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Better Earth

Fossilized forest unearthed in the UK is the oldest ever found at 390 million years old, and it's surprisingly primitive

ancient forest
© Christopher BerryResearchers have discovered a fossil forest with small, palm-like trees and arthropod tracks dating back to the Middle Devonian.
Fossilized trees discovered by chance in southwest England belong to Earth's earliest-known forest, new research has found. The 390 million-year-old fossils supplant the Gilboa fossil forest in New York state, which dates back 386 million years, as the world's oldest known forest.

The new discovery highlights differences between the two ecosystems, suggesting forests went from being relatively primitive to well established over the course of just a few million years, said Neil Davies, the lead author of a new study published Feb. 23 in the Journal of the Geological Society.

Comment: A repeating pattern: The Cambrian Explosion has just gone nuclear

"Why it's important — broadly — is it ticks the boxes of being the oldest fossil forest," Davies, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., told Live Science. The finding is also remarkable because it reveals stark differences between the complex array of ancient plants found at Gilboa and the newly discovered forest, which appears to have hosted just one type of plant, Davies said.

Comment: As Pierre Lescaudron writes in Of Flash Frozen Mammoths and Cosmic Catastrophes there is strong evidence that our planet's geographic poles have shifted and that life on our planet, and in specific regions, has looked quite different.

See also:


Researchers unearth 240-million-year-old dinosaur that resembles a "mythical Chinese dragon"

Dinocephalosaurus orientalis dragon fossil
© National Museums of ScotlandThe 240-million-year-old Dinocephalosaurus orientalis fossil is 16 feet long and has 32 separate neck vertebrae – an extremely long neck.
A team of international scientists have discovered 240-million-year-old fossils from the Triassic period in China that one scientist described as a "long and snake-like, mythical Chinese dragon."

The 16-foot-long aquatic reptile, called Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, has 32 separate neck vertebrae - an extremely long neck, according to the National Museums of Scotland, which announced the news on Friday.

The new fossil has a snake-like appearance and flippers and was found in the Guizhou Province of southern China.

Comment: More information from National Museums of Scotland:
The reptile was clearly very well adapted to an oceanic lifestyle, as indicated by the flippered limbs and exquisitely preserved fishes in its stomach region. Despite superficial similarities, Dinocephalosaurus was not closely related to the famous long-necked plesiosaurs that only evolved around 40 million years later and which inspired the myth of the Loch Ness Monster. The fossils were discovered in Guizhou Province, southern China.


The paper describing the animal is published in full in the academic journal Earth and Environmental Science: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh - forming the entirety of the latest volume.


A forgotten Iranian legacy: The Parthian Battery

Parthian Battery
© kavehfarrokh.comAn ancient Parthian battery displayed by the Iraqi Civil Society (Source: Mohamed Al-Taher, Iraqi Civil Society).
A common misconception about the Parthians is that they lacked interest in the development of learning, science and technology. This belief is derived from the paucity of the available evidence, the lack of archaeological studies as well as subjective bias.
Parthian Empire
Map of the Parthian Empire in 44 BCE to 138 CE (Picture source: Farrokh, page 155, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه های صحرا-). For more on the Parthians see ... "The Parthian Era"
Technology certainly continued to evolve during Parthian rule. A dramatic discovery of a tomb by German Archaeologist Wilhelm Konig at Khujut Rabu (near modern Baghdad in Iraq) in 1936 found two near intact jars dated to the Parthian dynasty (approx. 250 BCE-224 CE) which are possibly (as this is debated) the world's oldest batteries.
Parthian BAttery
© kavehfarrokh.comA Parthian battery (Source: Ancient Amnesia). Note the clay jar which featured an iron cylinder surrounded by a cylinder of copper.

Better Earth

Hunter-gatherer groups mixed with groups of their kind but not with Neolithic farmers, genetic study reveals

© Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2024). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2310545121Location of individuals and graves discussed in the text.
Blood relations and kinship were not all-important for the way hunter-gatherer communities lived during the Stone Age in Western Europe. A new genetic study, conducted at several well-known French Stone Age burial sites, shows that several distinct families lived together. This was probably a deliberate system for avoiding inbreeding.

These findings are revealed in a new study led by researchers from Uppsala University in collaboration with several French institutions. The study is published in the journal PNAS.

In the study, the researchers have succeeded in obtaining biomolecular data from human skeletons buried at iconic sites in France, such as Téviec and Hoedic in Brittany, as well as Champigny. The remains were dated to the very last stages of the Mesolithic (approximately 6,700 years ago), when the last Western European hunter-gatherers lived, overlapping with the Neolithic, when settled farmers took over.

