Pieces of the Past

Dragon Man and more: Understand the ancient world through 9 images

Meet your new ancestors.

Chuang Zhao

Shutterstock

The ancient human dubbed “Dragon Man” captured headlines last month, but he was just one of many discoveries made in June that explained the ancient world.

Here are June’s biggest archaeological finds told in 9 images

Shutterstock

9. Ancient lighting methods

Medina-Alcaide et al, 2021, PLOS ONE

June 19

Researchers in Spain tested out different lighting methods to figure out how ancient painters were able to see in dark caves: via fireplaces, torches, or stone lamps. The latter two were most promising in their tests, but the researchers say all three have benefits and drawbacks.

Medina-Alcaide et al, 2021, PLOS ONE

8. Mementos from loved ones

Broxmouth Project archive

June 21

Artifacts from Iron Age-era Scotland revealed ancient humans likely kept tokens to remind them of their deceased loved ones. Archaeologists uncovered spoons and gaming pieces built into a stone roundhouse that they think served as a reminder for the living of those they lost.

7. Denisovans and Neanderthals shared a home

Dr. Richard G. Roberts

June 23

Little is known about the Denisovans, a group of early humans that lived in modern-day Asia. But a new report on artifacts uncovered in a cave in Russia reveals they probably crossed paths with Neanderthals.

Dr. Richard G. Roberts

6. Who were the Anglo-Saxons?

Kimberly Plomp

June 23

An analysis of over 236 ancient skulls reveals that Anglo-Saxons living in what’s now the United Kingdom were more united by their cultural practices and language than their genes.

Kimberley Plomp

5. Ancient shark attack victim

Kyoto University

June 23

Researchers working in Japan uncovered a 3,000-year-old fossil of a shark attack victim in the Seto Inland Sea. It’s the oldest known occurrence of a shark attacking a human ever recorded.

Kyoto University

4. Nesher Ramla Homo

Tel Aviv University

June 24

Meet one of your newest ancestors: Neshler Ramla Homo. Parts of this early human’s skull were uncovered in Israel, suggesting that ancestors of Neanderthals did not exclusively come from Europe.

Tel Aviv University

3. Dragon man

Xijun Ni

June 25

A massive skull uncovered by accident might reveal a new type of ancient human. Three papers were published on what scientists think is a new species, Homo longi.

Or just “Dragon Man,” if you prefer the nickname.

Xijun Ni

2. Ancient plague victim

Dominik Göldner, BGAEU, Berlin

June 29

Fragments of a human skull uncovered in Latvia reveal the oldest known victim of the virus that caused the Black Plague. He lived nearly 5,000 years ago — centuries before nearly half of Europe’s population was wiped out by what was likely a deadlier strain.

Dominik Göldner, BGAEU, Berlin

June 29

A carved staff with a snake figurine found in modern-day Finland gives researchers a window to the past rituals of humans living there between 4,000 to 2,000 B.C.

S. Koivisto/Antiquity/Cambridge University Press

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