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Image courtesy of Musée National de Préhistoire collections. Photo MNP/Ph. Jugie
 
This 38,000 year-old engraving of an aurochs, recently discovered by anthropologists in south-western France, is among the earliest known engravings found in Western Eurasia. Read more about the discovery here.
 
 
Figurines found by Polish archaeologists in Turkey. Image credit Jason Quinlan
 
Science & Scholarship in Poland have reported on the discovery by Polish archaeologists of two unique eight thousand year-old figurines in Turkey –
 
The discovery was made in one of the largest urban centres of the first farmers and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world – Çatalhöyük, located in the southern part of the Anatolian Plateau in central Turkey. The project leader is Prof. Ian Hodder of Stanford University in the US, but a team of Polish scientists has been involved in the project for several years.
 
Çatalhöyük was inhabited continuously for over one thousand years between the years 7100 and 6000 BC. According to the researchers during its heyday the densely built-up settlement had by approx. 5000 residents. The site became famous thanks to the murals, which decorated the walls of houses. They depicted as human and animal figures and geometric motifs. In 2012 Çatalhöyük was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
 
Full article here.
 
 
 
Horses and goats etched into a section of a 15 metre-long panel found in the Armintze Cave, Lekeitio, Biscay Province
Image AFP
 
BBC News Europe reports on the discovery of 14,500 year-old cave art in the Basque town of Lekeitio on the Iberian Peninsula –
 
About 50 etchings were found in the Basque town of Lekeitio. They include horses, bison, goats and – in a radical departure from previously discovered Palaeolithic art in the Biscay province – two lions. Some depictions are also much bigger than those found previously – with one horse about 150cm (4ft 11in) long. “It is a wonder, a treasure of humanity,” senior Biscay official Unai Rementeria said.
 
More here.
 
 
 
 
 A dog tooth unearthed near Stonehenge and dating to around 5,000bce
 
The tooth, above, was found at Blick Mead in Wiltshire, southern England, and is believed to be evidence of the earliest journey in British history; so claims archaeologist David Jacques. The tooth is thought to be from a pet Alsatian-type dog that travelled 250 miles from present-day York, in northern England, to Wiltshire in the south. Blick Mead is close to Stonehenge, although Stonehenge as we know it today would not have existed.
 
According to BBC News, David Jacques is reported as saying –
 
“The fact that a dog and a group of people were coming to the area from such a long distance away further underlines just how important the place was four millennia before the circle was built,” Mr Jacques said.
 
“Discoveries like this give us a completely new understanding of the establishment of the ritual landscape and make Stonehenge even more special than we thought we knew it was.”
 
It has also been suggested that the dog was a trade item, though no evidence for that theory has been advanced.
 
 
The Stone of Many Faces (or The Makapan Pebble)
Image credit and © Brett Eloff (University of Witwatersrand)
 
Writing in The Art NewspaperMartin Bailey, reports –
 
Some three million years ago a humanoid in southern Africa stumbled upon a naturally formed stone in the shape of a head and carried it to a nearby cave. The Makapan Pebble, also known as the Stone of Many Faces, was most likely found by an Australopithecus africanus, an ape-like species with some early human characteristics, which became extinct around two million years ago.
 
The Makapan (or Makapansgat) Pebble, which has never been displayed, will be exhibited for the first time at the British Museum in London this month in a show entitled South Africa: the Art of a Nation (27 October-26 February 2017). The stone belongs to the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, where it is kept in storage. John Giblin, the British Museum’s co-curator of the show, says the pebble “is the perfect size to hold in the palm of the hand”.
 
Full article here.
   
 
 
South-east quadrant of the Avebury Henge in Wiltshire, England
©
Littlestone
 
Avebury, in Wiltshire, England is one of the largest stone circles in the world. Part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, that includes the West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill, it has achieved international fame as one of the finest and most complex Neolithic structures ever built. But where did the people who built the stone circle actually live? Now, according to the Western Daily Press
 
A team of experts from the National Trust, Southampton and Leicester universities and Allen Environmental Archaeology are currently in the middle of a three-week dig – having spent the last three years investigating the area.
 
“Avebury’s prehistoric monuments are justly world famous but one of the questions I’m most often asked is where the people who built and used them lived,” said Nick Snashall, the National Trust’s archaeologist for Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.
 
“This landscape has been studied by antiquaries and archaeologists for almost 400 years, which makes it all the more astonishing that we had no idea where its Neolithic and Bronze Age residents lived or what they did in their daily lives.
 
“So a few years ago a group of us decided it was about time we changed that and teamed up to form the Between the Monuments Project.
 
