STANFORD, CALIFORNIA—Scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology teamed with Oussama Khatib, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, to create OceanOne, a prototype humanoid robot designed to perform intricate underwater tasks. The robot has a head with stereoscopic vision and two fully articulated arms and hands that relay haptic feedback to the pilot’s controls. “You can feel exactly what the robot is doing. It’s almost like you are there; with the sense of touch you create a new dimension of perception,” Khatib told Engineering.com. In addition, sensors in the body monitor the current and automatically adjust to keep the robot stable. To test OceanOne, the team explored the wreck of La Lune, King Louis XIV’s flagship, which sank in 1664 off the southern coast of France. The deep water makes it a dangerous place for human divers, but OceanOne, guided by Khatib back on the boat, carefully recovered a vase from the wreck and placed it in a recovery basket. For more on underwater archaeology, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks..."
SPOKANE, WASHINGTON—According to an Associated Press report, the Army Corps of Engineers has determined that Kennewick Man, discovered in 1996 in southeastern Washington, is related to modern Native American populations. “I am confident that our review and analysis of new skeletal, statistical, and genetic evidence have convincingly led to a Native American Determination,” said Brig. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commander of the corps’ Northwestern Division. This means that the 8,500-year-old remains are now covered by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Kennewick Man is currently held at the Burke Museum in Seattle, under the custody of the Army Corps of Engineers. Interested tribes, such as the Colville, Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce, and Wanapum Indians, are planning to submit a joint request for the repatriation of the remains, also known as the Ancient One. To read about the earliest people to arrive in North America, go to "America, in the Beginning."
PARIS, FRANCE—Camille Daujeard and Denis Geraads of France’s National Museum of Natural History recently examined a hominin femur recovered from a Moroccan cave in 1994. Likely to have belonged to Homo rhodesiensis, the bone is covered with tooth marks that the researchers say were left by a large carnivore, possibly an extinct hyena. A report in Live Science adds that the marks were covered with sediment, so they were likely to have been made at the time of the hominin’s death or shortly after it. “During this period, early humans likely competed for space [such as natural caves] and resources with large carnivores, who occupied many of the same areas,” said Daujeard. The cave also contained the bones of animals such as gazelles and jackals, and stone tools dating to the Middle Pleistocene, between 781,000 and 126,000 years ago. Hominins are also thought to have scavenged and hunted large carnivores at this time. To read more about Pleistocene archaeology, go to "An Opportunity for Early Humans in China."
HAIFA, ISRAEL—A birdwatcher visiting Tel Dor last winter discovered an Egyptian scarab brought to the surface by heavy rains. According to a report in The Times of Israel, the seal is thought to have belonged to an official from the Thirteenth Dynasty, dating back to the eighteenth century B.C. “The scarab belonged to a very senior figure in the kingdom, probably the viceroy responsible for the royal treasury,” said Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa. Researchers think the scarab may have been carried to northern Israel by the viceroy or his representative, or it may have arrived at the site later, during the Roman period, when there was a demand for Egyptian artifacts.
TAICHUNG CITY, TAIWAN—Among the 48 sets of human remains unearthed in an ancient cemetery in central Taiwan, archaeologists found the graves of five children, and the remains of a woman who had been buried with an infant in her arms some 4,800 years ago. “When it was unearthed, all of the archaeologists and staff members were shocked. Why? Because the mother was looking down at the baby in her hands,” Chu Whei-lee of Taiwan’s National Museum of Natural Science said in a Reuters report.
DETROIT, OREGON—Low water levels in Oregon’s Detroit Lake revealed a wooden cargo wagon and a concrete pit near what had been a Forest Service Ranger Station before the area was flooded in 1953 by the Detroit Dam. U.S. Forest Service archaeologist Cara Kelly interviewed locals who lived in the area, known as Old Detroit, and learned that at one time, the pit in question may have been lined with rocks and filled with goldfish. “It really was the beginning of full administration and protection of the forest reserves. Guard stations during this time served as backcountry living quarters where forest rangers were stationed during the summer, constructing trails, installing telephone lines, and patrolling land on horseback in search of smoke from wildfires,” she said in a report in the Appeal Tribune. To read about a site where the National Forest is conducting research, go to "Off the Grid."
VIBORG, DENMARK—The Copenhagen Post reports that two flint axes, said to be the largest ever found in Denmark, have been recovered from a drained bog near Tastum Lake. The flint axes date to the Neolithic period and are thought to have been placed in the bog as part of a ritual sacrifice between 3800 and 3500 B.C. “It’s fascinating that they could master the flint and produce such a perfect ax,” said archaeologist Mikkel Kieldsen of the Viborg Museum. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to "Bronze Age Bride."
