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Friday, March 28, 2008

Could Neanderthals speak? The answer may depend on whether they used

* 09:24 27 March 2008
* NewScientist.com news service
* Dan Jones

Could Neanderthals speak? The answer may depend on whether they used
make-up.


Francesco d'Errico, an archaeologist from the University of Bordeaux,
France, has found crafted lumps of pigment - essentially crayons -
left behind by Neanderthals across Europe.


He says that Neanderthals, who most likely had pale skin, used these
dark pigments to mark their own as well as animal skins. And, since
body art is a form of communication, this implies that the
Neanderthals could speak, d'Errico says.


Working with Marie Soressi of the Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, d'Errico has recovered
hundreds of blocks of black manganese pigment from two neighbouring
sites at Pech de l'Azé in France, which were occupied by Neanderthals.
These add to evidence of pigment among Neanderthal from some 39 other
sites.


The pigments were not just smeared onto the body like camouflage,
d'Errico says, but fashioned into drawing tools.


"The flat, elongated surfaces on the archaeological specimens are
consistent, as confirmed experimentally, with producing clearly
visible straight black lines, perhaps arranged to produce abstract
designs," says d'Errico, who presented his work on 15 March at the
Seventh Evolution of Language Conference in Barcelona, Spain.
Essential words


Body painting, argues d'Errico, is a "material proxy" for symbolic
communication. What's more, he says, the techniques for making the
symbols, and the meaning they carry, would have to be transmitted
through language.


And body painting isn't the only proxy associated with Neanderthal
remains. Neanderthals adorned their bodies with ornamentation, such as
necklaces made from shell beads.


The sorts of beads used by modern humans, and the ornaments they
fashioned from them, vary geographically. This is often interpreted as
a sign of ethnic and cultural diversity among humans, and a means of
symbolically binding groups and differentiating them from others.
D'Errico suggests that the same holds true for Neanderthals.


Other researchers agree, and point to a double standard of some
researchers in interpreting the archaeological record, including
evidence of burials, care of the infirm and social cooperation.
'Inferior ability'


"Some archaeologists are happy to associate these same features with
language if they occur with modern humans, but are not willing to
associate them with language among the Neanderthals," says
anthropologist Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St Louis, US.


"The double standard doesn't work - if they reflect language in one,
they must reflect in it both."


However, even if Neanderthals had language capabilities, that does not
mean they spoke in the same way as humans.


"The archaeological record does not show that they ever attained the
cultural level of the humans who could talk as we do," says Phillip
Lieberman, a linguist at Brown University, Rhode Island, US.


"Neanderthals possessed language, but their linguistic and cognitive
ability was inferior to the humans who replaced them," he says.
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Same ancestral mother tongue for all?

Same ancestral mother tongue for all?


*
Posted on Tuesday 25 March 2008 - 11:21


By Evans Wafula and Portus Chege


Protus Chege took a journey to Kitale and found out how Scot's
research has revealed the mysterious linguistic ties between EA's
Karamojong and Euro-Asian speakers.


The epithet 'Dark Continent' was routinely used by the
colonialists to refer to Africa as a continent of a people with
inherently inferior cultural roots and intellectual fiber.


Of course, the notion has long been dispelled by Africans'
spectacular advancements in all fields of human endeavor, including
the arts, science and literature.


And one man's efforts at putting the notion to bed have produced
startling revelations that suggest a linguistic relationship between
the Karamojong of Uganda and European and Asian speakers, hinting at a
common language between mankind, which contradicts archaeologists and
anthropologists' inquiry and findings of the 20th century as of mere
Stone Age.


John Wilson, a Scot, reveals from his research that the language
of the Karamojong contains words that are similar to or identical with
and have identical or related meanings with Scots Gaelic, Spanish and
the Tibetan of the Indian sub-continent, among others.


"There is no doubt that mankind spoke a common language at a
certain time. The research I have done proves beyond any doubt that
through language Africa shared the same cultural beginning as the rest
of the world," Wilson says.


Wilson says Karimojong, the language of the Karamojong, a
Nilotic people that live in North-East Uganda and have close cultural
and linguistic ties with the Turkana of Kenya, Topossa of Southern
Sudan and the Dongiro of South-West Ethiopia, has the same linguistic
connection with those of other languages.


He says lack of research on Africa by the whites had created a
wrong perception that an otherwise rich African culture was unworthy
of consideration let alone scientific inquiry.


"Throughout Africa during the colonial era, no notice had ever
been taken of extant cultural patterns; it simply translated not only
as indifference but contempt..."


"We whites did no research on Africa. The Karamojong culture was
not primitive and we made no attempt to preserve it."


Posted in 1952 as an agriculture officer to Karamoja district in
north-east border of Uganda which borders Kenya for 200 miles, Wilson
was awe-struck by the unique ways of the Karamojong.


Until the 1960s, the Karamojong, a fiercely proud people who
regarded outsiders as fleeting interlopers, were semi-nomadic cattle
herders and peasant farmers whose measure of wealth was cattle.


They walked naked; the man with a pair of long spears for
defensive purposes, a splendid carved wooden stool or neck-rest and a
snuffbox on a chain around the neck or shoulder. In pierced earlobes
would hang curiously assorted objects while on their heads they wore
beautifully constructed headdresses of human hair, painted and
decorated with feathers.


Wilson discovered that all the paraphernalia was an historical
throwback to ancient civilizations, especially Egypt.


And it was not until Dictator Idi Amin Dada came to power that
they started wearing clothes. "This brought their whole culture to an
end." Or at least, until Wilson came around to resuscitate it out of
his research.


Being a naturalist, he started collecting plants and getting
them scientifically named. As recognition of his efforts, he was sent
for a post-graduate course in Tropical Ecology and later co-authored
The Vegetation of Uganda (1964).


In fact, four species of plants are named after him, two of
which, Aloe Wilson, and Caralluma wilsonii, can be found within the
museum garden.


He retired from government service in 1968 and embarked on
research on that community's culture the results of which he has
preserved in The Treasures of Africa Museum in Kenya's Western
Province township of Kitale.


The museum preserves artifacts that arguably cannot be found
elsewhere in the world. Therein is preserved in excess of 130 examples
of Karamojong pottery, many of which bear a single or pair of handles,
polished stone axes, emblematic and decorative objects, among others.


Wilson discovered that words denoting human atmosphere, dwelling
and lifestyle, livestock, agriculture, context of cultivation and
pastoralism had a striking similarity with those describing similar
concepts in European and Asian languages.


This, Wilson argues, points at the possibility of a 'common
ancestral "Mother Tongue" and shared elements of a common material
culture between people from the continents.


This pervasive linguistic connection suggests that particular
lifestyles and lexicon are based on shared experience rather diffusion
of words from one language to another out of cultural interaction.


"There is no doubt that mankind spoke a common language at a
certain time. The research I have done proves beyond any doubt that
through language Africa shared the same cultural beginning as the rest
of the world. It was not primitive."


For instance, he compared the form of Karamojong pottery with
those dating back to ancient Europe and the Middle East and notes a
striking similarity in the lexicon.


"It occurred to me that the names of specific parts of African
pottery had a resemblance to the corresponding words in ancient Asia
and Europe," he says.


