Did Use of Free Trade Cause Neanderthal Extinction?

Economics-free trade may have contributed to the extinction of Neanderthals 30,000-40,000 years ago, according to a paper. 


Newswise — Economics-free trade may have contributed to the extinction of Neanderthals 30,000-40,000 years ago, according to a paper published in the “Journal of Economic Organization and Behavior.”


“After at least 200,000 years of eking out an existence in glacial Eurasia, the Neanderthal suddenly went extinct,” writes University of Wyoming economist Jason Shogren, along with colleagues Richard Horan of Michigan State University and Erwin Bulte from Tilburg University in the Netherlands. “Early modern humans arriving on the scene shortly before are suspected to have been the perpetrator, but exactly how they caused Neanderthal extinction is unknown.”


Creating a new kind of caveman economics in their published paper, they argue early modern humans were first to exploit the competitive edge gained from specialization and free trade. With more reliance on free trade, humans increased their activities in culture and technology, while simultaneously out-competing Neanderthals on their joint hunting grounds, the economists say.


Archaeological evidence exists to suggest traveling bands of early humans interacted with each other and that inter-group trading emerged, says Shogren. Early humans, the Aurignations and the Gravettians, imported many raw materials over long ranges and their innovations were widely dispersed. Such exchanges of goods and ideas helped early humans to develop “supergroup social mechanisms.” The long-range interchange among different groups kept both cultures going and generated new cultural explosions, Shogren says.


Anthropologists have noted how judicious redistribution of excess resources provides a distinct advantage to “efficient hunters” as measured by factors such as increased survivorship, social prestige, or reproductive opportunities, the researchers say.


“One of the striking features of the archaeological record is that Neanderthal technology was nearly stationary for many thousands of years whereas technology of early humans experienced many innovations,” Shogren says.


He says the evidence does not support the concept of division of labor and trade among Neanderthals. While Neanderthals probably cooperated with one another to some extent, the evidence does not support the view that specialization arose from any formal division of labor or that inter- or intra-group trade existed, he says. These practices seem to require all the things that Neanderthals lacked: a more complicated social organization, a degree of innovative behavior, forward planning and the exchange of information, ideas and raw materials.


“Basic economic forces of scarcity and relative costs and benefits have played integral roles in shaping societies throughout recorded human history,” Shogren says. “No reason exists today to discount either the presence or potential impact of economics in the pre-historic dawning of humanity.”



March 22, 2005

Merritt Island dig reveals evidence of ancient village

Pine Island artifacts excite archaeologists

They dig their work. Professional archeologist Tom Penders and members of the Indian River Anthropological Society discovered remains of what may be an ancient Indian village on Merritt Island. Rik Jesse, FLORIDA TODAY


What it means in money 

A 2000 survey showed Florida historic tourism generated more than $4.2 billion impact annually, created 123,000 jobs with a $2.8 billion payroll and put $627 million into state and local coffers.


There are 20,000 to 25,000 known archaeological sites in Florida, including burial mounds, ceremonial mounds and shell mounds.


Handful of history. Pottery shards were unearthed by the Indian River Anthropological Society members on Merritt Island.



Phenomenal find in Brevard 

The most notable archeological site in Brevard County is at the Windover Farms subdivision, about a mile southeast of State Road 50 and east of Interstate 95. Excavators began digging there in 1984, ultimately uncovering 91 blackened skulls so preserved in the peat that brain tissue was intact.


They found bones of more than 150 Indians and the oldest woven cloth found in the Southeast. Some of the remains and artifacts were thought to be in excess of 7,500 years old.


Rules of the dig

If archeological diggers find human remains — none have turned up at the Pine Island site — they must stop the dig, to comply with Florida’s unmarked grave law.


The state archeologist would visit the site to determine how to proceed. Most times the human remains are left in place, out of respect for native Americans.


Larry Anders’ shovel scrapes aside soft orange sand with the precision of a surgeon’s knife.


Each stroke peels back thin layers of time and clues to how humans once lived on Merritt Island, more than 3,000 years before Christ.


“Not knowing what’s at the next level, I guess that kind of keeps you going,” said Anders, one of about a dozen volunteers with the Indian River Anthropological Society who dig nearly every weekend at Pine Island Conservation Area.


Their dig started in October 2003, when the Brevard County Historical Commission asked Thomas Penders, a professional archaeologist, to survey Pine Island for historical significance. They wanted him to make sure that when the county installed septic tanks and parking there, workers wouldn’t disturb any artifacts.


