Archaeology

Though humans did not exist 400,000 years ago, human ancestors did - and they left behind engravings on a fossilized shell from Java, establishing a new benchmark for the earliest known example of ancient humans deliberately creating pattern.

The newly discovered engravings resemble the previously oldest-known engravings, which are associated with either Neanderthals or modern humans from around 100,000 years ago.  The zig-zag pattern engravings were only recently discovered on the fossilized mussel shells, which had been collected 100 years ago. There is no way to know if the pattern was intended as art or served some practical purpose.  


There are not a lot of new stories to be found by the humanities in ancient parchments, but millions of documents stored in archives could trace agricultural development across the centuries, thanks to increasingly progressive genetic sequencing techniques.

Thanks to sequencing, vital information can be derived from the DNA of the parchment on which they are written.


Even while the Roman empire was in decline, precious substances, such as frankincense, were being transported to its furthest northern outpost in Britain.

Archaeologists writing in the Journal of Archaeological Science used molecular analysis of materials previously thought to be of little interest, debris inside burial containers and residues on skeletal remains and plaster body casings, to show that frankincense were being used even in the farthest corners of the Empire. Evidence for the use of resins in ancient funerary rites is uncommon outside of Egypt. 


Empires have risen and fallen and often it has been due to changes in the climate. When agriculture was a more demanding endeavor people wanted the most fertile lands and as that shifted, so did cities.

For that reason, climate change has often been cited as the most logical reason for a huge population collapse in Europe at the end of the Bronze Age. Now archaeologists and environmentalists say they can prove definitively that climate change could not have been the culprit. Because the changes in climate that scientists believed to coincide with the fall in population in fact occurred at least two generations later.


The remains of two Ice Age infants are the youngest human remains ever found in northern North America, according to a new paper.

The remains of the infants date to around 11,000 years ago and were found in 2013 at an excavation of the Upward Sun River site, near the Tanana River in central Alaska.  


Underneath the ancient royal buried ground of Saqqara in the Egyptian desert lies something even creepier than mummies that might come back to life - mummies that might come back to life and be adorable.

The Sacred Animal Necropolis, as it was called after being discovered by archaeologists last century, was dedicated to Anubis - that is the one with the head of a dog/jackal - and is believed to contain up to 8 million animals, most of them small dogs. It's hard to be sure because the animals were not mummified the way royal members were so they have just basically decomposed into heaps of DNA. Most were placed there in the Late- (747-332 B.C.) and Ptolemaic (332-30 B.C.) Periods.

The social sciences have simultaneously become increasingly specialized and over-lapping. A new field calls itself Continental Shelf Prehistoric Research and it studies the remains of prehistoric human settlements which are now submerged beneath coastal waters.

Some of the now-drowned sites are tens of thousands of years old, requiring archaeologists to get help from oceanography and the geosciences. A recent paper describes how during the successive ice ages of the last million years, the sea level dropped at times by up to 120 meters and the exposed area of the continental shelf added 40% to the land area of Europe; a terrain occupied by vegetation, fauna, and people.

Think you're extreme? 12,000 years ago Ice Age Humans lived and worked at an altitude of almost 15,000 feet, high in the Peruvian Andes.

The sites in the Pucuncho Basin, located in the Southern Peruvian Andes, are the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites found to-date. The primary site, Cuncaicha is a rock shelter at 4,480 meters above sea level, with a stone-tool workshop below it. There is also a Pucuncho workshop site where stone tools were made at 4,355 meters above sea level.


An international team has retrieved antiquities including tableware, ship components, and a giant bronze spear that would have belonged to a life-sized warrior statue from an ancient Greek ship that sank more than 2,000 years ago off the remote island of Antikythera.

The Antikythera wreck was first discovered in 1900 by sponge divers who were blown off course by a storm. They subsequently recovered a haul of ancient treasure including bronze and marble statues, jewelry, furniture, luxury glassware, and the surprisingly complex Antikythera Mechanism. But they were forced to end their mission at the 55-meter-deep site after one diver died of the bends and two were paralyzed.



A close up of one of the hand stencils found in the prehistoric caves in Indonesia. Credit: Kinez Riza, Author provided

By Paul S.C.Taçon, Griffith University; Adam Brumm, Griffith University, and Maxime Aubert, Griffith University