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Fri, 09 Dec 2022
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65,000-year-old jawbone may represent earliest presence of humans in Europe

Neandertal human
© Brian Keeling
Comparison of the Banyoles mandible (center), with H. sapiens (left), and a Neandertal (right).
For over a century, one of the earliest human fossils ever discovered in Spain has been long considered a Neandertal. However, new analysis from an international research team, including scientists at Binghamton University, State University of New York, dismantles this century-long interpretation, demonstrating that this fossil is not a Neandertal; rather, it may actually represent the earliest presence of Homo sapiens ever documented in Europe.

In 1887, a fossil mandible was discovered during quarrying activities in the town of Banyoles, Spain, and has been studied by different researchers over the past century. The Banyoles fossil likely dates to between approximately 45,000-65,000 years ago, at a time when Europe was occupied by Neandertals, and most researchers have generally linked it to this species.

Comment: See also: Most human origins theories are not compatible with known fossils


11,000-year-old carved relief found in Turkey

The 11,000-year-old carved relief, found in Turkey, is the oldest narrative carving on record.
Narrative Scene
© Photograph by K. Akdemir; Antiquity Publications Ltd
A male figure holding his phallus and flanked by leopards is part of the world's oldest known narrative scene.
An 11,000-year-old rock-cut relief in southeastern Turkey featuring menacing animals and two men, one of whom is holding his genitalia, is the oldest narrative scene on record, a new study suggests.

Archaeologists discovered the curious carvings on built-in benches within a Neolithic (or New Stone Age) building in the Urfa region. Measuring roughly 2.5 to 3 feet (0.7 to 0.9 meter) tall and 12 feet (3.7 m) long, the newly discovered rock-cut relief showcases two leopards, a bull and the two men — one grasping his phallus and the other holding a rattle or snake.

Whoever carved the wild creatures accentuated their dangerous, pointy parts — the leopards' teeth and the bulls' horns. But exactly what this narrative was meant to convey is lost to time, according to the study, which was published Thursday (Dec. 8) in the journal Antiquity.

Archaeologists found the carved scene at Sayburç, a Neolithic mound site roughly 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of the Euphrates River and 20 miles (32 km) north of the Syrian border. Sayburç dates to the ninth millennium B.C., a time when hunter-gatherers were shifting to farming and long-term settlements.


"Once in a lifetime" 1300-year-old gemstone necklace discovered in England may have belonged to high status Christian woman

necklace medieval
Archaeologists from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) have uncovered an ornate 1300-year-old gold and gemstone necklace during excavations in Northamptonshire, England.

The necklace was discovered in the burial of a high-status female burial from the early Medieval period, during preliminary works in preparation for a housing development by the Vistry Group.

The necklace, described as a "once in a lifetime" find, has 30 pendants and beads made from Roman coins, gold, garnets, glass, and semi-precious gemstones. A rectangular pendant with a cross motif forms the centrepiece of the necklace and is inlaid with red garnets set in gold.

The find is part of a collection of grave goods still being investigated that has been dubbed the 'Harpole Treasure', based on the name of the local parish. Experts have stated that the female burial is one the most significant from the period ever discovered in Britain.

Comment: See also: Secrets of the exceptional diatretic vase revealed, recently discovered at 4th century Paleo-Christian necropolis in Autun, France


The volunteer super-spy: How a German businessman stole the newest US missile for Moscow

© RT Composite
Manfred Ramminger
Soviet intelligence officers were used to agents who were ideology-driven. Many super-spies obtained top secret information motivated by their political beliefs and, what they saw as, working for the good of mankind. Others were in it for the money.

One way or another, the life of a real spy has little in common with world-famous James Bond movies. Sometimes intelligence services recruit even the least likely candidates. Something like that happened in the late 1960s when Manfred Ramminger, a German architect, race car driver, and playboy, volunteered to steal the newest US missile for the USSR.

Even more incredible was that he shipped it over to the other side of the iron curtain via regular mail.


Mysterious 5,000-year-old owl-like plaques may have been ancient toys

owl carvings practice children toy
Study of 5,000-year-old Copper Age owl-like plaques suggests that they may have been ancient toys made by children.

Over 4,000 owl-like slate plaques have been found at burial sites in the south-western Iberian Peninsula. They date from a period between 5,400 to 4,750 years ago, often sharing several characteristics, such as engraved circles as eyes, and an outlined body at the bottom representing the plumage of an owl.

Researchers have theorised for more than a century about the origin and purpose of the plaques. They were through to have a ritual significance, possibly to represent deities or the deceased.

Gold Bar

Gold Rush treasures from 1857 shipwreck up for auction in Reno

S.S. Central America mail ship shipwreck gold
© Library of Congress via AP, File
This undated drawing made available by the Library of Congress shows the U.S. Mail ship S.S. Central America, which sank after sailing into a hurricane in September 1857 in one of the worst maritime disasters in American history.
Since the recovery of sunken treasure began decades ago from an 1857 shipwreck off the coast of South Carolina, tens of millions of dollars worth of gold has been sold.

But scientists, historians and collectors say that the real fortunes will begin to hit the auction block on Saturday. For the first time, hundreds of Gold Rush-era artifacts entombed in the wreckage of the S.S. Central America will go on public sale.

Known as the "Ship of Gold," the steamship sank on Sept. 12, 1857, in a hurricane on its way from Panama to New York City. Most of the passengers boarded the S.S. Central America in Panama after traveling from San Francisco on another ship and taking the train across the isthmus.


