Skilled female potters travelled around the Baltic nearly 5000 years ago

Was it the fine pottery itself, or the artisans who made it, that moved around the Baltic Sea region during the Corded Ware Culture of late Neolithic period? Are the archaeological artefacts found in Finland imported goods or were they made out of Finnish clay by artisans who had mastered the new technology? These are the questions researchers are trying to answer in the most extensive original study of archaeological ceramics ever undertaken in the Nordic countries.

Skilled female potters travelled around the Baltic nearly 5000 years ago
These are Neolithic Corded ware pottery recovered in Southern Finland
[Credit: Elisabeth Holmqvist-Sipilä]

Researchers mapped the arrival routes of pottery and people representing the Corded Ware Culture complex (c. 2900-2300 BCE) into the Nordic countries by identifying the areas where the pottery was made.

Corded Ware pottery was very different from earlier Stone Age pottery. It represented a new technology and style, and as a new innovation, used crushed ceramics — or broken pottery — mixed in with the clay.

Eastern influences fashionable in Sweden

Finland, Estonia and Sweden had at least five different manufacturing areas for Corded Ware pottery which engaged in active pottery trade across the Baltic Sea approximately 5000 years ago. Häme in Southern Finland had a manufacturing hub of Corded Ware pottery which can be described as quasi-industrial in Neolithic terms, and spread its products along the Finnish coast and into Estonia.

Traditionally, Swedish archaeologists have assumed that Corded Ware pottery arrived in Sweden from the south. However, it now seems clear that that eastern influences were particularly fashionable during the Neolithic, and both pottery and people belonging to this culture arrived first in Eastern Sweden from Finland and Estonia. This was not a one-way one-time event: There were many active contacts in all directions across the Baltic Sea during the period, shown by the fact that pottery that was manufactured in Sweden over time turn up in Finland and Estonia.

Skilled female potters travelled around the Baltic nearly 5000 years ago
Micrograph of crushed pottery mixed with the clay mass of a Corded Ware pot
[Credit: Elisabeth Holmqvist-Sipilä]

Skilled female artisans

In traditional societies it is usually women who are in charge of the pottery craft and it is also common for women to relocate upon marriage. Corded Ware burials show that females were more likely to receive pottery as burial gifts, and analyses from European cemeteries show that the women were more likely to relocate during their lifetime.

It is likely that the first Corded Ware Culture artisans to arrive at the Fenno-Baltic and Swedish coasts were women who had learned their craft at their place of birth. They would have begun to use the clay available at their new home, but they mixed it with crushed pieces of pottery they had brought with them. Perhaps this was a way to preserve the older pottery which had been made in their previous homelands, thus maintaining a symbolic connection to their families and the members of their former communities in their everyday lives.

The study posits that skilled female artisans arrived in Sweden particularly from Estonia and Finland, as both the geochemical origin and cultural links of the imported pottery indicates a connection to the region. Cultural similarities in turn link the first Corded Ware communities in Finland and Estonia to the eastern part of the Bay of Finland, present day Russia.

The exchange network also suggests that even during the Stone Age, the Baltic Sea was less an obstacle and more a connection between communities, attaching Finland to a broader European culture.

Skilled female potters travelled around the Baltic nearly 5000 years ago
Map of neolithic pottery exchange network in the Baltic Sea region
[Credit: Elisabeth Holmqvist-Sipilä]

International Stone Age phenomena are inscribed in pottery

The study examined clay pottery from 24 archaeological sites in Finland, Estonia and Sweden. The goal was to determine the geochemical composition and geological origin of Corded Ware pottery, i.e., where the clay came from.

The project involved international and cross-disciplinary cooperation between the group of archaeologists from Finland, Sweden and Estonia and material physicists. Funded by the Academy of Finland, the research project was headed by Elisabeth Holmqvist-Sipilä, who works at the University of Helsinki’s archaeology laboratory.

“International prehistoric phenomena may be apparent in everyday objects, such as dishware and the old pottery fragments crushed into the clay they were made with,” says Holmqvist-Sipilä.

“Pottery was so important to its owner that it would be carried along on long journeys. Now, thousands of years later, when most things have turned into dust, it is these objects that tell the story of the routes taken by people and their belongings.”

The results of the research were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Source: University of Helsinki [March 22, 2018]



Africa Crack in Kenya


Africa ‘being torn in TWO’ by giant fault line that ripped 72-year-old’s home in half

ТАМ кристаллам ТАНзании спасибо благодарю 22 марта 2018 Кения озеро ТАНзания

The stunning video shows deep fissures running along large sections Kenya’s Rift Valley, with one giant crevice having recently destroyed a main road.


As the drone flies overhead, the full scale of the tear – which is said to be more than 65ft deep and around 50ft wide in places – can be seen.


