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Wednesday, November 21

A flake of obsidian and a sheep bone found at on a high bluff in northwestern Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest  suggest that the site may have been used for hunting and butchering sheep in prehistory. Archaeologist Larry Todd points out that people have been living in the area for 13,000 years. “The places that were favored and used in the past are the same places that are used today,” he said. In fact, the bluff overlooks a cabin built by Amelia Earhart as a remote retreat.

Scientists analyzed the charcoal found in a burnt mound in Scotland and indentified wood from birch, alder, hazel, and possibly hawthorn or apple trees, indicating that there were more species of trees  in the area during the Bronze Age than there are today. The burnt mound contained a deep pit linked to a nearby stream with a channel. The pit may have been used for bathing or as a sauna.

The last surviving feathered headdress of the Aztecs, the “Penacho,”  has been restored in Austria and displayed at Vienna’s Museum of Ethnology. The artifact was first documented in 1596 in the collection of Archduke Ferdinand II. Some scholars think it was carried to Europe by Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes. Mexico wants the rare headpiece to be returned, but Austrian conservators say it is too fragile to be transported. “Mexico should be able to share the piece, granted that we find the best way to send it to Mexico fully protected of any harm,” said Maria y Campos, director of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Turkeys were first domesticated in 800 B.C. from ancestral wild turkeys in South Mexico. Rob Fleischer of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute compared the DNA of the modern turkey  with samples taken from specimens of nineteenth-century birds at the museum. He found that today’s turkeys have less genetic variation than their ancestors, which was expected, but they are also less genetically diverse than other modern livestock breeds such as pigs and chickens. “Few people know that the commercial turkeys served at Thanksgiving descended from Mexico, where they were discovered during the Spanish Conquest and transported to Europe. During the next 100 years, Europeans created many different varieties of the domesticated turkey,” said Julie Long of the USDA.

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