HeritageDaily – Archaeology News https://www.heritagedaily.com Latest archaeology news, archaeological discoveries from across the globe Tue, 01 Dec 2020 23:44:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://www.heritagedaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/cropped-HDA1-1-32x32.jpg HeritageDaily – Archaeology News https://www.heritagedaily.com 32 32 Tenochtitlan – The Aztec Capital https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/12/tenochtitlan-the-aztec-capital/136300 Tue, 01 Dec 2020 23:44:04 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136300 Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Aztec civilisation, situated on a raised islet in the western side of the shallow Lake Texcoco, which is now the historic part of present-day Mexico City.

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Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Aztec civilisation, situated on a raised islet in the western side of the shallow Lake Texcoco, which is now the historic part of present-day Mexico City.

The altepetl (city) was founded by the Mexica, a Nahuatl-speaking indigenous people of the Valley of Mexico, who entered the Basin of Mexico after the decline of the Toltec civilisation. Adjacent to Tenochtitlan, a dissident group also founded the altepetl of Mexico-Tlatelolco (“Place of the Spherical Earth Mound”) with its own dynastic lineage.

According to mythology, the Mexica were searching for a destined home, where “an eagle with a snake in its beak, perched on a prickly pear cactus”. Upon arriving at Lake Texcoco, they persuaded the king of Culhuacan, a small city-state, to allow them to settle on a relatively infertile patch of land called Chapultepec (Chapoltepēc, “in the hill of grasshoppers”).

The Mexica supposedly sacrificed one of the daughters of the Culhuacan rulers, flaying her skin, on the command of their god Xipe Totec. This led to the Culhuacan attacking the Mexica, driving them to the refuge of an infertile island “among the stone-prickly pear cactus fruit”, where they founded their new city in the year “ōme calli” around AD 1325 to 1345.

Map showing areas of Mexico City (México, D. F.) built on the former lakebed of historical Lake Texcoco – Image Credit : HJPD – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Mexica transformed the island using the chinampa system, creating small, rectangular areas of fertile arable land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds.

The settlement rapidly grew into a city-state, forming part of the Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. Tenochtitlan would emerge as the dominant power and the de facto rulers of the alliance, conquering adjacent city-states and creating an empire that relied on an imperial tribute system.

Templo Mayor – Image Credit : Travis – CC BY-NC 2.0

Tenochtitlan was laid out symmetrically, divided into four zones covering an area of 3212 acres. Each zone contained 20 calpulli (districts), crossed by tlaxilcalli (streets) that connected to large causeways leading to the mainland. Within each calpulli was a central tiyanquiztli (marketplace), along with the various dwellings and places of industry for weavers, sculptors, and potters.

At the centre of Tenochtitlan was a ceremonial complex containing public buildings, temples, and palaces, including: the Templo Mayor, which was dedicated to the Aztec patron deity Huitzilopochtli and the Rain God Tlaloc; the temple of Quetzalcoatl; the tlachtli (ball game court) with the tzompantli or rack of skulls; the Sun Temple, which was dedicated to Tonatiuh; the Eagle’s House, which was associated with warriors and the ancient power of rulers; the platforms for the gladiatorial sacrifice; and some minor temples.

Templo Mayor – Image Credit : Travis – CC BY-NC 2.0

By the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in AD 1519, the city was at its apex, with an estimated population of between 200,000–400,000 inhabitants. The people of Tenochtitlan were soon exposed to diseases to which they had no immunity, devasting the population, with estimates suggesting more than 50% of the region’s population succumbed to smallpox.

The Spanish conquistadors, aided by an alliance of indigenous tribes and former tributary city-states, laid siege to Tenochtitlan for 93 days, until the Mexica surrendered on August 13, AD 1521, marking the beginning of Spanish hegemony in central Mexico.

Header Image – Painting of Tenochtitlan Ceremonial Center – Image Credit : Gary Todd – Public Domain

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Archipelago in Ancient Doggerland Survived Storegga Tsunami 8,000-Years-Ago https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/12/archipelago-in-ancient-doggerland-survived-storegga-tsunami-8000-years-ago/136287 Tue, 01 Dec 2020 00:01:59 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136287 Doggerland, dubbed “Britain’s Atlantis” is a submerged landmass beneath what is now the North Sea, that once connected Britain to continental Europe.

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Doggerland, dubbed “Britain’s Atlantis” is a submerged landmass beneath what is now the North Sea, that once connected Britain to continental Europe.

The landscape was a diverse mix of gentle hills, marshes, wooded valleys, and swamps, inhabited by Mesolithic people who took advantage of the rich migrating wildlife and seasonal hunting grounds.

Fishing trawlers operating in the area have recovered a rich fauna of mammoths, lions, and other animals, and several prehistoric tools and weapons. Doggerland was named in the 1990s, after the Dogger Bank, which in turn was named after the 17th-century Dutch fishing boats called “doggers”.

Around 8,000 years ago, the North Sea coast of Britain and Doggerland was struck by a massive tsunami caused by the Storegga Slides, a series of underwater landslips (the largest known from the Holocene) at the edge of Norway’s continental shelf in the Norwegian Sea.

Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland from Weichselian glaciation until the current situation – Image Credit : Francis Lima – CC BY-SA 4.0

The tsunami devasted vast areas of land, with academics proposing that the tsunami finally submerged Doggerland (which was already partially flooded by rising sea levels from the last ice age).

Researchers from Europe’s Lost Frontiers project, comprised of scientists from the UK and Estonia have been studying plant remains, isotopes, and sediments from core samples extracted from Doggerland’s southern region, combined with an analysis of the region’s topography and a study of modern tsunamis to gain a topographic picture of the Storegga tsunami event.

The study has revealed that the tsunami reached over 40km inland, but the dense forests and the uplands (known as Dogger bank), most likely dissipated the wave’s intensity, allowing Doggerland to survive as a small archipelago for many centuries that followed.

The researchers propose that these surviving islands may have played a key part in prehistory; such as providing a staging point for the spread of farming into the rest of Britain. The data also obtained also supports modern tsunami research, anticipating similar future events in an increasingly developed North Sea.

Europe’s Lost Frontiers

Europe’s Lost Frontiers is an ERC-funded Advanced Grant project to explore Doggerland, the impact of climate change on the settlement of the submerged landscapes of the North Sea basin using ancient DNA, seismic mapping, and complex systems modelling. Find out more

Antiquity

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Cereal, Olive & Vine Pollen Reveal Market Integration in Ancient Greece https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/cereal-olive-vine-pollen-reveal-market-integration-in-ancient-greece/136294 Mon, 30 Nov 2020 23:07:15 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136294 In the field of economics, the concept of a market economy is largely considered a modern phenomenon.

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In the field of economics, the concept of a market economy is largely considered a modern phenomenon.

Influential economists such as Karl Marx and Max Weber, for example, argued that although markets existed in antiquity, economies in which structures of production and distribution responded to the laws of supply and demand developed only as recently as the 19th century.

A recent study by an international team of researchers, including Adam Izdebski of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, uses palynology – the study of pollen remains extracted from cored sediments – to challenge this belief and provide evidence for an integrated market economy existing in ancient Greece.

Market integration began earlier than assumed

Using publicly available data from the European Pollen Database, as well as data from other investigators, researchers analyzed pollen assemblages from 115 samples taken from six sites in southern Greece to measure landscape change. Using radiocarbon dating to tie their measurements to historical time, researchers followed the change in percentage values for individual plant taxa between 1000 BCE and 600 CE and observed a decrease in pollen from cereals, a staple of the ancient Greek diet, during a period of apparent population growth.

This decrease occurred at the same time as an increase in the proportion of olive and vine pollen. These trends raise an important question: why would local producers chose to plant olives and vines instead of cereal grains, when the demand for this staple food must have been high and mounting?

In the current study, researchers argue that pollen data from southern Greece reveals an export economy based on cash cropping as early as the Archaic period, primarily through olive cultivation.

Although archeological evidence from these periods documents the movement of goods, quantifiable data on market integration and structural changes in agricultural production have been very limited. “In this paper,” says lead author Adam Izdebski, “we introduce pollen records as a new source of quantitative data in ancient economic history.”

From mud to markets: Integrated scientific approaches reveal an integrated ancient economy

Before arriving at their conclusions, researchers compared the trends they observed in the pollen data with three other sources of data in an instance of pioneering scientific research. First, researchers observed a decrease in pollen from uncultivated landscapes corresponding with each increase in settlement numbers.

This correlation between the number of settlements and the exploitation of the land supports the methodology of the study and indicates the potential of palynology for future studies in a variety of scientific disciplines.

Researchers then looked for evidence of increased trade activity in Mediterranean shipwrecks, which are routinely used to estimate maritime trade and overall economic activity.

After restricting their search to wrecks from the appropriate period and region, scientists observed trends in shipwrecks consistent with trends found in cereal, olive, and vine pollen. Both sources of data suggest an economic boom in the 1st and 2nd century CE, a decline in the 4th and 5th century, and a smaller boom in the 6th century.

Finally, researchers examined trends in the presence of large-scale oil and wine presses in the Mediterranean. The presence of these machines, although not located in Greece, indicates a pattern of broad economic trends in the region and changing incentives for the production of large quantities of olive oil and wine.

Again, the researchers found that trends in archaeological findings of oil and wine presses were consistent with trends in cereal, olive, and vine pollen.

As the emergence of integrated markets and capitalist economies of the early modern era is believed to have been at the roots of the Anthropocene, the current epoch in which humanity has become a major geological force, the current study shows that the structural developments that occurred on a large scale through European colonization from the 15th century onward were possible several thousand years before.

MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN HISTORY

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The Annulment of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon at Dunstable Priory https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/the-annulment-of-henry-viii-to-catherine-of-aragon-at-dunstable-priory/136279 Sun, 29 Nov 2020 23:07:16 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136279 The Priory Church of St Peter (Dunstable Priory) is the remaining nave of a former Augustinian priory church and monastery, that today is part of the Archdeaconry of Bedford, located within the Diocese of St Albans in the town of Dunstable, England.

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The Priory Church of St Peter (Dunstable Priory) is the remaining nave of a former Augustinian priory church and monastery, that today is part of the Archdeaconry of Bedford, located within the Diocese of St Albans in the town of Dunstable, England.

The Augustinian priory of Dunstable was founded in the late 12th century AD by King Henry I (also known as Henry Beauclerc), who also granted the priory all such liberties and rights in the town of Dunstable and a quarry at Totternhoe.

Around the same time, Henry also constructed a royal palace known as Kingsbury, directly opposite the priory on, or near the site where the Old Palace Lodge now stands in Church Street. The palace was mainly used by Henry for celebrating Christmas, with consecutive monarchs gifting the palace for the disposal of the priory.

The priory attracted many pilgrims as they made their way to the shrine of Alban, and over the following centuries expanded to include several monastic buildings consisting of a dormitory, an infirmary, a hostel, stables, workshops, bakehouse, brewhouse, and buttery.

Image Credit : Markus Milligan

It was on the 23rd May 1533 that the priory would be witness to an event so significant in English history, that it would shape the direction and religious identity of the English church.

Henry VIII had asked the Catholic Church to invalidate his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, on the grounds that their marriage had been wrong in the eyes of God. Catherine had previously been married to Henry’s older brother Arthur Tudor, which Henry used as an argument for an annulment through an interpretation of the bible, that “if a man marries his brother’s wife, the couple will be childless”.

Image Credit : Markus Milligan

As Catherine’s nephew was Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor, Pope Clement VII would not accede to Henry’s wishes and forbade Henry to marry again before a decision was given in Rome.

In response, Henry instructed Archbishop Cranmer, together with the bishops of Winchester, London, Bath, and Lincoln to judge their royal master’s “grete and weightie cause”. The bishops met in the Lady Chapel of the conventual church at Dunstable Priory, resulting in the pronouncement that the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon to be null and void.

Image Credit : Zoltan Kuruc

In 1534, Henry also made himself the supreme head of the church in his lands by the Act of Supremacy and commissioned the Valor Ecclesiasticus to survey the finances of the church in England, Wales, and English controlled parts of Ireland. This resulted in the dissolution of the monasteries to appropriate their income, assets, and lands to be sold off for the benefit of the crown.

Although the church and priory at Dunstable were closed in January 1540, they had initially survived the destruction of the dissolution, as the intention was to create a see at Dunstable with the priory church serving as its cathedral. However, the scheme for the creation of new bishoprics and the elevation of Dunstable was abandoned, and the priory (except for the parochial nave which still stands) was plundered for its assets and left in ruins.

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Teōtīhuacān – Birthplace of the Gods https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/teotihuacan-birthplace-of-the-gods/136270 Sat, 28 Nov 2020 23:31:25 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136270 Teōtīhuacān, named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, and loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods" is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teotihuacan Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico.

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Teōtīhuacān, named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, and loosely translated as “birthplace of the gods” is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teotihuacan Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico.

The earliest evidence of occupation dates from as early as 600 BC, with archaeologists discovering the remains of small, scattered villages in situ of where the city would later be founded.

