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Friday, October 5

Police in Thailand working near the border with Cambodia recovered five ancient Khmer statues after pursuing a truck that refused to stop for a search. The statues, which are estimated to be between 1,200 and 2,000 years old, were found in sacks of fertilizer on the truck. The statues were reportedly going to be delivered to an investor in Bangkok who planned to sell them to tourists.

In London, archaeologists have uncovered two wooden stakes bearing metal cut marks that may have been part of a Bronze Age pathway. They were probably part of a network of timber pathways that had been constructed in the area to make traveling through the wetlands easier for hunters. This particular pathway runs along the planned route of a new tunnel and rail link.

Three sites in Spain’s Pinilla del Valle could provide archaeologists with more information about Neanderthals. Excavations so far have uncovered stone tools, nine Neanderthal teeth from individuals that may have been eaten by hyenas, remains of fires, and fossils of aurochs, rhinoceros, and fallow deer. They’ve also found the burial of a small child and a piece of coal that will provide a sample for precise dating. “We are convinced that it was an intentional deposition of the girl’s body; perhaps there were more burials at Neanderthal sites but they were not recognized as such,” said Enrique Baquedano of the Regional Archaeology Museum in Madrid.

When did hominids learn to create fire, control it, and begin cooking? Some scientists argue that Homo erectus began cooking 1.8 million years ago, as evidenced by their smaller jaws and teeth, shorter intestinal tracts, and larger brains than their ancestors. Evidence of campfires has been found at Neanderthal sites dating to 400,000 years ago. But did these Neanderthals start those fires, or did they harness fires that started naturally? Others scientists think that only modern humans used fire, beginning just 12,000 years ago. “I suspect that genetics will help. If we can pin down the genes underlying the adaptation to cooked food, we may be able to date the control of fire close enough to settle the big question,” said Dennis Sandgathe of Simon Fraser University.

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