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The very ancient mariners: Early human ancestors were more advanced than first thought and sailed the high seas

Early man is normally portrayed as a grunting cave-dweller of little intelligence and limited horizons.

But new research suggests that our ancestors may have been smarter than we give them credit for.

Archeologists now believe that man was crossing the Mediterranean Sea from northern Africa at least 130,000 years ago - more than 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.

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Older than you think: These tools are now known to have been made in Crete 130,000 years ago - proof that early man must have sailed to the island before then to make them
The re-think comes after a number of ancient tools found on the island of Crete were accurately dated - and found to have been made by our early ancestors, Homo Erectus.

Cow Skull

Reindeer herder finds baby mammoth in Russia Arctic

A reindeer herder in Russia's Arctic has stumbled on the pre-historic remains of a baby woolly mammoth poking out of the permafrost, local officials said on Friday.

The herder said the carcass was as perfectly preserved as the 40,000-year-old mammoth calf Lyuba discovered in the same remote region four years ago, authorities said, adding that an expedition had set off hoping to confirm the "sensational" find.

"If it is true what is said about how it is preserved, this will be another sensation of global significance," expedition leader Natalia Fyodorova said in a statement on the Arctic Yamalo-Nenetsk region's official website.

Sherlock

Defending a Mayan Jungle Kingdom

Newly uncovered fortifications reveal how ancient Maya rulers struggled for wealth and territory

The Usumacinta River cuts a meandering path through a mountainous rain forest and forms part of an international border with Mexico on its west bank and Guatemala on its east. In the past, the land around the Usumacinta was criss-crossed by a constantly shifting web of borders as the rulers of ancient Maya cities fought wars and made alliances to expand the size and influence of their kingdoms. But little evidence of where the borders of these kingdoms actually lay had been found, until the recent discovery of a series of stone walls standing three to six feet high, strung out through a four-mile-long stretch of the rain forest. These walls, which divided the kingdoms of Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras, were used to defend Yaxchilan's northern border. The walls provide important clues about the military tactics as well as the causes of the fighting that took place during the tumultuous period 1,300 years ago when both cities were at the peak of their power.

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© Sierra del Lacandon Regional Archaeology Project
An archaeological survey in the rain forest on the border between Mexico and Guatemala is revealing a series of stone walls that were used to defend the border between the warring Maya kingdoms of Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras.

Sherlock

"Britain's First Pre-Roman Planned Town" Found Near Reading

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© BBC News
The site was first excavated from 1890 to 1909
Archaeologists believe they have found the first pre-Roman planned town discovered in Britain.

It has been unearthed beneath the Roman town of Silchester or Calleva Atrebatum near modern Reading.

The Romans are often credited with bringing civilisation to Britain - including town planning.

But excavations have shown evidence of an Iron Age town built on a grid and signs inhabitants had access to imported wine and olive oil.

Prof Mike Fulford, an archaeologist at the University of Reading, said the people of Iron Age Silchester appear to have adopted an urbanised 'Roman' way of living, long before the Romans arrived.

"It is very remarkable to find this evidence of a planned Iron Age layout before the arrival of the Romans and the development of a planned, Roman town," he said.

"Indeed, it would be hard to see a significant difference between the lifestyles of the inhabitants of the Iron Age town and of its Roman successor in the 1st Century AD."

Sherlock

US: Minnesota - Archaeologists unearth pieces of Hastings' woolly past

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© Pioneer Press: Richard Marshall
Archaeologist technician John Terrell of St. Paul Park sifts through pebbles on his screen at a dig on the site of a 19th century saloon and cigar factory in Hastings on Monday, Aug. 15, 2011.
A crew dug in the dirt near the site of the new U.S. 61 Bridge in Hastings this week - and they weren't construction workers.

With the High Bridge and City Hall as backdrops, a team of archaeologists and their assistants huddled around a shallow trench off U.S. 61/Vermillion Street, analyzing and sifting through soil for historical artifacts.

The excavation by Two Pines Resource Group began Aug. 7, shortly after a bridge crew tore up a frontage road between Second and Third streets and uncovered pieces of Hastings' buried past.

The 10-day dig, required because federal money is being used for the new bridge, focused around mid-1870s limestone footings from a Third Street saloon and a separate grocery store that fronted Vermillion Street. The work wrapped up Tuesday.

Not surprisingly, said Michelle Terrell, co-owner of Two Pines, the crew unearthed lots of saloon artifacts - pieces of clay smoking pipes, mineral-water bottle fragments and stemware fragments from serving glasses - as well as stoneware crockery and animal bones presumably from the grocery store and an adjacent meat market.

"It's kind of a fluke of history that when these buildings were taken down, the road protected them," said Terrell, who wore a baseball hat that read, "Play in the dirt."

