May 28, 2015

Lucy has a cousin?

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 2:17 pm

CURATOR DISCOVERS NEW HUMAN ANCESTOR SPECIES

Scientists have long argued that there was only one pre-human species at any given time between 3 and 4 million years ago, subsequently giving rise to another new species through time. This was what the fossil record appeared to indicate until the end of the 20th century. However, the naming of Australopithecus bahrelghazali from Chad and Kenyanthropus platyops from Kenya, both from the same time period as Lucy’s species, challenged this long-held idea. Although a number of researchers were skeptical about the validity of these species, the announcement by Haile-Selassie of the 3.4 million-year-old Burtele partial foot in 2012 cleared some of the skepticism on the likelihood of multiple early hominin species in the 3 to 4 million-year range.

The Burtele partial fossil foot did not belong to a member of Lucy’s species. However, despite the similarity in geological age and close geographic proximity, the researchers have not assigned the partial foot to the new species due to lack of clear association. Regardless, the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda incontrovertibly confirms that multiple species did indeed co-exist during this time period.

There ya go.

But. . .but. . . it’s Science!!

Filed under: Academia — acagle @ 8:20 am

“A lot of what is published is incorrect.”

’m not allowed to say who made this remark because we were asked to observe Chatham House rules. We were also asked not to take photographs of slides. Those who worked for government agencies pleaded that their comments especially remain unquoted, since the forthcoming UK election meant they were living in “purdah”—a chilling state where severe restrictions on freedom of speech are placed on anyone on the government’s payroll. Why the paranoid concern for secrecy and non-attribution? Because this symposium—on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research, held at the Wellcome Trust in London last week—touched on one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with one of our greatest human creations.

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”.

I don’t want to really overplay this and I’m not going to say that all science should hereby be ignored, but one has to remember that the scientific method, while a wonderful tool, is still just a tool that can be misused. “Doing” science is a human endeavor and thus amenable to all of the problems that humans and their personal and political agendas, their egos, and all of the other corrupting influences that come with power.

I still don’t like the “Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale” stuff though. It can be misinterpreted, especially when the results start filtering into popular media, but it remains a mathematical/probabilistic tool that can be judged accordingly. People should not reach too far to obtain “statistical significance”, but it would be a mistake to toss it out.

May 27, 2015

And more death!

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:27 pm

Archaeologists Track the Birth, Life, and Death of the 3,000-Year-Old Egtved Girl

They call her Egtved Girl, after the small town in Denmark where her body was discovered back in 1921. Today, through the analysis of strontium isotopes recovered from the girl’s teeth, hair, nails, and clothing, researchers Karin Frei, from the National Museum of Denmark, and Kristian Kristiansen, from the University of Gothenburg, are able to determine where the girl originated and the area she travelled in the years leading up to her death.

. . .

They call her Egtved Girl, after the small town in Denmark where her body was discovered back in 1921. Today, through the analysis of strontium isotopes recovered from the girl’s teeth, hair, nails, and clothing, researchers Karin Frei, from the National Museum of Denmark, and Kristian Kristiansen, from the University of Gothenburg, are able to determine where the girl originated and the area she travelled in the years leading up to her death.

She was actually found in the 1920s, but only now were these analyses done.

There are, of course, several artist’s conceptions of what Egtved Girl may have looked like:
From the slightly dated:
Desert Fox

To the tarty:
Desert Fox

To the even more dated (but probably more realistic):
Desert Fox

The creepy. . . . .
Desert Fox

And the hot corpsy look:
Desert Fox

First death, now taxes!

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:12 pm

Archaeologists discover ‘earliest tax exiles in history’ – in Hereford

Experts examined the remains of thousands of bodies around the 12th century cathedral as part of an extensive two-year-old project to restore the area.
A study of teeth belonging to its oldest residents showed the majority of men were immigrants from Normandy or North Wales, while all the women were local.
Historians investigating the surprising results then found a statute from the era, post-Norman Conquest, which dictated that any man moving to the area who married a local woman did not have to pay taxes.

Actually death and taxes together. But remember, white people only dig up and poke around non-European bodies.

CSI: Sima de los Huesos

Filed under: Forensic archaeology, Paleoanth — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Scientists Find Evidence For 430,000-year-old Murder

A wound on a 430,000-year-old skull may be the brutal evidence of one of the first cases of murder in the hominin fossil record. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, analyzed the remains of 28 individuals in a Spanish cave site and found further evidence for early funereal practices.

The site—known as Sima de los Huesos—has puzzled archeologists for many years. No one really knows how the remains of the 28 individuals, which belong to a Neanderthal clade, got there in the first place. The remains of the individuals date back to the Middle Pleistocene. Researchers went to the Sima de los Huesos, found within an underground cave system, to investigate the mystery and were ‘surprised’ by the results.

It certainly is a funny one, if they’re right about the same object whacking him twice. Certainly suggestive of a weapon, unless there’s something occurring naturally that’s bilaterally similar like that. The idea of a half-million-year-old hit doesn’t really surprise me, I’m really sure that the second someone decided they could knock off an antelope with a rock they probably decided they could also do the same to their buddy Thak.

May 26, 2015

Nothing is given without a disadvantage to it

Filed under: Amateur, Remote Sensing — acagle @ 7:38 pm

Google Earth solves and creates problems for archaeologists

Increasingly, amateur archaeologists are using imaging technology like Google Earth to help them find indications of ancient sites – such as eroded agricultural furrows, defensive berms and burial mounds – that might go unnoticed at ground level.

While some archaeology hobbyists report their finds to the proper authorities and act responsibly, others despoil sites and their holdings through unintentionally improper excavations or outright looting.

