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Thursday, 23 June 2011

The wine domesticated 8000 years ago and more, 2011

Did Vikings navigate by polarized light? - What I find most curious is how they found out about the properties of polarized light and how did the find a material that can be used for that. I think we tend to underestimate the trial-error experience while it worked so well in our history.

Today:

  1. Bulgarian Archaeologists Stumble Upon 8000-Year-Old Skeleton
  2. Bulgarian Archaeologist Shows Off Perperikon Finds
  3. Fossil finger records key to Neanderthals' promiscuity
  4. Acoustic Archaeology Yielding Mind-Tripping Tricks
  5. Analysis of teeth suggests modern humans mature more slowly than Neanderthals did
  6. Study finds Neanderthals ate their veggies
  7. Acoustic Archaeology Yielding Mind-Tripping Tricks
  8. Multiple fathers prevalent in Amazonian cultures
  9. Grapes domesticated 8,000 years ago

Bulgarian Archaeologists Stumble Upon 8000-Year-Old Skeleton

October 24, 2010, Sunday
Bulgarian archaeologists clearing a plot for highway construction have come across a Neolithic home and a skeleton date back to 6000 BC.
The Neolithic Age home was discovered close to the village of Krum in the Haskovo District by the team of archaeologist Boris Borisov.
Borisov said the skeleton belonged to a young disabled person, aged between 10 and 15. It was found buried with limbs close to the body as part of a funeral ritual, close to the southern wall of the home. source
My comment: Wow! And that's the second very old settlement discovered in Bulgaria. The other one is in Northern Bulgaria, near the Danube. Amazing.

Bulgarian Archaeologist Shows Off Perperikon Finds

Archaeology | October 18, 2010, Monday
Bulgaria: Bulgarian Archaeologist Shows Off Perperikon Finds
Professor Nikolay Ovcharov, known as the "Bulgarian Indiana Jones", shows the figure of an Ancient Thracian warrior, 3rd-2nd century BC, that he found at Perperikon. Photo by Bulphoto
Leading Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov has presented the latest finds of his team from the Ancient Thrace and Rome fortress of Perperikon in the Rhodope Mountain.
One of the finds is a miniature model of a stone grinder dated back to 7000 years ago. Ovcharov believes the model might have been an actual children's toy.
Another unique find is a figure of a Thracian warrior from the 3rd-2nd century BC. The Thracian warrior used to hold a spear. The figure is modeled after the Greek god Apollo, who in the Roman Age "replaced" the cult for the "Thracian Horseman", a local deity, among the Thracians.
Ovcharov also showed a surgical instrument from Roman times which was used for plucking parasites out of human bodies. He explained the instrument is the same as the one portrayed on every pharmacy with a serpent wrapped around it or held by the Ancient Greece god of medicine Asclepius.
According to the professor, the most interesting find at Perperikon from the Middle Ages period is the 13th century image of a mummer, or "kuker" in Bulgarian. The human-line image features a man with a bear head and a bear skin, which according to Ovcharov, proves that today's kukeri games around Bulgaria – in which humans dress as scary animal creatures to chase away evil ghosts – were inherited from the ancient Dionysus games among the Thracians.
Other exciting finds from the four-month summer excavations at Perperikon are a bronze buckle from the 10th century with an image of a griffin, a mythical creature with an eagle's head and a lion's body, and 14th-century Venice coins.
A very rare Bulgarian coin picturing Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander and his son Mihail from the Second Bulgarian Empire, minted in 1330-1345, was also shown to the public.
The Thracian city of Perperikon is an ancient archaeological complex located 15 km north of the city of Kardzhali. It is believed to be site of the sanctuary of god Dionysus which was widely known in the ancient world.
Human activity at Perperikon dates back to 5 000 BC, and in the Middle Ages the former ancient sanctuary became a key fortress controlling the Eastern Rhodoppe Mountains. source
My comment: I really really like the figurine. It's very sweet. :) But more seriously, the guys obviously had very good summer last year. Let's hope they'll find even more this summer. Unfortunately, time is not our ally, not with all those treasure-hunters who are robbing our legacy. But in any case, I wish the archaeologists luck. Because what they dig is the last treasure of Bulgaria. The only thing that is not yet destroyed. We have to protect it.

