Monday, February 25, 2013

One Million Brits descended from Romans
DNA analysis of men in England and Wales shows that a lot of them share a DNA marker that is very common in Italy. This phenomenon doesn't appear in the DNA of men in Scotland or Ireland. It is theorized that the cause is those very active Roman soldiers in Britain from 43-410 CE, who seem to have spread their DNA around with lasting effects. The Roman army mainly occupied what is now England & Wales, and stayed out of Scotland (pace Agricola) and Ireland ("We don't want the Irish!"--Blazing Saddles).
I don't know about the math that brought us to "one million Brits."

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Pornographic" petroglyphs from western China article on Chinese petroglyphs
Don't be taken in by the lurid title on this article; it is a layman's introduction to some carvings found in western China. There is a link to an article by a UPenn professor, Viktor Mair, who has excavated and studied a site related to the petroglyphs, a site containing mummies. The latter article is scholarly and long, but worth reading. The Slate article, however, is the one with at least one picture of the petroglyphs.
The date of the petroglyphs is uncertain. Some people put them at 1000 BCE, while others put them earlier. Much earlier.
If I find a link to more pictures of the petroglyphs, I'll add it to this post.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Uh oh. Wrong about Neanderthals?
New study of last surviving Neanderthals in southern Spain redates the time of their demise. Perhaps we didn't cross paths with them as much as previously thought.

Richard III: Found at last
This is the amazing site at the University of Leicester, where the work was done to 1) uncover the site of the Grey Friars church, 2) find a burial within the church, 3) identify the skeleton as Richard III, killed in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last English monarch to die in battle, and he lost it, so his body was (apparently) mistreated after death and not buried with any pomp and/or circumstance. The University's site has something for everybody:
Geographers: see the maps of the town in different eras, and see the description of how they looked for the church. ("Archaeology" page)
Shakespeareans: see the "History" page for info on Richard himself, his travels, and sources for his life.
Swordsmen/Weapons buffs: see the "Science" page for pictures of Richard's body, bones, skull, etc., and of the damage to them--some of it fatal, like that giant piece sliced off the back of his head! Also speculation about which weapons caused which injuries. Also evidence for Richard's "hunchback," more like a severe scoliosis curvature.
Historians: see the "History" page and the "Science" page for information on how the project found a modern person (actually, they found 3) who might share Richard's DNA. It is a testament to the incredible completeness of public record-keeping in England that they were able to trace these descendants of the King through 15 generations. And they had to do an all-female line, to follow the mitochondrial DNA. Then they also found a descendant through a male line, for that other kind of DNA which I can't remember what to call.