The corresponding similarity, he says, can be found between
Karimojong, on the one hand, and Asian languages like Hebrew and
Sumerian and European ones like Spanish and Gaelic, on the other.


For example, such Spanish words as 'jarro' (a pitcher, jug);
tacho (earthen pot); tibor (a chamber pot), corresponds with
Akarimojong's a-jarosior, (to empty a (ceramic) jug); a-jarapiar (to
drink noisily (from a jug)); and atibo (a distinctive small pot or
jug) respectively.


Similarly, Karimojong words such as abaal (a wide-mouthed beer
pot), abichir (kind of small pot), and atako (vessel for storing ghee)
respectively correspond with Gaelic words Ballan (a drinking vessel),
Biceir (beaker) and Tacar (kitchen).


Also, the researcher says Karimojong words related to
pastoralism have similar linguistic features with those of the Tibetan
language of the Indian sub-continent.


For instance, the Akarimojong word a-karijij, which means to
curdle milk, has a relationship with dkar-kro, which is Tibetan for
milk and curds. Also, Tibetan tshir (squeeze forth) dovetails with aki-
chirit, which is 'milk cows' in Akarimojong.


Indeed, Wilson's assertions are borne out by the fact that these
modern languages are so geographically spread but with distinct
thematic commonalities between their word lists that the conclusion
that the various languages formed a single entity some time in the
past becomes inescapable.


Indeed, conclusions that fly in the face of archaeological
inquiry and findings.


"Instead of digging up remains all we need to do is take words
of an African language with corresponding ones in a European language.
Nobody in the world has compared the words of an African language with
those of a European language."


Wilson faults archaeologists accuracy on the exact historical
time frame of the Iron Age, which they put at 1100 BC.


"One of the most important discoveries I have made in my thirty
years of research is that the Iron Age probably began as far back as a
million years before the time archaeologists say it did," Wilson says.


Wilson says that there is therefore need to evaluate Africa's
cultural heritage of hundreds of thousands of years as opposed to
archaeologists' definition of it as primitive Stone Age.


It is in recognition of Wilson's accomplishments that Kesarine
and Associates, a regional rural development consultancy, has
volunteered to link up local and regional universities and research
institutions with Wilson's work.


"We would like to see more public investment in what Wislon is
doing," said Michael Wekesa, a senior partner at the firm.


The Treasures of African Museum could also come in handy for the
country's tourism, especially now that the Western circuit is of
particular interest.


"The museum can be a powerful tool for enhancing the development
of communities in the neighborhood and beyond," added Kesarine's Irene
Karani.
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Ancient Seahenge 'returns home'

Ancient Seahenge 'returns home'


A timber circle dating back 4,000 years which was found in the sea off
the Norfolk coast is to return to the county in a permanent display.


Seahenge, with 55 oak posts and a central upturned stump dating from
the Bronze Age, was found emerging from a beach at Holme-next-the-Sea
in 1998.


Timbers were studied at the Bronze Age Centre, Peterborough, then
preserved at the Mary Rose Trust, Portsmouth.


Next month Seahenge will go on display at the Lynn Museum in King's
Lynn.


After Seahenge was excavated, 3D laser scanning revealed the earliest
metal tool marks on wood ever discovered in Britain.


'Remains mysterious'


Archaeologists at the Bronze Age Centre, believe between 50 and 80
people may have helped build the circle, possibly to mark the death of
an important individual.


Seahenge became exposed at low tides after the peat dune covering it
was swept away by winter storms.


The site's excavation was initially halted by protests by a group of
about 12 Druids and environmental campaigners who said the sea had
cared for the site for 4,000 years and would continue to do so.


But researchers said the exposed wood was deteriorating fast.


Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Norfolk County Council has
been provided for the Seahenge Gallery project at the Lynn Museum
which will house the timber, displayed in its original formation.


The central stump, which is still being treated, will join the gallery
at a later date.


John Gretton, of Norfolk County Council, said: "The discovery of
Seahenge in the summer of 1998 captured the imagination of the public
and archaeologists alike.


"Whilst the research done on the timbers has led to some historians
drawing conclusions, the original function of Seahenge remains
mysterious, and I hope that visitors will flock to the newly restored
Lynn Museum to speculate on the ancient meaning behind the timbers -
which we were able to rescue for all time from further damage."


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Remains of Human Ancestors Found

Remains of Human Ancestors Found
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

Excavations in a cave in the mountains of northern Spain have
uncovered the oldest known remains of human ancestors in Western
Europe, scientists reported Wednesday.


The fossils of a lower jaw and teeth, more than 1.1 million years old,
were found in sediments along with stone tools and animal bones that
appeared to have been butchered. The remains have been attributed to
the previously known species Homo antecessor, a possible ancestor of
Neanderthals and modern humans.


The discovery is described in the current issue of the journal Nature
by a team of Spanish and American scientists led by Eudald Carbonell
of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleontology and Social Evolution at
Tarragona, Spain.


The scientists, noting that the earliest presence of human ancestors
in Europe is "one of the most debated topics in paleoanthropology,"
said the site of Sima del Elefante in the Atapuerca Mountains held the
"oldest, most accurately dated record" of both fossils and artifacts
of human occupation in Western Europe.


Other sites on the continent have yielded artifacts of a roughly
comparable age, but no fossil bones. Until now, the earliest remains
of Homo antecessor, found in the same mountains, were 800,000 years
old. Far to the east, in the republic of Georgia, recent fossil
discoveries show that early Homo had moved into parts of Eurasia from
Africa about 1.9 million years ago.


"It's great to have confirmation that there was early human
penetration in Western Europe this early," said Ian Tattersall, a
paleonanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in
Manhattan, who was not involved in the research.


Dr. Tattersall said in an interview that it was too soon to tell where
these cave occupants "fit in the larger scale" of early human
settlement in Europe. It is not yet clear, for example, how or if this
species was ancestral to later European populations, he said.


Dr. Carbonell's group conceded that the identification of the fossils
as Homo antecessor was provisional. But those living in the cave had
been busy making crude tools from chert. A few pieces survived, along
with knapping flakes. The animal bones showed cut marks and other
signs of processing, including fractures for extracting marrow.


Picture
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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bison bones bolster idea Ice Age seafarers first to Americas

Bison bones bolster idea Ice Age seafarers first to Americas


Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service Published: Monday, March 24,
2008


A series of discoveries of ancient bison bones on Vancouver Island and
nearby Orcas Island in Washington state is fuelling excitement among
researchers that the Pacific coast offered a food-rich ecosystem for
Ice Age hunters some 14,000 years ago -- much earlier than the
prevailing scientific theory pegs the arrival of humans to the New
World.


Fourteen separate finds of remains of the extinct species bison
antiquus -- an ancestor of the plains buffalo that would become a
staple much later for Midwest natives -- show the islands were once
part of a coastal grassland refuge from the glaciers that enveloped
the rest of Canada and the northern U.S. at that time.


And among the relics found in areas including the Saanich Peninsula is
a particularly tantalizing piece of evidence: a leg bone from Orcas
Island that appears to have been butchered by a human -- hundreds of
years before humans were thought to have migrated to North America.


The bison-bone bonanza is to be highlighted at a major international
archeological conference this week in Vancouver. The event follows the
publication of a U.S. study earlier this month in the journal Science
that proposed a new "working model" for when and how ancient humans
first spread from northeast Asia to the northwest corner of the
Americas.