The development of Teōtīhuacān can be identified by four distinct consecutive phases, known as Teōtīhuacān I, II, III, and IV, with phase I starting around 200 – 100 BC during the Late Formative era, when the inhabitants coalesced around sacred springs in the basin of the Teōtīhuacān Valley.

Some scholars suggest that the founders were the Totonac people, creating a multi-ethnic state since the city represents cultural elements connected to the Zapotec, Mixtec, and Maya peoples, although many studies dispute the Toltec origin as the Toltec culture peaked far later than Teotihuacan’s zenith.

Image Credit : Christian Hipólito – CC BY-SA 2.0

During phase II from AD 100 to 350, the city population rapidly grew into a large metropolis, partly due to the economic pull and opportunities a thriving urban settlement presented, but also based on environmental factors suggested by the eruption of the Xitle volcano, forcing the migration from other settlements out of the central valley.

It was during this phase that many of the most notable monuments within Teōtīhuacān was constructed, including the Pyramid of the Sun (the third largest ancient pyramid after the Great Pyramid of Cholula and the Great Pyramid of Giza), the Pyramid of the Moon, the Avenue of the Dead, and the Ciudadela with the Temple of the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl.

The urban layout of the city exhibits two slightly different orientations, which resulted from both astronomical and topographic criteria. The central part of the city, including the Avenue of the Dead, conforms to the orientation of the Sun Pyramid, while the southern part reproduces the orientation of the Ciudadela. The two constructions recorded sunrises and sunsets on particular dates, allowing the use of an observational calendar.

Image Credit : Christian Hipólito – CC BY-SA 2.0

Phase III (also called the classical period) lasted from AD 350 to 650 and saw Teōtīhuacān reach its apex as a primate city. The city had an estimated population of 125,000 inhabitants (some estimates also suggest 250,000), and over 2,000 buildings covering an area of 4447.9 acres.

During Period IV between AD 650 and 750, the city went into decline with rapid population shrinkage. Scholars initially proposed that Teōtīhuacān was sacked and burned, but a closer study by archaeologists has determined that the burning was mainly confined to the elite housing compounds clustered around the Avenue of the Dead.

This has led to the suggestion that the city experienced civil strife, internal uprising, and power struggles between the ruling and intermediary elites that led to the eventual abandonment.

Image Credit : Christian Hipólito – CC BY-SA 2.0

Studies of the contemporary climate record has also shown that during AD 535–536, the region suffered a series of droughts (possibly due to the eruption of the Ilopango volcano in El Salvador), causing the crops to fail and malnutrition in many of the juvenile skeletons excavated.

The sudden destruction of Teōtīhuacān was common for Mesoamerican city-states of the Classic and Epi-Classic period. Many Maya states suffered similar fates in the coming centuries, a series of events often referred to as the Classic Maya collapse.

Map of Teōtīhuacān – You can select full-screen mode on desktop by clicking on the “X” symbol beneath the map. For full screen on tablet or mobile. Click Here

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Chetro Ketl – The Great House https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/chetro-ketl-the-great-house/136263 Fri, 27 Nov 2020 23:26:13 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136263 Chetro Ketl is an archaeological site, and the ancient ruins of an Ancestral Puebloan settlement, located in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico, United States of America.

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Chetro Ketl is an archaeological site, and the ancient ruins of an Ancestral Puebloan settlement, located in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico, United States of America.

The Puebloans or Pueblos, were an ancient Native American culture that developed a series of major construction projects across Utah and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.
The Chaco Culture National Historical Park is one of the most concentrated centres of the Puebloan culture (defined locally as the Chacoans) that built immense complexes known as “Great Houses”.

Chetro Ketl was built over an extended period beginning in AD 990, with construction largely completed by AD 1075. The plan of the complex resembles a D-shaped structure covering nearly 3 acres and consists of 400 rooms with several large kiva used by Puebloans for rites and political meetings, often associated with the kachina belief system.

The purpose of the great house is debated by academics, with some suggesting that it served as a ceremonial centre during times of rituals in the larger Chacoan system for priests and pilgrims from the outlying communities. It is also proposed that the site served as a palace by Chacoan royalty, or to emphasise astronomical alignments with the other Great Houses.

Image Credit : KrisNM – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The surrounding area was heavily wooded, with researchers estimating that the Chocoans felled nearly 16,000 trees during construction leaving vast areas infertile. By AD 1130, the rains had diminished and the maize crops that the Chacoans depended on had begun to fail.

The region further suffered from the effects of a devastating fifty-year drought, that forced the Chacoans to end more than six hundred years of occupation and migrate away from the Chaco Canyon to outlying communities such as Mesa Verde, Salmon, and Aztec in New Mexico.

Image Credit : KrisNM – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Chetro Ketl was most probably known to the Native Americans living in the vicinity, but its rediscovery was in 1823 by the governor of New Mexico, José Antonio Vizcarra, who was conducting military campaigns against the Navajo.

The United States started exploring the region following the Mexican–American War of 1846–48 and the acquisition of the New Mexico Territory. During a military campaign against the Navajo in 1849, Lieutenant James Simpson of the United States Army Corps of Engineers conducted the first preliminary study of the monument, with the first scientific investigation of Chaco by Canyon Richard Wetherill in 1895.

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The Gila Cliff Dwellings https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/the-gila-cliff-dwellings/136253 Fri, 27 Nov 2020 20:57:23 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136253 The Gila Cliff Dwellings is an archaeological site, and ancient settlement constructed by the pueblos Mimbres branch of the Mogollon, located in southwest New Mexico of the United States of America.

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The Gila Cliff Dwellings is an archaeological site, and ancient settlement constructed by the pueblos Mimbres branch of the Mogollon, located in southwest New Mexico of the United States of America.

The Mimbres, also called the Mimbres Mogollon was a subset of the larger Mogollon culture, centred on the Mimbres Valley which developed a distinct cultural context during the “Three Circle Phase”, and the Classic Mimbres Period.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings refers to two main ruin sites, along with a collection of smaller ruins that was inhabited sometime during the Classic Mimbres Period from AD 1000-1130. Evidence of unconnected occupation can be traced through a 2,000-year sequence, starting with Archaic rock shelters, a Mogollon circular Pit House, Classic Pueblo periods to the Apache.

The Mimbres used natural caves that formed within steep-sided canyons to build interlinked settlements. The overall site covers an area of 553 acres inside five cliff alcoves, overlooking the Cliff Dweller Canyon which opens onto the West Fork of the Gila River.

Image Credit : Chris Dodson – CC BY-ND 2.0

Studies have identified 46 individual rooms built from Conglomerate rock quarried from the adjacent cliff-face. The Mimbres also built several rectangular surface structures using masonry, with some structures also being made of wattle (interwoven twigs).

Archaeologists estimate that the dwellings supported between 10-15 families living on a diet of squash, corn, and beans, along with meats such as mule, deer, and bison through hunting.

Image Credit : Doc Johnny Bravo – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

After the Mimbres abandoned the caves, their remote location and the site being located in Apache territory, meant that they were relatively preserved until their rediscovery by Henry B. Ailman in 1878 who was prospecting up the Gila River (although it is noted that Native Americans were most likely already aware of the ruins by this time).

Their rediscovery would lead to the site being looted by private collectors, with several reported mummified bodies being removed and subsequently lost. The only human remains recovered and preserved was during 1912, when a child burial nicknamed “Zeke” was discovered and sent to the Smithsonian Institute (Cat. No. 273340 USNM).

Image Credit : Amir – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Excavations have also managed to recover several items in situ, with the most notable being a bracelet crafted from a Glycymeris (shells) Bittersweet clamshell that originates from the Gulf of California.

Header Image Credit : Obiwannm – CC BY-SA 4.0

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Rare Cretaceous-Age Fossil Opens New Chapter in Story of Bird Evolution https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/rare-cretaceous-age-fossil-opens-new-chapter-in-story-of-bird-evolution/136249 Thu, 26 Nov 2020 20:38:55 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136249 A Cretaceous-age, crow-sized bird from Madagascar would have sliced its way through the air wielding a large, blade-like beak and offers important new insights on the evolution of face and beak shape in the Mesozoic forerunners of modern birds.

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A Cretaceous-age, crow-sized bird from Madagascar would have sliced its way through the air wielding a large, blade-like beak and offers important new insights on the evolution of face and beak shape in the Mesozoic forerunners of modern birds.

An international team of researchers led by Ohio University professor Dr. Patrick O’Connor and Stony Brook University professor Dr. Alan H. Turner announced the discovery today in the journal Nature.

Birds have played a pivotal role in shaping our understanding of biological evolution. As long ago as the mid-19th Century, Charles Darwin’s keen observations on the diversity of beak shape in Galapagos finches influenced his treatise on evolution through natural selection.

This fossil bird discovery adds a new twist on the evolution of skulls and beaks in birds and their close relatives, showing that evolution can work through different developmental pathways to achieve similar head shapes in very distantly related animals.

The bird is named Falcatakely, a combination of Latin and Malagasy words inspired by the small size and the sickle-shaped beak, the latter representing a completely novel face shape in Mesozoic birds.

The species is known from a single well-preserved, nearly complete skull, one that was buried in a muddy debris flow around 68 million years ago. Bird skeletons are rare in the fossil record because of their lightweight bones and small size. Bird skulls are an even rarer find. Falcatakely is the second Cretaceous bird species discovered in Madagascar by the National Science Foundation-funded team.

The delicate specimen remains partially embedded in rock due to the complex array of lightly built bones that make up the skull. Although quite small, with an estimated skull length of only 8.5 cm (~ 3 inches), the exquisite preservation reveals many important details. As one example, a complex series of grooves on the bones making up the side of the face indicate that the animal hosted an expansive keratinous covering, or beak, in life.

“As the face began to emerge from the rock, we knew that it was something very special, if not entirely unique,” notes Patrick O’Connor, professor of anatomy and neuroscience at Ohio University and lead author on the study. “Mesozoic birds with such high, long faces are completely unknown, with Falcatakely providing a great opportunity to reconsider ideas around head and beak evolution in the lineage leading to modern birds.”

Falcatakely belongs to an extinct group of birds called Enantiornithes, a group known exclusively from the Cretaceous Period and predominantly from fossils discovered in Asia. “Enantiornithines represent the first great diversification of early birds, occupying ecosystems alongside their non-avian relatives such as Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus,” says Turner, an associate professor of anatomical sciences at Stony Brook University and study co-author. “Unlike the first birds, such as Archaeopteryx, with long tails and primitive features in the skull, enantiornithines like Falcatakely would have looked relatively modern.”

A life reconstruction of Falcatakely might leave one with the impression that this is a relatively unremarkable bird. But it is underneath the keratinous beak that the evolutionary intrigue lies. O’Connor and his colleagues couldn’t remove the individual bones of Falcatakely from the rock for study because they were much too fragile.

Instead, the research team employed high-resolution micro-computed tomography (μCT) and extensive digital modeling to virtually dissect individual bones from the rock, with enlarged 3D printing of the digital models being essential for reconstructing the skull and for comparisons with other species.

As the research progressed, it became apparent that bones making up the face in Falcatakely were organized quite unlike those of any dinosaur, avian or nonavian, despite having a face superficially similar to a number of modern bird groups alive today.

All living birds build the skeleton of their beaks in a very specific way. It’s mostly formed by a single enlarged bone called the premaxilla. In contrast, most birds from the Age of Dinosaurs, like the iconic Archaeopteryx, have relatively unspecialized snouts comprised of a small premaxilla and a large maxilla. Surprisingly, the researchers found this similar primitive arrangement of bones in Falcatakely but with an overall face shape reminiscent of certain modern birds with a high, long upper bill and completely unlike anything known in the Mesozoic.

“Falcatakely might generally resemble any number of modern birds with the skin and beak in place, however, it is the underlying skeletal structure of the face that turns what we know about bird evolutionary anatomy on its head” noted O’Connor. “There are clearly different developmental ways of organizing the facial skeleton that lead to generally similar end goals, or in this case, similar head and beak shape.”

To explore how this type of convergent anatomy evolved, O’Connor and Turner enlisted the help of their colleague Dr. Ryan Felice, an expert on skull anatomy in birds and other dinosaurs.

“We found that some modern birds like toucans and hornbills evolved very similar sickle-shaped beaks tens of millions of years after Falcatakely. What is so amazing is that these lineages converged on this same basic anatomy despite being very distantly related,” noted Felice, lecturer in human anatomy at University College London.

Falcatakely was recovered from latest Cretaceous-age (70-68 million years ago) rocks in what is now northwestern Madagascar, in what has been interpreted as a semi-arid, highly seasonal environment.

That very same environment also hosted a number of other truly bizarre animals, such as the pug-nosed, herbivorous crocodyliform Simosuchus and the recently described mammal Adalatherium. “To push the boundaries of our knowledge of Earth history and biological evolution, we have to look in unexplored or underexplored regions,” Turner noted.

