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  • richardmitnick 8:23 am on August 31, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The first farmers of Europe", , Paleoarchaeology, Ploča Mičov Grad area, proliferation of agriculture in Europe, Remains of under-water sites are a stroke of luck for pre-historic archeology., The cradle of European agriculture,   

    From University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH): “The first farmers of Europe” 

    From University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH)

    A research team from the University of Bern has managed to precisely date pile dwellings on the banks of Lake Ohrid in the south-western Balkans for the first time: they came into being in the middle of the 5th millennium BC. The region around the oldest lake in Europe played a key role in the proliferation of agriculture.

    1
    Ploča Michovgrad, Lake Ohrid, Northern Macedonia (2018-2019). Situation at the lake bottom with wooden piles of submerged prehistoric buildings. © Johannes Reich.

    2
    Lin 3, Lake Ohrid, Albania. Excavation situation in summer 2021. © Johannes Reich.

    3
    Excavation situation under water in Ploča Michovgrad, Lake Ohrid, Northern Macedonia (2018-2019). © Pavel Georgiev.

    3
    Ploča Michovgrad, Lake Ohrid, Northern Macedonia (2018-2019). Sawing a wooden sample with a band saw. © Albert Hafner.

    Remains of under-water sites are a stroke of luck for pre-historic archeology. The wooden piles from which their foundations were built have been preserved excellently: In the absence of oxygen, they were not corroded by bacteria or fungi. Wood preserved in this way is excellently well suited for dendrochronological examinations, which can be dated using growth rings. The age of the wood, and thus the time at which the settlements were built, can be determined in combination with radiocarbon dating. This method has now been applied outside of the Alpine region for the first time.

    Under the leadership of the University of Bern, around 800 piles were dated in the large international EXPLO project (see info box). They come from a site on the east coast of Lake Ohrid. The results were presented recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science. The new findings prove that the settlement in the Bay of Ploča Mičov Grad near the Macedonian town of Ohrid was constructed in different phases. And over thousands of years: From the Neolithic Period (middle of the 5th millennium BC) until the Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC). Until now, it was assumed that it was a settlement from the period around 1000 BC. This intensive construction activity explains the extraordinary density of wooden piles at the site. The settlements were built virtually over one another.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    About EXPLO

    The interdisciplinary research project, EXPLO (short for: “Exploring the dynamics and causes of prehistoric land use change in the cradle of European farming”), is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and was awarded a coveted Synergy Grant amounting to 6.4 million euros in 2018. The focus of the project is the relationship between humans and the environment at the beginnings of agriculture in south-eastern Europe. They are investigated starting from wetland sites. The project will be implemented over a period of five years from 2019 to 2024. The Universities of Bern (Prof. Dr. Albert Hafner, Institute of Archeological Sciences; Prof. Dr. Willy Tinner, Institute of Plant Sciences), The University of Oxford (UK) (Prof. Dr, Amy Bogaard, School of Archaeology) and Thessaloniki (Prof. Dr. Kostas Kotsakis, School of History and Archaeology).
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The cradle of European agriculture

    “The precise dates of the different settlement phases of Ploča Mičov Grad represent important temporal reference points for a chronology of prehistory in the south-western Balkans,” says Albert Hafner. He is Professor of Prehistoric Archeology at the University of Bern and a member of the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research. The precise chronological classification, in turn, opened up unimagined possibilities of interpretation for the traces found of the early occupation of Lake Ohrid. A so-called cultural layer is hidden under the present-day lakebed. It consists mainly of organic material and is up to 1.7 meters thick. Among other things, it contains the remains of harvested grain, wild plants and animals, which can provide conclusions on the development of agriculture. In the Balkans, the newly arrived farmers were confronted with comparatively cool and humid climate conditions, which forced them to adapt agricultural practices accordingly. “The interactions between this revolutionary innovation and the environment are largely unknown,” emphasized Hafner. This is precisely the research gap that the EXPLO project aims to fill.

    The pile dwellings in the Alpine region and the archeological site in the Balkans are the only remains of settlements from the Neolithic Period with excellent organic conservation. The early findings are particularly interesting as the area played a key role in the proliferation of agriculture: Europe’s first farmers lived here. Early cattle breeders and arable farmers from Anatolia first reached the Aegean region, especially northern Greece, and then Central Europe via southern Italy and the Balkans more than 8,000 years ago.

    Important cultural heritage in the Balkans

    “Our investigations are shining a light on the large potential for future research on the pre-historic settlements in the region,” says Hafner. The significance of the settlements on Lake Ohrid is huge: “The pile dwellings around the Alps have been considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011, and the wetland settlements in the south-western Balkans are no less significant,” said Albert Hafner. The region offers a situation comparable to the area around the Alps: Relics of prehistoric settlements have been preserved in numerous lakes in modern Albania, northern Greece and North Macedonia. However, with few exceptions, the sites in the Balkan region have hardly been studied so far.

    Bern researchers are also pursuing other goals over the long term. “We want to help ensure that the value of these wetland settlements is recognized locally and that these cultural assets are better protected,” explained Hafner. Sites are not only located on the north Macedonian shore of Lake Ohrid, where the EXPLO team conducted fieldwork campaigns in 2018 and 2019, but also on the Albanian western shore of the lake, where the researchers were active this summer at the Lin 3 site. In the long term, it is planned to expand collaboration with local partners, support the education and training of researchers from the region and promote local initiatives.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH) is a university in the Swiss capital of Bern and was founded in 1834. It is regulated and financed by the Canton of Bern. It is a comprehensive university offering a broad choice of courses and programs in eight faculties and some 150 institutes. With around 17,512 students, Universität Bern is the third biggest University in Switzerland.

    Universität Bern operates at three levels: university, faculties and institutes. Other organizational units include interfaculty and general university units. The university’s highest governing body is the Senate, which is responsible for issuing statutes, rules and regulations. Directly answerable to the Senate is the University Board of Directors, the governing body for university management and coordination. The Board comprises the Rector, the Vice-Rectors and the Administrative Director. The structures and functions of the University Board of Directors and the other organizational units are regulated by the Universities Act. Universität Bern offers about 39 bachelor and 72 master programs, with enrollments of 7,747 and 4,523, respectively. The university also has 2,776 doctoral students. Around 1,561 bachelor, 1,489 master’s degree students and 570 PhD students graduate each year. For some time now, the university has had more female than male students; at the end of 2016, women accounted for 56% of students.

    Today the University of Bern is one of the top 150 universities in the world. In the QS World University Rankings 2019 it ranked 139th. The Shanghai Ranking (ARWU) 2018 ranked the University of Bern in the range 101st–150th in the world. In the Leiden Ranking 2015 it ranked 122nd in the world and 50th in Europe. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings it ranked 110th in 2018/2019 and 2016/2017 (and 82nd in Clinical, pre-clinical & health 2017).

     
  • richardmitnick 11:31 am on July 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Huge Volcanic Eruption Disrupted Climate but Not Human Evolution", , , , Paleoarchaeology, , , , The Toba volcano was the largest volcanic eruption in the past two million years.   

    From Rutgers University (US) : “Huge Volcanic Eruption Disrupted Climate but Not Human Evolution” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University (US)

    July 9, 2021
    John Cramer
    jdc268@echo.rutgers.edu

    1
    A modern volcanic eruption pales in comparison to the Toba eruption, which was the largest volcanic eruption of the past 2 million years, dispersing ash as far as southern Africa 9,000 km away. The total volume of erupted deposits may exceed 5,000 cubic kilometers. Credit: Steve Self, University of California-Berkeley (US).

    A massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia about 74,000 years ago likely caused severe climate disruption in many areas of the globe, but early human populations were sheltered from the worst effects, according to a Rutgers-led study.

    The findings appear in the journal PNAS.

    The eruption of the Toba volcano was the largest volcanic eruption in the past two million years, but its impacts on climate and human evolution have been unclear. Resolving this debate is important for understanding environmental changes during a key interval in human evolution.

    “We were able to use a large number of climate model simulations to resolve what seemed like a paradox,” said lead author Benjamin Black, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “We know this eruption happened and that past climate modeling has suggested the climate consequences could have been severe, but archaeological and paleoclimate records from Africa don’t show such a dramatic response.

    “Our results suggest that we might not have been looking in the right place to see the climate response. Africa and India are relatively sheltered, whereas North America, Europe and Asia bear the brunt of the cooling,” Black said. “One intriguing aspect of this is that Neanderthals and Denisovans were living in Europe and Asia at this time, so our paper suggests evaluating the effects of the Toba eruption on those populations could merit future investigation.”

