HeritageDaily – Archaeology News https://www.heritagedaily.com Latest archaeology news, archaeological discoveries from across the globe Mon, 08 Mar 2021 14:35:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6.2 https://www.heritagedaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/cropped-HDA1-1-32x32.jpg HeritageDaily – Archaeology News https://www.heritagedaily.com 32 32 The Human Footprints of Ojo Guareña https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/the-human-footprints-of-ojo-guarena/137556 Mon, 08 Mar 2021 14:35:41 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137556 The CENIEH has participated in the study of the prints of bare feet found at the Sala y Galerías de las Huellas site in the Ojo Guareña Karst Complex (Burgos), which are the marks left in a soft floor sediment of an exploration by a small group of people between 4600 and 4200 years ago.

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The CENIEH has participated in the study of the prints of bare feet found at the Sala y Galerías de las Huellas site in the Ojo Guareña Karst Complex (Burgos), which are the marks left in a soft floor sediment of an exploration by a small group of people between 4600 and 4200 years ago.

Dating carried out in the access galleries to this site has documented intensive human traffic during the Neolithic, Mesolithic and Upper Paleolithic, confirming reiterated visits to this great cave complex throughout prehistory.

The prestigious publisher Springer Nature has just published a monograph with 22 chapters dedicated to the research and analysis of the main prehistoric human footprints preserved around the world. The Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) has participated in chapter 17, which covers the prints of bare feet preserved in the soft floor sediment of Palomera Cave in the Ojo Guareña Karst Complex (Merindad de Sotoscueva, Burgos).

These footprints, ascribed to traces left by about ten individuals who explored the caves between 4600 and 4200 years ago, were discovered in 1969 by Grupo Espeleológico Edelweiss (GEE) at the Sala y Galerías de las Huellas site, some 1200 m from the entrance to Palomera Cave. The fragility of the footprints and their environment meant it was not possible to study them, and doing so has had to await the development of the new non-invasive teledetection techniques.

“Thanks to 3D scans and digital photography, in combination with GIS techniques, we have been able to meticulously identify over 1200 human footprints at this site”, explains the archaeologist Ana Isabel Ortega, a researcher at the CENIEH and the Fundación Atapuerca who led this study.

Human footprint (Galería de las Huellas I) Image Credit : Miguel Ángel Martín Merino

Radiocarbon dating
This work also includes an array of radiocarbon dates for the remains of torches found both along the itinerary in the Galerías de las Huellas, where the human footprints are preserved, and in the access galleries to the same: the sector of Laberinto Otilio, Sala Negra and the sides of Galería del Cacique.

“The exceptional nature of these incursions is due to how complex access is. Studying the route taken by the explorers and their trackways is enabling us to learn more about how the subterranean world was used in prehistory, and especially about the use of the dark zone as part of the journey toward a symbolic and social landscape”, adds Ortega.

Of the samples dated, six are from the itineraries where the prints of bare feet are preserved, with dates ranging from 4600 to 4200 years ago (Chalcolithic). However, along the access conduits, the chronological range expands considerably. Apart from two Chalcolithic dates situated in the immediate access to Sala de las Huellas, four samples were documented between 6600 and 6200 years ago (Neolithic) and three others between 7800 and 7700 years ago (Mesolithic). The most ancient is dated to around 19000 years old (Upper Paleolithic).

“The advances in the prehistoric research at Ojo Guareña are underlining the intensive and reiterated use of the subterranean world during prehistory”, concludes Ortega.

CENIEH

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Roman Villa of Tiberius and the Cave of Imperial Pleasure https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/roman-villa-of-tiberius-and-the-cave-of-imperial-pleasure/137547 Sun, 07 Mar 2021 22:08:57 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137547 The Villa of Tiberius is a ruined Roman villa complex located in the present-day town of Sperlonga, in the province of Latina on the western coast of Italy.

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The Villa of Tiberius is a ruined Roman villa complex located in the present-day town of Sperlonga, in the province of Latina on the western coast of Italy.

Sperlonga’s name derives from the “Spelunca” (Latin for cave or grotto), where a Republican villa was first constructed sometime between 30 and 20 BC.

During the reign of Emperor Tiberius (AD 14 to 37), the villa was expanded to serve as a coastal retreat for the Emperor to unwind away from his duties in Rome. The expansion included a peristyle surrounded by various rooms, a gymnasium, Roman baths, terraces, private moorings, and several pools fed by natural springs and salt water from a coastal lake.

The villa hosted elaborate dinner parties, with the focal centrepiece being a large natural cave containing a rectangular and circular pool, embellished with coloured opus sectile flooring, artificial stalactites and encrustations, statues called the Sperlonga sculptures, and a triclinium (a dining space with couches) centred on an island in the caves mouth.

Image Credit : Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

Grand statues depicting mythological compositions had been popular during the time of the Julio-Claudians and can often be found in villa’s owned by members of the Imperial family.

In Sperlonga, scenes derived from Greek Hellenistic literature of Homer and Virgil show four episodes of Odysseus’ travels, depicting Odysseus and the giant Cyclops Polyphemus, Odysseus’ encounter with the sea monster Scylla, Odysseus’ trials during the Trojan War, and Odysseus stealing the Palladion (a statue of Athena) from Diomedes. On a niche in the cliff face above the entrance to the cave was also Ganymede carried up by the Eagle, a disguise of Zeus.

Image Credit : Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

According to the Roman historian Tacitus, In AD 26 the roof of the caved collapsed while Tiberius was dining inside with his friend and confidant Sejanus.

Tacitus documents: “They were dining in a country house called the cave, between the gulf of Amuclæ and the hills of Fundi, in a natural grotto. The rocks at its entrance suddenly fell in and crushed some of the attendants; thereupon panic seized the whole company and there was a general flight of the guests. Sejanus hung over the emperor, and with knee, face, and hand encountered the falling stones; and was found in this attitude by the soldiers who came to their rescue.”

Image Credit : Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

After the accident, Tiberius withdrew to Capri and spent the rest of his years removed from the administration of the Empire. He trusted Sejanus and Naevius Sutorius Macro to oversee the affairs of the Empire in his steed, but the two men instead plotted against Tiberius that ultimately led to their execution.

Header Image Credit : Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

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Archaeologists Excavate 1,600-Year-Old Burial Containing Ornate Treasures https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/archaeologists-excavate-1600-year-old-burial-containing-ornate-treasures/137538 Fri, 05 Mar 2021 22:46:20 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137538 Archaeologists excavating a burial ground have discovered a grave containing ornate grave goods from the 5th century AD, a period of instability during the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

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Archaeologists excavating a burial ground have discovered a grave containing ornate grave goods from the 5th century AD, a period of instability during the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

The discovery was made by a team of archaeologists from the Museum of Eastern Bohemia in Hradec Králové (MVČ HK) back in 2019, at the village of Sendražice in present-day Czech Republic.

The results of the discovery have only now been made public, consisting of five skeletal remains that had already been disturbed and looted, with one log grave chamber remaining intact containing the burial of a woman who died around the age of 35-50 years old.

Within the chamber archaeologists found a rich collection of grave goods that includes: four clasps of gold and silver inlaid with semi-precious stones, a headdress decorated with gold, glass beads, an iron knife, a bone comb, eggshells, large pieces of textile and leather, and a ceramic vessel.

Buckle – Image Credit : Pavel Hornik – MVC HK

Anthropological studies show that the disturbed burials contained the remains of both men and women between the ages of 16-55. Although they had been looted in antiquity, the researchers have discovered several funerary offerings such as a short sword, knives, glass and amber beads, metal belt components, decorative shoe fittings, and antler combs.

The artifacts from all of the graves are being examined by experts from Masaryk University in Brno, the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague, the Institute of Archeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Mining Museum in Příbram, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

Further Radiocarbon dating hopes to provide a more accurate chronological classification of the graves, whilst an analysis of the ratios of carbon and nitrogen isotopes will show what was the dominant source of protein of each individual.

Museum of Eastern Bohemia in Hradec Králové (MVČ HK)

Header Image Credit : Brezinova, R. Cernochova – Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences

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Archaeologists Discover Ancient Settlements Associated With “Polish Pyramids” https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/archaeologists-discover-ancient-settlements-associated-with-polish-pyramids/137531 Fri, 05 Mar 2021 21:52:13 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137531 Archaeologists conducting a detailed study of the area near the Kujawy megalithic tombs, dubbed the “Polish Pyramids”, have identified the associated settlements of the tomb builders.

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Archaeologists conducting a detailed study of the area near the Kujawy megalithic tombs, dubbed the “Polish Pyramids”, have identified the associated settlements of the tomb builders.

The Kujawy megalithic tombs are a cluster of 130-metres-long elongated trapezium shaped tombs located in the Kujawy region of Poland that were constructed during the 4th millennium BC.

Archaeologists used a combination of exploratory non-invasive methods such as drone and aerial surveys, geochemical, and geophysical studies to discover individual houses and larger settlement networks.

Dr. Piotr Papiernik from the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum in Łódź said to Nauki W Polsce: “All this allowed us to indicate with certainty the places where people lived at the time when the megalithic tombs were erected. The villages were small – up to 10 families lived in each of them and they covered an area of 1-1.5 hectares.”

Archaeologists suggest that the tombs served as a focal point of the settlement placement, creating a microregion in which the inhabitants of several villages would be involved in constructing each monument.

Limited excavations have discovered many animal bones from cows, pigs, sheep and goats, giving an indication that the settlement’s inhabitants focused mainly on livestock rather than agriculture. This is supported by a study of pollen samples taken by drilling cores into old lake beds that also revealed a low level of deforestation for farming.

Whilst the megalithic tombs contained the burials of the settlement’s elite, Dr. Papiernik points out that there is no evidence of individual burials or mass cemeteries for the ordinary people that lived in the vicinity. The next stage of Papiernik’s research is to try and locate these burial sites.

PAP

Kujawy Mounds – Image Credit : MOs810 – CC BY-SA 4.0

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Rocky Planet Discovered in Virgo Constellation Could Change Search For Life in Universe https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/rocky-planet-discovered-in-virgo-constellation-could-change-search-for-life-in-universe/137527 Fri, 05 Mar 2021 14:53:31 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137527 A newly discovered planet could be our best chance yet of studying rocky planet atmospheres outside the solar system, a new international study involving UNSW Sydney shows.

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A newly discovered planet could be our best chance yet of studying rocky planet atmospheres outside the solar system, a new international study involving UNSW Sydney shows.

The planet, called Gliese 486b (pronounced Glee-seh), is a ‘super-Earth’: that is, a rocky planet bigger than Earth but smaller than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus. It orbits a red dwarf star around 26 light-years away, making it a close neighbour – galactically speaking.

With a piping-hot surface temperature of 430 degrees Celsius, Gliese 486b is too hot to support human life. But studying its atmosphere could help us learn whether similar planets might be habitable for humans – or if they’re likely to hold other signs of life.

“This is the kind of planet we’ve been dreaming about for decades,” says Dr Ben Montet, an astronomer and Scientia Lecturer at UNSW Science and co-author of the study.

“We’ve known for a long time that rocky super-Earths must exist around the nearby stars, but we haven’t had the technology to search for them until recently.

“This finding has the potential to transform our understanding of planetary atmospheres.”

Like Earth, Gliese 486b is a rocky planet – but that’s where the similarities end.

Our neighbour is 30 per cent bigger and almost three times heavier than Earth. It’s possible that its surface – which is hot enough to melt lead – may even be scattered with glowing lava rivers.

Super-Earths themselves aren’t rare, but Gliese 486b special for two key reasons: firstly, its heat ‘puffs up’ the atmosphere, helping astronomers take atmospheric measurements; and secondly, it’s a transiting planet, which means it crosses over its star from Earth’s perspective – making it possible for scientists to conduct in-depth analysis of its atmosphere.

“Understanding super-Earths is challenging because we don’t have any examples in our backyard,” says Dr Montet.

“Gliese 486b is the type of planet we’ll be studying for the next 20 years.”

Lessons from the atmosphere

A planet’s atmosphere can reveal a lot about its ability to support life.

For example, a lack of atmosphere might suggest the planet’s nearby star is volatile and prone to high stellar activity – making it unlikely that life will have a chance to develop. On the other hand, a healthy, long-lived atmosphere could suggest conditions are stable enough to support life.

