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Queen of Sheba's Gift? Genetic Find Ties Ethiopia to Other Lands

Solomon and Sheba
© Photograph by Richardfabi, distributed under a Creative Commons license by Wikimedia.
A depiction of the Queen of Sheba meeting King Solomon of Israel from the Florence Baptistry in Italy.
The Queen of Sheba's genetic legacy may live on in Ethiopia, according to new research that finds evidence of long-ago genetic mixing between Ethiopian populations and Syrian and Israeli people.

The Queen of Sheba, known in Ethiopia as Makeda, is mentioned in both the Bible and the Quran. The Bible discusses diplomatic relations between this monarch and King Solomon of Israel, but Ethiopian tradition holds that their relationship went deeper: Makeda's son, Menelik I, the first emperor of Ethiopia, is said to be Solomon's offspring.

Whether this tale is true or not, new evidence reveals close links between Ethiopia and groups outside of Africa. Some Ethiopians have 40-50 percent of their genomes that match more closely with populations outside of Africa than those within, while the rest of the genomes more closely match African populations, said study researcher Toomas Kivisild of the University of Cambridge.

"We calculated genetic distances and found that these non-African regions of the genome are closest to the populations in Egypt, Israel and Syria," Kivislid said in a statement.

Better Earth

Mass grave of wombats the size of a rhinoceros found

Image
© Greg Wood/Agence France Presse/Getty Images
The Australian Museum exhibits a reconstructed model of a "diprotodon", an ancient rhino-sized mega-wombat on Thursday.
A mass grave of prehistoric "giant wombats" - a marsupial the size of a rhinoceros - has been discovered in Australia, according to reports.

The discovery of about 50 diprotodon skeletons was the biggest to date and could shed light on why the animal become extinct, BBC News reported.

Diprotodon, a relative of the modern wombat, was the largest marsupial that ever lived and had a pouch that was large enough to carry an adult human.

According to the Australian Museum, it was "widespread across Australia when the first indigenous people arrived, co-existing with them for thousands of years before becoming extinct about 25,000 years ago." Fortunately for the people, diprotodon ate plants.

"Exact reasons for the extinction of Diprotodon remain unclear. It seems to have co-existed with Aboriginal people for over 20,000 years, so the 'blitzkrieg' model (extinction upon the arrival of humans) does not hold for Diprotodon," according to a post on the Museum's website.

Footprints

Easter Island's statues may have been 'walked' to their location

easter island statue
© Sheela Sharma/National Geographic
Researchers "walk" a replica of Easter Island's famous statues
Were the giant statues on Easter Island actually "walked" to their final resting spots?

Researchers have unveiled a new theory that may redefine the historical understanding of how natives on Easter Island transported the iconic moai statues.

Writing in July's issue of National Geographic magazine, California State University at Long Beach archeologist Carl Lipo and Hawaii anthropologist Terry Hunt postulate that Polynesian natives used a system of ropes and manpower to walk the statues across the island.

"A lot of what people think they know about the island turns out to be not true," Lipo says.

Using the ropes, islanders would stand on each side of the statues, swaying them back and forth to create the walking effect.

Popular theory has held that the islanders created sled-like devices out of the island's trees to cart the statues. That theory also claims that deforestation from the island's inhabitants as part of the statue transporting process was directly tied to the population's eventual downfall.

Info

Once-Green Sahara Hosted Early African Dairy Farms

Ancient Art
© Roberto Ceccacci, © The Archaeological Mission in the Sahara, Sapienza University of Rome
Colorful rock art of domesticated cattle decorates a wall at Wadi Imha in the Tadrart Acacus Mountains in the Libyan Sahara. Images like this reveal the importance of cattle to Neolithic African people.
The sandy dunes of the Sahara may seem an unlikely place for a dairy farm, but about 7,000 years ago, herders tended and milked cattle in what is now desolate desert, new research shows.

About 10,000 years ago, the Sahara desert went through a phase called the Holocene African Humid Period.

Fossilized bones show that by the sixth millennium B.C. (or about 7,000 years ago), cattle, sheep and goats roamed over green savanna, and rock art depicts cows with full udders. The occasional image even shows milking, said study researcher Julie Dunne, a doctoral student at the University of Bristol. But it's difficult to get a firm date for those images.

By analyzing pottery fragments, Dunne and her colleagues have now shown that these early herders were not only milking their livestock, but also processing that milk into products like yogurt, cheese and butter.

"The most exciting thing about this is that milk is one of the only foodstuffs that gives us carbohydrates, protein and fat," all in one substance, Dunne told LiveScience. "So it was incredibly beneficial for prehistoric people to use milk."

Saharan dairies

Dunne and her colleagues analyzed tiny fragments of pottery taken from the Takarkori rock shelter, a prehistoric dwelling in the Libyan Sahara. They ground up small pieces of the pottery, conducting chemical analyses to investigate the proteins and fats embedded in the shards. By doing so, the researchers could see what the pots once held.

They found evidence of a varied diet, with signs found for plant oils and animal fat. The most common fats were of animal origin, Dunne said, with some deriving from flesh and others from milk. The most dairy-fat rich pottery shards came from the same time periods when more cattle bones are found in the cave layers, the researchers reported today (June 20) in the journal Nature.

By looking at variations in the carbon molecules in these preserved fats, the researchers were able to get an idea of what kind of plants the cattle were eating. They found their diets varied between so-called C3, or woody plants, and C4 plants, which include grasses grains and dry-weather plants. (C3 and C4 refer to the type of photosynthesis these plants use.)

That fits with the archaeological understanding of this early herding civilization as moving between seasonal camps, Dunne said.

"It suggests that they were moving between summer and winter camps and eating different plants at one place than another, so this all ties together very nicely," she said.

