вторник, 20 марта 2018 г.

Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) admixture across Europe & Asia

Another update: ANE is the primary cause of west to east genetic differentiation within West Eurasia

This is an update of a supervised ADMIXTURE analysis that I ran earlier this year looking at ANE levels throughout Asia, the results of which I posted at my other blog (see here). Anyone wanna make a map?

ANE admixture across Europe & Asia spreadsheet

My claim is that these estimates are more accurate than those we’ve seen recently in scientific literature. Obviously I’m referring here to Lazaridis et al. 2013/14 (see here). That’s not to say that the authors of this paper don’t know what they’re doing. Clearly they do, but at the fine-scale there’s usually room for improvement no matter who you are.

For instance, in their paper in table S14.9 they list the Basques (in fact, French Basques) as 11.4% ANE, which sounds reasonable, although perhaps a little too high considering they admit that this population can be modeled as 0% ANE. On the other hand, they estimate the “North Spanish” to be 16.3% ANE.

Now, this reference set is actually from the 1000 Genomes project, where it’s listed as Spaniards from Pais Vasco (ie. Basque Country). Essentially, what this means is that these are Basques from Spain. So why would Basques from France carry only 11.4% ANE, and Basques from Spain a whopping 16.3%? Not only that, but according to Lazaridis et al., these “North Spanish” also can be modeled as 0% ANE.

Obviously, something’s not quite right there. Indeed, in my spreadsheet, the very same French Basques are listed as 7.4% ANE, while the Pais Vasco Spaniards as just over 8%. Call me crazy, and many do, but I think these results actually make good sense.

By the way, I made ten synthetic samples from the ANE allele frequencies from this test, and remarkably, in all of the analyses I’ve ran so far they behaved very much like MA-1 or Mal’ta boy, the main ANE proxy. Below, for example, is a Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of West Eurasia featuring these individuals. The result is very similar to that I obtained with Mal’ta boy (see here).

The synthetic ANE samples are available here. Feel free to play around with them, and if you do, please let me know what you discover.

As some regular visitors already know, I’m currently designing a new test for GEDmatch that will include various ancient components like ANE. Unfortunately, it might be a while before it’s ready, simply because I want it to be as accurate as possible.

See also…

Eurogenes ANE K7

Corded Ware Culture linked to the spread of ANE across Europe

Source Polish and European population genetics and modern physical anthropology.

Gaia in your pocket – mapping the Galaxy with the new Gaia app

Mapping one billion stars in our Galaxy may seem like an impossible feat, but that’s exactly what ESA’s Gaia mission aims to do, with the ultimate goal of creating the largest, most precise 3D map of our Galaxy ever made. And now you can follow the mission’s progress with a new app created by the University of Barcelona. Being able to track the progress of this groundbreaking mission via your iPhone, iPad or iPod means the stars have never been closer!


Screenshot of Gaia App 

The Gaia Mission app is a must-have for space enthusiasts and novices alike. Beautiful images, interactive diagrams, and videos of the satellite explain many aspects of this star-mapping mission, and clear instructions and demos are available for every feature of the app. For more experienced stargazers there is a host of in-depth information available for each section, accessed by simply swiping the page.


Screenshot of Gaia App 

The app has interactive diagrams of the spacecraft and payload that can be moved 360˚, letting you explore inside the Gaia satellite, and by tapping on the highlighted regions of the diagrams you’ll find clear information about each component. The trajectory of the satellite and the distance from Earth can be followed via the mission status page, and you can track how much data has been acquired and processed on the mission operations page. Live news updates will ensure that you are among the first to know about any exciting new discoveries!

This is not the first time a satellite has been sent to map the stars. Back in 1989 the ESA Hipparcos mission charted over 120,000 objects, which formed the basis of a huge stellar catalogue. The Gaia mission will greatly improve on this achievement, as it will measure the position and motion of stars with a much higher level of accuracy. The number of stars observed during this five-year mission will increase to over one billion, resulting in the most precise three-dimensional map of our Galaxy ever created. Over the course of the mission, one petabyte (one million gigabytes) of digital information will be sent to the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium for analysis and for cataloguing – that’s enough to fill over 1.5 million CD ROMs!

Screenshot of Gaia App

The Gaia satellite orbits the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, known as L2. There, at a distance of 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth, Gaia will have excellent views of the Galaxy, free of any eclipses and in stable thermal conditions. Scanning the sky as it rotates on its axis, Gaia will view each star about 70 times, allowing a great deal of information to be collected about each and every one. The Gaia Mission app will give updates on many of Gaia’s activities, from the moment it was launched on 19 December 2013, until the final catalogue is published in 2022.

As Carme Jordi, from the team at the University of Barcelona who developed the app explains: “With Gaia, we will be able to see the entire history of the Milky Way unfolding before our eyes.”

“Gaia has so many interesting aspects – from our view of the Universe, to the life cycles of stars and the detection of exoplanets. With the app you can learn the basics of all of these things and then see how the mission builds up a new picture for us all.”

“Humans have been mapping the stars for centuries, but there is still a great deal to find out with the Gaia mission,” continues Marcial. “Many of the people who made star maps could only dream of being able to observe from space; now, not only can we do it, we can share the adventure in real time.”The team hopes to add more interactive features to the app over the coming months. These could also be interesting for students in second and third level education. “There are different levels within the app,” says Marcial Clotet, the engineer who first came up with the idea for the app. “Those who want to can go through the various levels and find really in-depth information to correspond to their level of interest”.

The app was created by the University of Barcelona and is available for free from the iTunes store in English, Spanish and Catalan. The University of Barcelona team is now working on the Android version, which will be available later this year.

This project was co-financed by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology – Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.

