'Inhabitants of Madrid' ate elephants' meat and bone marrow 80,000 years ago

25 April 2012 Plataforma SINC


Humans that populated the banks of the river Manzanares (Madrid, Spain) during the Middle Palaeolithic (between 127,000 and 40,000 years ago) fed themselves on pachyderm meat and bone marrow. This is what a Spanish study shows and has found percussion and cut marks on elephant remains in the site of Preresa (Madrid).


In prehistoric times, hunting animals implied a risk and required a considerable amount of energy. Therefore, when the people of the Middle Palaeolithic (between 127,000 and 40,000 years ago) had an elephant in the larder, they did not leave a scrap.


Humans that populated the Madrid region 84,000 years ago fed themselves on these prosbocideans' meat and they consumed their bone marrow, according to this new study. Until now, the scientific community doubted that consuming elephant meat was a common practice in that era due to the lack of direct evidence on the bones. It is still to be determined whether they are from the Mammuthus species of the Palaleoloxodon subspecies.


The researchers found bones with cut marks, made for consuming the meat, and percussion for obtaining the bone marrow. "There are many sites, but few with fossil remains with marks that demonstrate humans' purpose" Jose Yravedra, researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and lead author of the study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science points out to SINC.


This is the first time that percussion marks that showed an intentional bone fracture to get to the edible part inside have been documented. These had always been associated with tool manufacturing but in the remains found, this hypothesis was discarded. The tools found in the same area were made of flint and quartzite.


The team, made up of archaeologists, zooarchaeologists and geologists from UCM, the Institute of Human Evolution in Africa (IDEA) in Madrid and the Spanish National Research Centre for Human Evolution (CENIEH) in Burgos, collected 82 bones from one elephant, linked to 754 stone tools, in an area of 255 metres squared, in the site of Preresa, on the banks of the river Manzanares.


In the case of the cut marks on the fossil remains, these add to the "oldest evidence of exploiting elephants" in the site of Áridos, close to the river Jarama, according to another study published by Yravedra in the same journal. "There are few records about the exploitation of elephants in Siberia, North America and central Europe", the zooarchaeologist explains.


The risk of hunting an elephant


The internal organs were what the predator ate first, be they human or any kind of carnivore. The prehistoric signs of the banquet help researchers to find out who was the first to sit down at the table, as the risk of hunting an elephant posed the question as to whether humans hunted it or were scavengers.


"This is the next mystery to be solved" Yravedra replies, who reminds us that there is evidence of hunting in other smaller animals in the same site. However, due to the thickness of fibrous membranes and other elephant meat tissues, humans did not always leave marks on the bones. "And for this reason, sometimes it is difficult to determine if humans used their meat".


The 'Holy Grail' of Palaeolithic diet


Animal fat was highly valued by hunters and gatherers that had a diet rich in meat and low in carbohydrates. When there was little meat, other resources such as bone marrow became a source of lipids.


According to the study, this practice was not very common due to the difficulty of extracting the marrow from the bones. Furthermore "exploiting the fat is something that has not been reported until now" the researcher says. Other food sources, such as brains, had the same nutritional benefits.



New study chronicles the rise of agriculture in Europe

Analysis of Stone Age remains shows that farming moved north across the continent

Public release date: 26-Apr-2012

Contact: Natasha Pinol



American Association for the Advancement of Science


An analysis of 5,000-year-old DNA taken from the Stone Age remains of four humans excavated in Sweden is helping researchers understand how agriculture spread throughout Europe long ago. According to Pontus Skoglund from Uppsala University in Sweden and colleagues, the practice of farming appears to have moved with migrants from southern to northern Europe.


Agricultural know-how wasn't the only thing that early European farmers introduced to the region. Based on their genetic data, Skoglund and the researchers say that Europe's first farmers eventually mixed their genes with the hunter-gatherers who lived there—a relationship that set the stage for today's modern European genome.


