Tag Archives: archaeology

Did Australian aborigines reach the Americas first?

I believe it’s been demonstrated that Iceland-based Vikings may have set foot on the Americas long before Europeans, and there was that theory a while ago (which has been steadfastly derided by historians ever since) that a Chinese fleet visited the New World in 1421, but this discovery – if it turns out to be valid – pretty much knocks those into a cocked hat. Human remains discovered in Florida, Chile and Brazil in the mid-seventies, estimated to be over 11,000 years old, have finally been fully reconstructed… and they turn out to have “cranial features distinctive of Australian Aborigines”.

The oldest of the skeletal remains, dubbed Luzia, are of a young woman who died in her twenties and was ceremonially buried in a cave complex in Central Brazil. She was among a large collection of material first uncovered in 1975 by a Brazilian-French archaeological team, who disbanded in acrimony after the sudden death of its leader.

The remains were not examined until he late 1990s by a group led by Walter Neves of the University of Sao Paulo, who was surprised to discover that Luzia’s skull looked sharply different from the Mongoloid cranial morphology distinctive of people of East and North Asian origin and of Native Americans.

A reconstruction of her face by British forensic experts, based on her skull and its distinctive characteristics, shows Luzia had a cranial morphology almost identical to Australian Aborigines.

There’s a jonbar point just waiting for an alt-history trilogy to be pegged to it… though you’ll want to get in there quick, before the New Agers jump the bandwagon and start explaining how cherrypicked pieces of Mayan and Aztec mythology matched up with the Dreamtime narratives point ineluctably to a horde of angels imminently ushering in the long-awaited Age of Aquarius, while Antarctica melts to reveal the long-lost continent of Atlantis and the aliens arrive to save us from ourselves*.

[ * Yeah, I’ve read a lot of those sorts of books; does it show? ]

Vinyl archaeology

vinylAs formats wither and die and the digital dark age trundles ever on enterprising hackers are already developing techniques for extracting data from older formats. Here a gentleman has extracted discernible sound recording from a photograph of a vinyl disk:

Remember those flat round things you may have found lying around the house. Those that never really worked well as flying saucers? Well, the other day I happenned to have a good look at one through a magnifying glass. I was able to discern something waveform’esqe in the shape of the groove. I thought, “groovy, there must be a way to extract something sensible off of that” (actual thought quoted).

Once the image was ready, writing the decoder was very simple. All it did was rotate a “needle” around a given center at some predefined angular velocity, attempting to keep track of the groove the needle was initially positioned on. The offsets (dr) between this track and the basic radial were bunched into a sequence of samples. these were later converted into wav files.

It’s a beautiful project – and it actually sorta works. You can listen to the results and compare it to a recording direct from the disk (or were they called discs?).

[via Short Sharp Science][image from Hryck on flickr]

Stonehenge was ‘prehistoric rave venue’; Lake Michigan wants slice of the action

StonehengeHere in the UK, the endless debate over what Stonehenge was actually used for continues with a new suggestion: professor and part-time DJ Rupert Till believes his measurements show that Stonehenge has ideal acoustic properties for amplifying a “repetitive trance rhythm”.

One wonders whether, had Professor Till been working in the seventies and been a Hawkwind fan, he wouldn’t have concluded the monument’s suitability for amplifying fifteen-minute space-rock wig-outs… [image from Wikimedia Commons]

Meanwhile, Geoff Manaugh at BLDBLOG points us to more mysterious stones arranged in a circle… this time, though, they’re at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

… a series of stones – some of them arranged in a circle and one of which seemed to show carvings of a mastodon – 40-feet beneath the surface waters of Lake Michigan. If verified, the carvings could be as much as 10,000 years old – coincident with the post-Ice Age presence of both humans and mastodons in the upper midwest.

That said, there may be other explanations; as an anonymous commenter at BLDGBLOG says:

I did this about 10 years ago, it was a college project.

Christmas post: Mary Magdalene’s perfume found?

This could be a marketing opportunity for somebody.

Franciscan archaeologists digging in the biblical town of Magdala in present-day Israel say they have uncovered vials of perfume similar to those used by Mary Magdalene, the woman believed to have washed the feet of Jesus.

…”[W]e have in our hands ‘cosmetic products’ from Christ’s time,” said [lead archaeologist Father Stefano] De Luca.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]