CU-led study says Bering Land Bridge a long-term refuge for early Americans

Population of hundreds or thousands likely lived on land bridge for up to 10,000 years


A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder bolsters the theory that the first Americans, who are believed to have come over from northeast Asia during the last ice age, may have been isolated on the Bering Land Bridge for thousands of years before spreading throughout the Americas.


The theory, now known as the "Beringia Standstill," was first proposed in 1997 by two Latin American geneticists and refined in 2007 by a team led by the University of Tartu in Estonia that sampled mitrochondrial DNA from more than 600 Native Americans. The researchers found that mutations in the DNA indicated a group of their direct ancestors from Siberia was likely isolated for at least several thousand years in the region of the Bering Land Bridge, the now-submerged plain that lies between northeast Asia and Alaska once exposed by a significantly lower sea level.


CU-Boulder researcher John Hoffecker, lead author of a short paper article appearing in the Feb. 28 issue of Science magazine, said the Beringia Standstill model gained little traction outside of the genetics community after it was proposed and has been seen by some scientists outside of the field as far-fetched. But the new paper by Hoffecker and co-authors Scott Elias of Royal Holloway, University of London, and Dennis O'Rourke of the University of Utah adds credence to the Beringia Standstill idea by further linking the genetics to the paleoecological evidence.


"A number of supporting pieces have fallen in place during the last decade, including new evidence that central Beringia supported a shrub tundra region with some trees during the last glacial maximum and was characterized by surprisingly mild temperatures, given the high latitude," said Hoffecker of CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. The last glacial maximum peaked roughly 21,000 years ago and was marked by the growth of vast ice sheets in North America and Europe.


While a debate rages on about when early humans first migrated into the New World, many archaeologists now believe it was sometime around 15,000 years ago after retreating glaciers opened access to coastal and interior routes into North America.


The relatively mild summer climate in Beringia at the time was caused by North Pacific circulation patterns that brought moist and relatively warm air to the region during the last glacial maximum. Geologists believe the Beringia gateway between Siberia and Alaska was more than 600 miles wide at the time.


Hoffecker and others are now theorizing that a population of hundreds or thousands of people parked itself in central Beringia for 5,000 years or more. One key to the extended occupation may have been the presence of wood in some places to use as a fuel to supplement bone, which burns hot and fast. Experiments have shown that at least some wood is necessary to make bone practical as a fuel.


Elias, a paleoecologist and also an INSTAAR affiliate, said research using fossil pollen, plant and insect material from sediment cores from the now submerged landscape show that the Bering Land Bridge tundra environment contained enough woody plants and trees like birch, willow and alder to provide a supplement to bone.


Work by Elias and others included the analysis of certain beetle species that live in very specific temperature zones, allowing them to be used as tiny thermometers. The insects indicated that temperatures there were relatively mild during last glacial maximum that ran from about 27,000 years to 20,000 years ago, only slightly cooler than temperatures in the region today.


"The climate on the land bridge and adjacent parts of Siberia and Alaska was a bit wetter than the interior regions like central Alaska and the Yukon, but not a lot warmer," said Elias. "Our data show that woody shrubs were available on the land bridge, which would have facilitated the making of fires by the people there."


Evidence from the 2007 study indicated a set of genetic mutations in mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down from mother to offspring, clearly accumulated after the divergence of people from their Asian parent groups in Siberia but before their dispersal throughout the Western Hemisphere, said O'Rourke. In addition, ancient DNA from human skeletal remains found at a 24,000-year-old archaeological site in southern Siberia also appears consistent with the divergence of Native American groups from their Asian forbearers by that time window, he said.


"The genetic record has been very clear for several years that the Native American genome must have arisen in an isolated population at least by 25,000 years ago, and the bulk of the migrants to the Americas really didn't arrive south of the ice sheets until nearly 15,000 years ago," O'Rourke said. "The paleoecological data, which I think most geneticists have not been familiar with, indicate that Beringia was not a uniform environment, and there was a shrub tundra region, or refugium, that likely provided habitats conducive to continuous human habitation."