"We analyzed genetic data from two different cultures—one of hunter-gatherers and one of farmers—that existed around the same time, less than 400 kilometers (249 miles) away from each other," said Skoglund. "After comparing our data to modern human populations in Europe, we found that the Stone Age hunter-gatherers were outside the genetic variation of modern populations but most similar to Finnish individuals, and that the farmer we analyzed closely matched Mediterranean populations."


These findings likely have something to do with the expansion of farming across Europe, according to the researchers.


"When you put these findings in archaeological context, a picture begins to emerge of Stone Age farmers migrating from south to north across Europe," said Skoglund. "And the result of this migration, 5,000 years later, looks like a mixture of these two groups in the modern population."


The researchers report their data in the 27 April issue of the journal Science, which is published by AAAS, the nonprofit international science society.


Most experts agree that the agricultural way of life originated about 11,000 years ago in the Near East before it reached the European continent some 5,000 years later. But this new study should help scientists understand the impact of that agricultural revolution on human diversity.


Skoglund and his colleagues performed their analysis with the ancient remains of three hunter-gatherers who were associated with the Pitted Ware Culture and excavated from the island of Gotland, Sweden, along with those of a farmer, who was associated with the Funnel Beaker Culture and excavated from Gökhem parish, Sweden.


"We know that the hunter-gatherer remains were buried in flat-bed grave sites, in stark contrast to the megalithic sites that the farmers built," said Mattias Jakobsson, a senior author of the Science report, also from Uppsala University. "The farmer we analyzed was buried under such a megalith, and that's just one difference that helps distinguish the two cultures."


Ancient hunter-gatherers had a distinct genetic signature that was similar to that of today's northern Europeans, while the farmer's genetic signature closely resembles that of southern Europeans, according to the researchers. Interestingly, these ancient genomes don't share many similarities with modern-day Swedes, despite their discovery and excavations in Sweden.


"The fact that the hunter-gatherers are most similar to Finns, Orcadians and other extreme-northern populations suggests that they were indeed the last major part of the Mesolithic meta-population that populated large parts of Europe before the early farmers appeared," said Anders Götherström of Uppsala University, who is another senior author of the Science report. "And the fact that the farmer is most similar to southeastern Europeans makes sense too, as that is from where the spread of agriculture north and eastward started."


"The results suggest that agriculture spread across Europe in concert with a migration of people," added Skoglund. "If farming had spread solely as a cultural process, we would not expect to see a farmer in the north with such genetic affinity to southern populations."


The researchers suggest that Europe's early, intrepid farmers traveled north across the continent, settled in the northern regions and eventually mixed with resident hunter-gatherer populations. Consequently, the genomes of most modern Europeans were likely shaped by this prehistoric migration that first brought farming to the continent, they say.



The report by Skoglund et al. was supported by the Lars Hierta Memorial Foundation, Nilsson-Ehle Donationerna, Marie Curie Actions, the Danish National Research Council, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and the Swedish Research Council.


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science (www.sciencemag.org) as well as Science Translational Medicine (www.sciencetranslationalmedicine.org) and Science Signaling (www.sciencesignaling.org). AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes some 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS. See www.aaas.org.


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Copyright ©2012 by AAAS, the science society.




Human Genes Provide Clues to Rise and Spread of Agriculture in Prehistoric Europe

Study suggests agriculture was introduced from south to north in Stone Age Europe through human migration.

Thu, Apr 26, 2012


Did agriculture in Stone Age Europe rise and spread through the gradual transfer and diffusion of the farming idea from agriculturalists to hunter-gatherers, or was it brought as a package by migrating agriculturalists?  Was agriculture introduced from south to north, as the archaeological record suggests, or did it come from a different direction?

A joint Swedish-Danish research team may have finally found some answers.

Under the leadership of Assistant Professor Anders Götherström of Uppsala University, Sweden, and Assistant Professor Mattias Jakobsson, also of Uppsala University, researchers used advanced DNA techniques to study four skeletons of humans who lived in Sweden during the Stone Age, about 5,000 years ago. They analyzed the ancient remains of three hunter-gatherers of the Pitted Ware Culture , excavated on the island of Gotland, Sweden, and the remains of a farmer, a member of the Funnelbeaker Culture, excavated at Gökhem parish, also in Sweden.