That study -- along with the bison finds and a growing number of other
archeological sites suggesting an earlier arrival for humans to this
hemisphere -- adds credence to a controversial theory that ancient
seafarers, travelling by boat along the ice-fringed B.C. coast,
launched the peopling of the New World about 15,000 years ago.


The Vancouver and Orcas islands discoveries also indicate that these
pioneering hunters could have relied on much more than seafood to
subsist in their new North American home, argues Michael Wilson, an
archeologist at B.C.'s Douglas College.


He is the co-author with U.S. archeologists Steve Kenady and Randall
Schalk of several new studies detailing the bison-bone sites.


Wilson says the "breakage patterns" on the bison leg bone from Orcas
Island are "certainly consistent with documented human butchering
patterns but are not by themselves 'proof'" that humans killed and ate
the animal.


"The Orcas and Vancouver Island finds are evidence for the existence
of a land-based mammal dispersal corridor from the mainland to the
islands at that time," he told Canwest News Service. "We provide a
reasonable alternative to the model that suggested a coastal
adaptation and use of sea mammal, mollusk and fish resources."


Mr. Wilson describes a Pacific shore much different than it is today,
with Vancouver Island nearly attached to the mainland because of lower
sea levels.


"People coming down the coast could have been doing the coastal
equivalent of island-hopping," he says. "We are not envisioning a
coastline bordered by towering walls of well-established ice.
Conditions were highly variable along the coast and I think that there
were some significant open areas. Early travellers were familiar with
such environments in areas to the north, so this was nothing new."


Whether based on seafood or bison meat, the picture of shoreline
hunters sketched out in the emergent "coastal migration" theory
challenges a long-held view that the earliest newcomers to North
America were big-game hunters who arrived about 12,500 years ago from
Siberia, pursuing mammoths and other ice age prey across the dried-up
Bering Strait to Alaska and Yukon, and eventually into the warmer
continental interior through an ice-free corridor east of the Rocky
Mountains.


These hunters used a distinctive spear-tip known as a Clovis point to
kill their prey, and Clovis archeological finds throughout North
America show there was a rapid spread of these people and their
hunting technology once the glaciers began disappearing around 10,000
B.C.


But the "Clovis First" theory has increasingly come under fire from
critics who point to numerous archeological sites in both North and
South America that appear to have human artifacts from well before
13,000 years ago.


The U.S. team writing in Science, headed by Texas A&M University
anthropologist Ted Goebel, concluded that both the coastal and ice-
free corridor migrations probably occurred. But their study tilts the
crucial matter of identifying the "first" wave of North Americans
toward the coastal migrants, and sets the date of that arrival back
about 2,000 years before the Clovis hunters reached this continent.


"If this is the time of colonization, geological data from Western
Canada suggest that humans dispersed along the recently de-glaciated
Pacific coastline," the team asserted in its Science study. "The first
Americans used boats, and the coastal corridor would have been the
likely route of passage, since the interior corridor appears to have
remained closed for at least another 1,000 years."

National Post

LATE PLEISTOCENE BISON ANTIQUUS FROM ORCAS ISLAND, WASHINGTON, AND
EVIDENCE FOR AN EARLY POSTGLACIAL LAND MAMMAL DISPERSAL CORRIDOR FROM
THE MAINLAND TO VANCOUVER ISLAND
WILSON, Michael C., Department of Geology, Douglas College, PO Box
2503, New Westminster, BC V3L 5B2, Canada, wilso...@douglas.bc.ca,
KENADY, Stephen M., Cultural Resource Management, 5319 Cedar Ridge
Place, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284, and SCHALK, Randall F., Cascadia
Archaelogy, P.O. Box 51058, Seattle, WA 98115-1058


We report a skull and partial skeleton of Bison antiquus from the base
of a peat bog, Ayer Pond, on Orcas Island, Puget Sound, Washington.
The specimen, dated to 11 760±70 14C yr BP (Beta-216160), lay in
lacustrine sands above an unconformity marking the emergent Everson
Glaciomarine Drift surface (>12.0 ka). Other Orcas Island and
Vancouver Island bison finds in similar bog settings indicate an
established population and suggest a late-glacial land mammal
dispersal corridor between the mainland, San Juan Islands, and
Vancouver Island, partly involving a briefly emergent glaciomarine
landscape, with smaller water barriers than today. Relative sea level
curves indicate the onset of emergent conditions by about 12.0 14C ka,
lasting for at most a few millennia. Rich in marine-derived organic
material, this landscape was colonized rapidly by terrestrial plants
and animals. An early unstable tundra-like or herbaceous meadow
community and succeeding open pine woodland, documented in nearby
pollen sequences predating 11.0 ka, would have been favorable, though
not optimal, for bison. However, expansion of closed mixed-conifer
forests after 11.0 ka likely contributed to their extirpation.
Interpretation of vegetation chronosequences for these islands must
take into account the probable role of large mammals in importing
seeds and in impacting succession through grazing, browsing, and
trampling. Evidence for possible butchering by humans adds interest to
the Ayer Pond discovery in view of its pre-Clovis age.
Cordilleran Section - 103rd Annual Meeting (4-6 May 2007)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 9
Quaternary and Tertiary Records of Past Environments, Pacific
Northwest I: In Honor of Calvin Heusser
WWU-Communications Facility: CF110
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Saturday, 5 May 2007

Official Report
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The lowly sweet potato may unlock America's past, How the root vegetable found it's way across the Pacific

Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent


One of the enduring mysteries of world history is whether the Americas
had any contact with the Old World before Columbus, apart from the
brief Viking settlement in Newfoundland. Many aspects of higher
civilisation in the New World, from the invention of pottery to the
building of pyramids, have been ascribed to European, Asian or African
voyagers, but none has stood up to scrutiny.


The one convincing piece of evidence for pre-Hispanic contact has been
the humble sweet potato, which is of tropical American origin but
widely cultivated across the Pacific islands. Until a few years ago it
was assumed that this was the result of Spanish transmission, dating
to the early colonial period, but archaeological discoveries in the
Cook Islands show this to be wrong: excavations at Mangaia yielded
carbonised remains of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) dating to AD1000,
five centuries before Europeans entered the Pacific Ocean.


The question then arose as to whether the diffusion of this useful
crop was the result of Amerindians sailing west to Polynesia, as the
late Thor Heyerdahl always claimed, or whether it came about because
Polynesians exploring on “the road of the winds” beyond Easter Island
came to the South American mainland, and took back with them the hardy
and nutritious root crop which is today fifth in importance in
developing countries.


The lack of evidence for Native American seafaring and the reputation
of the Polynesians as navigators inclined most scholars to the latter
thesis: but a new simulation study suggests that either the
Amerindians or nature may have been responsible: Alvaro Montenegro and
his colleagues in the Journal of Archaeological Science argue that
computer experiments demonstrate that accidental drift voyages could
have been responsible.


The experiment was set up to investigate two transfer theories, by
accidental voyages from the American mainland that reached Polynesia,
and drifting of Ipomoea seed capsules. Deliberate voyaging was not
included.


Starting positions were in a series of “departure bins” defined off
the Central and South American coastlines from 50 degrees south to 30
degrees north — roughly from southern Chile to northern Mexico.


