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  • News

    The spread of Europe’s giant stone monuments may trace back to one region

    From simple rock arches to Stonehenge, tens of thousands of imposing stone structures dot Europe’s landscapes. The origins of these megaliths have long been controversial. A new study suggests that large rock constructions first appeared in France and spread across Europe in three waves.

    The earliest megaliths were built in what’s now northwestern France as early as around 6,800 years...

    02/11/2019 - 15:00 Archaeology
  • News

    DNA reveals early mating between Asian herders and European farmers

    Hundreds of years before changing the genetic face of Bronze Age Europeans, herders based in western Asia’s steppe grasslands were already mingling and occasionally mating with nearby farmers in southeastern Europe.

    That surprising finding, published online February 4 in Nature Communications, raises novel questions about a pivotal time when widespread foraging and farming populations...

    02/08/2019 - 06:00 Genetics, Archaeology
  • News

    New dates narrow down when Denisovans and Neandertals crossed paths

    Mysterious ancient hominids known as Denisovans and their evolutionary cousins, Neandertals, frequented a southern Siberian cave starting a surprisingly long time ago, two new studies find.

    Evidence for visits by those populations to Denisova Cave, beginning by around 200,000 years ago for Neandertals and possibly as early as about 300,000 years ago for Denisovans, appears in the Jan. 31...

    01/30/2019 - 13:00 Anthropology, Archaeology, Human Evolution
  • The Science Life

    Why modern javelin throwers hurled Neandertal spears at hay bales

    Archaeologist Annemieke Milks had convened a sporting event of prehistoric proportions.

    The athletes: Six javelin throwers who approached the physical strength of Neandertals. The weapon: Two replicas of a 300,000-year-old wooden spear, one of nine ancient hunting tools discovered at Germany’s Schöningen coal mine (SN: 3/1/97, p. 134). The test: Could Neandertals, the likely makers of...

    01/28/2019 - 13:51 Anthropology, Archaeology, Human Evolution
  • Reviews & Previews

    Our fascination with robots goes all the way back to antiquity

    Gods and RobotsAdrienne MayorPrinceton Univ., $29.95

    Artificial intelligence and robotics are hot scientific fields today. But even in the brave new world of AI, there’s nothing new under the sun, writes classics and science history scholar Adrienne Mayor in Gods and Robots.

    In a breezy and thought-provoking account, Mayor describes how ancient Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese...

    01/20/2019 - 08:00 Archaeology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence
  • Year in Review

    Human smarts got a surprisingly early start

    Archaeological discoveries reported this year broadened the scope of what scientists know about Stone Age ingenuity. These finds move the roots of innovative behavior ever closer to the origins of the human genus, Homo.

    Example No. 1 came from Kenya’s Olorgesailie Basin, where fickle rainfall apparently led to a wave of ancient tool and trading advances (SN: 4/14/18, p. 8). Frequent...

    12/17/2018 - 08:18 Anthropology, Archaeology, Human Evolution
  • News

    Corn domestication took some unexpected twists and turns

    Corn eaten around the world today originated via a surprisingly long and complex process that started in what’s now southern Mexico around 9,000 years ago, a new study finds.

    People brought a forerunner of present-day corn plants, also known as maize, to South America from Mexico more than 6,500 years ago. Those plants still contained many genes from maize’s wild ancestor, teosinte, say...

    12/13/2018 - 14:00 Archaeology, Plants
  • News in Brief

    Stone Age people conquered the Tibetan Plateau’s thin air

    People settled down high up — really high up — as early as around 40,000 years ago. That’s when humans first inhabited East Asia’s Tibetan Plateau, about 4,600 meters above sea level, scientists say.

    Until now, evidence of humans colonizing this high-altitude region extended no further back than around 8,000 years ago (SN: 2/4/17, p. 8). Some researchers have argued that the first...

    11/30/2018 - 12:58 Archaeology, Human Evolution
  • News

    Stone-tool makers reached North Africa and Arabia surprisingly early

    Ancient stone-tool makers spread into largely unstudied parts of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula surprisingly early, two new studies find. Discoveries in Algeria and Saudi Arabia underscore how toolmaking traditions enabled Stone Age Homo groups to travel long distances and adapt to different environments, researchers say.

    Hominids used simple cutting and chopping implements to...

    11/29/2018 - 14:00 Archaeology, Human Evolution
  • News in Brief

    An exploding meteor may have wiped out ancient Dead Sea communities

    DENVER — A superheated blast from the skies obliterated cities and farming settlements north of the Dead Sea around 3,700 years ago, preliminary findings suggest.

    Radiocarbon dating and unearthed minerals that instantly crystallized at high temperatures indicate that a massive airburst caused by a meteor that exploded in the atmosphere instantaneously destroyed civilization in a 25-...

    11/20/2018 - 10:00 Archaeology