AuthorTopic: First Humans in Australia Arrived Thousands of Years Earlier Than We Thought  (Read 128 times)

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First Humans in Australia Arrived Thousands of Years Earlier Than We Thought
By Hannah Osborne On 7/19/17 at 1:00 PM

Tech & Science

The first humans arrived in Australia up to 15,000 years earlier than previously thought, scientists have announced.

During excavations of the Madjedbebe rock shelter in northern Australia, researchers have found thousands of artefacts, including stone tools, grinding stones and hatchets, showing humans must have been at the site at least 65,000 years ago.

The findings, published in Nature, have major implications for our understanding of early human migration beyond Asia, why Australia’s megafauna went extinct, and, potentially, if these early humans interacted with Homo floresiensis, the mystery “hobbit-like” species found only on the Indonesian island of Flores.

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Madjedbebe is one of the key sites when it comes to the debate of when humans first arrived in Australia. It was first discovered in the 1970s and excavations have taken place at the site ever since. Initial reports indicated human presence in Australia from between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, but these findings were highly contentious due to questions over the dating techniques used.

At present, estimates for mankind’s arrival in Australia range from between 47,000 and 60,000 years.

Chris Clarkson Excavation leader Chris Clarkson examines a stone tool. Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation 2015.

Now, however, researchers have excavated thousands more artefacts from Madjedbebe, providing new and robust evidence for when the site was occupied by humans. During the dig, archaeologists found around 11,000 artefacts and matched them to the age of the sediments in which they were found. By doing this, they were able to accurately date them—showing the oldest artefacts were around 65,000 years old.

Lead author Chris Clarkson tells Newsweek: “I have no concerns the dates are incorrect. We have dated thousands of sand grains from dozens of samples across the site and the results show very accurate ages with little mixing.”

He says the artefacts are in good positions, with broken ones not falling between different layers of sediment. “Furthermore, at the front of the shelter there is a dense concentration of rockfall which traps the artefacts in place,” he continues. “These show nice lenses of artefacts that are indicative of numerous episodes of occupation and cannot have moved since the site formed.”

It is thought the first Homo sapiens left Africa around 100,000 years ago, reaching Asia around 70,000 years ago and moving through Egypt and into the Negev Desert. The latest discovery indicates humans made a fairly speedy journey to Australia.

Madjedbebe Edge-ground hatchet head being excavated. Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation 2015.

“New Guinea and Australia were joined at this time of very low sea levels, so they could have entered the continent through either Australia or New Guinea or both,” Clarkson says. “Once they had crossed the ocean gaps they could have walked across the intervening land bridge and all the way to Tasmania.”

This early arrival would have meant humans lived alongside Australia’s megafauna, which included a car-sized wombat and a 6,600 lb marsupial, for up to 20,000 years. Scientists do not know exactly why these huge creatures went extinct, but one theory has been that human arrival in Australia played a role in their demise.

The new date of human occupation contradicts this theory. Pushing back the age of first Aboriginal occupation to 65,000 years ago lengthens the period of co-existence of humans and megafauna considerably to perhaps 25,000 years or greater,” Clarkson says. “This makes it extremely unlikely that humans rapidly wiped out all of these large animals. It was a gradual process and the end of a very long process of faunal extinctions in this country, more likely linked to climate change. Humans may however have had some small role, though we have no direct evidence for this.”

Homo floresiensis Reconstruction of Homo floresiensis. Modern humans would have lived alongside the "hobbit" species, scientists have said. Karen Neoh/Flickr

It also means humans may have been in contact with H. floresiensis. This extinct species from the Homo genus was first discovered on Flores in 2003. They were dubbed “hobbits” as they stood at just 1.1 meters in height. For many years, scientists debated whether they had evolved separately and somehow ended up on Flores, or if it evolved from Homo erectus—becoming much smaller due to limited resources. Some scientists suggested it was a deformed human.

Scientists now largely agree H. floresiensis likely came from an early ancestor from Africa and was not connected to H. erectus, as previously thought. This species, however, lived between 50,000 and 190,000 years ago—meaning the first humans in Australia may have come across them at some point.

“It means humans and Homo floresiensis co-existed in the Island Southeast Asia region for thousands of years, but we have no idea if they made contact or not,” Clarkson says. “Humans may have skirted islands on which floresiensis was living. We don't know at this stage if modern humans eventually brought about their demise or not.”

Researchers now plan to re-excavate other archaeological sites in the region to see if they can duplicate the ages seen at Madjedbebe. “Similar kinds of artefacts are known from the base of these sites, so it is very likely they also date to 65,000 years ago,” he says.

In a related News & Views article, Curtis Marean, from Arizona State University, said the findings remind us that Australia “could reveal many other secrets” that will increase our understanding of human colonization and its impact on the environment.

“We now know that modern humans, after they left Africa around 70,000 years ago, dispersed rapidly to a coastal area that became the departure gate for their journey to Australia,” he wrote. “From that launch pad, perhaps some of them envisaged other lands across the water that they could not see. They decided to take a chance and built boats, loading them with both new and tested technologies. Then, with their families, they boarded to embark on a journey of discovery. Sounds familiar—sounds like humans reaching for the stars.”

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Fossils Reveal the First Humans Emerged 170,000 Years Earlier than We Thought
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2017, 05:15:02 PM »

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Ancient Fossils Reveal the First Humans Emerged 170,000 Years Earlier than We Thought
By Hannah Osborne On 9/29/17 at 6:38 AM

Homo sapiens skull. Representational image. Jim Hickcox/Flickr

The first modern humans may have emerged up to 350,000 years ago—170,000 years earlier than previously thought. Analysis of ancient DNA has allowed scientists to trace back the ancestry of people from South Africa to determine when our ancestors split from other hominin species. Their findings consistently point to an early date of divergence, between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago.

