The genetic lineage of Europe mysteriously transformed about 4,500 years ago, new research suggests.
The findings, detailed today (April 23) in the journal Nature Communications, were drawn from several skeletons unearthed in central Europe that were up to 7,500 years old.
"What is intriguing is that the genetic markers of this first pan-European culture, which was clearly very successful, were then suddenly replaced around 4,500 years ago, and we don’t know why," said study co-author Alan Cooper, of the University of Adelaide Australian Center for Ancient DNA, in a statement. "Something major happened, and the hunt is now on to find out what that was." Read more.
La Roca dels Bous, a Paleolithic site located near the southeastern Pyrenees of Spain, has been cited by archaeologists as a key location with Neanderthal-related remains that may shed light on the changes that may have contributed to the demise of the Neanderthals in Europe. Now, a team led by Dr. Rafael Mora of the University Autonomous of Barcelona will be returning to the site in 2013 to excavate and explore lithic assemblages, fossil bone, and other remains that may date as far back as 50,000 BP.
The excavations may help research efforts focused on constructing a better understanding of the factors that may have contributed to the decline and eventual disappearance of humanity’s most closely related extinct human species. Read more.
A team of archaeologists have unearthed additional evidence of what may have been Europe’s first civilization at a site located near the town of Pazardzhik in southern Bulgaria. Known as Yunatsite, it is a Tell (mound containing archaeological remains) about 110 meters in diameter and 12 meters high, rising above fields next to a small Bulgarian village by the same name. The Tell contains remains of an urbanized settlement dated at its earliest to the early fifth millenium BC.
Directed by Yavor Boyadzhiev of the National Institute of Archaeology and Museums, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, excavators have unearthed artifacts such as weapons, Spondylus jewels, decorated fineware pottery, shards marked by characters/pictograms, and evidence of structures dated to 4900 BC, including fortifications and a recently discovered wooden platform that was likely the floor of a building that had been destroyed by fire. Read more.
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.