“The discovery of Falcatekely underscores that much of the deep history of the Earth is still shrouded in mystery,” added O’Connor, “particularly from those parts of the planet that have been relatively less explored.” Madagascar has always pushed the boundaries of biological potential. Indeed, the unique biota of Madagascar has intrigued natural historians and scientists across many disciplines, often framed in the context of evolution in isolation on the large island continent.

“The more we learn about Cretaceous-age animals, plants, and ecosystems in what is now Madagascar, the more we see its unique biotic signature extends far back into the past and is not merely reflective of the island ecosystem in recent times.”

OHIO UNIVERSITY

Header Image Credit : Mark Witton

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Water-to-Land Transition in Early Tetrapods https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/water-to-land-transition-in-early-tetrapods/136246 Thu, 26 Nov 2020 20:35:33 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136246 The water-to-land transition is one of the most important and inspiring major transitions in vertebrate evolution.

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The water-to-land transition is one of the most important and inspiring major transitions in vertebrate evolution.

And the question of how and when tetrapods transitioned from water to land has long been a source of wonder and scientific debate.

Early ideas posited that drying-up-pools of water stranded fish on land and that being out of water provided the selective pressure to evolve more limb-like appendages to walk back to water. In the 1990s newly discovered specimens suggested that the first tetrapods retained many aquatic features, like gills and a tail fin, and that limbs may have evolved in the water before tetrapods adapted to life on land. There is, however, still uncertainty about when the water-to-land transition took place and how terrestrial early tetrapods really were.

A paper published November 25 in Nature addresses these questions using high-resolution fossil data and shows that although these early tetrapods were still tied to water and had aquatic features, they also had adaptations that indicate some ability to move on land. Although, they may not have been very good at doing it, at least by today’s standards.

Lead author Blake Dickson, PhD ’20 in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, and 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, examined 40 three-dimensional models of fossil humeri (upper arm bone) from extinct animals that bridge the water-to-land transition.

“Because the fossil record of the transition to land in tetrapods is so poor we went to a source of fossils that could better represent the entirety of the transition all the way from being a completely aquatic fish to a fully terrestrial tetrapod,” said Dickson.

Two thirds of the fossils came from the historical collections housed at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, which are sourced from all over the world. To fill in the missing gaps, Pierce reached out to colleagues with key specimens from Canada, Scotland, and Australia. Of importance to the study were new fossils recently discovered by co-authors Dr. Tim Smithson and Professor Jennifer Clack, University of Cambridge, UK, as part of the TW:eed project, an initiative designed to understand the early evolution of land-going tetrapods.

The researchers chose the humerus bone because it is not only abundant and well preserved in the fossil record, but it is also present in all sarcopterygians – a group of animals which includes coelacanth fish, lungfish, and all tetrapods, including all of their fossil representatives. “We expected the humerus would carry a strong functional signal as the animals transitioned from being a fully functional fish to being fully terrestrial tetrapods, and that we could use that to predict when tetrapods started to move on land,” said Pierce. “We found that terrestrial ability appears to coincide with the origin of limbs, which is really exciting.”

The humerus anchors the front leg onto the body, hosts many muscles, and must resist a lot of stress during limb-based motion. Because of this, it holds a great deal of critical functional information related to an animal’s movement and ecology. Researchers have suggested that evolutionary changes in the shape of the humerus bone, from short and squat in fish to more elongate and featured in tetrapods, had important functional implications related to the transition to land locomotion. This idea has rarely been investigated from a quantitative perspective – that is, until now.

When Dickson was a second-year graduate student, he became fascinated with applying the theory of quantitative trait modeling to understanding functional evolution, a technique pioneered in a 2016 study led by a team of paleontologists and co-authored by Pierce. Central to quantitative trait modeling is paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson’s 1944 concept of the adaptive landscape, a rugged three-dimensional surface with peaks and valleys, like a mountain range. On this landscape, increasing height represents better functional performance and adaptive fitness, and over time it is expected that natural selection will drive populations uphill towards an adaptive peak.

Dickson and Pierce thought they could use this approach to model the tetrapod transition from water to land. They hypothesized that as the humerus changed shape, the adaptive landscape would change too. For instance, fish would have an adaptive peak where functional performance was maximized for swimming and terrestrial tetrapods would have an adaptive peak where functional performance was maximized for walking on land. “We could then use these landscapes to see if the humerus shape of earlier tetrapods was better adapted for performing in water or on land” said Pierce.

“We started to think about what functional traits would be important to glean from the humerus,” said Dickson. “Which wasn’t an easy task as fish fins are very different from tetrapod limbs.” In the end, they narrowed their focus on six traits that could be reliably measured on all of the fossils including simple measurements like the relative length of the bone as a proxy for stride length and more sophisticated analyses that simulated mechanical stress under different weight bearing scenarios to estimate humerus strength.

“If you have an equal representation of all the functional traits you can map out how the performance changes as you go from one adaptive peak to another,” Dickson explained. Using computational optimization the team was able to reveal the exact combination of functional traits that maximized performance for aquatic fish, terrestrial tetrapods, and the earliest tetrapods. Their results showed that the earliest tetrapods had a unique combination of functional traits, but did not conform to their own adaptive peak.

“What we found was that the humeri of the earliest tetrapods clustered at the base of the terrestrial landscape,” said Pierce. “indicating increasing performance for moving on land. But these animals had only evolved a limited set of functional traits for effective terrestrial walking.”

The researchers suggest that the ability to move on land may have been limited due to selection on other traits, like feeding in water, that tied early tetrapods to their ancestral aquatic habitat. Once tetrapods broke free of this constraint, the humerus was free to evolve morphologies and functions that enhanced limb-based locomotion and the eventual invasion of terrestrial ecosystems

“Our study provides the first quantitative, high-resolution insight into the evolution of terrestrial locomotion across the water-land transition,” said Dickson. “It also provides a prediction of when and how [the transition] happened and what functions were important in the transition, at least in the humerus.”

“Moving forward, we are interested in extending our research to other parts of the tetrapod skeleton,” Pierce said. “For instance, it has been suggested that the forelimbs became terrestrially capable before the hindlimbs and our novel methodology can be used to help test that hypothesis.”

Dickson recently started as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Animal Locomotion lab at Duke University, but continues to collaborate with Pierce and her lab members on further studies involving the use of these methods on other parts of the skeleton and fossil record.

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Header Image Credit : Davide Bonadonna

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Neanderthal Thumbs Better Adapted to Holding Tools With Handles https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/neanderthal-thumbs-better-adapted-to-holding-tools-with-handles/136244 Thu, 26 Nov 2020 20:31:51 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136244 Neanderthal thumbs were better adapted to holding tools in the same way that we hold a hammer, according to a paper published in Scientific Reports.

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Neanderthal thumbs were better adapted to holding tools in the same way that we hold a hammer, according to a paper published in Scientific Reports.

The findings suggest that Neanderthals may have found precision grips — where objects are held between the tip of the finger and thumb — more challenging than power ‘squeeze’ grips, where objects are held like a hammer, between the fingers and the palm with the thumb directing force.

Using 3D analysis, Ameline Bardo and colleagues mapped the joints between the bones responsible for movement of the thumb — referred to collectively as the trapeziometacarpal complex — of five Neanderthal individuals, and compared the results to measurements taken from the remains of five early modern humans and 50 recent modern adults.

The authors found covariation in shape and relative orientation of the trapeziometacarpal complex joints that suggest different repetitive thumb movements in Neanderthals compared with modern humans.

The joint at the base of the thumb of the Neanderthal remains is flatter with a smaller contact surface, and better suited to an extended thumb positioned alongside the side of the hand. This thumb posture suggests the regular use of power ‘squeeze’ grips, like the ones we now use to hold tools with handles.

In comparison, these joint surfaces are generally larger and more curved in recent modern human thumbs, an advantage when gripping objects between the pads of the finger and thumb, known as a precision grip.

Although the morphology of the studied Neanderthals is better suited for power ‘squeeze’ grips, they would still have been capable of precision hand postures, but would have found this more challenging than modern humans, according to the authors.

Comparison of fossil morphology between the hands of Neanderthals and modern humans may provide further insight into the behaviors of our ancient relatives and early tool use.

SCIENTIFIC REPORTS

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Ancient Blanket Made With 11,500 Turkey Feathers https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/ancient-blanket-made-with-11500-turkey-feathers/136241 Thu, 26 Nov 2020 20:28:33 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136241 The ancient inhabitants of the American Southwest used around 11,500 feathers to make a turkey feather blanket.

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The ancient inhabitants of the American Southwest used around 11,500 feathers to make a turkey feather blanket.

The people who made such blankets were ancestors of present-day Pueblo Indians such as the Hopi, Zuni and Rio Grande Pueblos.

A team led by Washington State University archaeologists analyzed an approximately 800-year-old, 99 x 108 cm (about 39 x 42.5 inches) turkey feather blanket from southeastern Utah to get a better idea of how it was made.

Their work revealed thousands of downy body feathers were wrapped around 180 meters (nearly 200 yards) of yucca fiber cord to make the blanket, which is currently on display at the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding, Utah.

The researchers also counted body feathers from the pelts of wild turkeys purchased from ethically and legally compliant dealers in Idaho to get an estimate of how many turkeys would have been needed to provide feathers for the blanket. Their efforts show it would have taken feathers from between four to 10 turkeys to make the blanket, depending on the length of feathers selected.

“Blankets or robes made with turkey feathers as the insulating medium were widely used by Ancestral Pueblo people in what is now the Upland Southwest, but little is known about how they were made because so few such textiles have survived due to their perishable nature,” said Bill Lipe, emeritus professor of anthropology at WSU and lead author of the paper. “The goal of this study was to shed new light on the production of turkey feather blankets and explore the economic and cultural aspects of raising turkeys to supply the feathers.”

Clothing and blankets made of animal hides, furs or feathers are widely assumed to have been innovations critical to the expansion of humans into cold, higher latitude and higher elevation environments, such as the Upland Southwest of the United States where most of the early settlements were at elevations above 5,000 feet.

Previous work by Lipe and others shows turkey feathers began to replace strips of rabbit skin in construction of twined blankets in the region during the first two centuries C.E. Ethnographic data suggest the blankets were made by women and were used as cloaks in cold weather, blankets for sleeping and ultimately as funerary wrappings.

“As ancestral Pueblo farming populations flourished, many thousands of feather blankets would likely have been in circulation at any one time,” said Shannon Tushingham, a co-author on the study and assistant professor of anthropology at WSU. “It is likely that every member of an ancestral Pueblo community, from infants to adults, possessed one.”

Another interesting finding of the study was the turkey feathers used by the ancestral Pueblo people to make garments were most likely painlessly harvested from live birds during natural molting periods.

This would have allowed sustainable collection of feathers several times a year over a bird’s lifetime, which could have exceeded 10 years.

Archeological evidence indicates turkeys were generally not used as a food source from the time of their domestication in the early centuries C.E. until the 1100s and 1200s C.E., when the supply of wild game in the region had become depleted by over-hunting.

Prior to this period, most turkey bones reported from archaeological sites are whole skeletons from mature birds that were intentionally buried, indicating ritual or cultural significance. Such burials continued to occur even after more turkeys began to be raised for food.

“When the blanket we analyzed for our study was made, we think in the early 1200s C.E., the birds that supplied the feathers were likely being treated as individuals important to the household and would have been buried complete,” Lipe said. “This reverence for turkeys and  their feathers is still evident today in Pueblo dances and rituals. They are right up there with eagle feathers as being symbolically and culturally important.”

In the long run, the researchers said their hope is the study will help people appreciate the importance of turkeys to Native American cultures across the Southwest.

“Turkeys were one of the very few domesticated animals in North America until Europeans arrived in the 1500s and 1600s,” Tushingham said. “They had and continue to have a very culturally significant role in the lives of Pueblo people, and our hope is this research helps shed light on this important relationship.”

WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY

Header Image – A segment of fiber cord that has been wrapped with turkey feathers, along with a single downy feather. Image Credit : WSU

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The Mysterious Sajama Lines https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/the-mysterious-sajama-lines/136230 Wed, 25 Nov 2020 23:07:05 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136230 The Sajama Lines is an ancient network of pre-Hispanic linear paths, located in the altiplano, or highlands of western Bolivia near the Nevado Sajama volcano.

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The Sajama Lines is an ancient network of pre-Hispanic linear paths, located in the altiplano, or highlands of western Bolivia near the Nevado Sajama volcano.

The web of lines covers an area of 22,525 square kilometres (almost fifteen times larger than the Nazca lines situated over a thousand kilometres away), and ran a combined length of 16,000 km.

Very little is known about who constructed the lines, with some sources suggesting that they may date from as early as 1000 BC, being constructed over many generations spanning hundreds of years.

The lines were created by scraping aside the dark material of oxidised rock and soil on the altiplano surface to reveal the lighter subsurface layers. Lines vary in length, with some reaching as far as 20 kilometres, passing relatively straight through rugged topography and natural obstacles.

Image Credit : Google Earth

It is theorised that the lines were used by indigenous people to navigate routes on pilgrimages to sacred sites, and to connect them with the villages dotted within the landscape.

