Monday December 2, 2013
This month, the fourth edition of James Graham-Campbell's classic text The Viking World is published by Frances Lincoln LTD, via Aurum Press.
The Viking World - Cover Art Francis Lincoln LTD Publishing Group
The new version includes updates to several of the chapters, and is in a smaller format, which turns the oversized coffee table book into a more accessible format for the intent reader....
Wednesday November 27, 2013
A recent article published in Nature Communications suggests, sort of, that cattle may have been domesticated in China.
Herd of cattle in Yunnan Province, China. timquijano.
The story is a little odd. Two conjoined jawbones (mandibles) were identified as taurine (Bos taurus, the humpless cattle type thought to have been domesticated in the Taurus Mountains about 10,500 years ago) have been recovered from the Kongni ditch in northeastern China.
The mandibles are AMS radiocarbon dated between 10,756 and 10,565 years ago, and mitochondrial DNA studies of it suggest to the scholars that the beast had a distinct mitochondrial structure, distinct from other types of aurochs. It looks domesticated, based on the tooth wear. If the scholars are correct in their surmise that this is evidence of early taurine domestication in China, it might be pretty amazing news--but they come from a place called the "Kongni Ditch" without any additional description and that worries me, and I'm strongly reminded that context, if not everything, is a big hunk of the pie.
I've sent away for some more information about the context, and I'll report it if and when I hear back.
It may turn out that there's another cattle domestication center in China--heck, how would I know? and science as we know is a moving target--but at the moment, this is an outlier, so caution is in order.
Zhang H, Paijmans JLA, Chang F, Wu X, Chen G, Lei C, Yang X, Wei Z, Bradley DG, Orlando L et al. . 2013. Morphological and genetic evidence for early Holocene cattle management in northeastern China. Nature Communications 4:2755.
Monday November 25, 2013
A story in the journal Nature last week concerning the genetic history of a 4 year old Siberia boy dead 19,000 years promises to expand our understanding of the processes that led to colonizing the Americas.
Burial of Mal'ta child redrawn from Gerasimov (1935), with photos of the plaque and swan from the burial and a representative Venus figurine from the excavation. Kelly E. Graf
Archaeologists have known for a few hundred years that the Native American/First People who settled the America continents arrived from Asia along the Bering Strait. But the complex history of population of the Americas has been a political conflagration since the 1920s, when the first hint of how long ago that occurred was identified at Clovis, New Mexico. Not to mention the academic heat that transpired in the 1980s and eventually lead to the wide acceptance of Preclovis.
The latest information, from a central Siberian site called Mal'ta, adds to the complexity of the processes, but doesn't refute anything we've learned so far: the Americas were populated by several waves of people over a period of several thousands of years beginning at least 20,000 years ago.
- Read a lot more on Mal'ta, which before all this happened, was best known for a terrific set of Siberian Upper Paleolithic ivory art.
Raghavan M, Skoglund P, Graf KE, Metspalu M, Albrechtsen A, Moltke I, Rasmussen S, Reedik M, Campos PF, Balanovska E et al. 2013. Upper Paleolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans. Nature: in press.
Wednesday November 20, 2013
Eagles and hawks and other birds of prey have fascinated humans for at least 90,000 years, expressed as the collection of wings and (presumably) feathers for use as personal decoration.
Wadi Jilat 22. Insets include Imperial Eagle and tanged knives from the site collections. Photos: Andrew Garrard (photo of Jilat), Frankie Chu (Imperial Eagle), Bryan Byrd (Tanged Knives)
Archaeologists have found evidence of raptor wing bones and talons at sites throughout Eurasia, but until recently, what they haven't found is sites where the eagles were captured and processed to produce those wings. A 17,000 year old site in the Wadi Jilat of Jordan is the newly identified exception to that rule.
Martin L, Edwards Y, and Garrard A. 2013. Broad spectrum or specialised activity? Birds and tortoises at the Epipalaeolithic site of Wadi Jilat 22 in the eastern Jordan steppe. Antiquity 87(337):649-665.