BOONE, NORTH CAROLINA—Archaeologists are in agreement that the Indus Civilization, which flourished in present-day Pakistan and northwest India from the 4th to the 2nd millennium B.C., met its demise due to a change in climate. Now Appalachian State University anthropologist Gwen Robbins Schug adds to that narrative, showing that a weakened monsoon season led to both disease and social instability in the region. An inspection of 160 burials found at the site of Harappa, which collapsed beginning in 1900 B.C., turned up evidence of trauma-related bone growth, sinus infections, and telltale signs of tuberculosis and leprosy, as well as indications of systematic violence between the city's citizens. Women and children, in particular, who were struck by scarring diseases were most likely to have been the victims of assaults. The destabilization caused by the environmental changes appears to have led to violent displays of power directed at the lower classes.
BEIJING, CHINA—In eastern China's Shandong Province, Field Museum of Chicago archaeologist Gary Feinman has discovered remains of an extensive earthen wall dating to 500 B.C. Predating the Great Wall of China by 300 years, the fortification stands 15 feet high in some places and may run for several hundred miles. Unlike its more famous counterpart, the wall was not built to defend the Chinese against marauding nomads, but marked the border between warring dynastic states. Constructed by the leaders of the Qi Dynasty, one of whom, Qin Shi Huang, would eventually unite the states as one nation, the wall is so sturdy that even today people use stretches of it as the base of a dirt road that connects rural communities.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM—A green faience bust that was taken from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, Egypt, amidst the chaos of the 2011 Arab Spring has surfaced at an auction hall in Belgium. A French archaeologist alerted Egyptian authorities to the artifact's appearance, and the object is now slated to be returned to Tahrir. Standing just over 10 inches tall, the bust represents a prince of the 26th Dynasty (ca. 685-525 B.C.), a period that saw Egyptians unite their country under native rule after occupation by a string of foreign powers.
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—Scientists have determined that a variation of a gene that increases the risk of a person developing type 2 diabetes by 25 percent was likely introduced into human populations by Neanderthals more than 60,000 years ago. Half of people with a recent Native American lineage, including Latin Americans, have the gene, SLC16A11, as do 20 percent of East Asians. The newly seqeuenced, high quality Neanderthal genome, taken from a female toe found in Siberia's Denisova Cave, also included the variant, and researchers say that analysis suggests that Neanderthals introduced it into the human genome when they intermixed with modern humans, after the latter left Africa 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. According to the findings from the completed Neanderthal genome, roughly two percent of the genomes of today's non-African humans are comprised of Neanderthal DNA.
ARABA/ÁLAVA, SPAIN—Archaeologists have found evidence of viticulture in two of more than 300 known deserted settlements Araba/Álava province of Spain, part of the nation's northern Basque Country. One of the sites, Zaballa (or Iruña de Oca), was a feudal territory set up in the A.D. tenth century around a manor monastery. It was abandoned roughly 500 years later. The other, Zornotegi (or Salvatierra), lasted for roughly the same time but had less of a social hierarchy in place. Both, however, had terraced fields dating back to the tenth century that archaeologists believe were used for growing grapes, and not for growing cereal grains, as previously thought. “Archaeo-botanical studies of seed remains found in the excavations and pollen studies have provided material evidence of the existence of vine cultivation in a relatively early period like the 10th century,” says Antonio Quirós-Castillo of PV/EHU-University of the Basque Country. "Owing to the nature of the crop spaces built and the agrarian practices developed, they are not compatible with cereal crops but they are with vines.”