archaeology

Slow flow of human immigration may have doomed Neanderthals

What killed off the Neanderthals? It’s a big debate, and now a study says that no matter what the answer, they were doomed anyway. Our close evolutionary cousins enjoyed a long run in Europe and Asia, but they disappeared about 40,000 years ago after modern humans showed up from Africa. The search for an explanation has produced many theories including climate change, epidemics, or inability to compete with the modern humans, who may have had some mental or cultural edge. The new study isn’t intended to argue against those factors, but just to show that they’re not needed to explain the extinction, says Oren Kolodny of Stanford University. He and colleague Marcus Feldman present their approach in a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications. They based their conclusion on a computer simulation that represented small bands of Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe and Asia. These local populations were randomly chosen to go extinct, and then be replaced by another randomly chosen population, with no regard for whether it represented the same species. Neither species was assumed to have any inherent advantage, but there was one crucial difference: Unlike the Neanderthals, the modern humans were supplemented by reinforcements coming in from Africa. It wasn’t a huge wave, but rather “a tiny, tiny trickle of small bands,” Kolodny said. Still, that was enough to tip the balance against the Neanderthals. They generally went extinct when the simulation was run more than a million times under a variety of assumptions. If survival was a game of chance, “it was rigged by the fact that there’s recurring migration,” Kolodny said. “The game was doomed to end with the Neanderthals losing.” Kolodny said the evidence that such migrations actually occurred is suggestive rather than conclusive. Such migrations would not be expected to leave much of an archaeological trace, he said. Experts in human origins said the paper could help scientists pin down the various factors that led to the Neanderthals’ demise. It fits in with other recent attempts to explain the extinction without assuming behavioral differences between Neanderthals and our ancestors, said Wil Roebroeks of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. The notion of such differences is largely disproven, he said. Katerina Harvati of the University of Tuebingen in Germany said while the new work could be useful in solving the extinction mystery, it doesn’t address the question of why modern humans dispersed from Africa into Europe and Asia. It’s important to figure out what was behind that, she said in an email.

Fascinating!!   🙂

Pyramid discovery: Scientists use cosmic rays to find mysterious chamber inside ancient edifice

Scientists have harnessed sophisticated scanning technology to discover a mysterious chamber inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza. The discovery, which was revealed in the journal Nature, has been described as the first discovery of a major new space within the pyramid since the 19th century. An international team of researchers used cosmic-ray imaging to find a 30-meter (98.4 foot) “void” within the Great Pyramid, which is also known as Khufu’s Pyramid for its builder, a 4th Dynasty pharaoh who reigned from 2509 to 2483 B.C. Cosmic ray imaging records the behavior of subatomic particles called muons that penetrate the rock similar to X-rays, only much deeper. The muon scan harnesses special plates that are planted inside and around the pyramid to collect data on the particles, which rain down from the earth’s atmosphere. The particles pass through empty spaces but can be absorbed or deflected by harder surfaces, enabling scientists to study their trajectories and discern what is stone and what is not. Several plates were used to triangulate the void discovered in the Great Pyramid. The technology was also used to analyze the Fukushima nuclear reactor after it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Scientists involved in the pyramid scanning called the find a “breakthrough” that highlighted the usefulness of modern particle physics in archaeology. “This is a premier,” said Mehdi Tayoubi, a co-founder of the ScanPyramids project and president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute. “It could be composed of one or several structures… maybe it could be another Grand Gallery. It could be a chamber, it could be a lot of things.” “It was hidden, I think, since the construction of the pyramid,” he added. Intriguingly, the newly discovered space does not appear to be connected to any known internal passages. Egyptologists, however, say there is unlikely to be any treasure within the hidden space. The pyramid’s ‘void’ is the latest ancient Egyptian discovery to thrill experts. Last month, for example, archaeologists announced the discovery of an ancient temple belonging to King Ramses II. In August experts revealed that they had unearthed three tombs from an ancient “great cemetery” in Egypt’s Nile Valley. A month earlier, archaeologists said that a tomb that may have belonged to the wife of King Tutankhamun had been discovered in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. In June, archaeologists from Yale and the Royal Museum of Art and History in Belgium announced the discovery of the earliest-known ‘billboard-sized’ hieroglyphs in the ancient city of Elkab. Other finds include a 3,000-year-old royal tomb in the Luxor area and the tomb of an ancient gold worker on Sai Island in northern Sudan.

Fascinating!!  For more, click on the text above.

