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Caveman Flutists? First Instruments Date Back 40,000 Years

Ancient Flute
© The University of Tübingen
40,000 year old flute from the site of Geißenklösterle made from bird bones.
Early modern humans could have spent their evenings sitting around the fire, playing bone flutes and singing songs 40,000 years ago, newly discovered ancient musical instruments indicate. The bone flutes push back the date researchers think human creativity evolved.

Researchers were studying a modern human settlement called Geißenklösterle, a part of the Swabian caves system in southern Germany, when they came across the bone flutes.

One is made of mammoth ivory, while the other seems to be made of bones from a bird. They also found a collection of perforated teeth, ornaments and stone tools at the site.

"These results are consistent with a hypothesis we made several years ago that the Danube River was a key corridor for the movement of humans and technological innovations into central Europe between 40,000 and 45,000 years ago," study researcher Nick Conard, of Tübingen University, said in a statement.

"Geißenklösterle is one of several caves in the region that has produced important examples of personal ornaments, figurative art, mythical imagery and musical instruments. The new dates prove the great antiquity of the Aurignacian in Swabia." The Aurignacian refers to an ancient culture and the associated tools.
Sherlock

Dig "proves" Bethlehem existed centuries pre-Jesus

Israeli archaeologists said on Wednesday they had discovered the first physical evidence supporting Old Testament accounts of Bethlehem's existence centuries before the town became revered as the birthplace of Jesus.

The proof came, they said, in a clay seal unearthed near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and imprinted with three lines of ancient Hebrew script that include the word "Bethlehem".

Eli Shukron, who directed the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the seal apparently had been placed on a tax shipment of silver or agricultural produce sent from Bethlehem to the King of Judah in nearby Jerusalem in the 8th or 7th century BC.
© Reuters/Baz Ratner
A clay seal recently unearthed by Israeli archaeologists is displayed by Eli Shukron, who directed the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, just outside Jerusalem's Old City May 23, 2012.

Comment: For a more in-depth review of the Bible and many other interesting topics, check out Laura Knight-Jadczyk's The Secret History of the World

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Rhine Fossils Push River's Age Back 5 Million Years

Fossil Antler
© Senckenberg
A fossil antler of a prehistoric deer that clued researchers in.

Fossilized antlers, teeth and wood dug up near Europe's storied Rhine River indicate the waterway is 5 million years older than many scientists had thought, according to new research.

The Rhine originates in the Swiss Alps and flows more than 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) northward; it empties into the North Sea along the Netherlands' coast.

There's been an ongoing debate in the scientific community about just how old the river is, according to Madelaine Böhme, a researcher at the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

For that reason, scientists examined more than 300 fossils from one of the oldest known areas of the river basin - an area that is a famed treasure trove of fossils.

Böhme, lead author of a study published in the journal PLoS One on May 16, examined fossils dug up in the 1980s that are housed in museum collections.
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Black Magic Revealed in Two Ancient Curses

Ancient Curses_1
© Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna, cropping by Owen Jarus
Two ancient curses dating back 1,600 years depict a deity with snakes coming out of its head. This deity may be none other than the goddess Hekate, the Queen of the Crossroads. Invocations in the curses resemble those used for her.
At a time when black magic was relatively common, two curses involving snakes were cast, one targeting a senator and the other an animal doctor, says a Spanish researcher who has just deciphered the 1,600-year-old curses.

Both curses feature a depiction of a deity, possibly the Greek goddess Hekate, with serpents coming out of her hair, possibly meant to strike at the victims. Both curses contain Greek invocations similar to examples known to call upon Hekate.

The two curses, mainly written in Latin and inscribed on thin lead tablets, would have been created by two different people late in the life of the Roman Empire.

Both tablets were rediscovered in 2009 at the Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna, in Italy, and were originally acquired by the museum during the late 19th century.

Although scholars aren't sure where the tablets originated, after examining and deciphering the curses, they know who victims of the curses were.
Family

Dogs may have helped Humans beat the Neanderthals

dog
© unknown
Over 20,000 years ago, humans won the evolutionary battle against Neanderthals. They may have had some assistance in that from their best friends.

One of the most compelling -- and enduring -- mysteries in archaeology concerns the rise of early humans and the decline of Neanderthals. For about 250,000 years, Neanderthals lived and evolved, quite successfully, in the area that is now Europe. Somewhere between 45,000 and 35,000 years ago, early humans came along.

They proliferated in their new environment, their population increasing tenfold in the 10,000 years after they arrived; Neanderthals declined and finally died away.

What happened? What went so wrong for the Neanderthals -- and what went so right for us humans?
Sherlock

Huge Canaanite Jewelry Hoard Unearthed in Megiddo

© Unknown
Conflagration at biblical Armageddon preserved gold and silver trove

Archaeologists digging at Tel Megiddo in northern Israel have unearthed what turns out to be one of the largest troves of Canaanite treasures ever found, buried in rubble from destruction 3,100 years ago. The treasure was hidden inside a clay vessel that had been unearthed in the summer of 2010. The pot had been filled with dirt and sent for testing. It was only recently that the dirt was examined in a restoration laboratory and the treasure revealed to their great surprise.

