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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Anthropology news updates
    Posted: 30-May-2012 at 01:49
http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/march-2012/article/climate-change-contributed-to-ancient-indus-civilization-demise-researchers-say
"...Using archaeological data and geoscience technology, an international team of scientists has concluded a study that shows that the great Indus Valley civilization, otherwise known as the Harappan civilization, declined and disappeared in large measure due to climatic and landscape changes. The study results suggest that a major, gradual decline in monsoon rains led to a weakened river system, adversely affecting the Harappan culture and leading to its collapse. The ancient culture relied on river floods to sustain its system of agriculture.

"We reconstructed the dynamic landscape of the plain where the Indus civilization developed 5200 years ago, built its cities, and slowly disintegrated between 3900 and 3000 years ago," said geologist Liviu Giosan of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).  "Until now, speculations abounded about the links between this mysterious ancient culture and its life-giving mighty rivers." Giosan is also the lead author of the study report now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 

The Harappan civilization was the largest of the "big three" early urban cultures of the world (the others being ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia), but less is known about it.  Archaeological exploration over the past century has shed much more light on the culture. Its remains extend more than 1 million square kilometers across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges River, over what is now Pakistan, northwest India and eastern Afghanistan. Much like ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Harappan people built and sustained their urban society along the recurring highs and lows of flowing rivers that provided the basis for the production of agricultural surpluses, vitally important for the development and sustenance of great urban centers...."

Climate Change Contributed to Ancient Indus Civilization Demise, Researchers Say
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Jun-2012 at 07:10
"...The spread of indigenous pre-Columbian settlements in the Amazon Basin was not an even one, according to an analysis of the results of a recent study conducted by researchers from four research institutions. 

The researchers, from the Florida Institute of Technology, the Smithsonian Institution, Wake Forest University and the University of Florida, led by Florida Tech's Crystal McMichael and Mark Bush, were attempting to determine the impact of human population in Amazonia before the Europeans arrived. Their hypothesis: If the Pre-Columbian Amazon was a landscape highly altered by humans, then most of the Amazon's current biodiversity could be the result of human impact. Because the Amazon Basin represents one of the planet's most significant areas of biodiversity, the question of how Amazonia was modified by humans in the past contributes to our understanding of rainforest ecology and informs us in our conservation efforts. 

The team collected 247 soil cores from 55 locations in the central and western Amazon, sites like river banks and locations that archeological evidence had indicated were occupied by people. They also collected cores farther from the rivers, where historical and archaeological data were lacking. By using markers set in the cores, they were able to track the chronology of fire, vegetation and human alterations in the soil. No samples were collected form the eastern Amazon, as it has already been thoroughly studied. ..."

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/june-2012/article/a-new-picture-of-amazon-populations-before-columbus-emerges



Edited by Don Quixote - 19-Jun-2012 at 07:10
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Jun-2012 at 02:21
http://www.omda.bg/engl/ethnography/ritual_bread.htm
"...distinguished from ordinary bread in its form, preparation and decorative elements. It was made from the largest and purest wheat grains. The flour was sieved three times and the dough was mixed with "silent" water - one brought by a maiden in absolute silence - in which flowers and herbs had been soaked. The ritual bread used to be worked up by a young girl or a recently married young woman. The form of the ritual bread was round, but in some cases it could be oval or elongated. Different objects were represented on top - images ranging from suns to pens or gardens. Ritual breads were consecrated by incensing and were broken cross-wise. Several pieces were usually left as offering to God. People also used to bury pieces of the ritual bread near their pens or cornfields hoping that the year would be fruitful and rich. Nowadays the Bulgarian people are not accustomed to preparing ritual breads in their everyday life, but home-made round loaves are still widespread.

The kneading of ritual bread is specific for each folk festival or family holiday. The songs that accompany ritual bread making are different too, as is the symbolic meaning of the ornaments modelled on top of the loaves.

The bread prepared for Christmas is known as Bogova pita (Lord's bread); it is decorated with varied representations such as pens full of sheep, wine casks, etc. depending on the occupation of the master of the house. 

Wedding breads are abundantly decorated with spirals, rosettes and figures of doves meant to symbolize good luck and blessings.

By way of wishing good health, the koledari are given specially made rolls of bread which they string up on the tops of their shepherd's crooks.

In North-West Bulgaria, on the holiday of Mladentsi (the Day of the Holy Infants) the saint is venerated with a small loaf of bread shaped to represent a human figure.

 

St. Andrews Day ritual bread
..."

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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jul-2012 at 01:55
http://sciencenordic.com/mystical-marks-virgin-forest-explained
"...

Pine bark has been used in times of famine by all the peoples of the High North. Norwegian farmers would chop down the trees and then scrape off all the bark, or simply scrape the bark off trees in continuous rings.

The pines with the strange scars in Dividalen haven’t been so brutally handled. The cuts in the bark are on just one side of the trees, which enables them to survive the injury.

