Archaeologists have long debated when early humans began hurling stone-tipped spears and darts at large prey. By throwing a spear, instead of thrusting it, humans could hunt buffalo and other dangerous game from a safe distance, with less risk of a goring or mauling. But direct evidence of this hunting technique in early sites has been lacking. A new study of impact marks on the bones of ancient prey shows that such sophisticated killing techniques go back at least 90,000 years ago in Africa and offers a new method of determining how prehistoric hunters made their kills.
Other researchers have used indirect methods to study the use of projectiles, such as analyzing impact fractures on ancient stone points or identifying traces left by hafting on the points. Such evidence suggests that early humans created throwing spears as early as 500,000 years ago in Africa. But that kind of evidence leaves room for doubt and is frequently disputed. Read more.
A lost continent off the coast of Brazil may have been found, scientists announced this week.
Granite boulders dredged from the seafloor off the coast of South America two years ago could be remnants of a long-vanished continent, according to Roberto Ventura Santos, the geology director of Brazil’s Geology Service.
“This could be the Brazilian Atlantis,” Santos told reporters, adding that he was speaking metaphorically and not claiming to have found the legendary sunken world. “Obviously, we don’t expect to find a lost city in the middle of the Atlantic,” he said.
Santos and his team speculated that the granite—a relatively low-density rock found in continental crust—belonged to a continent that was submerged when Africa and South America drifted apart and formed the Atlantic Ocean about 100 million years ago. Read more.
The idea that humans nearly became extinct 75,000 ago because of a super-volcano eruption is not supported by new data from Africa, scientists say.
In the past, it has been proposed that the so-called Toba event plunged the world into a volcanic winter, killing animal and plant life and squeezing our species to a few thousand individuals.
An Oxford University-led team examined ancient sediments in Lake Malawi for traces of this climate catastrophe.
It could find none.
“The eruption would certainly have triggered some short-term effects over perhaps a few seasons but it does not appear to have switched the climate into a new mode,” said Dr Christine Lane from Oxford’s School of Archaeology.
“This puts a nail in the coffin of the disaster-catastrophe theory in my view; it’s just too simplistic,” she told BBC News. Read more.
Researchers have solved the riddle of how one of Africa’s greatest civilisations survived a catastrophic drought which wiped out other famous dynasties. Geomorphologists and dating specialists from The Universities of Aberystwyth, Manchester, and Adelaide say that it was the River Nile which made life viable for the renowned Kerma kingdom, in what is now northern Sudan.
Kerma was the first Bronze Age kingdom in Africa outside Egypt.
Their analysis of three ancient river channels where the Nile once flowed shows, for the first time, that its floods weren’t too low or too high to sustain life between 2,500 BC and 1,500 BC, when Kerma flourished and was a major rival to its more famous neighbour downstream. Read more.
Our early human ancestors may have left Africa more recently than thought, between 62,000 and 95,000 years ago, suggests a new analysis of genetic material from fossil skeletons.
The new findings are in line with earlier estimates, but contradict a more recent study that put humans’ first exodus from Africa least 200,000 years ago.
The new results “agree with what we know from archaeology,” said study co-author Alissa Mittnik, a biologist at University of Tübingen, in Germany.
Exactly when the first humans emerged from Africa to colonize the world has been a topic of heated debate. Read more.
A Chinese coin about 600 years old was recently unearthed on an island just off the coast of Kenya. If it proves to be authentic, the coin could show that the Chinese explorer Zheng He — like a Christopher Columbus of the East — came to this part of east Africa.
“This finding is significant. We know Africa has always been connected to the rest of the world, but this coin opens a discussion about the relationship between China and Indian Ocean nations,” archaeologist Chapurukha M. Kusimba of The Field Museum in Chicago said in a statement.
The copper and silver disk has a square hole in the center, possibly to be worn on a belt. Read more.
When Mary Douglas Nicol was born 100 years ago today, the idea of human physical evolution was only a few decades old, and very little evidence of any human-like creatures beyond ourselves and living apes had been discovered.
Some specimens of Neanderthals had been found, but the most complete belonged to an aged, worn, arthritic man. This contributed to a common view that whatever ancestors we had were, like Hobbes’ image of primitive life itself, “nasty, brutish, and short.”
Through a life of dedication to research and exploration of Africa’s Rift Valley, Mary met and married Louis Leakey and together they brought to light some of the most significant and spectacular remains of ancient human ancestors more apelike, and more clearly energetic and capable than many had ever considered possible. The discovery in 1960 of Homo habilis, the “handy man” marked the earliest known expert stone tool makers, and the footprints at Laetoli revealed for the first time a snapshot of our apelike forebears in action. Read more.
Islamist insurgents retreating from Timbuktu set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts, according to the Saharan town’s mayor, in an incident he described as a “devastating blow” to world heritage.
Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings that held the manuscripts, some of which dated back to the 13th century. They also burned down the town hall, the governor’s office and an MP’s residence, and shot dead a man who was celebrating the arrival of the French military.
French troops and the Malian army reached the gates of Timbuktu on Saturday and secured the town’s airport. But they appear to have got there too late to rescue the leather-bound manuscripts that were a unique record of sub-Saharan Africa’s rich medieval history. The rebels attacked the airport on Sunday, the mayor said. Read more.