Source ESA blog

Male height in Europe

A new paper in the Economics & Human Biology journal argues that male height in Europe is mostly determined by nutrition and genetics. That’s not exactly earth shattering news. However, the authors also point out that Y-chromosome haplogroup I-M170 shows a strong correlation with the highest average stature on the continent, and speculate that the link between the two might be Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestry:

The average height of 45 national samples used in our study was 178.3 cm (median 178.5 cm). The average of 42 European countries was 178.3 cm (median 178.4 cm). When weighted by population size, the average height of a young European male can be estimated at 177.6 cm. The geographical comparison of European samples (Fig. 1) shows that above average stature (178+ cm) is typical for Northern/Central Europe and the Western Balkans (the area of the Dinaric Alps). This agrees with observations of 20th century anthropologists (Coon, 1939; Lundman 1977). At present, the tallest nation in Europe (and also in the world) are the Dutch (average male height 183.8 cm), followed by Montenegrins (183.2 cm) and possibly Bosnians (182.5 cm) (Table 1). In contrast with these high values, the shortest men in Europe can be found in Turkey (173.6 cm), Portugal (173.9 cm), Cyprus (174.6 cm) and in economically underdeveloped nations of the Balkans and former Soviet Union (mainly Albania, Moldova, and the Caucasian republics).

The trend of increasing height has already stopped in Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Germany. In Norway, military statistics date its cessation to late 1980s.

In contrast, the fastest pace of the height increase (≥1 cm/decade) can be observed in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Latvia, Belarus, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and at least in the southern parts of Italy.

Although the documented differences in male stature in European nations can largely be explained by nutrition and other exogenous factors, it is remarkable that the picture in Fig. 1 strikingly resembles the distribution of Y haplogroup I-M170 (Fig. 10a). Apart from a regional anomaly in Sardinia (sub-branch I2a1a-M26), this male genetic lineage has two frequency peaks, from which one is located in Scandinavia and northern Germany (I1-M253 and I2a2-M436), and the second one in the Dinaric Alps in Bosnia and Herzegovina (I2a1b-M423)16. In other words, these are exactly the regions that are characterized by unusual tallness. The correlation between the frequency of I-M170 and male height in 43 European countries (including USA) is indeed highly statistically significant (r = 0.65; p


Grasgruber et al., The role of nutrition and genetics as key determinants of the positive height trend, Economics & Human Biology, available online 7 August 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2014.07.002

Source Polish and European population genetics and modern physical anthropology.

HiPOD (20 March 2018): Who Can Tire of Martian Gullies? …

HiPOD (20 March 2018): Who Can Tire of Martian Gullies?

   Certainly no one who loves Mars! (258 km above the surface. Black and white is 5 km across, and enhanced color is less than 1 km.)

Icelandic Epic Predicted a Fiery End for Pagan Gods, and Then This Volcano Erupted


A series of Earth-shattering volcanic eruptions in Iceland during the Middle Ages may have spurred the people living there to turn away from their pagan gods and convert to Christianity, a new study finds.

The discovery came about thanks to precise dating of the volcanic eruptions, which spewed lava about two generations before the Icelandic people changed religions.

But why would volcanic eruptions turn people toward monotheism? The answer has to do with the “Vǫluspá,” a prominent medieval poem that predicted a fiery eruption would help lead to the downfall of the pagan gods, the researchers said.

Historians have long known that the Vikings and Celts settled Iceland in about A.D. 874, but they were less certain about the date of the Eldgjá lava flood, the largest eruption to hit Iceland in the past few millennia. Knowing this date is crucial, because it can tell scientists whether the eruption — a colossal event that unleashed about 4.8 cubic miles (20 cubic kilometers) of lava onto Greenland — impacted the settlement there, the researchers said. Read more.

Clot Contraption This movie shows an artificial blood vessel…

Clot Contraption

This movie shows an artificial blood vessel healing itself after a wound. The microfluidic device consists of a layer of human endothelial cells [the cells that line blood vessels in the body] with a valve positioned beneath. Donor human blood is pumped across the endothelial cell layer and, when the valve is released, a wound is created. In the movie, blood cells and platelets can be seen flooding out from the wound until eventually a clot of cells and fibrin (in green) – an insoluble extracellular protein that forms a sticky fibrous mesh – is formed. The creators of the device designed it to allow researchers an unprecedented view of clot formation in real time under a microscope. Their idea was that such devices could provide a simple, uniform system for investigating how diseases, drugs and other factors accelerate or delay the formation of clots.

Written by Ruth Williams

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grandegyptianmuseum: Statue of King Ramesses VI standing,…


Statue of King Ramesses VI standing, grasping the hair of a Libyan prisoner in his left hand and an axe in his right, from the temple of Amun, Karnak. New Kingdom, 20th Dynasty, ca. 1189-1077 BC. Now in the Luxor Museum.

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Hair was dyed for first time as part of funeral rituals, study shows

Archaeologists from the University of Granada have carried out excavations in the Biniadris Cave located on the Balearic Island of Menorca, uncovering enigmatic funeral rituals. This Bronze Age cave was used by different societies over 3300-2600 years ago. Researchers from the University of Tübingen (Germany) and the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), among others, are also participating in this pioneering research project.

Hair was dyed for first time as part of funeral rituals, study shows
View of the entrance to Biniadris Cave in Menorca [Credit: Universidad de Granada]

The archaeologists have identified a series of hitherto unrevealed funeral rituals, which were performed between the end of the second millennium BC and the beginning of the first millennium BC in the Biniadris Cave located in Menorca.

The excavations have led to the discovery of almost 100 bodies and have enabled researchers to identify a number of fascinating funeral rituals, such as the practice of dyeing the corpse’s hair red, the deliberate placing of bodies in the middle of the cave, the use of ceramic elements in such rituals, and a practice called “trepanation” where a hole is drilled into the skull.

The project is being led by Dr. Eva Alarcón García and Dr. Auxilio Moreno Onorato, both of whom are researchers at the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology of the University of Granada.

Hair was dyed for first time as part of funeral rituals, study shows
The archaeologists Dr. Eva Alarcón y Dr. Alba Torres working at the excavation site
in Biniadris Cave [Credit: Universidad de Granada]

“There are no precedents for these kinds of social practices in the Iberian Peninsula and they are unique to the Balearic Islands”, Dr. Alarcón explains. “The buried were placed in the middle of the cave and a variety of elements were used during the rituals, such as plant materials (branches and trunks), ceramic vessels that must have played an important role given the degree of fragmentation they exhibit, iron oxide ores (‘ochre’), etc.”

The dyeing of the corpse’s hair must have been one of the most significant parts of the ritual. “Evidently, the red tufts of hair must have had symbolic value for these social groups. They were perfectly cut and deposited in containers of varying sizes that were made of different materials (metal, leather and even wood), which were then hidden in specific parts of the cave”, Dr. Alarcón and Dr. Moreno point out.

