Caelian Hill Ian Haynes Rome Transformed project Paolo Liverani

New research aims to transform study of eight hundred years of Rome

New research aims to transform study of eight hundred years of Rome

An international, interdisciplinary team led by Newcastle University's Professor Ian Haynes aims to revolutionise understanding of Rome and its place in the transformation of the Mediterranean World

Caelian Hill Ian Haynes Rome Transformed project Paolo Liverani
Caelian Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome, Italy

Emperors and Popes

The £2.1 million (€2.4 million) project funded by the European Research Council will pioneer a radically new methodology designed to analyse complex urban landscapes, exploring buildings buried up to 10 metres below the modern ground surface. Its focusses on a ‘forgotten’ quarter of Rome which, while omitted from most tourist itineraries, served as home to emperors and popes for generations. Between the first and eighth centuries AD, many of the most powerful people on earth lived in and around the Caelian Hill in the south-east of the city.

Drawing together diverse strands of data to visualise the way this area changed over eight centuries, the team will examine in detail the character of its many features, from palaces and the world’s first cathedral, to fortifications, aqueducts and private homes. Revealing in turn how these related to each other and to prevailing political, military and religious ideas, Professor Haynes and his team will transform the way major shifts in the chronological, geographical and ideological history of Rome are understood.

Ideological shifts

Ian Haynes Newcastle University
Professor Ian Haynes project director

Ian, Professor of Archaeology in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, who has directed archaeological investigations in the area around the Caelian Hill with Professor Paolo Liverani of the University of Florence for over 10 years – said:

“It is a tremendous privilege to be able to take this work forward. This grant not only allows us to develop a new cost-effective methodology applicable to the study of many of the world’s historic cities, delivering vital information to planners, heritage bodies, civil engineers, historians and archaeologists, it also helps us understand better some of the major ideological shifts that formed the world we live in.

“Over the course of this five-year project, we will be looking at the interplay of ideas, architecture, and infrastructure in the Caelian quarter to make the first ever large-scale assessment of the political, military and religious regenerations that emerged in this forgotten quarter of Rome. This matters because what happened here repeatedly shaped the development of Europe, the Middle East and north Africa”.

Rome Transformed

The project will involve colleagues from across Newcastle University, alongside the University of Florence, the British School at Rome and the National Research Centre for Italy’s Institute of Science for Cultural Heritage.

Involving extensive archival research, wide-ranging subterranean investigation, the largest geo-radar and laser scanning survey ever conducted in Rome, and using the latest digital 3D techniques, the Rome Transformed project will visualise five major transformations in the political, military and religious ideas that shaped ancient Rome over eight centuries.

Team members include archaeologists, architectural visualisers, botanists, computer scientists, engineers, geographers, geophysicists, historians, hydrologists and topographers.

 

Press release from the Newcastle University


Chicxulub impact dinosaur extinction Cretaceous

The terrible moments after the dinosaur-killing Chicxulub impact

66-million-year-old deathbed linked to dinosaur-killing meteor

Fossil site preserves animals killed within minutes of meteor impact

A meteor impact 66 million years ago generated a tsunami-like wave in an inland sea that killed and buried fish, mammals, insects and a dinosaur (Triceratops), the first victims of a cataclysm that led to Earth's last mass extinction. The death scene from within an hour of the impact has been excavated at an unprecedented fossil site in North Dakota. Credit: graphic courtesy of Robert DePalma

The beginning of the end started with violent shaking that raised giant waves in the waters of an inland sea in what is now North Dakota.

Then, tiny glass beads began to fall like birdshot from the heavens. The rain of glass was so heavy it may have set fire to much of the vegetation on land. In the water, fish struggled to breathe as the beads clogged their gills.

The heaving sea turned into a 30-foot wall of water when it reached the mouth of a river, tossing hundreds, if not thousands, of fresh-water fish -- sturgeon and paddlefish -- onto a sand bar and temporarily reversing the flow of the river. Stranded by the receding water, the fish were pelted by glass beads up to 5 millimeters in diameter, some burying themselves inches deep in the mud. The torrent of rocks, like fine sand, and small glass beads continued for another 10 to 20 minutes before a second large wave inundated the shore and covered the fish with gravel, sand and fine sediment, sealing them from the world for 66 million years.

This unique, fossilized graveyard -- fish stacked one atop another and mixed in with burned tree trunks, conifer branches, dead mammals, mosasaur bones, insects, the partial carcass of a Triceratops, marine microorganisms called dinoflagellates and snail-like marine cephalopods called ammonites -- was unearthed by paleontologist Robert DePalma over the past six years in the Hell Creek Formation, not far from Bowman, North Dakota. The evidence confirms a suspicion that nagged at DePalma in his first digging season during the summer of 2013 -- that this was a killing field laid down soon after the asteroid impact that eventually led to the extinction of all ground-dwelling dinosaurs. The impact at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the so-called K-T boundary, exterminated 75 percent of life on Earth.

Fossilized fish piled one atop another, suggesting that they were flung ashore and died stranded together on a sand bar after the wave from the seiche withdrew. Credit: photo courtesy of Robert DePalma

"This is the first mass death assemblage of large organisms anyone has found associated with the K-T boundary," said DePalma, curator of paleontology at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History in Florida and a doctoral student at the University of Kansas. "At no other K-T boundary section on Earth can you find such a collection consisting of a large number of species representing different ages of organisms and different stages of life, all of which died at the same time, on the same day."

In a paper to appear next week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he and his American and European colleagues, including two University of California, Berkeley, geologists, describe the site, dubbed Tanis, and the evidence connecting it with the asteroid or comet strike off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago. That impact created a huge crater, called Chicxulub, in the ocean floor and sent vaporized rock and cubic miles of asteroid dust into the atmosphere. The cloud eventually enveloped Earth, setting the stage for Earth's last mass extinction.

"It's like a museum of the end of the Cretaceous in a layer a meter-and-a-half thick," said Mark Richards, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of earth and planetary science who is now provost and professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington.

Richards and Walter Alvarez, a UC Berkeley Professor of the Graduate School who 40 years ago first hypothesized that a comet or asteroid impact caused the mass extinction, were called in by DePalma and Dutch scientist Jan Smit to consult on the rain of glass beads and the tsunami-like waves that buried and preserved the fish. The beads, called tektites, formed in the atmosphere from rock melted by the impact.

Tsunami vs. seiche

Richards and Alvarez determined that the fish could not have been stranded and then buried by a typical tsunami, a single wave that would have reached this previously unknown arm of the Western Interior Seaway no less than 10 to 12 hours after the impact 3,000 kilometers away, if it didn't peter out before then. Their reasoning: The tektites would have rained down within 45 minutes to an hour of the impact, unable to create mudholes if the seabed had not already been exposed.

Instead, they argue, seismic waves likely arrived within 10 minutes of the impact from what would have been the equivalent of a magnitude 10 or 11 earthquake, creating a seiche (pronounced saysh), a standing wave, in the inland sea that is similar to water sloshing in a bathtub during an earthquake. Though large earthquakes often generate seiches in enclosed bodies of water, they're seldom noticed, Richards said. The 2011 Tohoku quake in Japan, a magnitude 9.0, created six-foot-high seiches 30 minutes later in a Norwegian fjord 8,000 kilometers away.

