Lost cities / archaeology / ancient history

Posted on
Page
of 22
First Prev
/ 22
  • This is an interesting theory about Mediterranean trade in BCE times:

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021­/apr/25/was-king-solomon-the-ancient-wor­lds-first-shipping-magnate

    I'm sure there's a lot of truth in it. As mentioned numerous times before, I think we tend to underestimate how connected the ancient world was, partly because we tend to underestimate ancient populations at certain times.

  • Climbers damaging historic petroglyphs:

    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/m­ay/04/rock-climbing-native-american-indi­genous-people

    Also includes mention of some getting vandalised.

  • I saw ancient pictographs ( including the Mishipeshu) at Lake Superior Provincial Park, i think this artwork is attributed to either Ojibway, Batchewana or Chippwa people. Utterly awesome sight, considering how harsh the climate is in these parts. I was there alone with my then GF. It was a privilege to seen with my own eyes also the emptiness of the lakeshore not a soul about.

    To all foreigners I hope the pictographs remain a mystery. The Ojibway First Nationals still lived in reservations outside Saint Sainte Marie, Lake Superior probably both sides Canada and US. A magical yet forgotten part of the ancient world.

    https://www.northernontario.travel/best/­agawa-pictographs

  • Very interesting!

    As an aside, @Oliver Schick, I really appreciate the content you put on here. I am following avidly, but posting irregularly!

  • Cheers, good to hear! Needless to say, everyone should post more. :)

  • Blimey.

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021­/may/16/tiny-traces-of-dna-found-in-cave­-dust-may-unlock-secret-life-of-neandert­hals

    Still some things that annoy me a little in the article--not the fault of the researchers.

    I don't think that either Denisovans or Neanderthals were different species from 'modern' humans. I think humans must have differentiated by where they dispersed to, first within Africa, and then in Europe, Asia, etc. There must have been some very early human migrations, resulting in populations that looked different and talked differently (because I'm certain that all the early humans we talk about will already have had languages). I suspect that migration across the Mediterranean was rare, as was migration across Sinai, and so groups remained apart for long periods, with the population of Europe always quite low, but not nearly long enough to become different 'species'.

    Also, I don't like the language that makes it seem as if early humans were some kind of prehistoric curiosities. They were people just like people today, just with a different standard of technology and different health adaptations. We tend to concentrate on the places where it's more likely that fossils are preserved, and we now seem to be able to use even cave dust. However, I'm certain that 'cavemen' would already have had the ability to build wooden shelters, and that they mainly lived in those, even in colder climates. Organic material rots away so quickly, though, that it would take an absolutely extraordinary combination of factors to preserve it from tens of thousands of years ago, though. Caves were undoubtedly inhabited because they were there, but many will have had ceremonial functions. Cave bears and other creatures, like those Italian hyenas, were still serious threats to humans, and that will have made many caves unattractive for humans to live in permanently. Other things I suspect are that I wouldn't be even slightly surprised if very early humans were already able to build boats or rafts of some description to travel to islands like Madagascar, although inevitably this would have taken a lot of trial and error.

    Migration generally occurs when populations get too large for an area or when there's conflict, and both of those will already have been facts of life tens of thousands of years ago. I suspect that people will have lived in the area that is now the Sahara in particularly large numbers, and will have exhausted it at some point, also driven by climate change, and large groups will have left constantly, as there will have been a lot of conflict for dwindling resources. This will have been at a time when Europe and Asia will have become warmer, and older and newer incomers will have mixed quite a lot. And I still don't think the Neanderthals ever became 'extinct'. No doubt many will have been killed in conflict, but their smaller population basically intermarried with newer incomers and forms the ancestry of many people alive today.

    All just hypotheses and conjecture, not based on any evidence, but it will be fascinating to see what that cave dust analysis can show.

  • Interesting insights, thanks. Sure made me wonder off on this lazy Sunday. Dna from cave dust? Oh, brave new world etc.

  • May all be bollocks, of course, just based on what I've read and what seems most likely to me.

  • I was taught by Chris Stringer when I did an Anthropology degree. This was before they had the genetic evidence but the thinking was that there probably had been Sapiens and Neanderthal interbreeding. Technically the article is correct in referring to Denisovans and Neanderthals as different species - I don’t think it’s meant to be derogatory and note that Neanderthals had larger brain cases than Sapiens. There was a famous site where they’d buried a child with flowers which I remember being haunted by as a student so the standard image of the brutish caveman was discredited a long time ago but it’s still a persistent myth. William Golding’s novel The Inheritors is a rethinking of that caveman myth and implies that maybe the ‘wrong’ human species made it to the present.

