June 22, 2016

Lucy update

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:05 pm

Lucy had neighbors: A review of African fossils

The 1974 discovery of Australopithecus afarensis, which lived from 3.8 to 2.9 million years ago, was a major milestone in paleoanthropology that pushed the record of hominins earlier than 3 million years ago and demonstrated the antiquity of human-like walking. Scientists have long argued that there was only one pre-human species at any given time before 3 million years ago that gave rise to another new species through time in a linear manner. This was what the fossil record appeared to indicate until the end of the 20th century. The discovery of Australopithecus bahrelghazali from Chad in 1995 and Kenyanthropus platyops from Kenya in 2001 challenged this idea. However, these two species were not widely accepted, rather considered as geographic variants of Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis. The discovery of the 3.4 million-year-old Burtele partial foot from the Woranso-Mille announced by Haile-Selassie in 2012 was the first conclusive evidence that another early human ancestor species lived alongside Australopithecus afarensis. In 2015, fossils recovered from Haile-Selassie’s ongoing research site at the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region of Ethiopia were assigned to the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. However, the Burtele partial foot was not included in this species.

Not a terribly long review but it mentions the principles.
I actually read Lucy when I first started out in anthro/archy. I wouldn’t say — as Johanson has said many other people have told him — that it pushed me into anthro/archy (since I had already started my major in it), but it was certainly a solidifying agent.

I think I mentioned a few days ago that I went to see Lucy when she was here a few years ago. Very emotional for me.

Wait, actually I didn’t here, I did over at Facebook:

So I saw this movie last week:


I quite liked it. Even watched it twice within a few days. I’d been meaning to see it, but never got around to it until now. Fun movie, although the science is totally whack.
Some anthropology does enter into it, of course, since the protagonist, Lucy, is linked ideationally in the film as analogous to Lucy the Australopithecus afarensis that Don Johanson discovered in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Both are supposed to represent a ‘link’ to a new form (assumed to be a ‘higher’ form of life).
—- Spoiler Alert —-

Mungo Man revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 6:57 pm

New DNA technology confirms Aboriginal people as first Australians

Researchers say the findings overturn a 2001 paper that argued the oldest known Australian human remains found near Lake Mungo in New South Wales were from an extinct lineage of modern humans that occupied the continent before Aboriginal Australians.

This claim was based on mitochondrial DNA extracted from Mungo Man’s 40,000-year-old fossilised remains by a team lead by Australian National University’s Dr Greg Adcock.

But now, Professor David Lambert, from Griffith University, and colleagues, have used new DNA sequencing methods to re-analyse the material from Mungo Man, who was found in the World Heritage-listed Willandra Lakes region, in far western New South Wales.

Artist’s conception of what Mungo Man may have looked like:

June 16, 2016

You’ll thank me.

Filed under: Egypt, Humor — acagle @ 11:27 am

By the Gods

Desert Fox

I’m pretty sure that my ideal Life Everlasting would somehow involve Kate. . . . . .

June 13, 2016

Now this is even cooler.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:17 pm

Wild Macaques in Thailand Have Entered Stone Age

Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis aurea) on Piak Nam Yai, one of Thailand’s coastal islands, have been using stone tools for several decades — and possibly thousands of years — to eat shellfish and nuts, according to a study led by Dr. Michael Haslam from the University of Oxford, UK.

“We find that primates with much smaller brains than humans have innovative ways of exploiting the food sources available to them,” Dr. Haslam said.

“Macaques in the forests on the island come down to the shore when the tide is out to forage, and use stones as tools in order to break open shells and hard nut casings to access the food inside.”

Is this old news? I vaguely remember hearing something about this a long time ago. Something to the effect of monkeys using simple expedient tools but only on certain islands? And occasionally one would go to another island and spread the trait there? Still, neat. But they’re not really “making” tools, just using naturally occurring objects which many other critters do.

Now this is cool.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:14 pm

Bloomberg Tablets: Hundreds of Roman ‘Notepads’ Unearthed in London

According to Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), a total of 405 writing tablets were unearthed on London’s Queen Victoria street – the site of a new European headquarters for Bloomberg.

“Romans used waxed writing tablets like paper, for note-taking and accounts, for correspondence and for legal documents,” the archaeologists said.

