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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Carved Coral Helps Date the Peopling of Polynesia
7 November 2012 5:00 pm
From rats to bacteria, researchers have traced the spread of all sorts of critters to figure out when the first intrepid humans reached the islands of Polynesia, one of the last places on Earth to be settled by people. Next up: coral. Archaeologists are dating tools made of coral to pinpoint precisely when humans occupied the oldest known archaeological site in remote Oceania—Nukuleka, on the island of Tongatapu in the island Kingdom of Tonga. At Nukuleka in the past, archaeologists have relied on radiocarbon dates of wood associated with distinctive Lapita earthenware pottery: the red, stamped ceramics left behind by the first seafarers, who swept out of Southeast Asia and into Polynesia. But these dates haven't been particularly reliable. Now, archaeologist David Burley from Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, in Canada and two Australian colleagues have dated coral files that the early settlers used to smooth and sculpt the surfaces of wood and shell artifacts. Using uranium-thorium dating on the coral, they found that the files were made between 2830 and 2846 years ago—a remarkably precise 16-year window—the researchers report today in PLOS ONE. Because these early settlers left a trail of coral files throughout Oceania, this new method "provides significant new opportunities for our understanding of the exploration and settlement of the far distant islands spread across the South Pacific," Burley says.
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