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Ethiopian lake reveals history of African droughts

A new survey of Lake Tana in Ethiopia - the source of the Blue Nile - suggests that drought may have contributed to the demise of the Egyptian Old Kingdom, around 4200 years ago.

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© Planet Earth
Lake Tana, Ethiopia
A team led by the University of Aberystwyth used seismic surveys and sediment cores to work out how the lake's water levels has varied over the past 17,000 years and linked this to evidence for global climate change.

Understanding how and why rainfall patterns change is particularly important for sub-Saharan Africa, where prolonged droughts have such serious social and economic consequences.

The climate here is dominated by the African-Asian monsoon and the movements of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). This is an area of erratic weather patterns, where winds from the northern and southern hemispheres meet close to the equator: sailors know it as the Doldrums.

Sherlock

UK: "Fantastic results" at Roman Dig in Maryport

The excavation of a Roman site at Maryport, in Cumbria, has produced "fascinating results", experts say.

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© Senhouse Museum
One of the altars unearthed in Maryport.
The project at the remains of a Roman fort at Camp Farm, which started last year, is due to be completed on 22 July.

The team said it had found many features not recorded by a previous excavation in 1870.

Among them are fragments of altars, traces of timber buildings, pottery and coins.

A team of 28 volunteers has worked alongside the archaeologists on the project, which was commissioned by the Senhouse Museum Trust.

It was led by Professor Ian Haynes, from Newcastle University, and field archaeologist Tony Wilmott.

Sherlock

UK: Archaeologists Uncover the Remains of Ancient Body in Caithness

The remains of what could be an Iron Age Highlander, who lived around 2,000 years ago, have been found during an archaeological dig in Caithness.

The human remains, which include a skull and bones, were found this week in the ruins of a broch - a massive stone wall Iron Age roundhouse - at Thrumster, near Wick.

They were buried in a chamber in the wall of the historic building.

Dr Andy Heald, of AOC Archaeology, which leads the dig, said that it was probably the remains of an adult man, though further research was needed to determine that.

Radiocarbon dating is also needed to determine how old the bones are.

"At the moment we have no idea on a date. They could be 200 years old, or 2,000 years old," he said.

Sherlock

Louisiana, US: Oil Spill Clean-Up Turns Up Trove of Native American Relics

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© Gerald Herbert/AP Photo
Forrest Travirca III, walks along Port Fourchon Beach as he searches for artifacts from Pre-historic American-Indian settlements in Caminada Headland, La., Tuesday, June 28, 2011.
Cleanup after the BP oil spill has turned up dozens of sites where archaeologists are finding human and animal bones, pottery and primitive weapons left behind by pre-historic Indian settlements.

It's a trove of new clues about the Gulf Coast's mound dwellers more than 1,300 years ago, but scientists also fear the remains could be damaged by oil or lost to erosion before they can be fully studied.

So far, teams of archaeologists hired by the oil giant have visited more than 100 sites and sent back a growing list of finds to labs for radiocarbon dating and other tests, though extensive excavations haven't been done. Scholars have also accompanied cleanup crews to make sure they don't unwittingly throw away relics.

Larry Murphy is lead archeologist for a council of government agencies and trustees overseeing the oil cleanup. He says neither the discovery of the sites - nor the money to study them - would have come as quickly without the spill.

Cow Skull

Taiwan: Three sarcophagi found in Taitung

A cluster of three ancient sarcophagi recently discovered in Taitung could give archeologists new insights into a nearby prehistoric site, a researcher from the National Museum of Prehistory said on Thursday.

Parts of the sarcophagi, or stone coffins, have already been unearthed, showing them to be 60cm high and 50cm wide, although their lengths have yet to be determined because the excavation is still underway.

Weathered remains and mortuary objects, such as jade adzes, have been found in the sarcophagi, located on a hill more than 200m above sea level and about 3km from the Peinan archeological site. The prehistoric site, where more than 20,000 ancient objects have been unearthed, is one of the largest archeological sites in Taiwan.

Eye 2

Fossil find suggests dinosaurs became extinct in a single blow

dinosaur
© The Associated Press
It’s been believed that dinosaurs were killed when a huge asteroid smashed into the Earth off the coast of Mexico some 65 million years ago.
Palaeontologists have found a piece of dinosaur horn which they say is pointing to a catastrophic end for the "Age of Dinosaurs", not a gradual end, as some experts have suggested.

It's been believed that dinosaurs were killed when a huge asteroid smashed into the Earth off the coast of Mexico some 65 million years ago.

Although it is now accepted that a cosmic impact took place at that time, known as the Cretaceous - Tertiary, or K - T boundary, it was unclear if the mass extinctions started gradually before the hit due to volcanoes or other factors.

The reason behind this controversy was a 10 - feet zone in the earth right below the K - T boundary that purportedly lacked dinosaur fossils.

