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Humans Feasted on Horses and Sloths in Argentina 14,000 Years Ago

The stone artifacts found in the same stratigraphic level as the animal bones: (a) side scraper, quartzite; (b) retouched flake, quartzite; (c) retouched flake, quartzite; (d-e) scrapers made on coastal rounded cobbles; (f) bipolar cobble.

 

If you head to Buenos Aires, you’re inevitably going to be urged to eat a steak. Beef is a big deal there today. If you showed up in the area 14,000 years ago, you’d be treated to much stranger culinary delights—like meat from elephant-sized ground sloths, American horses, and other extinct megafauna.

Archaeologists report today in the journal PLOS One that they’ve discovered buried leftovers of ancient feasts in the grassy plains south of Buenos Aires. The bones not only offer a snapshot of the diet of early Argentinians, but they might also help scientists reconstruct the bigger picture of how the first humans migrated through South America.

Over the past 30 years, thousands of bones have been unearthed at a site called Arroyo Seco 2, in the Pampas region of Argentina, on the southern tip of South America. When the first humans arrived there, the place would have been a lakeside, treeless landscape with big animals to hunt (or scavenge) for food.

(A) Geographic location of the AS2 site. (B) Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the knoll and location of the excavation units. (C) Photograph of central excavation units and trench. Image credit: Politis et al. in PLOS One

 
"The Arroyo Seco 2 site must have had unique landscape characteristics, because people kept returning there for thousands of years,” study co-author Daniel Rafuse, of the Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, tells mental_floss.

The oldest human bones from the Arroyo Seco 2 site are from about 8000 years ago; people were camping out at the site even earlier, but they didn’t leave any burials behind. Instead, they left their mark on the animal bones.

Archaeologists at Arroyo Seco 2 have found bones from animals that are still around today, like rodents and guanacos (the wild ancestors of llamas). They’ve also found remains from extinct animals such as giant ground sloths, Volkswagen Beetle–sized armadillo relatives called glypotodons, and toxodons, which were strange hoofed beasts that sort of looked like a cross between a rhino and a hippo.

Some of these animal bones had clear signs of butchering by humans, such as characteristic fractures and marks left by stone tools, the researchers said. The oldest example is a 14,064-year-old leg bone of a now-extinct horse species (Equus neogeus) that looks like it was cracked while still fresh by a human-made hammerstone.

Cut bones from an extinct horse found at the site. Image credit: Politis et al. in PLOS One

 

The horse bones found at the site are highlighted in red. Image credit: Politis et al. in PLOS One

 
A human presence in this part of Argentina 14,000 years ago has wider implications for scientists studying how humans spread through the Americas.

It was long thought that the first Americans were the Clovis people, a culture of hunters and gatherers who start showing up in the archaeological record about 13,000 years ago; the culture is named after the site near Clovis, New Mexico where fluted stone points were first found in the 1920s. But then in the late 1970s, archaeologist Tom Dillehay, of Vanderbilt University, started digging at the Monte Verde site in southern Chile. He made the then-controversial discovery that humans occupied that area by 14,500 years ago. (In another paper published last year, Dillehay pushed that date back even further, to 18,500 years ago.)

Over the last few decades, more pre-Clovis sites have been found in the Americas. And while the long-held belief among scholars used to be that the New World was first colonized by settlers who crossed the Bering Strait via land bridge and then spread south, other lines of evidence have complicated our understanding of this migration route, including the recent finding that an ice-free corridor across the Bering land bridge only became viable for humans to cross about 12,600 years ago. Rafuse said the findings fit into a newer model that suggests the Americas were first populated 17,000 to 16,000 years ago, as the last ice age was ending.

Dillehay, who was not involved in the new study, tells mental_floss that the findings from Arroyo Seco 2 are valuable in documenting yet another human presence in southern South America at least 14,000 years ago.

“The data are trustworthy, and the work is very well done,” Dillehay says.

University of Oklahoma archaeologist Bonnie Pitblado, who studies the early settling of the Americas with a focus on the Rocky Mountains, says we’re likely only beginning to understand the importance of South America in the peopling of the New World. Pitblado, who was not involved in the study, tells mental_floss “There are simply too many sites with evidence for pre-Clovis occupation of South America to reasonably deny that the continent played a crucial role in the peopling process."

