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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Neolithic madness - the clock keeps on going back 2013

This one will be a very long post, but it's full of exciting news, so I hope you enjoy it. 
  1. Neanderthals had knowledge of plants' healing qualities: study 
  2. Unique Neandertal arm morphology due to scraping, not spearing: study 
  3. Archeologists discover traces of ancient civilization in Chinese desert
  4. The prehistoric trawlermen: Our ancestors mastered deep-sea fishing 42,000 years ago, cave find reveals
  5. Shared Genes With Neanderthal Relatives: Modern East Asians Share Genetic Material With Prehistoric Denisovans 
  6. Neanderthals were ancient mariners 
  7. Oldest obsidian bracelet reveals amazing craftsmen's skills in the eighth millennium BC 
  8. Prehistoric human populations prospered before the agricultural boom 
  9. Archaeologists unearth 4,200-year-old fortification, unique in continental Europe

Neanderthals had knowledge of plants' healing qualities: study

July 18, 2012
An international team of researchers, led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of York, has provided the first molecular evidence that Neanderthals not only ate a range of cooked plant foods, but also understood its nutritional and medicinal qualities.
Their results, published in Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature this week, provide another twist to the story - the first molecular evidence for medicinal plants being used by a Neanderthal individual.The researchers say the starch granules and carbohydrate markers in the samples, plus evidence for plant compounds such as azulenes and coumarins, as well as possible evidence for nuts, grasses and even green vegetables, argue for a broader use of ingested plants than is often suggested by stable isotope analysis.
Earlier research by members of this team had shown that the Neanderthals in El Sidrón had the bitter taste perception gene. Now trapped within dental calculus researchers found molecular evidence that one individual had eaten bitter tasting plants.source
My comment: So let's see - they cooked, they used medicinal plants, they produced art and tools. They interbred with Homo Sapiens. So how exactly are they different than us?

Unique Neandertal arm morphology due to scraping, not spearing: study

July 18, 2012
Compared with modern and most prehistoric Homo sapiens, Neanderthal skeletons have significantly overdeveloped right arms. In some cases, their upper arm bones are as much as 50% stronger on their right side than their left.
Biological anthropologists have previously argued that this was the result of right-handed Neanderthals using spears to hunt big game.
The new study suggests that Neanderthal skeletal asymmetry may have been the result of a less glamorous subsistence task. (..) -  that Neanderthals may have spent hours scraping animal hides using stone tools possibly for clothing production. That would have been an arduous and repetitive task, essential in the cold conditions in which they lived.
(..) one-handed scraping tasks that simulated the processing of animal hides to be used as clothing required far more muscular activity on the right side of the body in precisely those areas which would lead to over-development of the upper-right arm. This suggests something other than hunting, and quite possibly the scraping of animal skins, was a task which occupied large amounts of the Neanderthals’ time, and influenced the unique morphology of their upper body.
There is also the possibility that more Neanderthals than we think were left-handed. This seems unlikely, however.  source 
My comment: Sounds plausible. If you live in cold weather, the clothing is essential for the survival. So it makes sense that the while tribe will take their time to prepare that clothing.

Archeologists discover traces of ancient civilization in Chinese desert

2011-10-18 11:24:58
HOHHOT, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Archeologists have discovered 10 sites of ancient civilization in the Badain Jaran Desert, China's third largest desert located in northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

An archeological team composed of 11 experts from Inner Mongolia, Beijing and Sichuan have unearthed large quantities of stone and pottery handicrafts dating back 5,000 years from the sites, which, the experts believe, indicate civilization once flourished in the desert.

Experts say one of the most distinguished findings was a black-red painted pottery jar, which represents Neolithic art that dates back 4,500 years. The experts said stone wares made of flint and agate were found in all 10 sites. source
My comment: Quite interesting considering the civilisation north of the Danube also was famous for its black-red painted pottery. A coincidence?

The prehistoric trawlermen: Our ancestors mastered deep-sea fishing 42,000 years ago, cave find reveals

Humans mastered the art of catching fast-moving, deep-water fish such as tuna more than 40,000 years ago, archaeologists revealed today.
A team of Australian experts have uncovered evidence of the practice in a small cave at the eastern end of East Timor, north of Australia, which contained the bones of more than 2,800 fish.
Some were caught as long as 42,000 years ago.
They also found the world's earliest recorded fish hook, made of shell and dating from between 23,000 and 16,000 years ago, during excavations at the Jerimalai cave site.
My comment: Ok, this is quite cool. 42 000 years ago is quite a long time ago. I'm now reading a book dating back to the 60s, in which they try to explain how the Thracians from 3000-4000 years ago had already the idea of child-care (??? go figure why they wouldn't). The very idea they didn't have it, is ridiculous, considering humans managed to catch tuna fish(a big, fast and deep-water fish) 40k years ago. This just goes to show how much archaeology changed in the past 50 years.

Shared Genes With Neanderthal Relatives: Modern East Asians Share Genetic Material With Prehistoric Denisovans

ScienceDaily (Nov. 1, 2011) — During human evolution our ancestors mated with Neanderthals, but also with other related hominids. In this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Uppsala University are publishing findings showing that people in East Asia share genetic material with Denisovans, who got the name from the cave in Siberia where they were first found.
Previous studies have found two separate hybridization events between so-called archaic humans (different from modern humans in both genetics and morphology) and the ancestors of modern humans after their emergence from Africa: hybridization between Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern humans outside of Africa and hybridization between Denisovans and the ancestors of indigenous Oceanians. The Uppsala scientists' study demonstrates that hybridization also occurred on the East Asian mainland.

