23 September 2009

Dogs First Tamed in China -- To Be Food?

Here is an interesting article about Dog domestication.

September 4, 2009

Wolves were domesticated no more than 16,300 years ago in southern China, a new genetic analysis suggests—and it's possible the canines were tamed to be livestock, not pets, the study author speculates.

"In this region, even today, eating dog is a big cultural thing," noted study co-author Peter Savolainen, a biologist at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

"And you can also see in the historical records as far back as you can go that eating dogs has been very common" in East Asia.

"Therefore, you have to think of the possibility that this was one of the reasons for domesticating dogs."

Dog Diversity

The new work, published Wednesday in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, bolsters the long-held theory that dogs first became "man's best friend" in East Asia.

That notion came under fire last month, based on a DNA analysis of so-called village dogs in Africa.

The highest level of genetic diversity in modern dogs should exist in the region where the animals first came under human control.

But the August study found that African village dogs have a similar amount of genetic diversity as those in East Asia, calling into question the origins of dog domestication.

For the new work, Savolainen and colleagues analyzed the entire mitochondrial genome—DNA passed down only from the mother—of 169 dogs, as well as portions of the genomes from 1,543 dogs from across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

These dogs all share at least 80 percent of their DNA, the team found. The animals' genetic diversity increased the farther east the scientists looked.

The greatest diversity was found in a region south of the Yangtze River in China.

According to Savolainen, the data make it "totally clear" that genetic variation in East Asian dogs is much higher than anywhere else in the world.

The analysis also suggests that wolves were domesticated from several hundred individuals sometime between 5,400 and 16,300 years ago.

This is around the time Asian hunter-gatherers were adopting a more settled agrarian lifestyle, which is part of what makes Savolainen think the canines might have been kept as food.

Support, But Not Proof?

Adam Boyko, a biologist at Cornell University in New York and co-author of the August study, agrees that the new work shows greater genetic diversity in East Asia than Africa.

But Boyko said he would like to see more genetic evidence before he calls the finding proof of domestication.

"But clearly, it is a very interesting result," he said. "There is a ton of data backing it up, [and] they put forth a really interesting hypothesis for dog domestication."

20 September 2009

Destruction by our troops (and others) to the ancient city of Babylon

This is very sad. Apparently the war in Iraq has caused substantial damage to the Ancient City of Babylon. Probably may other archaeological sites. We heard about the looting just after the invasion. The following is paraphrased from a couple of news articles including the one linked above and the LA Times and CommonDreams.org.

The U.S. troops as well as contractors in Iraq drove heavy machinery over ancient roadways, they bulldozed hilltops, leveled other areas, and dug trenches throughout the site. This is according to UNESCO. The have a PDF you can download, but I don't know how to link to it. Sorry.

UNESCO noted that the damage didn’t begin with the U.S. military and that archaeologists took away some of Babylon’s finest treasures in the 19th century. There were some significant modifications by Saddam Hussein when he embellished the site with his own structures. And after the US military gave the site back to the Iraqis, after March 2003, looters hit the site hard.

They are working to improve the city and restore the damage but the damage is fairly significant. The US (State Department) is going to spend $700,000 towards restoration. Also, an international group-- The Future of Babylon Project --is working toward making the site a World Heritage site. The Future of Babylon Project is a partnership of the World Monuments Fund, a New York-based nonprofit organization, and Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage.

I hope they can fix it. It is a world treasure. Something I hope I will visit someday.

27 August 2009

Lubbock Animal Shelter - the southeast loop

I did a survey this week for the new animal shelter (an adoption center) for the City of Lubbock.

Pretty easy - small area, took about 2 hours. But it was not pretty. They have decided to go with this chunk of land that is away from any kind of traffic except people zooming by on the loop. There is no easy access to the area and it is desolate. This is going to be a place where people come to adopt animals . . .why would they choose such a remote place? If you read my posts regularly you will remember I did another location for the animal shelter and in that area they destroyed historic structures in order to get the project approved only to find out they did not have the right to use that property for anything other than a park. Destruction for nothing! It is aggravating to see the impact of the city councils' poor decision making skills.

