Archaeology, Paleontology August 6-10, 2012

Severed Hands Discovered in Ancient Egypt Palace   Live Science - August 10, 2012
A team of archaeologists excavating a palace in the ancient city of Avaris, in Egypt, has made a gruesome discovery. The archaeologists have unearthed the skeletons of 16 human hands buried in four pits. Two of the pits, located in front of what is believed to be a throne room, hold one hand each. Two other pits, constructed at a slightly later time in an outer space of the palace, contain the 14 remaining hands. They are all right hands; there are no lefts.

Early Egypt

New Pyramid Found With Vivid Murals, Stacked Tombs   National Geographic - August 10, 2012
One of three stacked tombs newly discovered within a pyramid, this vividly painted chamber is unique among ancient Zapotec funerary architecture, Mexican archaeologists announced in late July. Dating from about A.D. 650 to 850, the funerary complex was part of an elite neighborhood of the Zapotec, an agrarian culture that once thrived throughout what's now the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. No humans appear here. Instead, the designs seem to refer to the sacred ritual ball game played by many pre-Hispanic peoples in Mesoamerica. A bit like soccer combined with basketball, the game involved hitting a hard rubber ball around a court, and sometimes ended in sacrificial death for the losers.

Zapotec Culture

Mexican archaeologists discover 'unprecedented' Aztec burial   The Guardian - August 10, 2012
> Skeleton of young woman surrounded by hundreds of human bones found five metres beneath Templo Mayor in Mexico City. Mexican archaeologists say they have found an unprecedented human burial in which the skeleton of a young woman is surrounded by piles of 1,789 human bones in Mexico City's Templo Mayor. Researchers found the burial about five metres (15ft) below the surface, next to the remains of what may have been a sacred tree at one edge of the plaza, the most sacred site of the Aztec capital. The National Institute of Anthropology and History said the find was the first of its kind, noting the Aztecs were not known to use mass sacrifice or the reburial of bones for the interment of a member of the ruling class.

Aztec Culture

Ancient Mayans May Have Sacrificed Earliest Domestic Turkeys   Live Science - August 9, 2012
The bones of Mexican turkeys discovered at a Mayan archaeological site in Guatemala may push back the domestication of this gobbler by 1,000 years, researchers say. The find is also the oldest evidence for a Mexican turkey (Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo) in the Mayan world, with signs that the bones are the remains of an elite sacrifice or a feast, said lead researcher Erin Thornton, of the Florida Museum of Natural History and Trent University Archaeological Research Centre in Ontario.

Maya Civilization

Many human 'prototypes' coexisted in Africa   BBC - August 9, 2012
Fossils from Northern Kenya show that a new species of human lived two million years ago, researchers say. The discoveries suggests that at least three distinct species of humans co-existed in Africa. The research adds to a growing body of evidence that runs counter to the popular perception that there was a linear evolution from early primates to modern humans.

New Flat-Faced Human Species Possibly Discovered   Live Science - August 8, 2012
New fossils from the dawn of the human lineage suggest our ancestors may have lived alongside a diversity of extinct human species, researchers say. Although modern humans, Homo sapiens, are the only human species alive today, the world has seen a number of human species come and go. Other members perhaps include the recently discovered "hobbit" Homo floresiensis. The human lineage, Homo, evolved in Africa about 2.5 million years ago, coinciding with the first evidence of stone tools. For the first half of the last century, conventional wisdom was that the most primitive member of our lineage was Homo erectus, the direct ancestor of our species. However, just over 50 years ago, scientists discovered an even more primitive species of Homo at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania they dubbed Homo habilis, which had a smaller brain and a more apelike skeleton.

New Kenyan fossils shed light on early human evolution   PhysOrg - August 8, 2012
Exciting new fossils discovered east of Lake Turkana confirm that there were two additional species of our genus Homo living alongside our direct human ancestral species, Homo erectus, almost two million years ago. The finds, announced in the prestigious scientific journal Nature on August 9, include a face, a remarkably complete lower jaw, and part of a second lower jaw.

Early Humans


Early human ancestors had more variable diet: Dietary preferences of 3 groups of hominins reconstructed   PhysOrg - August 8, 2012
The latest research sheds more light on the diet and home ranges of early hominins belonging to three different genera, notably Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Homo that were discovered at sites such as Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Kromdraai in the Cradle of Humankind, about 50 kilometres from Johannesburg. Australopithecus existed before the other two genera evolved about 2 million years ago.

Prehistoric Diet


Archaeologists claim objects are earliest 'matches'   BBC - August 8, 2012
Researchers from Israel say that mysterious clay and stone artifacts from Neolithic times could be the earliest known "matches". Although the cylindrical objects have been known about for some time, they had previously been interpreted as "cultic" phallic symbols. The researchers' new interpretation means these could be the earliest evidence of how fires were ignited.

Early Use of Fire

High flying technology to map Peru ruins   BBC - August 6, 2012
Archaeologists in Peru are getting ready to fly an unmanned craft that could radically speed up data gathering at historical sites. Usually, "mapping" is an extremely time consuming process and can take several years to complete. New technology developed by archaeologists and engineers from Vanderbilt University, in the US, should accelerate this process. The device will be tested later this month at the Mawchu Llacta site.

Inca Civilization