Frozen Bird Found in Siberia is 46,000 years old

Frozen Bird Found in Siberia is 46,000 years old

During the last Ice Age, a bird found in northeastern Siberia died and gives a crucial insight into the evolution and effects of climate change.

An international team of scientists has learned that at least 46,000 years ago, a bird discovered in the Siberian permafrost died.

The bird was found in northeastern Siberia, a mammoth steppe that extended across northern Canada, Europe and Asia during the last Ice Age when the bird was still alive.

The 46,000-year-old bird’s delicate feet are still in good shape.

DNA collected from this frozen bird could help shed light on how at the end of the last Ice Age, when the Earth was mostly covered in ice and snow, the mammoth steppe turned into tundra, taiga and steppe biomes and could further illuminate the evolution of subspecies.

In 2018, a well-preserved bird was discovered by local fossil ivory hunters 30 km east of the village of Belaya Gora, Yakutia, in northeastern Siberia (red dot, figure 2). The bird carcass was found approximately 150 meters (492 feet) into an ice tunnel that had been hydraulically mined into the permafrost at a depth of roughly 7 meters below the earth’s surface.

The frozen bird appeared to have died non-violently before being rapidly frozen, thus preserving its body for millennia. The ‘nearly intact’ body was so well preserved that it could be identified as a horned lark, Eremophila alpestris, appearing as if she had ‘died yesterday’. So it was somewhat surprising (and quite exciting) when radiocarbon dating revealed that the lark died sometime between 44,163–48,752 years BP — in the middle of the last Ice Age.

During the last ice age, mammoth steppe was the Earth’s most extensive ecosystem, covering much of the northern portion of the planet. It featured a cold, dry climate that favoured high-productivity grasses, herbs and willow shrubs, and was dominated by long-horned bison and horses — and was home to woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceros and cave lions, all of which are now extinct. This ecosystem thrived for approximately 100,000 years before the thawing climate suddenly made it nearly extinct about 11,700 years ago.

This vast wide-open habitat is favored by horned larks, a species may have originated in northeastern Siberia during the middle Pleistocene (ref) before diverging into separate Eurasian and North American lineages. These small ground-nesting songbirds breed in the wide-open spaces of the high Arctic and above the tree line in mountains. Lacking any closely-related competitors, North American horned larks also breed in other, more temperate wide-open spaces, such as prairies, semi-arid regions and in deserts, which is where I first saw them.

To learn how this Pleistocene bird is related to modern horned larks, the researchers from the Centre for Palaeogenetics isolated ancient DNA from the specimen and analyzed it.

“The genetic analysis suggests that the bird belonged to a population that was a joint ancestor of two subspecies of horned lark living today, one in Siberia, and one in the steppe in Mongolia”, said lead author of the study, ornithologist Nicolas Dussex, a postdoctoral researcher at Stockholm University who specializes in conservation genomics and avian evolution.

“Our results support this theory since the diversification of the horned lark into these subspecies seems to have happened about at the same time as the mammoth steppe disappeared”, said co-author of the study, Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Swedish Museum of Natural History and research leader at the Centre for Palaeogenetics.

As the planet warmed at the end of the last Ice Age, mammoth steppe nearly disappeared, giving way to several habitats that we are familiar with today: tundra in the north, boreal forest (taiga) in the middle and steppe in the south.

The researchers’ ultimate goal is to map the ancient lark’s genome and compare it to genomes of modern subspecies of horned larks to learn where this bird fits into the lark evolutionary tree and to better understand how subspecies arise.

Currently, there are at least 42 formally recognized subspecies of horned larks that cluster into one of six separate lineages. Additional studies may reveal that any or all of these lineages may qualify as distinct species clusters.

“This helps us understand how the diversity of subspecies evolves”, Dr Dussex said. In recognition of being the oldest bird yet unearthed from this time period, the researchers refer to her the ‘Icebird’.

Uncovering frozen mammals in Siberia is not new: people have uncovered a veritable zoo of frozen mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, horses, bison and wolverines for many years, the researchers noted in their study (ref). But finding a frozen bird is something special because their bodies are small and fragile and thus, don’t typically preserve well.

