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Shanghai, China

Meiri M.,Institute of Archaeology | Meiri M.,Russian Academy of Sciences
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2014

Human colonization of the New World is generally believed to have entailed migrations from Siberia across the Bering isthmus. However, the limited archaeological record of these migrations means that details of the timing, cause and rate remain cryptic. Here, we have used a combination of ancient DNA, 14C dating, hydrogen and oxygen isotopes, and collagen sequencing to explore the colonization history of one of the few other large mammals to have successfully migrated into the Americas at this time: the North American elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis), also known as wapiti. We identify a long-term occupation of northeast Siberia, far beyond the species's current Old World distribution. Migration into North America occurred at the end of the last glaciation, while the northeast Siberian source population became extinct only within the last 500 years. This finding is congruent with a similar proposed delay in human colonization, inferred from modern human mitochondrial DNA, and suggestions that the Bering isthmus was not traversable during parts of the Late Pleistocene. Our data imply a fundamental constraint in crossing Beringia, placing limits on the age and mode of human settlement in the Americas, and further establish the utility of ancient DNA in palaeontological investigations of species histories.

Kamash Z.,Institute of Archaeology
Journal of Arid Environments | Year: 2012

This paper uses a multi-faceted approach to understand the use and distribution of different irrigation technologies in the Roman Near East (63 BC - AD 636), looking at the ways in which social and environmental factors affected the implementation of those irrigation technologies. It is argued that no single factor can fully explain how irrigation technologies were used across time and space in this region. Instead, choices in irrigation technology seem to have been governed by a complex nexus of both social and environmental factors. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Graves-Brown P.,Institute of Archaeology
World Archaeology | Year: 2014

Electrical and electronic connectors are an archetypal example of Machine Age artefacts. In this article I focus on two such connectors, the jack plug and DIN plug, which have played a key role in the history of music technology. Their development, and that of cognate technologies, serves as a graphic illustration of the processes of standardization and miniaturization that have shaped the material culture of the contemporary world. © 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Standing alone on the Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge has given tourists a view into human prehistoric past. How the structure was built and its purpose remain shrouded in mystery. However, a team of scientists recently published a study in Antiquity detailing the quarries whence the stones came. Believed to have been built during the Neolithic period, between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge is comprised of a variety of stones ranging in size. “The larger stones are of sarsen, a silicified sandstone that is found in dense concentrations within 20 mi of Salisbury Plain,” write the researchers. “The smaller ones, known as ‘bluestones,’ are of a variety of lithologies that can have only come from in and around Mynydd Preseli (Preseli mountains) in west Wales, 140 mi away.” Dolerite and rhyolite, both volcanic rocks, are most common among Stonehenge’s bluestones. The team identified the outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin as the source of the dolerite and rhyolite, respectively. The Antiquity research focuses specifically on the Craig Thos-y-felin outcrop. “It seems probable that monoliths were detached by exploiting pre-existing fissures in the rock, hammering in wooden wedges and perhaps enlarging fissures to allow access for such wedges,” the researchers write. Josh Pollard, of the Univ. of Southampton, said the quarry workers let the rain swell the wood and separate the pillar from the rock face. Then they “lowered the thin pillars onto platforms of earth and stone, a sort of ‘loading bay’ from where the huge stones could be dragged away along trackways leading out of each quarry.” According to the Univ. College London, radiocarbon dating from burnt hazelnuts and charcoal from campfires date quarrying periods around 3,400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3,200 BC for Carn Goedog, a good amount of time before Stonehenge’s construction. “It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view,” said Parker Pearson, of the Univ. College London’s Institute of Archaeology. “It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.” Parson believes the monoliths were transferred overland rather than by water, as some have previously suggested. “Each of the 80 monoliths weighed less than 2 tons, so teams of people or oxen could have managed this,” he said. “We know from examples in India and elsewhere in Asia that single stones this size can even be carried on wooden lattices by groups of 60—they didn’t even have to drag them if they didn’t want to.” The researchers have been conducting geological surveys, trial excavations and aerial photographic analysis to find the aforementioned dismantled monument in question. They believe it lies somewhere between the two quarries. More excavations are planned for 2016. “If we can find the original monument in Wales form which it was built, we will finally be able to solve the mystery of why Stonehenge was built and why some of its stones were brought so far,” Pearson said.

So far, the state has received 20 reports of items that washed up or were uncovered after storms that caused widespread flooding in October, state archaeologist Jonathan Leader said. The South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) at the University of South Carolina, where Leader works, is asking people to report additional discoveries. Licensed hobby divers, who must share their finds with the state, already have reported finding a dugout canoe possibly crafted by early European settlers or Native Americans. There were also some barges and a report of a possible skeleton of a mammoth, an extinct animal that resembled a woolly elephant, according to the SCIAA. "We're on the tip of what we think is going to be an iceberg in terms of reporting," said Leader, adding that known archeological sites may also have been damaged by the storms. "We want to get in front of it and save and preserve what we can." The institute plans to examine soon what has already been found and date the artifacts through radiocarbon testing, if funding permits. "Property owners are saying they are coming up with large numbers of historic or pre-European pottery on what was just a clay or sand bank," Leader said. "There are also reports of damage to historic cemeteries, or places where they weren't aware anybody was buried and now they're finding human bones." Other natural disasters such as droughts and hurricanes have uncovered historic and pre-historic sites, archaeologists said, but not to the extent they see resulting from the recent floods.

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