History In the News - Part IX
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'Oldest living thing on earth' discovered
Ancient patches of a giant seagrass in the Mediterranean Sea are now considered the oldest living organism on Earth after scientists dated them as up to 200,000 years old....
Not a great write-up from a science POV, but this is the Telegraph, after all.
High-resolution genome sequence of ancient human ancestor released online
Really, old plant history. Scientists have revived a 30,000 flower from the Siberian permafrost. Looks pretty good. Happy almost spring. http://news.sky.com/home/strange-news/article/16174136
A pretty flower.
I don't know if this is truly 'ancient' history. I suppose it depends on how accurate the research is. But Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech has been publishing papers and now a book about "drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks."
Much like the experience of Wehr's subjects, these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.
#4 - Well, that's the way I sleep a lot of the time, and it's knackering me.
I plan to try this schedule when (and if) I ever retire. With the way things are now, if I got up after 4 hours to do some work or goof off, something is likely to crop up that would keep me from getting back to the second cycle of sleep.
Needless to say, I'm way too old to get by on only 4 hrs.
edited because I just noticed that I typed 'to' instead of 'too'. A mistake I abhor and deplore.
>4: I'd point out that from the origins of Christian monasticism, it was common practice to rise at midnight for an hour or two of prayer. For western monks, this practice was enshrined in the Rule of St. Benedict, cc. 8-11:
In the winter time, that is from the Calends of November until Easter, the sisters shall rise at what is calculated to be the eighth hour of the night, so that they may sleep somewhat longer than half the night and rise with their rest completed. And the time that remains after the Night Office should be spent in study by those sisters who need a better knowledge of the Psalter or the lessons.Of course, in their practice, there was no "second" sleep, as the time between the night office and matins was taken up with individual prayer, etc.
Pam: that's interesting... it actually would explain a lot about my own sleeping habits, especially because the earlier I go to sleep, the more likely I am to wake up around midnight and be totally alert for a few hours before going back to slumbertown. If however I go to sleep around 11 or midnight, I'm likely to sleep longer in one shot, but the total isn't as much as the times where I have two mini-sleeps.
8>> I wonder if 'individual prayer' was as restful as some meditation practices are said to be. I'm not overly familiar with medieval church practices but I imagine they wouldn't be of a nature to replace sleep. Still I'm compelled to ask the question.
9>>Feicht, do you notice a change in productivity levels if you are on a mini-sleep regimen?
btw Josh, I am THE-pam, not the "a" Pam :p
(The little one is the male)
>10: Hehe yeah I know, but I didn't know the "@" symbol made it into a link :-D
Anywho, I think when I do the "mini-sleeps", i.e. two in one night, I actually end up being less productive overall, because it leads to me waking up later into the day, and I tend to be most productive early in the morning.
#11 - Wow. They can't have worn a thing like that in battle, surely? It must have been absolutely magnificent - a treasured possession.
Am I seeing text on it?
The DailyMail has a description here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2108250/Mystery-remarkable-2-600-...
Peacocks, lions and snakes... oh my!
They are talking about it as if it was actually used. And I thought it was interesting that it was apparently hammered out of a single sheet of metal and then gold plated. A lack of seams I suppose would mean that it was stronger.
#15 - I'm trying to imagine it when new, gleaming gold in the sunlight. I'd love to have seen it - presumably there would have been a crest or plume where there's now a hole in the top? Magnificent.
I'd love to watch one of these helmets made. I assume it would involve more than one artisan.
And from Fox News...
All hail the new king: New ancient Egyptian pharaoh discovered... Senakht-en-Re!!!
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/03/08/all-hail-new-king-new-king-ancient-egy...
Also wanted to add that there's a bit more out about the Red Deer Cave people.
"Although we still do not know exactly where they came from, we do know that the Red Deer Cave people survived until relatively recently. Some of the newly described fossils are just 11,500 years old, suggesting that unlike Neanderthals they made it through the height of the last ice age."
I am looking forward to studying this finding more closely. No surprise there is immediate speculation that they could be Denisovans, or their close relations. Could be. Mighty coincidental that in short order a pinky bone is found in Siberia, DNA extracted, a new species defined, and lo and behold actual fossils found. I have to start with a bit of skepticism, but it's certainly fascinating. And I'm not sayin' it ain't so.
The recent dates of these folk is staggering. It may well be that only a few tens of thousands of years ago, we had five species of hominid roaming the Earth. H. sapiens, Neanderthal, Denisovans, H. floresiensis, and now Red Deer Cavers. Well, the Flores folk didn't exactly roam...
To be accurate, no one is ready to pronounce these people a new species. Many paleoanthropologists think it's likely these findings have been overhyped and that they are variant group of Homo sapient.
A huge hoard of Roman coins found outside Bath in UK.
#21 - That is odd. As far as I can find online, the coins were found either four or five years ago. Yet I can't find any reports prior to the day before yesterday, and those I found are pretty uninformative - mostly just cut and pastes of that in your link.
>22 The sub-heading on the article title does say found in 2007, but doesn't explain why it is just being announced. Maybe something to do with it being found by archaeologists rather than amateurs? Professionals like to "publish" first. Don't know, just speculating.