Because they find Denisova-related gene variants in Southeast Asia and Oceania, but not in Europe and America, the researchers suggest that hybridization with Denisova man took place about 20,000-40,000 years ago, but could also have occurred earlier. This is long after the branch that became modern humans split off from the branch that led to Neandertals and Denisovans some 300,000-500,000 years ago. source
My comment: So basically, the 3 types of humans lived and excelled for minimum 250 000 years separately, until suddenly, they started to interbreed...I find it odd that those "mixing" events are considered as separate acts. It just makes no sense. That there was interbreeding, I agree. But something is missing to the story.  It makes much more sense that the 3 population interbred every time an opportunity presented (which is not that often, considering the low population density at this period and the tendency of ancient societies to remain closed)
A more recent article on this : Skulls of early humans carry telltale signs of inbreeding, study says - " Buried for 100,000 years at Xujiayao in the Nihewan Basin of northern China, the recovered skull pieces of an early human exhibit a now-rare congenital deformation that indicates inbreeding might well have been common among our ancestors, new research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Washington University in St. Louis suggests. "

Neanderthals were ancient mariners

 29 February 2012 by Michael Marshall

IT LOOKS like Neanderthals may have beaten modern humans to the seas. Growing evidence suggests our extinct cousins criss-crossed the Mediterranean in boats from 100,000 years ago.
Their distinctive "Mousterian" stone tools are found on the Greek mainland and, intriguingly, have also been found on the Greek islands of Lefkada, Kefalonia and Zakynthos. That could be explained in two ways: either the islands weren't islands at the time, or our distant cousins crossed the water somehow.

Now, George Ferentinos of the University of Patras in Greece says we can rule out the former. Ferentinos compiled data that showed sea levels were 120 metres lower 100,000 years ago, because water was locked up in Earth's larger ice caps. But the seabed off Greece today drops down to around 300 metres, meaning that when Neanderthals were in the region, the sea would have been at least 180 metres deep (Journal of Archaeological Science, DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.01.032).

In 2008 he found similar stone tools on Crete, which he says are at least 130,000 years old. Crete has been an island for some 5 million years and is 40 kilometres from its closest neighbour - suggesting far more ambitious journeys.
Even if Ferentinos is right, the Neanderthals were probably not the first hominin seafarers. One million-year-old stone tools have been found on the Indonesian island of Flores (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature 08844). source
My comment: And they were sea-faring as well... Again, not much different than us, just started much earlier than we did. 

Oldest obsidian bracelet reveals amazing craftsmen's skills in the eighth millennium BC 

December 21, 2011-Researchers from the Institut Français d'Etudes Anatoliennes in Istanbul and the Laboratoire de Tribologie et de Dynamiques des Systèmes have analyzed the oldest obsidian bracelet ever identified, discovered in the 1990s at the site of Aşıklı Höyük, Turkey. Using high-tech methods developed by LTDS to study the bracelet's surface and its micro-topographic features, the researchers have revealed the astounding technical expertise of craftsmen in the eighth millennium BC. Their skills were highly sophisticated for this period in late prehistory, and on a par with today's polishing techniques.  source

My comment: For me, there's no mystery about which civilisation produced the bracelet, since we have evidences of thracian/pelasgian cities dated at the 8th millennium (I think) - if they were able to produce two-floors buildings, they surely knew how to polish the obsidian. 

Prehistoric human populations prospered before the agricultural boom

October 19, 2012
Major prehistoric human population expansions in three continents may have begun before the Neolithic period—around 15–11,000 years ago in Africa, from around 13,000 years ago in Europe and around 12–8,000 years ago in the Americas. Agriculture is thought to have first developed in the Fertile Crescent of West Asia around 12–11,000 years ago, and was then developed independently over the next few thousand years in other regions.
The data imply that major population expansions took place after the Last Glacial Maximum (the peak of the last ice age) but before the Neolithic period. The increase in population size was probably one of the driving forces that led to the introduction of agriculture, turning it from a supplementary food source to the primary one. source

My comment: That one is quite interesting. But it might also imply that agriculture was developed even earlier than thought. If dogs were domesticated 33 000 years ago...

Archaeologists unearth 4,200-year-old fortification, unique in continental Europe

September 27, 2012
The archaeological excavations carried out this year at the site of La Bastida (Totana, Murcia, in Spain) have shed light on an imposing fortification system, unique for its time. The discovery, together with all other discoveries made in recent years, reaffirm that the city was the most advanced settlement in Europe in political and military terms during the Bronze Age (ca. 4,200 years ago), and is comparable only to the Minoan civilisation of Crete. Similar characteristics have not been observed in other constructions of the Bronze Age, with three-metre thick walls, square towers originally measuring up to seven metres, a monumental entrance and an ogival arched postern gate; a fully conserved architectural element unique in Europe in that period.