"From my view the genetics and paleoecology data come together nicely," said Hoffecker, who co-authored a 2007 book with Elias titled "The Human Ecology of Beringia." While the weakest link to the Out of Beringia theory is the lack of archaeological evidence, Hoffecker believes future research on now submerged parts of Beringia as well as lowlands in western Alaska and eastern Siberia that still remain above water may hold clues to ancient habitation by Beringia residents, who eventually moved on to be the first group to inhabit the Americas.


Hoffecker also believes that the Beringia inhabitants during the last glacial maximum could have made successful hunting forays into the uninhabited steppe-tundra region to both the east and west, where drier conditions and more grass supported a plentiful array of large grazing animals, including steppe bison, horse and mammoth.


There is now solid evidence for humans in Beringia before the last glacial maximum, as geneticists first predicted in 1997, said Hoffecker. After the maximum, there are two sets of archaeological remains dating to less than 15,000 years ago. "One represents a late migration from Asia into Alaska at that time," he said. "The other has no obvious source outside Beringia and may represent the people who are thought to have sheltered on the land bridge during the glacial maximum.


"If we are looking for a place to put all of these people during the last glacial maximum, Beringia may be the only realistic option," said Hoffecker.


A video news story on the research is available at http://www.colorado.edu/news.


Contact: John Hoffecker



University of Colorado at Boulder

Jim Scott, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3114




World's most ancient cheese found in China

By Rob Quinn Published February 27, 2014 Newser

The oldest cheese ever found was already stale nearly a thousand years before the earliest Greek philosophers were munching on feta. Researchers in China have discovered that the odd clumps of yellow matter found on the necks and chests of mummies from as early as 1615 BC are actually lumps of amazingly well-preserved cheese, USA Today reports.


The Small River Cemetery No. 5 was uncovered in 1934 then sat forgotten for decades; excavation began in 2003, the New York Times previously reported.


Dry, salty conditions in the Taklamakan Desert where the mummies were located helped keep the cheese intact for far longer than any other specimens ever identified.


The ancient cheesemakers were a Bronze Age people who buried their dead under boat-like wooden structures packed in cowhide, creating conditions that "vacuum-packed" the bodies and the cheese, says Andrej Shevchenko, whose study is to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.


His analysis showed that the extremely well-aged cheese was made with a "starter" of bacteria and yeast instead of rennet from the guts of a young animal, creating a low-lactose cheese that Asia's lactose-intolerant people could have eaten.



Ancient gladiator school discovered in Austria

By Megan GannonPublished February 28, 2014LiveScience


This virtual reconstruction shows the gladiator school as viewed from the south. (© MICHAEL KLEIN)

An ancient Roman gladiator school has been discovered in Austria, complete with cell blocks, a training arena and a bath complex, archaeologists say.


The buried remains of the school at the site of Carnuntum, near Vienna were detected not through excavations but through remote-sensing techniques. Based on these findings, researchers reconstructed the gladiator center in virtual 3D models.


Archaeologists have been studying Carnuntum, which is on the south bank of the River Danube, for more than 100 years. Previous excavations at the ancient military city had revealed parts of the civilian town, the legionary fortress and an amphitheater. [See Images of the Ancient Gladiator School and Recreation]


The newly discovered gladiator school, or ludus, covers 30,138 square feet, and the building complex is arranged around a central courtyard. The school was built during the second century A.D., Wolfgang Neubauer of the University of Vienna told Live Science.


"The most prominent feature inside the courtyard is a free-standing circular structure 19 m [62 feet] in diameter, which could be interpreted as the training arena for the gladiators," the authors write in the journal Antiquity.


The researchers, led by archaeologist Neubauer, say this arena would have been surrounded by wooden spectator stands set on stone foundations, which were clearly visible in the ground-penetrating radar data. These measurements also revealed something like a post-hole in the middle of the arena.