Scientists at the Centre for Palaeogenetics are working with some of these other ancient animals, including an 18,000-year-old puppy named ‘Dogor’, which the research team are still working on to identify whether it’s a wolf or a dog. They also are working on a 50,000-year-old cave lion cub, ‘Spartak’, a 30,000-year-old severed wolf head, and a partially preserved woolly mammoth.

The horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), also known as the shore lark in Europe, is a small songbird that breeds across the northern hemisphere. It has 42 formally recognized subspecies that are divided into six different clades, each of which could warrant reclassification into distinct species clusters.

Analyzing the complete genomes of ‘Icebird’ and these other ancient specimens could provide a deeper understanding of the evolution of animals during the Pleistocene and of the impacts upon them from climate change.

“The new laboratory facilities and the intellectual environment at the Centre for Palaeogenetics will definitely be helpful in these analyses”, Professor Dalén pointed out.

The Centre for Palaeogenetics is a joint venture between Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History. Its main objective is to bring together scientists from different disciplines, such as biology, archaeology and geology, into a cutting edge research environment dedicated to ancient DNA analyses.

World’s Oldest Unopened Bottle of Wine Remains Sealed Since the 4th Century

World’s Oldest Unopened Bottle of Wine Remains Sealed Since the 4th Century

The origin of man’s wine romance seems to predate written history because no one is really sure when people began to get drunk.

World’s Oldest Unopened Bottle of Wine Remains Sealed Since the 4th Century

Archaeology may not be aware of the exact date that people first began growing grapevines, but the theory is that early people may have climbed to pick berries on the trees and may have enjoyed the sugar taste and wanted to store them for longer lasting pleasure.

The fermentation would however have set in at the bottom of the bottle over time creating a liquid that was much more delicious and pleasurable than the berries they were eating.

This theory of the origin of alcohol suggests that the real revolution in the fermentation of alcohol came about around 10,000 to 8,000 BC, when humans effectively made a shift from nomadic to a more sedentary style of living, giving more preference to agriculture which lead to the production of wine.

Speyer wine bottle.

According to the archaeological records, the earliest available record of wine production is found to be in various sites in Georgia where the production was rampant in 6,000 BC, in Iran around 7,000 BC, and in Greece and Armenia around 4,500BC and 4,100 BC respectively.

It is no secret that the respect given to a bottle of wine precisely depends on its age; therefore, the older the bottle, the better taste it would generate.

But of course, there is a limit to the ‘old age’ of the bottle and a bottle found in a Roman tomb near the Speyer region of Germany certainly breaks all known records of the oldest wine available on the planet; the bottle is appropriately named as The Speyer Wine Bottle.

The Speyer Wine Bottle was first discovered in a Roman tomb in Germany, and is likely to contain a fair amount of wine, and was found in 1867 from the Rhineland-Palatine region of Germany, which is the oldest settlement in the region.

The artifact has since attracted the attention of historians and researchers and has attained the status of the world’s oldest existing bottle of wine.

The wine bottle dates back to between 325 and 359 AD, and was discovered during an excavation at a 4th-century tomb of a Roman nobleman. It is the oldest known wine bottle which remains unopened.

The Speyer Wine Bottle is housed in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer and is always displayed at the same location in the Tower Room.

The bottle itself is of 1.5-liter volume and is a glass vessel with amphora-like sturdy shoulders, which are yellowish green in color with handles shaped in the form of dolphins.

The nature of the wine in the bottle is also the subject of many speculations, and it has been suggested the most of the ethanol content of the wine has been lost, analyses have suggested that not all but at least some part of the liquid in the bottle has to be wine.

According to the historians, the wine which was produced in the region around the time was diluted with a mixture of various herbs.

The wine bottles were adequately preserved using a thick mixture of olive oil, which was used along with a thick wax seal to close the bottle, effectively protecting it from outside influence.

