Stone Age People: New Findings & Theories

ramonmercado

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Stone age man used dentist drill

Stone age people in Pakistan were using dental drills made of flint 9,000 years ago, according to researchers. Teeth from a Neolithic graveyard in Mehgarh in the country's Baluchistan province show clear signs of drilling.

Analysis of the teeth shows prehistoric dentists had a go at curing toothache with drills made from flint heads.

The team that carried out the work say close examination of the teeth shows the tool was "surprisingly effective" at removing rotting dental tissue.

A total of eleven drilled crowns were found, with one example showing evidence of a complex procedure involving tooth enamel removal followed by carving of the cavity wall.

Four of the teeth show signs of decay associated with the drilled hole.

"In all cases, marginal smoothing confirms that drilling was performed on a living person who continued to chew on the tooth surfaces after they had been drilled," the reserchers reported.

The form of dental treatment seen at Mehrgarh continued for about 1,500 years, before the practice was stopped in the area.

Flint drill heads are found abundantly at the Mehrgarh site, among assemblages of beads made of bones, shell and turquoise. Writing in Nature, the authors suggest that skills developed by bead craftsmen also worked well on teeth.

Mehrgarh straddles a route between Afghanistan and the Indus Valley to the south.

The researchers, led by Roberto Macchiarelli of the University of Poitiers, France, said it was an early site for agriculture, where barley, wheat, cotton and agriculture were grown.




Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/s ... 882968.stm

Published: 2006/04/06 12:33:21 GMT

© BBC MMVI
 

ramonmercado

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i have visions of a neolithic dentist torturing someone to get the secret of fire: "is it safe? is it safe?"
 

tattooted

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So fear of the dentist might be one of those collective-unconscious race memories, like fear of spiders?
 

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Ancient Manure May Be Earliest Proof of Horse Domestication
Richard A. Lovett
for National Geographic News

October 26, 2006
Traces of ancient horse manure have been found in a remote 5,600-year-old Kazakh village—a discovery that could be the earliest known evidence of horse domestication.

A team of archaeologists and geologists discovered the traces inside a circular array of postholes in the village.

While no actual smelly remains were present, the researchers did find that the level of nutrients called phosphates was ten times higher in the soil within the array than in soil adjacent to it.

Animal manure is high in nutrients, including phosphates, so the find is a strong indication that the enclosure used to be a corral.

The village, called Krasnyi Yar, was inhabited at the time by the Botai culture of the Eurasian steppes (map of Kazakhstan).

These people are believed to have relied heavily on horses for meat, tools, and transport.

Andrew Stiff, a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, presented the findings this week at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Gathering Clues

In addition to phosphates, animal manure is high in nitrates. But elevated levels of nitrates were not found within the enclosure.

Team member Rosemary Capo, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, says the lack of nitrates supports the theory that the manure evidence dates back more than 5,000 years.

Nitrates easily leach out of soil during rainstorms or are decomposed by bacteria, she notes, while phosphates can remain for millennia.

So the lack of nitrates indicates that the researchers didn't simply find evidence of a later animal enclosure built on the same site.

"It suggests we've got old stuff," Capo said in a statement.

While the existence of manure alone does not prove that the animals housed in the corral were horses, there is strong evidence that they were, says team member Sandra Olsen of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.




"Of those, over 99 percent are from horses," she said.

Nor are there any signs that the villagers hunted horses rather than raising them.

The researchers found horse skulls and backbones in the villages, indicating that horses were butchered on site.

(Related news: "Ice Age Horses May Have Been Killed Off by Humans, Study Finds" [May 1, 2006].)

If the horses had been hunted, Olsen said, the hunters wouldn't have bothered to bring back such heavy, useless bones.

"We call it the 'schlep effect,'" she said.

She also notes that thong smoothers are among the most common tools found in the five villages.

Thong smoothers were likely used to make rawhide thongs, or strips, that could have been part of equestrian accessories such as bridles.

The most common tools were hide scrapers, "which you also use for leather thongs," she said.

Indirect Evidence

The Kazakh village is one of two sites competing for the honor of being the first place where humans are thought to have domesticated horses.

The other is in the Ukraine, where large numbers of horse bones have been found along with worked pieces of antler that might have been cheek pieces for bridles.

In general, definitive evidence for the earliest dates of horse domestication has been difficult to pin down.

Many bridle parts have been discovered dating back to 2000 B.C.—1,600 years after the settlement of the Kazakh village—as well as chariotlike carts buried with horses.

"But [such carts are] an advanced thing," Olsen said. Even the saddle is a relatively new invention.

"If you look at classical Greek statues of people on horseback, they don't have saddles, horseshoes, or stirrups," Olsen said. "And that's in Greek times, in 400 B.C."

Also, the earliest horse domesticators probably made what little stable gear they used out of leather, which rapidly decomposes.

Therefore all the earliest evidence of horse domestication is indirect and should be taken with a grain of salt, says Marsha Levine of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge in England.

In a recent 54-page article, Levine says that indirect evidence can be useful. But, she cautions, nothing must be assumed and everything must be tested.

She says that she looks forward to seeing the new results once they are published.

"I am not a chemist," she wrote in an email to National Geographic News, "so I can't judge the results … although it appears to me that there could be a variety of explanations" for the elevated nutrient levels.

But soil in the ancient animal pen may contain additional secrets.

Only a week ago, the Carnegie Museum's Olsen says, she learned that the supposed corral's soil is ten times saltier than the surrounding earth. The probable source: horse urine.

Geochemists are also analyzing the soil for traces of fatty chemicals unique to horse manure.

"If we find those," Olsen said, "that really nails it."

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... horse.html
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... horse.html
 
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escargot

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I've read that ancient cattle trails can be distinguished through their richer soil. Even millennia after the trail falls into disuse, the soil is still a little richer than that around it because of the manuring effects of hundreds of years of herding.