“We’re trying to put the people back into Avebury. It sounds straightforward, but the houses the first farmers built are incredibly rare and difficult to spot.
 
“Finding stone circles and burial mounds is a doddle in comparison.”
 
More here.
 
 
Fred and Wilma Flintstone in their garden with Barney and Betty Rubble looking on
Image credit Everett Collection/Rex Features
 
Our prehistoric forebears are often portrayed as spear-wielding savages, but the earliest human societies are likely to have been founded on enlightened egalitarian principles, according to scientists.
 
A study has shown that in contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, men and women tend to have equal influence on where their group lives and who they live with. The findings challenge the idea that sexual equality is a recent invention, suggesting that it has been the norm for humans for most of our evolutionary history.
 
Read the full article in the Guardian here.
  
 
 
Carn Wnda Cromlech (Dolmen), Pembrokeshire, Wales
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Did Neolithic people have hierarchies? Almost certainly. Writing in the New Historian, Irina Slav, reports that –
 
A study by two Spanish anthropologists has yielded a hypothesis that communities in the late Neolithic and Chalcolithic ages were already starting to stratify, based on the examination of seven megalithic burial structures. According to Teresa Fernandez-Crespo and Concepcion de la Rua from the UPV/EHU University of the Basque Country, the gender and age characteristics of those buried in megalithic structures suggest some members of the community were selected for such burial while others were excluded.
 
Full article here.
   
 
 
Reproduction of Australopithecus afarensis in the CosmoCaixa Science Museum, Barcelona, Spain
Source Wikimedia Commons
 
 
Irina Slav, writing for the New Historian, reports on an exciting find of stone tools predating Homo Genus –
 
US archaeologists digging in Kenya say they have discovered the oldest tools ever, dating back 3.3 million years. This means they were made 700,000 years before the first signs of human presence on the planet, suggesting that our primate ancestors, the Australopitheci, were capable of making and using tools, and the Homo genus was not the first species to discover how to do this.
 
Lead researcher Sonia Harmand, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University, said the team found the site, near lake Turkana in northern Kenya, by accident four years ago after taking a wrong turn. They noticed several stone tools on the surface of the earth, and got digging. Their work yielded 20 more artefacts that were underground, and as many as 130 on the surface. These included cores – chunks of rock from which pieces are chipped to make tools, anvils and flakes (small pieces of stone used as tools). According to Harmand, the pieces bore marks of deliberate manipulation, so they could not have been the result of accidental fracture.
 
Full article here.
   

Reconstruction by Elisabeth Daynes of a 70,000 year old Neanderthal child

The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports –

LA FERRASSIE, FRANCE – The French Dordogne is known for its hearty wine, rich foie gras – and spectacular prehistoric finds. This hamlet is home to one of the most famous: During excavations here beginning more than 100 years ago, French archaeologists discovered the skeletons of seven Neandertals, including four children and infants, and the most complete adult Neandertal skull ever found. They concluded that all were deliberately buried, making this site pivotal to contentions that Neandertals had symbolic capacities.

More here. See also our Lost innocence feature.

 
The XIX International Rock Art Conference IFRAO 2015
Symbols in the Landscape: Rock Art and its Context
 
The University of Extremadura, the Institute of Prehistoric Studies (ACINEP) and the Patrimonio & ARTE and CUPARQ (Culture, Heritage and Archaeology) research groups are pleased to invite researchers, specialists, lecturers, curators, managers, cultural heritage professionals and all those interested to the XIX International Conference of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO), which takes place from 31 August to 4 September 2015 in the city of Cáceres (Extremadura, Spain).
 
Cáceres is a charming historic-artistic city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the autonomous community of Extremadura. The surroundings, on the Iberian Peninsula’s west, are a fortunate part of southwestern Europe where paintings and engravings of the main artistic cycles of the area’s prehistory and protohistory, from the Palaeolithic to the Iron age, have been preserved. An abundance of shelters with schematic paintings in a series of exceptionally well-preserved natural spaces are of particular interest. In this setting, with hospitality characteristic of our country’s people, we shall provide the appropriate atmosphere to encourage the study and reflection on some truly universal symbolic creations existing through the ages and in virtually every corner of the planet.
 
Details here.
   
 
The Saldyar Valley in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia were archaeologists have discovered a stunning alfresco gallery of prehistoric art
©
The Siberian Times
 
Will Stewart, writing for the MailOnline, reports on the stunning prehistoric art that has been discovered by archaeologists in the Altai Mountains of Siberia –
 
Archaeologists in Siberia have begun uncovering an extraordinary alfresco gallery of prehistoric art high in the 4,506-metre tall Altai Mountains. While the region is famed for petroglyphs (rock engravings), new finds are being made in the hidden and rarely-visited Saldyar valley, close to the fast-flowing Katun River. Here beneath the densely-wooded slopes they are discovering remarkable rock pictures dating back 5,000 years, close to Russia’s border with China and Mongolia.
 
