The Most Lavish Mesopotamian Tomb Ever Found Belongs to a Woman

In the late 1920s, deep in the southern Iraqi desert, British archaeologist Leonard Woolley uncovered the most lavish Mesopotamian tomb ever discovered. The 4,500-year-old skeleton was draped in gold and precious stones. Golden rings decorated each finger, a golden-looped belt lay across the waist and a golden headdress with intricately wrought leaves and standing flowers adorned the head. Three more bodies, presumably servants, accompanied the royal skeleton. But the resplendent grave goods are not the only reason the discovery rocked the world in the early 20th century: this tomb belonged to a woman.

Queen Pu-abi, a name carried down through the millennia thanks to a lapis-lazuli seal pinned to her burial garment, lived at the height of Ur’s power around 2600 BC. In her time, the ancient city-state held extensive sway across Sumer, a region nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates. Trade in Ur flourished and trade routes extended from modern-day India to Sudan. As the main harbor for Indian goods, Ur garnered huge amounts of wealth. Though no contemporary documents mention Pu-abi, scholars believe she may have ruled in her own right since her seal mentions no husband.

— source | Sarah Durn | Feb 10, 2022

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Gruesome ‘Blood Worms’ Invaded a Dinosaur’s Leg Bone

Around 80 million years ago in what is now Brazil, a sick dinosaur limped along—but its days were numbered. Its leg bone was so diseased that it had turned spongy, and a particularly gruesome culprit may have been to blame: wormlike parasites wriggling through its bloodstream. Researchers analyzing the fossilized bone recently found strange, oblong forms in channels that once were blood vessels. The dinosaur in question was a titanosaur, a gigantic long-necked animal with legs the size of tree trunks.

After initially noticing abnormalities in the leg bone, Aline Ghilardi at Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, along with her colleagues, set out to discover what ailed the titanosaur. They ruled out cancer and tuberculosis; these often reduce blood flow in affected bone areas, but this fossil’s irregular surface suggested it had once been riddled with vascular canals coursing with blood and pus. A CT scan also revealed internal cavities probably associated with blood flow.

The researchers concluded that this titanosaur had a rare bone condition called osteomyelitis, which causes severe inflammation. When they cut thin slices of the fossil, coated

— source | Chris Baraniuk | Oct 30, 2020

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The IIT Kharagpur Calendar Is the Right’s Attempt To Appropriate the Indus Valley Civilisation

Recently, a calendar circulated by the Indian Knowledge Systems centre at IIT Kharagpur generated controversy. It presented an incoherent pastiche of imagery and symbols, various claims about the feats of ancient Hindus and, most of all, declared the centre’s purpose to be not study as much as to right a wrong: the idea, now well-established, that India’s Vedic culture isn’t indigenous.

This is not an isolated event but part of a larger narrative about our origins that some are trying to establish contrary to all historical, linguistic and genetic evidence.

Where did we come from? This is a question people everywhere have asked themselves at one time or another. Attempts to answer it have helped us understand how humans evolved from primates and spread to every continent in the world – and how people of various countries and cultures came about.

In some cases, this is well documented. In the ‘new world’, mainly the Americas and Australasia, the invasion of Europeans led to the marginalisation and, often, extinction of the native culture. In western Europe, the Roman empire impacted almost every region linguistically and culturally. And yet ancient cultures and their products survive around the

— source | Rahul Siddharthan | 29/Dec/2021

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50,000-Year-old Social Network Across Africa

Humans are social creatures, but little is known about when, how, and why different populations connected in the past. Answering these questions is crucial for interpreting the biological and cultural diversity that we see in human populations today. DNA is a powerful tool for studying genetic interactions between populations, but it can’t address any cultural exchanges within these ancient meetings. Now, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have turned to an unexpected source of information—ostrich eggshell beads—to shed light on ancient social networks. In a new study published in Nature, researchers Drs. Jennifer Miller and Yiming Wang report 50,000-years of population connection and isolation, driven by changing rainfall patterns, in southern and eastern Africa.

— source Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History | Dec 20, 2021

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Maulana Hasrat Mohani and the Persistent Minority Question

Born in 1875 at Mohaan village in the Unnao district of present-day Uttar Pradesh, poet-politician Maulana Hasrat Mohani remained eclectic to the point of nihilism in his political orientation. His poetry immortalised him, but history has forgotten him as a political activist—he coined the slogan “Inquilab Zindabad”. After completing his education at MAO College, known as Aligarh Muslim University today, he joined the Congress party and sided with its radical section led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. However, Mohani did not remain with the Congress for long and joined the Communist party. He inaugurated its first party office in 1925 and “waved the red flag”.

