General

Twitter's LoveTheatre day: Five UK museums where you can find theatre exhibits

24 Hour Museum - Tue, 2014-11-18 00:00
From the Prague Youth Theatre to the Royal Opera House, around 300 dramatic groups and venues are taking part in the inaugural LoveTheatre campaign on Twitter today.
Categories: General

Revealed: The feminist story of the women who set up First World War hospital in Russia

24 Hour Museum - Tue, 2014-11-18 00:00
Selina Lock, whose new story is included in a Graphic Anthology of the First World War, says her account of the Scottish Women's Hospital is an unrevealed tale from Russia.
Categories: General

Birth, growth, decay and death in outer space: Scientists celebrate satellite's 10th birthday

24 Hour Museum - Tue, 2014-11-18 00:00
Scientists in Leicester have spent ten years being woken up or interrupted by Swift, a satellite which hurtles around the Earth monitoring explosive cosmic events. But its best discoveries could be yet to come.
Categories: General

Who would you pick as a Radical Hero? People's History Museum names list of 100

24 Hour Museum - Tue, 2014-11-18 00:00
Manchester's People's History Museum has picked suffragettes, rights activists, politicians and sportsmen on a list of 100 heroes who changed Britain.
Categories: General

VIDEO: What does Japanese recession mean?

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 23:54
The BBC's economics editor Robert Peston looks at what impact instability in the global economy could have in the UK.
Categories: General

VIDEO: Brands Hatch rogue driver jailed

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 23:16
A man who drove his girlfriend's car on to the Brands Hatch circuit during a race is jailed for eight months.
Categories: General

Climate change was not to blame for the collapse of the Bronze Age

Heritage Daily - Mon, 2014-11-17 21:43
Scientists will have to find alternative explanations for a huge population collapse in Europe at the end of the Bronze Age as researchers prove definitively that climate change – commonly assumed to be responsible – could not have been the culprit.

Archaeologists and environmental scientists from the University of Bradford, University of Leeds, University College Cork, Ireland (UCC), and Queen’s University Belfast have shown that the changes in climate that scientists believed to coincide with the fall in population in fact occurred at least two generations later.

Their results, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that human activity starts to decline after 900BC, and falls rapidly after 800BC, indicating a population collapse. But the climate records show that colder, wetter conditions didn’t occur until around two generations later.

Fluctuations in levels of human activity through time are reflected by the numbers of radiocarbon dates for a given period. The team used new statistical techniques to analyse more than 2000 radiocarbon dates, taken from hundreds of archaeological sites in Ireland, to pinpoint the precise dates that Europe’s Bronze Age population collapse occurred.

The team then analysed past climate records from peat bogs in Ireland and compared the archaeological data to these climate records to see if the dates tallied. That information was then compared with evidence of climate change across NW Europe between 1200 and 500 BC.

“Our evidence shows definitively that the population decline in this period cannot have been caused by climate change,” says Ian Armit, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Bradford, and lead author of the study.

Graeme Swindles, Associate Professor of Earth System Dynamics at the University of Leeds, added, “We found clear evidence for a rapid change in climate to much wetter conditions, which we were able to precisely pinpoint to 750BC using statistical methods.”

According to Professor Armit, social and economic stress is more likely to be the cause of the sudden and widespread fall in numbers. Communities producing bronze needed to trade over very large distances to obtain copper and tin. Control of these networks enabled the growth of complex, hierarchical societies dominated by a warrior elite. As iron production took over, these networks collapsed, leading to widespread conflict and social collapse. It may be these unstable social conditions, rather than climate change, that led to the population collapse at the end of the Bronze Age.

According to Katharina Becker, Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at UCC, the Late Bronze Age is usually seen as a time of plenty, in contrast to an impoverished Early Iron Age. “Our results show that the rich Bronze Age artefact record does not provide the full picture and that crisis began earlier than previously thought,” she says.

“Although climate change was not directly responsible for the collapse it is likely that the poor climatic conditions would have affected farming,” adds Professor Armit. “This would have been particularly difficult for vulnerable communities, preventing population recovery for several centuries.”

The findings have significance for modern day climate change debates which, argues Professor Armit, are often too quick to link historical climate events with changes in population.

“The impact of climate change on humans is a huge concern today as we monitor rising temperatures globally,” says Professor Armit.

“Often, in examining the past, we are inclined to link evidence of climate change with evidence of population change. Actually, if you have high quality data and apply modern analytical techniques, you get a much clearer picture and start to see the real complexity of human/environment relationships in the past.”

University of Bradford

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Categories: General

VIDEO: April Jones' killer's house torn down

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 20:58
A demolition team has torn down a cottage dubbed the "house of hell", where Mark Bridger is believed to have murdered five-year-old April Jones.
Categories: General

VIDEO: Church backs women bishops law

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 19:22
The Church of England has formally adopted legislation which means its first female bishops could be ordained next year.
Categories: General

VIDEO: 'Bird flu not a threat to food safety'

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 18:40
The Environment Secretary Liz Truss says that a bird flu outbreak at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire is not a threat to food safety.
Categories: General

Ancient DNA sheds light on the origin of Europeans

Heritage Daily - Mon, 2014-11-17 15:22
Much of the evidence of where the first Europeans came from was originally derived from comparisons of skulls but our work looking at ancient DNA is revealing new insight, with results published this month in Science.

