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POOLE, ENGLAND—The Independent reports that footprints left some 700,000 years ago at Ethiopia’s site of Melka Kunture offer insight into the parenting techniques of Homo heidelbergensis. The footprints suggest a group made up of adults and children had been at the site, where stone tools and the butchered remains of a hippo were also found. “Clearly the adult members of the groups were getting on with normal activities,” said Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University. He says children tagged along with the adult hunting group, and thus learned firsthand about toolmaking, hunting, and butchering from an early age. For more, go to “Our Tangled Ancestry.”
DUISBURG, GERMANY—Science Magazine reports that volcano biologist Hardy Pfanz of the University of Duisburg-Essen and his colleagues measured the concentration of carbon dioxide emitted from the cave-like grotto at the temple dedicated to Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld, in Hierapolis. The visible mist still pours from deep fissures in the earth under the Plutonium into an open-air arena surrounded by raised stone seating. Pfanz and his team found that the warmth of the sun during the day dissipates the gas, but in the cool of the night, the gas, which is slightly heavier than the air, collects on the floor of the arena. At dawn, the concentration of carbon dioxide on the arena floor would have been strong enough to kill animals and people within a few minutes. Pfanz suggests the temple priests probably led bulls and other animals into “the gates of hell” for sacrifice in the morning, when their heads would not have risen above the layer of gas, while the priests themselves would have been safe. As the animals became dizzy, their heads would have dropped even lower into the carbon dioxide layer until they suffocated. For more, go to “Portals to the Underworld.”
STIRLING, SCOTLAND—The Herald Scotland reports that a belt buckle dating to World War I was unearthed at the site of an eighteenth-century footpath known as the Back Walk near Scotland’s medieval Stirling Castle. The buckle, which bears an image of the double-headed imperial eagle and the Austrian coat of arms, was the type issued to soldiers in the Austrian Army. During World War I, the castle was a working barracks and a military prison. The lost buckle may have been a souvenir collected by a Scottish soldier, or it may have belonged to a prisoner of war. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century clay tobacco pipes, a small knife, and a lead musket ball were also found in the area of the Back Walk. A midden closer to the castle yielded pottery and stoneware dating to the medieval period. To read about another recent discovery in Scotland, go to “Fit for a Saint.”
Used by scribes for more than three millennia, cuneiform writing opens a dramatic window onto ancient Mesopotamian life
OXFORD, ENGLAND—Archaeologist Evan Irving-Pease is investigating the domestication of rabbits, according to a Science News report. He and his colleagues tried to trace the origins of a tale alleging that Christian monks in Southern France first tamed the creatures in A.D. 600, after Pope Gregory issued a proclamation stating that fetal rabbits, known as laurices, were fish, and could therefore be eaten during Lent, a time when meat consumption is traditionally restricted. Pease says there’s no evidence to back the story, and that DNA evidence suggests that the history of rabbit domestication does not have a distinct beginning. The scientists will turn to ancient rabbit bones for more information. For more, go to “The Rabbit Farms of Teotihuacán.”
SHIBUSHI, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that a 1,500-year-old tunnel tomb containing a stone coffin, human remains, and armor was discovered during road work in southern Kyushu. The tomb consisted of a burial chamber measuring about nine feet long, six feet wide, and three feet deep, and was connected to a nine-foot-long vertical shaft. Tatsuya Hashimoto of Kagoshima University Museum said the Kofun Period tomb is thought to have belonged to a local chieftain who received the breastplate, known as a tanko, from the Yamato imperial court. The breastplate was found standing beside the coffin. An iron arrowhead, a spear, and an iron ax were also recovered. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”
  ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—Live Science reports that researchers led by Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis, and Alexandra Buzhilova of Lomonosov Moscow State University, re-examined the contents of 34,000-year-old graves excavated in western Russia in the mid-twentieth century. Known as the Sunghir burials, the graves included the remains of two boys, aged ten and 12 years old, who had been buried together with more than 10,000 mammoth ivory beads, more than 20 armbands, some 300 pierced fox teeth, 16 ivory mammoth spears, carved artifacts, and deer antlers. In addition, two human fibulas had been laid across the boys’ chests. Trinkaus noted that a 40-year-old man had been buried with similar items, but far fewer of them. “From the point of view of the mortuary behavior, the burial of the adult is, in fact, very different from the burial of the children,” he said. The children’s skeletons suggest they had experienced periods of nutritional stress, and would not have been able to contribute to the highly mobile community in the way the full-grown man may have. The ten-year-old had short, bowed thigh bones, but he was physically active. The 12-year-old, however, had been bedridden, and the lack of wear on his teeth suggests he had been fed soft foods. To read about another recent discovery in Russia, go to “Nomadic Chic.”