Both options help astronomers solve a piece of the planetary formation puzzle.

“We think Gliese 486b could have kept a part of its original atmosphere, despite being so close to its red dwarf star,” says Dr Montet.

“Whatever we learn about the atmosphere will help us better understand how rocky planets form.”

As a transiting planet, Gliese 486b gives scientists two unique opportunities to study its atmosphere: first when the planet passes in front of its star and a fraction of starlight shines through its atmospheric layer (a technique called ‘transmission spectroscopy’); and then when starlight illuminates the surface of the planet as it orbits around and behind the star (called ’emission spectroscopy’).

In both cases, scientists use a spectrograph – a tool that splits light according to its wavelengths – to decode the chemical makeup of the atmosphere.

“This is the single best planet for studying emission spectroscopy of all the rocky planets we know,” says Dr Montet.

“It’s also the second-best planet to study transmission spectroscopy.”

Life on Gliese 486b

Gliese 486b is a great catch for astronomers – but you wouldn’t want to live there, says Dr Montet.

“With a surface of 430 degrees Celsius, you wouldn’t be able to go outside without some kind of spacesuit,” he says.

“The gravity is also 70 per cent stronger than on Earth, making it harder to walk and jump. Someone who weighed 50 kilograms on Earth would feel like they weighed 85 kilograms on Gliese 486b.”

On the plus side, the quick transition of the planet around its star means that interstellar visitors would have a birthday every 36 hours.

They would just need to expect the party to be interrupted.

“The planet is really close to its star, which means you’d really have to watch out for stellar storms,” says Dr Montet.

“The impacts could be as innocuous as beautiful aurorae covering the sky, or they could completely wipe out electromagnetic systems.”

But despite these dangers of living on Gliese 486b, Dr Montet says it’s too valuable a planet to cross off our interstellar bucket list just yet.

“If humans are able to travel to other star systems in the future, this is one of the planets that would be on our list,” he says.

“It’s so nearby and so different than the planets in our own solar system.”

Narrowing the search for habitable planets

The study was part of the CARMENES project, a consortium of eleven Spanish and German research institutions that look for signs of low-mass planets around red dwarf stars.

Red dwarfs are the most common type of star, making up around 70 per cent of all stars in the universe. They are also much more likely to have rocky planets than Sun-like stars.

Based on these numbers, the best chance for finding life in the universe may be looking around red dwarfs, says Dr Montet – but this comes with a catch.

“Red dwarfs are known to have a lot of stellar activity, like flares and coronal mass ejections,” says Dr Montet. “This kind of activity threatens to destroy a planet’s atmosphere.

“Measuring Gliese 486b’s atmosphere will go a long way towards deciding if we should consider looking for signs of life around red dwarfs.”

UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

Header Image Credit : renderarea.com

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Sungbo’s Eredo – The “Queen of Sheba’s Embankment” https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/sungbos-eredo-the-queen-of-shebas-embankment/137500 Thu, 04 Mar 2021 23:47:02 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137500 Sungbo’s Eredo is one of the largest man-made monuments in Africa, consisting of a giant system of ditches and embankments that surrounds the entire ljebu Kingdom in the rain forests of south-western Nigeria.

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Sungbo’s Eredo is one of the largest man-made monuments in Africa, consisting of a giant system of ditches and embankments that surrounds the entire ljebu Kingdom in the rain forests of south-western Nigeria.

The ljebu Kingdom emerged around the 15th or 16th century AD in southern Yorubaland and was centred on the capital at Ijebu Ode. The kingdom was inhabited by the ethnic Yoruba that still live-in parts of western Africa, mainly in the countries of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.

The builders of Sungbo’s Eredo excavated 3.5 million cubic metres of earth to create a 165 km long ditch with steep vertical walls that run a length longer than Hadrian’s Wall in England (117.5 km), and a raised inner embankment that encircles an area larger than Greater London.

The surviving archaeological evidence confirms signs of settlement around Eredo from the Neolithic period, with some indication of human activity as far back as the Late Stone Age. Dating the monument has been inconclusive, but one of the generally accepted dates comes from a radiocarbon study that suggests either AD 870, and AD 670 to 1050.

Image Credit : Jeremy Weate – CC BY 2.0

Adjacent to the earthwork within Oke-Eri is a sacred grove, that according to local oral tradition houses the tomb of the legendary Queen of Sheba from biblical and Quranic text, who the Oke-Eri people refer to as “Bilikisu Sungbo” which gave rise to the name of “Sungbo’s Eredo”, meaning “Queen of Sheba’s Embankment” (“Eredo” meaning “embankment”).

Another popular myth connects the monument to a fabled wealthy and childless widow of the Yoruba aristocracy also called Oloye (meaning ruler) Bilikisu Sungbo.

Whilst there is no archaeological evidence to support the oral tradition connecting the monument to the Queen of Sheba, the sheer size of Sungbo’s Eredo is a testament to the massive, organised processes of centralised communities, and the sophistication of the early African societies involved in the construction.

Header Image Credit : Jeremy Weate – CC BY 2.0

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Woolly Mammoths May Have Shared the Landscape With First Humans in New England https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/woolly-mammoths-may-have-shared-the-landscape-with-first-humans-in-new-england/137497 Thu, 04 Mar 2021 17:28:03 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137497 Woolly mammoths may have walked the landscape at the same time as the earliest humans in what is now New England, according to a Dartmouth study published in Boreas.

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Woolly mammoths may have walked the landscape at the same time as the earliest humans in what is now New England, according to a Dartmouth study published in Boreas.

Through the radiocarbon dating of a rib fragment from the Mount Holly mammoth from Mount Holly, Vt., the researchers learned that this mammoth existed approximately 12,800 years ago. This date may overlap with the arrival of the first humans in the Northeast, who are thought to have arrived around the same time.

“It has long been thought that megafauna and humans in New England did not overlap in time and space and that it was probably ultimately environmental change that led to the extinction of these animals in the region but our research provides some of the first evidence that they may have actually co-existed,” explains co-author Nathaniel R. Kitchel, the Robert A. 1925 and Catherine L. McKennan Postdoctoral Fellow in anthropology at Dartmouth.

The Mount Holly mammoth, Vermont’s state terrestrial fossil, was discovered in the summer of 1848 in the Green Mountains during the construction of the Burlington and Rutland railroad lines. One molar, two tusks, and an unknown number of bones were excavated from a hilltop bog near Mount Holly.

Over time, the specimens became scattered across several repositories, as they transferred from one collection to the next. A rib fragment from the Mount Holly mammoth became part of the Hood Museum of Art‘s collection and some of the other skeletal materials are now housed at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and the Mount Holly Historical Museum.

Kitchel stumbled across the Mount Holly mammoth rib fragment last December at the Hood Museum’s offsite storage facility, as curators had invited him to take a look at some of their artifacts from New Hampshire and Vermont. He came across a large bone (approximately 30 cm. in length) that was stained brown in color from age.

He had a hunch that this was the remains of a mammoth and when he looked down at the tag, it read, “Rib of fossil elephant. Mt. Holly R.R. cut. Presented by Wm. A. Bacon Esq. Ludlow VT.” This was rather serendipitous for Kitchel, as he had recently delivered a talk at Mount Holly’s Historical Museum for which he had read up on the Mount Holly mammoth.

To appreciate the significance of the Mount Holly mammoth remains, including the rib fragment, it is helpful to understand the paleontology of the Northeast. During the Last Glacial Maximum around 18,000 – 19,000 years ago when glaciers were at their maximum extent, the ice began to retreat, gradually exposing what is now New England. During that period, it is likely that the glaciers probably sufficiently ripped up whatever soil might have been preserving fossils, reducing the likelihood for fossils to remain intact.

These changes combined with the Northeast’s naturally acidic soils have created inhospitable conditions for the preservation of fossils. While Kitchel had discussed the complicated paleontology of the Northeast in the past with colleague and co-author Jeremy DeSilva, an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth, he never thought that he would have much of an opportunity to work on it.

After seeing this mammoth material in the Hood’s collection, he and DeSilva decided to obtain a radiocarbon date of the fragmentary rib bone. They took a 3D scan of the material prior to taking a small (1 gram) sample from the broken end of the rib bone. The sample was then sent out to the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia for radiocarbon dating and a stable istotopic analysis.

Radiocarbon dating enables researchers to determine how long an organism has been dead based on its concentration of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope that decays over time. Stable isotopes however, are isotopes that do not decay over time, which provide a snapshot of what was absorbed into the animal’s body when it was alive. Nitrogen isotopes can be used to analyze the protein composition of an animal’s diet.

The nitrogen isotopes of the Mount Holly mammoth revealed low values in comparison to that of other recorded mammoths globally while also reflecting the lowest value recorded in the Northeast for a mammoth. The low nitrogen values could have been the result of these mega-herbivores having to consume alder or lichens (nitrogen fixing species) during the last glacial period when the landscape was denser due to climate warming.

“The Mount Holly mammoth was one of the last known occurring mammoths in the Northeast,” says DeSilva. “While our findings show that there was a temporal overlap between mammoths and humans, this doesn’t necessarily mean that people saw these animals or had anything to do with their death but it raises the possibility now that maybe they did.”

The radiocarbon date for the Mount Holly mammoth of 12,800 years old overlaps with the accepted age of when humans may have initially settled in the region, which is thought to have occurred during the start of the Younger Dryas, a final pulse of glacial cold before temperatures warmed dramatically, marking the end of the Pleistocene (Ice Age).

While other research on mammoths in the Midwest suggests that humans hunted and buried these animals in lakes and bogs to preserve the meat, there’s little evidence that early humans in New England hunted or scavenged these animals.

The researchers are intrigued by the Mount Holly mammoth. The rest of its rib and other bones could be waiting to be discovered. Or, through time, they could have broken apart, dissolved in the acidic soil, or a scavenger could have run off with the bones. There are still a lot of unknowns; yet, the team has already begun further research using modern and more sophisticated archaeological techniques to explore what may be underground at Mount Holly.

DARTMOUTH COLLEGE

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Prehistoric killing machine exposed https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/prehistoric-killing-machine-exposed/137488 Wed, 03 Mar 2021 22:57:17 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137488 Judging by its massive, bone-crushing teeth, gigantic skull and powerful jaw, there is no doubt that the Anteosaurus, a premammalian reptile that roamed the African continent 265 to 260 million years ago - during a period known as the middle Permian - was a ferocious carnivore.

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Judging by its massive, bone-crushing teeth, gigantic skull and powerful jaw, there is no doubt that the Anteosaurus, a premammalian reptile that roamed the African continent 265 to 260 million years ago – during a period known as the middle Permian – was a ferocious carnivore.

However, while it was previously thought that this beast of a creature – that grew to about the size of an adult hippo or rhino, and featuring a thick crocodilian tail – was too heavy and sluggish to be an effective hunter, a new study has shown that the Anteosaurus would have been able to outrun, track down and kill its prey effectively.

Despite its name and fierce appearance, Anteosaurus is not a dinosaur but rather belongs to the dinocephalians–mammal-like reptiles predating the dinosaurs. Much like the dinosaurs, dinocephalians roamed and ruled the Earth in the past, but they originated, thrived, and died about 30 million years before the first dinosaur even existed.

The fossilised bones of Dinocephalians are found in many places in the world. They stand out by their large size and heavy weight. Dinocephalian bones are thick and dense, and Anteosaurus is no exception. The Anteosaurus’ skull was ornamented with large bosses (bumps and lumps) above the eyes and a long crest on top of the snout which, in addition to its enlarged canines, made its skull look like that of a ferocious creature. However, because of the heavy architecture of its skeleton, it was previously assumed that it was a rather sluggish, slow-moving animal, only capable of scavenging or ambushing its prey, at best.

“Some scientists even suggested that Anteosaurus was so heavy that it could only have lived in water,” says Dr Julien Benoit of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University).

By carefully reconstructing the skull of the Anteosaurus digitally using X-ray imaging and 3D reconstructions, a team of researchers investigated the internal structures of the skull and found that the specific characteristics of its brain and balance organs were developed in such a way that it was everything but slow-moving.

“Agile predators such as cheetahs or the infamous Velociraptor have always had a very specialised nervous systems and fine-tuned sensory organs that enable them to track and hunt down prey effectively,” says Benoit. “We wanted to find out whether the Anteosaurus possessed similar adaptations.”

