Posts about archaeology

Did a massive comet explode over Canada 12,900 years ago and start an ice age?

I think it is important to increase scientific literacy. One thing that is greatly misunderstood is the process for new scientific explanations being accepted by the scientific community. It is often quite a drawn out process over years (and for the explanation provided in this paper the debate is certainly still ongoing). And for issues that really shake up past explanations it can take decades and be quite contentious. I think posts tagged with “scientific inquiry” are a very interesting collection to explore.

It is important to understand the difficulty in providing evidence that satisfies the overwhelming majority of the scientific experts in any area. And it is important to understand the claims in one (or numerous papers) are not the accepted proven wisdom of the scientific community. Thankfully the process is rigorous. While mistakes can still be made, the evidence needed to substantiate a scientific hypothesis is significant. Their is still plenty of room for position to color accepted scientific wisdom. A respected professor is often able to make a claim that is more readily accepted and even more-so for to insist the new claims do not provide enough evidence in support of them to accept the new claims and have there position accepted (even when it really shouldn’t be looking just at the facts).

Topper site in middle of comet controversy

Firestone found concentrations of spherules (micro-sized balls) of metals and nano-sized diamonds in a layer of sediment dating 12,900 years ago at 10 of 12 archaeological sites that his team examined. The mix of particles is thought to be the result of an extraterrestrial object, such as a comet or meteorite, exploding in the earth’s atmosphere. Among the sites examined was USC’s Topper, one of the most pristine U.S. sites for research on Clovis, one of the earliest ancient peoples.
“This independent study is yet another example of how the Topper site with its various interdisciplinary studies has connected ancient human archaeology with significant studies of the Pleistocene,” said Goodyear, who began excavating Clovis artifacts in 1984 at the Topper site in Allendale, S.C. “It’s both exciting and gratifying.”
Younger-Dryas is what scientists refer to as the period of extreme cooling that began around 12,900 years ago and lasted 1,300 years. While that brief ice age has been well-documented – occurring during a period of progressive solar warming after the last ice age – the reasons for it have long remained unclear.

Related: Why Wasn’t the Earth Covered in Ice 4 Billion Years Ago – When the Sun was Dimmer?Unless We Take Decisive Action, Climate Change Will Ravage Our PlanetMore Evidence Supporting Einstein’s Theory of GravityAncient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian Desert

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The Sahara Wasn’t Always a Desert

Green Sahara

For much of the past 70,000 years, the Sahara has closely resembled the desert it is today. Some 12,000 years ago, however, a wobble in the Earth’s axis and other factors caused Africa’s seasonal monsoons to shift slightly north, bringing new rains to an area nearly the size of the contiguous United States. Lush watersheds stretched across the Sahara, from Egypt to Mauritania, drawing animal life and eventually people.

by some 3,500 years ago the desert had returned. The people vanished.

The twilight of the Green Sahara around 4,500 years ago might have been the perfect time to be hunting at Gobero, said Carlo Giraudi, the team’s geologist. As water sources dried up throughout the region, animals would have been drawn to pocket wetlands, making them easier to kill. Four middens found on the dunes and dated to around that time included hundreds of animal remains, as well as fish bones and clamshells—not usually part of a herder’s diet. “The Green Sahara’s climate was rapidly changing,” said Giraudi, “but just before the lake dried up, the people at Gobero would have thought they were living in a golden period.”

There are many values of science: letting our curious minds learn, giving us cool robots and gadgets and letting us learn about the past (and thus about the ever-changing world we live in).

Related: Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian DesertRare Saharan Cheetahs Photographed“Gladiator” tomb is found in Rome

Marine Plankton From 100 Million Years Ago Found in Amber

photo of foraminifer in amber

Marine microorganisms have been found in amber dating from the middle of the Cretaceous period. The fossils were collected in Charente, in France. This completely unexpected discovery will deepen our understanding of these lost marine species as well as providing precious data about the coastal environment of Western France during the Cretaceous. This work was carried out by researchers at the Géosciences Rennes laboratory, together with researchers from the Paléobiodiversité et Paléoenvironnement laboratory in Paris and the Centre de Géochimie de la Surface in Strasbourg.

Amber is a fossil resin with a reputation for preserving even the most minute details of insects and other terrestrial arthropods (spiders, scorpions, mites) that lived in resiniferous trees. The forest-based provenance of amber in theory makes it impossible for marine animals to be trapped in the resin. Nonetheless, researchers from the Géosciences Rennes laboratory have discovered various inclusions of marine plankton in amber from the Mid-Cretaceous (100 to 98 million years ago). These micro-organisms are found in just a few pieces of amber among the thousands that have been studied, but show a remarkable diversity: unicellular algae, mainly diatoms found in large numbers, traces of animal plankton, such as radiolaria and a foraminifer, spiny skeletons of sponges and of echinoderms.

Foraminifera (the photo shows one in Amber) are amoeboid protists with reticulating pseudopods, fine strands of cytoplasm that branch and merge to form a dynamic net.[1] They typically produce a test, or shell, which can have either one or multiple chambers, some becoming quite elaborate in structure.[2] These shells are made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or agglutinated sediment particles. About 275,000 species are recognized, both living and fossil.[citation needed] They are usually less than 1 mm in size.”