Arve Elvebakk poses next to one of the marked pines at Dividalen. (Photo: UiT)

The local Sami, who did not have tools for chopping down large trees, were more careful when they reaped bark.

“The harvesting was done in the spring. We think it was a job for women and children,” says Elvebakk.

Researchers have found five different tools made of bone that were used to harvest bark. The inner bark was the prize they were after.

Buried and toasted

After the pine bark was scraped away from the trees it was packed in birch bark and buried.

“A bonfire was lit on the ground above the buried bark and allowed to burn for up to four days,” says Elvebakk.

The heat slowly toasted strips of the bark and removed the bitter taste.

“The bark flour was mild and tasty. It was considered a delicacy when mixed with other food, such as porridge or a stew with animal fat.”

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2012 at 05:35

Classic Maya "Collapse" Did Not Happen, Say Researchers

The Classic period Maya civilization did not really collapse, say some scholar-researchers. It was essentially transformed through societal reorganization, much of which manifests itself to this day through the modern Maya population. This suggestion challenges some long-held views by a broad spectrum of scientists and scholars who have theorized that the ancient Classic Maya civilization experienced a dramatic collapse between about 800 and 1,100 C.E.  

In the paper, The Last Gasp: Demystifying the "Collapse" of the Terminal Classic Lowland Maya, published in the premier issue of AnthroJournal, author Elizabeth Votruba presents the arguments against collapse, suggesting that a different, more contextualized and holistic approach needs to be taken in researching, analyzing and interpreting the evidence of the ancient Maya existence and environment.

"The Classic Maya collapse did not happen, as has been exaggerated to the general public by a handful of particularly boastful scholars," she maintains.  "Dramatic and decontextualized versions of Mesoamerican pasts can no longer perpetuate discourse and need to be reconsidered as a series of societal reorganizations rather than a momentous and all-encompassing systemic failure."[1]

Scholars have traditionally and variously pointed to three major causes --  "ecological overload" (resulting from activities such as unsustainable agricultural practices), endemic warfare, and climatic catastrophe (such as widespread drought), for the collapse, which has been defined by dramatic changes such as the termination of temple construction and stone monument production, the end of kingships, and abandonment of settlements due to population decline.  Some scholars have suggested a combination of two or more of the causes as the basis, and a significant body of scientific evidence has been advanced to support the various suggested causes........

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/june-2012/article/classic-maya-collapse-did-not-happen-say-researchers



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 07-Jul-2012 at 05:36
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2012 at 05:46

Searching for an Ancient Syphilis DNA in Newborns

Left femur, two right humerus and a right hemifrontal bone belonging to at least two newborns found at "La Ermita de la Soledad" in Huelva. All show signs of bone lesions diagnosed as congenital syphilis.

Ancient DNA of the bacteria causing syphilis, the Treponema pallidum pallidum, can be recovered from the ancient bones of newborns. This is the conclusion reached by a study led by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), which was able to obtain the genetic material from the bacteria in more than one individual, in what is considered to be the oldest case known to date. Several previous attempots had only yielded this material in one occasion and from only one individual.

Studying syphilis represents a challenge for researchers, in part because of the impossibility of using or genetically manipulating cell cultures, given that the subspecies of T. pallidum cannot be differentiated morphologically using immunofluorescence or electron microscopes. This makes diagnosis extremely difficult and complicates epidemiological and phylogenetic analyses. In contrast, molecular typification has be shown to be a useful method with which to detect some of these subspecies, such as the one affecting humans, T.pallidum pallidum.

Palaeopathology - the science that studies diseases in ancient human remains - benefits from these molecular techniques to identify specific varieties of ancient syphilis and generate information that is useful for the phylogenetic reconstruction of modern varieties. They additionally can help to discover the historical development of the disease and its moment of origin in the continent -- a highly debated issue amongst scientists -- and its geographic distribution and epidemiology.

In this study, published in PLoS ONE and led by Assumpció Malgosa, professor of Physical Anthropology at UAB, researchers extracted the bacteria's DNA from four bone fragments of two newborns showing clear signs of having suffered from congenital syphilis. The remains were recovered from the crypt of “La Ermita de la Soledad” (16th–17th centuries), located in the province of Huelva in the northwest of Spain.........

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120703120628.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2012 at 06:14

The ginger gene revealed

Chris Evans

Red hair, often associated with a fiery temper, not to mention the bad behaviour of media millionaire Chris Evans, may be the legacy of Neanderthal man.

Oxford University scientists think the 'ginger gene', which is responsible for red hair, fair skin and freckles, could be up to 100,000 years old.

They say their discovery points to the gene having originated in Neanderthal man, who lived in Europe for 260,000 years before the ancestors of modern man arrived from Africa about 40,000 years ago.

Research leader Dr Rosalind Harding said: 'It is certainly possible that red hair comes from the Neanderthals.'

The Neanderthals are generally thought to have been a less intelligent species than modern man, Homo sapiens.

