Interesting Science – Mostly Anthropology – News

National Geographic mentions that a new species of moth sized bat has been discovered. Bat porn accompanies the article.

The Telegraph has a story on the skeleton of a 14th century knight:

He appears to have survived for some time with a large arrowhead lodged in his chest, while the re-growth of bone around a dent in the front of his skull indicates that he had also recovered from a severe blow from an axe.

He eventually died when he was struck by a sword that sliced through his nose and jaw. His reconstructed skull also indicates that he was lying on the ground when the fatal blow was delivered.

The knight was laid to rest under the stone-flagged floor of a chapel near the castle’s royal apartments and his skeleton was excavated along with 11 others in 1997.

Isotopic analysis is being planned.

Discovery News reports on the discovery of toy models of carts pulled by camels and/or bulls dating to around 6,000 – 5,000 years ago:

The earliest of the cart models he studied had two wheels with shafts linked to a yoke. Visual representations of the associated harness suggest oxen were the primary draft animals. The carts at this stage were not driven chariot-style, but a person instead could have “directed the bulls from the side,” which Kircho says would have been “the easiest way” to control both the cart and its animal pullers.

Carts dating to the second half of the third millennium B.C. gained an additional two wheels.

“The most common type had high walls and two shafts, drawn by a single animal — a camel or, less often, a bull,” said Kircho.

The design of the carts, and the behavior of camels, suggests just a single camel pulled each cart.

“It is very difficult to use a pair of camels,” he explained. “They are too malicious.”

Finally, the Journal of Archaeological Science has published an interesting article Experimental Use and Quantitative Performance Analysis of Triangular Flakes (Levallois points) used as Arrowheads – requires a subscription. Here is the abstract:

The invention and widespread use of projectile weaponry is a characteristic presumed to exist only with Homo sapiens. However, as finds of wooden material during the early development of projectile weapons are extremely rare, this remains a contentious topic. Recent work has proposed a series of ballistically-significant morphological characteristics of stone points that yield information about their potential use. Here we report on initial experimental approaches to quantifying the performance of relatively simple stone points as arrow armatures. Two experimental trials were performed using a series of 51 Levallois points. The first, against a uniform density target, was designed to give an overall indication of performance. The second, against a simulated animal carcass, demonstrated the durability of these points. The results of this study suggest that small Levallois points could have functioned as arrowheads, albeit ones likely to break after limited use. They also suggest that these points’ penetrating power is strongly controlled by their morphometric characteristics, most notably their perimeter. This latter finding refines a method for assessing hypothetical Paleolithic stone points on the basis of tip
cross-sectional area previously proposed by others.

New Scientist is framing it as the bow and arrow predating modern humans, however, Shea’ s website provides a little context. In previous studies Shea concluded that:

I concluded that stone-tipped projectile technology probably originated in equatorial Africa between 100,000-50,000 years ago and that it spread to Eurasia along with dispersing Homo sapiens populations. I think projectile weaponry probably originated in Subsaharan Africa initially as a “niche-broadening” technology, but that it was later co-opted into the social realm as an aid to coalition enforcement. This functional duality was probably a major factor in the persistence of projectile technology in Homo sapiens

I haven’t read Shea’s new article, so that is about all I will say on the subject…

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