Prehistoric Stone Tools Evolved Independently Within Local Populations, Say Researchers

Suggestion challenges the traditional Out-of-Africa human migration theory for new stone tool introduction into Eurasia.

Thu, Sep 25, 2014


It wasn’t exclusively the arrival of new people from Africa with new technology that changed the stone tool repertoire of early humans in Eurasia a few hundred thousand years ago—it was local populations in different places and times gradually and independently wising up to a better industry on their own.

So suggests Daniel Adler, associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, and colleagues based on a recently completed study in which the researchers examined thousands of stone artifacts recovered from Nor Geghi 1, an Armenian Southern Caucasus archaeological site that features preserved lava flows and artifact-bearing sediments dated to between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago.  The artifacts, dated at 325,000 – 335,000 years old, were a mix of two distinct stone tool technology traditions—bifacial tools, such as hand axes, which were common among early human populations during the Lower Paleolithic, and Levallois, a stone tool production method typically attributed to the Middle Stone Age in Africa and the Middle Paleolithic in Eurasia. The researchers argue that the coexistence of two technologies at Nor Geghi 1 provides the first clear evidence that local populations developed Levallois technology out of existing biface technology.

“The combination of these different technologies in one place suggests to us that, about 325,000 years ago, people at the site were innovative,” says Adler.


The paper documenting the research, published in the 26 September 2014 issue of Science, presents the argument that biface and Levallois technology, while distinct, share a common evolutionary line. In biface technology, a stone is shaped through the removal of flakes from two opposite surfaces of the stone to produce a tool such as a hand axe. The detached flakes are discarded as waste products. In Levallois technology, the stone is shaped through the removal of flakes to produce a central convex surface tool, or core. The flakes are produced in predetermined sizes and shapes and used as tools. Archaeologists have suggested that Levallois technology is optimal in terms of raw material. The flakes are relatively small and easy to carry, useful for the highly mobile hunter-gatherers of the time. It has been interpreted as an advancement or innovative improvement on the biface technology.

Based on comparisons of archaeological data from sites in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, the study authors suggest that this change was gradual and intermittent, and that it occurred independently within different human populations who shared a common technological ancestry. In other words Levallois technology evolved out of pre-existing biface technology in different places at different times.


Their conclusion challenges the view that technological change resulted from population change (the introduction of or replacement of an older population by a new population) during this period. “If I were to take all the artifacts from the site and show them to an archaeologist, they would immediately begin to categorize them into chronologically distinct groups,” Adler says. However, he suggests that the artifacts found at Nor Geghi 1 actually reflect the technological flexibility and variability of a single population, speaking to the antiquity of the human capacity for innovation.


This study is the first to present data from Nor Geghi 1, and the research conducted at the site is a collaboration between the University of Connecticut, Yerevan State University, and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Yerevan. Intellectual contributions to this research were made by and international team of collaborators from Armenia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, Holland, Germany, Ireland, and the United States. Funding for this research was provided by the University of Connecticut (the Norian Armenian Programs Committee, the College of Liberal Arts and Science, the Office of Global Affairs, Study Abroad, and the CLAS Book Committee), the UK Natural Environment Research Council, the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, the Irish Research Council, and the University of Winchester, UK.

Source: Written with adapted and edited sections included from a University of Connecticut press release, Stone Age site challenges old archaeological assumptions about human technology



Oldest traces of modern humans in Europe found in Austria

by KG/XINHUA 23.09.2014 - 09:42


Discoveries at a dig site in Austria have showed that the oldest traces of modern humans in Europe have been found in Austria, which can be dated back to 43,500 years ago, archaeologists involved in the project claimed upon the publishing of their research on Monday.


The archaeologists had been digging at the Willendorf II site Willendorf in the Wachau region of Lower Austria from 2006 to 2011, where they found small stone artifacts believed to have been used as parts of weapons for hunting, typical of the Upper Paleolithic Age, that they were then able to date as being 43,500 years old.


