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Friday, 18 December 2009

The time speaks to us - humans get younger and younger, 2009

The Phoenicians were a trading people with settlements or colonies in many parts of the Mediterranean. Their origins have been traced to about 2300 BC and had declined by the early part of the 1st century AD.(source)
Few interesting links:
-link to Thracian mask-
-Aramaean sculptures(6000BC) -
-Lost cities of the world-
-Bactrian gold treasures- in Afganistan
-Cave Complex Allegedly Found Under Giza Pyramids -a giant complex of cave found underneath the pyramids.
Today:

  1. Mammals’ family tree predates the dinosaurs
  2. Human Population Expanded During Late Stone Age, Genetic Evidence Shows
  3. Was T. rex a chicken and baby killer?
  4. Early modern humans use fire to engineer tools from stone
  5. Evidence for Use of Fire Found at Peking Man Site
  6. Fossil find in Georgia challenges theories on early humans
  7. Chinese challenge to 'out of Africa' theory
Ok, many articles, but then I edited them very carefully, so they became quite short. I hope you enjoy them, but if you're too lazy to read them all - please know that they all push further and further back in time the dawn of human civilization. And this is VERY exciting.

Human Population Expanded During Late Stone Age, Genetic Evidence Shows

ScienceDaily (Aug. 4, 2009)Genetic evidence is revealing that human populations began to expand in size in Africa during the Late Stone Age approximately 40,000 years ago. A research team led by Michael F. Hammer found that sub-Saharan populations increased in size well before the development of agriculture. This research supports the hypothesis that population growth played a significant role in the evolution of human cultures in the Late Pleistocene.

There has been a longstanding disagreement whether humans began to increase in number as a result of innovative technologies and/or behaviors formulated by hunter-gatherer groups in the Late Pleistocene, or with the advent of agriculture in the Neolithic. Hammer's research integrates empirical genetics with discoveries in paleontology and archeology to help provide answers to interdisciplinary questions about which kinds of innovations led to the evolutionary success of humankind.

The researchers found that both hunter-gathers and food-producing groups best fit models with approximately ten-fold population growth beginning well before the origin of agriculture.

The team's finely executed experimental design and use of supercomputing power enabled them to determine that this expansion in population size likely began at the start of the Late Stone Age—a period in prehistory that shows an intensification of archeological sites, an increased abundance of blade-based lithic technologies, and enhanced long-distance exchange. source

My comment: Recently I had a major quarrel with an archaeologist, about the possible existence of an unknown ancient civilization. I don't get why those people are so convinced in their theories, when every day we witness discoveries that push the timing of Homo Sapiens development earlier and earlier in time. And how much a civilization needs to rise (and to fall)? It's hard to tell, but our own civillisation ha memories from say 7000 years ago. If that's all it takes, then every 10 000 years extra we get can hide a civilization. And note, I'm not even talking about civillisations as ours (although why not in 10 000 year, you have 7000 years to get to our level and 3 000 to fall and forget everything) . All I talk about is a civilization from say Roman style. I think it's fail enough to keep our minds open for such possibilities.

Was T. rex a chicken and baby killer?


By Charles Q. Choi
Aug. 7, 2009

Although past research has suggested Tyrannosaurus rex was related to chickens, now findings hint this giant predator might have acted chicken too.

Instead of picking on dinosaurs its own size, researchers now suggest T. rex was a baby killer that liked to swallow defenseless prey whole.

Fossil evidence of attacks of tyrannosaurs or similar gargantuan "theropods" on triceratops and duck-billed dinosaurs has been uncovered before, conjuring images of titanic clashes.

However, although there were a great many such giant carnivores over the course of the age of the dinosaurs, there are surprisingly few bite marks in the fossil record when compared to the age of mammals. Indeed, details of the scratches and punctures from most examples of dinosaur attacks seem to suggest these collisions between teeth and bone were accidents.

"The very few fossils that reflect the hunt of predatory dinosaurs on large herbivores tell a tale of failure — the prey either got away, or both prey and predator were killed," Rauhut noted.

This all hints that while conflicts between T. rexes and prey likely occurred, these were probably the exception and not the rule.

Instead, Rauhut and Hone suggest large theropods stuck mostly to devouring youngsters, including their bones, thus explaining why fossils bearing toothmarks are rare.

The fact that large theropods ate bones is certain. Fossilized dung, or coprolites, from large theropods often contain scraps of bone, suggesting these carnivores gulped down fragments of ribs, vertebrae, and other relatively small bones while feeding.

