Ancient 4,500-year-old boat discovered in Egypt

File photo - Archaeologists and workers are pictured at the site of the  Abusir tomb complex, south of Cairo, Nov. 14, 2012.(REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)

File photo – Archaeologists and workers are pictured at the site of the Abusir tomb complex, south of Cairo, Nov. 14, 2012.(REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)

Archaeologists from the Charles University in Prague have unearthed a 4,500-year-old 59-foot boat at a site in Egypt.

While working at the site of the Abusir necropolis near Cairo the archaeologists discovered 4,500-year-old wooden planks that formed part of the boat. The boat’s size, alongside additional clues such as a bowl bearing the name of king Huni of the Third Dynasty, indicate the owner’s close ties with the pharaoh of that time, according to the team.

Charles University wrote on its website that the ritual of burying boats beside chambers traces its roots back to the Early Dynastic Period.

Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the boat is the first of its kind to be found in that location and that it points to the elite status of the tomb’s owner.

“The boat wreck shows that he was a very important man in the royal palace – a top official or a close person to the king but not a royal family,” he said.

Charles University wrote that some of the ropes that bound the boat together are still in their original position, with all their details intact, a unique discovery in ancient Egyptian boats.

This year, the university will study boat building techniques as part of an initiative with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) at Texas A&M University.

Particles could reveal clues to how Egypt pyramid was built

FILE - This file Aug. 19, 2011 photo shows the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur, about 25 miles south of Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Coralie Carlson, File)

FILE – This file Aug. 19, 2011 photo shows the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur, about 25 miles south of Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Coralie Carlson, File)

CAIRO — An international team of researchers said Sunday they will soon begin analyzing cosmic particles collected inside Egypt’s Bent Pyramid to search for clues as to how it was built and learn more about the 4,600-year-old structure.

Mehdi Tayoubi, president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, said that plates planted inside the pyramid last month have collected data on radiographic particles known as muons that rain down from the earth’s atmosphere.

The particles pass through empty spaces but can be absorbed or deflected by harder surfaces. By studying particle accumulations, scientists may learn more about the construction of the pyramid, built by the Pharaoh Snefru.

“For the construction of the pyramids, there is no single theory that is 100 percent proven or checked; They are all theories and hypotheses,” said Hany Helal, the institute’s vice president.

“What we are trying to do with the new technology, we would like to either confirm or change or upgrade or modify the hypotheses that we have on how the pyramids were constructed,” he said.

The Bent Pyramid in Dahshur, just outside Cairo, is distinguished by the bent slope of its sides. It is believed to have been ancient Egypt’s first attempt to build a smooth-sided pyramid.

The Scan Pyramids project, which announced in November thermal anomalies in the 4,500 year-old Khufu Pyramid in Giza, is coupling thermal technology with muons analysis to try to unlock secrets to the construction of several ancient Egyptian pyramids.

Tayoubi said the group plans to start preparations for muons testing in a month in Khufu, the largest of the three Giza pyramids, which is known internationally as Cheops.

“Even if we find one square meter void somewhere, it will bring new questions and hypotheses and maybe it will help solve the definitive questions,” said Tayoubi.

originally available here

Mysterious ‘Hobbit’ relative may have lived on isolated island

The Walanae River at Paroto, about a mile (2 km) east of Talepu.

The Walanae River at Paroto, about a mile (2 km) east of Talepu. (Gerrit van den Bergh)

A mysterious relative of the extinct human species nicknamed the “hobbit” may have once lived on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, new research suggests.

This finding could one day help shed light on the evolution of the hobbit, the researchers noted in the study.

In 2003, scientists unearthed 18,000-year-old fossils on the Indonesian island of Flores. The fossils belonged to an unknown hominin, a close relative of modern humans. Since then, scientists have suggested that this hominin, which had a brain about the size of a grapefruit, was a unique branch of the human lineage named Homo floresiensis and popularly known as “the hobbit” because of its diminutive 3-foot stature. [See Images of the ‘Hobbit’ and Evidence of Newfound Ancestors]

Since the hobbit’s discovery, researchers have sought to uncover its evolutionary origins. In 2010, scientists revealed that stone tools found on Flores suggest that the hobbit’s ancestors lived there 1 million years ago. As such, these potential direct ancestors of hobbits may have descended from Homo erectus, the earliest undisputed ancestor of modern humans. The first fossils of Homo erectus were found on the Indonesian island of Java in the 19th century; subsequent research has unearthed Homo erectus specimens on Java about 1.5 million years in age.

