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Sat, 22 Jan 2022
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Secret History


Denisovans or Homo Sapiens: Who were the first to settle (permanently) on the Tibetan Plateau?

Tibetan Plateau
© Peiqi Zhang/UC Davis
A new paper by archaeologists at UC Davis highlights that our extinct cousins, the Denisovans, reached the “roof of the world” about 160,000 years ago — 120,000 years earlier than previous estimates for our species — and even contributed to our adaptation to high altitude. Photo shows the current Tibetan Plateau where the research took place.
The Tibetan Plateau has long been considered one of the last places to be populated by people in their migration around the globe. A new paper by archaeologists at the University of California, Davis, highlights that our extinct cousins, the Denisovans, reached the "roof of the world" about 160,000 years ago — 120,000 years earlier than previous estimates for our species — and even contributed to our adaptation to high altitude.

The article, which was published online this month in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, suggests that a cross-look at archaeological and genetic evidence provides essential clues to reconstruct the history of the peopling of the region.

Denisovans were archaic hominins once dispersed throughout Asia. After several instances of interbreeding with early modern humans in the region, one of their hybridizations benefited Tibetans' survival and settlement at high altitudes.

Those conclusions are among findings that led Peiqi Zhang, a UC Davis doctoral student who has participated in excavations of an archaeological site above 15,000 feet (4,600 meters) in Tibet, and Xinjun Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA who studies Denisovan and other human DNA, to ask the question: What do we know about how and when the region was peopled? Xinjun Zhang earned her genetic anthropology doctorate at UC Davis in 2017. The two researchers are not related.

The two scholars conducted a review of evidence of human dispersal and settlement in the Tibetan Plateau, integrating the archaeological and genetic discoveries so far. "Before our article, there was a lack of comprehensive review bringing both fields together, especially with an equal emphasis," Peiqi Zhang said.


The youth in 1921 (and 2021)

sebastian haffner
Read this passage from a memoir of being young in 1920s Germany, and compare the 2020s:

"A generation of young Germans," [Sebastian] Haffner writes, "had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere." The stability that followed Gustav Stresemann's becoming chancellor in 1923 marked "the return of political liberty," which, Haffner writes, Germans regarded "not as a gift, but as a deprivation."

Haffner goes on: "The great danger of life in Germany has always been emptiness and boredom. The menace of monotony hangs, as it has always hung, over the great plains of northern and eastern Germany, with their colorless towns and their all too industrious, efficient, and conscientious business and organizations. With it comes a horror vacui and the yearning for 'salvation': through alcohol, through superstition, or, best of all, through a vast, overpowering, cheap mass intoxication."

Comment: See also:


A new history of humanity — And hope for those of us who want it

Stone Age
© Wikipedia
Everything I read, learned and taught about the stone ages and beginnings of civilization was wrong. An anthropologist and an archaeologist have got together to update us all on the discoveries that have been appearing in the scholarly literature over the past sixty years. The findings give great encouragement to those of us who are concerned about humanity's ability to change course in the interests of our long-term survival.

I once liked the idea of Rousseau: in our "native state" we are innocent, good; it is the chains that have come with civilization that have degraded us.

But over time I came to fear Hobbes might be more right than I wanted him to be: in our native state our life is "nasty, brutish and short"; it is the controls that civilization has imposed that have obliged us to live according to the "better angels of our nature".

No. Neither Rousseau nor Hobbes had the right model. We know that people as a whole cannot be lumped under either of the simplistic labels of "good" and "bad". We can be very, very good and we can be very, very bad. For those of us who see the need for change in the way we live if we are to get through the threats we are facing now of runaway climate change and nuclear war and god knows what else and are keen to join any organized action for a better future, we can take heart from David Graeber and David Wengrow who, in The Dawn of Everything, demonstrate that humanity has done things better in the past and humanity can change.


Ancient settlements that challenge traditional thinking 'Karahantepe and Taş Tepeler'

After Göbeklitepe in Şanlıurfa, which sheds light on 12,000 years ago in human history and is considered one of the greatest discoveries in the world of archeology, new studies were started in the same region under the name of "Taş Tepeler".