The arch is in very good conditions and is the first one to be found in Prehistoric Europe. Precedents can be found in the second city of Troy (Turkey) and in the urban world of the Middle East (Palestine, Israel and Jordan), influenced by the civilisations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. This indicates that people from the East participated in the construction of the fortification. These people would have reached La Bastida after the crisis which devastated their region 4,300 years ago. It was not until some 400 to 800 years later that civilisations like the Hittites and Mycenaeans, or city-states such as Ugarit, incorporated these innovative methods into their military architecture.
(..) These large houses and public buildings were alternated with other smaller constructions, all separated by entries, passageways and squares.  source
My comment: As impressed as I am (and I am), I must say that the city is not unique - on the Danube in Bulgaria they discovered a city also dated approx. 4500-4200BC, which was very developed and fortified for its time. Of course, cosidering the lack of good publicity for the Bulgarian city and the excellent publicity for the Spanish one, it's hard to judge which one is more unique. But in any case, if we have 2 such cities on 3000 km distance, we probable have even more. The question for me is, who were they defending from. Because you don't build such fortifications, unless you're very scared

Other news:

Were Some Neandertals Brown-Eyed Girls? -
"The new study, to be published in the American Journal of Human Biology later this spring, looks at the genomes of three female Neandertals from Croatia. 
A particular form of the gene known as TPCN2, for example, bestows brown hair in modern humans; any other form means hair that's another color." - Wouldn't it be cool if they were blue eyed and blond haired. How about this for an irony?

Earliest music instruments found - "Researchers have identified what they say are the oldest-known musical instruments in the world. The flutes, made from bird bone and mammoth ivory, come from a cave in southern Germany which contains early evidence for the occupation of Europe by modern humans - Homo sapiens. Scientists used carbon dating to show that the flutes were between 42,000 and 43,000 years old." 

Ancient language discovered on clay tablets found amid ruins of 2800 year old Middle Eastern palace source

Dog skull dates back 33,000 years - " An ancient dog skull, preserved in a cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia for 33,000 years, presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and, together with equally ancient dog remains from a cave in Belgium, indicates that domestication of dogs may have occurred repeatedly in different geographic locations rather than with a single domestication event."
Research team finds evidence of red ochre use by Neanderthals 200,000 years ago January 24, 2012 by Bob Yirka

Read more at:
Research team finds evidence of red ochre use by Neanderthals 200,000 years ago - "Until recently, archeologists have thought of Neanderthals, an early relative of humans, as thick, slow thinking and likely uncreative. Now, new evidence dispels part of that image. Archeologists digging in the Netherlands have unearthed flint and bone fragments from 200,000 years ago that have remnants of red ochre on them, indicating that Neanderthals were using the material much earlier than was previously thought. The research team has published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "
Complex Fish Traps Over 7,500 Years Old Found in Russia - "An international team of archeologists, led by Ignacio Clemente, a researcher with the Spanish National Research Council, has discovered and documented an assemblage of fish seines and traps in the Dubna Basin near Moscow that are dated to be more than 7,500 years old. They say that the equipment, among the oldest found in Europe, displays a surprisingly advanced technical complexity."

Lao skull earliest example of modern human fossil in Southeast Asia -
"An ancient skull recovered from a cave in the Annamite Mountains in northern Laos is the oldest modern human fossil found in Southeast Asia, researchers report. The discovery pushes back the clock on modern human migration through the region by as much as 20,000 years and indicates that ancient wanderers out of Africa left the coast and inhabited diverse habitats much earlier than previously appreciated."
My comment: Yet another pusing back of the clock. I don't remember how many times I've read this over the past 5 years. It seems our clocks were quite off.

Archeologists unearth extraordinary human sculpture in Turkey - " The figure's face is bearded, with beautifully preserved inlaid eyes made of white and black stone, and its hair has been coiffed in an elaborate series of curls aligned in linear rows. Both arms are extended forward from the elbow, each with two arm bracelets decorated with lion heads. The figure's right hand holds a spear, and in its left is a shaft of wheat. A crescent-shaped pectoral adorns its chest. A lengthy Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription, carved in raised relief across its back, records the campaigns and accomplishments of Suppiluliuma, likely the same Patinean king who faced a Neo-Assyrian onslaught of Shalmaneser III as part of a Syrian-Hittite coalition in 858 BC."

Pottery 20,000 years old found in a Chinese cave - June 28, 2012 -Pottery fragments found in a south China cave have been confirmed to be 20,000 years old, making them the oldest known pottery in the world, archaeologists say.

Skilled hunters 300,000 years ago"Archeologists from the University of Tübingen have found eight extremely well-preserved spears – an astonishing 300,000 years old, making them the oldest known weapons anywhere. The spears and other artifacts as well as animal remains found at the site demonstrate that their users were highly skilled craftsmen and hunters, well adapted to their environment – with a capacity for abstract thought and complex planning comparable to our own. It is likely that they were members of the species homo heidelbergensis, although no human remains have yet been found at the site. 
The bones of large mammals – elephants, rhinoceroses, horses and lions – as well as the remains of amphibians, reptiles, shells and even beetles have been preserved in the brown coal. Pines, firs, and black alder trees are preserved complete with pine cones, as have the leaves, pollen and seeds of surrounding flora."

 Swiss dolmen reveals rituals of the Neolithic - "A sensational archaeological discovery has been made in the region of  Bern, Switzerland, consisting of a communal dolmen grave dating back to over 5,000 years, containing 30 bodies and Neolithic artefacts.
The Swiss Neolithic begins around the middle of the 5th millennium BCE and is coeval with both the Bandkeramik culture in Central Europe and the Vinca culture in the Balkans. During the 4th millennium – when this dolmen is constructed – the culture seemed to develop independently from the rest of Europe."