To find out more about how the hobbit’s ancestors might have migrated to Flores, scientists have searched for clues on other Indonesian islands. They focused on the island of Sulawesi, which lies between Flores and continental Asia.

Sulawesi is the largest and oldest island in Wallacea, a group of islands separating Asia from Australia. Given Sulawesi’s position north of Flores and Australia, Sulawesi likely played a key role in the settling of both islands, the researchers said.

Now, stone tools discovered on Sulawesi dating back at least 118,000 years suggest that an unknown lineage of toolmakers once lived there, the researchers said in the new study.

“There might have been a totally different human species living on Sulawesi before modern humans arrived with boats around 50,000 years ago,” said study lead author Gerrit van den Bergh, a paleontologist and zooarchaeologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia. “Evolving under isolation on an island under hundreds of thousands of years in isolation, the outcome may have resulted in a distinct human species, different from Homo erectus or Homo floresiensis.”

Excavations conducted between 2007 and 2012 in southeastern Sulawesi revealed four sites containing stone flakes — sharp artifacts likely used for cutting or scraping — dating back 118,000 to 194,000 years. These are the earliest signs of hominins seen on Sulawesi yet, the researchers said.

Previous analysis of rock art in southwestern Sulawesi revealed that modern humans, Homo sapiens, lived on the island at least 40,000 years ago, the researchers said. These new findings suggest that an unknown lineage of hominins predated the arrival of modern humans on Sulawesi, the researchers said.

Because no human fossils of the same age as these newfound artifacts have been found on Sulawesi, the identity of these toolmakers remains uncertain. Three potential candidates include the hobbits, Homo erectus and theDenisovans, close relatives of Neanderthals that may have once interbred with modern humans.

The researchers said that undiscovered evidence of ancient hominins may be found on other islands in the region, such as Borneo and the Philippines. Such fossils and artifacts could help solve the evolutionary mysteries of Indonesia.

“Now, we can start trying to find fossil evidence of the makers of these ancient tools,” van den Bergh told Live Science.

The scientists detailed their findings in the Jan. 14 issue of the journal Nature.

Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bronze Age settlement unearthed in UK

(Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

(Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

The walls might not be able to talk, but the foundation has spoken. And it’s good.

Researchers digging on site at the Must Farm quarry in Cambridgeshire, England, recently uncovered debris that tell the story of a Bronze Age housing unit from around 3,000 years ago.

Related: Big-eared statues reveal ancient Egyptian power couple

The dwellers lived above water in circular wooden homes on stilts. It is believed that a fire destroyed the settlement and the debris that fell into the water was subsequently preserved in the river bed. In addition to portions of the structures themselves, researchers uncovered textiles, cups, bowls, jars with meals inside of them and exotic glass beads.

On the project’s website, David Gibson, Archaeological Manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, said, “It’s prehistoric archaeology in 3D with an unsurpassed finds assemblage both in terms of range and quantity.”

Must Farm, a clay quarry that is currently owned by building and products manufacturer Forterrra, has given up some of its secrets in the past. In 1969, metal work from the Bronze Age surfaced, and in 2011, nine log boats were discovered.

Related: Ötzi the Iceman may have suffered stomach bug

Historic England is funding the project alongside Forterra. The Cambridge Archaeological Unit of the University of Cambridge is excavating the site and the project is halfway completed. Artifacts will eventually be displayed at the Peterborough Museum and other local venues.

Originally available here

Big-eared statues reveal ancient Egyptian power couple

A statue of an ancient Egyptian power couple (a man named Neferkhewe and his wife) from the 18th Dynasty graces a cenotaph at the ancient Egyptian site Gebel el Silsila. 

A statue of an ancient Egyptian power couple (a man named Neferkhewe and his wife) from the 18th Dynasty graces a cenotaph at the ancient Egyptian site Gebel el Silsila.  (The Gebel el Silsila Project, courtesy the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Six ancient statues of Egyptians, some with round faces and big ears, have been found near the Nile River in Upper Egypt.

The statues, which were once sloughed off their original bluff in an earthquakeand buried in Nile silt, are of a man named Neferkhewe and his family. Neferkhewe bore the titles of chief of the Medjay (northern Sudan) and overseer of the foreign lands some 3,500 years ago, during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III. The statues, and the carved alcove in which they reside, had been open to the elements for at least 1,500 years before being buried, but the carvings are in incredible condition, said John Ward, the assistant director of the Gebel el Silsila Survey Project that uncovered the statues.