The team found that the organ of balance in Anteosaurus (its inner ear) was relatively larger than that of its closest relatives and other contemporaneous predators. This indicates that Anteosaurus was capable of moving much faster than its prey and competitors. They also found that the part of the brain responsible for coordinating the movements of the eyes with the head was exceptionally large, which would have been a crucial trait to ensure the animal’s tracking abilities.

“In creating the most complete reconstruction of an Anteosaurus skull to date, we found that overall, the nervous system of Anteosaurus was optimised and specialised for hunting swiftly and striking fast, unlike what was previously believed,” says Dr Ashley Kruger from the Natural History Museum in Stockholm, Sweden and previously from Wits University.

“Even though Anteosaurus lived 200-million years before the famous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex, Anteosaurus was definitely not a ‘primitive’ creature, and was nothing short of a mighty prehistoric killing machine,” says Benoit.

UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND

Header Image Credit : Alex Bernardini (@SimplexPaleo)

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Noushabad – The Hidden Underground City https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/noushabad-the-hidden-underground-city/137483 Wed, 03 Mar 2021 20:37:55 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137483 Noushabed, also called Oeei or Ouyim is an ancient subterranean city, built beneath the small town of Nushabad in present-day Iran.

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Noushabed, also called Oeei or Ouyim is an ancient subterranean city, built beneath the small town of Nushabad in present-day Iran.

The earliest parts of the city were constructed sometime during the Sassanid period between AD 224 to 651 and continued to be excavated during the post-Islamic era, with evidence of occupation lasting until the Qajar dynasty.

Archaeologists have discovered human remains, earthen vessels, and stone instruments from the Sassanian, Ilkhanid, and Safavid periods, suggesting almost continuous use for many centuries.

Researchers have identified three distinct levels reaching a depth of 16 metres, and a complex network of interconnected tunnels and chambers covering an area of 3.7 acres. The different levels were connected through vertical and horizontal channels that also functioned as a ventilation system allowing the free flow of air throughout the substructure.

Image Credit : Dreamstime License

The city was accessed via short wells or narrow corridors, hidden in houses (some hidden behind ovens), a mosque, the Sizan castle, water channels and qanats, or in obscured locations outside the original town boundary. The city was so well hidden, that Noushabad was only rediscovered when a town resident stumbled across the tunnels whilst digging a sewage ditch on their property.

Archaeologists suggest that the city served as a concealed refuge against invaders, with portals blocked using large millstones to prevent access. The tunnel network also rises and falls across multiple levels leading to various dead ends, creating a complex labyrinth designed to confuse intruders.

Image Credit : Dreamstime License

While traveling inside the substructure, the inhabitants would need to travel in a single-file line due to the narrow tunnels. The first person in the line would light the wall-mounted torches, while the last person in line would turn off each successive torch plunging the tunnels into darkness.

Families seeking shelter had their own individual chambers with carved niches that functioned as benches or beds, all supported with water transported through pipes and qanats, storage spaces, and toilets, allowing the inhabitants to comfortably remain underground for long periods.

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10 British Iron Age Hill Forts https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/10-british-iron-age-hill-forts/118900 Tue, 02 Mar 2021 22:55:37 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=118900 A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage.

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A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage.

The fortification usually follows the contours of a hill, consisting of one or more lines of earthworks, with stockades or defensive walls, and external ditches. Hill forts developed in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age, roughly the start of the first millennium BC, and were in use by the ancient Britons until the Roman conquest. There are around 3,300 structures that can be classed as hillforts or similar “defended enclosures” within Britain, all worthy of considering. The following list represents ten of the most impressive examples.

1 : Maiden Castle, Dorset

Maiden Castle is an Iron Age hill fort 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) south west of Dorchester, in the English county of Dorset. The name Maiden Castle may be a modern construction meaning that the hill fort looks impregnable, or it could derive from the British Celtic mai-dun, meaning a “great hill.”

Maiden Castle – Image Credit : Google Earth

The earliest archaeological evidence of human activity on the site consists of a Neolithic causeway enclosure and bank barrow. In about 1800 BC, during the Bronze Age, the site was used for growing crops before being abandoned. Maiden Castle itself was built in about 600 BC; the early phase was a simple and unremarkable site, similar to many other hill forts in Britain and covering 6.4 hectares (16 acres). Around 450 BC it underwent major expansion, during which the enclosed area was nearly tripled in size to 19 ha (47 acres), making it the largest hill fort in Britain and by some definitions the largest in Europe

After the Roman conquest of Britain in the 1st century AD, Maiden Castle appears to have been abandoned, although the Romans may have had a military presence on the site. In the late 4th century AD, a temple and ancillary buildings were constructed. In the 6th century AD the hill top was entirely abandoned and was used only for agriculture during the medieval period.

2 : Old Oswestry

Old Oswestry is one of Britain’s most spectacular and impressive early Iron Age hill forts in the Welsh Marches near Oswestry in north west Shropshire. It remains one of the best preserved hill forts in the UK, according to English Heritage. Built on lower ground, it is also one of the most accessible hill forts with stunning panoramic views across North Wales,Cheshire and Shropshire.

Old Oswestry – Image Credit : Google Earth

Designated as a scheduled monument (number 27556) in 1997 it is now in the guardianship of English Heritage. After the Hill Fort was abandoned it was incorporated into Wat’s Dyke where two sections of this are adjacent to the fort. It was occupied between the sixth century BC, probably by the Cornovii tribe or the Ordivice tribe.

3 : Traprain Law

Traprain Law is a hill about 221m (724 feet) in elevation, located 6 km (3.7 mi) east of Haddington in East Lothian, Scotland. It is the site of an oppidum or hill fort, which covered at its maximum extent about 40 acres and must have been a veritable town. Whether it was a seasonal meeting place or permanent settlement is a matter of speculation.

The hill was already a place of burial by around 1500 BC and showed evidence of occupation and signs of ramparts after 1000 BC. The ramparts were rebuilt and re-aligned many times in the following centuries. Excavations have shown it was occupied in the Late Iron Age from about AD 40 through the last quarter of the 2nd century (about the time that the Antonine Wall was manned). Following the Roman withdrawal to the line of Hadrian’s Wall it was occupied from about 220 almost uninterruptedly until about 400 when an impressive new rampart was built, then within a few decades the site was abandoned.

Traprain Law – Image Credit : Google Earth

In the 1st century the Romans recorded the Votadini as a British tribe in the area, and Traprain Law is generally thought to have been one of their major settlements; named “Curia” by Ptolomy. They emerged as a kingdom under the Brythonic version of their name Gododdin and Traprain Law is thought to have been their capital before moving to Din Eidyn.

 4 : Hambledon Hill

Hambledon Hill is a prehistoric hill fort in Dorset, England, situated in the Blackmore Vale five miles north of Blandford Forum. The hill itself is a Chalk outcrop, on the south western corner of Cranborne Chase, separated from the Dorset Downs by the River Stour.

Hambledon Hill – Image Credit : Google EARTH

It was originally univallate but further circuits of banks and ditches were added increasing its size to 125,000 m². Three entrances served the fort, the south western with a 100m long hornwork surrounding it. Hut platforms can be seen on the hillside. The site appears to have been abandoned around 300 BC possibly in favour of the nearby site of Hod Hill.

5 : Cadbury Castle

Cadbury Castle is a Bronze and Iron Age hill fort in the civil parish of South Cadbury in the English county of Somerset. Cadbury Castle is located 5 miles (8.0 km) north east of Yeovil. It stands on the summit of Cadbury Hill, a limestone hill situated on the southern edge of the Somerset Levels, with flat lowland to the north. The summit is 153 metres (500 ft) above sea-level on lias stone. The hill is surrounded by four terraced earthwork banks and ditches and a stand of trees. The hill fort is overlooked by Sigwells, a rural plateau rich in archaeological remains.

Cadbury Castle – Image Credit : Google Earth

Excavations of the south west gate in 1968 and 1969 revealed evidence for one or more severe violent episodes, associated with weaponry and destruction by fire. Whereas the excavator, Leslie Alcock, believed this to have been dated to around AD70, Tabor argues for a date associated with the initial invasion, AD43–44. There was significant activity at the site during the late third and fourth centuries, which may have included the construction of a Romano-Celtic temple. Havinden states that it was the site of vigorous resistance by the Durotriges and Dobunni to the second Augusta Legion under the command of Vespasian.

6 : Battlesbury Camp

Battlesbury Camp is the site of an Iron Age bivallate hillfort on Battlesbury Hill in Wiltshire in South West England. Excavations and surveys at the site have uncovered various finds and archaeological data.

Battlesbury occupies the summit of an irregular point of down, with its defences following the natural contours of the hill, and being by nature of the site almost inaccessible on the west and northeast sides. It has triple ditches and ramparts for the most part, with double on the southeast side. The site encloses 23.5 acres in all. There are entrances at the northwest and northwest corners.

Battlesbury Camp – Image Credit : Google Earth

Pits found within the fortifications contained late Iron Age pottery, the hub of a chariot wheel, an iron carpenter’s saw, a latch-lifter for a hut door, querns, whetstones, sling stones, and animal bones. These all indicate a permanent occupation and date from the 1st century BC. Unfortunately it is suspected that the hills inhabitants came to a violent end, due to the many graves containing men, women and children outside of the northwest entrance. It can only be guessed at whether Roman legions put people to the sword, or if this was the result of intertribal warfare sometime before the Roman conquest

7 : The British Camp

The British Camp is an Iron Age hill fort located at the top of Herefordshire Beacon in the Malvern Hills. The hillfort is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is owned and maintained by Malvern Hills Conservators. The fort is thought to have been first constructed in the 2nd century BC. A Norman castle was later built on the site.

The British Camp – Image Credit : Google Earth

The British Camp is composed of extensive earthworks that have been compared to a giant wedding cake. There are a number of generally round hut platforms on the British Camp, which may well suggest a permanent occupation.

8 : Cissbury Ring

Cissbury Ring is a hill fort on the South Downs, in the borough of Worthing, and about 5 kilometres (3 mi) from its town centre, in the English county of West Sussex.

It is the largest hill fort in Sussex, the second largest in England and one of the largest in Britain and Europe overall, covering some 60 acres (24 hectares). The earthworks that form the fortifications were built around the beginning of the Middle Iron-Age possibly around 250 BC but abandoned in the period 50 BC – 50 AD.

Cissbury Rings – Image Credit : Google Earth

The ditches and banks are the remains of a defensive wall that enclosed 65 acres (260,000 m2) of land; the inner band of the wall is over a mile around. The ditches are said to be as deep as three metres and were filled with loosened chalk and covered with timber palisades.

9 : Danebury

Danebury is an Iron Age hill fort in Hampshire in England, about 19 kilometres (12 mi) north-west of Winchester. The site, covering 5 hectares (12 acres), was excavated in the 1970s. Danebury is considered a type-site for hill forts, and was important in developing the understanding of hill forts, as very few others have been so intensively excavated.

Danebury – Image Credit : Google Earth

Built in the 6th century BC, the fort was in use for almost 500 years, during a period when the number of hill forts in Wessex greatly increased. Danebury was remodelled several times, making it more complex and resulting in it becoming a “developed” hill fort. It is now protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

10 : Woden Law

Situated in the Cheviot hills on the Scottish borders, Woden Law rises to 422m (1384 feet) 1¼ miles (2 km) west of the English border and 9 miles (15 km) southeast of Jedburgh. There is a substantial hill fort on the summit with multiple defensive ramparts.

Woden Law – Image Credit : Google Earth

The ramparts belong to three phases of construction, the innermost rampart surrounds the remains of several timber round houses. Linear earthworks on the lower slopes formed parts of an Iron Age field-system during the occupation of the fort. The fort was abandoned during the Roman expansion in Britannia.

Header Image: Maiden Castle – Image Credit _Andrew

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Stabiae – The Roman Resort Buried by Mount Vesuvius https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/stabiae-the-roman-resort-buried-by-mount-vesuvius/137475 Tue, 02 Mar 2021 22:12:03 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137475 Stabiae was an ancient Roman town and seaside resort near Pompeii, that was largely buried during the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius in present-day Italy.

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Stabiae was an ancient Roman town and seaside resort near Pompeii, that was largely buried during the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius in present-day Italy.