Some experts have claimed this gap, seen in the western interior of North America, was evidence that dinosaurs might have died well before any impact.

Now, researchers have found a fossil in this zone - a dinosaur horn no more than five inches below the impact layer, making it the specimen closest to the end of the Age of Dinosaurs found yet.

Magnify

US: Ancient, moss-covered canoe found in Alaska forest

unfinished Indian canoe
© Reuters
An unfinished Indian canoe, apparently abandoned 500 years ago, has been discovered in a remote section of an Alaska rain forest, according to officials.
An unfinished Indian canoe, apparently abandoned 500 years ago, has been discovered in a remote section of an Alaska rain forest, according to officials.

The canoe, carved from cedar, was discovered under a thick layer of moss and is surrounded by trees that are several hundred years old, Sealaska Corp., the Alaska Native corporation that owns the land, said in a statement.

The artifact was first spotted last winter by a surveyor checking potential timber-harvest sites, but the discovery was kept confidential until now, the company said.

Its exact site - near the Haida and Tlingit village of Kasaan on Alaska's Prince of Wales Island - was also being kept confidential, Sealaska said.

Preliminary examination shows that ancient hand tools, not modern saws introduced by Europeans, were used to cut the wood and hollow out the canoe, Sealaska officials said.

Based on that, and on the age of the cedar trees that have grown up around the site, experts believe the canoe is roughly 500 years old.

Rosita Worl, an anthropologist and president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, said she knows of only one other canoe found in the rain forest of southeast Alaska. This is a special find, she said on Wednesday.

Sherlock

Azerbaijan starts archaeological digs in Gulustan castle in Shamakhi

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© unknown
Archeological excavations started in Gulustan fortress

The Shamakhi-Agsu Archeological Expedition of Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Archeology and Ethnography started the archeological excavations in Gulustan fortress (8th century) built in Shamakhi.

The Institute reported that that head of the expedition Akif Guliyev said that the researches conducted in the Gulustan fortress holds a prominent place in the learning of history of Shirvanshakhs state, as well as dark pages of the Azerbaijani history. According to him, the Gulustan fortress, which has an important place in the history of Azerbaijani statehood, also bears a great importance from the archeological tourism point of view: "It will tell about Azerbaijan not only in the region but in the world".

The information says that the conversation and restoration of this monument IN the future can strengthen the tourist flow to Azerbaijan. The bad condition of the road, leading to the fortress, offers great difficulties for the expedition as well as the tourists. According to the expert opinion, the settlement of this problem doesn't demand the investment of great capital. The relevant executive authorities may soon solve this problem.

Cow Skull

Back to Neanderthal? Discoveries in a Crimean Cave

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© Unknown
Nataliya Mychailova, an archeologist, tells a story of momentous discoveries which were made in one of the many caves in the Crimean Mountains. A special touch, in her opinion, was provided by the participation in the archeological excavations in 2008 of a group of Japanese archeologists.

Before I narrate my story of the fossil discoveries in a Crimean cave, some introductory words into the history of the study of the human evolution are needed.

From the end of the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, the evolution of man was thought to be linear, that is, from more primitive forms to the more advanced, with Homo sapiens sapiens of today crowning the evolutionary process (the name Homo sapiens was applied in 1758 by the father of modern biological classification Carolus Linnaeus). The immediate predecessor of the Cro-Magnon, that is Homo sapiens, was called the Neanderthal, Homo neanderthalensis, a burly, hairy creature.

But in the course of the twentieth century, and particularly at the end of it, many discoveries considerably changed our views on the human evolution. The progress in the DNK research revealed that the Neanderthals were unlikely candidates for the immediate ancestors of Homo sapiens.

According to a view which is shared by many archaeologists and anthropologists, modern humans, Homo sapiens, formed in East Africa. They (also referred to as the Cro-Magnon people), appeared in Europe and then began replacing Neanderthals, pushing Neanderthal populations into regional groups, where they held on for thousands of years. Proponents of this model believe that modern humans and the Neanderthals were separate species.

Now, where does the Crimea come in into this picture? It seems that the Neanderthals, fighting a rearguard action, survived the longest Homo sapiens onslaught in the Crimean mountains.

Comment: Regarding enigmatic Neanderthal and sudden appearance of Cro-Magnon, read The Golden Age, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction by Laura Knight-Jadczyk.


Info

Gold hoard found in French Cellar

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The coins could fetch 100,000 euros at auction, a coin expert who examined them said
A French couple have found a hoard of gold coins worth at least 100,000 euros (£89,000; $140,000) in the cellar of their home in the town of Millau.

They were working on their drains when they dug up the 34 coins in a little clay pot, French media said.

The coins date from 1595 to the French Revolution, which began in 1789, said a local coin expert who evaluated them.