DENMARK: Domestic cats were introduced into Denmark during the first few centuries A.D. For the past 2,000 years, they have been used by humans in various ways: as a source of fur, as pest control, and as family pets. A new study has shown that during this span of time, especially from the Viking Age until now, cats have increased dramatically in size. This is contrary to tendencies observed in other mammal species, such as sheep, cattle, and dogs, which have historically grown smaller after domestication.


Egypt's Eternal City
Once the most sacred site on the Nile, Heliopolis was all but forgotten until archaeologists returned to save it from disappearing forever

Sicily's Lost Theater
Archaeologists resume the search for the home of drama in a majestic Greek sanctuary

A Memory of Home
A volcanic eruption forced the people of Ecuador’s Jama Valley to abandon their homeland. What brought them back?

Between Two Empires
Exploring the extensive remains of a short-lived city that flourished during a turbulent era of ancient Near Eastern history

Art at the End of the Ice Age
​Newly discovered engraved stone tablets are evidence that a prehistoric tradition endured long after it was thought to have vanished

April 27, 2019
​​Dr. John Schultz, Professor at the University of Central Florida

The Application of Archaeological Methods for Forensic Archeological Research

Dr. John Schultz is a biological anthropologist with specializations in forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology. He is also a consulting forensic anthropologist for the Districts 9 and 25 Medical Examiner’s Office.  His projects have addressed search and recovery issues involving decomposing bodies and skeletal remains in order to develop evidence-based guidelines for forensic practitioners.              


Changes in Diet May Have Fostered Changes in Speech

Friday, March 15, 2019

May 18, 2019
​​Dr. Keith Ashley, Professor at the University of North Florida

Mocama Indians and Spanish Missions: Life Beneath the Bell

This lecture will present a discussion of two research projects that involve incorporating archaeological methods for crime scene reconstruction. The first project used game cameras and GIS to understand the impact of vulture scavenging at scenes involving decomposing bodies.  A number of scenarios were constructed to determine how scene variables affected dispersal of remains.  The second research project used photogrammetry to document mock scenes to develop guidelines for improving documentation of scene context at forensic scenes with skeletal remains. 

Scientists Track Cahokia’s Population Levels With Waste

​Tuesday, February 26, 2019

(Photo by Richard Estrada)

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MEETINGS LOCATION: ​University of North Florida, Social Sciences Building 51 ​​​ 
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ZURICH, SWITZERLAND—According to a report in Science, the spread of agriculture and consumption of easier-to-chew foods may have led to changes in human jaws and their arrangement of teeth, which in turn allowed people to make new sounds and create new words. 

In the 1980s, linguist Charles Hockett suggested that chewing tough, gritty food would have put force on hunter-gatherers’ lower jaws, making the bone grow larger so that the upper and lower teeth aligned in an “edge-to-edge” bite. Such a bite would have made it hard to push the upper jaw forward to make the sounds “f” and “v,” Hockett reasoned. Linguist Balthasar Bickel of the University of Zurich and his colleagues used computer models to test this idea and compare how such sounds, known as labiodentals, are made with an edge-to-edge bite and with the overbites that developed in people who lived in agricultural societies. Bickel suspects “f” and “v” sounds were first made accidentally by wealthy people who ate soft foods.

​The researchers also examined hunter-gatherer languages, and found that hunter-gatherers use about one-fourth of the labiodentals that farming societies do. Bickel’s colleague Steven Moran pointed out that, with the ability to make new sounds came new problems. “Our lower jaws are shorter,” he said, “we have impacted wisdom teeth, more crowding—and cavities.” To read about an archaeological mystery involving teeth, go to “The Case of the Missing Incisors.”

Keith Ashley is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and the University of North Florida. He grew up in northern Florida and moved north to attend Auburn University, where he received a BA in Anthropology. Keith returned to the sunshine state to earn a MS from Florida State University and a PH.D. from the University of Florida.  Over the past 20 years, he has been involved in archaeological excavation and research throughout the southeastern United State.  Field projects have ranged from 4000 year old shell middens along the Atlantic coast to 17th century Creek Indian villages in central Alabama. Dr. Ashley's current research focuses on the archaeology of Native Americans in northeastern Florida before and after European contact. 

When most people think of Spanish Missions, they think of California, New Mexico, or even Texas. What many do not realize is that the Spanish Mission system in Florida occurred earlier and lasted longer than it did in any of those other areas. Among the Mocama-speaking Timucua of northeastern Florida, mission communities existed between 1587 and 1702. This lecture discusses Mocama life under the mission bell, with emphasis on archaeological excavations at San Juan del Puerto and Santa Cruz de Guadalquini in Jacksonville. 

NEW MEXICO: Between 1540 and 1542, Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored northern Mexico and the American Southwest. Although it had been theorized that he passed through the area of today’s Coronado Historic Site near Albuquerque, no tangible evidence of his presence had ever been uncovered. A recent large-scale metal-detecting survey has recovered Spanish nails, crossbow bolt heads, lead shot, chain mail, and other European-made equipment. These artifacts definitively link the Spaniard’s expedition to the site, where he likely clashed with the local Kuaua Pueblo people.

MADISON, WISCONSIN—The Independent reports that Sissel Schroeder of the University of Wisconsin and her colleagues analyzed fecal stanols found in sediment cores taken from Illinois’ Horseshoe Lake to track population changes at Cahokia, an ancient city on the Mississippi River. Fecal stanols are produced in the human gut during digestion and are eliminated from the body as waste. Archaeological evidence suggests the population of Cahokia grew between A.D. 600 and 1100, was in decline by 1200, and that the city had been abandoned by 1400.

The team, which also included AJ White of California State University, suggests that when the ancient city's population was higher, more human waste would be expected to have washed into Horseshoe Lake, leaving behind higher levels of stanols. Schroeder said the concentration of fecal stanols in the different layers of the sediment cores did rise and fall over time in accord with previous population estimates. The researchers tied their population study to an earlier one that found evidence of significant Mississippi River flooding around A.D. 1150, and they looked for additional evidence of changing climate conditions in the form of different levels of oxygen isotopes in the sediment cores. They found a likely drop in summer rainfall, which was necessary for farming, at about the time Cahokia began to decline.

For more, go to “Breaking Cahokia’s Glass Ceiling.”


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