I've seen film of this effect from the air, and striking it is too. :D

Archaeologists love ancient refuse and rubbish. It tends to have accumulated in one place over many years, showing who lived where and what they did. ;)
 

Nemo

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Re: Ancient Manure May Be Earliest Proof of Horse Domestication

ramonmercado said:
She also notes that thong smoothers are among the most common tools found in the five villages.

Thong smoothers?? :shock: I don't want to to know if they're used before or after wearing thongs
 
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ramonmercado

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Ancient grave reveals 'Flintstone' nuclear family
Grave
by Rachel Nowak

For similar stories, visit the Human Evolution Topic Guide
http://www.newscientist.com/topic/human-evolution

A Late Stone Age family grave, showing the careful arrangement of bodies. The photo is overlain by a pedigree reconstructed from the genetic results with squares denoting male (Image: National Academy of Sciences/PNAS)
A Stone Age massacre has provided evidence of the earliest known nuclear family. The evidence also suggests that, just like today, some early humans lived in blended families.

Archaeologists have long suspected that people lived in nuclear families at least as far back as the Stone Age. The idea even has a foothold in popular culture - remember Fred, Wilma and Pebbles Flintstone?

But the evidence for Stone Age nuclear families has been flimsy, mainly based on extrapolations from how we live now, and speculations about relationships between adults and children found buried together.

"We have been inferring the past from the present, but it wasn't necessarily true. Now, we have tested the hypothesis and found that at least one Stone Age nuclear family existed," says Wolfgang Haak who led a team at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz.

The new evidence comes from a detailed analysis of the remains of 13 people, buried in four gravesites in Eulau in Germany, dating to the later Stone Age, 4600 years ago.

Family ties
All the signs are that these people died violent deaths - one female had an arrowhead embedded in her spine, and the head and forearms of several other adults and children had stone-axe marks.

Examination of the skeletons found that the adults were aged between 25 to 60 years old - old for that period - and the children younger than 13 years old. Several of the adults had partially healed injuries.

"These were the old and the injured, children and women. Whatever violence happened that day, they were not capable of fighting," says Haak, now at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at Adelaide University.

Analysis of DNA in the bones and teeth of the remains in one grave found that an adult male and female, and two boys, were the classic nuclear family.

"The two kids have her mitochondrial DNA, and his Y chromosome - that's a nuclear family," says molecular anthropologist Brian Kemp of Washington State University in Pullman.

Arm in arm
Fossil evidence of our ancestors in the middle Stone Age is rare, and Haak points out that it is still unknown when nuclear families became common.

Prehistorically, people would have died young in childbirth or from disease, potentially making nuclear families unsustainable. Indeed, in a second grave, the one adult, a woman, was not related to two children, who were a brother and a sister. The team was not able to extract DNA from the remains of a third child, an infant facing the woman.

"The fact that they all ended up in the same grave, makes us think that they had some relationship in life," says Haas.

The new findings also suggest an explanation for anomalies in how later Stone Age people in central Europe were buried. Typically, males of all ages rest on their right side, facing south, and women on their left side facing south, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule.

This was the case with the nuclear family, where each child faced north, towards one of the adults with whom their hands entwined. Haak speculates the arrangement may symbolise blood ties.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073_pnas.0807592105)
 

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Dig unearths Stone Age sculptures
By Jason Palmer
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

Rare artefacts from the late Stone Age have been uncovered in Russia.

The site at Zaraysk, 150km south-east of Moscow, has yielded figurines and carvings on mammoth tusks.

The finds also included a cone-shaped object whose function, the authors report in the journal Antiquity, "remains a puzzle".

Such artistic artefacts have been found in the nearby regions of Kostenki and Avdeevo, but this is the first such discovery at Zaraysk.

The Upper Palaeolithic is the latter part of the Stone Age, during which humans made the transition from functional tool-making to art and adornment.

The new artefacts, discovered by Hizri Amirkhanov and Sergey Lev of the Russian Academy of Sciences, include a mammoth rib inscribed with what appear to be three mammoths, a small bone engraved with a cross-hatch pattern, and two human figurines presumed to be female.

"The finds enrich the inventory of Upper Palaeolithic [portable] art and broaden the known distribution of specific types of art objects in the East European Upper Palaeolithic," Dr Lev told BBC News.

"In terms of the splendour and variety of its art pieces, Zaraysk is on a par with such famous sites as Kostenki and Avdeevo."

'Unique picture'

The figurines are a type of "Venus" statuette, examples of which have been found in locations ranging from the mountains of Spain as far east as Siberia. However, their cultural significance remains a point of debate among anthropologists.

At Zaraysk, the two figurines were found carefully buried in storage pits. Underneath each was a round deposit of fine sand toward the south; toward the north, there was a deposit of red ochre - an iron-based pigment.

Each of the figurines had been covered with the shoulder-blade of a mammoth.

One is presumed to be finished and stands at a height of nearly 17cm (6.7in); the other is clearly unfinished and about half as big.

However, both resemble examples of such statuettes found at the Avdeevo site to the south-west, suggesting cultural links between the two.

"This collection of artefacts is spectacular in a number of ways, not only for the range of representations of both humanistic and animal but also for the range of materials that is used," says Jeffrey Brantingham, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

"These finds are really incredibly rare, and they offer a unique picture into human Upper Palaeolithic life."

Also among the finds was an object carved from mammoth ivory, shaped like a cone with its top removed. The cone is densely ornamented and has a hole running through its centre.

The authors note that the object is unique among Palaeolithic artefacts. "The function of this decorated object remains a puzzle," they say.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/s ... 758986.stm
 
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rynner2

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Stone Age tools found in Crete prove man sailed the sea at least 130,000 years ago
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 6:25 PM on 4th January 2011

Archaeologists have discovered a set of tools they believe prove that man sailed the sea tens of thousands of years earlier than previously thought.
Rough axes and other tools thought to be between 130,000 and 700,000 years old were found close to shelters on the south coast of the Mediterranean island of Crete.
Crete has been separated from the mainland of Greece for about five million years, so whoever made the tools must have travelled there by sea, a distance of at least 40 miles.

