Follow by Email

Monday, June 30, 2008

Researchers Sound Aztec 'Whistle of Death'By Julie Watson, Associated Press

Researchers Sound Aztec 'Whistle of Death'By Julie Watson, Associated Press

posted: 29 June 2008 09:23 pm ET
Buzz up!
Digg It!
reddit11 Comments | 3 Recommend
MEXICO CITY (AP) - Scientists were fascinated by the ghostly find: a human skeleton buried in an Aztec temple with a clay, skull-shaped whistle in each bony hand.

But no one blew into the noisemakers for nearly 15 years. When someone finally did, the shrill, windy screech made the spine tingle.

If death had a sound, this was it.

Roberto Velazquez believes the Aztecs played this mournful wail from the so-called Whistles of Death before they were sacrificed to the gods.

The 66-year-old mechanical engineer has devoted his career to recreating the sounds of his pre-Columbian ancestors, producing hundreds of replicas of whistles, flutes and wind instruments unearthed in Mexico's ruins.

For years, many archaeologists who uncovered ancient noisemakers dismissed them as toys. Museums relegated them to warehouses. But while most studies and exhibits of ancient cultures focus on how they looked, Velazquez said the noisemakers provide a rare glimpse into how they sounded.

"We've been looking at our ancient culture as if they were deaf and mute,'' he said. "But I think all of this is tied closely to what they did, how they thought.''

Velazquez is part of a growing field of study that includes archaeologists, musicians and historians. Medical doctors are interested too, believing the Aztecs may have used sound to treat illnesses.

Noisemakers made of clay, turkey feathers, sugar cane, frog skins and other natural materials were an integral part of pre-Columbian life, found at nearly every Mayan site.

The Aztecs sounded the low, foghorn hum of conch shells at the start of ceremonies and possibly during wars to communicate strategies. Hunters likely used animal-shaped ocarinas to produce throaty grunts that lured deer.

The modern-day archaeologists who came up with the term Whistles of Death believe they were meant to help the deceased journey into the underworld, while tribes are said to have emitted terrifying sounds to fend off enemies, much like high-tech crowd-control devices available today.

Experts also believe pre-Columbian tribes used some of the instruments to send the human brain into a dream state and treat certain illnesses. The ancient whistles could guide research into how rhythmic sounds alter heart rates and states of consciousness.

Among Velazquez's replicas are those that emit a strange cacophony so strong that their frequency nears the maximum range of human hearing.

Chronicles by Spanish priests from the 1500s described the Aztec and Mayan sounds as sad and doleful, although these may have been only what was played in their presence.

"My experience is that at least some pre-Hispanic sounds are more destructive than positive, others are highly trance-evocative,'' said Arnd Adje Both, an expert in pre-Hispanic music archaeology who was the first to blow the Whistles of Death found in the Aztec skeleton's hands. "Surely, sounds were used in all kind of cults, such as sacrificial ones, but also in healing ceremonies.''

Sounds still play an important role in Mexican society. A cow bell announces the arrival of the garbage truck outside Mexico City homes. A trilling, tuneless flute heralds the knife sharpener's arrival. A whistle emitting cat meows says the lottery ticket seller is here.

But pre-Columbian instruments often end up in a warehouse, Velazquez said, "and I'm talking about museums around the world doing this, not just here.''

That's changing, said Tomas Barrientos, director of the archaeology department at Del Valle University of Guatemala.

"Ten years ago, nothing was known about this,'' he said. "But with the opening up of museum collections and people's private collections, it's an area of research that is growing in importance.''

Velazquez meticulously researches each noisemaker before replicating it. He travels across Mexico to examine newly unearthed wind instruments, some dating back to 400 B.C. and shaped like animals or deities. He studies reliefs and scans 500-year-old Spanish chronicles.

But making replicas is only part of the work. Then he has to figure out how to play them. He'll blow into some holes and plug others, or press the instrument to his lips and flutter his tongue. Sometimes he puts the noisemaker inside his mouth and blows, fluctuating the air from his lungs.

He experimented with one frog-shaped whistle for a year before discovering its inner croak.

