Tag: archeology

World’s Oldest Bread Shows Hunter-Gathers Were Baking 4,000 Years Before Birth Of Farming

Excavations at Shubayqa 1

Hunter-gatherers were baking bread thousands of years before the birth of farming, archaeologists have discovered after digging up pieces from the world’s oldest loaf.

The remains of a charred flatbread were found at an archaeological site in Jordan dating back 14,400 years by an European team of researchers including experts from University College London and The University of Cambridge.

It is the oldest direct evidence of bread found to date, and it predates the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years.

The team say the effort needed to produce bread from wild grains probably meant it was reserved for special occasions.




Bread involves labour intensive processing which includes dehusking, grinding of cereals and kneading and baking,” said Professor Dorian Fuller, of the UCL Institute of Archaeology.

“That it was produced before farming methods suggests it was seen as special, and the desire to make more of this special food probably contributed to the decision to begin to cultivate cereals.

“All of this relies on new methodological developments that allow us to identify the remains of bread from very small charred fragments using high magnification.”

The bread was discovered at a hunter-gatherer site known as Shubayqa 1 located in the Black Desert in northeastern Jordan.

One of the fireplaces where the bread-like products were discovered at Shubayqa 1.

The people who lived there, known as Natufians, existed through the transition from hunter-gathering to farming and so are often studied by archaeologists hoping to understand when and why the switch occurred.

The remains analysed show that wild ancestors of domesticated cereals such as barley, einkorn, and oat had been ground, sieved and kneaded prior to cooking.

Flint sickle blades as well as ground stone tools found at Natufian sites in the Levant have long led archaeologists to suspect that people had begun to use plants in new ways, rather than simply eating them raw.

But the flat bread found at Shubayqa 1 is the earliest evidence of bread making so far, and it shows that baking was invented way before we plants were cultivated.

Bread particles under the microscope

The presence of hundreds of charred food remains in the fireplaces from Shubayqa 1 is an exceptional find, and it has given us the chance to characterize 14,000-year-old food practices,” said archaeobotanist Amaia Arranz Otaegui, of the University of Copenhagen who is the first author of the study.

The remains are very similar to unleavened flatbreads identified at several Neolithic and Roman sites in Europe and Turkey. So we now know that bread-like products were produced long before the development of farming.

“The next step is to evaluate if the production and consumption of bread influenced the emergence of plant cultivation and domestication at all.”

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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European Colonization Of Americas Wiped Out Native Dogs Alongside Indigenous People

European colonisers arriving in the Americas almost totally wiped out the dogs that had been kept by indigenous people across the region for thousands of years.

The original American dogs were brought across the land bridge that once connected North America and Siberia over 10,000 years ago, by their human owners.

These dogs subsequently spread throughout North and South America, but genetic analysis has revealed they were ultimately replaced by dogs imported from Europe.

This study demonstrates that the history of humans is mirrored in our domestic animals,” said Professor Greger Larson, director of the palaeogenomics and bio-archaeology research network at the University of Oxford and senior author of the research.

People in Europe and the Americas were genetically distinct, and so were their dogs. And just as indigenous people in the Americas were displaced by European colonists, the same is true of their dogs.




In their paper, published in the journal Science, the researchers compared genetic information from dozens of ancient North American and Siberian dogs spanning a period of 9,000 years.

Their analysis showed the dogs persisted for a long time but ultimately vanished, which to Dr Laurent Frantz from Queen Mary University of London said suggests “something catastrophic must have happened”.

It is fascinating that a population of dogs that inhabited many parts of the Americas for thousands of years, and that was an integral part of so many Native American cultures, could have disappeared so rapidly,” said Dr Frantz, who was also a senior author of the study.

Today, few modern dogs possess any genetic traces of the ancient breeds.

The researchers suggested the dogs’ near-total disappearance from the region was likely a result of both disease and cultural changes brought over by Europeans.

It is possible, for example, that European colonists discouraged the sale and breeding of the dogs kept by indigenous Americans.

It is known how indigenous peoples of the Americas suffered from the genocidal practices of European colonists after contact,” said Kelsey Witt, who led part of the genome work as a graduate student at the University of Illinois.