#23 Might also be to do with fully excavating the sight before they announced it? I know they have to be careful about announcing where a treasure hoard has been found for fear of loot hunters sneaking in at night and destroying important archaeology.
Brief snippet about the Swiss Füllinsdorf Hoard, a cache of Celtic coins plowed up in some farmer's field. As a hopeless nerd who is fascinated by things like Mediterranean contact with the "indigenous peoples" in ancient Europe, I've always found things like this interesting, for instance how Celtic coins were usually made with Greek writing, including Greek inflectional endings on the names of local chieftains.
And no, I have no date for this Saturday night, but thanks for asking ;-P
Gee, Feicht, I assumed you already had a date so I asked my wife out instead. Try to get over your disappointment.
"As a hopeless nerd who is fascinated by things like Mediterranean contact with the "indigenous peoples" in ancient Europe"
Cross-cultural contacts are fascinating to me too
"I've always found things like this interesting, for instance how Celtic coins were usually made with Greek writing, including Greek inflectional endings on the names of local chieftains. "
Never knew that. Wow.
And yeah Stellar, I guess it makes a certain sort of sense when you think about it. Just like there are examples of Native Americans aping certain aspects of Euro-culture they were confronted with along the frontier, the "barbarians" kind of did the same with the Mediterraneans'. Not having a literate tradition themselves, they apparently copied what they came in contact with. As far as I know, Greek was more prevalent, but 1) I could be wrong... haha, though 2) it would make sense since Greeks were early traders up the rivers into Gaul, and I'd imagine by the time the Romans made sufficient inroads, the Greek alphabet was already a standard of sorts (even among the Romans, to a certain extent), and well, the Romans were busy incorporating them into provinces rather than trading, so by definition they weren't really "barbarians" in the classic sense anymore, and would be using Roman currency with Roman consuls/emperors on it now, as opposed to local Celtic chieftains (though I'm sure this could vary on a case by case basis).
Anywho, I shall now retire to the nerdery, where we nerds do our nerding.
Fascinating, Feicht. So do you know how early are the earliest Celic coins with Greek writing?
Late 3rd century BC, according to Wikipedia.
Remember that there were Greek settlements in southern Gaul, chief of them Massalia/Massila/Marseille, long before the Romans amounted to anything much.
A question: Did the Celts have a written language, at least when the early coins were produced? If not, it would make sense that they would use the most common written language in the area at that time.
To my knowledge, no. If I remember correctly there are a few instances of Gauls writing out a few short things (in Celtic) using the Greek alphabet, but that's it. And that's one of the reasons we know so little about their language(s) and have to infer a great deal from the tiny handful of extant Celtic languages today. Whenever you use someone else's alphabet to write your own language, there is going to be a bit of information lost/corrupted; think about the Hittites (Indo-European language) using the writing system of the Akkadians (Semitic) and how long it took scholars to even slightly figure out what was going on, even though they'd been able to translate (Semitic texts in) cuneiform for a while.
Who knows how different history *may* have turned out of the Celts had developed their own literary society before large-scale Roman intrusion; but as it stands now, quite a bit of what we know about them 1) has to be inferred from later Celtic societies that DID write things down, 2) gleaned through what contemporary literary societies--Greeks and Romans--said ABOUT them, or 3) the spotty record of archaeology.
They did at least in the area of modern Spain. I'm sure I've seen a Roman mention that some of the people there had a literary culture complete with actual literature.
There are Latin-script Gaulish inscriptions from Roman Imperial times; mostly 3rd century AD, if memory serves. But they're mostly short and formulaic.
Ah yeah I forgot about the Tartessians. Although I was under the impression they were pre-Celtic, but I guess that is disputed.
"Our collections are valued every year and perhaps this year our collections will go up a notch."
Understaement of the week. What a discovery!
Always amazing to see stuff from that long ago turn up, especially half a world from its point of origin!
I'm having a little difficulty with this. As I understand it, people (or horse-using culture) moved into new areas with domesticated mares, turned them loose into wild herds to breed, then cut them and their foals back out of the wild herds. It sounds a pretty difficult way of going about it. Anybody here have any experience of interacting with herds of truly wild horses?
I saw a piece on telly, a week or so back, about capturing and moving a herd of British wild ponies. That was a pretty difficult undertaking: lots of manpower, the ponies - certainly more familiar with humans than the ancient herds - were pretty jumpy and elusive, and they were capturing the whole herd - not trying to separate just one or two from the main herd, which must conflict with the animals' basic instincts.
I'm even more sceptical about this one:
"By scaling up the digestive wind of cows, they estimate ..."
Obvious question - to which I don't know the answer: how much methane do cows produce compared to wild animals eating their natural food in their natural habitat?
ETA - That cloud of dust immediately behind the brontosaurus in the headline picture ... um ... seems a bit Rabelaisian for the BBC ... I suppose it could be caused by it shuffling its feet ...
>42 No, I don't think that is what is being proposed. Wild mares were captured in various times and places, and bred with domesticated males. Presumably wild mares are more tractable than domesticated ones.
No releasing domesticated mares into the wild in the hope of later tracking down mother horse and foal. That would be quite cumbersome.
> 42/44: Yes, I believe stellar is right about the theory as now proposed.
Not that catching wild mares would be such an easy thing to do though.
