Seasonal Shellfish Is Millennias Old

Oyster eaters have been avoiding the shellfish during the summer months — and so lowering their risk of food poisoning — for at least 4,000 years. That’s the major finding of a new study examining remains of the Boonea impressa, a parasitic snail that latches onto oyster shells, in a 230-foot shell ring built by the inhabitants of St. Catherine’s Island off the coast of Georgia.

The snail has a predictable 12-month life cycle, and so by measuring the length of its shell, the scientists were able to estimate when its oyster host had been harvested by humans. Based on the size of the snail shells on the oyster shells in the ring, oyster harvest was limited to the late fall, winter, and spring. This avoids not only the summer months, but the time when southeastern oysters spawned as well. In other words humans knew how to ensure they would have food for next year.

Study Shows Genetic Uniqueness of Inuit Sled Dogs

New genetic research now suggests that when the ancient Inuits migrated from Siberia to North America they brought their dogs with them. Considered one of the toughest and strongest breeds, this ancient Siberian canine was so indispensable, the genetic research shows the Inuits used them exclusively. They did not even interbreed with the new dogs they found in North America. The new study showed that over 4,500 years, Inuit new dogs were and remained genetically distinct and physically different from the dogs who arrived earlier in North America.

Where the humans went they brought their dogs, so Inuit dogs rapidly dominated and spread eastward in the North American Arctic alongside their humans' migration. Because the Inuit remained faithful to their sled dogs, the pre-existing native dogs were almost completely replaced.

This genetic distinction has been maintained through today, too. The study compared 922 Arctic dogs and wolves who lived over 4,500 years. Modern sled dogs, according to their genomes, are some of the last direct descendants of the breed the Inuit brought with them from Siberia.

Census Fun Facts

  • In 3800 BCE, the Babylonian Empire took the world’s first known census -- of farmgoods. They counted livestock and quantities of butter, honey, milk, wool, and vegetables.
  • In 2 CE, China’s Han Dynasty took the oldest surviving census data, showing a population of 57.7 million people living in 12.4 million households. Chengdu, the largest city, had a population of 282,000.
  • The first modern census in Britain in 1801 didn’t ask people to list their ages.
  • The first census in the US in 1790 only cared about age if the person was a "free white male," which was sorted by “16 years and upward” and “under 16 years.” All other categories were ageless.
  • In 1853, Chile passed the first census law in South America.
  • Britain’s attempt to take a census in India in 1871 was difficult because there were rumors that the goal of the count is to identify girls to be sent to England to fan Queen Victoria during a heatwave.

Oldest Human Skull In Eurasia Identified In Greece

Two incomplete craniums, found in Greece's Apidima Cave in the 1970s, has long been a bit mysterious. Dating them was difficult because first, they are incomplete, and to make matters more difficult, they were distorted by the process of fossilization, and found without any additional paleontological or archaeological evidence. One has now been identified as the oldest Homo Sapiens in Eurasia.

Recent analyses on the skull date it to at least 210,000 years ago. The oldest modern humans in Eurasia were previously in Israel, between 130,000 and 100,00 years ago, although recent evidence from Mlsliya, Israel, was dated to the even older 180,000 years ago. But if the new analysis holds up, Apidima's human is even older.

Mexican Mammoth Traps

Mexican archaeologists recently announced their discovery of two mammoth traps, where wooly mammoths could be herded then killed once trapped. Most importantly, the pits have been dated to 15,000 years ago. That makes them the oldest  evidence of prehistoric hunting pits in the Americas. The two pits contained about 824 bones from at least 14 mammoths. And one of the skulls found had marks of a spear wound on the front, suggesting that hunters were actively attacking the large mammoths. Previously, it was thought that human hunters during this period were frightening mammoths into getting stuck in swamps and then waiting for them to die. The pits combined with the evidence of a spear wound show that human hunters were already taking a more active role in getting their dinners.

Great Empire's Fall Linked To Climate Change

Scientists have analyzed and dated mineral deposits in two stalagmites taken from northern Iraq’s Kuna Ba Cave and determined that the collapse of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the 600s BCE coincided with a shift from a wet climate to a dry one. Centered in what is now northern Iraq, the ancient empire stretched from modern Iran to Egypt and the Persian Gulf. The empire and its capital city, Nineveh, experienced higher than average levels of rainfall between 850 and 740 B.C., which encouraged the production of plentiful crops and the expansion of the empire. Megadrought conditions between 675 and 550 B.C., however, would have intensified the unrest caused by civil war, overexpansion, and military defeat.

A Bold New Theory Proposes That Humans Tamed Themselves

A leading anthropologist suggests that protohumans' decrease in reactive aggression, alongside developing greater intelligence, cooperation, and social learning abilities, were key to homo sapiens becoming what we are today. These just happen to be the characteristics that increase when humans domesticate animals. In an article reviewing the new theory is is suggested that, perhaps, we domesticated ourselves too.

Worlds Oldest Sewer System Found in Turkey

An excavation team has found evidence of an 11,800-year-old sewer system at the ancient settlement of Boncuklu Tarla East in southeastern Turkey. It has been confirmed to be in a public use area, making this the oldest known sewer system in the world. It was surrounded by buildings thought to have stood about 23 feet tall and reached up to 8 stories. With that much space comes plenty of people -- and their waste.

This ceramic storage jar is decorated using brown-on-buff pottery, known as Sialk, after the site where it was found in northern Iran. Sialk pottery flourished in the fourth millennium BCE thanks to the abundance of clay in the area. In the fourth millennium B.C. in central and southwestern Iran, painted decoration on pottery like this large jar reached a new level of sophistication. Combinations of geometric patterns, birds, and animals were silhouetted in dark brown on buff clay.

This particular storage jar is a masterful example of Sialk pottery, and early pottery making in genearal. It is stylized, yet dynamic, with the mountain goat/ibex's horns echoing the jar's curves and the circular bands the ibex stands upon emphasizing the jar's girth. The pattern of geometric shapes framing an ibex is repeated three times around the jar so a ibex is visible from any angle. From the slightly irregular shape of the pot, it seems the jar either was built up by hand with coils of clay or was thrown on a slow wheel.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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