Bizarrely, one of the only traces of genetic information from “pre-contact” dogs can be found in a transmissible tumour that spreads between dogs known as CTVT.

It’s quite incredible to think that possibly the only survivor of a lost dog lineage is a tumour that can spread between dogs as an infection,” added Maire Ní Leathlobhair, co-first author, from the University of Cambridge.

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800-Year-Old ‘Made In China’ Label Reveals The Lost History Of An Ancient Shipwreck

An 800-year-old ‘Made in China’ label has revealed the lost history of a shipwreck and its cargo.

The ship sank in the Java Sea, off the coast of Indonesia, hundreds of years ago, and the wooden hull disintegrated over time, leaving only a treasure trove of cargo.

The mystery ship had been carrying thousands of ceramics and luxury goods for trade, and they remained on the ocean floor until the 1980s when the wreck was discovered by fishermen.

Since then, archaeologists have been studying artifacts retrieved from the shipwreck to piece together where the ship was from and when it departed.

And findings published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, reveal how the equivalent of a ‘Made in China’ label on a piece of pottery helped researchers reevaluate when the ship went down and how it fits in with China’s history.

Study lead author Doctor Lisa Niziolek, an archaeologist at the Field Museum in Chicago, said: “Initial investigations in the 1990s dated the shipwreck to the mid- to late 13th Century, but we’ve found evidence that it’s probably a century older than that.




Eight hundred years ago, someone put a label on these ceramics that essentially says ‘Made in China’ – because of the particular place mentioned, we’re able to date this shipwreck better.

The ship was carrying ceramics marked with an inscription that might indicate they were made in Jianning Fu, a government district in China.

But after the invasion of the Mongols around 1278, the area was reclassified as Jianning Lu.

The slight change in the name tipped Dr Niziolek and her colleagues off that the shipwreck may have occurred earlier than the late 1200s, as early as 1162.

Dr Niziolek noted that the likelihood of a ship in the later “Jianning Lu” days carrying old pottery with the outdated name is slim.

She said: “There were probably about a hundred thousand pieces of ceramics onboard.

It seems unlikely a merchant would have paid to store those for long prior to shipment – they were probably made not long before the ship sank.

The ship was also carrying elephant tusks for use in medicine or art and sweet-smelling resin for use in incense or for caulking ships.

Dr Niziolek said both the tusks and the resin were critical to re-dating the wreck.

The resins and the tusks come from living things, and all living things contain carbon. A type of carbon atom called C-14 is unstable and decays relatively steadily over time.

Scientists can use the amount of C-14 in a sample to determine how old it is.

The analysis, known as radiocarbon dating, had been done decades ago and pointed to the shipwreck being about 700 to 750-years-old.

But Dr Niziolek said analytical techniques have improved, and the scientists wanted to see if the date held.

The amount of decayed carbon found in the resins and tusks revealed that the cargo was older than previously thought.

When taken together with the place name inscribed on the ceramics, stylistic analysis of ceramics from known time periods, and input from experts overseas, the researchers concluded that the shipwreck was indeed older than previously thought -somewhere in the region of 800 years old.

Dr Niziolek said: “When we got the results back and learned that the resin and tusk samples were older than previously thought, we were excited.

We had suspected that based on inscriptions on the ceramics and conversations with colleagues in China and Japan, and it was great to have all these different types of data coming together to support it.”

She said the fact that the shipwreck happened 800 years ago instead of 700 years ago is a big deal for archaeologists.

Dr Niziolek said: “This was a time when Chinese merchants became more active in maritime trade, more reliant upon oversea routes than on the overland Silk Road.

“The shipwreck occurred at a time of important transition.”

She added: “The salvage company Pacific Sea Resources recovered these artifacts in the 1990s, and they donated them to the Field Museum for education and research.

There’s often a stigma around doing research with artifacts salvaged by commercial companies, but we’ve given this collection a home and have been able to do all this research with it.

It’s really great that we’re able to use new technology to re-examine really old materials. These collections have a lot of stories to tell and should not be entirely discounted.

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Cold War Spy Boat Uncovers Shipwreck From Start Of Alexander The Great Conquest

Archeologists used the spy boat as well as drones to find three shipwrecks on the Mediterranean seabed.

