search
Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

archaeology
subscribe
Special Introductory Offer!

From the Trenches

Neanderthal Brain Strain

By NIKHIL SWAMINATHAN

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sapiens NeanderthalCutThe brains of Neanderthals and ancient humans were remarkably close in volume—roughly 90 cubic inches. But that doesn’t mean they were the same.

 

Scientists studied 32 human and 13 Neanderthal skulls, 27,000 to 75,000 years old, and found that Neanderthal eyes were, on average, 15 percent larger than those of humans. They attribute this to the Neanderthals’ European origin, where they would have had lower light levels than in Africa, where humans developed. Accordingly, the researchers estimate Neanderthal brains used twice the space for visual processing compared with human brains.

 

Improved sight was not without its costs—Neanderthals likely had less brain capacity to put toward social interaction. According to University of Oxford anthropology graduate student Eiluned Pearce, Neanderthals are believed to have lived in smaller groups and traveled shorter distances for resources compared to humans. “That suggests that although they interacted with neighboring bands,” she says, “they did not interact with more distant ones, or at least not as frequently as modern humans did.” 

French Wine, Italian Vine

By NIKHIL SWAMINATHAN

Monday, August 12, 2013

wine-pressChemical analysis of a limestone platform at Lattara, on the southern coast of France, indicates it was used for pressing grapes into wine. Dating to as early as 425 B.C., it is the first evidence of winemaking in the country. The platform bears traces of tartaric acid, the telltale compound associated with ancient Mediterranean grape wine. A nearby clay pot held the remains of thousands of grape seeds.

 

Archaeologists also uncovered several amphoras that contain residue of tartaric acid, but they are up to 100 years older than the press, suggesting that trade with northwest Italy spurred French winemaking.

 

“It’s not just some foreign people coming in and starting up winemaking,” says Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. “It’s the native Celtic people in France, the Gauls, who are involved.”

Spain's Lost Jewish History

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

Monday, August 12, 2013

JewishcemeteryThough written sources identify the neighborhood of Cerro de la Horca as a medieval burial ground, it was not until 2008, when human bones were found in a local schoolyard, that excavations were undertaken at the site. After years of post-excavation study, archaeologist Arturo Ruiz Taboada has revealed that the area contained 107—and probably many more—mid-twelfth-century tombs. The tombs are of a type distinctive to Jewish burials, with no parallels among the city’s Muslim or Christian graves. 

 

Following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, there was a policy of eliminating every symbol or memory of their presence in the country. “It’s been difficult to uncover Jewish culture and tradition through archaeology,” says Ruiz Taboada, “and very little evidence of their rise during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries survives.” Although physical anthropologists were part of the excavation team, it wasn’t possible to study the remains after ultra-Orthodox groups demanded an end to work on the site and immediate reburial of the deceased.

Samson and the Gate of Gaza

By MALIN GRUNBERG BANYASZ

Monday, August 12, 2013

Samson-mosaic-Please-photo-credit-Jim-Haberman

 

At the site of Huqoq, in Israel’s Galilee region, Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has discovered a mosaic depicting Samson. The fifth-century work shows him carrying the gate of Gaza on his shoulders—a scene from Judges 16:3. Another Samson mosaic was found there last year, suggesting the synagogue had been decorated with a pictorial cycle, the first of its kind uncovered in Israel. 

Golden Sacrifices

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

Monday, August 12, 2013

Gold figurines

 

During the past four years, on the Danish island of Bornholm, archaeologists and amateurs have uncovered a collection of remarkable gold figurines dating from the sixth or seventh century A.D. According to Bornholm Museum archaeologist René Laursen, the figurines represent deities and were sacrificed with wishes for health, fertility, or a good harvest. “They are very unusual,” says Laursen. “Although we know of a few figurines from Scandinavia, they are usually bronze.” In addition to many silver, bronze, and iron artifacts, 24 gold foil figurines have also been uncovered at the site—called Smørenge, or “Butter Meadows”—probably all offerings at one or more sacred springs, or perhaps even a temple. 

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement


Advertisement