"The seismic waves start arising within nine to 10 minutes of the impact, so they had a chance to get the water sloshing before all the spherules (small spheres) had fallen out of the sky," Richards said. "These spherules coming in cratered the surface, making funnels -- you can see the deformed layers in what used to be soft mud -- and then rubble covered the spherules. No one has seen these funnels before."

The tektites would have come in on a ballistic trajectory from space, reaching terminal velocities of between 100 and 200 miles per hour, according to Alvarez, who estimated their travel time decades ago.

"You can imagine standing there being pelted by these glass spherules. They could have killed you," Richards said. Many believe that the rain of debris was so intense that the energy ignited wildfires over the entire American continent, if not around the world.

"Tsunamis from the Chicxulub impact are certainly well-documented, but no one knew how far something like that would go into an inland sea," DePalma said. "When Mark came aboard, he discovered a remarkable artifact -- that the incoming seismic waves from the impact site would have arrived at just about the same time as the atmospheric travel time of the ejecta. That was our big breakthrough."

At least two huge seiches inundated the land, perhaps 20 minutes apart, leaving six feet of deposits covering the fossils. Overlaying this is a layer of clay rich in iridium, a metal rare on Earth, but common in asteroids and comets. This layer is known as the K-T, or K-Pg boundary, marking the end of the Cretaceous Period and the beginning of the Tertiary Period, or Paleogene.

Iridium

In 1979, Alvarez and his father, Nobelist Luis Alvarez of UC Berkeley, were the first to recognize the significance of iridium that is found in 66 million-year-old rock layers around the world. They proposed that a comet or asteroid impact was responsible for both the iridium at the K-T boundary and the mass extinction.

The impact would have melted the bedrock under the seafloor and pulverized the asteroid, sending dust and melted rock into the stratosphere, where winds would have carried them around the planet and blotted out the sun for months, if not years. Debris would have rained down from the sky: not only tektites, but also rock debris from the continental crust, including shocked quartz, whose crystal structure was deformed by the impact.

The iridium-rich dust from the pulverized meteor would have been the last to fall out of the atmosphere after the impact, capping off the Cretaceous.

"When we proposed the impact hypothesis to explain the great extinction, it was based just on finding an anomalous concentration of iridium -- the fingerprint of an asteroid or comet," said Alvarez. "Since then, the evidence has gradually built up. But it never crossed my mind that we would find a deathbed like this."

Key confirmation of the meteor hypothesis was the discovery of a buried impact crater, Chicxulub, in the Caribbean and off the coast of the Yucatan in Mexico, that was dated to exactly the age of the extinction. Shocked quartz and glass spherules were also found in K-Pg layers worldwide. The new discovery at Tanis is the first time the debris produced in the impact was found along with animals killed in the immediate aftermath of the impact.

"And now we have this magnificent and completely unexpected site that Robert DePalma is excavating in North Dakota, which is so rich in detailed information about what happened as a result of the impact," Alvarez said. "For me, it is very exciting and gratifying!"

Tektites

Jan Smit, a retired professor of sedimentary geology from Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam in The Netherlands who is considered the world expert on tektites from the impact, joined DePalma to analyze and date the tektites from the Tanis site. Many were found in near perfect condition embedded in amber, which at the time was pliable pine pitch.

Tektites, 1 millimeter spheres of glass, recovered from the Tanis fossil bed. They were produced by the Chicxulub impact and fell within an hour of the impact. Credit: photo courtesy of Robert DePalma

"I went to the site in 2015 and, in front of my eyes, he (DePalma) uncovered a charred log or tree trunk about four meters long which was covered in amber, which acted as sort of an aerogel and caught the tektites when they were coming down," Smit said. "It was a major discovery, because the resin, the amber, covered the tektites completely, and they are the most unaltered tektites I have seen so far, not 1 percent of alteration. We dated them, and they came out to be exactly from the K-T boundary."

The tektites in the fishes' gills are also a first.

"Paddlefish swim through the water with their mouths open, gaping, and in this net, they catch tiny particles, food particles, in their gill rakers, and then they swallow, like a whale shark or a baleen whale," Smit said. "They also caught tektites. That by itself is an amazing fact. That means that the first direct victims of the impact are these accumulations of fishes."

Smit also noted that the buried body of a Triceratops and a duck-billed hadrosaur proves beyond a doubt that dinosaurs were still alive at the time of the impact.

"We have an amazing array of discoveries which will prove in the future to be even more valuable," Smit said. "We have fantastic deposits that need to be studied from all different viewpoints. And I think we can unravel the sequence of incoming ejecta from the Chicxulub impact in great detail, which we would never have been able to do with all the other deposits around the Gulf of Mexico."

"So far, we have gone 40 years before something like this turned up that may very well be unique," Smit said. "So, we have to be very careful with that place, how we dig it up and learn from it. This is a great gift at the end of my career. Walter sees it as the same."

###

Co-authors with DePalma, Smit, Richards and Alvarez are David Burnham of the University of Kansas, Klaudia Kuiper of Vrije Universiteit, Phillip Manning of Manchester University in the United Kingdom, Anton Oleinik of Florida Atlantic University, Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota, Florentin Maurrasse of Florida International University, Johan Vellekoop of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and Loren Gurche of the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History.

 

Press release from the University of California - Berkeley

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Stunning discovery offers glimpse of minutes following 'dinosaur-killer' Chicxulub impact

LAWRENCE -- A study to be published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers a scientific first: a detailed snapshot of the terrible moments right after the Chicxulub impact -- the most cataclysmic event known to have befallen life on Earth.

At a site called Tanis in North Dakota's Hell Creek Formation, a team of paleontologists whose headquarters are at the University of Kansas unearthed a motherlode of exquisitely-preserved animal and fish fossils -- creatures that lived in and around a deeply chiseled river connected to the ancient Western Interior Seaway -- that were killed suddenly in events triggered by the Chicxulub impact.

The fossils were crammed into a "rapidly emplaced high-energy onshore surge deposit" along the KT boundary that contained associated ejecta and iridium impactite associated with the impact about 66 million years ago -- an impact that eradicated about 75 percent of Earth's animal and plant species.

"A tangled mass of freshwater fish, terrestrial vertebrates, trees, branches, logs, marine ammonites and other marine creatures was all packed into this layer by the inland-directed surge," said lead author Robert DePalma, a KU doctoral student in geology who works in the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum. "Timing of the incoming ejecta spherules matched the calculated arrival times of seismic waves from the impact, suggesting that the impact could very well have triggered the surge."

DePalma, who discovered the fossil motherlode, said the find outlines how the impact could have devastated areas very far from the crater quite rapidly.

"A tsunami would have taken at least 17 or more hours to reach the site from the crater, but seismic waves -- and a subsequent surge -- would have reached it in tens of minutes," he said.

DePalma and his colleagues describe the rushing wave that shattered the Tanis site as a "seiche."

"As the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan showed us, seismic shaking can cause surges far from the epicenter," he said. "In the Tohoku example, surges were triggered nearly 5,000 miles away in Norway just 30 minutes after impact. So, the KT impact could have caused similar surges in the right-sized bodies of water worldwide, giving the first rapid 'bloody nose' to those areas before any other form of aftermath could have reached them."

