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Monday, February 15, 2010

Steak Dinners Go Back 2.5 Million Years Options

Pic of the skull at the citation. Looks a little "longhorny"

Steak Dinners Go Back 2.5 Million Years
A new fossil skull of a bull confirms that beef has been "what's
for dinner" since the dawn of humans.

By Larry O'Hanlon | Tue Feb 9, 2010 04:05 AM ET

bull skull

The reconstructed skull of the newly found species of early bull from
Eritrea is shown with researchers Bienvenido Martinez-Navarro (left)
and Francisco Landucci.
Bienvenido Martinez-Navarro


* A new early bull species shows that cattle and humans evolved
* The fossil skull is a missing link between modern cattle and
their African ancestors.
* Early humans didn't herd cattle, but they most definitely hunted
them and ate them.

The discovery of a new "missing link" species of bull dating to a
million years ago in Eritrea pushes back the beef steak dinner to the
very dawn of humans and cattle.

Although there is no evidence that early humans were actually herding
early cattle 2.5 million years ago, the early humans and early cattle
certainly shared the same landscape and beef was definitely on the
menu all along, say researchers.

The telltale fossil is a skull with enormous horns that belongs to the
cattle genus Bos. It has been reassembled from over a hundred shards
found at a dig that also contains early human remains, said
paleontologist Bienvenido Martinez-Navarro of the Universitat Rovira i
Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. Martinez is the lead author of a paper
reporting the discovery in the February issue of the journal
Quaternary International.

"This means that the humans have been eating Bos since the beginnings
of the genus Homo," said Martinez, referring to the genus to which
humans belong.

Quaternary International
Volume 212, Issue 2, 1 February 2010, Pages 169-175
Quaternary Changes of Mammalian Communities Across and Between
doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2009.09.003 | How to Cite or Link Using DOI
Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA All rights reserved. Cited
By in Scopus (0)
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A new species of bull from the Early Pleistocene paleoanthropological
site of Buia (Eritrea): Parallelism on the dispersal of the genus Bos
and the Acheulian culture
Purchase the full-text article

References and further reading may be available for this article. To
view references and further reading you must purchase this article.

Bienvenido Martínez-Navarroa, Corresponding Author Contact
Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author, Lorenzo Rookb, E-mail
The Corresponding Author, Mauro Papinib, E-mail The Corresponding
Author and Yosief Libsekalc, E-mail The Corresponding Author

a ICREA, Institut Catala de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social,
Universitat Rovira i Virgili, 43005 Tarragona, Spain

b Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Firenze, 50121
Firenze, Italy

c National Museum of Eritrea, P.O. Box 5284, Asmara, Eritrea

Available online 18 September 2009.


The origin of the genus Bos is a debated issue. It has traditionally
been linked with that of the genera Leptobos and Bison, two Eurasian
forms. The oldest record of Bos, B. primigenius, in Eurasia is at
Venosa-Notarchirico, Italy (not, vert, similar0.5 to 0.6 Ma). However,
the oldest published evidence of modern Bos is a skull fragment from
Asbole, Lower Awash Valley, Ethiopia (not, vert, similar0.6 to 0.8
Ma). This paper describes a new species, Bos buiaensis, from Buia,
Eritrea (1.0 Ma). B. buiaensis shows a combination of primitive
characters of the African Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene form
Pelorovis sensu stricto and derived characters of B. primigenius. This
new finding demonstrates that Bos has been part of the human
ecological landscape since the beginning of the genus Homo in the
African Late Pliocene.
Article Outline

1. Introduction
2. Description of the new species
3. Anatomical description of the holotype and comparison with other
species of the lineage of Bos, including Pelorovis sensu strictu, B.
acutifrons, B. planifrons and B. primigenius

3.1. Holotype specimen cranium DAN-244

4. Description of the other specimens
5. Discussion

Thumbnail image

Fig. 1. Map and generalized sections. Top right: satellite imagery
showing the location of the Buia study area. Left: generalized
stratigraphic section of the Buia basin succession and its
magnetostratigraphy. Right bottom: measured stratigraphic section of
the upper portion of Aalat Formation as outcropping at A094 site
showing the placement of Acheulean artefacts and Bos buiaensis n. sp.
type specimen.

View Within Article

Thumbnail image

Fig. 2. Type specimen of Bos buiaensis n. sp., skull DAN-244. (A)
Upper view; (B) left lateral view; (C) basal view; (D) right lateral
view; (E) posterior view; (F) augmented upper view; (G) augmented
posterior view; and (H) augmented view of the palate.