Scientists have long tried to get permission to fully analyze the contents of the bottle by opening it, but as of 2011 the bottle remains unopened. Thus any detailed analysis isn’t possible at the moment.

This is partly due to the concerns that the interaction of the liquid with the outside environment could potentially damage the content, rendering it useless for anyone.

The tomb that produced the wine bottle also contained two sarcophagi; one holding the body of a woman and one a man.

There are a number of stories regarding the nature of the nobleman, one theory suggests that the man was a Roman Legionnaire and the wine bottle was one of his provisions for his ‘celestial’ journey, as it was the custom around the time he must have been buried.

A ‘very rare’ clay figurine of god Mercury and a previously unknown Roman settlement were discovered at the excavation site in Kent

A ‘very rare’ clay figurine of the god Mercury and a previously unknown Roman settlement were discovered at the excavation site in Kent

A ‘very rare’ clay figurine of the god Mercury and a previously unknown Roman settlement were discovered at the excavation site in Kent

At a previously unknown Roman settlement that was formerly next to a busy port but is now 10 miles from the sea, a very rare clay figurine of the god Mercury—one of less than 10 found in Britain—was found.

The settlement, located in the modern hamlet of Smallhythe (or Small Hythe), near Tenterden in Kent, is surrounded by fields but was once an important link in the Roman Empire’s import and infrastructure network in southern England and the Channel.

Smallhythe Place has been one of the most significant shipyards in medieval England. It cared for since 1947 by the National Trust.

While excavating the National Trust plot, archaeologists came across earlier evidence of a Roman settlement, in use between the 1st and 3rd centuries.

The discovery that it had previously also been the site of a Roman settlement, along with the artifacts found there, was “massively exciting”, according to Nathalie Cohen, a National Trust archaeologist.

The settlement was small in scale and modest in prestige, said Cohen. “It’s not Roman Londinium, it’s not Cirencester. It’s a smallish settlement by a port.” That said, “it would have been vital in the logistics chain for exporting timber and iron out of [south-east England] and importing materials from the continent”.

The waterside site’s significance is further highlighted by another find from the area: a tile bearing the stamp of the Classis Britannica, the Roman fleet in Britain.

Part of a Roman tile stamped with Classis Britannica, the mark of the Roman fleet.

Among the finds was the head of a figurine of the god Mercury made from pipeclay. While Mercury is the most common god for metal figurines, pipeclay examples are extremely rare.

Roman figurines in pipeclay were mainly used for private religious practice and placed in the graves of children.

Pipeclay figurines were made of clays local to central Gaul (modern-day France) and the Rhine-Moselle region and were imported, however, most pipeclay figurines found in Britain are of female deities, the majority being of Venus.

The 5cm-tall (2in) head of Mercury was discovered with no body. This complete figurine probably would have depicted Mercury standing, either draped with a chlamys (a short cloak), or naked, holding a caduceus (a staff with two intertwined snakes).

Mercury was the god of all the fine arts as well as commerce and financial success. Religion was an important part of daily life in most Roman provinces, and statues and portable figurines of gods, such as the one discovered at Smallhythe, were worshipped by both the Roman elite and ordinary citizens in their homes. Therefore, rather than appearing in a grand temple, experts believe that the statue is likely to have a more modest use.

“Intriguingly, it appears to have been deliberately broken, perhaps indicating a ritual significance,” said Matthew Fittock, an expert on ceramic figurines in Roman Britain. “Rather than pieces being discarded because they were broken, there is evidence to suggest that deliberately breaking some figurine heads was an important ritual practice, whereas whole figurines are usually found in graves.”

The Mercury head, along with other finds from the excavation, will go on show from 28 February at Smallhythe Place.

A metal detectorist finds a 4,000-year-old Dagger in Poland Forests

A metal detectorist finds a 4,000-year-old Dagger in Poland’s Forests

A metal detectorist finds a 4,000-year-old Dagger in Poland's Forests

A copper dagger more than 4,000 years old was found in a forest near the town of Jarosław on the San River in south-eastern Poland. This discovery is the oldest dagger made of metal found in the Podkarpackie Voivodeship.