The drifter point was located at the centre of each bin, and thus some
distance offshore. The various Pacific island groups were designated
as targets, and the probable drift of vessels the size of a large
canoe under the influence of the known winds and currents simulated
over a six-month period; the drift of seed capsules was simulated for
a full year.


The most probable canoe crossing to score a “hit” was from Central
America to the Marshall Islands, with a likelihood of 11.5 per cent.
The much shorter crossing from Ecuador to the Gal�pagos was second, at
almost 10 per cent, followed by the central Polynesian island groups
of Tuamotu and the Marquesas at 7.4 and 5.7 per cent repectively. Most
other targets scored very low, although Hawaii had an almost 3 per
cent chance of being encountered.


The drifting seed capsules had a 17.4 per cent chance of reaching the
Gal�pagos, only 600 miles off Ecuador, with the Marquesas at 2.7 per
cent the next most likely hit. Hawaii cultivated the crop before
European contact, and probably got it from Mexico on the basis of the
simulation, but there was no further onward dispersal. This route
might well have been used in the putative Polynesian-Californian
contacts recently proposed (The Times, November 21, 2005).


The fact that 16 of the 23 target areas were hit with at least 1 per
cent probability indicates “that vessel drifts provide many access
routes from South America into Polynesia”, with hits on a particular
island group coming from drifters starting on specific stretches of
American coastline. These could have informed Polynesians of lands to
the east, making two-way traffic possible.
The lowly sweet potato may unlock America's past, How the root vegetable found it's way across the Pacific

The date by which all this happened remains debatable. Expansion east
out of Tonga and Samoa may have begun as early as AD1, but perhaps not
much earlier than AD1000, when the sweet potato is attested in the
Cook Islands.


Easter Island seems, on the latest evidence, not to have been settled
until around AD1200, so it could not have played a part in the initial
transmission. In the end what this simulation experiment tells us is
that purposeful voyaging, in either direction, was not necessary for
this first, tenuous contact between the settlers who had moved out of
Asia and around the Pacific rim to settle first the continent of
America and then, much later, the ocean wastes of the Pacific.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ANCIENT PACIFIC COAST TRADE REPLICATED Options

Researchers and students at MIT built a replica of a raft that could
engage in trading voyages along the Pacific coast of the Americas and
tested it to stability and seaworthiness and cargo capacity made of
the same materials as found in Ecuador. They found that shipworms were
the biggest problem and they live along the Pacific coast and devour
the balsa wood rafts quickly. The researchers found that they could
make two round trip voyages between Peru and Western Mexico before the
raft needed replacing. The rafts cannot be left in harbor long since
this is where the shipworms enter.


They found the voyages would take 6 to 8 weeks and could only be taken
when trade winds were favorable and as a result traders would have to
stay at their destinations for 6 months to a year each trip. This
would have allowed for a transfer of knowledge between widely
separated groups. The rafts had a capacity of 10 to 30 tons, the same
capacity as the barges that once plied the Erie Canal.


This is the first analysis to use modern engineering techniques to
determine design parameters and constraints of ancient watercraft to
prove the feasibility of this kind of trade.


Innovations Report has the story here;
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World's Oldest Art Uncovered in Germany

World's Oldest Art Uncovered in Germany
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The lion man sculpture was one of the intricate trio found near Ulm
Archeologists working on a dig in the southern German province of Swabia have unearthed what they claim to be the oldest statue in the history of art.



The three little figurines carved from mammoth bone were discovered in a cave in Southern Germany, and are so intricate in their design that archeologists believe they could change our understanding of the imaginative power of early man's mind. The artifacts date back between 30,000 and 33,000 years, to a time when some of modern humans' earliest relatives populated the European continent.




Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Sculpture of horse's headThe incredible discovery was made during a dig headed by U.S. archeologist and Professor at Germany's University of Tübingen, Nicholas Conard. He believes the figures -- at most 5cm high -- depicting a lion-man, a water bird and a horse are the oldest examples of human art ever found. His view is shared by Anthony Sinclair, an archeologist at the University of Liverpool, who told the Nature journal that the find were doubtless the oldest corpus of figurative art in the world.



Conard's historic find at the Hohle Fels cave near the city of Ulm is not the first of its kind in Germany's Donautal region. This latest discovery brings the total of such finds at four locations in the area to more than 20.



Calling the spiritual world



It had previously been believed that similar ivory figures of lions and horses discovered in Vogelherd in 1939 were the oldest figurative art in the world, but Conard is certain that these ones are older because they were uncovered at a lower level in the cave floor sediment. Ever since the discovery last century, archeologists have been pondering the inspiration for the carvings. Some researchers believe the figures are indicative of a respect for the natural world and that early man might have been drawn to the animals depicted because of their power.



But the discovery of the water bird has dashed that particular theory and archeologists are now being forced to reconsider the motivation for the miniature sculptures. Conard told Nature he believes his historic find is proof that the ancient artists at the four different sites belonged to the same group and shared the same beliefs. He goes further to suggest that the artifacts are evidence of prehistoric shamanism.




Bildunterschrift: Sculpture of water bird


The idea of early shamanism was first mooted by renowned South African archeologist, David Lewis-Williams. He believes that in primitive societies people in need of help would contact the spirit world through shamans, who had the unique ability to enter a trance and solve problems from the 'other side'. Conard says that early cultures might have viewed diving water birds as creatures which could move between the real world and the spirit world and described the finding at Hohle Fels as "the icing on the cake" for supporters of Lewis-Williams' theory.



The fine art of prehistoric sculpture



Whatever the meaning behind the little carvings, there's no doubt that they are too intricate to fit with existing theories about the gradual evolution of art, which suggest it began in bluntly and has become honed to sophistication over the course of thousands and thousands of years.



Conard, who has studied human migration from Africa at dig sites from Syria to Germany, believes that humans first arrived in central Europe by following the River Danube west into the area. Fossil remains suggest that both modern humans and Neanderthals lived in Europe during this period, which makes it difficult to say for sure which group was the creative talent behind the carvings.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Attacking a Scientist's Logic when Criticizing 10,000 BC Film

The following Article is a Criticism of the Movie 10,000 BC.
Afterwards, I will give a criticism of it's logic.

Giant mammoths graze the Earth.

Saber-toothed tigers are on the prowl.

It's 10,000 B.C., and one piece of technology stands between early humans and early demise.

Is it bows and arrows? Wrong.

Is it the spear? Nope.


Try the almighty basket -- a handy device that allowed early humans to store the plant materials that made up about 70 percent of their diets.

Surprised? James Adovasio, director of the anthropology and archaeology department at Mercyhurst College, isn't. He says modern media depictions of fur-clad musclemen knocking around big cats and tackling screaming lizards have pumped our heads full of prehistoric hype for years.

The opening of "10,000 B.C.," directed by blockbuster champ Roland Emmerich of "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow" fame, prompted us to examine the difference between the fluff and facts.

We found that, while Hollywood is generally on the right track, sometimes, Tinseltown tales land way off the mark -- no bones about it.

Hyped history


In "10,000 B.C.," Steven Strait stars as D'Leh, a young mammoth hunter from a remote mountain tribe. When his village is raided and Evolet (Camilla Belle), a girl he has the hots for, is kidnapped, he springs to action.