He was the president of the reception committee in the first All India Conference of Communists held in December the same year at Kanpur. After getting expelled from the Communist party, he organised his own “Azad Party”. He also became part of the Muslim League but left it in 1936 after rejecting the two-nation theory. He never wished to go to Pakistan, newly formed in 1947.

Mohani can be understood as a combination of paradoxical actions with respect to his political affiliations. Still, he remained primarily committed to the values he defined as

— source | Paramjit S. Judge | 03 Jan 2022

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How Did Neanderthals and Other Ancient Humans Learn to Count?

Some 60,000 years ago, in what is now western France, a Neanderthal picked up a chunk of hyena femur and a stone tool and began to work. When the task was complete, the bone bore nine notches that were strikingly similar and approximately parallel, as if they were meant to signify something.

Francesco d’Errico, an archaeologist at the University of Bordeaux, France, has an idea about the marks. He has examined many ancient carved artefacts during his career, and he thinks that the hyena bone—found in the 1970s at the site of Les Pradelles near Angoulême—stands out as unusual. Although ancient carved artefacts are often interpreted as artworks, the Les Pradelles bone seems to have been more functional, says D’Errico.

He argues that it might encode numerical information. And if that’s correct, anatomically modern humans might not have been alone in developing a system of numerical notations: Neanderthals might have begun to do so, too.

When D’Errico published his ideas in 2018, he was venturing into territory that few scientists had explored: the ancient roots of numbers. “The

— source | Colin Barras | Aug 26, 2021

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Age of hotly debated skull from early human Homo erectus determined

A new study verifies the age and origin of one of the oldest specimens of Homo erectus — a very successful early human who roamed the world for nearly 2 million years. In doing so, the researchers also found two new specimens at the site — likely the earliest pieces of the Homo erectus skeleton yet discovered. Details are published today in the journal Nature Communications.

“Homo erectus is the first hominin that we know about that has a body plan more like our own and seemed to be on its way to being more human-like,” said Ashley Hammond, an assistant curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology and the lead author of the new study. “It had longer lower limbs than upper limbs, a torso shaped more like ours, a larger cranial capacity than earlier hominins, and is associated with a tool industry — it’s a faster, smarter hominin than Australopithecus and earliest Homo.”

In 1974, scientists at the East Turkana site in Kenya found one of the oldest pieces of evidence for H. erectus: a small skull fragment that

— source American Museum of Natural History | Apr 13, 2021

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Genetic changes in Bronze Age southern Iberia

The third millennium BCE is a highly dynamic period in the prehistory of Europe and western Asia, characterized by large-scale social and political changes. In the Iberian Peninsula, the Copper Age was in full swing around 2,500 years BCE with substantial demographic growth, attested by a large diversity of settlements and fortifications, monumental funerary structures, as well as ditched mega-sites larger than 100 hectares. For reasons that are still unclear, the latter half of the millennium experienced depopulation and the abandonment of the mega-sites, fortified settlements and necropoles.

In southeastern Iberia, one of the most outstanding archaeological entities of the European Bronze Age emerged around 2,200 BCE. This so-called ‘El Argar’ culture, one of the first state-level societies on the European continent, was characterised by large, central hilltop settlements, distinct pottery, specialized weapons and bronze, silver and gold artefacts, alongside an intra-murial burial rite. A new study explores the relation between dynamic shifts at population scale and the major social and political changes of the third and second millennia BCE by analysing the genomes of 136 ancient Iberians, ranging from 3,000 to 1,500 BCE.

— source Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History | Nov 17, 2021

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Secrets behind Earth’s first major mass extinction

We all know that the dinosaurs died in a mass extinction. But did you know that there were other mass extinctions? There are five most significant mass extinctions, known as the “big five,” where at least three-quarters of all species in existence across the entire Earth faced extinction during a particular geological period of time. With current trends of global warming and climate change, many researchers now believe we may be in a sixth.

Discovering the root cause of Earth’s mass extinctions has long been a hot topic for scientists, as understanding the environmental conditions that led to the elimination of the majority of species in the past could potentially help prevent a similar event from occurring in the future.

A team of scientists from Syracuse University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Riverside, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, the University of New Mexico, the University of Ottawa, the University of Science and Technology of China and Stanford University recently co-authored a paper exploring the Late Ordovician mass extinction (LOME), which is the first, or oldest of the “big five (~445 million years ago).” Around 85% of marine

— source Syracuse University | Nov 1, 2021

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