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
3500-Year-Old Mummy Discovered in Forgotten Egyptian Tomb

As the site of the ancient city of Thebes, the modern-day Egyptian city of Luxor is filled with archaeological treasures. But until recently, two forgotten tombs—both located in the necropolis of Dra' Abu el-Naga, an important non-royal cemetery—hadn’t been fully explored. Now, National Geographic reports that experts have finally excavated these burial sites and discovered a 3500-year-old mummy, along with ornate funerary goods and colorful murals.

While excavating one of the two tombs, known as Kampp 150, experts found linen-wrapped remains that Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities believes belong to either "a person named Djehuty Mes, whose name was engraved on one of the walls ... [or] the scribe Maati, as his name and the name of his wife Mehi were inscribed on 50 funerary cones found in the tomb's rectangular chamber."

In addition to the mummy, archaeologists discovered wooden statues, masks, earthen pots, a cache of some 450 statuettes, and around 100 funerary cones—conical mud objects, which were often positioned outside a tomb's center, and could have served as identifying markers or as offerings—inside Kampp 150.

The Associated Press reported that the second tomb, known as Kampp 161, is thought to be approximately 3400 years old—about 100 years newer than its neighboring chamber—as its design is characteristic of other such structures dating back to the reigns of Amenhotep II and Thutmose IV.

Inside Kampp 161, archaeologists discovered wooden funerary masks, a decorated coffin, furniture shards, and the mural of a festival or party depicting the tomb's unknown resident and his wife receiving ceremonial offerings.

German scholar Friederike Kampp-Seyfried surveyed and numbered both tombs in the 1990s, which is how they got their names, but she did not fully excavate nor enter either one.

Officials celebrated the rediscovery of the tombs on Saturday, December 9, when they publicly announced the archaeological finds. They hope that discoveries like these will entice foreign travelers to visit Egypt, as political unrest has harmed the country's tourism industry in recent years.

“It’s truly an exceptional day,” Khaled al-Anani, Egypt's antiquities minister, said in a statement. “The 18th dynasty private tombs were already known. But it’s the first time" anyone's ever entered them.

Check out some pictures of the newly revealed relics below.

Mustafa al-Waziri, director general of Luxor's Antiquities, points at an ancient Egyptian mural found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis.
Mustafa al-Waziri, director general of Luxor's Antiquities, points at an ancient Egyptian mural found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west Nile bank of the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, about 400 miles south of the capital Cairo, on December 9, 2017.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

An Egyptian archaeological technician restores artifacts found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis in Luxor, Egypt.
An Egyptian archaeological technician restores artifacts found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west Nile bank of the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, about 400 miles south of the capital Cairo, on December 9, 2017.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

An Egyptian laborer stands next to an ancient Egyptian mural found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis in Luxor, Egypt.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Ancient Egyptian wooden funerary masks and small statuettes found in and retrieved from the newly discovered 'Kampp 150' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis in Luxor, Egypt.
A picture taken on December 9, 2017 shows ancient Egyptian wooden funerary masks and small statuettes found in and retrieved from the newly discovered 'Kampp 150' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west Nile bank of the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, about 400 miles south of the capital Cairo.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t National Geographic]

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Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
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fun
Can You Figure Out This Newly Discovered Optical Illusion?
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)

Ready to have your mind boggled? Take a look at the image above. What shape are the lines? Do they look like curves, or zigzags?

The image, spotted by Digg, is a new type of optical illusion published in the aptly named journal i-Perception. Discovered by Japanese psychologist Kohske Takahashi, it’s called the “curvature blindness illusion,” because—spoiler—the contrast of the lines against the gray background makes our eye see some of the lines as zigzags when, in fact, they’re all smooth curves.

The illusion relies on a few different factors, according to the three experiments Takahashi conducted. For it to work, the lines have to change contrast just at or after the peak of the curve, reversing the contrast against the background. You’ll notice that the zigzags only appear against the gray section of the background, and even against that gray background, not every line looks angled. The lines that look curvy change contrast midway between the peaks and the valleys of the line, whereas the lines that look like they contain sharp angles change contrast right at the peak and valley. The curve has to be relatively gentle, too.

Go ahead, stare at it for a while.

[h/t Digg]

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