According to KU researchers, even before the surge arrived, Acipenseriform fish (sturgeon) found at the site already had inhaled tiny spherules ejected from the Chicxulub impact.

"The fish were buried quickly, but not so quickly they didn't have time to breathe the ejecta that was raining down to the river," said co-author David Burnham, preparator of vertebrate paleontology at the KU Biodiversity Institute. "These fish weren't bottom feeders, they breathed these in while swimming in the water column. We're finding little pieces of ejecta in the gill rakers of these fish, the bony supports for the gills. We don't know if some were killed by breathing this ejecta, too."

The number and quality of preservation of the fossils at Tanis are such that Burnham dubs it the "lagerstätte" of the KT event -- paleontologist-speak for a landmark sedimentary deposit with exceptionally intact specimens. He said this is especially true as the fish are cartilaginous, not bony, and are less prone to fossilization.

"The sedimentation happened so quickly everything is preserved in three dimensions -- they're not crushed," Burnham said. "It's like an avalanche that collapses almost like a liquid, then sets like concrete. They were killed pretty suddenly because of the violence of that water. We have one fish that hit a tree and was broken in half."

Indeed, the Tanis site contains many hundreds of articulated ancient fossil fish killed by the Chicxulub impact's aftereffects and is remarkable for the biodiversity it reveals alone.

"At least several appear to be new species, and the others are the best examples known of their kind," DePalma said. "Before now, fewer than four were known from the Hell Creek, so the site was already magnificently significant. But we quickly recognized that the surrounding sediment was deposited by a sudden, massive rush of water, and that the surge was directed inland, away from an ancient nearby seaway. When we noticed asteroid impact debris within the sediment and a compact layer of KT boundary clay resting on top of it from the long-term fallout, we realized that this unusual site was right at the KT boundary."

According to Burnham, the fossil trove fills a void in scientific knowledge with vivid new detail.

"We've understood that bad things happened right after the impact, but nobody's found this kind of smoking-gun evidence," he said. "People have said, 'We get that this blast killed the dinosaurs, but why don't we have dead bodies everywhere?' Well, now we have bodies. They're not dinosaurs, but I think those will eventually be found, too."

DePalma said his find provides spectacular new detail to what is perhaps the most important event to ever affect life on Earth.

"It's difficult not to get choked up and passionate about this topic," he said. "We look at moment-by-moment records of one of the most notable impact events in Earth's history. No other site has a record quite like that. And this particular event is tied directly to all of us -- to every mammal on Earth, in fact. Because this is essentially where we inherited the planet. Nothing was the same after that impact. It became a planet of mammals rather than a planet of dinosaurs.

"As human beings, we descended from a lineage that literally survived in the ashes of what was once the glorious kingdom of the dinosaurs. And we're the only species on the planet that has ever been capable of learning from such an event to the benefit of ourselves and every other organism in our world."

###

At KU, DePalma and Burnham worked with Loren Gurche of the Biodiversity Institute. Other co-authors are Jan Smit and Klaudia Kuiper of VU University Amsterdam; Phillip Manning of the University of Manchester; Anton Oleinik of Florida Atlantic University; Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research Inc.; Florentin Maurrasse of Florida International University; Johan Vellekoop of VU Leuven; and Mark A. Richards and Walter Alvarez of the University of California at Berkeley.

Press release from the University of Kansas


lambeosaurine hadrosaurid Arctic USA Alaska

First-confirmed occurrence of a lambeosaurine dinosaur found on Alaska's North Slope

First-confirmed occurrence of a lambeosaurine dinosaur found on Alaska's North Slope

Paper published in Scientific Reports describes paleontologists' unearthing part of a skull, illustrating that there is much to learn about biodiversity and the environments of the Cretaceous Arctic

lambeosaurine hadrosaurid Arctic USA Alaska
Paleontologists from Hokkaido University in Japan, in cooperation with paleontologists from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, have discovered the first-confirmed occurrence of a lambeosaurine (crested 'duck-billed' dinosaur) from the Arctic - part of the skull of a lambeosaurine dinosaur from the Liscomb Bonebed (71-68 Ma) found on Alaska's North Slope. The discovery proves for the first time that lambeosaurines inhabited the Arctic during the Late Cretaceous. See paper in Scientific Reports. Credit: Illustration by Masato Hattori

HOKKAIDO, JAPAN (March 29, 2019) - Paleontologists from Hokkaido Universityin Japan, in cooperation with paleontologists from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, have discovered the first-confirmed occurrence of a lambeosaurine (crested 'duck-billed' dinosaur) from the Arctic - part of the skull of a lambeosaurine dinosaur from the Liscomb Bonebed (71-68 Ma) found on Alaska's North Slope. The bonebed was previously known to be rich in hadrosaurine hadrosaurids (non-crested 'duck-billed' dinosaurs).

The discovery proves for the first time that lambeosaurines inhabited the Arctic during the Late Cretaceous. In addition, the numeric abundance of hadrosaurine fossils compared to the lambeosaurine fossils in the marine-influenced environment of the Liscomb Bonebed suggests the possibility that hadrosaurines and lambeosaurines had different habitat preferences.

The paleontologists' findings were published today in Scientific Reports, an open-access, multi-disciplinary journal from Nature Research dedicated to constructive, inclusive and rigorous peer review. The paper - entitled "The first definite lambeosaurine bone from the Liscomb Bonebed of the Upper Cretaceous Prince Creek Formation, Alaska, United States" - is co-authored by Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, Ph.D., and Ryuji Takasaki, of Hokkaido University, in cooperation with Anthony R. Fiorillo, Ph.D., of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Other authors are Ronald Tykoski, Ph.D. of the Perot Museum and Paul McCarthy, Ph.D., of the University of Alaska.

The paper can be read in Scientific Reports here.

"This new discovery illustrates the geographic link between lambeosaurines of North America and the Far East," said Takasaki. "Hopefully, further work in Alaska will reveal how closely the dinosaurs of Asia and North America are connected."

The newly discovered fossil, which is housed in the collections of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, is a supraoccipital, one of the bones that forms the braincase. The new supraoccipital differs from those of hadrosaurines by the presence of large supraoccipital bosses and it's short, front-to-back length. Since these features are commonly seen in other members of Lambeosaurinae, the newly discovered supraoccipital was assigned to that group.

"This first definitive evidence of a crested hadrosaur in the Cretaceous Arctic tells us that we still have much to learn about the biodiversity and the biologically productive environments of the ancient north, and that the story these fossils tell us is continually evolving," adds Dr. Fiorillo.

Background. The Arctic is an extreme environment that is low in temperature, lacks sunlight during winters, and has seasonally limited food resources. Though it was warmer during the Late Cretaceous, the Arctic was surely one of the most challenging places to live for large vertebrates at the time. The Prince Creek Formation on the North Slope of Alaska is a world-famous rock unit for studying dinosaurs of the ancient Arctic. Because the dinosaurs found there lived in the ancient Arctic, rather than tropical or sub-tropical conditions, these dinosaurs challenge much of what we think we know about dinosaurs. The Liscomb Bonebed (71-68 Ma), which was deposited near the ancient Arctic shoreline, is especially rich in dinosaur bones, with more than 6,000 bones collected from it thus far.

