Primate Activity with Stones Hints at How Human Tool Use Evolved

Studying animal tooling can provide clues to the mysteries of human evolution. Human beings used to be defined as “the tool-maker” species. But the uniqueness of this description was challenged in the 1960s when Dr. Jane Goodall discovered that chimpanzees will pick and modify grass stems to use to collect termites. Her observations called into[…]

Ancient ‘Gum’ Reveals 5,000-Year-Old DNA

Researchers have extracted a complete ancient human genome from birch pitch, a 5,700-year-old type of ancient “chewing gum”. By Cecelie Krabbe Introduction The researchers believe it marks the first time that anyone has extracted an entire ancient human genome from anything other than human bones. “It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human[…]

44,000-Year-Old Indonesian Cave Painting Is Rewriting the History of Art

These works had been known for years by locals on the island of Sulawesi, but it was assumed they weren’t that old. Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the[…]

Neanderthal Bones: Signs of Their Sex Lives

Lately, much news from the field of paleoarchaeology and anthropology has centered on Neanderthal bedfellows. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist In a cave tucked into the limestone hills of the Asturias region of Spain, there lie the remains of a group of 13 Neanderthals that date to between 50,600 and 47,300 years ago. The site is[…]

Dolmens of Bronze Age Korea

They were constructed as tombs for elite members of the community. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Dolmens (in Korean: koindol or chisongmyo) are simple structures made of monolithic stones erected during the late Neolithic period or Korean Bronze Age (1st millennium BCE). In ancient Korea they appear most often near villages and the archaeological finds buried[…]

Ancient Human Migration after Out-of-Africa

How examining migration in the distant past provides new insights into human history. By Dr. Daniel Shriner, et.al.Staff ScientistCenter for Research on Genomics and Global Health Abstract The serial founder model of modern human origins predicts that the phylogeny of ancestries exhibits bifurcating, tree-like behavior. Here, we tested this prediction using three methods designed to[…]

The Neolithic Period: The ‘New’ Stone Age

Introduction The term Neolithic Period refers to the last stage of the Stone Age – a term coined in the late 19th century CE by scholars which covers three different periods: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic. The Neolithic period is significant for its megalithic architecture, the spread of agricultural practices, and the use of polished stone[…]

The Paleolithic Period: The ‘Old’ Stone Age

The Stone Age as a whole makes up around 99% of humanity’s technological calling card. By Emma GroeneveldHistorian Introduction The Palaeolithic (‘Old Stone Age’) makes up the earliest chunk of the Stone Age – the large swathe of time during which hominins used stone to make tools – and ranges from the first known tool[…]

Ancient Greece: From Indo-Europeans to Mycenaeans

There are definite sources of influence on early Greek culture to be found in the history of the second millennium. Introduction When did the people living in and around the central Mediterranean Sea in the locations that make up Greece become Greeks? No simple answer is possible, because the concept of identity includes not just[…]

The Neanderthal Throat: Did They Speak?

At the very least, in order for spoken language to be a possibility, a species has to have the right anatomical equipment. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist The first two pages of Claire Cameron’s novel The Last Neanderthal contain a glossary—a handful of words used by the family of Neanderthals at the center of the story.[…]

The Neanderthal Brain: Clues About Cognition

Was there something about the Neanderthals’ cognitive capacity that didn’t measure up? By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist One of the most tantalizing topics about Neanderthals is their cognition: how it developed and whether it was much different from patterns of thought in Homo sapiens. We know from the archaeological record that much of Neanderthal hunting, foraging,[…]

Unraveling the Mystery of Human Bipedality

Paleoanthropologist Carol Ward explains how walking upright marked a milestone in hominin history. By Dr. Tom GarlinghouseArchaeologist/Anthropologist Bipedality, the ability to walk upright on two legs, is a hallmark of human evolution. Many primates can stand up and walk around for short periods of time, but only humans use this posture for their primary mode[…]

The Neanderthal Diet—From Teeth to Guts

Some populations of Neanderthals were definitely more carnivorous than others. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist One of the more tenacious misconceptions about Neanderthals is that they were exclusively meat eaters. Sure, in some of the colder regions of Europe plant food would have been very seasonally limited, so meat was almost certainly a large part of[…]

Neanderthal Legs and Feet—Suited to Sprinting

Even genetics support the idea that Neanderthals were better sprinters than runners. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist If you’re like me, you view long-distance running as a somewhat unrealistic aspiration and see those people who do it well as remarkable creatures. The truth, though, is that Homo sapiens are well-designed for loping along for long distances[…]

The Storegga Slides of Prehistoric Norway

The three Storegga Slides of 6225-6170 BCE are considered to be amongst the largest known landslides. Introduction The three Storegga Slides are considered to be amongst the largest known submarine landslides. They occurred under water, at the edge of Norway’s continental shelf in the Norwegian Sea, approximately 6225–6170 BC. The collapse involved an estimated 290 km[…]

Scientists Wonder: Did Cave Women Wander?

Primitive women were more likely than their male counterparts to pack up and leave the cave. Primitive women were more likely than their male counterparts to pack up and leave the cave, eventually partnering with men from further afield, according to a study published in Nature magazine. By studying fossilised teeth from nearly 2 million years ago found[…]

Evidence of Asteroid Impact 12,800 Years Ago Causing Abrupt Climate Change

Why did Earth’s climate rapidly cool 12,800 years ago? Evidence is mounting that a comet or asteroid collision is to blame, with new support coming from the bottom of a South Carolina lake. Introduction What kicked off the Earth’s rapid cooling 12,800 years ago? In the space of just a couple of years, average temperatures[…]

An Introduction to Paleoclimatology

The reconstruction of ancient climate is important to understand natural variation in climate and the evolution of the current climate. Introduction Paleoclimatology is the study of climates for which systematic measurements were not taken.[1] As instrumental records only span a tiny part of Earth history, the reconstruction of ancient climate is important to understand natural[…]

The Meaning of European Upper Paleolithic Rock Art

It has been suggested that there is a correlation between demographic and social patterns and the flourishing of rock art. Introduction Rock art (also known as parietal art) is an umbrella term which refers to several types of creations including finger markings left on soft surfaces, bas-relief sculptures, engraved figures and symbols, and paintings onto[…]

Prehistoric Sculpture: Camelid Sacrum in the Shape of a Canine

Scholars agree that the carving and markings were made by human hands. Prehistoric Art around the Globe When we think about prehistoric art (art before the invention of writing), likely the first thing that comes to mind are the beautiful cave paintings in France and Spain with their naturalistic images of bulls, bison, deer and[…]

Prehistoric Babies Drank Animal Milk from Bottles

The vessels were found in Bronze Age and Iron Age infant graves in Bavaria, Germany. By Emily Vaughn Breast or bottle? Apparently, parents of infants have been pondering these options for thousands of years. So suggests a new study released Wednesday by the journal Nature. The researchers report finding nonhuman milk residue inside a type[…]

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,[…]