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Monday, October 29, 2012

Archaeology, Paleontology, and Anthropology News: October 29, 2012

Easter Island’s gargantuan stone statues walked. That is the controversial claim from archaeologists who have demonstrated the feat with a 4.4-tonne model of one of the baffling busts. They describe their work in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Nearly 1,000 statues litter Easter Island's 163 square kilometers, with the largest weighing 74 tons and standing 10 meters tall. Much about the megaliths is mystery, but few of the enigmas are more perplexing than how the statues were shuttled kilometers from the rock quarries where they were carved.

Theirs was the immortal battle: a fierce tyrant battling a defender armed with three lethal horns and protected by a bony frill around its neck. Yet the violent fight between Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops is hardly the stuff of Hollywood hype. Tyrannosaurus bite marks are well known on the fossil bones of Triceratops but, so far, such fossils have always been studied in an isolated manner.

Researchers from Guatemala uncovered the grave of King K'utz Chman, a priest who is believed to have reigned around 700 B.C., at the Tak'alik Ab'aj dig in Retalhuleu in western Guatemala. Packed with jade jewels and other artifacts, K'utz Chman's grave is the most ancient royal Mayan burial ground found to date, investigators said.

On the banks of the Danube, in the northwest corner of Bulgaria, lie the remnants of an ancient Roman settlement called Ratiaria, host to a priceless cultural heritage. Craters pockmark the huge site, evidence of a scourge threatening one of the world's great troves of antiquities: looters digging for ancient treasure to sell on the black market. Archaeologist Krasmira Luka, who heads a team excavating part of the 80 hectare (200 acre) site, says the area has been repeatedly raided by thieves who dig pits looking for ancient coins and jewelry. Everything else, including precious ceramic vessels and other historically significant artifacts, is smashed to pieces.

Twenty-six pieces of ancient Mexican pottery has been recovered in Bigfork as part of a crackdown on smuggling involving more than 4,000 artifacts in several states. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents announced the seizures Thursday morning. ICE agents tell us the 26 objects have a total value of: $3,245, who add the items were found in Big Fork, and that the gallery assisted ICE with the investigation. No charges were filed.

Iraqi police have confiscated scores of artifacts and arrested two smugglers in the southern Province of Dhiqar, al-Zaman news reported on Monday. The stolen items include rare statues and coins from different periods in Iraq’s ancient history. The two smugglers in question have long been dealing in stolen relics. One police source was quoted as saying on condition of anonymity: “Interior Ministry forces in coordination with the Iraqi army seized 64 archaeological pieces as well as 114 bronze coins in a district of al-Fajir.”

In the course of the excavation process in Can Sadurní cave (Begues), members of the Col-lectiu per la Investigación de la Prehistòria i l'Arqueologia del Garraf-Ordal (CIPAG), together with the University of Barcelona Seminar of Studies and Prehistoric Research (SERP), found the torso, with one complete arm and the initial part of the other, of a human figurine made of pottery. Its chronostratigraphic unit makes it, until now, the most ancient human figurine of the Prehistory in Catalonia; it is dated 6500 years ago.

A new chemical analysis of modern diets suggests Stone Age humans ate less meat than previously thought. The findings, published in the November issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, may explain why many archaeologists estimate that prehistoric people got most of their calories from lean meat or fish when modern humans would be literally poisoned by such a protein-heavy diet.

Giant German hippopotamuses wallowing on the banks of the Elbe are not a common sight. Yet 1.8 million years ago hippos were a prominent part of European wildlife, when mega-fauna such as woolly mammoths and giant cave bears bestrode the continent. Now palaeontologists writing in Boreas, believe that the changing climate during the Pleistocene Era may have forced Europe's hippos to shrink to pygmy sizes before driving them to warmer climates.

With domed heads and thick, bony skull protuberances, pachycephalosaurids are well known by seven-year-olds and paleontologists alike. The dinosaurs are thought to have used their thick domes to headbutt each other, perhaps as part of courtship behavior. But whereas children recreating these vicious displays simply ram plastic models of the animals together in a straight line, a study now suggests that pachycephalosaurs may have bashed one another in a number of different ways.


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