View Within Article
Sea levels erratic during latest ice age
Cave research finds new evidence of surprising rise 81,000 years ago

By Sid Perkins
Web edition : Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Pic at the citation
HIGH-RISE EVIDENCEThe mineral crusts on high-and-dry formations in
coastal caves of Majorca indicate that during the latest ice age, sea
level briefly and inexplicably rose more than one meter higher than
today’s level.© B.P.

Cave formations along the coast of an island in the Mediterranean Sea
hold evidence that sea level can rise and fall abruptly during an ice
age, a finding that casts some doubt on current notions about how
those lengthy cold spells develop and progress.

At the height of an ice age, immense volumes of water are locked up in
land-based ice sheets, and ocean levels can be as much as 130 meters
below where they are today. By contrast, when that ice melts during
warm periods, sea level can be a few meters higher than the modern-day
standard, says Jeffrey Dorale, a paleoclimatologist at the University
of Iowa in Iowa City. Now, Dorale and his colleagues report in the
Feb. 12 Science that during a brief interval well within the most
recent ice age, sea level suddenly and inexplicably rose to a height
more than one meter above today’s.

Evidence supporting that conclusion comes from cave formations on the
Spanish island of Majorca, the researchers say. As sea levels rose and
fell, waters sloshing into coastal caves left crusts of minerals on
their walls and floors as well as on existing cave formations, Dorale

Radioisotope dating of mineral crusts in one cave along Majorca’s
southern coast indicates that sea level sat about 2.6 meters higher
than today between 121,000 and 116,000 years ago, during the last warm
spell between ice ages. That level is consistent with sea level data
gathered at other sites worldwide, Dorale notes.

But three samples from other crusts in the same cave — samples
deposited about 1.5 meters above modern-day sea level — yielded
surprising results. Those crusts formed around 81,000 years ago, well
after the most recent ice age — which lasted from roughly 110,000
until 10,000 years ago — had begun, Dorale says. Similar analyses of
samples from nearby caves show that between 80,000 and 82,000 years
ago, sea level ranged between 1.25 and 1.6 meters above today’s

“The [team’s] results are strong but not absolutely watertight,”
comments R. Lawrence Edwards, a paleoclimatologist at the University
of Minnesota in Minneapolis. One possible confounding factor, for
instance, could be the rebound of Earth’s crust in the region since
the end of the most recent ice age. After the ice mass smothering
Northern Europe melted and ran to the sea, pressure from viscous
material at the top of Earth’s mantle would have lifted the area,
thereby influencing apparent sea level.

But Dorale and his colleagues contend that tectonic uplift hasn’t
affected their data. He cites similar analyses of now-submerged
mineral crusts in Majorcan caves indicating sea level was about 20
meters below today’s level about 85,000 years ago and about 15 meters
below the modern standard about 79,000 years ago — readings that match
most data gleaned elsewhere at those times.

Studies at a handful of sites worldwide have noted that sea level
reached an exceedingly brief and similarly enigmatic high point around
81,000 years ago, says Dorale. Those results have been controversial
and, for the most part, have been “politely ignored because they don’t
fit the presumed pattern” of how ice ages develop and progress, he

Scientists have long noted erratic dips and jumps in sea level during
Earth’s ice ages, but debate has typically focused on the magnitude of
those swings, says Dorale. The new findings are somewhat disturbing
because they suggest that at some points during an ice age, sea level
can rise as much as 2 meters over the course of a century. “It’s tough
to explain how to melt that much ice that fast,” he admits.


On Crete, New Evidence of Very Ancient Mariners

The New York Times prints their version of the homonid mariners to
Crete. Pics of stone tools at the citation.

February 16, 2010
On Crete, New Evidence of Very Ancient Mariners

Early humans, possibly even prehuman ancestors, appear to have been
going to sea much longer than anyone had ever suspected.

That is the startling implication of discoveries made the last two
summers on the Greek island of Crete. Stone tools found there,
archaeologists say, are at least 130,000 years old, which is
considered strong evidence for the earliest known seafaring in the
Mediterranean and cause for rethinking the maritime capabilities of
prehuman cultures.

Crete has been an island for more than five million years, meaning
that the toolmakers must have arrived by boat. So this seems to push
the history of Mediterranean voyaging back more than 100,000 years,
specialists in Stone Age archaeology say. Previous artifact
discoveries had shown people reaching Cyprus, a few other Greek
islands and possibly Sardinia no earlier than 10,000 to 12,000 years

The oldest established early marine travel anywhere was the sea-
crossing migration of anatomically modern Homo sapiens to Australia,
beginning about 60,000 years ago. There is also a suggestive trickle
of evidence, notably the skeletons and artifacts on the Indonesian
island of Flores, of more ancient hominids making their way by water
to new habitats.

