Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Chronology


How were cities distributed globally in the past? How many people lived in these cities? How did cities influence their local and regional environments? In order to understand the current era of urbanization, we must understand long-term historical urbanization trends and patterns. However, to date there is no comprehensive record of spatially explicit, historic, city-level population data at the global scale. Here, we developed the first spatially explicit dataset of urban settlements from 3700 BC to AD 2000, by digitizing, transcribing, and geocoding historical, archaeological, and census-based urban population data previously published in tabular form by Chandler and Modelski. The dataset creation process also required data cleaning and harmonization procedures to make the data internally consistent. Additionally, we created a reliability ranking for each geocoded location to assess the geographic uncertainty of each data point. The dataset provides the first spatially explicit archive of the location and size of urban populations over the last 6,000 years and can contribute to an improved understanding of contemporary and historical urbanization trends.

Concepts: Statistics, Chronology, Demography, Geographic information system, City, Urban area, Urbanization, Anno Domini


The relative chronology of the Aegean Iron Age is robust. It is based on minute stylistic changes in the Submycenaean, Protogeometric and Geometric styles and their sub-phases. Yet, the absolute chronology of the time-span between the final stages of Late Helladic IIIC in the late second millennium BCE and the archaic colonization of Italy and Sicily toward the end of the 8(th) century BCE lacks archaeological contexts that can be directly related to events carrying absolute dates mentioned in Egyptian/Near Eastern historical sources, or to well-dated Egyptian/Near Eastern rulers. The small number of radiocarbon dates available for this time span is not sufficient to establish an absolute chronological sequence. Here we present a new set of short-lived radiocarbon dates from the sites of Lefkandi, Kalapodi and Corinth in Greece. We focus on the crucial transition from the Submycenaean to the Protogeometric periods. This transition is placed in the late 11(th) century BCE according to the Conventional Aegean Chronology and in the late 12(th) century BCE according to the High Aegean Chronology. Our results place it in the second half of the 11(th) century BCE.

Concepts: Time, Chronology, Iron Age, Mycenaean Greece, History of Greece, 2nd millennium BC, Helladic period, Mycenae


The Acheulean technological tradition, characterized by a large (>10 cm) flake-based component, represents a significant technological advance over the Oldowan. Although stone tool assemblages attributed to the Acheulean have been reported from as early as circa 1.6-1.75 Ma, the characteristics of these earliest occurrences and comparisons with later assemblages have not been reported in detail. Here, we provide a newly established chronometric calibration for the Acheulean assemblages of the Konso Formation, southern Ethiopia, which span the time period ∼1.75 to <1.0 Ma. The earliest Konso Acheulean is chronologically indistinguishable from the assemblage recently published as the world's earliest with an age of ∼1.75 Ma at Kokiselei, west of Lake Turkana, Kenya. This Konso assemblage is characterized by a combination of large picks and crude bifaces/unifaces made predominantly on large flake blanks. An increase in the number of flake scars was observed within the Konso Formation handaxe assemblages through time, but this was less so with picks. The Konso evidence suggests that both picks and handaxes were essential components of the Acheulean from its initial stages and that the two probably differed in function. The temporal refinement seen, especially in the handaxe forms at Konso, implies enhanced function through time, perhaps in processing carcasses with long and stable cutting edges. The documentation of the earliest Acheulean at ∼1.75 Ma in both northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia suggests that behavioral novelties were being established in a regional scale at that time, paralleling the emergence of Homo erectus-like hominid morphology.