Sherlock

Peru: Children Found Sacrificed in Pre-Incan Ritual

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© Reuters
The bodies were found near the ancient city of Chan Chan
Peruvian archaeologists have uncovered the remains of 12 children and 20 llamas sacrificed some 800 years ago by the pre-Incan Chimu civilization.

The bodies were discovered in good condition during excavations in the northern coast of the country at Huanchaquito, some 500km from the capital Lima.

The bodies were found near the ancient city of Chan Chan, a government and religious centre of the Chimus.

Experts believe the children and animals were killed in a ritual similar to the Incan ceremony known as Capacocha, which was organized before the imminent death or birth of an Incan emperor.

Archaeologists also suspect the sacrifice could have been done to settle down nature's forces because the remains were found amid clay, suggesting they were buried during a rainy season.

Magnify

US, Georgia: Archaeologists Comb Newly-Found Civil War POW Camp

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© The Associated Press / Georgia Southern University, Amanda L. Morrow
In this undated photo provided by Georgia Southern University, an 1863 Grocer’s Token made of bronze is shown at Camp Lawton a Civil War-era POW facility, near Millen, Ga.
When word reached Camp Lawton that the enemy army of Gen. William T. Sherman was approaching, the prison camp's Confederate officers rounded up their thousands of Union army POWs for a swift evacuation - leaving behind rings, buckles, coins and other keepsakes that would remain undisturbed for nearly 150 years.

Archaeologists are still discovering unusual, and sometimes stunningly personal, artifacts a year after state officials revealed that a graduate student had pinpointed the location of the massive but short-lived Civil War camp in southeast Georgia.

Discoveries made as recently as a few weeks ago were being displayed Thursday at the Statesboro campus of Georgia Southern University. They include a soldier's copper ring bearing the insignia of the Union army's 3rd Corps, which fought bloody battles at Gettysburg and Manassas, and a payment token stamped with the still-legible name of a grocery store in Michigan.

Dollar

Could Ancient Business Predict Our Future?

Ancient Business
© Dreamstime

While many may consider Milan or Paris the world's fashion capitals, author Keith Roberts says in a new book the industry got its true start centuries ago on what is now the coast of Syria.

It was there, in 1200 B.C., that the Phoenicians found a black substance in clams that could be turned into purple dye for clothing - lending some color to fashion, which until then had comprised only plain fabrics, and establishing the Phoenicians as one of the earliest commercial powers.

"That started out as the fashion capital of the world," Roberts told BusinessNewsDaily. "The Phoenicians became extremely successful in business."

It's the origins of businesses like that one that Roberts explores in his new book The Origins of Business, Money and Markets (Columbia University Press, 2011) which explains the history of businesses from their earliest beginnings in ancient Mesopotamia.

Info

Ancient Roman Jar Riddled with Mystery

Ancient Jar
© Katie Urban / Museum of Ontario Archaeology
This ancient jar is full of holes, including one at its base; though scientists have no idea what it was used for, they believe it dates back 1,800 years to Roman Britain.

An ancient clay vessel reconstructed from pieces discovered at a Canadian museum is riddled with tiny holes, leaving archaeologists baffled over what it was used for.

The jar, just 16 inches (40 centimeters) tall and dating back about 1,800 years, was found shattered into an unrecognizable 180 pieces in a storage room at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. But even after it was restored, the scientists were faced with a mystery. So far no one has been able to identify another artifact like it from the Roman world.

"Everyone's stumped by it," Katie Urban, one of the researchers at the London, Ontario, museum, told LiveScience. "We've been sending it around to all sorts of Roman pottery experts and other pottery experts, and no one seems to be able to come up with an example."

The jar may have held rodent snacks for ancient Romans, or even served as a lamp, the researchers speculate, though no theory definitively holds water.

Stop

The Witch Trial That Made Legal History

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© William Harrison Ainsworth
An illustration of Ann Redferne and Chattox, two of the Pendle witches, from Ainsworth's novel The Lancashire Witches, published in 1849. Ann Redferne is called Nance in the novel, and described as Chattox' grand-daughter, although she was in reality her daughter.
In recent years children as young as three have given evidence in court cases, but in the past children under 14 were seen as unreliable witnesses. A notorious 17th Century witch trial changed that.

Nine-year-old Jennet Device was an illegitimate beggar and would have been lost to history but for her role in one of the most disturbing trials on record.

Jennet's evidence in the 1612 Pendle witch trial in Lancashire led to the execution of 10 people, including all of her own family.

In England at that time paranoia was endemic. James l was on the throne, living in fear of a Catholic rebellion in the aftermath of Guy Fawkes' gun powder plot. The king had a reputation as an avid witch-hunter and wrote a book called Demonology.

"It was a mandate for the British to fight witches," explains Prof Ronald Hutton from the University of Bristol.