The early settlement was founded during the Archaic period around the 8th century BC on the coast at the eastern end of the Bay of Naples, with evidence of Corinthian, Etruscan, Chalcidian and Attic origins.

By the 6th century BC, an Oscan (native inhabitants of Campania) port town had emerged, comprising of mainly Samnites, but this saw an economic slowdown in favour of the development of nearby Pompeii.

Stabiae would later serve as a military port for the Nucerian federation, alongside Nuceria Alfaterna, Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Surrentum, but surrendered to the rule of the Roman Republic during the Samnite wars in 308 BC.

Villa San Marco at Stabiae – Image Credit: Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

In 91 BC, the Romans fought in a conflict known as the Social Wars, against the “socii” confederates of Rome who demanded the right to vote and Roman citizenship. The Roman General Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (commonly known as Sulla) marched on Stabia, completely destroying the town as an example for other cities and tribes in Italy.

The town quickly recovered from the destruction and became a popular resort for wealthy Romans, consisting of a forum, temples, a podium, a gymnasium, and a tabernae with arcades.

Accounts by the Roman author Pliny the Elder records that several miles of luxury coastal villas were built at Stabiae along the edge of the headland, with notable Roman figures such as Julius Caesar, the emperors Augustus and Tiberius, and the statesman-philosopher Cicero all owning properties there.

Villa Arianna at Stabiae – Image Credit: Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted, releasing a deadly cloud of super-heated tephra and gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), ejecting molten rock, pumice, and hot ash at a rate of 1.5 million tons per second. The resulting pyroclastic surges and heavy ashfall enveloped Pompeii and Herculanium, with large parts of Stabiae buried in thick tephra and ash.

Pliny the Elder died at Stabiae during the eruptions, but many of its inhabitants were spared and resettled. Publius Papinius Statius recites in a poem to his wife – “Stabias renatas”, meaning Stabiae reborn.

Header Image Credit : Public Domain

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Astronomers Accurately Measure the Temperature of Red Supergiant Stars https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/astronomers-accurately-measure-the-temperature-of-red-supergiant-stars/137472 Tue, 02 Mar 2021 17:23:14 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137472 Red supergiants are a class of star that end their lives in supernova explosions. Their lifecycles are not fully understood, partly due to difficulties in measuring their temperatures. For the first time, astronomers develop an accurate method to determine the surface temperatures of red supergiants.

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Red supergiants are a class of star that end their lives in supernova explosions. Their lifecycles are not fully understood, partly due to difficulties in measuring their temperatures. For the first time, astronomers develop an accurate method to determine the surface temperatures of red supergiants.

Stars come in a wide range of sizes, masses and compositions. Our sun is considered a relatively small specimen, especially when compared to something like Betelgeuse which is known as a red supergiant. Red supergiants are stars over nine times the mass of our sun, and all this mass means that when they die they do so with extreme ferocity in an enormous explosion known as a supernova, in particular what is known as a Type-II supernova.

Type II supernovae seed the cosmos with elements essential for life; therefore, researchers are keen to know more about them. At present there is no way to accurately predict supernova explosions. One piece of this puzzle lies in understanding the nature of the red supergiants that precede supernovae.

Despite the fact red supergiants are extremely bright and visible at great distances, it is difficult to ascertain important properties about them, including their temperatures. This is due to the complicated structures of their upper atmospheres which leads to inconsistencies of temperature measurements that might work with other kinds of stars.

“In order to measure the temperature of red supergiants, we needed to find a visible, or spectral, property that was not affected by their complex upper atmospheres,” said graduate student Daisuke Taniguchi from the Department of Astronomy at the University of Tokyo. “Chemical signatures known as absorption lines were the ideal candidates, but there was no single line that revealed the temperature alone. However, by looking at the ratio of two different but related lines — those of iron — we found the ratio itself related to temperature. And it did so in a consistent and predictable way.”

Taniguchi and his team observed candidate stars with an instrument called WINERED which attaches to telescopes in order to measure spectral properties of distant objects. They measured the iron absorption lines and calculated the ratios to estimate the stars’ respective temperatures. By combining these temperatures with accurate distance measurements obtained by the European Space Agency’s Gaia space observatory, the researchers calculated the stars luminosity, or power, and found their results consistent with theory.

“We still have much to learn about supernovae and related objects and phenomena, but I think this research will help astronomers fill in some of the blanks,” said Taniguchi. “The giant star Betelgeuse (on Orion’s shoulder) could go supernova in our lifetimes; in 2019 and 2020 it dimmed unexpectedly. It would be fascinating if we were able to predict if and when it might go supernova. I hope our new technique contributes to this endeavor and more.”

UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO

Header Image Credit : Andrew Klinger

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Researchers Overturn Hypothesis That Ancient Mammal Ancestors Moved Like Modern Lizards https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/researchers-overturn-hypothesis-that-ancient-mammal-ancestors-moved-like-modern-lizards/137468 Tue, 02 Mar 2021 16:32:09 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137468 The backbone is the Swiss Army Knife of mammal locomotion. It can function in all sorts of ways that allows living mammals to have remarkable diversity in their movements.

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The backbone is the Swiss Army Knife of mammal locomotion. It can function in all sorts of ways that allows living mammals to have remarkable diversity in their movements.

They can run, swim, climb and fly all due, in part, to the extensive reorganization of their vertebral column, which occurred over roughly 320 million years of evolution.

Open any anatomy textbook and you’ll find the long-standing hypothesis that the evolution of the mammal backbone, which is uniquely capable of sagittal (up and down) movements, evolved from a backbone that functioned similar to that of living reptiles, which move laterally (side-to-side). This so called “lateral-to-sagittal” transition was based entirely on superficial similarities between non-mammalian synapsids, the extinct forerunners of mammals, and modern-day lizards.

In a paper published on March 2 in Current Biology, a team of researchers led by Harvard University challenge the “lateral-to-sagittal” hypothesis by measuring vertebral shape across a broad sample of living and extinct amniotes (reptiles, mammals, and their extinct relatives). Using cutting-edge techniques they map the impact of evolutionary changes in shape on the function of the vertebral column and show that non-mammalian synapsids moved their backbone in a manner that was distinctly their own and quite different from any living animal.

The team, led by first author Katrina E. Jones, former Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, found that while the degree of sagittal bending does increase during mammal evolution, the backbones of the earliest synapsids were optimized for stiffness and the evolutionary transition to mammals did not include a stage characterized by reptile-like lateral bending. Instead they discovered that modern lizards and other reptiles have a unique backbone morphology and function that does not represent ancestral locomotion, and that the earliest ancestors of mammals did not move like a lizard, as scientists previously posited.

“The long-held idea that there was a transition in mammal evolution directly from lateral to sagittal bending is far too simple, said Senior author Stephanie Pierce, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and curator of vertebrate paleontology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. “Lizards and mammals diverged from one another millions of years ago and they’ve each gone on their own evolutionary journey. We show that living lizards don’t represent any sort of ancestral morphology or function that the two groups would have had in common so long ago.”

Co-author Ken Angielczyk, MacArthur Curator of Paleomammalogy, Negaunee Integrative Research Center, Field Museum of Natural History, agreed, “Reptiles have been evolving just as long as mammals and because of that there’s just as much time for changes and specializations to accumulate for reptiles. If you look at the vertebrae of a modern lizard or crocodile their vertebrae are actually very different from early ancestors of mammals and reptiles that lived at the same time around 300 million years ago. Both living mammals and reptiles have accumulated their own set of specializations over evolutionary time.”

Jones and co-authors, including former Harvard graduate student Blake Dickson, PhD ’20, began by measuring the shape of the vertebrae of a range of reptiles, mammals, salamanders, and some fossil non-mammalian synapsids. The specimens came from museum collections all over the world, with modern animal skeletons primarily from the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), and fossil synapsids from the MCZ, the Field Museum of Natural History, and various other museums in the USA, Europe, and South Africa.

“We first had to quantify the shape of the vertebrae and that’s actually a little bit tricky,” said Jones. “Each vertebral column is made up of multiple vertebrae and when you have different numbers of vertebrae their shapes and functions might divide up in different ways.”

They selected five vertebrae at equivalent locations from each of the vertebral columns and measured their shapes across the different animals in three-dimension. The results showed quantitatively that non-mammalian synapsid vertebrae are very different from the vertebrae of modern mammals, and critically also from the vertebrae of lizards and other reptiles.

Next, the researchers examined how the vertebrae may have functioned using data from their previous work that compared vertebral shape to degree of vertebral motion in living lizards and mammals, providing a crucial link between form and function. The data enabled the researchers to map variation in vertebral function across the broad sample of animals, including the fossils, which allowed them to reconstruct the precise combination of functional traits that described each group of animals.

“Our team’s approach to data analysis is exciting as it can reveal how different backbone shapes may result in different functional tradeoffs,” Pierce said. Reptiles, for example, are very good at lateral bending, but are unable to move their spine up-and-down like mammals. “In addition to lateral and sagittal bending we also examined other functions of the backbone and then determined the optimal combination of tradeoffs for mammals, reptiles, and non-mammalian synapsids,” said Pierce.

“We were able to show that non-mammalian synapsids have a different combination of functions in their backbone to both living reptiles and mammals,” Jones said, “and in the course of that evolution they weren’t just traversing from the reptile-like lateral to the mammal-like sagittal bending, they were actually on a completely distinctive path in which they were evolving from a separate condition.”

“The historical expectation is that the synapsid ancestors of mammals were making the same set of tradeoffs that modern reptiles do. But it turns out that they have an entirely different set of tradeoffs,” Angielczyk said. “The expectation that reptiles would retain ancestral locomotor patterns that existed over 320 million years ago is too simple.”

The results show the backbones of non-mammalian synapsids were actually quite stiff and completely unlike those of lizards which are very compliant in the lateral direction. Further, during the evolution of mammals, new functions were added to this stiff ancestral foundation, including sagittal bending in the posterior back and twisting up front. The addition of these new functions was pivotal in building the functionally diverse mammalian backbone, allowing modern-day mammals to run really fast and rotate their spine to groom their fur.

“By rigorously analyzing the fossil record, we are able to reject the simplistic lateral-to-sagittal hypothesis for a much more complex and interesting evolution story,” Pierce said. “We are now revealing the evolutionary path towards the formation of the unique mammalian backbone.”

The study is part of a series of ongoing projects on the evolution of the mammal backbone, piecing together its development, morphology, function, and evolution. “We still don’t have the whole story,” said Jones, “but we are getting close.”

The researchers are now using three-dimensional modeling of the vertebrae to understand how the ancestors of mammals moved. “We are now testing our previous studies with CAD assisted three-dimensional models,” said Jones. “So far it’s working quite well and appears to support what we found in this paper.”

HARVARD UNIVERSITY, DEPARTMENT OF ORGANISMIC AND EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

Header Image Credit : Ken Angielczyk

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Archaeologists Discover one of Poland’s Largest Megalithic Tomb Complexes https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/archaeologists-discover-polands-largest-megalithic-tomb-complex/137463 Tue, 02 Mar 2021 15:03:27 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137463 Archaeologists excavating in Poland have discovered a large megalithic complex, containing several dozen tombs dating from 5500 years ago.

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Archaeologists excavating in Poland have discovered a large megalithic complex, containing several dozen tombs dating from 5500 years ago.

The site was discovered by chance near the village of Dębiany in south-central Poland, by a team of archaeologists conducting research of satellite imagery.

Upon noticing a quadrilateral shaped feature with a surrounding ditch, a geophysical survey was conducted that revealed a megalithic tomb. Extending their study area, the team have identified dozens of tomb burials, with many more expected to yet be discovered.

Each tomb is lined with wooden poles (in contrast to most megalithic tombs in Poland being lined with stone) in a raised burial mound shaped like an elongated trapezoid. The exterior of the tomb is marked by a wooden palisade (evident by a series of post-holes), and outer ditches that runs for between 40-50 metres in length.

Archaeologist Marcin M. Przybyła told Nauka W Polsce: “Unfortunately, most of the remains of the deceased and grave goods were removed from these burials while the cemetery was still in use. It was a ritual behaviour that we often encounter in cemeteries from that period”.

Surrounding some of the tombs is a square defensive feature built during the 9-10th century BC during the Period V (late) Bronze Age, that archaeologists believe served as a temporary military encampment.

