The rulers of ancient Egypt lived in glorious opulence, decorating themselves with gold and perfumes and taking their treasures with them to the grave.
New research reveals how such a hierarchical, despotic system could arise from egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies. The reasons were part technological and part geographical: In a world where agriculture was ascendant and the desert all-encompassing, the cost of getting out from under the thumb of the pharaoh would have been too high.
"There was basically nowhere else to go," said study author Simon Powers, a postdoctoral researcher in ecology and evolution at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. "That cost of leaving could basically lock individuals into despotism." Read more.
Excavations at an archaeological site at Kathu in the Northern Cape province of South Africa have produced tens of thousands of Earlier Stone Age artifacts, including hand axes and other tools. These discoveries were made by archaeologists from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa and the University of Toronto (U of T), in collaboration with the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, South Africa.
The archaeologists’ research on the Kathu Townlands site, one of the richest early prehistoric archaeological sites in South Africa, was published in the journal, PLOS ONE, on 24 July 2014.
It is estimated that the site is between 700,000 and one million years old. Read more.
Rare archaeological findings dating back 10,000 years were unearthed during work to replace water mains in Surrey.
Work on the 2.2km pipe finished in May 2012 and it has taken two years to identify what was discovered.
A Stone Age hunting camp and a Roman villa were among finds made during the work in Cobham Road, Fetcham, carried out by Sutton and East Surrey Water.
The camp was the oldest find along items from the Bronze and Iron Ages, according to a report by researchers.
The camps is believed to have been used by hunter-gatherers to knap - or shape - flint to make or repair hunting equipment. Read more.
An international team led by researchers at Uppsala University and Stockholm University reports a breakthrough on understanding the demographic history of Stone-Age humans. A genomic analysis of eleven Stone-Age human remains from Scandinavia revealed that expanding Stone-age farmers assimilated local hunter-gatherers and that the hunter-gatherers were historically in lower numbers than the farmers. The study is published today, ahead of print, in the journal Science.
The transition between a hunting-gathering lifestyle and a farming lifestyle has been debated for a century. As scientists learned to work with DNA from ancient human material, a complete new way to learn about the people in that period opened up. But even so, prehistoric population structure associated with the transition to an agricultural lifestyle in Europe remains poorly understood. 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.
Archaeologists at IT Sligo have found bones of a Stone Age child and an adult in a tiny cave high on Knocknarea mountain near the town.
Radiocarbon dating has shown that they are some 5,500 years old, which makes them among the earliest human bones found in the county.
The find represents important fresh evidence of Knocknarea’s Neolithic (Stone Age) links and a prehistoric practice known as “excarnation”.
Researchers discovered a total of 13 small bones and bone fragments in an almost inaccessible cave last November. Read more.
"One-of-a-kind" Stone Age artefacts left by Swedish nomads 11,000 years ago have been discovered by divers in the Baltic Sea, prompting some to claim that Sweden’s Atlantis had been found.
"What we have here is maybe one of the oldest settlements from the first more permanent sites in Scania and in Sweden full stop," project leader and archaeology professor at Södertörn University Björn Nilsson told The Local.
Nilsson’s team has been diving in Hanö, a sandy bay off the coast of Skåne County, and has been given the resources by the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) needed for a three-year excavation of an area 16 metres below the water’s surface.
So far, they’ve uncovered a number of remnants that are believed to have been discarded in the water by nomadic Swedes in the Stone Age, objects which have been preserved thanks to the lack of oxygen and the abundance of gyttja sediment. Read more.
A firefighter who found Stone Age flints at the fire station he worked at 40 years ago says he is “thrilled” that find has now led to a nationally-important archaeological discovery.
Ron Shettle, 88, first spotted the flints while working there decades ago.
A recent rebuild of the Guildford station has now allowed experts to carry out a dig.
Archaeologists have now found 2,400 flints - some dating back to the Ice Age - under the old fire station yard.
They say there are only a handful of such sites in Europe where a similar number of flints - many of which had been shaped into tools and blades - have been found.
Mr Shettle studied archaeology for a year at Dorking’s evening institute while he was stationed in the town. Read more.