>45 Agreed. Not easy. Just easier than the alternatives.
> 43: Yeah, I'm skeptical about that one too - and for the reason you mention. I think that could only matter if there would be a substantial difference in bio-matter being around then and now.
Obvious question - to which I don't know the answer: how much methane do cows produce compared to wild animals eating their natural food in their natural habitat?
Which wild animals? You'll get different results if you compare domestic cattle to wild cattle or to kangaroos, and you'll get different results again if your domestic cattle are grazed on the pampas or industrially fed.
There is no guarantee the same herbivore biomass results in the same methane production. It depends on the particular herbivores concerned and on the plants they eat. And of course, we don't know if herbivore biomass in the late Jurassic was similar to today's. The estimate in the article is a wild guess.
#42, #44, #45, #46 - Big OOPS! I was reading that before breakfast this morning and I don't think my brain had properly woken up. Apologies all.
#45 - Not as hard as you might think. Horses have a strong herd instinct. Once you separate a small number from the wild herd, move them toward the domesticated herd and they'll gravitate to them. Things will be a bit fractious initially as horses establish a distinct "pecking order" but that generally only takes a few hours and the tussles are far from lethal - unless you put two stallions in a pen near mares.
If you integrate, say, 3-4 wild mares into a domestic herd of 15-20 they will gradually adopt the characteristics of the domestic animals. Not completely - you wouldn't be able to ride one and it would be some time before you could get close enough to physically handle them but they'll take their cue from the herd, become desensitized to Human contact and fit in reasonably well after a few weeks - a few months at most.
The one exception to the above would be if one of the wild mares established herself as the dominant female. Then you'd have a problem and you better get rid of her. Highly unlikely this would happen though. Even a naturally dominant animal will usually behave submissively in a new environment and once the pecking order's established it takes quite a bit to change it substantially.
#43, 47, 48 - Yes, the estimate in the article is a complete guess. In my work we have studied the microbes in cow and wallaby guts precisely because the cows produce methane while the walllaby doesn't even when fed the same thing. We are currently looking at cows that are treated identically but some are low methane producers and some are high methane producers. Since there is no way to know what microbes were in the guts of dinosaurs we have no hope of guessing what their methane production was. I don't think we even know what dinosaur guts looked like - did they have multiple stomachs like cows or were they a straight through system like us.
A friend of a friend of mine (the latter being an animal trainer) had been boarding wild mustangs on her farm. The owners stopped paying board, essentially abandoning them. She was stuck with horses she couldn't catch and couldn't handle. She couldn't even get close enough to read their brands, much less give them hoof care and other things they needed. My friend Claire the trainer suggested clicker training them. With much skepticism, she started working with a clicker. In a surprisingly short amount of time, she was able to not only approach them, but to halter them.
It also turned out, once she could get close enough to find the identifying marks and contact BOM, that the owners who had abandoned them had them illegally.
Anyway, besides the fact that I think Claire is a clicker genius, it would suggest that with the right approach wild horses could be integrated into a domestic setting easier than one might think.
Ancient language discovered
Cambridge University archaeologists today (May 10) announced the discovery of a previously unknown 2,500-year-old language in Turkey – as reported in CWA 50.
Fascinating Feicht. The data laying in the ground unknown is staggering: cultural, genetic, fossil, etc.
Absolutely. It really makes you wonder just how much cultural material we've lost through the ages because it wasn't written down. So far the only evidence we have of this "new" language is in the names of a few people, written down with a writing system (cuneiform) which may very well have been a haphazard way to interpret the sounds of that language. As I understand it, one of the major impediments to the deciphering of Hittite was that it was an Indo-European language largely written down in cuneiform, which was itself designed to represent Semitic languages like Akkadian, and is clunky at best at approximating non-Semitic ones.
It also makes me think about how--despite what a force in European history they were--we really don't know much about ancient Celtic/Gallic languages, for very similar reasons; we know a few words here and there and some names transliterated into Greek/Latin on coins, but that's about it..... even though these were the people who sacked Delphi, colonized the Anatolian interior, and brought early Rome to its knees, influencing its "barbarian policy" for the next 600 years or so.
Cuneiform wasn't designed to represent Semitic, and has some deficiencies in that regard. It was originally used to write Sumerian.
D'oh! You're absolutely right. That is what happens when I start typing BEFORE I've had some coffee *face-palm*
How did Romans walk? Here's a book review of Walking in Roman Culture with some interesting comments on what the Barbarians were thinking of them. http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article1034506.ece
Wow that's pretty awesome... it always astounds me when people even think to research stuff like this that is at once so obvious but also not.
Actually, the book "sounds" painfully dull.... until you read that review and realize how fascinating it is! haha
Moving into Early Medieval, but a "cursing stone" was found in Scotland. From description, I would have thought "prayer stone" would be a better name. Anyone familiar with these and where the name comes from?
Ehr.... : Some piece of rock some people seem to put some extra value unto - proof or not.
This is a rather long, but fascinating article about a recent discovery in Arabia and what it could mean for the (pre)history of horse domestication.
It isn't just one of those 1000 word "blips" you get from discovery.com; a handful of real experts were interviewed to weigh in on the matter, including one of my personal favorites, David Anthony. Definitely worth the time to read!
