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Oldest Bones from Modern Humans in Asia Discovered

Oldest Bone
© F. DemeterA reconstruction of the human skull discovered in Tam Pa Ling.

Newfound pieces of human skull from "the Cave of the Monkeys" in Laos are the earliest skeletal evidence yet that humans once had an ancient, rapid migration to Asia.

Anatomically modern humans first arose about 200,000 years ago in Africa. When and how our lineage then dispersed out of Africa has long proven controversial.

Archaeological evidence and genetic data suggest that modern humans rapidly migrated out of Africa and into Southeast Asia by at least 60,000 years ago. However, complicating this notion is the notable absence of fossil evidence for modern human occupation in mainland Southeast Asia, likely because those bones do not survive well in the warm, tropical region.

Now a partial skull from Tam Pa Ling, "the Cave of the Monkeys" in northern Laos helps fill in this mysterious gap in the fossil record. [See Photos of "Monkey Cave" Fossils]

"Most surprising is the fact that we found anything at all," researcher Laura Lynn Shackelford, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Illinois, told LiveScience.

"Most people didn't think we'd find anything in these caves, or even in the region where we're working in mainland Southeast Asia. But we're stubborn, gone where no one's really looked before, or at least in almost a century."

Light Sabers

Japan's 'Last Ninja': A 63-year-old former engineer

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Jinichi Kawakami
A 63-year-old former engineer may not fit the typical image of a dark-clad assassin with deadly weapons who can disappear into a cloud of smoke. But Jinichi Kawakami is reputedly Japan's last ninja.

As the 21st head of the Ban clan, a line of ninjas that can trace its history back some 500 years, Kawakami is considered by some to be the last living guardian of Japan's secret spies.

"I think I'm called (the last ninja) as there is probably no other person who learned all the skills that were directly" handed down from ninja masters over the last five centuries, he said.

"Ninjas proper no longer exist," he said as he demonstrated the tools and techniques used in espionage and sabotage by men fighting for their samurai lords in the feudal Japan of yesteryear.

Palette

­A Rare Find: 'Lost' Picasso Piece Discovered in US Museum

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© Michael Wheatley/Evansville Museum/wibc.com
A rare work by Pablo Picasso was discovered at Indiana's Evansville Museum, after going unnoticed in storage rooms for a half-century. The masterpiece is about to be given new life as specialists estimate how much it will fetch at auction.

The layered glass artwork Seated Woman with Red Hat was created in the 1950s, and was misplaced and kept in storage by the museum since 1963 due to an attribution mistake.

"Now that we have a full understanding of the requirements and additional expenses to display, secure, preserve and insure the piece, it is clear those additional costs would place a prohibitive financial burden on the museum," the Evansville Courier & Press quoted R. Steven Krohn, the president of the museum's board of trustees as saying.

The work will be sold through a private New York auction house within six months.

The piece is one of around 50 similar creations by Picasso. He is believed to have produced the glassworks between 1954 and 1956, while he was living in France.

Die

Dog stumbles upon 300 million-year-old fossil

Dog finds fossile
© Nova Scotia MuseumThe fossil comes from a branch of reptiles described as mammal-like as they are thought to be the ancient ancestors of modern mammal species.

A family and their dog named Kitty have stumbled upon one of the most significant fossil finds ever in Nova Scotia.

The reptile fossil, affectionately nicknamed "Superstar," is the first of its kind to be found in the province.

While out walking along Nova Scotia's fossil-rich Northumberland shore, Patrick Keating, his family, and their dog, Kitty, found a fossilized rib cage, backbone and partial sail.

When they went back to the same area a week later, they found the creature's fossilized skull.

Blackbox

The Secret Tomb of China's 1st Emperor: Will We Ever See Inside?

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© Clara Moskowitz/LiveScienceEven though they number in the thousands, each terracotta soldier has painstakingly detailed armor, facial features, hair and clothing.
Buried deep under a hill in central China, surrounded by an underground moat of poisonous mercury, lies an entombed emperor who's been undisturbed for more than two millennia. The tomb holds the secrets of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who died on Sept. 10, 210 B.C., after conquering six warring states to create the first unified nation of China.

The answers to a number of historical mysteries may lie buried inside that tomb, but whether modern people will ever see inside this mausoleum depends not just on the Chinese government, but on science.

"The big hill, where the emperor is buried - nobody's been in there," said archaeologist Kristin Romey, curatorial consultant for the Terracotta Warrior exhibition at New York City's Discovery Times Square. "Partly it's out of respect for the elders, but they also realize that nobody in the world right now has the technology to properly go in and excavate it."

