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Archaeo News 

It is often difficult to find some news about the most recent archaeological meetings, digs and breathtaking discoveries. As we are particularly interested in prehistoric and megalithic monuments, we are trying to collect every bit of information about them and to put it inside this website.
In these pages you can find the latest news about those special events, people and places mainly related to Europe's most ancient heritage.
Latest news:

Bones suggest cannibal ritual in ancient Britain
Excavation of a round mound in the Isle of Man
7,000-year-old figurine discovered in Poland
Sound-reflecting rock shelters attracted ancient artists
Ancient warrior, weapons drawn, wears stylish earrings
Hundreds of stone tombs discovered in Jordan
Ancient monuments may have been used for moonlit ceremonies
Invasion may have transformed India's Bronze Age
Avebury stone circle contains hidden square
Ancient funeral practices at Carrowkeel
Long barrow near Stonehenge to be excavated
Evidence of a skull cult found at Neolithic site in Turkey
Neolithic burial urn unearthed in West Yorkshire
Oldest human-made object from South America discovered
Scientists solve prehistoric bison hunt mystery

  

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17 August 2017

  Bones suggest cannibal ritual in ancient Britain

Archaeological evidence suggests that most cannibalism in human history occurred for complex and varied reasons. Human bones found in Gough's Cave - a sizeable limestone cave in Cheddar Gorge in the southwest of England - bear unmistakable signs of cannibalism. Researchers have previously described what seem to be drinking vessels made from human skulls among the site's remains.
     Cut-marked and broken human bones are a recurrent feature of Magdalenian European sites, around 17,000-12,000 years before present, and Gough's Cave has yielded one of the most extensive Magdalenian human bone assemblages ever found, deposited on the floor of the cave along with butchered large mammal remains and pieces of flint. New carbon datings show the cave was occupied by Magdalenian hunters for a very short span of time  14,700 years ago - possibly no more than two or three human generations.
     In a recent paper, Doctor Silvia Bello, an anthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London and her colleagues analyse and compare zig-zag incisions on one arm bone with hundreds of butchering marks and engravings on human and animal bones from Gough's Cave and other archaeological sites.
     The marks on the arm bone match patterns on engraved animal bones found in France from the same period, suggesting it was a common motif at the time. The engraving was produced by a single individual, using one tool, during only one event. What is exceptional is the choice of human bone and the cannibalistic context in which it was produced. It appears the engraving was part of the cannibalistic practice, implying a complex ritualistic funerary behaviour never before recognised for the Palaeolithic period - the intensive processing of entire corpses to extract edible tissues.
     Tool manufacture and decorative designs at Gough's Cave have close parallels with those at other European Magdalenian sites. Portable art at Gough's Cave suggests the carvers were competent and experienced in working different raw materials. Artefacts there include worked and engraved fragments of animal bones, amber pebbles, minute fragments of ivory, and three "perforated batons" - common artefacts of debated use nearly always made from reindeer antlers.

Edited from PLOS One (9 August 2017), The New York Times (10 August 2017)

16 August 2017

  Excavation of a round mound in the Isle of Man

Archaeologists glimpse Manx history

A team of archaeologists, students, and local volunteers have for the past twelve months been investigating prehistoric mounds in fields south of Kirk Michael, a village in the north of the Isle of Man - the island in the Irish Sea famous for its annual motorcycle race. The site overlooks the sea with good views of both Scotland and Ireland.
     The Isle of Man is home to over 160 round barrows - human burial sites found throughout the British Isles and in continental Europe. First appearing around 3800-3600 BCE, different kinds of round mounds were built sporadically during the Neolithic period and in large numbers during the Early Bronze Age.
     The team is led by Doctors Rachel Crellin, a native of the island who now lectures in Archaeology at Leicester University, and Chris Fowler, a lecturer at Newcastle University. Finds so far include the collar of what is believed to be a burial urn of the type commonly found upside down on top of human ashes.
     Among other artefacts are a number of flint tools, one of which is a scraper with bevelled edges used to remove fat from animal hides.
     The team has been running workshops for local schoolchildren and offering daily tours for the public. Heritage Open Days are scheduled for the autumn.
     Doctor Crellin says a burial mound of this type has not been excavated on the island for some time, and hopes modern techniques will reveal specific new information about the site, and about prehistory on the island generally.

