Archaeology News: Meghalayan Age, First Bread, & more

Brian G Turner

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#1


1. Welcome to the new age!

And it's not Aquarius or the Anthropocene - but the Meghalayan Age.

Our current geological epoch - the Holocene - has been split into 3 ages: Collapse of civilizations worldwide defines youngest unit of the Geologic Time Scale

Greelandian - a period of warming that followed the last great ice age, 11,700 years ago;
Northgrippian - a warmer period from around 8,300 years ago
Meghalayan - a period beginning around 4,200 years, underlined by major droughts that caused the collapse of major civilizations worldwide, presumably due to changes in ocean and atmospheric currents.

However, as the BBC reports, a lot of people aren't happy about this - not least because there had been a long discussion about naming this period the Anthropocene.


2. Oldest bread, actually tasty

Archaeologists in Jordan have discovered traces of baked flatbread, dating from around 14,000 years ago: Archaeologists discover bread that predates agriculture by 4,000 years

What's significant about that discovery is that it predates the supposed beginnings of agriculture by a whopping 5,000 years.

The suggested explanation is that hunter-gatherers may have been harvesting and grinding wild grains for cooking, as a precursor to full-scale farming.

More from the BBC: Oldest evidence of bread discovered


3. Iceland: try before you settle

The discovery of two huge longhouses suggests Iceland was being used as a summer camp a long time before Northmen, aka Vikings, settled there permanently: New archeological research forces historians to reconsider the story of Iceland's settlement

Perhaps not everyone's first choice for a vacation, but the seas would have offered a rich harvest of fish and birds to take back home to Scandanavia.

Now the Icelanders have to figure out how all that fits into their early history.


4. Neanderthals light my fire

Marks on hand axes associated with Neanderthal use may have been from lighting fires: Neanderthal hand axes were also used as lighters for starting fires

Chipping the flint axe heads would have been one way to create sparks - which if true, helps build on a picture of Neanderthals being bigger tool users than had originally been assumed.


5. Drought reveals history

The long spell of dry weather in the UK has helped reveal new archaeology: Hidden landscapes the heatwave is revealing

This has led to the discovery of Roman Forts in Wales, as well as a new structure at Newgrange - on top of the recently discovered megalithic tomb: Ancient tomb complex 'find of lifetime'

If you have a drone, now might be a good time to do some local surveying - before forecast rains make England's pleasant lands green again. :)
 

Vertigo

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#2
I'm utterly confused by the timings in that first article:

1. ...an abrupt and critical mega-drought and cooling 4,200 years ago
2. ...were impacted severely by the 200-year climatic event that resulted in the collapse of civilizations
3. Evidence of the 4.2 kiloyear climatic event... (that's the next sentence after 2)
4. The photograph of the stalagmite has a pointer to the '4.2 interval' and the caption says "...4,200 years ago"

Was this a 4200 year or 200 year event that took place 4200 years ago?:unsure:
 

Brian G Turner

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My original reading was that there was an event lasting for around 200 years, that occurred 4,400-4,000 years ago - with 4,200 taken as the mean.

Even still, I do find it curious - "Anthropocene" is rejected as a measure of human impact, rather than geological change - and yet the argument for a Meghalayan Age seems to rest on a temporary change happening about 2,200 BC with a predominately human impact.

The dating is also a little strange, because we know there was an even bigger change around 1,000 years earlier than the date - when the Sahara changed from Savannah to desert; plus another great drought around 1,000 years later than the date, when we have the collapse of civilizations all around the Mediterranean - not least the Mycenaean, Minoan, and Hittite, which the Egyptian civilization barely survived.

So I'm not sure why they looked to 2,200 BC instead of 3,200 BC or 1,200 BC - thought admittedly my knowledge of ancient Indian and Chinese cultures is severely limited.
 

Vertigo

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Yeah that's how I red it as well, but that article definitely got their 4200 years, 4.2 KYears and 200 years a bit jumbled around.

I guess there are always going to be conflicting claims for these things but maybe the fact that this 'event' is detectable geologically is the telling point here?
 

Brian G Turner

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That's the curious thing - despite being argued as a global event, the only geological evidence offered for the Meghalayan Age is a single stalagmite from India. I presume there must be more, but that's all the article mentions specifically for it.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#6
Meghalayan Age. The last 11,000 years have been changing in a manner that looks like a series of major events in terms of human time. For the powers that be, trying to explain how we got to today, the idea that the changes we are seeing are the results of a couple of thousand years of time going by probably sounds more attractive than the birth of a new age, called Anthropocene in which people singlehandedly turned things upside down. There is a large amount of discussion about how much people can contribute to global geochemical events. On the issue of carbon dioxide I think we can say we can change the "natural" levels, but for something like oxygen, it is very apparent that our actions have very little to do with the "natural" oxygen levels. Perhaps the Meghalayan Age will end when the carbon layer of plastic bits in the last 10 feet of earth are counted for something, then people will feel comfortable with the idea Anthropocene Age which gives people credit for the continually changing world.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#7
One thing I never appreciated about anthropology was the idea that if there was no trace of a people (or animals for that matter) doing some action then they never ever did that action. No matter how basic the action was. Those people would never be credited with even being capable of thinking of doing that action. As the capabilities of ancient people get pushed back further and further in time, the idea that people might have been doing something even though it is not academically defensible might become more acceptable.
 

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