    2
    The researchers examined explosive ash deposits that are tens of meters thick about 35 km north of the Toba caldera in Indonesia. Credit Steve Self, University of California-Berkeley.

    The researchers analyzed 42 global climate model simulations in which they varied magnitude of sulfur emissions, time of year of the eruption, background climate state and sulfur injection altitude to make a probabilistic assessment of the range of climate disruptions the Toba eruption may have caused. This approach let the team account for some of the unknowns related to the eruption.

    “By using a probabilistic approach, we aim at understanding the likelihood that some regions were less impacted by Toba, considering the wide range of estimates of its size and timing, in addition to our lack of knowledge of the underlying climate state,” said Black.

    The results suggest there was likely significant regional variation in climate impacts. The simulations predict cooling in the Northern Hemisphere of at least 4°C, with regional cooling as high as 10°C depending on the model parameters. In contrast, even under the most severe eruption conditions, cooling in the Southern Hemisphere — including regions populated by early humans — was unlikely to exceed 4°C, although regions in southern Africa and India may have seen decreases in precipitation at the highest sulfur emission level.

    The results explain independent archaeological evidence suggesting the Toba eruption had modest effects on the development of hominid species in Africa. According to the authors, their ensemble simulation approach could be used to better understand other past and future explosive eruptions.

    “Our results reconcile the simulated distribution of climate impacts from the eruption with paleoclimate and archaeological records,” according to the study. “This probabilistic view of climate disruption from Earth’s most recent super-eruption underscores the uneven expected distribution of societal and environmental impacts from future very large explosive eruptions.”

    The study included researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, University of Leeds and University of Cambridge, and was supported by the NSF National Center for Atmospheric Research (US) and the National Science Foundation (US).

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (US), is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    Rutgers University (US) is a public land-grant research university based in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Chartered in 1766, Rutgers was originally called Queen’s College, and today it is the eighth-oldest college in the United States, the second-oldest in New Jersey (after Princeton University (US)), and one of the nine U.S. colonial colleges that were chartered before the American War of Independence. In 1825, Queen’s College was renamed Rutgers College in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers, whose substantial gift to the school had stabilized its finances during a period of uncertainty. For most of its existence, Rutgers was a private liberal arts college but it has evolved into a coeducational public research university after being designated The State University of New Jersey by the New Jersey Legislature via laws enacted in 1945 and 1956.

    Rutgers today has three distinct campuses, located in New Brunswick (including grounds in adjacent Piscataway), Newark, and Camden. The university has additional facilities elsewhere in the state, including oceanographic research facilities at the New Jersey shore. Rutgers is also a land-grant university, a sea-grant university, and the largest university in the state. Instruction is offered by 9,000 faculty members in 175 academic departments to over 45,000 undergraduate students and more than 20,000 graduate and professional students. The university is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, the Association of American Universities (US) and the Universities Research Association (US). Over the years, Rutgers has been considered a Public Ivy.

    Research

    Rutgers is home to the Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science, also known as RUCCS. This research center hosts researchers in psychology, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, electrical engineering, and anthropology.

    It was at Rutgers that Selman Waksman (1888–1973) discovered several antibiotics, including actinomycin, clavacin, streptothricin, grisein, neomycin, fradicin, candicidin, candidin, and others. Waksman, along with graduate student Albert Schatz (1920–2005), discovered streptomycin—a versatile antibiotic that was to be the first applied to cure tuberculosis. For this discovery, Waksman received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1952.

    Rutgers developed water-soluble sustained release polymers, tetraploids, robotic hands, artificial bovine insemination, and the ceramic tiles for the heat shield on the Space Shuttle. In health related field, Rutgers has the Environmental & Occupational Health Science Institute (EOHSI).

    Rutgers is also home to the RCSB Protein Data bank, “…an information portal to Biological Macromolecular Structures’ cohosted with the San Diego Supercomputer Center (US). This database is the authoritative research tool for bioinformaticists using protein primary, secondary and tertiary structures worldwide….”

    Rutgers is home to the Rutgers Cooperative Research & Extension office, which is run by the Agricultural and Experiment Station with the support of local government. The institution provides research & education to the local farming and agro industrial community in 19 of the 21 counties of the state and educational outreach programs offered through the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Office of Continuing Professional Education.

    Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR) is the largest university based repository in the world and has received awards worth more than $57.8 million from the National Institutes of Health (US). One will fund genetic studies of mental disorders and the other will support investigations into the causes of digestive, liver and kidney diseases, and diabetes. RUCDR activities will enable gene discovery leading to diagnoses, treatments and, eventually, cures for these diseases. RUCDR assists researchers throughout the world by providing the highest quality biomaterials, technical consultation, and logistical support.

    Rutgers–Camden is home to the nation’s PhD granting Department of Childhood Studies. This department, in conjunction with the Center for Children and Childhood Studies, also on the Camden campus, conducts interdisciplinary research which combines methodologies and research practices of sociology, psychology, literature, anthropology and other disciplines into the study of childhoods internationally.

    Rutgers is home to several National Science Foundation (US) IGERT fellowships that support interdisciplinary scientific research at the graduate-level. Highly selective fellowships are available in the following areas: Perceptual Science, Stem Cell Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology for Clean Energy, Renewable and Sustainable Fuels Solutions, and Nanopharmaceutical Engineering.

    Rutgers also maintains the Office of Research Alliances that focuses on working with companies to increase engagement with the university’s faculty members, staff and extensive resources on the four campuses.

    As a ’67 graduate of University College, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:10 pm on July 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Early humans were sheltered from worst effects of volcanic supereruption", , , Neanderthals and Denisovans were living in Europe and Asia at this time., North America Europe and Asia bore the brunt of the cooling., , Paleoarchaeology, , Regions in southern Africa and India may have seen decreases in precipitation at the highest sulphur emission level., Toba supereruption, ,   

    From University of Cambridge (UK) : “Early humans were sheltered from worst effects of volcanic supereruption” 

    U Cambridge bloc

    From University of Cambridge (UK)

    05 Jul 2021
    Sarah Collins
    sarah.collins@admin.cam.ac.uk

    1
    Site of the Toba supereruption, in present-day Indonesia. Credit: Clive Oppenheimer.

    A massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia about 74,000 years ago likely caused severe climate disruption in many areas of the globe, but early human populations were sheltered from the worst effects, suggests a new study published in the journal PNAS.

    The eruption of the Toba volcano was the largest volcanic eruption in the past two million years, but its impacts on climate and human evolution have been unclear. Resolving this debate is important for understanding environmental changes during a key interval in human evolution.

    “We were able to use a large number of climate model simulations to resolve what seemed like a paradox,” said lead author Benjamin Black from Rutgers University (US). “We know this eruption happened and that past climate modeling has suggested the climate consequences could have been severe, but archaeological and palaeoclimate records from Africa don’t show such a dramatic response.

    “Our results suggest that we might not have been looking in the right place to see the climate response. Africa and India are relatively sheltered, whereas North America Europe and Asia bear the brunt of the cooling. One intriguing aspect of this is that Neanderthals and Denisovans were living in Europe and Asia at this time, so our paper suggests evaluating the effects of the Toba eruption on those populations could merit future investigation.”

    The researchers analysed 42 global climate model simulations in which they varied magnitude of sulphur emissions, time of year of the eruption, background climate state and sulfur injection altitude to make a probabilistic assessment of the range of climate disruptions the Toba eruption may have caused.

    The results suggest there was likely significant regional variation in climate impacts. The simulations predict cooling in the Northern Hemisphere of at least 4°C, with regional cooling as high as 10°C depending on the model parameters.

    In contrast, even under the most severe eruption conditions, cooling in the Southern Hemisphere — including regions populated by early humans – was unlikely to exceed 4°C, although regions in southern Africa and India may have seen decreases in precipitation at the highest sulphur emission level.

    The results explain independent archaeological evidence suggesting the Toba eruption had modest effects on the development of hominid species in Africa. According to the authors, their ensemble simulation approach could be used to better understand other past and future explosive eruptions.

    “Our work is not only a forensic analysis of Toba’s aftermath some 74,000 years ago, but also a means of understanding the unevenness of the effects such very large eruptions may have on today’s society,” said co-author Dr Anja Schmidt from the University of Cambridge. “Ultimately, this will help to mitigate the environmental and societal hazards from future volcanic eruptions.”

    The study included researchers from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Leeds (UK) and University of Cambridge in the UK, and was supported by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Science Foundation (US).