Origin of an ancient jade tool baffles scientists - "The jade gouge may have been crafted by the Lapita people, who appeared in the western Pacific around 3,300 years ago, then spread across the Pacific to Samoa over a couple hundred years, and from there formed the ancestral population of the people we know as Polynesians, according to the researchers. "
( -- Until recently, archeologists have thought of Neanderthals, an early relative of humans, as thick, slow thinking and likely uncreative. Now, new evidence dispels part of that image. Archeologists digging in the Netherlands have unearthed flint and bone fragments from 200,000 years ago that have remnants of red ochre on them, indicating that Neanderthals were using the material much earlier than was previously thought. The research team has published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more at:
Research team finds evidence of red ochre use by Neanderthals 200,000 years ago January 24, 2012 by Bob Yirk

Read more at:
Research team finds evidence of red ochre use by Neanderthals 200,000 years ago January 24, 2012 by Bob Yirka

Read more at:

Friday, 29 March 2013

Bits of the past - old theories get hurt, 2013

First, take a look on this awesome video of digs in Georgia which suggest humans remains millions of years old!
Another a must-see video is Rajesh Rao: A Rosetta Stone for the Indus script - a very good explanation of recent finding that the script is actually a written language. I support their hypothesis and I think the way they use entropy in languages is absolutely cool.
  1. Bulgarian Archaeologists Uncover Story of Ancient Thracians' War with Philip II of Macedon 
  2. Breeding with Neanderthals helped humans go global 
  3. Tsunamis buried the cult site on the Peloponnese 
  4. Human evolution 'could have happened outside Africa too', claim scientists as ancient tooth is found in Bulgarian quarry 
  5. A meeting of civilisations: The mystery of China's celtic mummies 
  6. Archaeologist investigates legend of mythical ruler of ancient Peru 
  7. New evidence supporting theory of extraterrestrial impact found
  8. Iberian paintings are Europe's oldest cave art, uranium-series dating study confirms 
  9. Cows Almost Impossible To Domesticate, DNA Reveals

Bulgarian Archaeologists Uncover Story of Ancient Thracians' War with Philip II of Macedon

June 21, 2011
Bulgarian archaeologists have made crucial discoveries at the residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom, the state of the most powerful tribe of Ancient Thrace, including details about its sacking by the troops of Philip II of Macedon. The residence is located on the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, in the village of Starosel, in central Bulgaria.

Not unlike the facade of the building uncovered in 2005, the northeastern wall is made with "perfectly prepared stone blocks with encarved decorations." The building is believed to have hosted the treasury of the Odrysian rulers. It was erected by Ancient Greek architects between 354 BC and 342 BC, which is also when the Thracian kings' residence is dated, during the rule of Odrysian king Teres II (351 BC-341 BC).

It is believed that this is the spot through which the troops of Philip II of Macedon broke into the fortress and captured the residence of the Thracian kings because the archaeologists have found evidence of severe destruction and damage caused by attacks on the fortress wall and the tower.source
My comment: More
Archaeology: New Thracian grave found in northeastern Bulgaria ,
Archaeology: 7500-year-old skeleton found in northeastern Bulgaria,
Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Iron Labrys at Ancient Thracian Kings' Residence-
Bulgarian archaeologists have dug up an iron labrys, a ceremonial doubleheaded ax, at the residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom, the state of the most powerful tribe of Ancient Thrace, located at the mount of Kozi Gramadi.
Hristov explained the labrys as a term in the Ancient Greek mythology was popular as the doubleheaded ax of Zeus Labraundos, a statue of a standing Zeus with the tall lotus-tipped scepter upright in his left hand and the double-headed axe, the labrys, over his right shoulder, in the mountains near the coast of Caria in Asia Minor. The first images of labrys appeared in the 2nd millenium BC.
For the first time in the Balkans, the labrys appeared as a ruler's symbol on the bronze coins of the Odrysian king Amatokos at the end of 5th century BC. The labrys is also visible on the coin stamps of ther Ancient Thracian rulers such Amatokos the Senior and Teres II.

Going underground: The massive European network of Stone Age tunnels that weaves from Scotland to Turkey -
Stone Age man created a massive network of underground tunnels criss-crossing Europe from Scotland to Turkey, a new book on the ancient superhighways has claimed. German archaeologist Dr Heinrich Kusch said evidence of the tunnels has been found under hundreds of Neolithic settlements all over the continent.

In his book - Secrets Of The Underground Door To An Ancient World - he claims the fact that so many have survived after 12,000 years shows that the original tunnel network must have been enormous.
My comment: See pix on the source page! Amazing!

Breeding with Neanderthals helped humans go global

16 June 2011 by Michael Marshall
WHEN the first modern humans left Africa they were ill-equipped to cope with unfamiliar diseases. But by interbreeding with the local hominins, it seems they picked up genes that protected them and helped them eventually spread across the planet.
The publication of the Neanderthal genome last year offered proof that Homo sapiens bred with Neanderthals after leaving Africa. There is also evidence that suggests they enjoyed intimate relations with other hominins including the Denisovans, a species identified last year from a Siberian fossil.

Peter Parham of Stanford University focused on human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), a family of about 200 genes that is essential to our immune system. The humans that left Africa probably carried only a limited number of HLA alleles as they likely travelled in small groups.

When Parham compared the HLA genes of people from different regions of the world with the Neanderthal and Denisovan HLAs, he found evidence that non-African humans picked up new alleles from the hominins they interbred with.

One allele, HLA-C*0702, is common in modern Europeans and Asians but never seen in Africans; Parham found it in the Neanderthal genome, suggesting it made its way into H. sapiens of non-African descent through interbreeding. HLA-A*11 had a similar story: it is mostly found in Asians and never in Africans, and Parham found it in the Denisovan genome, again suggesting its source was interbreeding outside of Africa.
 sourceMy comment: This article is particularly important, since there is some kind of resistence to the idea that H. Sapiens interbred with the other hominids. I personally can't undestand waht is the problem with this, however obviously it hurts the egos of some archaeologists. From this article, it is clear that there are genetic evidences we interbred with them and that's it.