More than 99% of dinosaur fossils known from the Liscomb Bonebed are hadrosaurs, a group of large, duck-billed herbivorous dinosaurs who lived during the Late Cretaceous and were found throughout much of the northern hemisphere. All of the hadrosaur fossils from the Liscomb Bonebed were long considered to belong to a hadrosaurine duck-billed dinosaur called Edmontosaurus. Up until now, all of the hadrosaurids known from across the Arctic, including those from the Liscomb Bonebed, were considered to belong to crest-less hadrosaurines.

The discovery of a fossil from a lambeosaurine hadrosaurid in the Liscomb Bonebed is historically important for Japanese paleontologists. The first "Japanese" dinosaur, Nipponosaurus, is a lambeosaurine hadrosaur. Based on the new discovery, Hokkaido University and the Perot Museum together used this discovery to further investigate the ecology of the Arctic hadrosaurids.

Significance

1. The first Arctic lambeosaurine. The new discovery indicates Arctic inhabitance and adaptation of lambeosaurines for the first time. In addition, the fossil's morphological similarities to the same bone in the skull of southern Canadian lambeosaurines suggest faunal interactions between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes.

2. Implication on habitat preferences. While the Liscomb Bonebed is known for numerous hadrosaurine fossils, the newly discovered bone represents the only definite lambeosaurine fossil from the site. The same trend is also known in mid-latitude localities of North America and eastern Asia, which were also deposited in near-shore environments. On the other hand, more lambeosaurine fossils are found in deposits laid down in inland environments. Therefore, we hypothesize that lambeosaurines favored inland environments, while hadrosaurines preferred coastal environments, a trend likely to have been independent of latitude. Different habitat preferences might have been a strategy to avoid excessive competition between the two groups of 'duck-billed' dinosaurs.

Future plans. Although the new discovery reveals Arctic inhabitance by lambeosaurines, more specific taxonomic status and potential functional adaptations to the severe Arctic environment remain unknown due to incompleteness of the specimen. Additional excavation and further research will help answer these questions.

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About the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The top cultural attraction in Dallas/Fort Worth and a Michelin Green Guide three-star destination, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is a nonprofit educational organization located in Victory Park in the heart of Dallas, Texas. With a mission to inspire minds through nature and science, the Perot Museum delivers exciting, engaging and innovative visitor and outreach experiences through its education, exhibition, and research and collections programming for children, students, teachers, families and life-long learners. The 180,000-square-foot facility in Victory Park opened in December 2012 and is now recognized as the symbolic gateway to the Dallas Arts District. Future scientists, mathematicians and engineers will find inspiration and enlightenment through 11 permanent exhibit halls on five floors of public space; a children's museum; a state-of-the art traveling exhibition hall; and The Hoglund Foundation Theater, a National Geographic Experience. Designed by 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne and his firm Morphosis Architects, the Victory Park museum has been lauded for its artistry and sustainability. To learn more, please visit perotmuseum.org.

About Hokkaido University and Hokkaido University Museum. Hokkaido University is home to some 4 million specimens and documents that have been gathered, preserved and studied since the Sapporo Agricultural College began more than 130 years ago. Amongst these are more than 10,000 precious "type specimens" that form the basis for the discovery and certification of new species. Opened in the spring of 1999, the Hokkaido University Museum conveys the diverse range of research carried out at Hokkaido University while also using various original materials and visual media to introduce the university's cutting-edge research. The Hokkaido University Museum offers exhibits and diversified information equal to those of any museum, facilitating conversation and creating an atmosphere that encompasses both past and future. Visitors to the museum can shift their attention at will, examining what intrigues them most and gathering information behind the individual exhibits, thus expanding their universe.

 

Press release from Perot Museum of Nature and Science


UC researchers find ancient Maya farms in Mexican wetlands

UC researchers find ancient Maya farms in Mexican wetlands

University of Cincinnati archaeologists say these farms likely produced cotton and other goods to support Yucatan trade routes

University of Cincinnati student Jeff Brewer stands above UC geography professor Nicholas Dunning at an archaeological site in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Credit: Nicholas Dunning/UC

Archaeologists with the University of Cincinnati used the latest technology to find evidence suggesting ancient Maya people grew surplus crops to support an active trade with neighbors up and down the Yucatan Peninsula.

They will present their findings at the annual American Association of Geographers conference in Washington, D.C.

The Mayan civilization stretched across portions of Mesoamerica, a region spanning Mexico and Central America. The oldest evidence of Maya civilization dates back to 1800 B.C., but most cities flourished between 250 and 900 A.D. By the time Spanish ships arrived in the 1500s, some of the biggest cities were deserted. Researchers at UC are trying to piece together the life history of the Maya before the Spanish conquest.

Nicholas Dunning, a professor of geography in UC's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, was part of a research team that found evidence of cultivation along irregular-shaped fields in Mexico that followed the paths of canals and natural water channels at a place called Laguna de Terminos on the Gulf of Mexico. The archaeologists expect to find evidence of habitation when they begin excavations.

The extensive croplands suggest the ancient Maya could grow surplus crops, especially the cotton responsible for the renowned textiles that were traded throughout Mesoamerica.

"It was a much more complex market economy than the Maya are often given credit for," Dunning said.

University of Cincinnati geography professor Nicholas Dunning, left, and assistant professor Christopher Carr have been studying ancient Maya sites in Mexico. Credit: Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Local workers brought the Laguna de Terminos site to the attention of researchers about seven years ago.

"A forester working in the area said there seemed to be a network of ancient fields," Dunning said. "I looked on Google Earth and was like, 'Whoa!' It was an area in the Maya Lowlands that I'd never paid any attention to. And obviously not a lot of other people had, either, from the perspective of looking at ancient agriculture."

Satellite images revealed a patchwork quilt of blocks along drainage ditches that suggested they were built. Archaeologist also studied imagery NASA created of the region using a tool called Light Detection and Ranging, or LIDAR, that can depict the contours of the ground beneath the leafy canopy of trees and vegetation. Their review confirmed Dunning's suspicions: the area was covered in ancient farm fields.

"It appears they developed fairly simply from modifications of existing drainage along the eastern edge of the wetlands," Dunning said. "They probably deepened and straightened some channels or connected them in places, but then further expanded the fields with more sophisticated hydro-engineering."

LIDAR gives scientists a never-before-seen picture of the Earth's surface even after centuries of unchecked jungle growth conceals the remains of ancient structures. Researchers look for telltale signs of human activity: squares and rectangles indicating old foundations and circular pits from man-made reservoirs and quarries where the chert used in stone tools was mined. On the LIDAR maps, any hidden structures pop out, including ancient roads and former villages.

"That's the magic of LIDAR," UC assistant research professor Christopher Carr said.??Carr spent a career practicing engineering before returning to UC to study and eventually teach in the geography department. He approaches questions about the ancient Maya from an engineer's perspective.

Carr pointed to a map of Yaxnohcah, Mexico, showing a small reservoir the ancient Maya apparently dug in a wetland far from cultivated fields or known settlements.

"What were my ancient counterparts thinking when they built that water reservoir? What did they want to accomplish?" he asked.

