Cave stalagmites show that flooding destroyed Liangzhu City

The Liangzhu excavation site, on the Yangtze River Delta, southwest of Shanghai in China, is home to the remains of a 5,300-year-old civilisation. Liangzhu City was once an advanced culture, with hydraulic infrastructure including dams, reservoirs and canals. Despite not having metals, the Neolithic people of Liangzhu operated a complex water system that allowed agriculture … Continue reading Cave stalagmites show that flooding destroyed Liangzhu City

Rare non-returning boomerangs analysed for new clues

Four summers ago, Katheryn Litherland, a Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka woman from north-eastern South Australia, and Jason Litherland, a National Parks and Wildlife Service worker, discovered something remarkable as they explored the unseasonably dry creek bed of Kinipapa (Cooper Creek). It was a time of drought, and as they cleared rubbish left by visitors among the river … Continue reading Rare non-returning boomerangs analysed for new clues

Origins of the mysterious Tarim Basin mummies revealed

The dry Tarim Basin, in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of north-western China, is home to hundreds of naturally mummified human remains, all between 4,000 and 1,800 years old. Little is known about the people who became the “Tarim Basin mummies”, although their burial sites have provided clues about their society and economy. Until now it’s … Continue reading Origins of the mysterious Tarim Basin mummies revealed

Spotting Australian animal bones with collagen

How do scientists determine which animal a bone has come from? When it’s large or recent, the bone’s shape and DNA can usually provide enough information. But older bone fragments, like those often found around archaeological sites, are much harder to recognise. Collagen – a protein found in bones, skin, hair, and teeth – can … Continue reading Spotting Australian animal bones with collagen

Hunt for ancient Mesoamerican civilisations yields 478 new sites

Lidar – light detection and ranging, a light-based method of remote sensing – has become a valuable tool in archaeology, exposing details about ancient sites that had previously gone unseen in excavations. A team of US and Mexican researchers have used lidar data from over 80,000 square kilometres of southern Mexico to reveal the architecture … Continue reading Hunt for ancient Mesoamerican civilisations yields 478 new sites

Toasting a big week for ancient gastronomy

Blue cheese, beer and wine – it’s the hipster’s smorgasbord, but it turns out humans have been chowing down on these delicacies for a very long time. New research, published today in Current Biology, shows that preserved human poo – otherwise known as coprolites – in an Iron Age salt mine in Hallstatt, Austria contained … Continue reading Toasting a big week for ancient gastronomy

Human evolution: a last archaic hominin stronghold in India

Scientists trace the evolution and migration of ancient hominins to the edges of India Human history can be characterised perhaps by one skill above all else: the ability to make tools that vastly expand our technological abilities. In fact, for scientists tracing the fascinating, branching tree of human evolution, non-perishable stone tools provide a priceless … Continue reading Human evolution: a last archaic hominin stronghold in India

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Moths vs bats: moths use sound to thwart bat attacks Who would win in a bat-moth fight? A new study has found that moths have more of a leg-up than previously thought, because their wings are structured to mess up the echolocation of bats. Researchers from the University of Bristol have found that the wingtips … Continue reading You may have missed…

First ancient human DNA from the gateway between Asia and Australia

When Griffith University archaeologist Adam Brumm heard from local villagers on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi about a vast cave used to house local games of badminton, his scientific spidey-senses started to tingle. Brumm, from Griffith’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, specialises in the archaeology of the region known as Wallacea, the cluster of … Continue reading First ancient human DNA from the gateway between Asia and Australia

‘Climate windows’ allowed the first human migrations

Migration is part of the great evolutionary story of our species – humans first evolved in Africa several million years ago, before leaving those homelands and spreading across the world in a series of epic journeys. But there has long been debate about exactly when humans left Africa and the routes that were taken. This … Continue reading ‘Climate windows’ allowed the first human migrations

Lead in the air ends up in our bones throughout history

A study has traced lead concentrations in human bones between 400 and 12,000 years in age, finding that the amount of lead they contain is connected to the amount that was being produced at the time the individuals were alive. The researchers say that this has implications for modern lead pollution. Lead production in Europe … Continue reading Lead in the air ends up in our bones throughout history

A 3,500-year-old epic text begins its journey home

The Iraqi culture and foreign ministries have said this week that 17,000 ancient artefacts, looted from the country during the 2003 invasion, are making their way back home in a massive repatriation bid from the United States. The items have, for the past two decades, been held by various museums and collections including the Museum of the … Continue reading A 3,500-year-old epic text begins its journey home