“Made of wood, recesses in the rectangular tablets were originally filled with blackened beeswax, with text inscribed into the wax with styluses.”

A link goes to a book with, one would assume, the translations. Just a few summaries here.

Wait, what?

Filed under: Stonehenge — acagle @ 7:04 pm

Original Stonehenge was dismantled in Wales and moved to Wiltshire, archaeologists believe

Why would the English settlers bother to make a lengthy pilgrimage for Welsh stone when they had perfectly good local sandstone quarries nearby – from which they would later cut the imposing ‘sarsen’ stones for Stonehenge.

The answer is that the stones were probably brought by the Welsh themselves, when they decided to relocate to the area, and did not want to leave their ancestors behind.

I suppose it make intuitive sense. . . .

June 7, 2016

Middens to the rescue!

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:00 pm

Prehistoric Native Americans harvested Bay oysters sustainably, study finds

Based on shellfish studies elsewhere, Rick said, they expected to find really big oysters in the distant past, and that their size got smaller over time as bigger bivalves were systematically harvested for food. They did find oyster sizes varied through the ages, but were surprised that there was not a clear, straight-line decline over time.

“Archaeologists all over the world have documented size declines where indigenous peoples were intensively harvesting shellfish,” said Rick, who’s curator of North American archaeology for the natural history museum. “We didn’t find that at all.”

The headline makes it sound as if they were ecologically minded shellfishermen, but they probably just couldn’t overfish it with the existing technology. Also, they added maize agriculture to the diet at some point and that would have taken some pressure off of the shellfish harvesting. That didn’t really happen up here in the NW.

Irritant: Some have demanded that we refer to fishing as separate from hunting/gathering which I think is stupid. Because they must like typing hunter-gatherer-fishers or something.

June 6, 2016

Free pizza and beer?

Filed under: Stonehenge — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Stonehenge wasn’t so hard to build after all, archaeologists discover

Just how did prehistoric Britons manage to transport the huge bluestones of Stonehenge some 140 miles from the Preseli Mountains in Wales to their final home on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

The answer is surprisingly simple. The feat really isn’t as hard as everyone imagined.

An experiment by University College London found that mounting huge stones on a sycamore sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected.

Soudns good to me.

June 1, 2016

Yes, life then sucked

Filed under: Public Health — acagle @ 7:24 pm

‘Eye-watering’ scale of Black Death’s impact on England revealed

Scraps of broken pottery from test pits dug by thousands of members of the public have revealed the devastating impact of the Black Death in England, not just in the years 1346 to 1351 when the epidemic ripped Europe apart, but for decades or even centuries afterwards.

The quantity of sherds of everyday domestic pottery – the most common of archaeological finds – is a good indicator of the human population because of its widespread daily use, and the ease with which it can be broken and thrown away. By digging standard-sized test pits, then counting and comparing the broken pottery by number and weight from different date levels, a pattern emerges of humans living on a particular site.

Professor Carenza Lewis has analysed of tens of thousands of bits of datable broken pottery, excavated from almost 2,000 test pits in eastern England. The sherds, taken from the levels relating to the periods before and after the Black Death, suggest a population collapse of around 45%. In some areas, such as Binham, north Norfolk, where there was a 71% fall in the amount of pottery, the figure is much worse.

I like the idea of coming at it from a different perspective, but I’m not sure how well the actual method measures what they think it measures. Guess we’ll see how they explain it once the paper comes out.

Beer: Is there anything it can’t do?

Filed under: Alcohol — acagle @ 7:20 pm

Archaeologists discover remnants of the oldest known beer brewery in China

Archaeologists have discovered the remnants of the oldest known beer brewery in China, unearthing an array of ancient pottery vessels including funnels, pots, and jugs containing residual traces of the beverage from about 5,000 years ago.

Uncovered at an archaeological site at Mijiaya in northern China, the beer vessels were found in pits dating back to between 3400 and 2900 BC. A faint chemical residue inside the pottery is what gave away the kit’s original purpose, with the researchers finding evidence of ancient grains used as ingredients in beer fermentation.

The researchers think the early evidence of barley suggests the grain may have entered China primarily for its use in making alcohol, before going on to find a home in other agriculture.

Some people have been arguing that for a while now, that much of cereal agriculture was intensified for making beer rather than as food, per se (beer was generally regarded as food until very recently).

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