Carr also used the LIDAR imagery in the project to follow an ancient Maya road that perhaps hasn't been traveled in more than 1,000 years. The road is perfectly visible on the LIDAR map but is virtually impossible to discern when you are standing right on it, Carr said.

"There's vegetation everywhere. But when you've been doing this for a while, you notice little things," Carr said. "I'll have a LIDAR image on my smartphone that shows me where I am, but I don't see anything but rainforest. You just walk back and forth until you can feel something underfoot and follow it."

Identifying possible roads is important for another interest of the UC researchers: ancient Maya marketplaces. Dunning and Carr are working at Yaxnohcah with researchers such as Kathryn Reese-Taylor from the University of Calgary and Armando Anaya Hernandez from Universidad Autónoma de Campeche to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Maya economy. Additionally, they and graduate student Thomas Ruhl have been analyzing NASA's LIDAR imagery across the Yucatan Peninsula to identify more ancient marketplaces.

Unlike pyramids or even many homes, marketplaces had no foundations or permanent structures, researchers said. They were built on low platforms or cleared areas, perhaps like a seasonal fair or flea market. But they were an important part of life in Maya culture.

Maya farms
UC assistant professor Christopher Carr examines an ancient quarry in Yaxnohcah, Mexico. Credit: Nicholas Dunning/UC

Dunning said the presence of roads between Maya cities would lend credence to the value the ancient Maya placed on trade with their neighbors. He thinks some of the larger squares identified on the LIDAR maps represent these open markets.

"In some areas, they have this very distinct physical signature," Dunning said. "So far, we've identified several possible marketplaces. We don't know for sure that they're marketplaces, but they have an architectural layout that is suggestive of one."

Soil analysis at other locations identified evidence of ancient butcher shops and stone masons. Dunning solicited the help of UC's botanists who are conducting analyses that might shed light on his marketplace hypothesis. But the LIDAR maps themselves are instructive.

"I look at spatial patterns. If you look at these big structures and small pyramids, you can tell they're important structures," Carr said. "And then you have this 'lightweight' thing next to it. That's what a marketplace looks like to me."

Dunning said the ancient Maya likely sold perishable goods such as maize and a starchy tuber called manioc. And they traded "mantas," or bolts of the ornate and richly patterned textiles made from the cotton they grew. These were prized by the Spaniards who arrived in the 1600s.

"We don't have direct evidence of what the textiles look like in this area. But if you look at ancient paintings and sculptures, people were wearing very elaborate garments," Dunning said.

Dunning first explored the historic sites of the Yucatan Peninsula at age 14 when he and his older brother drove down to Mexico from Illinois.

"We took a train to the Yucatan and used public transportation to get around to the sites," Dunning said.

He applied to the University of Chicago partly because it offered a Mayan language class. Dunning returned to Mexico while in college to conduct his first field research. He's been back many times since.

"My interest in archaeology is in human-environment interactions, including agriculture," Dunning said.

Dunning is learning more about how ancient Maya people shaped their world to overcome challenges and take advantage of natural opportunities. Dunning's work also took him to a place called Acalan near the Gulf of Mexico.

"Roughly translated, Acalan means 'place of canoes' because it's very watery," Dunning said. "And getting around by water is far easier than any other means in that area."

Then as now the region is covered in thick tropical rainforest. Researchers have to be wary of cheeky monkeys that will throw fruit or worse from the treetops. Carr said one encounter left him sore for days.

"There was this aggressive spider monkey. He'd seen me a couple days earlier. And he's back shaking the trees," Carr said. "And all of a sudden, I'm lying flat on the ground. A branch hit me in the shoulder and knocked me to the ground."

Visiting archaeologists at Yaxnohcah stay at a former Army outpost that was converted into a staffed research station.

"Living conditions are actually luxurious by camping standards. You're in the field all day and you're dirty and tired. But you can take a shower. And when you're finished, someone has cooked you a meal," Carr said.

At Laguna de Terminos, UC researchers are working to collect clues about the ancient Maya before they are lost to development. Many of the wetlands are being drained or plowed up for grazing pasture.

Dunning said ironically these low-yield pastures provide far less economic value to today's farmers than the seeming bounty of crops the ancient Maya derived from them more than 1,000 years ago. Their study warns the land-use practices are causing environmental damage to some of these valuable wetlands.

"It's a shame because the grazing isn't particularly good. The economic production from that land use is minuscule compared to what was produced by the Maya," Dunning said.

 

Press release from University of Cincinnati


The sword of a Hispano-Muslim warlord is digitized in 3D

The sword of a Hispano-Muslim warlord is digitized in 3D

A treasure from the Toledo Army Museum (Spain)

At age 90, Ali Atar, one of the main military chiefs of King Boabdil of Granada, fought to his death in the Battle of Lucena in 1483. It was there that his magnificent Nasrid sword was taken away from him, and researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and a company from Toledo have now modelled it in order to graphically document and present it on the web.Ali Atar, Warden of Loja and Lord of Zagra, was a Hispano-Muslim warlord at the service of King Boabdil, the last sultan of Granada, to whom he was also related when he married his daughter Moraima. In April 1483 Boabdil tried to take the Christian city of Lucena (Cordoba) with the help of his father-in-law, but they lost the battle: the Nasrid king was captured and Ali Atar died fighting at the age of 90.

The sword has been digitalized in the workshops of the Toledo Army Museum (MUSEJE). Credit: IngHeritag3D

His magnificent sword, covered with gold, ivory and precious metals then passed into the hands of the Christians and, after many historical vicissitudes, this Andalusian treasure is now preserved and exhibited in the Toledo Army Museum (MUSEJE, Spanish acronym, Museo del Ejército).

To graphically document this valuable piece and make it known through the web, researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV, Spain) and the company Ingheritag3D have carried out a three-dimensional digitization process. The study has just been published in Virtual Archaeology Review.

This is a photogrammetric image. Credit: IngHeritag3D

First they photographed the sword from many angles using a technique called photogrammetry. Then they overlapped all the images, drew planimetries (drawings of the meticulous filigree of the grip) and generated its 3D model.

"These techniques offer the possibility of valuing relevant pieces inside and outside museums, since three-dimensional modelling is prepared both for specialists -who can manipulate the piece virtually-, and for being shared publicly and interactively through the Internet," says engineer Margot Gil-Melitón, co-author of the work.

Using a web viewer, any user can use their mouse to check an exact replica of the handle of this genet sword, a type of genuinely Nasrid weapon introduced in Al-Andalus by the Zenetas (Berber people from whom it takes its name). Ali Atar's sword has a knob in the shape of a bulbous dome, an ivory fist carved with drawings and Arabic letters, and a golden arriax (sword grip) topped with zoomorphic figures.

To record the details of this fine ornamentation, the researchers have devised solutions that have facilitated the analysis of highly reflective materials and complicated geometries. Their workflow could also be applied to characterize other museum pieces.

Ali Atar Nasrid sword King Boabdil of Granada Battle of Lucena digitisation
This is a 3D modelling process of Ali Atar's Nasrid sword. Credit: IngHeritag3D

The other author of the study, Professor José Luis Lerma of the UPV, concludes: "A resource as valuable as cultural heritage can no longer be satisfied with physical conservation: it must be complemented by exhaustive digital preservation in all its forms, which facilitates the investigation of the pieces, their correct safeguarding and dissemination of knowledge to the general public."

