Archaeology

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to go back 30,000 to 50,000 years and meet the humans and Neanderthals who walked the earth? So many mysteries would be answered about how they lived and what their societies were like. We can’t talk to them, but maybe we can hear some of their music.

Archeologists have been studying ancient bone flutes of humans from that era and making reconstructions that can played, at least in the right hands.

The making and drinking of alcoholic beverages dates back thousands of years, and may be as old as the human race, itself.
Public Domain

Which is older – beer or wine? And just how old is that? Based on the fact that some modern primates consume naturally fermented fruit juices, chances are good that the tradition of drinking alcoholic beverages is as old as the human race. But the earliest versions might best be described as “extreme beverages” made from combinations of ingredients that would seem bizarre by today’s standards.

Antikythera team members Nikolas Giannoulakis, Theotokis Theodoulou, and Brendan Foley inspect small finds from the Shipwreck while decompressing after a dive to 50 m (265 feet).
Brett Seymour / EUA/WHOI/ARGO

Archeologists have discovered a second shipwreck at the site of the Greek wreck known as the Antikythera. That site became famous for the oldest-known computer, dating back to 65 B.C. But underwater archeologist Brendan Foley of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution suspected the wreck had more to offer.
 

National Archaeological Museum, Athens

The tools of archeology used to be simple: shovels, picks, brushes. Sure, those are still an essential part of the toolbox. But today’s archeologists are also using everything from underwater jet packs to infrared satellite imaging to probe more deeply into our collective past.

What do we get for all this technology?

Nothing less than the very thing that makes us human, argues Brendan Foley, an underwater archeologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

"Is it a return on investment? Is it our stock portfolio?" he asks.

J. J.

Music has been called the universal language and noted as one of the things that make humans distinct. But when did we first make music?

A fragment of the Antikythera Mechanism - an analog computer used to predict astronomical events. The mechanism dates back to the first century BCE and was found on the wreck of the Antikythera.
Wikimedia Commons

A century ago, shipwreck exploration was more about treasure hunting than science. Not so today.

Shipwrecks are like time capsules – windows into the technology, cuisine, culture and trade of the past. And they often offer finds - both academic and tangible - not available on land.

Take a typical archaeological site in Greece as an example. The rubble of thousands of years of occupation, with all the different activities of daily life, may be crammed - even jumbled - into the space of several centimeters of soil. Items made of precious materials are often lost to reuse.