Scientists use new methods to discover what's inside drug containers used by ancient Mayan people.
- Archaeologists used new methods to identify contents of Mayan drug containers.
- They were able to discover a non-tobacco plant that was mixed in by the smoking Mayans.
- The approach promises to open up new frontiers in the knowledge of substances ancient people consumed.
PARME staff archaeologists excavating a burial site at the Tamanache site, Mérida, Yucatan.
Archaeologists suggest this may have been the Americas' "oldest hotel."
- Scientists have found ancient tools as well as plant and animal remains in a high-altitude cave.
- The site is dated to 30,000 years ago, pushing back estimates of the first humans to arrive in the Americas by 15,000 years.
- There is no sign these mysterious people remain in the modern gene pool.
A game-changing puzzle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUxMTQxOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODc0MjIyNH0.EOi6PulBQXz7mSUfVVOVXlmFPWZfMVzlKjEngYMYNWo/img.jpg?width=980" id="67747" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="436fdbf2db7c960a56b6b22a969b5649" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="carved stone tool" data-width="1440" data-height="959" />
Image source: Ciprian Ardelean/St. John's College, University of Cambridge<p>Inside the high-altitude cave some 9,000 feet above sea level, archaeologists found almost 2,000 stone tools. The scientists also found plant and animal remains at the site that radiocarbon dating identified as being from 25,000 to 30,000 years ago. One of the paper's first authors, geneticist <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mikkel_Pedersen" target="_blank">Mikkel Winther Pedersen</a> of the University of Copenhagen, says, "We identified DNA from a wide range of animals including black bears, rodents, bats, voles and even kangaroo rats."</p><p>So, whose tools and animals were they? The researchers have no idea, since no human remains were found in the cave. This suggests the site was not a permanently occupied settlement, but instead a place that people used only periodically. "These early visitors didn't occupy the cave continuously," says Willerslev. "We think people spent part of the year there using it as a winter or summer shelter, or as a base to hunt during migration. This could be the Americas' oldest ever hotel."</p><p>Ardelean says that perhaps the most important thing is who they <em>don't</em> seem to have been, based on the style of tools that were found: the people of the Clovis culture. "We don't know who they were, where they came from or where they went. They are a complete enigma. We falsely assume that the indigenous populations in the Americas today are direct descendants from the earliest Americans, but now we do not think that is the case.</p>
Winter lodgings?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUxMTQyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDk4MzUyMH0.PY6qDJJ4bQBZul6ilogXUnFKxVcl2e523mJ5agkEX0I/img.jpg?width=980" id="42ae4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4be1c18a7b4c9a7646bc637e82e91038" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="959" />
Image source: Devlin A. Gandy/St. John's College, University of Cambridge<p>The time to which the Chiquihuite Cave specimens date mean people were there during the Last Glacial Maximum — this was a time when continental ice sheets were at their maximum size, making northern Mexico seriously cold. Ardelean says, "There must have been horrible storms, hail, snow." Nonetheless, the archaeologist, who worked the site for 10 years and even spent months living in the cave, tells <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02190-y" target="_blank">Nature</a> that it's well-insulated and would have provided adequate shelter.</p>
Exploring Chiquihuite Cave<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/X18i8HEq3Lc" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>While the excitement in archaeology typically derives from findings constructed bit-by-bit from the painstaking collection of artifacts, the excavation of the difficult-to-reach Chiquihuite Cave was an exceptionally charged experience. The cave is located in a region of Mexico controlled by drug cartels, and the safety of the scientists was by no means assured.</p><p>"It was an unforgettable experience," recalls Pedersen. "It is a very unsafe place to travel, so we were accompanied by Mexican police officers in armored cars to the foot of the mountain. We left before sunrise to climb up to the cave so that we weren't spotted."</p><p>Says Willerslev, "I will never forget being part of this research, it was an unbelievable experience. The implications of these findings are as important, if not more important, than the finding itself. This is only the start of the next chapter in the hotly debated early peopling of the Americas."</p>
A migration-route deal-breaker<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUxMTQyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkwNjMzNX0.3bM2lAjKZc3dA_iMd2Yp57IXWi5xnRIhatcGLEpIfv4/img.jpg?width=980" id="a3d06" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c605c85f4878c794cf1d8770ecc3ea33" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="ice on plants" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Image source: Sarah Cervantes/Unsplash<p>The first few pages of that next chapter may be a <a href="http://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-02137-3" target="_blank">companion paper</a> published by two of the study's contributing authors — <a href="https://www.arch.ox.ac.uk/people/lorena-becerra-valdivia" target="_blank">Lorena Becerra-Valdivia</a> of the University of New South Wales and<a href="https://www.ox.ac.uk/news-and-events/find-an-expert/professor-tom-higham" target="_blank"> Thomas Higham</a> from the University of Oxford. It contains a statistical model of early human settlement of the hemisphere based on the Chiquihuite Cave and 41 other archaeological sites in North America, as well as Beringia, a region of eastern Siberia and western Alaska. Its authors also factored in historical climatic evidence and genetics. Their model presents a history in which humans were in North America far earlier than the previously accepted date of 15,000–16,000 years ago. That the model is based on sometimes ambiguous data from so many sites inevitably means that its conclusions are likely to be controversial, but it is in any event a worthwhile contribution to the discussion.</p><p>The model also supports the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastal_migration_(Americas)" target="_blank">Costal Migration Hypothesis</a> that visitors traveling the continent during the glacial maximum would have had to hug the coastlines to avoid the ice sheets atop inland areas.</p><p>So, whoever these early humans were, what happened to them? Geneticist <a href="https://reich.hms.harvard.edu" target="_blank">David Reich</a> of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts tell Nature, "There continues to be no convincing genetic evidence of a pre-15,000-years-ago human presence in the Americas." Ardelean, for one, is not dissuaded by this. He proposes that these early populations simply didn't survive long enough to contribute to the modern gene pool. He says, undeterred, "I definitely advocate for the idea of lost groups."</p><p>Ardelean concludes, "The peopling of the Americas is the last holy grail in modern archaeology. Unconventional sites need to be taken seriously, and we need to go out and intentionally look for them. This site doesn't solve anything, it just shows that these early sites exist. We are dealing with a handful of humans from thousands of years ago, so we cannot expect the signals to be very clear. We have literally dug deeper than anyone has done in the past."</p>
Researchers discover a massive ceremonial structure of the ancient Mayans using lasers.