"This might be the foundation of the palus, a wooden pole used for exercising blows with the sword and body slams with the shield," Neubauer and colleagues wrote.


In the southern wing of the building complex, the researchers detected cell blocks that each covered only 32 to 75 square feet. Cells of a similar design have been found at the barracks at the ludus magnus, the gladiatorial school close to the Flavian amphitheater in Rome, the archaeologists wrote.


Other rooms along the western wing at Carnuntum were more spacious and were perhaps even decorated with tile floors. The researchers wrote that these chambers "were most likely reserved for the highest ranking gladiators or the instructors, many of whom probably were drawn from the ranks of senior and ex-gladiators."


The site also contains evidence of the living quarters of the school's owner, or the lanista, and a bath complex, where the gladiatorscould recover from their harsh training, the report says.


The archaeologists found the outline for the gladiator school over the last few years using non-invasive techniques like aerial photography, ground-penetrating radar and magnetometer surveys. The team also analyzed the area using an electromagnetic induction (EMI) sensor attached to a four-wheeler ATV. This method allows researchers to transmit an electromagnetic field to create currents in the soil. By determining the soil's electrical conductivity and its magnetic susceptibility, scientists can find out if the earth underneath has ever been heated, revealing the location of hidden bricks (which are made by heating clay).



Archaeology: ancient Roman house found in Arezzo

Excavations continue, medieval knight burial found

27 FEBRUARY, 12:29


An important archeological find of ancient Roman ruins has been made at the Medici Fortress of Arezzo in central Italy. During work for the reorganization of the historic building, evidence of an ancient Roman structure dating from the early decades of the first century AD were brought to light - probably a residence, or domus.


The new findings were presented by the regional superintendent of archaeological heritage, Andrea Pessina, who announced the continuation of work thanks to an immediate loan of 10,000 euros to identify more precisely what is there, as the structure could turn out to be an ancient public building of a much larger dimension. The Roman find is of enormous value for understanding the history of the city, Pessina said, and complements other discoveries such as the Church of San Donato in Cremona, dating back to the year 1000, found a few metres from the Roman structure, now being restored with financing in part from Prada proprietor Patrizio Bertelli.


The ancient ruins are believed to be a residential building from the Roman period in which three rooms so far have been identified. Remains of painted wall and floors have been found in two partially investigate rooms. The building, located in the northeastern plateau of the San Donato hill, was perched above the hillside's the steep slopes overlooking the valley below.


The floors found are attributable to the Augustan-Julio Claudian era (from late BC to the first decades AD), and show striking similarities to mosaics of the Villa dell'Ossaia in Cortona.


During the excavations, the burial remains of a warrior came to light - perhaps a medieval knight. The burial - still only partially seen by the experts conducting the excavations - is of a man with a long iron sword. According to preliminary investigations, the burial dates from around the year 1000.


Above a layer of collapsed floors of the Roman 'domus' there are signs of reuse later abandoned, including of course, the burial of the ''knight''. (ANSAmed).



Second oldest church in Germany uncovered

Published: 27 Feb 2014 16:32 GMT+01:00

Updated: 27 Feb 2014 16:32 GMT+01:00


Archaeologists have discovered Germany’s second oldest church hidden within a cathedral in the west of the country.


In the so-called "Old Cathedral" in Mainz, which is today the evangelical Church of St John, archaeologists found the remains of another church built 1,200 years ago in the time of Charlemagne, Deacon Andreas Klodt said on Tuesday.


Only Trier on the Mosel River has an older church, with its cathedral dating back to Roman times, making the find the second oldest church in the country.


Professor Matthias Untermann from the Institute of Art History in Heidelberg said the remains of the Carolingian walls stretched from the basement to the roof.


“This is a big surprise,” he said.


The Rhineland-Palatinate state curator Joachim Glatz said: "This is the only surviving Carolingian cathedral in Germany."


Usually a bishop would build a cathedral in the Middle Ages at the exact location of the previous building, getting rid of the older church.