PAP

Header Image Credit : J Bulas

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New Technology Allows Scientists First Glimpse of Intricate Details of Little Foot’s Life https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/new-technology-allows-scientists-first-glimpse-of-intricate-details-of-little-foots-life/137459 Tue, 02 Mar 2021 09:46:40 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137459 In June 2019, an international team brought the complete skull of the 3.67-million-year-old Little Foot Australopithecus skeleton, from South Africa to the UK and achieved unprecedented imaging resolution of its bony structures and dentition in an X-ray synchrotron-based investigation at the UK's national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source.

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In June 2019, an international team brought the complete skull of the 3.67-million-year-old Little Foot Australopithecus skeleton, from South Africa to the UK and achieved unprecedented imaging resolution of its bony structures and dentition in an X-ray synchrotron-based investigation at the UK’s national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source.

The X-ray work is highlighted in a new paper in e-Life, published today (2nd March 2021) focusing on the inner craniodental features of Little Foot. The remarkable completeness and great age of the Little Foot skeleton makes it a crucially important specimen in human origins research and a prime candidate for exploring human evolution through high-resolution virtual analysis.

To recover the smallest possible details from a fairly large and very fragile fossil, the team decided to image the skull using synchrotron X-ray micro computed tomography at the I12 beamline at Diamond, revealing new information about human evolution and origins. This paper outlines preliminary results of the X-ray synchrotron-based investigation of the dentition and bones of the skull (i.e., cranial vault and mandible).

Leading author and Principal Investigator, Dr Amelie Beaudet, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge and honorary research at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) explains: “We had the unique opportunity to look at the finest details of the craniodental anatomy of the Little Foot skull.

While scanning it, we did not know how well the smallest structures would be preserved in this individual, who lived more than 3.5 million years ago. So, when we were finally able to examine the images, we were all very excited and moved to see such intimate details of the life of Little Foot for the first time. The microstructures observed in the enamel indicate that Little Foot suffered through two clear periods of dietary stress or illness when she was a child.”

The team were also able to observe and describe the vascular canals that are enclosed in the compact bone of the mandible. These structures have the potential to reveal a lot about the biomechanics of eating in this individual and its species, but also more broadly about how bone was remodelled in Little Foot The branching pattern of these canals indicates some remodelling took place, perhaps in response to changes in diet, and that Little Foot died as an older individual.

The team also observed tiny (i.e., less than 1 mm) channels in the braincase that are possibly involved in brain thermoregulation (i.e., how to cool down the brain). Brain size increased dramatically throughout human evolution (about threefold), and, because the brain is very sensitive to temperature change, understanding how temperature regulation evolves is of prime interest. Dr Amelie Beaudet adds: “Traditionally, none of these observations would have been possible without cutting the fossil into very thin slices, but with the application of synchrotron technology there is an exciting new field of virtual histology being developed to explore the fossils of our distant ancestors.”

Dr Thomas Connolley, Principal Beamline Scientist at Diamond commented: “Important aspects of early hominin biology remain debated, or simply unknown. In that context, synchrotron X-ray imaging techniques like microtomography have the potential to non-destructively reveal crucial details on the development, physiology, biomechanics and taxonomy of fossil specimens.

Little Foot’s skull was also scanned using the adjacent IMAT neutron instrument at ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, combining X-ray and neutron imaging techniques in one visit to the UK. With such a rich volume of information collected, we’re eager to make more discoveries in the complementary X-ray and neutron tomography scans.”

Applications of X-ray synchrotron-based analytical techniques in evolutionary studies have opened up new avenues in the field of (paleo)anthropology. In particular, X-ray synchrotron microtomography has proved to be enormously useful for observing the smallest anatomical structures in fossils that are traditionally only seen by slicing through the bones and looking at them under a microscope.

Through the last decade, there have been more studies in palaeoanthropology using synchrotron radiation to investigate teeth and brain imprints in fossil hominins. However, scanning a complete skull such as the one of Little Foot and aiming to reveal very small details using a very high-resolution was quite challenging, but the team managed to develop a new protocol that made this possible. To recover the smallest possible details from a fairly large and very fragile fossil, the team decided to image the skull using synchrotron X-ray micro computed tomography at the I12 beamline at Diamond.

Principal Investigator, and Associate Professor, Prof Dominic Stratford, University of Witwatersrand (Wits University), School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies says: “This level of resolution is providing us with remarkably clear evidence of this individual’s life.

We think there will also be a hugely significant evolutionary aspect, as studying this fossil in this much detail will help us understand which species she evolved from and how she differs from others found at a similar time in Africa. This is just our first paper so watch this space. Funding permitting, we hope to be able to bring other parts of Little Foot to Diamond,” adding:

“This research was about bringing the best-preserved Australopithecus skull to the best of the best synchrotron facility for our purposes. Traditionally, hominins have been analysed by measuring and describing by the exterior shapes of their fossilised bones to assess how these differ between species. Synchrotron development and microCT resources means that we are now able to virtually observe structures inside the fossils, which hold a wealth of information. More recently, technology has developed to such an extent that we can now virtually explore minute histological structures in three dimensions, opening new avenues for our research.”

The first bones of the Little Foot fossil were discovered in the Sterkfontein Caves, northwest of Johannesburg, by Professor Ron Clarke of the University of the Witwatersrand in 1994. In 1997, following their discovery of the location of the skeleton, Professor Clarke and his team spent more than 20 years painstakingly removing the skeleton in stages from the concrete-like cave breccia using a small airscribe (a vibrating needle). Following cleaning and reconstructing, the skeleton was publicly unveiled in 2018. Wits University is the custodian of the StW 573, Little Foot, fossil.

Professor Ron Clarke, the British scientist based in South Africa who discovered and excavated Little Foot and conducted all the early examinations of the fossil, was also part of the research team and concludes: “It has taken us 23 years to get to this point. This is an exciting new chapter in Little Foot’s history, and this is only the first paper resulting from her first trip out of Africa.

We are constantly uncovering new information from the wealth of new data that was obtained. We hope this endeavour will lead to more funding to continue our work. Our team and PAST* emphasise that all of humanity has had a long-shared ancestry in harmony with the natural world, and that learning from those earliest ancestors gives us perspective on the necessity to conserve nature and our planet.”

This paper is the first in what is expected to be a series of papers resulting from the wealth of data the Principal Investigators from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa the University of Cambridge in UK, co-investigators from the Natural History Museum and Diamond were able to gain from their collaboration.

Little Foot also underwent neutron imaging at STFC’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source at the same time as the work undertaken at Diamond Light Source, providing unprecedented access to complementary advanced imaging techniques. Neutrons are absorbed very differently from X-rays by the fossil’s interior parts thanks to the sensitivity of neutrons to certain chemical elements. Despite having coarser spatial resolution, neutron tomography can sometimes differentiate between different mineralogical constituents for which contrast is very low for X-rays.

DIAMOND LIGHT SOURCE

Header Image Credit : Diamond Light Source Ltd

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Neandertals Had Capacity to Perceive and Produce Human Speech https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/neandertals-had-capacity-to-perceive-and-produce-human-speech/137454 Mon, 01 Mar 2021 22:56:38 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137454 Neandertals -- the closest ancestor to modern humans -- possessed the ability to perceive and produce human speech, according to a new study published by an international multidisciplinary team of researchers including Binghamton University anthropology professor Rolf Quam and graduate student Alex Velez.

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Neandertals — the closest ancestor to modern humans — possessed the ability to perceive and produce human speech, according to a new study published by an international multidisciplinary team of researchers including Binghamton University anthropology professor Rolf Quam and graduate student Alex Velez.

“This is one of the most important studies I have been involved in during my career”, says Quam. “The results are solid and clearly show the Neandertals had the capacity to perceive and produce human speech. This is one of the very few current, ongoing research lines relying on fossil evidence to study the evolution of language, a notoriously tricky subject in anthropology.”

The evolution of language, and the linguistic capacities in Neandertals in particular, is a long-standing question in human evolution.

“For decades, one of the central questions in human evolutionary studies has been whether the human form of communication, spoken language, was also present in any other species of human ancestor, especially the Neandertals,” says coauthor Juan Luis Arsuaga, Professor of Paleontology at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and co-director of the excavations and research at the Atapuerca sites. The latest study has reconstructed how Neandertals heard to draw some inferences about how they may have communicated.

The study relied on high resolution CT scans to create virtual 3D models of the ear structures in Homo sapiens and Neandertals as well as earlier fossils from the site of Atapuerca that represent ancestors of the Neandertals.

Data collected on the 3D models were entered into a software-based model, developed in the field of auditory bioengineering, to estimate the hearing abilities up to 5 kHz, which encompasses most of the frequency range of modern human speech sounds. Compared with the Atapuerca fossils, the Neandertals showed slightly better hearing between 4-5 kHz, resembling modern humans more closely.

In addition, the researchers were able to calculate the frequency range of maximum sensitivity, technically known as the occupied bandwidth, in each species. The occupied bandwidth is related to the communication system, such that a wider bandwidth allows for a larger number of easily distinguishable acoustic signals to be used in the oral communication of a species.

This, in turn, improves the efficiency of communication, the ability to deliver a clear message in the shortest amount of time. The Neandertals show a wider bandwidth compared with their ancestors from Atapuerca, more closely resembling modern humans in this feature.

“This really is the key,” says Mercedes Conde-Valverde, professor at the Universidad de Alcalá in Spain and lead author of the study. “The presence of similar hearing abilities, particularly the bandwidth, demonstrates that the Neandertals possessed a communication system that was as complex and efficient as modern human speech.”

“One of the other interesting results from the study was the suggestion that Neandertal speech likely included an increased use of consonants,” said Quam. “Most previous studies of Neandertal speech capacities focused on their ability to produce the main vowels in English spoken language. However, we feel this emphasis is misplaced, since the use of consonants is a way to include more information in the vocal signal and it also separates human speech and language from the communication patterns in nearly all other primates. The fact that our study picked up on this is a really interesting aspect of the research and is a novel suggestion regarding the linguistic capacities in our fossil ancestors.”

Thus, Neandertals had a similar capacity to us to produce the sounds of human speech, and their ear was “tuned” to perceive these frequencies. This change in the auditory capacities in Neandertals, compared with their ancestors from Atapuerca, parallels archaeological evidence for increasingly complex behavioral patterns, including changes in stone tool technology, domestication of fire and possible symbolic practices. Thus, the study provides strong evidence in favor of the coevolution of increasingly complex behaviors and increasing efficiency in vocal communication throughout the course of human evolution.

The team behind the new study has been developing this research line for nearly two decades, and has ongoing collaborations to extend the analyses to additional fossil species. For the moment, however, the new results are exciting.

“These results are particularly gratifying,” said Ignacio Martinez from Universidad de Alcalá in Spain. “We believe, after more than a century of research into this question, that we have provided a conclusive answer to the question of Neandertal speech capacities.”

BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY

Header Image Credit : Mercedes Conde-Valverde

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Almost 600 Cats and Dogs Excavated in Ancient Pet Cemetery https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/almost-600-cats-and-dogs-excavated-in-ancient-pet-cemetery/137451 Mon, 01 Mar 2021 22:53:11 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137451 Excavations of the early Roman port of Berenice in Egypt have unearthed the remains of nearly 600 cats and dogs from an ancient pet cemetery thought to be the earliest known yet discovered dating from 2000 years ago.

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Excavations of the early Roman port of Berenice in Egypt have unearthed the remains of nearly 600 cats and dogs from an ancient pet cemetery thought to be the earliest known yet discovered dating from 2000 years ago.

Berenice, also called Berenice Troglodytica, and Baranis, was founded in 275 BC by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BC), who named it after his mother, Berenice I of Egypt. From the 1st century BC until the 2nd century AD, Berenice was one of the trans-shipping points of trade between India, Sri Lanka, Arabia, and Upper Egypt.

Evidence for the cemetery was first discovered by Archaeozoologist Marta Osypinska and her colleagues at the Polish Academy of Sciences back in 2011, who discovered remains beneath a Roman rubbish pile.

In 2017, her team announced the discovery of 100 animals (mainly cats), but the exact nature of the bone assemblages was unclear, thought possibly to simply be discarded rubbish at the time.

During the latest series of excavations, Osypinska and her colleagues uncovered the remains of 585 animals buried in pits, with many covered with textiles or pieces of ceramics forming a kind of sarcophagus.

