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Using Old Insects to Sleuth Out New Clues to Ancient Cultures

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Science  05 Nov 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6005, pp. 752-753
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6005.752-a

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Summary

Entomologists routinely analyze insects at crime scenes to assist police. Now a wave of new studies extends this detective power back to the ancient past. Archaeologists studying diverse times and places are finding that insects can reveal details of ancient life available from no other source. By applying their knowledge of insect biology and behavior, entomologists have helped archaeologists to reconstruct the mortuary practices of the Moche in Peru, illuminate the sanitary—or unsanitary—conditions of an ancient Egyptian city, detail the environment of early humans in Britain 780,000 years ago, and probe the possibility of very early agriculture in Japan 9000 years ago.

* Heather Pringle is a contributing editor at Archaeology magazine.

  • * Heather Pringle is a contributing editor at Archaeology magazine.