Researchers have unearthed two abalone shells from a South African cave that they believe were used to produce and store a mixture of pigmented paint, and that possibly represent the first known use of containers. The discovery, released in the journal Science on Thursday, also indicates that as long as 100,000 years ago, humans had strategic planning skills and knew some basic chemistry.
Excavated from the Blombos cave near the southern Cape shore of the Indian Ocean in South Africa, the finding consists of two “toolkits” found side by side, containing fragments of ancient grinding, crushing and painting tools, along with the shells. All had residue of ochre, earth pigment derived from iron oxides and other natural minerals, which has been well-documented as a source of early colored paint. Read more.
At least 14,000 years ago, artists took to Altamira cave in Spain with charcoal and red pigments, painting bison, deer and their own handprints on the rock walls and ceiling. This prehistoric art gallery is now closed to the public, but plans to reopen it have scientists raising the alarm.
“Altamira cave, although currently closed, is at real risk,” a group of Spanish researchers wrote in the Oct. 6 issue of the journal Science.
The threat, according to the scientists, is that even a limited stream of visitors will spur bacterial and fungal growth on the cave walls, damaging the very paintings tourists long to see. Read more.
Instead of Neanderthals being dim-witted hunters who only dined on big game, new findings suggest they had more balanced diets, with broad menus that may have included birds, fish and plants.
Neanderthals are currently our closest known extinct relatives, near enough to modern humans to interbreed, with Neanderthal DNA making up 1 percent to 4 percent of modern Eurasian genomes. A host of recent findings suggest they were not only close genetically, but may have shared many other traits with us, such as creating art.
Still, the term “Neanderthal” has long been synonymous with “stupid.”
“Since they went extinct, conventional wisdom says they were dumber than us,” said researcher Bruce Hardy, a paleoanthropologist at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.
For instance, ample fossil evidence suggests Neanderthals hunted big game, deriving the vast majority of their diet from deer, mammoths and other large herbivores. Still, while pursuing such prey undoubtedly must have taken smarts, this fact also led some researchers to suggest they may have had little interest or even capability to dine on other items. Although hints that Neanderthals supplemented their diet with birds, fish, shellfish and plants have popped up at certain sites, these are typically dismissed as unusual exceptions, Hardy said.
“It’s been said that Neanderthals weren’t capable of hunting birds — they moved too fast,” Hardy noted.
Now researchers find evidence that Neanderthals may indeed have dined on a broad menu of plant and animal foods at a cave in the Rhone Valley in France. Read more.
KUALA TERENGGANU: An exhibition centre in a cave is being planned at the historical Gua Bewah in Tasik Kenyir.
“Gua Bewah is believed to be 1,500 years old and it has a lot of historical artefacts which can attract tourists,” said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said yesterday.
He said the cave gained prominence after the discovery of Malaysia’s oldest human skeleton there.
In March last year, Ahmad had said the skeletal remains were confirmed to be 16,000 years old.
He added that this made the skeleton the oldest in the country, followed by the Perak Man whose remains were 13,000 years old.
The Mentri Besar said the RM15mil three-storey exhibition centre that would showcase the state’s rich artefacts would incorporate green measures with plans to utilise solar or hybrid energy. Read more.
YEREVAN. – Excavations at Areni 1 Cave in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor region unearthed a more-than-5,900-year-old women’s straw-woven skirt, Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography Institute Director Pavel Avetisyan told Armenian News-News.am. Avetisyan informed that this artifact was discovered in 2010 and, even though they had informed about this precious item at the time, interest toward it grew further only recently. “The women’s clothing dates back to 39th century BC. So far we have discovered the skirt’s parts, which were superbly preserved. It is an amazing material with rhythmic color hues, and other remnants of the straw-woven material were also discovered. Such thing is recorded in Armenia for the first time,” Avetisyan noted. Read more.
YEREVAN. – Excavations at Areni 1 Cave in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor region unearthed a more-than-5,900-year-old women’s straw-woven skirt, Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography Institute Director Pavel Avetisyan told Armenian News-News.am.
Avetisyan informed that this artifact was discovered in 2010 and, even though they had informed about this precious item at the time, interest toward it grew further only recently.
“The women’s clothing dates back to 39th century BC. So far we have discovered the skirt’s parts, which were superbly preserved. It is an amazing material with rhythmic color hues, and other remnants of the straw-woven material were also discovered. Such thing is recorded in Armenia for the first time,” Avetisyan noted. Read more.
New investigations at an iconic cave site on the Channel Island of Jersey have led archaeologists to believe the Neanderthals have been widely under-estimated.
Neanderthals survived in Europe through a number of ice ages and died out only about 30,000 years ago.
The site at La Cotte de St Brelade reveals a near-continuous use of the cave site spanning over a quarter of a million years, suggesting a considerable success story in adapting to a changing climate and landscape, prior to the arrival of Homo Sapiens.
The La Cotte ravine has revealed the most prolific collection of early Neanderthal technology in North West Europe, including over 250,000 stone tools. These include stones with sharpened edges, that could be used to cut or chop, known as hand axes.
“Archaeologists have developed new ways of looking at stone tools since La Cotte de St Brelade was excavated in the 1970s,” says Dr Beccy Scott from the British Museum and the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project. Read more.
Human evolution’s tide may have turned on lake and sea shores
In a cave hugging South Africa’s lush southern coastline, Curtis Marean suspects he has cornered a wily Stone Age crew that brought humans back from extinction’s brink. These plucky refugees of continent-wide desolation were able to pull off such a stunning evolutionary turnaround because they got lucky. A coastal oasis near the bottom of the world spread its sheltering arms in the nick of time.
Marean proposes that it was there, where the Arizona State University archaeologist now conducts excavations, that humankind’s mental tide turned sometime between 164,000 and 120,000 years ago. Seaside survivors learned to read the moon’s phases in order to harvest heaps of shellfish — brain food extraordinaire — during a few precious days each month when ocean tides safely retreated.
Tantalizing traces of complex thinking and behavior, including lunar literacy, have turned up at South Africa’s Pinnacle Point, a cave-specked promontory that juts into the Indian Ocean. Read more.
The bones of six humans—including two children—jade beads, shells, and stone tools are among the Maya “treasures” recently found in a water-filled cave off a sinkhole at the famous archaeological site of Chichén Itzá in Mexico, archaeologists say.
The ancient objects are most likely related to a ritual human sacrifice during a time when water levels were lower, sometime between A.D. 850 and 1250, the researchers say. Read more.