In the 3rd millennium BC, objects made of copper were extremely rare in the area, Dr Elżbieta Sieradzka-Burghardt, an archaeologist from the Jarosław museum, told PAP.

This valuable object, dating back over 4,000 years, was discovered last November by Piotr Gorlach of the Jarosław Historical and Exploration Association, who – with the permission of the Podkarpacie Regional Historical Monument Conservator in Przemyśl – conducted a search with a metal detector in the forests in the area of the Jarosław Forest Inspectorate, near the village of Korzenica.

“I had already finished my search for the day. When I returned to the car, I left the detector on out of habit. At some point, there was a signal. When I was digging up the forest floor, I saw a flat metal object covered with a green patina.

I quickly realized that I was dealing with something much older than the military items from World War I and II that I was looking for in this area,” Gorlach said.

Archaeologists from the Museum in Jarosław Orsetti House identified the artifact as an extremely rare 4,000-year-old dagger. The ancient weapon was made of copper and measured just over 4 inches (10.5 cm) in length.

According to archaeologist Dr. Marcin Burghardt from the Jarosław Museum, the dagger discovered in Korzenica can be dated to the second half of the third millennium BC.

“In Polish lands, this is a period of enormous changes related to, among others, with a change in the main raw materials for the production of tools.

Instead of flint tools commonly used in the Stone Age, more and more metal products appear, heralding the transition to the next period – the Bronze Age,” noted Dr. Burghardt.

In contrast, the now-discovered dagger from Korzenica – as noted by Dr Elżbieta Sieradzka-Burghardt, an archaeologist from the Jarosław museum – was not cast in bronze, but is made of copper.

 “So it predates the development of bronze metallurgy,” the archaeologist noted. “In the third millennium BC, objects made of copper were extremely rare, so only people of the highest social status could afford them. There is rather no doubt that the dagger is not a local product,” Dr Burghardt-Sieradzka added.

 During this period, metal products were imported from modern-day Ukraine or Hungary and only available to elites who could afford them. Links to the ancient weapon’s origin will be determined in the future through special metallurgical analysis.

4,000-year-old Snake-Shaped Pottery Handle Found in Taiwan

4,000-year-old Snake-Shaped Pottery Handle Found in Taiwan

4,000-year-old Snake-Shaped Pottery Handle Found in Taiwan

National Tsing Hua University archaeologists in Taiwan have discovered a snake-shaped pottery handle dating back approximately 4000 years.

Researchers uncovered the find at a sand dune site on the island’s northwest coast, located within the Guanyin District in western Taoyuan City.

Crafted in the shape of a cobra with its upper body raised and hood flattened ready to strike, this item may have served as a type of handle for a larger item, such as a vessel or ceremonial jar.

The figure is characterized by its raised head with an open mouth and swollen folds on the neck, which are important features of a cobra snake.

The snake artifact find was initially publicized on a Facebook page to post-university archaeology news. A post on the page called it an “important” discovery in Taoyuan City.

The researchers determined the age of the snake-shaped artifact using radiocarbon dating techniques, noting that it was approximately 4,000 years old.

Photo: National Tsing Hua University

Snakes are animals that have strong symbolic meanings in mythology, religion, and literature. In ancient societies, snake shedding was observed to symbolize transitions between life and death, reproduction, or change.

Many ancient communities in East Asia and other parts of the world share a common symbolism in the form of snakes.

“This 4,000-year-old ‘snake-shaped pottery handle’… has a vivid figure, like a cobra, with its head raised and the skin folds of its head and neck bulging. We believe this incomplete artifact may have been pottery used for ritual purposes,” Chiu said.

This snake-shaped clay piece could be interpreted as a ceremonial instrument used by ancient tribe shamans to perform rituals, illustrating how animal imagery was incorporated into ceremonial instruments in ancient societies, shaping their belief systems and knowledge.

Also, numerous prehistoric archeological artifacts from Taiwan have been discovered at the coastal location.