Concepts: Time, Chronology, Ethiopia, Kenya, Periodization, Homo erectus, Lake Turkana, Turkana people


A long held view about the occupation of southern proto-Jê pit house villages of the southern Brazilian highlands is that these sites represent cycles of long-term abandonment and reoccupation. However, this assumption is based on an insufficient number of radiocarbon dates for individual pit houses. To address this problem, we conducted a programme of comprehensive AMS radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling at the deeply stratified oversized pit House 1, Baggio I site (Cal. A.D. 1395-1650), Campo Belo do Sul, Santa Catarina state, Brazil. The stratigraphy of House 1 revealed an unparalleled sequence of twelve well preserved floors evidencing a major change in occupation dynamics including five completely burnt collapsed roofs. The results of the radiocarbon dating allowed us to understand for the first time the occupation dynamics of an oversized pit house in the southern Brazilian highlands. The Bayesian model demonstrates that House 1 was occupied for over two centuries with no evidence of major periods of abandonment, calling into question previous models of long-term abandonment. In addition, the House 1 sequence allowed us to tie transformations in ceramic style and lithic technology to an absolute chronology. Finally, we can provide new evidence that the emergence of oversized domestic structures is a relatively recent phenomenon among the southern proto-Jê. As monumental pit houses start to be built, small pit houses continue to be inhabited, evidencing emerging disparities in domestic architecture after AD 1000. Our research shows the importance of programmes of intensive dating of individual structures to understand occupation dynamics and site permanence, and challenges long held assumptions that the southern Brazilian highlands were home to marginal cultures in the context of lowland South America.

Concepts: Chronology, House, Radiocarbon dating, Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, German Brazilian, Joinville, Yaodong


An annually resolved and absolutely dated ring-width chronology spanning 4,500 y has been constructed using subfossil, archaeological, and living-tree juniper samples from the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. The chronology represents changing mean annual precipitation and is most reliable after 1500 B.C. Reconstructed precipitation for this period displays a trend toward more moist conditions: the last 10-, 25-, and 50-y periods all appear to be the wettest in at least three and a half millennia. Notable historical dry periods occurred in the 4th century BCE and in the second half of the 15th century CE. The driest individual year reconstructed (since 1500 B.C.) is 1048 B.C., whereas the wettest is 2010. Precipitation variability in this region appears not to be associated with inferred changes in Asian monsoon intensity during recent millennia. The chronology displays a statistical association with the multidecadal and longer-term variability of reconstructed mean Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the last two millennia. This suggests that any further large-scale warming might be associated with even greater moisture supply in this region.

Concepts: Chronology, Precipitation, Climate, Tropical cyclone, Centuries, Monsoon, Global warming, Anno Domini


Current models of the peopling of the higher-elevation zones of the Tibetan Plateau postulate that permanent occupation could only have been facilitated by an agricultural lifeway at ~3.6 thousand calibrated carbon-14 years before present. Here we report a reanalysis of the chronology of the Chusang site, located on the central Tibetan Plateau at an elevation of ~4270 meters above sea level. The minimum age of the site is fixed at ~7.4 thousand years (thorium-230/uranium dating), with a maximum age between ~8.20 and 12.67 thousand calibrated carbon-14 years before present (carbon-14 assays). Travel cost modeling and archaeological data suggest that the site was part of an annual, permanent, preagricultural occupation of the central plateau. These findings challenge current models of the occupation of the Tibetan Plateau.

Concepts: Chronology, Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibet, Central Asia, Radiocarbon dating, Dendrochronology, Above mean sea level, Holocene calendar


Here we show theoretically that the history of solid growth during “rapid” solidification must be S-shaped, in accord with the constructal law of design in nature. In the beginning the rate of solidification increases and after reaching a maximum it decreases monotonically as the volume of solid tends toward a plateau. The S-history is a consequence of four configurations for the flow of heat from the solidification front to the subcooled surroundings, in this chronological order: solid spheres centered at nucleation sites, needles that invade longitudinally, radial growth by conduction, and finally radial lateral conduction to interstices that are warming up. The solid volume (Bs) vs time (t) is an S-curve because it is a power law of type Bs ~ t(n) where the exponent n first increases and then decreases in time (n = 3/2, 2, 1, …). The initial portion of the S curve is not an exponential.

