THE image of our Neolithic ancestors as simple souls carving out a primitive existence has been dispelled.
A groundbreaking excavation of a 5,000-year-old temple complex in Orkney has uncovered evidence to suggest that prehistoric people were a great deal more sophisticated than previously thought.
The archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar, which is still in its early stages, has already thrown up discoveries that archaeologists say will force us to re-evaluate our understanding of how our ancestors lived.
The picture that has emerged so far points to a complex and capable society that displayed impeccable workmanship and created an integrated landscape. Read more.
A meteorite found in the remains of a Neolithic hut in Bolkow, north west Poland, may have been used for shamanic purposes, academics have argued.
The meteorite was discovered among a large group of sacral objects in a hut on the banks of Swidwie Lake in the West Pomeranian region.
Archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Szczecin found items including an amulet, a so-called ‘magic staff’ fashioned from antlers and decorated with geometrical motifs, and an engraved bone spear. They were made about 9000 years ago.
The discovery of the meteorite, which is 8cm high and 5.3cm wide at the base, proved especially intriguing in this context. Read more.
By leapfrogging from island to island across the northern Mediterranean, Neolithic people were able to quickly spread their farming lifestyle across southern Europe some 9,000 years ago, a new genetic study suggests.
Archaeological investigations have shown that individuals in the Near East first developed farming and herding around 12,000 years ago. Agriculture then quickly replaced the more mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle—in what’s called the “Neolithic transition”—as farmers migrated into Europe and other parts of the world.
"The establishment of agriculture provided the possibility for population growth, and that growth led people to expand to new horizons," said University of Washington geneticist George Stamatoyannopoulos. Read more.
The mitochondrial DNA of the first Near Eastern farmers has been sequenced for the first time. In the research, published in the journal PLOS Genetics, experts analysed samples from three sites located in the birthplace of Neolithic agricultural practices: the Middle Euphrates basin and the oasis of Damascus, located in today’s Syria and date at about 8,000 BC.
The study is focused on the analysis of mitochondrial DNA —a type of non-Mendelian maternally inherited DNA— from the first Neolithic farmers, by means of samples obtained by the UAB research group which were first processed by the UB research group.
Agricultural and husbandry practices originated around 12,000 years ago in a region of the Near East known as the Fertile Crescent. This phenomenon, known as “Neolithic”, meant a profound social, cultural and economic transformation of human populations (agricultural production, sedentary farming lifestyle, origin of the first cities and modern societies, etc.). Read more.
Five Neolithic houses have been recreated at Stonehenge to reveal how the ancient monument’s builders would have lived 4,500 years ago.
The single-room, 5m (16ft) wide homes made of chalk and straw daub and wheat-thatching, are based on archaeological remains at nearby Durrington Walls.
Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, said the houses are the result of “archaeological evidence, educated guess work, and lots of physical work.”
The houses open to the public, later.
The “bright and airy” Neolithic homes are closely based on archaeological remains of houses, discovered just over a mile away from Stonehenge. Read more.
The first known masks are Halloween-like stone portraits of the dead, according to an upcoming exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The exhibit, called Face to Face: The Oldest Masks in the World, reveals for the first time 12 Neolithic masks featuring wide toothy smiles and large eyes.
According to the curators, who set up the display after 10 years of investigative work, the eerie stone portraits were carved out of limestone some 9,000 years ago by Stone Age people who were among the first to abandon nomadic life.
Analysis into the type of stone revealed the masks came from the Judean Hills and nearby Judean desert in Israel. Read more.
CARLISLE’S Tullie House museum has been donated two very rare Neolithic wooden tridents by Cumbria County Council and is putting them on display for the public to give their theories on what they were used for.
The two tridents were discovered during the archaeological excavations prior to the construction of the Carlisle Northern Development Route (CNDR), and add to the mystery surrounding identical finds in Cumbria and Northern Ireland around 200 years ago.
Only four other similar tridents exist in the UK and the fact that they have almost identical designs and show a proficiency in woodworking suggests they were made for an accepted purpose. But experts are unsure what that was, with theories including fishing, hunting or agricultural use. Read more.
Excavations in 1986 and 1987 at the early Neolithic site of Jiahu, located in Henan Province, Northern China, yielded six complete bone flutes as well as fragments of approximately 30 others.
Tonal analysis of the Neolithic flutes revealed that the seven holes they contain corresponded to a scale remarkably similar to the eight-note scale of “do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do“. This carefully-selected tone scale suggested to the researchers that the musician of the seventh millennium BCE could play music and not just single notes.
The exquisitely-crafted flutes are all made from the ulnae or wing bones of the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis Millen). The best-preserved flute has actually been played and this presented a rare opportunity to hear musical sounds from nine millennia ago. Read more.