Among them is a recently found area of extensive stone tool processing, according to Hung-Lin Chiu, an associate professor at Tsing Hua’s Institute of Anthropology. In this region, several stone flakes and cores have been discovered.

The World’s Oldest Mummies “Chile’s Ancient Mummies Older than Egypt’s”

The World’s Oldest Mummies “Chile’s Ancient Mummies Older than Egypt’s”

The World’s Oldest Mummies “Chile’s Ancient Mummies Older than Egypt’s”

At the beginning of the 20th century, mummies dating back 2000 years before the Egyptians were found in the Atacama Desert of Chile, the driest place in the world.

No, you didn’t read that wrong! Chile’s ancient mummies are thousands of years older than the Egyptians’, with the Chinchorro people mummifying their dead 7,000 years ago.

The remains of hundreds of these marine hunter-gatherers, who lived on the Pacific Coast of the Atacama from around 5450 BCE to 890 BCE, have been discovered in the Arica and Parinacota regions.

The first Chinchorro mummy was documented in 1917 by Max Uhle, a German archaeologist. The earliest mummies were like statues covered with unbaked black clay.

As stated on UNESCO’s page: they successfully adapted to the extreme environmental conditions of a hyper-arid coastal desert in the rugged Coastal Cordillera by using the nearby rich marine resources. Archaeological sites associated with the Chinchorro culture are recognized for having the oldest known artificially mummified human bodies.

Chinchorro mummies, ones of the oldest preserved in the world, at the museum in San Miguel de Azapa, 12 km from Arica, Chile.

In 2021, these cemeteries were inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List for the immense archaeological value they provide.

They provide insight into the social and spiritual structures of the community in addition to revealing the intricate funeral customs and mortuary practices of the ancient culture. For example, unlike the Egyptians, who reserved mummification for the elite, the Chinchorro offered it as a ritual for everyone.

Chinchorro people mysteriously began mummifying dead babies — removing internal organs, cleaning bones, stuffing and sewing up the skin, and putting wigs and clay masks on them.

The process involved stripping the body of skin and organs, sewing the skin back on, and wrapping the bodies in materials like reeds and sea lion skins. The mummies were then buried in the desert, with hopes that the arid conditions would preserve them forever.

A Chinchorro mummy.

Researchers says high levels of arsenic in the water in the region, which persist to this day, meant more premature births, stillbirths, spontaneous abortions, and higher infant mortality among the Chinchorro.

They posit the Chinchorro began preserving dead babies to express personal and community grief and later began mummifying adults as well, and the practice became more elaborate.

Hundreds of mummies have been uncovered so far, including those of infants and children. The practice lasted more than 3,000 years.

However, climate change is threatening these ancient graves, as unusual weather events expose the bodies to the elements. Efforts are underway to recover and preserve the mummies, which include the construction of a new climate-controlled museum near Africa.

425 Million-years-old Millipede Fossil Discovered In Scotland

425 Million-years-old Millipede Fossil Discovered In Scotland

A 425-million-year-old fossilized millipede has been discovered by researchers as the world’s oldest ‘bug’.

The remains were discovered on Kerrera, a Scottish island, and show that bugs and plants evolved much more quickly than previously thought.

After examining the petrified bug, the researchers discovered that ancient creatures left lakes 40 million years ago to live in complex forest ecosystems.

Researchers used a technique to determine that the millipede is 75 million years younger than previously estimated by extracting zircons, which is a microscopic mineral needed to accurately date the fossils.

425 Million-years-old Millipede Fossil Discovered In Scotland
Researchers have discovered the world’s oldest ‘bug’ on record – a 425-million-year-old fossilized millipede. After analyzing the petrified insect, the team determined that the ancient creatures left lakes to live in complex forest ecosystems in just 40 million years

Michael Brookfield, a research associate at the University of Texas Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences and adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said: ‘It’s a big jump from these tiny guys to very complex forest communities, and in the scheme of things, it didn’t take that long.’

‘It seems to be a rapid radiation of evolution from these mountain valleys, down to the lowlands, and then worldwide after that.’