Tsunamis buried the cult site on the Peloponnese

July 11, 2011
Olympia, site of the famous Temple of Zeus and original venue of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece, was presumably destroyed by repeated tsunamis that travelled considerable distances inland, and not by earthquake and river floods as has been assumed to date. Evidence in support of this new theory on the virtual disappearance of the ancient cult site on the Peloponnesian peninsula comes from Professor Dr. Andreas Vött of the Institute of Geography of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany.
Vött investigated the site as part of a project in which he and his team are studying the paleotsunamis that occurred along the coastlines of the eastern Mediterranean over the last 11,000 years. According to his account, the geomorphological and sedimentological findings in the area document that Olympia and its environs were destroyed by tsunami impact. The site of Olympia, rediscovered only some 250 years ago, was buried under a massive layer of sand and other deposits that is up to 8 meters deep.
My comment: Tsunamies deep inland...reminds you of Atlantis, doesn't it?
Peking man differing from modern humans in brain asymmetry

Human evolution 'could have happened outside Africa too', claim scientists as ancient tooth is found in Bulgarian quarry

By Rob Waugh, 12th January 2012
Most scientists believe that human beings evolved in Africa. But researchers from the University of Tubingen in Germany believe that our ancestry might be more complicated - and significant parts of human evolution might have happened in Europe and Western Asia.
The new theory comes after the discovery of an ape's tooth in Bulgaria - dating two million years after the 'pre-humans' were thought to have died out in Europe. The seven-million-year-old tooth shows that the pre-human had evolved to eat a European diet of grasses, seeds and nuts, rather than fruit. This suggested that it adapted to a change in its surroundings in order to survive. Researchers from the University of Tubingen in Germany said the ape's diet was similar to that of African hominids, which only disappeared four million years ago.
sourceMy comment: Another evidences against the well-established theory of human evolution out of Africa. Yet, even though this news dates 2 years ago, people still resist and still find new ways of saying no, we evolved from Africa, we never interbred with other hominids and our species are "pure-blood". Yeah, right!

A meeting of civilisations: The mystery of China's celtic mummies

Solid as a warrior of the Caledonii tribe, the man's hair is reddish brown flecked with grey, framing high cheekbones, a long nose, full lips and a ginger beard. When he lived three thousand years ago, he stood six feet tall, and was buried wearing a red twill tunic and tartan leggings. He looks like a Bronze Age European. In fact, he's every inch a Celt. Even his DNA says so.

But this is no early Celt from central Scotland. This is the mummified corpse of Cherchen Man, unearthed from the scorched sands of the Taklamakan Desert in the far-flung region of Xinjiang in western China. DNA testing confirms that he and hundreds of other mummies found in Xinjiang's Tarim Basin are of European origin.
The burial sites of Cherchen Man and his fellow people were marked with stone structures that look like dolmens from Britain, ringed by round-faced, Celtic figures, or standing stones. Among their icons were figures reminiscent of the sheela-na-gigs, wild females who flaunted their bodies and can still be found in mediaeval churches in Britain.
The Celts gradually infiltrated Britain between about 500 and 100BC. The eastern Celts spoke a now-dead language called Tocharian, which is related to Celtic languages and part of the Indo-European group. They seem to have been a peaceful folk, as there are few weapons among the Cherchen find and there is little evidence of a caste system.
Best preserved of all the corpses is Yingpan Man, known as the Handsome Man, a 2,000-year-old Caucasian mummy discovered in 1995. He had a gold foil death mask - a Greek tradition - covering his blond, bearded face, and wore elaborate golden embroidered red and maroon wool garments with images of fighting Greeks or Romans. Currently on display at a museum in Tokyo, the handsome Yingpan man was two metres tall (six feet six inches), and pushing 30 when he died. source
My comment: What strikes me is that they never say that the DNA proves he's Celtic. They say the DNA proves he's of European origin. Which is quite different statement. Those people could very well be Thracians, since we know from the Thracians legends, that there was at least one march East, going as far as India. Not to mention that Celts did live on the Balkans for about 100 years, so maybe they shared some kind of past with Thracians. Of course, I can't claim those mummies are Thracians, but the last guy, with the golden mask, hell, yes. I mean, we have discovered such masks in Bulgaria. Don't know if it is a Greek tradition, especially since for Western authors, everything on the Balkans should be Greek, even though Greece didn't exist back then AT ALL! But if certainly looks so.

Archaeologist investigates legend of mythical ruler of ancient Peru 

Among the most colorful of these stories was the legend of Naymlap, the fearless founder of a centuries-old dynasty that supposedly ruled the Lambayeque Valley in northern Peru.

As the legend goes, Naymlap arrived with a vast fleet of balsa rafts carrying an entourage that included a chief wife and many concubines. He also brought with him an idol made of green stone, and he built a palace where it was installed.

Throughout Naymlap’s long reign, the tale continued, people enjoyed peace until his death, kept secret by his attendants who buried him in the same room where he had lived.

Instead, Donnan and his UCLA team of students and fellow archaeologists found a wealth of ceramics, burials, colorful wall murals and other materials in an area that once was the location of domestic dwellings, pyramids, palace complexes, walled enclosures and a room-filled site they dubbed the “Artisans Quadrangle,” a place where metalworking took place.

In other words, the archaeologist said, “What we found was perfectly in keeping with the legend.”

