Category Archives: news

Echoes from the Past (Feb 17)

And again a quick look to many things which have been showing up around the Net these last few days:

Neanderthal society

Bryan Hayden has a very interesting (and freely accessible!) paper at the Oxford Journal of Archaeology on reconstructing Neanderthals society, which was apparently much like ours for similar conditions (small operative bands of 12-30 people linked in larger ethnic and/or clannic groups through seasonal meetings and general social networks). M. Mozota has a quite interesting review at his blog as well for those who can read in Spanish.

Natufian Mesolithic Syrian site dug

The site of As-Suwayda (or Sweida), dated to c. 14-9 thousand years ago, had 12 circular huts, two of which were more complex, suggesting to some the beginnings of social stratification (or could be communal buildings?)  The two more complex (not larger) huts were located to the south of the village and show, one, inner divisions and an internal elevated platform, and, the other, external platforms and a trench. All huts are 4-5m. round.
The Natufian culture is one of the beginnings of sedentarism, as their members lived largely on recollection of wild cereals, although it is generally understood that there was no productive agriculture yet.

Neolithic driven by aridification in South Asia

D. Fuller at Indian Ocean Corridors discusses how an increasingly drier climate may have aided the expansion of agriculture in the Indian subcontinent:

The significant aridification recorded after ca. 4,000 years ago may have spurred the widespread adoption of sedentary agriculture in central and south India capable of providing surplus food in a less secure hydroclimate.

Relevant paper: Holocene aridification of India (C. Ponton et al. 2012, PPV)

Chalcolithic oxen traction in Iberia

A very interesting article in Spanish language by J.M. Arévalo discusses the use of animal traction in the Chalcolithic of Mucientes in the Northern Iberian Plateau during the 3rd millennium BCE (c. 2830-2290 BCE). Article available at Periodista Digital[es] and Asociación los Dólmenes[es].
The production, use and export of threshing teeth, made on flintstone at Cantalejo, emphasizes the almost necessary use of ox traction (horse domestication is unclear for the period while oxen remains are consistent with such kind of work). Interestingly the article is accompanied by an image of what may well be the oldest preserved wheel in Europe (Ljubljana, 4th millennium BCE, many centuries before Indoeuropean arrival, pictured).
Other archaeology/prehistory
Nerja rock art will be directly dated: the calcite layer over them will be dated so the doubts on authorship may be clarified. ··> Pileta[es].

East Asturian Magdalenian cave sites Tito Bustillo and El Buxu were used by the same group ··> Pileta[es].

Rock art found at Paleoindian site in Clarke Co., Virginia (USA) ··> Clarke Daily News.

England’s Neolithic submerged town had market street ··> BBC

The IVC seal represents a goat

Rare Indus Valley Civilization seal found at Cholistan (Punjab) ··> Dawn.

20 megalithic cairn circles and an apparent fortification from the Iron Age found at Andrah Pradesh, India ··> Firstpost.

Conservation plan to protect the Hill of Tara (Ireland) ··> The Meath Chronicle.

Spanish language specialized open access e-magazine Trabajos de Prehistoria vol. 68, no. 2 is available.

Human genetics

You may want to take a look at the latest exploration of Northern Europe’s autosomal genetics by Fennoscandia Biographic Project, using the most advanced analysis tools available (it seems): as always Scandinavians are somewhat distinct within Western Europe but Finnic peoples are a world on their own.

Other genetics

Rice varieties indica and japonica may have been independently domesticated (paper): Independent Domestication of Asian Rice Followed by Gene Flow from japonica to indica (Chin-chia Yang et al. at MBE, PPV).

Echoes from the Past (Feb 12)

Some more links for you. 
I’m also lifting the temporary comment moderation filter, hopefully lessons have been learned and no more such measures will be needed. Thanks for your patience.
Prehistory of Europe
Pileta: Más sobre Unas focas pintadas por neandertales podrían ser la primera obra de arte…[es] – Salaman mentions that lack of economic resources do not allow to research further by the moment the possibility that the Nerja seals could have been drawn by Neanderthals. 
Pileta: Catalogan pinturas de Altamira que son 15.000 años más antiguas que los bisontes[es] – Some Altamira paintings are found to be 15,000 years older than the famous bisons. This may make them the oldest rock art in Europe (with permission of Nerja and comparable to Grotte Chauvet). No images of the early Aurignacian art are available yet but it is coincident with a trend to reclassify European rock art as of earlier age and Aurignacian period, as discussed here, but mostly not as early as in this case (before 30 Ka BP).
Neanderfollia[cat] offers us some interesting maps of the MP-UP transition in Europe: 
Prehistory of South Asia
AIOC: Lithic continuity & innovation in Holocene South India – D. Fuller introduces a new paper (ppv) on the Holocene industries of India (pictured below).