The previous earliest evidence was of sea travel was 60,000 years ago; in Greece it was 11,000 years ago.

The findings upset the current view that human ancestors migrated to Europe from Africa by land alone.
The Greek Culture Ministry said in a statement yesterday: 'The results of the survey not only provide evidence of sea voyages in the Mediterranean tens of thousands of years earlier than we were aware of so far, but also change our understanding of early hominids' cognitive abilities.'
The previous earliest evidence of open-sea travel in Greece dates back 11,000 years.

The tools were found during a survey of caves and rock shelters near the village of Plakias by archaeologists from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Culture Ministry.

Such rough stone implements are associated with Heidelberg Man and Homo Erectus, extinct precursors of the modern human race, which evolved from Africa about 200,000 years ago.
Maria Vlazaki, senior ministry archaeologist, said: 'Up to now we had no proof of Early Stone Age presence on Crete.'
She said it was unclear where the hominids had sailed from, or whether the settlements were permanent.
'They may have come from Africa or from the east,' she said. 'Future study should help.'

The team of archaeologists has applied for permission to conduct a more thorough excavation of the area, which Greek authorities are expected to approve later this year.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... z1A9zFB3Sk
 

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UK's 'oldest' open-air cemetery discovered in Somerset

Somerset was the site of the UK's oldest open-air cemetery, the county council says.

Recent radiocarbon dating of two skulls found at a sand quarry in Greylake nature reserve near Middlezoy in 1928 revealed them to be 10,000 years old.

The council said the find was made under its Lost Islands of Somerset project by a team investigating the archaeology of the Somerset Levels.

Since their discovery, the skulls have been held at Bridgwater's Blake Museum.

The new findings show that by around 8,300 BC, hunter-gatherers were burying their dead on what was once an island amid the Levels.

All the other human remains from this early period in Britain have been found in caves such as Aveline's Hole in Somerset which is the largest Mesolithic burial ground in the UK.

Somerset County Councillor Christine Lawrence, cabinet member for community services said: "Somerset's wonderfully rich heritage plays a big part in attracting visitors. I'm delighted that this project has thrown new light on to these exciting finds."

"Amazing news"

"This was amazing news and was just the result we were hoping for," added Dr Richard Brunning, from Somerset County Council's Heritage Service who is leading the Lost Islands of Somerset Project.

"It shows that a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer group was operating from the island and burying its dead there.

"Such open-air cemeteries are extremely rare in Europe and this is the only one known from the UK."

Flint tools were also found in large numbers on the site in the 1950s suggesting that it was used as a long-term camp site.

The Lost Islands of Somerset Project team will carry out more analysis on the skulls and tools to ascertain how this ancient community lived and died.

BBC Source
 

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Saudis 'find evidence of early horse domestication'
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14658678

Arrowheads, scrapers, grain grinders, tools for spinning and weaving were found at the site

Related Stories

Horses tamed earlier than thought
New insight into horse evolution
Origins of domestic horse revealed

Saudi officials say archaeologists have begun excavating a site that suggests horses were domesticated 9,000 years ago in the Arabian Peninsula.

The vice-president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities said the discovery at al-Maqar challenged the theory it first took place 5,500 years ago in Central Asia.

Ali al-Ghabban said it also changed what was known about the evolution of culture in the late Neolithic period.

A number of artefacts were also found.

They included arrowheads, scrapers, grain grinders, tools for spinning and weaving, and other tools that showed the inhabitants were skilled at handicrafts.

Mr Ghabban said carbon-14 tests on the artefacts, as well as DNA tests on human remains also found there, dated them to about 7,000 BC.

"This discovery will change our knowledge concerning the domestication of horses and the evolution of culture in the late Neolithic period," he told a news conference in Jeddah, according to the Reuters news agency.

"The al-Maqar civilisation is a very advanced civilization of the Neolithic period. This site shows us clearly, the roots of the domestication of horses 9,000 years ago," he added.

Although humans came into contact with horses about 50,000 years ago, they were originally herded for meat, skins, and possibly for milk.

The first undisputed evidence for their domestication dates back to 2,000 BC, when horses were buried with chariots. By 1,000 BC, domestication had spread through Europe, Asia and North Africa.

However, researchers have found evidence suggesting that the animals were used by the Botai culture in northern Kazakhstan 5,500 years ago.
 

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Scottish dig unearths '10,000-year-old home' at Echline

The remains of what is believed to be one of Scotland's earliest homes have been uncovered during construction works for the new Forth crossing.
The site dates from the Mesolithic period, about 10,000 years ago.

Archaeological excavation works have been taking place in a field at Echline in South Queensferry in preparation for the Forth Replacement Crossing.
A large oval pit nearly 7m in length is all that remains of the dwelling, along with hearths, flint and arrowheads.

Rod McCullagh, a senior archaeologist at Historic Scotland, said: "This discovery and, especially the information from the laboratory analyses adds valuable information to our understanding of a small but growing list of buildings erected by Scotland's first settlers after the last glaciation, 10,000 years ago.
"The radiocarbon dates that have been taken from this site show it to be the oldest of its type found in Scotland which adds to its significance."

The remains feature a number of postholes which would have held wooden posts to support the walls and roof, probably covered with turf.
Several internal fireplace hearths were also identified and more than 1,000 flint artefacts were found, including materials which would have been used as tools and arrowheads.

Other discoveries included large quantities of charred hazelnut shells, suggesting they were an important source of food for the occupants of the house.
Archaeologists believe the dwelling would have been occupied on a seasonal basis, probably during the winter months, rather than all year round.