Interspersed among the lines, and at points where lines intersect are also the remains of wak’as (shrines), and chullpas (burial towers), with the lines being used into the early colonial period to connect Catholic churches, hilltop shrines, and chapels by the Aymara people, an indigenous nation in the Andes and Altiplano regions (although ethnographic research by Adam Birge suggests that the lines are still in use today).

The presence of prehistoric artifacts and ceramics along the routes of the lines may suggest either the reuse of precolonial places, or the use of pre-colonial artifacts in the creation of sacred places by the Aymara.

Sajama Lines

The earliest account of the Sajama Lines in western culture was by the Swiss-born, Argentine professor, writer, and self-proclaimed “adventurer” Aimé Felix Tschiffely in 1932.

The lines were eventually brought to the attention of scholars, when anthropologist Alfred Metraux published his research on the ethnographic fieldwork about the Aymara and Chipaya people of the Carangas region.

Header Image Credit : Google Earth

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T. Rex Had Huge Growth Spurts, But Other Dinos Grew “Slow and Steady” https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/t-rex-had-huge-growth-spurts-but-other-dinos-grew-slow-and-steady/136227 Wed, 25 Nov 2020 09:43:55 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136227 Tyrannosaurus rex was one of the biggest meat-eating dinosaurs of all time--it measured up to 42 feet long from snout to tail and would have weighed in at around 16,000 pounds.

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Tyrannosaurus rex was one of the biggest meat-eating dinosaurs of all time–it measured up to 42 feet long from snout to tail and would have weighed in at around 16,000 pounds.

And it wasn’t alone–some of its less-well-known cousins could reach nearly the same size. Scientists have previously shown that T. rex got so big by going through a huge teenage growth spurt, but they didn’t know if that was true for just tyrannosaurs, just them and their close relatives, or perhaps all big bipedal dinosaurs. By cutting into dinosaur bones and analyzing the growth lines, a team of researchers got their answer: T. rex and its closest relatives had an awkward adolescence during which they got huge, while its more distant cousins in the allosauroid group kept on growing a little bit every year.

“We wanted to look at a wide swath of different theropods, two-legged, carnivorous dinosaurs, in order to understand broader patterns of growth and evolution in the group,” says Tom Cullen, the lead author of a new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Cullen, a scientific affiliate of Chicago’s Field Museum who worked on the study as a postdoctoral researcher at the Field with the museum’s then-curator of dinosaurs, Pete Makovicky, explains, “We particularly wanted to understand how some of them got so big–is the way T. rex grew the only way to do it?”

Makovicky, a scientific affiliate of the Field and professor of geology at the University of Minnesota and the paper’s senior author, says, “We also wanted to see if we got the same growth record when we sampled a variety of different bones from the same skeleton. All these questions about how theropods grew could impact our understanding of the evolution of the group.” Makovicky developed the idea for the project and also discovered several of the dinosaurs whose fossils were analyzed in the study.

The question of how an animal gets big is a surprisingly tricky one. Mammals like us tend to go through a period of extreme growth when we’re young and then stay the same size once we reach adulthood. In other animal groups, that’s not always the case. “Growth rate really varies, there’s no one size fits all,” says Cullen, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “Birds have super growth spurts and reach adult size really fast, while reptiles like alligators and various lizards and snakes have extended growth. With them, a really, really big individual is probably really old.”

Theropod dinosaurs like T. rex are related to both modern birds and reptiles–in fact, birds are the only living theropods. Scientists didn’t know whether theropods’ growth patterns were more like those of birds or reptiles, and those different growth patterns can make a big difference in how an animal fits into its ecosystem. Getting big quickly can be a competitive advantage–it makes it easier for you to hunt other animals, and harder for other animals to hunt you. On the flip side, a growth spurt takes a lot of energy and resources, and it’s easier to just get a little bigger every year your whole life. “The amount of calories T. rex would have needed during its growth spurt would have been ridiculous,” says Cullen–like a teenage boy that ate dinosaurs instead of endless bags of bagel bites.

The central struggle in studying extinct animals is that we can never know exactly what their lives were like. Since we can’t directly observe a dinosaur growing the way you can a living animal today, it’s hard to know for sure how they grew. But there are clues in the fossil record that reveal growth patterns.

“”Inside the bones as an animal grows, there are markings like tree rings that record roughly how old the animal is, how much it’s growing each year, and a number of other factors,” says Cullen. To find these growth rings, Cullen and his colleagues sliced into fossils from dozens of dinosaurs, from ones the size of dogs and ostriches all the way up to SUE the T. rex, one of the biggest predatory dinosaurs ever discovered. Getting access to slice and dice bones from a range of theropods was not an easy proposition, but Cullen and Makovicky reached out to colleagues across the globe. In particular, they were able to get samples from a new species of giant carcharodontosaurid from Argentina as a direct counterpoint to T. rex–this specimen was discovered and excavated by Makovicky in collaboration with his Argentinean colleagues Juan Canale and Sebastian Apesteguía. The authors also reached out to colleagues at the Palaeontological Museum of Liaoning for samples of small theropods closely related to birds to get the evolutionarily broad sampling needed to determine large scale patterns in life history.

“The very first specimen that the Field Museum let me sample was SUE the T. rex,” says Cullen. “It was pretty nerve-wracking, since it’s such a famous fossil.” He used a diamond-tipped coring drill to cut a tiny cylinder out of SUE’s thigh bone. The resulting sample was a cross-section of SUE’s bone, with lines like tree rings showing where new bone had grown year after year. (The missing piece of bone, about the size of a D battery, was then filled in with brown putty–if you go see SUE at the Field Museum and look closely at their left thigh you might see it, but it’s hard to spot.)

Back in the lab, Cullen sliced samples of bone so thin that light could pass through them and examined them under a microscope.

“Most animals have a period every year when they stop growing, traditionally suggested to be in times like winter when food is more scarce. It shows up in the bones as a line, like a tree ring,” says Cullen. By analyzing these growth lines and examining the bones for new regions of growth, scientists can get a rough estimate of an animal’s age and how much it grew every year. There are also clues in the bone structure.

“You can see all the little areas where the bone cells have grown, and the structure of the blood vessels that passed through the bone,” says Cullen. “These vascular canals tell you roughly how fast the bone was growing. If the canals are more organized, the bone was being laid down more slowly, and if the structure is chaotic, it grew more quickly.”

Cullen found that the dinosaurs’ growth patterns depended on their family. T. rex and its relatives, the coelurosaurs, showed a period of extreme growth during adolescence, and then they petered out once they reached adulthood. SUE the T. rex lived to be about 33 years old, the oldest T. rex currently known, but reached their adult size by age 20. To reach this massive size, SUE probably gained around 35-45 pounds per week as a teenager. Their more distant cousins, the allosauroids, could reach sizes almost as big as T. rex, but they grew slowly throughout their whole lives, with the oldest individuals reaching the biggest sizes. Among the allosauroids they sampled was the new carcharodontosaur from Argentina. It reached a size close to that of SUE, but didn’t reach adult size until its 30s to 40s. It lived to be up to about 50 years old or more, making it the oldest individual theropod on record aside from some birds like parrots. Despite its advanced age, it had only stopped growing 2 or 3 years before becoming part of the fossil record.

The discovery opens up questions about how these predatory dinosaurs interacted with the animals around them. The plant-eating dinosaurs that lived alongside T. rex were ceratopsians like Triceratops and duck-billed hadrosaurs. They grew extremely quickly in adolescence too. The slow-growing allosauroid carnivores lived with big long-necked sauropods that also grew quickly, but appear to have taken a long time to reach full size. Those trends might be related.

“We can’t say for sure, but there could be some kind of a selection pressure for the coelurosaurs to grow quickly to keep up with their prey, or pressure for the allosauroids to keep growing in size since their prey were also increasing in size,” says Cullen. “But it’s pretty speculative. It could be that even if the sauropods kept growing their whole lives, they had so many offspring that there was always something small to eat.”

But while the research hasn’t answered all the questions about why dinosaurs like T. rex grew the way they did, Cullen says, “I’m really proud of this work. It’s the culmination of many, many years of small projects building towards sort of a central goal of trying to understand growth in these animals and understand the many factors that influence these patterns. This doesn’t resolve it, but this is a really big step forward.”

FIELD MUSEUM

Image Credit : Steveoc 86 – CC BY-SA 4.0

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Ireland’s Only Dinosaurs Discovered in Antrim https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/irelands-only-dinosaurs-discovered-in-antrim/136223 Tue, 24 Nov 2020 23:04:48 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136223 The only dinosaur bones ever found on the island of Ireland have been formally confirmed for the first time by a team of experts from the University of Portsmouth and Queen's University Belfast, led by Dr Mike Simms, a curator and palaeontologist at National Museums NI.

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The only dinosaur bones ever found on the island of Ireland have been formally confirmed for the first time by a team of experts from the University of Portsmouth and Queen’s University Belfast, led by Dr Mike Simms, a curator and palaeontologist at National Museums NI.

The two fossil bones were found by the late Roger Byrne, a schoolteacher and fossil collector, who donated them along with many other fossils to Ulster Museum. Analysis has confirmed they are from early Jurassic rocks found in Islandmagee, on the east coast of County Antrim.

Ulster Museum has announced plans to put them on display when it reopens after the latest rounds of restrictions are lifted.

Dr Simms, National Museums NI, said: “This is a hugely significant discovery. The great rarity of such fossils here is because most of Ireland’s rocks are the wrong age for dinosaurs, either too old or too young, making it nearly impossible to confirm dinosaurs existed on these shores. The two dinosaur fossils that Roger Byrne found were perhaps swept out to sea, alive or dead, sinking to the Jurassic seabed where they were buried and fossilised.”

Left – Scelidosaurus femur fossil – Image Credit : University of Portsmouth – Right – Illustration of the Jurassic thyreophoran Scelidosaurus harrisonii – Credit : Jack Mayer Wood, CC BY-SA 4.0

The article, published in the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, is part of a larger project to document Jurassic rocks in Northern Ireland and draws on many fossils in Ulster Museum’s collections.

Originally it was assumed the fossils were from the same animal, but the team were surprised to discover that they were from two completely different dinosaurs. The study, employing the latest available technology, identified the type of dinosaur from which each came. One is part of a femur (upper leg bone) of a four-legged plant-eater called Scelidosaurus. The other is part of the tibia (lower leg bone) of a two-legged meat-eater similar to Sarcosaurus.

The University of Portsmouth team, researcher Robert Smyth, originally from Ballymoney, and Professor David Martill, used high-resolution 3D digital models of the fossils, produced by Dr Patrick Collins of Queen’s University Belfast, in their analysis of the bone fragments.

Robert Smyth said: “Analysing the shape and internal structure of the bones, we realised that they belonged to two very different animals. One is very dense and robust, typical of an armoured plant-eater. The other is slender, with thin bone walls and characteristics found only in fast-moving two-legged predatory dinosaurs called theropods.”

“Despite being fragmentary, these fossils provide valuable insight on a very important period in dinosaur evolution, about 200 million years ago. It’s at this time that dinosaurs really start to dominate the world’s terrestrial ecosystems.”

Professor Martill said: “Scelidosaurus keeps on turning up in marine strata, and I am beginning to think that it may have been a coastal animal, perhaps even eating seaweed like marine iguanas do today.”

UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH

Header Image – Dr Mike Simms, of National Museums NI, with the theropod tibia on the left and the Scelidosaurus femur on the right. Image Credit : National Museums NI

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New Light on Polar Explorer’s Last Hours https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/new-light-on-polar-explorers-last-hours/136220 Tue, 24 Nov 2020 22:59:05 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136220 Jørgen Brønlund was one of the participants in the legendary Mylius Erichsen's Denmark Expedition to Greenland 1906-08.

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Jørgen Brønlund was one of the participants in the legendary Mylius Erichsen’s Denmark Expedition to Greenland 1906-08.

In 1907, he died in a small cave of hunger and frostbite, but before that, he made one last note in his diary:

“Perished 79 Fjord after trying to return home over the ice sheet, in November Month I come here in waning moonlight and could not continue from Frost in the Feet and the Dark”.

The Danish expedition had traveled to Northeast Greenland the year before to explore and map the most northerly Greenland and also to determine whether the 50,000 square kilometer Peary Land was a peninsula or an island. If an island, it would accrue to the Americans. If a peninsula, it would be part of Danish territory.

It was after a failed attempt to get into the Independence Fjord that Jørgen Brønlund and two other participants on the expedition’s sled team 1 eventually had to give up.

A few days before Brønlund died, the two others from sled team 1 died: Expedition commander Mylius Erichsen and Niels Peter Høegh Hagen. Neither their corpses nor diaries have since been found.

Jørgen Brønlund’s body and diary were found, and almost ever since, the diary has been kept at the Royal Library in Copenhagen.

Now chemists from the University of Southern Denmark have had the opportunity to analyze a very specific part of the diary’s last page; more specifically, a black spot below Jørgens Brønlund’s last entry and signature.