Info

Welsh People Could be Most Ancient in UK, DNA Suggests

The Story of Wales
© BBC
A depiction of early man for The Story of Wales series.
Welsh people could lay claim to be the most ancient Britons, according to scientists who have drawn up a genetic map of the British Isles.

Research suggests the Welsh are genetically distinct from the rest of mainland Britain.

Professor Peter Donnelly, of Oxford University, said the Welsh carry DNA which could be traced back to the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago.

The project surveyed 2,000 people in rural areas across Britain.

Participants, as well as their parents and grandparents, had to be born in those areas to be included in the study.

Prof Donnelly, a professor of statistical science at Oxford University and director of the Wellcome Trust centre for human genetics, said DNA samples were analysed at about 500,000 different points.

After comparing statistics, a map was compiled which showed Wales and Cornwall stood out.

Prof Donnelly said: "People from Wales are genetically relatively distinct, they look different genetically from much of the rest of mainland Britain, and actually people in north Wales look relatively distinct from people in south Wales."

While there were traces of migrant groups across the UK, there were fewer in Wales and Cornwall.

He said people from south and north Wales genetically have "fairly large similarities with the ancestry of people from Ireland on the one hand and France on the other, which we think is most likely to be a combination of remnants of very ancient populations who moved across into Britain after the last Ice Age.

"And potentially also, people travelling up the Atlantic coast of France and Spain and settling in Wales many thousands of years ago".

Cow Skull

Mammoth graveyard uncovered in Serbia

Image
© Unknown
The world's first collective graveyard of a herd of mammoths has been discovered at the excavation site for coal in Serbia.

Heavy torrential rain earlier this week exposed the remains of what could be up to six mammoths, at an open pit mine in Kostolac, east of Belgrade not far from a site where two other mammoth remains had been uncovered in recent years.

Miomir Korac, director of the Archeological Project Viminacium, which is named after the Roman provincial capital along the Danube River, said that the discovery came as a complete surprise.

The archeologists were first alerted to one set of giant remains of a mammoth that was damaged by the mining machinery. But then the heavy downpour rinsed away the yellow sand.

Meteor

Catastrophic Termination of the Last Ice Age / Robert Schoch


Info

Oldest Natural Pearl Found in Arabia

Oldest Pearl
© Ken Walton/CNRS
The oldest pearl in the world.
French researchers have unearthed the oldest natural pearl ever found at a Neolithic site in Arabia, suggesting that pearl oyster fishing first occurred in this region of the world.

Discovered in the Emirate of Umm al Quwain, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the pearl was believed to have originated between 5547 and 5235 BC.

"Gemmologists and jewellers have popularised the idea that the oldest pearl in the world is the 5000-year-old Jomon pearl from Japan. Discoveries made on the shores of south-eastern Arabia show this to be untrue," Vincent Charpentier, Sophie Méry and colleagues at the French Foreign Ministry's archeological mission in the UAE, wrote in the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy.

Some 7,500 years old and 0.07 inches in diameter, the newly discovered pearl is just the last of a series of findings at archeological sites in the Arabian Peninsula.

Over the years, researchers unearthed a total of 101 Neolithic pearls, coming from the large pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera and from Pinctada radiata, a much smaller, easier to collect species, which provides higher quality pearls.

"The discovery of archaeological pearls demonstrates an ancient fishing tradition that no longer exists today," wrote the researchers.

Holly

Scientists find new evidence supporting John the Baptist bones theory

Saint John Baptist Relics

Scientists have uncovered new evidence that mysterious remains found in an ancient reliquary in a 5th century monastery on Sveti Ivan Island in Bulgaria belong to St John the Baptist.

The remains - small fragments of a skull, bones from a jaw and an arm, and a tooth - were discovered embedded in an altar in the ruins of the ancient monastery, on the island in the Black Sea.

But after the find two years ago was met with universal scepticism Oxford University archaeologists undertook carbon dating tests.

On Thursday, the team announced they have provided scientific evidence to support the extraordinary claim. The findings are to be presented in a documentary to be aired on The National Geographic channel in Britain on Sunday.

The research team dated the right-handed knuckle bone to the first century AD, when John is believed to have lived until his beheading ordered by king Herod.

Scientists from the University of Copenhagen analysed the DNA of the bones, finding they came from a single individual, probably a man, from a family in the modern-day Middle East, where John would have lived.

Palette

Finding Puts Aborigines Among Art's Avant Garde

Rock Art
© The Australian
The remote site in Arnhem Land where the fragment of charcoal rock art, dated to 28,000 years ago, was found is also home to 1000-year-old art on the ceiling of a rock shelter.
Archaeologists at a remote site in southwest Arnhem Land have made a discovery establishing early Australian Aborigines as among the most advanced people in human evolution.

A team led by Bruno David from Monash University has found and firmly dated a fragment of charcoal rock art to 28,000 years ago.

This makes it the oldest painting so far proven by carbon-dating in Australia and among some of the earliest evidence of human painting.

The discovery was made last June but has been dated only recently by experts from New Zealand's University of Waikato radiocarbon laboratory.

The piece was discovered by Bryce Barker from the University of Southern Queensland. "The discovery shows Australian Aboriginal people were responsible for some of the earliest examples of rock art on the planet," Professor Barker said.

France's Chauvet caves were carbon dated to 35,000 years ago. They were known as the world's oldest confirmed rock art sites until last week, when drawings in Spain's El Castillo caves were dated to 40,800 years.

The Bradshaw figurative paintings found throughout the Kimberley are well known internationally, Professor Barker said. "The Bradshaws are often talked about as being the oldest rock art in Australia but the oldest firm date for them is 16,000-17,000 years taken from a wasp nest covering the art."