Ed Bailey, project manager for Headland Archaeology, the company that carried out the excavation works, said: "The discovery of this previously unknown and rare type of site has provided us with a unique opportunity to further develop our understanding of how early prehistoric people lived along the Forth.
"Specialist analysis of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental evidence recovered in the field is ongoing. This will allow us to put the pieces together and build a detailed picture of Mesolithic lifestyle."

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: "This ancient dwelling, which was unearthed as part of the routine investigations undertaken prior to construction works, is an important and exciting discovery.
"We now have vital records of the findings which we will be able to share to help inform our understanding of a period in Scotland's ancient history."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-e ... e-20376243
 

rynner2

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Stone age nomads settled down in Merseyside, flints and timber suggest
Sefton site points to nomadic hunter-gatherer ways being given up after evidence found of 8,000-year-old permanent dwellings
Maev Kennedy
The Guardian, Monday 19 November 2012

It will come as no surprise to proud Merseysiders, but a recent discovery of worked flints and charred timber suggests that when stone age people reached Lunt Meadows, a beautiful site at Sefton, they liked it so much that instead of continuing as nomadic hunter-gatherers, they settled down and built permanent dwellings.

Archaeologists are still working on the site, discovered this summer during work for the Environment Agency, but preliminary carbon-dating results suggest that they are almost 8,000 years old, from the Mesolithic period, and come from at least three structures, suggesting family groups living together in a settlement which may have lasted for centuries.

As well as the worked flint, and large pebbles with a partly polished surface showing they were used as tools, the archaeologists have found quantities of chert stone which is not local, but must have been specially imported – the nearest site would be across the estuary, in what is now north Wales.

Archaeologist Ron Cowell called the discoveries "fascinating". He added: "It looks as if we have the remains of three houses, or structures, which were very substantial, up to six metres across. They fit an emerging body of recent evidence, challenging the traditional view of people of this period as constantly on the move. Our site suggests that they had permanent structures which at the least they repeatedly returned to for part of the year."

No human or animal bone has survived in the acid sandy soil, but the lines of the ancient walls are traced in curves of stake holes, and some charred timber which has given the first definite dating evidence of 5,800BC. Cowell, curator of prehistoric archaeology at the museum of Liverpool, and consultant to the Environment Agency, believes the earliest phase of the settlement was even older.

They may even have uncovered evidence of ritual practice in stone tools which appear to have been deliberately broken and buried in pits. The significance of the discovery will be assessed in a film for BBC Inside Out North West, to be broadcast on Monday night.

[..] The finds were made when archaeologists and environmentalists were working on restoring farmland as a wetland wildlife haven – exactly the sort of site which provided rich food supplies for early man. They already knew the site could prove archaeologically significant: it is close to Formby beach, where scores of trails of ancient human and animal footprints have been discovered preserved in the silty mud.

The finds, like others from coastal sites such as Scarborough in Yorkshire and Howick in Northumberland suggesting generations or even centuries of occupation of the same site are thousands of years older than famous Neolithic villages like Scara Brae on Orkney. They challenge the traditional view that Mesolithic Britons were nomadic, hunting, fishing and foraging while living in temporary huts - which leave almost no traces in the landscape, and then moving on.

The Lunt Meadows site was on a low sandy promontory, less than a foot above the water level of the nearby lake. The stone age level is preserved under layers of silts and deposits showing that the site was repeated flooded over the succeeding millennia. Cowell, whose team was often working in sodden conditions over the last diabolical summer and autumn, and who will continue working through what is forecast to be a bitter winter, believes fresh water flooding may have led to the site being abandoned.

For many generations, however, it was a very fine place to live.

"We're far from the nearest farm, there's no traffic noise, and we're very close to important wintering grounds for flocks of birds - sometimes when the sky is full of swans and geese, and all you can hear is their calls, there's a real feeling of what life was like for these people."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/ ... -dwellings
 

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rynner2 said:
Stone Age tools found in Crete prove man sailed the sea at least 130,000 years ago

It seems they are pushing the envelope even further back now:

Ancient Mariners: Did Neanderthals Sail to Mediterranean?

Neanderthals and other extinct human lineages might have been ancient mariners, venturing to the Mediterranean islands thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

For instance, stone artifacts on the southern Ionian Islands hint at human sites there as early as 110,000 years ago. Investigators have also recovered quartz hand-axs, three-sided picks and stone cleavers from Crete that may date back about 170,000 years ago. The distance of Crete about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the mainland would have made such a sea voyage no small feat.

The exceedingly old age of these artifacts suggests the seafarers who made them might not even been modern humans, who originated between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Instead, they might have been Neanderthals or perhaps even Homo erectus.

"The whole idea of seafaring makes these extinct groups seem more human — they were going out to sea to explore places that were uninhabited," Simmons told LiveScience.

Dating artifacts

The problem with these ancient finds is determining their exact age. "They're well beyond the range of radiocarbon dating," Simmons said. Although researchers can also deduce the ages of artifacts based on the ages of surrounding materials, these artifacts weren't found in reliable contexts that could indisputably attest to their age, he added.

Although the idea that extinct human lineages possessed such advanced mental capabilities might be controversial, ancient seafaring has been seen elsewhere in the world. For instance, Australia was colonized at least 50,000 years ago, while fossils in Indonesia suggest that an extinct lineage of humans was seafaring as long ago as 1.1 million years.

http://www.livescience.com/24810-neande ... anean.html
 

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Severn Estuary fossils reveal Stone Age fire starting
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-sout ... s-20914482

Footprints found at the site also include those of children

Stone Age fossil finds in the Severn Estuary suggest hunter-gatherers were shaping the environment long before farming started, say researchers.

Flint "tools" dating back 7,500 years as well as bones and campfire debris were found at Goldcliff, near Newport.