A veterinarian studying the bone assemblages has determined that most animals appear to have died from injury or disease, with some showing evidence of fractured legs and breaks in the bones.

Of the 585 animal remains, more than 90% were cats (many with iron collars or necklaces made with glass and shells), with dogs making up 5%, and the rest being baboons and two species of macaques native to the Indian subcontinent.

Osypinska told ScienceMag: “We have individuals who have very limited mobility, such animals had to be fed to survive, sometimes with special foods in the case of the almost-toothless animals.”

This, along with the nature of burial, has led the team to suggest that they formed a large pet cemetery that functioned for about a hundred years, from the mid-first century to the mid-second century AD.

Header Image Credit : M. OSYPINSKA

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The Human Brain Grew as a Result of the Extinction of Large Animals https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/03/the-human-brain-grew-as-a-result-of-the-extinction-of-large-animals/137448 Mon, 01 Mar 2021 15:44:50 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137448 A new paper by Dr. Miki Ben-Dor and Prof. Ran Barkai from the Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University proposes an original unifying explanation for the physiological, behavioral and cultural evolution of the human species, from its first appearance about two million years ago, to the agricultural revolution (around 10,000 BCE).

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A new paper by Dr. Miki Ben-Dor and Prof. Ran Barkai from the Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University proposes an original unifying explanation for the physiological, behavioural and cultural evolution of the human species, from its first appearance about two million years ago, to the agricultural revolution (around 10,000 BCE).

According to the paper, humans developed as hunters of large animals, causing their ultimate extinction. As they adapted to hunting small, swift prey animals, humans developed higher cognitive abilities, evidenced by the most obvious evolutionary change – the growth of brain volume from 650cc to 1,500cc. To date, no unifying explanation has been proposed for the major phenomena in human prehistory. The novel theory was published in Quaternary Journal.

In recent years more and more evidence has been accumulated to the effect that humans were a major factor in the extinction of large animals, and consequently had to adapt to hunting smaller game, first in Africa and later in all other parts of the world. In Africa, 2.6 million years ago, when humans first emerged, the average size of land mammals was close to 500kg. Just before the advent of agriculture this figure had decreased by over 90% – down to several tens of kg.

According to the researchers, the decrease in the size of game and the need to hunt small, swift animals forced humans to display cunning and boldness – an evolutionary process that demanded increased volume of the human brain and later led to the development of language enabling the exchange of information about where prey could be found. The theory claims that all means served one end: body energy conservation.

The researchers show that, throughout most of their evolution, early humans were apex (top) predators, specializing in hunting large game. Representing most of the biomass available for hunting, these animals provided humans with high fat levels, an essential source of energy, and enabled a higher energy return than small game. In the past, six different species of elephants lived in Africa, comprising more than half of the biomass of all herbivores hunted by humans.

Initial evidence from East Africa indicates that homo sapiens only emerged in that area after a significant decline in the number of elephant species in certain regions. Comparing the size of animals found in archaeological cultures, representing different species of humans in east Africa, southern Europe and Israel, the researchers found that in all cases there was a significant decline in the prevalence of animals weighing over 200kg, coupled with an increase in the volume of the human brain.

“We correlate the increase in human brain volume with the need to become smarter hunters,” explains Dr. Ben-Dor. For example, the need to hunt dozens of gazelles instead of one elephant generated prolonged evolutionary pressure on the brain functions of humans, who were now using up much more energy in both movement and thought processes.

Hunting small animals, that are constantly threatened by predators and therefore very quick to take flight, requires a physiology adapted to the chase as well as more sophisticated hunting tools. Cognitive activity also rises as fast tracking requires fast decision-making, based on phenomenal acquaintance with the animals’ behaviour – information that needs to be stored in a larger memory.”

The evolutionary adaptation of humans was very successful,” says Dr. Ben-Dor. “As the size of animals continued to decrease, the invention of the bow and arrow and domestication of dogs enabled more efficient hunting of medium-sized and small animals – until these populations also dwindled.

Toward the end of the Stone Age, as animals became even smaller, humans had to put more energy into hunting than they were able to get back. Indeed, this is when the Agricultural Revolution occurred, involving the domestication of both animals and plants. As humans moved into permanent settlements and became farmers, their brain size decreased to its current volume of 1300-1400cc. This happened because, with domesticated plants and animals that don’t take flight, there was no more need for the allocation of outstanding cognitive abilities to the task of hunting.”

Prof. Barkai: “While the chimpanzee’s brain, for example, has remained stable for 7 million years, the human brain grew threefold, reaching its greatest size about 300,000 years ago. In addition to brain volume, evolutionary pressure caused humans to use language, fire and sophisticated tools such as bow and arrow, adapt their arms and shoulders to the tasks of throwing and hurling and their bodies to the prolonged chase, improve their stone tools, domesticate dogs and ultimately also domesticate the game itself and turn to agriculture.”

Prof. Barkai adds: “It must be understood that our perspective is not deterministic. Humans brought this trouble upon themselves. By focusing on hunting the largest animals, they caused extinctions. Wherever humans appeared – whether homo erectus or homo sapiens, we see, sooner or later, mass extinction of large animals.

Dependence on large animals had its price. Humans undercut their own livelihood. But while other species, like our cousins the Neanderthals, became extinct when their large prey disappeared, homo sapiens decided to start over again, this time relying on agriculture.”

TEL-AVIV UNIVERSITY

Header Image Credit : Daleyhl

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Coria Roman Town https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/coria-roman-town/137439 Sun, 28 Feb 2021 22:07:56 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137439 Coria, also called Corioritum and Corbridge, are the remains of a Roman town and fort, located south of Hadrian's Wall at the intersection of Dere Street and the Stanegate, in present-day England.

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Coria, also called Corioritum and Corbridge, are the remains of a Roman town and fort, located south of Hadrian’s Wall at the intersection of Dere Street and the Stanegate, in present-day England.

Prior to the arrival of the Romans, the area was inhabited by the Textoverdi, or the Lopocares (conjectural tribes), or possibly the Brigantes, which were Iron Age tribes recorded by Roman and Greek historians during the second century AD.

A small fort called the Red House Fort (named for the discovery at Beaufront Red House) was constructed 0.5 miles from the site of Coria to support campaigns further north by Gnaeus Julius Agricola between AD 77 and 83.

Shortly after Agricola’s victories across large parts of Caledonia, the Romans abandoned the Red House Fort and started construction of Coria to house a 500-strong cavalry unit called the Ala Gallorum Petriana (based on inscriptions from a 1st century tombstone found nearby at Hexham Abbey).

Image Credit : Markus Milligan

The fort was reinforced with stone during the Governorship of Quintus Lollius Urbicus (AD 139 to 142), but would be completely levelled around AD 163 after the Roman withdrawal from the Antonine Wall to Hadrian’s Wall, converting the site into a market town and administrative centre for the northern frontier.

During the same decade, Coria became a legionary base for the Legio XX Valeria Victrix, and the Legio VI Victrix, to support and garrison Hadrian’s wall, and a chain of outpost forts.

Image Credit : Markus Milligan

By the 3rd century AD, an extensive civilian town had grown up around the military base, emerging as the capital of a self-governing administrative division or civitas for the agricultural, lead, iron, and coal industries in the area.

Coria’s status began to decline during the 5th century AD, with many public buildings falling into disrepair and communication with the rest of the Roman Empire beginning to weaken due to the barbarian incursions into Gaul and Hispania.

Image Credit : Markus Milligan

With the fall of Roman rule in Britannia, the area around Coria was settled by the Anglo Saxons (probably in the 7th century) half a mile east of the ruins of the Roman town. The Saxons quarried the town’s stone for the construction of St Wilfrid’s church at Hexham, and the church of St Andrew of Corbridge.

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Archaeologists Reveal Roman Ceremonial Chariot https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/archaeologists-reveal-roman-ceremonial-chariot/137432 Sat, 27 Feb 2021 21:04:10 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137432 Archaeologists from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata have announced the discovery of an intact Roman Ceremonial Chariot excavated near the Roman city of Pompeii.

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Archaeologists from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata have announced the discovery of an intact Roman Ceremonial Chariot excavated near the Roman city of Pompeii.

Pompeii, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was a Roman city located in the modern commune of Pompei near Naples in the Campania region of Italy.

At its peak, Pompeii had a population of around 20,000 inhabitants and became an important passage for goods that arrived by sea, to be sent toward Rome or southern Italy along the nearby Appian Way.

Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area was buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

The chariot was unearthed during rescue excavations to combat illegal tunnelling by looters in search of archaeological treasures.

Image Credit : PompeiiSites

Archaeologists focused their attention on a large villa complex in Civita Giuliana north of the ancient city walls, where in 2018 the remains of a stable and 3 equidae, including a horse still in its harness was discovered.

The team excavated to a depth of 6 metres through the volcanic material, revealing a large ceremonial chariot called a Pilentum in a double-level portico, with its four wheels still intact, along with its iron components, bronze and tin decorations, mineralised wood remains and imprints of organic materials such as ropes and floral decoration.

Image Credit : PompeiiSites

Given the extreme fragility of the chariot and the risk of further illegal looting, archaeologists have worked intensively to stabilise the remains in order to move to the Archaeological Park of Pompeii for restoration and reconstruction.

Dario Franceschini, Minister of Culture said: “What has been announced today is a discovery of great scientific value. A round of applause and thanks to the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata and to the officers of the Carabinieri Headquarters for the Protection of Cultural Heritage for the collaboration which has averted the theft and illegal sale of these extraordinary finds on the black market”.

Interactive Map of Pompeii – View Full Screen: Click Here


Map Credit : Pompeii Bibliography and Mapping Project

POMPEIISITE

Header Image Credit : PompeiiSites

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The Mysterious Plain of Jars https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/the-mysterious-plain-of-jars/137425 Fri, 26 Feb 2021 22:44:52 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137425 The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape attributed to the late Iron Age of Southeast Asia from 500 BC to AD 500, consisting of thousands of large stone jars placed on hills within the central plain of the Xiangkhoang Plateau in Laos.

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The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape attributed to the late Iron Age of Southeast Asia from 500 BC to AD 500, consisting of thousands of large stone jars placed on hills within the central plain of the Xiangkhoang Plateau in Laos.

According to local Lao legend, the jars were created by a race of giants after winning a great victory in battle. The giants used the jars to brew and store lau hai, loosely translated to mean ‘rice wine’ or ‘rice beer’.

Up to 120 jar sites have been identified, each containing stone jars hewn from either sandstone, granite, conglomerate, limestone, or breccia at nearby quarries or from boulders extracted from riverbeds.

The cylindrical shaped jars have a lip rim to support a lid, and range from one to more than three metres in height, weighing up to 14 tons. Very few examples of stone lids have been recorded, suggesting that the jars were most likely capped with perishable material.

Image Credit: Jakub Hałun – CC BY-SA 4.0

The function of the jars is still debated, with some archaeologists suggesting that they were prehistoric mortuary vessels, evident by the discovery of human remains, burial goods and ceramics around the jars.

Another theory proposes that the jars were used as distilling vessels, where a body would be placed inside and left to decompose, which would then be removed to allow cremation or reburial of the skeletal remains.

Image Credit: Jakub Hałun – CC BY-SA 4.0

In contemporary funerary practices followed by Thai, Cambodian, and Laotian royalty, the corpse of the deceased is placed into an urn during the early stages of the funeral rites, at which time the soul of deceased is believed to be undergoing gradual transformation from the earthly to the spiritual world. The ritual decomposition is later followed by cremation and secondary burial.

On 6 July 2019, the Plain of Jars was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Header Image Credit: Jakub Hałun – CC BY-SA 4.0

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Ancient Egyptian Manual Reveals New Details About Mummification https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/ancient-egyptian-manual-reveals-new-details-about-mummification/137416 Fri, 26 Feb 2021 16:18:07 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137416 Based on a manual recently discovered in a 3,500-year-old medical papyrus, University of Copenhagen Egyptologist Sofie Schiødt has been able to help reconstruct the embalming process used to prepare ancient Egyptians for the afterlife. It is the oldest surviving manual on mummification yet discovered.

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Based on a manual recently discovered in a 3,500-year-old medical papyrus, University of Copenhagen Egyptologist Sofie Schiødt has been able to help reconstruct the embalming process used to prepare ancient Egyptians for the afterlife. It is the oldest surviving manual on mummification yet discovered.

