Modern humans ’44 000 years ago’

first_img31 July 2012 An international team, including scientists from South Africa’s Wits University, has published research that substantially increases the age at which we can trace the emergence of behaviourally modern humans – through direct links to the San people of southern Africa. The question of when and where anatomically modern humans first emerged (Africa, about 200 000 years ago, the evidence indicates) still leaves open the question: when and where did human cultures similar to ours emerge? Until now, most archaeologists believed the oldest traces of San hunter-gatherer culture in southern Africa dated back 10 000 or at most 20 000 years. The new research – published online in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday – pushes this much further back in time, to 44 000 years ago.Border Cave, South Africa The research team, comprising scientists from South Africa, France, Italy, Norway, the USA and Britain, drew its conclusions from archaeological material discovered at Border Cave in South Africa. Located in the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal province, the site has yielded exceptionally well-preserved organic material. According to Lucinda Backwell, a senior researcher at Wits University’s Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research, the dating and analysis of this material “has allowed us to demonstrate that many elements of material culture that characterise the lifestyle of San hunter-gatherers in southern Africa were part of the culture and technology of the inhabitants of this site 44 000 years ago.” Backwell said in a statement on Monday that the team’s results had shown without a doubt that, at around 44 000 years ago, the people at Border Cave were using digging sticks weighted with perforated stones, like those traditionally used by the San.Earliest evidence of use of poison, beeswax “They adorned themselves with ostrich egg and marine shell beads, and notched bones for notational purposes,” said Backwell. “They fashioned fine bone points for use as awls and poisoned arrowheads. One point is decorated with a spiral groove filled with red ochre, which closely parallels similar marks that San make to identify their arrowheads when hunting.” According to the researchers, chemical analysis of residues on a wooden stick decorated with incisions reveals that, like San objects used for the same purpose, it was used to hold and carry a poison-containing ricinoleic acid found in castor beans. This represents the earliest evidence for the use of poison. A lump of beeswax, mixed with the resin of toxic Euphorbia, and possibly egg, was wrapped in vegetal fibres made from the inner bark of a woody plant. “This complex compound used for hafting arrowheads or tools, directly dated to 40 000 years ago, is the oldest known evidence of the use of beeswax,” said Backwell. Warthog tusks were shaped into awls and possibly spear heads. The use of small pieces of stone to arm hunting weapons was confirmed by the discovery of resin residue still adhering to some of the tools, which chemical analysis identified as a suberin (waxy substance) produced from the sap of Podocarpus (yellowwood) trees. The study of stone tools discovered in the same archaeological layers as the organic remains, and from older deposits, showed a gradual evolution in stone tool technology, the researchers found. Organic artifacts ‘appeared relatively abruptly’ “Organic artifacts, unambiguously reminiscent of San material culture, appear relatively abruptly, highlighting an apparent mismatch in rates of cultural change. “This finding supports the view that what we perceive today as ‘modern behaviour’ is the result of non-linear trajectories that may be better understood when documented at a regional scale.” The research team, led by Francesco d’Errico, director of research at the French National Research Centre, published its findings in the articles: “Early evidence of San material culture represented by organic artifacts from Border Cave, South Africa”. The team comprised d’Errico, Backwell, Paola Villa, Ilaria Degano, Jeannette Luceiko, Marion Bamford – a palaeobotanist also from the Bernard Price Institute – Thomas Higham, Maria Perla Colombini, and Peter Beaumont. A second article, “Border Cave and the Beginning of the Later Stone Age in South Africa”, was also published on Monday. The authors were Paola Villa, Sylvain Soriano, Tsenka Tsanova, Ilaria Degano, Thomas Higham, Francesco d’Errico, Lucinda Backwell, Jeannette Luceiko, Maria Perla Colombini and Peter Beaumont. SAinfo reporterlast_img read more

Police warned weeks ago of attack on Amarnath pilgrims, says ‘top secret’ memo

first_imgAs the government on Tuesday blamed separatists for gunning down seven Amarnath pilgrims and wounding 19 more in Kashmir before fleeing into the night, rebel groups in the disputed region condemned the deadly attack on civilians and insisted they had no part in it. An intelligence report that was circulated to Jammu & Kashmir police, military and paramilitary units two weeks ago indicates security officials had been expecting an attack. The intelligence report, marked “top secret,” warned that a “sensational attack by terrorist outfits cannot be ruled out” in the region. The memo, dated June 25, and verified as authentic by The Associated Press, said, “terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police.” It described circumstances eerily similar to what transpired on Monday night- “The attack may be in the form of standoff fire on yatra convoy, which they (militants) believe will result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation.” Also Read  Police were searching for the assailants, who they said were from the Pakistan-based rebel group Lashkar-e-Taiba. “We’re investigating the attack, but we know certainly that the Lashkar has done it. We’ll soon deal with them,” police Inspector General Muneer Ahmed Khan said. Lashkar-e-Taiba denied any involvement in the attack, which they called “reprehensible” and “un-Islamic,” according to a statement sent to local media in Srinagar. “No Kashmiri has ever targeted any pilgrims, and this barbarity and atrocity is the trademark of Indian forces,” the group’s statement said. Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Kashmir, asked the Home Ministry to protect Kashmiri students and workers across the nation. “Possibility of backlash can’t be ignored,” he said in a Twitter message. Most of the pilgrims wounded in the attack were released from hospitals on Tuesday. The bodies of those killed were flown to New Delhi on their way to Gujarat and Maharashtra. The attack sparked outrage across Kashmir and other states. In the Jammu region, hundreds of protesters shouted angry slogans against the militants and burned a faceless effigy meant to represent both terrorism and Pakistan. Many shops and businesses were shut for a protest strike in Jammu. Meanwhile, students in Ahmadabad gathered for a sit-in protest against all religious violence, while peace activists planned a candlelight vigil in New Delhi on Tuesday night. Kashmiri separatist leaders condemn terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims Amarnath Yatra attack: Narendra Modi says India will never be bogged down by evil designs of hate  Police said the attack began with gunmen unleashing a hail of bullets on an armoured police vehicle and, soon after, on a nearby police patrol. They said that a bus carrying 60 pilgrims had been passing through the area when the patrolling police and militants were exchanging fire, and that some bullets struck the bus and its passengers. The police also said that the bus had been travelling at night, despite instructions to avoid the roads after dark. Though security had been increased along the route for the pilgrimage, thousands of deployed soldiers and police do not patrol overnight. Several bus passengers who were wounded gave a different version of events, saying the bus had been targeted from three directions during the attack. They said the driver kept driving the bus as it was being struck with bullets near Anantnag . The annual summer pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine, which began on June 29 under heavy security, has been targeted in the past. On Tuesday, thousands of pilgrims continued the pilgrimage undeterred, as soldiers and police increased security along the Himalayan route for buses carrying pilgrims to the base camps where they start walking the path to the high mountain cave. None of the rebel groups in the region have claimed responsibility for the attack, and the three top separatist leaders in Kashmir condemned it. They demanded an independent investigation into the attack. “This incident goes against the very grain of Kashmiri ethos,” the separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammed Yasin Malik said in a joint statement. Also Readlast_img read more