PARKIN, ARKANSAS—Archaeologist Jeffrey Mitchem of the Arkansas Archeological Survey has sent a sample of a wooden post first unearthed at Parkin Archeological State Park in 1966 to David Stalhe, a tree-ring specialist at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. According to a report in Arkansas Online, carbon dating of the bald cypress post in 1966 indicated that it was cut between 1515 and 1663. Mitchem’s team has rediscovered the posthole, which measures about 35 inches in diameter and is more than five feet deep. Some have speculated that the post was part of a large cross said to have been erected by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto at a village called Casqui in 1541. “The best indication we could have is if the carbon-14 testing says it’s from 1541,” Mitchem said. For more on archaeology in Arkansas, go to "Off the Grid."
LONG MELFORD, ENGLAND—Volunteers digging a test pit in the Suffolk village of Long Melford uncovered a small “pseudo Venus” that is missing its head and pedestal. Fragments of similar figurines have been found in nearby Colchester and along Hadrian’s Wall. John Nunn, one of the volunteers, thinks that the carving, which dates to the first or second century, could indicate that a Roman fort was located nearby. “Research has led me to believe that it could be the missing link in a string of forts across East Anglia which includes known sites at Colchester and Ixworth. The forts were usually sited within a day’s march of each other so it would fit,” he said in a report in the East Anglian Daily Times. Archaeological officer Fay Minter adds that evidence of a Roman town has been found in Long Melford, but military finds such as armor or buckles would be needed to confirm the presence of a Roman fort.
DORSET, ENGLAND—Human ancestors may have had a modern, upright gait earlier than had been previously thought, according to research conducted by archaeologists from Bournemouth University. Sedimentologist Matthew Bennett used computer software developed for analyzing crime-scene footprints to create and analyze 3-D images of the 3.6 million-year-old hominin footprints preserved in Laetoli, Tanzania, and discovered in the 1970s. Archaeologists had only been able to make detailed casts of the prints of one individual for study. The Independent reports that the software has helped the research team to disentangle the rest of the overlapping footprints, and to provide insight into the size and gait of the walkers. The team now thinks that the prints were left by a total of four individuals who had been walking in pairs at a pace of about two miles per hour. The leading pair is thought to have been a male and a female, followed by a pair of males. “Understanding a range of footprints tells us more about a species and the variations within its population,” Bennett said. For more, go to "England's Oldest Footprints."
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute led an international study of the Y-chromosomes of more than 1,200 men from 26 populations around the world. The scientists then built a tree of the Y-chromosomes to show how they are related to one another. According to a report in The International Business Times, some parts of the tree were more like bushes, with many branches originating at the same point. “This pattern tells us that there was an explosive increase in the number of men carrying a certain type of Y chromosome, within just a few generations,” explained Yali Xue of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. This increase was seen some 50,000 years ago across Asia and Europe, and 15,000 years ago in the Americas. These population increases may have been due to plentiful resources as people moved into new continents. Later expansions are seen in sub-Saharan Africa, Western Europe, South Asia, and East Asia, between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago. “What we think likely happened is that advances in technology led to more hierarchical societies led by small groups of men whose privileges allowed them to have a lot of sons,” Tyler Smith added.
HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND—Scientists from Oxford University have tested a small sample taken from a full head of braided hair discovered in a lead coffin in Romsey Abbey in the early nineteenth century. The hair, complete will small pieces of scalp, has been kept in a display case in the church. “It seems based on this analysis that there was pine resin in the hair of the person,” Thibaut Deviese said in a report by BBC News. It is not clear, however, if the pine resin was used as a hair-care treatment or if it had been applied in a funerary ritual. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the person died in the mid to late Saxon era, between A.D. 895 and 1123. The tests also suggest that the person ate a diet that included fish. “The fact that this person had a marine diet could be very specific to perhaps members of the monastic community,” explained Frank Green, archaeological advisor to Romsey Abbey. Some think the hair could belong to St. Ethelflaeda, the first abbess and the abbey’s patron saint.
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS—The Forward reports that construction work in central Amsterdam has uncovered remnants of a seventeenth-century slum on Valkenburger Street, bordering the city’s Jewish quarter. The site is also close to the Portuguese Synagogue, which was built by Sephardic Jews who fled persecution in Portugal and Spain in the 1670s. Municipal archaeologist Jerzy Gawronski told a local television station that the area had originally been used for boat building before cramped housing was built along narrow corridors without infrastructure. “It was damp, no windows and not many people survived here,” he said. Gawronski added that he found a feature at the site that may have served as a mikvah, or Jewish ritual bath. To read about a mikvah discovered in Jerusalem, go to "Under the Rug."
