Quantitative 3-D analysis of bone tools sheds light on ancient manufacture and use

Quantitative three-dimensional analysis of bone wear patterns can provide insight into the manufacture and use of early human tools, according to a study by Naomi Martisius of the University of California at Davis and colleagues, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Quantitative 3-D analysis of bone tools sheds light on ancient manufacture and use
Material wear on bone over time [Credit: Martisius et al., 2018]

Humans have been using bone tools for at least 2 million years, and by approximately 100 thousand years ago, were manufacturing them with formal processes such as grinding and scraping. Ancient bone tools carry marks of their manufacture and use, which can provide information about the group of people that made the tools and the specific uses to which tools were put.
Microscopy has been used to study these marks, but the study of use-wear on bone tools requires a comparative body of quantitative examples of wear over time and contact with different materials, to ensure that these studies are replicable. In the current study, the authors sought to determine the basics of use-wear formation over time by taking incremental molds of bone specimens subjected to a controlled, mechanical experiment.

The authors initially shaped bone with sandstone or flint, or left it unshaped, and then used it to work fresh skin, leather, or bark, all while taking sequential surface scans using confocal microscopy, to generate three-dimensional data for a quantitative Bayesian analysis.

While individual samples of bone varied in both texture and structure, they found that duration of use was the largest and most unequivocal determinant affecting the surface of the bone. Fresh skin was the most abrasive of the three materials, and the degree of wear correlated with duration of use for working skin.

Further refinement of the specific methodological techniques may be needed to fully investigate correlations that link tool shaping and target material to observed wear patterns. However, the study provides a proof of principle for application of quantitative measures to bone wear analysis. The novel technique provides a possible alternative to current methods of bone wear analysis, which are largely qualitative and dependent on expert interpretation.

Martisius adds: “If we want to understand how ancient humans used bone tools, we need to understand what the traces left on the tools mean. We tested manufacturing and use variables over time using a quantitative method for looking at these traces, and by extension, at human behavior”

Source: Public Library of Science [November 07, 2018]

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Chinese archaeologists discover 2,000-year-old liquor in ancient tomb

Archaeologists in central China’s Henan Province on Tuesday poured liquid out of a bronze pot unearthed from a Western Han Dynasty (202 BC to AD 8) tomb into a measuring glass, which gave off an aroma of rich wine.

Chinese archaeologists discover 2,000-year-old liquor in ancient tomb

“There are 3.5 litres of the liquid in the colour of transparent yellow. It smells like wine,” said Shi Jiazhen, head of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in the city of Luoyang.
He said the discovered content needs to undergo further lab research so the team can accurately ascertain the ingredients of the liquid.

Chinese archaeologists discover 2,000-year-old liquor in ancient tomb
Chinese archaeologists discover 2,000-year-old liquor in ancient tomb
Chinese archaeologists discover 2,000-year-old liquor in ancient tomb

A large number of  painted clay pots and bronze artefacts were also unearthed from the tomb, which covers 210 square metres. The remains of the tomb occupant have also been preserved, said Shi.
He said they will conduct lab research on items found in the main tomb chamber.

Chinese archaeologists discover 2,000-year-old liquor in ancient tomb

Similar-aged rice wine had earlier been found in other tombs dating back to the Western Han period. Liquor made from rice or sorghum grains were a major part of ceremonies and ritual sacrifices in ancient China. It was often contained with elaborate bronze cast vessels.
Shi said the bronze pot containing the liquid is one of the two big bronze items unearthed from the tomb. The other is a lamp in the shape of a wild goose, which was the first of its kind found in the city of Luoyang, capital of 13 dynasties, with a history of 3,000 years.

Source: China Economic Net [November 07, 2018]

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Early Signs Alzheimer’s disease ravages the brain well before…

Early Signs

Alzheimer’s disease ravages the brain well before patients start to experience memory loss. In an ideal world, pre-symptomatic treatments could slow or even stop the eventual and irreversible degeneration of brain tissue. Unfortunately, these early stages can only be detected post-mortem, typically by looking for neurofibrillary tangles (shown in red in this brain section); these protein clusters are one of the earliest biological indicators of disease onset. However, scientists have recently shown that there may also be psychiatric indicators. Analysing post-mortem brains, the team found that individuals who hadn’t started experiencing memory loss but had neurofibrillary tangles in a particular brain region were more likely to have suffered from anxiety, changes in appetite, difficulties sleeping, and depression. Such symptoms aren’t necessarily causative, but may be a warning that the disease is picking up speed, so giving some hope of earlier diagnosis and even of new therapies to slow its onset.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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