“To be there when their faces look back at you after 2,000 years of being covered with silt is an experience that can’t be put into words,” Ward told Live Science “It’s just a pure honor.” [See Photos of the Ancient Egyptian Statues of Neferkhewe]

Ancient ritual

The newly discovered statues sit inside two cenotaphs, or “false tombs.” Thirty-two cenotaphs line the Nile River at the Gebel el Silsila site, which is also where many of the sandstone blocks used to build Egypt’s temples were quarried over the centuries.

Such quarrying would have been rough, industrial work, and the Gebel el Silsila cenotaphs are a somewhat mysterious example of elegance and beauty in this environment. These carved alcoves were a bit like memorials for certain elite families, Ward said. No one was buried in them, but family members or well-wishers could come to leave offerings to the dead, to perform rituals and perhaps to grieve.

“We don’t know why these 32 families chose Silsila to place their cenotaphs here,” Ward said. The two newly discovered cenotaphs contain the most well-preserved statues ever found at the site, he said. In one, the cenotaph owner and his wife sit side by side on a chair, the man wearing a shoulder-length wig and posing with his arms crossed over his chest — a pose known as the “Osirian” position after Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife. The man’s wife has one arm on her husband’s back and the other on her own abdomen. [Image Gallery: Amazing Egyptian Discoveries]

The second cenotaph holds four statues and carvings identifying the patriarch as Neferkhewe. He is flanked by his wife Ruiuresti and two children, but the couple must have had more kids, Ward said, because other children are depicted in carvings bringing offerings to their parents.

Personal history

For Neferkhewe and his family, the re-discovery of their names would have been an event of great religious significance.

“To preserve one’s name, it’s pivotal to the religion,” Ward said. “Without a name you wouldn’t have an identity in the afterlife, so you wouldn’t exist.”

Speaking Neferkhewe’s name out loud for the first time in at least 2,000 years “gives him the immortality that he dreamed of,” Ward said.

“We bring them to life again,” said Maria Nilsson, the survey project’s mission director.

The discovery helps personalize Silsila in other ways. The statues hint at what the family may have looked like, with their round-cheeked faces and large ears. With further work, it may be possible to find the actual tombs of the family or their relatives in Luxor or Thebes, Ward said.

“It’s like a window into their life,” he said.

Ritual was important at Silsila, which also boasts a stunning rock-cut temple called a “speos,” constructed with solar and lunar alignment in mind, Ward said. An annual Nile festival once celebrated at the site would have involved thrusting the book of the Nile god Hapi into the river to bring the nutrient-rich floodwaters to Egypt. While excavating mummies and pyramids is “very exciting,” Ward said, day-to-day life is closer to the surface at Silsila.

The researchers said they plan to continue cleaning and translating the reliefs carved into the two new cenotaphs. They said they’re hoping to learn the names of Neferkhewe’s other children. The excavations are funded in part by the nonprofit Friends of Silsila.

Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Fossil of duck-billed dinosaur found along Alabama creek

The remains of the dinosaur are on display in McWane Science Center. (Jun Ebersole)

The remains of the dinosaur are on display in McWane Science Center. (Jun Ebersole)

Scientists have discovered the fossilized remains of duck-billed dinosaur along a creek in Alabama, suggesting that this scaly behemoth emerged from what was then Appalachia before spreading out to other parts of the world.

This new species, the first ever found in the eastern United States, was probably 20 to 30 feet long as an adult and lived during the late Cretaceous Period, roughly 83 million years ago.  It mostly walked on its hind legs, though it could come down on all four to graze on plants with teeth that are similar to modern day horses and cows. It had a scaly exterior and a large crest on its nose.

Related: Shrink playerTitanosaur on display at American Museum of Natural History

“This is a really important animal in telling us how they came to be and how they spread all over the world,” said Florida State University Professor of Biological Science Gregory Erickson, one of the authors of a paper detailing the dinosaur in the findings the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The researchers named the new dinosaur Eotrachodon orientalis, which means “dawn rough tooth from the east.” The name pays homage to “Trachodon,” which was the first duck-billed dinosaur named in 1856.