AIOC: Sourcing the ‘lost Saraswati’ river: new geological evidence – the same author, discusses how the lost Saraswati river does not match the Holocene geology of the subcontinent but could correspond with that of the Pleistocene.
How to feed a pregnant Neanderthal (AVRPI) – the almost always interesting archaeologist Julien Riel-Salvatore discusses several papers on the apparent myth of high protein Paleolithic diets.
Max Planck Institute Leipzig | A High Coverage Denisovan Genome – The Denisovan genome is available for all to explore (the researchers however request courtesy if used for academic publication).
Ultraconserved regions of the genome do not seem to have any particular importance:
Il tente de décrypter l’ADN de la langue basque (SudOuest)[fr] – Basque cultural journalist Hasier Etxeberria prepares a documentary on the various theories on the origins of the Basque language. 
Psychology and Biology
Tiny primate ‘talks’ in ultrasound – our distant Pinoy wild cousin, the tarsier, is not as silent as was thought, they just talk in ways we can’t hear.
What elephants want: Ranging and raiding in Asia and Africa | EveryONE  – elephants in fragmented habitats need more land, they also follow the lead of the old ones when raiding crops.

Echoes from the Past (Jan 18)

Again lots of short news and hopefully interesting links I have been collecting in the last weeks:
Lower and Middle Paleolithic 
Cova del Gegant Neanderthal jaw
Catalonia: Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA sequenced for the first time. The sequence, obtained from a jaw from Cova del Gegant (Giant’s Cave), is fully within normal Neanderthal range ··> Pileta de Prehistoria[es], NeanderFollia[cat], relevant paper[cat] (PDF)

Castile: Stature estimates for Sima de los Huesos (Atapuerca) discussed by John Hawks.

Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic

Romania: stratigraphies and dates revised by new study (PPV) ··> Quaternary International.

Andalusia: oldest ornament made of barnacle’s shell (right) found in Nerja Cave ··> Pileta de Prehistoria[es], UNED[es], Universia[es].

England: Star Carr dig to shed light on transition from Paleolithic to Epipaleolithic ··> short article and video-documentary (32 mins) at Past Horizons.

Basque Country: archaeologists consider a barbarity that only 65m are protected against the quarry at Praileaitz Cave (Magdalenian) ··> Noticias de Gipuzkoa[es].

Yemen: 200 tombs said to be Paleolithic discovered in Al Mahwit district, west of Sanaa. Tools and weapons were also found. Other thousand or so artifacts from the same period were found in the Bani Saad area  ··> BBC

Peruvian rock art
Sarawak: Niah Cave being dug again for further and more precise data on the colonization of the region by Homo sapiens ··> Heritage Daily.

Siberia was a wildlife-rich area in the Ice Age ··> New Scientist.

Peru: 10,000 years old cave paintings (right) discovered in Churcampa province ··> Andina.

Neolithic and Chalcolithic

Iberia and North Africa: Southern Iberian and Mediterranean North African early Neolithic could be the same process according to new paper (PPV) ··> Quaternary International.
Galicia: Neolithic and Metal Ages remains to be studied for DNA ··> Pileta de Prehistoria[es].
Texas: very informative burnt hut reveals clues of the natives of the San Antonio area c. 3500 years ago.
Mexico: 2000-years old paintings found Guanajuato ··> Hispanically Speaking News (notice that the photo appears to be act of shameless journalistic low quality, being a European bison painted with European style, probably from Altamira).
Metal ages and historical period
Croatia: oldest known astrological board unearthed at Nakovana (Roman period). The cave was probably some sort of shrine back in the day, maybe because a striking phallic stalagmite. Besides the ivory astrological device, lots of pottery has been found as well ··> Live Science.