“It’s a wonderful story,” said Donnan of the legend that ends nine generations later with the fall of Fempellec, the last in the line of Naymlap’s successors. Fempellec apparently tried to move the green idol out of the palace but was intercepted by the devil, who appeared to him in the form of a beautiful seductress. With the consummation of their union, a terrible rain began to fall, flooding the valley for 30 days, followed by a year of famine and sterility. Irate vassals captured Fempellec, tied his feet and hands, and threw him into the Pacific Ocean, bringing to a close the dynasty that Naymlap founded.

Radio carbon measurements set the date of the earliest construction at around 650-700 A.D. source
My comment: I cite this article here, because of the story of the green idol which struck down the person who tried to move it. That's quite similar to the story of the ark of the covenant in the Bible. Curious, huh?

New evidence supporting theory of extraterrestrial impact found

June 11, 2012
An 18-member international team of researchers that includes James Kennett, professor of earth science at UC Santa Barbara, has discovered melt-glass material in a thin layer of sedimentary rock in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Syria. According to the researchers, the material –– which dates back nearly 13,000 years –– was formed at temperatures of 1,700 to 2,200 degrees Celsius (3,100 to 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit), and is the result of a cosmic body impacting Earth.
These new data are the latest to strongly support the controversial Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) hypothesis, which proposes that a cosmic impact occurred 12,900 years ago at the onset of an unusual cold climatic period called the Younger Dryas. This episode occurred at or close to the time of major extinction of the North American megafauna, including mammoths and giant ground sloths; and the disappearance of the prehistoric and widely distributed Clovis culture. The researchers' findings appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The extreme temperatures required are equal to those of an atomic bomb blast, high enough to make sand melt and boil."
The material evidence supporting the YDB cosmic impact hypothesis spans three continents, and covers nearly one-third of the planet, from California to Western Europe, and into the Middle East. The discovery extends the range of evidence into Germany and Syria, the easternmost site yet identified in the northern hemisphere. The researchers have yet to identify a limit to the debris field of the impact.
"Because these three sites in North America and the Middle East are separated by 1,000 to 10,000 kilometers, there were most likely three or more major impact/airburst epicenters for the YDB impact event, likely caused by a swarm of cosmic objects that were fragments of either a meteorite or comet," said Kennett.
My comment: So, the Earth has been struck by a swarms of objects. Hopefully the same swarm won't get at us any time soon, because we are so utterly helpless...

Cows Almost Impossible To Domesticate, DNA Reveals

Genetic evidence suggests all "taurine" cattle (the most commonly recognized breed) descend from only about 80 females and came from a single region in what is now Iran about 10,500 years ago. 

The study compared mitochondrial DNA extracted from 15 preserved ancient cattle's bones to modern cattle and found little variation. Little variation meant the founding population didn't have many different versions of the mitochondrial genes to start with.

But not all the world's mooing milk-makers have the same mom. Only the taurine cattle were domesticated in the Middle East. sourceMy comment: It would be interesting to see how this domestication is situated in time compared to the domestication of goats and sheeps which are probably much easier to domesticate. And whether they domesticated the cows for the milk, for the meat or for the force

Iberian paintings are Europe's oldest cave art, uranium-series dating study confirms

June 14, 2012
Paleolithic paintings in El Castillo cave in Northern Spain date back at least 40,800 years – making them Europe's oldest known cave art, according to new research published today in Science.
The practice of cave art in Europe thus began up to 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, indicating the paintings were created either by the first anatomically modern humans in Europe or, perhaps, by Neanderthals.
Fifty paintings in 11 caves in Northern Spain, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo and Tito Bustillo, were dated by a team of UK, Spanish and Portuguese researchers led by Dr Alistair Pike of the University of Bristol, UK. source

Friday, 15 February 2013

Technology bits, 02, 2013

As the new 2013 rows out, I though it's a good time to publish all the drafts left behind in the past year. So here it is, a technology bits compiled just for you. I don't have the time to comment each of the news sepparately, but still they are quite interesting and I think they are quite useful if you are to measure the pulse of the past year. Note, here I have ommitted physics news, since I paste them into the Department of Theoretical Physics Facebook page. You are more than welcome to join if interested, since 90% of my posts there are dedicated to cool scientific news I stumble upon.

  1. Stronger than steel, novel metals are moldable as plastic
  2. New laser technology prepares to revolutionize communications
  3. New Car Engine Sends Shock Waves Through Auto Industry
  4. Cheaper and cleaner electricity from wave-powered ships (w/ video)
  5. UK scientists want human-animal tests monitored
  6. Soft memory device opens door to new biocompatible electronics (w/ Video)
  7. Energy-harvesting shock absorber that increases fuel efficiency wins R&D 100 award
  8. Italian scientists claim to have demonstrated cold fusion (w/ Video) 

Stronger than steel, novel metals are moldable as plastic

March 1, 2011 
( -- Imagine a material that's stronger than steel, but just as versatile as plastic, able to take on a seemingly endless variety of forms. For decades, materials scientists have been trying to come up with just such an ideal substance, one that could be molded into complex shapes with the same ease and low expense as plastic but without sacrificing the strength and durability of metal.
Now a team led by Jan Schroers, a materials scientist at Yale University, has shown that some recently developed bulk metallic glasses (BMGs)-metal alloys that have randomly arranged atoms as opposed to the orderly, found in ordinary metals-can be blow molded like plastics into complex shapes that can't be achieved using regular metal, yet without sacrificing the strength or durability that metal affords. Their findings are described online in the current issue of the journal Materials Today.

The materials cost about the same as high-end steel, Schroers said, but can be processed as cheaply as plastic. The alloys are made up of different metals, including zirconium, nickel, titanium and copper.

