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June 7, 2016

ALBERTA, CANADA—A new study coordinated by Duane Froese of the University of Alberta has analyzed nearly 200 bison fossils as a way to investigate when people may have been able to travel through an ice-free corridor in the Rocky Mountains. Bison to the north and south of the corridor were separated from each other by the ice some 21,000 years ago and, as a result, became genetically distinct. So, as a first step, the researchers carbon-dated the bison fossils and then analyzed their DNA to show which were from the north and which were from the south. The results suggest that the southern bison began moving north some 13,400 years ago, and that the populations began to overlap some 13,000 years ago, when the corridor was fully cleared of ice. “It’s intriguing from the perspective that as much as bison and game animals were separated, so too would have been early human populations,” Jack Ives of the University of Alberta said in a CBC News report. “Once that corridor region opened … this would open the door for human populations to reengage.” For more, go to "Bison Bone Mystery."

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June 7, 2016

MODI’IN, ISRAEL—A cache of silver coins was discovered during salvage excavations at a 2,100-year-old agricultural estate in Israel. The coins had been placed in a crevice against a wall of the estate. Olive presses and wine presses suggest that the family grew olive trees and vineyards. Ritual baths, vessels made of chalk, and bronze coins minted by Hasmonean kings were also found. The Times of Israel reports that the 16 silver coins include one or two tetradrachms or didrachms minted in the city of Tyre from every year between 135 and 126 B.C. “It seems that some thought went into collecting the coins, and it is possible that the person who buried the cache was a coin collector,” said coin expert Donald Tzvi Ariel of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Excavation director Abraham Tendler thinks that the estate’s Jewish residents may have participated in the rebellion against Rome in A.D. 66, based upon bronze coins found at the site. Hiding places connected by tunnels to cisterns and storage pits were found under the floors of the house. An opening in a ritual bath led to a hiding place that contained artifacts that date to the Bar Kokhba rebellion, which occurred in A.D. 132. To read about another coin cache dating to the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt, go to "2,000-Year-Old Stashed Treasure."

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June 6, 2016

MURCIA, SPAIN—Science News reports that paleontologist Michael Walker of the University of Murcia and his colleagues have found evidence for the earliest controlled use of small fires in Europe at Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar. The cave, located in southeastern Spain, has yielded more than 165 stones and stone artifacts and 2,300 heated or charred animal-bone fragments. Microscopic and chemical analysis of these objects indicates that they were heated to between 750 and 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures consistent with having been burned in fire. Walker thinks the fires were started by human ancestors some 800,000 years ago, based upon the identification of a reversal in the Earth’s magnetic field some 780,000 years ago in sediments above the burned artifacts. Fossils of extinct animals have also been found with the stone tools. Some scientists question the early date and think the tools are at most 600,000 years old. That would still make the fires the earliest known in Europe. For more on archaeology in Spain, go to "The Red Lady of El Mirón."

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June 6, 2016

COUNTY DOWN, IRELAND— Archaeologist Heather Montgomery of Queen’s University is investigating the remains of military trenches uncovered in Northern Ireland, near the Ballykinler army base. BBC News reports that many of the men who trained in these trenches went on to fight in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the Battle of Messines in 1917. “The training they did in there, did it actually help them?” asked Tony Canniford, estate manager for Ballykinler. “Is there any history within the bottom of the trenches? Most soldiers drop stuff when they’re training.” Plans to restore the trenches and open to the public are in the works. To read about a well-known World War I battlefield, go to "Letter from Turkey: Anzac's Next Chapter."

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June 6, 2016

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND—A bronze wing measuring 5.5 inches long has been unearthed in southwestern England. At first it had been thought that the wing, discovered in an earthen bank behind what would have been the Roman city wall, was part of an eagle statue. But Martin Henig of Oxford University has concluded that the wing was actually part of a Roman statuette of Victoria, the goddess of victory. “It would be nice to think a retired Roman soldier, spending his retirement years in Gloucester, had a nice statuette to Victory as thanks for making it through the Roman invasion of Britain in one piece,” Neil Holbrook of Cotswold Archaeology said in a BBC News report. For more on Roman remains found in England, go to "What’s in a Name?"

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