In ancient Egypt, embalming was considered a sacred art, and knowledge of the process was the preserve of very few individuals. Most secrets of the art were probably passed on orally from one embalmer to the other, Egyptologists believe, so written evidence is scarce; until recently, only two texts on mummification had been identified.

Egyptologists were therefore surprised to find a short manual on embalming in a medical text that is primarily concerned with herbal medicine and swellings of the skin. The manual has recently been edited by University of Copenhagen Egyptologist Sofie Schiødt:

– Many descriptions of embalming techniques that we find in this papyrus have been left out of the two later manuals, and the descriptions are extremely detailed. The text reads like a memory aid, so the intended readers must have been specialists who needed to be reminded of these details, such as unguent recipes and uses of various types of bandages. Some of the simpler processes, e.g. the drying of the body with natron, have been omitted from the text, Sofie Schiødt explains. She adds:

– One of the exciting new pieces of information the text provides us with concerns the procedure for embalming the dead person’s face. We get a list of ingredients for a remedy consisting largely of plant-based aromatic substances and binders that are cooked into a liquid, with which the embalmers coat a piece of red linen. The red linen is then applied to the dead person’s face in order to encase it in a protective cocoon of fragrant and anti-bacterial matter. This process was repeated at four-day intervals.

Although this procedure has not been identified before, Egyptologists have previously examined several mummies from the same period as this manual whose faces were covered in cloth and resin. According to Sofie Schiødt, this would fit well with the red linen procedure described in this manuscript.

The Papyrus Carlsberg Collection, University of Copenhagen

Four was the key number

The importance of the Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg manual in reconstructing the embalming process lies in its specification of the process being divided into intervals of four, with the embalmers actively working on the mummy every four days.

– A ritual procession of the mummy marked these days, celebrating the progress of restoring the deceased’s corporeal integrity, amounting to 17 processions over the course of the embalming period. In between the four-day intervals, the body was covered with cloth and overlaid with straw infused with aromatics to keep away insects and scavengers, Sofie Schiødt says.

The Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg

The manuscript, which Sofie Schiødt has been working on for her PhD thesis, is the Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg – so called because one half of the papyrus belongs to the Louvre Museum in Paris and the other half is part of the University of Copenhagen’s Papyrus Carlsberg Collection. The two parts of the papyrus originally belonged to two private collectors, and several sections of it are still missing. Based on the palaeography, that is, the sign forms, the six metre long papyrus is dated to approximately 1450 BC, which means that it predates the only two other examples of embalming texts by more than a thousand years.

The bulk of the papyrus, which is the second-longest medical papyrus surviving from ancient Egypt, deals with herbal medicine and skin illnesses. Specifically, it contains the earliest-known herbal treatise, which provides descriptions of the appearance, habitat, uses, and religious significance of a divine plant and its seed as well as a lengthy treatise on swellings of the skin, which are seen as illnesses sent forth by the lunar god Khonsu.

The embalming process

The embalming, which was performed in a purpose-built workshop erected near the grave, took place over 70 days that were divided into two main periods – a 35-day drying period and a 35-day wrapping period.

During the drying period, the body was treated with dry natron both inside and outside. The natron treatment began on the fourth day of embalming after the purification of the body, the removal of the organs and the brain, and the collapsing of the eyes.

The second 35-day period was dedicated to the encasing of the deceased in bandages and aromatic substances. The embalming of the face described in the Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg belonged to this period.

The entire 70-day embalming process was divided into intervals of 4 days, with the mummy being finished on day 68 and then placed in the coffin, after which the final days were spent on ritual activities allowing the deceased to live on in the afterlife.

UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN – FACULTY OF HUMANITIES

Header Image Credit : Ida Christensen, University of Copenhagen

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Virtual Interactive Environment of Ancient Tomb of Ramesses VI https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/virtual-interactive-environment-of-ancient-tomb-of-ramesses-vi/137413 Fri, 26 Feb 2021 16:09:19 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137413 The tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI in the Valley of the Kings has been digitally scanned to create a virtual interactive high-resolution environment.

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The tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI in the Valley of the Kings has been digitally scanned to create a virtual interactive high-resolution environment.

Ramesses VI Nebmaatre-Meryamun was the fifth ruler of the Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt during the late 12th century BC. During his reign, the economy had taken a decline, with Ramesses VI turning to usurping the statues and monuments of his forebears, plastering and carving his cartouches over theirs.

With his death, his body was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings – designated today as KV9. KV9 was originally constructed for use by Pharaoh Ramesses V, but Ramesses VI commanded that KV9 be entirely refurbished for himself.

The tomb’s layout is typical of the 20th Dynasty during the Ramesside period, and consists of a long corridor, flanked with images of Ramesses VI before Ra-Harakhti and Osiris, leading to a hall decorated with an astronomical ceiling.

A second corridor continues forward that depicts scenes from the Book of the Imi-Duat, leading down to the burial chamber which is decorated with scenes from the Book of the Dead and the Book of Aker.

The interactive environment was commissioned by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and created by VRTEEK, a specialist in 3D reality scanning and VR/AR games.

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Header Image Credit : Tim Adams – CC BY 3.0

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Disease Tolerance: Skeletons Reveal Humans Evolved to Fight Pathogens https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/disease-tolerance-skeletons-reveal-humans-evolved-to-fight-pathogens/137409 Fri, 26 Feb 2021 14:21:37 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137409 A new skeleton study is reconstructing ancient pandemics to assess human's evolutionary ability to fight off leprosy, tuberculosis and treponematoses, with help from declining rates of transmission when the germs became widespread.

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A new skeleton study is reconstructing ancient pandemics to assess human’s evolutionary ability to fight off leprosy, tuberculosis and treponematoses, with help from declining rates of transmission when the germs became widespread.

The researchers state the germs mutated to infect ancient humans so they could replicate- hopping across to as many new hosts as possible- but the severity of the diseases reduced as a result.

The analysis by Adjunct Professor in Archaeology Maciej Henneberg and Dr Teghan Lucas at Flinders University and Dr Kara Holloway-Kew at Deakin University analysed data from 70,000 ancient skeletons to reveal more about the spread of ancient infectious diseases, by focusing on marks on bones as distinctive indicators of infection.

“Pathogens can either kill the human host or invade the host without causing death, ensuring their own survival, reproduction and spread. Tuberculosis, treponematoses and leprosy are widespread chronic infectious diseases where the host is not immediately killed,” says Professor Henneberg, an internationally renowned anatomist and biological anthropologist.

The three diseases are considered prime examples of co-evolution of human hosts and pathogens with records spanning across 200 generations.

“Each of these three diseases shows a decline in prevalence resulting from co-adaptation that is mutually beneficial for the disease and human host. In the last 5000 years, before the advent of modern medicine, skeletal signs of tuberculosis become less common, skeletal manifestations of leprosy in Europe declined after the end of the Middle Ages, while skeletal signs of treponematoses in North America declined, especially in the last years before contact with invading Europeans.”

Dr Teghan Lucas from Flinders University says this study highlights whether germs typically become more transmissible but less deadly over time so they can continue spreading.

“From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense for a pathogen to cause less harm to the host on which it depends for its survival so high levels of transmission appear to be a temporary evolutionary trait which reduces as time goes on when we look at leprosy, tuberculosis and syphilis.”

“Paleopathology is becoming an increasingly popular discipline which allows diseases which manifest on hard tissues to be studied in past populations because the diseases preserved for as long as the skeletal remains exist. Due to the preservation of pathological signs on skeletons, it is possible to trace the process of co-evolution of the three major infectious diseases as far back as specimens have been found.”

FLINDERS UNIVERSITY

Header Image Credit : Public Domain

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Complete Bronze Age Spearhead Discovered by Metal Detectorist https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/complete-bronze-age-spearhead-discovered-by-metal-detectorist/137405 Fri, 26 Feb 2021 13:07:23 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137405 A complete Bronze Age spearhead has been discovered by a metal detectorist on the island of Jersey.

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A complete Bronze Age spearhead has been discovered by a metal detectorist on the island of Jersey.

The discovery was made by detectorist Jay Cornick on a beach next to the small village of Gorey on the island’s eastern coast. In line with best practice for non-treasure, Mr Cornick recorded the find-spot location and declared it to Jersey Heritage.

Carbon dating of the remains of a Field Maple wooden shaft attached to the spearhead, suggests the find dates from between 1207 BC and 1004 BC around the later Bronze Age.

Olga Finch, Jersey Heritage’s Curator of Archaeology, said: “The spearhead is a really exciting find for Jersey – it is unique and very rare in terms of its large size and the fact that it is intact.”

Researchers suggest that the spear head was deposited as part of a ritual offering, as most Bronze Age items discovered on Jersey are usually part of a hoard containing used and broken metal tools and weapons.

Jersey Heritage’s Museum Conservator Neil Mahrer said: “To see this spearhead in one piece was incredible and the wood inside the spear shaft was so well preserved that we were able to use it to discover that it dated back to over 3,000 years ago.”

The Bronze Age spearhead has been placed on display in a new finds case at Jersey Museum & Art Gallery.

JERSEY HERITAGE

Header Image Credit : Jersey Heritage

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Portchester Castle – The Roman Saxon Shore Fort https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/porchester-castle-the-roman-saxon-shore-fort/137296 Thu, 25 Feb 2021 22:52:51 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137296 Portchester Castle is a medieval fortress, constructed within the walls of a Roman Saxon Shore Fort (Portus Adurni), located in Portchester, England.

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Portchester Castle is a medieval fortress, constructed within the walls of a Roman Saxon Shore Fort (Portus Adurni), located in Portchester, England.

Saxon Shore forts are defensive fortifications, built by the late Roman Empire to defend the coast of the Roman province of Britannia (Britain), and the opposite side of the English Channel.

During the 3rd century, the Roman Empire was weakened by the succession of brief emperors on the throne, internal fighting and invading tribes encroaching the Empires borders and frontiers.

Britannia was no exception, with repeated Saxon and Frank pirates raiding the coastline. To counteract this threat, a great chain of forts called the Saxonicum (Saxon Shore) was commissioned to protect the Roman population and strategically important sites from the raiding parties.

Image Credit – Markus Milligan

It is suggested that Portus Adurni was constructed by Marcus Aurelius Carausius on the instructions of emperor Diocletian between AD 285 and 290. The fort likely served as one of the bases for the Classis Britannica, a provincial naval fleet that protected the Saxon Shore using a liburnian bireme.

The fort enclosed an area of 9 acres, with outer walls 20 feet high constructed of coursed flint bonded with limestone slabs. The walls and bastion towers remain relatively intact, making Portus Adurni one of the best-preserved Roman forts north of the Alps.

Image Credit – Markus Milligan

Although the Roman army retreated from Britain in the early 5th century, archaeological evidence suggests that the fort continued to be occupied, and later became an Anglo-Saxon high-status residence with a great hall and tower.

In the aftermath of the Norman Conquest in AD 1066, a large castle was constructed using the Roman walls to form the outer bailey. The date of Portchester Castle’s construction is unknown, but the earliest reference dates from a grant issued in AD 1153, where Henry Plantagenet, later King Henry II granted the castle to Henry Maudit.

Image Credit – Markus Milligan

Portchester Castle would serve as a Royal residence for successive Kings over the next several centuries, hosting notable monarchs such as King John, Edward III, Henry V, Henry VIII with Queen Anne Boleyn, and Queen Elizabeth I.

The castle passed out of royal control in AD 1632 when Charles I sold it to Sir William Uvedale. Since then, Portchester Castle served as a prison for the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the War of the Spanish Succession, and the Napoleonic Wars.

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Study Reveals Roman Port at Ancient Altinum https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/study-reveals-roman-port-at-ancient-altinum/137292 Thu, 25 Feb 2021 17:21:33 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137292 A study by the Ca 'Foscari University of Venice has discovered the remains of a Roman port at the ancient city of Altinum in Italy.

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A study by the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice has discovered the remains of a Roman port at the ancient city of Altinum in Italy.

Altinum, also called Altino, was a Venetic settlement first settled by the Adriatic Veneti, before being absorbed by the Roman expansion across northern Italy.

The city developed into a major port and trading centre for timber, oil, wine and wool, until the shoreline became enveloped by sand deposited by the sea, blocking off access to sea trade and leading to the eventual abandonment by its inhabitants for the island of Torcello at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon.

