Archaeology news

Rice cultivation

Rice was grown 11,000 years ago along the Yangtze River in China (at the very start of the Holocene) and 2000 years ago in West Africa. Presumably different strains or varieties of rice. Now, University of Exeter scientists in collaboration with Brazilian scientists, have found evidence of domesticated rice being grown in the vast wetlands of the Guapore River in the Amazon basin, 4000 years ago. This implie rice was developed in three separate geographical locations, at widely different times.


Sorghum is a native sub-Sahara grass that has been utilised for thousands  of years by hunter gatherers as well as farming communities. It emerged as an important cereal crop along with rice, wheat, barley and maize and it is thought Africans may have domesticated sorghum in areas south of Egypt (where wheat and barley cereals dominated). The discovery, in modern Sudan, that people in the 4th millennium BC (3500 to 3000BC) had domesticated sorghum is the earliest archaeological evidence so far. The evidence comes from pottery residues of the Butana culture people of eastern Sudan.

DNA Mutation

Chris Gatling in Current World Archaeology 85 (October 2017) ... page 85 ... looks at human DNA mutation. People argued that modern humans evolved 100,000 years ago and move Out of Africa 60,000 years ago - reaching Australia 40,000 years ago. Martine James in Molecule Hunt, raised the ante to 150,000 years ago, and Clive Gamble in Timewalkers was in favour of 200,000 years ago. He said humans reached Australia 80,000 years ago - which turns out to be a pretty good prediction - on current evidence.

More Puzzles

At ... some sixty ancient ship wrecks have been discovered at the bottom of the Black Sea - including galleys from the Roman empire period, Byzantine and Ottoman empires too. They were found by robotic submarines along the Bulgarian coastline - preserved intact by anoxic conditions (which is why robotic craft were used in the first instance as the deep water is lethal to humans). Many of the boats have features only known from drawings or written descriptions but never seen until now.


At ... archaeologists digging on Chapelle Dom Hue off the coast of Guernsey found a grave - of a porpoise. The island was used by monks and archaeologists were looking for evidence of a monastery and its inhabitants in the medieval period (including the burial of devotees). The porpoise was buried in a grave amongst the graves of deceased monks - the question is why?

Easter Island Population

At ... Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, have been a mystery ever since Europeans first landed there in 1722. Early visitors estimated the p[opulation at around 1500 to 3000 souls. However, there are about 900 giant statues around the island ....

Easter Island Script

This is the first of two posts on Easter Island. At,459670,polish-researcher-... ... the rongorongo writing on Easter Island is thought to be a fairly recent invention - but this theory may be erroneous. Attempts to read it (by others) have proved difficult. Dr Rafael Wieczoreklu tried his hand to decypher the glyphs and thinks there may be an astronomical connection. It seems no other Polynesians used writing (or if they did it has not survived).

Denisova Australia

Robert sent in this link - go to .... where we have the idea that Australian Aborigines are descendants of Denisovans. I can't see anything particularly controversial about this as Europeans are thought to be descended from Neanderthals (who were contemporaries of the Denisovans). In both cases there is around 4 per cent of Denisova or Neanderthal DNA in modern populations - the rest of it has probably been diluted due to bottlenecks and mass die-offs during catastrophic events in the past.

Norwegian Iron

At ... Norwegians made top quality iron products but where did they get the knowhow? For centuries people in the middle of Norway made huge amounts of first class iron out of bog ore. Presumably this is where the bogs were located - and the same situation prevailed in Sweden. They made tools and weapons, more than the needs of the locals as Norway is a pretty low populated country. This indicates much of the production was exported - but to where?

Greek EQs

At ... we hear that the ancient Greeks may have built sacred and treasured sites deliberately on land previously affected by earthquake activity. This is according to a new study by the University of Plymouth. Iain Stewart, professor of geoscience and author of 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth: how geology shaped civilisation' (Century Books:2005) (also a BBC television Discovery series of the same name but with the title 'Hot Rocks' in the US version).