###

References:

Margot Gil-Melitón, José Luis Lerma. "Historical military heritage: 3D digitisation of the Nasri sword attributed to Ali Atar". Virtual Archaeology Review, Vol 10 - No 20, pp. 52-69, 2019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4995/var.2019.10028

Interactive 3D animation of the handle of the genet sword of Ali Atar: https://skfb.ly/ZzzA

 

Press release from Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología (FECYT), Agencia SINC


The exhibition ‘Tutankhamun, treasures of the Golden Pharaoh’ in Paris

TUTANKHAMUN’S PRICELESS TREASURES WILL RETURN TO PARIS FOR THE FIRST TIME
IN A GENERATION WITH ‘TUTANKHAMUN, TREASURES OF THE GOLDEN PHARAOH’

23 March to 15 September 2019 - Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris, France

Paris, 29 November 2018 - Celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of his tomb, the new Tutankhamun, Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh exhibition has opened in Paris on 23 March 2019. More than 50 years after his treasures attracted more than 1.2 million visitors to the ‘exhibition of the century’ in Paris in 1967, this is a unique opportunity to rediscover the legend, before the artefacts are permanently housed in the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Presented by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and IMG at the Grande Halle de la Villette, in collaboration with the Louvre in an advisory role, the exhibition’s curated collection features more than 150 original artefacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb including a number of the young sovereign’s personal objects that accompanied him in both life and death: gold jewellery, sculptures and ceremonial objects. FedEx, the tour’s official logistics provider, will utilise its global network to transport the artefacts, including more than 50 items that will be visible for the first time outside of Egypt.

While the Pharaohs that succeeded Tutankhamun almost managed to erase him from the history books, he became headline news around the world when his tomb was found untouched in 1922 by the British archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter. Had he not made this discovery, which brought fame to two men who lived 3,400 years apart, the 18th dynasty Pharaoh could have been forgotten completely.

Tutankhamun, Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh Grande Halle de la Villette Paris exhibition
Wooden Ceremonial Shield with King as
Sphinx Trampling on Nubian Enemies
GEM 341
18th dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun,
1336 - 1326 B.C.
Wood, Stucco, Gold Leaf, Ebony Inlaid
Luxor, Valley of the Kings, KV62, Annex. © Laboratoriorosso, Viterbo/Italy

To celebrate the 100th year anniversary of discovering the tomb of the Boy King Tutankhamun, Egypt is sending 150 masterpieces to tour all over the world. We invite people to come and see them, before they return to Egypt,” said Dr. Mostafa Waziry, Secretary General of the Ministry of State for Antiquities, Egypt.

By reviving the legend of the Pharaoh covered with gold in a very potent way, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s unplundered tomb, almost one hundred years ago, revived our fascination with Egypt and its buried treasure. It is a pleasure to collaborate in bringing the legend of Tutankhamun and these extremely rare objects from the Cairo Museum for this historic and final return to Paris, and inspiring wonder in a new generation,” said Vincent Rondot, Director of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities, the Louvre.

Gilded Wooden Bed
GEM 14276
18th dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun,
1336 - 1326 B.C.
Wood, stucco, gold foil
Length: 180,5 cm
Width: 79,5 cm
Maximum height: 71 cm
Luxor, Valley of the Kings, KV62, Annex. © Laboratoriorosso, Viterbo/Italy

For ancient Egyptians, death was also considered to be a new birth. However, this life after death was only possible if the body was preserved and underwent the right rituals. To ensure this post mortem rebirth and survival in the afterlife, the ancient Egyptians created a whole host of rituals, objects, images and texts that can be found inside and on the walls of the tomb. Visitors to the exhibition will follow Tutankhamun’s journey into everlasting life, discovering along the way what each funerary object was used for on this perilous journey, as well as the story of one of the key discoveries in modern archeology. As they explore the exhibition, visitors will be perpetuating the memory of the Pharaoh and his immortality.

The god Amun protecting Tutankhamun
Diorite, 1336-1326 BC
Department of Egyptian Antiquities,
Musée du Louvre
© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN – Grand Palais /
Christian Descamps

In addition to accompanying the project, the Louvre Department of Egyptian Antiquities will lend one of its own masterpieces: the statue of the god Amun protecting Tutankhamun, and is setting up a special “Valley of the Kings” itinerary in its permanent collection.

The 100th anniversary of one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in history inspired us to create an exhibition like none before. As millions of people around the world get the opportunity to see these ancient objects in an immersive and personal context, we know Tutankhamun’s place in people’s imaginations will be secure for generations to come,” said John Norman, Managing Director, Exhibitions, IMG.

Colossal Quartzite Statue of Tutankhamun,
Usurped by Ay and Horemheb
GEM 2223
18th dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun,
1336 - 1326 B.C.
Quartzite
Luxor, Medinet Habu, Temple of Ay and Horemheb. © Laboratoriorosso, Viterbo/Italy

At the conclusion of the exhibition’s 10-city world tour, the items will go on permanent display at the Grand Egyptian Museum being constructed in Cairo. The money raised from this exhibition will provide financial support to the Grand Egyptian Museum and to archaeological sites in Egypt.

The Grand Egyptian Museum will be situated adjacent to the Giza Plateau within 2.5 kilometres of the Giza pyramids. Once completed it will be a world-leading scientific, historical and archaeological study center that will cover approximately 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian history and house more than 100,000 artefacts. This stunning location will serve as a backdrop to a display of priceless artefacts, including the final resting place of the Tutankhamun collection. The Giza Plateau is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Aside from the pyramids, it is home to the Giza Necropolis and the Great Sphinx.


Ancient Caribbean children helped with grocery shopping in AD 400

Ancient Caribbean children helped with grocery shopping in AD 400

Caribbean children clams shells starvation food Saladoid people Virgin Islands
Researchers found a variety of modified shells at the St. Thomas site, including three beads cut from shell and polished, top row, two beads made from Oliva shells, bottom left, and two Cyphoma shells. Credit: William Keegan et al.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Researchers have long thought that snail and clam shells found at Caribbean archaeological sites were evidence of "starvation food" eaten in times when other resources were lacking. Now, a University of Florida study suggests these shells may be evidence of children helping with the grocery shopping - A.D. 400 style.

Researchers found thousands of discarded shells at a site in downtown St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, likely evidence of ancient Saladoid children foraging for shellfish. Adult foragers typically would discard shells immediately after extracting the meat, meaning few shells made it back to archaeological sites, said William Keegan, curator of Caribbean archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. This site, however, was littered with them.

"It's not that people were starving. It's that children were contributing to their own subsistence in a meaningful and very efficient way," Keegan said. "We need to think of children as active members that influence site materials and their distribution. It changes the whole attitude about the collection in the archaeological site."

For the most part, children have remained invisible to archaeologists until now, Keegan said. This study, the first to document child labor in an archaeological context, provides an important model for identifying children in the past and their contributions to their communities.

"Children are really the last group to receive any attention because to archaeology, they sort of look like little adults," he said. "Efforts to identify children so far have emphasized badly made objects, miniatures and things that look like toys - it isn't a complete perspective."