The skeletal remains – a complete skull, dozens of backbones, a partial hip bone and a few bones from the limbs – were originally found by a team of amateur fossil enthusiasts alongside a creek in Montgomery County, Alabama in marine sediment. That would suggest the dinosaur likely was washed out to sea by river or stream sediments after it died.

When the group realized they had potentially discovered something of scientific importance, they contacted McWane Science Center in Birmingham, which dispatched a team to the site to carefully remove the remains from the surrounding rock.

During the late Cretaceous Period, North America was divided in half by a 1,000 mile ocean that connected the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. This body of water created two North American landmasses, Laramidia to the west and Appalachia to the east. Back then, Appalachia began roughly in Georgia and Alabama and stretched all the way north into Canada.

“For roughly 100 million years, the dinosaurs were not able to cross this barrier,” Jun Ebersole, director of collections at McWane Science Center, said. “The discovery of Eotrachodonsuggests that duck-billed dinosaurs originated in Appalachia and dispersed to other parts of the world at some point after the seaway lowered, opening a land corridor to western North America.”

“They just needed to get off the island,” he continued. “From there, they became the cows of the Cretaceous.”

The remains of Eotrachodon are housed at McWane Science Center in Birmingham and are currently on display in Ebersole’s laboratory.

Remains of earliest known massacre victims uncovered in Kenya

This undated photo shows a male skeleton with skull wounds consistent with those from a blunt object, found near Lake Turkana in Kenya. (Marta Mirazon Lahr)

This undated photo shows a male skeleton with skull wounds consistent with those from a blunt object, found near Lake Turkana in Kenya. (Marta Mirazon Lahr)

Scientists say they have uncovered the remains of the earliest known massacre victims, dating from approximately 10,000 years ago.

Archaeologists believe the victims were members of an extended family group of hunter-gatherers who were slaughtered by a rival group.

According to the scientists’ report in the journal Nature, parts of 27 skeletons were discovered near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. Ten of the twelve relatively complete skeletons showed signs of a violent death, including smashed skulls and faces, broken ribs and evidence of arrow wounds.

Partial remains of 15 other skeletons were also found and are believed to belong to victims of the same attack. The group included the skeletons of at least eight women and six children. A fetal skeleton was also found in the abdomen of one of the female skeletons.

“The … massacre may have resulted from an attempt to seize resources – territory, women, children, food stored in pots – whose value was similar to those of later food-producing agricultural societies, among whom violent attacks on settlements became part of life,” said lead study author Dr. Marta Mirazón Lahr of the University of Cambridge.

The find offers compelling evidence in the scientific debate about whether human aggression was passed on to us from our primate ancestors or emerged after the development of agriculture and settled, hierarchical human societies. The earliest known so-called “war grave” before the latest discovery was found in Germany and dated to approximately 5000 B.C.

“I’ve no doubt it is in our biology to be aggressive and lethal, just as it is to be deeply caring and loving,” study author Robert Foley of the University of Cambridge told the Daily Telegraph. “A lot of what we understand about human evolutionary biology suggests these are two sides of the same coin.”

Bones of hunted mammoth show early human presence in Arctic

Excavations of the carcass from channel deposits unit. In this photo, Sergey Gorbunov is excavating the mammoth carcass. (Pitulko et al., Science 2016)

Excavations of the carcass from channel deposits unit. In this photo, Sergey Gorbunov is excavating the mammoth carcass. (Pitulko et al., Science 2016)

The remains of a mammoth that was hunted down about 45,000 years ago have revealed the earliest known evidence of humans in the Arctic.

Marks on the bones, found in far northern Russia, indicate the creature was stabbed and butchered. The tip of a tusk was damaged in a way that suggests human activity, perhaps to make ivory tools.

With a minimal age estimate of 45,000 years, the discovery extends the record of human presence in the Arctic by at least about 5,000 years.

The site in Siberia, near the Kara Sea, is also by far the northernmost sign of human presence in Eurasia before 40,000 years ago, Vladimir Pitulko of the Russian Academy of Science in St. Petersburg and co-authors reported in a paper released Thursday by the journal Science.

They also briefly report evidence of human hunting at about the same time from a wolf bone found well to the east. That suggests a widespread occupation, although the population was probably sparse, they said.

Daniel Fisher, a mammoth expert at the University of Michigan who did not participate in the study, said the markings on the mammoth bone strongly indicate human hunting. It makes sense to conclude that the hunters were from our own species rather than Neanderthals, John Hoffecker of the University of Colorado at Boulder commented in an email.