The results are published in the journal Archaeometry.

The analyzes reveal that the spot consists of the following components: burnt rubber, various oils, petroleum and feces.

– This new knowledge gives a unique insight into Brønlund’s last hours, says professor of chemistry, Kaare Lund Rasmussen, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Southern Denmark.

– I see for me, how he, weakened and with dirty, shaking hands, fumbled in an attempt to light the burner, but failed, he says.

As a last survivor of sled team 1, Brønlund had reached a depot on Lambert’s Land and had at his disposal a LUX petroleum burner, matches and petroleum. But there was no metabolised alcohol to preheat the burner.

– He had to find something else to get the burner going. You can use paper or oiled fabric, but it is difficult. We think he tried with the oils available, because the black spot contains traces of vegetable oil and oils that may come from fish, animals or wax candles, says Kaare Lund Rasmussen.

The spot’s content of burnt rubber probably comes from a gasket in the Lux burner. The gasket may have been burned long before Brønlund’s crisis in the cave, but it may also have happened during his last vain attempt to light a fire.

Brønlund’s corpse and diary were found four months later, when spring came, by Johan Peter Koch and Tobias Gabrielsen, who had left Danmarkshavn to find the missing members of sled team 1.

The diary was found at Brønlund’s feet and was taken back to Denmark and is now kept at the Royal Library in Copenhagen.

Brønlund’s Lux burner was found in 1973 by the Danish Defense Sirius Patrol. After the re-burial of Brønlund in 1978, it was donated to the Arctic Institute in Copenhagen.

Peary Land:

Peninsula in northeast Greenland, named after the American polar explorer R.E. Peary, who believed that the area was an island and thus not part of Denmark. This was disproved by the Denmark Expedition, and Peary Land remained Danish. Peary Land is uninhabited.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN DENMARK

Header Image – Brønlund’s petroleum burner was found in 1973 – Image Credit : Jørn Ladegaard

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Aggersborg – The Giant Viking Trelleborg https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/aggersborg-the-giant-viking-trelleborg/136216 Tue, 24 Nov 2020 22:55:42 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136216 Aggersborg is the site of a Viking trelleborg (ring fort), that was built near Aggersund on the north side of the Limfjord in Denmark.

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Aggersborg is the site of a Viking trelleborg (ring fort), that was built near Aggersund on the north side of the Limfjord in Denmark.

A trelleborg was a geometrical circular fortification that usually contains a cross section of roads separating four internal quadrants, pointing in the four cardinal directions towards gated entrances.

Trelleborgs were built across numerous sites of strategic importance in areas of Denmark and Sweden, and are mostly attributed to Harold Bluetooth (a King of Denmark and Norway who ruled from AD 958–986), who was attributed with introducing Christianity to Denmark.

Aggersborg is Denmark’s largest trelleborg and dates from the Viking age between AD 970-980 (although archaeologists have also discovered that the fort overlaid an earlier Viking-Age rural settlement consisting of sunken huts connected with a couple of large farms), either during Harold Bluetooth’s reign, or that of his successor Sweyn Forkbeard.

The fort was strategically situated near a narrow passage of the Limfjord, a principal sailing route between the Baltic and the North Sea, and near the ancient Hærvejen trackway.

Image Credit : Frank Vincentz – CC BY-SA 3.0

The site measures 240 metres in diameter, with an eight-metre wide berm and ditch. Archaeologists believe that the fort also contained 48 longhouses measuring 32 metres in length, with the entire complex housing a garrison of up to 5,000 men.

The houses had curved roofs and sides, similar in form to that of a ship and were divided by a long inner hall with smaller rooms at each end. Researchers estimate that each house required 66 oak trees in their construction, with the total number of houses and ramparts using around 5,000 trees.

The purposes of Aggersborg’s construction is still debated, with one theory suggesting that the fort, along with several other trelleborgs were built in response to Harald Bluetooth losing control of the Danevirke (a system of Danish fortifications in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany), and parts of Southern Jutland to the Saxons.

It has also been suggested that the fort was a staging ground or barracks during the rule of Sweyn Forkbeard, to supply troops for his raids against England during the years AD 1002–1005, 1006–1007, and 1009–1012 to avenge the St. Brice’s Day massacre of England’s Danish inhabitants on Friday the 13th of November AD 1002, by King Æthelred II (also known as Æthelred the Unready).

Archaeological finds of pottery, jewellery, and tools have demonstrated that the site was inhabited for 20-30 years, until its abandonment in the early 11th century AD.

Header Image Credit : Google Earth

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First Exhaustive Review of Fossils Recovered From Iberian Archaeological Sites https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/first-exhaustive-review-of-fossils-recovered-from-iberian-archaeological-sites/136210 Tue, 24 Nov 2020 15:36:38 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136210 Despite being rare, fossils nonetheless appear to be common elements in archaeological records.

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Despite being rare, fossils nonetheless appear to be common elements in archaeological records.

Their presence is documented at some of the main Iberian archaeological sites from the Palaeolithic (Altamira, Parpalló, Reclau Viver, Aitzbitarte, La Garma, Rascaño, El Juyo and La Pileta) to the Metal Ages (Los Millares, Valencina, Los Castillejos, El Argar, Fuente Álamo, Vila Nova de São Pedro, etc.).

An interdisciplinary research team, comprised of archaeologists, archaeozoologists, palaeontologists and geologists from the Autonomous Universities of Madrid, Málaga, Granada, Córdoba and the Basque Country, as well as from the Altamira National Museum and Research Centre and the Andalusian Earth Sciences Institute (CSIC), coordinated by the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology of the University of Seville, joined forces to tackle the largest fossils record thus far from archaeological sites in the Iberian Peninsula.

The researchers have analysed a total of 633 specimens of scaphopods, molluscs, shark teeth and mammal remains from 82 archaeological sites in different regions (Andalusia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castile-La Mancha, Castile-Leon, Valencia, Madrid, Murcia and the Basque Country in Spain, and Alentejo, the Algarve, Extremadura, Lisbon and Setubal in Portugal).

The vast majority of fossils were collected from areas close to archaeological sites, suggesting their potential value as indicators of regional social and symbolic value during Iberian prehistory. However, there were changes throughout the period analysed, indicating different cultural fashions and traditions.

The Iberian Peninsula has one of the richest paleontological records in Western Europe. However, “there were generally only scarce indications of the collection and use of fossils at Iberian sites during Prehistory, and thus the documentation of this behaviour presented an anomalous situation compared to other regions of Europe, where numerous studies have been published on this practice,” explained Miguel Cortés, Professor of Prehistory at the University of Seville and leader of the study.

On the other hand, this confirms the need to take an interdisciplinary methodological approach to detect and study the fossils that are surely still awaiting analysis in the zooarchaeological collections of museums and institutions. In this sense, this work offers a new approach to archaeo-zoological records from archaeological sites, by identifying some cases where a review is needed.

“This work can serve to reappraise a little-known record and begin to solve the apparent anomaly of fossil collection by Iberian prehistoric communities compared to other areas of Western Europe,” added Dr. Cortés.

UNIVERSITY OF SEVILLE

Header Image Credit : Universidad de Sevilla

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Photos of Stolen Mosaic Reveals Oldest Representation of Roman Hydraulic Wheel https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/photos-of-stolen-mosaic-reveals-oldest-representation-of-roman-hydraulic-wheel/136207 Mon, 23 Nov 2020 22:01:36 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136207 Researchers from the University of Warsaw have determined that a mosaic stolen from Apamea in present-day Syria is the oldest representation of a Roman hydraulic water wheel.

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Researchers from the University of Warsaw have determined that a mosaic stolen from Apamea in present-day Syria is the oldest representation of a Roman hydraulic water wheel.

Apamea was an ancient Greek and Roman city that was founded around 300 BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of the Diadochi rivals who fought for control over the empire founded by Alexander the Great after his death.

In 64 BC, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (also known as Pompey the Great) marched on Apamea, annexing the city as part of the Roman province of Syria. In response to an earthquake in AD 115 (known as the 115 Antioch earthquake), the Romans rebuilt Apamea with a typical Roman street grid system, and large public works such as aqueducts, bathhouses, and a theatre.

The mosaic was stolen from Apamea by looters conducting illegal excavations back in 2011, and sold to antique collectors on the black market. The looters published photographs online of the mosaic to facilitate the illegal sale, which has now been studied by researchers from the Faculty of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw.

According to researchers, the mosaic is approx. 19 sq metres and consists of three stripes with figural representations, and shows a huge hydraulic wheel, or noria, which is very rare to be illustrated in contemporary iconographic sources.

Dr Marek T. Olszewski from the UW Institute of Archaeology announced that the stolen mosaic demonstrates the earliest example of a hydraulic wheel known to date, and probably dates from the first half of the 4th century AD, perhaps from the time of Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337 AD)”.

Hydraulic water wheels were driven by the current of a river and were used to lift water drawn from a river into an aqueduct to irrigate fields, and supply major settlements with water for public fountains, thermal baths, and high-status villas.

In the mosaic sample studied, researchers conclude that it features a wooden wheel installed on a pyramidal structure, to draw water from the Orontes River to supply a Roman bathhouse that consisted of a pool and slide.

The whereabouts of the mosaic are unknown and is the subject of an ongoing investigation by Interpol.

PAP

Header Image Credit : PAP

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Study Reveals True Origin of Oldest Evidence of Animals https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/study-reveals-true-origin-of-oldest-evidence-of-animals/136204 Mon, 23 Nov 2020 20:28:07 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136204 Two teams of scientists have resolved a longstanding controversy surrounding the origins of complex life on Earth.

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Two teams of scientists have resolved a longstanding controversy surrounding the origins of complex life on Earth.

The joint studies found molecular fossils extracted from 635-million-year-old rocks aren’t the earliest evidence of animals, but instead common algae.

The researchers from The Australian National University (ANU), Max Planck Institute and Caltech say the finding has big implications for our understanding of evolution.

“It brings the oldest evidence for animals nearly 100 million years closer to the present day,” Dr Lennart van Maldegem from ANU, co-author author of one study, said.

“We were able to demonstrate that certain molecules from common algae can be altered by geological processes – leading to molecules which are indistinguishable from those produced by sponge-like animals.

Professor Jochen Brocks, also based at ANU, said the mystery of when our very earliest animal ancestors emerged and became abundant in the oceans has puzzled palaeontologists for more than a century.

“Ten years ago, scientists discovered the molecular fossils of an animal steroid in rocks that were once at the bottom of an ancient sea in the Middle East,” Professor Brocks said.

“The big question was, how could these sponges have been so abundant, covering much of the seafloor across the world, but leave no body fossils?”

Dr Ilya Bobrovskiy, lead author of the other study, said the researchers have been able to “solve this mystery”.

“While it holds true sponges are the only living organism which can produce these steroids, chemical processes can mimic biology and transform common and abundant algae sterols into ‘animal’ sterols,” he said.

“These molecules can be generated in the lab when simulating geological time and temperatures, but we also showed such processes did happen in ancient rocks.”

The two complementary studies have been published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY

Header Image Credit : Ilya Bobrovskiy

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The Microbiome of Da Vinci’s Drawings https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/the-microbiome-of-da-vincis-drawings/136201 Mon, 23 Nov 2020 20:24:50 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136201 The work of Leonardo Da Vinci is an invaluable heritage of the 15th century. From engineering to anatomy, the master paved the way for many scientific disciplines.

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The work of Leonardo Da Vinci is an invaluable heritage of the 15th century. From engineering to anatomy, the master paved the way for many scientific disciplines.

But what else could the drawings of Da Vinci teach us? Could molecular studies reveal interesting data from the past? These questions led an interdisciplinary team of researchers, curators and bioinformaticians, from both the University of Natural Resources and Life Science and the University of Applied Science of Wien in Austria, as well as the Central Institute for the Pathology of Archives and Books (ICPAL) in Italy, to collaborate and study the microbiome of seven different drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci.

The molecular study of art pieces has already proved to be a valuable approach, and Dr Piñar, first author of the study, is not at her first try. In 2019, her team was able to investigate the storage conditions and even the possible geographical origin of three statues requisitioned from smugglers through the study of their microbiome and, earlier this year, the microbiome of ancient parchments allowed to elucidate the animal origin of the skins used for their manufacture 1,000 years ago.

In the study presented here, the Austrian team is using an innovative genomic approach called Nanopore, considered as third-generation sequencing, to reveal for the first time the complete microbiome composition of several of Da Vinci’s drawings. The study is published today in Frontiers in Microbiology.

Overall, the results show a surprising dominance of bacteria over fungi. Until now, fungi were thought to be a dominant community in paper-supported art and tended to be the main focus of microbial analysis due to their biodeterioration potential. Here, a high proportion of these bacteria are either typical of the human microbiome, certainly introduced by intensive handling of the drawings during restoration works, or correspond to insects microbiomes, which could have been introduced, a long time ago, through flies and their excrements.

