The First Americans

What we think we know about the arrival of Homo sapiens on this continent. In the 1970s, college students in archaeology such as myself learned that the first human beings to arrive in North America had come over a land bridge from Asia and Siberia approximately 13,000 to 13,500 years ago. These people, the first North Americans,[…]

What a Deer Tooth Necklace Says about Our Ice Age Ancestors

About 19,000 years ago in southwestern France at a site called Saint-Germain-La-Rivière, an adult woman dies and is prepared for burial by members of her society. Ice Age Europe, approximately 20,000-13,500 years ago; a period known as the Magdalenian. The climate is gradually ameliorating after glaciers and cold temperatures reached their height in the Last[…]

Topography and Prehistoric Britain

Britain’s prehistoric landscapes are depicted in prints and drawings across the British Library’s collections. The prehistoric monuments of Britain are strewn across the landscape but because their identity and purpose has been obscured, they have presented a challenge to topographers.  Of all of them, Stonehenge was too monumental to be ignored and its representation dominates[…]

What Hepatitis B Tells Us about the Migration of Ancient Humans

The viral genetics of Hepatitis B is helping to trace the history and movement of Australia’s first people back at least 51 thousand years. It’s now widely accepted that continental Sahul – the combined landmass of Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania – was settled very early in human history, as anatomically modern humans moved from[…]

Shamanic Trance Journeys: Prehistoric Attempts to Understand the Natural World

Early spiritual and religious concepts developed to deal with an occasionally but worldwide seen natural phenomenon which suggested an inverted otherworld. Abstract Since palaeolithic times, shamans involved animal depictions in cave ceremonies and adopted animals as helping spirits during their trance journeys. This study aims at explaining the rituals with new evidence: the shamans were[…]

Eurasia: Prehistory to the Emergence of Writing and Civilizations

The history of Eurasia is the collective history of a continental area with several distinct peripheral coastal regions. Introduction The Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe, were linked by the interior mass of the Eurasian steppe of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Perhaps beginning with the Steppe Route trade, the early Silk Road, the Eurasian view of history seeks establishing genetic, cultural,[…]

What Neanderthal Teeth Tell Us about the Prehistoric World

Astonishing new research shows that fossil teeth, like trees, contain detailed records of the environments in which they grew. Increasingvariation in the climate has been implicated as a possible factor in the evolution of our species (Homo sapiens) 300,000 years ago, as well as the more recent demise of our enigmatic evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals. But[…]

New Hominin Shakes the Family Tree—Again

What does the discovery of Homo luzonensis mean for our understanding of humanity’s history? This week, anthropologists working in the Philippines unveil new fossils that they say belong to a previously undiscovered speciesof human relatives. The fossils come from Callao Cave, on the northern island of Luzon, and are at least 50,000 years old. The[…]

The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters and Art of Prehistoric India

The earliest cave paintings here are about 30,000 years old. Introduction The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site in central India that spans the prehistoric paleolithic and mesolithic periods, as well as the historic period.[1][2] It exhibits the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent and evidence of Stone Age starting at the site in Acheulian times.[3][4][5] It is located in the Raisen District in the Indian state[…]

‘Palestine Man’: The Prehistoric Skull from the ‘Cave of the Robbers’

Discovered in 1925, the skull was the first fossilized archaic human found in Western Asia. Introduction Mugharet el-Zuttiyeh (“Cave of the Robbers”)[1] is a prehistoric archaeological site in Upper Galilee, Israel.[2] It is situated 800 m (2,600 ft) from the Nahal Amud outlet, approximately 30 m (98 ft) above the wadi bed (148 m (486 ft) below sea level). It was found to house a fossil today known[…]

The Wielbark Culture Archaeological Complex of Iron Age Poland

The Wielbark culture was named after a village where a burial place with over 3,000 tombs. Introduction The Wielbark culture (German: Wielbark-Willenberg-Kultur, Polish: Kultura wielbarska, Ukrainian: Вельбарська культура/Velbarska kultura) or East Pomeranian-Mazovian[1] is part of an Iron Age archaeological complex that dates from the 1st century AD to the 4th century AD. It replaced the Oksywie culture, in the area of modern-day Eastern Pomerania around the lower Vistula river, which was related[…]

Ancient DNA Sheds Light on Mysterious Origins of First Scandinavians

Scandinavia was populated by two main migrations, making its first inhabitants more genetically diverse and adapted to harsh climates than those in the rest of Europe. Tracking the migration of humans isn’t easy, but genetics is helping us uncover new information at breathtaking speed. We know that our species originated in Africa and likely reached Europe[…]

‘Micro Snails’ Help Unlock Details of Ancient Earth’s Biological Evolution

Using the family relationships between single-celled protists alive today, researchers hypothesized what their evolutionary ancestors looked like – and then looked in the fossil record for matches. Every step you take, you’re likely walking on a world of unseen and undescribed microbial diversity. And you don’t need to head out into nature to find these[…]

The Oldest Evidence of Movement and What We Know about Life on Earth

Newly found fossils point to a link between a rise in atmospheric oxygen and the first emergence of complex life on Earth. In a suspension of disbelief, the countless readers who have picked up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books have readily accepted that Ents, the ancient treelike creatures of the fictional Fangorn forest, walk, talk[…]

How Seeing Snakes in the Grass Helped Primates to Evolve

Vision is a window onto the world, its qualities determined by natural selection. Evolution has favoured the modification and expansion of primate vision. Compared with other mammals, primates have, for example, greater depth perception from having forward-facing eyes with extensively overlapping visual fields, sharper visual acuity, more areas in the brain that are involved with[…]

