Sunday, May 27, 2012

Indus Civilization Collapse Due to Heat

Ruins of Harappa in the Indus valley of today's Pakistan.

New research indicates that a cycle of global warming brought an end to the massive Indus civilization.
"Antiquity knew about Egypt and Mesopotamia, but the Indus civilization, which was bigger than these two, was completely forgotten until the 1920s," says researcher Liviu Giosan, a geologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
He and others are using indicators such as river sediment to track the effects of climate on the civilization.
According to
"Our research provides one of the clearest examples of climate change leading to the collapse of an entire civilization,” Giosan said. 
The researchers first analyzed satellite data of the landscape influenced by the Indus and neighboring rivers. From 2003 to 2008, the researchers then collected samples of sediment from the coast of the Arabian Sea into the fertile irrigated valleys of Punjab and the northern Thar Desert to determine the origins and ages of those sediments and develop a timeline of landscape changes. 
"It was challenging working in the desert — temperatures were over 110 degrees Fahrenheit all day long (43 degrees C)," Giosan recalled.
These findings are expected to influence where future archaeological explorations will be conducted regarding the development and fate of the Indus civilization.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Prehistoric Flutes Reveal Earlier Music

Recently discovered flute made of bird's bone.

Discovery of bone flutes dating back some 40,000 years is leading researchers to conclude that human creativity evolved earlier than originally thought.
Researchers were studying a modern human settlement called Geißenklösterle in southern Germany when they came across the flutes, one made from ivory of a mammoth, the other from the bones of a bird.
According to
"These results are consistent with a hypothesis we made several years ago that the Danube River was a key corridor for the movement of humans and technological innovations into central Europe between 40,000 and 45,000 years ago," study researcher Nick Conard, of Tübingen University, said in a statement. 
The researchers radiocarbon-dated bones found in the same layer of the archaeological dig as the flutes. This carbon dating uses the level of radioactive carbon, which is naturally occurring in the world and decays predictably into nonradioactive carbon, to estimate the age of organic materials. 
They found the objects were between 42,000 and 43,000 years old, belonging to the Aurignacian culture dating from the upper Paleolithic period. So far, these dates are the earliest for the Aurignacian and predate equivalent sites from Italy, France, England and other regions.
Results indicate that humans entered the Upper Danube region before an extremely cold climatic phase around 39,000 to 40,000 years ago, researchers said.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Findings Extend Mayan Calendar

Mayan numbers on the wall stretch 7,000 years into the future.
The recent discovery of an underground Mayan workshop in the dense Guatemalan jungle is important for two reasons: one, the murals and other wall painting are all surprisingly well preserved; and two, calendar fragments show that the Mayan calendar does not end this year.
According to NPR:
Writing in the journal Science, the scientists say the murals confirm what Mayan archaeologists have been saying for years: The Mayan calendar does not predict the end of time in 2012, as some New Age prophets have argued. In fact, the murals register future time stretching far beyond 2012. 
Archaeologist William Saturno from Boston University compares Mayan calendars to a car's odometer. "If we're driving a car," Satruno says, "we don't anticipate that at 100,000 miles the car will vanish from beneath us. We know that it will reset to zero, and the next 10th of a mile we go we'll have another number to look at." 
What these Mayan timekeepers were doing was simply marking the passage of time from past to future, but in discrete intervals.
The buried room apparently was a workshop used by scribes or astronomers working for a Mayan king. The paintings depict the king and members of his court. The numbers mark important periods in the Mayan calendar.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rare Petroglyphs on Easter Island Statues

A partially excavated statue, revealing carving.

Researchers have long been aware that many of the nearly 900 statues on Easter Island are full-bodied, but now are seeing that some of the petroglyphs carved into excavated statues are considered unique.
According to the director of the Easter Island Statue Project, Jo Anne Van Tilburg:
"While many statues have individual petroglyphs, these and only one other statue—of over 1,000 we have documented—have multiple petroglyphs carved as a composition on their backs.  Underlying these carvings is a complex symbol found on less than 100 statues. It is referred to by previous researchers as the ‘ring and girdle’ design, and sometimes said to represent the ‘sun and rainbow.’ 
She also says the excavation sites offer new "strong evidence" of how the Rapa Nui ancestors managed to manipulate the heavy statues into place with limited technological resources.
In addition, Dr. Van Tilburg wrote that her team has found tuna vertebrae near the bottom of a recent excavation. The evidence backs up claims from Easter Island's Rapa Nui community that the original statue carvers were rewarded for their efforts in meals of tuna and lobster.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Chauvet Paintings Again Deemed Oldest

Section of paintings from the Chauvet cave.

French scientists say they have confirmed that the ancient paintings in the Chauvet cave ~ discovered in southern France in 1999 ~ are “the oldest and most elaborate ever discovered.”
Scientists originally used radiocarbon dating of the rock art, charcoal and animal bones in the Chauvet cave to place them between 30,000 to 32,000 years old.

Later, other scholars dated the paintings at 12,000 to 17,000 years old, based on their artistic sophistication. That would place them as relics of the Magdalenian culture, in which human ancestors used tools of stone and bone and created increasingly advanced art as time went on.
In the new research being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a US journal, French scientists believe they have confirmation that the paintings are "the oldest and most elaborate ever discovered." Their findings are based on geomorphological and chlorine-36 dating of the rockslide surfaces around what is believed to be the cave's only entrance.
"Remarkably agreeing with the radiocarbon dates of the human and animal occupancy, this study confirms that the Chauvet cave paintings are the oldest and the most elaborate ever discovered, challenging our current knowledge of human cognitive evolution," said the study.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hero Stone Found in India

An ancient hero stone with inscriptions has been unearthed at Karattampatti near Thuraiyur. It was discovered in a field by a research team led by Subash Chandira Bose, advisor for the archaeological wing of the Center for Cultural Studies in Coimbatore, following a tip given a local resident.

Bose said the bas-relief stone measuring 30 centimeters in width and 92 centimeters in height has been carved within a rectangular vertical frame. It depicts a warrior holding a sword in his left arm.

The inscription belongs to the 31 regnal year of Paranthaga Chola-I (AD 938), also known as Madurai Kondan, he said. The inscription says the people of Viriyur had donated a non-taxable land to the daughter of a hero known as Nagan who sacrificed his life to bring back a herd cows taken away by a group.

The inscription also refers to a few names of places such as Miamaa Nadu, Valluvappadi, Viriyur, Oottrathur Nadu, Paadaavur and Ainjurinimangal.