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Sherlock

Scotland: Eye in the sky giving new insight into St Andrews' past

St Andrews is home to the remains of Scotland's first council building, new high-tech research has revealed

Parts of the old tollbooth on Market Street are thought to have been built in or around 1140, according to a new archaeological MikroKopter technique where a GPS device photographs the site from the air and forms a composite map of the area.

Image
© Edward Martin Photography
The micro-kopter at work over Market Street.
The tollbooth, or praetorium, was the office from which the provost and baillies organised the running of the burgh over the centuries. It is well documented that this type of building was used throughout Scotland from the 16th century but the archaeological deposits found in St Andrews suggest the building dates back to the first half of the 12th century - a theory supported by medieval charter evidence. It would make them the earliest upstanding remains of a council building in Scotland.

The tollbooth is known to have been rebuilt in the 16th century after a royal proclamation ruled town houses must also include jails, and this building stood in the centre of Market Street until it was demolished in the 1860s.

Info

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Site In Saudi Arabia

New Discovery
© redOrbit

Saudi Arabian officials said archaeologists have begun excavating the site of a 9,000-year-old civilization, including horse fossils, suggesting people in the Arabian Peninsula domesticated horses in the ancient culture.

HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), submitted the discovery to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah. Salman said the discovery at the al-Maqar site challenges the popular notion that horses were only domesticated 5,500 years ago in Central Asia.

Ali al-Ghabban added that the discovery changed what was known about the evolution of culture in the late Neolithic period.

"This discovery will change our knowledge concerning the domestication of horses and the evolution of culture in the late Neolithic period," Ali al-Ghabban told reporters at a news conference in Jeddah, according to Reuters.

"The al-Maqar civilization is a very advanced civilization of the Neolithic period. This site shows us clearly, the roots of the domestication of horses 9,000 years ago," he added.

Archaeologists also discovered a number of artifacts at the site. These included arrowheads, scrapers, grain grinders, tools for spinning and weaving, and other handicraft tools. Ghabban said carbon-14 tests on the artifacts, as well as DNA tests on human remains at the site, dated them to about 7,000 BC.

Info

Neanderthal Skull Fragment Discovered in Nice

Neanderthal Skull
© The Riviera Times
Paleontologist Marie-Antoinette de Lumley presents the skull fragment of a nordic hunter, discovered at the Lazaret Cave in Nice.

Part of a prehistoric skull, dating back 170,000 years, has been discovered during an archaeological dig in Nice. Experts say the discovery could reveal important clues to the evolution of Neanderthals.

Students Ludovic Dolez and Sébastian Lepvraud were working on the excavation site, Lazaret Caves, on 13th August, when they came across the partial remains of a forehead belonging to a Homo Erectus.

Paleontologist Marie-Antoinette de Lumley, who has been in charge of excavation at Lazaret since 1961, said the bone is an important find: "It belonged to a nomad hunter, less than 25 years old. He may be able to teach us more about the evolution of his successor, the Neanderthal man."

The bone was left to dry for a few days where it was discovered, before being removed for a special public announcement attended by Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi.

Archaeologists have been searching this site patiently for 50 years, unveiling more than 20,000 bone fragments from prehistoric animals.

The last human discovery in the cave was in 2009, when the molar tooth of a child was uncovered.

Sherlock

Roman port discovered at Caerleon 'could change view of how tribes came to Wales'

It had long been thought that the Roman legions who subdued the troublesome tribes in modern-day Wales had crossed Britain by land.

Yet archaeologists taking part in a month-long dig at a previously undiscovered site in Caerleon, Newport, believe they have discovered the well-preserved remains of a port on the banks of the River Usk that could change our understanding of the conquest.

Image
© Unknown
An artist's impression of the newly discovered Roman port at Caerleon
At the site, the academics have discovered a quay wall, landing stages and wharves where ships would have docked and unloaded their cargoes.

Dr Peter Guest, of Cardiff University, said that the site "exceeds all expectations" and could have provided a direct link from Caerleon to the rest of the Roman Empire.

"We believe that the port dates to a period when the legions were fighting and subduing the native tribes in western Britain and it's incredible to think that this is the place where the men who took part in the conquest would have arrived," he said.

Pharoah

Did Queen Hatshepsut Moisturize Herself to Death?

Hatshepsut's Lotion
© Barbara Frommann / University of Bonn
Corpus delicti? Hatshepsut's tiny flask of lotion contained a cancer-causing tar residue.

Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt's greatest female pharaoh, might have moisturized herself to death, according to controversial new research into the dried up contents of a cosmetic vial.

Researchers at the University of Bonn, Germany, found a highly carcinogenic substance in a flask of lotion housed at the University's Egyptian Museum.

The vessel, which featured an inscription saying it belonged to Hatshepsut, was long believed to have held perfume.

"After two years of research, it is now clear that the flacon was a kind of skin care lotion or even medication for a monarch suffering from eczema," the University of Bonn said in a statement.