Edited from IOM Today (21 July 2017)

  7,000-year-old figurine discovered in Poland

A 7-centimetre fragment of a 7,000-year-old baked clay human figurine has been found by archaeologist Piotr Alagierski while on holiday, walking in a cultivated field in one of the villages of Podkarpacie, near the Carpathian Mountains in extreme southeastern Poland. The torso, most of the head and face, and the upper part of one arm survive.
     Alagierski says: "There is no doubt that this is a national-level monument - one of the oldest depictions of a human in our country. Similar finds from that period are very rare," adding that "The style in which the figurine was made is surprising. It resembles similar figurines from Slovakia and Romania. The details of the head are clearly modelled - the hair, the nose, the chin are visible. There is a visible indentation on the chest, probably representing a garment, probably a tunic. A necklace is visible on the neck."
     Unlike the few figurines from this period previously found in Poland, it does not have prominent sexual features.
     Alagierski reports also seeing a large number of ceramic pot sherds and pieces obsidian in the field. He believes the site was a settlement of the first farmers living in what is now Poland, and intends to start excavations there. Meanwhile, chemical analyses of the figurine will allow scientists to determine the origin of the clay. The style suggests that the figure may have been made or carried by people from across the mountains.

Edited from Science & Scholarship in Poland (21 June 2017)

  Sound-reflecting rock shelters attracted ancient artists

Researchers say that members of early farming communities in in the central Mediterranean preferred to paint images in rock shelters where sounds bounced off walls and into the surrounding countryside. Archaeologist Margarita Diaz-Andreu of the University of Barcelona and colleagues report that in landscapes with many potential rock art sites, "the few shelters chosen to be painted were those that have special acoustic properties."
     Diaz-Andreu's team studied two rock art sites generally dated to between approximately 6,500 and 5,000 years ago. In southeastern France, at the kilometer-long cliff site of Baume Brune, only eight of the forty-three naturally formed cavities in the cliff contain paintings, which include treelike figures and horned animals. On the east coast of Italy, in the Valle d'Ividoro, at an 800-metre-long section of a gorge, only three of eleven natural shelters contain painted images.
     The researchers popped balloons in front of each rock-shelter, recording the sound waves from various locations and distances. Three-dimensional slow-motion depictions of echoes revealed that at both sites, shelters with rock paintings displayed better echoing properties than undecorated shelters, and that shelters with the best echoes had the highest number of paintings.
     In a separate study of paintings in northern Finland dated to between around 7,200 and 3,000 years ago, music archaeologist Riitta Rainio of the University of Helsinki and her colleagues found that echoes from steep rock cliffs bordering three lakes also attracted ancient artists. She and her colleagues recorded from boats on the lakes.
     Similarly, at the Grotte de Niaux in southwestern France, archaeologist Paul Pettitt of Durham University in England observes that many roughly 14,000 to 12,000 year-old animal drawings and engravings are concentrated in a cathedral-like chamber where sounds echo loudly.

Edited from Science News (26 June 2017)

  Ancient warrior, weapons drawn, wears stylish earrings

The extraordinary find of a Bronze Age warrior buried between 2,700 and 2,900 years ago with dagger in one hand, a knife in the other, spiral earrings, and a bronze disc on his forehead, is intriguing archeologists in Siberia. The time was a transition from the Bronze to the Iron age.
     The remains were found during restoration of an historical building in Omsk, a city on the Irtysh River in the south of the country, near the northern border of Kazahkstan.
     The well-preserved skeleton lay on his back with his wrists crossed, the dagger in his right hand pointing up, the knife in his left hand pointing down. Nearby were an axe and some arrow heads.
     Maxim Grachev, director of Omsk Museum of Archeology and Ethnography, says: "The ideal state of the grave was a pleasant surprise for us. We found a large number of well-preserved items: weapons, jewellery, and other items made of bronze." Five burials were found, but the others were destroyed. Grachev thinks further burial remains are likely to lie under buildings on the site, but are not accessible.

