Prehistory


Maxwell_Neanderthal

Image by hairymuseummatt via Flickr

This appears to be a very interesting new theory that comes with a bold (and controversial) study: 40,000 years ago the volcanoes in Europe blew the final whistle for our close relatives, the Neanderthals. The picture provided by the researchers seem consistent with the chronology, though some scholars remain unconvinced. Other theories suggest that modern humans played an important role in the demise of the Neanderthals in a variety of ways including warfare. This is, as far as I know, the first plausible theory on a “catastrophic explanation”. The study is published in the October issue of the journal “Current Anthropology”. Probably a wave of controversy will follow soon by the “orthodox academicians”.

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Almost every week or so we hear sensational discoveries from the world of archaeology. This time, teams from Manchester and York universities claimed to have discovered a house which is 10,500 years old – the oldest house found so far in Britain.

Amplify’d from www.bbc.co.uk

Archaeologists are claiming to have discovered the oldest house in Britain.

The circular structure, found at a site near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, has been dated as being made in 8,500BC.

Archaeological dig at Star Carr

Described as a “sensational discovery” by archaeologists, this is 500 years older than the previous oldest house.

The teams from the universities of Manchester and York are also examining a nearby wooden platform, which is being claimed as the oldest example of carpentry in Europe. (more…)

The mystery surrounding Neanderthals continues. According to the latest studies, our relatives had reached as far as China in Asia, before being wiped off the earth. There is still controversy on how the Neanderthals disappeared. One opinion points at a sudden climate change, while another one claims (more confidently) that our ancestors destroyed them. Weather it was a “holocaust” or an “extinction” caused by climate change, one thing is becoming more and more certain with the latest studies and researches: Neanderthal race was far more wide-spread on our planet than we previously thought. The feature below was clipped from Discovery News:

clipped from dsc.discovery.com

Go East, Old Man

Oct. 1, 2007 — European Neanderthals, modern man’s ill-fated cousins who died out mysteriously some 28,000 years ago, migrated much further east than previously thought, according to a study released Sunday.
Remains from the slope-browed hominid have previously been found over an area stretching from Spain to Uzbekistan, but the new study extends the eastern boundary of their wanderings another 1,250 miles deep into southern Siberia, just above the western tip of what is today China.
The fossils underpinning the study are not new, but the techniques used to analyze them are.
Geneticist Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and colleagues compared mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from bones found from two sites — one in Teshik Tash, Uzbekistan and the other from the Altai Mountains in Siberia — with those of specimens from different European sites.

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A very exciting discovery in Egypt: Human footprints that go back about 2 million years or even more. Some scholars said, the footprints could even go back more than 3 million years, which makes them the “oldest traces of humans” on the planet. The story below is from the BBC, clipped by JohnWaterman at Clipmarks web site.

clipped from news.bbc.co.uk
Archaeologists in Egypt say they have discovered what might be the oldest human footprint ever found
The outline was found imprinted in mud, which has since turned to stone, at Siwa oasis in the western desert.
“This could go back about two million years,” antiquities council chief Zahi Hawass was quoted by Reuters as saying. However Khaled Saad, director of pre-history at the council, said it could be older still, and pre-date Ethiopia’s 3m-year-old skeleton, Lucy.

map

Lucy, discovered in 1974 in Hadar, Ethiopia, is an extinct Australopithecus afarensis hominid estimated to be 3.2 million years old.
“It could be the most important discovery in Egypt,” Mr Hawass said.
Until now the earliest evidence of human activity found in Egypt, most famous for the era of the pharaohs, dates from about 200,000 years ago.

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Usually, the greatests finds of archaeology and paleontology comes from amateurs and hobbysts. The latest example is from Switzerland, where an enthusiast found a large site with bones and remains of Plateosaurus, a prehistoric herbivore. Reuters reports:

clipped from news.yahoo.com
ZURICH (Reuters) –
An amateur paleontologist in Switzerland
may have unearthed Europe‘s largest dinosaur mass grave after
he dug up the remains of two Plateosaurus.
The dinosaurs’ bones came to light during house-building in
the village of Frick, near the German border.
“A hobby paleontologist looked at a construction site for a
house and happened to discover the bones,” said Monica Ruembeli
from the Frick dinosaur museum.
The finds show that an area known for Plateosaurus finds
for decades may be much larger than originally thought.
“It could be that the area extends for 1.5 kilometers (0.9
miles) and in that case, you could certainly say it’s the
biggest site in Europe,” said Martin Sander, a dinosaur
paleontologist at the university of Bonn in Germany.

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According to the latest researches conducted by scientists from Spain and Gibraltar suggest that our present apocalyptic nightmare, climate change, could have also been the reason of Neanderthals‘ extinction some 24 thousand years ago. Let’s look at the new discoveries without asking the old question “Does history repeat itself?” again. BBC News reports:

clipped from news.bbc.co.uk

Neanderthal skull from Forbes Quarry, Gibraltar  Image: Gibraltar Museum

Small pockets of Neanderthals clung on in the south (Image: Gibraltar Museum)

A sharp freeze could have dealt the killer blow that finished off our evolutionary cousins the Neanderthals, according to a new study.

The ancient humans are thought to have died out in most parts of Europe by about 35,000 years ago.

And now new data from their last known refuge in southern Iberia indicates the final population was probably beaten by a cold spell some 24,000 years ago.

The research is reported by experts from the Gibraltar Museum and Spain.

They say a climate downturn may have caused a drought, placing pressure on the last surviving Neanderthals by reducing their supplies of fresh water and killing off the animals they hunted.

Neanderthals appear in the fossil record about 350,000 years ago and, at their peak, these squat, physically powerful hunters dominated a wide range, spanning Britain and Iberia in the west to Israel in the south and Uzbekistan in the east.

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