Secret HistoryS


Human-Neanderthal Mating Was Rare: Study

Human-neanderthal mating
© State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt
Scientists have shown that modern humans have some traces of genes from Neanderthals, but a study out on Monday suggests that any breeding between the two was most likely a rare event.

The new computational model, based on DNA samples from modern humans in France and China, shows successful coupling happened at a rate of less than two percent.

The research suggests that either inter-species sex was very taboo, or that the hybrid offspring had trouble surviving, according to the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

There may have been "extremely strong barriers to gene flow between the two species because of a very low fitness of human-Neanderthal hybrids, a very strong avoidance of interspecific mating, or a combination," said the study by researchers at the University of Geneva and the University of Berne in Switzerland.

Between two and four percent of the human genome can be linked to the long-extinct Neanderthals and their cavemen relatives.


US: Arctic Archeological Dig Uncovers Mysterious Disks

Mystery Disk
© Scott ShirarUA Museum of the North fine arts collection manager Mareca Guthrie makes a tracing of the petroglyph-adorned boulder that marks one of the prehistoric house pit at Feniak Lake.

Mysterious disks found at an archeological dig in Northwest Alaska have experts puzzled.

The four small pieces, formed from clay, are round and adorned with markings. Two have neatly centered holes. They may be 1,000 years old and, at the moment, what they were used for is anyone's guess.

The existence of similarly-decorated boulders at old village sites in Noatak National Preserve was first recorded by archeologists in the 1960s. But the sites remained unstudied until last summer when Scott Shirar, a research archeologist at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, took an expedition for a closer look at two locations.

Making small-scale excavations, they came upon the disks.

"The first one looks like a little stone that had some scratch marks on it," said Shirar. "We got really excited when we found the second one with the drilled hole and the more complicated etchings on it. That's when we realized we had something unique.

"We only opened up a really small amount of ground at the site, so the fact that we found four of these artifacts indicates there are probably more and that something really significant (was) happening."

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Debt Came Before Money: An Interview with Economic Anthropologist David Graeber

Ancient Mesopotamian Coin
David Graeber currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University London. Prior to this he was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University. He is the author of 'Debt: The First 5,000 Years' which is available from Amazon.

Interview conducted by Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer based in Dublin, Ireland.

Philip Pilkington: Let's begin. Most economists claim that money was invented to replace the barter system. But you've found something quite different, am I correct?

David Graeber: Yes there's a standard story we're all taught, a 'once upon a time' - it's a fairy tale.

It really deserves no other introduction: according to this theory all transactions were by barter. "Tell you what, I'll give you twenty chickens for that cow." Or three arrow-heads for that beaver pelt or what-have-you. This created inconveniences, because maybe your neighbor doesn't need chickens right now, so you have to invent money.

The story goes back at least to Adam Smith and in its own way it's the founding myth of economics. Now, I'm an anthropologist and we anthropologists have long known this is a myth simply because if there were places where everyday transactions took the form of: "I'll give you twenty chickens for that cow," we'd have found one or two by now. After all people have been looking since 1776, when the Wealth of Nations first came out. But if you think about it for just a second, it's hardly surprising that we haven't found anything.


Bulgarian Archaeology Finds Said to Rewrite History of Black Sea Sailing

Massive ancient stone anchors were found by divers participating in an archaeological expedition near the southern Bulgarian Black Sea town of Sozopol.

© BNGESThe 200-kg beautifully ornamented anchors have two holes in them – one for the anchor rope and another one for a wooden stick.
The expedition, led by deputy director of Bulgaria's National Historical Museum Dr Ivan Hristov, found the precious artifacts west of the Sts. Cyricus and Julitta island.

The 200-kg beautifully ornamented anchors have two holes in them - one for the anchor rope and another one for a wooden stick. They were used for 150-200-ton ships that transported mainly wheat, but also dried and salted fish, skins, timber and metals from what now is Bulgaria's coast.


1,400-Year-Old Funeral Chamber Found in Mexico

A 1,400-year-old funeral chamber was found by chance in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, authorities said.

The chamber, regarded as an elite burial place and dating between A.D. 600 and A.D. 900, was found by locals in the village of Chilacachapa, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said late Wednesday.

Locals intended to bring down a dry stone wall that risked collapse when they came upon the tomb. Under the stones, they found sand and then a stone slab, and they alerted INAH officials. Archaeologists then reviewed the site and consolidated the finding.

"After looking through what was inside layer by layer, we came to the conclusion that the skeleton or skeletons of individuals that were put inside the tomb, perhaps that of a ruler, were taken out six centuries ago, before the Spaniards arrived," an INAH statement said.