Hair was dyed for first time as part of funeral rituals, study shows
Remains discovered in Biniadris Cave [Credit: Universidad de Granada]

One intriguing discovery was that the buried were dressed. Moreover, ancient V-perforated buttons, needles, and even pieces of fabric from the clothes were discovered during the excavations. Five skulls with holes from trepanation have been documented so far and are currently being analysed.

The remains of hair and fabric are currently being studied through carbon-14 dating at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom). UGR researchers are also thoroughly involved in analysing the finds, with the Department of Organic Chemistry currently examining the residues found in the ceramic containers.

Hair was dyed for first time as part of funeral rituals, study shows
Remains discovered in Biniadris Cave [Credit: Universidad de Granada]

Undoubtedly, the findings at the Biniadris Cave will raise many questions and pave the way for new lines of research, not only from archaeological perspectives but also from anthropological ones. For now, the main objective of the research is to solve the enigmas presented by these mysterious funeral rituals performed long ago in the Biniadris Cave.

The findings are published in the Quaternary International journal.

Source: Universidad de Granada [March 18, 2018]



Mars’ oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars’ putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million years earlier and were not as deep as once thought.

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions
The early ocean known as Arabia (left, blue) would have looked like this when it formed 4 billion years ago on Mars,
while the Deuteronilus ocean, about 3.6 billion years old, had a smaller shoreline. Both coexisted with the massive
 volcanic province Tharsis, located on the unseen side of the planet, which may have helped support the existence
of liquid water. The water is now gone, perhaps frozen underground and partially lost to space, while the
ancient seabed is known as the northern plains [Credit: Robert Citron images, UC Berkeley]

The proposal by geophysicists at the University of California, Berkeley, links the existence of oceans early in Mars history to the rise of the solar system’s largest volcanic system, Tharsis, and highlights the key role played by global warming in allowing liquid water to exist on Mars.

“Volcanoes may be important in creating the conditions for Mars to be wet,” said Michael Manga, a UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science and senior author of a paper appearing in Nature this week.

Those claiming that Mars never had oceans of liquid water often point to the fact that estimates of the size of the oceans don’t jibe with estimates of how much water could be hidden today as permafrost underground and how much could have escaped into space. These are the main options, given that the polar ice caps don’t contain enough water to fill an ocean.

The new model proposes that the oceans formed before or at the same time as Mars’ largest volcanic feature, Tharsis, instead of after Tharsis formed 3.7 billion years ago. Because Tharsis was smaller at that time, it did not distort the planet as much as it did later, in particular the plains that cover most of the northern hemisphere and are the presumed ancient seabed. The absence of crustal deformation from Tharsis means the seas would have been shallower, holding about half the water of earlier estimates.

“The assumption was that Tharsis formed quickly and early, rather than gradually, and that the oceans came later,” Manga said. “We’re saying that the oceans predate and accompany the lava outpourings that made Tharsis.”

It’s likely, he added, that Tharsis spewed gases into the atmosphere that created a global warming or greenhouse effect that allowed liquid water to exist on the planet, and also that volcanic eruptions created channels that allowed underground water to reach the surface and fill the northern plains.

Following the shorelines

The model also counters another argument against oceans: that the proposed shorelines are very irregular, varying in height by as much as a kilometer, when they should be level, like shorelines on Earth.

This irregularity could be explained if the first ocean, called Arabia, started forming about 4 billion years ago and existed, if intermittently, during as much as the first 20 percent of Tharsis’s growth. The growing volcano would have depressed the land and deformed the shoreline over time, which could explain the irregular heights of the Arabia shoreline.

Similarly, the irregular shoreline of a subsequent ocean, called Deuteronilus, could be explained if it formed during the last 17 percent of Tharsis’s growth, about 3.6 billion years ago.

“These shorelines could have been emplaced by a large body of liquid water that existed before and during the emplacement of Tharsis, instead of afterwards,” said first author Robert Citron, a UC Berkeley graduate student. Citron will present a paper about the new analysis on March 20 at the annual Lunar and Planetary Science conference in Texas.

Tharsis, now a 5,000-kilometer-wide eruptive complex, contains some of the biggest volcanoes in the solar system and dominates the topography of Mars. Earth, twice the diameter and 10 times more massive than Mars, has no equivalent dominating feature. Tharsis’s bulk creates a bulge on the opposite side of the planet and a depression halfway between. This explains why estimates of the volume of water the northern plains could hold based on today’s topography are twice what the new study estimates based on the topography 4 billion years ago.

New hypothesis supplants old

Manga, who models the internal heat flow of Mars, such as the rising plumes of molten rock that erupt into volcanoes at the surface, tried to explain the irregular shorelines of the plains of Mars 11 years ago with another theory. He and former graduate student Taylor Perron suggested that Tharsis, which was then thought to have originated at far northern latitudes, was so massive that it caused the spin axis of Mars to move several thousand miles south, throwing off the shorelines.

Since then, however, others have shown that Tharsis originated only about 20 degrees above the equator, nixing that theory. But Manga and Citron came up with another idea, that the shorelines could have been etched as Tharsis was growing, not afterward. The new theory also can account for the cutting of valley networks by flowing water at around the same time.

“This is a hypothesis,” Manga emphasized. “But scientists can do more precise dating of Tharsis and the shorelines to see if it holds up.”

NASA’s next Mars lander, the InSight mission (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), could help answer the question. Scheduled for launch in May, it will place a seismometer on the surface to probe the interior and perhaps find frozen remnants of that ancient ocean, or even liquid water.

Source: University of California – Berkeley [March 19, 2018]



Climate change threatens world’s largest seagrass carbon stores

In the summer of 2010-2011 Western Australia experienced an unprecedented marine heat wave that elevated water temperatures 2-4°C above average for more than 2 months. The heat wave resulted in defoliation of the dominant Amphibolis antarctica seagrass species across the iconic Shark Bay World Heritage Site. Researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), in collaboration with scientists from Australia, Spain, Malaysia, the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, alert us of the major carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from this loss of seagrass meadows at Shark Bay — one of the largest remaining seagrass ecosystems on Earth.

