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Sat, 27 Nov 2021
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Secret History

Blue Planet

Earliest modern humans in Europe may have experienced much colder climates than previously thought

Bacho Kiro Cave
© Sarah Pederzani, MPI-EVA Leipzig, License: CC-BY-SA 2.0
Bacho Kiro Cave is located in a karst valley in north central Bulgaria, with small streams passing close to the cave entrance.
As early Homo sapiens spread across Eurasia about 45,000 years ago, they may have experienced much colder climate conditions than previously thought, according to isotope analyses of animal remains from a Bulgarian cave, which also contains some of Europe's earliest H. sapiens remains.

Comment: And there's reason to believe that humans were around much earlier than that: Previously unknown "proto-hominin" species suggests ancestor of humans evolved in Europe not Africa

The findings* contradict models that suggest warm climates were necessary for human expansion in the region, providing direct evidence that at least some dispersals occurred when air temperatures in the cave were 10°Celsius to 15°C lower than temperatures today.

Current models based on age correlations between archaeological and climatic records propose that H. sapiens spread across Eurasia only during episodes of warm climate. However, these studies tend not to use direct paleoclimate evidence, instead generating models that correlate the ages of archaeological finds with climatic phases documented in ice cores or cave deposits.

Comment: For further insight into the glaring problems posed by the accepted theory of human evolution, check out: Most human origins theories are not compatible with known fossils

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Better Earth

Thousands of years of long-distance trade links shaped Siberian dogs


Samoyed takes its name from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. These nomadic reindeer herders bred the fluffy white dogs to help with herding.
Analysis of ancient canine DNAs reveals that the inhabitants of Arctic Siberia began importing dogs from Eurasia some 2000 years ago.

Archaeological finds show that people in the Arctic regions of Northwestern Siberia had already established long-range trading links with Eurasian populations some 2000 years ago. The initiation of trading relationships was one of a series of significant social changes that took place during this period. Moreover, these changes even had an impact on the genomes of Siberian dogs, as an international team of researchers led by LMU palaeogeneticist Laurent Frantz has now demonstrated. Based on extensive genetic analyses, the team concludes that dogs were imported into the Siberian Arctic, and that this process ultimately led to the establishment of Siberian breeds such as the samoyed.

Genomes dating from the Stone Age to the Holocene

Comment: See also:


Human species you may not know about

Fosil Skulls
© Gunnar Creutz/Wikimedia Commons
Casts of Homo rudolfensis (left) and Homo habilis (right), both found in Kenya, showcase some variation in hominin skull shape and size.
We're so used to the idea of being the only people around that it seems outlandish to think that not so long ago in our evolutionary history, multiple types of humans occupied various landscapes. The environments of the Paleolithic, or Stone Age, were dynamic. Populations moved, interacted, and sometimes even interbred. As archaeological methodologies and available technologies become more sophisticated, we're able to "see" the lives of these human populations with more and more nuance, making the world of the Paleolithic more like a living tableau than a frozen museum diorama.

So, how many different types of humans have there been? It's a big question, and anthropologists have yet to agree on an answer.

A big part of the debate is that there are very few specimens for anthropologists to work from. Take a moment to picture the whole spectrum of modern humans' body sizes and shapes, and imagine trying to re-create that using the skeletons of just a handful of random individuals. Researchers have unearthed fossils from about 6,000 hominins in total. Only a handful have yielded any genetic evidence.

Researchers try to work out which ones represent novel species, sometimes from a single skull or just a finger bone. The work is hard and can be contentious.

Each scientific name bears a genus term followed by a species term. In the human family tree, the genus Homo goes back about 3 million years and includes more than a dozen named hominin species (including modern humans, H. sapiens). The extended hominin family, including the genus Ardipithecus, goes back some 6 million years.

Here are five hominins who contributed to the story of human evolution that you may be less familiar with, showing just how diverse the ancient human landscape has been.


Ancient Tunguska sized airburst demolished city in Jordan Valley

Researchers present evidence that a cosmic impact destroyed a biblical city in the Jordan Valley
Ancient Airburst
© Allen West and Jennifer Rice, CC BY-ND
In the Middle Bronze Age (about 3,600 years ago or roughly 1650 BCE), the city of Tall el-Hammam was ascendant. Located on high ground in the southern Jordan Valley, northeast of the Dead Sea, the settlement in its time had become the largest continuously occupied Bronze Age city in the southern Levant, having hosted early civilization for a few thousand years. At that time, it was 10 times larger than Jerusalem and 5 times larger than Jericho.