"We know that the hunter-gatherer remains were buried in flat-bed grave sites, in stark contrast to the megalithic sites that the farmers built," said Jakobsson.  "The farmer we analyzed was buried under such a megalith, and that's just one difference that helps distinguish the two cultures."

They then compared their findings with genetic data from living European individuals.

"After comparing our data to modern human populations in Europe", said study colleague and report author Pontus Skoglund of Uppsala University, "we found that the Stone Age hunter-gatherers were outside the genetic variation of modern populations but most similar to Finnish individuals, and that the farmer we analyzed closely matched Mediterranean populations.......The Stone Age farmer's genetic profile matched that of people currently living in the vicinity of the Mediterranean, on Cyprus, for example."  Says Götherström, "The fact that the hunter-gatherers are most similar to Finns, Orcadians and other extreme-northern populations suggests that they were indeed the last major part of the Mesolithic meta-population that populated large parts of Europe before the early farmers appeared. And the fact that the farmer is most similar to southeastern Europeans makes sense too, as that is from where the spread of agriculture north and eastward started."

According to widely accepted interpretations of the archaeological record, agriculture is thought to have developed in the Middle East about 11,000 years ago. By about 5,000 years ago, it had spread to most of Continental Europe. But how it spread and how it affected people living in Stone Age Europe are questions that have been debated for many years. Was agriculture an idea that spread across Europe or a technique that a group of migrants took with them to different regions of the continent?

"The results suggest that agriculture spread across Europe in concert with a migration of people," said Skoglund. "If farming had spread solely as a cultural process, we would not expect to see a farmer in the north with such genetic affinity to southern populations."

The research outcomes thus support the scenario that the spread of agriculture was driven by people migrating from Southern Europe northward. The results also indicate that the farmers lived side by side with hunter-gatherers for generations, but eventually interbred, explaining the genetic variation that characterizes today's Europeans.

"What is interesting and surprising is that Stone Age farmers and hunter-gatherers from the same time had entirely different genetic backgrounds and lived side by side for more than a thousand years, to finally interbreed," Jakobsson says.

The full report of the research can be found in the April 27th issue of the journal Science, which is published by AAAS, the nonprofit international science society.



Bulgarian Archaeologists Find Ancient Vase Depicting ‘Group Sex’

Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed an Ancient Greek vase featuring an eroticscene during excavations in the Black Sea town of Sozopol.


The vase was found on Sunday during digs which first started in October 2011, and target the fortress wall of what once was one of the largest Greek polises on the Black Sea coast, and the ruins of the St. Nikolas of Myra monastery.


It was discovered in the oldest archaeological layers in Sozopol dating back from the end of the 7th century to the middle of the 6th century BC, announced Prof.Bozhidar Dimitrov, Director of Bulgaria’s National History Museum, who described the erotic scene on the vase as depicting “group sex”.  as cited by Focus.


“This vase, which was unfortunately found in several fragments, presents a very strong erotic scene. Several naked young people, boys and girls, are shown having sex in an unorthodox way. This is the first time such an ancient erotic scene is found in Bulgaria,” Dimitrov said, as cited by Focus.


“Such scenes are relatively rare. We have found thousands of ancient vases in Bulgaria but this is the first one of this type. I have seen similar vases in Greece. The Ancient Greeks considered sex a free gift from the gods, it was the Christian church that first proclaimed what is wrong and what is allowed in sex,” he stated.



Archaeological dig at Upton could find remains of a Roman suburb

Published on Saturday 28 April 2012 07:20


ARCHAEOLOGISTS hope to uncover up to 1,000 years of Northampton’s history when they investigate a building site on the west of the town.


A dig on the latest phase of the Upton development is planned to take place next month.


