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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ancient river found beneath the Channel during Olympics survey

Very good color illustrations of this river at the citation/cite.

Ancient river found beneath the Channel during Olympics survey

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:54 PM on 26th June 2009

An ancient river bed that has lain unseen for 185,000 years has been
uncovered by scientists mapping the parts of the English Channel in
the run up to the 2012 Olympics.

The groundbreaking discovery was made during a two-year £300,000
project to map 500 square miles of seabed off the Jurassic coast in

Using new and incredibly accurate mapping techniques, experts traced
the river that may have once been used as a watering hole by woolly
mammoths that roamed the area.
Enlarge riverbed

Enlarge river course

An amazing river course on the bottom of the English channel has been
revealed (above). The prehistoric river bed is 8 miles from the
present day shoreline (below)

The mysterious river bed cuts through bedrock at the bottom of the
ocean and is eight miles long, ranges between 90 to 150 yards wide and
up to 30ft deep Scientists believe it would have flowed when Britain
was still attached to the continent.

As ice melted and refroze, it was washed over and uncovered a second
time, before finally being hidden at the bottom of the sea during the
last Ice Age 12,000 years ago.

As well as the river bed, shipwrecks, rugged cliffs and massive gravel
dunes have also been highlighted using the new techniques which can
pinpoint objects to within six inches.

Scientists are aiming to construct a complete and definitive map ahead
of the 2012 Olympics as thousands of boats are due to descend upon
Dorset for the sailing events.

Smaller yachts have recently come a cropper on submerged rocks that
maritime officials knew nothing about and they don't want this
happening in 2012.

The newly-found river bed poses no such danger as it lays 130ft

The project has been lead by the Dorset Wildlife Trust, which hopes
the new information will be invaluable in its conservation work.
Jurassic Coast

Dorset's Jurassic Coast is famous for its fossils

Dr Simon Cripps, director of the Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: 'On land
you can just look out of the window and see what's around, but we have
no real idea what goes on under the sea.

'This study will give us an understanding of what is actually
physically down there - it's very exciting.

'It's like putting a 3D jigsaw together in three layers and the
results will be quite spectacular.'

Now the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is planning to re-chart
nautical maps of the Channel. Some current charts are based on surveys
carried out 75 years ago.

The maps have been created using a high resolution multi-beam sonar,
which sends out 40 'pings' per second to the seabed.

The sonar has 500 beams which give 20,000 readings per second,
allowing scientists to gauge the depth of the ocean, with an accuracy
of six inches.

Not only can it tell how deep the sea goes, but the variation of
sounds created by the beams can identify the type of surface it is

The 'pings', which sound like the clicks made by dolphins to the human
ear, differ depending on whether they hit sand, hard rock, or any
matter in between.

The Dorset Integrated Seabed Study, or DORIS for short, is now one
year in and moving on to a second phase of video and photography.

Experts will use the maps to identify patterns in the seabed before
using cameras to take shots of underwater life.
Enlarge survey

The unique new underwater survey that has an accuracy of 15cm

They will visit a range of depths to study the animal and plant life,
taking still and moving images to create an elaborate picture of
previously hidden habitats.

Richard Edmonds, science manager for the Jurassic Coast World Heritage
Site, said: 'The pictures the study has produced are hugely exciting,
I was absolutely blown away when I first saw them.

'We now know that all the fascinating structures we see on the
Jurassic Coast, which are created by the hard and soft rocks eroding
at different paces, happen exactly the same on the seabed.

'When the river bed was uncovered, the land would have been used by
woolly mammoths, reindeer and wolves as well as early humans.'

Female Hands in Cave Paintings

Lotsa pretty pictures at the citation. National Geographic , you know.

June 16, 2009--Inside France's 25,000-year-old Pech Merle cave, hand
stencils surround the famed "Spotted Horses" mural.

For about as long as humans have created works of art, they've also
left behind handprints. People began stenciling, painting, or chipping
imprints of their hands onto rock walls at least 30,000 years ago.

Until recently, most scientists assumed these prehistoric handprints
were male. But "even a superficial examination of published photos
suggested to me that there were lots of female hands there,"
Pennsylvania State University archaeologist Dean Snow said of European
cave art.

By measuring and analyzing the Pech Merle hand stencils, Snow found
that many were indeed female--including those pictured here. (Also
see: pictures of hand stencils through time.)

Analyzing hand stencils dating back some 28,000 years in Spain's El
Castillo cave, archaeologist Dean Snow concluded many of El Castillo's
artists had been female.

"The very long ring finger on the left is a dead giveaway for male
hands," he said. "The one on the right has a long index finger and a
short pinky--thus very feminine."

His findings suggest women's role in prehistoric culture may have been
greater than previously thought.

Just as in prehistoric times, visitors today can leave behind
handprints at Spain's Maltravieso cave, a Paleolithic site dating back
more than 20,000 years. "Elena's hand [pictured] was typical for
little girls," said Snow.

Hand proportions vary across populations. To assess prehistoric
handprints from Europe, Snow used modern hands for comparison.

"I had access to lots of people of European descent who were willing
to let me scan their hands as reference data," said Snow, whose
research was supported by the National Geographic Society's Committee
for Research and Exploration. (The National Geographic Society owns
National Geographic News.)

In France's Gargas cave, a late Paleolithic left-hand stencil glows
green from a night vision camera. Archaeologist Dean Snow concluded
the hand was female.

"We don't know what the roles of artists were in Upper Paleolithic
society [roughly 40,000 to 20,000 years ago] generally," he said. "But
it's a step forward to be able to say that a strong majority of them
were women."

Snow's research was limited to Europe, but he hopes others will do
similar studies at prehistoric sites elsewhere.

(Also see: pictures of hand stencils through time.)
Nat Geo

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bow and Arrow PreDate Modern Man

Abstract for an article that surmises that the use of the bow and
arrow predate modern man.

Experimental Use and Quantitative Performance Analysis of Triangular
Flakes (Levallois points) used as Arrowheads

Matthew L. Siska, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The
Corresponding Author and John J. Sheab, E-mail The Corresponding

aInterdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony
Brook University SBS-S501, Stony Brook NY, 11794-4364

bDepartment of Anthropology, Stony Brook University SBS-S501, Stony
Brook NY, 11794-4364

Received 29 March 2009;
revised 11 May 2009;
accepted 21 May 2009.
Available online 28 May 2009.


The invention and widespread use of projectile weaponry is a
characteristic presumed to exist only with Homo sapiens. However, as
finds of wooden material during the early development of projectile
weapons are extremely rare, this remains a contentious topic. Recent
work has proposed a series of ballistically-significant morphological
characteristics of stone points that yield information about their
potential use. Here we report on initial experimental approaches to
quantifying the performance of relatively simple stone points as arrow
armatures. Two experimental trials were performed using a series of 51
Levallois points. The first, against a uniform density target, was
designed to give an overall indication of performance. The second,
against a simulated animal carcass, demonstrated the durability of
these points. The results of this study suggest that small Levallois
points could have functioned as arrowheads, albeit ones likely to
break after limited use. They also suggest that these points'
penetrating power is strongly controlled by their morphometric
characteristics, most notably their perimeter. This latter finding
refines a method for assessing hypothetical Paleolithic stone points
on the basis of tip cross-sectional area previously proposed by


Discovery of giant underground quarry in Jordan Valley may rock

Discovery of giant underground quarry in Jordan Valley may rock
archaeological thinking
By Ran Shapira

A spectacular underground quarry has recently been discovered in the
Jordan Valley north of Jericho, which archaeologists believe may have
marked a biblical site sacred to ancient Christians.

The large cave was discovered by Prof. Adam Zertal and a team from the
University of Haifa which has been conducting a survey of the region
since 1978. "When we reached the entrance to the cave, two Bedouin
approached us and warned us not to go in, because it was cursed and
inhabited by wolves and hyenas," Zertal said yesterday from the site.

They entered anyway, discovering a ceiling supported by 22 gigantic
columns on which various symbols were carved, including 31 crosses, a
possible wheel of the Zodiac and a Roman legionary symbol. The columns
also had niches for the placement of oil lamps and holes that
apparently served as hitching posts.

Zertal says their working theory is that the site is Galgala, biblical
Gilgal, mentioned on the sixth-century Madaba mosaic map. The cave,
buried 10 meters underground, is about 100 meters long, 40 meters wide
and 4 meters high, is the largest artificial cave so far discovered in

Potsherds found in the cave and the carvings on the columns led Zertal
to date the first quarrying of the cave to around the beginning of the
Common Era. It was used mainly as a quarry for 400 to 500 years," but
other finds give the impression it was used for other purposes,
perhaps a monastery or even a hiding place," Zertal said.

Zertal said scholars wondered why people would dig a quarry
underground considering the effort needed to just to pull the stones
out of the ground.

A possible answer may be in the famous Madaba Map of ancient
Palestine, found in Jordan. In it, a place named Galgala is marked and
an accompanying Greek word meaning "12 stones." The map also depicts a
church near the site. Archaeologists say they have found two ancient
churches near the cave.