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Cambridge Campus

    The University of Cambridge (UK) [legally The Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University of Cambridge] is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209 Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university. It grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford(UK) after a dispute with townsfolk. The two ancient universities share many common features and are often jointly referred to as “Oxbridge”.

    Cambridge is formed from a variety of institutions which include 31 semi-autonomous constituent colleges and over 150 academic departments, faculties and other institutions organised into six schools. All the colleges are self-governing institutions within the university, each controlling its own membership and with its own internal structure and activities. All students are members of a college. Cambridge does not have a main campus and its colleges and central facilities are scattered throughout the city. Undergraduate teaching at Cambridge is organised around weekly small-group supervisions in the colleges – a feature unique to the Oxbridge system. These are complemented by classes, lectures, seminars, laboratory work and occasionally further supervisions provided by the central university faculties and departments. Postgraduate teaching is provided predominantly centrally.

    Cambridge University Press a department of the university is the oldest university press in the world and currently the second largest university press in the world. Cambridge Assessment also a department of the university is one of the world’s leading examining bodies and provides assessment to over eight million learners globally every year. The university also operates eight cultural and scientific museums, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, as well as a botanic garden. Cambridge’s libraries – of which there are 116 – hold a total of around 16 million books, around nine million of which are in Cambridge University Library, a legal deposit library. The university is home to – but independent of – the Cambridge Union – the world’s oldest debating society. The university is closely linked to the development of the high-tech business cluster known as “Silicon Fe”. It is the central member of Cambridge University Health Partners, an academic health science centre based around the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

    By both endowment size and consolidated assets Cambridge is the wealthiest university in the United Kingdom. In the fiscal year ending 31 July 2019, the central university – excluding colleges – had a total income of £2.192 billion of which £592.4 million was from research grants and contracts. At the end of the same financial year the central university and colleges together possessed a combined endowment of over £7.1 billion and overall consolidated net assets (excluding “immaterial” historical assets) of over £12.5 billion. It is a member of numerous associations and forms part of the ‘golden triangle’ of English universities.

    Cambridge has educated many notable alumni including eminent mathematicians; scientists; politicians; lawyers; philosophers; writers; actors; monarchs and other heads of state. As of October 2020 121 Nobel laureates; 11 Fields Medalists; 7 Turing Award winners; and 14 British prime ministers have been affiliated with Cambridge as students; alumni; faculty or research staff. University alumni have won 194 Olympic medals.

    History

    By the late 12th century the Cambridge area already had a scholarly and ecclesiastical reputation due to monks from the nearby bishopric church of Ely. However it was an incident at Oxford which is most likely to have led to the establishment of the university: three Oxford scholars were hanged by the town authorities for the death of a woman without consulting the ecclesiastical authorities who would normally take precedence (and pardon the scholars) in such a case; but were at that time in conflict with King John. Fearing more violence from the townsfolk scholars from the University of Oxford started to move away to cities such as Paris; Reading; and Cambridge. Subsequently enough scholars remained in Cambridge to form the nucleus of a new university when it had become safe enough for academia to resume at Oxford. In order to claim precedence it is common for Cambridge to trace its founding to the 1231 charter from Henry III granting it the right to discipline its own members (ius non-trahi extra) and an exemption from some taxes; Oxford was not granted similar rights until 1248.

    A bull in 1233 from Pope Gregory IX gave graduates from Cambridge the right to teach “everywhere in Christendom”. After Cambridge was described as a studium generale in a letter from Pope Nicholas IV in 1290 and confirmed as such in a bull by Pope John XXII in 1318 it became common for researchers from other European medieval universities to visit Cambridge to study or to give lecture courses.

    Foundation of the colleges

    The colleges at the University of Cambridge were originally an incidental feature of the system. No college is as old as the university itself. The colleges were endowed fellowships of scholars. There were also institutions without endowments called hostels. The hostels were gradually absorbed by the colleges over the centuries; but they have left some traces, such as the name of Garret Hostel Lane.

    Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely, founded Peterhouse – Cambridge’s first college in 1284. Many colleges were founded during the 14th and 15th centuries but colleges continued to be established until modern times. There was a gap of 204 years between the founding of Sidney Sussex in 1596 and that of Downing in 1800. The most recently established college is Robinson built in the late 1970s. However Homerton College only achieved full university college status in March 2010 making it the newest full college (it was previously an “Approved Society” affiliated with the university).

    In medieval times many colleges were founded so that their members would pray for the souls of the founders and were often associated with chapels or abbeys. The colleges’ focus changed in 1536 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry VIII ordered the university to disband its Faculty of Canon Law and to stop teaching “scholastic philosophy”. In response, colleges changed their curricula away from canon law and towards the classics; the Bible; and mathematics.

    Nearly a century later the university was at the centre of a Protestant schism. Many nobles, intellectuals and even commoners saw the ways of the Church of England as too similar to the Catholic Church and felt that it was used by the Crown to usurp the rightful powers of the counties. East Anglia was the centre of what became the Puritan movement. In Cambridge the movement was particularly strong at Emmanuel; St Catharine’s Hall; Sidney Sussex; and Christ’s College. They produced many “non-conformist” graduates who, greatly influenced by social position or preaching left for New England and especially the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the Great Migration decade of the 1630s. Oliver Cromwell, Parliamentary commander during the English Civil War and head of the English Commonwealth (1649–1660), attended Sidney Sussex.

    Modern period

    After the Cambridge University Act formalised the organisational structure of the university the study of many new subjects was introduced e.g. theology, history and modern languages. Resources necessary for new courses in the arts architecture and archaeology were donated by Viscount Fitzwilliam of Trinity College who also founded the Fitzwilliam Museum. In 1847 Prince Albert was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge after a close contest with the Earl of Powis. Albert used his position as Chancellor to campaign successfully for reformed and more modern university curricula, expanding the subjects taught beyond the traditional mathematics and classics to include modern history and the natural sciences. Between 1896 and 1902 Downing College sold part of its land to build the Downing Site with new scientific laboratories for anatomy, genetics, and Earth sciences. During the same period the New Museums Site was erected including the Cavendish Laboratory which has since moved to the West Cambridge Site and other departments for chemistry and medicine.

    The University of Cambridge began to award PhD degrees in the first third of the 20th century. The first Cambridge PhD in mathematics was awarded in 1924.

    In the First World War 13,878 members of the university served and 2,470 were killed. Teaching and the fees it earned came almost to a stop and severe financial difficulties followed. As a consequence the university first received systematic state support in 1919 and a Royal Commission appointed in 1920 recommended that the university (but not the colleges) should receive an annual grant. Following the Second World War the university saw a rapid expansion of student numbers and available places; this was partly due to the success and popularity gained by many Cambridge scientists.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:06 pm on February 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stonehenge may be dismantled Welsh stone circle", , , Paleoarchaeology, , Waun Mawn stone circle   

    From University College London (UK): “Stonehenge may be dismantled Welsh stone circle” 

    UCL bloc

    From University College London (UK)

    11 February 2021
    Jane Bolger
    +44 (0)20 3108 9040
    j.bolger@ucl.ac.uk

    1
    The stunning discovery, published in Antiquity, has been secretly documented by filmmakers and is the subject of an exclusive BBC programme, Stonehenge: The Lost Circle Revealed.

    The world-famous monument’s smaller stones, or bluestones, are already known to have come from the Preseli Hills of Wales and are thought to have been first erected 5,000 years ago, centuries before Stonehenge’s larger sarsen stones were brought from just 15 miles away.

    Now, the Stones of Stonehenge research team, led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson (UCL Institute of Archaeology), has identified megalith quarries for the bluestones and a dismantled stone circle nearby, pointing to them being taken from the circle and recycled 140 miles away, perhaps as a result of migration.

    Professor Parker Pearson said: “I have been leading projects at Stonehenge since 2003 and this is the culmination of twenty years of research. It’s one of the most important discoveries I’ve ever made.”

    The find goes a long way to solving the mystery of why the Stonehenge bluestones were brought from so far away, when all other stone circles were erected within a short distance of their quarries.

    Only four stones remain at Waun Mawn, which is now revealed as having been the third biggest stone circle in Britain, after Avebury in Wiltshire and Stanton Drew in Somerset, and also one of the earliest.

    Archaeological excavations in 2018 revealed empty stoneholes at Waun Mawn, confirming that the four remaining stones were part of a former circle. Scientific dating of charcoal and sediments in the holes confirmed that it was put up around 3400 BC.