Edited from The Siberian Times (5 August 2017)

11 August 2017

  Hundreds of stone tombs discovered in Jordan

Hundreds of ancient stone tombs have been discovered in Jebel Qurma, south of Damascus, in a 'black desert' stretching across northeastern Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Many are covered by stone cairns, while others are more complex 'tower tombs'.
     Tomb robbers have pillaged many of the burials, but archaeologists have found clues to how human life changed in the region over the course of millennia.
     Project leader Peter Akkermans, of Leiden University in the Netherlands, writes that: "While the foci of daily living and domestic activity were in secluded areas at the foot of the basaltic uplands or in the deep valleys through which wadis run, it appears that the preferential areas for the disposal of the dead were on the surrounding high plateaus and the summits of the basalt hills."
     The team found evidence suggesting that between the late third millennium BCE and the early first millennium BCE, few people lived in Jebel Qurma. A cemetery that contains about 50 cairns stopped being used around 4,000 years ago, which seems to coincide with a large scale withdrawal of people from the region.
     Until very recently it was believed that people did not return to Jebel Qurma until the mid or late first millennium BCE, but recent research reveals that the area was re-inhabited in the early first millennium BCE by people who did not use pottery.
     Another possibility is that people were living in Jebel Qurma, but their remains have yet to be found.
     In the late first millennium BCE, the inhabitants began building 'tower tombs', a type both larger and more difficult to construct than the earlier cairns. Some towers are up to 5 meters in diameter and 1.5 meters high, with straight facades made of large, flattened basalt slabs weighing 300 kilos.
     Initially, Akkermans thought the tower tombs were built for elite members of the society, but recent fieldwork reveals the type is common in the both the local area and the desert region as a whole.

Edited from Jebel Qurma, LiveScience (13 July 2017)

  Ancient monuments may have been used for moonlit ceremonies

A new investigation of the stone age rock art panel at Hendraburnick Quoit in Cornwall, southwest England, found nearly ten times the number of markings when viewed in moonlight or very low sunlight from the south east. The researchers also discovered that pieces of white quartz which would have reflected moonlight or firelight had been deliberately smashed up around the site.
     Study leader Dr Andy Jones, of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit says: "I think the new marks show that this site was used at night and it is likely that other megalithic sites were as well. We were aware there were some cup and ring marks on the rocks but we were there on a sunny afternoon and noticed it was casting shadows on others which nobody had seen before. When we went out to do some imaging at night, when the camera flashed we suddenly saw more and more art, which suggested that it was meant to be seen at night and in the moonlight. Then when you think about the quartz smashed around, which would have caused flashes and luminescence, suddenly you see that these images would have emerged out of the dark. Stonehenge does have markings, and I think that many more would be found at sites across the country if people were to look at them in different light."
     Hendraburnick Quoit is a large propped 'axe-shaped' stone that was set upon a low platform of slates on Hendraburnick Down, near Davidstow, around 11 kilometres east of the promontory site of Tintagel Castle. Dr Jones believes the stone was dragged up from the valley in the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, around 2,500 BCE.
     Previous studies had recorded 13 cup marks, but Dr Jones and colleague Thomas Goskar found 105 engravings under low-angled light, which now makes it the most highly decorated and complex example of rock art known in southern England.