9.7-million-year-old teeth discovery in Germany could re-write human history

The great ape teeth found in Eppelsheim last year could topple the understanding of our earliest history. Herbert Lutz, head of the excavation team, tells Deutsche Welle what the find means to him — and how it almost didn’t happen. A little over a year ago, a team of archaeologists in southwestern Germany uncovered two teeth where the Rhine River used to flow, in the town of Eppelsheim near Mainz. The news of the discovery was announced this week, because the team that performed the excavation wanted to make sure that what they had found was as significant as they initially thought. Herbert Lutz heads that team at the Natural History Museum in Mainz.

Fascinating!!  To read the rest of this article, click on the text above.   🙂

Was Santa Claus’ grave discovered? Experts may have found final resting place of St. Nicholas

Archaeologists may be close to finding the grave of St. Nicholas beneath a church in southern Turkey. St. Nicholas, a 4th-century Greek Bishop who became famous for his acts of generosity, is the historical inspiration for Santa Claus. On the Saint’s death in 343, he was buried in a church in the ancient city of Myra. The modern Turkish town of Demre now stands on the site once occupied by Myra. Experts say they have likely identified the Saint’s tomb beneath the ancient St. Nicholas Church in Demre. Cemil Karabayram, Director of Surveying and Monuments for the province of Antalya, told the Hurriyet newspaper that electronic surveys have revealed a “special section” beneath the church that may contain St. Nicholas’s tomb. “We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of St. Nicholas,” he told Hurriyet. “We appointed eight academics of different branches to work here.” Archaeologists are employing CT-scanning technology and geo-radars in the church. They are now planning to carefully remove mosaics from the stone floor of the church before they can access the grave believed to contain St. Nicholas’s body. It has long been believed that the Saint’s bones were removed from the Demre site in the 11th century and taken to Bari in Italy, where the Basilica di San Nicola was built to house the remains. Citing records studied by the archaeologists, however, Karabayram says that another set of remains may have been taken to Italy. The church where the Saint’s bones were originally interred was rebuilt during the 11th century, records say. “According to these notes, this church was demolished and rebuilt,” Karabayram told Hurriyet. “During the reconstruction, traders in Bari took the bones. But it is said that these bones did not belong to St. Nicholas but to another priest.”

Fascinating!!

Mystery of Great Pyramid may be solved, researchers say

It has long been known that the rock was extracted eight miles away in Tura and that granite used in the monumental structure was quarried 533 miles away in Aswan. However, archaeologists have disagreed over how the material was transported to Giza, now part of modern-day Cairo, for construction of Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb in 2600 BC. Now that mystery could be a step further to being solved after the discovery of an ancient scroll of papyrus, a ceremonial boat and a network of waterways, reported the Mail on Sunday. The new evidence shows that thousands of laborers transported 170,000 tons of limestone along the River Nile in wooden boats built with planks and rope. The 2.5-ton blocks were ferried through a system of specially designed canals before arriving at an inland port built just yards away from the base of the Great Pyramid. The papyrus scroll is the only firsthand record of how the pyramid was built, and was written by an overseer named Merer. He explained in detail how the limestone was moved from the quarry in Tura to Giza using the Bronze Age waterways. Archaeologist Mark Lehner has also uncovered evidence of a waterway underneath the plateau the pyramid sits on. He said: “We’ve outlined the central canal basin, which we think was the primary delivery area to the foot of the Giza Plateau.”

Fascinating!!  To see photos, and a video, click on the text above.    🙂

Roman swords unearthed at ancient cavalry barracks near Hadrian’s Wall

Roman swords are among a treasure trove of stunning artifacts found at the site of an ancient cavalry barracks in the U.K. Recent excavations at the Roman fort of Vindolanda just south of Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England have resulted in a slew of stunning finds. These included a complete sword with a bent tip, found in the corner of a former living room at the site, which archaeologists say is the equivalent of a modern soldier leaving behind a malfunctioning rifle. Another sword and two small wooden toy swords were also found in adjacent rooms. Other weapons, including cavalry lances, arrowheads and bolts from balistas, or catapults, were also found on the abandoned barrack room floors, along with copper-alloy fitments for saddles, straps and harnesses. Also preserved in a layer of oxygen-free soil at the site were Roman ink writing tablets on wood, bath clogs, leather shoes, stylus pens, knives, combs, hairpins and brooches. “As a collection of artefacts, it doesn’t really get better than what we have discovered,” Dr. Andrew Birley, CEO of the Vindolanda Trust and director of excavations at the site, said..

I’m sure that’s true!  To see some photos, and read the rest of this fascinating article, click on the text above.     🙂

3,500-year-old pharaonic tomb discovered in Luxor

Egypt has announced the discovery in the southern city of Luxor of a pharaonic tomb belonging to a royal goldsmith who lived more than 3,500 years ago during the reign of the 18th dynasty. The tomb is located on the west bank of the river Nile in a cemetery where noblemen and top government officials are buried. Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany said the tomb is not in good condition, but it contains a statue of the goldsmith and his wife as well as a funerary mask. He said a shaft in the tomb contained mummies belonging to ancient Egyptian people who lived during the 21st and 22nd dynasties. The tomb was discovered by Egyptian archeologists and the fanfare surrounding Saturday’s announcement is designed to boost Egypt’s slowly recovering tourism industry.

