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theolduvaigorge:

Fossils, Taxonomy and Debate: Is fossil classification fundamentally flawed?

  • Guest post by Winston Zack, Department of Geography (University of North Texas)

Linnaeus improved the organization of taxa into related groups, but this is still fundamentally a flawed system of organizing biology given that the foundations of evolutionary principles are a continuum of constant genetic changes and mutations. Therefore, there is no such thing as a ‘static’ taxon or species; rather these animals are always evolving and always show anatomical variations. Therefore, when it comes to classifying fossils, especially those of early hominids (e.g., early genus Homo), I find these debates to be unnecessarily complicated. Archaeology should consider that we have only just scratched the surface when understanding our early human past and not try to hurry and classify fossils or get bogged down about classifying an unusual hominin fossil as a ‘new species’.  We still have much to learn about how early human fossils relate to each other. Our sample sizes of early hominin fossils are extremely small as well and come from millions of years of history and across thousands of miles of earth. Different populations, especially if ‘isolated’ for long-periods of time, should show increased biological/anatomical variations from contemporaneous species found elsewhere. A case in point is the Dmanisi fossils, which after 20+ years since they have been discovered, a consensus as to where they fall into the hominin family tree (i.e., their species) has not been formally classified and the debate continues. I personally feel the Dmanisi team is taking very good and cautionary measures before settling upon which ‘species’ is at Dmanisi; although in journals and other published works the Dmanisi team has labeled these hominin fossils to many different species over the years, including but not limited to: Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo georgicus; the first three species listed all lived at the same time while the last species, Homo georgicus, is a potentially new species classification.

So, is the Linnaean taxonomic system flawed?

Personally, such a characterization of biology distinct from the Linnaean system would call every individual a unique taxon because we all have slightly different physical characteristics which make us all unique. The Linnaean system will not go away and may very likely stay here forever. But for fossil classification, when we lack populations of individuals that were recovered from the same area from about the same time, it is difficult to understand how a few fossils may relate to the greater scheme of evolution. All archaeologists and paleoanthropologists, and anyone else trying to interpret the past from fossil evidence should use as much caution as possible prior to classifying fossils…and many of these professionals do this.

Author Biography:

Winston Zack is a geoarchaeologist and graduate student at University of North Texas. His work has thus far primarily been conducted on Plio-Pleistocene and Pleistocene sites such as Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia and several hominid fossil-bearing sites in Spain. He begins work in Germany on several Pleistocene sites this summer. Much of his research has focused on archaeological sediments and stratigraphy, artefact densities and what these analyses can tell us about hominid procurement, transport and provisioning behaviours. He is currently in the process of coauthoring an article for Quaternary Science Reviews, which will be published in the near future.

Image Sources:

(via raw-r-evolution)

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sarraounia:

Some Ancient African Kingdoms: Great Zimbabwe, Numidia, the Mali Empire, the Songhay Empire. Since Europeans started to talk about and attempted to claim Ancient Egypt history (that popular kingdom people “love” but they don’t even know why), everyone followed…You can all have it.

  • The Mali Empire or Manden Kurufaba was a West African empire of the Mandinka from c. 1230 to c. 1600. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa I. The Mali Empire had many profound cultural influences on West Africa, allowing the spread of its language, laws and customs along the Niger River. It extended over a large area and consisted of numerous vassal kingdoms and provinces. Today part of Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal.
  • The Songhay Empire was a state located in western Africa from the early 15th to the late 16th century. This empire bore the same name as its leading ethnic group, the Songhai. Its capital was the city of Gao (today in northern Mali), where a Songhai state had existed since the 11th century. Its base of power was on the bend of the Niger River in present day Niger and Burkina Faso.
  • Numidia (202 BC – 46 BC) was an ancient Amazigh kingdom located on the province of Mauretania (Ancient “Libyan” land) to the west, the Roman province of Africa (modern day Tunisia) to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Sahara Desert to the south. Its people were the Numidians.
  • The Kingdom of Zimbabwe (1220–1450) was a kingdom located in the territory of modern-day Zimbabwe. It is famous for its capital, Great Zimbabwe, the largest stone structure in Southern Africa until recent times.

Pictures: Great Zimbabwe ruins and remains of the Numidia Kingdom. Credits: List of Kingdoms in pre-colonial Africa

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Archeological dig underway at road expansion site

archaeologicalnews:

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An archaeological excavation is well underway on the banks of the Puce River after aboriginal items that may be 1,000 years old were found in preparation for the expansion of County Road 22.

The items, including arrowheads and pieces of pottery, were discovered last December on the banks of the Puce River near the County Road 22 bridge.

“The artifacts that initially were found were projectile heads, or arrowheads, as well as clay pottery,” said Essex County’s engineering contracts manager Peter Bziuk.

“There were fragments of pottery that date back to the late woodland period. There’s a wide range for that period, but it’s approximately 1,000 years old.” Read more.

“The indigenous inhabitants of Southwestern Ontario, however, had disappeared by the time European explorers entered the area. Because of the absence of a native population by the contact period, archaeologists can never be absolutely certain who actually lived in Southwestern Ontario.”

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Yeah right. 