According to Zertal, scholars had always assumed that "12 stones"
refered to the biblical story of the 12 stones the Israelites set up
at Gilgal after they crossed the Jordan. However, the discovery of the
quarried cave may mean the reference was to a quarry established where
the Byzantines identified Gilgal. Zertal explains that in antiquity
sanctuaries were built out of stones from sacred places.

If the Byzantines identified the site as biblical Gilgal, it would
have been considered sacred and quarrying would have remained
underground to preserve it.


Study: Food storage began well before farming

Study: Food storage began well before farming

WASHINGTON – People were storing grain long before they learned to
domesticate crops, a new study indicates. A structure used as a food
granary discovered in recent excavations in Jordan dates to about
11,300 years ago, according to a report in Tuesday's edition of
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That's as much as a thousand years before people in the Middle East
domesticated grain, the research team led by anthropologist Ian Kuijt
of the University of Notre Dame said.

Remains of wild barley were found in the structure, indicating that
the grain was collected and saved even though formal cultivation had
not yet developed.

The granary was between two other structures used for grain processing
and residences, discovered in excavations at Dhra', near the Dead Sea.
The granary was round with walls of stone and mud. The researchers
said it had a raised floor for air circulation and protection from

The ability to store food is essential for the development of farming,
the researchers said.

"The granaries represent a critical evolutionary shift in the
relationship between people and plant foods, which precedes the
emergence of domestication and large-scale sedentary communities by at
least 1,000 years," they reported.

The research was funded by the British Academy, the Council for
British Research in the Levant, the U.S. National Science Foundation
and the University of Notre Dame.
source articleandmore info

Neanderthals Made Mammoth Jerky

June 23, 2009 -- Necessity compelled Neanderthals to dry hunks of big game meat for easy transport, according to a new study on the survival needs of Neanderthals.

Neanderthals also likely wore tailored clothing, according to the new study, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeology.

The findings help to explain how Neanderthals could transport meat over long distances without it rotting, as well as how they survived the often chilly conditions of Northern Europe.

According to the study, Neanderthals sported "one or two layers of skins/furs and wrapped skins/furs for shoes, held together by leather strings."

Author Bent Sorensen told Discovery News that chewing clothing materials wasn't beneath these members of the Homo genus.

"Neanderthal tooth marks indicate chewing hides for softening, which is essential for clothes making," said Sorensen, a researcher in the Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change at Roskilde University.

35,000-year-old flute is oldest known musical instrument

35,000-year-old flute is oldest known musical instrument
The discovery, reported in the journal Nature, suggests that the first humans to occupy Europe had a fairly sophisticated culture. The instrument was excavated from a cave in Germany.
By Thomas H. Maugh II
June 25, 2009
The wing bone of a griffon vulture with five precisely drilled holes in it is the oldest known musical instrument, a 35,000-year-old relic of an early human society that drank beer, played flute and drums and danced around the campfire on cold winter evenings, researchers said Wednesday.

Excavated from a cave in Germany, the nearly complete flute suggests that the first humans to occupy Europe had a fairly sophisticated culture, complete with alcohol, adornments, art objects and music that they developed there or even brought with them from Africa when they moved to the new continent 40,000 years or so ago.

"It is not too surprising that music was a part of their culture," said archaeologist John J. Shea of Stony Brook University, who was not involved in the research. "Every single society we know of has music. The more widespread a characteristic is today, the more likely it is to spread back into the past."

The making of music probably extended even further back into the past, he said, but the flute may represent "the first time that people invested time and energy in making instruments that were [durable enough to be] preserved."

The flute was discovered last summer in the Hohle Fels cave, about 14 miles southwest of the city of Ulm, by archaeologist Nicholas J. Conard of University of Tubingen in Germany. Conard described the find in a report published online by the journal Nature.

The cave is the same one where Conard found the recently described 40,000-year-old Venus figurine, the oldest known representation of the female form; as well as a host of other artifacts, including ivory carvings of a horse's or bear's head; a water bird that may be in flight; and a half-human, half-lion figure.

The cave, which was occupied for millenniums, "is one of the most wonderfully clear windows into the past, where conditions of preservation are just right," Shea said. "Combine that with a gifted excavator, and you get truly great archaeology."

The reconstructed flute, a little under 9 inches long, was found in 12 pieces in a layer of sediment nearly 9 feet below the cave's floor. The team also found fragments of two ivory flutes -- which are less durable -- that are probably not quite as old.

The surfaces of the flute and the structure of the bone are in excellent condition and reveal many details about its manufacture. The maker carved two deep, V-shaped notches into one end of the instrument, presumably to form the end into which the musician blew, and four fine lines near the finger holes. The other end is broken off, but, based on the normal size of the vultures, Conard estimates the intact flute was probably 2 to 3 inches longer.

In 2004, Conard found a 30,000-year-old, 7-inch, three-holed ivory flute at the nearby Geissenklosterle cave, and he has found fragments of several others, although none are as old as the Hohle Fels artifact. Combined, the finds indicate the development of a strong musical tradition in the region, accompanied by the development of figurative art and other innovations, Conard said.

The presence of music did not directly produce a more effective subsistence economy and greater reproductive success, he concluded, but it seems to have contributed to improved social cohesion and new forms of communication, which indirectly contributed to demographic expansion of modern humans to the detriment of the culturally more conservative Neanderthals.More Info

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Not the Third Chimp?

New Scientist reports on a "heretical" study that suggests Old Men of
the Forest are more closely related to us than we are to chimps. While
the authors acknowledge the closer genetic relationship between humans
and chimps, they suggest that DNA does not discriminate between older,
retained characteristics and newer, derived characteristics. They also
argue that human-orang relationship based on traditional taxonomic

If someone has access to the paper in the Journal of Biogeography, it
might be nice to find out whether this article faithfully reports the
gist of the paper. It is reportedly still in press, so I don't know if
even subscribers have access yet.

The authors' work seems to suggest that some ancestral orangs lived in
Africa with pre-human hominids. I don't know whether the authors have
anything to say about brain size or tool use/tool making in orangs.
It'd be interesting to see whether they might suggest attributing some
early lithics to orang ancestors, either in Africa or in southern

From the article:

"THESE days, we tend to accept without question that humans are "the
third chimpanzee". The term, coined by author Jared Diamond, refers to
the notion that our closest relatives are the two chimpanzee species -
the common chimp and the bonobo. But could we actually be "the second
orang" - more closely related to orang-utans than chimps?

"That is the controversial claim made this week by Jeffrey Schwartz of
the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and John Grehan of the
Buffalo Museum of Science in New York (Journal of Biogeography, DOI:
10.1111/j.1365-2699.2009.02141.x, in press)

"The idea flies in the face of mainstream scientific opinion, not
least a wealth of DNA evidence pointing to our close relationship to
chimps. Schwartz and Grehan do not deny the similarity between human
and chimp genomes, but argue that the DNA evidence is problematic and
that traditional taxonomy unequivocally tells us that our closest
living relatives are orang-utans.

"The researchers say the evidence of genetic similarity between humans
and chimps is problematic
Human evolution and phylogenomics researchers have so far given the
paper a rough reception. Some declined to comment on it, saying they
did not want to dignify the paper. One described it as "preposterous
nonsense" and another as "loopy".

"Others were less dismissive, though, agreeing that at least some of
the ideas were worth discussing, if only to confirm the overwhelming
evidence in favour of the orthodox view.

"The Journal of Biogeography's editors defended the decision to
publish the paper, arguing that it is the best way to subject Schwartz
and Grehan's argument to proper scientific scrutiny. Editor Robert
Whittaker told New Scientist he had done some "soul searching" but
eventually decided it was best to air the ideas.

"In the orthodox account of human origins, our species belongs to a
group of African apes that also includes chimps, bonobos and gorillas.
Chimps and bonobos are our closest living relatives, sharing a common
ancestor with us up to about 6 million years ago (see diagram). This
version of events is strongly supported by DNA evidence showing that
the human genome sequence is most similar to that of the chimp,
followed by gorillas, with orangs the least similar of the three.

"Schwartz and Grehan say that genome similarities cannot be taken as
conclusive evidence of the closeness of our evolutionary relationships
to the other great apes. In their scenario, around 13 million years
ago, an orang-like ape lived across a huge swathe of land stretching
from southern Africa to south-east Asia via southern Europe and
central Asia (see map). This population evolved into different
species, before extinctions in Europe and central Asia split the
original geographical range and left rump populations in east Africa
and south-east Asia. The African population evolved into the human
lineage while the Asian one evolved into orang-utans.

"In this scenario, the other African apes are a separate lineage that
split off from ours long before 13 million years ago, making orangs
our closest living relative and the chimps and gorillas more distant.

"This claim hinges on two contentious arguments. One is that DNA
sequence similarity is not necessarily an indicator of evolutionary
relatedness. The other is that, biologically, humans are more like
orangs than chimps."