He and his small band of hunters face harsh climates and fierce predators on their quest to rescue their kin, until at last, their journey brings them to a strange land of slave labor and pyramids.

From what he can gather from watching the trailers, Adovasio said, "10,000 B.C." looks like a "graphically enhanced version of what the average guy on the street" already thinks prehistoric times were like.

"When you say 'late Ice Age,' the first thing you think about is men in furs sticking spears into large mammals," Adovasio said.


Often, he said, Hollywood takes "bits and pieces" of prehistoric findings and creates its own picture of how things were.

Films such as "One Million Years B.C." (1966), show male actors slaying large reptiles, grunting and swiping their way into the hearts of buxom cave damsels -- in this case, Raquel Welch.

Audiences have watched Fred Flintstone make pets of dinosaurs and Pauly Shore make friends with a revived cave dweller in "Encino Man." Though he understands why it's done, Adovasio said these images only perpetuate skewed views.

"Obviously, movies are supposed to be fun," Adovasio said. But the Hollywood version is only a tiny piece of what went down.

Weekend warriors
Among the biggest prehistoric film fallacies is that cavemen fought dinosaurs.

In reality, Dino could never have fetched Fred's morning paper. Dinosaurs lasted only until about 67 million years ago. Humans came way after that.

"No human ever saw a dinosaur," Adovasio said.


There aren't any dinosaurs in "10,000 B.C.," but other discrepancies separate the movie from reality.

Though early man did hunt large animals such as the wooly mammoth, Adovasio says it probably didn't happen often -- because there probably weren't many mammoths.

By 10,000 B.C., Earth was warming up, and mammoths were gone from many areas.

Second, because some studies suggest that early man more often scavenged, eating mammoths that were already dead rather than risking life and limb attacking the gargantuan, elephantlike creatures.

When they did hunt, early humans were more often after smaller game, such as rabbit. The majority of their food wasn't hunted, but gathered.


Trailers for "10,000 B.C." show pyramids in the desert. The main characters are pitted against an ancient empire. But those things weren't likely either.

"In 10,000 B.C, there were no cities, temples, or monumental architecture," Adovasio said. He said large towns didn't show up for another 4,000 or 5,000 years.

Girl power
The biggest differences Adovasio sees have to do with how women are portrayed.

He said women weren't the delicate, cringing sex objects that Hollywood makes them out to be. They were key to the development of early technology, and their work contributions were crucial to everyday survival.

During about 99 percent of humans' 2.6 million-year existence, we have been hunter-gatherers -- people who hunt and forage, rather than raising animals or farming, Adovasio said. While women's activities, including basket weaving, making clothes and gathering nuts, berries and other plants, aren't as exciting as, say, killing large beasts, they were far more important.

Baskets were used for storing, transporting and cooking food. Women not only made them, but they developed the technology to consistently create them.

"While (early men) are out there hitting and missing ducks with bows and arrows, their wives and daughters are collecting the seeds that are the staple," Adovasio said. "All the clothing, women made it. If they didn't make it, (early hunters) would have been standing there naked."


He said objects such as animal bones and spearheads might get an inordinate amount of attention from archeologists because those artifacts survived. Perishable artifacts, such as snares, nets, sandals and clothing are unearthed far less often, but were far more beneficial.

But Adovasio doesn't want to discourage anyone from seeing "10,000 B.C." He's not so sure a true historical representation of the time period would be very interesting.

"We want to be entertained, not bored," he said. "Who wants to go to a movie and see people chasing the wild carrot?"

CORNELL GREEN can be reached at 870-1739 or by e-mail.

Ice Ages And Interglacial Periods
In 10,000, B.C., Earth was emerging from an ice age, warming as the result of an interglacial period.

James Adovasio said Earth has gone through the process at least nine or 10 times in the past 2 million years.

During the last glacial period, Erie was covered with a sheet of ice about 2 miles thick. This sheet covered an area that stretched southward as far as Moraine State Park, near Butler.

Interglacial periods last about 15,000 years. Right now, we're about 10,500 years into one.

Meet James Adovasio
James Adovasio, Ph.D., D.Sc., director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, specializes in prehistory, archaeological method and theory, prehistoric technology and material analysis, geoarchaeology, as well as the Archaeology of North America, Mesoamerica, and the former Soviet Union.

He's widely acclaimed for his excavation of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in southwestern Pennsylvania, which has been recognized as the earliest well-dated archaeological site in the Western Hemisphere.


Adovasio has published nearly 400 books, monographs, articles and technical papers, including "The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery," and "The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in Prehistory," both available at Amazon.com.

He is on a 14-city international speaking tour.

Bedrock And Beyond
Cavemen and women have been anything but extinct in movies and on TV.

Think Raquel Welch sporting an itsy-bitsy primitive bikini in "One Million Years B.C." or a new take on Neanderthals in TV's recent "Cavemen."

So grab your clubs, don your pelts and get ready to have a yabba dabba doo time with these tales.

Movies:


"One Million Years B.C." (1966): Caves can be humid places. No wonder Welch chose the less-is-more-clothing approach with her fur get-up. The movie follows a caveman (John Richardson) who is banished from his tribe, finds another group but also gets the boot from them. One of the latter tribe's women, Loana (Welch) opts to join him and face the perils of a prehistoric world.


"Caveman" (1981): Even a Beatle cashes in on the caveman concept. In this comedy, Ringo Starr leads some misfit Homo sapiens who learn about the outside world and how to avoid becoming dinosaur dinner. Also stars Dennis Quaid and Shelley Long.


"Iceman" (1984): The Iceman thaweth. A surviving prehistoric man (John Lone) is discovered by an arctic exploration team. Soon, people want to experiment on him in the name of science. And he thought being frozen was the hard part. The film features Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse, David Strathairn and Danny Glover.


"The Clan of the Cave Bear" (1986): Soon after Daryl Hannah made a "Splash" as a mermaid, she sought shelter in caves in this movie based on the Jean M. Auel book. Hannah plays Ayla, a character who is adopted into a clan as a child and grows into a wise and feisty woman. Her courage causes a clash with the future clan leader.


"Encino Man" (1992): Dude, who knew a primitive man was the ticket to high school popularity? This comedy features Brendan Fraser as Link, a California caveman unearthed in a backyard by two high school outcasts (Sean Astin and Pauly Shore). Once Link is thawed, he is passed off as a student and quickly becomes the big man on campus.

On TV:

"The Flintstones" (1960): This modern Stone Age family rocks. The cartoon centered around brash but lovable Fred; his long-suffering wife, Wilma; and their neighbors and pals, the Rubbles. They proved that life in Bedrock was anything but boring. How could it be with a dinosaur for a pet and feet-powered vehicles?

Fun fact: The late Mel Blanc, who provided voices for many Looney Tunes characters, was the voice of Barney Rubble. The Flintstones also were featured in two live-action movies.


"Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels" (1977): And speaking of the talented Mr. Blanc, he provided the voice of this hairy superhero with a hearty yell.


"Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer": The late funnyman Phil Hartman played said lawyer on "Saturday Night Live" skits. Hartman, who was on the show from 1986 to 1994, portrayed a prehistoric man who had poise and confidence. Still, he would admit to juries how some modern technology frightened and confused him. This caveman was a comical legal eagle.