Additionally the team was able to reconstruct the climate and vegetation of the region at the time through soil analysis, including both soil type and morphology, as well as through the composition of the shells of different species and sub-species of snails buried in that particular layer of soil.


They said this method of climate reconstruction is much more accurate than carbon-14 datings commonly associated with climate data from the Paleolithic Age.


Philip Nigst from the Division of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge told the Austria Press Agency on Monday that this showed the first modern humans settled in the region at the beginning of a warm phase of the Ice Age, where the region was a tundra steppe with light coniferous forests.


This estimation of the existence of modern humans in Europe is several thousands of years earlier than previously thought. Bence Viola from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Vienna told the Austria Press Agency this also showed the period of time that modern humans shared with Neanderthals is greater, now estimated to have been at least 3,500 years.


"We know that they mixed, because all humans outside of Africa today carry 1.5 to 3 percent Neanderthal DNA," she said. 



Siberian Mammoth Unearthed After Eaten by People 25,000 Years Ago

The Moscow TimesSep. 25 2014 18:56 Last edited 18:56


Researchers estimate that the bones, discovered earlier this month, are about 25,000 years old.

Researchers in Siberia have found the remains of a baby mammoth that researchers believe was caught and eaten by humans about 25,000 years ago, local media reported Thursday.


The remains, discovered on the shores of Siberia's Belaya River, were separated into at least three distinct groups of chopped ribs, a broken skull and other bones, and teeth — all stacked over a 1.5-square-meter area, leading researchers at the Irkutsk State University to hypothesize that the animal fell prey to hunters, the Babr news agency reported.


Researchers estimate that the bones, discovered earlier this month, are about 25,000 years old. Since the remains belonged to a young animal, researchers also believe that the mammoth was probably captured by hunters when it fell behind its herd, the report said.


Archeologists digging up ancient human campsites in the village of Malta in the Irkutsk region also found the bones of a woolly rhinoceros this summer and a range of artifacts made from bone and stone, the report said.



Fire Cooked Up Early Human Culture

An anthropologist studying current hunter–gatherers finds that nighttime around the fire is when conversation turns from business to bonding.

Sep 24, 2014 |By Cynthia Graber


Some scientists say the use of fire helped make us modern humans—it dramatically changed what and how we eat and may have even altered our anatomy. But University of Utah anthropologist Polly Wiessner thinks that fire was also important in shaping human social interactions and cultural traditions. Her conclusions are in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Polly W. Wiessner, Embers of society: Firelight talk among the Ju/’hoansi Bushmen]


Wiessner evaluated day and night activities and conversations of Kalahari Bushmen from Botswana and Namibia. These communities still live by hunting and gathering, as most humans did over evolutionary history.


During the day, nearly a third of the conversations dealt with economic issues such as hunting strategies and foraging plans. Another third covered complaints, criticisms and gossip.


But at night around the fire, more than 80 percent of group conversations were storytelling, often about people living far away or in the spirit world.


Weissner says that humans are unique in that we create ties to others outside of our immediate group. Gathering at the fire expanded listeners’ imaginations and allowed for the development of cognitive processes that made it possible to form those links to distant communities. Which makes fire the precursor to Facebook.




Article created on Thursday, September 25, 2014


Evidence for ritual and possible astronomical practices during the Mesolithic period, 9000 years ago, has been uncovered in Bolków by lake Świdwie, Western Pomerania, by archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Szczecin, Poland.


This Mesolithic-era site recently became famous for the artefacts found at one particular hut. A number of possible shamanistic ritual objects along with a fragment of meteorite were discovered last year. (Past Horizons. July 07, 2014 – http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/07/2014/mesolithic-shamanistic-meteorite-talisman-unearthed)


To add to this discovery, the archaeologists have investigated the remains of two further pine and aspen pole structures which would have stood to a height of some 1.5 metres (5 ft). Inside both of the structures were buried bundles of pine and birch bark, bunches of grass – Festuca ovina - as well as bone fragments from forest dwelling animals. Now the archaeologists are more certain than ever that this is a rare glimpse into the world of Mesolithic beliefs.