Children may have had a role in foraging, which for the Saladoid people meant collecting mollusks for food.

"If your parent needs to go to the grocery store, you have to go with them," Keegan said. "If you can do more than pull candy off the shelf, then you're that much more helpful."

Shells deposited in middens - mounds of shells and sediment that were once ancient garbage dumps - led Keegan's research team to believe that shellfish had been intentionally brought to the site, eaten and the shells then thrown away. The team also developed seven criteria to help determine if shellfish at archaeological sites were collected by children.

Shellfish collected by children are most easily identified by variety and size, Keegan said. Child foragers tend to be generalists, meaning that they're more likely to collect small shells indiscriminately. This research suggests that small, easy to transport and low-yield mollusks found in high amounts on a site indicate the presence of child foragers, he said.

"It looked like someone had sent a biology student with a one meter square and told them, 'Collect everything,'" Keegan said. "You can certainly collect a whole bucket of these things and you've got a good meal, but it's a waste of time for an adult to focus on those really small resources when they could be out collecting specific snails and clams that they know they can get a certain nutritional return on."

Recent construction has disturbed much of the site, and researchers were only able to excavate a snapshot of what was once there, Keegan said.

Because the Caribbean is a largely understudied area in archaeology, Keegan and his team had few ethnographic descriptions of the Saladoid's lifestyles to draw from. They chose to compare their findings with current research in the Pacific Islands, where foraging habits and available resources have remained virtually unchanged for millennia.

"It's not a direct application," Keegan said. "It's an analogy that shows what we're seeing in the living population is consistent with what we see in an archaeological population."

Evidence suggests that foraging together was a way Saladoid people built kinship, a practice still seen today in the Pacific Islands. The Saladoid people were a matrilocal society, meaning familial lineage was traced through women and men were frequently absent from day-to-day life.

"The women would often go on trips with children to collect things farther away," Keegan said. "The community functions holistically. By about age 15, children are involved in fully adult activities."

Keegan's work suggests that in some respects, children could actually outperform adults at certain tasks. Whereas adults focused on collecting larger shellfish from deeper waters, children were able to scour shallow areas for smaller shellfish that would be difficult for adult fingers to grasp.

"Children like being included. The same sorts of things children need in traditional societies are basically what we still need today to grow up to be healthy, useful adults," Keegan said. "In fact, it wasn't uncommon for children to collect small animals as pets."

Because the site is located on St. Thomas' main street, Keegan and his team were able to engage bystanders in their discoveries.

"What I think is unusual is that the road caps the site. Below the pipes, everything was completely intact," Keegan said. "The archaeologists were fenced in - all day long people were coming up to the fence, and we were showing them what we had, but that's all part of it. We want people to get excited about what we're doing."

Excavation was a collaborative effort that included several experts from different disciplines, lending a broader perspective to the team's findings, Keegan said. The team was assembled by David Hayes, a founding member of the St. Croix Archaeological Society and project collaborator.

"For us, it's always a new puzzle, trying to get the pieces to fit together. One of the real joys of this project was that even though there were specialists for each area, we were all together in the field," Keegan said. "We were all working on the issues together, talking about things and getting a broad picture of what was going on rather than just a narrow focus of one archaeological material."

Archaeologists concluded that thousands of discarded shells at a site in downtown St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands are evidence of ancient Saladoid children foraging for shellfish. West Indian top snails, like the modern specimen pictured here, were the most common mollusks at the site. Credit: Florida Museum of Natural History

Press release from the Florida Museum of Natural History


biggest Tyrannosaurus rex Canada

UAlberta paleontologists report world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex

UAlberta paleontologists report world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex

Nicknamed 'Scotty,' the record-breaking rex is also the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada.

 

biggest Tyrannosaurus rex Canada
The towering and battle-scarred 'Scotty' reported by UAlberta paleontologists is the world's largest Tyrannosaurus rex and the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada. Credit: Amanda Kelley

University of Alberta paleontologists have just reported the world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex and the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada. The 13-metre-long T. rex, nicknamed "Scotty," lived in prehistoric Saskatchewan 66 million years ago.

"This is the rex of rexes," said Scott Persons, lead author of the study and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences. "There is considerable size variability among Tyrannosaurus. Some individuals were lankier than others and some were more robust. Scotty exemplifies the robust. Take careful measurements of its legs, hips, and even shoulder, and Scotty comes out a bit heftier than other T. rex specimens."

Scotty, nicknamed for a celebratory bottle of scotch the night it was discovered, has leg bones suggesting a living weight of more than 8,800 kg, making it bigger than all other carnivorous dinosaurs. The scientific work on Scotty has been a correspondingly massive project.

The skeleton was first discovered in 1991, when paleontologists including T. rex expert and UAlberta professor Phil Currie were called in on the project. But the hard sandstone that encased the bones took more than a decade to remove--only now have scientists been able to study Scotty fully-assembled and realize how unique a dinosaur it is.

It is not just Scotty's size and weight that set it apart. The Canadian mega rex also lays claim to seniority.

"Scotty is the oldest T. rex known," Persons explains. "By which I mean, it would have had the most candles on its last birthday cake. You can get an idea of how old a dinosaur is by cutting into its bones and studying its growth patterns. Scotty is all old growth."

But age is relative, and T. rexes grew fast and died young. Scotty was estimated to have only been in its early 30s when it died.

"By Tyrannosaurus standards, it had an unusually long life. And it was a violent one," Persons said. "Riddled across the skeleton are pathologies--spots where scarred bone records large injuries."

Among Scotty's injures are broken ribs, an infected jaw, and what may be a bite from another T. rex on its tail--battle scars from a long life.

"I think there will always be bigger discoveries to be made," said Persons "But as of right now, this particular Tyrannosaurus is the largest terrestrial predator known to science."

A new exhibit featuring the skeleton of Scotty is set to open at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in May 2019.

###

The paper, "An Older and Exceptionally Large Adult Specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex," was published in The Anatomical Record (doi:10.1002/ar.24118).

 

Press release from the University of Alberta


Researchers shed new light on the origins of modern humans

Researchers shed new light on the origins of modern humans

The work, published in Nature, confirms a dispersal of Homo sapiens from southern to eastern Africa immediately preceded the out-of-Africa migration

out-of-Africa migration dispersal of Homo sapiens origins of modern humans eastern Africa
This is a map showing early African archaeological sites with evidence for symbolic material and microlithic stone tools. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli

RESEARCHERS from the University of Huddersfield, with colleagues from the University of Cambridge and the University of Minho in Braga, have been using a genetic approach to tackle one of the most intractable questions of all - how and when we became truly human.

Modern Homo sapiens first arose in Africa more than 300,000 years ago, but there is great controversy amongst scholars about whether the earliest such people would have been 'just like us' in their mental capacities - in the sense that, if they were brought up in a family from Yorkshire today, for example, would they be indistinguishable from the rest of the population? Nevertheless, archaeologists believe that people very like us were living in small communities in an Ice Age refuge on the South African coast by at least 100,000 years ago.

