Taxonomy term

archaeology

Platinum may point to impact theory for Younger Dryas

Some large meteorite strikes leave obvious craters on Earth’s surface, while others that hit water or ice or explode in the air may only leave subtle markers in the soil, such as exotic minerals or elevated levels of rare elements like platinum or iridium. In a new study, researchers report spikes of platinum in sediments at archaeological sites across North America, offering new evidence, they suggest, of a major meteorite strike about 12,800 years ago, just before the onset of a global cold period known as the Younger Dryas. The lack of a telltale crater dating to this time, however, has left scientists debating for years whether an impact actually occurred and what, if any, role it had in setting off the cold snap and affecting some of Earth’s human and animal populations.

21 Jun 2017

Tibetan Plateau populated long before advent of agriculture

Due to the harsh living conditions of the Tibetan Plateau — which has an average elevation over 4,500 meters — archaeologists have long assumed that people didn’t live in the Himalayan high country until after the adoption of agriculture in this region of the world, about 3,600 years ago. But a new study of a trove of handprints and footprints found around a fossilized mud spring in Tibet is suggesting that people may have lived here as early as 13,000 years ago.

16 May 2017

Silk Road routes may have followed the herds

The Silk Road — the ancient trade route that stretched thousands of kilometers from China to the Mediterranean — often calls to mind images of large camel caravans trekking for months across deserts and over mountains, carrying luxurious linens, spices and gems between distant lands. In reality, the “road” comprised a network of many shorter relays between neighboring areas, with goods often changing hands many times in cities, rural villages and even remote trading outposts. In a new study, researchers have illuminated likely routes of Silk Road travelers through a region of particularly challenging terrain — mountainous Central Asia — with the help of an innovative mapping method.

04 May 2017

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

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