Penders expected a few relics from the late 1800s. He found much more. Of 198 small test holes, all but four yielded archaeologically significant items, including shards of pottery 3,000 years old, a 5,000-year-old fossilized coral spear point and burnt shells of turtles of untold age.


This month, they struck what they’d long sought: the telltale ring-like soil stain that indicates wooden posts and therefore a structure.


Now Penders expects to raise a village.


“This is an extremely important site. We have 5,000 years of history. It has the potential for being one of the most important sites in Brevard County,” Penders said. “I never expected this in a million years when I came out here.” 


Nomads unknownNot much is known about those who once lived along the Merritt Island scrub ridge that hugs the Indian River Lagoon. The first confirmed humans in Florida lived about 13,500 years ago.


Because of a lower sea level, Florida was twice as big, with a shoreline 30 miles east of today’s. The lagoon looked similar to an African savannah, Penders said, with probably just a large fresh-water basin or creek.


Small groups of nomadic people may have traveled here to follow and feed on grazing mammals, such as deer.


About a year ago, county workers found Ice Age fossil bones of long-extinct mammals just north of Penders’ dig. A dredge had brought them up from the lagoon bottom in the 1960s as it dug a canal for a planned development that never happened.


They found the toe bone of a 5-foot long armadillo, shells of giant land tortoise, leg and teeth bones of mammoth, mastodon, horses, tapirs, peccaries and deer and — of all things — fossilized camel bones.


“People don’t realize that camels evolved here and moved west,” Penders said.


Early Indians knew about the fossils. Penders’ group found one ground to a pin shape, either for use as a tool or jewelry.


The Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville determined the fossils ranged from 10,000 to 100,000 years old, said Richard Hulbert, collections manager at the museum’s department of vertebrate paleontology.


Dearth of cluesIce Age fossils are found throughout Florida’s springs, caves and ancient sinkholes, Hulbert said. But the ones here are significant because they add to a dearth of clues about the area’s archeological history.


“The whole east coast of Florida is much less well known than the west coast,” Hulbert said.


Most pottery found at the site so far is from a period called Malabar 1, from 500 BC to 750 AD. That means the Merritt Island inhabitants predated the Ais Indians, who lived here when the Spanish explored Florida in the 1500s.


“They’re more than likely their ancestors,” Penders said.


Under their state permit, anything that Penders’ group finds is sent to the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research. Most of the items will be returned to Pine Island, where they will be displayed.


Honorable workLisa Visconti, who has fought to stop looting of an ancient burial site in North Brevard, trusts Penders to conduct the Pine Island dig in a way that will honor Native American heritage.


“I have a lot of respect for him, because I know he has a lot of respect for the indigenous people,” said Visconti, a Cape Canaveral resident of Native American descent.


But she’d prefer the ancient relics of her ancestors rest in place.


“When you are American Indian, and you watch your ancestors constantly being dug up, or anything affiliated with them, this is as if you’re constantly grieving because it’s happening over and over,” she said.



The Sand Dune Forgotten by Time 


Archaeologists working in the extreme desert terrain of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have moved a step closer to unraveling the mystery of a 40-century-old civilization.


They unearthed 163 tombs containing mummies during their ongoing and long excavation at the mysterious Xiaohe tomb complex.


And it's all thanks to the translation of a diary kept by a Swedish explorer more than 70 years ago.


"We have found more than 30 coffins containing mummies," said Idelisi Abuduresule, head of the Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute and the excavation team.


The complex is believed to contain 330 or so tombs buried in several layers within a 2,500-square-meter sand dune.


"Most of the items are in the original state of the time when they were buried, and that will help reveal a lot of information about the society and life style of the people of that time," said Idelisi, during his trip back from the desert dust and heat to the autonomous region's capital Urumqi to record the finds, and store the artifacts.


The Xiaohe tombs are believed to have been the burial site of the mysterious Loulan Kingdom, which disappeared without historical trace about 15 centuries ago.


Today's archaeologists are following in the footsteps of Swedish explorer Folke Bergman, who in 1934 ventured south along a river in Lop Nur Desert in the eastern part of Xinjiang.


He said on his return that he'd discovered a dune harboring over 1,000 coffins that date back 4,000 years ago.


He named the place Xiaohe (small river) tombs.


But the river he used to navigate to this ancient site dried up and the dune and its tombs were forgotten about for decades.


In the late 1990s, however, Chinese sociologists translated Bergman's records on archaeological exploration in the area into Chinese and the hunt for dune and its mysteries was once again underway.


In addition to burial articles such as bent wooden blocks and straw baskets, Idelisi's team has found in some coffins wooden figures wrapped in leather instead of mummified bodies.


