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Ancient Humans Were Mixing It Up

University of Arizona's Michael F. Hammer with an ancient hominid fossil.
© M. F. Hammer
University of Arizona's Michael F. Hammer with an ancient hominid fossil.
It is now widely accepted that the species Homo sapiens originated in Africa and eventually spread throughout the world. But did those early humans interbreed with more ancestral forms of the genus Homo, for example Homo erectus, the "upright walking man," Homo habilis, - the "tool-using man" or Homo neanderthalensis, the first artists of cave-painting fame?

Direct studies of ancient DNA from Neanderthal bones suggest interbreeding did occur after anatomically modern humans had migrated from their evolutionary cradle in Africa to the cooler climates of Eurasia, but what had happened in Africa remained a mystery - until now.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, a team led by Michael Hammer, an associate professor and research scientist with the UA's Arizona Research Labs, provides evidence that anatomically modern humans were not so unique that they remained separate.

"We found evidence for hybridization between modern humans and archaic forms in Africa. It looks like our lineage has always exchanged genes with their more morphologically diverged neighbors," said Hammer, who also holds appointments in the UA's department ofecology and evolutionary biology, the school of anthropology, the BIO5 Institute and the Arizona Cancer Center.

Sherlock

Archaeologists discover remains of a Roman gladiator school in Austria

British archaeologists were among a team who have discovered the ruins of a Roman gladiator school on the outskirts of the Austrian capital Vienna.

The find, which has been described as 'one in a million' and 'sensational', is one of 100 hundred such schools the Romans built to train the fighters before they were pitted against each other in brutal combat.

The Brits were among an international team of historians, geologists and archaeologists from the Ludwig Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna.

Image
© AP
Mock-up: A virtual video presentation shows the Roman gladiator school discovered by underground radar on the outskirts of Vienna

Info

1,700-Year-Old Map of Roman Roads Used for Online Journey Planner

Ancient Road
© Alamy
The Tabula Peutingeriana was last updated in the third or fourth century.

A Dutch historian has used a unique 1,700 year old map of Roman roads to create an online journey planner giving the destinations, distances and timings of routes used by ancient travellers in the days of empire.

Routes are based on the Tabula Peutingeriana, a one of a kind chart, which shows an imperial Roman road network, or curses public's, that stretches from Britain to the river Ganges that flows through India and Bangladesh.

The huge map, last updated in the third or fourth century, shows 2,760 towns with lists of distances and destinations on the Roman roads connecting them, all set out on a scroll of parchment almost 23 feet long.

The original version of the Roman route tables was prepared two thousand years ago under the direction of Marcus Agrippa, the statesman, general and son-in-law of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor.

Sherlock

Remains of Australian Outlaw Ned Kelly Identified

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© BBC News
Victoria Attorney General Robert Clark said it was historically very significant while Kelly's great-great-nephew, Leigh Olver, said he felt privileged
The headless remains of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly have been identified, 130 years after he was hanged for murder, officials have said.

His body was dumped into a mass grave, later transferred to another mass grave and again exhumed in 2009.

Although his skull is still missing the body was identified by comparing a DNA sample with that of a relative.

Ned Kelly was seen by many as a cold-blooded killer and others as a folk hero of Irish-Australian resistance.

The bushranger killed three policemen before being captured in Victoria state in 1880 and was hanged for murder at Old Melbourne Jail in November of the same year.

Info

Humans Shaped Stone Axes 1.8 Million Years Ago: Advanced Tool-Making Methods Pushed Back in Time

Stone Tools
© Pierre-Jean Texier, National Center of Scientific Research, France
Early humans were using stone hand axes as far back as 1.8 million years ago.
A new study suggests that Homo erectus, a precursor to modern humans, was using advanced toolmaking methods in East Africa 1.8 million years ago, at least 300,000 years earlier than previously thought. The study, recently published in Nature, raises new questions about where these tall and slender early humans originated and how they developed sophisticated tool-making technology.

Homo erectus appeared about 2 million years ago, and ranged across Asia and Africa before hitting a possible evolutionary dead-end, about 70,000 years ago. Some researchers think Homo erectus evolved in East Africa, where many of the oldest fossils have been found, but the discovery in the 1990s of equally old Homo erectus fossils in the country of Georgia has led others to suggest an Asian origin. The study in Nature does not resolve the debate but adds new complexity. At 1.8 million years ago, Homo erectus in Dmanisi, Georgia was still using simple chopping tools while in West Turkana, Kenya, according to the study, the population had developed hand axes, picks and other innovative tools that anthropologists call "Acheulian."

"The Acheulian tools represent a great technological leap," said study co-author Dennis Kent, a geologist with joint appointments at Rutgers University and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "Why didn't Homo erectus take these tools with them to Asia?"

