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Angkor Civilization

Angkor Palace Complex, with Buddhist Monks

The Khmer Empire, or the Angkor Civilization was a cosmopolitan blend of religions in southeast Asia between 800-1300 AD, led by a stratified and complicated court system supported by extensive trade throughout the region.

More on the Khmer Empire
Archaeology Spotlight10

New Support for the Southern Dispersal Route

Wednesday April 23, 2014

A new article in the journal Proceedings of the National Science this week provides support for the Southern Dispersal Route, the most-recently identified migration route for human beings out of Africa.

Map of Archaeological Sites which Have Evidence of Southern Dispersal Route
Map of some of the archaeological sites with evidence of the Southern Dispersal Route. K. Kris Hirst

We modern humans evolved in Africa during the Middle Paleolithic period, sometime between 195,000 and 160,000 years ago, and left from there to colonize the world. Most recognize (at least) three waves of human migration. A small group of humans left sub-Saharan Africa about 130,000 years ago, and got as far as the Levantine coast. A second, much more successful group, left about 65,000 years ago, and eventually colonized much of Europe and Asia.

And somewhere between 130,000 and 70,000 years ago, or so the theory goes, a group left Africa and apparently followed the coastlines of Arabia, India, and Indochina, reaching Australia and Melanesia.

In 2014, Reyes-Centano et al. reported that mtDNA studies of modern humans from all over the world contain support for the Southern Dispersal Route. People from Australians, Papuans, and Melanesians share ancient polymorphisms that indicate they are descended (in part) from a separate migration event, which occurred at least 130,000 years ago.

Reyes-Centano H, Ghirotto S, Détroit F, Grimaud-Hervé D, and Barbujani G. 2014. Genomic and cranial phenotype data support multiple modern human dispersals from Africa and a southern route into Asia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Honey Bees and Humans

Wednesday April 16, 2014

The honey bee (Apis mellifera), is a non-domesticated domestic partner of ours, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has been stung.

Honeybee Collecting Rock Art Image, Cueva de la Araña rock shelter, Spain
Mesolithic rock painting of a honey hunter harvesting honey and wax from a bees nest in a tree. At Cuevas de la Araña. ca 8000 to 6000 BC). Redraft of image by Amada44

We've been exploiting bees for honey and wax for at least 25,000 years (some scholars suggest that it was millions of years), and we started providing them a home, beehives, at least as long ago as the Iron Age.

Chachapoya Culture

Monday April 14, 2014

The people who built the 12th century "fortress" at Kuelap in the Andes mountains of Peru are called by ethnohistorians and archaeologists the Chachapoya.

Chachapoyan Sarcophagi at Karajia, Peru
Chachapoyan Sarcophagi at Karajia, Peru. Photo by Jorge Gobbi

The Chachapoya were a loose confederation of settlements, perched on high ridges of the Andes mountains. Central to the extensive trade network between the Amazon jungle and the central Andes, the Chachapoya gained a bad rep as a violent and warlike culture from the Inca and the Spanish who wrote about them.

Lactase Persistence in Southern Africa

Friday April 11, 2014

Two upcoming articles in the journal Current Biology describe newly identified migration patterns in Later Stone Age southern Africa, arising from recent findings about lactase persistence.

18th century engraving of Khoe herders protecting sheep and cattle at night.
18th century engraving of Khoe herders protecting sheep and cattle at night. Plate taken from Historic Farms of South Africa, by Dorothea Fairbridge, published by Oxford University Press (London, 1931). Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Image

The Khoisan, a collective term for Khoe cattle and sheep herders and San hunter-gatherers who speak one of the click languages, are often assumed to have been isolated throughout prehistory. What the new studies show is that, like so many things in life, our human story of the Later Stone Age is southern Africa is far more complex than that; and directly connected to the history of domestication of cattle and sheep.

Breton G, Schlebusch Carina M, Lombard M, Sjödin P, Soodyall H, and Jakobsson M. 2014. Lactase Persistence Alleles Reveal Partial East African Ancestry of Southern African Khoe Pastoralists. Current Biology (in press). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.02.041

Macholdt E, Lede V, Barbieri C, Mpoloka Sununguko W, Chen H, Slatkin M, Pakendorf B, and Stoneking M. 2014. Tracing Pastoralist Migrations to Southern Africa with Lactase Persistence Alleles. Current Biology (in press). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.027

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