the archaeological needles;" in effect, narrowing the search for evidence of early Americans in the now submerged Inner Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast. source

Stone tools, rare animal bones discovered -- clues to Caribbean's earliest inhabitants

A prehistoric water-filled cave in the Dominican Republic has become a "treasure trove" with the announcement by Indiana University archaeologists of the discovery of stone tools, a small primate skull in remarkable condition, and the claws, jawbone and other bones of several species of sloths.

Beeker and researchers Jessica Keller and Harley McDonald found the tools and bones in fresh water 28- to 34-feet deep in a cave called Padre Nuestro. Nearby, and also underwater in the same cave, were found more recent Taino artifacts. The Taino were the first Native American peoples to encounter Europeans. Geoffrey Conrad, director of the Mathers Museum of World Culture at IU Bloomington and professor of anthropology, said the tools are estimated to be 4,000 to 6,500 years old. The bones might range in age from 4,000 and 10,000 years old. While sloth bones are not uncommon, he knows of only a handful of other primate skulls found in the Caribbean.

"I know of no place that has sloths, primates and humanly made stone tools together in a nice, tight association around the same time," said Conrad, also associate vice provost for research at IU Bloomington. source

Early human hunters had fewer meat-sharing rituals

A University of Arizona anthropologist has discovered that humans living at a Paleolithic cave site in central Israel between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago were as successful at big-game hunting as were later stone-age hunters at the site, but that the earlier humans shared meat differently.

The Qesem Cave people hunted cooperatively, then carried the highest quality body parts of their prey to the cave, where they cut the meat with stone blade cutting tools and cooked it with fire.

Stiner analyzed the pattern of cut marks on bones of deer, aurochs, horse and other big game left at Qesem Cave by hunters of 400,000 to 200,000 years ago. Her novel approach was to analyze the cut marks to understand meat-sharing behaviors between the earlier and later cooperative hunting societies.

And the patterns revealed a striking difference in meat-sharing behaviors: The earlier hunters were less efficient, less organized and less specialized when it came to carving flesh from their prey.

Random cut marks, and higher numbers of cut marks, made by the earlier hunters show they attached little social ritual or formal rules to sharing meat, Stiner said. By contrast, by later times, by the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, "It's quite clear that meat distribution flowed through the hands of certain butchers," Stiner said. "The tool marks made on bones by the more recent hunters are very regular, very efficient and show much less variation in the postures of the individuals cutting meat from any one bone."

"What might surprise most archaeologists is that I'm seeing a big difference between Lower and Middle Paleolithic social behaviors, not between Middle and Upper Paleolithic social behaviors.

"Neanderthals lived in the Middle Paleolithic, and they were a lot more like us in their more formal redistributions of meat than were the earlier hominids." source

Early modern humans use fire to engineer tools from stone

(PhysOrg.com) -- Evidence that early modern humans living on the coast of the far southern tip of Africa 72,000 years ago employed pyrotechnology - the controlled use of fire - to increase the quality and efficiency of their stone tool manufacturing process, is being reported in the Aug. 14 issue of the journal Science. An international team of researchers, including three from the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, deduce that "this technology required a novel association between fire, its heat, and a structural change in stone with consequent flaking benefits." Further, their findings ignite the notion of complex cognition in these early engineers.

"We show that early modern humans at 72,000 years ago, and perhaps as early as 164,000 years ago in coastal South Africa, were using carefully controlled hearths in a complex process to heat stone and change its properties, the process known as heat treatment," explains Brown.

This creates a long-chain technological process that the researchers explain requires a complex cognition, and probably language, to learn and teach.

"This expression of cognitive complexity in technology by these early modern humans on the south coast of South Africa provides further evidence that this locality may have been the origin location for the lineage that leads to all modern humans, which appeared between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in Africa," explains Marean."

Prior to our work, heat treatment was widely regarded as first occurring in Europe at about 25,000 years ago," Marean says. "We push this back at least 45,000 years, and, perhaps, 139,000 years, and place it on the southern tip of Africa at Pinnacle Point." source

My comment: I guess I need not say this is extremely interesting. We know have an earlier date for the discovery of fire and its uses and also for complex cognition. Now what I want to see is similar findings on Neanderthal sites. Definitely on my Xmas wish-list.

Neanderthals wouldn't have eaten their sprouts either

August 12th, 2009 by Denholm Barnetson
Spanish researchers have found that a gene in modern humans that makes some people dislike a bitter chemical called phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC, was also present in Neanderthals hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The scientists made the discovery after recovering and sequencing a fragment of the TAS2R38 gene taken from 48,000-year-old Neanderthal bones found at a site in El Sidron, in northern Spain, they said in a report released Wednesday by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

"This indicates that variation in bitter taste perception predates the divergence of the lineages leading to Neanderthals and modern humans," they said.

Substances similar to PTC give a bitter taste to green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage as well as some fruits.

But they are also present in some poisonous plants, so having a distaste for it makes evolutionary sense.

What intrigued the researchers most is that Neanderthals also possessed a recessive variant of the TAS2R38 gene which made some of them unable to taste PTC -- an inability they share with around one third of modern humans.

"These (bitter) compounds can be toxic if ingested in large quantities and it is therefore difficult to understand the evolutionary existence of individuals who cannot detect them."

The report's lead author, Carles Lalueza Fox of the University of Barcelona, speculated that such people may be "able to detect some other compound not yet identified."

This would have given them some genetic advantage and explain the reason for the continuation of the variant gene.

Neanderthals and modern humans shared a common from which they diverged about 300,000 years ago.

source

My comment: Another proof how much we're like Neanderthals! I wonder what happened with the complete sequencing and its comparison with current humans. It's certainly interesting to know how much different we are from them in numbers.

Archaeologists find cache of tablets in 2,700-year old Turkish temple

August 10th, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) -- Excavations led by a University of Toronto archaeologist at the site of a recently discovered temple in southeastern Turkey have uncovered a cache of cuneiform tablets dating back to the Iron Age period between 1200 and 600 BCE. Found in the temple's cella, or 'holy of holies', the tablets are part of a possible archive that may provide insights into Assyrian imperial aspirations.

"The assemblage appears to represent a Neo-Assyrian renovation of an older Neo-Hittite temple complex, providing a rare glimpse into the religious dimension of Assyrian imperial ideology," says Timothy Harrison. The cella also contained gold, bronze and iron implements, libation vessels and ornately decorated ritual objects.

Partially uncovered in 2008 at Tell Tayinat, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Palastin, the structure of the building where the tablets were found preserves the classic plan of a Neo-Hittite temple. It formed part of a sacred precinct that once included monumental stelae carved in Luwian (an extinct Anatolian language once spoken in Turkey) hieroglyphic script, but which were found by the expedition smashed into tiny shard-like fragments.

"Tayinat was destroyed by the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III in 738 BCE, and then transformed into an Assyrian provincial capital, equipped with its own governor and imperial administration," says Harrison. " The destruction of the Luwian monuments and conversion of the sacred precinct into an Assyrian religious complex may represent the physical manifestation of this historic event."

The temple was later burned in an intense fire and found filled with heavily charred brick and wood which, ironically, contributed to the preservation of the finds recovered from its inner chambers. source

My comment: I wonder why I never heard of this lewian language. Definitely something I need to dig more.


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