Findings recently published in Science suggest that humans started using fire to help shape tools approximately 50,000 years earlier than previously thought. Scientists had thought that fire was used to shape tools starting 25,000 years ago, but a 72,000-year-old cache of stone weapons found in Africa points to a much earlier start. The lead researcher of the study, Kyle Brown an archaeologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, suggests that this use of fire potentially marks the turning point when Homo sapiens became “uniquely human.” For more on the study, see National Geographic News.
Posted tagged ‘archeology’
Archaeologists have discovered a smaller prehistoric site near Britain’s famous Stonehenge. All that now remains of the site are the holes in which the stones once stood. The discovery has been named Bluehenge, after the color of the 27 Preseli spotted dolerite stone from Wales which were used to form the site. Located about a mile from Stonehenge, Bluehenge was discovered this summer by researchers from Sheffield University.
Archaeologists reported an exciting new discovery this week. A bird-bone flute was unearthed in the excavations at Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany. Carved from the naturally hollow wing bone of griffon vulture, scientist believe the flute was made approximately 35,000 years ago and is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered. The flute was excavated in September 2008, the same month ivory fragments were discovered that form the oldest known “Venus” figurine. Both finds were found in the same layer of sediment in Hohle Fels Cave. Taken together, the flute and Venus figure point toward the existence of an advanced culture in Europe 35, 000 years ago. For more information on the find, see National Geographic.
Last month researchers announced the discovery of the oldest “Venus” figurine ever found. Prior to this discovery, the oldest Venus figure was dated to 27,000 years ago. This Venus is approximately 5,000 years older. Found in the excavations at Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany, the female figurine is carved from mammoth ivory. Scientists say that this discovery, which is potentially the oldest of any figurative art yet found, offers new insights into Paleolithic art, culture, and early brain development. For more information, see ScienceDaily.
A newly discovered dinosaur fossil with feathers suggests that plumage may go back to the origin of all dinosaurs more than 200 million years ago. Feathers had previously been discovered only in the Saurischian group of dinosaurs. Saurischian dinosaurs include the two-legged meat-eaters known as theropods — such as Tyrannosaur and Velociraptor — thought to be the ancestors of modern birds.
The recent discovery of feathers is in a fossil from a 130-million-year-old Tianyulong confuciusi from China. This dinosaur belongs to the mainly vegetarian Ornithischian group of dinosaurs which includes armored herbivores such as Triceratops and Stegosaurus. For more information, see the article here.
Canadian researchers have discovered a new North American dinosaur and it was a tiny terror. Hesperonychus elizabethae, the smallest meat-eating dinosaur in North America, was approximately the size of a house cat. But, other than size, it was very similar to its distant cousin Velociraptor, which gained fame in the movie Jurassic Park. The fact that it is such a small dinosaur makes its discovery even more exciting for paleontologists. Tiny bones are more typically destroyed naturally rather than being preserved in the fossil record. For more information on Hesperonychus, see Reuters here.
The Homo erectus fossils found in China’s Zhoukoudian cave system known as Peking Man date to approximately 770,000 years ago, roughly 200,000 years earlier than previously thought, scientists say. These findings suggest there were two human migrations to eastern Asia and that these human ancestors were able to handle much colder temperatures than modern humans. For more information, see the Associated Press article here.