“These finds are eloquent, direct evidence for the beliefs and rituals of Mesolithic societies that were inextricably linked to the natural world of animals and plants on which they were dependant. The bundles contain key elements of the contemporary environment in which they moved”- says Prof. Tadeusz Galinski, head of research.


In addition to the structures made of pine and aspen poles the archaeologists also found seven perfectly preserved yew stakes stuck into the ground on what can only be described as a very recognisable pattern. According to Prof. Galiński it seems plausible they reflect a part of what we now call the constellation of Ursa Major (the Great Bear) – the brightest of the stars that make up Ursa Major are known as the Big Dipper or Plough.


The possible astronomical discoveries in the camp in Bolków along with fragments of meteorite appear to further confirm the hypothesis that shamans played an important role within Mesolithic communities, developing an interest in the mysteries of the sky and the marking of time.


Further evidence for Mesolithic star gazing

In 2013 the University of Birmingham (UK) reported on the discovery of a Mesolithic pit alignment and therefore claimed the earliest evidence currently available for ‘time reckoning’. The pit group appears to mimic the phases of the Moon and is structured to track lunar months. The researchers stated in their report, “the evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and ability to track time across the year, and also perhaps within the month, and that this occurred at a period nearly five thousand years before the first formal calendars were created in Mesopotamia.”


Source: PAP – Science and Scholarship in Poland www.naukawpolsce.pap.pl

More Information “Time and a Place: A luni-solar ‘time-reckoner’ from 8th millennium BC Scotland” – Journal of Internet Archaeology

Cite this article

PAP – Science and Scholarship in Poland www.naukawpolsce.pap.pl. Mesolithic sanctuary reveals constellation riddle



More Than 50 'Nazca Lines' Found in Kazakhstan

More than 50 geoglyphs, including one shaped like a swastika, have been discovered in northern Kazakhstan.



More than 50 geoglyphs with various shapes and sizes, including a massive swastika, have been discovered across northern Kazakhstan in Central Asia, say archaeologists.


These sprawling structures, mostly earthen mounds, create the type of landscape art most famously seen in the Nazca region of Peru.


Discovered using Google Earth, the geoglyphs are designed in a variety of geometric shapes, including squares, rings, crosses and swastikas (the swastika is a design that was used in ancient times). Ranging from 90 to 400 meters (295 to 1,312 feet) in diameter, some of them are longer than a modern-day aircraft carrier. Researchers say that the geoglyphs are difficult to see on the ground, but can easily be seen from the sky.

Over the past year, an archaeological expedition from Kazakhstan's Kostanay University, working in collaboration with Vilnius University in Lithuania, has been examining the geoglyphs. The team, which is conducting archaeological excavations, ground-penetrating radar surveys, aerial photography and dating, recently presented its initial results at the European Association of Archaeologists' annual meeting in Istanbul.


Many of the geoglyphs were made of earthen mounds, although one example, a swastika, was made using timber.


Archaeological excavations uncovered the remains of structures and hearths at the geoglyphs, suggesting that rituals took place there, said archaeologists Irina Shevnina and Andrew Logvin, of Kostanay University, in an email to Live Science. Ancient tribes may also have used the geoglyphs to mark ownership of the land, the researchers noted.


"As of today, we can say only one thing — the geoglyphs were built by ancient people. By whom and for what purpose, remains a mystery," said Shevnina and Logvin.


Why they're builders used geometric shapes is also a mystery, although the swastika is an ancient symbol found throughout Europe and Asia.


While Peru's Nazca Lines are the world's most famous geoglyphs, archaeological research suggests that geoglyphs were constructed in numerous areas around the world by different cultures.


For instance, in the Middle East, archaeologists have found thousands of wheel-shaped structures that are easily visible from the sky, but hard to see on the ground. Also recently in Russia, archaeologists excavated a geoglyph shaped like an elk, which appears older than the Nazca Lines.