Archaeologists noted that the chamber was built by the Chontal ethnic group. It ends in a vault.

Archaeologist Edgar Pineda noted that it was probably linked to a building on the surface, most likely at the center of a former city.


US: Researchers Find Ancient Artifacts in Alaska

© Scott ShirarResearch archaeologist Scott Shirar holds one of the clay disks found during the excavation at Feniak Lake.
Archaeologist Scott Shirar expected to find boulders adorned with petroglyphs during his expedition to explore the previously discovered remains of three prehistoric lakefront dwellings in Northwest Alaska's Noatak National Preserve this summer.

When he and members of his team began small-scale excavations at two of the sites, they made a new discovery: four decorated clay disks that appear to be the first of their kind found in Alaska.

"The first one looks like a little stone that had some scratch marks on it," said Shirar, a research archaeologist at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. "We got really excited when we found the second one with the drilled hole and the more complicated etchings on it. That's when we realized we had something unique."

After sharing information with colleagues and looking up examples in the archaeological record, Shirar said the disks appear to be a new artifact type for Alaska. "We only opened up a really small amount of ground at the site, so the fact that we found four of these artifacts indicates there are probably more and that something really significant is happening."


Divers Find Artifacts from 1854 Shipwreck in Northwest Passage

© Caspar David FriedrichThe Wreck of Hope. This painting depicts a shipwreck in the middle of a broken ice-sheet. The seen ship is HMS Griper, one of two ships that took part in William Edward Parry's 1819–1820 and 1824 expeditions to find the Northwest Passage.
A musket and other artifacts from HMS Investigator, the ship abandoned in the Canadian Arctic in 1854 during the hunt for Sir John Franklin's lost expedition, have been recovered by divers. The ship is credited with discovering the Northwest Passage.

Shoes, a musket, a copper sheet, and parts of the ship's rigging were among the items brought up over nine days this July from the wreck discovered last summer in Mercy Bay, off Banks Island in the Northwest Territories, in Canada's North. Divers were lucky enough to find the usually ice-covered bay largely open water during the expedition.

Archeologists photographed and mapped the ship using sonar and video to determine its state of preservation.

"Although the hull is basically survived up to the main deck, the main deck is a litter of timbers," Bernier said at a news conference.

The ship continues to be damaged by ice, he said, but there was a lot of sediment within the interior of the ship.


Mother tongue comes from your prehistoric father

© Unknown
Language change among our prehistoric ancestors came about via the arrival of immigrant men - rather than women - into new settlements, according to new research.

The claim is made by two University of Cambridge academics, Peter Forster and Colin Renfrew, in a report to be published in Science on September 9.

They studied the instances of genetic markers (the male Y chromosome and female mtDNA) from several thousand individuals in communities around the world that seem to show the emergence globally of sex-specific transmission of language.

From Scandinavian Vikings who ferried kidnapped British women to Iceland - to African, Indian and Polynesian tribes, a pattern has emerged which appears to show that the arrival of men to particular geographic locations - through either agricultural dispersal or the arrival of military forces - can have a significant impact on what language is spoken there.


Bones of Roman-Era Babies Killed at Birth Reveal a Mystery

Infant Skeleton
© English HeritageOne infant's skeleton found at the Hambleden site. An analysis of remains from 35 infants revealed they were most likely killed at birth.

The bones spent close to a century in 35 small boxes meant to hold loose cigarettes and shotgun cartridges, each box big enough to hold the complete skeleton of one infant. Then Jill Eyers found them in a museum archive.

"It was quite heart-rending, really, to open all these little cigarette boxes and find babies inside," said Eyers, an archaeologist and director of Chiltern Archaeology in England. "But they kept very well over 100 years."

These remains were already ancient by the time they were excavated from the English countryside in 1912 and put into boxes. Eyers estimates they are now about 1,800 years old, dating back to the time when England was part of the Roman Empire.

These 35 babies appear to have died soon after they were born, the victims of infanticide. But while these deaths clearly seem unnatural, Eyers and a fellow researcher disagree on the circumstances behind them, with Eyers suspecting a brothel was to blame.


4,500- and 1,000-year-old tombs have been discovered in Paulesti, Romania

Two 4,500-year-old tombs and another one aged 1,000 years have been discovered in Paulesti, a few kilometres away from Ploiesti (Prahova County).

Inside the 1,000-year-old tomb archeologists found the remains of a human buried in a position similar to Christians and the remains of a horse, making specialists believe the tomb belongs to a member of the Pechenegs, nomadic people that lived in the 10th-11th centuries. Archeologists continue to look for other ancient tombs in the area.