Read the article at:


Or for the cautious:

There is also an editorial supporting the Journal of Biogeography's
somewhat agonized decision to publish the paper in the first place.
The editorial is titled, "In praise of scientific heresy", and can be
read here:


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Huge Pre-Stonehenge Complex Found via "Crop Circles"

A routine aerial survey by English Heritage, the U.K. government's
historic-preservation agency, found the "crop circles" , the surface
images of buried archaeological structures being reelected in the
plant growth. Photo of the "crop circles" at the citation/cite.

Huge Pre-Stonehenge Complex Found via "Crop Circles"
James Owen in London
for National Geographic News
June 15, 2009

Given away by strange, crop circle-like formations seen from the air,
a huge prehistoric ceremonial complex discovered in southern England
has taken archaeologists by surprise.

A thousand years older than nearby Stonehenge, the site includes the
remains of wooden temples and two massive, 6,000-year-old tombs that
are among "Britain's first architecture," according to archaeologist
Helen Wickstead, leader of the Damerham Archaeology Project.

For such a site to have lain hidden for so long is "completely
amazing," said Wickstead, of Kingston University in London.

Archaeologist Joshua Pollard, who was not involved in the find,
agreed. The discovery is "remarkable," he said, given the decades of
intense archaeological attention to the greater Stonehenge region.

"I think everybody assumed such monument complexes were known about or
had already been discovered," added Pollard, a co-leader of the
Stonehenge Riverside Project, which is funded in part by the National
Geographic Society. (The National Geographic Society owns National
Geographic News.)

Six-Thousand-Year-Old Tombs

At the 500-acre (200-hectare) site, outlines of the structures were
spotted "etched" into farmland near the village of Damerham, some 15
miles (24 kilometers) from Stonehenge (Damerham map).

Discovered during a routine aerial survey by English Heritage, the
U.K. government's historic-preservation agency, the "crop circles" are
the results of buried archaeological structures interfering with plant
growth. True crop circles are vast designs created by flattening

The central features are two great tombs topped by massive mounds—made
shorter by centuries of plowing—called long barrows. The larger of the
two tombs is 70 meters (230 feet) long.

Estimated at 6,000 years old, based on the dates of similar tombs
around the United Kingdom, the long barrows are also the oldest
elements of the complex.

Such oblong burial mounds are very rare finds, and are the country's
earliest known architectural form, Wickstead said. The last full-scale
long barrow excavation was in the 1950s, she added.

The Damerham tombs have yet to be excavated, but experts say the long
barrows likely contain chambers—probably carved into chalk bedrock and
reinforced with wood—filled with human bones associated with ancestor

(Related: "Stonehenge Was Cemetery First and Foremost, Study Says.")

During the late Stone Age, it's believed, people in the region left
their dead in the open to be picked clean by birds and other animals.

Skulls and other bones of people who were for some reason deemed
significant were later placed inside the burial mounds, Wickstead

"These are bone houses, in a way," she said. "Instead of whole bodies,
[the tombs contain] parts of ancestors."

Later Monuments, Long Occupation

Other finds suggest the site remained an important focus for
prehistoric farming communities well into the Bronze Age (roughly 2000
to 700 B.C. in Britain).

Near the tombs are two large, round, ditch-encircled structures—the
largest circular enclosure being about 190 feet (57 meters) wide.

Nonintrusive electromagnetic surveys show signs of postholes,
suggesting rings of upright timber once stood within the circles—
further evidence of the Damerham site's ceremonial or sacred role.

Pollard, of the University of Bristol, likened the features to smaller
versions of Woodhenge, a timber-circle temple at the Stonehenge World
Heritage site.

Damerham also includes a highly unusual, and so far baffling, U-shaped
enclosure with postholes dated to the Bronze Age, project leader
Wickstead said.

The circled outlines of 26 Bronze Age burial mounds also dot the site,
which is littered with stone flint tools and shattered examples of the
earliest known type of pottery in Britain.

Evidence of prehistoric agricultural fields suggest the area was at
least partly cultivated by the time the Romans invaded Britain in the
first century A.D., generally considered to be the end of the regions'
prehistoric period.

Riches Beneath Ravaged Surface?

The actual barrows and mounds near Damerham have been diminished by
centuries of plowing, but that, ironically, may make them much more
valuable archaeologically, according to Pollard, of the University of

The mounds would have been irresistible advertisements for tomb
raiders, who in the 18th and 19th centuries targeted Bronze Age
burials for their ornate grave goods.

And "even if the mounds are gone, you are still going to have primary
burials [as opposed to those later added on top] which will have been
dug into the chalk, so are going to survive," Pollard added.

The contents of the Stone Age long barrows should likewise have
survived, he said. "I think there's good reason to assume you might
have the main wooden mortuary chambers with burial deposits," he said.

Redrawing the Map

An administrative oversight may also be partly responsible for the
site remaining hidden—and assumedly pristine, at least underground—
project leader Wickstead said.

When prehistoric sites in the area were being mapped and documented in
the 1890s, a county-border change placed Damerham within Hampshire
rather than Stonehenge's Wiltshire, she said.

"Perhaps people in Hampshire thought [the monuments] were someone
else's problem."

This lucky conjunction of plowing and politics obscured Damerham's
prehistoric heritage until now.

The site shows that "a lot of the ceremonial activity isn't
necessarily located in these big centers," such as Stonehenge, Pollard
said. "But there are other locations where people are congregating and
constructing ceremonial monuments."

Diving into History

Archaeology magazine July/August 2009 lists 10 underwater
archaeological sites worth the visit. Clicking on the text at the
citation will yield a short article about each site.

Diving into History
Volume 62 Number 4, July/August 2009

The Latest Underwater Discoveries

In recent years, for-profit underwater salvors have captured the
public imagination, garnering breathless headlines announcing their
recovery of "treasure" ships. But there's much more to the world of
nautical exploration than the giddy promise of gold coins. Every field
season, underwater archaeologists make extraordinary discoveries that
expand our vision of humanity's past.

On the following pages, we highlight just a few of these ongoing
underwater archaeology projects, from the recovery of a sixth-century
B.C. Phoenician shipwreck, where excavators found a cargo that
included elephant tusks and amber, to work on a 19th-century vessel in
Oklahoma's Red River that has given archaeologists their first look at
early steamship design.

In deciding which projects to feature, we canvassed several underwater
archaeologists, and relied, in particular, on James Delgado, president
of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology and a valued member of our
editorial advisory board. For every story we selected, Delgado told us
about 10 other equally fascinating underwater excavations. To delve
even more deeply into the word of underwater history check out the
University of Rhode Island's online Museum of Underwater Archaeology
and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology's website.


Some scientists affirm early (33,000 ybp) Native presence

Linthicum View profile
More options Jun 16, 1:16 pm

Newsgroups: sci.archaeology
From: Jack Linthicum
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2009 10:16:10 -0700 (PDT)
Local: Tues, Jun 16 2009 1:16 pm
Subject: Some scientists affirm early (33,000 ybp) Native presence
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The break in the Clovis floor and the idea of a coastal migration from
Beringa into the Americas has opened certain archaeological areas to
new interpretations.

There are some who do not want to see this happen, disturbing sites
that push the clock back further still, Steven R. Holen, curator of
archaeology in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s Department of
Anthropology said he is working on a site that is “probably much
older” than the 33,000-year-old evidence he now has, but he declined
to specify at this time how old the site could prove to be, or its
general location.

There is a photo of a mammoth femur at the citation. Dated at 33000
ybp in the article.

Some scientists affirm early Native presence
By Carol Berry, Today correspondent

Story Published: Jun 16, 2009

Story Updated: Jun 12, 2009

Many, if not most, Native people insist that their ancestors have
lived on this continent since time immemorial, and some mainstream
scientists are beginning to weigh in on their side.

Scholars are pushing evidence of human habitation in North America
well beyond the non-Native accepted wisdom that places it at a
relatively recent 13,000 to 14,000 years ago.

“Since Europeans came to the Americas, they have often been wrong
about the Native inhabitants and Western science has not been immune
to this problem,” said one Denver scientist May 29.

A perhaps-controversial 33,000 years ago, “and probably long before
that,” people lived here, according to Steven R. Holen, curator of
archaeology in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s Department of

“Several scientists, me included, are producing evidence of a much
older Native American occupation of the continent,” he said, adding
that, as has happened in the past, “the scientific establishment has
underestimated the time depth of the Native American occupation of the

A practitioner of experimental archaeology, Holen studies the patterns
of breakage in mammoth bones, extrapolating and recreating the kind of
instrument and force required to create such fractures and
hypothesizing possible implements that could be made from the
shattered remains.

“The only way these could be broken in the past as we see it is by
humans using hammerstones.”

Although stone tools have not yet been found with the bones, “You
don’t have to have stone tools – you have to have evidence of human

The uses of fractured bones may have varied, including that of the
mammoth from Nebraska recently radiocarbon-dated at 33,000 before
present (BP).

Sharp points may have been affixed to bone shafts or the bone may have
been shaped into a tool to straighten shafts. Bone flakes could have
been used as disposable choppers or temporary knives or other tools or
utensils as needed by the continent’s inhabitants.