    Significantly too, both Waun Mawn and Stonehenge were aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise. One of the bluestones at Stonehenge has an unusual cross-section that matches one of the holes left at Waun Mawn. Chippings in that hole are of the same rock type as the Stonehenge stone. In addition, the Welsh circle had a diameter of 110 metres, the same as that of the ditch that encloses Stonehenge.

    Waun Mawn is further evidence that the Preseli region of Wales was an important and densely settled place in Neolithic Britain, within a concentration of megalithic tombs, or dolmens, and large enclosures. Yet, evidence of activity in the thousand years after 3000 BC is almost non-existent.

    Professor Parker Pearson said: “It’s as if they just vanished. Maybe most of the people migrated, taking their stones – their ancestral identities – with them, to start again in this other special place. This extraordinary event may also have served to unite the peoples of east and west Britain.”

    Recent isotopic analysis of people buried at Stonehenge when the bluestones are thought to have arrived reveals that the first people to be buried there came from western Britain, very possibly west Wales.

    Some 43 bluestones survive today at Stonehenge, although many of these are today buried beneath the grass. Another long-distance mover is the Altar Stone, recently confirmed as sourced from the Brecon Beacons in South Wales.

    Professor Parker Pearson wonders if this too may have been part of another Welsh monument: “With an estimated 80 bluestones put up on Salisbury Plain at Stonehenge and nearby Bluestonehenge, my guess is that Waun Mawn was not the only stone circle that contributed to Stonehenge. Maybe there are more in Preseli waiting to be found. Who knows? Someone might be lucky enough to find them.”

    The Stones of Stonehenge research team is led by UCL with Bournemouth University, the University of Southampton, the University of the Highlands & Islands and Aerial-Cam Ltd.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCL campus

    UCL (UK) was founded in 1826 to open up higher education in England to those who had been excluded from it – becoming the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms with men in 1878.

    Academic excellence and research that addresses real-world problems inform our ethos to this day and are central to our 20-year strategy.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:43 am on September 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Gobekli Tepe: The world’s first astronomical observatory?", , , , , , Paleoarchaeology   

    From Astronomy Magazine: “Gobekli Tepe: The world’s first astronomical observatory?” 

    From Astronomy Magazine

    September 4, 2020
    Eric Betz

    Pseudoscience and genuine archaeological mysteries surround humanity’s oldest known temple. But was it the world’s first astronomical observatory?

    1
    The remains of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. It is one of the oldest settlements in the world. Credit: 0meer/Shuttestock.

    Earth’s Northern Hemisphere was covered in enormous Ice Age glaciers when a group of hunter-gatherers in southern Turkey began constructing the world’s first known temple. The site, called Gobekli Tepe, was built roughly 12,000 years ago, with some parts appearing to be even older. However, because the ancient temple is so vast and complex, archaeologists have been busy excavating it since its discovery in 1994.

    Along the way, they’ve uncovered strange animal carvings, towering stone pillars, and the earliest known evidence of megalithic rituals. But despite all those years of research, they’re still working to unravel the site’s biggest mysteries: Who built it, and why?

    World’s first observatory?

    Gobekli Tepe’s design and age have captured the public’s imagination for decades. It’s been the subject of widespread, and often breathless, press coverage and documentaries, as well as countless conspiracy theories, from aliens to fantastical claims about ancient, technologically advanced civilizations. Some scientists, primarily those not connected to the core group excavating the site, have speculated that Gobekli Tepe was actually an astronomical observatory, or perhaps even the biblical Garden of Eden.

    There are two major claims that those who think Gobekli Tepe had celestial connections point to. One suggests that the site was aligned with the night sky, particularly the star Sirius, because the local people worshiped the star like other cultures in the region did thousands of years later. Another claims that carvings at Gobekli Tepe record a comet impact that hit Earth at the end of the Ice Age.

    If either of those things are true, Gobekli Tepe’s extreme age would indeed make it the world’s oldest known astronomical site.

    However, those claims of Gobekli Tepe’s connection to the night sky have been largely rejected by the main team actual excavating the temple. According to them, while the archaeological site is remarkably well preserved, the forces of time have changed the location of certain features.

    For example, studies suggest some of the pillars were removed and recycled elsewhere. Furthermore, later civilizations in the area — and, more recently, farmers — have rearranged portions of certain pillars, even breaking pieces off.

    The researchers have since tried their best to restore Gobekli Tepe’s pillars to their original locations, but the initial layout of the site’s stunning round buildings remains up for debate. That makes it impossible, at the moment, for archaeologists to know whether Gobekli Tepe had any astronomical significance at all.

    But there’s another, more obvious, potential reason to doubt the site’s buildings were once aligned to the stars. “There is the significant possibility that we are dealing with roofed structures; this fact alone would pose limitations to a function as sky observatories,” the research team wrote in a journal article [http://maajournal.com/Issues/2017/Vol17-2/Matters%20arising%2017%282%29.pdf] addressing the astronomical claims.

    2
    An aerial view of Gobekli Tepe reveals its sweeping expanse. The entire hillside shown here was made by human hands more than 10,000 years ago.
    Credit: Erhan Kücuk/German Archaeological Institute.

    Sharing creates a society

    For the team surveying Gobekli Tepe, the truth of the site, as they see it, is just as surprising — even without the astronomical connection.

    Archaeologists suspected that humans only began building complex societies and structures after the invention of agriculture. They also thought that complex religions only emerged after those events.

    Gobekli Tepe overthrows those theories. The site sits in the core of the Fertile Crescent, a region of the Middle East historically considered the birthplace of farming, writing and more. Yet, Gobekli Tepe was a pre-agricultural society; it was built before people in the region started farming.

    At a casual glance, Gobekli Tepe looks like an ordinary hill. So, researchers originally didn’t think much of it when a few meager stone structures were discovered on the hilltop in the 1960s. But, in 1994, when Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute was finishing some excavation work at a nearby Stone Age settlement, he decided to reexamine the Gobekli Tepe hilltop. To his surprise, he recognized the few remnants he found on the surface had similar elements, suggesting there might be more buried below.

    Over the years that followed, the staggering scale of his discovery became clear. The entire hill was constructed by humans. All that dirt hides dozens of structures spread across an area some 1,000 feet wide and 50 feet tall. The people who built the site constructed large, intricately-decorated stone circles, later burying them in sand.

    The discovery sent shockwaves through the archaeological community because Gobekli Tepe couldn’t have been built by farmers. Farming didn’t really exist at that point. Plus, with no domesticated pack animals or metal tools to lighten the load, Gobekli Tepe would’ve had to have been built using rudimentary instruments and human hands.

    At 12,000 years old, Gobekli Tepe predated humanity’s oldest known civilizations. Its megalithic temples were cut from rock millennia before the 4,500-year-old pyramids in Egypt, 5,000-year-old Stonehenge in England, or 7,000-year-old Nabta Playa, the oldest known astronomical site.

    3
    The stone circle of Nabta Playa marks the summer solstice, a time that coincided with the arrival of monsoon rains in the Sahara Desert thousands of years ago. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

    It even seems construction on some parts of Gobekli Tepe might have began as far back as 14,000 or 15,000 years ago.

    Still, there isn’t any evidence suggesting people actually lived at Gobekli Tepe. There were no burials and no apparent homes. So, to better understand who the site’s visitors were, scientists were forced to look to the nearby countryside.

    When they did, they found signs that for centuries before Gobekli Tepe appeared, Stone Age hunter-gatherers in the region seemed to be building small, permanent settlements where they lived communally, sharing their foraged resources. If that’s confirmed, then such sharing might have helped spawn the creation of society.

    But even then, why did hunter-gatherers from these surrounding communities seemingly work together in large numbers to build Gobekli Tepe? The answer to that question remains one of its biggest lingering mysteries.

    4
    The T-shaped Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe has drawn endless speculation about its meaning. The archaeologists who discovered it say it’s likely impossible to unravel what it meant to those who built it, and that it’s also far from the only ornately-carved pillar at the site. Credit:
    Klaus Schmidt/German Archaeological Institute.

    Carving a comet impact?

    Just a handful of the giant circular and oval rooms at Gobekli Tepe have been excavated so far, but surveys show many more are still buried underground at the site. Each of these round rooms is defined by a ring of hulking T-shaped pillars.

    Most of the pillars feature ornate carvings of animals, like snakes, foxes, wild boars, birds, and other critters. Individual rooms also usually have one particular animal as its theme, which is why researchers suggested that the ancient hunter-gatherers were so-called animalists. They believed all living creatures had spirits, and they worshiped them.

