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Friday, November 9
by Jessica E. Saraceni
November 9, 2012

A stalagmite in Belize’s Yok Balum Cave has yielded a 2,000-year-long record of rainfall patterns. Douglas Kennett of Penn State University and his colleagues compared the information they extracted from the stalagmite with historical records kept by the Classic Maya. They found that the Classic Maya civilization rose during a rainy period, and declined with a time of drought. “It looks like the Maya got lulled by a uniquely rainy period in the early Classic period into thinking that water would always be there,” he said. Severe drought pushed the remaining Maya from southern Belize between 1020 and 1100 A.D. Scientists are now investigating the possibility that this climate information could be applied to other parts of the Maya world.

The ancient city of Karkemish  sits on the border between Syria and Turkey. Turkey has cleared many of the mines planted on its borders since the 1950s, including its portion of this archaeological zone. Archaeologists and their students have returned to Karkemish, but they stick to approved paths while excavating, and when the site opens to tourists in late 2014, they will also be required to stay on the safe and narrow. The strategic city may be best known as the place where British archaeologist C.L. Woolley and his assistant, T. E. Lawrence, worked in the early twentieth century. Lawrence eventually became known as the legendary “Lawrence of Arabia.”

BR Mani and KN Dikshit, both of the Archaeological Survey of India, claim that new dates from excavations in India and Pakistan suggest that Indian civilization began 2,000 years earlier than previously thought. “On the basis of radio-metric dates from Bhirrana (Haryana), the cultural remains of the pre-early Harappan horizon go back to 7380 to 6201 B.C.,” they announced at the International Conference on Harappan Archaeology.

The Lapita began traveling across the Pacific some 5,000 years ago. New dates obtained from their coral files excavated from the oldest-known settlement on the Tongan island of Tongatapu suggest that these first Polynesian settlers arrived there between 2,830 and 2,846 years ago. Such precise dates came from a new technique that measures levels of radioactive uranium. This new measurement technique could provide archaeologists with a more accurate way to trace Lapita migration routes. “We can look at this progression across the Pacific in ways we couldn’t before,” said David Burley of Simon Fraser University.

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