A bird's-eye view of Xiaohe tombs shows the oval-shape dune taking on the appearance of dumpling pricked full of chopsticks.


Above every coffin protrudes two thick wooden stakes, a symbol some believe of ancient worshiping.


"Considering the scale of the burial site and the mysterious cultural signs, the analyses of the relics are going to yield some exciting results," predicted Idelisi.


The State Administration of Cultural Heritage approved excavation of the Xiaohe tombs in 2003.


(China Daily March 19, 2005)



Bamboo slips shed light on rise of Great Wall

26/3/2005 9:29


Archeologists in central-south Hunan province have sorted out altogether 36,000 bamboo slips, about 35,000 of which bear official authentic records from 2,200 years ago at a coincidence with the rise of China's imposing Great Wall, which was first built on and off from the third century B.C..

These priceless ancient records, ingrained in official scripts,provide a detailed, encyclopedic account of the imperial Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.), including politics, military affairs, ethnicity, economics, law, culture, geography and administration, said Zhang Chunlong, a noted researcher with Hunan Provincial Institute of Archeology, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua Friday.


These historic records, believed to have been kept by the Qin court, will shed light on their researches on the politics, culture and economics of Qin Dynasty, Zhang acknowledged, it was aperiod to witness China's unification, building of the Great Wall as a major defense fortress, cultural and economic boom but also the period of tyranny under the rein of founding emperor Ying Zheng, which historians believe caused the dynasty to fall at an early end.


Most historians referred Ying Zheng as one of the most brutal tyrants in China's feudal society as he threw millions of land laborers into slavery and forced them to build the 10,000-plus Li (some 5,000 kms) defense wall and his mammoth imperial palace and mausoleum.


A brief study of the records on bamboo slips suggests subjects of the Qin Dynasty then already had access to mail service, probably even express delivery, while they were plunged into penal servitude for unabling to pay their land rents and debts.


Numerous bamboo slips are believed to carry words like "usury","payment" and "fees for penalty", which suggest Qin Dynasty hinged on rigid political and cruel legal systems, according to Prof. Wu Rongzeng, a noted historian.


About 1,000 of the ancient bamboo slips were without any recording contents, said the archeologists. "But these void slips are equally worth in-depth researches so as to determine if they had not been written on in the first place, or their texts had been eroded by insects and been run down century after century," Prof. Yuan on Friday.


Yuan and his peers have finished cleaning all the 36,000 bamboo slips and they are still working to dehydrate and decoloring for the sake of restoring their original looks and improving on how tomake the relics intact. "The preservation process is slated to complete by the end of this year," added Yuan.


These bamboo slips, unearthed in June 2002 from an abandoned ancient well in Liye village, Longshan county in western Hunan. "are providing an essential specimen for our research under the rein of the imperial Qin empire, particularly on the rule of local lords," said Gao Chongwen, an archeologists from elite Beijing University in Beijing.


Experts say the bamboo slips could rank among China's most crucial archeological findings about the Qin Dynasty after the discovery of the Qin Mausoleum.


As the Qin Dynasty lasted for only 14 years, however, it left behind scarce records. And before the bamboo slips came around, most major events of Qing dynasty could only find traces in historical writings of the ensuing Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD).




Evidence of settlements found in Arabian desert


The excavation of settlements in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), has revealed that the area was once covered in lush green vegetation.


Archaeologists from the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS) found flint tools and the remains of small buildings near Al Ain, close to where the borders of the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia meet, and have dated the site to around 5000 BCE.


According to Peter Hellyer, the executive director of ADIAS, the climate of the UAE would have been much wetter then, with much more vegetation and wildlife supporting hunters and farmers. The sandy plains may also once have been lakes.


Dr Mark Beech, the senior resident archaeologist at ADIAS, said: "The results of this season are of great importance to our understanding of the early history of the emirates. They demonstrate

that this now remote desert area was once lush with vegetation, which had a regular supply of sweet water. The people at this time about 7,000 years ago were nomadic pastoralists, and they would have regularly occupied the Umm Al Zamul area, taking advantage of the numerous locally available resources."


Studies at the site will continue in a bid to see whether the settlement was an isolated one, or part of a more extensive spread of habitation. No buildings of this age have previously been found in

Abu Dhabi's deserts.