    Although many of the pillars focus on just a single animal, other carvings combine their art into a more complex motif. Gobekli Tepe’s Pillar 43 is the most prominent of these. This captivating pillar appears to feature a large vulture, other birds, a scorpion, and additional abstract symbols.

    “We don’t know what the meanings of these symbols are,” Schmidt said, but he suggested they might depict architectural buildings.

    Whatever their meaning, archaeologists say the carvings are masterful reliefs repeated many times over, implying the work of trained craftsman who not only knew what the animals were supposed to look like, but also had the technical ability to recreate them.

    Although Pillar 43 remains a mystery, Klaus’ team believes that one thing is clear about the pillars in general: They were built in a T-shape as a kind of stylized human form, like a person without a head. (Some others have even gone as far as to suggest the people who worshiped at the temple were a kind of skull cult, like later peoples in the region who removed heads from buried bodies to employ them in rituals.)

    “This T-form is really some unique phenomenon of this culture of Gobekli Tepe and the surrounding settlements, and it’s not repeated anywhere else on our Earth and in any other culture,” Schmidt said at a Gobekli Tepe research symposium in 2012. So, unlocking their meaning could help explain the entire site.

    And although the archaeologists who have spent decades excavating Gobekli Tepe may not be willing to make bold speculations about the original meaning of Pillar 43, that hasn’t stopped others.

    5
    Scientists have long debated whether a massive impact caused an Ice Age climate swing. Recently researchers discovered a crater buried beneath Greenland that may be the smoking gun for the theory. This image shows the topography under the site at Hiawatha glacier, mapped with airborne radar data (1997 to 2014, NASA; 2016 Alfred Wegener Institute). Black triangles and purple circles are elevated peaks around the rim and center. Dotted red lines and black circles show locations of additional sampling. Credit: Kjæer et al. / Science Advances.

    In 2017, a pair of chemical engineers made global headlines when they claimed that they were able to connect animal carvings on Gobekli Tepe’s pillars to the positions of various groups of stars in Earth’s sky many millennia ago.

    In a paper published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, they argue that the so-called Vulture Stone carved on Pillar 43 is a “date stamp” for a catastrophic comet strike 13,000 years ago. This idea gained a lot of attention because scientists already suspected a comet struck Greenland around this time, potentially triggering the Younger Dryas period.

    “It appears Gobekli Tepe was, among other things, an observatory for monitoring the night sky,” Martin Sweatman, a chemical engineer at the University of Edinburgh and the study’s lead author, said in a media release. “One of its pillars seems to have served as a memorial to this devastating event — probably the worst day in history since the end of the Ice Age.”

    But again, the team of archaeologists who are actually excavating Gobekli Tepe aren’t buying it.

    “Assuming such a long tradition of knowledge relating to an unconfirmed (ancient) cosmic event appears extremely far-fetched,” the authors said in their rebuttal. “The assumption that asterisms [familiar star patterns] are stable across time and cultures is not convincing,” they added. “It is highly unlikely that early Neolithic hunters in Upper Mesopotamia recognized the exact same celestial constellations as described by ancient Egyptian, Arabian, and Greek scholars, which still populate our imagination today.”

    ‘Fingerprints of the gods’

    But these claims are far from the most extreme being made about Gobekli Tepe and the people who built it.

    Graham Hancock is the popular author of Fingerprints of the Gods. It’s a pseudoscience book that proposes, without evidence, that a mysterious ancient culture thought the ability to track the precession of the stars was so important they embedded a series of crucial numbers into great stories to ensure the knowledge was passed through generations. He calls it a “ghostly fingerprint of an advanced scientific knowledge impressed on the oldest myths and traditions of our planet.”

    One of his favorite examples is Gobekli Tepe. In a 2015 interview on the Joe Rogan Experience that’s been viewed more than 11 million times, Hancock called Gobekli Tepe a “profoundly astronomical site.”

    Hancock’s ideas have helped fuel the surge of interest in Gobekli Tepe as an ancient observatory. But he has an even more fantastical claim about the vulture and other carvings on Pillar 43. He believes, again without evidence, that it’s an ancient constellation diagram that shows the winter solstice against a backdrop of today’s modern sky.

    “This is spooky and eerie,” Hancock said, “because it appears there’s overwhelming evidence that the people who made Gobekli Tepe had a profound knowledge of precession. And it appears that they deliberately sent forward into time — in this time capsule — a picture of the sky in our age.”

    The details of his ideas only get more fantastical as he explains them, but that hasn’t stopped Hancock from getting huge amounts of attention for voicing them. And as a result, Gobekli Tepe has been swept up into pseudo-scientific claims and strange putdowns about what “mainstream archaeologists want the public to believe.”

    In the meantime, German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, who discovered the site and led its excavation, died in 2014. But despite that loss, Schmidt’s team is continuing their decades-long dig at Gobekli Tepe, focusing on finding out who built the site and why.

    And although there is still no convincing evidence that Gobekli Tepe was built as an astronomical site, that doesn’t mean nothing will ever come to light. Perhaps, proof of Gobekli Tepe’s proposed connection to the stars is still buried, just beneath the sand.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Astronomy is a magazine about the science and hobby of astronomy. Based near Milwaukee in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it is produced by Kalmbach Publishing. Astronomy’s readers include those interested in astronomy and those who want to know about sky events, observing techniques, astrophotography, and amateur astronomy in general.

    Astronomy was founded in 1973 by Stephen A. Walther, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and amateur astronomer. The first issue, August 1973, consisted of 48 pages with five feature articles and information about what to see in the sky that month. Issues contained astrophotos and illustrations created by astronomical artists. Walther had worked part time as a planetarium lecturer at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and developed an interest in photographing constellations at an early age. Although even in childhood he was interested to obsession in Astronomy, he did so poorly in mathematics that his mother despaired that he would ever be able to earn a living. However he graduated in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and as a senior class project he created a business plan for a magazine for amateur astronomers. With the help of his brother David, he was able to bring the magazine to fruition. He died in 1977.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:47 pm on September 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Severe Cyclones May Have Played a Role in the Maya Collapse", AMO-Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, ENSO-El Niño–Southern Oscillation, , Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, One source for finding undisturbed sediments is blue holes- marine sinkholes into which sediments are continually deposited., Paleoarchaeology, , Sediment cores from blue holes like those on Great Abaco Island and Thatch Point (both in the Bahamas) have already provided records of hurricanes in the Caribbean going back about 1500 years., The researchers recovered and studied an 8.5-meter-long sediment core from the Great Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef off the coast of Belize., The shift happened right around the time when the Maya civilization was in decline., The stress of dealing with the highly variable and intense storms in addition to battling drought may have pushed the Maya over the edge., The tropical cyclone activity of the southwestern Caribbean generally shifted from a less active (100–900 CE) to a more active state (900 CE to modern)., Why the once great Maya civilization withered away is still a matter of debate among historians; archaeologists; and geoscientists.   

    From Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main via Eos: “Severe Cyclones May Have Played a Role in the Maya Collapse” 

    1

    From Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

    via

    AGU
    Eos news bloc

    Eos

    9.1.20
    Lakshmi Supriya

    Sediment cores from the Great Blue Hole reveal that a series of extreme storms hit the region after 900. The storms may have irreparably damaged an already stressed Maya population.

    1
    Sediments recovered from the Great Blue Hole, off the coast of Belize, hint at extremely severe storms during the late Classic period in Maya history. Credit: iStock/Mlenny.

    Why the once great Maya civilization withered away is still a matter of debate among historians, archaeologists, and geoscientists. The leading theory is that the Maya suffered a series of severe droughts around 800–1100. New evidence suggests there may have been another reason: severe tropical storms.

    Researchers studying past climate records in the Caribbean found that storm activity was weak and predictable up to about 900. At that point, storms became more intense and unpredictable. The stress of dealing with the highly variable and intense storms, in addition to battling drought, may have pushed the Maya over the edge, according to research published in Scientific Reports in July.

    Reconstructing Past Climate

    Atlantic hurricane activity, which includes the Caribbean, and how it varies over the long term are often attributed to the behavior of ocean and atmospheric systems like the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). “But without long-term observations of storm behavior, it’s hard to speak to these relationships conclusively,” said Richard Sullivan, who studies paleoclimatology at Texas A&M University at Galveston and was not part of the new study.

    2
    Deposits line the 8.5-meter-long sediment core recovered by researchers from the Great Blue Hole off Belize. Credit: Dominik Schmitt.

