Taxonomy term

human history

Humans accidentally created new rivers in Europe

Meandering rivers that flow through and transport sediment to deltas often split off from their main courses and flow in different directions. This process, called avulsion, happens naturally when a river overflows its banks and the floodwaters carve out a new course for the river to follow. But humans can also trigger avulsions by changing the shape of the landscape, and in a new study, scientists report that people have been doing this for a very long time.

15 Feb 2019

Archaeologists hit pay dirt in medieval latrines

Archaeologists digging in Lübeck, Germany, unearthed an unusual source of information about past dietary habits in the city: parasite eggs recovered from 700-year-old latrines.

12 Feb 2019

Mediterranean heritage sites threatened by rising seas

The Mediterranean region has been a cultural center for centuries, giving rise to numerous locales designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. A new study looking at the effects of rising sea levels on treasures like the Venetian Lagoon, the Old City of Dubrovnik and the ruins of Carthage indicates that most UNESCO sites on the Mediterranean Sea are at risk of storm surge and coastal erosion as well as inundation in the coming decades.

07 Feb 2019

Earliest art found in South Africa

Blombos Cave, located along the South African coast about 300 kilometers east of Cape Town, has been excavated since 1991, revealing materials left by Homo sapiens between 100,000 and 70,000 years ago. 

14 Jan 2019

Geologic Column: Light amid the darkness: Celebrations during the winter solstice

The winter solstice falls on Friday, Dec. 21, marking the arrival of winter and the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. For at least 5,000 years, humans have celebrated this celestial event with festivals of light and ceremonies of renewal.
21 Dec 2018

Did early agriculture knock the climate off track?

During the last 2.5 million years, Earth’s climate has seen cycles of advancing and retreating glaciers over much of the Northern Hemisphere. We are currently in a warm, interglacial period — one that’s been prolonged by increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane. According to a new study in Nature, these high concentrations of greenhouse gases have disrupted the recent pattern of cycling in Earth’s climate and pushed back the next ice age. The study also suggests that human activity, beginning thousands of years ago with early agriculture and continuing through to the present day, has fueled the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations.

12 Dec 2018

Japanese diaries show sun's cycle sparks lightning on Earth

The effects of solar cycles on Earth’s climate over timeframes of thousands of years are well documented, but the shorter-term effects on weather are less understood. A new study using ancient Japanese diaries to track storms in the 18th and 19th centuries suggests that one of the sun’s shortest cycles — the 27-day rotational period — may play a role in stimulating lightning on Earth.

15 Nov 2018

Turning modern "eyes" on ancient sites

People have inhabited Jerash, Jordan, since the Neolithic. But much of its history has been buried by subsequent occupation, including over the last two centuries. Archaeologists have excavated Jerash with trowels and screens to uncover its long history, but now, with the help of lidar and old photographs, a team of researchers is discovering more about Jerash’s past by gazing down on the city from the sky.

13 Nov 2018

Ancient DNA reveals diversity of Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is one of the most genetically and linguistically diverse regions on Earth. New sequencing of ancient human DNA is helping scientists piece together the puzzle of how repeated influxes of hunter-gatherers and farmers to the area over the last 50,000 years created the high level of diversity seen today.

03 Sep 2018

Sunstones useful as Viking-era GPS

The Vikings ruled the North Atlantic for hundreds of years without the benefits of magnetic compasses on the rough, often stormy waters. Legends have told of Vikings using sun compasses during clear weather and “sunstones” in cloudy conditions to navigate their weeks-long journeys between ports. A new study finds that sunstones made of calcite, cordierite or tourmaline may have indeed been accurate navigational tools.

28 Aug 2018

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