Climate change threatens world's largest seagrass carbon stores
Organic carbon stores beneath seagrass meadows in Shark Bay. Organic material
derived from seagrass roots, rhizomes and leaf sheaths is embedded in sandy sediments,
 forming organic deposits several meters in thickness [Credit: Oscar Serrano]

Over the three years following the event, the loss of seagrass released up to nine million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. This amount is roughly the equivalent to the annual CO2 output of 800,000 homes, two average coal-fired power plants, or 1,600,000 cars driven for 12 months. It also potentially raised Australia’s annual estimate of national land-use change CO2 emissions by up to 21%.

The ICTA-UAB and Edith Cowan University (ECU)-led international research, recently published in Nature Climate Change, has estimated that Shark Bay has the largest carbon stores reported for a seagrass ecosystem, containing up to 1.3% of the total carbon stored in seagrass soils worldwide.

Collaborating researchers from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions of Western Australia mapped 78% of the Marine Park area within the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014 and found a 22% loss of seagrass habitat as compared to the 2002 baseline. If extrapolated to the entire Shark Bay’s seagrass extent, this is equivalent to a loss of about 1,000 km2 of meadows.

“Yet the widespread losses in the summer of 2010/11 were unprecedented. The net loss of seagrass extent was accompanied by a dramatic decline in seagrass cover. What remained was sparser, with ‘dense’ seagrass areas declining from 72% in 2002 to 46% in 2014”, explains Ariane Arias-Ortiz, PhD candidate at ICTA-UAB and first author of the work.

“This is significant, as seagrass meadows are CO2 sinks, known as ‘Blue Carbon ecosystems’. They take up and store carbon dioxide in their soils and biomass through biosequestration. The carbon that is locked in the soils is potentially there for millennia if seagrass ecosystems remain intact”, explains Professor Pere Masqué, co-author of the study and researcher at ICTA-UAB and the UAB Department of Physics.

Climate change threatens world's largest seagrass carbon stores
Piece of organic-rich, peat-like sediment collected from a seagrass bed in Shark Bay
[Credit: Paul Lavery]

Dr Oscar Serrano, ECU researcher and also a co-author adds “so when you have an event such as the losses at Shark Bay, you not only lose the seagrass as a way of removing CO2, but the sequestered carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2 during seagrass matter decomposition”.

“Although seagrass meadows are amenable to restoration, more importantly, we should be looking at avoided loss of the seagrass carbon stores, because CO2 emission from degraded seagrass ecosystems greatly surpasses the annual sequestration capacity of healthy meadows”, Ariane Arias-Ortiz explains.

“With climate change forecast to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, the permanence of these carbon stores is compromised, further stressing the importance of reducing green-house gas emissions, and implementing management actions to avoid adverse feedbacks on the climate system”, she says.

To conduct the study, researchers used in situ sampling from 50 sites and soil modelling to make their calculations of potential CO2 release.

Planning ahead for future climate events

While the Shark Bay Marine Reserves Management Plan 1996-2006 offers protections against local threats such as over-fishing and nutrient inputs from industry, agriculture and tourism, there is currently nothing in place to deal with global threats such as marine heat waves.

“We need to advance our understanding of how seagrass ecosystems, especially those living close to their thermal tolerance, will respond to global change threats, both direct and through interactive effects with local pressures”, said Professor Paul Lavery, ECU researcher and also a co-author. “We have seen how quickly losses can occur, and once destroyed, the capacity of seagrass meadows to recover is limited and slow, and largely depends on the arrival of seeds or seedlings”, he adds.

Plans for future catastrophes may include removing seagrass detritus to prevent phytoplankton and bacterial blooms which consume oxygen and reduce light reaching the seagrasses. Seagrass restoration is also an alternative and its effectiveness is presently being tested by Professor Kendrick from the University of Western Australia and co-author of the study.

Source: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology [March 19, 2018]



Genetic analysis uncovers the evolutionary origin of vertebrate limbs

As you picture the first fish to crawl out of primordial waters onto land, it’s easy to imagine how its paired fins eventually evolved into the arms and legs of modern-day vertebrates, including humans. But a new study by researchers from the University of Chicago and the Andalusian Center for Development Biology in Spain shows how these creatures used an even more primitive genetic blueprint to develop their proto-limbs: the single dorsal, or back, fin common to all jawed fish.

Genetic analysis uncovers the evolutionary origin of vertebrate limbs
Top: A medaka fish with normal dorsal and paired pectoral/pelvic fins. Bottom: When the ZRS and sZRS enhancers
are knocked out, the fins do not develop normally [Credit: Neil Shubin, José Luis Gómez-Skarmeta]

The study, published this week in Nature Genetics, demonstrates that fish, mice and likely all modern-day vertebrates share genetic elements first used to develop the unpaired dorsal fin in ancient fish. They later copied these elements to produce paired appendages, like pelvic and pectoral fins, arms and legs.

“The unpaired dorsal fin is the first one you see in the fossil record,” said Neil Shubin, PhD, the Robert R. Bensley Distinguished Service Professor of Anatomy at UChicago and co-author of the new study. “Here we show that the genetic mechanisms that pattern all the fins and other paired appendages originally arose there and were redeployed to others.”

Shubin and his colleagues from Spain, led by José Luis Gómez-Skarmeta, conducted genetic analysis in mice and several kinds of fish to track the expression of Sonic hedgehog (Shh), a gene widely used in a variety of basic biological functions, but especially important in the formation of limbs.

In mice, a genetic enhancer or on/off switch called ZRS controls the expression of Shh limbs. If you knock out ZRS in a mouse, its limbs won’t develop properly. The researchers used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tools to knock out ZRS in the medaka, a small, popular aquarium fish also known as a Japanese rice fish. They expected that deleting ZRS in the medaka would affect its paired fins, but instead the fish didn’t grow its unpaired dorsal fin. The paired pelvic and pectoral fins developed normally.

That led the team to look for other genetic enhancers that might be involved, and they found a related “shadow enhancer” nearby called sZRS that seems to work in conjunction with the main ZRS switch. When they knocked out both ZRS and sZRS in the medaka, both its dorsal fin and paired fins were lost. That means it’s likely that ZRS was first used help develop dorsal fins, then later copied and reused as sZRS when paired fins first appeared about 475 million years ago.