They were taller and stockier, but with shorter limbs, bigger faces and noses, receding chins and low foreheads.

They had a basic, guttural vocabulary of around 70 words, probably at the level of today's two-year-old, and they never developed a full language, art or culture.

They settled in Europe about 300,000 years ago, but 40,000 years ago a wave of immigrants - our fore-bears, Cro-Magnon Man - emerged from Africa and the two species coexisted for 10,000 years.

Dr Harding's research - which she is presenting at a conference of the Human Genome Organisation later this week - suggests the two species interbred for the ginger gene to survive.

But Dr Harding said Chris Evans and other redheads should not be offended by being linked to the primitive Neanderthals.

She said: 'If it's possible that we had ancestry from Neanderthals then it says that Neanderthals were more similar to us than we previously thought.

'No one should take offence from the research.'

Scientists at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, at Oxford University, compared the human ginger gene - known in scientific terms as the melanocortin-1 receptor - with the equivalent in chimpanzees.

They found 16 differences, or mutations, between the two genes.

Since an early version of the gene developed in chimps roughly ten million years ago, the scientists estimated there has been one mutation every 625,000 years.

They used a computer to calculate how long it must have taken for one particular mutation - the one responsible for ginger hair - to have passed down through the generations and become so common among people in Britain.

They concluded the mutation was older than 50,000 years and could be as old as 100,000 years.

A Channel 4 drama last year explored new evidence that Neanderthals were actually 'ultrahumans' - able to adapt to extremes of climate and surviving for 272,000 years, compared with modern man's 40 ,000 years and 'civilised ' man's 7,000.

But they finally became extinct - about 28,000 years ago - because Cro-Magnon Man was more socially advanced and able to develop communities and a language.

In the end, Neanderthals were outwitted for territory and food.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-38826/The-ginger-gene-revealed.html



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 07-Jul-2012 at 06:15
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2012 at 06:28

Turning History's 'Lost' Into 'Found': Pictorial History-Map of Santa Catarina Ixtepeji, a Village in Mexico Rediscovered

Detail of the codice. In a 1917 letter to the AGS, the seller, California mining engineer A. E. Place, wrote: “Were it not for the fact that I am forging into business here, after having lost nearly all my property in Mexico, I would not sell the map at any price.”

A rare 17th-century Latin American document that was "lost" for nearly a century resurfaced earlier this year. The kicker: It was right where it should have been all along -- in the American Geographical Society (AGS) Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).

But it's a wonder that the document -- a pictorial history-map of Santa Catarina Ixtepeji, a village in Mexico -- was rediscovered at all.

The 7-foot-long painted scroll is one of the few known pictorial documents that contain text in the indigenous Zapotec language. It had been in the hands of private collectors early in the 20th century, including California mining engineer A.E. Place, who sold it to the AGS in 1917 for $350.

Fast forward to 1978. The AGS collection moved from New York to UWM, where archivists have been piecing together the stories of the more than 1 million items in the collection bit by bit over the last 34 years. The contents include maps, globes, diaries and other memorabilia gathered by the society's member-explorers, from Charles Lindbergh to Teddy Roosevelt.

In 1995, AGSL curator Christopher Baruth came across a tattered scroll containing both writing and pictures. There were no markings on it to link it to a card in the collection's catalog. "I had asked someone about it at that time," he remembers, "but that person didn't think it was anything of significance."

That could have been the end of the story. Baruth formally retired in 2011 after 31 years with the AGSL, 16 as curator. After fielding a staff member's question about the scroll while organizing his office, Baruth decided to get a second opinion.

He called Aims McGuinness, UWM associate professor of history, who could tell that the scroll was written in both Spanish and an indigenous language. To home in on its origin, McGuinness consulted with someone who specializes in colonial Latin America -- and she was just downtown at Marquette University.

It takes a community

Laura Matthew, an assistant professor of history, remembers being psyched to see the "mystery document," which, she says, recounts the history of leadership and land ownership in a specific town in Mexico. "It continued an older tradition of documents kept by royal houses that were intended to accompany an oral presentation, like a visual aid."

The document was written in both the native and Spanish languages because it would have been used to legitimize land ownership in a bureaucratic process involving Spanish officials. Two dates inscribed on it -- 1691 and 1709 -- were probably the dates it was used, Matthew surmises.

Matthew is not an expert in Zapotec, but she knows someone who is. Michel Oudijk at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México knew exactly what the scroll was from looking at emailed photos -- and he knew because he had been looking for it for more than a decade.

"That's when we knew we had something valuable," says Matthew. "And luck played a part, because he had already studied this type of document and that made for a fast identification."

Oudijk and colleague Sebastián van Doesburg had found scholarly reports from the 1960s indicating two documents from Santa Catarina Ixtepeji had been sold in the early 20th century. One was sold by a British consular official in Oaxaca named Rickards, a Mexican of Scottish descent. But the research did not reveal that mining engineer Place was the buyer, or that it had ended up at the AGS.