  • Yes, the myths definitely need busting. To explain what I mean a little more: No doubt there were differences between Neanderthals, Denisovans, and 'Sapiens' (and I've never understood why differences in brain case size are considered significant), but what I'm mainly concerned with here are definitions, i.e. how much difference is possible within a 'species'.

    (NB I also don't like using the word 'interbreed' when speaking about people, although when I first started to think about this, I used it myself.)

    Now, I realise this may not be current thinking any more, but I always thought that 'species' was defined as 'can produce fertile offspring with one another', between male and female in the case of mammals, for instance. All I've ever read suggests to me very strongly that all human groups were able to produce fertile offspring together, and that they are all woven into our story. I seriously doubt that any group of humans ever fully 'died out' or 'became extinct'. Sure, they bashed each others' heads in all the time, like humans have always done, but they also produced fertile offspring.

    My question has long been how much difference remains after that to still call different humans members of different 'species'. What does 'species' mean if it's not special enough to procreate alone? I strongly suspect that it's simply inapplicable to humans. I think that if we were to find any evidence of different human species, it would be in the very early stages of our evolution, i.e. probably in Africa, but probably not outside it. Obviously, we have various extremely old fossils from across a long, long period of time, and it's possible that those at the start of the development would not have been able to produce fertile offspring with those at or towards the end of the chain, because by then significant enough changes in their composition had taken hold, but I think it most likely that people would always have been part of one contemporaneous species.

    Again, I'm no expert, just an armchair conjecturist, and one reason why I care about the answer to this is because I think establishing beyond doubt that there have never been any really significant differences between people would help to some extent with the fight against racism.

  • Like a Chihuahua banging a great Dane?

  • No doubt there were differences between Neanderthals, Denisovans, and 'Sapiens' (and I've never understood why differences in brain case size are considered significant), but what I'm mainly concerned with here are definitions, i.e. how much difference is possible within a 'species'.

    Brain case size was a metric/shorthand for intelligence and there is a correlation between cognitive abilities and size/ complexity so early hominids ( think Lucy and the Australopithecines ) did not have the same level of complex reasoning ability that Sapiens, Neanderthals and all the other undiscovered relatives undoubtedly did.
    They were however different species albeit very closely related whereas obviously all living human beings are members of the same species.
    There is evidence of relatively low interbreeding ( I’m going to stick with that as it’s the scientific term, although I share your distaste of its appropriation by those trying to ‘scientifically’ justify their racist nonsense) between Sapiens & Neanderthals shown by the genetic transmission of Neanderthal genes - less than 2% . ‘ We find that observed low levels of Neanderthal ancestry in Eurasians are compatible with a very low rate of interbreeding (<2%), potentially attributable to a very strong avoidance of interspecific matings, a low fitness of hybrids, or both‘.

    https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1107450108

    I think establishing beyond doubt that there have never been any really significant differences between people would help to some extent with the fight against racism.

    Yes absolutely agree and in fact would qualify this to extend the notion of personhood to other forms of life and outwards from Homo Sapiens who as you point out are significantly the same but that is of course another debate

  • Brain case size was a metric/shorthand for intelligence and there is a correlation between cognitive abilities and size/ complexity so early hominids ( think Lucy and the Australopithecines ) did not have the same level of complex reasoning ability that Sapiens, Neanderthals and all the other undiscovered relatives undoubtedly did.

    I wouldn't doubt that, but I'm much less concerned with those remote ancestors, much more so with the later groups. As you say, I doubt very much that there was a lot of difference between them.

    They were however different species albeit very closely related whereas obviously all living human beings are members of the same species.

    But what is this tied to? At what point do you establish a different category, e.g. a species barrier, if the fertile offspring explanation doesn't work?

    There is evidence of relatively low interbreeding ( I’m going to stick with that as it’s the scientific term, although I share your distaste of its appropriation by those trying to ‘scientifically’ justify their racist nonsense) between Sapiens & Neanderthals shown by the genetic transmission of Neanderthal genes - less than 2% . ‘ We find that observed low levels of Neanderthal ancestry in Eurasians are compatible with a very low rate of interbreeding (<2%), potentially attributable to a very strong avoidance of interspecific matings, a low fitness of hybrids, or both‘.

    https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1107450108

    Well, this kind of genome analysis work hasn't been going on for very long, and consequently shows a wide variation. I'd give it some time before it can settle on solid conclusions. As I've said before, I strongly suspect that Neanderthal populations were always small, certainly much smaller than the populations stemming from the sub-tropics of northern Africa, where I suspect populations exploded in size at some point (conditions there probably being ideal for humans until the environment began to deteriorate), or at least caused sufficient overpopulation to cause waves of migration--the main reason why there was such a long gap between the migrations of groups who made up the Neanderthal population being the Mediterranean. Without better estimates of population sizes in ancient Europe as well as the size and impact of migration, I think calculating any 'rate of admixture' isn't going to be very reliable.