“It’s very ancient, and the sequence and function are conserved across all vertebrates,” Shubin said. “It turns out the primitive role for the ZRS was involved with the dorsal fin. It’s only later that its activity in the paired fins required this other shadow enhancer.”

Shubin said understanding the activity of these enhancers helps identify the traces of evolutionary ancestors present in all vertebrates, from Tiktaalik roseae, the 375-million-year-old transitional “fishapod” species he discovered in 2004, to modern-day humans.

“A number of human maladies are based on mistakes in the ZRS that can lead extra or missing fingers, or changes in the shape of hands,” he said. “Humans probably have this shadow enhancer too, so if we want to study the dynamics of how this affects limb patterning, what we see in these fish models is a great place to start.”

Source: University of Chicago Medical Center [March 19, 2018]



Volcanic eruption influenced Iceland’s conversion to Christianity

Memories of the largest lava flood in the history of Iceland, recorded in an apocalyptic medieval poem, were used to drive the island’s conversion to Christianity, new research suggests.

Volcanic eruption influenced Iceland's conversion to Christianity
Part of the Eldgjá fissure in southern Iceland [Credit: Clive Oppenheimer]

A team of scientists and medieval historians, led by the University of Cambridge, has used information contained within ice cores and tree rings to accurately date a massive volcanic eruption, which took place soon after the island was first settled.

Having dated the eruption, the researchers found that Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem, which describes the end of the pagan gods and the coming of a new, singular god, describes the eruption and uses memories of it to stimulate the Christianisation of Iceland. The results are reported in the journal Climatic Change.

The eruption of the Eldgjá in the tenth century is known as a lava flood: a rare type of prolonged volcanic eruption in which huge flows of lava engulf the landscape, accompanied by a haze of sulphurous gases. Iceland specialises in this type of eruption – the last example occurred in 2015, and it affected air quality 1400 kilometres away in Ireland.

The Eldgjá lava flood affected southern Iceland within a century of the island’s settlement by Vikings and Celts around 874, but until now the date of the eruption has been uncertain, hindering investigation of its likely impacts. It was a colossal event with around 20 cubic kilometres of lava erupted – enough to cover all of England up to the ankles.

The Cambridge-led team pinpointed the date of the eruption using ice core records from Greenland that preserve the volcanic fallout from Eldgjá. Using the clues contained within the ice cores, the researchers found that the eruption began around the spring of 939 and continued at least through the autumn of 940.

“This places the eruption squarely within the experience of the first two or three generations of Iceland’s settlers,” said first author Dr Clive Oppenheimer of Cambridge’s Department of Geography. “Some of the first wave of migrants to Iceland, brought over as children, may well have witnessed the eruption.”

Once they had a date for the Eldgjá eruption, the team then investigated its consequences. First, a haze of sulphurous dust spread across Europe, recorded as sightings of an exceptionally blood-red and weakened Sun in Irish, German and Italian chronicles from the same period.

Volcanic eruption influenced Iceland's conversion to Christianity
Codex Regius, an Icelandic codex which contains the Vǫluspá
[Credit: Clive Oppenheimer]

Then the climate cooled as the dust layer reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the surface, which is evident from tree rings from across the Northern Hemisphere. The evidence contained in the tree rings suggests the eruption triggered one of the coolest summers of the last 1500 years. “In 940, summer cooling was most pronounced in Central Europe, Scandinavia, the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and Central Asia, with summer average temperatures 2°C lower,” said co-author Professor Markus Stoffel from the University of Geneva’s Department of Earth Sciences.

The team then looked at medieval chronicles to see how the cooling climate impacted society. “It was a massive eruption, but we were still amazed just how abundant the historical evidence is for the eruption’s consequences,” said co-author Dr Tim Newfield, from Georgetown University’s Departments of History and Biology. “Human suffering in the wake of Eldgjá was widespread. From northern Europe to northern China, people experienced long, hard winters and severe spring-summer drought. Locust infestations and livestock mortalities occurred. Famine did not set in everywhere, but in the early 940s we read of starvation and vast mortality in parts of Germany, Iraq and China.”

“The effects of the Eldgjá eruption must have been devastating for the young colony on Iceland – very likely, land was abandoned and famine severe,” said co-author Professor Andy Orchard from the University of Oxford’s Faculty of English. “However, there are no surviving texts from Iceland itself during this time that provide us with direct accounts of the eruption.”

But Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem, Voluspá (‘The prophecy of the seeress’) does appear to give an impression of what the eruption was like. The poem, which can be dated as far back as 961, foretells the end of Iceland’s pagan gods and the coming of a new, singular god: in other words, the conversion of Iceland to Christianity, which was formalised around the turn of the eleventh century.

Part of the poem describes a terrible eruption with fiery explosions lighting up the sky, and the Sun obscured by thick clouds of ash and steam:

“The sun starts to turn black, land sinks into sea; the bright stars scatter from the sky. Steam spurts up with what nourishes life, flame flies high against heaven itself.”

The poem also depicts cold summers that would be expected after a massive eruption, and the researchers link these descriptions to the spectacle and impacts of the Eldgjá eruption, the largest in Iceland since its settlement.

The poem’s apocalyptic imagery marks the fiery end to the world of the old gods. The researchers suggest that these lines in the poem may have been intended to rekindle harrowing memories of the eruption to stimulate the massive religious and cultural shift taking place in Iceland in the last decades of the tenth century.

“With a firm date for the eruption, many entries in medieval chronicles snap into place as likely consequences – sightings in Europe of an extraordinary atmospheric haze; severe winters; and cold summers, poor harvests; and food shortages,” said Oppenheimer. “But most striking is the almost eyewitness style in which the eruption is depicted in Voluspá. The poem’s interpretation as a prophecy of the end of the pagan gods and their replacement by the one, singular god, suggests that memories of this terrible volcanic eruption were purposefully provoked to stimulate the Christianisation of Iceland.”

Source: University of Cambridge [March 19, 2018]



First evidence of live-traded dogs for Maya ceremonies

Police detectives analyze isotopes in human hair to find out where a murder victim was born and grew up. Ashley Sharpe, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and colleagues combined clues from carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and strontium isotope analysis discovering the earliest evidence that the Maya raised and traded dogs and other animals, probably for ceremonial use.