Mystery solved

That information came some 50 years later when UWM's Baruth consulted the last batch of archival material -- 10,000 pounds of it -- that arrived in Milwaukee from New York in 2010. He unearthed a letter from Place, dated 1917, stating the price he wanted for his piece of antiquity. It provided the final piece in the puzzle of how the rare scroll had found its way from Mexico to Milwaukee.

Baruth believes that Place probably secured the artifact from Rickards, as the two were both in the mining community around Oaxaca.

By the time Place wanted to sell the artifact, the AGS was preoccupied with boundary disputes in Europe as World War I drew to a close. Baruth suspects that's why the document entered the collection with little notice. It was mostly likely shelved without sufficient identification and forgotten.

The discovery and identification of this piece illustrates the value of the work by librarians, archivists and the global community of scholars, says McGuinness.

"This is more than just a curiosity," he says. "This document tells us in the present something about Mexico that we would not otherwise have known. So UWM and Marquette are part of a circuit that creates and disseminates information of worldwide significance."

Collaboration extended beyond the academic. Jim DeYoung, senior conservator at the Milwaukee Art Museum, advised that the scroll never be rolled again. He designed and constructed the frame that it is now displayed in.

Through it all, McGuinness' and Matthew's students witnessed the mystery unfold. "This has been invaluable to teach students about the impact of research," says McGuinness. "My students could see knowledge being produced and the cooperation among institutions that made it happen."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120705204933.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Jul-2012 at 04:28

Ancient Hunter-Gatherers Kept in Touch

sn-neolithic.jpg
Far-flung cousin? This 8000-year-old skeleton of a hunter-gatherer, found in a Spanish cave, is genetically similar to skeletons found in central and Eastern Europe.

Until about 8500 years ago, Europe was populated by nomadic hunter-gatherers who hunted, fished, and ate wild plants. Then, the farming way of life swept into the continent from its origins in the Near East, including modern-day Turkey. Within 3000 years most of the hunter-gatherers had disappeared. Little is known about these early Europeans. But a new genetic analysis of two 8000-year-old skeletons from Spain suggests that they might have been a remarkably cohesive population both genetically and culturally—a conclusion that other researchers find intriguing but possibly premature.

The first modern human hunter-gatherers occupied Europe at least 40,000 years ago. But their fortunes waxed and waned with fluctuations in climate, and during the height of the last ice age—between about 25,000 and 20,000 years ago—they were forced to take refuge in southern European regions such as modern-day Spain, Portugal, and southern France. Only after 12,000 years ago, when a permanent warming trend set in, were they able to spread across all of Europe again, marking the beginning of a period called the Mesolithic.

Yet, while researchers have intensively studied the ancient farmers who followed them, relatively little is known about Europe's Mesolithic people. Scientists have extracted ancient DNA from dozens of farmer skeletons, but from fewer than 30 Mesolithic skeletons. Nearly all of these are from central and Eastern Europe.........

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/06/ancient-hunter-gatherers-kept-in.html?ref=hp

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jul-2012 at 10:30

Archaeologists uncover Palaeolithic ceramic art

Leg and torso from the model of a four-legged animal, possibly a deer or horse. This is one of 36 ceramic items recovered from Vela Spila, Croatia.

Evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who “invented” ceramics during the last Ice Age – thousands of years before pottery became commonplace – has been found in modern-day Croatia.

The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modelled animals, and come from a site called Vela Spila on the Adriatic coast. Archaeologists believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared. 

The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to a rapidly-changing set of views about when humans first developed the ability to make ceramics and pottery. Most histories of the technology begin with the more settled cultures of the Neolithic era, which began about 10,000 years ago. 

Now it is becoming clear that the story was much more complex. Over thousands of years, ceramics were invented, lost, reinvented and lost again. The earliest producers did not make crockery, but seem to have had more artistic inclinations. 

The Vela Spila finds have been the subject of intensive investigation by researchers at the University of Cambridge and colleagues in Croatia since 2010. Their report, published this week, suggests that although earlier ceramic remnants have been found elsewhere, they had no connection with the site, where the ability to make these artefacts appears to have been independently rediscovered by the people who lived there. 

“It is extremely unusual to find ceramic art this early in prehistory,” Dr. Preston Miracle, from the University of Cambridge, said. 

“The finds at Vela Spila seem to represent the first evidence of Palaeolithic ceramic art at the end of the last Ice Age. They appear to have been developed independently of anything that had come before. We are starting to see that several distinct Palaeolithic societies made art from ceramic materials long before the Neolithic era, when ceramics became more common and were usually used for more functional purposes.” 