Edited from The Telegraph (7 July 2017)

  Invasion may have transformed India's Bronze Age

New data confirm a long-held but controversial theory that Sanskrit, the ancient language of Northern India, emerged from an earlier language spoken by people in Central Asia, who may have moved into India around 3,500 years ago.
     Study co-author Martin Richards, an archaeo-geneticist at the University of Huddersfield in England, says: "People have been debating the arrival of the Indo-European languages in India for hundreds of years."
     From the earliest days of colonial rule in India, linguists noticed that Sanskrit shared many similarities with languages as disparate as French, English, Farsi (Persian), and Russian, eventually concluding that all derived from a common ancestral language, which they called Indo-European.
     Scholars proposed that a group of people from outside India brought a proto-Sanskrit language to northern India; South Indian languages mostly belong to a different language family.  
     The controversial 'Aryan invasion' theory is the basis for the Indian caste system, and in a bastardised form was incorporated into Nazi ideology.
     Earlier genetic data did not seem to corroborate a dramatic influx into India during the Bronze Age, but past analyses were based on either DNA passed from mothers to daughters, or mutations inherited from both parents but difficult to date.
     Richards and colleagues analysed several types of modern genetic data, including that passed only from father to son. In this way the team was able to link patterns of migration to specific points in time. They found evidence that people began colonising India more than 50,000 years ago, and multiple migrations from the northwest over the last 20,000 years, including people from Anatolia, the Caucasus, and Iran between 9,000 and 5,000 years ago.
     Evidence for one migration points to a group of people who inhabited the grassland between the Caspian and Black seas from about 5,000 to 2,300 years ago - known broadly as the Yamnaya - who typically drove wheeled horse chariots, herded livestock, buried their dead in pit graves, and spoke an early precursor Indo-European language. Another recent study suggests people from this culture almost completely transformed the genetic landscape of Europe about 5,000 years ago, where up to 90 percent of European men from some countries carry a version of the tell-tale genetic subgroup, compared to the 17.5 percent of men on the Indian sub-continent found in this latest study.
     Richards explains that it's very easy for Y-chromosome composition to change quickly, because individual men can father many children. One view is that a group of horse-riding warriors moved across India, murdering men and impregnating local women, but other explanations are available. It's possible that whole family units from the Yamnaya migrated to India, and their men either were seen as or attained higher reproductive status than locals.

Edited from LiveScience (6 July 2017)

  Avebury stone circle contains hidden square

A square formation has been discovered within the Neolithic stone circle at Avebury, a village 130 kilometres west of London. Archaeologists believe the hidden stones, discovered using ground-penetrating radar, were one of the earliest structures at the site, and may have commemorated a Neolithic building dating to around 3500 BCE.
     Previously archaeologists had speculated that the 330 metre diameter outer stone circle - the largest in Europe - preceded its enclosed features. The latest work suggests that a wooden building seeded the monument, a series of stone structures place around it over hundreds of years.
     According to Mark Gillings, an archaeologist at the University of Leicester: "Our working interpretation is that the house is the first thing. It falls into ruin but they're still remembering and respecting it. They put a square around it about 3000 BC and then the circles."
     Clues to the existence of a square structure, each side of which was around 30 metres in length, were first discovered by Alexander Keiller, who excavated in 1939, revealing a number of small standing stones in a line close to the former location of a 6-metre upright stone known as the Obelisk. Keiller's excavation also uncovered postholes and grooves, indicating that a building had once been there, which he supposed was medieval.
     When the newly discovered square was compared with Keiller's notes it was found that the stones were centred on and aligned with the building, suggesting Neolithic origin. Similar Neolithic buildings have been discovered recently at other sites.
     Avebury is a massive monument, largely created during the 3rd millennium BCE. Its perimeter is a 420 metre diameter earthwork, within which is the world's largest known stone circle - a ring of around 100 standing stones which itself encloses two inner stone circles, each constructed around one of two huge megalithic structures known as the Cove and the Obelisk. The Obelisk was recorded in the 18th century as the largest stone at Avebury, but was later destroyed.
     Re-evaluation of records from the 1930s fieldwork revealed a concentration of early and middle Neolithic pottery and worked flint around the Obelisk. Significant was the realisation that the square setting of trenches and postholes are traces of an early Neolithic house in the very centre of the southern inner circle, with the previously known linear arrangement of stones parallel to it proving to be one side of the newly discovered square.
     Radiating from an unusually small standing stone discovered in 1939 south of the Obelisk, are two lines of megaliths extending beyond the investigated area. One cuts through the centre of another circular feature 23.5 metres in diameter, between the southern inner circle and square setting.