But in Mainz the 1,000-year-old "Old Cathedral" was incorporated into the Carolingian one.


Archaeologist Ronald Knöchlein said Mainz had a Christian community in Roman times.


And according to Knöchlein two human skeletons have been found during the excavations - remains of earlier burials in the church.


The building has been used since the 19th Century as a church by the evangelical community.


During World War II, it was largely destroyed by fire after a bomb attack. Demolition was considered but was rejected. The dig is continuing.



Jumbo Statue Unearthed in Srirangam Temple

By Express News Service - TIRUCHY Published: 02nd March 2014 07:49 AM Last Updated: 02nd March 2014 07:49 AM


The Archaeology Department, which commenced digging work near the 1,000-pillar mandapam at Srirangam Renganathaswamy temple unearthed a buried elephant statue and other treasures, including  copper rings, coins and inscribed stones on Saturday.


The Additional Chief Secretary, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, R Kannan inaugurated the digging work earlier in the day.



Ancient boat may be unearthed

Published on the 2 March 2014 08:29


An ancient Hebridean boat could be recovered from beneath the sands of a Benbecula beach this summer- more than 400 years after it sank.


A 40ft Birlinn-style boat – is believed to be buried under the sand on Baleshare beach and could be the subject of an investigation by a team from Project SAMPHIRE (Scottish Atlantic Maritime Past: Heritage, Investigation, Research and Education).


The marine archaeology project, funded by the Crown Estate, has been running for the last year and has already discovered more than 40 archaeological sites including wooden shipwrecks, cannons, ancient anchors, prehistoric fish traps and small fishing vessels around the north west of Scotland.


A further £75,000 has been received for another two years of the project and so the team are hoping to follow up some Hebridean leads.


John McCarthy, SAMPHIRE Project Manager of Wessex Archaeology Coastal and Marine said: “We have a number of sites to investigate in the Outer Hebrides including a birlinn-type boat in the intertidal sands at Benbecula, there are also reports of a possible B17 wreck on the seabed in the same area and a stone anchor found in Lewis.”


Birlinn boats were extensively used in the islands and West Highlands from Middle Ages up to the 17th century, but there is currently no physical record of them in existence.


Mr McCarthy added: “The Birlinn type site is very credible. If we can confirm it it will be the first physical evidence of this type and would be enormously exciting.”


Rev Donald MacQuarrie from Fort William, who has links with Uist, has carried out much research on the unknown shipwrecks of Benbecula and says there have been no sightings of the Birlinn wreck since the late 19th century.


“Sadly there has been no sign of the wreck since it was reported on in 1894,” he said. “A reason for this is that this area has been sheltered by the South Ford causeway – but it is still there. It would now need some expensive ground radar to stand a chance of finding it. If it was found it would be marvellous because we do not have one bit of material that we can say came from a Scottish Galley – yet hundreds were built.”


The Oban Times and The Scottish Highlander reported in March 1894 that there had been a ‘curious find’ on the shore with a boat being uncovered following a storm. It was discovered beside the rocks at known as Sgeir na Birlin, which could be a reference to the shipwreck on the site.


The paper reported that it was believed a Birlinn had been wrecked there in the late 1600s and the crew were buried on the land above the shore. At the time it was reported that the wood of the Birlinn was in ‘an excellent state of preservation and extremely hard’.


Researchers from Project SAMPHIRE are also interested in another wreck site close by which is known about locally but not on the official database.


The story of the James A Wright sailboat has also been researched extensively by Donald MacQuarrie who said there is sadly little still remaining of the masted sailing ship which sank in November 1877.


The vessel floundered during a severe westerly gale that winter en route from Liverpool to Georgia, USA. She was damaged on a reef, west of Heisgeir and drifted towards Baile Sear where she remains to this day.


The SAMPHIRE team have not yet confirmed their investigation plans for this summer but do plan to carry out more community outreach work to find out about unreported wreck sites. Mr McCarthy said this would involve contact with local dive clubs and they were keen to hear from anyone with information on potential sites.