Renowned archaeologist Paul Healy, who made an important discovery of Mayan instruments in Belize in the 1980s, said many of the originals still work.

"A couple of these instruments we found were broken, which was great because we could actually see the construction of them, the actual technology of building a sound chamber out of paper-thin clay,'' he said.

Still, their exact sounds will likely remain a mystery.

"When you blow into them, you still can get notes from them, so you could figure out what the range was,'' Healy said. "But what we don't have is sheet music to give us a more accurate picture

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ancient stone tools discovered in South Carolina
Finds at Savannah River site could rewrite America's history

McClatchy Newspapers
Published on: 06/17/08

HILTON HEAD, S.C. — A local man has unearthed two ancient stone tools
in an archaeological dig in Allendale County, S.C., a rare find that
could provide more information about how early Americans lived.

And if more evidence proves the artifact is a new type of tool and one
archaeologists haven't found before, it could be named after Matthew
Carey of Hilton Head Island.

The 22-year-old University of South Carolina anthropology major
volunteered at the Topper Site where USC archaeologist Dr. Albert
Goodyear has been excavating for 10 years. Carey found the tools on
June 8, the last day of the 2008 dig.

Though it's Goodyear's project, new finds are typically named after
their discoverers.

That would make Carey the second local resident to earn name
recognition by contributing a new find at the dig.

In 1998 — thanks to Beaufort County resident David Topper — Goodyear
found artifacts at this ancient rock quarry near the Savannah River
that indicate humans lived here 37,000 years earlier than originally
thought. Goodyear named the site "Topper" after the resident who found

The site is one of a handful of excavations across the country where
evidence is being uncovered that could rewrite America's history.

So far, there have been two sets of artifacts found at Topper:

• Stone flakes and tools that date to the Clovis people, which history
books say are the first Americans who arrived here 13,000 years ago
via a land bridge from Asia.

• A fire pit that contained plant remains that date to 50,000 years
ago, which could help prove Goodyear's theory about when humans lived

Goodyear believes the site was a factory for the Clovis people, where
they came to make tools.

The new find could show it was also a site used by the Taylor people,
who lived at least 1,500 years after their Clovis ancestors in an era
called the Early Archaic period.

In the dirt, 4 inches above Clovis artifacts, Carey found the tools
dating to 11,000 years ago that could have been used as knives or
projectile points for hunting.

"When we dug them up, I got a good look and thought, 'Yeah, it's a
point,'" Carey said. "The next day I was brushing over the area next
to it and I uncovered the exact same thing 5 centimeters to the right
of it."

The tools are pointed with straight sharp edges. They are unlike those
typically found from the Taylor people, known for making pointed tools
with jagged edges that would have been attached to spears for hunting
or fishing. Goodyear has found 18 of these at his dig site.

Carey's find could prove the Taylor people also had another tool in
their toolkit, which might have had a different purpose.

"I think they were probably left there the same day, in all likelihood
by one person," Goodyear said. "What we are hoping is this will tell
us something more about the Early Archaic people."

Goodyear hopes to find more of these artifacts next year when he
returns to Topper for another dig. Kara Bridgman Sweeny who was
supervising nearby proposed naming them after Carey.

To do so, Goodyear must be sure the tool is indeed from the Early
Archaic era and is an artifact archaeologists haven't found before.

"I've got to be sure," Goodyear said. "They look nearly identical and
we are digging more next year in that same area, so we may be
revealing more of this. If we find two or three more it would be a
very cool story. Our confidence would go way up."

Carey said getting the credit for the find would be an honor.

"I think it is just pretty neat that I could find something the second
time I've been out in the field," he said.
The Island Packet

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tomb of King Gilgamesh Found?

Gilgamesh tomb believed found
Archaeologists in Iraq believe they may have found the lost tomb of King Gilgamesh - the subject of the oldest "book" in history.

The Epic Of Gilgamesh - written by a Middle Eastern scholar 2,500 years before the birth of Christ - commemorated the life of the ruler of the city of Uruk, from which Iraq gets its name.