Very cool!!   🙂

Ancient mug workshop found near site of Jesus wine miracle

Israeli archeologists on Thursday unveiled a 2,000-year-old workshop for making stone vessels similar to those Jesus is believed to have used to miraculously turn water into wine. Located near the Galilee village of Reineh in northern Israel, the site is walking distance from Cana, the site of a wedding where the Gospel of John says Jesus performed the miracle, his first. The workshop and an adjoining quarry were discovered by chance during the construction of an access road for a new sports centre, excavation director Yonatan Adler said. Since the discovery two months ago, Adler and his team have uncovered fragments of chalkstone mugs and bowls along with thousands of cylindrical chalk cores discarded in the process of hollowing out the vessels with a lathe. They are typical of a period from the second half of the first century BC to the middle of the first century AD. Jews of the period used stoneware for reasons of religious observance, Adler said. “According to ancient Jewish ritual law, vessels made of pottery are easily made impure and must be broken. Stone, on the other hand, was thought to be a material which can never become ritually impure,” he said. That practice was noted in John’s New Testament account of the Cana wedding, which described larger vessels: “There were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews.” “So far at this site we haven’t found production of these large jars,” Adler said. “But presumably the stone jars that would have been used at Cana would have been produced at a site like this, probably in the area.” He said that prior to the Reineh excavation two similar sites had been excavated, both near Jerusalem. “What’s exciting here is that for the first time we have physical evidence of production of stone vessels here in Galilee,” he said. “There has always been a question amongst scholars regarding the nature of Judaism in Galilee,” something particularly important when studying early Christianity, he said. “The question is, who are these people that are living in Galilee?”

Fascinating!!   🙂

Archaeological find in Jerusalem ‘proves Bible passage is historically true’

Archaeologists excavating in Jerusalem have found burned artifacts dating from 2,600 years ago – which prove that a passage in the Bible is true. Researchers uncovered charred wood, grape seeds, fish scales, bones and pottery while digging in the City of David in Jerusalem. The find provides evidence that the Babylonians ‘burned all the houses of Jerusalem’, described in the book of Jeremiah. Researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority found the artifacts beneath layers of rock in the City of David – along with jars with seals which enabled the researchers to date the artifacts. ‘These seals are characteristic of the end of the First Temple Period,’ said Dr Joe Uziel of the Israel Antiquities Authority, ‘Used for the administrative system that developed towards the end of the Judean dynasty.’ The fire damage can be dated to 2,600 years ago – which ties with events described in the Bible. The book of Jeremiah says, ‘Now on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire.’

Fascinating!!  To see the video, click on the text above.   🙂

Hoax or not? 3-fingered ‘humanoid’ mummy reportedly found in Peru, sparks skepticism

A three-fingered mummified body has been reportedly found in Nazca, Peru, with video of the purported body appearing on YouTube. However, researchers have expressed doubt about the discovery, with some calling it a “hoax.” According to website Gaia, the body, which stands 5’6″ tall and appears to look like a human, has three long fingers, an elongated skull and does not have ears or a nose. In a Gaia YouTube video, Professor Konstantin Korotkov of Saint Petersburg University in Russia described the body as belonging to “another creature, another humanoid.” “We’re going to let you know if it’s human, if it’s non-human,” said a Gaia representative, in the video. Jaime Maussan, an investigative journalist from Mexico, introduced the discovery to Gaia filmmakers, who then investigated it further with a larger team. Doubts about the credibility of the body popped up immediately. “Respect my opinion, this is FAKE!,” wrote one commenter on the YouTube video. “Reported to the MIB,” quipped another, referring the famous sci-fi comedy movie “Men in Black.” In an interview with The Express, British UFO author Nigel Watson, described the body as “a plaster cast model,” dubbing it “110 perfect fake.” Fact-checking and research site Snopes.com also questioned the credibility of the discovery. Though examples of elongated skulls have been found in Peru, dating back thousands of years, experts attribute this to an ancient practice of artificial cranial deformation, according to Snopes.com. This body in the Gaia video appears to be covered in a white powder to preserve the remains. Carbon dating from the body appears to show it being from 245-410 AD, according to the Gaia video, but additional tests are underway, including DNA sequencing, as well as a CAT scan.

Things that make ya’ go, “hmmm…”  To see the video, click on the text above, and you be the judge.    🙂