June 22, 2016

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. . . .

April 5, 2016

Archaeology going to pot(s)

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 6:52 pm

Ancient Non-Stick Pan Factory Found in Italy

Giglio and colleagues found more than 50,000 fragments of lids, pots and pans of various sizes and thickness, each featuring a very distinct coating.

“All the defective artifacts were dumped here. These pieces help us enormously to reconstruct the way the pottery was manufactured,” Giglio said.

Many of the fragments featured the thick internal red-slip coating that provided a non-adherent surface, making the pots and pans ideal for cooking meat-based stews.

Yup. At Memphis my area had (apparently) been a dumping ground for a ceramics manufacturing outfit and, in addition to various penii, we found at least a couple whole little vessels, both of them fairly well deformed. Which I thought was kinda neat: the little bowls that ended up rejected were the few to survive the millennia intact.

March 22, 2016

Bodies, bodies everywhere!

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:05 pm

Iron Age remains of 150 people discovered at Yorkshire housing development site

A “hugely important” Iron Age burial ground has been unearthed at a housing development site in Yorkshire.

The 2,000-year-old skeletons and personal effects of 150 ancient Britons was discovered in the small town of Pocklington in east Yorkshire, during excavations at a site which property developer David Wilson Homes had earmarked for 77 new houses.
As The Guardian reports, 65 small square burial mounds were discovered across the site, with archaeologists uncovering human remains, jewellery, and ancient weapons like swords, spears and shields.

Doesn’t say much about the preservation but it ought to give yet more demographic and disease data.

Crucifix or. . . . ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:03 pm

Extraordinary find: Denmarks oldest crucifix

On Friday March 11th something very special appeared from the ground in a field near Aunslev at Eastern Funen. Dennis Fabricius Holm was out searching with his metal detector and made an exceptional find. Immediately he contacted the archaeologist at Østfyns Museer, Malene Beck.

Dennis had found a small gold pendant, 4,1 cm in height, in the shape of a man with outstretched arms – the image of Christ. The figure is made of fine articulated goldthreads and small filigree pellets and weighs around 13,2 grams. The reverse side is smooth. At the top a small eye for the chain is mounted. The cross looks a lot like the gilded silver cross found in 1879 in Birka near Stockholm in Sweden, in a female grave from the Viking Age. (grave 660).

I dunno. Doesn’t scream out “Christian Crucifix” to me necessarily.

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