The Altai Mountains in southern Siberia are one of the great undiscovered tourist destinations, featuring breathtaking lakes and peaks, with many signs of the ancient lost world, such as burial mounds, standing stones and the exhibition of petroglyphs, many from the Bronze and Iron ages. Many of the carvings are found on rocks that form a symbolic rock garden, with the sun’s beams helping to illuminate the artistic work and making them appear similar to photograph negatives. According to Altai legend, the location of these megaliths was a result of the mythical hero Sartaksakpay, who is said to have jokingly changed the direction of the rivers and scattered the mountain valleys with huge rocks.
 
Archaeologists studying the petroglyphs found that the ancient artists had several favourite images, including the Siberian mountain goat, which has always been seen as a symbol of success and good luck as well as being good hunting prey. Another of the most popular images at Saldyar is the long horned bull, a symbol of a bygone era that once roamed in Ancient Egypt, Mycenaean Greece and Central Asia.
 
Full MailOnline article here.
   
 
 
Mark Strauss, writing for KINJA, reports on the earliest know decoration by a Homo erectus
 
Archaeologist Stephen Munro nearly fell off his chair when he noticed patterns of straight lines purposefully etched on a fossilized clamshell. The engravings were half a million years old, which meant they’d been made by a Homo erectus—an extinct human species that predated Homo sapiens by upwards of 300,000 years.
 
In addition to the engravings, Munroe and his colleagues found shells that were carefully crafted into specialized tools. Taken together, these discoveries suggest that Homo erectus was far more sophisticated than previously believed and capable of symbolic thought.
 
“It is a fascinating discovery,” says Colin Renfrew, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge. “The earliest abstract decoration in the world is really big news.”
 
The shells, which previously had been sitting in a museum, were collected more than a century ago by Dutch archaeologist Eugene Dubois on the Indonesian island of Java. Dubois had obtained the specimens from the same excavation site where, in the 1890s, he discovered the first-known remains of Homo erectus. In 2007, Leiden University archaeologist Josephine Joordens began studying the shells, looking for clues about what the environment had been like for humanity’s ancestors. It was then that her colleague, Munro, noticed the etchings.
 
In the seven years since, a team of scientists led by Joordens have been studying the shells, confirming their age and that the lines had not been made by animals. The results of their research have been published in Nature.
 
More here here.
   

A Nature Video documenting a cave in Indonesia that’s home to some of the oldest paintings and hand stencils in the world

 
The earliest known cave paintings have been discovered in a rural area on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesian. Using stalactite-like growths that cover some of the paintings and hand stencils experts have been able to date them from 40,000 years – 13,000 years before the present.
 
Pallab Ghosh, Science Correspondent for BBC News, reports Dr Maxime Aubert as saying that –
 
“The minimum age for (the outline of the hand) is 39,900 years old, which makes it the oldest hand stencil in the world. Next to it is a pig that has a minimum age of 35,400 years old, and this is one of the oldest figurative depictions in the world, if not the oldest one…”
 
There are also paintings in the caves that are around 27,000 years old, which means that the inhabitants were painting for at least 13,000 years. In addition, there are paintings in a cave in the regency of Bone, 100 km north of Maros. These cannot be dated because the stalactite-like growths used to determine the age of the art do not occur. But the researchers believe that they are probably the same age as the paintings in Maros because they are stylistically identical.
 
The discovery of the Indonesian cave art is important because it shows the beginnings of human intelligence as we understand it today.
 
 
Painting of a variety a wild endemic dwarfed bovid from Bone, Sulawesi, in Indonesia. The animal is found only in Sulawesi and was probably hunted by the inhabitants.
Image credit Dr Maxime Aubert
 
Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London is quoted as saying, “This find enables us to get away from this Euro-centric view of a creative explosion that was special to Europe.”
 
Full BBC article here. Read the research paper here. See also our earlier feature, Do the hand stencils found in prehistoric cave paintings belong to women?
    
 
The last ever new episode of Time Team will go out this Sunday (7 September) on Channel 4 from 8:00pm. Titled The Boats That Made Britain… Sir Tony Robinson, Phil Harding and Francis Pryor join, “…a team of experts as they strive to reconstruct the Dover Boat – one of the oldest seagoing boats in the world.”
 
More on Francis Pryor‘s blog here. See also our earlier feature Bronze Age Boat to sail again.
   

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