But Robert Park, an archaeologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who has studied the bones of hunted animals in the far north, called the evidence for human hunting “pretty marginal.” The beast had been found with remains of its fat hump, while hunters would be expected to take the fat for food and fuel, he said. And the skeleton shows far less butchering than one would expect, he said.

Park emphasized he’s not ruling out the idea that the mammoth was hunted.

If people were living this far north that long ago, he said, it implies they had not only the technical abilities to carry out mammoth hunts, but also a social organization complex enough to share the food from the relatively rare kills.

Bronze Age settlement unearthed in UK

(Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

(Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

The walls might not be able to talk, but the foundation has spoken. And it’s good.

Researchers digging on site at the Must Farm quarry in Cambridgeshire, England, recently uncovered debris that tell the story of a Bronze Age housing unit from around 3,000 years ago.

The dwellers lived above water in circular wooden homes on stilts. It is believed that a fire destroyed the settlement and the debris that fell into the water was subsequently preserved in the river bed. In addition to portions of the structures themselves, researchers uncovered textiles, cups, bowls, jars with meals inside of them and exotic glass beads.

On the project’s website, David Gibson, Archaeological Manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, said, “It’s prehistoric archaeology in 3D with an unsurpassed finds assemblage both in terms of range and quantity.”

Must Farm, a clay quarry that is currently owned by building and products manufacturer Forterrra, has given up some of its secrets in the past. In 1969, metal work from the Bronze Age surfaced, and in 2011, nine log boats were discovered.

Historic England is funding the project alongside Forterra. The Cambridge Archaeological Unit of the University of Cambridge is excavating the site and the project is halfway completed. Artifacts will eventually be displayed at the Peterborough Museum and other local venues.

Fossil of massive crocodile found on edge of Sahara desert

Artistic rendering of Machimosaurus rex by Davide Bonadonna.

Artistic rendering of Machimosaurus rex by Davide Bonadonna.

Paleontologists have discovered the fossil remains of the
world’s biggest ocean-dwelling crocodile buried on the edge of the Sahara, a creature that was twice the size of anything seen today.

Named Machimosaurus rex, this croc would have weighed in at
least 6,600 pounds and been around 32 feet long. Other than its size, it would have looked much like a modern day crocodile except for its narrow snout – which was designed to allow it swim in the ocean.

It would have been the top predator in what was then an
ocean that separated Africa from Europe about 130 million years ago.

“This is an incredibly big crocodile. It is twice as big as
a present day marine crocodile,” University of Bologna’s Federico Fanti, who was part of the team that made the discovery with support from the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, told FoxNews.com.

“The skull itself is as big I am,” said Fanti, whose
discovery was detailed in a study in the journal  Cretaceous Research.  “Just the skull is more than five feet long.
It’s a massive crocodile.”

Tunisia, where the skeleton and some bones were found, would have been a
lagoon facing the ocean and the environment would have been filled with huge fish and turtles – all favorite prey of the Machimosaurus rex.

“This animal, however, used to feast on the large turtles or
big fishes that it found in the ocean,” Fanti said. “He was so big and so powerful that it was absolutely at the top of the food chain.”

Beyond its size, Fanti said the significance of the find is
what it tells us about a mass extinction event that is believed to have happened between the Jurassic and Cretaceous period about 150 million years ago. Machimosaurus
rex was thought to have died out then but the discovery suggests the extinction event was not as widespread as some paleontologist thought.

“The fact that Machimosaurus rex (pertaining to a group that
was well alive in the Jurassic) lived 130-120 million years ago indicate that there was no mass extinction,” Fanti said.

“Everyone thought this group of crocodiles went extinct in
the Jurassic but we found it well into the Cretaceous,” he said. “We simply extended the temporal range of the animals. Twenty million years is a lot of time.”

Fanti, whose team has discovered 20 new species including a rebbachisaurid sauropod Tataouinea hannibalis in the same area, said there is less to learn about crocodile evolution from this new discovery. The reason, he said, is that crocodiles have changed little over time.

“Basically, they are bigger or smaller,” he said of their
evolution, adding that even bigger crocodiles lived on land, many of which also have gone extinct. The largest freshwater crocodile, Sarcosuchus imperator, lived 110 million years ago and grew as long as 40 feet (12 meters). It weighed
up to 17,500 pounds, according to National Geographic.