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News: Amazonian Archaeology & Oldest AMH In SE Europe (Ukraine)

23 Jun

Amazonian Archaeology

Recently there has been a fantastic series on British Television called Unnatural Histories.  One episode in particular focuses on the Amazon rainforest and its past.  If you live inside Britain you can watch it here on BBC Iplayer.  If not, its called Unnatural Histories Episode 3: Amazon, please let me know if you find it elsewhere.

It details the history of the Amazon rainforest from 3 particular angles; the modern environmentalist perspective, the modern day people who live there and it also includes recent Pre-Columbian archaeological findings from ancient sites situated along the Amazon river.  Of particular interest are the massive amounts of earthenwork Geoglyphs being found alongside the Amazon river, and beyond in the forest.  Roughly dating from around AD 100 up until AD 1300, these monuments range in size, from the small to the sublime.  Sadly, these are often uncovered after the effects of deforestation.  The geogylphs are often found without many clues as to their function with little material remains associated with the sites, although they are most likely socio-religious meeting points.  Very interestingly, archaeologists have found numerous ‘roads’ which link up various sites.  At other sites alongside the river, mounds had been built up in which Pre-Columbian peoples lived atop of during the flooding seasons.

Brazilian Geoglyphs In The Amazon Rainforest

This is particularly exciting to me, as during my undergraduate degree course, very little archaeologically was said on the vast expanse of land that the Amazon extends over in South America.  This was in direct contrast to the vast tracts of archaeology that litter the dry, mountainous western side of that continent (Tinwanaku, Huari, & Inca civilizations etc).  The last 15 minutes of the show are fascinating as the sites found recently keep piling up, and as it also juxtapositions the past populations onto a map of the modern populations.  It is well worth a watch.

Oldest SE European Anatomically Modern Humans Found In The Ukraine

In other news, a recent PLoS ONE article discusses human and faunal remains from a Middle and Upper Palaeolithic site located in the Crimea, Ukraine.  This site has the earliest evidence of AMS dated modern Homo Sapiens, and also includes some very interesting mortuary practices.  The site is perfect as it has securely dated stratigraphy, distinct geological boundaries, alongside an impressive use of the multidisciplinary approach in its investigations and conclusions.

I will shortly write up a proper review on this entry.  In the meantime, the article can be found here:

Prat et al. 2011. The Oldest Anatomically Modern Humans from Far Southeast Europe: Direct Dating, Culture and Behavior’

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