A second interesting observation is the presence of a lot of human DNA. Unfortunately, we cannot assume that this DNA comes from the master himself but it might rather have been introduced by the restoration workers over the years. Finally, for both bacterial and fungal communities, correlation with the geographical location of the drawings can be observed.

Altogether, the insects, the restoration workers, and the geographic localization seem to all have left a trace invisible to the eye on the drawings. While it is difficult to say if any of these contaminants originate from the time when Leonardo Da Vinci was sketching its drawings, Dr Piñar highlights the importance that tracking these data could have: “The sensitivity of the Nanopore sequencing method offers a great tool for the monitoring of objects of art.

It allows the assessment of the microbiomes and the visualization of its variations due to detrimental situations. This can be used as a bio-archive of the objects’ history, providing a kind of fingerprint for current and future comparisons.” Thus, scientists could develop new methods to not only conserve the visual appearance of art but also to document the invisible journey of our artistic and cultural heritage.

FRONTIERS

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The Private Estates of the Royal Family https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/the-private-estates-of-the-royal-family/136185 Mon, 23 Nov 2020 17:48:01 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136185 The private estates of the Royal Family are the privately owned assets, not to be confused with the Crown Estates which belong to the British monarch as a corporation sole or "the sovereign's public estate".

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The private estates of the Royal Family are the privately owned assets, not to be confused with the Crown Estates which belong to the British monarch as a corporation sole or “the sovereign’s public estate”.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, originally known as Buckingham House, was built as a townhouse on the site of its predecessors, Arlington House, and Goring House, in London for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. Buckingham House came under royal ownership in 1761 for King George III as a private residence for Queen Charlotte, where it was then known as the Queen’s House.

With the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837, the Palace became the official London residence of the monarch, where it remains today serving as the administrative headquarters for the crown, and operates as one of the primary sites for hosting state functions.

Buckingham Palace – Public Domain

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is the official country residence of the crown, located in the historic town of Windsor in the county of Berkshire.

The castle developed from an early motte-and-bailey during the Norman conquest of England, built as part of a defensive ring of fortifications that encircled the city of London.

The castle has remained one of the favoured estates of the monarchy, having hosted King John during the revolt of the English barons, and various rulers of the Plantagenet, Lancaster, Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, and the present (Hanover) Windsor dynasty.

Windsor Castle – Public Domain

Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scotland since the 16th century.

The current palace was constructed in 1501 by James IV, but after the Union of Scotland and England in 1707, the palace lost its principal function as a more permanent royal residence and is now mainly used for state functions and ceremonies.

Holyrood Palace – Image Credit : Markus Milligan

Hillsborough Castle

Hillsborough Castle in the village of Hillsborough, north-west County Down serves as the monarch’s official residence in Northern Ireland, as well as the residence of the Secretary of State.

Built during the 18th century for the Hill Family, the Georgian country house was purchased by the British Government in 1922 to be the seat of the Governor of Northern Ireland until the position was abolished.

Hillsborough Castle – Image Credit – jAYkROW – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sandringham House

Sandringham House is a large mansion and estate inherited from the Queen’s father, George VI, that now serves as the private home of Queen Elizabeth during the winter months of the year.

The estate came under royal ownership in 1863, when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased Sandringham Hall for their son Albert Edward (Edward VII), as a country home for him and his fiancée, Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Between 1870 and 1900, the house was almost completely rebuilt on the designs of the architect Albert Jenkins Humber, as the original hall was deemed too small by the prince for his lavish engagements.

Sandringham House – Image Credit : Immanuel Giel – CC BY-SA 4.0

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is another private estate inherited from the Queen’s father, located in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. First recorded as Bouchmorale in 1451, the castle came under royal ownership in 1852 when the estate was purchased by Prince Albert.

Queen Victoria and Albert deemed the original castle too small for the growing Royal family, so the architect William Smith was commissioned to construct a larger structure that was completed in 1856.

Balmoral Castle – Public Domain

Craigowan Lodge

Craigowan Lodge is a rustic stone house, located 1 mile from the main castle on the Balmoral estate. The lodge is sometimes used by the Queen before the end of the tourist season at Balmoral, and was often the residence of Charles and Diana when they visited.

Clarence House

Clarence House is the official residence of Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in London.

The house was originally built between 1825 and 1827, by the Duke of Clarence (who in 1830 became King William I). Following the marriage of the then, Princess Elizabeth to her husband Prince Philip, Clarence House became their official residence until her accession as Queen Elizabeth II, where she moved to Buckingham Palace.

Highgrove House

Highgrove House is the family residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, situated southwest of Tetbury in Gloucestershire, England.

Highgrove House was built in 1796 by John Paul, but changed owners several times until the estate was purchased by the Duchy of Cornwall (Prince Charles) in 1980.

Llwynywermod

Llwynywermod is the Welsh home of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in Llandovery, Myddfai. The three-bedroom farmhouse was purchased by the Duchy of Cornwall in 2006, to serve as the official residence for the Duke in Wales.

Birkhall

Birkhall is a stately home, generally used by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on the Balmoral Estate in Scotland. First built in 1715, Birkhall came under royal ownership when it was purchased by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1849 for their son Albert Edward (Edward VII).

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and Princess Eugenie, located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London.

The palace was originally a two storey Jacobean mansion built by Sir George Coppin in 1605, but saw extensive alterations during the reign of King George who spent lavishly on new royal apartments,

Kensington Palace – Image Credit : Yvon – CC BY 2.0

Anmer Hall

Anmer Hall is a Georgian country house in the village of Anmer in Norfolk, England, that was gifted by the Queen to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge upon their marriage.

The current house was built in the 18th century and has formed part of the Sandringham estate since 1898.

Anmer Hal – Image Credit : Richard Humphrey – CC BY-SA 2.0

Frogmore Cottage

Frogmore Cottage was built as a country retreat on the Frogmore Estate in Windsor, for Queen Charlotte and her daughters in 1901.

In more recent years the cottage was the private residence of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as well as currently being occupied by Princess Eugenie and her husband.

St Jame’s Palace

St Jame’s Palace is one of the principal royal palaces, built by Henry VIII in the 1530s in the City of Westminster in London.

St James’s Palace is still a working palace, and the Royal Court is still formally based there, as well as being the private residence of Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Alexandra.

St Jame’s Palace – Image Credit : Johan Bilien – CC BY-SA 2.0

Gatcombe Park

Gatcombe Park is the private residence of Anne, Princess Royal, located between the villages of Minchinhampton and Avening in Gloucestershire.

The house was built in the late 18th century, but was purchased in 1976 by Queen Elizabeth for Princess Anne and her former husband Captain Mark Phillips.

The Royal Lodge

The Royal Lodge was the Windsor residence of Queen Elizabeth – The Queen Mother from 1952 until her death in 2002, and more recently the official country residence of Prince Andrew, Duke of York.

The Lodge originally dates from the mid-seventeenth century but has gone through several periods of demolition and renovation over the centuries.

Bagshot Park

Bagshot Park is the official residence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex, located on Bagshot Heath in Surrey and Berkshire.

The first house was built in 1631, as one of a series of small lodges designed for King Charles I by Inigo Jones, until it was demolished in 1847. The new manor was constructed in 1870, serving as the principal residence of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, with Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex taking up residency in 1998.

Barnwell Manor

Barnwell Manor is an eighteenth-century manor house, and former residence of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, located near the village of Barnwell in Northamptonshire.

The estate was granted to the Montagu family in 1540 by King Henry VIII, having remained in the family until it came under royal ownership from 1938. Within the grounds of the estate is Barnwell Castle, a motte and bailey castle erected in 1132, that was rebuilt in stone during the reign of King Henry III by the family of Berengar Le Moyne.

Header Image – Windsor Castle – Image Credit : John Mason – CC BY 2.0

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Field Geology at Mars’ Equator Points to Ancient Megaflood https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/field-geology-at-mars-equator-points-to-ancient-megaflood/136182 Sun, 22 Nov 2020 19:30:25 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136182 Floods of unimaginable magnitude once washed through Gale Crater on Mars' equator around 4 billion years ago - a finding that hints at the possibility that life may have existed there, according to data collected by NASA's Curiosity rover and analyzed in joint project by scientists from Jackson State University, Cornell University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii.

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Floods of unimaginable magnitude once washed through Gale Crater on Mars’ equator around 4 billion years ago – a finding that hints at the possibility that life may have existed there, according to data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover and analyzed in joint project by scientists from Jackson State University, Cornell University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii.

The research, “Deposits from Giant Floods in Gale Crater and Their Implications for the Climate of Early Mars,” was published Nov. 5 in Scientific Reports.

The raging megaflood – likely touched off by the heat of a meteoritic impact, which unleashed ice stored on the Martian surface – set up gigantic ripples that are tell-tale geologic structures familiar to scientists on Earth.

“We identified megafloods for the first time using detailed sedimentological data observed by the rover Curiosity,” said co-author Alberto G. Fairén, a visiting astrobiologist in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Deposits left behind by megafloods had not been previously identified with orbiter data.”

As is the case on Earth, geological features including the work of water and wind have been frozen in time on Mars for about 4 billion years. These features convey processes that shaped the surface of both planets in the past.

This case includes the occurrence of giant wave-shaped features in sedimentary layers of Gale crater, often called “megaripples” or antidunes that are about 30-feet high and spaced about 450 feet apart, according to lead author Ezat Heydari, a professor of physics at Jackson State University.

The antidunes are indicative of flowing megafloods at the bottom of Mars’ Gale Crater about 4 billion years ago, which are identical to the features formed by melting ice on Earth about 2 million years ago, Heydari said.

The most likely cause of the Mars flooding was the melting of ice from heat generated by a large impact, which released carbon dioxide and methane from the planet’s frozen reservoirs. The water vapor and release of gases combined to produce a short period of warm and wet conditions on the red planet.

Condensation formed water vapor clouds, which in turn created torrential rain, possibly planetwide. That water entered Gale Crater, then combined with water coming down from Mount Sharp (in Gale Crater) to produce gigantic flash floods that deposited the gravel ridges in the Hummocky Plains Unit and the ridge-and-trough band formations in the Striated Unit.

The Curiosity rover science team has already established that Gale Crater once had persistent lakes and streams in the ancient past. These long-lived bodies of water are good indicators that the crater, as well as Mount Sharp within it, were capable of supporting microbial life.

“Early Mars was an extremely active planet from a geological point of view,” Fairén said. “The planet had the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface – and on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life.

“So early Mars was a habitable planet,” he said. “Was it inhabited? That’s a question that the next rover Perseverance … will help to answer.”

CORNELL UNIVERSITY

Header Image – Public Domain

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Middle Stone Age Populations Repeatedly Occupied West African Coast https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/middle-stone-age-populations-repeatedly-occupied-west-african-coast/136179 Sun, 22 Nov 2020 19:25:06 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136179 Although coastlines have widely been proposed as potential corridors of past migration, the occupation of Africa's tropical coasts during the Stone Age is poorly known, particularly in contrast to the temperate coasts of northern and southern Africa.

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Although coastlines have widely been proposed as potential corridors of past migration, the occupation of Africa’s tropical coasts during the Stone Age is poorly known, particularly in contrast to the temperate coasts of northern and southern Africa.

Recent studies in eastern Africa have begun to resolve this, detailing dynamic behavioural changes near the coast of Kenya during the last glacial phase, but studies of Stone Age occupations along western Africa’s coasts are still lacking.

In recent years, anthropological research has begun to investigate the relationship between demographic diversity and patterns of behavioural change. A range of genetic and palaeoanthropological studies have begun to highlight the considerable demographic diversity present in West Africa in the recent past, but archaeological studies of Stone Age sites are still needed to understand how this diversity relates to patterns of behaviour shown in the archaeological record.

“There are plenty of surface sites that have demonstrated the wealth of Stone Age archaeology in West Africa,” says Jimbob Blinkhorn of MPI-SHH, “but to characterise patterns of changing behaviour, we need large, excavated stone tool assemblages that we can clearly date to specific periods.”

Tiémassas is a Stone Age site with a notable history of research, including surface surveys and early excavations in the mid-20th century, but the lack of systematic study meant it was mired in controversy.

“In the past, Tiémassas has been described as a Middle Stone Age, Later Stone Age or Neolithic site, and resolving between these alternatives has important implications for our understanding of behaviour at the site,” says lead author Khady Niang of Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar. “We’ve reviewed previously collected material from the site, conducted new excavations and analysis of stone tools and combined this with dating studies that make Tiémassas a benchmark example of the Middle Stone Age of West Africa.”

Previous research by the team dated a Middle Stone Age occupation at Tiémassas to 45 thousand years ago. The new research extends the timeframe of occupations at the site, with further stone tool assemblages recovered dating to 62 thousand and 25 thousand years ago. Critically, these stone tool assemblages contain technologically distinct types that help to characterise the nature of stone tool production during each occupation phase.

“The Middle Stone Age occupants of Tiémassas employed two distinct technologies – centripetal Levallois and discoidal reduction systems,” says Niang. “What is really notable is that the stone tool assemblages are really consistent with one another and form a pattern we can match up with the results of earlier excavations too. Pulled together, the site tells a clear story of startling technological continuity for nearly 40 thousand years.”

