News Article | October 26, 2016
The European palate may not always have been so sophisticated. This week, researchers report the first evidence of ancient Europeans snacking on rodents at least 5,000 years ago. The discovery suggests that rodents like mice and voles have not always been mere pests hellbent on annoying humanity throughout its history: They may have been a food source as well. “Rodents are frequently excavated from older archaeological sites in Europe, but people haven’t examined why they are there,” said Jeremy Herman, a biologist at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. “Maybe because they are not currently a food source in Europe, no one ever thought to ask if they had been in the past.” The new finding, reported Tuesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, was made after researchers sifted through nearly 60,000 small mammal bones collected at the Skara Brae settlement on the largest island of the Orknay archipelago in Scotland. Skara Brae consists of the remnants of eight stone houses and was occupied in the latter half of the Stone Age from roughly 3180 .BC. to 2500 B.C., according to radiocarbon dating. Archaeologists pulled more than 2.5 pounds of micro mammal bones out of four different trenches dug at and near the site in the 1970s. The bones were bagged based on which trench they came from and also what strata or time period they represented. Herman, the senior author on the study, said all told there were enough bones to fill a cereal box. Previous studies have shown that there were just two types of rodents living among the people of Skara Brae — the wood mouse and the Orkney vole, a form of the common European vole. However, until now, nobody had studied how these rodent populations interacted with humans. After reexamining the bones, the authors found the number of mouse bones was equal across all four trenches. However, the trench in one building had a greater accumulation of vole bones than the other three trenches. This suggests that the voles, who generally live in the fields and stay away from human homes, had been brought there deliberately by people, the authors said. In addition, the research team found burn marks on several of the bones, suggesting the animals had been roasted. “The way they are burnt it’s pretty clear that they were pretty much whole when they were stuck on the embers of a fire,” Herman said. “I haven’t tried it myself, but I imagine they got pretty crisp on the outside.” Herman said the number of vole bones the team discovered suggests that the rodents were not a primary source of food for the inhabitants of Skara Brae. Still, it seems pretty clear that people were eating them, at least occasionally. “It could be that people ate them as a snack, or it was something they fell back on or harder times,” he said. “Or maybe kids were catching them and then roasting them. It’s hard to tell.” The people of Skara Brae were farmers who raised cattle and sheep. Herman said most of their food probably came from these sources as well as from crops and shellfish. He adds that there is no evidence of the people eating mice. “Voles are a little bigger then mice, but I don’t know why they focused on them,” he said. “Maybe they taste better.” The authors hope that future studies will examine the relationship between humans and rodents at other Neolithic sites in Europe. “This is the first example of ancient people eating rodents in Europe,” Herman said. “But that may be because we haven’t looked hard enough previously.” Do you love science? I do! Follow me @DeborahNetburn and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook. No, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is NOT dead. But it is in trouble. How to counter people with extreme views: Try agreeing with them Surprise! The universe has 10 times as many galaxies as scientists thought
News Article | October 26, 2016
Rodents appear to have been roasted for food by Stone Age people as early as 5,000 years ago, archaeological evidence suggests. Bones from archaeological sites in Orkney show voles were cooked or boiled for food, or possibly for pest control. This is the first evidence for the exploitation of rodents by Neolithic people in Europe, say scientists. Rodents were consumed later in history, with the dormouse regarded as a delicacy during Roman times. The Orkney vole - found only on the archipelago - is thought to be a subspecies of the European common vole. Charred bones suggest the vole was cooked, most likely for food. The remains were found with waste products from other foods, suggesting voles may have been roasted in the fire. Alternatively, they may have been cooked or boiled in a pot. Dr Jerry Herman, curator of mammals at National Museums of Scotland, said evidence from excavations showed there were large amounts of rodent remains in human dwellings. This suggests that the piles of bone fragments - mainly from voles but also some field mice - were the result of human intervention of some sort. "The remains were getting into the refuse of the inhabitants and in very large numbers and over a considerable period of time - several hundred years," he said. "Because some of the remains were burnt - we think that they had been roasted - it may be that the inhabitants were actually eating them and that explained how they got into their living space in such numbers." The voles were quite small and "would be no more than a mouthful" to eat, but "a perfectly good source of protein", said Dr Herman. The remains were originally excavated at the well known Skara Brae site in the 1970s. Scientists sifted through nearly 60,000 rodent bones and teeth to study their origins. The findings are published in the journal, Royal Society Open Science. A recent genetic study on the same samples deduced that the vole was introduced to Orkney direct from what is now Belgium. It is thought the rodents were brought to the island by sea along with cattle and deer by early farmers or traders.