University of Reading academics said the finds pointed to Mesolithic people using fire to encourage plant growth.

Fossil footprints found in the estuary include those of children as young as four helping with food production.

The Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age, started in about 10,000BC, as the last Ice Age ended.

The researchers have visited the site for the past two summers. On their most recent trip they found charcoal and hazelnut shells.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

They show youngsters as young as four were actively engaged in the productive activities of the community”

Prof Martin Bell
Head of archaeology, University of Reading
They believe this indicates fire was used to encourage the growth of plants, such as hazelnuts, crab apples and raspberries, all which were eaten at the site.

The university archaeology department head, Prof Martin Bell, said the Severn Estuary was exceptional in its evidence of the plants used by Mesolithic people, thousands of years before farming began.

He said: "Previously it was thought that these people were mainly hunting deer and simply responding to the spectacular environmental changes around them, such as sea level rise.

"Now there is increasing evidence that they were adept at manipulating their environment to increase valued plant resources.

"Combining our finds with the trees, pollen and insects from the area we can build a picture of the environmental relationships of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

"These people were highly adaptable and continued using the same site as the environment changed dramatically from old woodland to reedswamp, to saltmarsh and back to fen woodland."


The university researchers have held field studies at the site for the past two summers
Footprints of animals and birds are among those being found by the researchers, he said, along with those of people.

Prof Bell said: "The footprints include those made by children, which is extremely exciting as the role of children tends not to be visible in the archaeological record.

"They show youngsters as young as four were actively engaged in the productive activities of the community."

Prof Bell said the proposed Severn tidal barrage would have "very serious consequences" on a site that was "giving archaeologists an unparalleled glimpse into the life of a Stone Age settlement".
 

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Crossrail unearths evidence humans lived on Thames in 7,000 BC

Rare evidence that humans lived on the River Thames 9,000 years ago has been discovered by archaeologists working on the Crossrail project.
A Mesolithic tool-making factory featuring 150 pieces of flint was found at the tunnelling worksite in Woolwich.
Archaeologists said prehistoric Londoners were using the site to prepare river cobbles which were then made into flint tools.

Gold has also been discovered at its site in Liverpool Street.
Archaeologists said they were mystified as to how such a precious and expensive gold item made its way to what was then regarded as a deprived area.
They believe the 16th Century gold coin was used as a sequin or pendant, similar to those worn by wealthy aristocrats and royalty.

Also at Liverpool Street, a well made Roman road has been discovered - complete with a human bone found in the road's foundations.

Next year, archaeologists will begin excavating 3,000 skeletons from Bedlam, a 17th Century burial ground close to Liverpool Street.
Archaeologists are hopeful that when they start large scale excavations to remove the skeletons they will also locate more of the Roman road, along with foundations of Roman buildings that stood alongside it.

Of the tool-making discovery, Crossrail lead archaeologist Jay Carver said: "This is a unique and exciting find that reveals evidence of humans returning to England and in particular the Thames Valley after a long hiatus during the Ice Age.
"It is one of a handful of archaeology sites uncovered that confirms humans lived in the Thames Valley at this time.
"The concentration of flint pieces shows that this was an exceptionally important location for sourcing materials to make tools that were used by early Londoners who lived and hunted on Thames Estuary islands."

Starting in 2018, Crossrail will link Maidenhead, Berkshire, in the west to Shenfield, Essex, and Abbey Wood, south-east London, in the east.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-23609994
 

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Moroccan Stone Age hunters' rotten teeth
By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24332237

Stone Age Teeth

Deep decay is seen in the molars on the right, with an abscess perforation of the jaw just below

Scientists have found some of the earliest evidence for widespread tooth decay in humans.

It comes from the skeletal remains of Stone-Age hunter-gatherers who lived in what is now Morocco more than 13,700 years ago.

The researchers tell the PNAS journal that the individuals were eating a lot of high-carbohydrate nutty foods.

The poor condition of their teeth suggests they were often in agony.

"At a certain point, the tooth nerve dies but up until that moment, the pain is very bad and if you get an abscess the pain is excruciating because of the pressure on the jaw," explained Dr Louise Humphrey, from London's Natural History Museum.

"Then, of course, the bone eventually perforates and the abscess drains away, and we see this in a lot of the jaw remains that we studied."

With all our sugary foods, tooth decay has become a ubiquitous problem for modern societies, but it was not always quite so bad.

Dental health took a definite turn for the worse when people settled into agricultural communities with domesticated crops and started to consume far more carbohydrates. But even in earlier hunter-gatherer societies, it seems, the sugar-rich content in some plant foods was causing difficulties.

Bad bacteria
Scientists reviewed the dental condition of 52 skeletons dug up at the Grotte des Pigeons complex at Taforalt in eastern Morocco over the past 10 years.

These skeletons covered a period from 13,700 years ago to about 15,000 years ago.

All bar three individuals displayed tooth decay, with cavities or other lesions affecting more than half of the surviving teeth. In some individuals, the oral health was so bad that destructive abscesses had developed.

Wild plant remains at Taforalt indicate these Stone Age people were snacking frequently on sweet acorns, pine nuts and pistachios. Snails were also popular.

With little if any oral hygiene, the Taforalt diet would have fuelled the mouth bacteria that produce the acid that rots tooth enamel.

As well as pain, the individuals on occasion probably had extremely bad breath.

What is interesting about this study is that it identifies high rates of tooth decay several thousand years before the wide-scale adoption of agricultural practices.

Grotte des Pigeons
The Grotte des Pigeons complex was used by hunter-gatherers as a base over thousands of years
But although the Taforalt people were still gathering wild plants, they had nonetheless become a relatively sedentary community.

This is evidenced from the long sequence of burials at Grotte des Pigeons and its deep "rubbish tip" containing plant discards - factors that enabled the scientists to examine both a large number of individuals and tie their oral health to the types of foods they were consuming.

