Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArcheology

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND  Bobby a Skye Terrier monument

Can Myths About Dogs Give Us a Clue re Their Origins?

A French historian studies the relationship between ancient stories told about dogs and information from genetics and archeology

Just how and when dogs originated has been the subject of much research. In one account, “Dogs originated from wolves domesticated in Europe, 19,000-32,000 years ago,” based on DNA studies (2013). But other research points to many other possibilities: “Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia or Southeast Asia” some time between 10,000 and 38,000 years ago. Some think they were tamed twice. Historian Julien d’Huy of the College of France in Paris suggests another approach, looking at stories about dogs: “With mythology, we can have explanations of archaeology, we can have reasons for domestication, we can test hypotheses,” he says. D’Huy found three core storylines for the earliest myths related to dogs: The first links dogs with the afterlife,…

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Primeval Caveman Wearing Animal Skin Holds Stone Hammer Stands Near Cave and Looks Around Prehistoric Landscape, Ready to Hunt Animal Prey. Neanderthal Going Hunting into Jungle. Low Angle Shot

Fossil Scientists Ask, Could a Neanderthal Meditate?

A paleoneurology research team suggests they couldn’t. But how can the researchers be sure?

Paleoneurology — the study of the evolution of the brain — is the study of fossil brains of extinct life forms. The brain, as it happens, is “wetware” which doesn’t fossilize so paleoneurologists actually study endocasts (natural or virtual casts) of the interiors of skulls. They try to infer behavior, including language and technical competence from the casts. More ambitiously, neuroscientist Emiliano Bruner and psychologist Roberto Colom hope to probe the mind of Neanderthal man, who ranged across Eurasia from about 400,000 years ago through 40,000 years ago but now survives only in small percentages of the genome of the much larger modern human population. From detailed studies, Bruner and Colom conclude: This work proposes evolutionary changes in attention associated…

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image on the wall of the cave painted by an ancient man. ancient world history. era, era.

Why Is Neanderthal Art Considered Controversial?

It makes sense that whenever humans started to wonder about life, we started to create art that helps us think about it.

Science writer Michael Marshall, author of The Genesis Quest (2020), tells us that many paleontologists resist the idea that early humans called Neanderthals created any artworks. They prefer to attributed all such works to groups that arrived on the scene later. The trouble is, the dates are often hard to determine and the reasoning is sometimes circular. As Marshall puts it, “People had assumed that they could tell the age of cave paintings by the style in which it was depicted,” says [Alistair] Pike. Ever since the first prehistoric art was found in the late 1800s, there has been a sense that art should evolve linearly: the oldest pieces should be extremely simple and abstract, with later ones becoming more…

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Temple of Hathor, Dendera, Egypt

How Video Games Helped Researchers Unpack Real History

Experts in ancient Egyptian life helped game developer Ubisoft create Origins in 2017 and Ubisoft wanted to return the favor

The massive mysteries of ancient Egypt were undecipherable until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 because the meaning of the hieroglyphics in which the inscriptions were composed had been lost: The Stone featured text engraved in Egyptian hieroglyphs alongside easily recognized Greek from the 2nd century BC. It enabled a first stab at interpreting the mysterious older symbols. But there are a lot of symbols and only one Stone. So it has been slow work for centuries. A job for machine learning? In 2017, with much help from Egyptologists, game creator Ubisoft’s Montreal division released Assassin’s Creed: Origins, a game set in Egypt during the reign of Cleopatra (70/60–30 BC). The goal was to create authenticity as well…