From museum to laptop: Visual leaf library a new tool for identifying plants

Read the full story from Penn State University.

Fossil plants reveal the evolution of green life on Earth, but the most abundant samples that are found — fossil leaves — are also the most challenging to identify. A large, open-access visual leaf library provides a new resource to help scientists recognize and classify these leaves.

Paleontology ‘a hotbed of unethical practices rooted in colonialism’, say scientists

Read the full story in The Guardian.

The public image of palaeontologists as dusty, but rather affable academics, could be due an update. The study of ancient life is a hotbed of unethical and inequitable scientific practices rooted in colonialism, which strip poorer countries of their fossil heritage, and devalue the contributions of local researchers, scientists say.

Writing in the journal Royal Society Open Science, an international team of palaeontologists argue that there has been a steady drain of plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, prehistoric spiders, and other fossils from poorer countries into foreign repositories or local private collections – despite laws and regulations introduced to try to conserve their heritage.

This app lets you see what Cahokia Mounds looked like 1,000 years ago

Read the full story from St. Louis Public Radio.

Visitors to Cahokia Mounds have always needed to rely on their imagination to picture what life looked like 1,000 years ago.

“There’s really nothing to look at outside of the interpretive center, except for the mounds that are left behind,” said site superintendent Lori Belknap.

But a new augmented reality app now allows visitors to visualize the scale of the ancient city built by the Mississippians, which had a population between 10,000 and 20,000 at its height.

Wisconsin historians seek to return dug-up human remains for Indigenous burials

Read the full story in the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Wisconsin was once home to about 20,000 ancient burial mounds, but only about 4,000 remain because of development, farming, erosion or looting during the past 200 years.

Many of the artifacts and human bones looted from the graves have since found their way into museums in the state, including the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum in Madison, which also acquired artifacts through its own past excavations, donations or purchases.

Today, museum officials are working to return certain artifacts, especially human remains, to their respective tribal nations for reburial, in accordance with the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

How rich countries skew the fossil record

Read the full story in Nature.

Scientists from wealthier nations in Europe and North America contribute the lion’s share of fossil data.

Descendents of Cahokia

How did people create Cahokia, an ancient American Indian metropolis near present-day St. Louis? And why did they abandon it? Archaeologists are piecing together the answers—but Cahokia’s story isn’t finished yet. Hear how an Osage anthropologist is protecting the remaining burial mounds and sacred shrines so the descendants of Cahokia’s founders can keep its legacy alive.

The hidden history of ancient artifacts

Read the full post from the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.

People have lived in DuPage County for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that some of the tools and objects they used are still being found in many DuPage forest preserves.

For decades curious people have searched for interesting things on the ground, often picking up objects and taking them home. But it is important to understand there are laws and considerations that apply to these objects.

The Moon’s Tears Fell on Cahokia

Presented Tim R. Pauketat, Director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Archaeologist, and a professor of Anthropology and Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

With the discovery of the first yellow-floored shrine house in 2000, archaeologists began to rethink the rise of one of North America’s most important ancient cultural phenomena—Greater Cahokia and its far-flung outposts or missions. This talk will take us from enigmatic Trempealeau, in Wisconsin, and the Emerald Acropolis, in Illinois, to the summit of the great earthen pyramid at Cahokia itself. In these places, new discoveries of aligned monuments, circular platform mounds, steam baths, causeways, and water features help to explain the rise and fall of a city and its possible ties to cultures far to the south.

Timothy R. Pauketat is the Director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Archaeologist, and a professor of Anthropology and Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He previously held positions at the University of Oklahoma and the State University of New York, Buffalo. Professor Pauketat has published extensively on his research at Cahokia, other Mississippian sites, and the continent as a whole. He has written or edited 17 books, including The Archaeology of Ancient North America (Cambridge 2020), Chiefdoms and Other Archaeological Delusions (AltaMira 2007), and Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi (Penguin, 2009). His current interests include the relationship of global history and humanity to matter and effects, with a focus on the Medieval Warm Period.

Recorded: November 18, 2021 | The Archaeological Conservancy 2021

Humans did not cause woolly mammoths to go extinct — climate change did

Read the full story from St John’s College, University of Cambridge.

Humans did not cause woolly mammoths to go extinct — climate change did. For five million years, woolly mammoths roamed the earth until they vanished for good nearly 4,000 years ago — and scientists have finally proved why. The hairy cousins of today’s elephants lived alongside early humans and were a regular staple of their diet — their skeletons were used to build shelters, harpoons were carved from their giant tusks, artwork featuring them is daubed on cave walls, and 30,000 years ago, the oldest known musical instrument, a flute, was made out of a mammoth bone.

What we don’t know about Illinois archaeology

Read the full story from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey.

Archaeology, like many disciplines, focuses mainly on expanding the horizons of what we know about the world and how it works. Archaeologists make and test hypotheses about past human beings and cultures using material remains (pottery, stone tools, plant remains, etc.) that are left behind in the archaeological record. In the process, we learn more about what people were up to in the past and how they responded to the geographic, environmental, and social conditions of the times. 

But how do we know what we don’t know? This is often a much more difficult question. Identifying gaps in knowledge and how they came to be even has its own field of study—agnotology.