Vela Spila is a large, limestone cave on Korčula Island, in the central Dalmatian archipelago. Excavations have taken place there sporadically since 1951, and there is evidence of occupation on the site during the Upper Palaeolithic period, roughly 20,000 years ago, through to the Bronze Age about 3,000 years ago.........

http://m.phys.org/news/2012-07-archaeologists-uncover-palaeolithic-ceramic-art.html

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jul-2012 at 09:12

Genomic Study of Africa's Hunter-Gatherers Elucidates Human Variation and Ancient Interbreeding

Human diversity in Africa is greater than any place else on Earth. Differing food sources, geographies, diseases and climates offered many targets for natural selection to exert powerful forces on Africans to change and adapt to their local environments. The individuals who adapted best were the most likely to reproduce and pass on their genomes to the generations who followed.......
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120726122118.htm
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  Quote red clay Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jul-2012 at 12:33
Originally posted by TheAlaniDragonRising

Archaeologists uncover Palaeolithic ceramic art

Leg and torso from the model of a four-legged animal, possibly a deer or horse. This is one of 36 ceramic items recovered from Vela Spila, Croatia.

Evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who “invented” ceramics during the last Ice Age – thousands of years before pottery became commonplace – has been found in modern-day Croatia.

The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modelled animals, and come from a site called Vela Spila on the Adriatic coast. Archaeologists believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared. 

The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to a rapidly-changing set of views about when humans first developed the ability to make ceramics and pottery. Most histories of the technology begin with the more settled cultures of the Neolithic era, which began about 10,000 years ago. 

Now it is becoming clear that the story was much more complex. Over thousands of years, ceramics were invented, lost, reinvented and lost again. The earliest producers did not make crockery, but seem to have had more artistic inclinations. 

The Vela Spila finds have been the subject of intensive investigation by researchers at the University of Cambridge and colleagues in Croatia since 2010. Their report, published this week, suggests that although earlier ceramic remnants have been found elsewhere, they had no connection with the site, where the ability to make these artefacts appears to have been independently rediscovered by the people who lived there. 

“It is extremely unusual to find ceramic art this early in prehistory,” Dr. Preston Miracle, from the University of Cambridge, said. 

“The finds at Vela Spila seem to represent the first evidence of Palaeolithic ceramic art at the end of the last Ice Age. They appear to have been developed independently of anything that had come before. We are starting to see that several distinct Palaeolithic societies made art from ceramic materials long before the Neolithic era, when ceramics became more common and were usually used for more functional purposes.” 

Vela Spila is a large, limestone cave on Korčula Island, in the central Dalmatian archipelago. Excavations have taken place there sporadically since 1951, and there is evidence of occupation on the site during the Upper Palaeolithic period, roughly 20,000 years ago, through to the Bronze Age about 3,000 years ago.........

http://m.phys.org/news/2012-07-archaeologists-uncover-palaeolithic-ceramic-art.html

 
 
I wonder when they will finally do away with the designation "Pre-Ceramic".  On a global scale, there really isn't such. 
 
 
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Jul-2012 at 00:13

Study Reveals New Clues to Human Diversity and Environmental Adaptability in Evolutionary History


Research also found evidence of ancient interbreeding between ancestors of modern Africans and another hominin lineage.

A genetic study of African hunter-gatherers has revealed important new insights to how human populations of the distant past have evolved to adapt to their environments, a key component of change in human evolution that has led to the genetic diversity we see today in modern human populations. 

The research, published on July 26th in the journal Cell and led by Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, involved sequencing whole genomes of 15 individuals, five each from three different hunter-gatherer population groups in Africa. "We sequenced the genomes of five males from each of three African hunter-gatherer populations (Western Pygmy, Hadza, and Sandawe) at high coverage", she said. "We then compared these genome sequences to a previously published genome sequence from a San hunter-gatherer and to publicly available whole-sequence data from other ethnically, linguistically, and geographically diverse African populations.....These genomes were compared to publicly available high-coverage genomes sequenced and analyzed using the same technology and software in a diverse panel of 53 unrelated individuals (including 4 Luhya from Kenya, 4 Maasai from Kenya, 10 Yoruba from Nigeria, and 51 non-Africans), allowing the genomes of African hunter-gatherers to be placed within a global context". [1] 

The researchers identified more than 13 million variations in DNA sequences in the tested genomes, and more than 3 million of them have not been found in existing databases. "This is the first population genomics analysis using high-coverage whole-genome sequencing," Tishkoff says. "Many of the variants we found would not have been identified without this kind of analysis."  Until now, scientists have analyzed only six African genomes that had been sequenced at high coverage, which involves sequencing regions numerous times to achieve high accuracy.

Africa is considered to be the ancestral homeland of all modern humans and contains the highest level of genetic diversity among all of the continents. But, says Tishkoff, "even though African populations have played an important role in human evolutionary history, relatively little is known about variation in African genomes".

The study has shed more light on the genetic signs of natural selection. As compared to agricultural and pastoral populations, the hunter-gatherer populations showed distinctly different DNA patterns related to immunity, metabolism, smell, and taste, suggesting that the populations adapted to specific pathogens, food sources, and other factors of the local environments they inhabited. In addition, they identified several candidate genes that could be responsible for the short stature of the Western Pygmies, and perhaps, by extension, pygmies in general.

