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Mon, 20 Feb 2017
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Secret History


Auroch carved in stone paints picture of Europe's early human culture

© P. Jugie/Musée National de Préhistoire (photo), R. Bourrillon et al/Quaternary International 2017
CULTURED COW - A 38,000-year-old engraved stone (left), depicting an aurochs, or wild cow, covered with dots, was unearthed at a French rock-shelter. Symbolic elements of Europe’s earliest human culture appear in the engraving, its discoverers say. Drawings of the find (center) and of the aurochs separated from the dots show the scene more clearly.
This stone engraving of an aurochs, or wild cow, found in a French rock-shelter in 2012, provides glimpses of an ancient human culture's spread across Central and Western Europe, researchers say.

Rows of dots partly cover the aurochs. A circular depression cut into the center of the animal's body may have caused the limestone to split in two, says Stone Age art specialist Raphaëlle Bourrillon of the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès in France. Radiocarbon dating of animal bones unearthed near the discovery at Abri Blanchard rock-shelter put the engraving's age at roughly 38,000 years, Bourrillon and colleagues report online January 24 in Quaternary International.

The rock art is similar to some engravings and drawings found at other French and German sites, including the famous Chauvet Cave (SN: 6/30/12, p. 12), and attributed to the Aurignacian culture, which dates to between 43,000 and 33,000 years ago. Like the new find, that art includes rows of dots, depictions of aurochs and various animals shown in profile with a single horn and a long, thin muzzle.

Within a few thousand years of arriving in Europe from Africa, Aurignacian groups developed regional styles of artwork based on images that had deep meaning for all of them, proposes anthropologist and study coauthor Randall White of New York University, who directed the excavation.


Abu Dhabi archaeologists unearth rare, well-preserved 7,500 year-old Stone Age house

© Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority
An aerial view of the outline of the Stone Age house found on the island of Marawah, where archeologists hope to find many more.
Archaeologists have revealed the discovery of what they describe as one of the most remarkable and rare finds in the Gulf region - a 7,500-year-old, well-preserved three-room house. The house was excavated on Marawah Island, just off the coast of Abu Dhabi, at what was once one of the region's largest Stone Age settlements.

"These important discoveries signify Abu Dhabi's advanced construction methods from the Neolithic [era] and the influential role it had in early long-distance maritime trade," said ­Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. "The expertise of our team of archaeologists allows us to build a narrative of the emirate's ­development and history, piecing together an intriguing and intricate story of the earliest known inhabitants of the emirate of Abu Dhabi."

Abdulla Al Kaabi, TCA coastal heritage archaeologist, said radiocarbon dating of the deposit revealed the age of the house. "This style of architecture is unique for this period and has never been found before in the region," he said.

Dr Mark Beech, head of coastal heritage and palaeontology at TCA, said it was "very unusual" to find a Stone Age house "so well preserved that you have a complete plan of the structure". "It's a stunning find because there are no parallels to it anywhere else in the Gulf coast region," he said.


Keros Island in Greece played an important role in antiquity

© Wikimedia Commons
Broken idols of Keros: British archaeologists explain Greek mystery as they dig up evidence of beautiful marble figurines broken then buried by Greeks 4,500 years ago.
One of ancient Greece's most mysterious sites, the oldest island sanctuary in the world on the remote and uninhabited island of Keros, has revealed new, advanced levels of complexity after a decade of investigation by British archaeologist Sir Colin Renfrew.

The sanctuary dates back to about 3000 BC, in the Bronze Age, and Sir Renfrew describes it as "the world's earliest maritime sanctuary".

The latest finding is a staircase that connected the Kavos mount with Daskalio, a rocky islet just offshore, before the strip of land that connects the two spots sank in the water.

The island is located between the Greek islands of Naxos and Santorini that also played an important role during the Bronze Age, and according to a Times article, the new findings are as old as the Pyramids.

Thousands of fragmented parts of cycladic figurines as well as marble basins and unusual pottery for drinking wine, all used as ritual offerings, were also located in this stony, scrub-covered hillside.

Archaelogists were most impressed discovering that no whole figurine has been found or parts that 'fit' together, meaning that the parts arrived to Kavos already fragmented. Furthermore, none of the over 500 figurine parts or of the 2,500 strange parts of marble basins have not found its other part in any cycladic object found elsewhere.


7,700-year-old skeletons of two women found in a Russian cave turn out to be closely related to the modern population

© Yuriy Chernyavskiy
The 7,700-year-old remains of two hunter-gatherer women found in a Russian cave have been genetically analysed, and the results reveal an unexpected similarity between their genetic make-up, and that of the modern population living in the region today.

This suggests that for almost 8,000 years, there's been very little migration in Russia's frozen, eastern corner. Which is surprising, because in most parts of the world the human gene pool diversified significantly across the same time period, thanks to the arrival of agriculture.

But the new genetic results found that the DNA of modern East Asian populations is very closely related to that of two hunter-gatherer women who lived in the region 7,700 years ago - hinting that an unbroken genetic line in the region with very little 'population turnover' since around 5,600 BCE.

"Genetically speaking, the populations across northern East Asia have changed very little for around eight millennia," said lead researcher Andrea Manica, from the University of Cambridge in the UK.

