Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scads of news today. Sadly, we have little inspiration to comment on any of it. But the Ashkenazi and Kennewick stories are ripe for analysis. Go ahead, commenters.

Kennewick Man update A Skeleton Moves From the Courts to the Laboratory

The bones, more than 350 pieces, were laid out on a bed of sand, a human jigsaw with ancient resonance. Head to toe, one of the oldest and best-preserved sets of remains ever discovered in North America was ready to give up its secrets.

The hip and skull of Kennewick Man went through high-resolution scans in Chicago. Those three-dimensional pictures were used to produce plastic replicas of the bones, above. American Indian tribes had planned to bury the skeleton, but a federal magistrate's ruling in 2002 cleared the way for scientists to study it.

After waiting 9 years to get a close look at Kennewick Man, the 9,000-year-old skeleton that was found on the banks of the Columbia River in 1996 and quickly became a fossil celebrity, a team of scientists spent 10 days this month examining it.

Not much in the way of conclusions, just a bit on the excitement of the researchers. Cool skull pic though:

More from Newsweek.

Did Discrimination Enhance Intelligence of Jews?

Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Leonard Bernstein, Saul Bellow, to name a few, all shared European Jewish ancestry.

Known as Ashkenazim, this ethnic group is blessed with more than its fair share of talented minds.

But they are also prone to a number of serious genetic diseases.

Researchers now suggest that intelligence is closely linked to such illnesses in Ashkenazi Jews, and that the diseases are the result of natural selection.

There are a huge number of comments that could be made on this. The one in particular that struck us was the whole natural selection angle, which seems kind of weak.

Ancient beer update 9,000-Year-Old Beer Re-Created From Chinese Recipe

A Delaware brewer with a penchant for exotic drinks recently concocted a beer similar to one brewed in China some 9,000 years ago.

Sam Calagione of the Dogfish Head brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, used a recipe that included rice, honey, and grape and hawthorn fruits. He got the formula from archaeologists who derived it from the residues of pottery jars found in the late Stone Age village of Jiahu in northern China.

Sifting through the past

Beneath a bluff by the Rhode River, oyster shells are falling out of the bank, which is eroding so readily that several big trees have toppled into the water.

Atop the sandy bluff, archaeologists are digging holes, and the ones close to the water contain fragments of shells and pottery at least 1,000 years old.

"Oysters don't have legs, so somebody brought them up here and ate them," said Al Luckenbach, Anne Arundel County's chief archaeologist.

Homo hobbitus update Archaeologists dispute Indonesia bones

The bones in the limestone cave had been buried for more than 12,000 years when the archaeologists found them. The villagers say they belonged to sinners who drowned in the biblical Great Flood.

"The people in the cave were condemned by God years ago," said Stanislaus Barus, 60. "They had lots of sins, according to the Old Testament. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and the condemned people took refuge in the cave."

The Indonesian and Australian archaeologists who began unearthing the remains in Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores two years ago have come to a more scientific, if no less sensational, conclusion: They say the bones belong to a tiny, previously unknown, species of human.

Not much new here except for the news that any further excavations in the Liang Bua have been shut down for the time being.

CSI: All Over the Place Bone woman digs up remains to foil killers

At first glance, Clea Koff, a beautiful young woman with the height and grace of a fashion model, does not look like someone whose passion involves digging up bodies from mass graves.

But as a forensic anthropologist, that is where her work takes her.

"It's important that people who may be dead, lying by the side of the road or in a clandestine grave, be allowed to incriminate their killers," Koff said.

The missing persons database described in the article (actually just mentioned in passing) seems like an idea well worth pursuing. It seems logical to institute a nationwide database of unidentifiable remains with basic age/sex/race characteristics that can be searched and matched with a missing persons database.

Found: axe to grind Excavation yields ax thousands of years old

A Saginaw County man thought he was simply digging a basement for the house he would eventually build on Snowy Lane in Bridgeport Township.

But the hole Arthur A. Shaft opened up in 2000 turned out to be an archaeological dig of sorts, too.

The Saginaw County Historical Society last month confirmed that the object was a barbed stone ax head left behind by Indians 3,000 to 5,000 years ago.

That's a quiper Peruvian ‘writing’ system goes back 5,000 years

Archaeologists in Peru have found a “quipu” on the site of the oldest city in the Americas, indicating that the device, a sophisticated arrangement of knots and strings used to convey detailed information, was in use thousands of years earlier than previously believed.

Previously the oldest known quipus, often associated with the Incas whose vast South American empire was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, dated from about A.D. 650.

But Ruth Shady, an archaeologist leading investigations into the Peruvian coastal city of Caral, said quipus were among a treasure trove of articles discovered at the site, which is about 5,000 years old.

Whoops. Stonehenge tunnel plan cash blow

The government is to re-examine plans for a road scheme aimed at diverting traffic away from Stonehenge after the cost of the project doubled.

The scheme, which includes building a tunnel for the A303 near the ancient Wiltshire site, was estimated to cost £183m when it was announced in 2002.

But now the government says the project will cost around £470m

Archaeologists excavating clues of Ridges Basin

Fresh data indicate that the ancient inhabitants of Ridges Basin southwest of Durango were there for a much shorter time than previously thought, the archaeologist in charge of excavation said.

"Tree-ring analysis shows there were two distinct periods of occupation," Jim Potter said on Monday during a tour of the Sacred Ridge, the most significant settlement. "There was a late Basketmaker II period from 200 to 400. After a long hiatus, the area was occupied from 750 to 800 at which time there was a very abrupt abandonment."

Tree-ring analysis of wood found in pit houses indicates no wood later than the year 803, with intense use of the area in the period 775 to 800, Potter said.

Antiquities Market update Artifact hunting popular as Missouri River level drops

It's against the law to take anything from federal parks or protected land. That includes driftwood, plants, and even rocks. Some federal land is prime hunting ground for Native American artifacts. Even more so now, along the banks of the Missouri River.

Artifacts such as arrowheads, points and scrapers are exposed because of low river levels due to a five-year drought. Looters are hitting the jackpot, and law enforcement is cracking down.