First Fossilized Lungs Found in Dinosaur-Era Bird

The earliest fossilized lungs have been found in an ancestral bird species. About 120 million years ago, the Archaeorhynchus spathula lived in what is today China alongside dinosaurs, before dying in a volcanic eruption. The newfound fossil is unusual for its preserved feathers and considerable soft tissue, which show that this primitive bird's lungs closely resemble those found in living birds.

Modern birds have hyper-efficient lungs. Flying is a tough workout, and hyper-efficient lungs process oxygen quickly and with less effort, so that birds' muscles can get enough oxygen during flight to keep going. This new fossil suggests such specialized lungs evolved earlier than previously thought.

In 1916, a Manhattan chauffeur George Boyden patented a new way to navigate. Installing a phonograph in the car, which would play audio recordings through a megaphone in front of the steering column. “The talking machine at the proper times will announce the directions whereby the driver will be enabled to follow a predetermined route.” So that the phonograph knows exactly where the car is, it was to be connected to the car's wheels. It would announce instructions only after the car has traveled certain predetermined distances.

“For example, if it is desired to make a record to guide the driver from Chevy Chase to the Treasury Department [in Washington, DC], the record among other things would contain the directions ‘U street turn to the left,’ and knowing the distance between Chevy Chase and the corner of 18th and U, for example, [a record of this distance would be registered with the mechanism] and the desired direction spoken into the machine. From a cylinder prepared in this manner a matrix would be made for the production of permanent records.” Boyden called his invention a "Chart for Vehicles."

Saadi Tombs of Marrakech

Click through the image gallery to see more photographs. The Saadi were a dynasty which ruled Morocco from 1549 to 1659. Their royal tombs were forgotten and lost after the dynasty declined, until being rediscovered in 1917.

Archaeologists Announce Largest Viking Ship Ever Found In Norway

A new Viking ship burial has been discovered in Norway. Using ground-penetrating radar, archaeologists recently found one of the world’s largest Viking ship graves, resting a mere 0.5 meters beneath a farmer's field. That's just 1.5 feet!

The digital visualization reveals a large, possibly well-preserved ship, 20 meters long. And it appears to be embedded in a complex of at least eight other burial mounds, and underneath the complex are five even-older longhouses. This is not just one find, but a treasure trove of finds.

But back to the ship. Only three well-preserved Viking ships have been found previously in Norway. And they were all excavated long ago, with the techniques available at the time. That makes this find precious: an intact, very large ship burial found at a time when we have techniques like ground-penetrating radar, soil geochemistry, and radiometric dating. As of right now, no excavations are planned. Archaeologists are concerned about what exposure to the air could do to the site.

Native Americans Used Tobacco Earlier Than Previously Thought

This little limestone pipe recently had a big impact: traces of nicotine detected inside suggest North Americans were using tobacco products at least 3,500 years ago! The carved limestone pipe was found in the 1930s near the Flint River in Alabama, but had been in storage at the Alabama State Repository until a recent team of chemists and archaeologists, working with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, came looking for it as part of their work examining ancient Native American pipes with modern techniques. And boy did they hit the jackpot with this one.

Tobacco plants were first domesticated in South America, and their introduction to North American native communities was not believed to have happened until around 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. This new finding indicates that tobacco use was established much earlier than previously thought in the what is today the southeastern United States. And that's pretty far inland, suggesting tobacco reached elsewhere on the continent even earlier.

Atmospheric perspective, also called aerial perspective, describes when artists create the illusion of distance by making far-away parts of a painting lighter, bluer, and with fewer details then close objects which appear brighter and sharper. This works because when light passes through the atmosphere, moisture and tiny particles of dust cause the light to scatter and, because the blue light of short wavelengths scatters most, far colors appear bluer.

Although Chinese artists did not use linear perspective until the 1500s, they used atmospheric perspective from the 700s CE!

Where Are Cambodia's Mass Graves?

As you likely know, from 1975 to 1979, Cambodia was controlled by a genocidal, racist, communist political regime. The Khmer Rouge prized Cambodian "purity." They systematically killed political opponents, imagined "subversive" elements, and a number of Cambodian minority populations. The Khmer Rouge also insisted on total self-sufficiency, with food and even medicine, leading uncounted thousands to die of starvation and treatable diseases, like malaria. The map shows where at least 1 million people -- out of a population of 8 million -- were killed in the Khmer Rouge's four-year reign of terror. The true death count is likely higher.

The Creation of Rotterdam (Part 2)

A month ago (or so) I posted a couple paragraphs on the Dutch city of Rotterdam's history. It was titled "The Creation of Rotterdam." Imagine my surprise when I came across this map, showing the physical expansion of Rotterdam's port. It was truly created, that is to say, built by men.

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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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