Is it me…
Or does this look like an enormous Oreo cookie?
And another thing… do you want to trust ‘end of civilization’ predictions made by a people who failed to predict the end of their own civilization?
Published 2012-09-20 | Anneli Waara
The Khoe and San peoples in southern Africa play an important role for our understanding of the evolutionary history of humans. These peoples are directly descended from the first branching of the genealogical tree of today’s humans. This is shown in a study led by Uppsala University researchers and being presented in the early online version of the journal Science today.
Those fine geeks and nerdlings at ScienceDaily.com have dug up something special.
A fractured skull and a thighbone hacked in half. Finds of damaged human bones along with axes, spears, clubs and shields confirm that the bog at Alken Enge was the site of violent conflict.
“It’s clear that this must have been a quite far-reaching and dramatic event that must have had profound effect on the society of the time,” explains Project Manager Mads Kähler Holst, professor of archaeology at Aarhus University.
For almost two months now, Dr Holst and a team of fifteen archaeologists and geologists have been working to excavate the remains of a large army that was sacrificed at the site around 2000 years ago. The skeletal remains of hundreds of warriors lie buried in the Alken Enge wetlands near Lake Mossø in East Jutland, Denmark.
The remains will be exhumed from the excavation site over the coming days. Then an international team of researchers will attempt to discover who these warriors were and where they came from by performing detailed analyses of the remains.
“The dig has produced a large quantity of skeletal remains, and we believe that they will give us the answers to some of our questions about what kind of events led up to the army ending up here,” explains Dr Holst.
Forty hectares of remains
The archaeological investigation of the site is nearing its conclusion for this year. But there are many indications that the find is much larger than the area archaeologists have excavated thus far.
“We’ve done small test digs at different places in the 40 hectare Alken Enge wetlands area, and new finds keep emerging,” says Field Director Ejvind Hertz of Skanderborg Museum, who is directing the dig.
In fact, the find is so massive that researchers aren’t counting on being able to excavate all of it. Instead, they will focus on recreating the general outlines of the events that took place at the site by performing smaller digs at different spots across the bog and reconstructing what the landscape might have looked like 2000 years ago.
New geological insights
At the same time as the archaeological dig, geologists from the Department of Geoscience at AU have been investigating the development of the bog.
“The geological survey indicates that the archaeological finds were deposited in a lake at a point in time when there was a a smaller basin at the east end of Lake Mossø created by a tongue of land jutting into the lake,” explains Professor Bent Vad Odgaard, Aarhus University.
This smaller basin became the Alken Enge bog of today. The geologists’ analyses also indicate that the water level in the area has changed several times. Mapping these periods of high and low water levels chronologically using geological techniques will tell researchers what the precise conditions were on the site at the time of the mass sacrifice.
 It is important to note that the remains found at Alken Enge were not men killed in battle. Rather, the warriors were captured, taken to the bog and sacrificed. Their dead bodies were then pressed into the bog. The remains of sacrificed ‘bog people’ are not uncommon in Europe.
14 Creatures The Could Be Cloned!
(Tasmanian Tiger )
Can lost species ever become un-extinct?
In the 1993 science fiction film Jurassic Park, dinosaurs are cloned back to life after their DNA is discovered still intact…
(Sabre-toothed Cats )
… within the bellies of ancient mosquitoes that were preserved in amber.
While the science of cloning is still in its infancy…
… many scientists now believe it’s only a matter of time before many extinct animals again walk the Earth.
First we discovered the Neanderthals (in Germany 150 years ago), then the Denisovians (in Siberian caves in 2010). Now the ‘Red Deer People’, the remains of which were recently discovered in caves in China, dating back to 14,500 and 11,500 years ago.
OK… before my little geeks and nerdlings jump all over me for the misuse of the word ‘species’, let me admit right off the bat that it is a bit of a misnomer.  I’m simply using it for the sake of convenience.
Now, back to the Red Deer People!
According to an article at io9.com…
“These and other remains recovered from China’s Red Deer Cave, or Maludong, are the first bones found in mainland East Asia that are less than 100,000 years old, and not clearly Homo sapiens. This had led some anthropologists to conclude that all non-human hominans had gone extinct by the time our ancestors reached this region.
This new find seriously reverses that view. Not only did the Red Deer People share East Asia with ancient humans, they did so for far longer than Neanderthals lasted in Europe. Based on the age of this skull, the Red Deer People survived until the very end of the last Ice Age 11,000 years ago before they finally went extinct — compared to 30,000 years ago for Neanderthals.”
As archaeologist Darren Curnoe of Australia’s University of New South Wales explains, the Red Deer People were still around just as humans in China were making the move towards agriculture and a more complex civilization, a bit like if the Neanderthals had survived to see the dawn of Mesopotamian culture.