Lucy’s Shattered Bones: Our Ancestors Lived a Dangerous Life in Trees

Humans stand out among all the mammals as being the only species to totter about on two feet. We are the bipedal apes. A ground breaking study of the bones of a 3.2 million year old human ancestor (‘Lucy’) revealed that she died from the crushing impact of a fall from high in the trees. This exciting[…]

The Prehistoric Origins and Historic Growth of the Silk Road

The Silk Road provided a conduit not only for silk, but also offered a very important path for cultural, religious and technological transmission. Introduction The Silk Road was an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, including North Africa and Europe. These trade routes enabled[…]

The History, Burials, and Artifacts of the Bronze Age Wadi Suq

The Wadi Suq culture defines human settlement in the United Arab Emirates and Oman in the period from 2,000 to 1,300 BCE. Introduction Wadi Suq takes its name from a wadi, or waterway, East of Sohar in Oman and follows on from the Umm al-Nar culture. Although archaeologists have traditionally tended to view the differences in human settlements and[…]

The Bronze Age Culture of Umm an-Nār

Umm an-Nār in the area of modern-day United Arab Emirates and Northern Oman. Introduction Umm al-Nar (Arabic: أُمّ الـنَّـار‎, translit. Umm an-Nār, lit. ‘Mother of the Fire’) is the name given to a Bronze age culture that existed around 2600-2000 BCE in the area of modern-day United Arab Emirates and Northern Oman. The etymology derives from the island of the same name which lies adjacent[…]

Sewing Needles Reveal the Prehistoric Roots of Fashion

Humans have crafted garments for more than 40,000 years—and prehistoric tools suggest that warmth wasn’t their only concern. By Jacob Pagano The Inya River in southwestern Siberia winds through a landscape of striking seasonal changes. In the summer, crystal clear waters lap below alpine forests. As winter approaches, the river freezes, fierce snowstorms shroud the[…]

The Significance of the Earliest Beads

A key requisite for the use and appreciation of all beads and pendants is a level of hominin self-awareness that essentially expresses full cognitive modernity. Abstract This paper attempts to explore beyond the predictable and banal archaeological explanations relating to early beads and pendants. It recounts replication experiments to establish aspects of technology so as[…]

Animal Skin Artifacts from the Bronze Age Salt Mines of Hallstatt

The social context of cloth from the Neolithic to Bronze Age as seen in the Hallstatt prehistoric animal skin artifacts. Introduction My PhD research focused on the social context of cloth from the Neolithic to Bronze Age with case studies from the Alpine area. One aspect of this is the interrelationship of the technologies used[…]

2018 Was a Bumper Year for Prehistoric Archaeological Finds in Modern Crop Fields

A hot summer revealed a hidden history beneath the dried-out fields – but only when seen from the air. For an aerial archaeologist 2018 was a bumper year. The long, hot summer revealed ancient landscapes not visible from ground level, but easily recognised in fields of growing crops from the air. The principle behind the[…]

How We Discovered That Europeans Used Cattle 8,000 Years Ago

The use of animals for their renewable products greatly increased human capabilities in prehistory. The use of animals for their renewable products greatly increased human capabilities in prehistory. Secondary products – or anything that can be gleaned from a domestic animal repeatedly over its lifetime – expanded the capabilities of ancient human societies. They helped[…]

Baltic Hunter-Gatherer Adoption of Agriculture

Ancient DNA analyses show that – unlike elsewhere in Europe – farmers from the Near East did not overtake hunter-gatherer populations in the Baltic. The findings also suggest that the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family originated in the Steppe grasslands of the East. New research indicates that Baltic hunter-gatherers were not swamped by[…]

What’s in a Name?: The Taxonomy and Phylogeny of Early Homo

Hominin systematics, encompassing both taxonomy and phylogeny, has significant implications for how the evolution of species and traits are understood and communicated. Abstract Hominin systematics, encompassing both taxonomy and phylogeny (Strait, 2013), has significant implications for how the evolution of species and traits are understood and communicated. Following a recent influx of fossils (e.g., Brown et[…]

Ancient DNA Changes Everything We Know about the Evolution of Elephants

DNA studies reveal that African elephants belong to a very successful and widespread family. For a long time, zoologists assumed that there were only two species of elephant: one Asian and one African. Then genetic analyses suggested that the African Elephant could be divided into two distinct species, the African Forest and African Savannah elephants. Now[…]

A Prehistory of Southeastern Europe

By one interpretation of the historiography criterion, Southeastern Europe enters protohistory only with Homer. At any rate, the period ends before Herodotus in the 5th century BCE. Introduction The prehistory of Southeastern Europe, defined roughly as the territory of the wider Balkan peninsula (including the territories of the modern countries of Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria, and European Turkey) covers the period from the Upper[…]

Megalithism and Tribal Ritualism: A Passage through the Kurumbas of Attappadi

Analyzing the existence of Megalithic traits as a living tradition among the Kurumba tribe of Attappadi. Abstract The study of mortuary practices of Megalithic communities and its use as the basis for reconstructing the past society is unique in archaeology as it represents the direct and purposeful culmination of conscious behavior of the followers of[…]

Quests for Fire: Neanderthals and Science Fiction

By 1914, paleoanthropology recognized five species of human ancestors, two sub-species, and the tangible evidence of humanity’s antiquity proved utterly captivating. The Quest Begins: Neanderthals Meet Science Fiction In 1856, workers at a limestone quarry in the Neander Valley of Germany turned over a curious set of skeletal remains to a local amateur naturalist, Johann[…]