Taxonomy term

human history

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

Travels in Geology: The pyramids of Giza: Wonders of an ancient world

At the edge of Cairo, three massive pyramids rise from the Giza Plateau’s Mokattam Formation, which comprises of layers of middle Eocene limestones and dolomites. These rocks, which display fossil evidence of their origins at the bottom of the Tethys Sea some 50 million years ago, provided the millions of multiton blocks used to construct the pyramids.
16 Aug 2018

Geologic Column: The raw and the cooked

A humorous take on some paleoanthropological aspects of fire.

23 Jul 2018

Did a massive eruption spur Christianity in Iceland?

The landscape and culture of Iceland, more so than any other country, have been shaped by volcanism. In a new study, researchers have refined the dates for the massive 10th-century Eldgjá eruption, which occurred just a few decades after the island was first settled. The findings may support a connection between the violent volcanism depicted in Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem and the island’s conversion from paganism to Christianity.

29 Jun 2018

Weedy seeds gathered in once-green Sahara

Today, the vast and arid Sahara Desert seems an unlikely place to find early signs of seed gathering and plant cultivation in Africa, but new evidence shows that, 10,000 years ago, people were collecting, sorting and saving seeds near a rock shelter known as Takarkori.

28 Jun 2018

Travels in Geology: Underground awe in France: The caves of the Causses

The Causses du Quercy region in south-central France has been transformed into a karstic wonderland by the slow dissolution of limestone. The resulting caves, which served as shelters for early humans who left their bones, tools and art for us to ponder, are both geologically and paleoanthropologically fascinating.

06 Apr 2018

No river meant no floods for ancient Indus settlements

Large Middle Eastern rivers like the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates and Tiber were critical for the development of early urban societies in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Ancient Rome. And researchers have long thought that the rise, and eventual decline, of cities in the ancient Indus Civilization, which spread across about 1 million square kilometers of what’s now northwestern India and Pakistan from roughly 4,600 to 3,900 years ago, also depended on major rivers, namely those emerging from the Himalayas. But a new study looking at river sediments from the time of the civilization and earlier suggests that wasn’t the case for every ancient Indus city; some may have benefited from being farther away from large rivers and their periodic floods.

01 Apr 2018

Isotopes suggest ancient turquoise mine was prolific

Few minerals are more iconic in the Desert Southwest than turquoise. The blue-green gemstone, which offers a stark contrast to the dusty red southwestern deserts, has been coveted for thousands of years by indigenous peoples, conquering Spaniards and now by a growing market around the world. Despite its past and present cultural significance, especially among indigenous populations, little is known about the early history of turquoise mining. Researchers have now uncovered previously unknown details about a historic turquoise mining site in Arizona that suggest it was more prolific than once thought.

05 Feb 2018

Turkey DNA reveals Mesa Verde denizens moved to New Mexico

The Mesa Verde region of southern Colorado was home to as many as 30,000 Puebloans through the middle of the 13th century, until severe drought drove them south into New Mexico, ending the cliff dwellers’ reign. In a new study, researchers have charted this mass migration using mitochondrial DNA from a novel source: turkey bones from the domesticated birds kept by Puebloans in both Mesa Verde and northern New Mexico.

28 Dec 2017

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