    Historical or instrumental records of hurricanes and tropical storms go back only a little more than a century. To peer further back in time, scientists often decipher telltale signatures left in sand and mud deposited by ancient storms.

    One source for finding undisturbed sediments is blue holes, marine sinkholes into which sediments are continually deposited. Generally, the sediments in deposition layers are smooth. But when a large storm passes by, it rakes up and deposits coarse particles. Because of the structure of a blue hole, material can be deposited but cannot get out, allowing the feature to act as a near-perfect record of ancient storms.

    Sediment cores from blue holes like those on Great Abaco Island and Thatch Point (both in the Bahamas) have already provided records of hurricanes in the Caribbean going back about 1,500 years.

    Now Dominik Schmitt of Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, and colleagues have reconstructed past storms in the region going back 2,000 years. The researchers recovered and studied an 8.5-meter-long sediment core from the Great Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef off the coast of Belize.

    Upon analyzing the results, Schmitt’s team found evidence of the AMO going back to 300. According to Schmitt, this provides statistical proof that the AMO, along with ENSO, modulates hurricane activity in the southwestern Caribbean.

    When the Weather Changed

    The sediments also revealed something else. “The tropical cyclone activity of the southwestern Caribbean generally shifted from a less active (100–900 CE) to a more active state (900 CE to modern),” said Schmitt. The shift happened right around the time when the Maya civilization was in decline.

    The Classic Maya civilization, which once occupied most of the Yucatán Peninsula, began to wane starting in the late 800s. During the next century, great Maya cities like Copán (in what is now Honduras) and Tikal (in what is now Guatemala) were abandoned.

    Climate change is thought to have been a primary driver of this collapse. The leading theory suggests that a series of severe and prolonged droughts plagued the Yucatán Peninsula, which may have reduced the availability of fresh water and decreased agricultural productivity.

    In addition to drought, the Maya may have had to contend with increased and more unpredictable Caribbean cyclones. The Great Blue Hole sediment core showed five exceptionally thick layers—15 to 30 centimeters—deposited between 700 and 1150. These layers suggest extremely intense cyclones; for comparison, the deposition layer left by Hurricane Hattie, a Category 5 hurricane that passed over the same area in 1961, was just 4 centimeters thick.

    Two of the ancient cyclones struck during drought periods, and the others struck just before and after severe droughts. It’s likely these cyclone landfalls destroyed Maya infrastructure, caused coastal flooding and crop failures, and added to the environmental stress of the intensive drought phases.

    The increased storm activity around 900 is similar to what Sullivan found in his study of sediment cores from a sinkhole south of Tulum, Mexico, near the Maya site of Muyil. Still, he is cautious in interpreting the results, saying they do not necessarily mean that an increase in storm frequency definitely contributed to the Classic Maya collapse.

    However, “it’s not hard to imagine that a culture contending with severe drought and already in decline would have been stressed further by persistent, devastating storms,” Sullivan added. “It is certainly possible that increasing hurricane frequency factored into the collapse of the Mayan empire, but the extent of that contribution is something we may never know conclusively.”

    See the full article here.

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 9:41 am on August 19, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "First Detailed Study Deepens The Mystery of Vast Stone Monuments in Saudi Arabia", , Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Paleoarchaeology,   

    From Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology via Science Alert: “First Detailed Study Deepens The Mystery of Vast Stone Monuments in Saudi Arabia” 

    From From Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

    via

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    19 AUGUST 2020
    MICHELLE STARR

    1
    (Huw Groucutt)

    In the north of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the Nefud Desert, archaeologists have recently catalogued vast stone monuments dating back 7,000 years. Shaped like long rectangles, the ‘mustatil’ structures are a mystery – but new evidence suggests they were possibly used for ritual or social purposes.

    Mustatils are amongst the earliest forms of large-scale stone structures, predating the Giza pyramids by thousands of years. Hundreds of these structures have been identified, and archaeologists believe they are somehow related to increasing territoriality as the once-lush region gave way to arid desert.

    Discovery of the mustatils was first documented in 2017, enabled through satellite photography, which revealed the scale and number of these enigmatic structures in the desert lava field of Harrat Khaybar in Saudi Arabia.

    Named ‘gates’ because of their appearance from the air, they were described as “two short, thick lines of heaped stones, roughly parallel, linked by two or more much longer and thinner walls.”

    2
    (Groucutt et al., The Holocene, 2020)

    Now, a team of archaeologists led by Huw Groucutt of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany has conducted similar research. Studying satellite images of the southern edge of the Nefud Desert, they identified 104 new mustatils. Then they went out into the field and studied them up close.

    Like the Harrat Khaybar mustatils, the Nefud Desert mustatils consist of two short, thick platforms, linked by low walls of much greater length measuring up to over 600 metres (2,000 feet), but never more than half a metre high (1.64 feet).

    Similar construction methods can be seen in several mustatils: upright stones were placed vertically into the ground to form the basic shape of the wall, and rocks piled up to fill the gap between them, as seen in the image below. One structure yielded up charcoal, which dated the mustatil to 7,000 years ago.

    3
    (Groucutt et al., The Holocene, 2020)

    This was an interesting time in the history of the region. It falls into the African Humid Period, which started around 14,600 to 14,500 years ago, and ended around 6,000 to 5,000 years ago.

    During this time, the Sahara and the Arabian Peninsula had much more plentiful rainfall than they do today, and were much more green and lush.

    But the period did not last as long on the Arabian Peninsula. A recent study [ScienceDirect] suggests that the grasslands reached their peak expansion around 8,000 years ago, after which the region dried up very quickly, giving way to a landscape more like that we see today.

    What the mustatils were actually used for, and why there are so many, is hard to gauge. But the researchers believe that the increased competition for resources and territory following the aridification could have played a role.

    A careful study revealed that the long walls of the structures have no openings, and there was a curious dearth of archaeological artefacts, such as stone tools, in and around them. This suggests, the researchers believe, that the mustatils were unlikely to have been utilitarian, used for water storage, or corralling livestock, for example.

    4
    (Groucutt et al., The Holocene, 2020)

    What their searches did turn up were assemblages of animal bones, including both wild animals and cattle or aurochs bones – although it’s unclear whether the latter were wild or domesticated. And one rock was found with a geometric pattern, pictured above. It was on the surface of an end platform inside one of the mustatils, where anyone standing inside could see it.

    “Our interpretation of mustatils is that they are ritual sites, where groups of people met to perform some kind of currently unknown social activities,” Groucutt said. “Perhaps they were sites of animal sacrifices, or feasts.”

    Another possibility is suggested by the close proximity of some of the structures. Perhaps, the researchers speculate, the purpose of the mustatils was the act of building them – a social bonding activity to increase community cooperation skills.

    “The lack of obvious utilitarian functions for mustatils suggests a ritual interpretation. In fact, mustatils seemingly represent one of the earliest examples known anywhere of large-scale ritual behaviours encoded in the practice of monumental construction and use,” they wrote in their paper.

    “Our findings indicate that mustatils, and particularly their platforms, are significant archives of Arabian prehistory, and their future investigation and excavation is likely to be highly rewarding, leading to a better understanding of social and cultural developments.”

    The research has been published in The Holocene.

    See the full article here.

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology is located on Beutenberg Campus in Jena, Germany. It was founded in March 1996 and is one of 80 institutes of the Max Planck Society (Max Planck Gesellschaft). Chemical ecology examines the role of chemical signals that mediate the interactions between plants, animals, and their environment, as well as the evolutionary and behavioral consequences of these interactions. The managing director of the institute is David G. Heckel.

    About 175 scientists, among them many PhD candidates and students, do their research in five departments and three research groups.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:04 am on July 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Australian story told beneath the sea", Aboriginal artefacts, , , , , , , , , , Paleoarchaeology, , told beneath the sea"   

    From COSMOS: “The Australian story, told beneath the sea” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS

    2 July 2020
    Natalie Parletta

    Archaeological sites could fill vast historical gaps.

    1
    The survey area in the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. Credit: Flinders University.

    Submerged archaeological sites discovered off Australia’s northwest coast offer a new window into the migrations, lives and cultures of Aboriginal people thousands of years ago, when the continental shelf was dry.

    This was a time when around 20 million square kilometres of land was exposed, before the last glacial loosened its grip on the planet and melted ice drowned coastal areas – and large swaths of human history – under the sea.

    In Australia alone, two million square kilometres were flooded, hemming back a third of the continent.