Ancient geoglyphs have also been reported in many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Brazil and even the Southwestern United States. The introduction of high-resolution Google Earth imagery over the last decade has helped both professional archaeologists and amateurs detect and study these enigmatic structures.



Sardinian archaeologists find 'giant'

Monte Prama site gets new addition


(ANSA) - Oristano, September 25 - Archeologists working in Sardinia's southwestern region have uncovered a new 'giant', officials reported on Thursday.

    Archaeologists from the Superintendency of Cagliari and Oristano and Cagliari and Sassari universities dug up another monumental sandstone giant at the Monte Prama excavation site in Oristano on Thursday morning.

    The Monte Prama site is home to the Giants of Monte Prama, ancient stone figures from the Bronze-age Nuragic civilization that were discovered en masse in the early 1970s.

    When reconstructed, the sandstone figures are approximately 2.5 meters in height. The remains of the giant sculpture, along with additional finds, were placed in storage.



‘the Fenwick treasure’ reveals more gems…

This week, the Trust’s hoard of treasure from the Williams & Griffin store in the High Street at Colchester – ‘the Fenwick treasure’ – has been undergoing work in a laboratory. A conservator and an archaeologist have been working together to ‘excavate’ the treasure and begin its conservation, while also producing a record of the process.

The Trust found the treasure in the last few days of our excavation at the store, at the end of August. For security reasons, we did not make the discovery public until the following week. The news of the treasure created a huge amount of media, archaeological and local interest. The treasure was found where it had been hidden during the Boudican revolt of AD 61, under the floor of a room in a house which fronted onto the Roman town’s main street (now the High Street). In AD 61, the native Britons revolted against the Roman occupation of Britain and burned the Roman towns of Colchester, London and St Albans to the ground. In Colchester, they also massacred the inhabitants. We now know that, as the Britons approached Colchester, a wealthy Roman woman in the town buried her valuables under the floor for safe-keeping…  Colchester, London and St Albans all have a layer of Boudican destruction debris under the ground, precisely dating to AD 61, and containing burnt structural material and burnt finds such as smashed pottery, remains of furniture and foods. The hoard is the first time that treasure has been found in Colchester town centre and it is the only hoard from the Boudican revolt in Britain. The treasure was found on the same site as some human bones, also dating to the Boudican revolt, and this is the first time that we have found human remains from the revolt in Colchester. The Boudican destruction layer provides a sort of snapshot of the Roman town and a fascinating record of the concrete details of the revolt. The treasure is beautiful and rare and gives us a glimpse of wealthy Roman life – it also tells a tragic story of one individual in the revolt.

As the conservator and archaeologist expose and remove more of the hoard, in the laboratory, they are discovering more remarkable items, including more beautiful jewellery. We now know that the hoard consisted of five small gold finger-rings (four with gems and one with the incised image of a dolphin), a loose gem intaglio with the incised image of a panther, a pair of silver bracelets, a large silver armlet, a short silver chain, a flat circular copper-alloy pendant which might go with the chain, a plain gold adjustable bracelet, two gold looped bracelets, a pair of gold globe earrings, a pair of pearl and gold earrings, a small bag or purse of corroded silver coins (two of which are Augustan), and a small jewellery box which may have been made of thin silver with some wooden element inside and with external fittings of silver and perhaps ivory.

The conservation process will take a while and then the treasure will be studied and reported on. In the future, it will be displayed at Colchester Castle Museum.

The Trust’s excavations at the Williams & Griffin store were funded by Fenwick Ltd.



The Seaton Down Hoard: Amateur metal detector uncovers 22,000 Roman coins

Discovery is one of the largest finds of all time

NICK CLARK  Author Biography  ARTS CORRESPONDENT  Friday 26 September 2014


An East Devon metal detector enthusiast has stumbled upon one of the largest hoards of Roman coins ever found in Britain, prompting a local museum to launch a campaign to buy the “remarkable” collection for the nation.


