Category Archives: USA

Native American gigantic mound was built in just 90 days

Map of the earthworks
The Poverty Point earthworks (Louisiana, USA), are a very large construction dated to c. 3200 years ago. Among the various parts of the impressive complex is Bird Mound, which spans 50,000 square meters and needed almost 300,000 cubic meters of earth to be built. 
This huge task was previously thought to have been accomplished in a long time, however new research of the layers indicates the opposite: that it was finished in just three months, what apparently required thousands of people passing baskets of earth in “bucket brigade” style.

“Given that a band of 25-30 people is considered quite large for most
hunter-gatherer communities, it’s truly amazing that this ancient
society could bring together a group of nearly 10,000 people, find some
way to feed them and get this mound built in a matter of months,” Kidder

One caveat is that they surely were not “hunter-gatherers” but at least part-time farmers but it is still an impressive feat.
Source: Eureka Alert (via Pileta). 

Posted by on January 31, 2013 in America, Native Americans, USA


Native American archaeological findings

Stone Pages’ Archaeonews includes in its latest newsletter a number of interesting references to new findings on Native American Prehistory:
The Morehead Circle (Ohio)
This ritual enclosure of the intriguing Hopewell culture, which is being dug now, is dealt in detail at Ohio Archaeology Blog → link 1, link 2.

Pig Point funerary rituals (Maryland)
These would be part of the Adena culture, precursor of Hopewell, and this site in coastal Maryland has yielded not just evidence of them but layers and layers of associated artifacts, with the oldest being as early as 10,000 BP (most are from 5000 to 1000 BP however).

Early Native American tribes engaged in reburial rituals. Every year,
10 years, or more, a group would gather the remains of their dead and
commit them to a common burial ground.

Iroquois tribes were noted for their reburial rituals
as were the Nanticoke who took their ancestors’ remains with them when
they moved to Pennsylvania from the Eastern Shore.

Ossuaries held the the dead whether nothing but
skeleton or fresher remains. But the bodies were intact, or mostly so.
The difference at Pig Point is that all the bones were smashed, broken
on purpose. And so were thousands of artifacts such as fancy Adena
points, beads, gorgets, and other items. All broken into bits.

Ohio calumets reveal wide exchange networks
The site of Tremper Mound (Ohio) has been known for a century now but it was assumed that the many pipes found there were carved from local stone. That has been now demonstrated to be mostly wrong: only less than 20% of the pipes were made from local materials, instead 65% were carved in flint clay from Northern Illinois and 18% in catlinite from Minnesota.
4000 years old weapons from Sinaloa
50 km north of Mazatlan (Sinaloa, Mexico) lays the rock art  site of Las Labradas. Not far from there, at La Flor del Océano, archaeologists have now discovered spearheads, knives and other tools made of stone. 
Fox News.


Y-DNA of Basque diaspora in Western USA

Hat tip to Jean for this finding.
As the authors wisely assess the most important inference we can get from this study is how a colonial population diverges from that of the homeland. The Basque colony in North America is not too large (58,000 in all the USA), albeit significant specially in Idaho, Nevada and to lesser extent California (larger numbers but smaller apportion), and the origin is biased towards a single region: the Northern Basque Country (under French rule).
However the results show that they represent very well the ancestral homeland’s haplotypes, only tested in the Southern Basque Country, diverging only somewhat:

Fig. 1 Median-joining haplotype tree: white European Basque (West), black American Basque

This is a good example of how a normal colonial population, even if reduced in founders and numbers, behaves in relation to the ancestral one: it retains most of the lineages. No marked founder effects are apparent anywhere.

Our results demonstrate a very high-level of conservation of the Y chromosome haplotypes characteristic of the European autochthonous Basque population among individuals of the Basque diaspora in the Western USA. No signs of founder haplotypes have been found…

Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Basque culture, USA, Y-DNA


Earliest art of America may be mammoth engraving in Florida

[Updated Jun 23]
Science Daily reports of the finding of a bone with a mammoth engraving. It is believed to have an age of c. 13,000 BP because that is the approximate date of extinction of these animals in North America according to the fossil record. The unusual finding was recovered from Vero Beach, Florida:

Barbara Purdy et al., Earliest Art in the Americas: Incised Image of a Proboscidean on a Mineralized Extinct Animal Bone from Vero Beach, Florida. Journal of Archaeological Science, 2011. Pay per view.

[DOI is broken so link above is direct]


A fragmented fossil bone incised with the figure of a proboscidean was recently found at Vero Beach, Florida near the location where Late Pleistocene fauna and human bones were recovered from 1913–1916. This engraving may represent the oldest and only existing example of Terminal Pleistocene art depicting a proboscidean in the Americas. Because of the uniqueness, rarity, and potential antiquity of this specimen, caution demanded that a variety of tests be used in anattempt to verify its authenticity. The mineralized bone was identified as mammoth, mastodon, or giant sloth. Rare earth element analysis was consistent with the fossil bone being ancient and originating at or near the Old Vero site (8-IR-9). Forensic analysis suggests the markings on the bone are not recent. Optical microscopy results show no discontinuity in coloration between the carved grooves and the surrounding material indicating that both surfaces aged simultaneously. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) revealed that the edges of the inscription are worn and show no signs of being incised recently or that the grooves were made with metal tools.In addition, the backscattered SEM images suggest there is no discontinuity in the distribution of light and heavy elements between the scribed region and the surrounding bone indicating that both surfaces aged in the same environment. This is very different from an intentional mark made on the bone for comparison. Energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDXS) shows that the surface contains significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, oxygen, and carbon typical of a mineralized bone surface. Examination of a cast and mold of the incised bone by Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) also provided no evidence that the engraving was made recently. All of these results are consistent with the mammoth engraving being authentic.

I also found an available PDF (not sure how long it will stay open).

The bone itself may be one of a mammoth, though being mineralized (true fossil) we can’t expect to get DNA nor C-14 dates:

It definitely derived from a much larger land mammal than any known to have been alive in Florida during the Precolumbian Holocene interval (e.g., bear, bison, deer), and the great thickness of the cortical bone precludes a cetacean origin. Because the bone is mineralized, it is improbable that it can be identified by DNA analysis or dated by 14C. This is usually the case for Late Pleistocene fossils from Florida (e.g., Hulbert et al. 2009).

A little homage to Benoît Mandelbrot

Benoît Mandelbrot was one of the great geniuses of our era, comparable to Einstein, Hawkins, Maldacena and very few others. He died on October 14 at the venerable age of 85.
Of Jewish ethnicity, born in Poland, raised in France, living in France, Switzerland and the USA, he stands as a universal genius by all standards.
He like no other helped us to discover the beauty and importance of Chaos mathematics and its physical implications. He is best known for defining the concept of fractals, a pillar of Chaos theory.
His best known quote, which is a beautiful synthesis of poetry and deep intellectual provocation is this one:
Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.
A quote I just love.
In spite of his unique greatness he never received the Nobel Prize, what says nothing good about this media-hyped Scandinavian honor. He did receive many other prizes and honors in his life however, all well deserved.
To the left, photo of the deceased genius (2007, from Wikipedia) and some magnifications of the famous Mandelbrot set, arbitrarily chosen for their beauty (M=10⁻¹, M=10⁶ and M=10⁹). All from The Chaos Hypertextbook.
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Posted by on October 17, 2010 in Chaos, death, European history, science, USA