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Ancient Origins Unleashed Debrief: Near-Extinction, 70,000-year-old Sandals & Alien Fragments?
This Week's Mind-Blowing Archaeological Revelations
Greetings The Unleashed!
Each week, our team scours the globe to bring to you the latest discoveries, findings, and mysteries from the vast world of archaeology and history.
Here is the editor’s (that’s me) choice of last week's most riveting discoveries that aim to piece together our shared human past and illuminate the path that led us here.
It’s a busy world of information out there. This is what I think you’ll want to know about.
No fillers, all thrillers…
A study in the journal Science reveals that about 930,000 years ago, the early human population drastically dropped from 100,000 breeding pairs to just 1,280, likely due to severe climate changes. This decline persisted for 117,000 years. While the research suggests a near-global extinction event, it faces skepticism from experts who believe the crash might've been regional. The findings provide insights into human adaptability and evolution during catastrophic times.
Ancient history, before the major civilizations emerged, is a world full of secrets and hidden knowledge. People often have a skewed view of these periods of humanity, thinking that the people of the Stone Age were crude and primitive in every way. But archaeology teaches us something entirely different. With each new dig and discovery, we learn more and more about ancient man. We learn that these people were quite sophisticated, and capable of creating advanced things. The Sweet Track is an ideal example. An ancient trackway, it survived thousands of years even though it was made of wood. Expertly crafted, it provides an ideal glimpse into the lives of ancient communities.
The Sweet Track is an ancient wooden trackway, or causeway that was built during the Neolithic period in what is now Somerset, England. It is one of the oldest known engineered roads or trackways in the world, dating back to around 3807 BC, during the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age . The trackway was discovered in 1970 during peat excavation work in the Somerset Levels, a wetland area in southwestern England.
The Sweet Track was constructed over marshy terrain to provide a reliable pathway for people to traverse the landscape, especially during periods of wet weather when the surrounding area would have been waterlogged. The trackway was made by laying down long wooden planks and linking them with interlocking wooden pegs, creating a raised pathway above the wet ground. This innovative construction technique allowed people to move more easily across the landscape, connect different areas, and potentially transport goods. A true Neolithic shortcut!
A fossilized skeleton discovered in central Turkey may challenge the prevailing belief about human evolution. The fossil, with human-like features, suggests ancient human ancestors, known as hominins, might have journeyed from the eastern Mediterranean to Africa around five million years ago. This conclusion arises from an in-depth study by researchers from Turkey and the University of Toronto, who have named this potential new genus of archaic human "Anadoluvius." If their hypothesis holds, an "out of Asia" migration would have occurred before the well-documented "out of Africa" migration. This discovery might reshape our understanding of early human evolution, implying the journey towards becoming modern humans began in Europe and Asia before moving to Africa.
Archaeologists have unearthed a burial site from the Bronze Age, containing the remains of a teenage girl and numerous artifacts in Kazakhstan. The Astana Times, (Kazakhstan's premier English news source!) reported that the grave contained 180 sheep ankle bones, a bronze disc with a frog engraving, a mirror, along with metal sword pommels, a bronze vessel, and various other objects. Researchers suggest these probably held ceremonial significance.
From 2017, the archaeological team has been delving into this ancient burial ground situated in Ainabulak, a village in the east of Kazakhstan. Over 100 mound tombs have been identified so far which trace to the Bronze Age (3200 – 1000 BC). The newly discovered grave was found during an exploration of one of these burial mounds.
Even though her identity remains unknown, the plethora of objects in her burial offers insights into her significance in her Bronze Age community.
Charles Helm /The Conversation
When and where did our ancestors first fashion footwear? We cannot look to physical evidence of shoes for the answer, as the perishable materials from which they were made would no longer be evident. Ichnology, the study of fossil tracks and traces, can help to answer this unresolved question through a search for clear evidence of footprints made by humans who were shod – that is, wearing some kind of foot covering.
But this is no simple endeavor, as our research team from the Cape south coast ichnology project in South Africa recently reported. Over the past 15 years we have identified more than 350 vertebrate track sites along the Cape coast. These include a number of tracks made by humans who were clearly walking or jogging barefoot, as evidenced by toe impressions. But we also noticed similar trackways, seemingly well preserved, that contained no toe impressions. Realizing, too, that very little research has been done about when humans first fashioned footwear, we decided to investigate further.
To do so, we studied relevant research from various parts of the world, using our knowledge about milestones in human technological development such as when and where our ancestors had the technology to create bone tools which could have been used for sewing.
We also considered the areas where ancient hominin tracks have been reported. This revealed that there are two prime places on the planet to look for footprint evidence of early shod hominins: western Europe and the Cape coast of South Africa. We followed up with a little crafting of our own to create the types of footwear that might have been worn. Most of the tracksites we have found are between about 70,000 years and 150,000 years in age, so that is the time period we focused on.
Our findings , recently published in the journal Ichnos, suggest that there are at least three tracksites on the Cape south coast that might have been made by shod humans (a fourth site unfortunately rapidly deteriorated in quality and slumped into the sea). The global record of sites attributed to shod trackmakers is sparse. Until now, only four sites older than 30,000 years have been postulated, all from western Europe, including a Neanderthal site .
Though the evidence is not conclusive, we are excited about our discoveries. They support the notion of southern Africa being one region where human cognitive and practical ability developed a very long time ago.
The saddest hit to history I came across last week…
In the world where history is marred by the thoughtless acts of the present, we regret to report the actions of an individual who damaged an irreplaceable Bronze Age monument in South Wales. Such acts highlight the urgency to protect our heritage sites, a feat easier said than done, one suspects.
And the most out of this world…
On a slightly brighter note, journey with us beyond our planet, yet into the deep blue, as the potential interstellar findings at the bottom of our oceans is explored more. But, of course, this underwater discovery isn’t quite so cut and dry.
Avi Loeb published his findings of metal fragments found at the bottom of the sea that he claims came from a different solar system – the first interstellar matter ever found! But of course, he has his doubters.
In the following articles, you’ll find the claim, the doubt, and Avi’s response :
An independent view…
…and Avi’s response to his critics here…
The past, though buried in layers of soil and time, holds keys to understanding who we are today, and perhaps guiding the future. But an open mind is needed to learn more. Every article, every finding, every debate brings us a step closer to the tapestry of human existence.
Until next week… delve deep, question more, and keep the flame of curiosity burning.
Take care out there…
By: Gary Manners - Senior Editor, Ancient Origins