Scientists are trying to extract DNA from the remains to try to get a better picture of how the Red Deer People fit in genetically to the overall evolutionary family tree of modern man.
Scientists are being cautious in declaring this find a definite new species. It’s possible that they were simply one of the very first Homo sapiens populations to reach East Asia, and that’s why they preserved so many strangely archaic features. In that scenario, however, they went extinct without contributing to the current gene pool, enduring for tens of thousands of years as a completely isolated population.
What is much more intriguing and exciting is the possibility that the Red Deer People evolved separately from Homo sapiens. That means they are descended from one of the hominan species that had already reached Asia, much like Neanderthals likely claim descent from Homo heidelbergensis.
Whatever their true place in the Homo family tree, the Red Deer People are an important find simply because of the dearth of well dated, well described specimens from this part of the world.
I, for one, welcome this long lost cousin back to our extended family.
 The classical definition of species, which splits groups apart based on whether or not they can interbreed, doesn’t really fit with what we know of Neanderthals and Denisovans, both of whom contributed to the human genome and thus were perfectly capable of reproducing with humans. There’s no evidence to suggest the Red Deer People also interbred with other groups, but they likely belong in the same category as Neanderthals and Denisovans. Whether that grouping is species, subspecies, or something else is a grey area, and best left for another day.
A British documentary  on Channel 5 a week or so ago, caused this past weekend’s online headlines to blare:
The article goes on, “A number of 8th century human skeletons have been found with large stones stuck in their mouths – something researchers believe locals did to stop the dead from returning to walk the Earth as zombies.” (DailyMailOnline)
The piece goes on to explain, “The skeletons, which were featured in a British documentary last week, emerged during a series of digs carried out between 2005 and 2009 at Kilteasheen, near Loch Key in Ireland, by a team of archaeologists led by Chris Read from the Institute of Technology in Sligo, Ireland and Thomas Finan from the University of St. Louis.” (MSNBC.com)
The article begins, “Two early medieval skeletons were unearthed recently in Ireland with large stones wedged into their mouths — evidence, archaeologists say, that it was feared the individuals would rise from their graves like zombies.” (Discovery.com)
Zombie Scare in 8th Century Ireland Revealed? (TheBlaze.com)
The “deviant burials” were comprised of two men who were buried there at different times in the 700s.
One of the men was between 40 and 60 years old, and the other was a young adult, probably between 20 and 30 years old. The two men were laid side by side and each had a baseball-size rock shoved in his mouth.
“One of them was lying with his head looking straight up. A large black stone had been deliberately thrust into his mouth,” Chris Read, head of Applied Archaeology at IT Sligo, said.
“The other had his head turned to the side and had an even larger stone wedged quite violently into his mouth so that his jaws were almost dislocated,” he added.
“[The mouth] was viewed as the main portal for the soul to leave the body upon death,” explains Read. “Sometimes, the soul could come back to the body and re-animate it or else an evil spirit could enter the body through the mouth and bring it back to life.”
A similar find was discovered on the Venetian island of Lazzaretto Nuovo a few years ago… the skull of an old woman with a brick in her mouth. In that case, however, the skull was found in a mass grave of 16th century plague victims. It is suspected that the gravediggers, fearing she was a vampyre, shoved the brick in her mouth to prevent her from chewing her way through the shroud. How this would prevent the Nosferatu Nonna from clawing her way out is another story. Maybe the shrouds were made of heavy canvas and could not be easily torn without sharp fangs. Still… I have a family full of little old Italian ladies. Trust me, they are tough and resourceful!
Seriously cool stuff, in any event.
However… (here I go, throwing a wrench in the Irish Zombie Gearworks)…
The idea of zombies as we known them simply did not exist in Ireland or even Europe in the 8th century. Zombies are originally a west African and, later, Afro-Caribbean concept, and it is only in 1968 with George A. Romero’s seminal classic Night of the Living Dead do we see the creation of the ‘apocalyptic’ or ‘viral’ zombie. As for vampyres, while they were certainly a part of European (especially Eastern European) culture by the late medieval/early renaissance period, they simply don’t figure in the 8th century popular imagination of Western Europe and the British Isles.
Still… Irish zombies. You gotta love it!
Faith an’ begorra, me lassie child! ‘Tis a wee fair sight fer Irish eyes!
(I’ve never understood how the English thought the Irish spoke this way!)
 It’s interesting to note that while the documentary focuses on vampyres and is in fact entitled, “Mysteries of The Vampire Skeletons: Revealed”, the newspaper media have, despite the documentary, chosen the zombie angle the vampire one. Are zombies the new vampyres? See my previous article: Zombies are the New Vampyres?