Fascinating. Yet another reminder of how one needs to understand the climate and physical landscape of ancient sites, which is often considerably different from what we find in the same location today.
The world's oldest fish trap has been found in Sweden.
European stencil graffiti may be older than first thought:
Surprised nobody's posted this yet (thought someone had actually).
Still a bunch of stuff out there waiting to be found/refound/catalogued.
I can remember a remark in one of the Leaky books - can't remember which one though - that in one of their early hominid digs they also found a pointed piece of red ochre. Of course that doesn't prove early hominids produced art, but it gave me pause for thought.
>67 That article spins the new dating of earliest European cave art in a way I think is on the sensational side. There is no evidence that these were drawn by Neanderthal, and we do have anatomically modern humans in the area at the time, who are known to have made similar art slightly later. Much more likely is that these too were made by human forbearers.
This article is, I think, more fair:
Roman jewelry found in an ancient Japanese grave. http://news.yahoo.com/roman-jewellery-found-ancient-japan-tomb-163550978.html
I think the expression "made in the Roman Empire and sent to Japan" is rather misleading. "Eventually made their way to Japan", I would say.
Yes, that's probably a better wording.
Of course we can't absolutely rule out some Roman sailing to Japan - or vice versa - but we shouldn't start speculating on "lack of evidence - so maybe - you never know". Let's leave that to the Dan Brown's of this planet.
(And that coming form me. I'm currently reading the Oera Linda book which "clearly explains" how almost all civilization started with the Frisians. I bet none of you guys would have guessed that the etymology of Neptune would lead to an ancient sea-king nicknamed "Neef Theunis" (Cousin Tony). Sheesh, what a load of crock, but highly amusing.)
#71 - I'm a little surprised by some of the wording in that report (all the reports I could find seem to be quoting a common source). Talk of 'the empire's influence' seems a bit over the top.
It's known that goods moved back and fore between Rome and China along the Silk Road. I'd assume Roman goods would be rarer in ancient Japan because of the greater distance, but, given the contacts between Japan and China, would the presence of Roman goods in ancient Japan really be that surprising, especially in high-status burials?
Well, as far as it's been traced Chinese influence on Japan only really started during the Tang dynasty. But sure, they were always fairly close - proximity wise. Cultural diffusion can go way beyond direct cultural contact.
>75 No, I don't find it at all surprising that Roman goods would end up in Japan. It is just immensely pleasurable and confirming to see the fact of it.
#77 - It is just immensely pleasurable and confirming to see the fact of it.
Oh, definitely - so intriguing. I'd love to be able to go back in time and find out what the owners actually believed about the origins of these 'exotic' objects. I imagine there'd have been a fair amount of myth-making involved as they passed from hand to hand across the vast distances.
That would be fascinating.
How limited we are not to have the science fiction writer's array of tools: I'd be in a time machine looking around for myself!
Absolutely - linguistics might be a problem until we invent the universal translator though.
That is absolutely true. I'm always the stick in the mud whenever a conversation with friends moves to ideas of how cool time travel would be, when I point out that if you go back farther than 3 or 4 centuries, there would be major issues in understanding the language being spoken around you. That in and of itself is pretty interesting to think about though, if you ask me. I mean most of us Americans can read, say, pamphlets from the Revolutionary war era without much difficulty, but go back another century and a half or so and you're in Shakespeare time, which is notoriously difficult English for many students. Go back another two hundred years or so, and you're in Chaucer-era, which may as well be gibberish for most people.
And this is just the literary record; who even knows what the people themselves sounded like, so chances are that even as late as Shakespeare, a modern observer would have a good deal of difficulty in processing what the hell people in the street were saying.
Of course, all this just makes me want to time-travel EVEN MORE :-D
Oh, I never even meant to discourage you. But as a Dutchman - my language, or at least the official spelling of it - changed something like four or five times just over the last century. Dutch language texts of c 1900 are a real task to read, even for me, while I also have an understanding of Middle Dutch and Old Dutch.
Funny how that works. I think in English we are sort of used to the fact that things are spelled differently (because so many words have different spellings between the US and England; "jail" vs "gaol", for example), but the real problem is the farther back in time you go, the wackier the syntax is as well. But I've definitely noticed your Dutch example myself in German. To be fair, the idea that there is a single "German" language is kind of a misnomer anyway with all the regional differences and whatnot, but still, there've been a number of spelling reforms through the years on "standard" German to the point where some people aren't even totally clear on what the "real" version is anymore. And never mind how cloudy it gets once one starts trying to phonetically spell out the different dialects; I sort of just got used to how spoken German sounded in Salzburg, but whenever I saw people spelling it out, it just looked like gibberish to me ;-D To get an idea, check out any Wikipedia page in its "Boarisch" version.
First paragraph of the entry for "Salzburg" in German vs. Bavarian:
Die Stadt Salzburg liegt an der Salzach mitten im Salzburger Becken. Sie ist die Landeshauptstadt des gleichnamigen Bundeslandes und mit 148.000 Einwohnern nach Wien, Graz und Linz die viertgrößte Stadt Österreichs. Der Nordwesten der Statutarstadt Salzburg grenzt an Freilassing im Freistaat Bayern, das übrige Stadtgebiet an den Bezirk Salzburg-Umgebung.