Early examinations of the nine- acre site have suggested there could be both Iron Age and Roman finds beneath the ground.


Steve Parry, from Northamptonshire Archaeology, said: “The exciting thing about this project is that it gives us the opportunity to look at quite an extensive area.


“And we believe occupation on the site runs from the early Iron Age through to the end of the Roman period. So it’s getting on for 1,000 years of settlement and farming on the site.”


Initial tests on the site, which were carried out more than a decade ago, suggest there could be a road buried beneath the ground with a number of buildings facing onto it.


It is believed the buildings could have been a suburb of the Roman settlement of Duston.


Mr Parry said: “We carried out extensive work on the site about 12 years ago and we identified a road with a series of properties coming off it.


“In the Roman period it would have perhaps been a suburb of the Roman town of Duston.


“There are certainly a number of plots leading off the road and it looks as though some of them had structures in them.


“So we’re fairly confident of what we’re likely to find, but there’s really no way of telling what might actually be down there.”


Work on the site is expected to start in May.


It is thought the archaeologists will work on the land for about a month.


After they have completed their work, it is planned to build a complex of new houses and shops on the site.


Doncaster-based developer, Keepmoat, was given planning permission to build on the site last year.


The development will include a pub, nursery, shops, restaurant and an old people’s home, as well as 324 new homes.




Investigation of a recently excavated Roman shipwreck reveals ancient sailors smuggled on the side.

By Rossella Lorenzi

Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:16 PM ET



·         A roman shipwreck was recently excavated in shallow waters near an Italian beach resort.

·         The most complete Roman ship ever found, the cargo vessel sank off the coast of Sicily some 1,700 years ago.

·         Among the ship's official cargo were hidden stashes of valuable interlocking tiles used in construction.


Evidence of ancient smuggling activity has emerged from a Roman shipwreck, according to Italian archaeologists who have investigated the vessel's cargo.


Dating to the third century AD, the large sunken ship was fully recovered six months ago at a depth of 7 feet near the shore of Marausa Lido, a beach resort near Trapani.


Her cargo, officially consisting of assorted jars once filled with walnuts, figs, olives, wine, oil and fish sauce, also contained many unusual tubular tiles.


The unique tiles were apparently valuable enough for sailors to smuggle them from North Africa to Rome, where they sold for higher prices.


"They are small terracotta tubes with one pointed end. Put one into the other, they formed interlocking, snake-like tiles. Rows of these so-called fictile tubes were used by Roman builders to relieve the weight of vaulting," Sebastiano Tusa, Sicily's Superintendent of the Sea Office, told Discovery News.


Tusa will detail the wreck discovery in a forthcoming publication by the Museum of the Sea in Cesenatico, within a national meeting of underwater archaeology and naval history.


Following an analysis of the jars and their contents, Tusa and colleagues concluded that the 52- by 16-foot ship was sailing from North Africa when she sank some 1,700 years ago, probably while trying to enter the local river Birgi.


In North Africa the vaulting tubes cost a quarter of what builders paid for them in Rome.


"It was a somewhat tolerated smuggling activity, used by sailors to round their poor salaries. They bought these small tubes cheaper in Africa, hid them everywhere within the ship, and then re-sold them in Rome," Tusa said.


According to Frank Sear, professor of classical studies at the University of Melbourne, vaults featuring rows of fictile tubes were most common in North Africa from about the 2nd century AD.


"The tiles were also frequently imported to Sicily and turn up in many places such as Syracuse, Catania, Marsala and Motya. There are good examples of them in the baths of the late Roman villa at Piazza Armerina," Sear, a leading authority on Roman architecture, told Discovery News.


The smuggled cargo, as well as the jars and ceramic food bowls used by the sailors, were recovered in perfectly preserved condition.


The old cargo vessel was completely covered by a thick layer of clay and sea grass meadows -- a sort of natural coating which has also preserved most of the ship's wooden structure.


