Meet Wilma: The First Neanderthal Model

September 19, 2008

“Wilma” was named after the character on “The Flintstones”, history’s most famous Neanderthal family

Okay, she’s obviously no Kate Moss but Wilma has already won over the hearts of the scientific community as for the first time a reconstruction of a Neanderthal’s face has been completed based on DNA evidence. National Geographic explains:

Artists and scientists created Wilma (shown in a photo released yesterday) using analysis of DNA from 43,000-year-old bones that had been cannibalized. Announced in October 2007, the findings had suggested that at least some Neanderthals would have had red hair, pale skin, and possibly freckles.

Created for an October 2008 National Geographic magazine article, Wilma has a skeleton made from replicas of pelvis and skull bones from Neanderthal females. Copies of male Neanderthal bones—resized to female dimensions—filled in the gaps.

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The Dead Sea Scrolls Are Coming to the Internet

September 3, 2008

Dead Sea Scrolls
A portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Back in 1947, a Bedouin goat herder stumbled upon the archaeological discovery of the century in a place called Qumran in what is now the West Bank. What he found in there is what we refer to as The Dead Sea Scrolls. The importance of these scrolls to history and faith is still yet to be determined as much of their contents have been jealously guarded.

Thanks to the rise of the internet, the scrolls themselves will be open to all eventually as scientists have announced that they will be publishing the scrolls on the internet using American space technology:

Scientists using American space technology have started a huge project to digitally photograph the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known version of the Hebrew Bible, and post it on the Internet for all to see, Israeli authorities said Wednesday.

High-tech cameras using infrared photography are being used to uncover sections of the 2,000-year-old scrolls that have faded over the centuries and become indecipherable, the Israeli Antiquities Authority said.

The project is expected to take about five years and the goal is to make the scrolls accessible to scientists and the general public, Antiquities Authority official Pnina Shor said.

“Now for the first time the scrolls will be a computer click away,” said Shor, who heads the authority’s department responsible for the conservation of artifacts. “This will ensure that the scrolls are preserved for another 2,000 years.”

The internet has been a boon for amateur archaeologists and anthropologists as historical records have been finding their way into the virtual world. The two best examples are The Domesday Book from Medieval England and the Ellis Island Records from the turn of the century USA. I have no doubt that the Dead Sea Scrolls will prove just as fascinating as these two already available online.

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Earliest Humans Had Neanderthal Qualities

September 2, 2008

On the left is a neanderthal skull from France and on the right is a modern human skull from Polynesia

Neanderthals are a hot topic in the world of archaeology. Recently on this site, we reviewed the long running debate on how the neanderthals disappeared so rapidly by asking whether they were the victims of inbreeding with early humans.

A new discovery in Ethiopia could lead to the conclusion that inbreeding occurred much, much earlier as we’re told that the earliest humans had neanderthal qualities. Here’s an excerpt:

The world’s first known modern human was a tall, thin individual — probably male — who lived around 200,000 years ago and resembled present-day Ethiopians, save for one important difference: He retained a few primitive characteristics associated with Neanderthals, according to a series of forthcoming studies conducted by multiple international research teams.

The extraordinary findings, which will soon be outlined in a special issue of the Journal of Human Evolution devoted to the first known Homo sapiens, also reveal information about the material culture of the first known people, their surroundings, possible lifestyle and, perhaps most startling, their probable neighbors — Homo erectus.

“Omo I,” as the researchers refer to the find, would probably have been considered healthy-looking and handsome by today’s standards, despite the touch of Neanderthal.

“From the size of the preserved bones, we estimated that Omo I was tall and slender, most likely around 5’10” tall and about 155 pounds,” University of New Mexico anthropologist Osbjorn Pearson, who co-authored at least two of the new papers, told Discovery News.

Pearson said another, later fossil was also recently found. It too belonged to a “moderately tall — around 5’9″ — and slender individual.”

Click here to read the rest of the article

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Emperor Hadrian’s Favourite Galatian City Throwing Up Archaeological Treasures

August 15, 2008

Sagalassos, the first city of the Roman province of Galatia (present-day southwestern Turkey)

The archaeological dig at Sagalassos in present-day southwestern Turkey is uncovering some real treasures.

Last year, a massive statue of Emperor Hadrian was uncovered. This week a colossal marble head of Faustina the Elder was found by archaeologists.

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