Såizburg (Hochdeitsch: Salzburg) is de Hauptståd vo dem östareichischn Bundeslånd, wås à Såizburg hàßt. Gemeinsåm mid'n Bezirk Såizburg-Umgéwung is's da Flåchgau, da nördlichste vo de fünf Gaue vom Lånd Såizburg. In da Ståd Såizburg wohnan 147.571 Leid (Stånd vom 1. Jänna 2010); damid is s'de viertgresste Ståd vo Östareich (nåch Wean, Gràz und Linz). In da gånzn Stådregion (Agglomarazion) sand's zirka 210.000 Leid.
I guess if you don't know German it's not as obvious, but they both say pretty much the same thing... it's just that the latter is spelled more how southern people talk.... and therefore is a lot more difficult to understand :-D
What's å in Boarisch?
(In my native Swedish, it sounds like High German 'o'.)
Yeah, it's pretty much the same sound as in Swedish. There are a lot more "o" sounds in the south (actually... it's not the only similarity to Swedish; they always seemed to pronounce an "s" the way it is in Swedish, as opposed to the standard German way, which is basically "z" in English). What I usually did was anytime I was saying anything with an "ah" sound, I would "round" it a bit more, to a close(er) approximation of how they pronounce things.
I think when we have mastered time travel, our technical prowess will be such that we'll have solved the translation issue as well. Either that or we'll send teams back to study the matter. Not to worry!
there've been a number of spelling reforms through the years on "standard" German to the point where some people aren't even totally clear on what the "real" version is anymore
Sounds just like home. I've given up on even trying to spell Dutch officially correct in 1997 (which wasn't the last reform either - argh). I'll do with the rules I was taught as a kid.
Dutch has changed more than German though, because c. 1950 we decided to do away with most of the case and gender related language problems.
That sounds glorious :-) One of the hardest parts of speaking/writing German ("correctly") is getting all the stupid grammatical-gender word-endings right. The worst part is that the majority of endings have dropped away, but it's still just complicated enough to be a problem. Also annoying is the fact that it is really difficult to "predict" what gender any given noun is, and you just basically end up learning because after a while it won't "sound right" if you use the wrong article. "Der Buch" or "Das Bus" just sounds wrong to me... but not because of any logical reasoning :-P
Yeah, I remember high school German classes as a struggle. I can still read it, and mostly make myself understood, but further than that...
You may or may not take offense to this, but when I was in the Netherlands, Dutch kind of sounded to me like everyone was speaking German with an American accent ;-D
And by the way, is there some kind of rule that you guys all have to be accomplished linguists? It seemed like everywhere I went, everyone spoke at least 3 other languages. I distinctly remember visiting the Valkhof museum in Nijmegen, and after a pathetic sounding "goedendag" at the service desk, I told the guy (in English) that I needed one student price ticket, or whatever. He responds in exquisite American English that he just needs to see my student identification card if I have one. So I hand him my Uni Salzburg ID card, and he without missing a beat resumes the transaction in perfect Hochdeutsch. My head was still spinning from all this as I thanked him and walked away, and the two old French people from the line behind me start asking the same guy a bunch of stuff in French, which he apparently understood because he was speaking French back to them, haha....
It's what you get living in a small language zone, surrounded by lots of other languages. Also it helps that we usually subtitle foreign language films and tv instead of dubbing them. Even as a kid you get at least some feel for how other languages are pronounced.
Anyway, not quite sure how it works now, but back when we all had Dutch, English, French and German in high school - plus in my case Latin and ancient Greek. And when I became an art history student I was obliged to also learn Middle Dutch and Italian. Needless to say, not everybody did those subjects with the same amount of success though.
(And please note: in my case most of these got rusty through lack of use).
At least you had the opportunity to learn; my high school had French, Spanish, and Latin, but none of them were required.
Oh and speaking of linguistic fun, I just got this from a friend who will be teaching English in Austria this fall:
It's a list of sentences with English homophones/homonyms which is probably a good test of one's English-fluency... even though I had to stop and think about a couple of them for a second haha :-D
20,000-year-old piece of pottery found in China:
This is a great Q&A on paleoanthropology on NYT:
#96 - Can anyone confirm that the Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth mentioned in the article is the same book as Stringer's The Origin of Our Species?
I suspect this is so, but the publishers are marketing them a little differently.
And I just put it on hold from my library! Thank you! Excellent Q & A, by the way.
The recent period, ie roughly the last 200,000 years, has gotten so much more interesting over the last decade or so!
Really? You would think an decade more or less wouldn't make that much difference on that time scale. ;-)
I was actually hoping someone would take it in that direction :)
Always glad to oblige ;-)
You guys know me by now. Yes: I'm academically
Hey since we've drifted slightly off-topic: Matt, how difficult do you think it would be for someone fluent in German to learn Dutch well enough to read it comfortably? Grammar/syntax-wise, and whatnot...
If you're fluent, not very much. Biggest stumbling blocks would be in the exact meanings of words. E.g.: "Bellen" means barking (as dogs do) in German, but in Dutch it means ringing - doorbells and such. That sort of thing might throw you for a while.
But grammar and syntax are pretty much the same, only simpler from the English language perspective - since we mostly did away with cases and genders and all that.
