Tag: archeology

Watch This: An Easter Island Statue Replica “Walks”

By Ashley P. Taylor | October 23, 2012 3:44 pm

In the video above, 18 people “walk” a 10-foot, 8,700-pound replica of an Easter Island statue along a Hawaiian road by tipping it back and forth (and yelling “heave ho,” of course). They are testing the theory, put forth by archeologists Carl Lipo and Terry Hunt, that this is how the Easter Islanders transported their statues from the quarry where they were carved, a water-filled crater of an extinct volcano,  to their final positions. (Others think the islanders rolled the statues horizontally along on logs.) The reenactment, of sorts, is described in a recent paper.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology

New Archeology Find Buries Theory on First Americans, Re-Opening a Gaping Mystery

By Patrick Morgan | March 25, 2011 5:06 pm

What’s the News: Archeologists have discovered thousands of stone tools in Texas that are over 15,000 years old. The find is important because it is over 2,000 years older than the so-called Clovis culture, which had previously thought to be the first human culture in North America. As Texas A&M University anthropologist Michael Waters says, “This is almost like a baseball bat to the side of the head of the archaeological community to wake up and say, ‘hey, there are pre-Clovis people here, that we have to stop quibbling and we need to develop a new model for peopling of the Americas’.”

How the Heck:

  • At a site on Buttermilk Creek in central Texas, Archeologists discovered 15,528 items, ranging from chert flakes to blades and chisels.
  • The first indication that the tools were older than anything previous seen on North America came from their stratigraphic horizon: The excavated layer was underneath a layer of classic Clovis tools. (The sediments showed no indication of mixing after the tools were dropped.)
  • The most conclusive evidence came from a dating technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating, which indicates how long minerals have been underground. Over 60 OSL dates revealed the tools to be about 15,500 years old, much older than the up-to-13,500-year-old Clovis culture.

What’s the Context:

Not So Fast:

  • Some anthropologists say that the “Clovis first” theory went out of style years ago, and that this study only puts the nail in the Clovis coffin.
  • Others are skeptical about this present finding, noting that OSL dating is less reliable than radiocarbon dating and that the site’s deposits are “potentially problematic” because they’re located on an old floodplain and could have been transported by water.

The Future Holds: Now it’s time for archeologists to rethink the North American narrative of migration: How did humans first populate the continent? As James Adovasio, the executive director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, told NPR, “Everything we’re learning now, from genetics, from linguistic data, from geological data, from archaeological data, suggests that the peopling process is infinitely more complicated than we might have imagined 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago.”

Reference: The Buttermilk Creek Complex and the Origins of Clovis at the Debra L. Friedkin Site, Texas. By Michael R. Waters et al. DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6024.1512

Image: Courtesy of Michael R. Waters

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Origins

Scientist Smackdown: When Did Europeans First Harness Fire?

By Patrick Morgan | March 15, 2011 5:21 pm

What happens when evolutionary biology disagrees with archeology? If you’re thinking “scientific headache,” you’re right. New research suggests that Europeans first regularly used fire no earlier than 400,000 years ago—an assertion that, if true, leaves evolutionary anthropologists in a lurch because this date isn’t linked to the substantial physiological changes we’d expect with the advent of cooked food.

The Controversy

The majority of archeologists think that early humans’ control of fire is tied to their migration out of Africa. After all, how else would the first Europeans cope with the freezing winters?

Based on archeological evidence, we know that early humans first arrived in southern Europe over a million years ago, and—based on the Happisburgh site —reached England around 800,000 years ago. So the problem with the new 400,000 year-old date is that it means that hominids suffered through hundreds of thousands of years of cold winter unaided by fire. And according to evolutionary biologists, this new date clashes with the idea that cooked food aided the evolutionary enlargement of the human brain.

The 400,000-Year-Old Evidence

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Origins

News Roundup: Japan Nuclear Fears, Sperm-Whale Names, Internet on Steroids

By Patrick Morgan | March 14, 2011 9:21 pm
  • Japan update: Authorities have been having trouble keeping enough water around Fukushima Daiichi’s  nuclear fuel rods, leading Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano to respond, when asked whether they were melting: “Although we cannot directly check it, it’s highly likely happening.” Still, radiation levels remain at “tolerable levels.”
  • Call me Ishmael: Slight variations in sperm-whale calls may act as “whale names,” or personal identifiers that allow these social creatures to tell individuals apart.
  • Star wars turns to trash: NASA is looking to create a cheap, ground-based laser that would be capable of blasting (ok, slightly nudging, slowing down, and de-orbiting) Earth-orbiting space junk in danger of crashing.
  • Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, News Roundup
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