01 August 2009

The End of the Midden

We finished with the midden, exposing the mass debris field of rocks that had been dumped and scattered and under that we found the central cooking feature, perhaps reused several times. We found a few projectile points in all these rocks and several pieces of rocks removed from making other chipped stone tools extent of excavations

Pit feature

Below are the projectile points (dart tips for spears)

27 June 2009

Our Burned Rock Midden

This is a burned rock midden we are excavating on the Fort Hood base. It was initially identified by ground penetrating radar. We excavated a small shovel test which encountered some rocks so we opened a 1x1 meter square unit and this is the top of the burned rock midden in that unit.We then excavated the east (right side in this photo) of the midden to see a cross section. This is during the process of removing the rocks from that half.

We then exposed more of the midden which you can see below. The previously excavated section is the whole towards the top of the feature in the photo below.

14 June 2009

Fort Hood Archaeology, once more

Digging the past: Hood works to preserve history

by Bryan Kirk | Killeen Writer
Published: June 14, 2009

FORT HOOD - In tale after tale where treasures rumored beyond imagination drove men to uncharted territory and distant lands, “X” was said to mark the spot.

But in the tale of real life, where men and women who thirst for history and work feverishly to preserve it, there is no specific “X,” just a few broken shards of pottery, a pair of rusty discarded dog tags dating back to World War I or a child’s toy.

“These were lives,” said Sunny Wood, an archaeologist with Fort Hood’s Cultural Resources Management Program. “Some of this stuff people would consider collectors’ items or antiques.”

But there is much more than that, especially when ancient history mixes with the present day.

“What always sticks out in my mind is that we’ll find a projectile point that is 8,000 years old on the same surface as a Pepsi can from last week,” Wood said. “It drives me nuts.”

One man’s trash

A hole in the ground has been Ginny Hatfield’s and Tim Griffith’s office for the last four weeks.

Archaeologists Tim Griffith and Ginny Hatfield sift through sediment collected from Fort Hood’s site No. 41CV1553, a recently discovered collection of fire rocks in paluxy soil. Artifacts from the site date from 200 to 1,500 years ago. Scott Gaulin/Telegram

Off the beaten path, and only a few yards from a deeply rutted tank track, Griffith and Hatfield had staked a handful of tiny white and red flags to make a series of shallow digs for artifacts, and into the lives of an ancient people.

Under a canvas canopy, Hatfield had staked several grid squares outlined with twine that stretched 1 yard wide by 3 yards long.

The rock oven or roasting pit that ancient people used to cook wild onions, plants and game. Scott Gaulin/Telegram

Using a small shovel and a brush, she’d been digging carefully with Griffith, meticulously sifting mounds of sandy soil through a screen.

What they’d uncovered was what’s commonly known in archaeological circles as a rock oven or a roasting pit that ancient people used to cook wild onions, plants and game. It dates from 200 to 1,500 years ago.

In one small square, Hatfield had uncovered only a small part of the oven and hoped to collect some ancient plant materials to determine what was cooked.

“From this one we’ve taken several samples of soil,” Hatfield said.

They also have collected some rock samples to see if residue can be collected from those, Hatfield said.

“We are in the beginning stages of examining all of this,” she said.

Researchers have not just found the large roasting oven, but also stone chips that may have been used to fashion spear points and arrow heads.

Of course, a lot of the discoveries might have remained long buried if it were not for technology.

Aside from shallow digs with tiny shovels, archaeologists use imaging technology to find anomalies.

“What they did is come out here and put a grid over this whole area,” Wood said. “They ran ground-penetrating radar to figure out where these clusters of rocks are, to kind of hone down where we were going to put our focus. Otherwise you are coming out here with a probe or a shovel to see what’s out here.”

Once those anomalies are found, archaeologists get to work digging, and sifting through time itself.

Griffith shoveled a small amount of sandy soil and watched the fine remnants fall back to the earth.

What was left were fragments of rocks that intrigued Griffith.

