When Pigs Ate Fish

About 5,000 years ago, on Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, wild boars were enjoying an unusual diet. Isotope analyses of wild board remains revealed that they were eating fish and other marine animals. The only way they could have gotten access to such food, researchers think, is if humans were deliberately feeding the boars seafood.

Why would they do that? Perhaps they used marine resources to domesticate the boars, a useful source of meat if they can be made tamer. Note that 5,000 years ago is before the agricultural revolution reached Denmark. So the locals were attempting animal domestication before they had adopted domesticated plants.

A Re-Imagining of Prehistoric Imagination

From 14,000 to 10,000 years ago, as the last Ice Age ended and the glaciers retreated, the natural world changed very rapidly around our human ancestors. Tundras were becoming grasslands and forests. Cold-climate animals, like the reindeer herds humans had come to rely upon for food, were retreating north with the ice. Our human ancestors had to adapt. This transitional period in northwest Europe is called the Azilian, and archaeologists distinguish it by rapid changes in tool types and art. The preceding Magdalenian was renowned for its murals. This is when Lascaux and Altamira were painted. The Azilians who followed are known mainly for the small pebbles they painted with red spots and abstract geometric designs. The Azilian, traditionally, was seen as a major rupture from the artistic tradition of the Magdalenian that came before.

But a recent find it challenging this archaeological tradition. Recent re-discovery and re-analyses of old archaeological finds in Brittany and elsewhere suggest the Azilians also engraved tablets, in a manner very similar to the Magdalenians. The stone slabs depict horses and other animals, attempting realism with fine details like nostrils and coat textures. The artistry of these new finds suggest greater continuity of artistic traditions from the Ice Age than had previously been theorized, at least in some corners of western Europe.

Ancient Egyptians Tortured Suspected Criminals To Get Confessions

And they thought this was the good way to get truthful confessions. So they were honest about the torture, and recorded exactly how officials tortured suspects when questioning them. For instance, during the 16th year of the rule of Ramses IX (~1100 BCE), a well-organized network of tomb thieves were uncovered in Thebes. The thefts were from prominent government officials and even royal tombs. During the resulting interrogations, the accused were beaten with a stick and their hands and feet were twisted.

According to the records, the torture worked! They confessed to breaking into tombs, including a royal burial, and stealing precious objects. When the tombs in question were examined, several had indeed been disturbed, confirming the confessions.

Around the world today, there are roughly 440 living languages which are descended from Indo-European. More than 300 belong to the Indo-Iraninan branch which includes Urdu, Bengali, and Romani. That diversity is a hint of where the mother tongue came from: probably closer to India than to Europe. Although the area between India and Europe is large, so that's not too definitive.

First Denisovan Skull Fragments Found

Two fragments of a Denisovan skull have been found at the famous Denisova Cave! Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the surprisingly thick pieces of braincase was used to confirm that they belonged to a Denisovan. These are the first known remains of a Denisovan skull. Its exciting for multiple reasons. It allows us to guesstimate how large their brains were, compare their evolution to the Homo family tree, and perhaps help understand why they no longer exist today.

A reconstruction of the skull was compared to 112 modern Homo sapiens skulls, and 30 stone-age Homo skulls including Homo sapiens and Neanderthals and interestingly, the Denisovan skull did not quite fit in with any previously-known Homo species' skulls. More will be known as further analyses are carried out and, hopefully, additional Denisovan remains are found!

The Ancient Heritage of the Pearl

Pearls have long been considered a precious gem. They were presented as gifts to Chinese royalty as early as 2300 BCE! And we know they were used as adornment from ancient times because a fragment of pearl jewelry was found in a Persian princess' sarcophagus dating to around 420 BCE.

Exciting New Prehistoric Bird Fossil Examined

In 2018, paleontologists examined the fossil of a bird which had been discovered in northwest China a few years earlier. The new species, Avimaia schweitzerae, was around 115 million years old. In a fossil first, the bird was pregnant with an egg. But there was something wrong with the egg. It had too many layers -- as many as six layers in some places. Scientists think this could be why the bird died. In modern birds, trauma can delay a female from nesting, and she can keep an egg inside herself for too long. Over time, her body adds unnecessary layers of shell around it. Known as “egg binding,” it smothers the embryo and often kills the mother.

But that was not the only surprise Avimaia schweitzerae had in store. When a bird prepares for egg-making, she stacks up on calcium in the medullary bone — something that has never been positively identified in a fossil bird before. Avimaia's medullary region showed all the right signs. If confirmed, it would provide a unique link between avian reproduction and this bone.

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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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