Now, a German-led expedition has discovered what is thought to be the entire city of Uruk - including, where the Euphrates once flowed, the last resting place of its famous King.

"I don't want to say definitely it was the grave of King Gilgamesh, but it looks very similar to that described in the epic," Jorg Fassbinder, of the Bavarian department of Historical Monuments in Munich, told the BBC World Service's Science in Action programme.


In the book - actually a set of inscribed clay tablets - Gilgamesh was described as having been buried under the Euphrates, in a tomb apparently constructed when the waters of the ancient river parted following his death.

"We found just outside the city an area in the middle of the former Euphrates river¿ the remains of such a building which could be interpreted as a burial," Mr Fassbinder said.

" Who can compare with him in kingliness? Who can say, like Gilgamesh, I am king? "
The Epic Of Gilgamesh

He said the amazing discovery of the ancient city under the Iraqi desert had been made possible by modern technology.

"By differences in magnetisation in the soil, you can look into the ground," Mr Fassbinder added.

"The difference between mudbricks and sediments in the Euphrates river gives a very detailed structure."

This creates a magnetogram, which is then digitally mapped, effectively giving a town plan of Uruk.

'Venice in the desert'

"The most surprising thing was that we found structures already described by Gilgamesh," Mr Fassbinder stated.

"We covered more than 100 hectares. We have found garden structures and field structures as described in the epic, and we found Babylonian houses."

But he said the most astonishing find was an incredibly sophisticated system of canals.

"Very clearly, we can see in the canals some structures showing that flooding destroyed some houses, which means it was a highly developed system.

"[It was] like Venice in the desert."
Source With Pictures!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mojokerto Delta, East Jawa

OF Huffman & Y Zaim 2003
Mojokerto Delta, East Jawa: Paleoenvironment of Homo modjokertensis
― First Results
Submitted to Journal of Mineral Technology, v.10, n. 2. The Faculty of Earth
Sciences and Mineral Technology,
Institute Technology, Bandung.
Mojokerto Delta, East Jawa:
Paleoenvironment of Homo modjokertensis―First Results

What characterized Homo erectus habitats on the tropical island of Jawa
(Java)? This question is being addressed by a project led by the authors
and supported by the US-based Leakey Foundation and National Science
Foundation. The hominid discovered at Perning in 1936, Homo modjokertensis,
is the focus of our current research because this fossil is far older than
any other from a maritime paleogeographic setting and may be the oldest
hominid known outside Africa. The following summarizes our findings so far.
Newly found documents from 1936-1938 support the statements of the
discoverers that the discovery was found in situ in Plio-Pleistocene
bedrock. These documents have allowed us to relocate the discovery
site, and examine the stratum in which the hominid was found. The bed
formed as a bar in a swift-flowing river channel on a delta plain of the
ancient Mojokerto Delta (named herein). The local sedimentary sequence
containing the hominid bed provides paleo-environmental information on the
shallow sea, the marine-delta front, the delta plain (flood plain and river
channels), and a long-standing delta interfluve (paleosol) where Homo
erectus might have lived.
Test excavations at the hominid site during 2001 and 2002 field seasons
produced 250 fossil vertebrates. The nature of the recovery suggests that
additional hominid remains may be found in the bed.
Fossils from the excavations and nearby surface collecting suggest that
deer, muntjak, bovids, pig, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, Stegodon, and large
cat inhabited the delta, together with Homo erectus.
Mollusks, turtle and crocodile were recovered from the excavation, and
inhabited the river. The fossil of a giant tortoise was recovered from a
nearby locality.
Pollen, spores and phyoliths from the hominid-producing sequence show that
mangroves existed along the seacoast, swamps occurred along the river, and
the distant mountains were forested. The delta plain included―and perhaps
was largely covered with--grasslands. Stable-carbon isotope signatures
(δ13C) have been obtained from the enamel of teeth of bovids, cervids, and
other animals from the hominid bed and other localities in the
hominid-bearing sequence in the Perning district. This is the first use the
stable-isotope method to characterize the paleoenvironment of Homo erectus
in Jawa. The results encourage the more widespread use of the technique.
Most of the carbon isotope results fit the C4 photosynthetic pathway
characteristic of tropical grasses. This result is consistent with the
grasslands indicated by pollen and phyoliths.
The good state of preservation of Homo modjokertensis relative to the
high-energy fluvial sediment in which it was found indicates that the skull
probably was transported a short distance from its life habitat,
and therefore H. erectus was likely to have been a member of the community
of animals that lived in the Mojokerto Delta. The delta contained a variety
of potential hominid foods. Fossil evidence for large terrestrial mammals,
mollusks, other aquatic animals, fruit-bearing trees, and an edible fern has
been found so far. Work continues that will allow us to describe the
hominid paleoenvironment and dietary resources of the delta more completely,
as well as to provide an unequivocal absolute age for the Perning hominid.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Amazonian tribe that hid from the rest of the world – until now