Source: gulfnews.com / keralanext.com (21 March 2005)



Swords and Sandals


In Libya, again open to U.S. travelers after more than two decades, archaeologists have uncovered spectacular mosaics of the glories of Rome


Helmut Siegert returned to the coast of Libya last year to follow up on a tantalizing discovery. In September 2000, his colleague Marliese Wendowski was excavating what she thought was a large farmhouse when, 12 feet deep in the sandy soil, she came across a floor covered with a stunning glass-and-stone mosaic of an exhausted gladiator staring at a slain opponent. The discovery had come too late in that year's expedition to pursue further, so the University of Hamburg archaeologists reburied the mosaic. "It was well preserved," Ziegert says. "I knew there had to be a lot more."


When Ziegert and his co-workers finally returned to the site—near the town of Homs, which is adjacent to the ancient Roman settlement of Leptis Magna—they found, mixed in with the ruins of a modest farmhouse, those of a stately villa that housed gladiators, ancient Rome's superstar athletes. The mosaics decorated the floor of an elaborate cold-water bathhouse and consisted of tiny pieces of green, brown and gold glass and stone laid in a thin layer of chalk atop about five inches of concrete. Ziegert, who has conducted digs all across northern Africa, was stunned by the works' size: five huge panels that stretched 30 feet. Luisa Musso, a specialist in mosaics and Roman archaeology at the University of Rome Three, says, "I've seen mosaics all over this area, and these are extraordinary."


The scenes captured the gore of the Roman amphitheater that stood nearby. In the panel Ziegert's team uncovered first, the slain gladiator's head tilts backward nearly out of the frame, in a technique more common to paintings than mosaics. In the other panels, four young men wrestle a wild bull to the ground with their bare hands, a warrior does lone battle against a long-antlered deer, and a gladiator wearing intricately patterned trousers hoists his shield over a stricken foe. Some antiquities specialists say the painterly touches indicate that a Roman artist probably created the mosaics. But other experts resent the implication that an African couldn't produce such sophisticated work. "It looks like the artist might have been trained at one of the local schools in North Africa," says Hafed Walda, a Libyan archaeologist based at the University of London's King's College.


The mosaic is a window onto a thriving Roman city at the height of the empire's hold on North Africa. Set in a natural harbor on Libya's North African coast, Leptis Magna was founded some 3,000 years ago by Phoenicians as a commercial trading post for the Mediterranean region. After centuries of political turmoil, the area joined the Roman Empire around 25 b.c. Walls and gates were built around the city later, but residents retained the right to own their land and control local affairs. Leptis Magna's traders did well under Roman rule, but after the empire collapsed, in the fifth century a.d., the city's prestige and population waned. The town disappeared completely in the 11th century. Today, the ancient settlement is nestled next to Homs, a bustling modern town that caters largely to archaeological missions and a growing number of foreign tourists.


Like many of Leptis Magna's original buildings, the villa that Ziegert has been uncovering was buried over time by the slow shifting of nearby hills. Musso guesses that the villa's owner was a prosperous local trader. Given the mosaic's artistry, she says, the trader would have had immense wealth. "Everyone who stepped into the villa would know immediately how rich he was."


Last June, Ziegert hired Libyan workers to lift the panels out of the ground, haul them more than a mile and cement them to the walls of the small Leptis Magna Mosaic Museum financed by Italian officials. The removal incensed some archaeologists, who claim that the mosaics were irreparably damaged. "The beautiful Roman artwork remained well preserved under the sand for almost 2,000 years, only to be hastily and clumsily unearthed," Giuma Anag, a technical adviser to Libya's Department of Archaeology, bemoans in an e-mail. "It will take a good restorer several years and a lot of money to rid the mosaic of its current steel-and-concrete base." Musso and others believe that instead of relocating antiquities, officials should arrange for security guards to watch over intact archaeological sites. "It's always better to leave something where it is," Musso says. "But one of the issues is that there is a great difficulty in finding money to preserve them on the spot."


Ziegert dismisses the concerns, saying that the mosaics were damaged centuries before during an earthquake around a.d. 200. Abdallah Elmahmudi, the scientific research director for Libya's Department of Archaeology, also denies the archaeologists harmed the artifact. "It was excavated according to scientific theories," he says. "The people are very good workers and used the materials that we have in the department."


The dispute highlights new pressures on Libya, which is promoting its archaeological ruins as a tourist attraction after decades as an international pariah. In February 2004, President Bush lifted the 23-year-old ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Libya; in September, air travel between the two nations resumed. The move came after Libya agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities and compensate the families of people killed in the 1988 bombing of a New York City-bound Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland; 270 people, including 189 Americans, died in the terrorist act, committed by a Libyan intelligence officer now jailed in Scotland. The United States still limits exports to Libya, and the nation remains on the State Department's list of terror sponsors along with countries such as Iran, Syria and Cuba.