First evidence of live-traded dogs for Maya ceremonies
Ashley Sharpe, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, found the remains of dogs from
the Guatemalan highlands at Ceibal, a lowland site, indicating that the Mayas were moving or trading dogs
 for ceremonial use [Credit: Ashley Sharpe/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute]

“In Asia, Africa and Europe, animal management went hand-in-hand with the development of cities,” said Sharpe. “But in the Americas people may have raised animals for ceremonial purposes. The growth of cities doesn’t seem to be directly tied to animal husbandry.”

Sharpe found that animal trade and management began in the Preclassic Period some 2,500 years ago and intensified during the Classic Period, making it likely that organized ceremonies involving animal and human sacrifice and raising animals for food played important roles in the development of Maya civilization.

Isotopes are atoms that have the same number of protons and electrons but different numbers of neutrons and therefore have different physical properties. For example, carbon has two stable isotopes: carbon 12 with six protons and six neutrons and carbon 13 with six protons and seven neutrons. Carbon in animals’ bodies comes from the plant tissues they consume directly or indirectly. Most plants use the most common type of photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide into carbohydrates. This process leaves mostly the lighter carbon isotope, carbon 12, behind, bound up in carbohydrate molecules. Corn, sugar cane and other grasses use another type of photosynthesis that concentrates heavier, carbon 13 molecules. Nitrogen isotopes in proteins demonstrate a similar pattern.

Sharpe and colleagues analyzed the isotopes in animal remains from Ceibal, Guatemala, a Maya site with one of the longest histories of continuous occupation, and one of the earliest ceremonial sites. Most of the bones and teeth they tested were from the Maya Middle Preclassic period (700-350 B.C.).

“The animal remains fall into two categories, those with lower carbon isotopes, indicating they were eating mostly wild plants, and those with higher isotopes, which were probably eating corn.”

First evidence of live-traded dogs for Maya ceremonies
Dog bones were found at the lowest levels of two pits, each within a pyramid at Ceibal in Guatemala
[Credit: Ashley Sharpe/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute]

All of the dogs, two northern turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo, the turkey species that was eventually domesticated, and one of two large cats were probably eating corn or other animals that fed on corn, such as a peccary (wild pig).

Because people in the region often killed animals that came into gardens and areas where crops were being cultivated, it is possible that peccaries and turkeys may also have been eating crop plants, but it is likely that turkeys were managed by the end of the Classic Period.

Deer bones showed butcher marks, but they were hunted from the forest, not domesticated according to isotope analysis of bones that also had lower carbon isotopes.

One large cat and a smaller cat, probably a margay, Leopardus wiedii, had lower carbon isotopes indicating that they ate animals that fed on wild plants.

The ratio of two strontium isotopes reflects the local geology in a region. Forty-four of the 46 animals had strontium isotope ratios matching Ceibal and the surrounding southern lowlands region. However, to Sharpe’s surprise, jaw bones from two dogs excavated from deep pits at the heart of the ancient ceremonial complex had strontium isotope ratios matching drier, mountainous regions near present-day Guatemala City. “This is the first evidence from the Americas of dogs being moved around the landscape,” Sharpe said. “Around 1000 A.D. there’s evidence that dogs were moved out to islands in the Caribbean, but the Ceibal remains are dated at about 400 B.C.” Part of the jaw bone and teeth of a big cat was found with one of the dogs in the same deposit.

First evidence of live-traded dogs for Maya ceremonies
Ashley Sharpe, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, holds a dog humerus from remains found
at the Maya site called Ceibal in Guatemala [Credit: Sean Mattson/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute]

“The interesting thing is that this big cat was local, but possibly not wild,” Sharpe said. “Based on its tooth enamel, it had been eating a diet similar to that of the dogs since it was very young. Perhaps it was captured and raised in captivity, or it lived near villages and ate animals that were feeding on corn. We still have to look at the DNA to figure out if it was a jaguar or a puma.”

Sharpe is looking forward to understanding more about the context of these finds. “The results in this publication are based on excavations we did in 2012. My colleagues at the Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project will publish additional analyses, and I’m looking forward to finding out if all of the human remains at the site are from the region.”

“It’s interesting to consider whether humans may have had a greater impact managing and manipulating animal species in ancient Mesoamerica than has been believed,” Sharpe said. “Studies like this one are beginning to show that animals played a key role in ceremonies and demonstrations of power, which perhaps drove animal-rearing and trade.”

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute [March 19, 2018]



Fish accounted for surprisingly large part of Stone Age diet in Scandinavia

New research at Lund University in Sweden can now show what Stone Age people actually ate in southern Scandinavia 10 000 years ago. The importance of fish in the diet has proven to be greater than expected. So, if you want to follow a Paleo diet – you should quite simply eat a lot of fish.

Fish accounted for surprisingly large part of Stone Age diet in Scandinavia
Fish bones [Credit: Blekinge Museum]

Osteologists Adam Boethius and Torbjörn Ahlström have studied the importance of various protein sources in the human diet across three millennia, from around 10 500 to 7 500 years ago. This was done by combining chemical analyses of human bones from over 80 individuals, whose skeletons are the oldest discovered in Scandinavia, with osteological analyses of animal bone material.

The study is part of a doctoral thesis that has used various methods to examine the significance of fishing for the people who settled in southern Scandinavia during the millenniums after the ice from the last ice age had melted away.

“At the Norje Sunnansund settlement, outside Sölvesborg in Sweden, you can see that just over half of the protein intake has come from fish, ten per cent from seals, and around 37 per cent from land mammals, such as wild boar and red deer, and scarcely three per cent from plants such as mushrooms, berries and nuts”, says Adam Boethius. “On the island of Gotland, which did not have any land mammals apart from hares, the percentage of fish in total protein consumption was even higher at just under 60 per cent. Here, seals have replaced the land mammals and account for almost 40 per cent of the protein intake, whereas hares and vegetables account for a negligible proportion”, he continues.