New laser technology prepares to revolutionize communications

March 28, 2011 
As fiber optic technology continues to advance, it faces challenges from both its physical properties and its use of infrastructure. One emerging high-speed solution being developed at Stevens Institute of Technology uses lasers to transmit data through readily available open space, with the potential of expanding past the limitation of fibers into a system known as optical free space communications. Dr. Rainer Martini has overcome a number of free space challenges to develop a high-speed communications technology that is not limited by a physical conductor. With an optical system that is stable enough, satellites may one day convert to laser technology, resulting in a more mobile military and super-sensitive scanners, as well as faster Internet for the masses.
A laser's beam must be optically modulated in order to transmit large amounts of data. Optically-induced amplitude modulation (AM) of mid-infrared lasers was realized by researchers at Stevens a few years ago, but AM signals are at the mercy of dust and fog. Now, Stevens researchers led by Dr. Martini have developed a technique to optically modulate the frequency of the beam as well (frequency modulation; FM) – resulting in a signal that is disrupted significantly less by environmental factors.
The new research stands to revolutionize communications, rendering environmental barriers meaningless and allowing mobile units not tied to fiber optic cable to communicate in the range of 100 GHz and beyond, the equivalent of 100 gigabytes of data per second.
Electronic modulation of middle infrared quantum cascade laser is limited to 10 GHz, and optical modulation of frequency and amplitude offers a viable alternative.
Their optical approach has a number of applications, including frequency modulation in a middle infrared free system, wavelength conversion that will transform a near infrared signal directly into a middle infrared signal, and frequency modulation spectroscopy.
 sourceMy comment:

New Car Engine Sends Shock Waves Through Auto Industry

Researchers at Michigan State University have built a prototype gasoline engine that requires no transmission, crankshaft, pistons, valves, fuel compression, cooling systems or fluids. Their so-called Wave Disk Generator could greatly improve the efficiency of gas-electric hybrid automobiles and potentially decrease auto emissions up to 90 percent when compared with conventional combustion engines.
The engine has a rotor that's equipped with wave-like channels that trap and mix oxygen and fuel as the rotor spins. These central inlets are blocked off, building pressure within the chamber, causing a shock wave that ignites the compressed air and fuel to transmit energy.
The Wave Disk Generator uses 60 percent of its fuel for propulsion; standard car engines use just 15 percent. As a result, the generator is 3.5 times more fuel efficient than typical combustion engines.
Researchers estimate the new model could shave almost 1,000 pounds off a car's weight currently taken up by conventional engine systems. source

Robot uses supersonic air jets to climb on walls and ceilings (w/ video) - ( -- Instead of using sticky footpads to climb on walls and ceilings, a new robot takes advantage of fast-moving air that can generate an adhesion force on just about any kind of surface. The robot’s grippers, which don’t ever actually touch the surface as the robot climbs, operate on Bernoulli’s principle of fluid dynamics. - Awesome! Just check the video on the site!

Cheaper and cleaner electricity from wave-powered ships (w/ video)

July 20, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier
( -- At the Clean Technology 2011 Conference and Expo in Boston, Andre Sharon presented a new concept of using ships equipped with a wave-power system to harvest energy and deliver it back to a power grid on shore.
The proposed ship would be 50 meters long and is designed to harvest the through a system of buoys hanging from pivoting arms on the side of the ship. The would bob up and down with the movement of the waves and cause the pivoting arms to drive a generator and create one megawatt of electrical power an hour. The power will be stored in an on-board battery with a capacity of 20 megawatts. The ship will be required to be out at sea for at least 20 hours in order to provide a full charge.
Current wave-power systems can generate electricity at a cost of between $0.30 and $0.65 per kWh, but Sharon calculates that the wave-power ships would be able to generate power for $0.15 per kWh which is comparable to offshore wind energy and cheaper than solar power. source

UK scientists want human-animal tests monitored

LONDON (AP) — British scientists say a new expert body should be formed to regulate experiments mixing animal and human DNA to make sure no medical or ethical boundaries are crossed. In a report issued on Friday, scientists at the nation's Academy of Medical Sciences said a government organization is needed to advise whether certain tests on animals that use human DNA should be pursued.
Scientists have long been swapping animal and human DNA. Numerous tests on mice with human genes for brain, bone and heart disorders are already under way and experiments on goats implanted with a human gene are also being done to study blood-clotting problems. Controversy erupted several years ago in Britain after scientists announced plans to make human embryos with the nucleus removed from cow and rabbit eggs. Authorities allowed limited experiments and ruled the embryos should not be allowed to develop for more than two weeks.

Scientists identify seventh and eighth bases of DNAFor decades, scientists have known that DNA consists of four basic units -- adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine. Those four bases have been taught in science textbooks and have formed the basis of the growing knowledge regarding how genes code for life. Yet in recent history, scientists have expanded that list from four to six. Now, with a finding published online in the July 21, 2011, issue of the journal Science, researchers from the UNC School of Medicine have discovered the seventh and eighth bases of DNA. These last two bases – called 5-formylcytosine and 5 carboxylcytosine – are actually versions of cytosine that have been modified by Tet proteins, molecular entities thought to play a role in DNA demethylation and stem cell reprogramming.  