The best preserved fragment depicts the sign of Cancer (full gallery)
Basque Country: Iruña-Veleia affair:  Basque autonomous police does not have means to test the authenticity of the findings. The Commission for the Clarification of Iruña-Veleia asks for the tests to be performed in one of the few European laboratories able to do that ··> Noticias de Álava.
Cornwall: replicating sewn-plank boats of the Bronze Age ··> This is Cornwall.
India: cremation urn from the Megalithic period excavated in Kerala ··> The Hindu.

Human genetics and evolution

The six flavors
Centenarians don’t have any special genes ··> The Atlantic.
Fat is a flavor: newly discovered sixth flavor in human tongue identifies fat (and usually likes it) ··> Science Daily.
Hominin tooth found in Bulgaria dates from 7 million years ago ··>  Daily Mail.
Anthropology (senso stricto)
The journey of the Tubu women: fascinating documentary in Spanish language about these trans-Saharan trader women available at Pasado y Futuro[es].
Small capuchin monkey bands fight as well as large ones because members are more motivated and have many less defections, even in peripheral conflicts  ··> Science Daily.
Horse genetics again ··> new paper at PLoS Genetics

Fig. 4 – Phylogenetic tree of extant Hippomorpha.

Echoes from the Past (Jan 9)

Here you have the latest batch of rather interesting links:

Before prehistory
Middle Paleolithic
Aterian tools

Neandertals and bears (John Hawks compares the range and recolonizations of brown bears in the Ice Age with those of human species)
Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic
Neolithic and Metal Ages
Stone Age temple found in Orkney may be more significant than Stonehenge and  Orkney temple predates Stonehenge by 500 years – My apartment mate is often talking about how important the Orkney Megalithic religious complex must have been in its time to what I always reply that it’s quite unexpected because it’s such a remote place… I wonder if it was an important site for cod fishermen from all Western Europe or what.

Reconstruction of the temple complex

Prehistoric buildings hold an overlooked social complexity (a very curious report on the oldest known European stairway and its rather unexpected sophistication for a Neolithic context) 
Temple of Isis found near the theater of Italica[es] (Roman colony near modern Seville, hometown of emperors Trajan and Adrian)
Prehistory in the media
Spanish-speaking readers can now watch at YouTube the documentary/prehistoric fiction film ‘Homo Sapiens: the perfect conquest’ (Discovery Channel prod.): part 1 and part 2. The films contain many misrepresentations but also many actual facts and reasonable speculations and are therefore rather interesting to view (but take some things with great caution or eve total disbelief). Sorry but I do not know at the moment of an English-language version available online.