KIEL, GERMANY—Climate change in the sixth century A.D. may have contributed to the circumstances that brought on the Dark Ages, according to a report by Agence France-Presse. The lack of sunlight from a “mystery cloud” in A.D. 536 was recorded by historians in Rome and China, and the poor growing conditions in the Northern Hemisphere have also been noted in tree rings from the period. Matthew Toohey of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research and an international team of scientists developed climate model simulations to reconstruct the possible effects of two volcanoes in the mid-sixth century A.D., whose ash has been detected in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. The team estimated the magnitude of the eruptions, their approximate locations, and the spread of sulfur and ash that may have lowered the average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere up to two degrees Celsius. Where do they think the volcanoes erupted? “Several candidates are being discussed, including volcanoes in Central America, Indonesia, and North America. Future studies will be necessary to show the exact source of the aerosol clouds of 536/540,” Toohey said. To read about the excavation of a site dating to the early medieval period, go to "The Kings of Kent."
HATAY, TURKEY—Hürriyet Daily News reports that a mosaic floor was uncovered in a dining room dating to the third century B.C. during construction work near the ancient city of Antioch, located on the Mediterranean coast in southern Turkey. The mosaic is divided into three scenes, one of which depicts a seated skeleton and the words “be cheerful, live your life,” written in Greek. The skeleton, positioned on a field of black glass tiles, is shown with wine and bread and a drinking cup in hand. The other images are scenes about a young man’s visit to the baths and being late for dinner. “Two things are very important among the elite class in the Roman period in terms of social activities: The first is the bath and the second is dinner,” explained archaeologist Demet Kara of the Hatay Archaeology Museum.
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND—Analysis of the residues on ancient pottery fragments from six archaeological sites in the Swiss Alps detected compounds produced when animal milk is heated, according to a report in Quartz. This suggests that herders were making cheeses at higher altitudes some 3,000 years ago. “Prehistoric herders would have had to have detailed knowledge of the location of alpine pastures, be able to cope with unpredictable weather and have the technological knowledge to transform milk into a nutritious and storable product,” said archaeologist Francesco Carrer of Newcastle University. Herders may have moved into the mountains as the population in the lowlands grew.
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND—Researchers led by Eran Elhaik of the University of Sheffield used a DNA analysis tool they developed called the Geographic Population Structure (GPS), which is based on the idea that language, geography, and genetics are all connected. GPS analysis of the genomes of Ashkenazic Jews who are Yiddish speakers and non-Yiddish speakers suggests that the language originated in northeastern Turkey some 1,500 years ago, in four ancient villages named Iskenaz, Eskenaz, Ashanaz, and Ashkuz, all located close to the Silk Road. “Our findings imply that Yiddish was created by Slavo-Iranian Jewish merchants plying the Silk Roads between Germany, North Africa, and China,” Elhaik said in Wired. It had been thought that Yiddish could be an old German dialect.
LIMA, PERU—ANDINA News Service reports that archaeologist Ruth Shady and her team have unearthed the grave of a high-status woman at Aspero, an archaeological site located on the Peruvian coast, near the site of the large ancient city of Caral. The woman is estimated to have been 40 years old at the time of death, some 4,500 years ago. She had been buried with a pot containing traces of vegetables and seeds, a necklace made of shell beads, a pendant made from a Spondylus shell, and four tupus, or bone broaches featuring bird and monkey motifs. “The find shows evidence of gender equality, that is, both women and men were able to play leading roles and attain high social status more than 1,000 years ago,” Shady said. To read about another prehistoric site in Peru, go to "An Overlooked Inca Wonder."
BOLZANO, ITALY—The Local, Austria reports that three replicas of Ötzi, the 5,000-year-old mummy discovered in the Alps 25 years ago, have been created with a 3-D printer using CT scans of the frozen remains. American artist Gary Staab then sculpted and hand-painted the resin replicas. “The reconstruction of the hands was a challenge, since they could not be captured on CT scans,” according to a statement from the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, where the Ötzi is housed. One of the replicas will be part of a travelling exhibition that will tour the United States. The other two will be used for educational purposes at the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center in New York. To read about the world's oldest tattoos, go to "Ancient Tattoos: Ötzi, the Iceman."
PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND—Marine biologist George Parker Bidder threw some 1,000 bottles into the North Sea in batches more than 100 years ago as part of his research into the patterns of currents. Now, 108 years later, one of those bottles has washed up in Germany, where it was found by a retired postal worker. She and her husband removed the note from the bottle and followed its instructions to fill in the date and where it was found, and then put it in an envelope and mailed it back to the Marine Biological Association. The card promised a one-shilling reward. “We found an old shilling, I think we got it on eBay. We sent it to her with a letter saying thank you,” Guy Baker, communications officer for the Marine Biological Association, told The Guardian. Bidder’s bottles helped him to show that the deep sea current in the North Sea flowed from east to west. To read about the discovery of a WWII-era military courier pigeon, go to "Let Slip the Pigeons of War."