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Saturday, 22 January 2011

Homo Sapiens or Homo Promiscuous?, 2011

First: A pretty cool video series on Thracian-Korean relations I discovered at youtube:

Follow the series on youtube to see all of them. There are scarce English subtitles to give you an idea what they are talking about.
Today:

  1. Cretan tools point to 130,000-year-old sea travel
  2. Mesoamerican people perfected details of rubber processing more than 3,000 years ago: study
  3. Oldest Mesoamerican pyramid tomb found in Mexico
  4. Mayan buildings may have operated as sound projectors
  5. Neanderthals not the only apes humans bred with 
  6. Fossil finger bone yields genome of a previously unknown human relative 

Cretan tools point to 130,000-year-old sea travel

January 3, 2011 
Greece's culture ministry says archaeologists on the island of Crete have discovered what may be evidence of one of the world's earliest sea voyages by humans.
A ministry statement says from Greece and the U.S. have found rough and other tools thought to be between 130,000 and 700,000 years old in shelters on the island's south coast.
Crete has been separated from the mainland for about five million years, so whoever made the tools must have traveled there by sea (a distance of at least 40 miles).
The previous earliest evidence of open-sea travel in Greece dates back 11,000 years (worldwide, about 60,000 years - although considerably earlier dates have been proposed).  source
My comment: I actually quite like those discoveries. Because they show that civilization started much earlier than currently accepted. And that's good. Now that we know that humans sailed 130 000  years ago, the next logical question is who were those humans?!  Also see this: World's oldest human remains claimed in Israel (December 28, 2010) - Israeli archaeologists have discovered human remains dating from 400,000 years ago, challenging conventional wisdom that Homo sapiens originated in Africa, the leader of excavations in Israel said on Tuesday.  That calls into question the widely held view that Africa was the birthplace of , said Gopher, who headed the dig at Qesem Cave. -  400 000 years ago, huh?! So when actually our history started? And how far in time we can return and find human remainings. And also, isn't it weir how the theory of Africa as birthplace of humans gets more questions it cannot answer. Interesting! 
And more on Cyprus:
Cyprus: crews stumble on 2-millennia-old coffins - (AP) -- Work crews in Cyprus have accidentally unearthed four rare clay coffins estimated to be some 2,000 years old, the country's Antiquities Department director said Wednesday

Mesoamerican people perfected details of rubber processing more than 3,000 years ago: study

May 24, 2010 by David L. Chandler
(PhysOrg.com) -- Spanish explorers encountering an advanced civilization in Mesoamerica in the 16th century had plenty of things to be astonished about, but one type of object in particular was unlike anything they had ever seen before: rubber balls.
New research from MIT indicates that not only did these pre-Columbian peoples know how to process the sap of the local trees along with juice from a vine to make rubber, but they had perfected a system of chemical processing that could fine-tune the properties of the rubber depending on its intended use. For the soles of their sandals, they made a strong, wear-resistant version. For the rubber balls used in the games that were a central part of their religious ceremonies, they processed it for maximum bounciness. And for rubber bands and adhesives used for ornamental wear and for attaching blades to shafts, they produced rubber optimized for resilience and strength.
All of these, according to the research by Professor Dorothy Hosler and Technical Instructor Michael Tarkanian of MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, were most likely achieved by varying the proportions of the two basic ingredients, latex from rubber trees and juice from morning-glory vines, which were cooked together.
Although Hosler and Tarkanian’s research demonstrates that the Mesoamericans had the raw materials and the basic knowledge to make these different formulations, proving that’s what they actually did would require further evidence, either from contemporaneous accounts or from chemical analysis of samples used for different purposes.
But it has long been known that the Aztecs, Olmecs and Maya — the civilizations that, over a span of more than three millennia, dominated the region that is now Mexico and parts of Central America — were adept at making rubber, and that the material was used to produce the large, heavy balls used for the ceremonial games played on stone-walled ball courts. A few such balls have been found in archeological digs in the region — the oldest dating back to 1600 B.C.Unlike the rubber balls, Mesoamerican rubber-soled sandals have never been found. But they are described in the diaries of the Spanish explorers and missionaries, and their existence is clear from linguistic evidence.By the time the Spanish arrived, Tarkanian says, “there was a large rubber industry” in the region, producing 16,000 rubber balls each year, and large numbers of rubber statues, sandals, bands and other products. Most of those were produced in villages in outlying areas, and were shipped to the capital city as a form of tax payment.
sourceMy comment: WOW! I mean, 16 000 rubber balls a year! Imagine how much sandals they produced. I think that the theory that they varied the properties of the rubber depending on the ingredients makes perfect sense. And they tested it mechanically, so it obviously works! And if it works, then there's no reason why people with such big industry won't discover it. We tend to think about Mesoamericans like they are barbarians but we know very well that they had well-structured society. And such societies are very good for specialization of the work. Only in such societies can craftsmen exist. And history knows even better craftsmen!

