Despite their modern-day diversity of language, lifestyle, and religion, Europe’s widespread Romani population shares a common, if complex, past. It all began in northwestern India about 1,500 years ago, according to a study reported on December 6th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, that offers the first genome-wide perspective on Romani origins and demographic history.
The Romani represent the largest minority group in Europe, consisting of approximately 11 million people. That means the size of the Romani population rivals that of several European countries, including Greece, Portugal, and Belgium.
"We were interested in exploring the population history of European Romani because they constitute an important fraction of the European population, but their marginalized situation in many countries also seems to have affected their visibility in scientific studies," said David Comas of the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain. Read more.
It’s controversially being called Europe’s oldest known town. But whatever Solnitsata’s place in history, it’s becoming clear that the 6,500-year-old Bulgarian site—not far from the continent’s earliest known gold horde—had something very much worth protecting.
Researchers announced last week they’d discovered 10-foot-tall (3-meter-tall), 6-foot-thick (1.8-meter-thick) stone walls around the settlement. The find is among the evidence for Solnitsata’s oldest-town status—and further proof of an advanced Copper Age Balkan trade network, according to dig leader Vasil Nikolov, a Bulgarian archaeologist.
Long before the first wheel rolled through Europe, precious goods were likely crisscrossing the Balkans on pack animals and possibly in carts with sledlike bottoms. Salt, essential for preserving meats, joined gold and copper among the most prized cargo. Read more.
ScienceDaily (May 8, 2012) — Scientists have used DNA analysis to gain important new insights into how human beings repopulated Europe as the Ice Age relaxed its grip.
Dr Maria Pala, who is based at the University of Huddersfield — now a key centre for archaeo-genetics research — is the lead author of an article in the latest issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics which shows how the Near East was a major source of replenishment when huge areas of European territory became habitable again, up to 19,000 years ago.
Until the new findings, it was thought that there were two principal safe havens for humans as the Ice Age, or Last Glacial Maximum, descended, approximately 26,000 years ago. They were a “Franco-Cantabrian” area roughly coinciding with northern Spain/southern France, and a “Periglacial province” on the Ukrainian plains. Read more.
ScienceDaily — University of Cincinnati research is revealing early farming in a former wetlands region that was largely cut off from Western researchers until recently. The UC collaboration with the Southern Albania Neolithic Archaeological Project (SANAP) will be presented April 20 at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA).
Susan Allen, a professor in the UC Department of Anthropology who co-directs SANAP, says she and co-director Ilirjan Gjipali of the Albanian Institute of Archaeology created the project in order to address a gap not only in Albanian archaeology, but in the archaeology in Eastern Europe as a whole, by focusing attention on the initial transition to farming in the region.
"For Albania, there has been a significant gap in documenting the Early Neolithic (EN), the earliest phase of farming in the region," explains Allen. Read more.
Archaeologists believe they have uncovered the remains of the earliest stringed instrument to be found so far in western Europe.
The small burnt and broken piece of carved piece of wood was found during an excavation in a cave on Skye.
Archaeologists said it was likely to be part of the bridge of a lyre dating to more than 2,300 years ago.
Music archaeologist Dr Graeme Lawson said the discovery marked a “step change” in music history.
The Cambridge-based expert said: “It pushes the history of complex music back more than a thousand years, into our darkest pre-history.
"And not only the history of music but more specifically of song and poetry, because that’s what such instruments were very often used for.
"The earliest known lyres date from about 5,000 years ago, in what is now Iraq, and these were already complicated and finely-made structures. Read more.
Scientists already know from genetic evidence that human populations of Africa and Europe mixed in ancient times, from the days of the Roman Empire through to the slave trade of the colonial period. But evidence of any mixing prior to that has been comparatively less abundant. Now, researchers conclude from a recently completed study (published online on March 27, 2012 in Genome Research) that genetic material was exchanged between Europe and Africa as far back as 11,000 years ago, or more.
"It was very surprising to find that more than 35 percent of the sub-Saharan lineages in Europe arrived during a period that ranged from more than 11,000 years ago to the Roman Empire times," said senior study author Dr. Antonio Salas of the University of Santiago de Compostela. The other 65% of European lineages showing African lineage represent population groups that arrived more recently.
The researchers analyzed and compared mtDNA genome sequences from different regions of Europe with that of other groups around the world. During this process they analyzed the mtDNA genomes of “haplogroup L”, (a lineage of sub-Saharan African origin) in Europe. Read more.
ScienceDaily — If you wanted to get ahead in Iron-Age Central Europe you would use a strategy that still works today — dress to impress and throw parties with free alcohol.
Pre-Roman Celtic people practiced what archaeologist Bettina Arnold calls “competitive feasting,” in which people vying for social and political status tried to outdo one another through power partying.
Artifacts recovered from two 2,600-year-old Celtic burial mounds in southwest Germany, including items for personal adornment and vessels for alcohol, offer a glimpse of how these people lived in a time before written records were kept.
That was the aim of the more than 10-year research project, says Arnold, anthropology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and co-director of a field excavation at the Heuneburg hillfort in German state of Baden-Wurttemberg. The work was partially funded by the National Geographic Society and Arnold collaborated with the State Monuments Office in Tübingen, Germany. Read more.
The processes behind building the oldest boat ever found in Western Europe will be investigated by a team of modern- day maritime experts.
Archaeologists from the University of Exeter will lead the project at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth as they attempt to rebuild a sewn-plank boat, examples of which date to around 2000 BC. The Bronze Age vessels, which measured up to 16 metres in length, are thought to have been unique to England and Wales.
"Because none of the boats have ever been found as complete boats, this project will seek to understand how they were constructed, how to steer such a long boat, measure how fast it can go, understand how the crew used paddles, as sails were not evident, and how watertight it is," said Professor Robert Van de Noort, an archaeologist at the University of Exeter.
The hulls of these prehistoric boats were made by stitching together planks of wood using fibres from yew trees because nails had yet to be invented. Read more.