Holen describes the forceful impact that produces flakes from a
resulting spiral fracture. A radiating line of fracture extends from
the point of impact and makes it possible to determine the weight of
the instrument that struck the blow, a scenario he was able to
replicate in Africa on elephant bone, comparable in hardness to the
bones of its mammoth relative.

Against all odds, one of only about 20 long-lived elephants in a
nature preserve in Tanzania happened to die right beside the road, and
the park service allowed Holen to take a single bone for testing. He
fashioned a 9.5-pound instrument with a 2-inch-diameter striking head
– the same size as a similar mammoth bone impact mark – and it took a
younger fellow expeditionist 10 tries to fracture it.

The force required to create such impacts and the characteristics of
the bones and their breakage appear to rule out such factors as damage
from natural disturbance, gnawing by carnivores, or trampling by other
large animals, Holen said, but he knows his findings may not be
universally accepted, at least immediately, particularly in terms of
the dates of human habitation they suggest.

“Scientists from several major universities, especially in western
states like Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona and Alaska still ‘know’ that
Native Americans have not been in North America before approximately
14,000 years ago, or just prior to Clovis culture.

“But no one has demonstrated there is a natural way the bones could be
broken in these patterns. No one has yet disproved my findings.”

The 33,000-year date of the mastodon bone is “very preliminary,” he
said. “We haven’t excavated yet, but it looks good at this point.”
Similar fractured bones of great age have been found on the Old Crow
River in the Yukon, in Europe and Siberia, and at Clovis sites.

Pushing the clock back further still, Holen said he is working on a
site that is “probably much older” than the 33,000-year-old evidence
he now has, but he declined to specify at this time how old the site
could prove to be, or its general location.

“When I am asked the question, ‘When did people first arrive in the
Americas?’ My answer now is that we do not know. I think that the term
‘from time immemorial’ may be the most accurate statement for Native
American time depth in the Americas, just as many traditional Native
people say.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

A tiny frozen microbe may hold clues to extraterrestrial life

A tiny frozen microbe may hold clues to extraterrestrial life
Jun 14th, 2009 |
A novel bacterium that has been trapped more than three kilometres under glacial ice in Greenland for over 120 000 years, may hold clues as to what life forms might exist on other planets.

Dr Jennifer Loveland-Curtze and a team of scientists from Pennsylvania State University report finding the novel microbe, which they have called Herminiimonas glaciei, in the current issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. The team showed great patience in coaxing the dormant microbe back to life; first incubating their samples at 2˚C for seven months and then at 5˚C for a further four and a half months, after which colonies of very small purple-brown bacteria were seen.

H. glaciei is small even by bacterial standards – it is 10 to 50 times smaller than E. coli. Its small size probably helped it to survive in the liquid veins among ice crystals and the thin liquid film on their surfaces. Small cell size is considered to be advantageous for more efficient nutrient uptake, protection against predators and occupation of micro-niches and it has been shown that ultramicrobacteria are dominant in many soil and marine environments.

Most life on our planet has always consisted of microorganisms, so it is reasonable to consider that this might be true on other planets as well. Studying microorganisms living under extreme conditions on Earth may provide insight into what sorts of life forms could survive elsewhere in the solar system.

“These extremely cold environments are the best analogues of possible extraterrestrial habitats”, said Dr Loveland-Curtze, “The exceptionally low temperatures can preserve cells and nucleic acids for even millions of years. H. glaciei is one of just a handful of officially described ultra-small species and the only one so far from the Greenland ice sheet; studying these bacteria can provide insights into how cells can survive and even grow under extremely harsh conditions, such as temperatures down to -56˚C, little oxygen, low nutrients, high pressure and limited space.”

“H. glaciei isn’t a pathogen and is not harmful to humans”, Dr Loveland-Curtze added, “but it can pass through a 0.2 micron filter, which is the filter pore size commonly used in sterilization of fluids in laboratories and hospitals. If there are other ultra-small bacteria that are pathogens, then they could be present in solutions presumed to be sterile. In a clear solution very tiny cells might grow but not create the density sufficient to make the solution cloudy”.

Dianne Stilwell
Society for General Microbiology

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Incisions on ochre from a South African cave suggest modern human behavior emerged around 100,000 years ago

Designs on pigment can be seen at the citation/cite.

Engraved pigments point to ancient symbolic tradition
Incisions on ochre from a South African cave suggest modern human
behavior emerged around 100,000 years ago
By Bruce Bower
Web edition : 1:03 pm

Line designsGeometric patterns incised on pieces of ancient pigment,
such as these 100,000-year-old finds, may reveal the surprisingly
ancient origins of modern human behavior.Courtesy of C. Henshilwood
and F. d’Errico

Scientists excavating a Stone Age cave on South Africa’s southern
coast have followed a trail of engraved pigments to what they suspect
are the ancient roots of modern human behavior.

Analyses of 13 chunks of decorated red ochre (an iron oxide pigment)
from Blombos Cave indicate that a cultural tradition of creating
meaningful geometric designs stretched from around 100,000 to 75,000
years ago in southern Africa, say anthropologist Christopher
Henshilwood of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and
his colleagues. Their report appears online and in an upcoming Journal
of Human Evolution.

Much debate surrounds the issue of when and where language, religion,
symbolic decorations and other facets of modern human behavior
originated. Researchers such as Henshilwood hypothesize that modern
human behavior developed gradually in Africa, beginning more than
100,000 years ago. Others posit that a brain-boosting genetic mutation
around 50,000 years ago fostered modern behavior in Africa. Some
researchers suspect that behavioral advances first appeared in Europe,
Asia and Africa at that later time.

Possible examples of symbolic behavior from around 100,000 years ago —
such as proposed human burials in the Middle East and pigment use in
Africa — have been controversial.

“What makes the Blombos engravings different is that some of them
appear to represent a deliberate will to produce a complex abstract
design,” Henshilwood says. “We have not before seen well-dated and
unambiguous traces of this kind of behavior at 100,000 years ago.”

Further studies need to confirm that the ancient incisions were not
the result of, say, slicing into ochre with stone tools in order to
remove powder quickly, cautions anthropologist Curtis Marean of
Arizona State University in Tempe, who studies ancient human behavior
at another South African cave (SN: 10/20/07, p. 243).

Even if the Blombos pigments contain intentional designs, fully modern
human behavior — such as the use of figurative art (SN: 6/20/09, p.
11)  — didn’t emerge until tens of thousands of years later, contends
archaeologist Nicholas Conard of the University of Tuebingen, Germany.

Henshilwood and study coauthor Francesco d’Errico of the University of
Bordeaux I in Talence, France, disagree. In their view, the Blombos
pigments bear intentionally fashioned designs that held some sort of
meaning and were passed down the generations for 25,000 years. Thus,
the two researchers say, it’s likely that a 100,000-year-old society
already steeped in symbolic behavior originally produced the ochre

In 2002, Henshilwood’s team described evidence of symbolic engravings
on two other ochre pieces from Blombos Cave. Those 77,000-year-old
finds were excavated in 1999 and 2000.

Engraved chunks of pigment in the new analysis were unearthed during
the same excavations. Specimens came from either of three sediment
levels with estimated ages of 72,000 years, 77,000 years and 100,000

A microscopic analysis indicates that ochre designs were made by
holding a piece of pigment with one hand while impressing lines into
the pigment with the tip of a stone tool. On several pieces, patterns
covered areas that had first been ground down.

Geometric patterns on the ochre pieces include cross-hatched designs,
branching lines, parallel lines and right angles.

Pigment powder had also been removed from many of the recovered ochre
chunks. Incised patterns may have served as models for pigment designs
applied to animal skins or other material, the scientists speculate.

Excavations of Blombos Cave sediment from before 100,000 years ago
have begun. “The discovery of more, and perhaps even more striking,
engravings is very possible,” Henshilwood says.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Archeological Evidence Of Human Activity Found Beneath Lake Huron

ScienceDaily (June 9, 2009) — More than 100 feet deep in Lake Huron, on a wide stoney ridge that 9,000 years ago was a land bridge, University of Michigan researchers have found the first archeological evidence of human activity preserved beneath the Great Lakes.

The researchers located what they believe to be caribou-hunting structures and camps used by the early hunters of the period.

"This is the first time we've identified structures like these on the lake bottom," said John O'Shea, curator of Great Lakes Archaeology in the Museum of Anthropology and professor in the Department of Anthropology. "Scientifically, it's important because the entire ancient landscape has been preserved and has not been modified by farming, or modern development. That has implications for ecology, archaeology and environmental modeling."

A paper about the findings is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors are O'Shea and Guy Meadows, director of the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratories and a professor in the departments of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, and Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences.

O'Shea and Meadows found features that they believe to be hunting pits, camps, caribou drive lanes and stone piles used to attract the caribou to the drive lanes. Drive lanes are long rows of rocks used to channel caribou into ambushes. The 1,148-foot structure they believe is a drive lane closely resembles one on Victoria Island in the Canadian subarctic.