Sweet acorns were a particularly dominant feature in the diet, said Dr Humphrey, and may have been the prime cause of much of the dental decay.

"Sweet acorns are neat, easily storable packages of carbohydrate. We think they were cooking them, and that would have made them sticky. The cooking process would have already started to break down the carbohydrates, but the stickiness of the food would then have got into the gaps in the teeth and literally stuck around. And if you've already got cavities, it becomes a bit of a vicious circle."

It is clear the Taforalt individuals practiced cultural modification of the teeth. In more than 90% of cases, one or both upper-central incisors (the top front teeth) had been removed. Whether rotten teeth were also removed is uncertain, however.

"You don't normally get bad decay on the upper-central incisors, so this must have been a ritual removal. Why they did it, we don't know; and so although they obviously knew how to remove teeth, we don't have the evidence to say they were also removing unhealthy teeth."

Some of the earliest evidence of dentistry comes from about 6,500 years ago when beeswax was used to fill cavities.

The research project presented in PNAS is co-directed by Abdeljalil Bouzouggar from the National Institute of Science of Archaeology and Heritage (INSAP) in Rabat, Morocco; and Nick Barton from Oxford University, UK.

[email protected]. and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos
 

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Firefighter's Guildford Stone Age flints lead to major find
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-25720131

Archaeological dig

William Mills, from Oxford Archaeology, who worked on the dig, said the site was exceptional and one of two or three in England

A firefighter who found Stone Age flints at the fire station he worked at 40 years ago says he is "thrilled" that find has now led to a nationally-important archaeological discovery.

Ron Shettle, 88, first spotted the flints while working there decades ago.

A recent rebuild of the Guildford station has now allowed experts to carry out a dig.

Archaeologists have now found 2,400 flints - some dating back to the Ice Age - under the old fire station yard.

They say there are only a handful of such sites in Europe where a similar number of flints - many of which had been shaped into tools and blades - have been found.

Mr Shettle studied archaeology for a year at Dorking's evening institute while he was stationed in the town.

He wanted to study for a diploma but was transferred back to Guildford where he lived on the fire station site in houses for residential officers - and where he made a discovery that has now led to major interest.

'Dug deeper'
Ice Age flint tools
Mr Shettle said archaeologists dug a little deeper and found the Stone Age flint tools
He found Stone Age, or Mesolithic, flints at the site.

"Stone Age flints are recognisable, if you have seen them," he said.

"The average person wouldn't recognise them. I knew what I was looking at."

Those finds, about 40 years ago, were recorded in the local museum and with the Surrey Archaeological Society.

Mr Shettle said he went on to spent the next decades "prompting" local experts to carry out a dig at the site.

The opportunity came when Guildford fire station was pulled down to be rebuilt, he said.

Mr Shettle said: "They found Mesolithic flints, as I said, then they dug a little deeper, and found Paleolithic flints which go back to the Ice Age.

"That was something like about 16,000 years ago, which was when human beings on the site were changing from Neanderthals to present-day humans."

'National importance'
Mr Shettle added he was telephoned by archaeologists when they found the Paleolithic flints.

The county council "told me this was that they had come up with and it was of national importance".

"We are now waiting for Oxford Archaeology to come up with a report, which takes anything from six months to six years. They had better get a move on or I won't be around to see it, but obviously I was thrilled."

Flint tools in situ
Experts said the flint tools were found exactly where hunter-gatherers left them
William Mills, from Oxford Archaeology, who worked on the dig, said the prehistoric flint tools, from about 14,000 years ago, were particularly interesting.

He said: "Most of the time you find it [the material] in caves, or in very disturbed environments, whereas here it's a very fine sand deposit, and therefore it's quite pristine - what we call in situ - it hasn't moved much."

He said research into the discovery would give more insight into the post-glacial period, the behaviour of humans and how they used to live, and the techniques and methods they used to produce tools.

"This is quite exceptional," he said. "In Europe, there are a handful of sites, not very many. In England, this is one amongst two, maybe three, if that."

Nick Truckle, from Surrey County Council's heritage conservation team, which recommended that the dig took place, said the remains from the end of the last ice age included more than 2,400 flints shaped into tools and blades, all in excellent condition.

He said the flints were found exactly where hunter-gatherers left them in about 12,000 BC, despite intervening centuries of river flooding and development.

The flints are to be sent for further academic research to Oxford University, and some may be displayed at the council's Surrey History Centre in Woking after the work has finished.
 

rynner2

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ramonmercado said:
Firefighter's Guildford Stone Age flints lead to major find
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-25720131

William Mills, from Oxford Archaeology, who worked on the dig, said the site was exceptional and one of two or three in England

A firefighter who found Stone Age flints at the fire station he worked at 40 years ago says he is "thrilled" that find has now led to a nationally-important archaeological discovery.
An interesting human story as well as a scientific one.

And interesting to me as I lived in Guildford from about 1953 to 1961, before Mr Shettle discovered his flints! Not sure I remember where the fire station was though... (and a modern map is no help.)
 

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Rabbits unearth a trove of New Stone Age treasure at Land's End
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ra ... 04207.html

Archaeologists believe the find may just be the tip of the iceberg
ANTONIA MOLLOY Monday 03 February 2014

Burrowing bunnies have uncovered an 8,000-year old treasure trove buried near Land’s End.

The family of rabbits are believed to be responsible for unearthing the archaeological “gold mine” less than 200 yards from the Cornish landmark.

Archaeologists said that the animals had uncovered arrow heads, flint tools and hide scrapers dating back to the Neolithic Age.

Although a formal excavation of the 150-acre site hasn't started yet, the discovery suggests there could also be a large Neolithic – or New Stone Age - cemetery, Bronze Age burial mounds and an Iron Age hill fort buried there.

