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

Concept: Cradle of civilization


Ancient DNA methodology was applied to analyse sequences extracted from freshly unearthed remains (teeth) of 4 individuals deeply deposited in slightly alkaline soil of the Tell Ashara (ancient Terqa) and Tell Masaikh (ancient Kar-Assurnasirpal) Syrian archaeological sites, both in the middle Euphrates valley. Dated to the period between 2.5 Kyrs BC and 0.5 Kyrs AD the studied individuals carried mtDNA haplotypes corresponding to the M4b1, M49 and/or M61 haplogroups, which are believed to have arisen in the area of the Indian subcontinent during the Upper Paleolithic and are absent in people living today in Syria. However, they are present in people inhabiting today’s Tibet, Himalayas, India and Pakistan. We anticipate that the analysed remains from Mesopotamia belonged to people with genetic affinity to the Indian subcontinent since the distribution of identified ancient haplotypes indicates solid link with populations from the region of South Asia-Tibet (Trans-Himalaya). They may have been descendants of migrants from much earlier times, spreading the clades of the macrohaplogroup M throughout Eurasia and founding regional Mesopotamian groups like that of Terqa or just merchants moving along trade routes passing near or through the region. None of the successfully identified nuclear alleles turned out to be ΔF508 CFTR, LCT-13910T or Δ32 CCR5.

Concepts: Indian subcontinent, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Syria, Ancient history, Mesopotamia, Ancient Near East, Cradle of civilization


Pottery was a traditional art and technology form in pre-colonial Amazonian civilizations, widely used for cultural expression objects, utensils and as cooking vessels. Abundance and workability of clay made it an excellent choice. However, inferior mechanical properties constrained their functionality and durability. The inclusion of reinforcement particles is a possible route to improve its resistance to mechanical and thermal damage. The Amazonian civilizations incorporated freshwater tree sponge spicules (cauixí) into the clay presumably to prevent shrinkage and crack propagation during drying, firing and cooking. Here we show that isolated siliceous spicules are almost defect-free glass fibres with exceptional mechanical stability. After firing, the spicule Young’s modulus increases (from 28 ± 5 GPa to 46 ± 8 GPa) inferring a toughness increment. Laboratory-fabricated ceramic models containing different inclusions (sand, glass-fibres, sponge spicules) show that mutually-oriented siliceous spicule inclusions prevent shrinkage and crack propagation leading to high stiffness clays (E = 836 ± 3 MPa). Pre-colonial amazonian potters were the first civilization known to employ biological materials to generate composite materials with enhanced fracture resistance and high stiffness in the history of mankind.

Concepts: Pascal, Young's modulus, Pottery, Ceramic, Civilization, Clay, Spicule, Cradle of civilization


The collapse and resilience of political systems in the ancient Near East and their relationship with agricultural development have been of wide interest in archaeology and anthropology. Despite attempts to link the archaeological evidence to local paleoclimate data, the precise role of environmental conditions in ancient agricultural production remains poorly understood. Recently, stable isotope analysis has been used for reconstructing site-specific ancient growing conditions for crop species in semiarid and arid landscapes. To open the discussion of the role of regional diversity in past agricultural production as a factor in societal development, we present 1.037 new stable carbon isotope measurements from 33 archaeological sites and modern fields in the geographic area of the Fertile Crescent, spanning the Aceramic Neolithic [10,000 calibrated years (cal) B.C.] to the later Iron Age (500 cal B.C.), alongside modern data from 13 locations. Our data show that drought stress was an issue in many agricultural settlements in the ancient Near East, particularly in correlation with the major Holocene climatic fluctuations, but its regional impact was diverse and influenced by geographic factors. Although cereals growing in the coastal areas of the northern Levant were relatively unaffected by Holocene climatic fluctuations, farmers of regions further inland had to apply irrigation to cope with increased water stress. However, inland agricultural strategies showed a high degree of variability. Our findings suggest that regional differences in climatic effects led to diversified strategies in ancient subsistence and economy even within spatially limited cultural units.