"It's an incredibly culturally important area," said James Kennett (link is external), emeritus professor of earth science at UC Santa Barbara. "Much of where the early cultural complexity of humans developed is in this general area."

A favorite site for archaeologists and biblical scholars, the mound hosts evidence of culture all the way from the Chalcolithic, or Copper Age, all compacted into layers as the highly strategic settlement was built, destroyed and rebuilt over millennia.

But there is a 1.5-meter interval in the Middle Bronze Age II stratum that caught the interest of some researchers for its "highly unusual" materials. In addition to the debris one would expect from destruction via warfare and earthquakes, they found pottery shards with outer surfaces melted into glass, "bubbled" mudbrick and partially melted building material, all indications of an anomalously high-temperature event, much hotter than anything the technology of the time could produce.

"We saw evidence for temperatures greater than 2,000 degrees Celsius," said Kennett, whose research group at the time happened to have been building the case for an older cosmic airburst about 12,800 years ago that triggered major widespread burning, climatic changes and animal extinctions. The charred and melted materials at Tall el-Hammam looked familiar, and a group of researchers including impact scientist Allen West and Kennett joined Trinity Southwest University biblical scholar Philip J. Silvia's research effort to determine what happened at this city 3,650 years ago.

Their results (link is external) are published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.


Ancient sculptures in Saudi Arabia are older than the pyramids and Stonehenge

Camel Carving
© The National
Previously, it was thought that the ancient camel sculptures found in the northern province of Al Jouf were around 2,000 years old.
Stunning relief carvings of camels in Saudi Arabia are now thought to date back more than 7,000 years - making them more than three times as old as was first suggested. Previously, it was thought the ancient camel sculptures found in the northern province of Al Jouf were about 2,000 years old.

However, chemical analysis and the examination of tool marks helped to show that the carvings at the site were made in the sixth millennium BCE.
It means the remarkable life-size sandstone carvings of camels and other animals, including a donkey, are the world's oldest surviving large-scale reliefs.

"They are absolutely stunning and, bearing in mind we see them now in a heavily eroded state with many panels fallen, the original site must've been absolutely mind blowing," said Dr Maria Guagnin, from the department of archaeology at Germany's Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the lead author of a new study on the late Stone Age carvings.

"There were life-sized camels and equids two or three layers on top of each other. It must have been an absolutely stunning site in the Neolithic."

Researchers heard about the site about five years ago and before the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Guagnin and other specialists made two visits of about 10 days each to examine the carvings.

The presence of camel reliefs at Petra in Jordan, produced by Nabataeans about 2,000 years ago, had suggested the Saudi carvings may be about two millennia old. However, a stone mason analysing the camel site carvings did not find evidence that metal tools had been used and there was no sign of pottery.

Weathering and erosion patterns, high-tech analysis involving fluorescence and luminescence and radiocarbon dating of remains also indicated an early origin.

"Every day the Neolithic was more likely [as the time when the carvings were made] until we realised it was absolutely a Neolithic site we were looking at," Dr Guagnin said.

Researchers also came from the Saudi Ministry of Culture, King Saud University and France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.


Ancient DNA rewrites early Japanese history

Ancient DNA extracted from human bones has rewritten early Japanese history by underlining that modern day populations in Japan have a tripartite genetic origin - a finding that refines previously accepted views of a dual genomic ancestry.
Jomon Pottery and Skull
© Shigeki Nakagome, Lead researcher, Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin.
Jomon pottery from the Hirajo shell midden (Late Jomon) and a skull from which ancient DNA was extracted.
Twelve newly sequenced ancient Japanese genomes show that modern day populations do indeed show the genetic signatures of early indigenous Jomon hunter-gatherer-fishers and immigrant Yayoi farmers - but also add a third genetic component that is linked to the Kofun peoples, whose culture spread in Japan between the 3rd and 7th centuries.

The eye-opening research has just been published in leading international journal Science Advances .