Comment: Was this practice really necessary to avoid inbreeding? Perhaps there was another reason for why these groups were bonded, in the same way that the hunters avoided bonding with the farmers?


Wasabi isn't just for sushi: It is an innovative solution for preserving ancient papyrus

Ancient Papyrus
© The Book of the Dead of Hunefer, sheet 3.
A new natural technique for cleaning and preserving priceless ancient Egyptian papyrus that are in danger from bacteria and fungi has been discovered by researchers. This new technique employs wasabi - yes, the pungent green paste accompanying your sushi - to combat the relentless threat of fungal damage on these precious historical documents.

The study, led by Hanadi Saada and her team, investigated the effectiveness of wasabi vapors in eliminating microbial growth that deteriorates papyrus artifacts, which have historical and cultural significance, particularly in ancient Egypt.

The techniques used up until now to clean and sanitize the papyri presented certain difficulties. Chemicals were employed that, while effectively eliminating microbes, sometimes damaged the papyrus fiber or altered the pigments of the illustrations. Other physical methods, such as ultraviolet rays or heat, did not always ensure the complete removal of biological agents without causing collateral damage. This is where wasabi comes into play.

The Grand Egyptian Museum's team has devised a 'green' solution that promises to protect these ancient texts without jeopardizing their integrity by generating vapors from wasabi paste.

Scientists simulated microbiological contamination on samples of papyrus with different pigments, including red, yellow, and blue.


Beauty biz: 4,000 year-old tube of red lipstick unearthed in Iran

lipstick ancient iran
© Massimo Vidale via Scientific ReportsThe ancient red pigment was held in an intricately decorated chlorite vial.
Researchers say that a small vial of deep red paste found in Iran's Jiroft region is likely an ancient tube of lipstick. The mineral mixture, housed in a decorated stone tube, could be nearly 4,000 years old, making it among the earliest ever discovered.

The lipstick dates to between 1936 and 1687 B.C.E., according to a study published this month in the journal Scientific Reports. The team thinks the vial could have come from the Marḫaši, which, according to Mesopotamian texts, was a powerful civilization that occupied what's now eastern Iran. Scientists write that the pigment's advanced age "is far from surprising, considering the long-standing, well-known technical and aesthetic tradition in cosmetology in ancient Iran."

The delicate container surfaced in 2001, when the Halil river flooded several ancient graveyards in southeastern Iran and dislodged items from the burials, according to Artnet's Adam Schrader. It was later housed in the Archaeological Museum of Jiroft.


Oldest known cosmetics found in ceramic bottles on Balkan Peninsula


Etruscan tomb discovered in the necropolis of San Giuliano, north of Rome

Etruscan tomb
© Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti Paesaggio Etruria Meridionale
After years of work, archaeologists discovered an impressive Etruscan tomb partially hidden underground in the rock-cut necropolis of San Giuliano in Barbarano, north of Rome.

The Etruscan Necropolis of San Giuliano is carved into the reddish rocks of the Marturanum Park, a protected natural area in the municipality of Barbarano Romano, on the road between Rome and Viterbo, in the heart of Southern Etruria.

According to archaeologists, no known Etruscan necropolis presents such a variety and richness of burial types as San Giuliano. Dating back to the 7th century BC, it stands on the sides of a tufaceous cliff occupied by a stable settlement already during the Bronze Age.

The discovery was made while researchers were cleaning and consolidating some of the site's most representative rock-cut funerary chambers, which date from the seventh to third centuries BCE.

Better Earth

Word inscribed on 2,100 year old bronze hand of Irulegi resembles modern Basque word

© Antiquity (2024). DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2023.199Photograph of the Irulegi hand and drawing based on the photograph and a scanned image of the hand (figure by authors).
A team of archaeologists with the Aranzadi Science Society has found a word inscribed on an ancient Basque bronze hand that resembles a modern Basque word. Their paper is published in the journal Antiquity.

In 2021, a related team of archaeologists working at an Iron Age site called Irulegi, in northern Spain, unearthed a flat piece of bronze shaped like a human hand. After cleaning, they discovered that a series of words had been inscribed onto its surface representing text from a Vasconic language — one that includes Basque and several others that are now extinct.

In this more recent study, the research team worked to decipher the text. Thus far, they have found that the first word, if spelled using a Latin alphabet, would be "sorioneke" or "sorioneku" — either of which strongly resembles "zorioneko" — the Basque word for "good fortune."