"Cavemen" (2007): GEICO commercials spawned this sitcom about Neanderthals making their way in the world today. The ABC show starring Bill English, Nick Kroll and Sam Huntington disappeared near the start of the Hollywood writers strike and, according to some sources, has quietly become extinct.

SOURCE: Internet Movie Database
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Ancient seafarers may have been first settlers Options

Ancient seafarers may have been first settlers
B.C. coast was earliest gateway to Americas, scientists say, challenging
prevailing theory
Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service
Published: Saturday, March 15, 2008

A team of U.S. researchers has proposed a new "working model" for when and
how humans came to the New World.


Their research adds credence to a controversial theory that ancient
seafarers, travelling by boat along the ice-fringed British Columbia coast,
launched the peopling of the Americas about 15,000 years ago.


The proposal, published yesterday in the journal Science, challenges a
long-held view that the earliest newcomers to North America were big-game
hunters who arrived about 12,000 years ago from Siberia, pursuing mammoths
and other ice age prey across the dried-up Bering Strait to Alaska and the
Yukon.


They then eventually spread south to warmer parts of North America through
an ice-free corridor in present-day Alberta.


It appears, the U.S. researchers conclude, that both streams of migration
occurred. But their study tilts the crucial matter of identifying the
"first" wave of North Americans toward the coastal migrants, and sets the
date of that arrival back by at least 2,000 years, to 13,000 BC or earlier.


"If this is the time of colonization, geological data from Western Canada
suggest that humans dispersed along the recently de-glaciated Pacific
coastline," the team, led by Texas A&M University anthropologist Ted Goebel,
asserts.


"The first Americans used boats, and the coastal corridor would have been
the likely route of passage, since the interior corridor appears to have
remained closed for at least another 1,000 years," the study adds.


"Once humans reached the Pacific Northwest, they could have continued their
spread southward along the coast to Chile, as well as eastward."


This entry route would help explain the growing number of archeological
sites dating from before 13,000 years ago, which the previous prevailing
theory of an overland migration couldn't account for.


Presumed archeological traces left by the New World pioneers along B.C.'s
coast would have been submerged by the rising Pacific Ocean about 10,000
years ago, after the final retreat of the glaciers. That's why Canadian
scientists have been scouring raised sea caves on Vancouver Island and
elsewhere in B.C., looking for direct proof that this earlier coastal
migration took place.


Those caves, it's believed, were among the earliest ice-free refuges after
the glaciers retreated, and later escaped flooding from the rising Pacific.
Researchers believe they harbour evidence of a prehistoric ecosystem -- and
potentially even human artifacts.


In another project funded by the Canadian government, federal scientists are
preparing this year to probe the shallow seafloor off the Queen Charlotte
Islands in search of possible abandoned campsites inundated by the ocean
millennia ago.


The investigation near Burnaby Island, led by Parks Canada scientist Daryl
Fedje, is seeking evidence that ancient Asian seafarers, drawn on by
food-rich kelp beds, began populating this hemisphere thousands of years
before the migrants of the continental interior tracked prey east of the
Rockies.


The earlier maritime migrants are thought to have plied the coastal waters
of the North Pacific in sealskin boats, moving in small groups over many
generations from their traditional homelands in the Japanese islands or
elsewhere.


In their study, the U.S. researchers also cite genetic evidence suggesting
"all modern Native Americans descended from a single-source population" in
ancient Asia.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
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Monday, March 17, 2008

Clovis Overkill Didn't Wipe Out California's Sea Duck

Some evidence against the belief that Clovis using hunters were
responsible for the killing of much of the North American wildlife.


Clovis Overkill Didn't Wipe Out California's Sea Duck


Clovis-age natives, often noted for overhunting during their brief
dominance in a primitive North America, deserve clemency in the case
of California's flightless sea duck. New evidence says it took
thousands of years for the duck to die out.


Newswise -- Clovis-age natives, often noted for overhunting during
their brief dominance in a primitive North America, deserve clemency
in the case of California's flightless sea duck. New evidence says it
took thousands of years for the duck to die out.


A team of six scientists, including Jon M. Erlandson of the University
of Oregon, pronounced their verdict in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences (online, March 13) after holding court on
thousands of years of archaeological testimony taken from bones of the
extinct sea duck uncovered from 14 sites on islands off the California
Coast and 12 mainland sites from southern California northward.


Erlandson and his co-authors from California Polytechnic State
University, the University of California, Los Angeles, the California
Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) and the California
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) demonstrated
that humans first hunted the flightless sea duck (Chendytes lawi) more
than 10,000 years ago, but the bird persisted until about 2,400 years
ago. Their findings that Chendytes survived more than 7,500 years of
human predation are based on the first radiocarbon dating of Chendytes
bones from six coastal archaeological sites.


Erlandson and colleagues, along with UO alum Don Grayson, now a
University of Washington archaeologist, suggest that the drawn-out
road to the ducks' extinction raises serious questions about the
"Pleistocene over-kill theory" that the Paleoindian Clovis culture
rapidly hunted numerous large mammals and other animals to extinction
on their arrival in the Americas in the late Pleistocene.


The ducks' lifestyle served them well for millennia, the researchers
noted. Many of the birds nested on the Channel Islands off the
California Coast, where few predators existed before humans arrived.
After seafaring Paleoindians colonized the islands about 13,000 years
ago, however, Chendytes may have been driven to smaller and more
remote islands. Human population growth, the development of
increasingly sophisticated watercraft, and the introduction of dogs
and foxes to the islands probably put greater pressure on the birds.
Eventually, the flightless duck, like great auk in the North Atlantic,
had no place to run.


The five co-authors with Erlandson, an archaeologist in the UO
department of anthropology, were: Terry L. Jones (corresponding
author), head of social sciences at California Polytechnic;
archaeologist Judy F. Porcasi and Thomas A. Wake of UCLA's Cotsen
Institute of Archaeology; H. Dallas Jr. of CAL FIRE; and Rae
Schwaderer of CDPR. The paper, published online in advance of regular
publication, is freely available on the PNAS Web site.
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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Neanderthal treasure trove 'at bottom of sea'

Neanderthal treasure trove 'at bottom of sea'

By David Keys Archaeology Correspondent
Monday, 10 March 2008


Some of the world's best preserved prehistoric landscapes survive in
pristine condition at the bottom of the North Sea, archaeologists
claimed yesterday.


Academic interest in what are being described as drowned Stone Age
hunting grounds is likely to increase dramatically after the discovery
of 28 Neanderthal flint axes on the sea bed off the East Anglian
coast.


Dating from at least 50,000-60,000 years ago, they were found with
other flint artefacts, a large number of mammoth bones, teeth and tusk
fragments, and pieces of deer antler. The sea bed location was
probably a Neanderthal hunters' kill site or temporary camp site.


The axes - one of the largest groups ever found - were spotted by a
keen-eyed amateur archaeologist when a consignment of North Sea gravel
arrived at the Dutch port of Flushing.


The cache was found 8 miles off Great Yarmouth and is the most
northerly point in the North Sea that Neanderthal tools have been
discovered. It had been feared that the ice sheets that destroyed most
pre-ice age Brit-ish landscapes had done the same to the land surfaces
which existed where the North Sea is now.