Homo naledi may have lit fires in underground caves at least 236,000 years ago

Remnants of small fireplaces and sooty wall and ceiling smudges found in South African cave system.
Homo Naledi Skull
An ancient southern African hominid called Homo naledi, represented here by a child’s partial fossil skull, possibly used fire sometime between 335,000 and 236,000 years ago, new cave finds suggest.
An ancient hominid dubbed Homo naledi may have lit controlled fires in the pitch-dark chambers of an underground cave system, new discoveries hint.

Researchers have found remnants of small fireplaces and sooty wall and ceiling smudges in passages and chambers throughout South Africa's Rising Star cave complex, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger announced in a December 1 lecture hosted by the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington, D.C.

"Signs of fire use are everywhere in this cave system," said Berger, of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

H. naledi presumably lit the blazes in the caves since remains of no other hominids have turned up there, the team says. But the researchers have yet to date the age of the fire remains. And researchers outside Berger's group have yet to evaluate the new finds.

H. naledi fossils date to between 335,000 and 236,000 years ago (SN: 5/9/17), around the time Homo sapiens originated (SN: 6/7/17). Many researchers suspect that regular use of fire by hominids for light, warmth and cooking began roughly 400,000 years ago (SN: 4/2/12).

Gold Bar

Gold from ancient Troy, Poliochni and Ur all had same origin

New laser method enables study of famous jewelry - trade links in Early Bronze Age stretched as far as Indus valley.
Deposits of Gold
© Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Known sites where deposits of gold were found in the Bronze Age and circulation of a striking earring with four small spirals.
The gold in objects from Troy, Poliochni - a settlement on the island of Lemnos which lies roughly 60 kilometers away from Troy - and Ur in Mesopotamia have the same geographic origin and were traded over great distances. This discovery has been made by an international team of researchers which using an innovative mobile laser method has for the first time been able to analyze samples of the famous Early Bronze Age jewelry from Troy and Poliochni. The results have been published in Journal of Archaeological Science.

The study was initiated by Ernst Pernicka, scientific director of the Curt-Engelhorn Center for Archaeometry (CEZA) at the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums in Mannheim and director of the University of Tübingen's Troy project, and Barbara Horejs, director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute (ÖAI) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Their international team brought together scientists and archaeologists from the Curt-Engelhorn Center for Archaeometry, the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Vienna and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Ever since Heinrich Schliemann discovered Priam's Treasure in Troy in 1873, the origin of the gold has been a mystery. Professor Pernicka and the international team has now been able to prove that it derived from what are known as secondary deposits such as rivers and its chemical composition is not only identical with that of gold objects from the settlement of Poliochni on Lemnos and from the royal tombs in Ur in Mesopotamia, but also with that of objects from Georgia. "This means there must have been trade links between these far-flung regions," says Pernicka.


Bronze Age shipwreck reveals complex trade network and other surprises

bronze age trade network

Fig. 1. Regional geography and main sites.
1, Hagia Triada; 2, Hattusa; 3, Hisarcık; 4, Mersin; 5, Tarsus; 6, Alalakh; 7, Ugarit; 8, Haifa; 9, Mari; 10, Assur; 11, Deh Hosein; 12, Susa; 13, Ur; 14, Arisman; 15, Tal-e Malyan; 16, Tepe Hissar; 17, Tepe Yahya; 18, Mundigak; 19, Karnab/Sichkonchi; 20, Sapalli; 21, Shortugai. Purple dashed arrows depict documented trade networks ca. 2200 to 1700 BCE. Blue shaded region reflects the corridor connecting the Anatolian and Central Asian/Middle Eastern tin trade (in blue), ca. 1600 to 1000 BCE. Other shaded areas represent key LBA polities. Inset map illustrates the location of ancient tin sources in Europe.
More than 3,000 years before the Titanic sunk in the North Atlantic Ocean, another famous ship wrecked in the Mediterranean Sea off the eastern shores of Uluburun — in present-day Turkey — carrying tons of rare metal. Since its discovery in 1982, scientists have been studying the contents of the Uluburun shipwreck to gain a better understanding of the people and political organizations that dominated the time period known as the Late

Now, a team of scientists, including Michael Frachetti, professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, have uncovered a surprising finding: small communities of highland pastoralists living in present-day Uzbekistan in Central Asia produced and supplied roughly one-third of the tin found aboard the ship — tin that was en route to markets around the Mediterranean to be made into coveted bronze metal.

The research, published on November 30 in Science Advances, was made possible by advances in geochemical analyses that enabled researchers to determine with high-level certainty that some of the tin originated from a prehistoric mine in Uzbekistan, more than 2,000 miles from Haifa, where the ill-fated ship loaded its cargo.

Comment: See also:

Better Earth

Ancient skull uncovered in China could be million-year-old Homo erectus

homo erectus
© Pascal Goetgheluck/SPL
A third ancient human skull has been uncovered at a site in China. A 3D reconstruction of the second skull, discovered three decades ago and called Yunxian 2, is pictured.
Fieldwork is under way to excavate a rare, well-preserved specimen in central China.

Researchers are heralding the discovery of an ancient human skull in central China as an important find. As excavation of the remarkably intact fossil continues, archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists anticipate that the skull could give a fuller picture of the diverse family tree of archaic humans living throughout Eurasia in prehistoric times.

The skull was discovered on 18 May at an excavation site 20 kilometres west of Yunyang — formerly known as Yunxian — in central China's Hubei province. It lies 35 metres from where two skulls — dubbed the Yunxian Man skulls — were unearthed in 1989 and 19901, and probably belongs to the same species of ancient people, say researchers.

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