The skin lotion's ingredients included large amounts of palm and nutmeg oil, polyunsaturated fats that can relieve certain skin diseases, and benzopyrene, an aromatic and highly carcinogenic hydrocarbon.

"Benzopyrene is one of the most dangerous substances we know," said pharmacologist Helmut Wiedenfeld.

Sherlock

Scotland: Haddo House excavations reveal Palace of Kelly remains

Excavations at Haddo House in Aberdeenshire have revealed remains of the historic Palace of Kelly.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said work at its property, near Methlick, had uncovered the seat of the Gordons of Haddo prior to the 1730s.

Image
© NTS
Work at Haddo House has revealed remains of the Palace of Kelly
NTS said the location had previously been a matter of speculation.

Dr Shannon Fraser, NTS archaeologist for eastern Scotland, said: "It has been described as almost the Holy Grail of local archaeology."

Info

Man Entered the Kitchen 1.9 Million Years Ago

In the Kitchen
© Wikimedia Commons / Steveoc 86
Homo erectus, H. neaderthalensis and H. sapiens all had qualities suggesting they ate cooked food, and only spent about 5 to 6 percent of their time eating. Cooked food and less time spent eating directly influenced the evolution of man.

Our ancient human ancestors may have put us on track toward meals a la Julia Child as long ago as 1.9 million years, according to new evidence that extinct hominids were cooking and processing their food. The finding may also explain modern humans' small teeth and guts (for some of us).

"We see a dramatic shift in the tooth size of Homo erectus, which means it was likely responding to a history already of eating cooked and processed food," study researcher Chris Organ, of Harvard University, told LiveScience. "If you're cooking your food you have many more hours of your day free, and you can spend those hours doing other things," since you don't have to eat as much to get your daily requirements.

Processed food is much easier to chew and digest and since chewing breaks up the food it means more surface area is available from which the gut can absorb nutrients, Organ said. The result means more available calories per serving and less gut time needed to digest those calories.

The only snag to their cooking hypothesis is that they haven't found evidence of hearths or fire pits for cooking that long ago.

Sherlock

Oldest Human Settlement Unearthed in Sri Lanka

Archaeologists have unearthed a human dwelling in Haldummulla, Sri Lanka, which they believe is the oldest of its kind identified on the island so far.

Prof. Raj Somadeva of the post graduate institute of Archaeology in the Kelaniya University said that it was discovered in an archaeological excavation carried out near Koswatta village in Haldumulla.

Earlier a burial ground was found 0.5km from the recently discovered settlement.

The archaeological site is situated 850 meters above sea level where the foundations of four houses, fireplaces, coal, iron, rock tools, pieces of clay pots and beads have been found.

Prof. Somadeva said that it is the first ancient human dwelling to be found in the central hills. Further investigations are being carried out with regard to the artifacts.

Info

Oldest Fossil on Earth Found

Oldest Fossil
© D. Wacey / UWA
The oldest microfossils ever found were discovered in a 3.4 billion-year-old sandstone at the base of Strelley Pool in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.
Microfossils found in Australia show that more than 3.4 billion years ago, bacteria thrived on an Earth that had no oxygen, a finding that boosts hopes life has existed on Mars, a study published Sunday says.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia and Oxford University say the remains of microbes, located in ancient sedimentary rocks that have triggered debate for nearly a decade, have been confirmed as the earliest fossils ever recorded.

The sample came from the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, a site called Strelley Pool, where the microbes, after dying, had been finely preserved between quartz sand grains.

Pilbara has some of the planet's oldest rock formations, set down in the so-called Archean Eon when the infant Earth was a primeval water world, with seas that were the temperature of a hot bath.

Magnify

Deadly Ancient Egyptian Medication? German Scientists Shed Light On Dark Secret of Queen Hatshepsut's Flacon

Image
© Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn
Michael Höveler-Müller (left) and Dr. Helmut Wiedenfeld with the mysterious vial.
The corpus delicti is a plain flacon from among the possessions of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who lived around 1450 B.C., which is on exhibit in the permanent collection of the Egyptian Museum of the University of Bonn. For three and a half millennia, the vessel may have held a deadly secret. This is what the Head of the collection, Michael Höveler-Müller and Dr. Helmut Wiedenfeld from the university's Pharmacology Institute just discovered.

After two years of research it is now clear that the flacon did not hold a perfume; instead, it was a kind of skin care lotion or even medication for a monarch suffering from eczema. In addition, the pharmacologists found a strongly carcinogenic substance. Was Hatshepsut killed by her medicine?

When Michael Höveler-Müller became the curator of the Egyptian Museum of the University of Bonn in 2009, it occurred to him to examine the interior of the vessel that, according to an inscription, belonged to Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Its neck had been blocked with what was generally considered "dirt," but Höveler-Müller suspected that it might also be the original clay stopper. So possibly, some of the original contents might still be inside. In Dr. Helmut Wiedenfeld from the Pharmacy Institute, he found just the right partner, to get to the bottom of this question and of the flacon.