The hoard includes a collection of gold and silver jewelry, beads, a ring and a pair of unique gold earrings with molded ibexes and wild goats that was likely made in Egypt. "We find about 10 [whole] vessels every year. The only thing that was unusual was that the jug was found inside a bowl. It was put inside a bowl 3,000 years ago and was covered by another bowl and it was put in the corner of a court yard," archaeologist Eran Arie told The Media Line.

The hoard is one of the largest and most intriguing ever found in Israel. The treasure likely belonged to a wealthy, perhaps royal, family and was found in the layer of settlement dating to 1,100 B.C., about 150 years prior to the Israelite conquest of Canaan, Arie says.
Telescope

Ancient Mayan workshop for astronomers discovered

© AP Photo/National Geographic, Tyrone Turner
In this undated photo made available by National Geographic, conservator Angelyn Bass cleans and stabilizes the surface of a wall of a Maya house that dates to the 9th century A.D. in the Maya city Zultun in northeastern Guatemala.
Archaeologists have found a small room in Mayan ruins where royal scribes apparently used walls like a blackboard to keep track of astronomical records and the society's intricate calendar some 1,200 years ago. The walls reveal the oldest known astronomical tables from the Maya. Scientists already knew they must have been keeping such records at that time, but until now the oldest known examples dated from about 600 years later.

Astronomical records were key to the Mayan calendar, which has gotten some attention recently because of doomsday warnings that it predicts the end of the world this December. Experts say it makes no such prediction. The new finding provides a bit of backup: The calculations include a time span longer than 6,000 years that could extend well beyond 2012.

"Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year?" observed Anthony Aveni of Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., an expert on Mayan astronomy. "You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on."
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Cursing Stone' Found on Isle of Canna

Bullaun Stone
© National Trust For Scotland
The bullaun stone was found in an old graveyard.
A stone discovered by chance on the Isle of Canna is Scotland's first known example of a bullaun "cursing stone", experts have revealed.

Dating from about 800 AD, the stones are associated with early Christian crosses - of which there is one on the isle.

It was found in an old graveyard by a National Trust for Scotland (NTS) farm manager.

The stone is about 25cm in diameter and engraved with an early Christian cross.

It was later found to fit exactly into a large rectangular stone with a worn hole which was located at the base of the Canna cross.

NTS manager of Canna, Stewart Connor, said the importance of the stone became clear after he was notified of the discovery.

He said: "We knew of the importance of bullaun stones and that it could be a really significant find.

"Our head of archaeology confirmed a possible link to the stone at the cross and I was so excited that I went back out at 9pm that night to check whether it fitted the stone with the hole and it did."
People

How stone age man invented the art of raving

Stone age/neolithic parties
© Mark Bauer/Alamy
Hambledon Hill, in Dorset, hosted stone-age festivals at a causewayed enclosure before the construction of its iron-age hill fort

They were the stone-age equivalent of Glastonbury festival. People gathered in their hundreds to drink, eat and party every summer at revelries lasting several days and nights. Young men met women from nearby communities and married them. Herds of cattle were slaughtered to provide food.

These neolithic carousals even had special sites. They were held on causewayed enclosures, large hilltop earthworks built by our forebears after they brought farming to Britain from the continent 6,000 years ago.

This picture of ancient British bacchanalia has been created by researchers led by Professor Alasdair Whittle of Cardiff University and Dr Alex Bayliss of English Heritage. Using a revolutionary technique for dating ancient remains, they have built up a detailed chronology of the first farmers' arrival in Britain and have shown that agriculture spread with dramatic rapidity. In its wake, profound social changes gripped the country, culminating in the construction of causewayed enclosures where chieftains or priests held revelries to help establish their power bases.
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Bronze-Age 'Facebook' Stone Conveyed 'Likes'

Cave Art_1
© Mark Sapwell
A cluster at Nämforsen called Lillforshällan, where the elk image is the most common star of the show. This cluster is dated to an early period, around 4000 BC, when the elk image was the most common image to use.
A Bronze Age version of Facebook has emerged from granite rocks in Russia and northern Sweden, revealing a thousands-of-years-old timeline filled with an archaic version of the Facebook "like."

Using computer modeling, Mark Sapwell, a Ph.D. archaeology student at Cambridge University, analyzed some 3,500 rock art images from Nämforsen in Northern Sweden and Zalavruga in Western Russia.

"Although this rock art has been documented from the early 1900s, the modeling has allowed a unique look at the interesting way these images have been arranged and accumulated over time," Sapwell told Discovery News.

Carved from about 4000 B.C. up to the Bronze Age, the rock art shows animals, people, boats, hunting scenes -- even very early centaurs and mermaids. It was produced by generations of semi nomadic people, who lived more inland in winter to hunt elk, and then occupied areas closer to coasts and rivers to fish.
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