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Prehistoric Druidical Rock Shelter Found in Srikakulam, India

Prehistoric Rocks
© The Hindu
STONES OF GOD: Prehistoric druidical rock shelter and worshipping place found by freelance archaeologist K. Venkateswara Rao in Chittivalasa village in Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh recently.
A prehistoric druidical rock worshipping place and shelter resembling those in Europe and Africa, have been discovered amid the hillocks skirting Chittivalsa village in Srikakulam district by a freelance archaeologist, K. Venkateswara Rao recently.

The cluster of unique oval-shaped standing rock formations each measuring about eight metres in height and 28 metres in circumference and having well-defined ledge cuts and postholes used for wooden canopy like shelter, could have been a habitation and a place of worship. That a prehistoric circular hut existed here is indicated by circular postholes found on boulders opposite to the cluster of standing rocks within a radius of 3.05 metres.

Quite surprisingly, the rocks are well protected as the place continues to be revered as 'Pandavulapancha,' 'Pandavuladoddi' and 'Demudurallu' (stones of God) in the local legend, the belief being Pandavas lived in the rock shelter for some time during their 'aranyavasa' and the place belongs to God.

Pandavulapancha, the name given to a naturally formed cavern containing five rock beds is located on the rear side. These beds are hewn on the large inclined rock aligned in the north-south direction, another proof of prehistoric people living there. The cavern was later occupied by Jain ascetics by making some alterations to the beds and chiselling channels around the bed enabling free flow of rain water.

Sherlock

New Date for Julius Caesar's British Invasion

white cliffs of Dover
© Donald W. Olson
Caesar's fleet arrived first at the white cliffs of Dover on the southeastern coast of Britain, but he decided this was not a suitable landing spot.
It's not every day that a famous historical event, scrutinized by generations of classical scholars, can be re-dated by two astronomers and their college honors class. But that's exactly what Donald W. Olson and Russell Doescher of Texas State University did, with the help of students Kellie Beicker and Amanda Gregory. They report their findings in the August 2008 Sky & Telescope, which has just hit the newsstands..

Tipped off by Don in advance, I was fortunate to be able to join the team's research trip to the southern coast of England last summer. The white cliffs of Dover, subject of a memorable song from World War II, were also the setting for a much earlier clash of civilizations. Along this very shore, Julius Caesar first landed with two legions of Roman soldiers in 55 BC.

Caesar, in his first-hand account of the invasion, carefully noted the phase of the Moon, the approach of the equinox, and above all the unexpected ocean tides his fleet encountered. So it's a simple matter for any astronomer to determine the precise date of the invasion, right?

Wrong! No lesser astronomers than Edmond Halley and George B. Airy carefully studied the astronomical aspects of 55 BC in hopes of letting historians know the exact date and location where Caesar and his legions came ashore. But Airy and Halley disagreed with each other. And what's more, they both got it partly wrong, as Olson's Texas State team found out on their research trip.

Cow Skull

Earliest Asian Skull Found; Likely Around 50,000 Years Old

Find could lend credence to idea that man evolved in Asia, rather than Africa

For scientists the evolution debate regarding man is far from over. No, not that debate -- the debate among researchers largely involves where the earliest primates (which predate the hominids that surveyed the Pleistocene plains of Africa) evolved, and also where humans migrated early in their history.

A newly published study [abstract] in the prestigious peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal offers both the oldest confirmed human skull fossil, and evidence of early migration from mankind's likely evolution location (in Africa) to a new home in Southeast Asia.

Researchers traveled to a cave near Tam Pa Ling in the Annamite Mountains where a 16,000-year-old human skull was discovered in the early 1900s. Searching deeper, they found a skull that was dated (using direct uranium dating) to a maximum age of 63,000 years ago. Combined with luminescent (which measures stored energy from solar heat/radiation in the crystalline component of soil buried in dark locations) and carbon dating of the surrounding sediments, it was determined that the individual -- whose gender was not determined in the work -- lived between 46,000 and 51,000 years ago.

Document

Roman Curses Appear on Ancient Tablet

Roman Tablet_1
© Roger Tomlin
The tablet after it was unrolled.
An ancient Roman lead scroll unearthed in England three years ago has turned out to be a curse intended to cause misfortune to more than a dozen people, according to new research.

Found in East Farleigh, U.K., in the filling of a 3rd to 4th Century AD building that may have originally been a temple, the scroll was made of a 2.3- by 3.9-inch inscribed lead tablet.

Popular in the Greek and Roman world, these sorts of "black magic" curses called upon gods to torment specific victims.

Rolled up to conceal their inscriptions, the tablets were either nailed to the wall of a temple or buried in places considered to be close to the underworld, such as graves, springs or wells.

The scroll, unearthed in the Kent village had been carefully rolled up and buried, most likely in the third century AD, similar to other curse tablets found throughout Europe.

The researchers tried to read the fragile scroll without unrolling it by using a technique called neutron computed tomography imaging at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, but "the resolution was not sufficient to discern any writing on it," said the Maidstone Area Archaeological Group, which made the finding.

Sherlock

Amelia Earhart mystery: New evidence, right spot, searchers say

Image

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in May 1937. New video shows a debris field in an area where wreckage of their final flight was thought to be, searchers say.
In July, a team searching for the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's plane was wrapping up an expedition and feeling downhearted. They had come away with apparently little to show for their $2.2 million worth of efforts.

But now those searchers says high-definition video from that trip shows promising evidence.

"We have man-made objects in a debris field," Ric Gillespie told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Monday morning. And those objects are "in a location where we had previously reasoned where airplane wreckage should be."

Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were lost on their July 2, 1937, flight from New Guinea to Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean. Earhart was trying to become the first woman to fly around the planet.

"We don't want to oversell this," Gillespie cautioned. "We have lots of clues. ... It looks like it might be the right stuff, but we need a lot more work done, and ultimately we're going to have to go back and recover it."

Info

Oldest Bones from Modern Humans in Asia Discovered

Oldest Bone
© F. Demeter
A 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

Image

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

Image
© 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 Museum
The 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?

Image
© Clara Moskowitz/LiveScience
Even 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]