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Vases in Pompeii reveal panic before eruption

© Laëtitia Cavassa
An unfinished vase from the Pompeii site.
French and Italian archaeologists digging out a pottery workshop in Pompeii have brought to light 10 raw clay vases, revealing a frozen-in-time picture of the exact moment panicked potters realized they were facing an impending catastrophe.

The vases were found sealed under a layer of ash and pumice from Mount Vesuvius' devastating eruption of 79 A.D. and it appears they were just ready to be fired.

They were dropped and abandoned, along with the kilns, after frightened potters saw a pine tree-shaped column of smoke bursting from Vesuvius on Aug. 24, 79 A.D.

Reaching nine miles into the sky, the column began spewing a thick pumice rain. Like many Pompeii residents, the scared potters probably rushed in the streets, trying to leave the city.
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Ancient New Zealand "Dawn Whale" identified

© Robert Boessenecker
University of Otago researchers have described a new genus of ancient baleen whales that they have named Tohoraata (a Māori term which can be translated as Dawn Whale). The genus belongs to the toothless filter-feeding family Eomysticetidae, and it is the first time members of this family have been identified in the Southern Hemisphere. They named the younger of the two fossil whales, which may be a descendent of the elder, as Tohoraata raekohao.
University of Otago palaeontologists are rewriting the history of New Zealand's ancient whales by describing a previously unknown genus of fossil baleen whales and two species within it.

Otago Department of Geology PhD student Robert Boessenecker and his supervisor Professor Ewan Fordyce have named the new genus Tohoraata, which translates as "Dawn Whale" in Māori.

The two whales, which lived between 27-25 million years ago, were preserved in a rock formation near Duntroon in North Otago. At that time the continent of Zealandia was largely or completely under water and the whales were deposited on a continental shelf that was perhaps between 50 to 100 metres deep.

The new genus that the fossils represent belongs to the toothless filter-feeding family Eomysticetidae, and it is the first time members of this family have been identified in the Southern Hemisphere.
Document

New research suggests Neanderthals were a distinct species - not a subspecies of modern humans

Neanderthal skeleton
© Credit: American Museum of Natural History
A Neanderthal skeleton, left, compared with a modern human skeleton.
In an extensive, multi-institution study led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center, researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans.

The study looked at the entire nasal complex of Neanderthals and involved researchers with diverse academic backgrounds. Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the research also indicates that the Neanderthal nasal complex was not adaptively inferior to that of modern humans, and that the Neanderthals' extinction was likely due to competition from modern humans and not an inability of the Neanderthal nose to process a colder and drier climate.

Samuel Márquez, PhD, associate professor and co-discipline director of gross anatomy in SUNY Downstate's Department of Cell Biology, and his team of specialists published their findings on the Neanderthal nasal complex in the November issue of The Anatomical Record, which is part of a special issue on The Vertebrate Nose: Evolution, Structure, and Function (now online).

They argue that studies of the Neanderthal nose, which have spanned over a century and a half, have been approaching this anatomical enigma from the wrong perspective. Previous work has compared Neanderthal nasal dimensions to modern human populations such as the Inuit and modern Europeans, whose nasal complexes are adapted to cold and temperate climates.
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Anglo-Saxon cemetery unearthed in England

© Cambridge News
Twenty one skeletons of Anglo Saxon people have been found - just one foot under the ground - during an archaeological dig in Exning.

The skeletons were found on land at Burwell Road in Exning, alongside a spear, a glass bowl, gold plated brooches, a cloak pin, and a dagger, some of which is thought to have come from as early as 7AD.

The dig was carried out by Archaeological Solutions on behalf of Persimmon Homes, who have outline permission to build 120 homes on the site.

Andrew Peachey, post excavation manager for Archaeological Solutions, said: "The focus of the dig was of 20 Saxon graves. In those, we found 21 remains with one being a double burial.

"It was quite a surprise. We had done a series of trial trench excavations and had no idea they were there.
Treasure Chest

Ural Mountains: Home of the world's oldest secret code?

Full Idol #2
© noulpamant.ro
Claims the idol includes primitive writing would be amongst the first on Earth.
Scientists close to precise dating of the Shigir Idol, twice as ancient as the Egyptian Pyramids.

The Idol is the oldest wooden statue in the world, estimated as having been constructed approximately 9,500 years ago, and preserved as if in a time capsule in a peat bog on the western fringe of Siberian. Expert Svetlana Savchenko, chief keeper of Shigir Idol, believes that the structure's faces carry encoded information from ancient man in the Mesolithic era of the Stone Age concerning their understanding of 'the creation of the world'.

German scientists are now close to a precise dating - within five decades - of the remarkable artifact, which is a stunning example of ancient man's creativity. The results are likely to be known in late February or early March, The Siberian Times can reveal.

Now the question is turning among academics to a better understanding of the symbols and pictograms on this majestic larch Idol, one of Russia's great treasures, which is now on display a special glass sarcophagus at its permanent home, Yekaterinburg History Museum, where Savchenko is senior researcher.

German pre-historian Professor Thomas Terberger said: 'There is no such ancient sculpture in the whole of Europe. Studying this Idol is a dream come true. We are expecting the first results of the test at the end of winter, (early) next year.'

idol sections
© siberiantimes.com
Drawings of the first reconstruction of the Idol as walking and standing upright with marked faces, by archeologist Vladimir Tolmachev.
Professor Mikhail Zhilin, leading researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Archeology, explained: 'We study the Idol with a feeling of awe. This is a masterpiece, carrying gigantic emotional value and force. It is a unique sculpture, there is nothing else in the world like this. It is very alive, and very complicated at the same time.

