Taxonomy term


Mastodon bones point to significantly earlier human presence in North America

In 1992, paleontologists from the San Diego Natural History Museum discovered a set of fossil bones, tusks and teeth from a single mastodon next to state highway 54 south of San Diego. Archaeologists were soon called to investigate the site, which also featured several large cobblestones — unique in the otherwise sandy matrix surrounding the bones — that seemed to have been used to break open the mastodon’s long bones, hinting at human activity soon after the animal’s death. A reliable age for the intriguing find has eluded scientists for more than two decades, but in a study released today in Nature, researchers who successfully dated the bones have come to a sensational conclusion: The site appears to date back roughly 130,000 years, more than 100,000 years before humans are thought to have lived in North America.

26 Apr 2017

Chaco Canyon: Garden of Eden or salty-soiled pilgrimage site?

The remains of elaborate stone houses, some with hundreds of rooms, and other structures scattered throughout New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon attest to advanced settlements built there by ancestral Puebloans between A.D. 800 and 1250. But how these peoples subsisted amid the arid climate and seemingly infertile ground of the canyon has long puzzled scientists. In a new study, researchers suggest that Chaco Canyon’s salty desert soils may have supported ample agriculture after all.

17 Jan 2017

The first Americans: How and when were the Americas populated?

The latest research suggests humans first came to the Americas by boat, though along which coast remains controversial. Archaeologists and geologists are working together to try to solve the mystery of how and when the first Americans arrived. 


01 Jan 2017

Underwater archaeology

As the ice sheets melted at the end of the last ice age, sea level rose dramatically, drowning much of the paleo coastline of North and South America under meters of water. To find evidence old enough to be associated with the initial colonizers, archaeologists have to get wet, even donning scuba gear to search for human relics along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Such work is highly technical and expensive, but a small handful of divers trained in underwater archaeological excavation techniques insist that it’s worth the trouble. 

01 Jan 2017

A story in the sediment: Emperor Yu's "Great Flood" may have been real

Ancient Chinese texts re-count the story of a great flood on the Yellow River some 4,000 years ago and Emperor Yu’s heroic efforts to dredge and redirect floodwaters, thereby taming the prolonged and catastrophic floodwaters and setting the stage for the agricultural boom that followed. His success is said to have proved a divine mandate for establishing the Xia dynasty, the first in China’s history. But in the absence of geological evidence for such a flood, scholars have long disagreed as to the veracity of the story.

13 Dec 2016

A labyrinth of silver mines uncovered on the shores of the Aegean Sea

By the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., silver mines under the ancient Greek city of Thorikos, now known as Lavrio, were the most important mines in Greece. Recent underground exploration of the network of tunnels found at the foot of the city’s Mycenaean-aged Acropolis is shedding new light on the scale — and miserable conditions — of the mines.

16 Jun 2016

Underwater Roman marble traced to Greece, Italy and Turkey

From the first century B.C. to the third century A.D., the city of Baiae, located on the west coast of Italy, near Naples, was the preferred summer home of Roman emperors, including Augustus and Nero. The once-grand city now lies under more than 5 meters of water due to coastal subsidence, and is preserved as the Underwater Archaeological Park of Baiae. Researchers have now traced the opulent city’s white marble floors to some of the most famous quarries in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

03 Jun 2016

Did the Medieval Warm Period welcome Vikings to Greenland?

Vikings are often depicted as hardy folk and fearsome warriors, but they were not immune to the harsh realities of the northern latitudes. Archaeological evidence suggests that Viking migrations around the North Atlantic were highly influenced by climate, with new settlements being colonized during warm periods and abruptly abandoned during colder times. However, according to a new study of glacial movements in Greenland during the time of Viking occupation, the local climate may have been just as cold when the Vikings arrived as when they left 400 years later. The finding may further shrink the area thought to have been affected by the Medieval Warm Period.

09 May 2016

Travels in Geology: The King's Highway: The crossroads of ancient Jordan

A trip along the King’s Highway in Jordan today offers breathtaking scenery, world-class geological and archaeological features, and the chance to walk in the footsteps of historic civilizations.

04 Mar 2016

Getting there and getting around Jordan

Jordan has two international airports: Amman and Aqaba. Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport is the main gateway, offering service to most major Middle Eastern and European cities and regular nonstop flights to New York, Chicago and Montreal. The airport is located 35 kilometers south of Amman; reach the city via express bus service or taxi. Taxis also serve Madaba, which is much smaller and closer to the airport. Madaba hotels will arrange airport pickup and King’s Highway transportation for you. The most convenient and flexible exploration option is with your own vehicle. Several rental agencies operate in Madaba, with more selection at the airport. Our vehicle was delivered to our Madaba hotel, allowing us to avoid city driving in Amman. Signs are generally in both Arabic and English.

04 Mar 2016