ITHACA, NEW YORK—Science News reports that bioarchaeologist Matthew Velasco of Cornell University examined the 600-year-old skulls of 211 members of Peru’s Collagua ethnic community, and found that intentional head-shaping of the young may have helped to bind together powerful elites. High-ranking elites are thought to have been buried in structures built against a cliff face, while non-elites were buried in caves and under rocky overhangs. Some of the bones and sediments were radiocarbon dated, so that Velasco could track how skull shapes changed over time. He found that about three-quarters of the 114 elite skulls dating to the late pre-Inca period, between A.D. 1300 and 1450, had been modified, and more than 60 percent of the modified skulls had been elongated. Velasco thinks the elongated style may have been preferred by elites, and speculates that their unity may have helped the Collaguas negotiate a peaceful integration into the Inca Empire. For more, go to “Letter From Peru: Connecting Two Realms.”
ASWAN, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that the students of the Egyptian Excavation Field School have uncovered a second-century temple at the Kom Al-Rasras archaeological site. Cartouches of the Roman emperors Domitian, Hadrian, and Antonius Pius have been found engraved in its sandstone blocks. The temple, called “Khenu” in hieroglyphics, was made up of a three-chambered sanctuary, which led to a cross-sectional hall, and a second hall with a sandstone ramp. Stones engraved with stars that may have been part of the temple’s ceiling were found inside its walls. “The discovered site might be connected to [the quarries of the] Gebel el-Silsila area and the temple was most probably a part of the residential area of the quarry workers,” said Ayman Ashmawy of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. The excavators will continue to search for the residential area of the el-Silsila quarries. To read about a discovery at Gebel el-Silsila, go to “Egypt’s Immigrant Elite.”
LEIDEN, THE NETHERLANDS—A piece of bison bone recovered from the North Sea by a Dutch fishing vessel in 2005 has been radiocarbon dated to 13,500 years ago, according to a report in the International Business Times. The bone had been carved with a zig-zag pattern. An adult human skull fragment, also recovered from the North Sea, has been dated to 13,000 years ago. The bison bone is said to be the oldest piece of art found in the Netherlands, and the skull fragment is said to be the oldest modern human remains found there. Pinprick-sized pits in the skull fragment indicate the person may have suffered from anemia in childhood or have had a vitamin deficiency that caused scurvy or rickets. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”
VÄSTERÅS, SWEDEN—According to a Live Science report, archaeologists have excavated the site of an unusual burial of 11 adults and an infant in east-central Sweden. Some 8,000 years ago, the burial, now in a forested region, was at the bottom of a lake. The skulls of seven of the hunter-gatherer adults bore signs of partially healed blunt-force trauma. “Somebody gave them love and care after this [trauma] and healed them back to life again,” said Fredrik Hallgren of the Cultural Heritage Foundation in Västerås, Sweden. Two of the skulls, one of which contained a piece of brain tissue, were found mounted on wooden stakes that may have served as handles, and may have broken through the water’s surface after the skulls were placed on top of the large stones at the base of the burial site. The surviving brain tissue suggests the person was placed in the water shortly after death, but some of the other skulls may have been placed there long after the deaths of the individuals. The carefully arranged bones of wild boar, red deer, moose, and roe deer were also found. “It’s a very enigmatic structure,” Hallgren said. “We really don’t understand the reason why they did this and why they put it under water.” For more, go to “Öland, Sweden. Spring, A.D. 480.”
BORNHOLM, DENMARK—According to a report in Live Science, a small piece of copper has been found at the 5,000-year-old Vasagard archaeological site, which may have been a center of sun worship during the Neolithic period. The site consists of traces of several round timber structures within an earthen-wall enclosure. Hand-sized, polished stones inscribed with connected radiating lines resembling spider webs, and fragments of stones that may have been inscribed with symbolic maps, have also been recovered from the site. The piece of copper was found in what had been one of ten postholes for the largest timber structure. Michael Thorsen of the Bornholm Museum said the metal may have been part of a larger ax that had been buried as part of a sacrifice. He suggests the ax had not been made locally, but was imported from the Mediterranean or the Balkans, where people were producing copper objects at that time. The building may have been used for rituals or as a place for housing the dead before it was ceremonially demolished and its postholes filled in with burned grain, burned stone axes, and the copper ax. “For me, it just makes the structure even more important, because they were offering a rare piece of copper like this,” Thorsen said. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”
AL JAWF, SAUDI ARABIA—Haaretz reports that 12 panels of life-sized reliefs of 11 camels and two equids have been discovered on three rocky spurs in remote northwest Saudi Arabia by a team of scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. The sculptures are estimated to be about 2,000 years old, and have been damaged by erosion and construction projects. Only one or two of the images are shown with what may be a rope—otherwise, the animals are said to have been lovingly depicted in their natural state. Such artworks are rare on the Arabian Peninsula, and usually consist of geometric forms, scenes of war or hunting, or other animals. Flakes of flint tools have been found at the so-called Camel Site, but they have not been associated with the carvings. The researchers speculate the site may have been used as a boundary marker, a rest stop for caravans, or a place to venerate Al-Lat, a goddess associated with camels. To read about another recent discovery in Saudi Arabia, go to “Hot Property.”