The study shows that fish was also a highly significant protein source on the Swedish west coast, but it seems that seals and dolphins were more important for the first pioneer settlers, and that after an initial focus on hunting aquatic mammals, fishing increased as a protein source.

Fish accounted for surprisingly large part of Stone Age diet in Scandinavia
Excavating the fermentation pit [Credit: Blekinge Museum]

Previously, the researchers believed that humans at that time had been far more involved in mobile groups of big-game hunters whose main protein intake thus should have come from herbivores such as red deer, aurochs and elk, and consequently the role of fishing was not recognised.

“The dominance of fishing is a discovery that has an enormous significance for our understanding of how people lived. Fishing is relatively stationary compared to the hunting of land mammals, which provides clear indications that settlements appeared in Scandinavia much earlier than researchers previously believed”, says Adam Boethius.

The fact that researchers have often missed the significance of fishing is probably because they have not actively looked for the traces that exist. Fish bones are much smaller and more brittle than the bones of mammals, and are not as well preserved. In an excavation, fish bones are almost impossible to detect while in the ground and fine-mesh sieves must be used to find them.

The researchers found that fishing was surprisingly dominant at all the sites investigated. In the study, the individuals were divided up into those who lived in marine environments and those who lived in freshwater environments. In freshwater environments the protein intake is dominated by different types of carp fish species, perch, pike and burbot. Cod dominates in marine environments, but herring, saithe, haddock, spiny dogfish and plaice are also important species. On the other hand, migratory fish, such as eel and salmon, did not account for a large proportion of food intake.

Fish accounted for surprisingly large part of Stone Age diet in Scandinavia
Sieving the soil [Credit: Blekinge Museum]

“What’s interesting is that the values from the people in the various groups do not overlap. This indicates that the groups had limited mobility and mostly lived on a local diet”, says Adam Boethius.

The results also show that people become more dependent on fishing over time and that certain areas were probably more densely populated than previously thought.

“Even though fish can be caught in most lakes, there are certain places that are especially favourable. It is at these sites that the people begin to settle, creating their own territory. This probably entailed violent clashes between different groups of people, which is often reflected in the various violence-related injuries to the skeletons we find in archaeological excavations.”

“The increasing importance of fish means that the land was divided up. For groups that continued to be mobile this meant the creation of no-go zones, that these groups were forced to skirt around in order to find food. In the long term this leads to increasing “costs” for foraging strategies and an increasing tendency to settle is to be expected, as it becomes the best alternative”, concludes Adam Boethius.

Fish accounted for surprisingly large part of Stone Age diet in Scandinavia
Sieving the soil [Credit: Blekinge Museum]

More on the scientific model behind the findings:

Stable isotopes of the elements carbon and nitrogen are present in all parts of the human body, including the skeleton, and reflect a person’s diet. By analysing these isotope signals for possible food sources and relating them to the values shown in human bone material, it is possible to deduce the diet the person in question has lived on.

In this study, the bones of the 82 oldest humans in Sweden and Denmark were used. The bones were sampled and the collagen extracted and analysed in a mass spectrometer in order to obtain the stable isotope values from carbon and nitrogen. Using Bayesian statistical modelling, these values were related to corresponding values for animals and plants, thereby providing information on the general human diet in the first millenniums after the ice receded from southern Scandinavia. To gain an insight into how diets vary between different places, the study also included an analysis of animal bone material from four different early Mesolithic settlements, which was put in a framework consisting of information from ethnographic hunter-gatherer-fisher populations at corresponding latitudes around the world. The results show that the water’s resources dominated protein intake in both marine and fresh water environments. The results also show there are considerable local variations in the preferred species, but that fishing has been highly significant for human subsistence, and the significance of fishing appears to constantly increase.

The findings are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Source: Lund University [March 19, 2018]



Intensification of agriculture and social hierarchies evolve together, study finds

A long-standing debate in the field of cultural evolution has revolved around the question of how and why human societies become more hierarchical. Some theorize that material changes to a society’s resources or subsistence strategies lead it to become more hierarchical; others believe that hierarchy is the cause rather than the result of these changes. Many see the answer as being somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes. In order to test these theories, a group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Auckland examined 155 Austronesian societies, the results of which are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Intensification of agriculture and social hierarchies evolve together, study finds
Distribution of intensive agriculture (‘landesque capital’) and high social stratification in the societies analyzed.
Each filled circle represents one of the 155 societies in the sample, and its color corresponds
to which traits are present in that society [Credit: Sheehan et al. PNAS (2018)]

Diverse societies with similar cultural ancestry

The societies examined had a geographical range stretching from Taiwan to New Zealand, Madagascar to Easter Island. They are also diverse in terms of social stratification and agricultural practices, making them a good fit for the study. “The Pacific is an ideal setting to test these ideas,” explains senior author Quentin Atkinson, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Auckland. “It’s like a giant natural experiment with populations spread across hundreds of islands with different political institutions and modes of subsistence. And we know the cultural ancestry of these populations because it is encoded in the languages they speak.” These societies varied from egalitarian to rigidly stratified, and their agricultural systems ranged from among the least intensive to the most intensive in the pre-modern world – the rice terraces built by the Ifugao people of the Philippines have often been described as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Intensive agriculture and social hierarchies in a feedback loop

The results of the study showed that there was not a simple causal connection between changes in a society’s mode of agriculture and increasing hierarchy. Although in many cases agricultural intensification appeared to coevolve with sociopolitical hierarchy, in other cases, these traits appeared independently of each other. When both traits did appear, it was not always the case that intensive agriculture came first. “There’s a widely held view that material changes to the environment drive social evolution and not the reverse,” states Atkinson. “Our findings challenge that view and show that the causal arrow actually goes both ways.”

“The findings suggest that intensification and hierarchy promoted each other, perhaps as a part of a feedback loop that may also have involved population growth,” explains first author Oliver Sheehan, also of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Auckland. “These results reveal how social and political factors, far from being secondary to the process of cultural evolution, are among its most important drivers.”

Study co-author and current Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History Professor Russell Gray states, “This study shows the power of computational phylogenetic methods to test causal hypotheses about human history.” The researchers next hope to conduct similar research in other areas and in other cultural contexts.