ree near-naked figures are visible in the forest clearing. Two of them are men, their bodies daubed with a red dye, and they are aiming their bows at the sky. A third figure appears to be a woman, her body blackened and only her pale hands and face betraying her natural colour.

This remarkable photograph is the first proof of the existence of one of the world's last uncontacted tribes. Taken from a plane that was flying low over the canopy of the Amazon rainforest near the border between Brazil and Peru, it could play a vital part in ensuring the tribe's survival.

"We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there, to show they exist," said José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Junior, an expert on the remote tribal people who live beyond the boundaries of the modern world. "This is very important because there are some who doubt their existence."

Mr Meirelles, who works for FUNAI, the Brazilian government's Indian affairs department, said they first encountered the group on a morning flight earlier this month and saw dozens of people dotted around a clearing with two communal huts. When they returned later the same day, the impact of the earlier flight was clear. Most of the women and children had fled into the forest, he said, and those that were left had painted their bodies, taken up arms and appeared to be on a "war footing".

Experts believe that the hostile response is a clear indication that they understand that contact with the outside world spells danger. Across the border in Peru, similar tribes are being driven from their lands by aggressive oil and mining interests and illegal loggers.

Peru's President, Alan Garcia, has openly questioned the existence of uncontacted tribes. Meanwhile, evidence of the destruction of the forest has been piling up down river in the Brazilian state of Acre, where barrels of Peruvian petrol have washed up along with debris from logging operations. "What is happening in this region [of Peru] is a monumental crime against the natural world, the tribes, the fauna, and is further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the 'civilised' ones, treat the world," said Mr Meirelles.

After a decades-long political battle, indigenous groups now have their land rights protected under Brazilian law. The London-based charity Survival International is leading calls for Peru to act in accordance with international law and protect the tribes on its territory.

Survival's Fiona Watson, who recently returned from the region, said that Indians fleeing over the border into Brazil could be driven into conflict with uncontacted tribes already living there. "It is clear from this photograph that they want to be left alone," she said.

Encounters with the outside world are typically fatal for these tribes, who have no defences against the common cold and other commonplace diseases. "The groups are often fragments of much larger tribes that were overrun in the past and have died from disease or at the barrel of a gun," said Miss Watson.

The experience of the Akunsu tribe in neighbouring Rondonia, contacted a little over a decade ago, is not unusual. Today, only six members of the tribe survive. All relatives, they cannot marry and the group is expected to die out within a generation.

One of the survivors said they were overrun by loggers who sent gunmen into their areas to drive them out. Under Brazilian law, land occupied by Indians cannot be cultivated so ranchers make sure that no Indians survive.
Source With Pictures

Galilee cave reveals secrets of hunter-gatherers

Galilee cave reveals secrets of hunter-gatherers

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The cave dwelling is filled with stalactites

A wealth of new information about the way of life of early man in the eastern Mediterranean, long before the invention of the wheel, is likely to be uncovered after the startling discovery of a cave inhabited by hunter-gatherers between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Workers constructing a sewage line through a forest in northern Israel stumbled across a large cave containing stalactites and strewn with discarded fragments of prehistoric tools and the burnt bones of animals which have long been extinct in the region, including red deer, fallow deer, buffalo and even bears.