Republic of Türkiye Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Türkiye Tourism Promotion and Development Agency (TGA) presented Taş Tepeler, a project that aims to reveal the land where the change in human history took place and a great transformation from the hunter-gatherer way of living to agriculture, with a series of visits, meetings, and events from 21 to 27 September 2021.

TAŞ TEPELER Project involves archaeological excavations and research carried out in seven areas: Göbeklitepe, Karahantepe, Gürcütepe, Sayburç, Çakmaktepe, Sefertepe and the Yeni Mahalle mound.

The Şanlıurfa region is home to the first examples of organized labour and specialization in the history of civilization. Between 2021 and 2024, excavations will be carried out in a total of 12 locations, including Karahantepe, a site with more than 250 T-shaped megalith blocks similar to those found in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Göbeklitepe. It is believed that the finds from these excavations will make considerable and far-reaching contributions to our knowledge of humanity in prehistoric times, including their daily lives and rituals. It is estimated that there are several sites in Şanlıurfa similar to Göbeklitepe, which reflect the early phases of the Neolithic Age.


Exquisite Bronze Age tomb goods in Cyprus reveal international trade networks

bronze age tomb cyprus
© Peter Fischer, Teresa Bürge
One of the skeletons belonged to a five-year-old buried with lots of gold jewellery, including this tiara.
Archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg have concluded an excavation of two tombs in the Bronze Age city of Hala Sultan Tekke in Cyprus. The finds include over 150 human skeletons and close to 500 objects - including gold jewellery, gemstones and ceramics - from around 1350 BCE.

Since 2010, the New Swedish Cyprus Expedition (The Söderberg Expedition) has had several rounds of excavations in Cyprus. In 2018, archaeologists discovered two tombs in the form of underground chambers, with a large number of human skeletons. Managing the finds required very delicate work over four years, since the bones were extremely fragile after more than 3,000 years in the salty soil.

In addition to the skeletons of 155 individuals, the team also found 500 objects. The skeletons and ritual funeral objects were in layers on top of each other, showing that the tombs were used for several generations.

Comment: See also:


Ancient footprints suggest a mysterious hominid lived alongside Lucy's kind

Ancient Footprints
A reanalysis of five footprints previously discovered at Tanzania’s Laetoli site, shown in a photo (top) and in a 3-D contour map (bottom), suggests they were made by a hominid species that lived alongside Lucy’s species around 3.66 million years ago.
An individual from an enigmatic hominid species strode across a field of wet, volcanic ash in what is now East Africa around 3.66 million years ago, leaving behind a handful of footprints.

Those five ancient impressions, largely ignored since their partial excavation at Tanzania's Laetoli site in 1976, show hallmarks of upright walking by a hominid, a new study finds. Researchers had previously considered them hard to classify, possibly produced by a young bear that took a few steps while standing.

Nearby Laetoli footprints unearthed in 1978 looked more clearly like those of hominids and have been attributed to Lucy's species, Australopithecus afarensis (SN: 12/16/16). But the shape and positioning of the newly identified hominid footprints differ enough from A. afarensis to qualify as marks of a separate Australopithecus species, an international team reports December 1 in Nature.

"Different [hominid] species walked across this East African landscape at about the same time, each moving in different ways," says paleoanthropologist Ellison McNutt of Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens.

The species identity of the Laetoli printmaker is unknown.

Fossil jaws dating back more than 3 million years unearthed in East Africa may come from a species dubbed A. deyiremeda that lived near Lucy's crowd (SN: 5/27/15). But no foot fossils were found with the jaws to compare with the Laetoli finds. The 3.4-million-year-old foot fossils from an East African hominid that had grasping toes and no arch and the unusual fossil feet of 4.4-million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus aren't a match either (SN: 3/28/12; SN: 2/24/21). So neither of those hominids could have made the five Laetoli prints, says McNutt, who started the new investigation as a Dartmouth College graduate student supervised by paleoanthropologist Jeremy DeSilva.

