What Did Australopithecus sediba Eat?

The answer may surprise you, or not. A new paper in Nature provides some insight into Australopithecus sediba’s diet. I don’t have access to Nature but Science Daily has the press release where we learn:

The researchers concluded from their scientific tests that bark and other fracture-resistant foods were at least a seasonal part of the A. sediba diet. While bark and woody tissues had not been previously documented as a dietary component of any other ancient African hominids, such foods are consumed by many contemporary primates and contain both protein and soluble sugars. The diet of A. sediba may have been similar to that of today’s African savanna chimpanzees, Sandberg said.

Researchers performed stable isotope analysis, analyzed phytoliths trapped in dental plaque, and examined microwear on the teeth of Au. sediba to arrive at those conclusions. I have to agree with Matt Sponheimer on this:

“What fascinates me is that these individuals are oddballs,” said CU-Boulder’s Sponheimer. “I had pretty much convinced myself that after four million years ago most of our hominid kin had diets that were different from living apes, but now I am not so sure. And while our sample is too small to be conclusive, the rate at which Malapa is spewing hominid fossils makes me reasonably certain we won’t have to wait another two million years to augment our data set. “

As mentioned above I don’t have access to Nature so can some one send me a copy of the article? My email address is on the “about” tab and the article can be found at DOI: 10.1038/nature11185.

Vampires In The News

Rather than focus on the impending zombie apocalypse I thought I would focus on something less frightening, namely vampires. Continue reading

Mississippian Era Suburb of Cahokia

I think I have written a post about this story before, but after almost 3,000 posts I’ll be damned if I can find it in my archives. At any rate, NPR has an interesting article (there is a link where you can listen to an audio version as well) on a Mississippian era suburb of Cahokia. The site was discovered during the ongoing construction of a new bridge. Continue reading

The Metopic Suture of Taung

A recent article in PNAS looks at the metopic suture on the Taung endocast. Before discussing the article a few words are in order about the frontal bone. Continue reading

Mounds in Illinois Damaged

This sucks!

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Authorities in southern Illinois are asking for the public’s help in finding the people who are damaging and may be looting some prehistoric Native American burial mounds.

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency says someone last month dug several small holes in a portion of Kincaid Mounds State Historic Site. That’s a 1,000-year-old site in rural Massac and Pope counties.

The agency says the culprits likely were searching for items Native Americans buried with their dead. But it’s unclear if any artifacts or human remains were taken.

The agency says someone recently also drove an all-terrain vehicle or truck on one of the mounds, where ATVs are prohibited.

Anyone with information about the damage is being asked to call the Massac County Sheriff’s Department or the historic preservation agency.

Know Your Hominin: The Dederiyeh Neanderthal Infant

The Dederiyeh Neanderthal infant was found in Dederiyeh Cave, in Syria, in 1993. The skelton is that of a two year old and dates to 50,000-70,000 years ago.

Source: Akazawa et al 1995 Neanderthal infant burial from the Dederiyeh cave in Syria

Vero Beach: An Update

Back in June of 2009 I wrote a post about a bone with a mammoth or mastodon etched on it (you can find a video on the find here). I don’t have anything new to report on that find, but there are some interesting developments concerning Vero Beach. Continue reading

Bloody Archaeology!

There are a couple if interesting stories this week. Both concern blood and archaeology.The first concerns Otzi the Iceman – a 5300 year old mummy found in the Alps. Researcher used atomic force microscopy and Raman spectroscopy to identify red blood cells from samples taken from wounds on Otzi’s right hand and left shoulder. The study also identified degraded remnants of a blood clot. The paper, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface is open access and available here.

The second item is even cooler. Continue reading

The Great Ape Heart Project

I meant to write about this a couple of months ago, after reading a story similar to this The original article I read, and forgot to bookmark, focused mainly on the process of how to train a gorilla to sit still for this kind of procedure (this article touches on that a little). I’m getting ahead of myself though. Heart disease is the number one killer of great apes in captivity. Getting a handle on that issue impacts their quality of life in captivity, attempts at conservation through reintroduction of animals into the wild, and, may say something about human evolution.

At any rate, you can learn more about the Great Ape Heart Project and if you are so inclined, learn how you can support the project here.

Cool Archaeological Stories!

I stumbled across a couple of cool archaeological stories today. Continue reading