About 160 million years ago the first feathered dinosaurs started stretching their wings and taking to the skies. Not all flying dinosaurs were built the same, however. Discoveries in China are revealing at least one dinosaur family had bat-like wings -- rather than bird-like wings. In 2015 the first bat-like dinosaur was found and named Yi Qi. Recently, a second bat-like dinosaur related to Yi has been found. Though the recently-discovered Ambopteryx longibrachium was likely a glider, rather than a flier, the fossil is helping scientists discover how dinosaurs first took to the skies. And it proves that Yi Qi was not a one-off (like platypuses today) but an alternate evolutionary path for airborne dinosaurs.
When Ötzi the Iceman died around 5,300 years ago in the Italian Alps, he was surrounded by thousands of microscopic fragments of bryophytes, a plant group that includes mosses and the flowerless green plants known as liverworts. Now a team has analyzed bryophyte fragments recovered from Ötzi's clothes, gastrointestinal tract, and pieces of ice around him.
Although only 23 bryophyte species currently live near the glacier where Ötzi was found, about 75 species were identified by the team. This included 10 liverwort species, which are rarely recovered from archaeological sites. The team also found that only 30% of the identified species were local to where Ötzi died. The rest came from lower elevations, helping to confirm the route Ötzi took as he journeyed to what became his final resting place more than 10,000 feet above sea level.
A group of researchers say they have pinpointed the ancestral homeland of all humans alive today: modern-day Botswana. Based on analyses of mitochondrial DNA, the researchers concluded that every person alive today descended from a woman who lived in modern-day Botswana about 200,000 years ago.
When a mass grave containing 15 women, children and young men who lived 5,000 years ago was found in a southern Polish village, a mystery surrounded their demise. Women and their children are buried together in family groups so those who buried them knew the deceased and wanted the families to be together after death. But almonst no fathers are present, only one adult man buried with his wife and his child. What does the lack of fathers -- and the presence of so many mothers-and-child pairs -- mean?
Archaeologists think the adult men of the community were away and returned to find their loved ones dead. So they buried their families with respect and grave goods. The researchers believe there was a raid on the settlement between 2,776 and 2,880 BCE. The grave contained people from the Indo-European Globular Amphora culture, so named because of the shapes of the handled pots they made, who at the time were in competition with the newly-arrived and rapidly-spreading Corded Ware culture. Perhaps this small attack is part of that larger conflict.
Israeli cave finds challenge our theories about evolution’s winners and losers. Because the archaeological evidence shows that homo sapiens lived in the area between 115,000 and 75,000 years ago. Neanderthals lived in the area around the same time, successfully maintaining a population without interbreeding with the neighboring homo sapiens.
Homo sapiens are thinner, adapted for warmer and wetter climates. Neanderthals are stockier and carry more heat, adapted for cooler and drier climates. So when the climate of the area changed, steppe-glaciers advancing and forests disappearing, homo sapiens retreated while Neanderthals stayed. It’s unclear if the homo sapiens living in the area died out, or moved south to more favorable climes. The archaeological record does not say.
But we do know that it about 5,000 years later, around 60,000 years ago, homo sapiens sent a second successful wave of settlers into the area. And of course, in the long run, the Neanderthals were the ones who died out. But the evidence from Israel’s caves show that outcome was not always inevitable.
An astonishing late Bronze Age collection of swords, axes, spearheads and bracelets were found in Havering, in East London, in 2018. With 453 items it is the 3rd-largest hoard ever found in England! And the largest ever found in London. The Havering Hoard was uncovered as part of routine archaeological excavations before the land was opened up for gravel extraction. The bronze axe heads and spear heads are shown here; they date to between 800 and 900 BCE.
An 8,000-year-old pearl has been unearthed during excavations near the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Archaeologists employed radiocarbon dating to determine that the pearl was harvested sometime between 5800 and 5600 BCE, which they say proves that pearls have been traded in the region for millennia. The team working at Marawah Island, which is primarily investigating a series of collapsed Neolithic stone structures, has also uncovered a number of ceramics, beads made of shell and stone, and flint arrowheads. It is also the earliest architecture ever recorded in the UAE.
You guys know I do not post podcasts very often. It may be my second, ever. I decided to share this podcast as it is a special edition by one of my favorite magazines, Archaeology Magazine. The podcast discusses cuneiform and some of the most impressive knowledge that was recorded in this ancient Mesopotamia writing.
Thirty-one objects thought to have belonged to one warrior have been found in a cache in northeastern Germany’s Tollense Valley, where an intense battle was fought by as many as 2,000 warriors around 1,300 BCE. The warrior’s kit included a bronze awl with a birch handle, a knife, a chisel, a decorated belt box, three dress pins, arrowheads, and fragments of bronze that may have been used as currency. Three thin bronze metal cylinders pierced with bronze nails found with the kit may have been fittings for a cloth bag or wooden storage box which degraded, leaving only its metal fittings.
The bronze items in the warrior’s kit are similar to those found in southern Germany and the Czech Republic, and combined with the chemical analyses of multiple warriors' bones suggesting they did not grow up locally, it is thought that perhaps warriors from multiple regions came together in this valley to fight over trade routes along the Tollense River.
Ancient Greek pre-hoplites would attach throwing loops to their spears, so that they could either throw the spear or use it for hand-to-hand combat. Around the mid-500s BCE, however, the soldiers became close-range fighters only ("hoplites" as we know them today) and the throwing loops disappeared.