How and when modern humans first emerged as a species is a major unanswered question in paleoanthropology because the fossil record is incomplete. At present, the oldest human remains we have date back 195,000 years. But these are not necessarily the first ever Homo sapiens—and the origin of our ancestry remains a mystery.

In a study published in Science, a team of researchers led by Marlize Lombard, from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, looked at the remains of seven individuals who lived in KwaZulu-Natal between 2,300 and 300 years ago. Three of these lived during the Stone Age, while four others lived 300 to 500 years ago.

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One of the fossils analyzed, known as the Ballito Bay child, was of hunter gatherer descent and would have lived at a time before any migrants had reached South Africa. As a result, his DNA was unaffected by any genetic mixing from other humans from different parts of Africa or Eurasia.

They were able to use the information from the Ballito Bay child, combined with the other individuals, and compare it to other examples of the ancient genome from different times and places.

Demographic model of African history and estimated divergences. Vertical colored lines represent migration, with down-pointing triangles representing admixture into another group. Southern African hunter-gatherers are shown by red symbols and Iron Age farmers in green symbols. C. Schlebusch et al. Science (2017)

The findings show modern humans split from earlier groups between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago. "This means that modern humans emerged earlier than previously thought", study author Mattias Jakobsson, a population geneticist at Uppsala University, said in a statement.

Their dating estimates also fit with the fossil record. At least two or three other Homo species are known to have lived in southern Africa during this time. Furthermore, these dates with recent fossil evidence uncovered in Morocco. Scientists found remains from five Homo sapiens individuals that date back to 300,000 years, raising major questions about where the "cradle of humanity" really was.

Study author Carina Schlebusch, also from Uppsala University, said: “Both paleo-anthropological and genetic evidence increasingly points to multi-regional origins of anatomically modern humans in Africa, i.e. Homo sapiens did not originate in one place in Africa, but might have evolved from older forms in several places on the continent with gene flow between groups from different places.”

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World’s earliest evidence of wine-making found in Georgia
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2017, 06:44:39 AM »
I wonder when the first Beer was Brewed? ???   :icon_scratch:


World’s earliest evidence of wine-making found in Georgia

Nov 14, 2017

MIAMI - The world's earliest evidence of grape wine-making has been detected in 8,000-year-old pottery jars unearthed in Georgia, making the tradition almost 1,000 years older than previously thought, researchers said Monday.

Before, the oldest chemical evidence of wine in the Near East dated to 5,400-5,000 BC (about 7,000 years ago) and was from the Zagros Mountains of Iran, said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer-reviewed US journal.

The world's very first wine is thought to have been made from rice in China around 9,000 years ago.

"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine," said co-author Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate at the University of Toronto.

Scientists on the team came from the United States, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Israel and Georgia. They have been working for the past four years to re-analyse archeological sites that were found decades ago.

The fragments of ceramic casks, some decorated with grape motifs and able to hold up to 80 gallons (300 liters), were found at two archeological sites called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

Researchers used a combination of the latest mass spectrometry and chromatography techniques to identify the ancient compounds. This chemical analysis "confirmed tartaric acid, the fingerprint compound for grape and wine," said the PNAS report.

Researchers also found three associated organic acids - malic, succinic and citric - in the residue from the eight jars.

This "discovery dates the origin of the practice to the Neolithic period around 6,000 BC, pushing it back 600-1,000 years from the previously accepted date," according to the study.


The Neolithic period began around 15,200 BC in parts of the Middle East and ended between 4,500 and 2,000 BC.

During this era, the latter part of which coincided with the Stone Age, people were beginning to farm, domesticate animals, make polished stone tools, crafts and weaving, researchers said.

"Pottery, which was ideal for processing, serving and storing fermented beverages, was invented in this period together with many advances in art, technology and cuisine," said Batiuk.

"As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly-valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopeias, cuisines, economics, and society throughout the ancient Near East," he said.

People in Georgia cultivated the Eurasian grapevine, Vitis vinifera, which likely grew abundantly under environmental conditions similar to modern-day France and Italy.

Batiuk said the domestication of the grape "eventually led to the emergence of a wine culture in the region."

"The Eurasian grapevine that now accounts for 99.9 per cent of wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia."

But this might not be the last word, according to lead author Patrick McGovern, scientific director of the biomolecular archeology project for cuisine, fermented beverages, and health at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia.

McGovern, who co-authored the 1996 Nature study that placed the earliest evidence for grape wine in Iran, said the search for the truly oldest artifacts will continue.

"Other sites in the South Caucasus in Armenia and Azerbaijan might eventually produce even earlier evidence for viniculture than Georgia," McGovern said.

"The Taurus Mountains of eastern Turkey are also a prime candidate for further exploration with its monumental sites at Gobekli Tepe and Nevali Cori at the headwaters of the Tigris River," dating as far back as 9,500 BC.

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Re: World’s earliest evidence of wine-making found in Georgia
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2017, 07:04:32 AM »
I wonder when the first Beer was Brewed? ???   :icon_scratch:

I think the official record is about 4K years ago in Sumer. They had a goddess of beer, which would not be a bad gig.

Stands to reason that given the vagaries of fermentation, the actual history of beer is twice as ancient, at least.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound


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