He added: “We are looking forward to new discoveries over the next two years and already have some very exciting leads to investigate.”


Anyone with details of any wreck site in the Hebrides can email j.mccarthy@wessexarch.co.uk with further information.



Candelabra found in Ibiza waters offers clues about medieval navigation routes

Date: February 26, 2014 Source: Plataforma SINC


The history of medieval navigation on the Iberian peninsula is a great mystery. In the 1970s, a recreational diver found a bronze candelabra in Ibiza which Marcus H. Hermanns, a scientist from the German Archaeological Institute in Madrid, has now unveiled. It is a unique piece from the 10th century which could provide clues on sea routes in the period.


The scientist Marcus H. Hermanns from the German Archaeological Institute in Madrid works on research projects on underwater Spanish archaeological heritage.

He has just finished the catalogue of archaeological sites and pieces found to date underwater off the Balearic coast. "The list is part of the National R&D&I Plan to have an inventory of cultural heritage submerged under the waters of all coastal regions," Hermanns explains.

This collection has involved several years of archiving work, but also diving to check the state of shipwrecks and underwater archaeological sites. "These diving checks were made with the Spanish Guardia Civil's (Civil Guard's) Special Group for Underwater Activities (GEAS in Spanish) of the Ibiza division, and certain locations -- which are now being published -- caught our attention. We also carried out other, more detailed projects, such as analysing a bronze candelabra from the Middle Ages that is unique to the region," the archaeologist adds.

This piece, a description of which is published in the journal Archivo Español de Arqueología (Spanish Archaeology Archive), is unusual because there are not many similar models in the world. It is also unique to the Balearic region and dates back to the 10th century, an era in which marine activities on the Pityusic Islands (Ibiza and Formentera) are widely unknown.

"However, as it belongs to a private collection -- a diver in Ibiza found it in the 1970s -- it is quite a challenge gaining information about it," Hermanns remarks.

From Ibiza to the Muslim colony of Fraxinetum

Archaeologists know the location of the underwater site where the candelabra was found, so a diving check was carried out. It yielded no results, however. As the scientist explains, "the majority of the sea beds around the island, from 30 metres deep, are sandy and there is depth movement. You can be unlucky because the site could be covered on the day you are diving. We conducted several tests to find out the dynamics of the sea floor and the state the site was in."

This candelabra is noteworthy because the seaways that went along Ibiza to get to Mallorca are unknown. Moreover, on the route where it was found, several shipwrecks from the same period were also found in southern France.

"There was a link between the Iberian peninsula and the south of France at least, with a Muslim colony named Fraxinetum, according to the Latin documents preserved. There is also a group of sunken vessels that attest to it; this must have been a supply system for the colony from the south of the peninsula," the scientist claims.

Heermanns stresses that cases like these, in which objects currently held in private collections maintain well-documented account of the archaeological context in which it was found, are rare.

"There are few exceptions. This demonstrates the immense value that could be derived at institutional level, for example in diving federations, from raising awareness among recreational divers about underwater archaeology and the considerable cultural heritage to be found underwater," he emphasises. This candelabra is a unique piece, but coming from a location with no archaeological context, it is hard to imagine what use it had or any possible ritual implications.

"It belongs to the Caliphate era. We are uncertain of its symbology and precise use. For instance, it shows no traces of burning, among other reasons because it was restored differently from those found in investigations. However, it was worthwhile to make the study known to the scientific community because it might give clues on the importance of Ibiza in navigation routes," he concludes.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

Marcus Heinrich Hermanns. Vestigios altomedievales procedentes de las aguas de Ibiza/Eivissa (Islas Baleares). Archivo Español de Arqueología, 2013; 86 (0): 251 DOI: 10.3989/aespa.086.013.014

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Plataforma SINC. "Candelabra found in Ibiza waters offers clues about medieval navigation routes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2014.