Edited from The Guardian (29 June 2017), Arts & Humanities Research Council

5 August 2017

  Ancient funeral practices at Carrowkeel

New insights into death rites of the ancient people of Ireland are being provided through  studies led by a researcher at the Department of Anatomy at New Zealand's University of Otago. The findings, which have been published in the journal Bioarchaeology International, are part of a project applying modern techniques to human remains that were originally excavated more than 100 years ago.
     The new paper, whose lead author is Dr Jonny Geber, focuses on the 5000 years-old passage tomb complex at Carrowkeel in County Sligo in the north-west of Ireland. This site is one of the most impressive Neolithic ritual landscapes in Europe, but despite that, is relatively unknown.
     The research team analysed bones from up to seven passage tombs that included both unburnt and cremated human remains from around 40 individuals. Dr Geber says he and his colleagues determined that the unburnt bone displayed evidence of dismemberment. "We found indications of cut marks caused by stone tools at the site of tendon and ligament attachments around the major joints, such as the shoulder, elbow, hip and ankle," he says.
     Dr Geber says the new evidence suggest that a complex burial rite was undertaken at Carrowkeel, that involved a funerary rite that placed a particular focus on the 'deconstruction' of the body. "This appears to entail the bodies of the dead being 'processed' by their kin and community in various ways, including cremation and dismemberment. It was probably done with the goal to help the souls of the dead to reach the next stages of their existence", Dr Geber concluded.
     This study has been able to show that the Carrowkeel complex was most likely a highly significant place in Neolithic society in Ireland, and one which allowed for interaction and a spiritual connection with the ancestors. According to the researchers, the people of those times may have shared similar beliefs and ideologies concerning the treatment of the dead with communities beyond the Irish Sea.

Edited from PhysOrg (3 August 2017)

  Long barrow near Stonehenge to be excavated

A Neolithic burial mound near Stonehenge could contain human remains more than 5,000 years old, experts say. The monument lies in Pewsey Vale, halfway between Avebury and Stonehenge in Wiltshire, and was identified in aerial photographs and followed up by geophysical survey imagery.
     As part of the University's final Archaeology Field School, students and staff, with the support of volunteers from the area, have investigated the site of a Neolithic long barrow burial mound in a place known as Cat's Brain - the first to be fully investigated in Wiltshire in half a century.
     The monument, which predates nearby Marden Henge by over 1,000 years, is believed it could contain human remains buried there in about 3,600 BCE. The Cat's Brain long barrow, found in the middle of a farmer's field, consists of two ditches flanking what appears to be a central building. This may have been covered with a mound made of the earth dug from the ditches, but has been ploughed flat over many centuries.
     Dr Jim Leary, director of the university's archaeology field school, said: "Opportunities to fully investigate long barrows are virtually unknown in recent times and this represents a fantastic chance to carefully excavate one using the very latest techniques and technology. Discovering the buried remains of what could be the ancestors of those who built Stonehenge would be the cherry on the cake of an amazing project."
     Dr Leary's co-director, Amanda Clarke, said: "This incredible discovery of one of the UK's first monuments offers a rare glimpse into this important period in history. We are setting foot inside a significant building that has lain forgotten and hidden for thousands of years."
     In addition to the Cat's Brain long barrow site, the University of Reading's Archaeology Field School is working at Marden henge, the largest henge in the country, built around 2,400 BC, also within the Vale of Pewsey. Little archaeological work has been carried out in the Vale, especially compared with the well-known nearby sites of Avebury and Stonehenge. The project aims to fill this gap in our knowledge and highlight the importance of the area in the Neolithic period.

