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Friday, November 30

Robert D’Anjou and his team from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have found that coprostanol, a by-product of the human digestion of cholesterol, can be found and measured in core samples taken from lake sediments. In the past, scientists have measured the presence of charcoal and pollen from cultivated plants in lake sediments in their efforts to determine the presence and size of human populations, but this new technique could prove to be much more accurate. As an example, the team members tested for coprostanol in sediment cores taken from a Norwegian island in the Arctic Circle. “We can define the natural background variability over the 7,000-year record and when we see the peak in human fecal sterols, you see a dramatic increase in the frequency of fires in the area, associated with slash-and-burn type agriculture,” said D’Anjou.

Restoration and cleaning of Rome’s Colosseum will begin in the next few months, funded with private money. In the meantime, a concrete and metal barrier will be erected around the monument in order to protect tourists from any potential falling debris.

At the site of a middle school in Savannah, Georgia, archaeologists are working to locate the individual graves in a colonial-era cemetery. So far, the graves of 17 adults and 17 children have been found. Death records could provide researchers with some clues as to who was buried in the cemetery. The graves will be left intact.

More than 1,000 silver coins from Denmark and Sweden  have been found in a field in southern Sweden. Archaeologists think the coins were buried by wealthy farmers during the Scanian War of the mid-seventeenth century. Some 70 similar treasure troves have been found in the area, along with fired ammunition. “This shows that there have been soldiers fighting here. Several of the bullets are flattened and you can clearly see they have been fired and have made contact,” said archaeologist Kennet Stark.

When the ceilings of limestone caves collapse on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, they create holes that can fill with rainwater or extend into the water table. Some of the flooded caves contain the submerged archaeological traces of Stone Age people who lived in the once-dry environment. A new 3D film shot with a modified camera will show the dangerous exploration of cenotes  by German scientists. “The documentation of these caves is fundamental research. It enables us to take stock of things before we can ask further questions about individual objects,” said team leader Florian Huber of the University of Kiel. Answers to questions about when people first came to the Americas could also be found in the caves. The film will premiere next year.

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