Brookfield, who led the study, worked with co-authors Elizabeth Catlos, a professor in the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences, and Stephanie Suarez, a doctoral student at the University of Houston. Together they made improvements to the fossil dating technique used in the study.

Following the analysis, the team determined the fossilized millipede is 425 million years old, or about 75 million years younger than the age other scientists have estimated the oldest millipede to be using a technique known as molecular clock dating, which is based on DNA’s mutation rate.  

Although it’s certainly possible there are older fossils of both bugs and plants, Brookfield said that the fact they haven’t been found – even in deposits known for preserving delicate fossils from this era – could indicate that the ancient millipede and plant fossils that have already been discovered are the oldest specimens.

If this theory is true, then experts can determine that both bugs and plants evolved much more rapidly than the timeline indicated by the molecular clock.  Previous work has dated insect deposits to just 20 million years later than the fossils. 

And by 40 million years later, there’s evidence of thriving forest communities filled with spiders, insects and tall trees.

Given their potential evolutionary significance, Brookfield said that he was surprised that this study was the first to address the age of the ancient millipedes.

The remains were uncovered on the Scottish Island of Kerrera (pictured) and suggest bugs and plants evolved much faster than previously believed.

Suarez said a reason could be the difficulty of extracting zircons – a microscopic mineral needed to precisely date the fossils – from the ashy rock sediment in which the fossil was preserved. She improved the technique by separating the zircon grain from the sediment. 

Once zircons are released from the surrounding rock, the team was able to retrieve them with a pin glued to the tip of a pencil – a process the researchers said ‘involves an eagle-eye hunt.’

‘That kind of work trained me for the work that I do here in Houston,’ Suarez said. ‘It’s delicate work.’

She used the technique to find that a different millipede specimen, thought to be the oldest bug specimen at the time, was about 14 million years younger than estimated – a discovery that stripped it of the title of oldest bug.  Using the same technique, this study passes the distinction along to a new specimen.

Blue Eyes Originated 10,000 Years Ago In The Black Sea Region

Blue Eyes Originated 10,000 Years Ago In The Black Sea Region

A team of researchers from Copenhagen University have located a single mutation that causes the mysterious phenomenon of blue eyes.  And all blue-eyed people are genetically related to a person who lived in the Black Sea region sometime between 6 – 10,000 years ago.

The research was published in the Journal of Human Genetics. A mutation in a gene called OCA2 came into being nearly 8,000 years ago. It can be definitively traced back to an ancestor from the Black Sea.

Dr. Hans Eiberg claims that before this time, every human being had brown eyes.

Blue Eyes Originated 10,000 Years Ago In The Black Sea Region
“A genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a ‘switch,’ which literally ‘turned off’ the ability to produce brown eyes,” Eiberg said.

“A genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a ‘switch,’ which literally ‘turned off’ the ability to produce brown eyes,” Eiberg said.

When blue-eyed peoples from Jordan, Denmark and Turkey were examined, their genetic difference was traced back to the maternal lineage according to Eiberg’s team.

The brown melanin pigment is still dominant. However, following the last Ice Age, Europeans developed this rare mutation that differentiated them from the rest of the human race.

Ninety-five per cent of Europeans in Scandinavian countries have blue eyes. They are also found to have a greater range of hair and skin colour.

Comparatively, Europe has a wider variety of hair colour and skin pigment than is found in any other continent in the world. These mutations are recent as Europe was colonized only a few thousand years ago, say mainstream scientists.

Through interbreeding, the brunette with blue eyes was evidenced about 25,000 years ago. Researchers attribute this to ancient interbreeding with Neanderthals.

Although no Neanderthal DNA has been found in modern Homo Sapien-Sapien, mainstream science clings to this theory as fact because they haven’t come up with anything better.

“The question really is, ‘Why did we go from having nobody on Earth with blue eyes 10,000 years ago to having 20 or 40 per cent of Europeans having blue eyes now?” John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said. “This gene does something good for people. It makes them have more kids.”

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