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Posted on Friday, April 25 - 2008

Hundreds of prehistoric dogs found buried throughout the southwestern United States show that canines played a key role in the spiritual beliefs of ancient Americans, new research suggests. Throughout the region, dogs have been found buried with jewelry, alongside adults and children, carefully stacked in groups, or in positions that relate to important structures, said Dody Fugate, an assistant curator at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fugate has conducted an ongoing survey of known dog burials in the area, and the findings suggest that the animals figured more prominently in their owners' lives thansimply as pets, she said.

"I'm suggesting that the dogs in the New World in the Southwest were used to escort people into the next world, and sometimes they were used in certain rituals in place of people," Fugate said. To conduct her research, Fugate collected data on known dog burials and urged her archaeologist colleagues to note when canine remains were found during excavations. "I have a database now of almost 700 dog burials, and a large number of them are either buried in groups in places of ritual or they're buried with individual human beings," she said. Many of the burials are concentrated in northwestern New Mexico and along the Arizona-New Mexico border, she said (see map). "All of that area wasfull of doggy people," she said. She reported her findings at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Vancouver, Canada, last month. 1,900 Years of Burials Fugate's database indicates that dog burials were most common between 400 B.C. and A.D. 1100. "The earlier the [human] burial, the more likely you are to have dog in it," Fugate said. By the 1400s and 1500s the practice of burying people with dogs had stopped. Indeed, she noted, today's Pueblo and Navajo Indians believe it is improper to bury dogs. What the ancient dogs looked like is an open question, she said, but their remains suggest that they were far more diverse than was previously believed. Fugate has seen remains of ancient canines withfloppy. ...

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Posted on Sunday, March 16 - 2008

A consensus is emerging in the highly contentious debate over the colonization of the Americas, according to a study that says the bulk of the region wasn"t settled until as late as 15,000 years ago. Researchers analyzed both archaeological and genetic evidence from several dozen sites throughout the Americas and eastern Asia for the paper. "In the past archaeologists haven"t paid too much attention to molecular genetic evidence," said lead author Ted Goebel, an archaeologist at Texas A&M University in College Station. "We have brought together twodifferent fields of science, and it looks like they are coming up with the same set of answers." The article, which is published in tomorrow"s issue of the journal Science, shows that the first Americans came from a single Siberian population and ventured across the Bering land bridge connecting Asia and North America about 22,000 years ago.

The group got stuck in Alaska because of glacial ice, however, so humans probably didn"t migrate down into the rest of the Americas until after 16,500 years ago, when an ice-free corridor in Canada opened up. Scientists have long agreed that the first Americans came from northeast Asia, according to Goebel. But the newarticle—which analyzed genetic and archaeological evidence from 43 sites, including a dozen sites in Asia—better pins down the makeup of the first Americans. Genetic evidence, for instance, points to a founding population of less than 5,000 individuals. Some geneticists had also previously suggested that the migration across the land bridge could have occurred as early as 30,000 years ago.

View: Full Article | Source: National Geographic

Views : 1855

Posted on Friday, February 29 - 2008

While the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are easily the best known of these settlements, the region is dotted with some 4,000 known archaeological sites, including communities which supported as many as several hundred families.

Using computer simulations to synthesize both new and earlier research, a team of scientists led by a Washington State University anthropology professor has given new perspective to the long-standing question of what happened more than 700 years ago to cause the ancestral Pueblo people known as the Anasazi to abruptly end their 700-year-long occupation of the now-famous cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde and other nearby communities in southwestern Colorado.In anarticle to be published in the upcoming issue of "American Scientist," WSU Regents Professor Tim Kohler and three colleagues describe how computer simulation techniques were used to integrate nearly a century's worth of archaeological research with new climatic, ecological and demographic data to analyze two major cycles in population growth and decline among the ancient Anasazi.Ultimately their data suggests that the final population collapse within the region resulted from a complex set of environmental changes and societal pressures-including climate change, population growth, increasing competition for resources and escalating conflict and violence among local societies. Preserved in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt as Mesa Verde National Park, the ancestral Pueblo homeland also encompasses what is known today as the FourCorners Region of the American Southwest, an area marked by the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. While the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are easily the best known of these settlements, the region is dotted with some 4,000 known archaeological sites, including communities which supported as many as several hundred families. Archaeological evidence has shown that the Anasazi inhabited the region and prospered there from about A.D.

600 until sometime in the late 1200s, when they abandoned their communities abruptly - often within the span of a single generation - and migrated southward.
Since the discovery of the Mesa Verde sites in the late 19th century, archaeologists have frequently invoked single factors-such as climate change or conflict - as explanations for the depopulation of more than 600 cliffdwellings......

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Posted on Sunday, January 13 - 2008

Brian kemp learned a lot from one 10,300-year-old tooth. The Washington State University researcher identified a previously unknown pattern of relationships among Native Americans - suggesting that humans arrived here more recently than previously believed and migrated down the western coastlines from Alaska to the tip of South America. His finding suggests that ancient teeth might become a wider source for discovering historical DNA and unlocking more information about the past. “We learned something that we would have never known and it’s important now that we start studying teeth,” said Kemp, a molecular anthropologist who did the research as part of a team while finishing hisdoctoral work at the University of California, Davis.

Kemp’s research on the tooth discovered in Alaska’s On Your Knees Cave was dubbed one of the top 100 science stories of 2007 by Discover magazine. It was the oldest human genetic sample from the Americas ever analyzed, an extreme rarity because most DNA doesn’t survive a few hundred years, let alone thousands. “Ten thousand years is a long time and that’s why the sample is so important,” Kemp said. “I’ve worked on 500-year-old samples that have no DNA.” He was one of two WSU researchers on the Discover list. The other was Michael Skinner, who made the Top 100 once before for research showing that when pregnant mammals were exposed to a common fungicide, their descendants suffered disease and other health effects for severalgenerations. That one-time exposure creates “epigenetic” additions to the DNA of the exposed mammal and its descendents. Most recently, Skinner has shown that the male descendants of rats exposed to toxins become less attractive to females even if they’re not sick - meaning that pollution can affect not only the DNA of a family for generations, but the overall development of a species, Skinner said in a news release. “This is one of the first experimental studies to support a role for epigenetics in evolutionary biology,” he said.

View: Full Article | Source: Spokesman Review

Views : 1654

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