The study also revealed evidence of ancient interbreeding between the ancestors of modern Africans and another hominin (possible archaic form of humans)* lineage.  "A striking finding in our data set", writes Tishkoff, et. al.,  "is that compelling evidence exists that extant hunter-gatherer genomes contain introgressed archaic sequences, consistent with previous studies.......In short, we find that low levels of introgression from an unknown archaic population or populations occurred in the three African hunter-gatherer samples examined, consistent with findings of archaic admixture in non-Africans." [1]

In other words, just as previous studies have suggested interbreeding between ancenstral modern humans and Neanderthals in Europe, this study shows evidence that the same had occurred between the ancestors of modern Africans and an archaic form of human or other hominin. Exactly what archaic population it might have been is still unknown.

The researchers hope that the study will provide an additional foundation for other scientists moving forward with similar genetic research. 

"Our study has not only vastly increased knowledge about human genomic variation," said Tishkoff, "but also shed light on human evolutionary history and the origins of traits that make each of us unique".

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/june-2012/article/study-reveals-new-clues-to-human-diversity-and-environmental-adaptability-in-evolutionary-history



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 29-Jul-2012 at 00:22
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Jul-2012 at 13:27

Religion in Human Evolution, part 1: the co-evolution of gods and humanity

I am not fully recovered yet from my heart attack, but have been occupying my convalescence with Robert Bellah's book Religion in Human Evolution, and it's so powerful that I am going to write about it anyway. It is an account of some of the ways in which human beings have made religions and religions have made us. The process continues, of course. If there are two faculties that make us into people, they are narration and contemplation. Religions unite them, and stimulate both. But it does much more than that.

The book makes a change for this series: it only came out this year, and the author, a distinguished US sociologist, is still very much alive. But I think it is as important here as any of the classic authors we have dealt with before. That's a large claim. But Bellah offers a perspective on the various phenomena we call religion that unites history (in so far as we have it) with psychology and sociology. Any overarching theory must be this ambitious, because religion is complicated. It is something that people do to themselves, and to their societies, and at the same time something that whole societies do to themselves, to each other and to their constituent individuals. It has – sometimes – theoretical aspects. It has ritual aspects too. Even within Christianity, which is what most of us in the west know best, there are elements of dance, of play, of the exercise of power, of logic, poetry and morality; there are hermits and popes, inquisitors and housewives: all of these can be found without even mentioning myths.

Such an enormous diversity of roles is, of course, dependent on a diverse and complex society. You don't find popes, priests or inquisitors among the Bushmen, nor anywhere in prehistory. If we're looking for something common to all expressions of religion, it will not be sufficient to describe any single one. So Bellah starts with the common experience of everyday life – an endless round of purpose-driven problem-solving in which our wants can never be completely satisfied. The first, and almost the most important, point he makes is that everyday life is quite literally intolerable if there is nothing else and no other way to live.

But, as he goes on to point out, no one has to live like that. It's certainly not the world we live in all the time:

"Among language-using humans, however, the world of daily life is never all there is, and the other realities that human culture gives rise to cannot fail to overlap with the world of daily life, whose relentless utilitarianism can never be absolute.

"In spite of its 'apparent actuality', the world of daily life is a culturally, symbolically constructed world, not the world as it actually is. As such, it varies in terms of time and space, with much in common across the historical and cultural landscape, but with occasional sharp differences."

This is important. Not only are religions profoundly different from one another, but so are the worlds that they provide escape from and meaning to. There may be – and, in fact, there probably are – psychological or cognitive mechanisms underlying the different ways in which all cultures deal with the world. But these are differently expressed and elaborated, just as languages are, so that you simply can't translate entirely between them.

The evolution of language is necessarily closed off from us. With the possible exception of Pirahã, all the languages spoken today seem to be on a similar level of complexity, and we can't reconstruct how they got there. Religions are different. The big ones have histories, more or less partial and incomplete. Preliterate societies are still to be found and studied. Even though none of them have been untouched by modern industrial culture (if only by the fact of being studied), we can still see how they differ from one another, and from us. This is where he starts, in worlds where there are neither gods nor people as we know them.

A great part of the story of this book is the co-evolution of gods and humanity. Although he finishes in the "axial age", when modern religious and philosophical thought first appeared, and with it universalist ethics, he avoids the slithery optimism of Karen Armstrong. What we have are numerous universalist ethics, not just one. What got us here was not progress:

"No serious reader of this book can think it is a paean to any kind of religious triumphalism."

He writes:

"That religious evolution is simply the rise, onward and upward, of ever more compassionate, more righteous, more enlightened religions could hardly be farther from the truth."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/jul/16/robert-bellah-religion-in-human-evolution

Religion in Human Evolution, part 2: faith, language, music and play. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/23/robert-bellah-religion-human-evolution


Religion in Human Evolution, part 3: the primacy of ritual over language. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/30/religion-in-human-evolution-rituals

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Aug-2012 at 01:11
DNA hints at African cousin to humans
Expeditions to Africa may have brought back evidence of a hitherto unknown branch in the human family tree. But this time the evidence wasn’t unearthed by digging in the dirt. It was found in the DNA of hunter-gatherer people living in Cameroon and Tanzania.

