Tag Archives | Ancient History
Nature hints that modern humans have a mysterious X factor ancestor:
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Genome analysis suggests there was interbreeding between modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and an unknown archaic population. Updated genome sequences from two extinct relatives of modern humans suggest that these ‘archaic’ groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known.
The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a member of an archaic human group called the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November at a meeting on ancient DNA at the Royal Society in London. The results suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet-unknown human ancestor from Asia.
All modern humans whose ancestry originates outside of Africa owe about 2% of their genome to Neanderthals. Certain populations living in Oceania, such as Papua New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals, share about 4% of their DNA with Denisovans.
Do the origins of civilization on Earth reach back significantly farther than we have realized? Discovery reports:
Remains of the oldest known stone-tipped throwing spears, described in a new paper, are so ancient that they actually predate the earliest known fossils for our species by 85,000 years.
There are a couple possible implications, and both are mind-blowing. The first is that our species could be much older than previously thought, which would forever change the existing human family tree.
The second, and more likely at this point, is that a predecessor species to ours was extremely crafty and clever, making sophisticated tools long before Homo sapiens emerged.
The new paper, published in the latest PLoS ONE, focuses on the newly identified stone-tipped spears, which date to 280,000 years ago. They were found at an Ethiopian Stone Age site known as Gademotta.
Via Live Science, what used to occur before people hired attorneys:
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A lead curse tablet, dating back around 1,700 years and likely written by a magician, has been discovered in a collapsed Roman mansion in Jerusalem, archaeologists report.
The text is written in Greek and, in it a woman named Kyrilla invokes the names of six gods to cast a curse on a man named Iennys, apparently over a legal case.
Kyrilla asks the gods to ensure that “he in no way oppose, so that he say or perform nothing adverse to Kyrilla … but rather that Iennys, whom the womb bore, be subject to her…”
To obtain her goal Kyrilla combined elements from four religions. Of six gods invoked, four of them are Greek (Hermes, Persephone, Pluto and Hecate), one is Babylonian (Ereschigal) and one, Abrasax, is Gnostic. Additionally, the text contains magic words such as “Iaoth” that have a Hebrew/Judaism origin.
Graham Hancock, Andrew Collins and Hugh Newman discuss the origins of civilization at Gobekli Tepe on the September 2013 ‘Origins of Civilization’ tour organised by Megalithomania.
Apparently the stomach contents of dead animals tastes like cream cheese. I may have to seek something else to spread on my bagels from now on… Robin McKie reports on the real diet of Neanderthals for The Observer:
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It was the tell-tale tartar on the teeth that told the truth. Or at least, that is what it appeared to do. Researchers – after studying calcified plaque on Neanderthal fossil teeth found in El Sidrón cave in Spain – last year concluded that members of this extinct human species cooked vegetables and consumed bitter-tasting medicinal plants such as chamomile and yarrow.
These were not brainless carnivores, in other words. These were smart and sensitive people capable of providing themselves with balanced diets and of treating themselves with health-restoring herbs, concluded the researchers, led by Karen Hardy at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona.
Did women invent art? National Geographic reports:
Women made most of the oldest-known cave art paintings, suggests a new analysis of ancient handprints. Most scholars had assumed these ancient artists were predominantly men, so the finding overturns decades of archaeological dogma.
Archaeologist Dean Snow analyzed hand stencils found in eight cave sites in France and Spain. Snow determined that three-quarters of the handprints were female. Women tend to have ring and index fingers of about the same length, whereas men’s ring fingers tend to be longer than their index fingers.
“People have made a lot of unwarranted assumptions about who made these things, and why,” said Snow, whose research was supported by the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration.
Because many of these early paintings showcase game animals, many researchers have proposed that they were made by male hunters. The new study suggests otherwise.
Linguists have recently reconstructed what a 6,000 year-old-language called Proto-Indo-European might have sounded like. This language was the forerunner of many European and Asian languages, and now you can listen to how it may have sounded. Proto-Indo-European (PIE) was spoken by a people who lived from roughly 4500 to 2500 B.C. The question became, what did PIE sound like? As linguists have continued to discover more about PIE, this sonic experiment is periodically updated to reflect the most current understanding of how this extinct language would have sounded when spoken some six thousand years ago. Since there is considerable disagreement among scholars, no one version can be considered definitive.
A society in some respects more advanced than our own? Phys.org reports:
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The discovery in Peru of another tomb belonging to a pre-Hispanic priestess, the eighth in more than two decades, confirms that powerful women ruled this region 1,200 years ago, archeologists said.
The remains of the woman from the Moche—or Mochica—civilization were discovered in late July in an area called La Libertad in the country’s northern Chepan province. In 2006, researchers came across the famous “Lady of Cao”—who died about 1,700 years ago and is seen as one of the first female rulers in Peru.
“This find makes it clear that women didn’t just run rituals in this area but governed here and were queens of Mochica society,” said project director Luis Jaime Castillo. “It is the eighth priestess to be discovered,” he added. “Our excavations have only turned up tombs with women, never men.”
The priestess was in an “impressive 1,200-year-old burial chamber” the archeologist said.
Things not where they are supposed to be? Historical strangeness via CNN:
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A recent discovery of part of a 4,000-year-old Egyptian sphinx has been a most unexpected find in Tel Hazor in northern Israel.
Inexplicably buried far from Egypt, the paws of a sphinx statue, resting on its base, have been unearthed with an inscription in hieroglyphs naming King Mycerinus. The pharaoh ruled in 2500 BC and oversaw the construction of one of the three Giza pyramids.
“This is the only sphinx of this king known in the world – even in Egypt. It is also the only monumental piece of Egyptian sculpture found anywhere in the Levant,” said professor Amnon Ben-Tor, the director of the excavation, referring to the region spanning the east of the Mediterranean Sea.
Tel Hazor was the capital of the city of Canaan 4,000 years ago. The question of how the sphinx got to Tel Hazor will likely remain a mystery.