Defining mutations updated: A2c, A2f, A2f1, A2h, A2i, A2p, A2r, A4c, A4d, A5b, B2g, B4g, B5a2, B5a2a, B5b2c, B6, C1b5, C1c1, C1c3, C4a1, C4a3, C7b, D1d, D2b1, D4b1b, D4e1, D4g2, D4g2a1a, D5a3a, D5c1, F1a2, F1a3, F1a4, F1e1, F1e2, F4a, F4a1, F4b, G1a2, G1b, G2a1e, G2b1b, G3b1, H13a2b, H13a2b1, H1c3, H2a5, H2a5a, HV1d, J1b, J1b1b1, J1b3, J1d, J2a1a1a, K1a1, K1a11, K1a1a, K1a1b1a, K1a1b1c, K1a1b2a, K1a3a1b, K1a4c, K1a7, K1a8, K1b1a, K1b1a1, K1b2b, K1c1a, K2a2a, L0a1b, L0a3, L0a’b, L0b, L1b, L1b1, L1b1a4, L1b1a6, L1c3b, L1c3b1, L1c3b2, L1c6, L2a1a2a1, L2a1a3, L2a1c2, L2b1b, L2b2, L2d, L2d, L2d1, L2d1a, L3b2, L3d1a1, L3d1c, L3d1d, L3e2a1b1, L3e2b3, L3e3a, L3f1b1, L3f2, L3h1a1, L3h1a2a, L3h1b1a, L3h2, L3i1, L3i1a, L3i2, L3k, L3x1, L3x2, L3x2a, L3x2a1, L3x2b, L4b, L4b1, L4b2a1, L4b2a2, L4b2b, M10a1, M10a1a, M19, M2, M24, M31b, M31b’c, M33a2a, M39, M6b, M7b, M7b1, M7b1’2’4, M7b2, M80, N2a, N9a2a, R0a2d, R0a2k, R7, R9c1, T1a2, T2a1a3, T2a1b1, T2b3a, T2c1b, T2f, T2g1, U2d, U3a, U3b2, U4b1b, U5a2d, U5a2e, U7, V9a, Z4, Z4a.
Newly added: A2f2, A2f3, A2h1, A2l, A2m, A2o, A2s, A2t, A2u, A2u1, A2w, A2x, A4e, A4e1, A4f, A5a3, A5b1, B2a3, B2c1a, B2c1b, B2c2, B2c2a, B2c2b, B4a1c1a, B4a2b, B4a4, B4b1a3, B4b1c1, B4i, B5a1c1, B5a2a1, B6a, C1b10, C1b11, C1b5a, C1b7, C1b7a, C1b8, C1b8a, C1b9, C1b9a, C1c1a, C1c4, C1c5, C4a1c1a, C4a1c2, C4a3b, C4c1, C4c1a, C4c1b, C4c2, C4d, C7a2, D1g, D1h, D1i, D1j, D4a1a1a, D4a3b1, D4a3b2, D4b1d, D4b2b2a, D4b2b2b, D4b2b2c, D4b2b6, D4e1c, D4e5a, D4e5b, D4g2b1, D4j3a1, D5b1d, D5c2, E1a2a, F1a3a, F1a3a1, F1a4a, F1b1a2, F1c1, F1c1a, F1e1a, F1f, F1g, F2b, F2c, F2d, F3a1, F4a1a, F4a2, G2a1c2, G2a1d1, G2a1d2, G2a1e1, G2b2b, H2a5a1, H2a5a2, H2a5b, HV14, HV4a1a, HV4a2a, HV4c, I6, J1b3a, J1b4, J1c2a, J1c2a1, J1c2c2a, J1c3d, J1c5d, J1c9, J1d1a, K1a13a, K1a14, K1a1b2a1, K1a2b, K1b1a2, K2a2a1, K2a3a, K3, L0a1a1, L0a1a3, L1b1a9, L1b2, L1b3, L1c3a1b, L2a1a3a, L2a1a3b, L2a1c1a, L2a1c2a, L2a1c4a, L2a1i1, L2a1m, L2a1m1, L2a1n, L2c1, L2c1a, L2c2b, L2c3a, L2c4, L2c5, L2e1, L3a1, L3b1a5, L3b1a6, L3b2a, L3d1b3, L3d1c1, L3e1d1, L3e1g, L3e2b1a1, L3f1a1, L3f2a, L3f2a1, L3x1b, M10a1a1, M11c, M2a’b, M2c, M31b1, M31b2, M52b, M6a1, M6a2, M7a1a9, M7b5, M7b6, M7b7, M7b8, M7c1d, M7c2b, M7c2b1, M7c2b2, M8a3a, N9a10a, N9a2a3, N9a4a, N9a4b, N9a7, N9a8, N9a9, O1a, R0a2k1, R7a’b, R9b1a3, R9c1a, T1a2a, T2a1b1a, T2b21, T2b3b, T2b4a, T2b6a, T2h, U1a1a, U3a1a, U3b3, U3c, U5a1g, U5a2c3, U5b1f, U6a3a1, U6d1a, U7a, U7a1, U7a2, U7a3, U7a4, U7b, U7b1, U8a1a1, U8a2, U8b1a, V9a1, W3a1b, W3b, W5a2.
Multiple rearrangements/additions within: B4c1b2, J1b1a, U5a2a.
Relabeled: A2r -> A2v, B5a1c <-> B5a1d, F1a’c -> F1a’c’f, L3j -> L3f2a1, N9a2a’b -> N9a2a, N9a2a -> N9a2a1, N9a2b -> N9a2a2.


Phylogenetic Distinctiveness of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian Village Dog Y Chromosomes Illuminates Dog Origins (open access paper on dog’s likely origins in SE Asia; see here for another recent study reaching similar conclusions)

Figure 3. Village and breed dog Y chromosome SNP-STR haplotype networks.

