Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More Pompeiis Think Pompeii got hit hard? Worse eruptions lurk

The preserved footprints and abandoned homes of villagers who fled a giant eruption of Mount Vesuvius 3,800 years ago show the volcano could destroy modern-day Naples with little warning, Italian and U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

The eruption buried entire villages as far as 15 miles (25 kilometres) from the volcano, cooking people as they tried to escape and dumping several feet (metres) of ash and mud.

New excavations show far more extensive damage than that found at the more famous site of Pompeii, buried in A.D. 79.

Suppose it should have been obvious that there were probably previous massive eruptions and that there would be more buried settlements elsewhere.

Tools 'may be 250,000 years old'

Stone tools found at one of the South's most important early prehistoric sites could date back 250,000 years, archaeologists claim.
The historic finds were uncovered at a former gravel quarry on the Isle of Wight during digs last summer.

Flint axes found near Great Pan Farm, Newport, are thought to be of the sort used by Neanderthal man. Elephant teeth from the same period were also found.

Elaborate cave paintings stun scientists

Chilean and French scientists have discovered, for the first time, elaborate pre-Columbian cave paintings by indigenous Alacaluf people on an isolated island in Patagonia.

More than 40 stunning paintings were located inside the so-called "Pacific Cave" on Madre de Dios island, in Chile's far south, expedition head Bernard Tourte of France said.

The Alacaluf, a nomadic and seafaring people indigenous to the area, were not previously known to have produced such art.

Doesn't really say how old they are so it's hard to judge what the heck the importance really is.

This is good Joint mission will see Luxor tombs renovated

Ancient tombs in the Valley of Queens on the west bank of Luxor, 700km south of Cairo, are set to be renovated by a team of Egyptian and American experts, an Egyptian antiquities official said on Tuesday.

Head of the Supreme Antiquities Council Zahi Hawas said that the council would co-ordinate with the US-based Getty Conservation Institute to renovate sites in the valley over a six-year period.

Getty Conservation Institute director Deborah Marrow said that the US team has been working on the restoration of Egyptian heritage since 1985.

New Wisdom on Ancient Skeleton's Teeth

For years, these bones dating from 13,000 to 15,000 years ago were thought to be from a girl because her wisdom teeth had not yet erupted, something that typically should happen between the ages of 18 and 22. But new analyses provide evidence that she was in fact a 25- to 35-year-old woman at the time of death.

. . .

Because the coarse diet of early humans required a lot of chewing, there was more growth stimulation of the jawbone and more room for wisdom teeth to emerge. But when they started cooking their food and making it softer, the wisdom teeth had more trouble surfacing.

"Finding impacted wisdom teeth 15,000 years ago indicates that the human diet might have already changed, some would say 'deteriorated,' earlier than previously thought," said Robert Martin, Field Museum provost and primatologist.

That sounds interesting, but it is, after all, a sample size of 1. Still, the key observation in here is: "Magdalenian Girl has once again proven the value of museum collections, which often contain unexpected secrets that are only revealed as new methods and techniques emerge," Which is very true in a lot of cases. There is a lot of junk sitting in museums that was excavated earlier in the last century that has not been analyzed using modern techniques. And the techniques don't even have to be all that high-tech either; a lot can be gleaned just from reexamining such things as the spatial distributions, co-occurrences, and a lot of other fairly straightforward statistical techniques that just weren't used very much way back when. The big problem in using museum collections is, of course, a statistical one, since obtaining representative samples wasn't one their radar a lot of the times. Often they just collected what they thought was significant/important (usually the cool, well-preserved stuff) rather than getting a representative sample of everything. So, it's got problems, but it's no doubt still useful for a variety of projects.

Kennewick et al. update Who Were The First Americans?

It was clear from the moment Jim Chatters first saw the partial skeleton that no crime had been committed--none recent enough to be prosecutable, anyway. Chatters, a forensic anthropologist, had been called in by the coroner of Benton County, Wash., to consult on some bones found by two college students on the banks of the Columbia River, near the town of Kennewick. The bones were obviously old, and when the coroner asked for an opinion, Chatters' off-the-cuff guess, based on the skull's superficially Caucasoid features, was that they probably belonged to a settler from the late 1800s. . . .

Dangitall, it's sub-only. I used to have a back door into Time's web site that allowed all reading of the articles, but it has since been lost to the mists of . . .errr, Time, as it were. It's the cover story this week though so it may have to be purchased.