Better Earth

The mysterious petroglyphs carved in Qatar's deserts

© Dimitris Sideridis
Rare carvings: About an hour's drive north of Doha, Al Jassasiya is the site of some 900 "petroglyph" rock carvings, many of which are unique to the area.
Some shoot out of the soft rock like reptiles bathing in the sun. Others are mysterious depressions resembling an ancient board game played all over the world. And a few are straight-up puzzling.

On a desolate and windswept corner of Qatar's northeastern coast, among the sand dunes of the barren desert, lies Al Jassasiya, the Gulf country's largest and most important rock art site.

Here, people centuries ago used a series of low-lying limestone outcrops as a canvas on which they carved symbols, motifs and objects that they observed in their environment.

Comment: American physicist Anthony Perrat has demonstrated that significant numbers of these petroglyphs, that are found all across the planet, likely depict atmospheric plasma discharge phenomena that was occurring at the time of their creation. Could that have been the case for some of the petroglyphs Al Jassasiya? Also check out SOTT radio's:


'Largest prehistoric structure in Britain': Neolithic pits near Stonehenge shown to be man-made following new tests

stonehenge pit
© Wild Blue Media/Channel 5
The giant pits were dug into hard chalk forming a ring 2km across.
When a series of deep pits were discovered near the world heritage site of Stonehenge last year, archaeologists excitedly described it as the largest prehistoric structure ever found in Britain - only for some colleagues to dismiss the pits as mere natural features.

Now scientific tests have proved that those gaping pits, each aligned to form a circle spanning 1.2 miles (2km) in diameter, were definitely human-made, dug into the sacred landscape almost 4,500 years ago.

The structure appears to have been a boundary guiding people to a sacred area, because Durrington Walls, one of Britain's largest henge monuments, is located precisely at its centre. The site is 1.9 miles north-east of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, near Amesbury in Wiltshire.

Comment: See also: Also check out SOTT radio's:


Sophisticated, artistic, trading internationally: What the Culduthel dig tells us about Scotland's pre-historic Highlanders


Various images from the excavation of the Iron Age craft village at Culduthel, Inverness.
Various images from the excavation of the Iron Age craft village at Culduthel, Inverness.

Anyone who imagines the Highlands 2,000 years ago to be wild, woolly and primitive should think again.

The newly-published findings of an archaeological dig at Culduthel, on the southern outskirts of Inverness, have revealed an Iron Age craft village manned by exceptionally skilled artisans, producing goods from iron, bronze and glass for international trade.

The dig was carried out by Headland Archaeology prior to a housing development by Tulloch Homes.

The excavation team at Culduthel, Inverness. Supplied by Headland Archaeology.

Comment: See also:

Magic Hat

The origins of the ancient Etruscans

Etruscan bas-relief of a sarcophagus depicting Ulysses
© Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images
Etruscan civilization, 4th century BC : Bas-relief of a sarcophagus showing Ulysses tied to the mast to resist to the song of sirens, from Volterra, Pisa province, Italy - Archaeological Museum, Florence.
Unearthing ancient relics can tell you many things about a ghost civilization, but where you found those relics is not necessarily where those long-lost people came from.

For years, the origins of the Etruscans remained an unsolved mystery. They inhabited central Italy for two thousand years before the Roman Empire flourished and were thought to have emerged there. However, there were suspicions that they migrated from somewhere else (not in an Ancient Aliens type of way). Where their strange — and now dead — language came from is unknown, but it was definitely not Indo-European. So how did they materialize?

Researcher Cosmio Psoth of the University of Tübingen, who recently coauthored a study in Science Advances, revealed they crossed the steppes of what is now Russia and Ukraine to reach the Italian peninsula of Etruria. This disproves the assumption that language and origins are always related in some way or another. Etruscan genes were relatively stable until the Roman Empire took over, and conquering rulers seized foreign lands and brought in new blood.

"The Etruscans carried the steppe-related genetic component derived from populations that likely spread Indo-European languages across Italy. Nevertheless, they preserved their cultural and linguistic identity," Psoth told SYFY WIRE.