    “You’re talking about a huge, expansive cultural landscape inhabited by Aboriginal people all over the country… which is just a blank, empty map,” says Jonathan Benjamin from Flinders University, lead author of a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE.

    “So if you’re looking for the whole picture on Australia’s ancient past, you’ve got to look under water, there’s just no question.”

    Yet the country’s appreciation for underwater archaeology is only just emerging, after taking off in Europe over the last two decades with a growing number of sites revealed in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and the North Sea.

    This is a first for Australia – and the discovery was a leap of faith.

    “It was a high-risk project,” says Benjamin. “There was no guarantee that we would make a discovery of this nature, and we did.”

    His team, which included colleagues from Flinders, the University of Western Australia and James Cook University, set out to show that ancient Aboriginal sites could be preserved on the seabed, venturing into unexplored territory with divers, boats, aircrafts and remote underwater sensing technologies.

    1
    Aboriginal artefacts discovered off the Pilbara coast in Western Australia represent Australia’s oldest known underwater archaeology. Credit: Flinders University.

    The Deep History of Sea Country project, in partnership with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, revealed two submerged settings in Murujuga Sea Country off the Pilbara coast around the Dampier Archipelago.

    One site, at Flying Foam Passage, was estimated to be at least 8500 years old and bore evidence of human activity associated with a freshwater spring 14 metres deep.

    The other was at Cape Bruguieres, with more than 260 lithic artefacts discovered up to 2.4 metres below sea level, dated to at least 7000 years old using radiocarbon and sea-level change analysis along with predictive modelling.

    The artefacts included various food processing, cutting, grinding and muller tools, such as a combined hammer stone and grindstone, which would have been used to grind seeds.

    “So you start to see the kinds of activities and the ideas that people had in mind,” says Benjamin. “They weren’t just randomly bashing rocks together; they were creating a tool that was for a purpose, whether it be a scalloped edge scraper or a long knife or a core tool that could be used like an axe.”

    One big surprise was the difference between the types of archaeological remains under water and those found on land, which clearly differentiates earlier and later cultures.

    The sites might have belonged to the same people who created the world-renowned Murujuga rock art, a heritage listing currently up for reconsideration.

    It’s hard to tie the two together with scientific evidence, says Benjamin. “But you’d have to imagine that the people who were there who left their stone tools on a dry land that is now submerged were also making rock art in the area because it goes back tens of thousands of years.”

    These things matter to people today, even if they’re 40,000 years old, he adds.

    “It matters in the way we protect sites, it matters in the way we create National Parks, it matters in the way we protect against destruction and development. So the marine environment, why would it be treated any differently?”

    “That should make some waves, if you pardon the pun, but it should change the landscape and the way that heritage practice and development-led archaeology is done in Australia.”

    The preserved remains have vast potential. The sites could offer insights into how Aboriginal people dealt with climate change during the last glacial. Present-day people might have a relationship with the sites from their ancestral heritage. And it could shift the timing of Aboriginal settlement back even further.

    “Much of what we currently understand about Australia’s deep past is based on sites which are further inland,” says Flinders’ Chelsea Wiseman, a co-author.

    “This study indicates the potential for Indigenous archaeology to preserve underwater, and that in some cases the artefacts may remain undisturbed for millennia.”

    Benjamin says it’s an exciting step for Australia “as we integrate maritime and Indigenous archaeology and draw connections between land and sea,” which he hopes will continue “long after you and I are gone”.

    “These new discoveries are a first step toward exploring the last real frontier of Australian archaeology.”

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 9:10 am on June 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Filling gaps in our understanding of how cities began to rise", A lone corpse found buried in a well was genetically linked to people who then lived in Central Asia not in part of present-day Turkey., Around 4000 years ago the Northern Levant experienced a relatively sudden introduction of new people., , , Insights DNA analysis can provide when traditional clues don’t tell the full story., Paleoarchaeology, The corpse had many injuries and the way she was buried indicated a violent death., The earliest genetic glimpses of the movement and mingling of peoples in West Asia 8500 years ago., The genetic shifts point to a mass migration. The timing corresponds with a severe drought in Northern Mesopotamia which likely resulted in an exodus to the Northern Levant.   

    From Harvard Gazette: “Filling gaps in our understanding of how cities began to rise” 

    Harvard University

    From Harvard Gazette

    May 29, 2020
    Juan Siliezar

    1
    A wall painting from the Arslantepe archaeological site in Eastern Anatolia (present-day Turkey) around 3,400 BC. Image courtesy of Max Planck-Harvard Research Center for the Archaeoscience of the Ancient Mediterranean and Missione Archeologica Italiana nell’Anatolia Orientale, Sapienza University of Rome. Photo by Roberto Ceccaci

    International team provides some of the earliest genetic glimpses of the movement and mingling of peoples in West Asia 8,500 years ago.

    New genetic research from around one of the ancient world’s most important trading hubs offers fresh insights into the movement and interactions of inhabitants of different areas of Western Asia between two major events in human history: the origins of agriculture and the rise of some of the world’s first cities.

    The evidence [Cell] reveals that a high level of mobility led to the spread of ideas and material culture as well as intermingling of peoples in the period before the rise of cities, not the other way around, as previously thought. The findings add to our understanding of exactly how the shift to urbanism took place.

    The researchers, made up of an international team of scientists including Harvard Professor Christina Warinner, looked at DNA data from 110 skeletal remains in West Asia from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age, 3,000 to 7,500 years ago. The remains came from archaeological sites in the Anatolia (present-day Turkey); the Northern Levant, which includes countries on the Mediterranean coast such as Israel and Jordan; and countries in the Southern Caucasus, which include present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    Based on their analysis, the scientists describe two events, one around 8,500 years ago and the other 4,000 years ago, that point to long-term genetic mixing and gradual population movements in the region.

    “Within this geographic scope, you have a number of distinct populations, distinct ideological groups that are interacting quite a lot, and it hasn’t really been clear to what degree people are actually moving or if this is simply just a high-contact area from trade,” said Warinner, assistant professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Sally Starling Seaver Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. “Rather than this period being characterized by dramatic migrations or conquest, what we see is the slow mixing of different populations, the slow mixing of ideas, and it’s percolating out of this melting pot that we see the rise of urbanism — the rise of cities.”

    The study was led by the Max Planck-Harvard Research Center for the Archaeoscience of the Ancient Mediterranean and published in the journal Cell [above]. Warinner was a senior author on the paper.

    Historically, Western Asia, which includes today’s Middle East, is one of civilization’s most important geographical locations. Not only did it create some of humanity’s earliest cities, but its early trade routes laid the foundation for what would become the Silk Road, a route that commercially linked Asia, Africa, and Europe.

    Even before they connected with other regions, however, populations across Western Asia had already developed their own distinct traditions and systems of social organization. The areas studied in this paper played major roles in the evolution from farming to pastoral communities to early state-level societies.

    With the study, the researchers wanted to fill in some of the anthropological gaps between the origins of agriculture and of cities to get a better grip on how these different communities came together, a dynamic that is still not understood well.

    “What we see in archaeology is that the interconnectivity within Western Asia increased and areas such as Anatolia, the Northern Levant, and the Caucasus became a hub for [the] exchange of ideas and material culture,” said Eirini Skourtanioti, a Ph.D. student at the Max Planck Institute and the lead author of the study, in a video accompanying the release of the paper. “The goal of our study was to understand the role of human mobility throughout this process.”

    The authors came from many disciplines and countries, including Australia, Azerbaijan, France, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Turkey, and the U.S. They gathered 110 ancient remains from museums and labs around the world, and took samples from teeth and part of the temporal bone called the petrous, which houses the inner ear. The genetic analysis was conducted by scientists at the Max Planck Institute, including Warinner.

    The paper outlines how populations across Anatolia and the Southern Caucasus began mixing approximately 8,500 years ago. That resulted in a gradual change in genetic profile that over a millennium slowly spread across both areas and entered into what is now Northern Iraq. Known as a cline in genetics, this mixture indicated to the researchers ongoing human mobility in the area and the development of a regional genetic melting pot in and surrounding Anatolia.

    The other shift researchers detected wasn’t as gradual. They looked at samples from the ancient cities of Alalakh and Ebla in what is today Southern Turkey and Northern Syria, and saw that around 4,000 years ago the Northern Levant experienced a relatively sudden introduction of new people.

    The genetic shifts point to a mass migration. The timing corresponds with a severe drought in Northern Mesopotamia, which likely resulted in an exodus to the Northern Levant. The scientists can’t be sure, because they have no well-preserved genomes for people who lived in Mesopotamia.