"We have recovered more than 700 wooden pieces. Both the left and the right side of the hull has remained almost intact. Once reassembled, this will be the most complete Roman ship ever found," Tusa said


Now under restoration at a specialized lab in Salerno, the vessel is expected to be displayed in a local museum within two years.



Bones of early American disappear from underwater cave

12:38 25 April 2012 by Frank Nowikowski


One of the first humans to inhabit the Americas has been stolen – and archaeologists want it back.


The skeleton, which is probably at least 10,000 years old, has disappeared from a cenote, or underground water reservoir, in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.


In response, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico City has placed "wanted" posters in supermarkets, bakeries and dive shops in and around the nearby town of Tulum. They are also considering legal action to recover the remains.


The missing bones belong to a skeleton dubbed Young Man of Chan Hol II, discovered in 2010. The cenote in which it was found had previously yielded another 10,000-year-old skeleton – the Young Man of Chan Hol, discovered in 2006.


The earlier find has anatomical features suggesting shared heritage with Indonesians and south Asians. Other skeletons found in cenotes in the area with similar features may date to around 14,000 years ago. Such finds imply that not all early Americans came from north Asia. This deals yet another blow to the idea that the Clovis people crossing an ancient land bridge between Siberia and Alaska were the first to colonise the Americas. Clovis culture dates to around 13,000 years ago.


Both skeletons were laid to rest at a time when sea level was much lower than it is today and the cenote, now about 8 metres below the water, was dry. Archaeologists have also found the remains of elephants, giant sloths and other animals in the caves, giving an indication of what the ancient humans ate.


INAH researchers have been aware of creeping theft of specimens from cenotes, but they lack the resources to guard the hundreds of sites that dot the peninsula.



Archaeologists Investigate 17th Century Settlement in South Berwick, Maine

Mon, Apr 23, 2012

Archaeologists are looking to recover what remains of 17th century homesteads and garrisons in colonial period Maine.


It was the year 1693 and the two men were haying the fields near a garrison in colonial Maine when they were ambushed by a Wabanaki (American Indian) war party. One was killed. The other was scalped.

Just two years before, Wabanaki forces had attacked the garrison, but were successfully repulsed. King William's War (1689-97) typically saw scenes like this. The war became the first of six colonial wars fought between New France and New England, along with Native American allies, in the contested new frontier of North America before Britain eventually defeated France there in 1763.

Led by Dr. Neill de Paoli, archaeologists under the sponsorship of the Old Berwick Historical Society are now exploring and excavating the area of one of these 17th century garrisons and related homesteads, located near present-day South Berwick, Maine. Called the Old Fields Archaeology Project, they are focusing on the property of Harvey and Paula Bennett, the 18th century homestead of Captain Ichabod Goodwin (1700-1778) and his son, General Ichabod Goodwin (1743-1829). One of their goals is to determine whether this property was also the site of a “garrison” sheltering citizens during this era of warfare many years before. Before being owned by the Goodwins, the property was thought to have been occupied by William Spencer (c.1631 - 1696) and his nephew, Humphrey Spencer, from c. 1690 to c. 1712.  As a garrison at that time, it and its associated fields were recurring targets of war parties of the Wabanaki Confederacy, allied with the French. The garrison sheltered as many as 100 residents and soldiers in 1711.

The first evidence of English occupation of the area indicates settlement in the 1660s and 1670s, but nearby water falls had been harnessed for sawmills since as early as 1634.  Along the nearby Salmon Falls River, the settlers had established the Pipestave Landing, the settlement’s first primary docking facility for trade and commerce. And In the late 18th century the area became the site of the mansion of Jonathan Hamilton, a prominent merchant. The mansion still stands to this day.

Regarding its significance, the Project staff reports that "the Old Fields site is thus in the midst of important landings, mills, and early road junctions. It is surrounded by early landmarks, including what were once Wabanaki Indian corn fields (“Old Fields”); Cow Cove, reputed site of the 1634 landing of the English ship “Pied Cow”; the archaeological site of the Humphrey Chadbourne homestead (1654-1690); the 17th century Old Fields cemetery; and the settlement’s first meetinghouse (c.1660/1668)."[1] The area therefore represents a rich microcosm of life during those times in colonial Maine.