While examination of the remains is at a preliminary stage, experts have hailed the discovery – at an undisclosed location in western Galilee – as the most important of its kind in the southern Levant for up to half a century. Dr Ofer Marder, the head of the prehistory branch of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and an archaeologist colleague were lowered 30m down into the darkness by rope. He described the cave as "one of the best preserved I have seen" and added: "It was if prehistoric man had left it five days earlier."

Dr Marder said: "It seems that, during the past 40 to 50 years, no cave has been found with such a wealth of prehistoric finds and certainly not inside such a lovely stalactite cave." He said it contained a number of chambers, the main one measuring 60m by 80m – not much smaller than a football pitch.

The IAA said the cave appeared to date from the Upper Palaeolithic period but could have been inhabited even earlier than that. Much more detailed examination of the cave and its contents is needed than the two or three hours Dr Marder and his colleagues have so far spent there. As Dr Marder discusses the next step with archaeologists, geologists and other experts, the site has been recovered to prevent curious day-trippers happening upon it and damaging the contents before they are properly inspected.

The IAA said: "The cave will also be dated by means of advanced scientific methods that will provide researchers with an absolute chronological range." Dr Marder added: "We have to be very cautious at this stage. But we found waste from flint tools of the sort that would be thrown near a fire because that was where the tools were usually made."

Charred bones from legs and joints, as well as teeth, have already indicated what kind of animals were being hunted by the cave's Paleolithic inhabitants. Dr Marder said the hope was that the findings would yield new information about the dating of Homo sapiens in the area, the regional climate at the time, surrounding vegetation and animal life, how prehistoric man lived and what he ate. While the IAA archaeologists have not yet confirmed the presence of human remains, they hope to do so.

Collagen from human or animal bones is a well-known source of information about the diet and surrounding eco-systems of the mammals concerned. The IAA said it was carrying out its research in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund – on whose land the cave was discovered – and the Centre for Cave Exploration.

While the cave might not be outstanding compared to those discovered in the Dordogne and southern France, Dr Marder said it was an "amazing find" for the southern Levant.Source

Friday, June 6, 2008

Prehistoric Coastlines

This is a mosaic of ocean bottom topography. The cyan areas would have been dry land during the ice age. Notice these are depth contours.

Notice one can walk to India from the horn of Africa without a Red Sea on the way. (Cue the Exodus is true crowd.) Note also one could have walked almost all the way from SE Asia to Australia.

For the present Amerind discussion you can see there is actually very little
open water to cross in getting from Europe to North America during the last ice age.
Click Here to See It

New Underwater Site

In August 2007, holidaymakers discovered two pairs of polished jadeitite axeheads that had been set vertically in gravelly silt on the beach of Porh Fetan, at a location called Petit Rohu (Figure 1). The shape and material of these axeheads allowed them to be identified straightaway as being of Alpine origin, in common with a number of axeheads found in the region (Bailloud et al. 1995; Pétrequin et al.1997). Archaeological fieldwork, both on the land in the vicinity of the findspot and underwater, was subsequently carried out by the Laboratory of Archaeological Research (CNRS – Nantes University), in order to examine the context of the findspot and to try to delimit the extent of the site. MORE

60,000 Year Old Arrow

Picture at

Little arrow that rewrites history books

By Shaun Smillie

It might have been used to bring down a small blue duiker or perhaps pick off a bird high in the forest canopy. Its exact target will never be known, but scientists now know what this ordinary-looking piece of bone was used for.

Two researchers from Wits University believe that what they have discovered is a 60 000-year-old arrow that was fired from the earliest known bow. Their discovery has pushed back the origins of bow-and- arrow technology by 20 000 years.

The bow, probably made of wood and long since decayed, was used at a time when Neanderthals in Europe were using large spears in duels with woolly mammoths and other large prehistoric game.

Dr Lucinda Backwell of the Bernard Price Institute for Palae- ontological Research and Professor Lyn Wadley of Wits University's department of archaeology and Institute for Human Evolution released their findings in an article that appeared in the Journal of Archaeological Science co-authored by Francesco d'Errico of the University of Bordeaux in France.