Geologist David Ahede explained why the incredible phenomenon occurs during an interview with local news station NT.


“The Great Rift splits Africa into two plates,” he said.


“With what is happening we have established one plate which is the Somali plate is moving away from the other plate at a rate of 2.5cm.


“In the near future if this happens we shall have the Somali plate separating from the other Nubian plate.

“There is a great need for researchers to conduct a comprehensive study on the terrain of this region so that they can advise on where roads and residential buildings can be established.

“This can play a key role in dealing with such natural disasters should they happen.”

Families living near the fissure started moving out this, with 72-year-old resident Mary Wambui saying “staying here is like courting death”. 

She was having dinner with the rest of the family on Monday when the Earth suddenly cracked beneath their feet, cutting their home into two.

Republic of Kenya Jamhuri ya Kenya (Kiswahili)

Location Kenya AU Africa.svg

Kenya (/ˈkɛnjə/; locally [ˈkɛɲa] (About this sound listen)), officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in Africa and a founding member of the East African Community (EAC). Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya’s territory lies on the equator and overlies the East African Rift covering a diverse and expansive terrain that extends roughly from Lake Victoria to Lake Turkana (formerly called Lake Rudolf) and further south-east to the Indian Ocean. It is bordered by Tanzania to the south and southwest, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the north-east. Kenya covers 581,309 km2 (224,445 sq mi), and had a population of approximately 48 million people in January 2017.

Kenya has a warm and humid tropical climate on its Indian Ocean coastline. The climate is cooler in the savannah grasslands around the capital city, Nairobi, and especially closer to Mount Kenya, which has snow permanently on its peaks. Further inland are highlands in Central and Rift Valley regions where tea and coffee are grown as cash crops which are major foreign revenue earners. In the West are Nyanza and Western regions, there is an equatorial, hot and dry climate which becomes humid around Lake Victoria, the largest tropical fresh-water lake in the world. This gives way to temperate and forested hilly areas in the neighbouring western region. The north-eastern regions along the border with Somalia and Ethiopia are arid and semi-arid areas with near-desert landscapes. Kenya is known for its world class athletes in track and field and rugby. Thanks to its diverse climate and geography, expansive wildlife reserves and national parks such as the East and West Tsavo National Park, Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park, Aberdares National Park and white sand beaches at the Coastal region, Kenya is home to the modern safari and has several world heritage sites such as Lamu and a number of beaches, including in Diani, Bamburi and Kilifi, where international yachting competitions are held every year.


Mount Kenya at a height of 5199 meters

Lake Turkana borders Turkana County

Mount Kenya at a height of 5199 meters

Topography of Lake Victoria.png

Lake Victoria (Nam Lolwe in Luo; Nalubaale in Luganda; Nyanza in Kinyarwanda and some Bantu languages) is one of the African Great Lakes. The lake was named after Queen Victoria by the explorer John Hanning Speke, the first Briton to document it. Speke accomplished this in 1858, while on an expedition with Richard Francis Burton to locate the source of the Nile River.

With a surface area of approximately 68,800 square kilometres (26,600 sq mi), Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area, the world’s largest tropical lake,and the world’s second largest fresh water lake by surface area, after Lake Superior in North America.In terms of volume, Lake Victoria is the world’s ninth largest continental lake, containing about 2,750 cubic kilometres (2.23×109 acre⋅ft) of water.

Lake Victoria receives its water primarily from direct rainfall and thousands of small streams. The Kagera River is the largest river flowing into this lake, with its mouth on the lake’s western shore. Lake Victoria is drained solely by the Nile River near Jinja, Uganda, on the lake’s northern shore.

The Nile perch was introduced to Lake Victoria for fishing, and can reach up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) and 200 kilograms (440 lb).

Lake Victoria occupies a shallow depression in Africa. The lake has a maximum depth of 84 metres (276 ft) and an average depth of 40 metres (130 ft). Its catchment area covers 184,000 square kilometres (71,000 sq mi). The lake has a shoreline of 7,142 kilometres (4,438 mi) when digitized at the 1:25,000 level, with islands constituting 3.7 percent of this length, and is divided among three countries: Kenya (6 percent or 4,100 square kilometres or 1,600 square miles), Uganda (45 percent or 31,000 square kilometres or 12,000 square miles), and Tanzania (49 percent or 33,700 square kilometres or 13,000 square miles).

Африка огромная трещина Рифтовая Долина Кения 13 март 2018



Once-mysterious ‘Atacama Skeleton’ illuminates genetics of bone disease

The skeleton, discovered in a leather pouch behind an abandoned church, was pristine: a tiny figure, just six inches long, with a cone-shaped head, 10 pairs of ribs, and bones that looked like those of an eight-year-old child. Found in the Atacama Desert of Chile and later affectionately nicknamed “Ata,” the skeleton made its way onto the black market for archaeological finds and then to a collector in Spain who thought it might be the remains of an extraterrestrial being.