Some Neanderthals news:

Fossil finger records key to Neanderthals' promiscuity

November 3, 2010 
(PhysOrg.com) -- Fossil finger bones of early human ancestors suggest that Neanderthals were more promiscuous than human populations today, researchers at the universities of Liverpool and Oxford have found.
The team found that the fossil finger ratios of Neanderthals, and early members of the human species, were lower than most living humans, which suggests that they had been exposed to high levels of prenatal androgens. This indicates that early humans were likely to be more competitive and promiscuous than people today.  source


Analysis of teeth suggests modern humans mature more slowly than Neanderthals did

November 15, 2010 
A sophisticated new examination of teeth from 11 Neanderthal and early human fossils shows that modern humans are slower than our ancestors to reach full maturity. The finding suggests that our characteristically slow development and long childhood are recent and unique to our own species, and may have given early humans an evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals.
Such studies add to the growing body of evidence that subtle developmental differences exist between us and our Neanderthal cousins. The recent sequencing of the has provided tantalizing genetic clues pointing to differences in cranial and skeletal development between and modern humans. source
My comment: Well that makes sense. Though it's hard to say how important is the length of human life to evolution. Sure, it gives you more time to do and learn stuff, but since the procrastination is likely a specie-wide trait, it's not certain how much more humans will learn in a lifetime compared to the Neanderthals. If Neanderthals were stronger and had more stamina, it's likely they had more power to do stuff and ultimately lived more intensive life.

Study finds Neanderthals ate their veggies

December 27, 2010
A US study on Monday found that Neanderthals, prehistoric cousins of humans, ate grains and vegetables as well as meat, cooking them over fire in the same way homo sapiens did.
The new research published in the (PNAS) challenges a prevailing theory that Neanderthals' over reliance on meat contributed to their extinction around 30,000 years ago.
Many of the particles "had undergone physical changes that matched experimentally-cooked , suggesting that controlled fire much like early modern humans," PNAS said in a statement. sourceMy comment: I think that is actually quite interesting since people imagine Neanderthals like some kind of brutes who ate raw meat and basically clubbed everything in sight. But obviously they were able to cook their food and liked the variety in their diet. Because so far, we know they ate meat, marine life, vegetables, grain, fruits, roots and so on.

Acoustic Archaeology Yielding Mind-Tripping Tricks

By Eric Niiler Tue Nov 16, 2010 08:00 AM ET 
Miriam Kolar, a researcher at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research and Acoustics, has been studying the 3,000 year-old Chavin culture in the high plains of Peru. Kolar and her colleagues have been mapping a maze of underground tunnels, drains and hallways in which echoes don't sound like echoes. "The structures could be physically disorienting and the acoustic environment is very different than the natural world," Kolar said.
Ancient drawings from the Chavin culture show a people who were fascinated with sensory experiences -- ancient hippies if you will. "There is peyote and mucus trails out of the nose indicative of people using psychoactive plant substances. They were taking drugs and having a hallucinogenic experience."
If that wasn't enough, the mazes at Chavin de Huantar also include air ducts that use sunlight to produce distorted shadows of the maze's human participants. And sound waves from giant marine shells found in the maze in 2001 may have produced a frequency that actually rattled the eyeballs of those San Pedro cactus-using ancients, Kolar said. 
The Mayan rulers at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan also figured out how to use sound for crowd control. David Lubman, an acoustic engineer who has spent the past 12 years studying the Mayan site, says a strange bird-like echo from the Kukulkan temple was actually constructed on purpose.  Lubman's analysis compared the acoustic soundprint of the quetzal bird, which was revered by Mayans, to the sound of the echo at Chichen Itza. The two sounds matched.  Other new research presented at this week's Acoustical Society of America conference in Cancun shows that Mayan rulers figured out how to build a public address system in the site's giant ball court. That allowed kings to address hundreds of warriors and subjects without screaming. source
My comment: What is most fascinating for me, is how we tend to underestimate ancient people and their curiosity and creativity. And in reality, it doesn't take so much to have fun. And the drive for fun and for power is a constant throughout human history. So I'm not surprised by the discovery, I'm surprised we discover it so late.