Source: Max Planck Society [March 19, 2018]



Discovery of 115,000-year-old bone tools in China

An analysis of 115,000-year-old bone tools discovered in China suggests that the toolmaking techniques mastered by prehistoric humans there were more sophisticated than previously thought.

Discovery of 115,000-year-old bone tools in China
Retoucher on a long bone fragment from a large mammal [Credit: Luc Doyon]

Marks found on the excavated bone fragments show that humans living in China in the early Late Pleistocene were already familiar with the mechanical properties of bone and knew how to use them to make tools out of carved stone. These humans were neither Neanderthals nor sapiens.

This major find, in which Luc Doyon of UdeM’s Department of Anthropology participated, has just been published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

“These artefacts represent the first instance of the use of bone as raw material to modify stone tools found at an East Asian early Late Pleistocene site,”said Doyon. “They’ve been found in the rest of Eurasia, Africa and the Levante, so their discovery in China is an opportunity for us to compare these artifacts on a global scale.

Until now, the oldest bone tools discovered in China dated back 35,000 years and consisted of assegai (spear) points. “Prior to this discovery, research into the technical behaviour of humans inhabiting China during this period was almost solely based on the study of tools carved from stone,” said Doyon.

Three types of hammers

The seven bone fragments analyzed by Luc Doyon and his colleagues were excavated between 2005 and 2015 at the Lingjing site in central China’s Henan province. The artifacts were found buried at a depth of roughly 10 metres. At the time, the site was being actively used as a water spring for animals. Prehistoric humans likely used these water supply points for killing and butchering their animal prey.

The bone fragments were dated using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), a method widely used by geologists for dating the sediment layers in which tools are found.

Discovery of 115,000-year-old bone tools in China
Retoucher on a modified cervid metapodial [Credit: Luc Doyon]

Doyon explained that the researchers identified three types of bone retouchers, known as soft hammers, that were used to modify stone (or lithic) tools. The first type was weathered limb bone fragments, mainly from cervid metapodials, marginally shaped by retouching and intensively used on a single area. The second type was long limb bone flakes resulting from the dismemberment of large mammals, used for quick retouching or resharpening of stone tools. And the third type was a single specimen of an antler of an axis deer that, close to its tip, shows impact scars produced by percussing various lithic blanks.

The researchers have not yet determined which hominid species the users of these prehistoric tools belonged to, although they do know that they lived during the same period as Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. “The Lingjing site yielded two incomplete human skulls that suggest interbreeding between this species and Neanderthals,” Doyon said. “But this is a hypothesis that remains to be confirmed through further investigation, such as paleogenetic studies.”

More discoveries to come

The analyses that led to the identification of the bone tools were conducted by Doyon and his colleagues Francesco d’Errico (Université de Bordeaux), Li Zhanyang (Shandong University) and Li Hao (Chinese Academy of Sciences), at the Henan Provincial Institute for Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

Discovery of 115,000-year-old bone tools in China
Retoucher on antler of an Axis shansius subadult [Credit: Luc Doyon]

Doyon participated in the project while working on his doctoral thesis on hunting weapons manufactured from osseous materials by the first Homo sapiens inhabiting Europe between 42,000 and 30,000 years ago. Having earned his PhD in anthropology from Université de Montréal in cotutelle with Université de Bordeaux (PhD in prehistory) in September 2017, Doyon will now pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at Shandong University to conduct further analyses on the bone tools discovered at the Lingjing site.

“We only had access to a small sample, because the initial aim of the project was to study the anthropogenic nature of the modifications present on other bone fragments, and this project is still ongoing,” he said. “The osseous artifacts excavated from this site were exceptionally well-preserved and the systematic analysis of all the bone assemblages during my upcoming postdoctoral research is certain to yield more exciting discoveries.”

Source: University of Montreal [March 19, 2018]



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ANCIENT GREEK RELIGION: IN the ancient Greek world, religion was…


IN the ancient Greek world, religion was personal, direct, and present in all areas of life. With formal rituals which included animal sacrifices and libations, myths to explain the origins of mankind and give the gods a human face, temples which dominated the urban landscape, city festivals and national sporting and artistic competitions, religion was never far from the mind of an ancient Greek. 

Whilst the individual may have made up their own mind on the degree of their religious belief and some may have been completely sceptical, certain fundamentals must have been sufficiently widespread in order for Greek government and society to function: the gods existed, they could influence human affairs, and they welcomed and responded to acts of piety and worship.

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MESOPOTAMIA: MESOPOTAMIA (from the Greek, meaning ‘between…


MESOPOTAMIA (from the Greek, meaning ‘between two rivers’) was an ancient region located in the eastern Mediterranean bounded in the northeast by the Zagros Mountains and in the southeast by the Arabian Plateau, corresponding to today’s Iraq, mostly, but also parts of modern-day Iran, Syria and Turkey. The ‘two rivers’ of the name referred to the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers and the land was known as ‘Al-Jazirah’ (the island) by the Arabs referencing what Egyptologist J.H. Breasted would later call the Fertile Crescent, where Mesopotamian civilization began.

Unlike the more unified civilizations of Egypt or Greece, Mesopotamia was a collection of varied cultures whose only real bonds were their script, their gods, and their attitude toward women. The social customs, laws, and even language of Akkad, for example, cannot be assumed to correspond to those of Babylon; it does seem, however, that the rights of women, the importance of literacy, and the pantheon of the gods were indeed shared throughout the region (though the gods had different names in various regions and periods). As a result of this, Mesopotamia should be more properly understood as a region that produced multiple empires and civilizations rather than any single civilization.

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ROMAN ARCHITECTURE:  ROMAN architecture continued the legacy…


ROMAN architecture continued the legacy left by the earlier architects of the Greek world, and the Roman respect for this tradition and their particular reverence for the established architectural orders, especially the Corinthian, is evident in many of their large public buildings. However, the Romans were also great innovators and they quickly adopted new construction techniques, used new materials, and uniquely combined existing techniques with creative design to produce a whole range of new architectural structures such as the basilica, triumphal arch, monumental aqueduct, amphitheatre, granary building, and residential housing block. 

Many of these innovations were a response to the changing practical needs of Roman society, and these projects were all backed by a state apparatus which funded, organised, and spread them around the Roman world, guaranteeing their permanence so that many of these great edifices survive to the present day.  

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