Carried out together with researchers at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, the study of diatoms pushed back by 10 to 30 million years the known date for the appearance of certain marine forms of this type of algae. This new information, taken together with recent data on molecular phylogeny, marks a huge advance in our understanding of the complex evolutionary history of diatoms.

The presence of these marine organisms in the amber is an ecological paradox. How did these marine species become stuck and then trapped in the conifers’ resin? The most likely scenario is that the forest producing the amber was very close to the coast, potentially shrouded by plankton-bearing mist or flooded by sea water during storms.

The preservation of marine organisms in amber is an exceptional asset, allowing us to deepen our understanding of these lost species and to have a clear idea about the coastal environment of Western France during the Cretaceous.

press release

Related: Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber2,000 year old living coralBdelloid Rotifers Abandoned Sex 100 Million Years Ago

Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian Desert

photo of Basilosaurus fossil

The skeleton is 18 meters (50 feet) long and was found in Wadi Hitan in the Western Sahara of Egypt. The first Basilosaurus fossil was found in 1905 but no full skeleton has been discovered until now.

The new skeleton of Basilosaurus will be shipped to Michigan for preparation and preservation, University of Michigan paleontologist Philip D. Gingerich said. It then will be replicated in a casting material suitable for reconstruction and exhibition of the complete skeleton. The original fossil bones and a complete cast will be returned to Egypt for exhibition in public museums in Cairo and in the Wadi Hitan visitors center. Gingerich also hopes that a complete cast can be mounted in the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum.

The fossil whales of Wadi Hitan were first mapped in the 1980s and 1990s during expeditions led by Gingerich, a professor at the U-M Museum of Paleontology and Department of Geological Sciences. The 1989 team discovered that Basilosaurus still retained tiny, useless legs, feet, and toes representing hind legs that were lost at a later stage of whale evolution. No skeleton was collected at the time because of the remote location of Wadi Hitan and because of the large size of the whale skeletons.

Wadi Hitan is a remote valley in which hundreds of fossil whale skeletons are being exposed by the wind. They lie trapped in a sandstone formation that represents an ancient sea bed. “Here the wind sculpts the sand into spectacular shapes, which give the valley an unusual beauty in addition to its richness in fossils,” Gingerich said.

Sea-living animals found in the Wadi Hitan desert include five species of whales, including the Dorudon atrox, presently exhibited in the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum. There are also three species of sea cows (Sirenia), two crocodiles, several turtles, and a sea snake, in addition to a large number of fossilized sharks and bony fishes.

Full press release, April 2005. Photo via: Whale Found in Egypt Desert

Related: Stromerius nidensis, new archaeocete (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the upper Eocene Qasr el-Sagha Formation, Fayum, EgyptGiant Duck-Billed Dinosaur Discovered in MexicoOver 100 Dinosaur Eggs DiscoveredNigersaurus

Huge Tomb Uncovered in Rome

‘Gladiator’ tomb is found in Rome

The tomb of a general thought to have been an inspiration for the main character in the Oscar-winning film Gladiator has been unearthed in Rome.

The tomb was discovered along the northbound Via Flaminia where construction work has been taking place. Many marble columns, inscriptions and decorations have been beautifully preserved thanks to the mud caused by a centuries-old flood of the River Tiber. It is “the most important ancient Roman monument to come to light for 20 or 30 years”, said senior archaeologist Daniela Rossi.

Workers renovating a rugby stadium have uncovered a vast complex of tombs that mimic the houses, blocks and streets of a real city… Meanwhile, archaeologists restoring imperial residences in the heart of ancient Rome are also reported to have found what they believe to be the underground passageway where the Emperor Caligula was murdered by his guards…

Related: Ancient Greek Technology 1,000 Years EarlyLaser Tool Creates ‘blueprints’ of Archeology SitesPrayer Book Reveals Lost Archimedes Work Studying Ideas at Heart of Calculus

Laser Tool Creates “blueprints” of Archeology Sites

Laser mapping tool traces ancient sites

Born in northern Iraq in 1940, Kacyra developed this laser-mapping tool several years ago to solve a problem in construction — keeping accurate records of the real dimensions of factories and power plants when they deviate from the architect’s plans.

The 67-year-old sold his invention in 2001 and now works with his wife, Barbara, to get the $100,000 tool into the hands of archaeological researchers who are using it to create electronic blueprints so accurate that scientists sitting at computer terminals can glean the secrets of ancient monuments remotely. “We both loved the ancient-built environment and we wanted to put high technology to use saving ancient places,” Kacyra said.

Today the Kacyras have created a Web site, at www.cyark.org, that allows anyone to see these blueprintlike images. But that’s just the start. Down the line they would like to superimpose real graphics on top of these geospatial maps — recreating ancient worlds onscreen.

“Using the latest laser-scanning technology, CyArk collects the most accurate 3D model of cultural heritage sites, stores them safely and provides them freely to the world.” More on the laser tool:
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