The paleontologists were driving across the scorched and trackless Ténéré Desert of Niger, following a low ridge of rock bearing dinosaur fossils. Suddenly, someone on the team, led by Dr. Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, spotted something dark against the tawny dunes.
Getting out of their vehicles, they stepped into sand littered with the fossilized bones of modern crocodiles, hippos, camels and birds — interesting creatures, to be sure, but not exactly the quarry of these paleontologists. "But then things got really strange," recalls Gabrielle Lyon, a member of the expedition who is Dr. Sereno's wife and the director of Project Exploration, a science education group.
As members of the group stood around their vehicles comparing finds, Mike Hettwer, the expedition photographer, came loping up with news of human skeletons and stone tools eroding from a hillside.
. . .
"I'm not afraid of any kind of dinosaur, the uglier the better," he said. "But here for the first time I got goose bumps because I was looking at my own skeleton, a modern human."
Definitely an important site. Not only should this provide a large amount of information relating to Neolithic life in general, but the skeletons ought to give a statistically adequate sampling of the population as well. Very rare this confluence of in situ domestic remains along with the inhabitants themselves.
Early ecological disruptionEarliest evidence of humans affecting aquatic ecology in Canada, United States
Inuit whalers changed Arctic ecosystems long before arrival
(Kingston, ON) – New findings from Canadian scientists dispel the belief that European settlers were the first humans to cause major changes to Canadian and U.S. freshwater ecosystems.
A University of Toronto-led, multidisciplinary team including researchers from Queen's, McGill, and University of Ottawa show for the first time that prehistoric Inuit whalers dramatically altered high Arctic pond ecosystems through their hunting practices eight centuries ago – a legacy that is still evident today.
. . .
Dr. Douglas, the team leader, calls their study "a good example of how lake and pond sediment analysis can be used to study the effects of human activities on ecosystems. In the future we hope to apply these techniques to investigate other archeological sites – some of which go back even farther – in the Arctic and elsewhere," she says.
More politics and archaeologyWhen archaeology gets bent
Although archaeology is sometimes associated with dry digging and forgotten ruins it also has another, sometimes darker aspect - one that has used evidence from the ground for political ends.
It is 10 years since Greece began toughening economic sanctions against neighbouring Macedonia - in objection to, amongst other things, Macedonia's proposed use of the Vergina Star on its flag.
The star is an ancient 16-pointed golden symbol found on tombs and artefacts across the region.
It originated from the vergina tombs on a golden casket from the tomb of Philip, father of Alexander The Great. But this archaeological find had already long been a part of Greek identity - causing a massive diplomatic row.
Two other quotes of interest: ""Data never speaks for itself. We interpret it, and whenever we interpret it we read in our own political stances." The first half is definitely true, but the second half ("we read in our own political stances") should not be taken literally; it's currently fashionable to read the political into everything, but that, IMO, goes much too far.
Next: "Adolf Hitler was so fond of archaeology that he gave the SS secret service special archaeological units, so that they could dig to prove a Nazi ideological bond of soil and nationhood." THIS is a book just waiting to happen.
Yet another sad storyArchaeologists play key role in Iraq
In any case to be made against Saddam Hussein when he eventually comes to trial, evidence from forensic archaeology will be crucial.
Almost as soon as Saddam's regime fell, mass graves containing thousands of corpses were found in the desert of southwestern Iraq.
Archaeologists are working to uncover the circumstances of the deaths - and their conclusions may form the fundamental basis of evidence of war crimes.
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