Concepts: Agriculture, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Near East, Levant, Mesopotamia, Ancient Near East, Cradle of civilization


The appearance of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent propelled the development of Western civilization. Here we investigate the evolution of agronomic conditions in this region by reconstructing cereal kernel weight and using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures of kernels and charcoal from a set of 11 Upper Mesopotamia archaeological sites, with chronologies spanning from the onset of agriculture to the turn of the era. We show that water availability for crops, inferred from carbon isotope discrimination (Δ(13)C), was two- to fourfold higher in the past than at present, with a maximum between 10,000 and 8,000 cal BP. Nitrogen isotope composition (δ(15)N) decreased over time, which suggests cultivation occurring under gradually less-fertile soil conditions. Domesticated cereals showed a progressive increase in kernel weight over several millennia following domestication. Our results provide a first comprehensive view of agricultural evolution in the Near East inferred directly from archaeobotanical remains.

Concepts: Agriculture, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Iraq, Near East, Mesopotamia, Ancient Near East, Cradle of civilization


Southeastern Anatolia is the smallest, yet the most densely populated region among the seven major geographic constituents of Turkey. Situated in the Upper Mesopotamia, Southeastern Anatolia was also the northernmost extension of the Fertile Crescent, which is often considered as the earliest cradle of civilisation.

Concepts: Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Iraq, Near East, Syria, Mesopotamia, Ancient Near East, Cradle of civilization


Scurvy is a disease that played an important role in ancient history and used to be a notorious cause of death in sailors. Nowadays, scurvy is not a common diagnosis in the civilized world, but this case report indicates that this old-fashioned disease is not extinct at all and still exists but in a different patient category.

Concepts: Medical terms, China, History, Ancient Egypt, Civilization, Ancient Rome, Ancient Near East, Cradle of civilization


The quest for beauty has been a constant theme in human history since the earliest civilizations. The QUEST Observatory, an online observational study, investigated how women continue the pursuit of beauty in the 21st century by examining women’s perceptions of facial attractiveness and the strategies they adopt to combat the effects of time on their faces.

Concepts: Agriculture, Observational study, 21st century, Military, Civilization, Quest, Cradle of civilization, History of the world


Consumption of medicinal plants to overcome diseases is traditionally belongs to the characteristics of most cultures on this earth. Sudan has been a host and cradle to various ancient civilizations and developed a vast knowledge on traditional medicinal plants. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the antioxidant, antiangiogenic and cytotoxic activities of six Sudanese medicinal plants which have been traditionally used to treat neoplasia. Further the biological activities were correlated with phytochemical contents of the plant extracts.

Concepts: Medicine, Infectious disease, Organism, Antioxidant, Fungus, Civilization, Folklore, Cradle of civilization


Recent analyses of ancient Mesopotamian mitochondrial genomes have suggested a genetic link between the Indian subcontinent and Mesopotamian civilization. There is no consensus on the origin of the ancient Mesopotamians. They may be descendants of migrants, who founded regional Mesopotamian groups like that of Terqa or they may be merchants who were involved in trans Mesopotamia trade. To identify the Indian source population showing linkage to the ancient Mesopotamians, we screened a total of 15,751 mitochondrial DNAs (11,432 from the literature and 4,319 from this study) representing all major populations of India. Our results although suggest that south India (Tamil Nadu) and northeast India served as the source of the ancient Mesopotamian mtDNA gene pool, mtDNA of these ancient Mesopotamians probably contributed by Tamil merchants who were involved in the Indo-Roman trade.

Concepts: India, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu, Ancient history, Mesopotamia, Indus Valley Civilization, Ancient Near East, Cradle of civilization


Both the history of headache and the practice of craniotomy can be traced to antiquity. From ancient times through the present day, numerous civilizations and scholars have performed craniotomy in attempts to treat headache. Today, surgical intervention for headache management is becoming increasingly more common due to improved technology and greater understanding of headache. By tracing the evolution of the understanding of headache alongside the practice of craniotomy, investigators can better evaluate the mechanisms of headache and the therapeutic treatments used today.

Concepts: Time, China, History, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, Alexander the Great, Ancient history, Cradle of civilization