The hunting formations are on the 10-mile-wide Alpena-Amberley ridge that stretches more than 100 miles from Point Clark, Ontario to Presque Isle, Michigan. The ridge was a bridge between 10,000 and 7,500 years ago when water levels were much lower. Its surface is relatively unspoiled, unlike coastal areas where scientists believe other archeological sites exist. These coastal sites would now be deeply covered in sediment, so they're often considered lost forever.

Scientists have hypothesized for some time that the ridge might hold signs of ancient occupations. But they didn't know what signs to look for. O'Shea and Meadows zeroed in on caribou-hunting structures after considering the region's climate at the time, which would have been similar to the subarctic. Subarctic hunters are known to utilize caribou drive lanes.

The U-M researchers then narrowed down where to look for these structures by modeling the lake ridge as it would have been when it was dry. They worked with a Robert Reynolds a professor of computer scientist at Wayne State University to reconstruct the ancient environment and then simulate caribou migrations across the corridor. Based on this, they picked three spots to examine.

O'Shea and Meadows used U-M's new, cutting-edge survey vessel Blue Traveler, sonar equipment and underwater remote-operated vehicles with video cameras to survey these areas.

"The combination of these state-of-the art tools have made these underwater archeological investigations possible," Meadows said. "Without any one of these advanced tools, this discovery would not have happened."

Archaeologist will begin examining these areas this summer.

The Paleo-Indian and early Archaic periods are poorly known in the Great Lakes region because most of their sites are thought to have been lost beneath the lakes. Yet they are also times of major shifts in culture and the environment.

The Paleo-Indians were nomadic and pursued big game, O'Shea said. With the Archaic period, communities were more settled, with larger populations, a broad spectrum economy, and new long distance trade and ceremonial connections.

"Without the archeological sites from this intermediate time period, you can't tell how they got from point A to point B, or Paleo-Indian to Archaic," O'Shea said. "This is why the discovery of sites preserved beneath the lakes is so significant."

Perhaps more exciting than the hunting structures themselves is the hope they bring that intact settlements are preserved on the lake bottom. These settlements could contain organic artifacts that deteriorate in drier, acidic soils on land.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Storm of Swords

This was probably the most action packed, as well as tragic, of the first three books, where many breath-holding subplots finally get their resolve after over 3000 pages of series, where age old conflicts come to climax, elusive secrets finally get revealed, and the true character of many enigmatic figures comes to light.
Here Martin succeeds in dashing virtually every hope of the armchair fan about two thirds through the book, no matter who he or she has been rooting for, but at the same time proves his writing mastery by keeping the reader from throwing the book down in utter disgust by the sheer power of several intriguing subplots that reader may not have even realized that he cared about until Martin so deftly and punctually turned up the flame.
Alot has been written about analogies in this series to the War of the Roses, using the literary device called "Historical Criticism," but in order to offer something new by way of review I would herein also like to put the book under the scrutiny of what I'll call "Prehistoric Criticism."
In a nutshell, this series can also be equated to the Pleistocene Ice Age of Europe, where winters really did last for hundreds or even thousands of years. The giants and children of the forest could well be seen as Neanderthals and/or other archaic humans, or possibly even the earliest so-called Cro-Magnons, or Aurignacions.
The First Men would be the tale end of the Aurignacion, or possibly the Gravettian, whereas the Andals represent later cultures such as the Solutrean (despite the Andal's metallurgy) or even the far later "Iron Age."
The Wall could be seen as a memory of the great glaciers that once lay across Europe, and for millenia seperated "Upper Paleolithic" homo sapien from the neanderthals, and later seperated both the Aurignacions and neanderthals from the invading Gravettians for a time.
If we are to look at the book as a memory of the real age of myth and legend, which some believe is the Pleistocene Ice Age, then The War of the Roses takes a back seat; since we have no details of the political history of Ice Age Europe, Martin had to create a probable one. And since history repeats itself, why not draw influence for the the sordid details of clan warfare from one of the ugliest snapshots of human pettiness and depravity we have available to us, The War of the Roses?
Surely Martin shows us here that Houses and Banners are no more civilized than Clans and Totems, and that both caves and castles can house the barbary of man.
And of course, Valyria can be equated to Atlantis and the Ironmen to the predecessors of the Vikings.
Further, Martin seems to have used more than just the War of the Roses to bring political life to this mythical memory of the Ice Age; to name just one instance, Oldtown with it's cobblestone streets and bribe to the Andlas reminds me much of my hometown of Savannah and it's similar bribe to Sherman...and being a decently well-off American Martin is sure to have heard the spiel of the tour guides from the Hostess City of the South on a vacation sometime in his life.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ancient Art, Music Flowered as Communities, Not Brains, Grew

The other side of that coin:

“They have it wrong,” Klein said in a telephone interview. “This paper
does not belong in print.”

Klein is a proponent of a competing theory that attributes the
development of modern human behavior to a genetic change to human
brains 50,000 years ago.

“These behaviors appear to have been part of a package that
significantly enhanced human fitness -- the ability to survive and
reproduce,” Klein wrote in a study that was published last year in the
journal Evolutionary Anthropology. “It is in this sense that they
signal true evolutionary change as opposed to mere historical

Ancient Art, Music Flowered as Communities, Not Brains, Grew

By Ryan Flinn

June 4 (Bloomberg) -- An explosion of art, music, jewelry and hunting
technology appeared 45,000 years ago because of increased population
density, rather than the evolution of the human brain, a study said.

Researchers used genetic estimates of ancient population sizes,
archaeological artifacts and computer simulations of social learning.
They found complex skills involving abstract thinking would be passed
down through generations and across groups only when populations reach
a critical level, according to the study in tomorrow’s edition of the
journal Science.

Increased interaction between groups, the sharing of ideas and the
exchange of raw materials that led to the flowering of human culture
may explain why concentrated centers of industry, such as California’s
Silicon Valley, produce technological innovations, said Mark Thomas,
44, a senior author of the study and a senior lecturer at University
College London in England.

“People learn from their parents or teachers in their group, and this
model demonstrates you have to have a critical number of people
learning to develop complexity,” Adam Powell, 28, a co-author of the
study and a doctoral student at the London university. “The actual
invention of all these technologies was probably very common, but was
only passed on as density increased.”

45,000 Years Ago

Anatomically, modern humans have been around for an estimated 200,000
years, yet scientists have found the first widespread evidence of
sustained symbolic behavior and abstract thinking emerged about 45,000
years ago. The findings include musical instruments, body decoration
with shell beads and tattoos, bows and arrows and microlithic stone
blades, according to the study.

An ancient example of figurative art was discovered recently in a
German cave, depicting a woman with enlarged breasts and genitals,
Powell said. One of the oldest of its kind, it dates back 35,000 years
ago, according to a May 14 study published in the journal Nature.

Powell said his study may explain why modern human behavior appeared
to emerge in different regions of the world at different times.
Evidence was seen sporadically as far back as 90,000 years ago in sub-
Saharan Africa, with a more sustained pattern 40,000 years ago, and in
Europe and western Asia 45,000 years ago. Archaeological samples
indicating similar skills were found in eastern and southern Asia and
Australia 30,000 years ago. Population densities would have reached a
critical point in sub-Saharan Africa and Europe at about the same time
periods, according to the study.

Popular Illustrations

The impetus for human development has been pondered throughout
history, Thomas said in an interview. The 1968 film, movie “2001: A
Space Odyssey,” illustrated the mystery with a scene of a symbolic
monolith slab on an ancient landscape that enabled humanlike apes to
make tools and think critically.

“In reality, what I suspect is these technologies were being invented
all the time, but they never hung on for more than a few generations.
You need sustained evidence for it to be visible in archaeological

Not everyone is convinced the demographic model caused the behavioral
change. Richard Klein, an anthropology and biology professor at
Stanford University, said the study is flawed because the examples it
cites of human behavior prior to 50,000 years ago are either misdated
artifacts or are open to interpretation as to their level of

Competing Theory

“They have it wrong,” Klein said in a telephone interview. “This paper
does not belong in print.”

Klein is a proponent of a competing theory that attributes the
development of modern human behavior to a genetic change to human
brains 50,000 years ago.

“These behaviors appear to have been part of a package that
significantly enhanced human fitness -- the ability to survive and
reproduce,” Klein wrote in a study that was published last year in the
journal Evolutionary Anthropology. “It is in this sense that they
signal true evolutionary change as opposed to mere historical


The study of time as it relates to archaeology is, to coin a phrase,

The study of time as it relates to archaeology is, to coin a phrase,
moving right along. The pottery clock, the various "rock" clocks,
added to the radiocarbon system now have a companion in the
examination of the entire mtDNA molecule.

"We can settle the debate regarding mankind's expansion through the
Americas. Researchers have been estimating dates from mtDNA that are
too old for the archaeological evidence, but our calculations confirm
the date to be some 15,000 years ago, around the time of the first
unequivocal archaeological remains.