Before we go any further, we need to look at what the skulls were telling us. Over a number of decades from the 1970s the US physical anthropologist William Howells recorded tens of thousands of human skulls held in museum collections across the world.

The patterns identified by Howells established that there were distinct correlations between geography and human biology, which provided insights into our understanding of the population history of the world.

In 1989 Howells included a number of fossil human skulls in this comparison to see if they could shed insights into the understanding of modern human dispersals.

Are the first Australians and Europeans related?

One of the patterns to emerge was that many of the earliest European modern human skulls from the last Ice Age, commonly referred to as the Cro-Magnon people, sat statistically very close to Aboriginal Australians and Papua New Guineans.

Did this reflect a close common origin between the first Europeans and the first Australians? Our research, led by Eske Willerslev from the University of Copenhagen, reveals the answer to this is “not really”.

The genome recovered from an ancient skeleton, from a site known as Kostenki 14, has revealed an important story about the human history of Europe.

The remains there, found in 1954 at Kostenki, in south western Russia, were from a short, dark-skinned man who lived between 38,700 to 36,200 years ago.

It is generally accepted today that multivariate analyses comparing ancient and modern skulls do not necessarily indicate a stronger biological relationship between similarly looking skulls.

Instead it reflects such things as the kinds of patterns that we see in many early modern human fossils that are comparatively large and robust, when compared to later Holocene populations.

The story from ancient DNA is, however, far more complex.

Among the remains from the very ancient Russian, from Kostenki 14, is one of the earliest and most complete modern human skulls from Europe.

In Howells’ original multivariate analysis the skull sat statistically very closely to the first Australians, but his DNA tells a very different story.

Our study shows that Kostenki 14 shared genetic ancestry with hunter-gatherers in Europe, as well as with the early farmers, suggesting that his ancestors interbred with members of the same Middle Eastern population who later turned into farmers and came to Europe themselves.

This lead Eske Willerslev to remark: “Kostenki was already pure European.”

Out of Africa

All modern humans (Russians and Australians included) are derived from an initial migration out of Africa. From the fossil record this seems to have occurred sometime around 100,000 years ago in the Near East, at Skhul and Qafzeh.

This initial Homo sapiens range expansion from Africa was initially thought to have been short-lived, with Homo neanderthalensis returning to South West Asia some 60,000 years ago.

Apart from what his genome tells us about European origins, the Kostenki 14 genome is also fascinating because it contains the genetic record of a period shortly after the ancestors of Europeans hybridised with Neanderthals.

We now know that humans and Neanderthals mixed early in human history, sometime before 45,000 years ago. This is shown by the fact that the genome of Kostenki 14 had slightly more Neanderthal DNA than do Europeans and Asians today, perhaps as much as 1% more.

And his DNA comprises long tracts of Neanderthal DNA, much longer than that found in many non-African people now. In fact the longest of these totals about 3 million base pairs.

After the period of ancient hybridisation, these long DNA sequences start to be broken up by the processes of sexual reproduction. But Kostenki 14 has these well preserved long sequences.

The research team then used the length of these tracts of Neanderthal DNA to better estimate the admixture time of Neanderthals and humans and obtained a date of approximately 54,000 years.

We note that genomic data from a 45,000-year-old modern human from Siberia, which were published during the review process of our study, also shows longer segments of Neanderthal ancestry, further supporting our conclusions.

Because of the divergent position of the Kostenki 14 sample, the team also asked if it contained any fragments of admixed DNA from other previously un-sampled hominins. Interestingly, the distribution of tracts of divergent DNA provides no evidence for other DNA sequences showing evidence of gene flow from other archaic humans.

The sequencing of the genome of Kostenki 14 is a major technical and scientific achievement and illustrates the importance of recovering genomes from ancient remains for understanding the complexity of human origins.

Only when we have entire genomes captured from back in time, as was possible with Kostenki 14, can we better detect and measure important events in the past history of species such as our own.

The Conversation

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Categories: General

Climate capers of the past 600,000 years

Heritage Daily - Mon, 2014-11-17 15:11
If you want to see into the future, you have to understand the past. An international consortium of researchers under the auspices of the University of Bonn has drilled deposits on the bed of Lake Van (Eastern Turkey) which provide unique insights into the last 600,000 years.

The samples reveal that the climate has done its fair share of mischief-making in the past. Furthermore, there have been numerous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The results of the drilling project also provide a basis for assessing the risk of how dangerous natural hazards are for today’s population. In a special edition of the highly regarded publication Quaternary Science Reviews, the scientists have now published their findings in a number of journal articles.

In the sediments of Lake Van, the lighter-colored, lime-containing summer layers are clearly distinguishable from the darker, clay-rich winter layers — also called varves. In 2010, from a floating platform an international consortium of researchers drilled a 220 m deep sediment profile from the lake floor at a water depth of 360 m and analyzed the varves. The samples they recovered are a unique scientific treasure because the climate conditions, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions of the past 600,000 years can be read in outstanding quality from the cores.