Okay, dumb. . . .and odd. . .and cool, all at the same time

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:37 pm

Archaeologists find first dinosaur fossil in Washington

That’s the dumb part; you know, the usual reason.

Paleontologists from the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture have reportedly located the first dinosaur fossil ever discovered in that state: A fossil described by the team as the partial left femur of a two-legged carnivorous theropod.

UW researchers Dr. Brandon Peecook and Dr. Christian Sidor, who detailed their findings in a paper published in the journal PLOS One, made the discovery while collecting fossils along the shores of Sucia Island State Park in the San Juan Islands.

The duo was collecting fossils of ammonites (nautilus-like creatures) at a marine rock area called the Cedar District Formation when they found a 16.7 inches long, 8.7 inch wide fragment of bone that they believe would have been more than three feet long when complete. It belonged to an approximately 80-million-year-old dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period.

Someone mentioned this the other day and I was skeptical since most of the rocks out on the San Juans are volcanic/metamorphosed and covered with post-pleistocene junk (that;s the odd part). So huh. But cool. I didn’t think there were dinosaurs around here.

At least not for the last couple of decades. . . . .

With fava beans and a nice chiaaaanti, duh.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:22 pm

(Damn, Kristina beat me to it)
Ancient Mesoamerican Recipe For Cooking Human Flesh Decoded By Archaeologists

In an article just published in the journal Archaeometry, researchers Aioze Trujillo-Mederos, Pedro Bosch , Carmen Pijoan, and Josefina Mansilla used a suite of chemical and physical techniques to answer these questions. Specifically, many of the bones had a yellow or red tinge to them and the archaeologists wanted to know “whether the Tlatelcomila bones were treated at a low temperature, if they were intentionally coloured, or if the colour results from a particular cooking procedure.” Using powder x-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and ultraviolet visible spectroscopy, they took a close look at samples of the human bones.

Based on the results of the chemical analysis, Trujillo-Mederos and colleagues showed not only that all of the bones were cooked, but also that some were grilled while some were boiled. “Both boiling and grilling were used in Mesoamerican ritual anthropophagy [or cannibalism],” the authors write, so finding both forms of cooking in the same assemblage of bone was not too surprising.

I am totally not the one to write articles like this as I would be try out the recipes myself.

Wel, errrr, you know, pork or something.

Tales from the bones

Filed under: Public Health — acagle @ 7:18 pm

Future tales, apparently: Industrial Revolution Caused Rise In Cancer, Obesity, And Arthritis, Archaeologists Suggest

Historians use the Industrial Revolution as a time stamp for the transition between the early modern and modern periods. Starting in the 1760s in England, manufacturing became mechanized. Water, steam, wood, and coal powered machines forever changed a number of industries, and suddenly small towns became large cities as people flocked to factories to find work. As wealth increased nearly across the board, the economic standard of living rose dramatically along with the average life expectancy.

But the Industrial Revolution came at a cost to overall health. Museum of London curator of human osteology, Jelena Bekvalac, has launched a three-year project with Gaynor Western of Ossafreelance and radiologist Mark Framer to analyze and digitally document over 2,500 skeletons from 18 archaeological sites in the U.K. The people Bekvalac is studying lived in London, in small towns, and in cathedral cities between the Medieval period and the Industrial period. She told me that she aims to “examine the influence of the Industrial Revolution on the changing nature of disease from the medieval and post-medieval periods through to the present day.”

That should be a good study. I’m not sure I buy the “environmental carcinogens” angle though; I’m increasingly of the opinion that, apart from some big items — like cigarette smoking and asbestos — the component of cancer from the environment (not including things like HPV) are very small.

May 25, 2015

CRM update

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 8:40 am

Rare Indian Burial Ground Quietly Destroyed for Million Dollar Houses

Old news (in both senses!) for regular readers here, in multiple senses: the linked article is also from April of 2014 (just saw it linked elsewhere and thought it was new, but remembered I’d referred to it in the past).

But I’ve rethought things a bit and there may be something else I hadn’t considered, found in this paragraph:

But the whole situation is more complicated than archeologists versus developers. The remains have since been reburied according to the wishes of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the most likely descendants of the area’s indigenous people. The tribe was not keen on turning the burial ground into an archeological site. “How would Jewish or Christian people feel if we wanted to dig up skeletal remains in a cemetery and study them? Nobody has that right,” a chairman for the tribe said to the Chronicle.

I wondered after I read this: What if developers and other landowners start bypassing archaeologists altogether and just going through the tribes? In Washington state this isn’t really possible since the State has its paws all over anything archaeological, even on private land. But even then, if there are burials found and if no laws exist on what to do with them, what’s to stop the landowners from just allowing whatever tribe to get the burials out? The landowners wouldn’t have to pay extra for reports and curation and such since the tribes don’t have much interest in either; that’s the archaeologists’ concern. They may not even — depending on the tribes’ financial standing — have to pay for the removal. One gets the sense that the State wold happily throw archaeologists under the bus to curry favor with the tribes and thus avoid any lawsuits. Of course, many tribes would not want anything disturbed and could fight; I have a feeling, though, that when developers and other big landowners start throwing money at them to make the problem go away, we’d probably see far more accommodation.

That said, I should note that, in my case anyway, this is one of those times of conflicting principles. Ordinarily, I’m well on the side of leaving anything archaeological in the ground or at least having it removed professionally so at least some information and, marginal though it may end up being in the long run, curation of material is kept rather than being dug up, hauled away, and dumped (or just looted). But when that butts up against private property rights, I side with the latter. Human remains (within reason) may need to be protected, but I don’t trust any government entity not to abuse that power.

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