From Middle Stone Age ochre to Nazi loot, the biggest history stories of the last seven days.
Middle Stone Age Humans used Ochre for Millennia
A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE claims that Middle Stone Age humans living in a cave in what is now Ethiopia were using ochre for at least 4,500 years.
An iron-rich rock, ochre is a common find at many Middle Stone Age sites. The Porc-Epic cave in Ethiopia contains the largest collection of ochre from the period, weighing 40 kg and believed to date to 40,000 years ago. The authors of the PLOS ONE study conducted a detailed analysis of 3792 pieces of ochre from Porc-Epic, using microscopy and experimental reproduction of grinding techniques to assess how the ochre had been processed and used over a period of 4,500 years.
The researchers, led by Daniela Rosso from the University of Barcelona, Spain, found that the inhabitants of the cave persistently and consistently acquired, processed and used the same types of ochre throughout the period.
Around 50% of the ochre pieces discovered had been modified by the prehistoric inhabitants, but the team also found that as time went on the inhabitants processed less ochre. The forms of modification also changed, with flaking and scraping becoming more popular while grinding became less so. These gradual changes in processing techniques could be explained by “cultural shifts”, according to the researchers.
The authors state that their analysis of ochre treatments suggests a “cohesive behavioral system shared by all community members and consistently transmitted through time.”
Two Missing B-25s Documented
Two B-25 bombers, believed to be linked to missing US service personnel, have been documented in the waters off Papua New Guinea.
The findings are part of Project Recover, a collaboration between marine scientists, archaeologists and volunteers to find US military aircraft and associated MIAs from World War Two.
Searching over an area of 10 km2, Project Recover unearthed a B-25 that had been missing for over 70 years, one which is linked with a crew of six MIAs.
“People have this mental image of an airplane resting intact on the sea floor, but the reality is that most planes were often already damaged before crashing, or broke up upon impact. And, after soaking in the sea for decades, they are often unrecognisable to the untrained eye, often covered in corals and other sea-life,” said Katy O’Connell, Project Recover’s Executive Director, who is based at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. “Our use of advanced technologies, which led to the discovery of the B-25, enables us to accelerate and enhance the discovery and eventual recovery of our missing servicemen.”
Former Nazi Loot Goes to Auction
80 years after being looted by the Nazis, an Italian masterpiece is set for auction at Sotheby’s in London, according to the Guardian.
Depicting a stunning view of Venice, La Punta della Dogana e san Giorgio Maggiore was painted in 1739 by Michele Marieschi.
In 1938 the painting belonged to the Grafs, a Viennese Jewish family who fled Austria after the country was annexed by Nazi Germany. Forced to leave their valued artwork behind, they searched in vain after the war for their lost masterpiece.
In 1998, it was revealed that Christie’s knew the whereabouts of the painting, but could not disclose the information due to client confidentiality rules. After years of negotiation a settlement has finally been agreed with the descendants of the Graf family. Although the exact terms have not been disclosed, the painting will have to be sold so the current owners can receive a ‘significant’ sum in compensation, according to the Guardian.
Going to auction on 5th July, the picture is expected to fetch somewhere between £500,000 and £700,000.
Image courtesy of Project Recover