July 26, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:32 pm

Toronto’s archaeological treasures left to languish in basements: councillor

Toronto may be known for its shiny new condos, but it needs to do a better job taking care of its archaeological treasures, says Coun. Mike Layton.
Layton is leading a motion that will see the city take stock of artifacts that have been unearthed and look at facilities where they could be preserved.
Right now, many are in the hands of the archaeology firms that dug them up or are scattered “all over the city” in boxes and basements, Layton said.
“We’re in danger of actually losing some of these artefacts, let alone the opportunity to actually have a learning moment about our city, our region and our country,” he said.

You’ve got to put the stuff somewhere and even a small excavation can generate literally tons of material. Storing it for the long haul — meaning more than a few decades — is problematic.

July 20, 2016

Pretty sure I posted about this earlier. . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 2:54 pm

History made: In an astonishing Bronze Age discovery a 3000-year-old community has been unearthed

British archaeologists working on the Must Farm project in England’s Cambridgeshire Fens can hardly restrain themselves.

Their online diary effervesces with superlatives — “truly fantastic pottery,” “truly exceptional textiles,” “a truly incredible site,” “the dig of a lifetime.”
Typically on prehistoric sites, you are lucky to find a few pottery shards, a mere hint or shadow of organic remains; generally archaeologists have to make do, have to interpret as best they can.
But this archaeological dig has turned out to be completely, thrillingly different.
For the last ten months — day by day, week by week — the excavation has yielded up a wealth of astonishing finds including pottery, textiles, metal work and ancient timbers. The dig offers, as site manager Mark Knight from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit put it, “a genuine snapshot” of a lost world — a prehistoric settlement from the Bronze Age some 3000 years ago.

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 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.

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.

May 23, 2016

Speaking of vampires. . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:03 pm

Which we weren’t, actually, but whatever:
Archaeology of the Undead

In folkloric sources as diverse as Babylonian literature, the shroud-eating Nachzehrer of Germanic tradition, and the Chiang-Shih “hopping vampires” of Chinese legend, notions of corpses rising from the grave have long been documented. But what these new archaeological datasets reveal is that these ancient accounts weren’t just stories that our ancestors told to each other on dark and stormy nights. Many of our forefathers were genuinely scared, taking time and trouble to ensure that the dead stayed where they belong.

Pretty good little summary article. One of the studies is available online here. They do note that — as I think I’ve mentioned once or twice — that one shouldn’t automatically assume “vampire” whenever a burial looks funny, although they may often have been thinking more like “zombie”.

I’m tired of zombies, btw.

April 19, 2016

A couple of complementary links

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 4:06 pm


One creative attempt to estimate how widespread such dishonesty really is involves comparisons between fields of varying “hardness.” The author, Daniele Fanelli, theorized that the farther from physics one gets, the more freedom creeps into one’s experimental methodology, and the fewer constraints there are on a scientist’s conscious and unconscious biases. If all scientists were constantly attempting to influence the results of their analyses, but had more opportunities to do so the “softer” the science, then we might expect that the social sciences have more papers that confirm a sought-after hypothesis than do the physical sciences, with medicine and biology somewhere in the middle. This is exactly what the study discovered: A paper in psychology or psychiatry is about five times as likely to report a positive result as one in astrophysics. This is not necessarily evidence that psychologists are all consciously or unconsciously manipulating their data—it could also be evidence of massive publication bias—but either way, the result is disturbing.

Read, as they say, the whole thing. He makes several salient points about the various biases that can creep in on a macro level having to do with the business of science, but as I’ve argued here before there are globs and globs of biases that can creep in apart from that. One portion that struck with me is the way science is operating in society these days:

Which brings us to the odd moment in which we live. At the same time as an ever more bloated scientific bureaucracy churns out masses of research results, the majority of which are likely outright false, scientists themselves are lauded as heroes and science is upheld as the only legitimate basis for policy-making. There’s reason to believe that these phenomena are linked. When a formerly ascetic discipline suddenly attains a measure of influence, it is bound to be flooded by opportunists and charlatans, whether it’s the National Academy of Science or the monastery of Cluny.
. . .
The Cult is related to the phenomenon described as “scientism”; both have a tendency to treat the body of scientific knowledge as a holy book or an a-religious revelation that offers simple and decisive resolutions to deep questions. But it adds to this a pinch of glib frivolity and a dash of unembarrassed ignorance. Its rhetorical tics include a forced enthusiasm (a search on Twitter for the hashtag “‪#‎sciencedancing‬” speaks volumes) and a penchant for profanity. Here in Silicon Valley, one can scarcely go a day without seeing a t-shirt reading “Science: It works, b—es!” The hero of the recent popular movie The Martian boasts that he will “science the sh— out of” a situation. One of the largest groups on Facebook is titled “I f—ing love Science!” (a name which, combined with the group’s penchant for posting scarcely any actual scientific material but a lot of pictures of natural phenomena, has prompted more than one actual scientist of my acquaintance to mutter under her breath, “What you truly love is pictures”).

I loathe that IFLS site as well as its bastard children involving bad language and archaeology and refuse to even link to them here. Because, you know, watching Big Bang Theory doesn’t make you a Science Geek.

Related is this: A Decades-Old Study, Rediscovered, Challenges Advice on Saturated Fat

So what was the result? Despite being one of the largest controlled clinical dietary trials of its kind ever conducted, the data were never fully analyzed.

Several years ago, Christopher E. Ramsden, a medical investigator at the National Institutes of Health, learned about the long-overlooked study. Intrigued, he contacted the University of Minnesota in hopes of reviewing the unpublished data. Dr. Frantz, who died in 2009, had been a prominent scientist at the university, where he studied the link between saturated fat and heart disease. One of his closest colleagues was Ancel Keys, an influential scientist whose research in the 1950s helped establish saturated fat as public health enemy No. 1, prompting the federal government to recommend low-fat diets to the entire nation.

We just don’t know much about anything really.

April 14, 2016

Lost civilization round rock. . . .found.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:20 pm

Mysterious giant sphere unearthed in forest divides opinion

This round rock could be the oldest stone sphere made by human hands, says Bosnian archaeologist Semir Osmanagic.

Discovered in a forest near the Bosnian town Zavidovici, the ball has a radius of between four and five feet, and an “extremely high” iron content.

Dr Osmanagic believes the sphere proves the existence of an advanced lost civilisation dating back more than 1,500 years ago.

Wonder if he found it at the base of the pyramid. . . .

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