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Tuesday, September 25
by Jessica E. Saraceni
September 25, 2012

It has long been thought that human ancestors scavenged for meat that had been killed by large predators. But when Henry Bunn of the University of Wisconsin analyzed the bones of wildebeest, antelopes, and gazelles at a butchery site in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, he found that the animals that had been eaten there were not the selections that lions and leopards usually make. “For all the animals we looked at, we found a completely different pattern of meat preference between ancient humans and other carnivores, indicating that we were not just scavenging from lions and leopards and taking their leftovers. We were picking what we wanted and were killing it ourselves,” he said. That pushes the date for skilled hunting by human ancestors back to two million years ago. “Until now the oldest, unambiguous evidence of human hunting has come from a 400,000-year-old site in Germany,” he added.

Scientists from Rothamsted Research are examining samples from Ireland’s potato blights that were dried, ground, and bottled by nineteenth-century scientists.  They learned that the same strain of Phytophthora infestanswas responsible for destroying the potato crop in the 1840s and the 1870s. “Blight is still causing millions of pounds worth of damage despite the use of fungicides, particularly when you get a wet year like this one,” said Bruce Fitt of the University of Hertfordshire.

Testing has shown that the bones of at least six individuals who died several hundred years apart were used to reassemble the two skeletons buried in a crouching position on the Scottish island of South Uist. The burials, which were discovered in 2001, are more than 3,000 years old. “The merging of their identities may have been a deliberate act, perhaps designed to amalgamate different ancestries into a single lineage,” said Parker Pearson of University College London. He also thinks that the body parts could have been mixed through “misfortune or carelessness.”

Conservators are cleaning the Cosmati pavement surrounding the tomb of Edward the Confessor at Westminster Abbey. The stone pavement was lined with precious stones to honor the Anglo-Saxon king after his canonization in 1163. It is usually covered with a protective carpet.

Egyptian officials have reopened several tombs at Saqqara after ten years of renovations. One of the tombs is a main tourist attraction, where Apis bulls were buried in granite sarcophagi from the 18th to the 26th dynasties. Steel scaffolding now support its walls and the limestone floor was covered with wood. “The Ministry of State for Antiquities was keen to inaugurate such sites before the start of Egypt’s tourism season in order to open up new tourist attractions and to send the message that Egypt is safe and exerts all efforts to preserve its archaeological heritage,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, Egypt’s Minister of State for Antiquities.

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