Comment: Interestingly, it resembles, and holds a similar meaning, to the hamsa, or 'hand of Fatima':
'a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout North Africa and in the Middle East and commonly used in jewellery and wall hangings.[5][6] Depicting the open hand, an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many times throughout history, the hamsa has been traditionally believed to provide defense against the evil eye.
hand of fatima hamsa
© CarlesVAA hanging hamsa in Tunisia

Early use of the hamsa could be traced to ancient Mesopotamian artifacts in the amulets of the goddess Inanna or Ishtar.

[...] An 8th-century BCE Israelite tomb containing a hamsa-like hand inscription was discovered at Khirbet el-Qom.[6]
Regarding Ishtar, in The Seven Destructive Earth Passes of Comet Venus, Pierre Lescaudron highlights the parallels between the goddess and cometary Venus:
Going back to the Middle East, the Mesopotamians paid very special attention to Innana/Ishtar (Venus). It was one of the most venerated deities in the Sumerian pantheon, the most important and widely venerated deity in the Assyrian pantheon.


Not only was Venus described as a comet by numerous ancient mythologies, but it was considered a destructive one, as depicted in the prayer of lamentation to Ishtar: [...]
And the shape of the hamsa and hand of Irulegi do appear to resemble some old depictions of comets:
chinese comet symbols
© via University of MaineAbove: Comets (‘Huìxīng’) have been observed and recorded in China since the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC). The set of comet illustrations from a silk book (‘Bóshū’) written during the western Han period
Association between comets and plagues
Association between comets and plagues
See also: And check out SOTT radio's: MindMatters: Meaning All the Way Down: The Wonders and Mysteries of Language with Juliana Barembuem

Russian Flag

How British intelligence framed Julian Assange as a Russian agent

© Peter Nicholls/Reuters/MI6/KJNJulian Assange
February 20/21st could mark WikiLeaks founder-and-chief Julian Assange's final opportunity to avoid extradition to the US. London's High Court has scheduled two days of arguments over whether he can ask an appeals court to block his transfer Stateside. If unsuccessful, he could be sent across the Atlantic, where he faces prosecution under Washington's draconian Espionage Act, and penalties ranging from 175 years in a "supermax" prison, to death, for exposing the lies and crimes of US global empire.

It is the most important press freedom case of all time. Yet, at no point during Julian's seven years of arbitrary detention in London's Ecuadorian embassy, or five years at His Majesty's Pleasure in Belmarsh Prison, Britain's "Gitmo", have the mainstream media or international human rights groups taken a serious interest in his plight. Many Western citizens - including those who had hitherto full-throatedly supported WikiLeaks, and Julian's crusade against official secrecy - were also indifferent over, if not outright supportive of, his violent explusion from the Ecuadorian embassy.

Much of this conspiracy of silence and apathy can be attributed to a concerted campaign of calumny, incubated in London and Washington DC, designed to extinguish public sympathy for Julian. As Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, wrote in a June 2019 op-ed Western media refused to publish, he was "systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed," and once he'd been "dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide."

A prominent libel against Julian was that he operated upon the orders, and in the interests, of the Kremlin. Built up as an omnipotent villain on the world stage following the February 2014 Western-sponsored Maidan coup in Ukraine, and all manner of domestic political upheaval in Europe and North America small and large framed as somehow Moscow-orchestrated ever after, anyone and anything branded as even vaguely sympathetic to Russia automatically became an FSB and/or GRU chaos agent.

Comment: Article exposes the collusion of Spain in the framing of Julian Assange and Russia.


The decimal point is 150 years older than historians thought

decimal point  Astronomer Giovanni Bianchini
© Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/AlamyAstronomer Giovanni Bianchini presenting Emperor Frederick III with his book Tabulae Astrologiae.
Origin of the powerful calculation tool traced back to a mathematician from the Italian Renaissance.

The decimal point was invented around 150 years earlier than previously thought, according to an analysis of astronomical tables compiled by the Italian merchant and mathematician Giovanni Bianchini in the 1440s. Historians say that this discovery rewrites the origins of one of the most fundamental mathematical conventions, and suggests that Bianchini — whose economic training contrasted starkly with those of his astronomer peers — might have played a more notable part in the history of maths than previously realized. The results are published in Historia Mathematica1.

"It's a very nice discovery," says José Chabás, a historian of astronomy at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain. The decimal point was "a step forward for humanity", he says, enabling the ease and efficiency of calculations that underpin modern science and technology. Previously, its earliest-known appearance was generally said to be in an astronomical table written by the German mathematician Christopher Clavius in 1593. But now it's clear that "the inspiration was taken from Bianchini", Chabás says.