The Terracotta Warrior exhibition, featuring artifacts from the Qin dynasty and nine life-size statues from the extended burial complex built for Qin Shi Huang, is on display through Aug. 26. [Photos: Terracotta Warriors Protect Secret Tomb]

Boat

Salvage firm finds Terra Nova, the ship that took Scott on his ill-fated Antarctic expedition (and they weren't even looking for it)

The SS Terra Nova, the ship that carried Captain Robert Scott on his doomed expedition to the Antarctic a century ago, has been discovered off Greenland. It was discovered by a team from a US research company using a hi-tech underwater vehicle after they spotted an unusual object while testing their sonar equipment.
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The US team discovered Scott's ship while testing sonar equipment. This sonar image shows part of the wreck on the sea bed.
Scott and his party set off from Cardiff aboard the Terra Nova in 1910 with the aim of becoming the first expedition to reach the South Pole. A crew from the Schmidt Ocean Institute discovered the Terra Nova whilst testing echo-sounding equipment aboard its flagship vessel - the R/V Falkor.

One of the scientists noticed an unidentified feature during sonar mapping of the sea bed. Team members then noted that the 57m length of the feature matched the reported length of the Terra Nova. Researchers then sent a remote camera called Shrimp to film the wreck. Camera tows across the top of the target showed the remains of a wooden wreck lying on the seabed. Footage from the Shrimp also identified a funnel lying next to the ship.

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Sherlock

Archaeological dig in Devon unearths Roman influence

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Excavation of Romano-British settlement in Ipplepen village.
Following the recent discovery of over 100 Roman coins in fields several miles west of Exeter, evidence of an extensive settlement including roundhouses, quarry pits and track ways was found from a geophysical survey. The site covers at least 13 fields and it the first of its kind in Devon which could force us to rewrite the history of the Romans in Britain. Dr Ioana Oltean and Dr Martin Pitts, the University of Exeter's Roman archaeology specialists, together with Danielle Wootton, Devon Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), Sam Moorhead, National Finds Adviser for Iron Age and Roman coins for the PAS at the British Museum, and Bill Horner, County Archaeologist at Devon County Council are leading the archaeological research which is proving to show the influence of Roman culture to be greater than previously thought.

Dr Oltean explained: "It is not a Roman town, but a native village which may have been in existence before the Roman period. However, it traded actively with the Romans, shown by the initial collection of coins found and the ornate pottery, usually found near large cities and military camps and not in villages where most people would have used basic wooden bowls. The uniqueness of this Romano-British settlement is shown in the level of coins and types of pottery found, indicating that an exchange in goods and money was happening in the area, on a much larger scale than known in other villages in Britain at this period of time."

Dominoes

Experts say ancient homo sapiens didn't breed with Neanderthals

Neanderthals vs homo sapiens sapiens
© Erich Ferdinand / Flickr.com Scientists have challenged the theory that humanity's ancestors interbred with Neanderthals.
Anthropologists have dealt a blow to theories that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals interbred, bequeathing humans today with some of the genetic legacy of their mysterious cousins.

Over the last two years, several studies have suggested that Homo sapiens got it on with Neanderthals, an enigmatic hominid who lived in parts of Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East for up to 300,000 years but vanished 30-40,000 years ago.

The evidence for this comes from fossil DNA, which shows that on average Eurasians and Asians share between 1 per cent and 4 per cent of their DNA with Neanderthals, but Africans almost none.

But a new study by scientists at Britain's University of Cambridge says the shared DNA came from a shared ancestor, not from "hybridisation" or reproduction between the two hominid species.

Sherlock

New Kenyan fossils shed light on early human evolution

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© Louise LeakeyMeave Leakey (left) with Cyprian Nyete (right) and other members of the field crew reconstructing pieces of specimen KNM-ER 60000 at the field camp in 2009.
Exciting new fossils discovered east of Lake Turkana confirm that there were two additional species of our genus - Homo - living alongside our direct human ancestral species, Homo erectus, almost two million years ago. The finds, announced in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, include a face, a remarkably complete lower jaw, and part of a second lower jaw. They were uncovered between 2007 and 2009 by the Koobi Fora Research Project (KFRP), led by Meave and Louise Leakey.

KFRP's fieldwork was facilitated by the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI), and supported by the National Geographic Society, which has funded the KFRP since 1968.

Four decades ago, the KFRP discovered the enigmatic fossil known as KNM-ER 1470 (or "1470" for short). This skull, readily distinguished by its large brain size and long flat face, ignited a longstanding debate about just how many different species of early Homo lived alongside Homo erectus during the Pleistocene epoch.

Blackbox

Neolithic Man: The First Lumberjack?

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A polished axe from the PPNB period.
During the Neolithic Age (approximately 10000-6000 BCE), early man evolved from hunter-gatherer to farmer and agriculturalist, living in larger, permanent settlements with a variety of domesticated animals and plant life. This transition brought about significant changes in terms of the economy, architecture, man's relationship to the environment, and more.

Now Dr. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations has shed new light on this milestone in human evolution, demonstrating a direct connection between the development of an agricultural society and the development of woodworking tools.

"Intensive woodworking and tree-felling was a phenomenon that only appeared with the onset of the major changes in human life, including the transition to agriculture and permanent villages," says Dr. Barkai, whose research was published in the journal PLoS One. Prior to the Neolithic period, there is no evidence of tools that were powerful enough to cut and carve wood, let alone fell trees. But new archaeological evidence suggests that as the Neolithic age progressed, sophisticated carpentry developed alongside agriculture.