'The ornament is covered with nothing but encrypted information. People were passing on knowledge with the help of the Idol.'

He is adamant that we can draw conclusions about the sophistication of the people who created this masterpiece, probably scraping the larch with a stone 'spoon', even though the detail of the code remains an utter mystery to modern man.

Comment:

Notes: Since 2003 the sculpture has been displayed in a glass box filled with inert gas. The head reproduces rather faithfully a face with eyes, nose, and mouth.

The body is flat and rectangular. Geometrical motifs decorate its surface. Horizontal lines at the level of the thorax seem to represent ribs, and lines broken in chevrons cover the rest of the body.

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Ancient Chinese tomb reveals murals depicting daily life, poetry and constellations


This image shows the entrance to the tomb. The entryway is flanked by two gatekeepers. On the left is a man holding a staff, while on the right there is a woman holding a fan. Above the door is a Garuda, a mythical bird, which is depicted as watching over the entrance. Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics
A 1,000-year-old tomb with a ceiling decorated with stars and constellations has been discovered in northern China.

Found not far from a modern day railway station, the circular tomb has no human remains but instead has murals which show vivid scenes of life. "The tomb murals mainly depict the daily domestic life of the tomb occupant," and his travels with horses and camels, a team of researchers wrote in their report on the tomb recently published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

On the east wall, people who may have served as attendants to the tomb's occupant are shown holding fruit and drinks. There is also a reclining deer, a crane, bamboo trees, a crawling yellow turtle and a poem. The poem reads in part, "Time tells that bamboo can endure cold weather. Live as long as the spirits of the crane and turtle."
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Glass dish unearthed in Japan came from Roman Empire

© Tokyo National Museum
Scientists determined that this glass dish found in Japan came from ancient Rome.
A glass dish unearthed from a burial mound here is the first of its kind confirmed to have come to Japan from the Roman Empire, a research team said.

A round cut glass bowl, discovered with the glass plate, was found to have originated in Sassanid Persia (226-651), the researchers said.

The dish and bowl were retrieved together from the No. 126 tumulus of the Niizawa Senzuka cluster of ancient graves, a national historic site. The No. 126 tumulus dates back to the late fifth century.

The researchers' scientific studies show that fifth-century Japan imported glasswork, and that there was a wide range of trade between the East and the West.

"The dish was likely produced around the Mediterranean Sea and then transferred to Sassanid Persia," said team leader Yoshinari Abe, an assistant professor of analytical chemistry at the Tokyo University of Science. "After it was painted there, the plate was probably taken to Japan."
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Latrines, sewers show varied ancient Roman diet

© Mark Robinson/Oxford University Museum of Natural History
In this undated photo provided by Mark Robinson, environmental archeologist at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a scallop shell with makeup found in a sewer of Herculaneum.
Archaeologists picking through latrines, sewers, cesspits and trash dumps at Pompeii and Herculaneum have found tantalizing clues to an apparently varied diet there before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius destroyed those Roman cities in 79 A.D.

Much of what residents didn't digest or left on their plates went down into latrine holes, became remnants in cesspits built up over the centuries or was thrown away in local dumps. At a three-day conference ending Friday in Rome, archaeologists discussed their discoveries, including gnawed-on fish bones and goose eggshells that were possibly ancient delicacies for the elite.

"We just have small glimpses of the environment, but some are quite curious," Mark Robinson, a professor of environmental archaeology at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, told the conference.
Alarm Clock

Historical Cycles: Are we doomed to repeat the past?

An extremely important and concise explanation of the cycles of history, their stages, how they proceed and end. Author of the Art of Urban Survival and Defense against the Psychopath, Stefan Verstappen makes the case that we are currently in the final stage of our cycle of history, defined, like all others, by chaos across all areas of our civilization. Historically, only small groups of people survived such periods of destruction, and they did so by forming themselves into tight-knit communities with a ethos that ran counter to the prevailing corrupt and destructive tendencies. Must watch!


For more on this topic see Laura Knight-Jadczyk's The Golden Age, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction and her fascinating and eminently readable book The Apocalypse: Comets, Asteroids and Cyclical Catastrophes
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Ears of ancient Chinese terra-cotta warriors offer clues to their creation

© O. Louis Mazzatenta, National Geographic Creative
The tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang contains an estimated 7,000 lifelike clay soldiers, accompanied by weapons such as bronze swords and bows and arrows.
Technology yields new insight into how a Chinese emperor produced an army for eternity within his tomb.

In 246 B.C. the adolescent ruler commissioned a massive tomb furnished with everything he'd need for the next life, including an entire army of life-size terra-cotta warriors, from mighty generals to humble infantrymen. Arranged in battle formation in pits near the emperor's tomb, the clay army stood watch for more than 2,000 years. Then, in 1974, local farmers rediscovered the site while digging a well.

Since then, archaeologists have puzzled over how ancient artisans produced the estimated 7,000 lifelike clay soldiers, right down to their stylish goatees and plaits of braided hair. Some have suggested that the statues were modeled after real, individual soldiers; others think they were assembled from standard clay ears, noses, and mouths, similar to the Mr. Potato Head toy.

Recently, in a project known as "Imperial Logistics: The Making of the Terracotta Army", a team of archaeologists from University College London (UCL) in Britain and from Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum Site Museum in Lintong, China, have been using the latest imaging technology and other advanced methods to deduce the design process behind the warriors. The British-Chinese team took detailed measurements of the statues' facial features, focusing especially on the ears. Forensic research shows that ear shapes are so variable among humans that they can be used to identify individuals.
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