Edited from BBC News, PhysOrg (12 July 2017)

  Evidence of a skull cult found at Neolithic site in Turkey

Archaeologists have made a remarkable find in a 12,000-year-old stone temple known as Göbekli Tepe, in southeastern Turkey, uncovering the remains of human skulls that were stripped of their flesh and carved with deep, straight grooves running front to back.
     The carvings represent the first evidence of skull decoration in the archaeological record of the region. "This is completely new, and we don't have a model to go on," says Gary Rollefson, an archaeologist at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, who was not involved with the work. "The purpose of the carvings is unclear", he says, "But they may have been part of an ancient religious practice. There seems to be a focus on ritual reuse after decapitation."
     The site boasts multiple enclosures with tall, T-shaped pillars surrounded by rings of stones, many carved with reliefs. Such structures are unique for humans at this time. When excavations at the site began in the mid-1990s, archaeologists expected to find human burials. Instead, they found animal bones by the tens of thousands. Mixed in were about 700 fragments of human bone (more than half of them are from skulls), scattered throughout a loose fill of stones and gravel.
     In a paper published in Science Advances, Gresky and her co-authors describe 3 large skull fragments, each about the size of a hand. Cut marks on the bones suggest that someone removed the flesh and then carved bone with deep, straight grooves running front to back. One skull had a hole drilled into it, although only half of the hole was preserved. Heads - missing or decapitated - are also represented in the site's stone artwork. The heads of some stone statues were deliberately removed or knocked off; archaeologists think one statue, which they dubbed the 'Gift-bearer,' depicts a kneeling figure holding a human head.
     The attention to skulls is part of a long tradition, although it's the first instance in that region."This treatment of fragments is awfully unique. I don't know of any other skulls where they've been carved or drilled," Rollefson says. "They're deep incisions, but not nicely done. Someone wanted to make a cut, but not in a decorative way," Gresky says. "It could be to mark them as different, or to fix decorative elements, or to hang the skulls somewhere."
     Whatever their purpose, the carvings seem to mark the skulls as outliers: Dozens of other skull fragments have been found at Göbekli Tepe with no sign of carving or cutting. That suggests these skulls were singled out after their owners' deaths for some reason. "They are really special, these three individuals," Gresky says. The skulls might have been displayed as part of ancestor worship, or as trophies to show off the remains of dead enemies."
     Michelle Bonogofsky, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley's Archaeological Research Facility, argues that there's not enough evidence to say what the skulls were for - and may never be, she says: "This is thousands of years before writing, so you can't really know. The marks do appear to be intentional, but what the intention was I can't say."

Edited from Science Magazine (28 June 2017)

  Neolithic burial urn unearthed in West Yorkshire

A 5,000 year old complete funeral urn has been excavated on housing development land in Silsden (West Yorkshire, England); the late Neolithic pot was dug up from the site of an ancient barrow. Arrow heads, pottery, and flint tools have also been unearthed during the seven week dig before the building work.
     Senior archaeologist David Hunter said the funeral urn, which is thought to have contained human remains, is made of pot and dates from 3,000 BCE. It marks the resting place of an important individual. "We will X-ray and cat scan the urn before we start to remove the contents," said Mr Hunter.
     The archaeological site was quite prominent to the trained eye, but a magnetometer survey was carried out by Archaeological Services WYAS geophysics team as the first stage of the evaluation. This revealed a number of of very clear anomalies several of which were associated with burial practices in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age.
     Excavation confirmed Prehistoric activity was confined to a ridge of gravel. The archaeological features comprised a 100ft across double ditched barrow, a probable mortuary enclosure and double pit alignment. The dig produced rare but characteristic flints and pottery including a Neolithic leaf shaped arrow head, a later flint blade and the complete collered urn, found in a pit towards the centre of the barrow and likely to be the primary burial and focus of the barrow.
     The size, form and artefacts point to the barrow being created in the later Neolithic to early Bronze Age some 5000 to 4500 ago and the burial of an important individual in a prominent location. Mr Hunter said: "Other pottery and a later cremated burial were also excavated from the barrow and barrow ditches showing it remained an important feature of the upper Aire Valley into the Bronze Age."
     It is hoped the funeral urn will eventually go on display at Cliffe Castle Museum.