Between around 100,000 and 70,000 years ago, these people left plentiful evidence that they were thinking and behaving like modern humans - evidence for symbolism, such as the use of pigments (probably for body painting), drawings and engravings, shell beads, and tiny stone tools called microliths that might have been part of bows and arrows. Some of this evidence for what some archaeologists call "modern human behaviour" goes back even further, to more than 150,000 years.

But if these achievements somehow made these people special, suggesting a direct line to the people of today, the genetics of their modern "Khoi-San" descendants in southern Africa doesn't seem to bear this out. Our genomes imply that almost all modern non-Africans from all over the world - and indeed most Africans too - are derived from a small group of people living not in South Africa but in East Africa, around 60,000-70,000 years ago. There's been no sign so far that southern Africans contributed to the huge expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa and across the world that took place around that time.

That is, until now. The Huddersfield-Minho team of geneticists, led by Professor Martin Richards at Huddersfield and Dr Pedro Soares in Braga, along with the eminent Cambridge archaeologist Professor Sir Paul Mellars, have studied the maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNA from Africans in unprecedented detail, and have identified a clear signal of a small-scale migration from South Africa to East Africa that took place at just that time, around 65,000 years ago. The signal is only evident today in the mitochondrial DNA. In the rest of the genome, it seems to have been eroded away to nothing by recombination - the reshuffling of chromosomal genes between parents every generation, which doesn't affect the mitochondrial DNA - in the intervening millennia.

The migration signal makes good sense in terms of climate. For most of the last few hundred years, different parts of Africa have been out of step with each other in terms of the aridity of the climate. Only for a brief period at 60,000-70,000 years ago was there a window during which the continent as a whole experienced sufficient moisture to open up a corridor between the south and the east. And intriguingly, it was around 65,000 years ago that some of the signs of symbolism and technological complexity seen earlier in South Africa start to appear in the east.

The identification of this signal opens up the possibility that a migration of a small group of people from South Africa towards the east around 65,000 years ago transmitted aspects of their sophisticated modern human culture to people in East Africa. Those East African people were biologically little different from the South Africans - they were all modern Homo sapiens, their brains were just as advanced and they were undoubtedly cognitively ready to receive the benefits of the new ideas and upgrade. But the way it happened might not have been so very different from a modern isolated stone-age culture encountering and embracing western civilization today.

In any case, it looks as if something happened when the groups from the South encountered the East, with the upshot being the greatest diaspora of Homo sapiens ever known - both throughout Africa and out of Africa to settle much of Eurasia and as far as Australia within the space of only a few thousand years.

Professor Mellars commented: "This work shows that the combination of genetics and archaeology working together can lead to significant advances in our understanding of the origins of Homo sapiens."

###

* The article, A dispersal of Homo sapiens from southern to eastern Africa immediately preceded the out-of-Africa migration, can be found online in Scientific Reports.

 

Press release from the University of Huddersfield


Complex societies gave birth to big gods, not the other way around

Complex societies gave birth to big gods, not the other way around

Big data analyses suggest that moralizing gods are rather the product than the drivers of social complexity

 

big gods moralizing gods complex societies
Locations of the 30 sampled regions labelled according to precolonial evidence of moralizing gods. The area of each circle is proportional to social complexity of the earliest polity with moralizing gods to occupy the region or the latest precolonial polity for regions without precolonial moralizing gods.
The numbers indicate the date of earliest evidence of such beliefs in thousands of years ago.
The circles are colored by type of moralizing gods.
Credit: (c) the authors of the indicated Nature paper, which is the source of the image

(Vienna, March 20, 2019) An international research team, including a member of the Complexity Science Hub Vienna, investigated the role of "big gods" in the rise of complex large-scale societies. Big gods are defined as moralizing deities who punish ethical transgressions. Contrary to prevailing theories, the team found that beliefs in big gods are a consequence, not a cause, of the evolution of complex societies. The results are published in the current issue of the journal Nature.

For their statistical analyses the researchers used the Seshat: Global History Databank, the most comprehensive, and constantly growing collection of historical and prehistorical data. Currently Seshat contains about 300,000 records on social complexity, religion, and other characteristics of 500 past societies, spanning 10,000 years of human history.

"It has been a debate for centuries why humans, unlike other animals, cooperate in large groups of genetically unrelated individuals," says Seshat director and co-author Peter Turchin from the University of Connecticut and the Complexity Science Hub Vienna. Factors such as agriculture, warfare, or religion have been proposed as main driving forces.

One prominent theory, the big or moralizing gods hypothesis, assumes that religious beliefs were key. According to this theory people are more likely to cooperate fairly if they believe in gods who will punish them if they don't. "To our surprise, our data strongly contradict this hypothesis," says lead author Harvey Whitehouse. "In almost every world region for which we have data, moralizing gods tended to follow, not precede, increases in social complexity." Even more so, standardized rituals tended on average to appear hundreds of years before gods who cared about human morality.

Such rituals create a collective identity and feelings of belonging that act as social glue, making people to behave more cooperatively. "Our results suggest that collective identities are more important to facilitate cooperation in societies than religious beliefs," says Harvey Whitehouse.

Big data: a new approach to social theories

Until recently it has been impossible to distinguish between cause and effect in social theories and history, as standardized quantitative data from throughout world history were missing. To address this problem, data and social scientist Peter Turchin, together with Harvey Whitehouse and Pieter François from the University of Oxford, founded Seshat in 2011. The multidisciplinary project integrates the expertise of historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, social scientists as well as data scientists into a state-of-the-art, open-access database. Dozens of experts throughout the world helped to assemble detailed data on social complexity and religious beliefs and practices from hundreds of independent political units ("polities"), beginning with Neolithic Anatolians (today Turkey) in 9600 BCE.

The complexity of a society can be estimated by social characteristics such as population, territory, and sophistication of government institutions and information systems. Religious data include the presence of beliefs in supernatural enforcement of reciprocity, fairness, and loyalty, and the frequency and standardization of religious rituals.

"Seshat allows researchers to analyze hundreds of variables relating to social complexity, religion, warfare, agriculture and other features of human culture and society that vary over time and space," explains Pieter François. "Now that the database is ready for analysis, we are poised to test a long list of theories about human history." This includes competing theories of how and why humans evolved to cooperate in large-scale societies of millions and more people.

"Seshat is an unprecedented collaboration between anthropologists, historians, archaeologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and evolutionary scientists", says Patrick Savage, corresponding author of the article. "It shows how big data can revolutionize the study of human history."

###

Harvey Whitehouse, Pieter François, Patrick E. Savage, [...] Peter Turchin. (2019) "Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history", Nature http://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1043-4

The published Seshat data are available at http://seshatdatabank.info/data

About the Complexity Science Hub Vienna (CSH):

The mission of CSH Vienna is to host, educate, and inspire complex systems scientists dedicated to making sense of Big Data to boost science and society. Scientists at the Hub develop methods for the scientific, quantitative, and predictive understanding of complex systems. Focal areas include the resilience and efficiency of socio-economic and ecological systems, network medicine, the dynamics of innovation, and the science of cities.

The Hub is a joint initiative of the Medical University of Vienna, the TU Wien, the Vienna University of Economics and Business, the Graz University of Technology, the Danube University Krems, the IIASA International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, and Austrian Economic Chambers (WKO). http://www.csh.ac.at

 

Press release from the Complexity Science Hub Vienna