Team leader Dean Paton, 30, told the Daily Mirror: “It seems important people have been buried here for ­thousands of years – probably because of the stunning views. It’s a million-to-one chance rabbits should make such an astounding find.

“They dug two little burrows right next to each other and all these ­treasures were thrown out of the earth. No one knows the scale of it but it’s a gold-mine. A family of rabbits have just rewritten the history books.”

A team from Big Heritage, based in the Wirral, are to spend up to two years excavating the site.

Dean added: “The bunnies are quite nosy and come out to see what we are doing.”

Big Heritage also plans to create an “archaeobunnies” children’s trail at Land’s End.

The iconic spot, which is the most south-westerly point of mainland Britain, is a popular tourist destination. It gained widespread attention in May 2012 as the starting point of the London Olympics torch relay.
 

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Release the bunnies! I look forward to reading bunny articles in peer-reviewed bunny journals in the future.
 

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Bones of 5,000-year-old Stone Age child and adult found in Irish cave
James O'Shea @irishcentral March 03,2014 04:36 AM

Stone age bones previously found in the Sahara Desert. Exciting discovery provides evidence of the County Sligo’s Neolithic links. Photo by: WikiCommon

Archaeologists have found the 5,500 year old bones of a Stone Age child and adult in a cave situated on Knocknarea mountain not far from the town of Sligo.

Researchers at IT Sligo discovered 13 small bones and bone fragments in the cave last November.

The find provides new evidence of Knocknarea’s Neolithic links and the prehistoric practice known as “excoriation,” according to the Irish Mirror.

Three of the bones belonged to the child, aged 4 to 6 years, and ten belonged to an adult of unknown gender, aged 30 to 39 years. The discovery included foot bones and fragments of a skull.

“It’s an enormously exciting discovery,” said Dr Marion Dowd of IT Sligo, Ireland’s only specialist in the archaeology of Irish caves.

“This might seem like a small quantity but it has yielded fantastic results."

IT Sligo archaeology graduate Thorsten Kahlert discovered the bones by chance while he was investigating several little-known caves on the slopes of the mountain.

“I was surveying one small cave when something on the cave floor caught my eye,” said Kahlert.

“I took a closer look and realized it was a human foot bone.” He discovered more bones strewn on the cave floor after further examination.

The remains were taken to Dr Catriona McKenzie of Queen’s University Belfast, an archaeologist specializing in the analysis of human bones.

Dr Down contacted the National Monuments Service, which funded a rescue excavation by the two IT Sligo researchers. The researchers had to endure rough weather and conditions to retrieve the bones.

“You have to squeeze through, head first, lying on your stomach, and after a while you get into a larger passage,” said Thorsten.

"It is an entirely natural cave but you have to crouch down.

"For the most part it is not possible to stand upright”.

Dr Down said the small number of bones and their size suggest the cave was used as an excoriation site. A corpse is laid in the cave and after decomposition, the bones are transferred elsewhere. Fragments could be accidentally left behind.

"Significantly, too, it seems the adult had been placed there about 300 years before the child, who died about 5,200 years ago,” said Dowd.

“When people died in prehistory, their corpses were sometimes laid out in caves. After one or two years, when the flesh and soft tissue had decomposed, the dry bones were collected and removed to another location,” she said.

“We can imagine, therefore, that Stone Age people in Sligo between 5,000 and 5,500 years ago carried the corpses of their dead up the mountain. After an arduous climb, they then squeezed through the narrow cave entrance, and laid the dead person on the cave floor.

“Sometime later, maybe after one or two years, people returned to the cave and collected the bones and took them to another location. Where they took them, we don’t know. But the monuments on the summit of Knocknarea are one likely possibility. All that was left behind in the cave were some small bones that had been overlooked”.

She said that Sligo-Leitrim is one of the country’s most important cave regions but has not been extensively investigated archaeologically.



Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/histo ... z2uvK4pO2C
Follow us: @IrishCentral on Twitter | IrishCentral on Facebook
 

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So farmers had greater genetic diversity than hunter gatherers.

Genomic diversity and admixture differs for Stone-Age Scandinavian foragers and farmers
April 24th, 2014 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

An international team led by researchers at Uppsala University and Stockholm University reports a breakthrough on understanding the demographic history of Stone-Age humans. A genomic analysis of eleven Stone-Age human remains from Scandinavia revealed that expanding Stone-age farmers assimilated local hunter-gatherers and that the hunter-gatherers were historically in lower numbers than the farmers. The study is published today, ahead of print, in the journal Science.

The transition between a hunting-gathering lifestyle and a farming lifestyle has been debated for a century. As scientists learned to work with DNA from ancient human material, a complete new way to learn about the people in that period opened up. But even so, prehistoric population structure associated with the transition to an agricultural lifestyle in Europe remains poorly understood.

"For many of the most interesting questions, DNA-information from people today just doesn't cut it, the best way to learn about ancient history is to analyze direct data—despite the challenges", says Dr. Pontus Skoglund of Uppsala University, now at Harvard University, and one of the lead authors of the study.

"We have generated genomic data from the largest number of ancient individuals" says Dr. Helena Malmström of Uppsala University and one of the lead authors. "The eleven Stone-Age human remains were between 5,000 and 7,000 years old and associated with hunter-gatherer or farmer life-styles" says Helena Malmström.

Anders Götherström, who led the Stockholm University team, is satisfied with the amount of DNA that they could retrieve.

"Not only were we able to generate DNA from several individuals, but we did get a lot of it. In some cases we got the equivalent of draft genomes. A population genomic study on this level with a material of this age has never been done before as far as I know."

The material used in the study is from mainland Scandinavia as well as from the Baltic island Gotland, and it comprises of hunter-gatherers from various time periods as well as early farmers.

Professor Mattias Jakobsson, who led the Uppsala University team, is intrigued by the results.