"Furthermore, we can say with some confidence that the estimate of
humanity's 'out of Africa' migration was around 60-70,000 years ago –
some 10-20,000 years earlier than previously thought."

New 'Molecular Clock' Aids Dating Of Human Migration History

ScienceDaily (June 4, 2009) — Researchers at the University of Leeds
have devised a more accurate method of dating ancient human migration
– even when no corroborating archaeological evidence exists.

Estimating the chronology of population migrations throughout
mankind's early history has always been problematic. The most widely
used genetic method works back to find the last common ancestor of any
particular set of lineages using samples of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA),
but this method has recently been shown to be unreliable, throwing 20
years of research into doubt.

The new method refines the mtDNA calculation by taking into account
the process of natural selection - which researchers realised was
skewing their results - and has been tested successfully against known
colonisation dates confirmed by archaeological evidence, such as in
Polynesia in the Pacific (approximately 3,000 years ago), and the
Canary Islands (approximately 2,500 years ago).

Says PhD student Pedro Soares who devised the new method: "Natural
selection's very gradual removal of harmful gene mutations in the
mtDNA produces a time-dependent effect on how many mutations you see
in the family tree. What we've done is work out a formula that
corrects this effect so that we now have a reliable way of dating
genetic lineages.

"This means that we can put a timescale on any part of the particular
family tree, right back to humanity's last common maternal ancestor,
known as 'Mitochondrial Eve', who lived some 200,000 years ago. In
fact we can date any migration for which we have available data," he

Moreover, working with a published database of more than 2,000 fully
sequenced mtDNA samples, Soares' calculation, for the first time, uses
data from the whole of the mtDNA molecule. This means that the results
are not only more accurate, but also more precise, giving narrower
date ranges.

The new method has already yielded some surprising findings. Says
archaogeneticist Professor Martin Richards, who supervised Soares: "We
can settle the debate regarding mankind's expansion through the
Americas. Researchers have been estimating dates from mtDNA that are
too old for the archaeological evidence, but our calculations confirm
the date to be some 15,000 years ago, around the time of the first
unequivocal archaeological remains.

"Furthermore, we can say with some confidence that the estimate of
humanity's 'out of Africa' migration was around 60-70,000 years ago –
some 10-20,000 years earlier than previously thought."

The team has devised a simple calculator into which researchers can
feed their data and this is being made freely available on the
University of Leeds website.

University of Florida: Epic carving on fossil bone found in Vero Beach Options

University of Florida: Epic carving on fossil bone found in Vero Beach

© 2009, VERO BEACH 32963

In what a top Florida anthropologist is calling “the oldest, most
spectacular and rare work of art in the Americas,” an amateur Vero
Beach fossil hunter has found an ancient bone etched with a clear
image of a walking mammoth or mastodon.

According to leading experts from the University of Florida, the
remarkable find demonstrates with new and startling certainty that
humans coexisted with prehistoric animals more than 12,000 years ago
in this fossil- rich region of the state.

No similar carved figure has ever been authenticated in the United
States, or anywhere in this hemisphere.

The brown, mineral-hardened bone bearing the unique carving is a foot-
long fragment from a larger bone that belonged to an extinct “mammoth,
mastodon or ground sloth” according to Dr. Richard C. Hulbert, a
vertebrate paleontologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History
museum. These animals have been extinct in Florida for at least 10,000

Etched into the bone by a highly sharpened stone tool or the tooth of
the animal is the clear image of a walking adult mammoth or mastodon.
Extensive tests over the past two months have shown that the image was
created when the bone was fresh, presumably right after the animal it
belonged to was killed or died.

Experts who have examined the bone, found at a location which has not
been publicly disclosed on the northern side of Vero Beach, concluded
the carving and surface are of the same age – 12,000 to 14,000 years
old — with no evidence of recent tampering (see accompanying story on
tests that have been performed to date).

Dr. Barbara Purdy, professor emerita of Anthropology at the University
of Florida, on May 19th told Vero Beach 32963 discovery of an image
carved into a bone by a prehistoric human is unprecedented in North
America, and she called the find by fossil hunter James Kennedy “the
oldest, most spectacular, and rare work of art in the Americas.”

“Never before in the Western Hemisphere, has there been a bone from an
extinct species incised with a recognizable picture of an animal,”
Purdy went on. “It would be ancient evidence that people living in the
Americas during the last Ice Age created artistic images of the
animals they hunted.”

The four-inch etching of the elephant appears faintly but clearly on
the surface of a fossil bone. The image, small yet showing the
perspective of one rear leg in front of the other, a dangling trunk
and a hint of a squinting eye, was apparently made by a prehistoric
resident of south central Florida.

The eyes of specialists around the world are now focused on the bone
and image as they subject it to every sort of analysis to determine
authenticity and consider its origins.

Purdy, a curator emerita in archaeology at the Florida Museum of
Natural History, has been overseeing the effort to painstakingly
examine the carving. As results from over a dozen specialists
accumulated, and her excitement and conviction of its authenticity
increased, she prepared to release news of the find to the scientific
community at large.

“I did everything in my power to show this thing was a fake. I was not
going to stick my neck out on something this rare unless I was as sure
as you can be in science.”

After sending out photos and detailed reports from University of
Florida labs, Purdy’s email box was soon filled with reactions from
her colleagues.

World renowned geochemist Thomas Stafford commended Purdy with
eloquence on her efforts from his lab in Colorado.

“You have done true and intense due diligence in determining whether
or not the object is ancient and therefore science is on your side,”
he said in the email read by Purdy to Vero Beach 32963. “If later
interpretations agree or disagree with your and others present
opinions, it is just the wondrous process of science, by which we
asymptotically approach truth. Sometimes this takes a few hours in the
case of a mathematical proof; sometimes it takes centuries in the case
of discerning evolution’s inner workings.”

In Britain, Dr. Paul G. Bahn, an archaeologist with a doctoral degree
from the University of Cambridge, is a specialist in prehistoric art;
he led the team that discovered the first Ice Age cave art in Britain
in 2003 and 2004. Purdy included him in the loop of information on the
Vero bone, and shared his reaction with Vero Beach 32963 as well.

It shows the requisite scientific skepticism of finds as rare as this,
and at the same time, his optimism that an amazing discovery has
indeed been made in Vero Beach. “When you see something like this,
your first thought is that it must be a fake. But there has to be a
first time, and this might be it.”

Dr. C Andrew Hemmings, an archaeologist at the University of Texas at
Austin, is a specialist in the Paleoindian period of prehistory and in
bone and ivory tools. He is especially interested in aspects of
ancient Florida, and has worked at underwater sites in the Aculla
River. He is currently working on an excavation off the west coast
near Tampa, and took a break from his work to send his approbation.

“Andy was cute,” Purdy says. “He took all my reports and said, ‘This
certainly looks like a perfectly good mammoth carving to me.’”

Meanwhile, Kennedy, the amateur finder of the fossil, is stunned at
the significance of his almost chance discovery of the etching. An
avid and longtime fossil hunter born and raised in Vero Beach, Kennedy
found the bone as long ago as four years in a northern area of the
city. He kept the bone fragment in a box at his home along with others
he had found, still caked with soil in places, awaiting closer

One day in February, he closely examined the bone, wiping fine dirt
from the thick fragment. As he cleaned it carefully under the bright
light of a work table lamp, suddenly he saw a distinctive shape carved
into the smooth, curved side of the dark surface. Like a face arising
suddenly from a visual puzzle, the appearance of the animal image took
him by surprise.

The clear outline of a striding elephant with large tusks appeared
beneath the bright light. He knew he had something important in his
hands. Here was something more than man and mammoth together, but a
personal expression, a work of art or perhaps a religious presentation
from a lost and distant world thousands of years in the past.

“I knew this was the coolest thing I had ever found,” says Kennedy. “I
was holding something somebody made thousands of years ago.”

Kennedy immediately called an old friend, Vero attorney Gene
Roddenberry. A member of the Historical Society, Roddenberry had
helped James with other finds the younger man had made over the years.
A large mammoth tooth he found in the main canal as a teenager was
donated to the city museum, and other large bones had been donated to
the University of Florida.

Both men knew the carving needed to go quickly to Gainesville, the
state university system being the base of leading experts in
prehistoric Florida.

Right away, scientists wondered at so rare a find: Could the image
have been carved more recently into the rock-hard surface of the bone
that is at least 10,000 years old? Could an indigenous Floridian from
even the last millennium have chiseled an image of a creature that
disappeared with the Ice Age?

The image looked old and worn and seemed similar to European cave
paintings and to artifacts found far from the Americas, but was it

The bone, currently housed in a vault locally, first went to Barbara
Purdy in early April. Even specialists can be fooled, but to her eyes,
it looked quite real. “The thing that struck me at the beginning was,
unlike forgeries generally, the image is not deep,” Purdy says. “It
could easily be missed. It looked naturally worn, the way a coin does
that has been handled a great deal, the image beginning to fade.”