P.s.: And, if you wish, you have a native speaker willing to try to help you out.
Awesome, I may take you up on that ;-)
I was thinking of auditing a Dutch class at Minnesota if they let me. I just kind of figured starting out at "Dutch for Beginners" would bore the everliving piss out of me. Hell, even Russian 101 was mostly pointless for me because so much of the first semester was just teaching Americans what a grammatical case is, plus the alphabet, but I pretty much had it down from the start because of Greek.
I'd thought of just emailing the Dutch professor and asking her (in German) if she thought I could skip ahead to 300-level Dutch, and see what happens :-P
But yeah, I know what you mean about words with shifted meaning, and false cognates and all that. One of our favorites in Austria was how "Gift" in German means "poison" instead of... you know... "gift"; going the other way, "bekommen" means like "to receive", as opposed to "to become". Most awesome of all, I probably heard Austrians (in English) talk about "becoming a gift" (i.e. for X-mas) at least half a dozen times Mind = blown:-D
Of course for the Americans, in some situations, knowing other English dialects or older English could help with this problem. For instance the German verb "finden": it can mean "to find" as in like, discovering something, but more often it had more of the meaning of like... well I can't think of a good way to explain it! haha... almost like, you'd use it to ask if something was pleasing to you, as in "How did you find your stay here at our hotel?", and Germans/Austrians use it that way in English too, since it's interchangeable with German in that instance. But Americans don't really say that, so if you have a Tirolean asking you in a heavy accent "How did you find our town?", my first instinct was always "Um, with a map..."
Anywho, enough linguistic jibberjabber... this has nothing to do with the news, haha...
Here's some news:
Ancient life-size lion statues baffle scientists: 5-ton pieces were created between 1400 and 1200 B.C. in Turkey — but why?
An interesting article, about the conflicting research of paleoanthropologists and geneticists.
It's fascinating, but a bit daunting, to know I'm trying to get my head around stuff that is still very much up in the air. Tommy Lee Jones keeps buzzing round my head - "Imagine what you'll know tomorrow" - um ...
Yeah, fascinating and quite beyond anything I would care to comment on myself.
If reported correctly, “For half of Africa we really have no fossil record to speak of, so I think it’s quite likely there were surviving archaic forms living alongside modern humans.” makes me shudder though. "Quite likely", on the basis of lack of evidence? Doesn't sound like good scholarship to me.
On the other hand paleo-anthropologists should get a grip of the fact that fossils - even though there are "a lot" of them now - are still relatively rare and far between. So it's no real basis to actively contradict findings in other fields.
But again, I have no real knowledge of these fields myself. My objections to both teams are about method.
Any time you are inferring how things were in the past based solely on the sequences from modern DNA you have to take the results with a grain of salt. However it seems to me that the paleoanthropologists are being far too strident in rejecting the genetic data. They have to remember that the fossil record on hominids is very sparse. You only have to look at the example of the Denisovans. I belive that we only have a couple fossils of fingers, toes and teeth from them - not enough to say it was a new species. Yet the ancient DNA obtained from those fossils clearly shows a genome that is distinct from both humans and Neanderthals.
Just in from the BBC: A Roman era ship found off the coast of Genoa.
The 2,600 year old bog pickled brain of an execution victim was recently found in Britain. After being hanged and beheaded the person's head rolled into a pit where the combination was just right to preserve it. http://news.discovery.com/history/preserved-brain-bog-england-110406.html
I had a professor once who told us if we really wanted our remains to be preserved forever, to forgo all the silly mummification nonsense and instead make sure we died around water and become covered by sediment in relatively short order. Seemed morbid at the time, but it makes a certain sort of sense. That's basically how the bog bodies are preserved, and to my knowledge, it's kind of how fossilization (i.e. of dinosaurs) works, too.
Another fascinating little snippet on our ancient ancestors. Did Neanderthals adorn themselves with feathers?
ETA - Not the least interesting was the question of how they managed to catch the birds.
I'm sure there's a "better" source for this on the internets somewhere, but this is the one I have open in my browser :-P
In a nutshell, they've finally excavated a Roman fort in western Germany near the French border that was likely used during Caesar's Gallic terror campaign.
"Gallic terror campaign?"
He was bringing civilization to those pants-wearing savages!
Kidding. I'm kidding.
Pretty decent evidence for ritualized human cannibalism in Britain 14KYBP. Among the points are 1) human bones with human toothmarks all over them, in addition to the (relatively common) evidence of de-fleshing, and 2) skulls and bones were not smashed open to get at the nutritious innards as you might expect expect from animals or a starving individual.
"A genetic mutation that occurred thousands of years ago might be the answer to how early humans were able to move from central Africa and across the continent in what has been called "the great expansion," according to new research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center."
In a nutshell, our African ancestors underwent a genetic mutation that allowed them to obtain from plant matter the requisite chemicals for higher brain function, increased brain size, etc, rather than solely from fish/shellfish as before, enabling them to bust outta town and conquer the world.
I love mammoths. I wish I had dwarf one. A Russian boy has discovered a 30,000 year old one encased in permafrost. http://www.salon.com/2012/10/04/russian_boy_discovers_woolly_mammoth_carcas/
Just wait, varielle: a little more genetic ingenuity, and maybe you'll get one for your birthday!