Once-mysterious 'Atacama Skeleton' illuminates genetics of bone disease
The 6-inch skeleton, nicknamed Ata, was discovered more than a decade ago in an abandoned town
 in the Atacama Desert of Chile [Credit: Emery Smith]

But a forensic analysis of Ata’s genome by scientists at UC San Francisco and Stanford University has proved beyond a doubt that it is human. Ata has the DNA of a modern human female with the mix of Native American and European ancestral markers one would expect from someone who lived near the place where she was found. And her arresting appearance, which scientists refer to as a phenotype, can most likely be explained by a handful of rare genetic mutations–some already known, others newly discovered–that are linked to dwarfism and other bone and growth disorders.

Their discoveries, published in Genome Research, does more than lay to rest the fable of Ata’s extraterrestrial origins. It also illustrates how far open-source genetic data has come in enabling the sort of needle-in-a-haystack analysis that can pinpoint the handful of mutated genes–out of more than 2.7 million single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) in Ata’s genome–that were most likely to be associated with the unusual shape of her body.

“The bioinformatics analyses in the paper showcase the power and wealth of information available in the public domain that led to the discovery of novel and rare deleterious variants in genes associated with Ata’s phenotype,” said Sanchita Bhattacharya, a bioinformatics researcher at the UCSF Institute for Computational Health Sciences (ICHS). “The analysis was even more challenging with a very limited amount of information about the specimen, and lack of family history, which makes it a unique case.”

Bhattacharya used the Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO), a database that links genomic data to the abnormal phenotypes found in human disease, everything from atrial septal defect, or a hole in the chambers of the heart, to musculoskeletal abnormalities.

Once-mysterious 'Atacama Skeleton' illuminates genetics of bone disease
After sequencing Ata’s genome, researchers found mutations in seven genes that separately or in combinations
contribute to various bone deformities, facial malformations or skeletal dysplasia [Credit: Emery Smith]

In an initial analysis Bhattacharya found 64 gene variants that seemed likely to be damaging. She fed them into the HPO database, and to her amazement, most of the possible phenotypes the program homed in on had to do with the skeletal system, including “proportionate short stature” and “11 pairs of ribs.” Ata had 10 pairs, a phenotype that had never been observed.

“The moment I saw it, I could see there was something interesting going on there,” Bhattacharya said. “It was a little amount of information, and I am not a bone expert. This was a very blinded analysis.”

The results revealed four new SNVs–a type of genetic mutation at the individual level–in genes that were known to cause bone diseases, like scoliosis or dislocations, as well as two more SNVs in genes involved in producing collagen.

While esoteric, the analysis of Ata’s genome points toward the clinical genetics of the future, said Atul Butte, MD, PhD, who directs ICHS and is the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg Distinguished Professor at UCSF.

With rapidly accumulating genetic data, Butte said, scientists can take a “backwards” approach to diagnosis. Instead of starting with a description of the disease and looking for a mutated gene to explain it, they start with the patient’s raw genetic material to see how it differs from a normal, or “reference” set of samples. The genetic variations that pop out of this comparison then reveal, in an unbiased way, what processes are at work in the patient to create disease.

Once-mysterious 'Atacama Skeleton' illuminates genetics of bone disease
The 6-inch skeleton, nicknamed Ata, was discovered more than a decade ago in an abandoned town
 in the Atacama Desert of Chile
 [Credit: Bhattacharya S et al. 2018]

“Analyzing a puzzling sample like the Ata genome can teach us how to handle current medical samples, which may be driven by multiple mutations,” Butte said. “When we study the genomes of patients with unusual syndromes, there may be more than one gene or pathway involved genetically, which is not always considered.”

Garry Nolan, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine began the scientific exploration of Ata in 2012, when a friend called saying he might have found an “alien.”

Nolan believes further research into Ata’s precocious bone aging could one day benefit patients. “Maybe there’s a way to accelerate bone growth in people who need it, people who have bad breaks,” he said. “Nothing like this had been seen before. Certainly, nobody had looked into the genetics of it.”

But Nolan also said that he hopes, one day, little Ata will be given a proper burial. Far from being a visitor from another planet, Ata’s genome marked her as South American, with genetic variations that identified her as being from the Andean region inhabited by the Chilean Chilote Indians. Judging from the skeleton’s intact condition, he said, it is probably no more than 40 years old.

“We now know that it’s a child, and probably either a pre- or post-term birth and death,” he said. “I think it should be returned to the country of origin and buried according to the customs of the local people.”

Source: University of California, San Francisco [March 22, 2018]