viernes, 10 de febrero de 2017

New analytical tools are reshaping our knowledge of ancient humans


Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania is one of the richest archaeological sites in the world... Photograph by Noel Feans, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Under the scorching heat of Tanzania, in the outskirts of the Serengeti National Preserve, a disheveled band of archaeologists crawls on top of one of the richest sites of ancient human fossils and artifacts in the world. It is the Olduvai Gorge, a location so remote that water and food have to be delivered by trucks in a three day journey. As they brush away dirt and pebbles under the indifferent gaze of the Maasai guards scouting for lions and wild animals, bioarchaeologist Ainara Sistiaga runs around the excavation collecting soil samples. She will send these samples to her lab at MIT for analysis, hoping to find invisible chemical trails preserved in the sediments after millions of years. She hopes her work will reveal information about the environment, diet and habits of our ancestors in ways unattainable by traditional archaeology.

Sistiaga is spearheading a new wave of archaeologists and paleontologists using a new array of analytical methods that go beyond collecting and measuring bones and stone artifacts. These techniques are largely based on biomarkers –natural products that can be traced to their biological origin. The new information they are unearthing is challenging long-held notions about our extinct ancestors, including Neanderthals and other human species. They are also providing accurate measurements of the climate, abundance of vegetation and presence of water in prehistoric times in places like Olduvai.

“Archeology has changed from being a very traditional field to something resembling a scene from CSI,” explains archaeologist Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo, director of the Olduvai Paleoanthropological and Paleoecological Project, one of the two active excavation projects in the Olduvai Gorge. “New techniques are allowing us to see things invisible to the naked eye that are revealing aspects of our human ancestors’ behavior we had never imagined.” [...] Boston University News Service

New doubts on whether early humans were forced to start farming


Figure 2. Susan Bulmer excavating with local communities in New Guinea - courtesy of Glenn Summerhayes.

The development of agriculture is universally believed to underpin some of the most significant advances made by humans worldwide. In New Guinea, where one of the earliest human experiments with tropical forest agriculture occurred, researchers have cast doubt on two views about the origins of agriculture.

The study questions the idea that climate variability after the last Glacial period drove such innovation out of necessity. It also throws doubt on the view that early hunter gatherers could not survive successfully in tropical forest environments without domestic crops and animals as they found little evidence for climate variability from 12,000 to 300 years ago. Instead, it appears that the montane tropical forests of New Guinea provided a stable source of subsistence for human hunter-gatherers although farmers also worked the land close by. The findings are published in the early online version of the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution. [...] University of Oxford / Link 2 

Descubren restos de megafauna en cueva inundada de Q. Roo


Foto: Jan Arild Aaserud, INAH.

El INAH registró un centenar de huesos de especies aún no identificadas y los neurocráneos de un par de osos de la Edad de Hielo

Al internarse en las profundidades de una galería que alcanza los 100 metros, dentro de una enorme cueva inundada del estado de Quintana Roo, el equipo del proyecto Gran Acuífero Maya (GAM) del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) descubrió diversos depósitos con restos de megafauna extinta hace más de diez mil años, entre ellos, los neurocráneos (cubierta ósea que protege el encéfalo) de un par de osos de la Edad de Hielo.

El arqueólogo Guillermo de Anda Alanís, director de dicha iniciativa de investigación, y el explorador subacuático Robert Schmittner, encabezaron la exploración de esta galería que —con base en registros previos— es considerada la segunda más profunda de esa parte de la península de Yucatán, sólo superada por el cenote conocido como “El Pit” o “El Foso” que sobrepasa los 120 metros.

El paso subterráneo se halla al interior de una cueva de 850 metros de longitud aproximada, una de las series de cavidades inspeccionadas por el proyecto GAM durante su primer semestre de prospección arqueológica, cuyo reconocimiento minucioso abarcó un transecto de 50 kilómetros radiales entre las zonas quintanarroenses de Muyil, Tulum y Chumpón.

De Anda, quien también es explorador de la National Geographic Society, informó que tras descender unos 60 metros por esta galería (con un diámetro aproximado de 75 metros) se observan estalagmitas que alcanzan los 30 metros de altura, longitud que hace referencia a la evolución milenaria de este espacio sumamente peculiar.

“Esta gran cueva, además de ser muy valiosa para la investigación desde el punto de visto hidrogeológico, posee una riqueza arqueológica única, ya que documentamos la presencia de distintas especies de fauna extinta. Cabe destacar un par de neocráneos de lo que podrían ser ejemplares de alguna especie de oso del Pleistoceno, del género Arctotherium”... (Vídeo) INAH

Vídeo. Hallazgos de la Edad de Hielo en galería inundada de Quintana Roo - INAH TV
Vídeo añadido a PaleoVídeos > L.R.2.12 nº 10.

35,000 year-old axe to return to Egypt after studies



The Louvain University in Belgium handed over a 35,000 year-old axe to the Egyptian Embassy in Brussels after studies

After the completion of archaeological and scientific studies, the Louvein University in Belgium handed over a 35,000 year-old axe to the Egyptian Embassy in Brussels.

The axe will arrive in Egypt within days.

Shaaban Abdel Gawad, the supervisor-general of Antiquities Repatriation Department, said the axe is carved in stone and was discovered by the Louvain mission along with a human skeleton in Nazlet Khater archaeological site in Sohag in Upper Egypt.

The Luvein mission took both the skeleton and the axe to Belgium for studies. The skeleton returned to Egypt in August 2015.

Abdel Gawad said that the axe is one of the oldest skeletons ever found in Egypt.

It goes back to the Old archaic era around 35,000 years ago.

It also shows the development of human species that lived in Egypt throughout different eras.

Abdel Gawad suggested that the skeleton and the axe be put on show at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat. Ahram Online

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