Tag Archives | Anthropology

Neanderthals May Have Been Sailors

Picture: Rawansari (CC)

It’s amazing to me to see how our perceptions of the Neanderthals have changed over the last 200 years, give or take. Once thought to be brutish, slow creatures, we now know that they had art, burial rituals, language and possibly even religion. Now, some scientists think that they may have been sailors as well – thousands of years before such things were thought to have occurred:

Via Live Science:

Neanderthals and other extinct human lineages might have been ancient mariners, venturing to the Mediterranean islands thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

This prehistoric seafaring could shed light on the mental capabilities of these lost relatives of modern humans, researchers say.

Scientists had thought the Mediterranean islands were first settled about 9,000 years ago by Neolithic or New Stone Age farmers and shepherds.

“On a lot of Mediterranean islands, you have these amazing remains from classical antiquity to study, so for many years people didn’t even look for older sites,” said archaeologist Alan Simmons at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

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Bizarre Death Rituals In Newly Discovered Oldest European Town

The first known European settlement contains a 7,000-year-old tomb complex where corpses were chopped in two before being positioned upright…as if to prevent the dead from rising again and running amok, but allowing them to face each other and converse. The Daily Mail reports:

Residents of what is thought to be Europe’s oldest town cut their dead in half and buried them from the pelvis up, according to archaeologists. The newly discovered ancient settlement, thought to date back to 4700 BC, is near the Bulgarian town of Provadia, about 25 miles from the Black Sea coast.

Archaeology professor Vassil Nikolov led the dig which focused on the town itself and its necropolis, where the strange and complex burial rituals were discovered.

Nikolov [said] the town’s 300 to 350 residents lived in two-storey homes and earned their living mining the surrounding area for salt, which was as important to the ancient world as oil is today.

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5,500-Year-Old Tomb Found Beneath Swedish Stonehenge

Would you dare to tamper with the burial chamber of the mythic King Ale the Strong? Via Live Science:

A 5,500-year-old tomb possibly belonging to a Stone Age chieftain has been unearthed at a megalithic monument in the shape of a ship called the Ale’s Stenar (Ale’s Stones). The tomb, in Sweden, was likely robbed of stones to build the Viking-era ship monument.

Perched on a seaside cliff in the village of Kåseberga stands the Ales Stenar, also called Ale’s Stones, 59 massive boulders arranged in the 220-foot (67-meter)-long outline of a ship. Most researchers believe the 1,400-year-old ship structure is a burial monument built toward the end of Sweden’s Iron Age. Local legend has it that the mythic King Ale lies beneath the site.

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All You Ever Wanted to Know About Cannibalism

Picture: Cannibalism during Russian Famine of 1921 (PD)

Our friends at Mental Floss offer a fairly comprehensive overview of cannibalism. Here’s an excerpt:

Exocannibalism is the consumption of the flesh of a person outside of one’s own social group, often as a way to intimidate an individual or group, steal another’s life force, or express domination of an enemy in warfare. Certain tribes in the Fiji islands maintained ritualized acts of cannibalistic “battle rage,” where captured enemy warriors were publicly tortured, killed, and consumed.

The accusation of exocannibalism may be even more damaging to enemies than eating them. When Christopher Columbus encountered the Carib Indians, he described them as “sub-human eaters of men,” labeling them inferior to Europeans and not much better than animals. They were seen as a dangerous “other,” and the murder of their people and theft of their land was easily justifiable because of that. The slur of cannibalism goes both ways, however.

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Space Satellites As Humanity’s Final Monuments

The spacecraft EchoStar XVI will beam trillions of images into the darkness and then enter an eternal "graveyard orbit". Artist in residence at MIT Trevor Paglen on satellites as the new pyramids:
Currently, more than 800 spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit form a man-made ring of satellites around Earth. The dead spacecraft in orbit have become a permanent fixture around Earth, not unlike the rings of Saturn. They will be the longest-lasting artifacts of human civilization, quietly floating through space long after every trace of humanity has disappeared from the planet’s surface. Presented by public art organization Creative Time, The Last Pictures is a project to acknowledge these spacecraft as the monuments of our historical era. They are our Pyramids, our Stonehenge, and our Nazca lines.
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Tech Writer David Pogue Transforms Into Neanderthal

Watch writer David Pogue transform into a Neanderthal through the magic of modern prosthetic makeup. Pogue's transformation comes courtesy of PBS television program Nova ScienceNow, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. On this Wednesday's episode, "What Makes Us Human", Pogue will walk the streets of New York City in his Neanderthal get-up and see how people react. Would you notice anything unusual about Pogue?
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Did Ancient Hairy Hobbits Once Inhabit A Japanese Island?