The British Museum announced the discovery of the Seaton Down Hoard today. Comprising of about 22,000 coins dating back more than 1,700 years, it is the fifth largest find of Roman coins in Britain.


Laurence Egerton, 51, a semi-retired builder from East Devon, discovered two ancient coins “the size of a thumbnail” buried near the surface of a field with his metal detector in November last year.


After digging deeper, his shovel came up full of the copper-alloy coins. “They just spilled out all over the field,” he said. “It was an exciting moment. I had found one or two Roman coins before but never so many together.”


The metal detectorist called in the experts and watched amazed as archaeologists discovered thousands more coins buried about a foot deep. To ensure the site was not tampered with Mr Egerton slept in his car nearby “for three cold nights” until the dig was finished.


Over the past 10 months the coins have been lightly cleaned Over the past 10 months the coins have been lightly cleaned (The Trustees of the British Museum)

“It’s by far the biggest find I’ve ever had. It really doesn’t get any better. It is so important to record all of these finds properly because it is so easy to lose important insights into our history,” Mr Egerton said. He found the coins near the Honeyditches site in Devon where a Roman villa had previously been excavated.


Bill Horner, county archaeologist at Devon County Council, said: “We realised the significance and mobilised a team as fast as we could.” He continued: “The coins were in remarkably good condition. Coming out of the ground you could see the portrait faces; a family tree of the House of Constantine.”


Over the past 10 months the coins have been lightly cleaned, identified and catalogued at the British Museum, although there is still more work to do. They range from late AD 260 to almost AD 350. Mr Horner said the coins bore a range of portraits, describing it as a “family tree of the House of Constantine”.


The British Museum called the scale of the find “remarkable", adding that it was "one of the largest hoards ever found within the whole Roman Empire”. The largest find in Britain was the Cunetio Hoard of almost 55,000 coins discovered near Mildenhall, Wiltshire in 1978


The coins would not have been particularly valuable at the time; with experts estimated they would then have been worth about four gold coins, equivalent to a worker’s pay for two years.


The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery in Exeter hopes to raise money to buy the collection and appealed to the public to donate.


The hoard is yet to be fully valued, but one expert said it would be worth less than £100,000. The proceeds will be split between Mr Egerton and the landowner, Clinton Devon Estates.


One of the coins is particularly special. It marks the one millionth find of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, set up in 1997 to provide a record of all the finds brought in by members of the public.


The scheme is managed by the British Museum and funded by the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport’s grant-in-aid to the institution.


Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum said: “You know what it’s like; you sit waiting for the millionth object to come along and 22,000 come along at once.”


The special coin, called a nummus, was struck by Constantine the Great to celebrate the inauguration of the new city of Constantinople, now Istanbul.


The coins after light conservation The coins after light conservation ( The Trustees of the British Museum)

The scheme was set up to keep track of all the finds by metal detectorists and enthusiasts and provide a resource for scholars to study historical objects. Since 1997 a total of 500 Roman coin hoards have been discovered across the country.


Major finds since the PAS scheme was set up include the Staffordshire Hoard, dating to the 7th century, the largest Anglo-Saxon hoard of gold and silver ever found. There have also been significant Viking and Bronze Age finds.


The British Museum said recording the finds has helped revolutionise the understanding of battlefields including Naseby in 1645 and the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. There, the find of a silver-gilt boar badge helped pinpoint where Richard III met his death.


Successful metallers 


The Staffordshire Hoard


Terry Herbert found the largest ever Anglo-Saxon hoard of gold and silver with his metal detector in 2009. It consisted of over 3,500 items, almost exclusively “war-gear”.


The Frome Hoard


A collection of 52,500 silver and copper alloy coins were discovered in a round clay pot by hospital chef Dave Crisp in 2010. They dated to the reign of Carausius


The Vale of York Hoard


David Whelan and his son Andrew used metal detectors to discover the treasure in 2007 in an empty field. The 10th century Viking hoard included 617 silver coins and other items.