News Article | November 30, 2015
Just after dawn, barbershop quartets of male howler monkeys echo over the canopy of Mexico’s forests. Jake Dunn remembers them well from his early fieldwork in Veracruz. “Most people who don’t know what they’re listening to assume it’s a jaguar,” says Dunn, a primatologist at the University of Cambridge. The calls serve as a warning to male competitors and an alluring pickup line for females. While studying primates in Mexico, Dunn heard drastic differences between resident howler monkeys. He and his colleagues decided to pin down the origin and evolution of this well-known variation among species. After reading a 1949 paper that classified howlers based on a vocal tract bone called the hyoid, Dunn paired up with Lauren Halenar of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, who was studying the hyoid’s role in howler biology. Scouring collections at museums and zoos in the United States and Europe, the team used laser scanners to create 3-D models of hyoids from nine howler species. The work required a lot of digging through cupboards for skeletons. “Some of these specimens are hundreds of years old,” says Dunn, who recalls imagining “the early naturalists hunting these animals and bringing back the collections.” Real pay dirt came from the National Museums of Scotland, which had preserved the remains of two howlers that had died of natural causes in zoos. CT and MRI scans of the two specimens provided a rare peek at the howler vocal system’s layout. Dunn thinks the container-like hyoid functions as a resonating chamber for calls. “It’s a bit like when you blow over the top of a bottle,” he says. Based on acoustic measurements, the team found species with larger hyoids roar at lower frequencies. Their findings appear in the Nov. 2 Current Biology. Howler species with bigger hyoids have smaller testes and live in harem-style social groups (SN Online: 10/22/15). In this less-crowded playing field, reproductive success depends heavily on luring females rather than producing plenty of sperm to compete with sperm from other males living in the group. Harem species invest energy in vocals over testicles. Bigger hyoid bones give males deeper calls, fooling females, rivals and unsuspecting humans into thinking they are more fearsome, virile animals.
Notes on some European microgastrinae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) in the national museums of Scotland, with twenty species new to Britain, new host data, taxonomie changes and remarks, and descriptions of two new species of microgaster latreille
Shaw M.R.,National Museums of Scotland
Entomologist's Gazette | Year: 2012
Based largely on the collection in the National Museums of Scotland, and concentrating on poorly understood taxa, 20 species of Microgastrinae are newly recorded from Britain, and host and/or other biological information is given for about 60 European species (in most cases the first host records; in some others refuting previous misconceptions). Among numerous taxonomie remarks on European species, three species are reinstated from synonymy (Dolichogenidea coniferae (Haliday, 1834), Dolichogenidea coniferoides (Papp, 1972), and Microgaster acilia Nixon, 1968), and Choeras adjunctus (Nees, 1934) is proposed as a new combination. Two new species are described from reared British material: Microgaster arctostaphylica sp. nov. and Microgaster raschkiellae sp. nov.
Larval parasitoids of Rivula sericealis (Scopoli) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in Britain, including notes on the biology of Cotesia subordinaria (Tobias) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae, Microgastrinae), a solitary-cum-gregarious parasitoid
Shaw M.R.,National Museums of Scotland
Entomologist's Gazette | Year: 2012
Sampling larvae of Rivula sericealis revealed few parasitoids. It is shown experimentally that Cotesia subordinaria generally develops as a solitary parasitoid in host larvae attacked in their first three instars, but typically forms broods of two to three individuals when ovipositing into fourth and fifth (= final) instar host larvae.
