A 3,400 year old song.
For fifteen years Prof. Anne Draffkorn Kilmer puzzled over clay tablets relating to music including some excavated in Syria by French archaeologists in the early ’50s. The tablets from the Syrian city of ancient Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra) were about 3400 years old, had markings called cuneiform signs in the Hurrian language (with borrowed Akkadian terms) that provided a form of musical notation. One of the texts formed a complete cult hymn and is the oldest preserved song with notation in the world. Finally in 1972, Kilmer, who is professor of Assyriology, University of California, and a curator at the Lowie Museum of Anthropology at Berkeley, developed an interpretation of the song based on her study of the notation. (Fig. 1).
The top parts were the words and the bottom half instructions for playing the music. Kilmer, working with colleagues Richard L. Crocker and Robert R. Brown produced a record and booklet about the song called Sounds From Silence.
The song, it turns out, is in the equivalent of the diatonic “major” (“do, re, mi”) scale. In addition, as Kilmer points out: “We are able to match the number of syllables in the text of the song with the number of notes indicated by the musical notations”. This approach produces harmonies rather than a melody of single notes. The chances the number of syllables would match the notation numbers without intention are astronomical.
This evidence both the 7-note diatonic scale as well as harmony existed 3,400 years ago flies in the face of most musicologists’ views that ancient harmony was virtually non-existent (or even impossible) and the scale only about as old as the Ancient Greeks, 2000 years ago. Said Crocker: “This has revolutionized the whole concept of the origin of western music.”
The discovery of the oldest known human excrement fossil is offering valuable scientific insight into the life of Neanderthals who lived in Spain some 50,000 years ago.
Scientists said Wednesday that they found five samples of human fecal matter at an archaeological site called El Salt, in the floor of a rock shelter where Neanderthals once lived.
Analysis of the samples provided a new understanding of the diet of this extinct human species, offering the first evidence that Neanderthals were omnivores who also ate vegetables as part of their meat-heavy diet, they said.
Depends on the sub-field of anthropology. For archaeology, I recommend geology or any earth science. For cultural, probably psychology or sociology. For physical, definitely biology.
The Meanings of Chimpanzee Gestures
Chimpanzees’ use of gesture was described in the first detailed field study [ 1, 2 ], and natural use of specific gestures has been analyzed [ 3–5 ]. However, it was systematic work with captive groups that revealed compelling evidence that chimpanzees use gestures to communicate in a flexible, goal-oriented, and intentional fashion [ 6–8 ], replicated across all great ape species in captivity [ 9–17 ] and chimpanzees in the wild [ 18, 19 ]. All of these aspects overlap with human language but are apparently missing in most animal communication systems, including great ape vocalization, where extensive study has produced meager evidence for intentional use ([ 20 ], but see [ 21, 22 ]). Findings about great ape gestures spurred interest in a potential common ancestral origin with components of human language [ 23–25 ]. Of particular interest, given the relevance to language origins, is the question of what chimpanzees intend their gestures to mean; surprisingly, the matter of what the intentional signals are used to achieve has been largely neglected. Here we present the first systematic study of meaning in chimpanzee gestural communication. Individual gestures have specific meanings, independently of signaler identity, and we provide a partial “lexicon”; flexibility is predominantly in the use of multiple gestures for a specific meaning. We distinguish a range of meanings, from simple requests associated with just a few gestures to broader social negotiation associated with a wider range of gesture types. Access to a range of alternatives may increase communicative subtlety during important social negotiations.
Are Emotions Just Electrical Impulses?
Scientists believe all mental processes can be converted into a simple binary code of ones and zeroes - using this code, researchers at USC have built microchips that restore memory in rats (3:19)
Scientists: Human Muscles May be Just as Unique as Brain
Dr Khaitovich and his colleagues investigated the evolution of metabolites – small molecules like sugars, vitamins, amino acids and neurotransmitters that represent key elements of human physiological functions.
“Metabolites are more dynamic than the genome and they can give us more information about what makes us human. It is also commonly known that the human brain consumes way more energy than the brains of other species; we were curious to see which metabolic processes this involves,” said Dr Khaitovich, who is the senior author of a paper published in the open-access journal PLoS Biology.
TED-Ed | How languages evolve - Alex Gendler
X-ray of a hand from infancy into adulthood.