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: When the Aitape skull was discovered in 1929, it was mistakenly thought to belong to Homo erectus. But subsequent radiocarbon dating determined it was only around 6,000 years old. Now, a reevaluation of the skull and its findspot has added a new twist. Geochemical analysis of the sediments in which the skull was embedded suggests they were deposited miles inland by a powerful paleo-tsunami, making the skull perhaps part of the world’s oldest known tsunami victim.
GEORGIA: Chemical analyses of ceramic vessels from two Early Neolithic sites in Georgia produced the earliest known evidence of grape wine and viniculture in the Near East. The sherds of pottery tested positive for tartaric acid, the principal biomarker of grapes and wine, as well as other indicators. This suggests humans were producing wine as far back as about 6000 B.C., nearly 500 years earlier than previously thought. The domestication of the wild Eurasian grape is believed to have first occurred in this region.
TØNSBERG, NORWAY—According to a Live Science report, a game piece recovered from a thirteenth-century house in southern Norway is believed to be a knight from a shatranj, or ancient chess set, since it is carved with circles on the bottom, sides, and top, and a protruding snout bearing dotted circles, causing it to resemble a horse. Archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research suspect some lead inside the thimble-shaped piece of carved antler helps it to stand upright. Lars Haugesten, project manager of the excavation, says similar game pieces are found in Arabia, where chess was first played in the seventh century. In addition, a twelfth-century chess piece has been found in Lund, Sweden. For more, go to “The Church that Transformed Norway.”
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—According to a report in The Local, two wooden shipwrecks have been found in the Baltic Sea, near Sweden. One of the vessels is thought to be a single-masted cog dating to the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. The other ship, thought to date to the sixteenth century, was carrying 20 barrels of osmond iron, a type of wrought iron, and tar when it sank. Maritime archaeologist Jim Hansson said he had never seen such well-preserved shipwrecks. They will be featured in a new maritime museum in Stockholm. To read in-depth about discoveries on the Swedish island of Gotland, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”
ANKARA, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily  News reports that an ancient gold crown, stolen from the Aegean site of Milas, has been returned to Turkey. The 2,400-year-old crown is said to have been taken from the burial chamber of Hecatomnus in 2008. It was found in Edinburgh, Scotland, two years later, when Scottish police pursued a lead from auction house officials. In addition, a sixteenth-century Quran is in the process of being recovered. “We will not stop pursuing the artifacts that belong to our country,” said Numan Kurtulmuş, Turkey’s culture and tourism minister. The crown will be put on display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. To read about a discovery in Turkey, go to “Let a Turtle Be Your Psychopomp.”
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—According to a New York Times report, a fossilized portion of a modern human upper jaw, complete with seven intact teeth, has been found in Israel’s Misliya Cave by a team led by Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University. The maxilla has been dated to between 177,000 and 194,000 years old, which suggests that modern humans were present in the Levant at least 50,000 years earlier than previously thought. Paleoanthropologist Gerhard W. Weber of the University of Vienna and his team used high-resolution micro-CT scanning equipment to create a 3-D replica of the jaw, examine its features, and compare them with fossils of Neanderthals, Homo erectus, and other hominins from Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. “It’s not a little bit modern, or on the border of being modern,” Weber said. “It is really modern human.” The fossil is said to be the oldest-known evidence of modern humans living outside of Africa, and it could push back the evolution of Homo sapiens by 100,000 to 200,000 years, suggesting they originated in Africa some 300,000 to 500,000 years ago. For more, go to “Early Man Cave.”
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—Live Science reports that Swedish sculptor Oscar Nilsson has recreated the face of an 18-year-old woman who lived some 9,000 years ago in central Greece. The young woman’s remains were discovered in Theopetra Cave, where footprints, fireplace ashes, stone tools, and bones have also been found. Evidence of human occupation of the cave spans a period of about 45,000 years, from the Middle Paleolithic to the Neolithic period. Nilsson based his recreation on 3-D printed reproductions of the skeletal remains and scientists’ estimations of the woman’s age, ethnicity, and weight at the time of her death. He added muscles and flesh to a replica of her skull in the form of sculpted layers of clay topped with silicone skin. “When you reconstruct a face, it’s very important not to project a face from your inner fantasy,” Nilsson explained. “You must let the face grow from the technique, from the skull.” Nilsson’s sculpture is on display at the Acropolis Museum in Athens. To read about a recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Monumental Find.”