The team of scientists under the auspices of the University of Bonn has analyzed some 5,000 samples in total. “The results show that the climate over the past hundred thousand years has been a roller coaster. Within just a few decades, the climate could tip from an ice age into a warm period,” says Doctor Thomas Litt of the University of Bonn’s Steinmann Institute and spokesman for the PALEOVAN international consortium of researchers. Unbroken continental climate archives from the ice age which encompass several hundred thousand years are extremely rare on a global scale. “There has never before in all of the Middle East and Central Asia been a continental drilling operation going so far back into the past,” says Doctor Litt. In the northern hemisphere, climate data from ice-cores drilled in Greenland encompass the last 120,000 years. The Lake Van project closes a gap in the scientific climate record.

The sediments reveal six cycles of cold and warm periods

Scientists found evidence for a total of six cycles of warm and cold periods in the sediments of Lake Van. The University of Bonn paleoecologist and his colleagues analyzed the pollen preserved in the sediments. Under a microscope they were able to determine which plants around the eastern Anatolian Lake the pollen came from. “Pollen is amazingly durable and is preserved over very long periods when protected in the sediments,” Doctor Litt explained. Insight into the age of the individual layers was gleaned through radiometric age measurements that use the decay of radioactive elements as a geologic clock. Based on the type of pollen and the age, the scientists were able to determine when oak forests typical of warm periods grew around Lake Van and when ice-age steppe made up of grasses, mugwort and goosefoot surrounded the lake.

Once they determine the composition of the vegetation present and the requirements of the plants, the scientists can reconstruct with a high degree of accuracy the temperature and amount of rainfall during different epochs. These analyses enable the team of researchers to read the varves of Lake Van like thousands of pages of an archive. With these data, the team was able to demonstrate that fluctuations in climate were due in large part to periodic changes in the Earth’s orbit parameters and the commensurate changes in solar insolation levels. However, the influence of North Atlantic currents was also evident. “The analysis of the Lake Van sediments has presented us with an image of how an ecosystem reacts to abrupt changes in climate. This fundamental data will help us to develop potential scenarios of future climate effects,” says Doctor Litt.

Risks of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the region of Van

Such risk assessments can also be made for other natural forces. “Deposits of volcanic ash with thicknesses of up to 10 m in the Lake Van sediments show us that approximately 270,000 years ago there was a massive eruption,” the University of Bonn paleoecologist said. The team struck some 300 different volcanic events in its drillings. Statistically, that corresponds to one explosive volcanic eruption in the region every 2000 years. Deformations in the sediment layers show that the area is subject to frequent, strong earthquakes. “The area around Lake Van is very densely populated. The data from the core samples show that volcanic activity and earthquakes present a relatively high risk for the region,” Doctor Litt says. According to media reports, in 2011 a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the Van province claimed the lives of more than 500 people and injured more than 2,500.

University of Bonn

Categories: General

VIDEO: 'I was bullied in my own home'

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 13:40
A committee of MPs has said schools in England are not doing enough to tackle cyberbullying and online abuse.
Categories: General

AUDIO: Should Christmas be present-free?

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 13:07
Founder of The Oldie Richard Ingrams and Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan debate whether November is too early to start thinking about Christmas.
Categories: General

VIDEO: Female vicar: 'Momentous' change

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 12:27
Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin says she is "excited" the Church of England is formally adopting legislation which means its first female bishops could be ordained in 2015.
Categories: General

VIDEO: Why has SNP membership trebled?

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 12:22
Allan Little has been speaking to some of those who joined the Scottish National Party immediately after September's referendum.
Categories: General

AUDIO: Alcoholism 'rising in women over 60'

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 11:54
The number of women over the age of 60 being treated for alcoholism is on the rise, figures from Public Health England show.
Categories: General

AUDIO: Private toll road closes without profit

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 10:42
Mike Watts, who built and maintained his own private toll road in Somerset, explains why it is closing without profit.
Categories: General

Placement Students in Sheffield

Wessex Archaeology - Mon, 2014-11-17 10:30

Lewis Greenway - Elsecar Heritage Centre

After having two wonderful work placement students at the Sheffield office over the summer – Lewis Greenway and Jack Malloy, who both made a valuable contribution to a number of projects – we will be taking on another four students between now and February 2015. Three of these will be coming to us from the University of Sheffield, whilst the other will be from Ridgewood School, Doncaster. We will be giving them a taste of a range of commercial archaeological experiences including field excavation and recording, finds processing, geophysical survey, and working within the heritage sector.  We are very much looking forward to meeting and working with our new placements.  If you’re interested in undertaking a work placement or wanting to take part in voluntary work with the Wessex Archaeology Sheffield office, then please email Lucy Dawson at l.dawson@wessexarch.co.uk  
Categories: General

VIDEO: Geldof: Band Aid single demand 'vast'

BBC test - Mon, 2014-11-17 10:20
Demand for the new Band Aid single has been "vast", the organiser Bob Geldof has revealed.
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