Controversy on open access publication


Echoes from the Past (Nov 30) – The oldest rock art and other stuff

Again, in short notice, a lot of interesting stuff. Most notably the portrait of the largest bird ever but also a lot of new info on Neanderthal (and Erectus!) Europe, the Iruña-Veleia archaeological scandal, etc.
First of all the giant duck:
Australian Aboriginal Rock Art May Depict Giant Bird Extinct for 40,000 Years : Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) – hat tip to David. The giant bird depicted at Niwarla Gabarnmung is not an emu but a Genyornis newtoni, the largest bird that ever existed. Its extinction date, c. 40,000 years ago, is the most recent possible date for the artwork therefore.

Middle Paleolithic

The origins of Neanderthals could be in Atapuerca

Pileta de Prehistoria: Atapuerca hominins could be a sister species to Neanderthals[es]. Actually much more is claimed in fact: that they are more related to Neanderthals than any other fossil known and that, for that reason and because of chronology, they are the best candidate to be the direct ancestors of Homo neanderthalensis.

A possible issue is that the site of Atapuerca has provided such a huge number of hominin bones that it is very difficult to compare with even the whole collection of all other European sites.
Serbian Homo erectus in the age of Neanderthals
They have found a Homo ergaster or H. erectus dated to before 110,000 (preliminary dating suggested 130-250,000 years). In this period it was believed that only Neanderthals lived in Europe already. Are these ‘erectus’ related to the equally mysterious occupation of Crete also before 130,000 years ago?

Update: the reference paper is this one (hat tip to Neanderthalerin):

Mirjana Roksandic et al., A human mandible (BH-1) from the Pleistocene deposits of Mala Balanica cave (Sićevo Gorge, Niš, Serbia). Journal of Human Evolution 2011. Pay per view.

Other MP:
BBC News – Moreton-in-Marsh Stone Age axe find leads to seaside theory – a Mousterian axe in England with a whole theory on the environment it was once used.
Upper Paleolithic

Beautifully preserved bulls of Qurta

Franchthi Cave revisited: the age of the Aurignacian in south-eastern Europe << Antiquity. The Aurignacian of Greece overlaps at both sides of the Campanian Ignimbrite Eruption c. 41,000 years ago.

Shell ornaments from Franchthi

Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age

Pileta de Prehistoria: “Guide to Galician Petroglyphs” presented[es] – the book (in Galician language) can be found here. It is notable that the authors emphasize the similitudes with petroglyphs from other areas, be them in the Iberian Plateau or in Ireland. Faro de Vigo[es] titles: 4000 years ago there was a single language that linked the British Islands and Galicia.

Iron Age

Iruña-Veleia scandal
New step in the legal and scholarly controversy on the exceptional findings at the Vasco-Roman site of Iruña-Veleia: state attorney demands physical tests to Basque Autonomous Police. Previously the defense had asked for them to be made by the Guardia Civil (Spanish military police corps, similar to the French gendarmerie or Italian carabinieri).
Various mentions in Spanish:
Also  in relation to the Iruña-Veleia scandal Iruina blog tells us[es] (with video reports) that some scientists have exhausted their patience with the local politicians and tribunals and the abuses that they are inflicting on this most important archaeological site (not just for the history of Basques but also for that of the late provincial Roman Empire, including the origins of Romance languages and new religions like Christianity and Isianism) and have decided to bring the matter to the international arena, so the finger of shame would point to those guilty of unforgivable archaeological destruction.  
Human genetics and biology
Maluku people are one genetically regardless of language:

1-China (Han), 2-Austronesian speakers (Maluku), 3-Papuan speakers (Maluku), 4-Highland New Guinea
Sandwalk: What William the Conqueror’s Companions Teach Us about Effective Population Size – An interesting meditation on key concepts of population genetics, using the well known historical incident of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 that almost turned the Brits into provincial French:

Let’s assume that there are 20 well-documented companions [of William the Conqueror]. Only one of these (William Mallet) has possibly passed on his Y chromosome to the present time and even that male line of descent is disputed. This is fully consistent with our understanding of genetics when you consider that most male lines are likely to die out in a few generations. Those that survive ten generations or so are unlikely to become extinct since there will likely be several male lines at that time.

So what were you saying about Genghis Khan?