Neill De Paoli, Project Director


What has been found?

Beginning in 2010, the excavations have already unearthed solid evidence of a late 17th century and early 18th century presence on the Goodwin homestead. They have uncovered artifacts dating from c. 1650 to c. 1730, including sherds of German and English stoneware jugs, tankards, glass wine bottles, English clay smoking pipes, English delftware and Portuguese or Spanish majolica plates and bowls, as well as turned lead and glass quarrels to casement windows. Traces of early historic structures have been uncovered, including laid, shaped stones that may have been part of a foundation or steps for a 17th or 18th century building.

Evidence hasn't been limited to the late 17th and early 18th centuries. They have also uncovered artifacts dated to the 1740 - 1829 time period, including those associated with blacksmithing, a kitchen, parlor, bedrooms, barn, and a dairy. The finds include slag, fragments of plates, bowls, jugs, pots, mugs, tankards, cups and a spoon; a “smoker’s companion” used to light pipes; a bone hairbrush and comb; decorated shoe buckles; and common pins and a pair of small scissors.


De Paoli hopes to return to Old Fields during the summer of 2012 to continue the search for the early Spencer homesteads and garrisons. Individuals who might be interested in joining the efforts are invited to learn more about the site and the opportunities at the Old Berwick Historical Society website.

 [1] http://oldberwick.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=486&Itemid=280



Archaeologists Make Exciting Discovery Near Monticello

Monticello archaeologists have discovered two previously unknown archaeological sites that contain nineteenth century artifacts, including remains of slave homes.

Email Address: news@newsplex.com

April 27, 2012


Monticello archaeologists have discovered two previously unknown archaeological sites that contain nineteenth century artifacts, including remains of slave homes—some from Jefferson’s time.


The sites were discovered in April at Tufton, historically significant as one of Thomas Jefferson’s four quarter farms located about a mile and a quarter east of Monticello.


A preliminary assessment of the artifacts indicates the earlier of the two sites was occupied in the first few decades of the nineteenth century, most likely by enslaved field laborers who worked on the Tufton farm.


Archaeologists recovered significant Jefferson-era artifacts including: a padlock, which matches one found on Mulberry Row, a glass bead, a slate pencil, a metal coat button, along with scores of datable ceramic sherds in refined English earthenwares and some Chinese porcelain.


The second site contains artifacts that date from the mid through late-nineteenth century and contains above-ground remains of at least two houses: a stone foundation and a brick chimney stack. This indicates that after Jefferson’s death and the sale of his slaves to pay his debts, the site was occupied by slaves belonging to Tufton’s subsequent owners, the Macons, who acquired the tract in 1833. The earlier site also contains artifacts from the Macon period.


The Jefferson-era remains on the earlier site will give archaeologists an opportunity to assess how the material lives of slaves living on an outlying quarter farm compared to the lives of enslaved domestic workers and artisans living on Mulberry Row and enslaved field hands who cultivated the fields of Monticello Mountain and lived on its slopes. The later nineteenth-century remains offer the possibility of studying how the material lives of slaves changed from Jefferson’s time up to the Civil War, and then again after emancipation.


The archaeological sites are significant in size. The site with earlier artifacts measures about 875 by 500 feet, the later 750 by 200 feet.


“This is the biggest cluster of Jefferson-era artifacts we have found since we discovered Site 8 in 1998,” said Fraser Neiman, Director of Archaeology at Monticello. Site 8 was the main slave settlement on the Monticello home farms in the late 18th century. “Our initial hypothesis is that these newly discovered sites represent multiple, widely spaced single-family houses,” said Neiman.


Thomas Jefferson inherited Tufton and later gave it to his daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph. Tufton served as important agricultural land, providing large amounts of crops and food sources for the Monticello plantation. Beginning in 1817, Tufton was managed by Jefferson’s grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph.