Global Distribution of Penguins

This map is not very relevant to history but it makes me smile. Also, did you know that there are more species of penguins living outside of Antarctica than in Antarctica?

Giant Ice-Age Kangaroo Had Odd Link to Giant Panda

More than 40,000 years ago, Australia used to be home to many species of giant kangaroos. One, the short-faced kangaroo, had a single-toed clawed foot (modern-day kangaroos have three toes), and weighed more than 260 pounds (118 kilograms, modern-day kangaroos reach only 200 lbs). And the short-faced kangaroo had a box-shaped head. A recent study of the short-faced kangaroo’s odd skull shape found that it was specifically adapted to eat tough foods like mature leaves, stems, and branches when other food sources were scarce.

That makes the short-faced kangaroo very similar to the modern-day giant panda. They both have thick jaws, and specialized skulls, evolved for eating the toughest plants that other animals can’t. When times are hard, the short-faced kangaroo and the giant panda both have a competitive edge.

This Ear Ornament Looks Lovely -- And Very Painful

It is made of pure gold, so its not just large but heavy too. Also I am not quite sure how it would stay on. Made in Tulungagung during Java's Late Classic Period, 1000s to 1300s CE.

What Can Temples Tell Us About Hawaii's Unification Into A Kingdom?

A study of indigenous temples, or heiau, on the island of Maui was conducted to identify when the island’s native population first went from living under many small chiefdoms to living under a single ruler. The island’s sacred sites range from small shrines dedicated to deities of fishing and agriculture, to “monumental” temples whose foundations are still identifiable today. Maui is a rare archaeological site in Hawaii. It is untouched by agriculture, or tourism, or housing development. That means the archaeological remains of the entire district are intact, making Maui an excellent place to study the development of pre-contact Hawaiian society.

Heiau vary tremendously in size and form; there were different kinds of heiau for different gods. The structures themselves were made of perishable wood and thatch but their stone bases remain. These are generally platforms or terraces, and sometimes even walled enclosures. The study went over the heiau's remains looking for pieces of a small, stony coral known as Pocillopora meandrina, which were offerings and sometimes incorporated into the buildings themselves. Because coral are animals they can be dated -- telling us when the heiau were constructed and used. Which in turn can tell us something about the political landscape on Maui at the time.

If there was a a temple-building boom, that often means a period of political consolidation, as ancient Hawaiian rulers utilized increasing religious authority in order to also wield economic and political authority. To enhance their religious authority Hawaiian rulers would build more temples and shrines, often near farmlands and other areas of food production. This strengthened the symbolic association between rulers and the gods who controlled nature’s bounty. And it was probably not a coincidence that the temples also made it easier for leaders to collect tribute from the local food producers.

The new study found that most of the heiau were built recently and rapidly, over a span of no more than 150 years, beginning around 1550 and ending around the year 1700. Because coral carbon dating has an error range of 2 to 10 years, we can be relatively certain of these findings. Well, as certain as you can ever be with relatively new methods and fieldwork. Luckily, the study has outside support: its time range is the same time during which the Hawaiian oral traditions indicate that Maui island was consolidated into a single kingdom, under the reigns of King Pi’ilani and his successors Kiha-a-Pi’ilani and Kamalalawalu.

The "Boring Billion" Years

The term the "Boring Billion" refer to the approximately one billion-year period between 1.8 and 0.8 Ga in Earth's history, during the Proterozoic Eon. Earth's oceans were a soup of one-celled organisms, multicellular algae and fungi, and the land was barren rock until around the end of the Boring Billion, when land began to be colonized by cyanobacteria and proto-lichens. In short, it was a comparatively slow period of biological evolution and what had evolved was not very interesting by modern standards. Other nicknames for the Boring Billion include the "Barren Billion", "Dullest Time on Earth", and "Earth’s Middle Ages."

Very Early Aboriginal Site Found in Northwestern Australia

One of the earliest sites showing Aboriginal occupation of northwestern Australia — dating to some 50,000 years ago — has been discovered at the Drysdale River catchment in the Kimberley region of Australia. They also found evidence of an early ax production industry at the Minjiwarra site, which had previously been interpreted as a dune feature indicating a break in Aboriginal occupation. The "dune feature" is actually a sedimentary flood feature which built up over 50,000 years. It preserves early, intermediate and more recent occupation by Aboriginal people. Minjiwarra was settled even through the peak of the Ice Age 19,000 years ago, when environmental conditions were especially cold and dry.

New Hominin Added To Human Family Tree!

This new hominin species was discovered in a cave in Luzon, the Philippines' largest island. A small set of human remains, coming from three individuals, were found and their combination of modern and ancient features suggested a new hominin species. Dating showed they were on Luzon before 50,000 years ago. That would put them contemporary with Homo sapiens, as well as with Homo floresiensis, the diminutive homonin species found on Indonesia’s Flores island. The new species has been named Homo luzonensis.

In 2017, a comprehensive study looked into why eggs are shaped like, well, eggs. Why are eggs ellipses, and not spheres? Why are they often asymmetrical with one pointier end and one rounder end? These were the questions the scientists set out to answer.

The research team gathered together a large dataset of 49,175 images of eggs produced by 1,400 species, both living and extinct, and examined exactly how elliptical and how asymmetrical each egg was (and made a pretty graph, see above). The scientists also paid attention to the parents' nesting behaviors, clutch sizes, diet, and flight ability. Previously, it was suggested that eggs are pointy on one end to prevent them from rolling away from the nest or to make laying easier for females. But the study did not support that.

Instead, they found multiple lines of evidence that the shape evolved to simply fit better inside the parent’s aerodynamic body. The stronger, better fliers had the longest and pointiest eggs. Meanwhile, some flightless birds (like ostriches) hatch from squat orbs.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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