The bone arrow, just 5cm long, was excavated by Wadley at the Sibudu cave, near the coastal town of Ballito in KwaZulu Natal, two years ago.

Wadley handed the specimens, which included two other pieces of bone, to Backwell. It was after much research and visits to Museum Africa in Newtown, Joburg, that Backwell realised what she was looking at.

"The museum has a large collection of Bushman arrow points. It appeared to be identical to arrows that the Bushman used to kill birds and small mammals," Backwell said.

"We think that the bone point marks a shift from hand-delivered spears to the use of projectile technology."

It also provides a glimpse of how humans were living in this corner of what is now KwaZulu Natal.

"They would have adapted to living in the forest, where they would have been hunting little animals," she said.

"Nets and traps were also probably used for hunting and fishing."

The other two bone specimens discovered at the cave also give clues to life 60 000 years ago. Backwell explained: "One of the bones appeared to have been used as a needle, which suggests leather-work. The other bone was highly polished, also suggesting it was used to work leather."

It's mystery who the people were who fashioned the arrow.

It is not known if these were a new group of people who moved into the area, or if it was technological innovation brought on by environmental changes.

Also at this time, humankind was leaving an ever-increasing archaeological record of the first inklings of modern human behaviour. They were burying the dead, using coloured pigments and wearing jewellery.

"This at a time a few thousand years before they walked out of Africa, to become the ancestors of all humans," said Backwell.


04 June 2008

Wits Researchers Lucinda Backwell and Lyn Wadley from the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, School of Geosciences and Institute for Human Evolution, were part of a team that recently discovered bone implements from Middle Stone Age deposits at Sibudu Cave, that confirms the existence of a bone tool industry for the Howiesons Poort techno-complex.

Source: Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News*

New research concerning some of the world's earliest weapons suggests that while some Stone Age Africans benefited from spurts of high-tech brilliance, Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe battled big beasts in face-to-face combat that must have been bloody and brutal.

The recent discoveries shed light on Paleolithic life in ancient Europe and push back the invention of the bow and arrow in Africa by at least 20,000 years. They paint a picture nearly as vivid as a scene from The Lord of the Rings , with modern humans, Neanderthals and archaic humans all struggling for survival with their various favoured weapons in hand.

Early weapon usage may even go back to our primate ancestors.

From Poop Throwing to Rocks

In fact, the roots of today's technologically advanced warfare may be traced back to primates throwing faeces. For defence or possibly out of anger, many primates toss poop or vegetation, such as sticks, at intruders.

"Primates have broad hips and they throw poorly," John Shea, a leading expert on ancient weaponry, told Discovery News.

"No one's ever been killed by a thrown turd, but the roots of aimed throwing are there," added Shea, who is an associate professor of anthropology at New York's Stony Brook University.

He explained that humans evolved a rib cage, a pelvis and rotating hips and shoulders suitable for fast movement and running. These anatomical modifications gave us better throwing ability, enabling us to do serious damage with just a tossed rock hurled while sprinting.

"Not long ago I watched an East African kid drop a gazelle with a single stone," he said.

Stone and Bone Arrows

As humans became more skilled at shaping stones, arrows and darts emerged. At some point, certain human groups in Africa switched to developing bone tools, including arrowheads made out of animal bones.

One bone tool-making operation, called the Howiesons Poort Industry, was based at Sibudu Cave along the north coast of South Africa. Researchers Lucinda Backwell and Lyn Wadley of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Francesco d'Errico of the University of Bordeaux recently analysed three bone tools from the site.

The tools, dating to more than 61,000 years ago, include a slender, needle-like implement likely used in piercing tasks, a polished spatula-shaped piece that probably smoothed and softened animal hides and, most importantly, an arrow point that was likely used for hunting small prey.

Their findings have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science .

The scientists believe the bone arrowhead was part of the first known bow and arrow set.

Sleek and Safe

Although the wooden bow part of the set probably eroded long ago, Backwell and her team identified the set by comparing the bone arrowhead with a wide range of bone tools from Southern African Middle and Later Stone Age deposits, an Iron Age occupation, nineteenth century Bushmen hunter-gatherer toolkits and bones that she and her team shaped experimentally.