Fossilized human feces from 14th century contain antibiotic resistance genes

ANTHROPOLOGY March 2, 2014



A team of French investigators has discovered viruses containing genes for antibiotic resistance in a fossilized fecal sample from 14th century Belgium, long before antibiotics were used in medicine.


“This is the first paper to analyze an ancient DNA viral metagenome,” says Rebecca Vega Thurber of Oregon State University, Corvallis, who was not involved in the research.

The viruses in the fecal sample are phages, which are viruses that infect bacteria, rather than infecting eukaryotic organisms such as animals, plants, and fungi. Most of the viral sequences the researchers found in the ancient coprolite (fossil fecal sample) were related to viruses currently known to infect bacteria commonly found in stools (and hence, in the human gastrointestinal tract), including both bacteria that live harmlessly, and even helpfully in the human gut, and human pathogens, says corresponding author Christelle Desnues of Aix Marseille Université.


The communities of phage within the coprolite were different, taxonomically, from communities seen within modern human fecal samples, but the functions they carry out appear to be conserved, says Desnues. That reinforces the hypothesis that the viral community plays a fundamental role within the human gastrointestinal tract, and one which remains unchanged after centuries, even while the human diet and other human conditions have been changing.


Over the last five years, considerable evidence has emerged that bacteria inhabiting the gut play an important role in maintaining human health, for example, as part of the human metabolic system, says Desnues. Her own research suggests that the bacteriophage infecting the gut bacteria may help maintain these bacteria. Among the genes found in the phage are antibiotic resistance genes and genes for resistance to toxic compounds. Both toxins and antibiotics are common in nature, and Desnues suggests that the resistance genes may simply be protecting the gut bacteria from them.


“Our evidence demonstrates that bacteriophages represent an ancient reservoir of resistance genes and that this dates at least as far back as the Middle Ages,” says Desnues.


“We were interested in viruses because these are 100 times more abundant than human cells in our bodies, but their diversity is still largely unexplored,” says Desnues. “In the present study, we thus focused on the viral fraction of the coprolite by using, for the first time, a combination of electron microscopy, high-throughput sequencing and suicide PCR approaches.”

Desnues and her collaborators are currently conducting further studies on the fungi and parasites in the coprolites, which she says will be of interest not only to microbiologists, but to historians, anthropologists, and evolutionists.


The genesis of the research was an urban renewal project in the city of Namur, Belgium, in which latrines dating back to the 1300s were discovered beneath a square.


Header Image : Example of a coprolite: Lloyds Bank coprolite : fossilised human faeces dug up from York, England by archaeologists. It contains pollen grains, cereal bran, and many eggs of whipworm and maw-worm (intestinal parasites).


Contributing Source : American Society for Microbiology


© Copyright 2014 HeritageDaily - Heritage & Archaeology News



Storms uncover World War 1 wreck off Cornish coast

Monday, February 24, 2014


The severe storms off the North Cornwall coast have revealed the wreck of a German ship which went down during World War 1.

The remains of the SV Carl surfaced at Booby’s Bay near Trevose Head after tons of sand were washed off the beach by the storms.

The pictures were taken by documentary film maker Crispin Sadler of Mallinson Sadler Productions, and an authority of shipwrecks.

Mr Sadler said:“ I reckon about a metre of sand has been stripped off this beach and although I have seen some of this wreckage in the past, I have never seen so much revealed as this time.


 “Its from a ship called the SV Carl wrecked on October 7th 1917. It was a German sailing ship that was being towed to London and broke its tow. The majority of the ship was salvaged and this is all that is left which is remarkably good condition from being under the sand all these years.’’

Mr Sadler said the sand was already beginning to cover up its secret again.

“ The sand is starting to return and even in the matter of 24 hours, parts of this wreckage is being covered up.’’


Read more: http://www.cornishguardian.co.uk/Storms-uncover-World-War-1-wreck-Cornish-coast/story-20692733-detail/story.html#ixzz2uq7UEnTw