Monday May 20, 2013
Cotton (Gossypium spp), is, according to the USDA, the single most important textile fiber in the world, and accounts for some 40% of all the fibers produced.
Karachi Cotton Vendor, 1987. Photo by Lars Rodvaldr
Archaeologists and related scientists have ascertained that cotton was domesticated several times, in both the old and new worlds. The first event was in the Indus Valley of present-day Pakistan and India, where cotton fiber evidence at Mehrgarh and Mohenjo-Daro dates to ca. 5000 BC.
In a pair of recent articles, Contributing Writer Nicoletta Maestri investigates the origins of this amazingly useful crop.
Saturday May 18, 2013
Anyone who has been a reader of these pages for very long knows I have a thing about ancient roads. I can't really explain it, except to say that it interests me that in certain places, a public thoroughfare is built and rebuilt and rebuilt, but remains in the same geographical location for hundreds of years. Walking one of these ancient pathways is a little like time travel.
Tourists show how the crosswalks work at Pompeii. Photo by Bob Demey
Oh well, enough justification, silly or not. Here's the latest peep into the ruins of Pompeii.
Monday May 13, 2013
This week, PBS airs "Caveman Cold Case", the latest episode of the long-running series Secrets of the Dead, featuring archaeological evidence of survival cannibalism by Neanderthals some 49,000 years ago.
Secrets of the Dead: WNET and PBS
"Caveman Cold Case" describes archaeological and paleoanthropological research at El Sidrón and Gorham's Cave, two Neanderthal sites that together provide insight into how good--and very bad indeed--life for Neanderthals could get.
I have to say Secrets of the Dead, the series which blends history and science for PBS, is on occasion a little over the top for starchy old me, a little over-emphatic maybe on the non-scientific aspects of the past. But it's always entertaining, and it is undeniable that the episodes make the connection between science and history come alive. "Caveman Cold Case" is an excellent example of communicating scientific research to the public, and I recommend it heartily.
El Sidrón Cave. Photo Credit: © Terra Mater Factual Studios/Photographer Ruth Berry/Bernhard Popovic
Secrets of the Dead: "Caveman Cold Case" premieres this Wednesday, May 15, 2013 on PBS. Check local listings
Friday May 10, 2013
Chinese archaeologists have found evidence pushing back the domestication of the sago palm at least 3,500 years earlier than was thought.
Sago Palm Garden, Bogor, West Java, Indonesia. Toksave
Sago palms, like other tropical trees, are difficult to identify archaeologically since they don't have hard-cased seeds that might survive the millennia: archaeologists have to rely instead on microscopic plant residues such as starch granules and opal phytholiths. In this case, scholars had often wondered how long ago the sago, with its tremendous store of easily-harvested starch, might have been uprooted from its original swampy habitat and cultivated closer to home.
The study, published in PLoS ONE on Wednesday, also included evidence that about 5,000 years ago, the hunter-gatherers at the Xincun site on the southern coast of China relied on bananas, acorns, and roots and tubers, but that sago trees were likely cultivated, before the introduction of rice turned them into full time farmers.
Yang X, Barton HJ, Wan Z, Li Q, Ma Z, Li M, Zhang D, and Wei J. 2013. Sago-type Palms Were an Important Plant Food Prior to Rice in Southern Subtropical China. PLoS ONE 8(5):e63148. (open source)