- Archaeologists used laser-based aerial surveys to discover the oldest and largest Mayan structure ever found.
- The 3,000-year-old complex in the Mexican state of Tabasco was likely used as a ceremonial center.
- Researchers believe the site represents a communal society rather than one based on worshipping elites.
While building a new airport, construction crews uncover a gigantic collection of ancient bones.
- During digging for a new airport in Mexico, workers came across three sites containing the remains of mammoths, as well as some pre-Spanish human burial sites.
- It's unclear why the mammoths were all found in this one spot, though it may have to do with an ancient lake.
- Retrieving this massive sample will likely give experts new insights into a long-lost North American pachyderm.
In the Mexico Basin about 45 miles north of Mexico City in the Santa Lucía region, the new Felipe Ángeles Airport is under construction. According to Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), workers there have dug up a massive surprise: a trove of 60 ice-age mammoth skeletons. They've also unearthed 15 pre-Hispanic human burial sites.
Image source: Sergiodlarosa/wikimedia
The pachyderm bones belong to Colombian mammoths, Mammuthus columbi, who last lived in North America in the Pleistocene epoch between 2.6 million and 13,000 years ago, when they are believed to have become extinct. They're the mammoths that visitors to Los Angeles' La Brea Tar Pits encounter. (No woolly mammoth remains were found in Santa Lucía.)
It's not yet known how many of the mammoth skeletons are complete. It is clear, though, that males, females, and their young are there. The bones are being found between 80 centimeters and 2.5 meters below the surface and spread across three exploration areas. First discovered in October 2019, the digs are still being stabilized and undergoing analysis and classification, according to INAH National Coordinator of Archaeology, Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava.
How 60 mammoths wound up together in death at this location is an interesting question. No signs of human tracks leading to or from the site are evident nor have any indications of hunter accommodations have been found. By contrast, the prehistoric mammoth hunting site discovered in the Mexican municipality of Tultepec in November 2019 does exhibit such signs of human interaction.
Archaeologists suspect the 60 mammoths got stuck in a muddy swamp over time — the site is near the shores of the former Lake Xaltocan. Researchers say the most complete skeletons found are those close to the former lake's shoreline. It remains possible that the immobilized mammoths were then preyed upon by hunters even without clear evidence of that so far.
Once the remains are retrieved, they'll be studied by a team of 30 archaeologists, supported by a trio of restorers, to make a full account of what's been found. They hope to learn more about how and precisely when the animals lived, ate, and what health issues they may have had as evidenced in their skeletal remains.
An old home, a new home
Image source: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia
Meanwhile, construction of the new airport continues. Says Salvador Pulido Méndez, director of INAH Archaeological Salvage, "So far, no findings have been recorded on the land that lead to the rethinking of the construction site, either totally or partially. Rather, the works have allowed INAH a research conjuncture in a space where, although it was known of the existence of skeletal remains, they had not had the opportunity to locate, recover and study them."
Prior to the beginning of construction, the Santa Lucía region had been used by the Santa Lucía Military Air Base, and the national defense organization Sedena has preserved its historic Santa Lucía hacienda, integrating it within the new airport. The various parties involved plan to create a museum within the hacienda that will allow visitors to learn about the Santa Lucía region and its amazing mammoth mammoth graveyard.
Trump said USMCA is "the most important trade deal we've ever made by far."
- The new agreement is between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
- It's more of an updated version of NAFTA than a new agreement.
- The deal includes changes to trade terms and policies in sectors like dairy, auto manufacturing and intellectual property rights.
Timeframe<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODY3ODU3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjI5NzkxN30.dDwcER4ITrvyWkkEQC3SdvnPpdkaYnz84qEvmJwjc6g/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C102%2C0%2C23&height=700" id="fcc74" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4c80756b55e394df64bbb8739a0695ca" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
US President Donald Trump after a phone conversation with Mexico's outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto on trade on August 27. The new deal was made just hours before the October 1 deal deadline.
(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)<p>The new agreement would take effect in 2020. Under the terms, the three countries would meet every six years to review and potentially renegotiate the deal, which would last 16 years, at which time the countries could agree to extend it.</p>