Digging for an underground railroad has unveiled Hadrian's arts center, buried under one of Rome's busiest roundabouts. Archaeologists and RR officials are negotiating subway stops. Another Italy story about current budget woes affecting sites: a general's tomb is decaying.
>q24: Goodness, the Piazza Venezia was already a zoo of traffic before this! After googling, I managed to find a better photo of where the dig is:
As you can see, it really is smack dab in front of and a little to the east of the Vittorio Emmanuele monument -- i.e. right in the middle of one of the main traffic paths.
With any luck at-all, they'll bring down that unspeakably ugly "monument"!
>126: Even better would be to permanently close the Via dei Fori Imperiali that Mussolini boisterously bulldozed through the heart of the imperial fora so that he could impress Hitler on a visit to the city. That way, we could finally and fully excavate the fora rather than having half of them left buried beneath the destructive vibrations of a major thoroughfare.
Which is why I'd actually support trying to find ways to put in the new subway stops -- if you get a robust enough subway line, you might actually have a shot at being able to close or at least reduce the size of that godforsaken road.
Plus, if you closed that road, which heads southeast from the Piazza Venezia, i.e. out the left background of the photo in 125, it would reduce the congestion in the piazza and make the excavations of the Athenaeum that much easier to cope with.
Yikes, the ongoing problems of having people living in an archaeologically important city.
It is fascinating! In addition to the chemical analysis that the news story describes, the paper itself includes a fair amount of discussion of pollen that was in the tablets. Mostly it was pollen from olive and wheat, but there was also pollen from at least 53 types of plants and there are indications that these came from bee pollen that was probably included as an ingredient.
They're excavating the villa of Ovid's patron and finding thingses.
A warrior's grave has been unearthed in the Caucasus revealing lots of buried goodies. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/21/warrior-grave-russia-tomb-treasure_n_27...
Wow those last few links were great, thanks guys :-D
I saw a great one this morning myself:
Essentially, an upcoming PhD thesis out of Norway connects the collapse of Rome in the west with the rise of "guerrilla warfare" in the Nordic countries. The idea is apparently that Roman battle tactics were copied by "free Germans" all the way up into Scandinavia, but as Roman power waned, so did the prestige (and practicality?) attached to their style of warfare. The societies broke up into smaller units of continuously warring bands, and in the end were using much simpler weapons for "hit and run" style tactics, perhaps designed to take out rival chieftains in one go instead of drawing up into larger battles.
I'm not sure I buy it 100%, but it is a fascinating hypothesis.
The main complication I see (and, admittedly, I'm not expert, but...) is that if I remember my Brian Fagan correctly, right around this time there was a climatological shift which may also account for a lot of the breakdown in order (maybe even for Rome itself). The shift from swords to axes could then be at least partially explained by the collapse of central authority controlling the metal supply: swords are big, expensive, and time consuming to make, and are really only good for one thing; axes on the other hand are kind of like the Swiss Army knives of the ancient world.
I started to post something that this is pretty much at odds with what I know of both archaeological and textual evidence related to the barbarian "invasions" but then I re-read the article and realized this encompasses Scandinavia alone, not Roman Western Europe.
Seems to be more of a "proto-Viking formation" theory than a Fall of Rome theory and I'm not familiar enough with the sources for that region and period to comment.
As for Climate Change, a recent article with a LOT of information is, "Climate Change during and after the Roman Empire: Reconstructing the Past from Scientific and Historical Evidence" in the Fall, 2012 Journal of Interdisciplinary History by Michael McCormick, et. al. Buckets of information which - surprise - doesn't clearly point to much of anything but is quite interesting. I think you could read it either in support of climate change having a huge impact on the end of the Empire, or not having much at all, depending on how you want to read it. Tthe real temperature drops seem to have happened around 530-40 but while climate was fairly good from 300-530 it wasn't as good from 100BCE-200CE and there was a bad 3rd century stretch.
There is some info in this article discussing a severe, extended drought from 338 to 377 which might have gotten the Steppe folks(Huns, Avars) moving West. In the end, this may be the most significant impact of all.
The article is mostly rubbish. First of all, hill forts were not new to the period, nor were they all abandoned at the end of it. They are also not usually considered to be some sort of castles for iron age robber knights, but rather sanctuaries for farming communities, to be used in a crisis. Secondly, the suggestion that the warbands of petty kings used Roman tactics is simply preposterous. If the idea that the upheaval on the continent affected Scandinavia is "Ystgaard’s main theory", her advisor should be ashamed - I don't think you'd find one archaeologist who would dispute that this is what destabilised the reason and led to the upswing of hill forts. It's the accepted framework for interpreting these features of the period.
Researchers in southern England are preparing for the launch of a boat built to Bronze Age specifications.
"Most Ancient Romans Ate Like Animals"
This webpage was made for debunking commercial genetic ancestry testing; but it's made things a lot clearer to me on what genetic testing can and cannot tell us about human history. It's a good crib sheet.
It seems that the gate to hell has been found in Turkey.
In re #144. If you are a military veteran, or a pensioner, or a long-term employed worker, or a member of an obscure, non-sexy Endanagered Species, the Gate to Hell has been open for years, and it leads from the outide world into the United States Congress.