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UK: Iron Age Hill Fort Excavation Reveals "Possible Suburbia"

Size of settlement suggests Ham Hill site was a town rather than a defensive structure, archaeologists believe

Image
© Ham Hill Archaeology/PA
An archeology excavation at Ham Hill, Somerset has revealed a main road and enclosures with round houses – 'rather like suburbia'.
The most intensive investigation ever undertaken of Britain's largest iron age hill fort is expected to reveal new details of how Britons lived 2,000 years ago - and maybe even that they were almost as suburban as we are.

Stretching across 80 hilltop hectares, behind three miles of ramparts, the fort, at Ham Hill in Somerset, and the outline of its history have been known for many years.

The Durotriges tribe, which lived on the hill, was subdued in AD45 by soldiers of the 2nd Legion under the command of the future emperor Vespasian, but what the Romans found there: a street system lined with houses on their own plots of land, is what archaeologists from Cambridge and Cardiff universities hope to uncover more fully in excavations over the next three summers.

Sherlock

Israel's rebel caves lead down to ancient wonders

Researchers revisit underground network that was used by Jews resisting the Romans

You'll need a headlamp, a tight waistline and no fear of the dark in order to enjoy one of the most extreme, yet lesser known, archaeological wonders of the Holy Land.

Image
© Baz Ratner / Reuters
A tourist walks inside a columbarium at the Hirbet Madras archaeological site in the foothills of Jerusalem, around the ancient city of Beit Guvrin.
Even with the proper equipment and intestinal fortitude, it is easy to lose your cool when crawling through the expansive ancient tunnel systems dug by Jewish rebels to fight the Roman Empire.

The hundreds of hideouts, ranging from just a few meters deep to seemingly unending labyrinths, are popular among Israeli archaeologists and adventurers. But the subterranean mazes, which date back as early as the first century B.C., are virtually unknown to foreigners.

Even if you go looking for them, as designed, they are easy to miss.

Sherlock

Britain: Terrible secret of Roman brothel finally uncovered

Image
© Unknown
The rediscovery of infant bones has led to a Hambleden field being identified as the earliest proven site of infanticide in Britain.
An excavation of Yewden Villa at Mill End in 1912 found a number of unusual discoveries, the most startling of which was the remains of 97 newborn babies.

The theory that the villa was used as a Roman brothel has also gained weight after the latest archaeological findings.

A H Cocks, former curator of Buckinghamshire County Museum, noted the discovery but focused on the tonne of pottery that was also found.

The remains of the infants, buried between 150 AD and 200 AD and all the same size, were rediscovered in cigarette boxes at the Aylesbury museum in 2008.

Dr Jill Eyers, director of Chiltern Archaeology, pushed for extensive investigation into the bones, which has confirmed beyond doubt that each baby was killed shortly after birth.

Question

Bulgarian Archaeologist Claims He Found 'The Temple' of Dionysus

Ancient Artifact
© BGNES
Bulgarian archaeologist Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov shows part of a marble relief of the Thracian Horseman found at Perperikon.

Top Bulgarian archaeologist Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov has presented new finds from the Ancient Thracian city and medieval fortress of Perperikon proving the existence of an Antiquity period sanctuary that he believes could be the ancient Temple of Dionysus.

"The marble reliefs of the Thracian Horseman that we have found during excavations there prove that there was a sanctuary at Perperikon," Ovcharov said at a news conference Tuesday,

The Thracian Horseman is the conventional term for a recurring motif from the iconography of Paleo-Balkanic mythology during the Roman era, believed to have been supreme deity of Ancient Thrace; he is usually depicted on funeral statues as a horseman slaying a beast with a spear.

Ovcharov has been excavating the Ancient Thracian rock city of Perperikon in the Rhodope Mountains for the past few years, and his finds have increasingly proven that Perperikon (also known as Hyperperakion) used to be a crucial urban center during the Middle Ages as well in the Byzantine Empire and the First and Second Bulgarian Empire, and not just in the Antiquity period.

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Neanderthal Survival Story Revealed in Jersey Caves

Story Neaderthalis
© BBC
The story of this excavation and its finds will feature on the latest series of Digging For Britain on BBC2 in September, with Dr Alice Roberts
New investigations at an iconic cave site on the Channel Island of Jersey have led archaeologists to believe the Neanderthals have been widely under-estimated.

Neanderthals survived in Europe through a number of ice ages and died out only about 30,000 years ago.

The site at La Cotte de St Brelade reveals a near-continuous use of the cave site spanning over a quarter of a million years, suggesting a considerable success story in adapting to a changing climate and landscape, prior to the arrival of Homo sapiens.

The La Cotte ravine has revealed the most prolific collection of early Neanderthal technology in North West Europe, including over 250,000 stone tools. These include stones with sharpened edges that could be used to cut or chop, known as hand axes.

"Archaeologists have developed new ways of looking at stone tools since La Cotte de St Brelade was excavated in the 1970s," says Dr Beccy Scott from the British Museum and the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project.