Edited from Keighley Online (28 June 2017)

16 June 2017

  Oldest human-made object from South America discovered

A small, ancient, and rectangular copper mask was found in the southern Andes in Argentina, and dated to be about 3,000 years old. According to archaeologists, it has been determined to be amongst the oldest human made objects from South America, challenging the consensus that metalworking started in Peru.
     The mask has been dated to about 1,000 BCE and was found in an area commonly associated with the burial of women and children. The mask is marked with holes for the eye and mouth, as well as openings for attaching the mask.
     A local copper ore source lies within 44 miles (70 kilometres) of where the mask was uncovered, suggesting a local production. This makes it likely that metal production in Peru was contemporary with the production in Argentina.
     Other metal objects found in South America have been discovered in souther Peru and estimated to be nearly 4,000 years old. Bronze objects dated to 1,000 CE have also been discovered in the Peruvian Andes, though determining the origin of the finds has been difficult.
     The mask was uncovered due to a summer rainy season, which also uncovered a collection of human bones in a tomb near the La Quebrada village in Northwestern Argentina. The total amount of bodies is estimated to about 14 with the bones being mixed and the mask lying in one corner.
     The mask measures about 7 inches long and 6 inches wide (18 centimetres x 15 centimetres). It is at least 99% pure copper and would have been cold hammered and then reheated. Due to the mask's shape and the age of the object, it strongly suggests a much older metal production than previously thought.
     "Proof of copper smelting and annealing [a process of cooling metal slowly to make it stronger] further highlights the northwest Argentinian valleys and northern Chile as early centers in the production of copper," the researchers wrote, adding that "This data is essential to any narrative that seeks to understand the emergence of Andean metallurgy."

Edited from LiveScience (6 June 2017)

  Scientists solve prehistoric bison hunt mystery

In the summer of 2002 archaeologists excavated an area of Bear Creek in Stanton County (Kansas, USA), who uncovered a mystery buried within the grey soil. They uncovered a thick bed of white bone that stretched 40 yards with skeletons were bunched up shoulder to shoulder. According to Rolfe Mandel, geoarchaeologist from the University of Kansas: "What we found was more than a great story. It is a window in time - and an ancient testament to human daring."
     The bison grave predates the invention of the bow and arrow, meaning that these bison were killed from an arm's length distance. This was incredibly dangerous, so the hunters used to kill the bison worked as an ambush team.
     The hunters are referred to as Paleo Indians, i.e. pre Native American populations, and are known to be hunter-gatherers working in bands of no more than 30 people. In these bands, they followed bison on foot, walking hundreds of miles every year. The bison were found 50 years west of an alfalfa-covered depression, called a playa, common in western Kansas that are often carved by wind and then fill with water, which would attract bison.
     It is believed that the hunters did not wander around blindly, but targeted the playas where prey would gather. Once the prey was spotted, the group would divide into two teams, spear throwers and the drivers. The drivers mission would be to scare the bison into moving and eventually push them back into the bank, where the bison could not move, where they would be easy targets. From the excavations, they could determine that the spear throwers would have been on the other side of the bank.
     This was a specialized band of hunters, as noted by University of Kansas anthropologist Jack Hofman: "Bisons are so hard to hunt on foot that you probably need to specialize. You don't just live along a rover gathering mussels, and one day pick up a sharp stick and hunt bison."

Edited from The Wichita Eagle (27 May 2017)

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