The Ancient Heritage of the Pearl

Pearls have long been considered a precious gem. They were presented as gifts to Chinese royalty as early as 2300 BCE! And we know they were used as adornment from ancient times because a fragment of pearl jewelry was found in a Persian princess' sarcophagus dating to around 420 BCE.

Exciting New Prehistoric Bird Fossil Examined

In 2018, paleontologists examined the fossil of a bird which had been discovered in northwest China a few years earlier. The new species, Avimaia schweitzerae, was around 115 million years old. In a fossil first, the bird was pregnant with an egg. But there was something wrong with the egg. It had too many layers -- as many as six layers in some places. Scientists think this could be why the bird died. In modern birds, trauma can delay a female from nesting, and she can keep an egg inside herself for too long. Over time, her body adds unnecessary layers of shell around it. Known as “egg binding,” it smothers the embryo and often kills the mother.

But that was not the only surprise Avimaia schweitzerae had in store. When a bird prepares for egg-making, she stacks up on calcium in the medullary bone — something that has never been positively identified in a fossil bird before. Avimaia's medullary region showed all the right signs. If confirmed, it would provide a unique link between avian reproduction and this bone.

A Cute Accident

A (Possible) Prehistoric Prosthetic

A hand made of bronze was crafted sometime around 1500 - 1400 BCE in Europe. More than a pound of bronze went into it, plus gold for a socket at the bottom. Why it was made is unknown. It may have been attached to another object, like a staff or a statue, or used as a prosthetic. Whatever it was used for, the hand eventually ended up in the ground near Switzerland's Lake Biel. Nearby were a bronze dagger and a rib bone. All three artifacts were uncovered by metal detectorists in October 2017.

Mammoth Bone Hut from 15,000 BCE

Circular to oval mammoth bone huts were built by Cro-Magnons, which is a fancy way of saying early modern humans in Europe. This particular example was uncovered at what is today Mezhirich, Ukraine, one of four mammoth bone huts. An astounding 149 mammoths are represented at Mezhirich, either in the walls of the huts or in the refuse as food.

The First Indian Civilization Was Extremely Old

Today, over 1,000 small agricultural settlements have been found in the region of what was once the Harappan civilization. Many date as early as 9,000 years ago, or 7,000 BCE. These small farming communities relied on the Indus River to water their crops and feed their animals. Today the region is relatively arid plateau but in ancient times the region was more temperate, and more suitable for large-scale agriculture. Archaeology tells us they grew rice, wheat, barley, and peas as early as 5,000 BCE. Cotton seeds found at multiple sites tentatively suggest they may have been the first to domesticate cotton as well.

Those small, mudbrick farming villages eventually evolved into sophisticated communities that historians collectively label a founding civilization. They had writing, sophisticated irrigation, and planned sewer systems. Although no one can decide on a name! Is it the Harappan civilization, or Mohenjo-Daro, or the Indus Valley civilization? Whatever name you give it, more than seventy cities have been unearthed since the area was discovered in the 1850s, but the main sites remain the two cities of Harappa, to the north, and Mohenjo-Daro, 400 miles to the south, near the river's mouth.

The civilization began to weaken in the second millennium BCE. And Mohenjo-Daro was abandoned around 1900 BCE. The first Indian civilization lasted, by a conservative estimate, about 5,000 years -- very impressive whatever you call it.

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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!

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