martes, 16 de julio de 2013

16-07-13. Últimas noticias

Time to meet the Gibraltarthals

In 1848, Captain Edmund Flint of the Royal Navy found an unusual looking skull in a limestone cave in Forbes Quarry at the northern base of the Rock. No one knew what it was and the skull was placed in the Garrison library and largely forgotten.

Then in 1856 a similar skull was discovered in the Neander Valley in Germany and was described as a separate species the following year. That, together with the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859, led to the Gibraltar skull being re-examined and identified.

But although Flint’s discovery had been eight years earlier, the species had become known as Neanderthal, after the site of the second find.

The Rock again grabbed the attention of anthropologists in 1926, when Dorothy Garrod, the pioneering prehistorian who became the first woman to be elected a professor at Cambridge, discovered a Neanderthal child on a dig near Forbes Quarry.

Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum and professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto, says: “Using modern computer techniques, the whole skull and even the inner ear have been reconstructed and we know that it was a child that died 60,000 years ago at the age of four .”

Finlayson also heads the archaeological research project in Gibraltar. Now in its 22nd year, the project covers nine caves that make up the highest concentration of Neanderthal activity in the world. So important is the site that four of the caves — Gorham’s, Vanguard, Bennett’s and Hyena — have been placed on Unesco’s tentative list for World Heritage status. Located just above sea level on the west coast of the Rock and having remained largely untouched for millennia, they are providing unrivalled evidence of what life was like for Gibraltarian Neanderthals.

From fossils, stone tools and petrified charcoals the archaeologists have identified not only the animals the Neanderthals were eating but also the plants that were growing. Radio carbon dating of a recently discovered hearth revealed that Neanderthals were living on Gibraltar as recently as 28,000 years ago — the last known survivors of their species by a few thousand years.

“It is a bit of an irony that having found some of the first fossil evidence of Neanderthals, we have also found the last ones to be alive,” Finlayson says.

It appears that they were living in a climatic refuge while Northern Europe was in the grip of the Ice Age. The caves now look over the Atlantic, but at the time of the last Neanderthals a great plain containing antelope, hyenas and leopards was spread out before them.

Finlayson and his team have uncovered a wealth of details such as dried up ponds containing fossilised frogs, birds and pollen dating back 50,000 years. They are now beginning to piece together a complete ecosystem around the Neanderthals.

The project is also beginning to reveal something of the sophistication and culture of these people. From an extensive study of the evidence gathered, Finlayson published a paper last year in which he argued that Gibraltarian Neanderthals were catching birds of prey, apparently to wear their feathers.

The World Heritage nomination is due to be reviewed in January 2015. If all goes well, the caves will be granted World Heritage status by July 2016.

“We have had the luck that these caves have been preserved. But what excites us is that we started off with the Forbes Quarry in the 19th century and we now have nine caves that we know Neanderthals were living in, two of them containing fossils,” Finlayson says.

Who knows what these three-and-a-half square miles of rock will reveal next about our ancient and distantly related cousins. Mark Barber /

Shin bone can solve early puzzle

A small fragment of bone represents the final piece of a puzzle that has taken academics working on opposite sides of the globe almost two decades to solve.

The ancient fossil is part of a shin bone that was found in 1921 at the Broken Hill mine in Zambia and is thought to belong to a Homo heidelbergensis man, an ancestor of modern human beings.

The bone resides in the Natural History Museum in London, where a staff member cut a small triangular chunk out of it for analysis.

And leading anthropologist Chris Stringer arrived in Canberra on Sunday with it in his carry-on luggage.

He is working at the Australian National University with long-time collaborator Rainer Grun to date the bone using the university's state of the art technology. [...]

Vandalizan legado histórico en Coahuila

Vídeo YouTube por vanguardiamedia el 15/07/2013 añadido a Paleo Vídeos > Prehistoria Universal > L.R.2.5 nº 37.

Saltillo, Coahuila. Los vestigios de la cultura prehistórica del sureste de Coahuila, grabados sobre enormes piedras milenarias, podrían estar a un ápice de desaparecer por causa del vandalismo que ha traspasado la frontera de las grandes ciudades y profanado los sitios considerados joyas invaluables del arte rupestre...