    I think establishing beyond doubt that there have never been any really significant differences between people would help to some extent with the fight against racism.

    Yes absolutely agree and in fact would qualify this to extend the notion of personhood to other forms of life and outwards from Homo Sapiens who as you point out are significantly the same but that is of course another debate

    Yes, I've been following that debate for many years. People like Peter Singer have been involved in that drive. My own take on it is that it absolutely shouldn't require a designation of 'personhood' to stop animal abuse, although I'm very sympathetic to extending our 'circles of meaningful responsibility' based on similarity, especially to Great Apes. It just strikes me that anchoring it in personhood is a pragmatic idea based on the legal systems that exist, and that even were we to extend it to Great Apes, that would implicitly legitimise the slaughter of animals denied the designation. It might well eventually be extended further outwards, but I'd rather we first understood why animals are worthy of a protected status, and I don't just mean mammals, but also birds, fish, and insects. Still, it's a debate worth having. I don't know what would bring the greatest benefits most quickly, either. Obviously, to fight racism you don't need to extend to any of this.

  • As is well known, the Tories are ruining Britain's universities, and this seems to be one of the consequences:

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021­/may/21/stonehenge-research-in-jeopardy-­if-sheffield-university-archaeology-unit­-closes

  • My own take on it is that it absolutely shouldn't require a designation of 'personhood' to stop animal abuse, although I'm very sympathetic to extending our 'circles of meaningful responsibility' based on similarity, especially to Great Apes. It just strikes me that anchoring it in personhood is a pragmatic idea based on the legal systems that exist, and that even were we to extend it to Great Apes, that would implicitly legitimise the slaughter of animals denied the designation. It might well eventually be extended further outwards, but I'd rather we first understood why animals are worthy of a protected status, and I don't just mean mammals, but also birds, fish, and insects.

    Yes it's a very interesting idea is the extension of ethics. There's some provocative thinking around animism that I've been thinking about - It's defined as 'recognising that the world is full of persons, only some of whom are human, and that life is always lived in relationship with others. Animism is lived out in various ways that are all about learning to act respectfully (carefully and constructively)towards and among other persons...Persons are those with whom other persons interact with varying degrees of reciprocity. Persons may be spoken with. Objects by contrast are usually spoken about. Persons are volitional, relational, cultural and social beings. They demonstrate intentionality and agency with varying degrees of autonomy and freedom'. That's a challenging definition of personhood to work with of course !

  • As I've said before, I strongly suspect that Neanderthal populations were always small, certainly much smaller than the populations stemming from the sub-tropics of northern Africa, where I suspect populations exploded in size at some point (conditions there probably being ideal for humans until the environment began to deteriorate), or at least caused sufficient overpopulation to cause waves of migration--the main reason why there was such a long gap between the migrations of groups who made up the Neanderthal population being the Mediterranean.

    Yes although they were extraordinarily successful as a species with a timeline of close to a million years - so we have a way to go yet .

  • Yes, and I just don't think it should be necessary. It's such a legalistic way of trying to establish criteria.

  • Well, I think we're basically the same, with superficial differences at best. I don't think that there's a discontinuity between these people and us, just immensely deep ancestry.

  • This sounds as if these thieves accessed an existing tunnel leading to unexcavated parts of Pompeii? Odd. I can't seem to find further reading on it right now.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/m­ay/28/pompeii-art-police-italy-tomb-raid­ers-archaeology

  • One thing about stealing finds from Pompeii is that it wasn't exactly a hotbed of great art. While frescoes and the like may today strike us as quite exotic in the light of modern reproduction methods for imagery, most things I've seen from Pompeii I don't think are that good. Of course, 'collectors' often only care about the monetary or 'show off' value. Obviously, as an archaeological treasure-trove, Pompeii is simply priceless, but it was just a small provincial Roman town.

  • Post a reply
    • Bold
    • Italics
    • Link
    • Image
    • List
    • Quote
    • code
    • Preview
About

Lost cities / archaeology / ancient history

Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick

Actions