But archaeologists now suspect that some Neanderthal landscapes have
survived under the North Sea. What's more, they are now certain that
hundreds or even thousands of square miles of post-ice age prehistoric
landscapes do survive there. On land they have largely been destroyed
or degraded by centuries of agriculture, later human settlement and
natural erosion.


The North Sea is of immense value to archaeologists and is the largest
area of drowned landscape in Europe. "It's vital that parts of it
should be considered as a potential World Heritage site," said
Professor Vince Gaffney of the University of Birmingham, a leading
authority on North Sea archaeology.


Professor Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the
Natural History Museum, said: "The quality and quantity of material
from the North Sea shows what a rich resource it is for helping to
reconstruct missing phases of our prehistory. The evidence should be
preserved and studied. World heritage status would help in that
process."


In the southern North Sea, Dutch prehistorians working alongside North
Sea fishermen over the past decade have identified about 100
Neanderthal flint axes, 200 later Stone Age bone, antler and flint
artefacts made by anatomically modern humans, and the remains of
thousands of mammoths, woolly rhinos and other ice-age mammals.


Detailed archaeological research at the bottom of the North Sea would
be likely to solve a host of Stone Age mysteries. It should help
establish when Britain was recolonised by humans after a 100,000-year
uninhabited period. It may also reveal for the first time the full
technological capabilities of Neanderthal Man, because preservation on
and in the sea bed is extremely good. Wooden, stone and bone
implements have almost certainly survived.


Later this week, British and Dutch archaeologists will meet in Holland
to formulate a joint program of North Sea research. German, Belgian,
Danish and Norwegian archaeologists and oceanographers are likely to
be included in a plan to map and investigate the North Sea's
prehistoric landscapes in detail.


The discovery of the 28 Neanderthal axes was initially reported to the
Dutch government archaeological agency, who passed the information via
English Heritage to the gravel extraction firm Hanson Aggregates.


"This is the single most important archaeological find from the North
Sea. We have stopped dredging that area and have created an exclusion
zone to protect the site," said a senior Hanson geologist Robert
Langman.

Source Article
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Incredible Underwater Vision

Sea Gypsies of Asia Boast "Incredible" Underwater Vision

Brian Handwerk
National Geographic Ultimate Explorer

For centuries the seminomadic Moken people have lived as hunter-gatherers,
dwelling on boats or stilted dwellings along the coasts of Myanmar (Burma)
and Thailand.


They harvest the sea's bounty by traditional methods. Without masks or scuba
gear, they are able to gather tiny shellfish and other food on the ocean
floor at depths as low as 23 m.


It's a difficult way to survive, but scientists have learned that these sea
gypsies have an important edge. Studies of Moken children have shown them to
have incredible underwater vision‹twice as good as that of European children
of the same age.


Anna Gislén, of Sweden's Lund University, did the study after hearing of the
Moken's talents from a colleague.


"Another scientist, Erika Schagatay, was in the south of China working with
sea nomads and their diving response," Gislén recalled. "She noticed that
the children were picking out small brown clams from among brown stones. To
her, this was incomprehensible, as she could hardly see them with goggles,
and the children used no such thing. It was not her area of science, so
eventually it ended up on my desk."


Gislén ventured to Thailand's Surin islands where she conducted underwater
tests on Moken children and compared their scores with those of European
kids vacationing in the area. Her results were first published in the May
13, 2003 issue of Current Biology.


Gislén found no differences in the children's respective eye structures or
in their vision on land. Underwater, however, it was a different story. The
Moken children displayed underwater vision twice as sharp as their European
counterparts.


Their secret lies in the way their eyes adapt to the underwater environment.


Underwater Adaptations


The refractive power of the eye's corneal surface, a key to clear vision, is
greatly reduced underwater. The different densities of air and water cause
the problem. Water has similar density to fluids inside the eye, so
refraction is limited as light passes into the eye.


But the Moken are able to accommodate, or muscularly change the shape of the
eye's lense, in order to increase light refraction.


"It seems they have learned to control their accommodative response, such
that they can voluntarily accommodate even in the blurry underwater
environment," Gislén explained. "Normally, severe blur does not elicit
accommodation, and no accommodative response can be found in untrained
European children." The Moken's pupils also adapt, constricting to a mere
1.96 mm. The European children's pupils constricted to only 2.5 mm.


"Their constricting pupils improve vision further," Gislén said. "It's the
same process that improves focal depth if using a camera with a smaller
aperture."


The Moken children use these adaptations to forage for small clams and sea
cucumbers at depths of 3 to 4 m. It's a key to survival, but is it learned,
or might there be a genetic component?


"I think that in general this is very hard to know," Gislén said. "Genes and
environment are so intertwined it's hard to separate them. What I do know is
that we have [more recently] trained European children to become as good at
underwater tasks as the Moken children. So training seems to do the trick."


"However," she continued, "I cannot rule out that genes may influence the
speed of learning, or that the Moken children may be better at things we did
not test underwater, due to some genetic component."


Gislén hopes to continue her research further afield, testing and comparing
the underwater vision of other sea nomads who dive even more than the Moken.
Research is expensive, however, and further limited by the shy and reclusive
nature of many sea peoples.


Other subjects may be similarly elusive.


"I have also heard about monkeys that forage in the waters around Sri
Lanka," Gislén said. "It would be interesting to see whether they use the
same strategies as humans apparently do to see food items on the seafloor."


As fascinating as her study has been, Gislén stresses that her research is
just a single example of the incredible adaptive powers of the human body.


"I think that the human body is extremely flexible, much more than we may be
aware of," she said.


"The diving response is another good example of adaptation," she continued.
"Some tribes of sea nomads in the Philippines can dive down 60 to 70 m, pick
some pearls and then go up again, holding their breath for about 6 to 7
minutes," Gislén added, "Europeans told to do the same thing would just
shake their heads and say it was impossible. But clearly it's not."


Neither is clear underwater vision, apparently, if you have the right
training ‹ or if you happen to be a Moken.



Full Story Here
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Americas Settled 15,000 Years Ago, Study Says

Americas Settled 15,000 Years Ago, Study Says
Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
March 13, 2008


A consensus is emerging in the highly contentious debate over the
colonization of the Americas, according to a study that says the bulk
of the region wasn't settled until as late as 15,000 years ago.


Researchers analyzed both archaeological and genetic evidence from
several dozen sites throughout the Americas and eastern Asia for the
paper.


"In the past archaeologists haven't paid too much attention to
molecular genetic evidence," said lead author Ted Goebel, an
archaeologist at Texas A&M University in College Station.


"We have brought together two different fields of science, and it
looks like they are coming up with the same set of answers."


The article, which is published in tomorrow's issue of the journal
Science, shows that the first Americans came from a single Siberian
population and ventured across the Bering land bridge connecting Asia
and North America about 22,000 years ago.


The group got stuck in Alaska because of glacial ice, however, so
humans probably didn't migrate down intRo the rest of the Americas
until after 16,500 years ago, when an ice-free corridor in Canada
opened up.


Clovis Not First


Scientists have long agreed that the first Americans came from
northeast Asia, according to Goebel.