Blue Planet

Whale hunting and 'magic mushroom people' seen on 2,000 year old, northernmost petroglyphs in Eurasia

Chukotka petroglyphs
© Institute of Archaeology RAS
Archaeologists are rushing to preserve rock images of ancient ‘magic mushroom whale-hunting’ people, and other stunning petroglyphs in Eurasia’s most northerly art gallery at Pegtymel, Chukotka, dating to 2,000 years ago.
Whale hunting, reindeers crossing rivers, dogs chasing a brown bear for an ancient hunter, dancing men and women with huge 'fly agaric' mushrooms on their heads - these stunning, dynamic and expressive petroglyphs are one of the least studied on Earth. They are also the only rock art in Russia discovered above the Arctic Circle.

The spectacular art gallery - scientists found 350 stone planes, each with dozens of drawings - was 'opened' at least two thousand years ago, when ancient artists embossed petroglyphs on rocks of what is now Chukotka, Russia's easternmost corner.

Comment: See also: And check out SOTT radio's:


China's mysterious Sanxingdui ruins reveal more stunning relics

© Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute
A gold mask unearthed from Sanxingdui Ruins: Chinese cultural relic authorities on Thursday revealed some new discoveries from the mysterious Sanxingdui Ruins in Sichuan Province, including a gold mask, a huge bronze mask, bronze statues and ivory carvings.
A complete gold mask 37.2 centimeters wide, 16.5 centimeters high and about 100 grams in weight was unearthed from No.3 Pit of the Sanxingdui Ruins, the local cultural relic authority announced on Thursday.

The golden mask shares a similar size and the same facial features as one of the bronze heads unearthed at the Sanxingdui Ruins.

"We speculate that this golden mask was a part of the face of the bronze head instead of a separate object," Ran Hongling, head of the Sanxingdui Institute of Archaeology, told the Global Times.

Comment: Wikpedia has some excellent images of some of the other previously excavated, bizarre and fascinating finds from Sanxingdui:

© Tyg728/Wikipedia
A large bronze head with protruding eyes believed to be a depiction of Cancong, the semi-legendary first king of Shu[8]

Bronze Tree
© Wikipedia/momo
The figure is hollow inside with a total height of 2.62 m and the height of the human part measures 1.72 m.

The figure wore three layers of clothing with a ribbon, and bracelets on both hands and feet. It is generally believed that this figure was a king and shaman leader, that is, the highest authority assumed the triple status of god, shaman and king.
The figure has oversize hands and was clearly intended to hold some large object, now lost. Possibilities include a jade cong or an elephant tusk, both found in the pits.
See also:


900-year-old cosmic mystery surrounding Chinese supernova of 1181AD solved

1181AD Supernova
© The University of Manchester
A 900-year-old cosmic mystery surrounding the origins of a famous supernova first spotted over China in 1181AD has finally been solved, according to an international team of astronomers.

New research published today (September 15, 2021) says that a faint, fast expanding cloud (or nebula), called Pa30, surrounding one of the hottest stars in the Milky Way, known as Parker's Star, fits the profile, location and age of the historic supernova.

There have only been five bright supernovae in the Milky Way in the last millennium (starting in 1006). Of these, the Chinese supernova, which is also known as the 'Chinese Guest Star' of 1181AD has remained a mystery. It was originally seen and documented by Chinese and Japanese astronomers in the 12th century who said it was as bright as the planet Saturn and remained visible for six months. They also recorded an approximate location in the sky of the sighting, but no confirmed remnant of the explosion has even been identified by modern astronomers. The other four supernovae are all now well known to modern day science and include the famous Crab nebula.

The source of this 12th century explosion remained a mystery until this latest discovery made by a team of international astronomers from Hong Kong, the UK, Spain, Hungary and France, including Professor Albert Zijlstra from The University of Manchester. In the new paper, the astronomers found that the Pa 30 nebula is expanding at an extreme velocity of more than 1,100 km per second (at this speed, traveling from the Earth to the Moon would take only 5 minutes). They use this velocity to derive an age at around 1,000 years, which would coincide with the events of 1181AD.


Roman port discovered underwater off north-eastern Crete

roman port underwater crete
© Greek Ministry of Culture
The underwater remains of a Roman-era port at Sitia, Crete were documented as part of ongoing archaeological research this past year.
Treasures from the Roman era of Greek history were discovered recently at the bottom of the sea near the old Roman port at Sitia on the Gulf of Palekastro on the Greek island of Crete.

The underwater research, undertaken by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in the Gulf of Palekastro was completed in August.

For the first time, the remains of a shipwreck were found in the form of a number of stunningly lovely amphorae from the second century AD, resting on the seabed as they had been loaded onto a ship that researchers believe most likely originated from the Iberian Peninsula.