The study analysed DNA taking from the teeth and bones of two women found in a cave known as Devil's Gate, located in the Amur Basin region in far eastern Russia, near the coast where Russia borders North Korea.

The cave was first excavated by Soviet scientists in 1973, when the team came across hundreds of stones and bone tools, the wood of a former dwelling, woven wild grass, and the remains of five humans.

The site itself dates back to more than 9,000 years ago, but the researchers looked at DNA from the skulls of two females that are estimated to have died around 7,700 years ago. One was in her early 20s, and the other was close to 50 years old.

Analysis of such ancient DNA is incredibly tricky, seeing as genetic information degrades over time. But the team was able to obtain enough mitochondrial DNA - a type of longer-lasting DNA only passed down between females - from the two women to study.


Researchers unearth 12,000yo male skeleton containing prostate stones

© Centro Studi Sudanesi e Sub-Sahariani - Treviso/Università di Padova
12,000-year-old prostate stones
Italian and British researchers investigating a prehistoric cemetery in central Sudan have found what they believe are the oldest prostate stones, revealing the disease affected men as early as 12,000 years ago.

The stones, as large as walnuts, were found in 2013 in the pelvic area of an adult male in a burial discovered in the prehistoric cemetery of Al Khiday. The cemetery lies on the left bank of the White Nile some 12 miles south of Omdurman (Khartoum).

The remains of the man, who likely experienced extreme pain in the course of the disease, were unearthed as a team led by Donatella Usai and Sandro Salvatori, at the Center for Sudanese and sub-Saharan studies in Treviso, Italy, investigated some 900 square miles in the prehistoric cemetery.

Usai and colleagues, who detailed their findings in the journal PLOS ONE, recovered 190 graves. The burials date to three different periods, from as early as 12,000 years ago to 2,000 years ago.


Scientists discover giant lost continent hidden beneath island of Mauritius

The lost continent is buried beneath Mauritius and was swallowed up the ocean more than 80 million years ago
Newly discovered landmass thought to have been part of a massive super-continent that disappeared 84 million years ago

Scientists have discovered a gigantic "lost continent" called Mauritia hidden beneath the island of Mauritius.

It is believed this prehistoric landmass disappeared into the ocean when Madagascar and India split apart.

Comment: See also: Gathering Gondwana: New look at an ancient puzzle


What Smedley Butler Found Out in Haiti

Cacos rebels
In July 1915, Haiti's head of state, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, was cornered in the French embassy by rebel forces. The insurgents had widespread popular support. This was no shock, since Sam was known as a rampaging, vindictive thug who had seized the government by force and murdered hundreds of his political enemies before running for cover.

When a mob finally found him cowering in an attic, they hacked their president to pieces.

The island nation, once known as the "pearl of the antilles," had been through seven presidents in four years, most of them killed or removed prematurely. The rural north was under the control of the Cacos, a rebel movement that adopted its name from the cry of a native bird. Although widely portrayed as a group of murderous bandits, the Cacos were essentially nationalists, and were attempting to resist the control of France, the U.S, and the small minority of mulattos who dominated the economy.


13th century boy who preserved his homework on birch bark

Birch bark letter no. 202: spelling lessons and drawings
Onfim was an ordinary boy who lived in Novgorod, Russia, during the 13th century. As was common practice at the time, he wrote letters and drew pictures on birch bark with a sharp stylus.

Accidentally, Onfim created fascinating archaeological data which was discovered centuries after he lived. This unintentional time capsule has provided a unique insight into life in Medieval Novgorod.

Onfim was a six or seven-year-old boy who preserved his personal messages, IOUs, love letters, shopping lists, syllables, notes, and homework in the clay soil of Novgorod. He also kept his drawings which depicted everyday experiences such as fights between him and his teacher.

Comment: See also:


Rare dinosaur prints found in B.C., Canada

© CP
'A cross between a hallucinogenic dream and your worst nightmare'
Paleontologists in northeast B.C. have revealed a series of rare discoveries at a recently uncovered dinosaur track site, including a footprint not yet seen anywhere else in the world.

The print is of a four-toed meat-eating dinosaur, said Richard McCrea of the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre.

"Most of the meat-eating dinosaurs had three functional toes," he told CBC Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.

Comment: Also see:


16th century pendant engraved with Tudor rose found at building site near Kremlin

© mos.ru
According to archaeologists the pendant dates back to 1590. It has a French phrase engraved on it – 'Dieu et mon droit,' which translates into English as 'God and my right.'
A 400-year-old pendant engraved with the Tudor rose, a traditional emblem of England and a symbol of the Tudor dynasty, has been found at a building site near the Kremlin in the heart of the Russian capital.

The pendant, made of tin and lead, is some 5cm in diameter and bears the Tudor rose on its front - a typical feature of the English monarchy which is a white and red rose juxtaposition representing the merger of the two warring houses of York and Lancaster in the 15th century after a protracted conflict.

According to archaeologists, this particular item dates back to 1590. It has a French phrase engraved on it - 'Dieu et mon droit,' which translates into English as 'God and my right.' This has been the motto of the UK monarch since the 12th century.