"The Sibudu point parallels a specific type of large, unpoisoned bone arrow head used [with a bow] by Kalahari Bushmen, Iron Age and Stone Age people," said Backwell.

"According to this discovery, the oldest bows and bone arrows are now dated to just over 60,000 years old and are associated with Howiesons Poort people in the Middle Stone Age," she added. "These large bone points were securely fixed to reed shafts to make one solid projectile implement."

To this day, hunter-gatherer groups use similar tools without poison to kill small mammals and birds. It's probable the ancient South Africans did the same, especially since plant and animal remains suggest the region was a humid forest at around 60,000 years ago.

Pat Shipman, Adjunct Professor of Biological Anthropology at Penn State, told Discovery News that the new research "is convincing in its conclusions and has enormous implications for our understanding of changes in human culture."

Shipman explained that when historians debate when modern human behaviour first arose, tool and weapon usage are often a big part of that discussion.

If humans were already making sophisticated, multi-part weapons, like bows and arrows, during the Middle Stone Age, then it's possible that modern human behaviour "accompanied, or closely followed, the physical evolution of anatomically modern humans in Africa around 200,000 years ago," she said.

With bows and arrows, humans could also hunt more safely.

"Both bows and arrows and spears enable distance killing of species, thus greatly lessening the danger to the hunter of taking large game animals," Shipman said. "Combined with the use of poisons on the points, these new inventions let hunters kill large animals that would previously have been rarely taken by our ancestors."


Monday, June 2, 2008

Serge Cassen et al (2008)
"Discovery of an underwater deposit of Neolithic
polished axeheads and a submerged stone alignment
at Petit Rohu near Saint-Pierre-Quiberon (Morbihan,
Antiquity Vol 82 Issue 316 June 2008

In August 2007, holidaymakers discovered two
pairs of polished jadeitite axeheads that had
been set vertically in gravelly silt on the
beach of Porh Fetan, at a location called Petit
Rohu (Figure 1). The shape and material of
these axeheads allowed them to be identified
straightaway as being of Alpine origin, in
common with a number of axeheads found in the
region (Bailloud et al. 1995; Pétrequin et al.
1997). Archaeological fieldwork, both on the
land in the vicinity of the findspot and
underwater, was subsequently carried out by the
Laboratory of Archaeological Research (CNRS –
Nantes University), in order to examine the
context of the findspot and to try to delimit
the extent of the site.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Footprints in the ash

Footprints in the ash
By Sid PerkinsMay 29th, 2008Web edition Text Size Humans may have been walking around what is now central Mexico 40,000 years ago
HUMAN PRINTSFootprints (one left) left in volcanic ash that fell in central Mexico’s Valsequillo Basin about 40,000 years could be evidence that humans have inhabited the Americas far longer than previously confirmed. Laser scans of the prints (right) confirm their human origins, the researchers report today at the American Geophysical Union meeting.GonzalezFootprints left in volcanic ash that fell in central Mexico’s Valsequillo Basin about 40,000 years ago are evidence that humans have inhabited the Americas far longer than previously confirmed, a new study suggests.

Analyses of three-dimensional laser scans of the imprints (example at right) confirm their human origin, says Silvia Gonzalez, a geoarchaeologist at Liverpool John Moores University in England.

Previous finds of human remains elsewhere in the region couldn’t be precisely dated because they were found in layers of mixed gravels that probably incorporated materials of many different ages.

However, a new analysis of the coarse-grained, print-ridden volcanic ash — which would have hardened quickly after it fell, says Gonzalez — strongly suggest the material fell around 40,000 years ago, she and her colleagues reported today in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Excavations at several sites have suggested that humans have inhabited the Western Hemisphere for at least 20,000 years, but results suggesting dates of occupation before 14,000 years ago typically haven’t been confirmed and remain controversial.

Nevertheless, says Gonzalez, recent excavations at a site in Baja California have unearthed a rock shelter containing heaps of shells that have been carbon-dated as 44,000 years old, a finding that bolsters the notion that people lived throughout the region about 40 millennia ago.
Source Article