It appears the remains of a human/neanderthal hybrid have been found in northern Italy. http://science.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/28/17502859-first-love-child-of-human-n...
--140 "The article (ax and fort) is mostly rubbish."
The ax is probably the oldest type of hafted weapon, dating back to the Old Stone Age. Hardly sounds like an innovation to me, either with or without stone fortifications. Of course war has its fashions just as do other forms of human endeavor, but creating a theory of conflict based on a weapon type seems entirely guesswork. Someone could as easily argue that the ax design indicates a switch to splitting firewood rather than burning entire logs.
Ystgaard is simply offering guesswork based on flimsy partial evidence. Nor does she accurately describe Roman tactics and weaponry of a time when most of the fighting was done by allies and auxiliaries. Besides, this was the period when Thiudareiks ruled the Western Roman Empire, and people like the Franks and Vandals were rampaging all over--hardly a time of "guerrilla warfare."
Evidence of written Pictish language found in Scotland. http://termcoord.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/pictish-written-language-discovered-in...
>10, >13, >15 - About whether those glorious helmets were used: Didn't the recent find of Richard III's skeleton (with his spine curved like a scoliosis sufferer) mention that his actually having entered into the battle was unusual and led to his being killed? Which suggests that the kings wore in this glorious armor, which made them stand out as "not to be attacked"?
And isn't that also a bit like George Washington, one of the tallest men on his horse and surely an easy target, always in battle, had horses shot out from under him, but he himself was never injured?
In those days, people did think their kings or leaders were "above" them--so I'm just wondering if that explains it.
--149 Written Pictish language or simply Pictish pictures? Is this another example of the wishful thinking so typical of researchers who live from grant to grant?
Genetic testing of bodies on Crete shows that it was most likely settled by people who came from the Peloponnese or south-western Anatolia.
#152 - It seems stretching a bit to draw conclusions from a group of bodies all from a single cave.
This kind of thing makes me want to cry ...
I saw that earlier today. The absolute ignorance of some people just astounds me sometimes. Of course this is nothing new in world history, but you'd like to think that nowadays we are enlightened enough as a species to not destroy our heritage in the name of "progress."
I almost put this under the Dark Ages group, but since it dates from 500-600 BCE, I'll put it here instead. Though there is apparently some argument about the date. Ancient Scandinavian temple found. http://www.freethoughtnation.com/contributing-writers/63-acharya-s/666-ancient-u...
Ancient, and a few Dark Ages, European bog people. http://facesofhela.blogspot.ca/2013/02/northern-europes-infamous-people-of-bog.h...
Bog bodies are fascinating. I'd like to read something a little more up to date than The Bog People. Any suggestions?
I guess archaeology, like history, starts yesterday.
I remember reading polybius on the train once, and the guy next to me by chance had his laptop going and was playing Rome Total War, busily engaged in attacking agrigentum. Gamers get a taste for history, but not the same way we may have.
To be quite honest, games like that were my first introduction to a lot of stuff about ancient military. I definitely learned words like "phalanx," "dragoon," etc. from the game Civilization II, not my high school history classes.
162, 163 >
When my son was 10 or 12 (thirty years ago), we went to the Art Institute & looked at a display of medieval weaponry. I'm reading all the labels, while he's just telling me what everything was, how it was used, and all sorts of trivia about it. "How did you learn all that?" "From games."
The 16 year old daughter and I are very excited for "Rome: Total War II." While it's no replacement for reading, it is a fun time, and you do learn a bit.
>165: I've been spending my time worrying how heavy a negative impact said game will have on my education :-D
Here's a review of The Riddle of the Labyrinth, on the trail of Linnear B. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/books/review/margalit-foxs-riddle-of-the-labyr...;
Yes, I read that review and was fascinated by it. Thanks for reminding me to put the book on my Wish List.
Funny, I never got the sense in Chadwick's' The Decipherment of Linear B that he (or Ventris, for that matter) failed to give due credit to Kober. In other words, I'm not sure there is news here -- I never saw Kober as the unrecognized unappreciated scholar that the author has apparently now revealed to the world. Maybe it comes down to the question of just how much credit was offered and deserved.
I suspect it's not Kerry Gold, but some ancient Irish butter has been discovered. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32630695/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/-year-old...
Chess anyone? 5,000 year old game board pieces have been discovered in Turkey. http://www.salon.com/2013/08/22/archaeologists_uncover_5000_year_old_board_game_...
Fascinating how these archaeological digs find objects dating further and further back.
Not to get off subject, really, but this finding makes me think of the wonderful (at least to me) song "The Story of Chess," in that stellar British musical, "Chess," which was later disastrously moved to Broadway and closed. Even the extensive excerpts from the London version on YouTube don't include a decent version of this song--am I the only one who was crazy about it?-- where the chorus tells the somewhat obscure history of chess; only then the game seemed to "date" to 1500 years ago.
A late-antique carved Roman jade goblet incorporated nano-sized grains of silver and gold that change the ways it reflects color and light depending on angle:
Breathtaking. I'd vaguely heard of the Lycurgus Cup, but this is the first time I've looked at pictures and properly appreciated what it is. Quite astonishing. I want one.
I'm just going to leave this here
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