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Get to know the ancestors with our top archaeology stories of 2016


Human evolution fascinates – and here are our favourite stories about the extended family tree from the past year.


GILES HAMM

Australian dig shows signs of earliest human habitation

People began to venture into Australia’s arid interior around 49,000 years ago – 10,000 years earlier than previously thought – according to evidence from an excavation in South Australia. Read more


PHILIPPE PLAILLY / GETTY IMAGES

Why we have so few Neanderthal genes, even after interbreeding

Human evolution may not simply be a case of “survival of the fittest”, but also “survival of the many”, according to a genetic study of early human origins. Even though early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) interbred, the smaller population size of the latter meant many of their genetic traits were, over the millennia, weeded out. Read more


ROBBIE SHONE / GETTY IMAGES

Beyond radiocarbon: how archaeologists date artefacts

Scratching around in a cave in the middle of nowhere, you find a bone. How do you find out if it’s the remains of an ancient animal that stomped the land tens of thousands of years ago or a discarded scrap from a cooking fire only a few hundred years back? An archaeologist’s staple is radiocarbon dating. Read more


AFP / Stringer / Getty Images

Stone age Aegean farmers brought agriculture to Europe

Archaeologists have debated for decades the origins of Europe’s earliest farmers but, thanks to genetics, we now have a definitive answer – around the Aegean Sea in what is now Greece and northwestern Turkey. Read more


MONSIGNOR RONALD ROYER / GETTY IMAGES

A 6,000-year-old ‘telescope’ to watch the stars

Megalithic tombs could have been designed as ingenious tools to observe the faintest stars – effectively telescopes without lenses – astronomers in Britain suggest. They say the long, narrow entrance passageways of so-called passage graves, dating from around 6,000 years ago, are aligned to certain stars. Read more


ANU

First people on Vanuatu and Tonga came from Taiwan

The first inhabitants of Vanuatu and Tonga came from East Asia and not from other parts of the Pacific as previously thought, a DNA study has shown. What is more, they arrived as relatively recently as 3,000 years ago, only mingling with Melanesians from Papua and other places at least 500 years later. Read more


AFP / Stringer / Getty Images

The Iceman weareth: Ötzi's clothes were made of bear, deer and goat

The Tyrolean Iceman, nicknamed Ötzi, has revealed a great deal about the diet, tools, lifestyle, health and ancestry of humanity 5,300 years ago since his mummified body was discovered in the Italian Ötztal Alps in 1991. But they say clothes maketh the man – and now his threads are disclosing more information about life in the Copper Age. Read more


DE ROSSO / F D'ERRICO

Paint points to sophisticated Stone Age ancestors

Ancient Africans used ochre for a wide range of purposes, from decorative or symbolic to purely functional, a study reveals. The findings indicate that people of the Middle Stone Age led lives of considerably greater complexity than previously assumed. Read more


PHILIPPE PLAILLY / GETTY IMAGES

Neanderthals were broad and stocky from birth

Comparison of baby Neanderthal skeletons to modern humans suggest infants resembled robust adults. Read more


D. BAGAULT / C2RMF

Ancient amulet's creative secrets uncovered with new technique

'Full-field photoluminescence' confirmed the 6,000-year-old artefact is the oldest known object made using the 'lost wax' method. Read more


Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
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