Buried in the genetic blueprints of 15 people, researchers found the genetic signature of a sister species that branched off the human family tree at about the same time that Neandertals did. This lineage probably remained isolated from the one that produced modern humans for a long time, but its DNA jumped into the Homo sapiens gene pool through interbreeding with modern humans during the same era that other modern humans and Neandertals were mixing in the Middle East, researchers report in the August 3 Cell.

The evidence for ancient interbreeding is surprisingly convincing, says Richard “Ed” Green, a genome biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “There is a signal that demands explanation, and archaic admixture seems to be the most reasonable one at this point,” he says........

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/342711/title/DNA_hints_at_African_cousin_to_humans

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Aug-2012 at 22:48

The Roots of Jewishness

Scholars of all kinds have long debated one seemingly simple question: What is "Jewishness?" Is it defined by genetics, culture, or religion? Recent findings have revealed genetic ties that suggest a biological basis for Jewishness, but this research didn’t include data from North African, Ethiopian, or other Jewish communities. Now a new study fills in the genetic map—and paints a more complex picture of what it means to be Jewish.

Modern Jews, who number more than 13 million worldwide, are traditionally divided into various groups. They include Middle Eastern Jews, who live in Iraq, Iran, and other places in the Levant; Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal; Ashkenazi Jews from Europe, who comprise 90% of American Jews; North African Jews from Morocco, Algeria, and other countries north of the Sahara; Ethiopian Jews; and many other communities scattered across the globe. In the Bible, the roots of Jewishness reach back 4000 years to Abraham and his descendants. But historians have suggested the story of Jewishness is more complicated, and may not include a single ancestor. Some have even argued that most modern Jews are descended from converts to Judaism and don’t share genetic ties at all.

Recent studies have turned to DNA for answers. In 2010, human geneticist Harry Ostrer of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and colleagues found that three of the major Jewish groups—the Middle Eastern, Sephardic, and Ashkenazi Jews—share a genetic connection going back more than 2000 years, and are more closely related to each other than to nearby non-Jewish groups. Genetic ties within each of the groups were even closer, about the equivalent of fourth or fifth cousins. But that study didn't include North African Jews, who represent the world's second largest Jewish population, or any groups whose claim to Jewishness has been controversial, such as Ethiopian Jews.

So Ostrer and his colleagues gathered new DNA samples from Jews living everywhere from Morocco to Yemen. Using three distinct strategies for identifying genetic similarities, including a method called identity by descent (IBD) that can determine how closely related two individuals are, the team compared these DNA samples to each other, to the samples from their 2010 study, and to samples from non-Jews. Most of the sampled groups shared genetic features, indicating a common heritage dating back to before Roman times, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. North African Jews—and Moroccan/Algerian Jews in particular—showed a close genetic connection to Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, and little evidence of interbreeding with contemporary non-Jewish populations in North Africa. Georgian Jews shared genetic features with Middle Eastern Jews, instead. Yemenite Jews were distantly related to Middle Eastern Jews, while Ethiopian Jews formed their own cluster and shared little IDB with other Jewish populations. Each group showed little interbreeding with local non-Jewish groups. Moroccan/Algerian Jews, for example, were about as close genetically as third or fourth cousins; Jews from the Tunisian Island of Djerba were as close as first cousins once removed.

"I didn’t know what to expect," Ostrer says. "I've been surprised to learn there's such a shared biological basis for Jewishness." The team's results suggest that while most Jewish groups are genetically related, some are not and instead arose from converts to Judaism. But regardless of their origins, Jewish groups remained genetically isolated once formed.

The results complement historical accounts of multiple Jewish migrations and expulsions. The genetic ties between North African Jews and Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews may reflect the expulsion of European Jews from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s, and their limited breeding with local North African populations in the centuries that followed. Distinct populations, such as Ethiopian Jews, likely arose from Jewish founders who converted the local population by proselytizing but did not intermarry. "This is certainly the most extensive genomic study of Jewish populations to date," says geneticist Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the work. "And it shows there's both a genetic and a cultural component to being Jewish."

Identifying the genetic component of Jewishness—though controversial because the Holocaust was predicated on the idea that Jewishness was a genetic trait that could be eliminated from the German population—could have medical as well as historical value, Tishkoff adds, because many Jewish populations have high incidences of genetic disease. Knowing more about the groups' biological makeup could enable doctors to provide more informed genetic counseling to Jewish couples, or better personalize courses of treatment. Tishkoff notes that the little-studied Jewish populations of India, sub-Saharan Africa, China, and Burma weren’t examined in the latest analysis. Ostrer says his team plans to include their DNA in a future study to complete what he calls "the tapestry of Jewishness."