Dr. Michael Warren, forensic anthropologist and director of the C.A.
Pound Human Identification Laboratory at the University of Florida,
has studied the incisions that form the image and the surface of the
bone, and has found both to be “ancient.”

In May, Dr. Kevin Jones, the chairperson of the Material Science and
Engineering Department at the University of Florida, as well as two
other scientists working with him there, also examined the carving.

Using a method called energy dispersive X-Ray spectroscopy and a
scanning electron microscope, they were able to study the object in
tremendous detail. All three scientists concluded that both the
carving and the bone’s surface were the same age, with no evidence of
recent tampering.

Around the country and abroad, Purdy sought out experts in Upper
Paleolithic art, Late Pleistocene geology, paleontology and
Paleoamerican archeology. She asked them to examine photographs and an
electron microscope picture of the bone and carved image. None so far
has voiced a reason to doubt the object’s authenticity, although tests
and examinations continue.

One test, a rare earth element analysis, is expected to be concluded
this week to determine where in Florida’s geological strata or layers
the bone was originally located. This powerful new method utilizes the
process of fossilization itself.

When bones become fossilized, calcium is slowly replaced by minerals
including rare earth elements like scandium and cerium. Bone takes up
these rare earth elements, or REEs, in direct proportion to the amount
present in the particular strata of earth where the bone was
originally located.

This gives the bone a unique REE signature that confirms the earth
layer where a bone originally lay and gives an idea of its age.
Scientists can then compare the results to those of others fossil
bones found in similar settings in Vero Beach.

The discovery of the etching brings a vivid clarity to the idea that
early humans lived in our county among the extinct animals of
Florida’s Pleistocene epoch.

The Pleistocene spanned from 1.8 million to about 10,000 years ago.
Many types of trees, mosses, insects, mollusks, flowering plants,
birds, and mammals survive today from the last years of that era.

The Pleistocene was also characterized by large land mammals. Mammoths
and their cousins the mastodons, as well as bison, llamas, saber-
toothed cats, giant ground sloths, and other large animals, roamed the
then-drier landscapes of Florida.

Native horses and camels galloped across Florida grasslands that
resembled today’s African savannahs. They disappeared at the end of
the last Ice Age with the advent of a wetter climate. Shorelines
retreated to what they are today as water held in ice returned to the

No one knows when the first people arrived in Florida, or how many
waves of such people may have lived here as climate and geography went
through tremendous changes.

The first inhabitants of North America were small groups of nomadic
huntergatherers; few signs of their existence have been found. Most
linguists and physical anthropologists believe these people originally
came primarily from Siberia. Moving eastward across the wide Bering
land bridge known as Beringia, they may have arrived in North America
as much as 30,000 years ago or even before.

The earliest people’s remains and artifacts are rare amid the more
abundant evidence of those who lived much later. In Florida, rapid
commercial development has sometimes led to disruption or even
destruction of fossil sites. When professionals are called in,
sometimes they must work in haste as projects want to push forward.

Despite that, a wealth of spearheads, knives, blades, scrapers and
other tools made of stone, as well as tools made of ivory or the bones
of extinct animals have been found throughout the United States and
from Florida. Yet, nothing like the carved mammoth image has ever been
found. Such evidence of artistic representation is known from the
caves of Europe and the steppes of Asia, but not North America.

This is hardly the first time an important fossil find has occurred
here. Amateur fossil hunters other than James Kennedy have found the
bones of large Pleistocene mammals at various locations around the

The unique characteristics of Florida’s geology account for this
improbable sounding reality. The peninsula is formed entirely of
sedimentary rock lying upon a foundation of thick limestone. The
limestone was laid down when the state was covered by shallow seas
between 65 and 20 million years ago.

There are no dinosaur fossils in Florida, but plentiful mammals are
often discovered in old streambeds and sinkholes. Fresh water was more
scarce during the Pleistocene than today, and animals and people
flocked to sources of the precious liquid. These circumstances mean
that mammal fossils are not generally encased in rock or found deep
below the surface as they can be elsewhere.

Vero Beach is already one of the best known and most discussed fossil
sites in Florida, producing two fossilized partial skeletons, the
older of which became known as Vero Man.

Isaac M. Weills and Frank Ayers found the fossil human bones here
nearly 100 years ago where the Indian River Farms Company was
constructing a drainage canal that intersected the old streambed of
Van Valkenburg Creek.

The site is near U.S. One and the new county administration complex. A
great number of extinct mammal bones were also found along the old
creek-bed, including the first find of a sub-species of North American
tapir that would be named after its location: Tapirous veroensus.

Years of contention about the age and nature of the partial sets of
human bones followed.

Although the anthropologists and paleontologists who study the
Pleistocene have long agreed about the co-mingling of early human
groups and extinct mammals in Florida, questions lingered over the old
local finds.

Back in 1915 some scientists questioned whether the bones of Vero Man
were carried into deposits older than the bones actually were, by
accidental mixing of ground layers or other means. Skull measurement
techniques, since discredited, were used by one scientist to estimate
the age of the bones, and contradict a Florida geologist who said Vero
Man was much older, a premise now widely held.

The bones and skull were dated at the time by acclaimed state
geologist Elias Sellards as being at least 10,000 years old. The
bones’ antiquity was questioned by Ales Hrdicka of the Smithsonian
Institution who believed they were much younger. He asserted the
heavily mineralized human bones, clearly fossils, were of recent
origin. His view was the fossilization had happened quickly and humans
never lived here in the Pleistocene.

Over the next 30 years the bones and skull were housed by numerous
persons and institutions. There was even some evidence the bones had
actually belonged to a woman and not a man. The skull was cast in
cement, damaged, and then disappeared. Femurs and the other remaining
bones today are scattered at different state institutions and at the
Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Although Sellard’s assessment is now generally accepted, there are
still those who have questioned the presence of man living here with
the great mammals long gone. James Kennedy’s discovery appears to
offer unequivocal evidence that human beings lived in our area during
the Pleistocene, and that Sellards analysis was likely correct.

Barbara Purdy has spent years studying and analyzing the earliest
Floridians and the evidence they left behind. Her most recent book,
“Florida’s People during the last Ice Age,” released last year, offers
an overview of the last 100 years of research into Florida’s earliest
people.Fossil sites and finds in Vero Beach and Melbourne are among
the many she describes in detail.

Purdy would like to see a new, more complete excavation of the old
Vero site that has continued to yield fossil animal bones and human
artifacts like spear points. She calls for a new “well-designed
project incorporating the expertise of individuals from various
disciplines using 21st century techniques.” She estimates a thorough
scientifically executed excavation would cost around $150,000.

“What we need down there requires going down eight feet or more into
the deposits,” she says. “All material needs to be screened with fine
mesh. It all needs to be carefully done, not contract archeology, but
a painstaking University-type project.”

The question of pre-historic man living here during the late
Pleistocene now may be resolved, but scientists wonder what other
finds might be discovered. The famous site of Vero Man, where human
fossils were first found, will likely be disrupted this year due to
expansion of the Vero Beach water plant. Other scientists interested
in the age of bones and the surrounding sediments found there plan to
begin work in June. Any excavation will be the last opportunity to
properly examine the site before the water plant project.

Sometimes people do find the thing that dreams are made of. For
Barbara Purdy and James Kennedy, the image under the light in February
revealed a once in a lifetime discovery. The elephant carving will
bring new interest in the geology and fossil beds of Indian River
County. Hopefully the bone will find a permanent home at the Natural
History Museum of the University of Florida.

This extraordinary and rare piece of human history will put Vero Beach
in textbooks for years to come. Stories will be written and more
extensive explorations will certainly follow. Barbara Purdy dedicated
her recent book to Elias Sellards whom she calls “a visionary.”

Today, with amateurs and pros looking at an old bone and an ancient
hand’s depiction of an awesome beast, he would certainly be smiling.

What experts say

Dr. Kevin S. Jones, chairperson of the University of Florida
Department of Materials Science and Engineering:

“I am quite convinced this carving is genuine. Nothing we know here
indicates anything other than great age for both the bone and the
drawing. The image is hard to see and does not stand out, the way you
think it might if it had been created for that purpose. But more
importantly the coloration, the degradation of the image, and wear
patterns inside and outside the cut surfaces are completely
consistent. I feel along with my colleagues J.J. Mecholsky and Gerald
Borne, who have also worked on it, that this image is very ancient.
The results we got from the Energy Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy
analysis of the surface conducted in a scanning electron microscope
eliminate any possibility a polymer coating was used to make the
inside and outside of the cuts look the same. I am very comfortable
saying that this bone and its image are both very old.”

Dr. Michael W. Warren, forensic anthropologist and Director of the
C.A.Pound Human Identification Laboratory at University of Florida:

“In my line of work, we try to be quite conservative in our
statements. I worked on this image in the bone with our cut mark
specialist Dr. Laurel Freas. What you see in this image are cut marks
eroded over a very long period of time. There are no distinct edges
and they are worn and eroded in a manner not only consistent with a
long process but exposure to water. The appearance is of gradual
alteration has been going on a very long time. It was exciting for us
to work on this because it became more and more clear that it was an
authentic image of great age.”

