ISRAEL – Qassem Cave - If someone described to you that a factory had been set up to mass produce tools and weapons and that, attached to the factory there was a kitchen and a canteen, you would probably accept this as a description of a modern day industrial area in any city or town around the world. But what if this factory was 40,000 years old? Well, until recently, you would have said that they were talking about the earliest found example of mass production, stemming from the Late Paleolithic period. So what would your reaction be if you were told that the factory in question was between 200,000 and 400,000 years old? Fantasy? Well not if you are a member of a team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, Israel, working in the Qassem Cave in the Samarian foothills, just outside Tel Aviv. It is believed that the cave was originally created by the action of acidic water on the limestone rock. Some sort of seismic event then opened the entrance to the cavern over 200,000 years ago, to allow the local inhabitants of the late Lower Paleolithic period to start up their massive tool production, before closing again and sealing in the secrets until contruction work started recently on a highway widening project. The area is surrounded by large quantities of flint and the tools made there were of a very high quality, covering all stages from hunting the prey to precise butchering, having one sharp edge and one blunt one, so they could be hand held comfortably. The inhabitants were part of the Acheulo-Yabrudian cultural complex which was restricted to the area now known as Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Little is known of these tool makers, who were an earlt forerunner to Homo Sapiens and only a few teeth have so far been discovered. But this discovery has pushed back the boundaries of modern man's existence in the area to over 200,000 years. There is still considerable work to do in the caves and it is hoped that more human remains can be found, to give more knowledge and insight into these ancient industrial pioneers.


CANADA – Quebec - Des ossements humains qui datent de la bataille des plaines d'Abraham et une installation militaire - la redoute Wolfe - ont été découverts près de l'endroit où se situera l'agrandissement du Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ). Les os ont été retrouvés à quelques mètres de pieux et d'une pièce de bois qui correspond à la redoute Wolfe, qui aurait été construite en 1760 par le gouverneur James Murray. À l'époque, il s'agissait d'une construction militaire défensive bâtie par les Britanniques qui redoutaient que les Français reviennent à la charge.


ROYAUME UNI0-7527.jpg – Bristol - An extremely rare Egyptian coffin, possibly belonging to the son of a king or a very senior official, has been ‘discovered’ at Torquay Museum by an archaeologist at the University of Bristol. Dr Aidan Dodson, a senior research fellow in Bristol’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology made the discovery while undertaking a long-term project to catalogue every single Egyptian coffin in English and Welsh provincial museums. Dr Dodson said: “When I walked into Torquay Museum for the first time I realised that the coffin was something really special.  Not only was it of a design of which there is probably only one other example in the UK (in Bristol), but the quality was exceptional. “Cut from a single log of cedar wood, it is exquisitely carved, inlaid and painted.  For a child to have been given something like that, he must have had very important parents – perhaps even a king and queen. Unfortunately, the part of the inscription which named the boy and his parents is so badly damaged that we cannot be certain. “The inscription had been re-worked at some point for a new owner – a 2,500 year old mummified boy, anonymous but given the name Psamtek by his current custodians, that came to Torquay Museum with the coffin when in was donated in the 1950s.  ‘Psamtek’ is in fact nearly 1,000 years younger than the coffin itself.” The secrets of the mummified boy were probed by Torbay Hospital’s state-of-the-art CT scanner in 2006 in an attempt to determine his age and cause of death.  It was discovered that he was three to four years old - around three years younger than previously thought - but there were no obvious signs of the cause of death. Both the coffin and its contents were donated to the museum in 1956 by Lady Winnaretta Leeds, daughter of sewing machine heir Paris Singer.  Fascinated by Egyptology, Lady Leeds travelled to the Middle East many times.  It was during one of her visits in the 1920s that she is thought to have bought the coffin and mummy. Mr Chandler said the museum always thought the coffin and its contents had not gone together and that the original occupant had been taken out so it could be reused. “We thought perhaps the coffin dated back another 200 years or so to about 700BC," he said. "But we never realised it had actually been made somewhere between the reign of Ahmose I and the early years of the reign of Thutmose III – the first and fifth rulers of the 18th Dynasty – so somewhere between 1525 and 1470 BC.


MALAISIE – Gua Bewah - Local experts are working hard to decipher the mystery of the 16,000 years old “Bewah Man” currently kept under lock and key in the Terengganu Museum here. Believed to be the oldest skeleton ever found in the country, the remains are being given the “five-star” treatment by the state government while 15 archaeologists and scientists toil daily to unlock its mystery. To date, the local researchers have yet to verify the gender of the remains, which were discovered two years ago in Gua Bewah near Tasik Kenyir.


CANADA – Krieger site - Traditionally referred to as the Neolithic Revolution, it represents the shift from a nomadic way of life based on hunting and gathering many wild foods to a more settled way of life based on the cultivation of one or a few kinds of plants.  Settling down in villages led, in turn, to the rise of social inequality as chiefs, priests, warriors, artisans and peasants took up their duties. This tidy picture of seemingly inevitable social “progress” following the appearance of domesticated plants is challenged by a study of human remains from the Krieger site in southwestern Ontario published in the journal American Antiquity. The Krieger site was occupied by people of the Western Basin Tradition, a group that lived along the western margins of Lake Erie, including northwestern Ohio, eastern Michigan and southwestern Ontario, from A.D. 900 to 1600. The archaeological evidence indicates that the people of the Western Basin Tradition did not live in large villages and ate a wide variety of wild foods as well as some maize. The Royal Ontario Museum archaeologists who excavated the Krieger site in 1949, for example, did not find any substantial house structures, and garbage pits were filled with the bones of deer, black bear, dog, turtle, turkey and several species of fish. Therefore, most archaeologists assumed that agriculture couldn’t have been all that important to these people, since they still seemed to be living basically as hunters and gatherers. Christopher Watts, an archaeologist with the Royal Ontario Museum, along with Christine White and Fred Longstaffe of the University of Western Ontario, have made a discovery that challenges this assumption. They examined the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen isotopes present in the enamel of teeth from 10 individuals from the Krieger site. The differing amounts of the various isotopes indicate the kinds of food they ate during their lives. In stark contrast to what the archaeological evidence appears to show, Watts and his colleagues determined that the carbon isotopes present in the Kreiger site teeth indicated “a very high level of maize consumption.” In fact, the levels were “equivalent to that in many agricultural societies dependent on maize both in North America and in Mesoamerica.” Watts and his co-researchers offer a number of possible explanations for this anomaly. For example, it is possible that the Western Basin people were hunter-gatherers who traded with neighboring agricultural groups for their maize, but there is little or no other evidence for trade between these groups, which makes this explanation implausible. Instead, it appears that Western Basin people somehow incorporated intensive maize agriculture into their lives without substantively altering their traditional way of life. This upends the conventional model that the adoption of agriculture inexorably leads to social transformation. The Neolithic Revolution, it appears, was not an inevitable consequence of the adoption of agriculture. People had a choice in how they would accommodate technological innovations such as agriculture.