"Stone-Age hunter-gatherers had much lower genetic diversity than farmers. This suggests that Stone-Age foraging groups were in low numbers compared to farmers", says Mattias Jakobsson.

Jan Storå at Stockholm University shares Mattias' fascination.

"The low variation in the hunter gatherers may be related to oscillating living conditions likely affecting the population sizes of hunter-gatherers. One of the additional exciting results is the association of the Mesolithic individual to both the roughly contemporaneous individual from Spain but also the association to the Neolithic hunter-gatherers."

The study confirms that Stone-Age hunter-gatherers and farmers were genetically distinct and that migration spread farming practices across Europe, but the team was able to go even further by demonstrating that the Neolithic farmers had substantial admixture from hunter-gatherers. Surprisingly, the hunter-gatherers from the Baltic Sea displayed no evidence of introgression from farmers.

"We see clear evidence that people from hunter-gatherer groups were incorporated into farming groups as they expanded across Europe", says Pontus Skoglund. "This might be clues towards something that happened also when agriculture spread in other parts of the world."

"The asymmetric gene-flow shows that the farming groups assimilated hunter-gatherer groups, at least partly", says Mattias Jakobsson. "When we compare Scandinavian to central European farming groups that lived at about the same time, we see greater levels of hunter-gatherer gene-flow into the Scandinavian farming groups."

This study is part of the recently initiated "Atlas project" - a large-scale genomic investigation of ancient human remains in Scandinavia led by Stockholm and Uppsala Universities and funded by the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences and the Swedish Research Council. The present study brings the first results from the project.

"We have only begun to scratch the surface of the knowledge that this project may bring us in the future" says Anders Götherström.

More information: "Genomic Diversity and Admixture Differs for Stone-Age Scandinavian Foragers and Farmers," by P. Skoglund et al. Science, 2014.

Provided by Uppsala University

"Genomic diversity and admixture differs for Stone-Age Scandinavian foragers and farmers." April 24th, 2014. http://phys.org/news/2014-04-genomic-di ... e-age.html
 

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Stone Age groups made similar toolmaking breakthroughs
No mysterious migration required to explain how chipping technique appeared in different continents.

Different palaeolithic populations around the world might have developed a crucial toolmaking skill independently. This conclusion, based on the analysis of hundreds of artefacts from a recently excavated archaeological site in Armenia, weakens a long-held theory that Stone Age people in Eurasia learnt sophisticated techniques from migrating African tribes. The work is published in Science1.

Discovered in 2008, the Nor Geghi site fills a significant gap in the fossil record of the Caucasus region, which prehistoric African populations might have crossed en route to Eurasia. “The finds from Nor Geghi are critical because they provide a quality of data that we have been missing,” says Christian Tryon, a palaeolithic archaeologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the study.

Early Stone Age populations made their tools much in the same way that Michelangelo would have made his David — by chipping away at a piece of stone until the required shape emerged. Such tools are known as bifacial.

In the so-called Levallois technology, named after the Levallois-Perret suburb of Paris where it was first described, the toolmaker first chisels a suitably shaped core from a stone and then slices off flakes from it. The flakes are the tools — lighter to carry, and probably more efficient to make. ...

http://www.nature.com/news/stone-age-gr ... hs-1.16002
 

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Archaeologists in Denmark have uncovered an incredibly rare find: a stone age axe held within its wooden handle. The 5,500-year-old Neolithic axe was found during archaeological surveys ahead of a multi-billion euro tunnel project.

The axe seems to have been jammed into what was once the seabed, perhaps as part of a ritual offering. The lack of oxygen in the clay ground helped preserve the wooden handle. The find was made in Rodbyhavn on the Danish island of Lolland, which is to be connected to the German island of Fehmarn via the tunnel link.

"Finding a hafted [handle-bearing] axe as well preserved as this one is quite amazing," said Soren Anker Sorensen, an archaeologist at the Museum Lolland-Falster in Denmark.

Archaeologists have found other similarly well preserved organic material in the area during their excavations. These include upright wooden stakes, a paddle, bows and other axe shafts. ...

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30197084
 

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Whoever the assailants were, they probably arrived at dawn. Catching their victims unawares, they hacked the shinbones of as many villagers as possible to prevent them escaping, then bludgeoned them all to death with blows to the head before dumping them in a mass grave.

Though no one can be sure exactly what happened to the 26 people whose bodies were found in a Stone-Age mass grave, this is the most likely scenario, according to Christian Meyer of the University of Mainz in Germany. His team has analysed the bones, unearthed at Schöneck-Kilianstädten, near Frankfurt, in 2006.

He dates them to between 5207 and 4849 BC, the early Neolithic period by which time farmers had spread through most of mainland Europe from the south-east, forming a culture known as the Linearbandkeramik, or LBK.

The find is the third known massacre site from this period, and suggests that despite the popular image of peaceful harmony among Europe’s pastoral inhabitants, friction between communities was building up, perhaps because of crop failures, overcrowding or pressure for land.

https://www.newscientist.com/articl...-age-bones-expose-worlds-oldest-mass-torture/
 

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Archaeologists have found the 5,500 year old bones of a Stone Age child and adult in a cave situated on Knocknarea mountain not far from the town of Sligo.

Researchers at IT Sligo discovered 13 small bones and bone fragments in the cave last November. The find provides new evidence of Knocknarea’s Neolithic links and the prehistoric practice known as “excoriation,” according to the Irish Mirror.

Three of the bones belonged to the child, aged 4 to 6 years, and ten belonged to an adult of unknown gender, aged 30 to 39 years. The discovery included foot bones and fragments of a skull.

“It’s an enormously exciting discovery,” said Dr Marion Dowd of IT Sligo, Ireland’s only specialist in the archaeology of Irish caves. “This might seem like a small quantity but it has yielded fantastic results." ...

http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/h...nt - Sept 7&utm_term=The Best of IrishCentral
 
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