Underwater Route Between Prehistoric Cenotes Found In Mexico
Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered a route through underwater limestone caves connecting the Sac Actun cenote and the Dos Ojos cenote. Maya pottery, human bones, and the bones of elephant-like creatures, giant sloths, bears, tigers, and extinct species of horses, all likely from around the end of the last Ice Age, have been found in the tunnel-like caves. Exploring them and finding artifacts can be difficult, though: the underwater caves range in width from 400 feet to just three feet.
In 2017, a new dinosaur was discovered -- but many thought it was just a fake. You see, the dinosaur's remains made it appear the species lived both on land and in water, a very rare thing. Also it was originally found and sold to the black market in Mongolia. Not exactly the history to inspire confidence in an upstanding scientist. But eventually it was all sorted out, the new dinosaur was named, and so here's what we know so far about this new species.
The animal was closely related to the Velociraptor and lived around 75 million years ago. Its name was Halszkaraptor escuilliei, named after paleontologist Halszka Osmolska and fossil collector Francois Escuillie. The dinosaur’s physical characteristics were weird. It was about the size of a mallard, had razor-sharp claws, a duck-billed snout, and a long swan-like neck. Although it could run on land, it displayed many traits typical of amphibious creatures that are found today in modern birds and reptiles.
Despite its appearance and amphibious lifestyle, Halszkaraptor escuilliei is not a distant descendent of modern birds. Paleontologists therefore believe that a Halszkaraptor escuilliei is the start of a previously unknown subfamily! Pretty neat for a species that started its journey to discovery on the black market.
Cache of Assyrian Tablets Found In Ancient Kurdistan City
Archaeologists excavating a Bronze Age Assyrian city in Iraq's Kurdistan in 2017 unearthed an archive of almost 100 cuneiform tablets. They were under a large public building that was deliberately destroyed sometime in antiquity. Most of the tablets, which have been dated to around 1250 BCE, were in a ceramic pot which had been buried in a thick layer of clay, probably after the city was sacked by an enemy. So the tablets had been stored in a public building, then left there after the structure was destroyed. Most of the Assyrian cuneiform is unfortunately badly worn and undeciferable. The one fragment which has been translated so far mentions the temple of Gula, a Mesopotamian goddess of healing, which has led some researchers to suspect that the building may have been Gula's sanctuary.
The ancient Egyptian dog Abuwtiyuw is one of the earliest domesticated animals whose name we know. He was a guard dog to royalty, had an elaborate funeral usually reserved for upper-class humans, and lived during Egypt’s Sixth Dynasty (2345–2181 BCE).
Two Baby Girls, Who Lived and Died in the Last Ice Age, Reveal Lost American Ancestor Group
The two infants were ceremonially buried by a previously unknown population of ancient humans around 11,500 years ago. Their remains were found at Upward Sun River, a site in Alaska. DNA analyses show that the two girls were likely cousins, and descend from people separated from a population in eastern Asia, which remained isolated for thousands of years before migrating into Alaska, sometime after 15,000 years ago.
Named the Ancient Beringians — for the Bering Land Bridge that once connected North America to Asia — they were a “sister” population, or clade, that shared recent common ancestors with modern Indigenous North and South Americans. Their tool technology also appears to descend from Asian tools. Both the human remains at Upward Sun River and modern Native Americans were descended from the same ancestral source, which carried a mixture of East Asian and Mal’ta-related ancestry (the Mal’ta were an ancient population near Lake Baikal in modern Siberia, known largely from the remains of a four year old boy who died around 24,000 years ago).
Of course, all this latest find shows is that the Ancient Beringians existed about 11,500 years ago, and that they descended from the same group as modern Native Americans. We do not know what happened to this population after these two little girls died. This find does not tell us if the Ancient Beringians persisted, intermarrying with what would become modern North and South Americans. It does not tell us if they died out, perhaps because of climate change at the end of the Ice Age making their way of life untenable, or even because of conflict with other indigenous groups. These two young relatives raise many questions, and answer only a few.
Miniature Cave Paintings Discovered on a Miniature Indonesian Island
In 2017, archaeologists explored a tiny Indonesian island called Kisar for the first time. They found they were not the first humans to set foot on the 81-square-kilometer (31 square mile) patch. Kisar was covered with cave paintings in at least 28 locations. The art was thousands of years old and, intriguingly, quite small.The expressive images measured 10 centimeters (3.9 in) and included boats, horses, dogs, and human figures holding different items. Their size and style link them to ancient art found on the neighboring island of Timor. The two locations probably shared a closer bond than previously believed, if both are home to similar artwork.
It is unclear when, exactly, Kisar’s miniatures were created. Based on the presence of dogs, the oldest could be 3,500 years old, when new settlers first brought domesticated animals such as dogs to the area. Some of the younger images could have been made about 2,500 years ago, when trade brought metal drums from Vietnam and China to the area, because some of the tiny paintings appear to be people playing similar drums.
Remains of early humans such as Neanderthals and Denisovans have been discovered at just a limited number of sites in Europe and Asia. This has long frustrated archaeologists, who are confident that many more locations were occupied throughout these regions. This year, however, researchers announced a new way of detecting the hominins’ presence—through genetic traces in cave sediments.
A team analyzed sediments from seven sites in France, Belgium, Spain, Croatia, and Russia. They found Neanderthal DNA at three sites, the oldest dating to up to 60,000 years ago, and Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in Russia’s Denisova Cave, dating to around 100,000 years ago. Amazingly, the new technique worked even with sediment that had been collected many years ago, and was being stored in laboratories. The researchers hypothesize that the DNA in the sediments comes from body fluids left behind by hominins as well as decomposition of their remains. Bones might wash away, or be buried elsewhere, but the blood, sweat, and tears of the caves' ancient occupants remained in the soil.
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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!