Oldest Mesoamerican pyramid tomb found in Mexico

May 18, 2010 By MARK STEVENSON , Associated Press Writer
(AP) -- Archaeologists in southern Mexico announced Monday they have discovered a 2,700-year-old tomb of a dignitary inside a pyramid that may be the oldest such burial documented in Mesoamerica.
The tomb held a man aged around 50, who was buried with jade collars, pyrite and obsidian and ceramic vessels. Archaeologist Emiliano Gallaga said the tomb dates to between 500 and 700 B.C.
Based on the layers in which it was found and the tomb's unusual wooden construction, "we think this is one of the earliest discoveries of the use of a pyramid as a tomb, not only as a religious site or temple," Gallaga said.
Pre-Hispanic cultures built mainly as representations of the levels leading from the underworld to the sky; the highest point usually held a temple.
The tomb was found at a site built by Zoque Indians in Chiapa de Corzo, in southern Chiapas state. It may be almost 1,000 years older than the better-known pyramid tomb of the Mayan ruler Pakal at the Palenque archaeological site, also in Chiapas.
The man - probably a high priest or ruler of Chiapa de Corzo, a prominent settlement at the time - was buried in a stone chamber. Marks in the wall indicate wooden roof supports were used to create the tomb, but the wood long ago collapsed under the weight of the pyramid built above.
The body of a 1-year-old child was laid carefully over the man's body inside the tomb, while that of a 20-year-old male was tossed into the chamber with less care, perhaps sacrificed at the time of the burial.The older man was buried with jade and amber collars and bracelets and pearl ornaments. His face was covered with what may have been a funeral mask with obsidian eyes.
Nearby, the tomb of a woman, also about 50, contained similar ornaments.
The ornaments - some imported from as far away as Guatemala and central - and some of the 15 ceramic vessels found in the tomb show influences from the Olmec culture, long considered the "mother culture" of the region.
The find raised the possibility that Olmec pyramids might contain similar of dignitaries, especially at well-known sites like La Venta. source
My comment: Another WOW! I must say I'm in love with ancient Mexican history. They are true brother and sisters, historically. Or at least so I feel them. And in any case, I wonder what the relationship between the men and the other people buried with him was. Whether they all were buried at the same time. Whether the female was forced to go with her husband, or she did it at her own will (as with Thracian women), or she was buried later. Very very interesting finding.

Mayan buildings may have operated as sound projectors

December 21, 2010 by Lin Edwards
(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of archaeologists from Mexico say buildings built by the Maya people could have served as projection systems and amplifiers to deliver sounds over relatively large distances.
The research team, led by archaeologist Francisca Zalaquett from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, discovered that the temples and public squares in the Mayan city of Palenque, near Ciudad del Carmen in southern , could clearly project the sounds of a human speaker and musical instruments of the time -- around 600 AD -- across at least a hundred meters, or around the length of a football field.
The research included an archaeoacoustic analysis of public rituals in the plazas of the areas, studying in detail the frequencies produced by musical instruments of the time, white and pink sound emanations, and their reverberations in the plazas.
The investigation identified rooms that could have been used by musicians, speakers or priests, since the frequency, quality and volume of sound produced by a speaker or musician standing in these rooms increased, causing a “horn” effect and allowing the music or the message to travel further and reach more people. Zalaquett and colleagues also identified areas on the plazas where the spectators would best be able to see and hear the performers.The findings strongly suggest the design and structures at Palenque involved a great deal of knowledge about acoustics and the behavior of sound. source
My comment: Awesome, huh?! Which only proves my point that when people have motivation for something, they find a way to perfect it - no matter if rubber or acoustics. The question now is did they develop that knowledge of acoustics for their religion, or they developed their religious practices this way because they did know about acoustics.