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/08/the-roots-of-jewishness.html?ref=hp



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 06-Aug-2012 at 22:53
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Aug-2012 at 21:48

Early Human Ancestors Had More Variable Diet


Scientists conducted an analysis of the fossil teeth, indicating that Australopithecus, a predecessor of early Homo, had a more varied diet than early Homo.

New research sheds more light on the diet and home ranges of early hominins belonging to three different genera, notablyAustralopithecusParanthropus and Homo -- that were discovered at sites such as Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Kromdraai in the Cradle of Humankind, about 50 kilometres from Johannesburg. Australopithecus existed before the other two genera evolved about 2 million years ago.

Scientists conducted an analysis of the fossil teeth, indicating that Australopithecus, a predecessor of early Homo, had a more varied diet than early Homo. Its diet was also more variable than the diet of another distant human relative known as Paranthropus.

An international team of researchers, including Professor Francis Thackeray, Director of the Institute for Human Evolution at Wits University, will be publishing their latest research on what our early ancestors ate, online in the journal,Nature, on August 8, 2012. The paper titled 'Evidence for diet but not landscape use in South African early hominins' was authored by Vincent Balter from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France; Jose´ Braga from the Université de Toulouse Paul Sabatier in Toulouse in France; Philippe Te´louk from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon in France; and Thackeray from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in South Africa.

According to Thackeray, the results of the study show that Paranthropus had a primarily herbivorous-like diet, while Homo included a greater consumption of meat........

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808132711.htm




Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 08-Aug-2012 at 21:53
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Aug-2012 at 09:43

New Kenyan Fossils Shed Light On Early Human Evolution



Kenyan fossil find: The KNM-ER 1470 cranium, discovered in 1972, combined with the new lower jaw KNM-ER 60000; both are thought to belong to the same species. The lower jaw is shown as a photographic reconstruction, and the cranium is based on a computed tomography scan.

Exciting new fossils discovered east of Lake Turkana confirm that there were two additional species of our genus -- Homo -- living alongside our direct human ancestral species,Homo erectus, almost two million years ago. The finds, announced in the scientific journal Nature on August 9th, include a face, a remarkably complete lower jaw, and part of a second lower jaw.

They were uncovered between 2007 and 2009 by the Koobi Fora Research Project (KFRP), led by Meave and Louise Leakey. KFRP's fieldwork was facilitated by the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI), and supported by the National Geographic Society, which has funded the KFRP since 1968.

Four decades ago, the KFRP discovered the enigmatic fossil known as KNM-ER 1470 (or "1470" for short). This skull, readily distinguished by its large brain size and long flat face, ignited a longstanding debate about just how many different species of early Homolived alongside Homo erectus during the Pleistocene epoch. 1470's unusual morphology was attributed by some scientists to sexual differences and natural degrees of variation within a single species, whereas others interpreted the fossil as evidence of a separate species.

This decades-old dilemma has endured for two reasons. First, comparisons with other fossils have been limited due to the fact that 1470's remains do not include its teeth or lower jaw. Second, no other fossil skull has mirrored 1470's flat and long face, leaving in doubt just how representative these characteristics are. The new fossils address both issues......

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808132705.htm



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 09-Aug-2012 at 09:48
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  Quote red clay Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Aug-2012 at 12:50
This sort of puts the last nail in the coffin for the concept of linear evolution. 
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Aug-2012 at 03:16

Pre-Columbian Cahokia Mound Builders Consumed "Black Drink", Say Researchers

"...Like other pre-Columbian Native Americans in the southeastern U.S., people living 700 to 900 years ago in Cahokia, a large settlement distinquished by its massive earthenwork mounds in south-western Illinoise, consumed a "black drink", a caffeinated drink made from the leaves of a holly tree that grew hundreds of miles away from the Cahokia site, according to a recent study. Consumption of the brew, according to the researchers, had a ritualistic or religious significance.

The discovery was made as the research team, consisting of scientists at the University of Illinois, the University of New Mexico, Millsaps College in Mississippi and Hershey Technical Center in Pennsylvania, were sampling plant residue found within distinct and relatively rare ancient cylindrical Cahokian beakers. They found key biochemical markers, which included theobromine, caffeine and ursolic acid, proportioned much like that found within drinking vessels at other sites in the southeastern U.S. The beakers, dating from A.D. 1050 to 1250, were found at ritual sites in and around Cahokia.

Anthropologist Patricia Crowan of the University of New Mexico and chemist Jeffrey Hunt of the Hershey Technical Center conducted the chemical analyses. The study was in part an outgrowth of a similar project where they performed tests on ceramic vessels found at the Chaco Canyon archaeological site in New Mexico. In A.D. 1100-1125, the inhabitants of Chaco consumed liquid chocolate from special ceramic vessels found there, as the ancient Maya did in Mexico and Central America centuries before...."http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/june-2012/article/pre-columbian-cahokia-mound-builders-consumed-black-drink-say-researchers

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