Still, hundreds of Americans have recently traveled to Libya on package tours to visit the ruins of Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Cyrene. Among the best-preserved ancient Roman and Greek towns on the Mediterranean, the sites nonetheless show signs of neglect. "They're fantastic, but they look like they have been put in the hands of caretakers who don't give a damn," says Wisconsin travel consultant Rex Fritschi. Standing in the lobby of a Tripoli hotel last October, he said his group had found garbage strewn at some sites and no working toilets at others. Government officials and archaeologists say they need more funds not only for excavating but also administering archaeological sites.


If the gladiator mosaics are any indication, Libya's potential as a window into the Roman Empire's past has only just begun to be tapped: less than a third of Leptis Magna, a 1,500-acre site, has been excavated. As archaeologists continue to work, visitors to the little museum can contemplate the Roman equivalent of an action movie. The mosaics, Musso says, "are so full of passion and drama, it's like watching a film. They are really cinematic."


by Vivienne Walt 


Academics suggest Irish travellers are remnant of pre-Celtic culture

By David Keys, 27 March 2005

Irish travellers, long derided as anti-social itinerants rather than "true" Gypsies, are an ancient people in their own right, researchers say.

Academics preparing for the world's first symposium on the travellers' mysterious past, claim they could even be the last surviving remnants of a pre-Celtic Ireland, with their own distinctive language called "Cant" or "Gammon". 

Commonly known as "tinkers" because of their tin-smithing past, Irish travelling families have never enjoyed the romantic associations of Romany Gypsies. They now bear the brunt of complaints about illegal encampments, a concern that the Tory leader, Michael Howard, has tried to turn into an election issue with adverts in The Independent on Sunday and other papers.

Research by an Irish socio-linguist, Dr Alice Binchy, suggests that more than half the surviving Cant/Gammon lexicon may be derived from a long-lost language spoken in Ireland before the Celts arrived. "A partially pre-Celtic origin would have substantial implications for the way we look not only at traveller history, but at early Irish history as a whole," said Dr Binchy, a delegate at a conference of linguists, historians and anthropologists to be held at the University of Limerick. 

Pre-Celtic Ireland started to disappear 3,000 years ago. Irish travellers may first have been recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries. Surnames suggest that many are descended from medieval poets - the Irish bards. Others were metal workers. Significantly, both were separate "castes". 

It is probable that numbers greatly increased in the late 16th and early to mid-17th centuries, when English occupation forces dispossessed the Irish aristocracy. At some stage, the newly enlarged community appears to have begun to develop a secret form of verbal communication. Many academics - though not all - believe that words were altered, with syllables inverted and letters transposed, to make it impossible for enemies to understand. 

The language remains a source of dispute, with some scholars arguing that any link with the pre-Celtic era is unlikely. But most accept that travellers date back at least to medieval or Tudor times. 

"Research demonstrates that we are a people with a unique and turbulent history and underlines how resilient we have had to be to survive," said Martin Collins, assistant director of the Pavee Point Travellers Centre in Dublin.


28 March 2005 16:38


Eastern State Penitentiary Opens Archaeological Dig of Escape Tunnel to the Public

PHILADELPHIA, March 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Marking the 60th anniversary of one of the most famous prison breaks in American history, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site in Philadelphia is exploring the remains of a 97-foot tunnel still buried beneath the prison's massive wall.

Archaeologists will be on-hand Sunday, April 3rd (the exact anniversary) to lead hands-on archaeology workshops for the public, and describe their ongoing investigation. They are scheduled to begin the digging phase of their work on Monday, March 28.

The historic site will also stage a dramatic recreation of the 1945 tunnel escape on Sunday, April 3, using live actors to portray "Slick Willie" Sutton, tunnel mastermind Clarence Klinedinst, and ten others. The actors will spring from the ground at 8 a.m. and scatter into the neighborhood.

Living history tours will be offered throughout the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3 from 10 am to 5 pm. Live actors will meet the public, dressed in reproduction inmate uniforms from the 1940s, and will remain entirely in character as they describe the eighteen months they spent constructing the doomed tunnel.

This weekend will kick-off the 2005 season at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Eastern State Penitentiary is located at 22nd and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. More information is available at (215) 236-3300, or on the penitentiary website: http://www.easternstate.org/.

Source: Eastern State Penitentiary

CONTACT: Sean Kelley, Eastern State Penitentiary, +1-215-236-5111 x13

Web site: http://www.easternstate.org/