A heart of gold: Better tissue repair after heart attack (Update)
September 25, 2011 by Emily Finn

A team of researchers at MIT and Children’s Hospital Boston has built cardiac patches studded with tiny gold wires that could be used to create pieces of tissue whose cells all beat in time, mimicking the dynamics of natural heart muscle. The development could someday help people who have suffered heart attacks.
The study, reported this week in Nature Nanotechnology, promises to improve on existing cardiac patches, which have difficulty achieving the level of conductivity necessary to ensure a smooth, continuous “beat” throughout a large piece of tissue.
The researchers plan to pursue studies in vivo to determine how the composite-grown tissue functions when implanted into live hearts.  source

Cloaking magnetic fields: The first 'antimagnet' device developed
September 23, 2011

Spanish researchers have designed what they believe to be a new type of magnetic cloak, which shields objects from external magnetic fields, while at the same time preventing any magnetic internal fields from leaking outside, making the cloak undetectable.

The development of such a device, described as an 'antimagnet', could offer many beneficial applications, such as protecting a ship's hull from mines designed to detonate when a magnetic field is detected, or allowing patients with pacemakers or cochlear implants to use medical equipment.
The antimagnet has been designed to consist of several layers. The inner layer would consist of a superconducting material that would function to stop a magnetic field from leaking outside of the cloak, which would be very useful to cloak certain metals.A downside to using this material, however, is that it would distort an external magnetic field placed over the cloak, making it detectable, so the device would need to be combined with several outer layers of metamaterials, which have varying levels of magnetic field permeability, to correct this distortion and leave the magnetic field undisturbed.
The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of the cloak using computer simulations of a ten-layered cylindrical device cloaking a single small magnet. source

World's largest fusion device goes back to work - September 5, 2011-  European scientists working on the Joint European Torus (JET), the world's largest magnetic confinement fusion device, are about to embark on the first round of experiments following a 22-month period where the device was out of action whilst being upgraded and commissioned.JET's researchers are investigating the potential of fusion power as a safe, clean, and virtually limitless energy source for future generations. The research is coordinated under the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA), signed by all 27 Member States as well as Switzerland. The JET project forms part of the preparatory stages leading to preparation for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) operation.

Soft memory device opens door to new biocompatible electronics (w/ Video)

July 14, 2011 Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a memory device that is soft and functions well in wet environments – opening the door to a new generation of biocompatible electronic devices.
The device's ability to function in wet environments, and the biocompatibility of the gels, mean that this technology holds promise for interfacing electronics with biological systems – such as cells, enzymes or tissue. source

Energy-harvesting shock absorber that increases fuel efficiency wins R&D 100 award

July 14, 2011 by Lisa Zyga An energy-harvesting shock absorber that can be installed in a vehicle’s suspension system to absorb the energy from bumps in the road, convert the energy into electricity, and improve fuel efficiency by 1-8% has recently won the R&D 100 award.
The new shock absorbers were designed by Professor Lei Zuo and graduate students Xiudong Tang and Zachary Brindak at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, with funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Zuo’s team developed and patented two different types of shock absorbers: linear and rotational. The new linear shock absorber consists of a small magnetic tube with high flux intensity that slides inside a larger, hollow coil tube. The rotational version employs a compact motion magnification mechanism.
Due to bumps and vibrations from normal driving, the sliding tubes or rotating generator can produce an electric voltage. When installed in a medium-sized passenger car traveling at 60 mph, the shock absorber can generate 100-400 watts of energy under normal driving conditions, and up to 1600 watts on particularly rough roads. Trucks, rail cars, and off-road vehicles get a return of 1-10 kilowatts, depending on road quality.
The harvested energy is then used to charge the battery and power the vehicle’s electronics, which is typically 250-350 watts with optional electronic systems turned off. This energy reduces the load on the vehicle’s alternator, which usually has a capacity about 500-600 watts. In this way, the harvested energy could increase fuel efficiency by 1-4% in conventional cars and by 8% in hybrid vehicles. As a side benefit, the shock absorber also creates a smoother ride due to the ability to adjust the suspension damping and implement self-powered vibration control.
The electricity-generating shock absorber can be retrofitted into today’s vehicles by replacing conventional shock absorbers - in which the vibration energy is wasted as heat - without modification of the vehicle suspension structure. The researchers estimate that the installation cost can be recouped in 3-4 years for typical passenger vehicles, and 1-2 years for trucks.

Italian scientists claim to have demonstrated cold fusion (w/ Video)

January 20, 2011 by Lisa Zyg( -- Few areas of science are more controversial than cold fusion, the hypothetical near-room-temperature reaction in which two smaller nuclei join together to form a single larger nucleus while releasing large amounts of energy.
The latest news occurred last week, when Italian scientists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna announced that they developed a device capable of producing 12,400 W of heat power with an input of just 400 W. Last Friday, the scientists held a private invitation press conference in Bologna, attended by about 50 people, where they demonstrated what they claim is a nickel-hydrogen . Further, the scientists say that the reactor is well beyond the research phase; they plan to start shipping commercial devices within the next three months and start mass production by the end of 2011.
Rossi and Focardi say that, when the atomic nuclei of nickel and hydrogen are fused in their reactor, the reaction produces copper and a large amount of energy. The reactor uses less than 1 gram of hydrogen and starts with about 1,000 W of electricity, which is reduced to 400 W after a few minutes. Every minute, the reaction can convert 292 grams of 20°C water into dry steam at about 101°C. Since raising the temperature of water by 80°C and converting it to steam requires about 12,400 W of power, the experiment provides a power gain of 12,400/400 = 31. As for costs, the scientists estimate that electricity can be generated at a cost of less than 1 cent/kWh, which is significantly less than coal or natural gas plants.
Rossi and Focardi explain that the reaction produces radiation, providing evidence that the reaction is indeed a nuclear reaction and does not work by some other method. They note that no radiation escapes due to lead shielding, and no radioactivity is left in the cell after it is turned off, so there is no nuclear waste.source