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  • News in Brief

    People in the Pacific Northwest smoked tobacco long before Europeans showed up

    Ancient pipes and pipe fragments found at five archaeological sites along the Snake and Columbia rivers in Washington contain evidence of tobacco use, new research shows. The finds suggest that indigenous people there smoked tobacco-filled pipes long before Europeans brought the plant west.

    Chemical traces of nicotine, tobacco’s key ingredient, on the artifacts date to around 1,200 years...

    10/29/2018 - 15:00 Archaeology, Anthropology
  • News

    Ancient South Americans tasted chocolate 1,500 years before anyone else

    Ancient South Americans domesticated and consumed cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, long before other people did, a new study finds.

    Artifacts with traces of cacao suggest that an Amazonian culture located in what’s now Ecuador developed a wide-ranging taste for cacao products between 5,450 and 5,300 years ago, researchers report online October 29 in Nature Ecology &...

    10/29/2018 - 12:00 Archaeology, Plants
  • News

    Ancient Clovis people may have taken tool cues from earlier Americans

    Stone spearpoints from roughly 15,000 years ago suggest that descendants of some of the earliest American settlers went on to create the Clovis culture.

    Excavations at a site in Central Texas yielded about 100,000 stone artifacts, including 12 spearpoints, that date to between 15,500 and 13,500 years ago. The shapes of those spearpoints show a progression from stemmed points to a short...

    10/24/2018 - 14:47 Archaeology
  • News

    The water system that helped Angkor rise may have also brought its fall

    At the medieval city of Angkor, flooding after decades of scant rainfall triggered a devastating breakdown of the largest water system in the preindustrial world, new evidence suggests.

    Intense monsoon rains bracketed by decades of drought in the 1400s set off a chain reaction of failures in Angkor’s interconnected water network, computer simulations indicate. The climate-induced...

    10/17/2018 - 14:00 Archaeology, Climate, Sustainability
  • News in Brief

    An ancient child’s ‘vampire burial’ included steps to prevent resurrection

    Excavations in an ancient Roman cemetery turned poignantly eerie last summer.

    In one grave lay a roughly 10-year-old child, possibly the victim of malaria, with a stone inserted in his or her mouth. That practice was part of a funeral ritual intended to prevent the youngster from rising zombielike and spreading disease to the living, researchers say. Such "vampire burials" indicate signs...

    10/16/2018 - 13:00 Archaeology
  • 50 years ago, a 550-year-old seed sprouted

    550-year-old seed sprouts — 

    A seed of the South America herb achira (Canna sp.), taken from an ancient Indian necklace, has germinated, and the young plant is growing well.… Carbon-14 dating of bones at the site sets the seeds’ age at about 550 years.… The plant from the old seed appeared to have a disturbed gravity orientation, but is still growing fairly normally. — Science News...

    10/10/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Archaeology
  • News

    Laser mapping shows the surprising complexity of the Maya civilization

    A laser-shooting eye in the sky has revealed the previously unappreciated size and complexity of ancient Maya civilization, both before and during its presumed heyday, scientists say.

    Maya people in what’s now northern Guatemala built surprisingly extensive defensive structures and roads as part of political systems featuring interconnected cities, starting at least several hundred years...

    09/27/2018 - 14:22 Archaeology, Technology
  • News

    This South African cave stone may bear the world’s oldest drawing

    A red, crosshatched design adorning a rock from a South African cave may take the prize as the oldest known drawing.

    Ancient humans sketched the line pattern around 73,000 years ago by running a chunk of pigment across a smoothed section of stone in Blombos Cave, scientists say. Until now, the earliest drawings dated to roughly 40,000 years ago on cave walls in Europe and Indonesia.

    ...
    09/12/2018 - 13:00 Archaeology, Human Evolution
  • News in Brief

    German skeletons hint that medieval warrior groups recruited from afar

    Power systems transcended kinship in medieval Europe. A burial site in southern Germany contains members of a powerful warrior family who journeyed widely to find recruits to join the household and support a post-Roman kingdom, a new study suggests.

    Thirteen individuals interred at Niederstotzingen belonged to the Alemanni, a confederation of Germanic tribes that were conquered by and...

    09/05/2018 - 14:00 Genetics, Anthropology, Archaeology
  • The –est

    Cheese found in an Egyptian tomb is at least 3,200 years old

    What may be the oldest known solid cheese has been found in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

    Made from a mixture of cow milk and either sheep or goat milk, the cheese filled a broken clay jar unearthed from a 13th century B.C. tomb for Ptahmes, the mayor of the ancient city of Memphis, researchers report online July 25 in Analytical Chemistry.

    Chemist Enrico Greco, who did the work while...

    08/17/2018 - 08:53 Science & Society, Archaeology, Chemistry