As further evidence for their idea, the researchers point out past finds of dinosaur nests "indicate that they contained large numbers of eggs which should have resulted in a high number of offspring," Rauhut said. "But little of this is reflected in the fossil record. Juvenile dinosaurs are surprisingly rare, maybe because many of them have been eaten by predators."

It makes sense that even a mighty carnivore like T. rex would aim young. The very rare finds of stomach contents of predatory dinosaurs suggest that small prey was swallowed whole.

Actually confirming or refuting this idea will be hard, since most of the possible evidence that large theropods preferred youngsters might have been destroyed "by theropods digesting it completely," Rauhut explained.

A number of alternative explanations for the lack of juvenile dinosaur bones exist as well. "Maybe juvenile bones naturally did not preserve as well, lived in environments where they wouldn't preserve as well," Hone said.

My comment: Here is one more article(Velociraptor's 'killing' claws were for climbing) suggesting that the claws weren't made for killing. I find it difficult to accept the mere lack of baby bones for a proof that the big guys ate them. Maybe they simply had extremely little juvenile mortality, right? It becomes harder and harder for me to imagine how the dinosaurs actually lived, because, well, it all points to a much more complicated "society" (or whatever the word is) than what movies like Jurassic park make us believe. And note - in most fairy tales, dragons were actually symbol of majesty and wisdom, even of danger too.

Early modern humans use fire to engineer tools from stone

TEMPE, Ariz. – 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 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.

The heating transformed a stone called silcrete, which was rather poor for tool making, into an outstanding raw material that allowed the modern humans to make highly advanced tools.

"In numerous field surveys with co-author David Roberts, who is a leading expert on silcrete formation, we were unable to locate stone outcrops with material that matched the fine-grained texture and often reddish color of the silcrete artifacts we excavated at Pinnacle Point," Brown says. "The silcrete we had collected was just not suitable for tool production."

Most of the silcrete they found was intensively flaked. It was unusual to find a piece larger than a few centimeters. However, one day in 2007, while Brown and Marean were at the Pinnacle Point Site 5-6 (PP5-6) they found a huge flake of silcrete embedded in ash – the largest piece of silcrete they had ever seen on an archaeological site, nearly 10 centimeters in diameter.

"It looked like it had been accidentally lost in a fire pit," Brown notes. He recalls how many of the silcrete tools from the site had a sheen or gloss that reminded him of tools he had examined in North American collections that were heat-treated.

To test their theory, Brown placed some of the silcrete stone beneath their fire pit one evening, building a hot fire over the top.

"When I returned to dig the stone out the following day, the results were amazing. After heating, the silcrete became a deep red color and was easily flaked. Most importantly, it looked exactly like silcrete from site PP5-6. Using heated silcrete we were then able to produce realistic copies of the actual silcrete tools," Brown says.

"Here are the beginnings of fire and engineering, the origins of pyrotechnology, and the bridge to more recent ceramic and metal technology," Brown says.

According to Marean, the silcrete bifaces are re-usable tools with many potential functions: effective hunting weapons, excellent knives and items of value for exchange.

"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: Awesome, right! Continuing my comment from before - this new result push a specific epoch in our evolution as a specie with at least 45 000 years. This isn't little. True, on the scales of evolutions, it's not too much too. But this isn't so long ago from our point of view! And adoption of fire is one of the first myths in the Greek mythology, right? So this is obviously a turning point for mankind. So setting this time to 45 000 years earlier is quite interesting.

Evidence for Use of Fire Found at Peking Man Site

2009-08-11 12:26:22 CRIENGLISH.com Web Editor: Xu Leiying

Archaeologists have discovered several vertebrate fossils, ashes, burned bones and charcoal remnants at the Zhoukoudian caves, also known as the "Peking Man" site, China News Service reported on Monday.

The discovery proves that Peking man was able to use fire roughly 200-000 to 500,000 years ago, the article said. Many foreign experts once cast doubt on whether Peking Man could use fire at that time, because in past decades they found no direct evidence for its use. The recent archaeological discoveries directly refute their doubts, the article said.

Nearly 1,000 vertebrate fossils and a collection of stone tools were found at the excavation site about 45 km southwest of Beijing, according to Gao Xing, vice-director of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP). source

My comment: A little sidetrack: earliest flax fibers that are more than 34,000 years old. Ok, I take this with a pinch of salt, because Chinese archaeology is like unleashed. I'm not saying they are lying, they probably are not. But until it gets very confirmed, I'd go with the previous article. Not because I prefer Africa as an origin, not at all. Simply because it's more conventional. But if this discovery is true, just extrapolate my previous comment!

