Well, it’s finally published: Kom el-Hisn (ca. 2500-1900 BC): An Ancient Settlement in the Nile Delta, edited by Robert J. Wenke, Richard W. Redding, and Anthony J. Cagle.
Kind of the literary equivalent of Sominex, but feel free to purchase.
Really, this has been a long time coming. I’ve been agitating to get the monograph out ever since I discovered a draft of it from the late 1980s. This is one of the big reasons I’ve become fairly rabid about not excavating unless it’s absolutely necessary: People — even archeologists — are just not that good at preserving things over the long term. Even with the best of intentions, things can go wrong. And people tend not to see much past their own lifetimes.
Analysis of DNA from early settlers of the pacific overturns leading genetic model
More than 3,000 years ago, a group of people set out from the Solomon Island chain in the southwestern edge of the Pacific Ocean and steered their outrigger canoes toward the horizon, with no land as far as their eyes could see. These people and their descendants were the first to cross more than 350 kilometer stretches of open ocean into a region known as Remote Oceania. Now, DNA sequences are for the first time telling us more about the ancestral origins of these people, and their genetic legacy that lives on in Pacific Islanders today.
A scientific team led by researchers at Harvard Medical School, University College Dublin, and the Max Planck institute for the Science of Human History, and including Binghamton University Associate Professor of Anthropology Andrew D. Merriwether, analyzed DNA from people who lived in Tonga and Vanuatu between 2,500 and 3,100 years ago, and were among the first people to live in these islands. The results overturn the leading genetic model for this last great movement of humans to unoccupied but habitable lands.
Neat stuff although I thought the part about the X-chromosome bit was sort of gratuitous Feministing. I mean, duh, yeah, there were probably women along too, because, you know, reproduction.
Good thing: Indy Gear
So yeah, get yer stuff.
Bad thing: David Morgan
David Morgan of Woodinville, WA died July 8, 2015. Born May 21, 1925 in Vancouver, Canada, David is survived by his wife of 62 years, Dorothy, their four children (Olwen (Robert Ruggeri); Barbara (Chip Zukoski); Meredith (Ed Orton) and Will), six grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Met the guy a couple of times at his store here around Seattle. He’s the one who made all of the whips for the Indiana Jones movies. Last time I was there they showed me around the place (see here). David gave me a few demonstrations of cracking one of said whips, but when he suggested that he could snap a cigarette out of my mouth I demurred.
New Findings Have Archaeologists Rethinking Valley of Oaxaca History
The evidence collected during these recent excavations illustrates this adjustment. One significant feature at Lambityeco that underwent a dramatic change was its ball court, an important ceremonial and recreational structure in prehispanic Mesoamerica. Originally, the ball court at Lambityeco (discovered in 2015 by the museum team) was designed and laid out in a pattern that was very similar to the way the ball court in Monte Albán had been; they were built with the same orientation and both were entered on the north side. Less than two centuries later, however, the people of Lambityeco sealed the north entrance to the ball court there, and created a new stairway on one of its corners, a major change. Around the same time the iconic frescos, one of the findings that originally seemed to connect the two settlements, were covered and never re-created.
Feinman was one of my profs at UW-Madison way back in the day.
Tom Wolfe: My Father, the Provocateur
If the direct link doesn’t work, use this one from teh Googles.
I haven’t been following this latest book all that closely, but he seems to be going after both Darwin and Chomsky on language:
Charles Darwin held that the human brain and language evolved together, but my father thinks that speech is an entirely separate phenomenon, unrelated to our physical development.
And unlike the linguist Noam Chomsky, against whom my father also contends in the book, he doesn’t think that language is an innate part of our makeup. He sees it instead as our greatest invention—the code that has made possible all of our other inventions, from the spear to the internet.
“The heart of my thinking is that language is man-made,” he tells me. “It’s not a result of evolution, and it is only language that enables human beings to control nature.”
If you’re from the Rindos/Dunnell school, it’s a distinction without a difference. You can’t have language unless you have the biological capacity for it, so whether we “invented” it or it somehow arose “naturally” it doesn’t really matter: it’s part of the phenotype and will be selected upon regardless of the source of the trait.
Plus it’s fun to type palimpsest: Hidden Images Revealed in Pre-Hispanic Mixtec Manuscript ‘Codex Selden’
Also known as Codex Añute, the manuscript consists of a 16.4-feet (5 m) long strip composed of deer hide that has been covered with gesso, a white plaster made from gypsum and chalk, and folded in a concertina format into a 20-page document.
Researchers have long suspected that Codex Selden is a palimpsest, an older document that has been covered up and reused to make the manuscript that is currently visible.
The manuscript underwent a series of invasive tests in the 1950s when one page on the back was scraped, uncovering a vague image that hinted at the possibility that an earlier Mexican codex lay hidden beneath.
. . .all dressed up in onions, tomatoes, coriander and other delicious spices.
The proto-Aztec bunny farmers of ancient Mexico
A group of anthropologists describe their discovery in PLoS One, filling in details of what appears to be a rabbit farm and butcher shop in a Teotihuacan neighborhood called Oztoyahualco. From roughly the 4th through 6th centuries, this neighborhood was home to an apartment compound that immediately stood out for a few reasons. Several rooms contained an enormous number of cottontail and jackrabbit remains, as well as soil with high phosphate levels that would indicate a lot of blood or fecal matter on the ground. One room had low stone walls “suggestive of a pen for domestic animal management,” the researchers write. Other rooms were full of obsidian blades and rabbit limbs, as if they were part of a butcher shop.
Add all those findings together and you’ve got what appears to be an apartment complex devoted to raising and slaughtering rabbits. One more piece of evidence strengthened the hypothesis: a previous excavation had uncovered an unusual rabbit sculpture (pictured above) on the site. Bunnies were obviously important to the people in this place.
The “onions, tomatoes. . .” bit is actually something from one of my Kenyan colleagues. We’d gotten into an online discussion about what various places do with stray animals in cities, such as dogs in Vietnam (rounded up and eaten) and I eventually produced the famous Baby Goats in Pajamas video to illustrate how we treat out goats here and that is how she described how they dress their goats in Kenya.
Tool or weapon?
“Our study suggests that the throwing of stones played a key role in the evolution of hunting,” said Bingham, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and an author on the study. “We don’t think that throwing is the sole, or even primary, function of these spheroids, but these results show that this function is an option that warrants reconsidering as a potential use for this long-lived, multipurpose tool.”
The use of these stones, which date from between 1.8 million and 70,000 years ago, has puzzled archaeologists since they were unearthed at the Cave of Hearths in South Africa’s Makapan Valley nearly 30 years ago.
I suppose a round rock about the size of one’s hand would be useful in a number of contexts. Chucking it at some jerk you took a dislike to is just one of them.
Hear The Epic of Gilgamesh Read in the Original Akkadian and Enjoy the Sounds of Mesopotamia
There’s an embedded link to even more there. I like this. Not sure of the accuracy of the pronunciation — I don’t know anything about how they came up with it — but it’s weirdly familiar but different at the same time. Alien.
And for the ladies, here is an artist’s conception of what an ancient Akkadian may have looked like:
Northwest Archaeologists Reset Assumptions About Durability Of Biological Evidence
I like the photo. Another one of those “Pretend like you’re actually doing something” shots.
For some reason I thought they’d already been getting residues from way way back.