Neanderthals not the only apes humans bred with

A LONG-awaited rough draft of the Neanderthal genome has revealed that our own DNA contains clear evidence that early humans interbred with Neanderthals.
Such interminglings have been suspected in the past, but there's more: Neanderthals were probably not the only other Homo species early Homo sapiens mixed with.
These findings call into question the familiar story that modern humans left Africa around 100,000 years ago and swept aside all other Homo species as they made their way around the globe. A more likely scenario is that as H. sapiens migrated, they met and interbred with other Homo species that have all since died out.
The first definitive evidence of interbreeding comes from Svante Pääbo's team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. They reported last week that the genome of humans today is roughly 1 to 4 per cent Neanderthal (Science, vol 328, p 710). This holds true for all non-Africans, suggesting that H. sapiens and Neanderthals interbred sometime between 100,000 and 45,000 years ago, after the first humans left Africa but before they split into regional populations.
Another genetic study confirms this. Jeffrey Long at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque presented results from nearly 100 modern human populations at a meeting of the American Association for Physical Anthropologists in April. His team found evidence that Eurasians acquired genetic diversity from breeding with other Homo species after they left Africa.
They also noticed a spike in genetic diversity in Indo-Pacific peoples, dating to around 40,000 years ago. This time, it's unlikely the diversity came from H. sapiens getting it on with Neanderthals, who never travelled that far south. That leaves a number of candidates, including Homo erectus and species related to Homo floresiensis, a small species which lived on an Indonesian island until about 13,000 years ago.
In Portugal, his team discovered the 25,000-year-old bones of a child they are convinced is a human-Neanderthal hybrid. Zilhão says fossils from Romania and the Czech Republic also bear Neanderthal features, though others dispute this.
Moreover, decorative artefacts characteristic of humans have cropped up at Neanderthal sites, dated to around the time of contact with humans in Africa and the Middle East. 
In March, Pääbo's team reported the discovery of DNA from a hominin that is probably neither human nor Neanderthal that lived 50,000 to 30,000 years ago in a cave in southern Siberia. They dubbed the creature X-woman, and sequencing machines are already decoding its genome, says Pääbo's colleague Ed Green of the University of California, Santa Cruz. source
My comment: Fore more, read here. It seems like while Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals differ in 200 mtDNA mutations, that lady differ from us in 400!!! What's most interesting is that they split up from our branch 1million of years ago and yet, they lived with both Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens at least until 40 000 years ago! That's quite a lot of time. Why there are any stuff that remained from those people. Who were they? We now know that Neanderthals were at least as developed as we were. Were those other guys as developed as well? That is very very interesting discovery. And also, remember the Sumerian story about how humans interbred with animals and that angered the Gods. I very much doubt humans would interbreed with any animal and furthermore, such activities won't give any fruits. While they obviously did. So the only possibility is that we interbred with other Homo species. Who were they, however, is a mystery for me. 
More about this:

Fossil finger bone yields genome of a previously unknown human relative (w/ Video) -

December 22, 2010 By Tim Stephens 
(PhysOrg.com) -- A 30,000-year-old finger bone found in a cave in southern Siberia came from a young girl who was neither an early modern human nor a Neanderthal, but belonged to a previously unknown group of human relatives who may have lived throughout much of Asia during the late Pleistocene epoch. Although the fossil evidence consists of just a bone fragment and one tooth, DNA extracted from the bone has yielded a draft genome sequence, enabling scientists to reach some startling conclusions about this extinct branch of the human family tree, called "Denisovans" after the cave where the fossils were found.
By comparing the Denisovan with the genomes of Neanderthals and modern humans, the researchers determined that the Denisovans were a sister group to the Neanderthals, descended from the same ancestral population that had separated earlier from the ancestors of present-day humans. The study also found surprising evidence of Denisovan gene sequences in modern-day Melanesians, suggesting that there was interbreeding between Denisovans and the ancestors of Melanesians, just as Neanderthals appear to have interbred with the ancestors of all modern-day non-Africans.
The comparative analysis, which included genome sequences of individuals from New Guinea and Bougainville Island, indicates that genetic material derived from Denisovans makes up about 4 to 6 percent of the genomes of at least some Melanesian populations. The fact that Denisovans were discovered in southern but contributed genetic material to modern human populations in Southeast Asia suggests that their population may have been widespread in Asia during the late Pleistocene, said David Reich of Harvard Medical School, who led the population genetic analysis.  
My comment: How about that?!I'm little bit disappointed that the new theory includes an earlier group migrating out of Africa which became later Neanderthal and Denisovans, but oh well, you can't expect much imagination from scientists. Unfortunately. But still I think the very fact those people interbred with modern humans is the scientific break-trough of the year. If not of the decade. Because the story for Homo Sapiens used to be very very simple - got out of Africa, killed off the stupid Neanderthals and conquered the world. However, 1) Neanderthals weren't stupid, 2) they interbred with humans 3) another group of "apes" interbred with humans. ROFL! That's absolutely awesomely cool!
More:

Endangered language opens window on to past (w/ Video) - PhysOrg.com) -- An endangered Greek dialect which is spoken in north-eastern Turkey has been identified by researchers as a "linguistic goldmine" because of its startling closeness to previous forms of the Greek language.
57 ancient tombs with mummies unearthed in Egypt Archeologists have unearthed 57 ancient Egyptian tombs, most of which hold an ornately painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside.
The oldest date back to around 2750 B.C. during the period of Egypt's first and second dynasties, the council said in a statement. Twelve of the tombs belong the 18th dynasty which ruled Egypt during the second millennium B.C.- Also very interesting article, because if I remember correctly, the earliest Egyptian dynasties are covered with mystics.

Revealing China's ancient past (May 24, 2010) - The rural farming village of Sanyangzhuang was flooded by silt-heavy water from the Yellow River around 2,000 year ago.
  Exploration has revealed tiled roofs, compounds with brick foundations, eight-meter deep wells lined with bricks, toilets, cart and human foot tracks, roads and trees. There is an abundance of metal tools, also found have been fossilized impressions of mulberry leaves, which researchers see as a sign of silk cultivation.
 

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