Good Old Times

Kevin Lewis

February 20, 2021

Creativity, Mating, and Reproductive Successes Outside the WEIRD World
Izabela Lebuda et al.
Creativity Research Journal, forthcoming


This study provides an empirical test of the relationship between creative potential, mating, and reproductive success in a sample using natural methods of fertility control: the Meru tribe living in the regions of Laare and Mutuati in Kenya. The participants (N = 133; 65 females) solved a figural creativity test (the Test of Creative Thinking – Drawing Production, TCT-DP) and provided information about the number of spouses, children, length of their schooling, as well as wealth. Analyses demonstrated that creative potential negatively predicted the number of offspring, but this relation was fully mediated by the number of spouses: more creative people more often stayed single and did not have offspring. The theoretical consequences of these findings are discussed in light of the evolutionary psychology of creativity.

A Precolumbian Presence of Venetian Glass Trade Beads in Arctic Alaska
Michael Kunz & Robin Mills
American Antiquity, forthcoming


Excavation at three Late Prehistoric Eskimo sites in arctic Alaska has revealed the presence of Venetian glass trade beads in radiocarbon-dated contexts that predate Columbus's discovery of the Western Hemisphere. The bead variety, commonly known as “Early Blue” and “Ichtucknee Plain,” has been confirmed by expert examination and comparative Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA). The beads are present in sites throughout the Caribbean, the eastern coast of Central and North America, and the eastern Great Lakes region, where they are commonly found in sites dating between approximately AD 1550 and 1750, although a diminishing presence continues into the early 1800s. Beads of this variety have not previously been reported from Alaska. Ascribed to Venetian production by their precolumbian age, the beads challenge the currently accepted chronology for the development of their production methodology, availability, and presence in the Americas. In the absence of trans-Atlantic communication, the most likely route these beads traveled from Europe to northwestern Alaska is across Eurasia and over the Bering Strait. This is the first documented instance of the presence of indubitable European materials in prehistoric sites in the Western Hemisphere as the result of overland transport across the Eurasian continent.

The original Stonehenge? A dismantled stone circle in the Preseli Hills of west Wales
Mike Parker Pearson et al.
Antiquity, February 2021, Pages 85-103


The discovery of a dismantled stone circle — close to Stonehenge's bluestone quarries in west Wales — raises the possibility that a 900-year-old legend about Stonehenge being built from an earlier stone circle contains a grain of truth. Radiocarbon and OSL dating of Waun Mawn indicate construction c. 3000 BC, shortly before the initial construction of Stonehenge. The identical diameters of Waun Mawn and the enclosing ditch of Stonehenge, and their orientations on the midsummer solstice sunrise, suggest that at least part of the Waun Mawn circle was brought from west Wales to Salisbury Plain. This interpretation complements recent isotope work that supports a hypothesis of migration of both people and animals from Wales to Stonehenge.


The composition of the founding population of Iceland: A new perspective from 3D analyses of basicranial shape
Kimberly Plomp et al.
PLoS ONE, February 2021


The settlement of Iceland in the Viking Age has been the focus of much research, but the composition of the founding population remains the subject of debate. Some lines of evidence suggest that almost all the founding population were Scandinavian, while others indicate a mix of Scandinavians and people of Scottish and Irish ancestry. To explore this issue further, we used three-dimensional techniques to compare the basicrania of skeletons from archaeological sites in Iceland, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. Our analyses yielded two main results. One was that the founding population likely consisted of roughly equal numbers of Scandinavians and people from the British Isles. The other was that the immigrants who originated from the British Isles included individuals of southern British ancestry as well as individuals of Scottish and Irish ancestry. The first of these findings is consistent with the results of recent analyses of modern and ancient DNA, while the second is novel. Our study, therefore, strengthens the idea that the founding population was a mix of Scandinavians and people from the British Isles, but also raises a new possibility regarding the regions from which the settlers originated.


A global environmental crisis 42,000 years ago
Alan Cooper et al.
Science, 19 February 2021, Pages 811-818


Geological archives record multiple reversals of Earth’s magnetic poles, but the global impacts of these events, if any, remain unclear. Uncertain radiocarbon calibration has limited investigation of the potential effects of the last major magnetic inversion, known as the Laschamps Excursion [41 to 42 thousand years ago (ka)]. We use ancient New Zealand kauri trees (Agathis australis) to develop a detailed record of atmospheric radiocarbon levels across the Laschamps Excursion. We precisely characterize the geomagnetic reversal and perform global chemistry-climate modeling and detailed radiocarbon dating of paleoenvironmental records to investigate impacts. We find that geomagnetic field minima ~42 ka, in combination with Grand Solar Minima, caused substantial changes in atmospheric ozone concentration and circulation, driving synchronous global climate shifts that caused major environmental changes, extinction events, and transformations in the archaeological record.


Nubian Levallois technology associated with southernmost Neanderthals
James Blinkhorn et al.
Scientific Reports, February 2021


Neanderthals occurred widely across north Eurasian landscapes, but between ~ 70 and 50 thousand years ago (ka) they expanded southwards into the Levant, which had previously been inhabited by Homo sapiens. Palaeoanthropological research in the first half of the twentieth century demonstrated alternate occupations of the Levant by Neanderthal and Homo sapiens populations, yet key early findings have largely been overlooked in later studies. Here, we present the results of new examinations of both the fossil and archaeological collections from Shukbah Cave, located in the Palestinian West Bank, presenting new quantitative analyses of a hominin lower first molar and associated stone tool assemblage. The hominin tooth shows clear Neanderthal affinities, making it the southernmost known fossil specimen of this population/species. The associated Middle Palaeolithic stone tool assemblage is dominated by Levallois reduction methods, including the presence of Nubian Levallois points and cores. This is the first direct association between Neanderthals and Nubian Levallois technology, demonstrating that this stone tool technology should not be considered an exclusive marker of Homo sapiens.


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