Boughton Malherbe Hoard


One of the largest Bronze Age hoards was discovered in Kent in 2011. The 346 artefacts, which date to 800BC were discovered by friends Wayne Coomber and Nick Hales.



China's largest ancient nomadic campsite unearthed


Remains of an ancient nomadic campsite for emperors from the Liao Dynasty (907-1125 A.D.) may be the largest of their kind in China, archaeologists said on Wednesday.


The campsite, found in Qian'an County in northeast China's Jilin Province, served as administrative center during the reign of nomadic Khitans over north China, although the regime's capital city was in Inner Mongolia.


Feng Enxue, an archaeologist and professor with Jilin University, told Xinhua that emperors of the Liao Dynasty usually had four campsites where they lived during four seasons. In spring and summer, when it was warmer, they moved to the north while in autumn and winter they settled in the south.


The ruins, once the spring campsite, were first found in 2009 and have undergone excavation since August this year. Situated on a vast grassland, the campsite is next to a small lake. Tradition dictates that Khitan emperors would give the first wild goose he hunted and the first fish caught as offerings for prosperity every year.


Overall it consists of four parts. The biggest, three kilometers wide, is about one third the size of the entire campsite, containing as many as 900 bases for camping.


While archaeologists have yet to disclose the overall size of the campsite, it is believed to be the largest ever found in China.


During the past two months, archaeologists unearthed more than 100 cultural relics, including tiles, pottery, porcelain, copper coins and Buddha statues.


Site workers also discovered pottery shards, coal cinder and pieces of broken ironware, which proved the Khitans dwelled their for short periods.


Jin Xudong, head of the Jilin Provincial Bureau of Cultural Heritage, told Xinhua that they are considering applying for the World Heritage list. End



Search for King Harold's remains approved


East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by Georgia Diebelius, Reporter - Epping Forest


The licence needed to begin the search for the remains of King Harold has been approved.


The search, which will be documented by the team behind the discovery of Richard III’s remains in 2012, was planned to launch on September 2, however it was twice rescheduled due to a delay in securing a licence.


Oval Films will meet with Stratascan, the largest provider of archaeological geophysics in the UK, next month to determine a new date for the initial ground scan.



The search hopes to find the remains of King Harold, in the Abbey Gardens in Waltham Abbey, in line with theories he was given a formal funeral at the Abbey Church of Waltham Holy Cross and St Lawrence years after his death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.


The search is being sponsored by author Peter Burke, who has written two historical novels and has different theories about Harold II’s death.


He said: “I am convinced Harold survived the Battle of Hastings.


“If we find the complete remains of an old man in his late 70s with scarring to his temple from a battle wound then we need to do a DNA test.


“Our understanding of this particular period of English history would have to change.”



Ancient stone castle found under school

First published Thursday 25 September 2014 in News

by Adam Knight


A PRIMARY school near Ross-on-Wye had quite a surprise when an ancient stone castle was unearthed during work to two of its classrooms.


English Bicknor Primary school had been sitting on a rare early example of a stone castle, and Andy Boucher, one of the archaeologists heading up the dig, said it tells us a great deal about the site.


“This is a very exciting discovery,” said Mr Boucher, regional manager at Headland Archaeology.


“It shows this was in fact a 'keep and bailey' castle which are usually very early in date.


“In this case it seems to have had a gatehouse keep, and the remains we found could have been the base of one of two towers flanking the gate.”


The discovery came about when work was being done to replace two of the school’s classrooms – and the contractors, Pod Space, have been able to come up with a new design that preserves the remains.


It had been long known that English Bicknor was the site of a ‘motte and bailey’ castle, but the two-metre-high tower base suggests a much more significant settlement.


Mr Boucher said: “It is known that William FitzNorman – who was born in the Forest of Dean prior to the conquest – was lord of the manor here in 1086, and this may have been his castle.”


This is not the first major find Headland Archaeology, who are working with English Heritage on the project, have made in the area.


The archaeology firm had previously undertaken survey work on one of the country’s earliest castles at Ewyas Harold in Herefordshire.