Giddy-up: origins of the domestic horse uncovered

The modern domestic horse is beloved worldwide as a favoured pet or an aid in the busy work of tending crops and livestock. But scientists looking to untangle the messy evolutionary roots of the modern horse have often been frustrated by false lines of inquiry. Now, a new study in the journal Nature has revealed … Continue reading Giddy-up: origins of the domestic horse uncovered

When the Vikings reached the Americas

New research from the Netherlands has more accurately dated a Viking settlement in Newfoundland, Canada, revealing that the seafaring people were active in North America by at least AD 1021. Vikings are known to have sailing vast distances in their iconic longships, and forays into a mysterious foreign land out to the west were described … Continue reading When the Vikings reached the Americas

Uncovering the secrets of an ancient Mayan city

Archaeologists and researchers decoding the secrets of one of the most magnificent ruins of the Mayan empire – the ancient city of Tikal – have made a ground-breaking discovery that potentially rewrites our understanding of interactions in the ancient Americas. Tikal, in the north of modern-day Guatemala, has been extensively studied since at least the … Continue reading Uncovering the secrets of an ancient Mayan city

Ancient DNA rewrites Japanese history

Modern-day Japanese people can trace their ancestry back to three separate genetic groups, according to a study out last week that rewrote our understanding of early Japanese history. While the Japanese archipelago has been occupied for at least 38,000 years, the region underwent rapid transformations in its occupation in the last three millennia, first from … Continue reading Ancient DNA rewrites Japanese history

A new window into the peopling of Polynesia

An international team of scientists has combined innovative machine-learning techniques with population genetics to provide the most accurate map to date of the earliest migrations through the Pacific Islands, opening a window into one of humanity’s most epic journeys. The team, led by Andrés Moreno-Estrada, Alexander Ioannidis and colleagues, used a dataset of samples from … Continue reading A new window into the peopling of Polynesia

‘Green Arabia’ was a crucial migration route for early humans

The Arabian Peninsula is more often associated with hot, arid deserts than thriving grasslands and fertile waterways, but new research shows that the peninsula experienced several pulses of increased rainfall over the last 400,000 years. This may have created idyllic conditions and facilitated the spread of early humans into Asia. The new research establishes northern … Continue reading ‘Green Arabia’ was a crucial migration route for early humans

Battered skulls of ancient farmers reveal violent conflicts

Three thousand years ago, in one of the driest deserts in the world, farmers came to blows and fought to the death, often smashing each other’s skulls in, according to a new discovery in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Graves reveal grave violence Researchers, led by Vivien Standen of the University of Tarapacá, Chile, found scores of … Continue reading Battered skulls of ancient farmers reveal violent conflicts

How to determine if ‘Nazi uranium’ is real or fake

Scientists looking for ways to determine the sources of illicit nuclear materials have applied a method better known to geologists to try to prove that small blocks of uranium are relics of Nazi Germany’s nuclear weapons program. During World War II, Nazi scientists racing to beat the US to the development of the bomb refined … Continue reading How to determine if ‘Nazi uranium’ is real or fake

How chillies came to rule the world’s cuisine

The expansion of chilli peppers around the world changed the face of culinary cultures. Now a team of researchers has mapped this journey with genomics and found that spiciness was a driving factor of trade and desirability. Capsicums and chillies belong to the Capsiceae tribe, which is also sometimes called bell peppers or chilli peppers. … Continue reading How chillies came to rule the world’s cuisine

A new angle on ancient trigonometry

This article first appeared in Cosmos Weekly on 6 August 2021. For more stories like this, subscribe to Cosmos Weekly. For some people, the word “trigonometry” conjures up images of right-angled triangles, or maybe even our old friends sine, cosine and tangent. And that may mean tears of blood, as “trigonometry” is a trigger for … Continue reading A new angle on ancient trigonometry

A new angle on ancient trigonometry

For some people, the word “trigonometry” conjures up images of right-angled triangles, or maybe even our old friends sine, cosine and tangent. And that may mean tears of blood, as “trigonometry” is a trigger for many from their school days. But without “trig”, architects would botch your new extension, GPS wouldn’t exist – and I … Continue reading A new angle on ancient trigonometry

Middle-Eastern genomes fill historical gaps

Despite being the cradle of agriculture, the birthplace of urbanisation and the land bridge that brought early hominins out of Africa, the Middle East as a region has flown relatively under the radar when it comes to genetic research. Now, a new study from the University of Birmingham and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK, has … Continue reading Middle-Eastern genomes fill historical gaps