    Along with findings on interconnectivity in the region, the paper presents new information about long-distance migration during the late Bronze Age, roughly 4,000 years ago. A lone corpse, found buried in a well, was genetically linked to people who then lived in Central Asia, not in part of present-day Turkey.

    “We can’t exactly know her story, but we can piece together a lot of information that suggests that either she or her ancestors were fairly recent migrants from Central Asia,” said Warinner, who is also a group leader in the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute. “We don’t know the context in which they arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean, but this is a period of increasing connectivity in this part of the world.”

    The corpse had many injuries and the way she was buried indicated a violent death. Warinner hopes more genomic analysis can help unravel the ancient woman’s story.

    For Warinner, who earned her master’s in 2008 and her Ph.D. in 2010 from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, such studies are proof of the insights DNA analysis can provide when traditional clues don’t tell the full story.

    “What’s really interesting is that we see these populations are mixing genetically long before we see clear material culture evidence of this — so long before we see direct evidence in pottery or tools or any of these more conventional archaeological evidence artifacts,” Warinner said. “That’s important because sometimes we’re limited in how we see the past. We see the past through artifacts, through the evidence people leave behind. But sometimes events are happening that don’t leave traces in conventional ways, so by using genetics, we were able to access this much earlier mixing of populations that wasn’t apparent before.”

    This study was funded by the Max Planck Society and the Max Planck-Harvard Research Center for the Archaeoscience of the Ancient Mediterranean.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Harvard University campus
    Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was named after the College’s first benefactor, the young minister John Harvard of Charlestown, who upon his death in 1638 left his library and half his estate to the institution. A statue of John Harvard stands today in front of University Hall in Harvard Yard, and is perhaps the University’s best known landmark.

    Harvard University has 12 degree-granting Schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The University has grown from nine students with a single master to an enrollment of more than 20,000 degree candidates including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. There are more than 360,000 living alumni in the U.S. and over 190 other countries.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:40 pm on March 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A member of a hunter-gatherer group living in southern Africa’s Karoo Desert finds the egg. She eats it and cracks the shell into dozens of pieces which she uses for gifts., An ostrich pecks at the grass and atoms taken up from the shale and into the grass become part of the eggshell the ostrich lays., , , , Humans are just outlandishly social animals., Ostrich eggshell beads and the jewelry made from them basically acted like Stone Age versions of Facebook or Twitter "likes"., , Paleoarchaeology,   

    From University of Michigan: “Stone-age ‘likes’: Study establishes eggshell beads exchanged over 30,000 years” 

    U Michigan bloc

    From University of Michigan

    March 9, 2020
    Morgan Sherburne
    morganls@umich.edu

    1
    Archeologists work at rock shelters at Sehonghong and Melikane in southern Africa. Image credit: Brian Stewart.

    A clump of grass grows on an outcrop of shale 33,000 years ago. An ostrich pecks at the grass, and atoms taken up from the shale and into the grass become part of the eggshell the ostrich lays.

    A member of a hunter-gatherer group living in southern Africa’s Karoo Desert finds the egg. She eats it, and cracks the shell into dozens of pieces. Drilling a hole, she strings the fragments onto a piece of sinew and files them into a string of beads.

    She gifts the ornaments to friends who live to the east, where rainfall is higher, to reaffirm those important relationships. They, in turn, do the same, until the beads eventually end up with distant groups living high in the eastern mountains.

    3
    Ostrich eggshell beads have been used to cement relationships in Africa for more than 30,000 years. Image credit: John Klausmeyer, Yuchao Zhao and Brian Stewart.

    Thirty-three thousand years later, a University of Michigan researcher finds the beads in what is now Lesotho, and by measuring atoms in the beads, provides new evidence for where these beads were made, and just how long hunter-gatherers used them as a kind of social currency.

    In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, U-M paleolithic archeologist Brian Stewart and colleagues establish that the practice of exchanging these ornaments over long distances spans a much longer period of time than previously thought.

    “Humans are just outlandishly social animals, and that goes back to these deep forces that selected for maximizing information, information that would have been useful for living in a hunter-gatherer society 30,000 years ago and earlier,” said Stewart, assistant professor of anthropology and assistant curator of the U-M Museum of Anthropological Archaeology.

    “Ostrich eggshell beads and the jewelry made from them basically acted like Stone Age versions of Facebook or Twitter ‘likes,’ simultaneously affirming connections to exchange partners while alerting others to the status of those relationships.”

    Lesotho is a small country of mountain ranges and rivers. It has the highest average of elevation in the continent and would have been a formidable place for hunter-gatherers to live, Stewart says. But the fresh water coursing through the country and belts of resources, stratified by the region’s elevation, provided protection against swings in climate for those who lived there, as early as 85,000 years ago.

    Anthropologists have long known that contemporary hunter-gatherers use ostrich eggshell beads to establish relationships with others. In Lesotho, archeologists began finding small ornaments made of ostrich eggshell. But ostriches don’t typically live in that environment, and the archeologists didn’t find evidence of those ornaments being made in that region—no fragments of unworked eggshell, or beads in various stages of production.

    So when archeologists began discovering eggshell beads without evidence of production, they suspected the beads arrived in Lesotho through these exchange networks. Testing the beads using strontium isotope analysis would allow the archeologists to pinpoint where they were made.

    Strontium-87 is the daughter isotope of the radioactive element rubidium-87. When rubidium-87 decays it produces strontium-87. Older rocks such as granite and gneiss have more strontium than younger rocks such as basalt. When animals forage from a landscape, these strontium isotopes are incorporated into their tissues.

    Lesotho is roughly at the center of a bullseye-shaped geologic formation called the Karoo Supergroup. The supergroup’s mountainous center is basalt, from relatively recent volcanic eruptions that formed the highlands of Lesotho. Encircling Lesotho are bands of much older sedimentary rocks. The outermost ring of the formation ranges between 325 and 1,000 kilometers away from the Lesotho sites.

    To assess where the ostrich eggshell beads were made, the research team established a baseline of strontium isotope ratios—that is, how much strontium is available in a given location—using vegetation and soil samples as well samples from modern rodent tooth enamel from museum specimens collected from across Lesotho and surrounding areas.

    According to their analysis, nearly 80% of the beads the researchers found in Lesotho could not have originated from ostriches living near where the beads were found in highland Lesotho.

    “These ornaments were consistently coming from very long distances,” Stewart said. “The oldest bead in our sample had the third highest strontium isotope value, so it is also one of the most exotic.”

    Stewart found that some beads could not have come from closer than 325 kilometers from Lesotho, and may have been made as far as 1,000 kilometers away. His findings also establish that these beads were exchanged during a time of climactic upheaval, about 59 to 25 thousand years ago. Using these beads to establish relationships between hunter-gatherer groups ensured one group access to others’ resources when a region’s weather took a turn for the worse.

    “What happened 50,000 years ago was that the climate was going through enormous swings, so it might be no coincidence that that’s exactly when you get this technology coming in,” Stewart said. “These exchange networks could be used for information on resources, the condition of landscapes, of animals, plant foods, other people and perhaps marriage partners.”

    Stewart says while archeologists have long accepted that these exchange items bond people over landscapes in the ethnographic Kalahari, they now have firm evidence that these beads were exchanged over huge distances not only in the past, but for over a long period of time. This study places another piece in the puzzle of how we persisted longer than all other humans, and why we became the globe’s dominant species.

    Stewart’s co-authors include U-M graduate student Yuchao Zhao, as well as Peter Mitchell the University of Oxford, Genevieve Dewar of the University of Toronto Scarborough, and U-M’s James Gleason and Joel Blum.

    See the full article here .


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    Please support STEM education in your local school system

    Stem Education Coalition

    U MIchigan Campus

    The University of Michigan (U-M, UM, UMich, or U of M), frequently referred to simply as Michigan, is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. Originally, founded in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the Michigan Territory officially became a state, the University of Michigan is the state’s oldest university. The university moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet (781 acres or 3.16 km²), and has two satellite campuses located in Flint and Dearborn. The University was one of the founding members of the Association of American Universities.

    Considered one of the foremost research universities in the United States,[7] the university has very high research activity and its comprehensive graduate program offers doctoral degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as professional degrees in business, medicine, law, pharmacy, nursing, social work and dentistry. Michigan’s body of living alumni (as of 2012) comprises more than 500,000. Besides academic life, Michigan’s athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the Wolverines. They are members of the Big Ten Conference.

     
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