The remains of Altinum was plundered for its stone to use as building materials in Torcello and the emerging Venice, leaving very scant archaeological remains surviving above ground level.

As part of an ongoing project to document the plan of Altinum using non-invasive methods, the team from Ca ‘Foscaril, led by Associate Professor Carlo Beltrame are studying an area previously identified with an L-shaped feature by Paolo Mozzi, a geologist from the University of Padua.

Working in collaboration with the Superintendency of Archaeology, and the Fine Arts and Landscape for the Municipality of Venice and the Lagoon, the team has applied geophysical methods and collected sample cores, revealing the L-shaped feature to be a Roman port that was connected to the Venetian Lagoon, via the Canale Siloncello through a small waterway.

The study has also revealed numerous previously unknown associated buildings around the port area, allowing archaeologists to determine the wider extent of the Altinum port system and how other previously known structures, such as a Roman tower was positioned along the navigation route that led from the port to the sea.

Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice

Header Image – Hypothetical rendering of the port at Altinum – Image Credit : Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice

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Ancient Skeletal Hand Could Reveal Evolutionary Secrets https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/ancient-skeletal-hand-could-reveal-evolutionary-secrets/137289 Thu, 25 Feb 2021 09:59:54 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137289 Evolutionary expert Charles Darwin and others recognized a close evolutionary relationship between humans, chimps and gorillas based on their shared anatomies, raising some big questions: how are humans related to other primates, and exactly how did early humans move around? Research by a Texas A&M University professor may provide some answers.

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Evolutionary expert Charles Darwin and others recognized a close evolutionary relationship between humans, chimps and gorillas based on their shared anatomies, raising some big questions: how are humans related to other primates, and exactly how did early humans move around? Research by a Texas A&M University professor may provide some answers.

Thomas Cody Prang, assistant professor of anthropology, and colleagues examined the skeletal remains of Ardipithecus ramidus (“Ardi”), dated to 4.4 million years old and found in Ethiopia. One of Ardi’s hands was exceptionally well-preserved.

The researchers compared the shape of Ardi’s hand to hundreds of other hand specimens representing recent humans, apes and monkeys (measured from bones in museum collections around the world) to make comparisons about the kind of locomotor behavior used by the earliest hominins (fossil human relatives).

The results provide clues about how early humans began to walk upright and make similar movements that all humans perform today.

“Bone shape reflects adaptation to particular habits or lifestyles – for example the movement of primates – and by drawing connections between bone shape and behavior among living forms, we can make inferences about the behavior of extinct species, such as Ardi, that we can’t directly observe, Prang said.

“Additionally, we found evidence for a big evolutionary ‘jump’ between the kind of hand represented by Ardi and all later hominin hands, including that of Lucy’s species (a famous 3.2 million-year-old well-preserved skeleton found in the same area in the 1970s). This ‘evolutionary jump’ happens at a critical time when hominins are evolving adaptations to a more human-like form of upright walking, and the earliest evidence for hominin stone-tool manufacture and stone-tool use, such as cut-marks on animal fossils, are discovered.”

Prang said the fact that Ardi represents an earlier phase of human evolutionary history is important because it potentially shines light on the kind of ancestor from which humans and chimpanzees evolved.

“Our study supports a classic idea first proposed by Charles Darwin in 1871, when he had no fossils or understanding of genetics, that the use of the hands and upper limbs for manipulation appeared in early human relatives in connection with upright walking,” he said. “The evolution of human hands and feet probably happened in a correlated fashion.”

Since Ardi is such an ancient species, it might retain skeletal features that were present in the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. If this is true, it could help researchers place the origin of the human lineage – in addition to upright walking – into a clearer light.

“It potentially brings us one step closer to an explanation for how and why humans evolved our form of upright walking,” Prang said.

He added that the big change in hand anatomy between Ardi and all later hominins occurs at a time, roughly between 4.4 and 3.3 million years ago, coinciding with the earliest evidence of the loss of a grasping big toe in human evolution. This also coincides with the earliest known stone tools and stone cut-marked animal fossils.

He said it appears to mark a major change in the lifestyle and behavior of human relatives within this timeframe.

“We propose that it involves the evolution of more advanced upright walking, which enabled human hands to be modified by the evolutionary process for enhanced manual manipulation, possibly involving stone tools,” Prang said.

TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY

Header Image Credit : William Daniel Snyder – CC BY-SA 4.0

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Virtual Interactive Environment of Ancient Egyptian Temple of Abu Simbel https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/virtual-interactive-environment-of-ancient-egyptian-temple-of-abu-simbel/137284 Wed, 24 Feb 2021 21:26:32 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137284 The Great Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel in Egypt has been digitally scanned to create a virtual interactive high-resolution environment.

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The Great Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel in Egypt has been digitally scanned to create a virtual interactive high-resolution environment.

The Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock-cut temples on the banks of Lake Nasser in Upper Egypt, that date from around 1264 BC during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II. There are two temples, the Great Temple, dedicated to Ramesses II himself, and the Small Temple, dedicated to his chief wife Queen Nefertari.

The site was first discovered by Europeans in AD 1813, when Swiss orientalist Johann Ludwig Burckhardt stumbled across the top frieze of the Great Temple. This was later excavated by the Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni in 1817, who cleared the entrance of sand revealing the four colossal, 20 m (66 ft) statues, each representing Ramesses II seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

With the construction of the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser from 1958 and 1970, Abu Simbel was under threat from being submerged. A UNESCO campaign was created as part of an international effort to record and move the monuments to a new location on an artificial hill high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir.

The new interactive environment was commissioned by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and created by nav-3d, a specialist in 3D reality scanning who previously published a similar interactive environment of the Wahty Tomb at the Saqqara necropolis.

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Header Image Credit : Public Domain

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Historical Document Details Martyrdom of Japanese Christian Retainers 400 Years Ago https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/02/historical-document-details-martyrdom-of-japanese-christian-retainers-400-years-ago/137281 Wed, 24 Feb 2021 19:38:13 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=137281 In Japan, the suppression of Christianity increased from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century, and many missionaries and Japanese believers were martyred during this period.

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In Japan, the suppression of Christianity increased from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century, and many missionaries and Japanese believers were martyred during this period.

New research has uncovered a letter indicating that Hosokawa Tadaoki, lord of the Kokura domain from 1600 to 1620, ordered the execution of Diego Hayato Kagayama, a chief vassal of the Hosokawa family, and the banishment of Genya Ogasawara, both Christians.

The punishment and martyrdom of both men was previously known only from reports by Jesuit missionaries to Rome. The discovery of primary historical documents created within the Hosokawa family has clarified both the authenticity and the limitations of missionaries’ writings of the time.

In the mid-16th century, the number of Christian believers in Japan exploded with the arrival of the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier. Eventually, some of the feudal lords, daimyos, and their vassals came to believe in Christianity.

There were many Christians in the Kyushu region in particular which served as a gateway to missionary work and “southern barbarian culture.” The Hosokawa family, which eventually became the lords of the Kyushu region, had many Christian retainers.

It is well known that Tama (Gracia/Garasha) Hosokawa, the wife of Tadaoki Hosokawa, the second head of the family, was a Christian. She maintained her faith and met her end in a major civil war, Battle of Sekigahara, in 1600.

When the Edo shogunate issued a nationwide ban on Christianity in December 1614, Hosokawa family retainers abandoned their faith one after another. However, some vassals in the family chose not to apostatize, most notably Hayato Kagayama and Genya Ogasawara.

Hayato Kagayama was a military commander who served three feudal lords who were all closely associated with Christianity. The first two were Christian, and after losing them to banishment deportation and death from illness, he proved himself to be a highly valuable retainer to the Hosokawa family. Although Tadaoki Hosokawa himself was not Christian, his wife Gracia was a devoted Catholic.

Genya Ogasawara was Hayato’s son-in-law and the son of a man famous for having been with Gracia during the last moments of her life. As the Hosokawa family residence was besieged by the enemy during the Battle of Sekigahara, Genya’s father took Gracia’s life and then committed seppuku, a form of ritual suicide in the samurai code of honor.

Both of these acts were by order of Lord Hosokawa, who then became deeply grateful to Genya’s father for protecting his wife’s honor and not giving her to the enemy. Both Genya and Hayato refused to obey the order to change their religion, but it is thought that Tadaoki respected the two so much that he was unable to take decisive action to punish them.

According to Jesuit missionary reports to Rome, on September 8th, 1619, Tadaoki finally ordered the beheading of Kagayama Hayato because he refused to apostatize. He also banished Genya Ogasawara and his family from Kokura, where the Hosokawa family castle was located, to the countryside to live with unknown farmers and outlaws.

Researchers from Kumamoto University’s Eisei Bunko Research Center* discovered a letter related to these orders while analyzing an archive of the Hosokawa family’s first retainer, the “Matsui Family Documents.” The sender, Rokuzaemon Yano, and three others were officials in charge of Genya Ogasawara’s custody, and the recipient, Okinaga Matsui, was the first retainer of the Hosokawa family and the chief administrator in the Kokura domain.

The translated text says:

We have received Lord Tadaoki’s decrees.

1. The Death Penalty (Martyrdom) for Hayato Kagayama:

We understand that the order to execute Hayato Kagayama was given last night (September 8).

2. Spare the Genya Ogasawara Family:

We immediately informed Genya Ogasawara that our Lord decided to save his life in gratitude for Genya’s father’s fealty. In response, Genya said, “I am so grateful to my Lord that I am at a loss for words.” When we informed him of the Lord’s intention to spare the lives of his family, including his children, he expressed his heartfelt gratitude and wrote a letter of reply to our Lord. In addition, Genya said to us, “Please, the three of you, express very carefully my gratitude to Lord Tadaoki.” Please keep this in mind.

3. Management of Genya Ogasawara’s family:

We ordered local village officials to keep a close watch on Genya, and to seize him and inform us immediately if he tries to escape from the confinement area. If it is difficult to seize him, we understand it is not a problem to execute him. If any abnormalities occur we shall report them as soon as they occur.

5:00 PM on the 9th of September,
From: Rokuzaemon Yano, Jinbei Yoshida and Ihei Tomishima,
To: First Retainer Okinaga Matsui

Professor Tsuguyo Inaba said following about this historical document: “Until now, we could only learn about the martyrdom of Hayato Kagayama and the punishment of Genya Ogasawara from the reports of Jesuit missionaries from Rome, and we could not eliminate information uncertainty. However, with the discovery of primary historical documents created by the organization that handed down the punishment, the Hosokawa family, more facts are now known.

The punishment of the two men is now thought to have been carried out in the immediate aftermath of the “Great Martyrdom of Genna in Kyoto” (1619), one of the greatest incidents in the history of Japanese suppression of Christianity, by Tadaoki, who felt threatened by it.

This was a shocking and decisive suppression of Christian retainers and vassals among leading feudal lords. After that point, daimyo and samurai within the family were forbidden from being Christian. This primary historical document demonstrates removal of Christians from the ruling class structure, and is a great historical discovery for Japanese Christianity.”

Items 1 and 3 of this letter are almost identical to the reports sent to Rome, but item 2 has never been seen before in any historical document. Genya Ogasawara’s father protected the honor of his lord’s wife, Gracia, by not letting her be taken hostage during the Battle of Sekigahara.

After her death, he died a martyr close by. This document clearly shows that Lord Hosokawa highly valued Genya’s father’s loyalty. However, the Genya Ogasawara and his family were ostracized by Hosokawa because they would not renounce their faith. Eventually they would all be executed in Kumamoto in December 1635.

The report from Jesuit missionaries at the time of Genya Ogasawara’s punishment reads as follows:

  • He was banished to the countryside where there were unknown farmers and outlaws in the territory.
  • They were mixed in with the lower class of artisans and poor peasants and treated as if they were the lowest class of slaves or discriminated people.

However, the letter found in the Matsui Family Documents reveals that the Genya family was managed by three officials (the senders of the letter) and village officials of the region where they were confined, in other words, within the formal domain administration structure of the Hosokawa family. It is also a valuable primary historical document that concretely shows reports to Rome by Jesuit missionaries in Japan during the period of suppression can contain both facts and exaggerations.

KUMAMOTO UNIVERSITY

Header Image Credit : Kumamoto University Library

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