One of the shipwrecks dated back over 2,000 years and suggests there was a vast network of trade during the rise Ancient Greek cities such as Athens.

Ben Ballard, the team leader of the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET), said: “If our dates are correct, this is just as Alexander the Great is beginning his conquest.

Alexander the Great, was a king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty.

The discovery follows Mr Ballard and his colleagues exploring the Eratosthenes seamount in expeditions backed by the OET in 2010 and 2012.




The technology used to scan the seamount included underwater drones and the OET’s Nautilus vessel which was originally a spy boat built by East Germany in the 1970s.

The team ended up finding two shipwrecks and 70 artifacts in 2010.

Mr Ballard is following in the footsteps of his father, Robert, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic.

News of the discovery has come after archaeologists earlier this year stumbled upon a lost city thought to have been founded by Alexander the Great.

Qalatga Darband in northern Iraq, believed to have been founded in 331 BBC, was discovered by a team of Iraqi and British archaeologists led by experts from the British Museum.

The city was found with the help of drones and declassified satellite photographs taken for military purposes.

John MacGinnis, the archaeologist leading the team in Iraq, told The Times: “It’s early days, but we think it would have been a bustling city on a road from Iraq to Iran.

You can imagine people supplying wine to soldiers passing through.”

The site was first brought to the attention of archaeologists at the British Museum when the declassified CIA satellite photos from the 1960s were released.

The team then used drones equipped with a camera to discover the outlines of buildings hidden beneath fields of wheat and barley.

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A Mysterious Void Was Discovered In Egypt’s Great Pyramid

Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza—one of the wonders of the ancient world, and a dazzling feat of architectural genius contains a hidden void at least a hundred feet long, scientists announced on Thursday.

The space’s dimensions resemble those of the pyramid’s Grand Gallery, the 153-foot-long, 26-foot-tall corridor that leads to the burial chamber of Khufu, the pharaoh for whom the pyramid was built.

However, it remains unclear what lies within the space, what purpose it served, or if it’s one or multiple spaces.

The void is the first large inner structure discovered within the 4,500-year-old pyramid since the 1800s—a find made possible by recent advances in high-energy particle physics. The results were published in the journal Nature.

This is definitely the discovery of the century,” says archaeologist and Egyptologist Yukinori Kawae, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

There have been many hypotheses about the pyramid, but no one even imagined that such a big void is located above the Grand Gallery.




The findings mark the latest in a millennia-long quest to understand the Great Pyramid of Giza, long an object of mystery and intrigue.

The pyramid was built some 4,500 years ago during the Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom. At that time, Egypt was a powerful, highly centralized monarchy, wealthy from trade and Nile-nourished agriculture.

The Great Pyramid is arguably the ultimate expression of that power.

The pharaoh Khufu, who reigned from 2509 to 2483 B.C., built for himself a pyramid whose base spreads across more than 13 acres and originally towered more than 146 feet tall.

The monument consists of about 2.3 million limestone blocks, which had to be quarried, transported, cut to size, and moved into place.

“These sorts of pyramids are the major product, so to speak, of the kings who built them,” says Kate Spence, a University of Cambridge archaeologist who studies ancient Egypt.

An awful lot of Egyptian society is probably geared toward building pyramids at this particular time.”

Ever since, the Great Pyramid has drawn in the curious; today, tourists enter the pyramid through a tunnel created in the ninth century A.D.

The new discovery comes out of the ScanPyramids project, an international mission under the authority of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities.

Launched in October 2015, the project aims to non-invasively peer into Egypt’s largest pyramids using a battery of technologies.

Previously, ScanPyramids had announced the detection of some intriguing voids and anomalies, which didn’t come necessarily as a surprise.

Spence says that the pyramids’ interiors are far more pockmarked and rubbly than people usually imagine.

But the new void definitely came as a surprise—and arguably marks the biggest-ever discovery yielded by muon radiography, an imaging technique first demonstrated in Giza’s pyramids.

It’s a striking discovery,” says Chris Morris, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and expert on muon imaging techniques.

This makes another muon radiographer jealous, I’m jealous. These guys have discovered a remarkable thing.”