Even more intriguing, the archaeologists who found the tools on Crete
noted that the style of the hand axes suggested that they could be up
to 700,000 years old. That may be a stretch, they conceded, but the
tools resemble artifacts from the stone technology known as Acheulean,
which originated with prehuman populations in Africa.

More than 2,000 stone artifacts, including the hand axes, were
collected on the southwestern shore of Crete, near the town of
Plakias, by a team led by Thomas F. Strasser and Eleni Panagopoulou.
She is with the Greek Ministry of Culture and he is an associate
professor of art history at Providence College in Rhode Island. They
were assisted by Greek and American geologists and archaeologists,
including Curtis Runnels of Boston University.

Dr. Strasser described the discovery last month at a meeting of the
Archaeological Institute of America. A formal report has been accepted
for publication in Hesparia, the journal of the American School of
Classical Studies in Athens, a supporter of the fieldwork.

The Plakias survey team went in looking for material remains of more
recent artisans, nothing older than 11,000 years. Such artifacts would
have been blades, spear points and arrowheads typical of Mesolithic
and Neolithic periods.

“We found those, then we found the hand axes,” Dr. Strasser said last
week in an interview, and that sent the team into deeper time.

“We were flummoxed,” Dr. Runnels said in an interview. “These things
were just not supposed to be there.”

Word of the find is circulating among the ranks of Stone Age scholars.
The few who have seen the data and some pictures — most of the tools
reside in Athens — said they were excited and cautiously impressed.
The research, if confirmed by further study, scrambles timetables of
technological development and textbook accounts of human and prehuman

Ofer Bar-Yosef, an authority on Stone Age archaeology at Harvard, said
the significance of the find would depend on the dating of the site.
“Once the investigators provide the dates,” he said in an e-mail
message, “we will have a better understanding of the importance of the

Dr. Bar-Yosef said he had seen only a few photographs of the Cretan
tools. The forms can only indicate a possible age, he said, but
“handling the artifacts may provide a different impression.” And
dating, he said, would tell the tale.

Dr. Runnels, who has 30 years’ experience in Stone Age research, said
that an analysis by him and three geologists “left not much doubt of
the age of the site, and the tools must be even older.”

The cliffs and caves above the shore, the researchers said, have been
uplifted by tectonic forces where the African plate goes under and
pushes up the European plate. The exposed uplifted layers represent
the sequence of geologic periods that have been well studied and
dated, in some cases correlated to established dates of glacial and
interglacial periods of the most recent ice age. In addition, the team
analyzed the layer bearing the tools and determined that the soil had
been on the surface 130,000 to 190,000 years ago.

Dr. Runnels said he considered this a minimum age for the tools
themselves. They include not only quartz hand axes, but also cleavers
and scrapers, all of which are in the Acheulean style. The tools could
have been made millenniums before they became, as it were, frozen in
time in the Cretan cliffs, the archaeologists said.

Dr. Runnels suggested that the tools could be at least twice as old as
the geologic layers. Dr. Strasser said they could be as much as
700,000 years old. Further explorations are planned this summer.

The 130,000-year date would put the discovery in a time when Homo
sapiens had already evolved in Africa, sometime after 200,000 years
ago. Their presence in Europe did not become apparent until about
50,000 years ago.

Archaeologists can only speculate about who the toolmakers were. One
hundred and thirty thousand years ago, modern humans shared the world
with other hominids, like Neanderthals and Homo heidelbergensis. The
Acheulean culture is thought to have started with Homo erectus.

The standard hypothesis had been that Acheulean toolmakers reached
Europe and Asia via the Middle East, passing mainly through what is
now Turkey into the Balkans. The new finds suggest that their
dispersals were not confined to land routes. They may lend credibility
to proposals of migrations from Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar
to Spain. Crete’s southern shore where the tools were found is 200
miles from North Africa.

“We can’t say the toolmakers came 200 miles from Libya,” Dr. Strasser
said. “If you’re on a raft, that’s a long voyage, but they might have
come from the European mainland by way of shorter crossings through
Greek islands.”

But archaeologists and experts on early nautical history said the
discovery appeared to show that these surprisingly ancient mariners
had craft sturdier and more reliable than rafts. They also must have
had the cognitive ability to conceive and carry out repeated water
crossing over great distances in order to establish sustainable
populations producing an abundance of stone artifacts.