But the new article--which analyzed genetic and archaeological evidence
from 43 sites, including a dozen sites in Asia--better pins down the
makeup of the first Americans.


Genetic evidence, for instance, points to a founding population of
less than 5,000 individuals.


Some geneticists had also previously suggested that the migration
across the land bridge could have occurred as early as 30,000 years
ago.


"Now there seems to be consensus among those studying mitochondrial
DNA and [chromosome records] of modern native Americans that it
happened pretty late, after the last glacial maximum, maybe as late as
15,000 calendar years ago," Goebel said.


Meanwhile, archaeologists for years had considered sites belonging to
the so-called Clovis culture, which dates back 13,000 years, to
represent evidence of the first Americans.


The Clovis culture was named after flint spearheads found in the 1930s
at a site in Clovis, New Mexico. Clovis sites have been identified
throughout the contiguous United States as well as in Mexico and
Central America.


But several sites, from Wisconsin to Monte Verde in Chile, have been
discovered in recent years that predate Clovis by at least a thousand
years.


"There probably has to have been some time before Clovis in which
people were here, but they didn't leave much of a record behind
because there just weren't that many people," Goebel said.


Coastal Route


Archaeological evidence shows that there were people occupying the
Asian side of the Bering land bridge area as early as 30,000 years
ago.


"That tells us that once early modern humans spread out of Africa
around 50,000 years ago and colonized temperate Eurasia, it wasn't
very long before they had developed the technology and the skills
needed to be able to make a go of it in the Arctic," Goebel said.


Modern humans spread across the land bridge about 22,000 years ago,
according to the new article.


But then the group got stuck for up to 5,000 years, blocked by thick
ice sheets across Canada.


It was only when the ice had melted sufficiently that humans began to
spread south, either along the coast or though an interior corridor in
western Canada, the authors say.


"That might have been the bottleneck that kept people from draining
south from Alaska into temperate North America," said Goebel, adding
that geological evidence suggests the Pacific coastal corridor would
have become ice-free perhaps as early as a thousand years before the
interior corridor.


"This suggests that the first Americans may have spread through the
New World along a coastal route," he said.


Henry Harpending is an anthropologist and population geneticist at the
University of Utah in Salt Lake City who was not involved in the
study.


He agreed that there is a consensus emerging among researchers
studying the first Americans.


"But there are still outstanding questions," he said.


For example, there are some "puzzling anomalies" in the Alaskan
archaeological record dating back to before the glacial melt, he
pointed out.


And there are several possible reasons other than ice why people did
not venture south earlier, including a "ferocious army of predators"
living in North America that might have had a role in keeping humans
away.


"We all have open minds, and we will leave them open," Harpending
said.
New Study
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Desperate Anthropologists Try Again To Disprove "The Hobbit" as a Species

Don't these guys know that pygmy brains aren't as small as Hobbit brains, and that Hobbits had Homo Erectus wrists? Seems not...



New bones suggest 'hobbits' were modern pygmies

Now researchers have discovered that a nearby island was overrun by diminutive
humans as recently as 1400 years ago – but despite their size these people
clearly belonged to our species.


Lee Berger at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and
his team found the fragmentary remains of at least 26 individuals in two caves on
the Palauan archipelago in Micronesia, east of the Philippines.


“Some of the bones we found were very close in size to those from Flores,” says
Berger. “For example, one proximal tibia [upper shin bone] is only 1mm larger than
LB1 [the best preserved “hobbit” skeleton],” he says.


But when Berger’s team examined the jaw, they found a number of characteristics
unique to modern humans – enough to suggest that the tiny Palauans belonged to
our species.


The discovery implies that the small size of the Flores individual is not, in
itself, so unusual, says Berger.


“When Flores was first announced everyone was blown away by the supposed very
small body size,” he says. “What we and other researchers are now finding is
that humans can get that small.”


But others are not convinced by Berger’s arguments. “No one I know of thinks that
small stature alone distinguishes H. floresiensis as a species,” says Dean Falk
of Florida State University.


"LB1 has numerous primitive features spanning from head to feet that set it apart
from H. sapiens – the authors completely ignore the relevant literature," she
says.
...
“The authors are apparently unaware of published data on living Filipino 'pygmies'
that are just as small as these scrambled individuals from Palau,” says William
Jungers of Stony Brook University Medical Center, New York. “Modern human pygmies
of the size reported are old news in this part of the world.”


But for Robert Eckhardt of Pennsylvania State University, it is local knowledge
about the islands that demonstrates the Flores bones are from modern humans. He
says that the islands of Indonesia and Micronesia were unlikely to be isolated
long enough to birth a new species.


Palau is much harder to reach than Flores, but Eckhardt points out that even here,
any isolation was short-lived – the small bones were found beneath the remains of
normal-sized humans from four centuries later. “The paper confirms that small body
size on a tiny island provides no proof of isolation and endemic speciation,” he
says.
...
New Scientist
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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Cannibalism May Have Wiped Out Neanderthals


Cannibalism May Have Wiped Out Neanderthals

Unhealthy Diets? Feb. 27, 2008 -- A Neanderthal-eat-Neanderthal world may have spread a mad cow-like disease that weakened and reduced populations of the large Eurasian human, thereby contributing to its extinction, according to a new theory based on cannibalism that took place in more recent history.

Aside from illustrating that consumption of one's own species isn't exactly a healthy way to eat, the new theoretical model could resolve the longstanding mystery as to what caused Neanderthals, which emerged around 250,000 years ago, to disappear off the face of the Earth about 30,000 years ago.

"The story of Neanderthal extinction is one of the most intriguing in all of human evolution," author Simon Underdown told Discovery News. "Why did a large-brained, intelligent hominid that shared so many traits with us disappear?"

To resolve that question, Underdown, a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Oxford Brookes University, studied a well-documented tribal group, the Fore of Papua New Guinea, who practiced ritualistic cannibalism.

Gory evidence uncovered in a French cave in 1999 revealed Neanderthals likely practiced cannibalism. The 100,000-120,000 year-old bones discovered at the cave site of Moula-Guercy near the west bank of the Rhone river suggested a group of Neanderthals defleshed the bones of at least six other individuals and then broke the bones apart with a hammerstone and anvil to remove the marrow and brains.

Although it's not clear why Neanderthals may have eaten each other, research on the Fore determined that maternal kin of certain deceased Fore individuals used to dismember corpses and regarded some human flesh as a valuable food source.

Beginning in the early 1900's, anthropologists additionally began to take note of an affliction named Kuru among the Fore. By the 1960's, Kuru reached epidemic levels and killed over 1,100 people.

Subsequent investigations determined that Kuru was related to the Fore's cannibalistic activities and was a form of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy, or TSE. This is a class of disease that includes mad cow disease. Underdown said TSE's have been in existence for possibly millions of years.

According to his new paper, published in the journal Medical Hypotheses, TSE's "cause brain tissue to take on an almost sponge-like appearance, caused by the formation of small holes during the development of the disease."

The disease's latter stages often result in severe mental impairment, loss of speech and an inability to move.

He created a model, based on the Kuru findings, to figure out how the spread of such a disease via cannibalism could reduce a population's size. For example, he calculated that within a hypothetical group of 15,000 individuals, such a disease could reduce the population to non-viable levels within 250 years.

Read the full article here:

Discovery News
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