The technique, which has been used to peer through cathedral walls, Mayan pyramids, and even volcanoes, relies on the natural drizzle of subatomic particles called muons.

While we can’t see muons with the naked eye, scientists can spot them with special films and detectors that trace their 3-D paths.

Since muons pass more easily through empty space than through solid materials, arranging multiple muon detectors in and around a structure lets scientists map the structure’s solid and empty parts.

What’s so delightful is that [muons] are like Goldilocks: They lose enough [energy] to detect them but not so much that they just get absorbed in the target,” says University of Texas at Austin particle physicist Roy Schwitters, who uses muons to study Belize’s Mayan pyramids.

They’re really a fabulous treat from nature.

The seemingly empty region, which the researchers neutrally call “the void,” is at least a hundred feet long. Its purpose remains unclear; researchers are cautiously avoiding the word “chamber” for the time being.

Tayoubi and his colleagues stress that they don’t know what the void is—but already, Egyptologists have some initial ideas for what it might be.

Spence, the Cambridge archaeologist, says that the void may be a leftover from the Great Pyramid’s construction.

She points out that massive blocks weighing tens of tons form the roof of the chambers above the King’s Chamber, the central room where Khufu was laid to rest.

Since the void aligns with the Great Pyramid’s upper chambers, which were put there to relieve pressure on the King’s Chamber below, Spence suggests that the void may have been an internal ramp used to move the massive roof blocks into place.

As construction continued, she says, this ramp could have been left empty or loosely backfilled.

Time will tell whether these or other ideas about the void’s purpose pan out. Tayoubi and other ScanPyramids collaborators say that work is only beginning.

And to those fantasizing about personally exploring the void, a word of caution.

No known corridors connect to the space, and researchers and outside experts alike stress that there are no future plans to drill into the void.

Instead, they say that in the near-term, they will do whatever they can to peer into the space non-invasively.

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Ancient Skull May Be History’s Earliest Known Tsunami Victim

In 1929, an Australian geologist named Paul S. Hossfeld was investigating the northern coast of Papua New Guinea for petroleum.

He found bone fragments embedded in a creek bank about seven miles inland and about 170 feet above sea level.

At first, Dr. Hossfeld believed that the specimen was from the skull of Homo erectus, an extinct relative of modern humans. Later analysis would show it belonged to a modern human who lived about 6,000 years ago.

Now recent research suggests the remains known as the Aitape skull could be something more: the earliest known victim of a tsunami.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One, may offer useful historical context for how ancient humans living along the Pacific Ocean’s coasts faced fierce natural hazards.

Here we start to see human interaction with some nasty earthquakes and tsunamis,” said James Goff, a retired geologist at the University of New South Wales Sydney and author of the study.




Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of a large, bountiful island just north of Australia (the western side is part of Indonesia).

In 1998, after decades of relative geological quiet, a devastating tsunami rocked the country, killing more than 2,000 people.

This huge volume of water struck the coast and swept away everything,” said John Terrell, an anthropologist at the Field Museum in Chicago who has completed research in the country and is a co-author on the paper.

The villages I knew and loved were sheared off.

After struggling for almost two decades to get funding for the project, he returned to the island in 2014 to explore the rain forests and crystal clear creek where Dr. Hossfeld had discovered the skull 85 years earlier.

Dr. Hossfeld had left detailed notes about where he had found the skull, which helped guide Dr. Goff and his team as they collected samples from the same sediment layer at a nearby river-cut cliff.

Back at the lab, they performed geochemical analysis to determine whether the sediment level had been deposited by a tsunami 6,000 years ago.

Because they had previously analyzed geochemical signals from sediment on the island following the 1998 tsunami, the team knew which clues to look for, like grain size and composition.

They found that the sediment collected from the skull site contained fossilized deep sea diatoms. These microscopic organisms were a telltale sign that ocean water had drowned the area at some point.

The researchers also found geochemical signals that matched the signatures they collected in 1998, offering additional evidence that a tsunami had struck around 6,000 years ago.

Bang! Right where the diatoms were looking very sexy and you’re getting excited, you have a signal that says, ‘Hi, I’m seawater,’” said Dr. Goff.

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