Concepts: Time, Chronology, Sphere, History, Nucleation, Debut albums, Hyperbolic function, Sigmoid function


500 years of ancient Near Eastern history from the earlier second millennium BCE, including such pivotal figures as Hammurabi of Babylon, Šamši-Adad I (who conquered Aššur) and Zimrilim of Mari, has long floated in calendar time subject to rival chronological schemes up to 150+ years apart. Texts preserved on clay tablets provide much information, including some astronomical references, but despite 100+ years of scholarly effort, chronological resolution has proved impossible. Documents linked with specific Assyrian officials and rulers have been found and associated with archaeological wood samples at Kültepe and Acemhöyük in Turkey, and offer the potential to resolve this long-running problem. Here we show that previous work using tree-ring dating to place these timbers in absolute time has fundamental problems with key dendrochronological crossdates due to small sample numbers in overlapping years and insufficient critical assessment. To address, we have integrated secure dendrochronological sequences directly with radiocarbon (14C) measurements to achieve tightly resolved absolute (calendar) chronological associations and identify the secure links of this tree-ring chronology with the archaeological-historical evidence. The revised tree-ring-sequenced 14C time-series for Kültepe and Acemhöyük is compatible only with the so-called Middle Chronology and not with the rival High, Low or New Chronologies. This finding provides a robust resolution to a century of uncertainty in Mesopotamian chronology and scholarship, and a secure basis for construction of a coherent timeframe and history across the Near East and East Mediterranean in the earlier second millennium BCE. Our re-dating also affects an unusual tree-ring growth anomaly in wood from Porsuk, Turkey, previously tentatively associated with the Minoan eruption of the Santorini volcano. This tree-ring growth anomaly is now directly dated ~1681-1673 BCE (68.2% highest posterior density range), ~20 years earlier than previous assessments, indicating that it likely has no association with the subsequent Santorini volcanic eruption.

Concepts: Time, Chronology, Volcano, Minoan civilization, Mesopotamia, Santorini, Ancient Near East, Minoan eruption


The recent establishment of a minimum age estimate of 39.9 ka for the origin of rock art in Sulawesi has challenged claims that Western Europe was the locus for the production of the world’s earliest art assemblages. Tantalising excavated evidence found across northern Australian suggests that Australia too contains a wealth of ancient art. However, the dating of rock art itself remains the greatest obstacle to be addressed if the significance of Australian assemblages are to be recognised on the world stage. A recent archaeological project in the northwest Kimberley trialled three dating techniques in order to establish chronological markers for the proposed, regional, relative stylistic sequence. Applications using optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) provided nine minimum age estimates for fossilised mudwasp nests overlying a range of rock art styles, while Accelerator Mass Spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14C) results provided an additional four. Results confirm that at least one phase of the northwest Kimberley rock art assemblage is Pleistocene in origin. A complete motif located on the ceiling of a rockshelter returned a minimum age estimate of 16 ± 1 ka. Further, our results demonstrate the inherent problems in relying solely on stylistic classifications to order rock art assemblages into temporal sequences. An earlier than expected minimum age estimate for one style and a maximum age estimate for another together illustrate that the Holocene Kimberley rock art sequence is likely to be far more complex than generally accepted with different styles produced contemporaneously well into the last few millennia. It is evident that reliance on techniques that produce minimum age estimates means that many more dating programs will need to be undertaken before the stylistic sequence can be securely dated.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Estimator, Mass spectrometry, Chronology, Mathematical analysis, Carbon-14, Accelerator mass spectrometry, Geologic time scale


The Egyptian state was formed prior to the existence of verifiable historical records. Conventional dates for its formation are based on the relative ordering of artefacts. This approach is no longer considered sufficient for cogent historical analysis. Here, we produce an absolute chronology for Early Egypt by combining radiocarbon and archaeological evidence within a Bayesian paradigm. Our data cover the full trajectory of Egyptian state formation and indicate that the process occurred more rapidly than previously thought. We provide a timeline for the First Dynasty of Egypt of generational-scale resolution that concurs with prevailing archaeological analysis and produce a chronometric date for the foundation of Egypt that distinguishes between historical estimates.

Concepts: Chronology, Greek loanwords, Statistical inference, History, Egyptians, Archaeology, Egyptology, Early Dynastic Period of Egypt