Multiple fathers prevalent in Amazonian cultures

November 10, 2010
In modern culture, it is not considered socially acceptable for married people to have extramarital sexual partners. However, in some Amazonian cultures, extramarital sexual affairs were common, and people believed that when a woman became pregnant, each of her sexual partners would be considered part-biological father. Now, a new University of Missouri study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that up to 70 percent of Amazonian cultures may have believed in the principle of multiple paternity.
"It was socially acceptable for children to have multiple fathers, and secondary fathers often contributed to their children's upbringing."
Walker says sexual promiscuity was normal and acceptable in many traditional South American societies. He says married couples typically lived with the wife's family, which he says increased their sexual freedom.
"In some Amazonian cultures, it was bad manners for a husband to be jealous of his wife's extramarital partners," Walker said. "It was also considered strange if you did not have multiple sexual partners. Cousins were often preferred partners, so it was especially rude to shun their advances."
Women believed that by having multiple they gained the benefit of larger gene pools for their children. He says women benefited from the system because secondary fathers gave gifts and helped support the child, which has been shown to increase child survival rates. In addition, brutal warfare was common in ancient Amazonia, and should the mother become a widow, her child would still have a father figure.
Men benefitted from the multiple paternity system because they were able to formalize alliances with other men by sharing wives. Walker hypothesizes that multiple paternity also strengthened family bonds, as brothers often shared wives in some cultures. source
My comment: I personally love that system. It's not so much about promiscuity. But think how limiting is our current social structure. Extramarital sexual encounters happen, that's a fact. People try to hide it or to stigmatize it, but if approximately 1/3 of all the people have affairs, some lasting years and yielding children, then it's kind of strange to claim this is not "normal". Obviously people do it and like it and need it. In this case what's the point of denying? The problem is that in many cases, the children of such affairs (or of the official relationship) are the victims, because they don't have complete access to one of their parents. Not to mention all the children whose step-fathers never truly connect with them. Why? What's the benefit from this? None. Then, maybe this amazonian style of family is much better. It will surely save a lot of money for psychologists and other related doctors. And of course, for lawyers.

Grapes domesticated 8,000 years ago 

Jan 19, 2011, By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
In wine there is truth, in vino veritas, as the ancient Romans put it. And the truth is that people first cultivated grapes for vino about 8,000 years ago, finds a genetics study.
In the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Sean Myles of Cornell, looked at "1,000 samples of the domesticated grape, Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera, and its wild relative, V. vinifera subsp. sylvestris." Comparing the gene maps across the grapes, the team concludes that humanity has only begun to explore the genetic diversity of the humble grape.
"Archaeological evidence suggests that grape domestication took place in the South Caucasus between the Caspian and Black Seas and that cultivated vinifera then spread south to the western side of the Fertile Crescent, the Jordan Valley, and Egypt by 5,000 y ago. Grape growing and winemaking then expanded westward toward Europe."
The new analysis suggests that people have been conservative in crossing varieties, after the earliest domestication of wild grapes." sourceMy comment:8000 years old! That's so much! I didn't suspect that wine is that old. But I particularly like the location of domestication. Right between Black and Caspian sea. Yes, it's one of the places where Thracians roamed. Of course, during this period they weren't called Thracians at all, so I'm exaggerating a little, but it's just amazing how well the regions fit.
More:
Archeologists Find Traces of Unknown Civilization near Kislovodsk
25.01.2011 - Kislovodsk archaeological expedition headed by Dmitry Korobov has found about two hundred ancient settlements following a uniform architectural concept on the Kabardian Ridge, in the foothills of Elbrus.
The mysterious people mysteriously disappeared. After the 9th century B.C. they left their houses in the foothills of Elbrus and went away. There is, for example, an assumption that dwellers of Arkaim - a big settlement that prospered behind Urals in the 3rd-2nd millennia BC - could have reached that land.
Archaeologists: Tombs Dating Back to 5th Millennium BC Unearthed in Syria
(25.11.2010)- Archaeological Discovery: Several dolmen tombs dating back to the 5th Millennium BC or the Stone–Copper Age (the Eneolithic Age) have been unearthed in several sites in southern Syria such as Ein Zakkar, Tsil, al-Bakkar and Jibilieh to the west of Daraa, in addition to al-Maysara, southeast Daraa, Syrian Archaeologists said.- Look at the pictures at the source page. And think about Stonehenge. Read more about findings in Syria here: "Archaeologists: Buildings Dating Back to 4th millennium BC Unearthed in Syria" .

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