Rotheray G.E.,National Museums of Scotland
Journal of Natural History | Year: 2012
Rearing data from higher plants, carrion and bird and mammal nests and burrows are provided for eight species of Heleomyzidae (Diptera): Heleomyzinae: Heleomyza borealis Boheman, Scoliocentra brachypterna (Loew) and Eccoptomera microps (Meigen); Heteromyzinae: Tephrochlamys flavipes (Zetterstedt), Tephrochlamys tarsalis (Zetterstedt) and Heteromyza rotundicornis (Zetterstedt); and Suillinae: Suillia ustulata (Meigen) and Suillia variegata (Loew). The puparia of these species are described. Unique characters and characters in combination distinguish each species and their subfamilies, suggesting that early stages are a valuable source of taxonomic data. Head skeleton and other features suggest contrasting food gathering mechanisms, with heleomyzines suited to feeding on food of low viscosity, suillines on high-viscosity or firm food and heteromyzines on food of intermediate viscosity. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 33.38K | Year: 2016
Power and prestige in Europe during the first millennium AD is predominately expressed in two portable materials: silver and gold. These precious metals underpinned the emergence of early medieval kingdoms in Europe by providing the raw materials for prestige objects that were used to create, contest and reflect status within and between societies. While parts of Europe favoured gold, in Scotland silver was the most important precious metal for over 600 years (AD400-1000). Silver had been introduced to Scotland by Rome (via subsidies, military pay, diplomacy and loot) and rapidly became a vital means of expressing power and prestige in the lands beyond the frontier, albeit one that carried Imperial baggage. Recent discoveries of Late Roman and Early Medieval silver hoards in Scotland, and re-evaluation of existing hoards, has highlighted the need to connect with those working on comparable material elsewhere in Europe. The network Silver, Status and Society will provide an opportunity to maximise the momentum building from two existing programmes of national research on silver to develop, for the first time, a comparative international and cross-disciplinary study of this powerful and valuable material, during this pivotal period in Europes history. Silver provides a key source of evidence for understanding reactions to the political vacuum caused by the disintegration of the Roman Empire and the emergence of the early medieval kingdoms of Europe, but research has been inhibited by national boundaries and divides between academic disciplines. Bringing together academics, museum professionals, early career researchers and doctoral students, will create lasting cross-disciplinary connections between those involved in the discovery, curation, research and public presentation of early medieval silver from across northern Europe. The network will place an emerging field of study in the UK into an international context by providing insights into comparable material, alternative methodologies, and interpretative models. This will provide a platform from which to compare and contrast different strategies towards the supply, circulation and use of silver following the collapse of the Roman Empire and to explore the role of this precious metal in the emergence of the early medieval kingdoms of Europe. The findings of the Silver, Status and Society network will be disseminated publically through an open day conference in Edinburgh, and via the existing public programmes activity of the Glenmorangie Research Project on Early Medieval Scotland (based at National Museums Scotland www.nms.ac.uk/earlymedieval), including a special exhibition in Edinburgh and publication of a popular book in 2017. Academic dissemination will be through two symposia, one in the UK and one in Denmark, and the publication of a volume of papers drawn from them.
Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Fellowship | Award Amount: 52.89K | Year: 2013
Tweed is a widely used and internationally popular textile that has its origins in Scotland in the 1820s. This project aims to significantly advance knowledge about this hugely under-researched textile. For example, Clifford Gulvins The Tweedmakers, which was the last major academic publication on the history of tweed, was written nearly forty years ago and there is a strong need to re-interpret this textile using more up-to-date methods. Furthermore, this project will be the first to examine the history of factory-produced tweeds in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The researcher has been studying tweed since 2001, work that has primarily focused on the late nineteenth century. This Fellowship will substantially further develop and extend this inter-disciplinary investigation. The international dissemination of the research will primarily be through a major book, titled Tweed, to be published by Berg Publishers.This publication will explore the history of tweed including its manufacture, design and consumption from its emergence in the 1820s to the present. The project will be the first to consider in depth the crucially important inter-connections between the histories of different types of tweed, from craft-produced Harris tweeds, to factory-produced ones from the British mainland. The research will focus primarily on British contexts, but given the importance of exports to this industry, it will also examine the international consumption of tweed. For example, exuberantly coloured tweeds designed by Bernat Klein and made in the Scottish Borders were widely used by French couturiers in the 1960s. This project will also further develop previous research on the inter-relationships of tweed with major social and cultural changes in terms of class, gender and local and national identities in the late nineteenth century. For example, in that era tweed was strongly coded as masculine and the project will explore whether changing gender relationships have continued to play an important role in the design and consumption of these textiles. A previous innovative article by the researcher has shown the important physical and conceptual links of tweed with place or landscape and with changing ideas about British, Scottish, and English identities in the late nineteenth century. This research will be extended to examine the hitherto unexplored relationships between fashion textiles and urban and rural landscapes in the eras of late modernity and post-modernity. Tweed is often associated in contemporary media with Britishness, Englishness, heritage and tradition. Furthermore, the interpretation of tweed by leading fashion designers, such as Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood, has focused on a fascination with its supposedly traditional character. This study seeks to explore and explain how these connotations relate to the history of this textile and why they have such a strong contemporary resonance. The project also addresses the broader objective of aiming to develop and encourage new interdisciplinary approaches to the study of wool textiles. Through its focus on the design and consumption of tweed, it seeks to raise alternative questions to the existing research on British wool textiles, which focuses almost exclusively on taking economic history approaches to the English trade before 1830. The scarcity of published research on tweed means that the book will mainly draw on original sources, most of which have not been previously published. For example, this will include the Ceemo Tweed and Bernat Klein Collections held by National Museums Scotland. It will also involve interviews with individuals linked to the contemporary tweed industry. The research will also be disseminated through a partnership with Scottish Borders Council Museum and Gallery Service, which will involve collaborating on the development of an exhibition and associated education events.
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 313.19K | Year: 2012
This project will shed light on a key stage in the evolution of life on Earth. The advent onto land of limbed vertebrates (tetrapods) was an event that shaped the future evolution of the planet, including the appearance of humans. The process began about 360 million years ago, during the late Palaeozoic, in the early part of the Carboniferous Period. Within the 20 million years that followed, limbed vertebrates evolved from their essentially aquatic and fish-like Devonian predecessors into fully terrestrial forms, radiating into a wide range of body forms that occupied diverse habitats and ecological niches. We know this because we have an adequate fossil record of the earliest limbed vertebrates from the Late Devonian, contrasting with the terrestrial forms that lived significantly later in the Early Carboniferous, about 340 million years ago. It is also clear that a mass extinction event occurred at the end of the Devonian, following which life on land and in fresh water habitats had to be re-established. Unfortunately, the formative 20 million years from the end of Devonian times has remained almost unrepresented for fossil tetrapods and their arthropod contemporaries. Thus, we know little about how tetrapods evolved adaptations for life on land, the environments in which they did so, and the timing or sequence of these events. The evolutionary relationships among these early tetrapods and how they relate to modern forms are also unclear and controversial as a result of this lack of fossil information. The entire fossil hiatus has been called Romers Gap after the American palaeontologist who first recognized it. Now, for the first time anywhere in the world, several fossil localities representing this period have been discovered in south-eastern Scotland. They have already provided a wealth of new fossils of tetrapods, fish, invertebrates and plants, and our team is the first to have the opportunity to study this material and the environmental, depositional, and climatic context in which this momentous episode took place. We have a number of major aims. The existing fossil material will form a baseline for this study, but the project will augment this by further excavating the richest of the sites so far found and subjecting it to a detailed archaeological-style analysis. We will collect from other recently recognized sites and explore for further sites with relevant potential. The fossil material will be described and analysed using a range of modern techniques to answer many questions related to the evolution of the animals and plants. Not only that, using stratigraphical, sedimentological, palynological, geochemical and isotopic data, we will establish the conditions of deposition that preserved the fossils, the environments in which the organisms lived and died, and the precise times at which they did so. We will drill a borehole that will core through the entire geological formation in which these fossils have been found. Using this, we will integrate data from our fossil sites using the signals provided by the sedimentary record to build a detailed time line showing in which horizons the fossils were found, the age of each occurrence and their sequential relationship. We will compare and correlate our data with that from contemporaneous deposits in Nova Scotia, the only other locality with information sufficiently rich to be meaningful. Our data will allow us to infer changes to the environment and the evolutionary trajectories of the animals and plants during the deposition of this formation, covering the 20 million years following the end-Devonian mass extinction. Comparison with similar data for the Late Devonian will allow us to chart the changes around the time of the mass extinction, to infer its causes and consequences, and obtain a detailed record of exactly how changes to the environment correlated with changes to the fauna and flora.
Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 390.30K | Year: 2017
Over 130 military museums in the UK preserve the historical collections of British regiments, corps and services. Their collections contain artefacts acquired by British servicemen in colonial warfare and on imperial garrison duties across the globe, variously acquired as trophies, prize, souvenirs, curios and specimens. These artefacts are little known outside the constituency of military history and within their current institutions rarely researched in reference to their complex intercultural biographies. Focussing on military campaigns in India and Africa from 1750 to 1900, this project will undertake an interdisciplinary reappraisal of military collections. By tracing collections histories through archival evidence it will both investigate the meaning of non-European artefacts in military organisational culture and their value as material witnesses of encounters between non-European peoples and imperial forces. Research questions include: 1. What does the pattern of taking, recording and modification of objects tell us about the characteristics of British military collecting in the context of colonial and imperial warfare? 2. How does a more nuanced analysis of the transference of objects in war revise our understanding of colonial and post-colonial relationships? 3. How did military governance, cultural sanction and contingency work to establish boundaries around the taking and disposal of objects? 4. How can we address the tensions between the original communal role of these military collections and their contemporary function in public military museums? The material legacy of non-European military campaigns in military and non-military museums is widespread, yet the systematic understanding of this legacy is virtually absent from the analytical and historical literature. Military collecting offers an under-developed source for critically reappraising the linkages between museum collections and imperial history in the post-colonial period. Colonial African and Indian campaigns (estimated as 60-70% of total non-European collections) will be tracked through multiple military museum collections examined in tandem with institutional records, archives, registers, as well as biographies, diaries and photographs related to individual collectors. An in-depth examination of objects and documents will deliver a more multifaceted understanding of military governance, communal military culture and individual agency. The project will highlight hidden histories of taking and retention, going beyond the simplistic view of all such military artefacts as loot. This revisionist approach will allow comparisons across former European imperial powers of a complex and controversial topic. It will enable a critical reassessment of the relevance of these collecting practices and material legacies today. The multidisciplinary project team at National Museums Scotland (NMS) will be supported by an academic and museum-based Advisory Board drawn from the fields of visual and museum anthropology, military history, military anthropology and archaeology. Comparative analysis will draw on research from previous pilot projects undertaken on campaigns in Tibet, China, New Zealand and North America. The National Army Museum (NAM), the project partner, also holds extensive collections and has the wider networks (including the Army Museums Ogilby Trust) to assist with the delivery of knowledge exchange workshops and the organisation of the international seminar. Outputs will include two knowledge exchange workshops, an international seminar, a special exhibition (National War Museum, National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh), enhanced gallery interpretation (National Army Museum, London; National Museum of Scotland and National War Museum, Edinburgh), community engagement, online features and pdf catalogue information, and 3-4 publications (articles and a book in addition to non-refereed articles).