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The chemical composition of jasper varies depending on its origin. To figure out where the larger jasper fire starter came from, archaeologists looked for outcrops in the New or Old World that chemically matched it. They compared the fire starter with geological samples using a handheld X-ray fluorescence device that can detect the chemical signature of jasper. The results suggested the jasper originated from the area of Notre Dame Bay, somewhere along a 71 km stretch of the coast.

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The closest chemical match was to a geological sample from modern-day Fortune Harbor. Different tests run in on the second, smaller jasper piece piece suggested that it also came from the Notre Dame Bay area. As told in a study published in the June 3, , edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of sciences, a team of researchers from France and the United States uncovered evidence for the earliest winemaking industry in France, a country long known for its preeminence in the production of fine wines.

According to the lead author of this study, Dr. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology,June 10, the evidence points to the Etruscans as the origin of the French winemaking tradition. While investigating the ancient port site of Lattara in southern France, archaeologists uncovered imported ancient Etruscan amphorae and a limestone press platform. They were found within what was identified as merchant quarters inside a walled settlement dated to between and BC.

What they found was that all samples tested positive for a biomarker compound for Eurasian grape and wine indigenous to the Middle East and Mediterranean. The ancient pressing platform found nearby, dated to BC, also showed clear evidence of the compound, indicating that it was likely part of a winepress installation.

D. L. Lang

Earlier research found several thousand domesticated grape seeds, flower stems, and skin near the press find, reinforcing the suggestion that the early French used it for crushing domesticated grapes for local wine production. This is the first clear evidence of winemaking on French soil, and points to Etruscan origin and influence. Historians trace the origins of viniculture, or winemaking, to the ancient Near East around to BC. Researchers have found evidence for the earliest wine at the site of Hajji Firiz in what is now northern Iran, dating to around to BC.

The forerunners of the pharaohs first imported wine into Egypt from other locations in the Near East in the Protodynastic Period, around BC. As the earliest merchant seafarers, the Canaanites were also able to take the wine culture out across the Mediterranean Sea, where it shows up on the island of Crete by BC. Our final story is from Mexico, where repair work to a water pipe line at the pre-Hispanic site of Piedra Labrada, in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero, has revealed an ancient granite statue representing a decapitated Mesoamerican ball player.

The 5-foot-4 inch tall sculpture dates back at least 1, years and portrays a bow-legged individual with his arms crossed. Mesoamericans painted sculptures and objects in red and then killed them by breaking them in pieces. They used them as offerings for the end of the calendar cycle rituals and then buried them.

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According to Juan Pablo Sereno Uribe, an archaeologist at the National Institute of Anthropology and History, that statues attributes indicated that it is a ball player. He wears a carved helmet on his head, while his waist features a yugo. This is like a belt but stronger and designed to protect this part of the body during the ball game. Excavators found the statue in two pieces, the head sliced at the neck, as in a decapitation.

The Piedra Labrada site has so far revealed 50 buildings, five ball game courts and more than 20 sculptures of various sizes depicting anthropomorphic figures, snake heads and snails.

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Historians know little about the game played at the courts. They know that the players used a very heavy ball made with rubber and they moved the ball from one side to the other of the court. Most commonly player struct the ball only with the hips, although some versions allowed the use of forearms, rackets, bats, or handstones. Indigenous people in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa still play a version of this game called ulama.

I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from May 26th to June 1st, In our first story, South Africa has discovered a towering rain control site, where shamans asked the gods centuries ago to open up the skies. Located in a semiarid area of the country, near Botswana and Zimbabwe, the site of Ratho Kroonkop sits on a hill that contains two naturally formed deep pits in the underlying sandstone of the hill.

The pits or sinkholes were created when water weakened and eroded the rock. When the scientists excavated the soil now filling one of these pits, they found the remains of over 30, animals, including the remains of rhinoceros, zebra and even giraffe.

According to researcher Simone Brunton, a doctoral candidate at the University of Cape Town, what makes this site special is that every piece of faunal material found is in some way linked to rain control. The shamans, or religious leaders, would have ascended to the top of Ratho Kroonkop through natural tunnels in the rock. When they reached the top of the hill, they lit a fire to burn the animal remains as part of their rainmaking rituals. The people who conducted these rituals were from the San, an indigenous group in southern Africa who lived as hunter-gatherers.

According to Brunton, they were San rain controllers employed by the farmers to control the rain.

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The farmers, in turn, depended on their chief to make sure this arrangement went smoothly and that they did get rain. Access to the rain-control site would have been strictly controlled. The shaman or ritual specialist was usually the only one directly involved with the actual doing of the rituals, and it was strictly forbidden for normal folks to go near the site.

Located away from society, the site was seen as very dangerous and any interference would cause the gods to be angry.

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Ethnographic research established the link between different animals found at Ratho Kroonkop and their role in rainmaking. For example, rhinoceros remains the team found were mainly from the animal's lower extremities. People were taking the lower parts of the rhinoceros, in the region of the leg and thighs. These parts of the animal contain a lot of fat and meat, linked to potency and power. Other animals were sacrificed for their fat. Many San believed the fat contained a high concentration of supernatural potency. Fatty creatures found at the site include the rock hyrax, a bushpig and what might be the remains of an eland.

In San cosmology, the eland was the most potent animal; according to Brunton, killing one would give the shaman immense power to ask the ancestors for rain. Maria Schoeman, Brunton's supervisor and co-author of the study, originally surveyed the area as part of her doctoral work. Researchers originally were interested in the site because they found rock art at the bottom of the hill and decided to investigate it further.

Dating the excavated rock tank has proven difficult, as it contains a termite mound, and the insects may have moved some of the smaller objects. It's also possible that Ratho Kroonkop was used as a rain-control site before the rock tank was in use. Brunton said the history of the region, and the rock art at the site, may provide clues as to exactly how long the site was in use.

Hunter-gatherers possibly used the site for many years, as there is San rock art at the bottom of the hill. By AD , farmers had entered the area. According to Brunton, they knew that the site was sacred, and would hire the San shamans to control the rain, but also left their own marks on the site by painting their own sacred animals over the San art. In the United States, at its peak, the Cahokia Mounds was the epicenter of ancient Mississippian culture. In AD , Cahokia had a population of 20,, making it larger than London at that time.

Cahokia had every marking of a large city, such as population density and surplus capital: everything but writing. Now, a group of archaeologists from the University of Bologna in Italy is unearthing the mounds, trying to learn more about how civilizations develop such complexity. Davide Domenici, professor at the University of Bologna, has been visiting and studying these mounds for the past three years.

According to him, usually archaeologists think that ancient North American societies were fairly simple, but Cahokia is actually an example of some kind of political complexity. Can we call it a state; can we call it chiefdom? However, by studying this complexity, he hopes to help understand paths to political complexities that were quite different from those in other parts of the world.

Cahokia has the largest examples of earthworks north of Mexico, where Domenici has previously done much of his research.