Fossil find in Georgia challenges theories on early humans

8 September 2009 19.29 BST

Early humans may have taken a detour into Eurasia before embarking on their epic journey out of Africa, according to new fossil evidence.

Palaeontologists in Georgia have unearthed remains of five primitive humans that date back to 1.8m years ago, suggesting some of our oldest ancestors lived in the region at the time.

The partial skeletons, which represent the earliest humans discovered outside Africa, challenge the theory that our ancestors evolved entirely on the continent and left the cradle of humanity only 60,000 years ago.

David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum, said the primitive humans were short, with small brains and strongly developed legs. Other remains suggest they lived alongside predators including sabre-toothed cats.

The fossils are thought to be early Homo erectus, a forerunner of modern humans, which lived in Africa 2m years ago. Lordkipanidze said some Homo erectus may have left Africa for Eurasia before returning much later.

The fossils were uncovered at the Dmanisi archaeological site south-west of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Remains thought to belong to two males and three females were found next to stone tools and animal bones bearing cut marks, suggesting the species prepared meat for food.

source

My comment: Hm, isn't this the description of Neanderthal? I know we're talking of different species, but I hope they did a very good DNA study. And anyway, the interesting part is that those guys used tools, so their brains wasn't that small. Though even monkeys (or most of the other animals) can learn to use tools.

Chinese challenge to 'out of Africa' theory

Jin Changzhu and colleagues of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing, announced to Chinese media last week that they have uncovered a 110,000-year-old putative Homo sapiens jawbone from a cave in southern China's Guangxi province.

The mandible has a protruding chin like that of Homo sapiens, but the thickness of the jaw is indicative of more primitive hominins, suggesting that the fossil could derive from interbreeding.

If confirmed, the finding would lend support to the "multiregional hypothesis". This says that modern humans descend from Homo sapiens coming out of Africa who then interbred with more primitive humans on other continents. In contrast, the prevailing "out of Africa" hypothesis holds that modern humans are the direct descendants of people who spread out of Africa to other continents around 100,000 years ago.

source

My comment: The same a before. I find this news for extremely exciting, but I'd really like to see confirmation and analysis of the new results. Because, ok, Homo Sapiens came out of Africa and interbred with other species. But what are those speices and why Homo Sapiens, who at that time probably used fire and traded interbred with lower species? It's not like we like to have sex with monkeys (I hope we don't!). And I don't get it, why all those species are considered interbredable. And where did the other species come from?

Mammals’ family tree predates the dinosaurs

By Jennifer Viegas
July 29, 2009

The world's first known tree-dwelling vertebrate has just been identified, according to a new study. The tiny, agile animal lived 30 million years before the first dinosaurs and was a distant relative of mammals, including humans.

More than 15 near-complete skeletons of the 260-million-year-old animal, named Suminia getmanovi, reveal that it was built for an arboreal lifestyle.

"As the first tree-climbing vertebrate, Suminia had very long fore and hind limbs, with especially long hands and feet," lead author Jorg Frobisch told Discovery News.

"In particular, its long fingers, or digits, contributed to these large hands and feet," added Frobisch, a Field Museum paleontologist. "It further had long, strongly-curved claws — terminal phalanges — that helped with clinging onto tree trunks and branches."

He and co-author Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto made these determinations after studying multiple skeletons, which were encased in a big, Late Paleozoic mudstone block excavated from central Russia.

The recent analysis, outlined in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows the vertebrate was about 20 inches long from its nose to the tip of its grasping tail. It had an opposable thumb and belonged to a class of animals known as the Synapsida.

The word "synapsid" comes from the name of an opening behind the eye socket. Only one other group, mammals, possesses this opening, thought to have provided space for jaw muscles needed for chewing, according to information provided by the American Museum of Natural History, which supports the human-Synapsida connection.

Other Paleozoic synapsids included Edaphosaurus and Dimetrodon, which both looked somewhat like a cross between an iguana and a dinosaur with a boat sail tacked on its back. source

My comment: Nice, huh :)

Exploring the Stone Age pantry

December 17, 2009
The consumption of wild cereals among prehistoric hunters and gatherers appears to be far more ancient than previously thought, according to a University of Calgary archaeologist who has found the oldest example of extensive reliance on cereal and root staples in the diet of early Homo sapiens more than 100,000 years ago. source

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