The results of this new research at Tiémassas consolidate the sparse record of Middle Stone Age occupations of West Africa. Yet, the site’s location is distinct from others dated to the Middle Stone Age in the region as it is located close to the coast and at the interface of three ecozones: savannahs, forests and mangroves.

“Our new work at Tiémassas offers a neat comparison to recent work on coastal occupations in eastern Africa. They span roughly the same timeframe, have similar ecological characteristics, and are found along tropical coasts,” says Blinkhorn. “But the continuity in behaviour we see at Tiémassas stands in stark contrast to the technological changes observed in eastern Africa, and this reflects a similar pattern seen in genetic and palaeoanthropological studies of enduring population structure in West Africa.”

As director of fieldwork for the ‘Lise Meitner’ Pan-African Evolution research group’s aWARE project, Blinkhorn is conducting research in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, and Nigeria, looking for connections between the environments of the past and recent human evolution.

MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN HISTORY

Header Image Credit : K. Niang

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Naqa – The Meroitic City https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/naqa-the-meroitic-city/136172 Thu, 19 Nov 2020 21:13:18 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136172 Naqa, also called Naga'a, and presently referred to as the El-Moswarat Andel-Naqa'a Archaeological Area was one of the ancient cities of the Nubian Kingdom of Kush, located on the east-bank of the River Nile in Western Butan (historically called the Island of Meroë) in Sudan.

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Naqa, also called Naga’a, and presently referred to as the El-Moswarat Andel-Naqa’a Archaeological Area was one of the ancient cities of the Nubian Kingdom of Kush, located on the east bank of the River Nile in Western Butan (historically called the Island of Meroë) in Sudan.

The Island of Meroë consists of three separate sites, Meroe, the capital and royal city of the Kushite kings, Musawwarat es-Sufra, which served as a ceremonial temple complex, and Naqa.

The Kingdom of Kush emerged after the disintegration of the New Kingdom of Egypt during a period known as the Bronze Age Collapse. The Kushite King Kashta and his successor, Piye, took advantage of the instability in Egypt to launch a series of campaigns, eventually conquering their neighbours, and pronouncing themselves the Pharaohs of the 25th dynasty.

The Nubian Pharaohs created a revival in Egyptian culture, in both religion, art, and architecture, including a new phase of pyramid building not seen since the “Age of the Pyramids” during the Old Kingdom.

Temple of Amun – Image Credit : Ron Van Oers – CC BY-SA 3.0

Naqa was founded at the foot of the Jebel Naqa mountain to serve as a religious centre during the Meroitic period, comprising of the First Meroitic Period (542–315 BC), the Second Meroitic Period (3rd century BC), the Third Meroitic Period (270 BC-1st century AD), and the Fourth Meroitic Period (1st century-4th century AD). The kingdom began to decline around AD 300, possibly due to a collapse of internal trade with the Nile valley states, with archaeological evidence pointing to an economic and political decline.

Among the many structures at Naqa, the most significant in the city is the Roman Kiosk, and the Amun and Apedemak temples.

Temple of Apedemak depicting King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore smiting enemies – Image Credit : TrackHD – CC BY 3.0

The Temple of Amun was founded by King Natakamani in dedication to Amun, an ancient Egyptian deity who appears as a member of the Hermopolitan Ogdoad. Outside of Egypt, Amun (pronounced as Amane or Amani in Nubia) was worshipped through to classical antiquity, most notably where he remained a national deity at Meroë.

The temple consists of an outer court and colonnade of rams, that leads to a hypostyle hall containing the inner sanctuary. The design and relief carvings are reminiscent of the Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal in Northern State, Sudan, and the Karnak Temple Complex in Egypt, commonly known as Karnak.

Roman Kiosk – Image Credit : Hans Birger Nilsen – CC BY-SA 2.0

To the west of the Temple of Amun is the Temple of Apedemak (or the Lion Temple), which is dedicated to Apedemak, a lion-headed deity considered the war god of Kush. The architecture and artistic style of the temple is certainly influenced by Ancient Egyptian design, which also includes depictions of Isis, Mut, Hathor, and Amesemi.

The temple also marks a fusion of cultures with the Kushites, evident by depictions of King Natakamani, Queen Amanitore, and Apedemak who is represented by a snake emerging from a lotus flower) in its construction.

This cultural fusion is none more apparent than the Roman kiosk, a small temple structure dedicated to Hathor that is a juxtaposition of architectural and decorative elements incorporating Pharaonic Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as well as from Kush itself. The temple has an Egyptian entrance, topped by a lintel with a row of sacred uraeus (cobras), and columns with Corinthian capitals, and arched windows in the Roman style.

Header Image Credit : LassiHU – CC BY-SA 4.0

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Prehistoric Shark Hid its Largest Teeth https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/prehistoric-shark-hid-its-largest-teeth/136169 Thu, 19 Nov 2020 19:52:24 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136169 Some, if not all, early sharks that lived 300 to 400 million years ago not only dropped their lower jaws downward but rotated them outwards when opening their mouths.

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Some, if not all, early sharks that lived 300 to 400 million years ago not only dropped their lower jaws downward but rotated them outwards when opening their mouths.

This enabled them to make the best of their largest, sharpest and inward-facing teeth when catching prey, paleontologists at the Universities of Zurich and Chicago have now shown using CT scanning and 3D printing.

Many modern sharks have row upon row of formidable sharp teeth that constantly regrow and can easily be seen if their mouths are just slightly opened. But this was not always the case.

The teeth in the ancestors of today’s cartilaginous fish (chondrichthyan), which include sharks, rays and chimaeras, were replaced more slowly. With mouths closed, the older, smaller and worn out teeth of sharks stood upright on the jaw, while the younger and larger teeth pointed towards the tongue and were thus invisible when the mouth was closed.

Jaw reconstruction thanks to computed tomography

Paleontologists at the University of Zurich, the University of Chicago and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden (Netherlands) have now examined the structure and function of this peculiar jaw construction based on a 370-million-year-old chondrichthyan from Morocco. Using computed tomography scans, the researchers were able not only to reconstruct the jaw, but also print it out as a 3D model. This enabled them to simulate and test the jaw’s mechanics.

What they discovered in the process was that unlike in humans, the two sides of the lower jaw were not fused in the middle. This enabled the animals to not only drop the jaw halves downward but at the same automatically rotate both outwards.

“Through this rotation, the younger, larger and sharper teeth, which usually pointed toward the inside of the mouth, were brought into an upright position. This made it easier for animals to impale their prey,” explains first author Linda Frey. “Through an inward rotation, the teeth then pushed the prey deeper into the buccal space when the jaws closed.”

Jaw joint widespread in the Paleozoic era

This mechanism not only made sure the larger, inward-facing teeth were used, but also enabled the animals to engage in what is known as suction-feeding. “In combination with the outward movement, the opening of the jaws causes sea water to rush into the oral cavity, while closing them results in a mechanical pull that entraps and immobilizes the prey.”

Since cartilaginous skeletons are barely mineralized and generally not that well preserved as fossils, this jaw construction has evaded researchers for a long time. “The excellently preserved fossil we’ve examined is a unique specimen,” says UZH paleontologist and last author Christian Klug.

He and his team believe that the described type of jaw joint played an important role in the Paleozoic era. With increasingly frequent tooth replacement, however, it became obsolete over time and was replaced by the often peculiar and more complex jaws of modern-day sharks and rays.

UNIVERSITY OF ZURICH

Header Image Credit : Christian Klug, UZH

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Transition to Feudal Living in 14th Century Impacted Local Ecosystems https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/transition-to-feudal-living-in-14th-century-impacted-local-ecosystems/136166 Thu, 19 Nov 2020 19:48:41 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136166 The transition from tribal to feudal living, which occurred throughout the 14th century in Lagow, Poland had a significant impact on the local ecosystem, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

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The transition from tribal to feudal living, which occurred throughout the 14th century in Lagow, Poland had a significant impact on the local ecosystem, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

The findings demonstrate how historical changes to human society and economies may have changed local environments.

Mariusz Lamentowicz and colleagues analysed changes in the composition of plants and pollen in different layers of peat in Pawski Lug, a nature reserve in Western Poland near the village of Lagow. Lagow was founded in the early 13th century and was settled by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller in 1350 CE.

By analysing the composition of different peat layers, the authors were able to draw conclusions about the conditions that were present when each layer was formed. Based on the presence of beech and hornbeam trees, and water lilies in older, deeper layers, the authors concluded that prior to settlement by the Knights Hospitaller, Pawski Lug consisted of waterlogged land surrounded by pristine forest.

The authors suggest that small amounts of charcoal present in the peat indicate that the forest was regularly burned on a small scale by the Slavic tribes that inhabited the area at the time.

Under the Knights Hospitaller, the majority of the land was given to agricultural labourers for farming. The authors found that the prevalence of hornbeam in peat from this era decreased as the abundance of cereals increased, indicating deforestation in favour of the establishment of croplands and meadows around the waterlogged land.

The authors propose that deforestation may have affected the groundwater levels of Pawski Lug. Increased abundances of Scots pine trees indicate that this species recolonized the area. As a result, the soil became increasingly acidic, supporting the growth of peat moss which both acidified the habitat and aided peat formation.

The findings illustrate the direct and significant impact the economic transformation of Lagow from a tribal to a feudal society had on the local ecosystem.

SCIENTIFIC REPORTS

Header Image – Carpinus betulus foliage – Image Credit : MPF – CC BY-SA 3.0

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Geoscientists Discover Ancestral Puebloans Survived From Ice Melt in New Mexico Lava Tubes https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/geoscientists-discover-ancestral-puebloans-survived-from-ice-melt-in-new-mexico-lava-tubes/136163 Thu, 19 Nov 2020 19:43:04 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136163 For more than 10,000 years, the people who lived on the arid landscape of modern-day western New Mexico were renowned for their complex societies, unique architecture and early economic and political systems.

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For more than 10,000 years, the people who lived on the arid landscape of modern-day western New Mexico were renowned for their complex societies, unique architecture and early economic and political systems.

But surviving in what Spanish explorers would later name El Malpais, or the “bad lands,” required ingenuity now being explained for the first time by an international geosciences team led by the University of South Florida.

Exploring an ice-laden lava tube of the El Malpais National Monument and using precisely radiocarbon- dated charcoal found preserved deep in an ice deposit in a lava tube, USF geosciences Professor Bogdan Onac and his team discovered that Ancestral Puebloans survived devastating droughts by traveling deep into the caves to melt ancient ice as a water resource.

Dating back as far as AD 150 to 950, the water gatherers left behind charred material in the cave indicating they started small fires to melt the ice to collect as drinking water or perhaps for religious rituals. Working in collaboration with colleagues from the National Park Service, the University of Minnesota and a research institute from Romania, the team published its discovery in “Scientific Reports.”

The droughts are believed to have influenced settlement and subsistence strategies, agricultural intensification, demographic trends and migration of the complex Ancestral Puebloan societies that once inhabited the American Southwest. Researchers claim the discovery from ice deposits presents “unambiguous evidence” of five drought events that impacted Ancestral Puebloan society during those centuries.

“This discovery sheds light on one of the many human-environment interactions in the Southwest at a time when climate change forced people to find water resources in unexpected places,” Onac said, noting that the geological conditions that supported the discovery are now threatened by modern climate change.

“The melting cave ice under current climate conditions is both uncovering and threatening a fragile source of paleoenvironmental and archaeological evidence,” he added.

Onac specializes in exploring the depths of caves around the world where ice and other geological formations and features provide a window to past sea level and climate conditions and help add important context to today’s climate challenges.

Their study focused on a single lava tube amid a 40-mile swatch of treacherous ancient lava flows that host numerous lava tubes, many with significant ice deposits. While archaeologists have suspected that some of the surface trails crisscrossing the lava flows were left by ancient inhabitants searching for water, the research team said their work is the earliest, directly dated proof of water harvesting within the lava tubes of the Southwest.

The study characterizes five drought periods over an 800-year period during which Ancestral Puebloans accessed the cave, whose entrance sits more than 2,200 meters above sea level and has been surveyed at a length of 171 meters long and about 14 meters in depth. The cave contains an ice block that appears to be a remnant of a much larger ice deposit that once filled most of the cave’s deepest section. For safety and conservation reasons, the National Park Service is identifying the site only as Cave 29.

In years with normal temperatures, the melting of seasonal ice near cave entrances would leave temporary shallow pools of water that would have been accessible to the Ancestral Puebloans. But when the ice was absent or retreated in warmer and dryer periods, the researchers documented evidence showing that the Ancestral Puebloans repeatedly worked their way to the back of the cave to light small fires to melt the ice block and capture the water.

They left behind charcoal and ash deposits, as well as a Cibola Gray Ware pottery shard that researchers found as they harvested a core of ancient ice from the block. The team believes the Ancestral Puebloans were able to manage smoke within the cave with its natural air circulation system by keeping the fires small.