James Kennedy: ‘I’ve always been good at finding things’

James Kennedy’s first fossil might have jumped up and bit him, as the
saying goes, but for the old cement mixing tub he was floating in,
down a canal just north of downtown Vero Beach.

He was sixteen years old, and taking a break in a day of fishing.
Suddenly, the bottom of the tub hit a bump. The boy hopped out to
investigate. Where the tub had scraped, a large, layered tooth of a
mammoth, rock- hard, with a surface of serpentine folds, emerged from
the sandy water.

Kennedy could hardly imagine what his wet hands held: a piece of the
very body of a massive Ice Age mammal, a beast that had trumpeted and
thundered up some prehistoric precursor to nearby US 1. For James
Kennedy it was a revelation, and the beginning of a ceaseless quest.

The cement tub is long gone, but Kennedy has never stopped searching,
digging in canals, riverbanks, and old streambeds across the
geologically unique landscapes of Florida, among the richest fossil
beds in the country.

The arid scrub-covered ridge along Old Dixie Highway and US 1, visible
between Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, was once an ancient shoreline, one
of several left in Florida where the rising and falling tides caused
by ice sheets far away left crests of higher ground. But it is the
rare watering holes of fresh water that mammals — including people —
congregated near, undulating old stream beds often just four to eight
feet beneath the surface today, where many remains still lie.

James Kennedy, 39, was born and raised in Vero. Through a tight-knit
network of supporters of his passion, he has persevered as doggedly as
anyone in a field of highly trained specialists. With books and
computer, pamphlet and lecture, he has learned about the lost past of
ancient Florida.

And he has more than that. He has instincts, maybe even a sixth sense
of how people and animals got around here in Vero a very long time

Amateur fossil hunters like James Kennedy have always been important
in the discovery of valuable artifacts. “Sue”, the gigantic
Tyrannosaurus now at the Chicago Field Musuem, was found by an
amateur, Sue Hendrikson. Locally, lore has it that much of a mastodon
sits in a middle-class Vero home, unearthed from a local site, and
million-dollar homes sit on fossil beds where many a bone or spearhead
has turned up in swales and ditches.

“You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve seen,” says Kennedy,
sitting at his work table littered with bones, books, and tools.
Plastic cigarette lighters and an ashtray sit next to a spear point
and several fossil vertebrae.

From his finds he has learned to imagine, and reconstruct scenarios of

“Up on one of the northern rivers, there is a place with a bluff and a
big hole underwater where a whole bunch, and I mean a big bunch, of
mammoth and mastodon bones are,”

he says. “It looks clear to me checking out some of those bones, they
might have been driven there and slaughtered by people long ago, just
like a butcher room for a kitchen”.

Kennedy has been resourceful when money was hard to come by for
supplies. He seems to retain good friends; some are earnest and eager
to help.

“Everybody that knows me knows how much I love this stuff,” he says.
“I know a private land owner who’s let me dig around on his property
where there are quite a few fossils. He gave me a birthday present of
permission to dig over there. People just know that is what I love to

While researchers often use calibrated brass sifters, Kennedy’s tools
are ambitious if makeshift methods to aid in his searches.

“I’ve made myself all sorts of sifters, wire screen sifters and things
like that, to help look for bones,” Kennedy says. “I wanted to control
the water pressure,” he said. “So I took a small water pump, and a
three-horse-power engine, some PVC pipe, and wire, and a garden hose,
and I made this thing to wash away sand.”

Sometimes a site draws him back again and again, like a superstition
makes a child skip over cracks.

“I get an itch to go, and I go,” he says. “I’ve been to some places a
hundred times in a year.”

“I’ve always been good at finding things, all my life,” he says. “I
have a sort of instinct, a kind of gut feeling about whether or not
something is going to turn up.”

He toys with a cardboard box of bone pieces and giant sharks teeth he
has pulled out of a drawer. Kennedy lives in a quiet area of South
Vero near his mother. It is from her, some say, that he inherited a
keen insight to the past and future.

James Kennedy claims to have his own cataloguing methods that allow
him to keep track of his many digs and finds.

He was not prepared for the news that greeted him in Gainesville about
the extreme rarity of the carved elephant image.

Nor was his friend, Gene Roddenberry, a local attorney with a long,
deep interest in Vero’s history, who had driven Kennedy and the etched
bone up to Gainesville and Dr. Barbara Purdy for initial analysis.

The result could not have been more reassuring. Purdy and the UF
scientists were in full discovery mode, excited and anxious to apply
all the methods of current science to confirm or deny the extreme
rarity of the drawing and its possible enormous significance.

The news of just how rare their find appeared to be left Kennedy and
Roddenberry completely agog.

“I was in shock,” said Kennedy. “I mean, I just had no idea how few
things like that there are. Gene was with me and we started talking
about it, the magnitude of it. And Gene is very well-spoken,” said
Kennedy. “But he almost started stuttering. We were both in shock.”


Ha-Ha! Ape study traces evolution of laughter

When scientists set out to trace the roots of human laughter, some chimps and gorillas were just tickled to help. Literally.

That's how researchers made a variety of apes and some human babies laugh. After analyzing the sounds, they concluded that people and great apes inherited laughter from a shared ancestor that lived more than 10 million years ago.

Experts praised the work. It gives very strong evidence that ape and human laughter are related through evolution, said Frans de Waal of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta.

As far back as Charles Darwin, scientists have noted that apes make characteristic sounds during play or while being tickled, apparently to signal that they're interested in playing.

It's been suggested before that human laughter grew out of primate roots. But ape laughter doesn't sound like the human version. It may be rapid panting, or slower noisy breathing or a short series of grunts.

So what does that have to do with the human ha-ha?

To investigate that, Marina Davila Ross of the University of Portsmouth in England and colleagues carried out a detailed analysis of the sounds evoked by tickling three human babies and 21 orangutans, gorillas, chimps and bonobos.

After measuring 11 traits in the sound from each species, they mapped out how these sounds appeared to be related to each other. The result looked like a family tree. Significantly, that tree matched the way the species themselves are related, the scientists reported online Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

They also concluded that while human laughter sounds much different from the ape versions, its distinctive features could well have arisen from shared ancestral traits.

Jaak Panksepp of Washington State University, who studies laughter-like responses in animals but didn't participate in the new work, called the paper exciting.

It's the first formal study of how chimps and other apes respond to tickling, a highly detailed examination that compares an unusually wide range of species to humans, he said.

Panksepp's own work concludes that even rats produce a version of laughter in response to play and tickling, with chirps too high-pitched for people to hear. So he believes laughter goes even farther back in the mammalian family tree than the new paper proposes.

Robert Provine, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who wrote the 2000 book, "Laughter: A Scientific Investigation," said the new paper reveals some important insights, like details of the ape sounds that hadn't been appreciated before.

Ancient Humans Knew Sustainable Fishing

Ancient Humans Knew Sustainable Fishing
Michael Reilly, Discovery News

June 1, 2009 -- Early humans living off the coast of California may
have been the first "farmers" of the sea.

By managing sea otter populations they maximized their harvest of
abalone and mussels, making them pioneers in the art of sustainable
fishery management, according to a new study.

Jon Erlandson of the University of Oregon and team of researchers
collected thousands of shells from ancient settlements of the Chumash
people in the Channels Islands near Santa Barbara, Calif., dating back
to around 12,000 years ago.

They found that while people were harvesting millions of shellfish
annually from the local kelp forest ecosystem, shell sizes remained
relatively stable even as the local population grew and became more
technologically advanced.

The trend suggests Channel Island settlers may have been the first to
work out a sustainable form of fishing. When certain areas became
depleted, they simply moved to another, effectively imposing a "no-
take zone" in the old fishing grounds. And when harvests dwindled
throughout the region, they switched to hunting and eating otters
until shellfish numbers recovered.

In previous studies, researchers have documented human impacts on
shellfish populations in the Mediterranean Sea as long as 25,000 years
ago. And evidence from South Africa suggests humans were hunting the
seas up to 120,000 years ago.

"For most of the 20th century, we thought any intensive use of marine
resources was limited to the last 10,000 years, the same time as the
agricultural revolution," Jon Erlandson of the University of Oregon
said. "But you have to understand that humans have been messing with
Mother Nature for a long time."

Erlandson presented his findings last week at the Oceans Past 1/
conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia argues the shells
are signs of opportunism, not management.

"Management implies you do something intentionally, you have a plan, a
goal," he said. "I think these people had a strategy to exploit
resources, and when it had a bad result, they switched from shellfish
to otters."

Still, Pauly said the work could teach us a valuable lesson about
managing modern day fisheries. About one-third of the global fish
catch goes to feeding farmed animals like pigs, chickens, salmon and
tuna. And it takes about four kilograms (8.8 pounds) of smaller fish
like sardines or anchovies, to produce one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of
tuna or pork.

Just by eating those smaller fish, Pauly said we might greatly reduce
pressure on global fisheries.