Cryptomundo discusses evidence, including tiny tools and bizarre pit dwellings, that supports legends of tiny elfin people living on the island of Hokkaido:

A commonly occurring phenomenon seen in the folklore and myth of a wide range of cultures throughout the world is the existence of miniature humanoid creatures [Faeries, dwarves, leprechauns, or by whatever other names they are known].

On the island of Hokkaido, in the cold northern reaches of the Japanese archipelago, the indigenous Ainu people too have their long traditions of an ancient race of dwarf-like people thought to have inhabited the land long before humans arrived. The Ainu knew these creatures as the Koropokkuru…most commonly translated as “the people who live under the burdock leaves.” Most commonly Koropokkuru are described as being rather hairy and odiferous.

Was there any truth to any of these stories of small, humanoid creatures living in the wilds of Hokkaido, and if so what were they?

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New Studies Identify Sub-species of the Bourgeoisie

Picture: David Shankbone (CC)

Anti-capitalist agitprop has always lagged behind in producing the raw empirical support for the range of macro-economic theories deployed to oppose mainstream capitalist economics. As such, it often exhibits some of the same weaknesses inherent in freshwater capitalist macroeconomics. This may be because of the idealism and preferred style of argument inherited by the 19th Century First International cohort from their cultural surroundings. However, this traditional weakness is starting to be broken down. Some of the empirical work on the sociology of class, capital and power is now starting to emerge in popular form from the niche, highly specialized academic and policy journals that previously were the only places this sort of data was ever published.

As an example, one new research program has set out to assign names and faces to the abstract notion of the transnational capitalist class. Project Censored reports:

[W]e ask: Who are the the world’s 1 percent power elite?

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Human Ancestors Were For The Most Part Vegetarian

Looking to free your diet from the perversions of modernity and eat paleo-style? When our ancient predecessors were developing their digestive systems, they did so on a steady ration of plants — which are what most primates eat to this day, writes Scientific American:

An entire class of self-help books recommends a return to the diets of our ancestors–Paleolithic diets, caveman diets, primal diets and the like. But what did our ancestors eat?

A paleo diet is an arbitrary thing. Which paleo diet should we eat? The one from twelve thousand years ago? A hundred thousand years ago? Forty million years ago? I would argue that, IF we want to return to our ancestral diets, we might reasonably eat what our ancestors spent the most time eating during the largest periods of the evolution of our guts. If that is the case, we need to be eating fruits, nuts, and vegetables—especially fungus-covered tropical leaves.

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Newly Unearthed Mayan Hieroglyphs Point To December 2012, With A Twist

Recently the Mayan calendar system was found to extend far beyond 2012, perhaps giving some respite to those who feared that the world would end by next Christmas. Now a new discovery once again highlights December 21, 2012, but as the end of a political cycle, rather than doomsday. I say bring it on. Phys.Org reports:

Archaeologists working at the site of La Corona in Guatemala have discovered a 1,300 year-old year-old Maya text that provides only the second known reference to the so-called “end date” for the Maya calendar on December 21, 2012. The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic find in decades, was announced today at the National Palace in Guatemala.

“This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy,” says Marcello A. Canuto, Director of Tulane’s Middle American Research Institute and co-director of the excavations at the Maya ruins of La Corona. “This new evidence suggests that the 13 Bak’tun date was an important calendrical event that would have been celebrated by the ancient Maya.”

The hieroglyphs commemorated a royal visit to La Corona in AD 696 by the most powerful Maya ruler of that time, Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ahk’ of Calakmul.

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