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positive-press-daily:

 British Museum lends ancient ‘bill of human rights’ cylinder to US

One of the British Museum’s most iconic objects, the Cyrus Cylinder, will tour five major museums in the US next year.
The cylinder, often referred to as the first bill of human rights, “must be shared as widely as possible”, said museum director Neil MacGregor. It is inscribed with the earliest form of writing - Babylonian cuneiform.
The cylinder has never been taken to the US before and will tour Washington DC in March, going on to Houston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The inscriptions were made on the clay artefact on the orders of the Persian King Cyrus the Great after he captured Babylon in 539BC. The inscription appears to encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands, according to the museum.
The artefact was found in Babylon, in modern Iraq, in 1879 during a British Museum excavation and has been on display ever since. Seen as a symbol of tolerance and respect for different peoples and different faiths, a copy of the cylinder is on display in the United Nations building in New York.
Alireza Rastegar, chairman of the board of trustees of Iran Heritage Foundation America, said: “The Cyrus Cylinder and its message of respect for diversity and universal human rights carries a timely message about tolerance for all of us today.”
MacGregor added: “Objects are uniquely able to speak across time and space… I am delighted that it will travel to the US and am hugely grateful to both our US partners and the Iran Heritage Foundation for making this possible.”
The exhibition, called, Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia, will feature 16 objects and will showcase innovations under Persian rule in the Ancient Near East between 550 BC and 331 BC.
Hosts include Smithsonian’s Arthur M Sackler Gallery in Washington DC, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where the tour will culminate in October 2013.
The cylinder was previously lent by the museum to the National Museum of Iran in 2010 - 2011, where it was seen by more than one million people.

positive-press-daily:

British Museum lends ancient ‘bill of human rights’ cylinder to US

One of the British Museum’s most iconic objects, the Cyrus Cylinder, will tour five major museums in the US next year.

The cylinder, often referred to as the first bill of human rights, “must be shared as widely as possible”, said museum director Neil MacGregor. It is inscribed with the earliest form of writing - Babylonian cuneiform.

The cylinder has never been taken to the US before and will tour Washington DC in March, going on to Houston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The inscriptions were made on the clay artefact on the orders of the Persian King Cyrus the Great after he captured Babylon in 539BC. The inscription appears to encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands, according to the museum.

The artefact was found in Babylon, in modern Iraq, in 1879 during a British Museum excavation and has been on display ever since. Seen as a symbol of tolerance and respect for different peoples and different faiths, a copy of the cylinder is on display in the United Nations building in New York.

Alireza Rastegar, chairman of the board of trustees of Iran Heritage Foundation America, said: “The Cyrus Cylinder and its message of respect for diversity and universal human rights carries a timely message about tolerance for all of us today.”

MacGregor added: “Objects are uniquely able to speak across time and space… I am delighted that it will travel to the US and am hugely grateful to both our US partners and the Iran Heritage Foundation for making this possible.”

The exhibition, called, Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia, will feature 16 objects and will showcase innovations under Persian rule in the Ancient Near East between 550 BC and 331 BC.

Hosts include Smithsonian’s Arthur M Sackler Gallery in Washington DC, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where the tour will culminate in October 2013.

The cylinder was previously lent by the museum to the National Museum of Iran in 2010 - 2011, where it was seen by more than one million people.

(via exclusively-positive-press)

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Archaeologists Explore Colombia’s Lost City

archaeologicalnews:

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A team of archaeologists are uncovering remains of an ancient city that, until recently, had been unknown to most of the outside world for centuries  Known today as Ciudad Perdida (or Teyuna), Spanish for “Lost City”, it is one of Colombia’s most spectacular heritage sites, despite the fact that relatively few of the world’s travelers have even known of its existence.

Inhabited by the Tayrona people until the end of the 16th century and tucked away within the lush jungles of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta not far from the Colombian coastline, it is made up of hundreds of stone terraces and rings, which archaeologists believe were used as foundations for temples, dwellings and plazas. Read more.

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Lion-shaped statues unearthed in Fayoum

archaeologicalnews:

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The Italian archaeological mission of Salento-Litchi University stumbled upon a pair of gigantic seated lion statues on Monday.

They were found erected at the entrance of Soknopaios Temple at the Ptolemaic town, Dimeh Al-Siba, in Fayoum.

Dimeh Al-Siba, which means ‘Island of the Crocodile god,’ is located eleven kilometres to the north of Qarun Lake. It was founded by Ptolemy II on top of a Neolithic residential area.

The Ptolemaic-era town contains a collection of residential houses, a large temple to worship Sknopaios, in ancient Egypt Sobek-en-Pai (crocodile), a bakery and a market.

During excavation work carried out by archaeologist and director of the Italian mission, Mario Capasso, a pair of lion statues appeared on the sand surface. Read more.

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Artefacts that are on the looted list:

1 Elgin Marbles

(British Museum)

Greece has long fought to reclaim the frieze stripped from the Parthenon at the behest of the 7th Earl of Elgin in 1801

2 Rosetta Stone

(British Museum) Egypt demands the return of the 2,200-year-old stone tablet that holds the key to translating ancient hieroglyphs

3 Summer Palace

bronzes (private French owner)

China claims bronze heads from a zodiac clock were stolen during the Second Opium War in 1860

4 Benin Bronzes (British Museum) Nigeria lays claim to the royal treasures of Benin, saying that they were seized by British troops in 1897

5 Queen Nefertiti (Berlin Neues Museum)

Egypt wants the 3,500-year-old bust of the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten returned

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