That’s because the burned rocks that fashioned the oven, when you strike them together will emit a sulfuric scent, much like a match being struck.

Thousands of years ago, prehistoric cultures learned that heated rocks could be used to bake foods, specifically bulbs or fibrous plants.

These were usually cooked at least overnight and sometimes for several days before they could be eaten.

Rocks, heated within a pit and covered by layers of plants and insulating earth, can hold heat for up to 48 hours, and that is why these ovens were so effective. The larger and more numerous the rocks, the more slowly they will dissipate heat and the longer they will stay hot enough to cook the food.

“This is really kind of a neat project,” Wood said. “We’ve got some guys from Texas A&M who are interested in this. We’re going to get some good data out of this.”

This specimen is a bi-face beveled knife, meaning that it was worked on both sides of the stone. Scott Gaulin/Telegram

A metates was recovered from the site. The center was cored and dissolved in acid to reveal it was used to grind acorns, wild onions and garlic, hyacinth and camis. Charred nutshells were also found that archaeologist Sunny Wood suspects are pecans and walnuts. Scott Gaulin/Telegram

The program

The Cultural Management Program, which manages resources representing more than 10,000 years of occupying the land, has been in existence on Fort Hood since 1978 and is one of the stronger programs situated on military posts in the United States.

“We have 98 percent of the installation surveyed for archaeology and cultural resources,” Wood said.

Over the years, there have been some pretty significant finds on post.

In 1970 construction crews who were building the Pershing Creek Housing area discovered the partial tusk of an extinct wooly mammoth.

Discoveries on the more than 2,200 recorded archaeological sites range from prehistoric rock shelters to historic homesteads and cemeteries, early military structures and even a few sites considered sacred by a number of Native American tribes.

Chances are pretty good that researchers and archaeologists have barely scratched the surface since most prehistoric sites go quite deep.

Building goodwill

Fuller coordinates with seven Native American tribes in the United States to ensure their ancient sites remain intact, and as protected as possible.

Those tribes include the Apache, Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa, Tonkawa, Mescalaro Apache and Witchita.

“Obviously, some are more interested than others, it just depends on the tribe and how active their cultural resources division is,” Fuller said.

When tribal remains are located or stolen remains recovered, Fuller contacts the tribes to see what they’d like done, and often they will agree to come to Fort Hood to perform a sacred ceremony.

Many of the tribal remains are reburied at the Leon River Medicine Wheel, which is regarded as a sacred ceremonial site, or at the Comanche National Indian Cemetery, both of which are managed and protected by Fort Hood.

But coordinating and cooperating is not just about reburial, it’s also about learning, especially when archaeologists find something new.

“We provide them all of our stuff and they give us feedback on what they think the archaeological site means,” she said. “As opposed to us telling them what it is, we want them to tell us what they think it is, too. It’s very much a cooperative effort.”

10 June 2009

Fort Hood Archaeology again

I am having even more fun conducting archaeology in Fort Hood now that the marines are encamped! They have taken positions on the ridge we drive across to get to the site and on the next ridge over . . .and probably on some others I don't know about. We were discovered by a lone marine on a mission to find a place to go to the bathroom. We were taking lunch, blasting some Irish drinking songs and a marine with gun slung across his chest and holding an entrenching tool (folding shove) came walking up. We talked with him for a bit, told him what we were doing and he then told us they were part of a massive live fire exercise involving a whole bunch of marines from the northeast coast (New Jersey and Pennsylvania). When he told us we might need to be careful, given the live fire and all, we determined our route into the site crossed in front of the guns . . . so now we get an escort as we drive in and out from the site. The escort involves a marine walking in front of us, just behind their line of howitzers.

Today while we worked we heard howitzers on the ridges around us being fired. The ones closes to us were so loud we could here the whistling of the round as it sailed through the air. Pretty cool. On our way out, they actually fired while we were still next to them. It was VERY VERY loud. You could feel the earth move and the wind rushed by us . .. very cool

This video shows nothing but you can hear the firing of the howitzers in the background

fun fun