The discovery was an unexpected one, Onac said. The team’s original goal in its journey into the lava tube was to gather samples to reconstruct the paleoclimate using ice deposits, which are slowly but steadily melting.

“I have entered many lava tubes, but this one was special because of the amount of charcoal present on the floor in the deeper part of the cave,” he said. “I thought it was an interesting topic, but only once we found charcoal and soot in the ice core that the idea to connect the use of ice as a water resource came to my mind.”

Unfortunately, researchers are now racing against the clock as modern climate conditions are causing the cave ice to melt, resulting in the loss of ancient climate data. Onac said he recently received support from the National Science Foundation to continue the research in the lava tubes before the geological evidence disappears.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA (USF INNOVATION)

Header Image – Ice deposit at the El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico. – Image Credit : University of South Florida

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NO DRINKING! NO FIGHTING! The Laws of Early Edo Japan to Keep the Peace https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/no-drinking-no-fighting-the-laws-of-early-edo-japan-to-keep-the-peace/136159 Thu, 19 Nov 2020 19:39:09 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136159 An early Edo period document stipulating the Hosokawa clan code of conduct for vassals dispatched on a national project to rebuild Sunpu Castle has been discovered by Kumamoto University researchers.

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An early Edo period document stipulating the Hosokawa clan code of conduct for vassals dispatched on a national project to rebuild Sunpu Castle has been discovered by Kumamoto University researchers.

The thirteen articles from the head of the Hosokawa clan in the Kokura domain (area), Tadaoki Hosokawa at the time, delegate full authority to the vassals to lead construction and prevent conflicts with other clans. It is the second original code of conduct document related to the Sunpu Castle reconstruction effort to be discovered.

During the Edo period (1603-1867), the Japanese central government mobilized feudal lords from all over the country to build and repair important castles and carry out extensive infrastructure development. It is commonly believed that these national projects prevented clans from accumulating wealth by forcing them to send out materials and men, thereby establishing a system of control in the territory.

Sunpu Castle, located in the center of Japan in Shizuoka Prefecture, was closely associated with the first of the Edo Shogunate (Ieyasu Tokugawa) and was an important base for the Edo Shogunate. A major expansion of the castle was delayed by a fire in December of 1607, but was quickly rebuilt by the following year. A number of daimyo clans were mobilized from all over Japan for this series of restoration projects.

The document found by researchers was issued by the head of the Hosokawa clan, Tadaoki Hosokawa, on January 8th, 1608, and outlined the Hosokawa clan code of conduct for vassals during reconstruction and their journey from Kokura (now northern Kyushu) to the Sunpu Castle reconstruction site (southwest of Tokyo).

Consistent throughout this code is a strict prohibition of any action that might lead to quarrels with vassals or workers of other clans. Articles 9 and 10 delegated full authority of the renovation site to the four persons named and the superintendent in charge of the Hosokawa clan.

Article 1 instructs the entire Hosokawa workforce to follow the instructions of the superintendent, Masazumi Honda – Aide to the Shogun, in all matters of discipline. Article 2 stipulates that fighting within the clan must be strictly avoided. Those engaged in fighting, as well as those who supported them, were punished (usually by death).

Articles 3 to 5 are provisions aimed at preventing fights with other clans. Going to watch another clan’s fight was a punishable offense (Article 3). If a servant escaped to another house, he was not returned forcefully. On the other hand, those who escaped from other clans were to be returned after the completion of the project (Article 4). Lodging fees from Kokura to Sunpu were to be paid in accordance with the “Gohatto” (laws & regulations) (Article 5).

The second half of the code provides a glimpse into the life of the soldier class (ashi-garu) mobilized for the project. Alcohol (sake) was strictly prohibited. They could bring their own food (bento), but were not to drink more than three small flat sake cups (sakazuki) of alcohol (Article 6). When going to town, they were supposed to declare the nature of their errand to the magistrate and obtain a permit (Article 7).

Meetings with people from other clans or the shogunate were strictly forbidden (Article 8). Hot baths in another clan’s facilities were not allowed (Article 11). Sumo wrestling and spectating were strictly forbidden during the period of the project, and violators would be punished (Article 12).

On the round trip between Kokura and Sunpu, workers were to travel in groups as indicated on an attached sheet (Article 13). This purpose of this historical document was to maintain peace at the project site and vividly conveys the aspects of the samurai society during its transition from a time of war to peace and prosperity.

When asked about the academic significance of this document, Professor Tsuguharu Inaba said, “This discovery provides us with a great deal of information about the politics concerning feudal lord mobilization by the shogunate to build castles.” Professor Inaba discovered the document and was part of the Eiseibunko Research Center team at Kumamoto University who deciphered it.

For the Hosokawa clan, the code of conduct written by Lord Hosokawa included a limit on drinking alcohol. Workers could only drink 3 small flat sake cups (sakazuki) of alcohol per day. Other rules included limits on Sumo wrestling/spectating, details for dealing with run-away servants, and an order to not use the bathing facilities of another clan. To maintain a peaceful atmosphere, fighting was strictly prohibited and those who engaged in the act could be punished by death. Image Credit : Professor Tsuguharu Inaba

Until now, only two documents related to the reconstruction of Sunpu Castle were known: an original code of conduct written by Mori Terumoto, feudal lord of the Choshu clan, and another, which is a copy of the Choshu clan document, from Maeda Toshinaga, feudal lord of the Kaga clan.

The discovery of this ancient document and the fact that the three documents are similar means that each clan was likely presented with a general code of conduct framework by the shogunate. Each clan then established the rules in the name of their feudal lord and required their vassals to enforce them.

The Hosokawa and Mori clans had been enemies in a major civil war (culminating in the Battle of Sekigahara) only seven years earlier and if something had sparked an old grudge, a major conflict could have evolved. The shogunate dared to mobilize the adversarial clans for the same national project to discipline them and make their joint efforts more visible.

This ancient document reveals an attempt to thoroughly prevent conflicts between the clans and suggests that the shogunate was trying to eliminate the seeds of civil war by reconciling relations between clans. In other words, the government strategically implemented a national project to establish peace within Japan.

This document was made public for the first time on the 4th of November 2020 at the Kumamoto University Library Online Exhibition of Rare and Valuable Materials.

KUMAMOTO UNIVERSITY

Header Image – A letter from the lord of the Hosokawa clan to the four vassals in charge stating the rules to be followed. – Image Credit : Professor Tsuguharu Inaba

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Uranprojekt -The Nazi Nuclear Program https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/uranprojekt-the-nazi-nuclear-program/136152 Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:39:14 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136152 Uranprojekt, also known informally as the Uranverein (meaning Uranium Club) was a secret German project, to research and develop atomic weapons and energy during the Second World War.

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Uranprojekt, also known informally as the Uranverein (meaning Uranium Club) was a secret German project, to research and develop atomic weapons and energy during the Second World War.

Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, Germany was at the forefront of nuclear fission, with the discovery of the first nuclear fission of heavy elements by Otto Hahn (referred to as the father of nuclear chemistry), and his assistant Fritz Strassmann from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in 1938.

This was shortly followed by Lise Meitner, an Austrian-Swedish physicist who theorised, and then proved in 1939 that the uranium nucleus had been split, giving the name “fission”.

In light of the recent discoveries, Germany was encouraged by a paper submitted by experimental physicist Wilhelm Hanle, which proposed the use of uranium fission in a reactor. This led to a small team being tasked to study the potential military applications of nuclear energy.

The Germans then established a new research project on the 1st September 1939 (the same day generally considered to be the start of WW2 with the invasion of Poland by Germany), under the auspices of the Wehrmacht’s Heereswaffenamt (HWA), the German Army Weapons Agency responsible for researching weaponry, ammunition, and equipment.

The USA also became aware of the German program that same year, when Albert Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt, warning of the German threat in creating a “nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated.”

It was quickly realised by the HWA that the project would be unable to make a decisive contribution to ending the war in the near term, so authority was placed under the Reichsforschungsrat (RFR, Reich Research Council), maintaining its kriegswichtig (war importance) designation.

The project was then expanded into three main areas of research, the Uranmaschine to investigate creating a nuclear reactor, the production of uranium and heavy water, and the separation of uranium isotopes.

Research struggled with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 (Operation Barbarossa), as the majority of Germany‘s scientific minds were turned to focus on developing other new technologies that could have a more immediate impact on the war effort (namely rocket technology and jet aircraft).

The project also suffered from a drained talent pool. Many top German scientists and nuclear physicists (some of which were Jewish or with Jewish heritage) had fled the country, and there was a lack of understanding and investment from the regime in the pure scientific application of the research (in comparison, the Manhattan Project consumed some $2 billion (1945) in government funds, compared to a mere 8 million reichsmarks $2 million (1945) on the Uranprojekt).

This resulted in the Germans never achieving a successful chain reaction, nor did they manage to develop a method of enriching uranium (having never seriously considered plutonium as a viable substitute).

In 1942, a conference was initiated by Albert Speer as head of the “Reich Ministry for Armament and Ammunition” (RMBM: Reichsministerium für Bewaffnung und Munition) to discuss the continuation of research, and the prospects for developing nuclear weapons.

Speer later noted, “We got the view that the development was very much at the beginning… the physicists themselves didn’t want to put much into it” and that “the technical prerequisites for production would take years to develop, two years at the earliest, even provided that the program was given maximum support”.

During the final months of the war, American forces conducting Operation Big as part of the Alsos Mission (a coordinated plan by a team of British and United States military to discover enemy scientific developments) arrived in Hechingen and its neighboring town of Haigerloch, on the edge of the Black Forest.

The German experimental nuclear pile at Haigerloch being inspected by American and British soldiers and others. – Public Domain

There they took into custody German scientists associated with the nuclear research, and discovered a prototype reactor at Haigerloch, along with records of the experiments, heavy water, and uranium ingots at Tailfingen.

In July of 1945, ten members of the German research team were held at a country estate in Britain, as part of a mission initiative called Operation Epsilon. The house was bugged by the Allies, to determine how close Nazi Germany had been to constructing an atomic bomb by listening to the scientist’s conversations.

When the scientists were informed of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 there was at first a sense of shock as the Germans had believed that their own research was at a far later stage, with some even doubting if the report was genuine.

The transcripts recorded seem to indicate that the physicists had either overestimated the amount of enriched uranium that an atomic bomb would require, or consciously overstated it, and that the German project was at best in a very early, theoretical stage of thinking about how atomic bombs would work.

Header Image – Replica of the German nuclear reactor at Haigerloch – Image Credit : ArtMechanic – CC BY-SA 3.0

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Kerma – The Ancient African Kingdom https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/11/kerma-the-ancient-african-kingdom/136144 Mon, 16 Nov 2020 23:14:55 +0000 https://www.heritagedaily.com/?p=136144 Kerma, also called Karmah is an archaeological site and the former capital of the ancient Kerma Kingdom, located in the Dongola Reach above the Third Cataract of the River Nile in present-day Sudan.

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Kerma, also called Karmah is an archaeological site and the former capital of the ancient Kerma Kingdom, located in the Dongola Reach above the Third Cataract of the River Nile in present-day Sudan.

The Kingdom of Kerma was an indigenous Nilotic culture that emerged around the mid-third millennium BC, most likely from the C-Group culture in the southern part of Upper Nubia. At its peak, the kingdom controlled several Cataracts of the Nile, covering territory almost as extensive as that of its Egyptian neighbours.

When Kerma was first excavated in the 1920s, archaeologists believed that it originally served as the base for, or was a fort of an Egyptian governor, and that these Egyptian rulers evolved into the independent monarchs of Kerma.

However, archaeologists now believe that Kerma was most likely one of the earliest African kingdoms (identified in the Egyptian texts from the Middle Kingdom with the name of Kush), that rose to prominence due to the strategic position on several caravan routes linking with Egypt, the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Image Credit : Jac Strijbos8 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Kerma culture has been identified with four distinct phases that span from the end of the Old Kingdom to the transitional phase between the Second Intermediate Period and the New Kingdom, based on the burial rites, morphology of the tombs, and the typology of ceramics that define: Kerma Ancien (2400-2050 BC), Kerma Moyen (2050-1750 BC), Kerma Classique (1750-1500 BC) and Kerma Recent (1500-1450 BC).

The kingdom was centred on Kerma, a large walled metropolis that reached a population of around 10,000 inhabitants at its zenith (although some sources cite 2,000). The city consisted of a system of planned roads that connected the residential areas, a necropolis, and a religious quarter to a large adobe structure called a Deffufa.

During the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose I of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, the Egyptians annexed Nubia around 1504 BC and destroyed the city of Kerma. The Egyptians placed a Viceroy of Kush, or ‘King’s Son of Kush’ to maintain order over the former Kerma territories, establishing a new settlement north of Kerma which is today known as Dokki Gel (meaning “red mound”).

The Egyptians continued to rule the region, until the Kingdom of Kush emerged, possibly from Kerma after the disintegration of the New Kingdom of Egypt, during a period known as the Bronze Age Collapse.

Header Image Credit : Lassi – CC BY-SA 4.0

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