Ancient 520 million-year-old sea monster with 18 TENTACLES around its mouth discovered

Ancient 520 million-year-old sea monster with 18 TENTACLES around its mouth discovered

The discovery of a fossil showing an ancient sea creature with 18 tentacles surrounding its mouth has helped to solve a modern-day mystery about the origins of a gelatinous carnivore called a comb jelly, a new study finds.

The previously unknown “sea monster,” which scientists dubbed Daihua sanqiong, lived a whopping 518 million years ago in what is now China. And the extinct animal shares a number of anatomical characteristics with the modern comb jelly, a little sea creature that uses so-called comb rows full of loads of hair-like cilia to swim through the oceans.

The discovery suggests that this newfound species may be the comb jelly’s distant relative, said study lead researcher Jakob Vinther, a paleobiologist at Bristol University in the United Kingdom.

“With fossils, we have been able to find out what the bizarre comb jellies originated from,” Vinther told Live Science. “Even though we now can show they came from a very sensible place, it doesn’t make them any less weird.”

This finding, however, has sparked a debate. While the discovery of D. sanqiong is impressive, it’s hard to say whether this ancient creature is part of the lineage that produced comb jellies, said Casey Dunn, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University, who was not involved with the study.

“I am highly skeptical of the conclusions they draw,” Dunn told Live Science.

A magnified shot of the rows of cilia on Daihua sanqiong, which suggest that it might be a distant relative of the modern comb jelly.

18 incredible tentacles

Vinther came across the D. sanqiong fossil while visiting colleagues at Yunnan University in China.

The scientists there showed him a number of fossils in their collection, including the mysterious creature they later named Daihua sanqiong, which was discovered by study co-researcher Xianguang Hou, a paleobiologist at Yunnan University. The genus name honors the Dai tribe in Yunnan; “hua” means flower in Mandarin, and refers to the critter’s flower-like shape.

On each of D. sanqiong’s tentacles are fine, feather-like branches with rows of large ciliary hairs, which likely helped it catch prey. These hairs, according to Vinther, grabbed his attention “because we only find big cilia on comb jellies.” To swim, comb jellies move their cilia, which then flicker in beautiful iridescent colors.

A living comb jelly, known as Euplokamis. The creature’s rainbow iridescence is caused by the movement of the ciliary comb bands on the animal’s body.

Moreover, the D. sanqiong fossil bears an intriguing resemblance to other known ancient animals, including Xianguangia, another ancient creature with 18 tentacles, and the tulip-like sea creatures Dinomischus and Siphusauctum.

“To make a long story short, we were able to reconstruct the whole [early] lineage of comb jellies,” by doing anatomical comparisons, Vinther said.

This is a big deal, because some scientists argue that these swimming carnivores were among the first animals to evolve on Earth, based on family trees analyses and genetic modeling of modern comb jellies. But now, this international team has possibly shown that comb jellies have a long lineage that precedes them, Vinther said.

This newly described lineage suggests that some of the ancestors of comb jellies had skeletons and that their ancient tentacles evolved into the combs with the densely packed cilia seen on comb jellies today.

An artist’s illustration of Daihua sanqiong.

The discovery also sheds light on where these ancient animals likely sat on the tree of life. For instance, researchers previously thought that Xianguangia was a sea anemone, but it “is actually part of the comb jelly branch,” study co-researcher Peiyun Cong , a professor of paleobiology at Yunnan University, said in a statement.

These findings also make a strong case that comb jellies are related to corals, sea anemones and jellyfish, the researchers said. “Those [ancient] tentacles are the same tentacles that you see on corals and sea anemones,” Vinther said. “We can trace comb jellies to these flower-like animals that lived more than half a billion years ago.” 

But not everyone agrees with this analysis. While Dunn commended the researchers for their detailed description of D. sanqiong and its proposed relatives, some of these creatures have such different body shapes that it’s challenging to see how they could be related, he said. It’s possible that the tulip-looking Dinomischus and Siphusayctum creatures are related to each other. But Siphusauctum has ciliary rows on the inside of its body, and the animal purported to come after it, Galeactena, has these rows on the outside of its body.

It’s hard to see how this animal would, in effect, turn inside out as it evolved, Dunn said. Given that some of these claims are tenuous, the burden of proof is higher, and the researchers don’t quite get there, Dunn said.

“These are exciting animals no matter how they’re related to each other,” Dunn said. “Even though I’m skeptical that tentacles and comb rows are homologous [evolutionarily related], I think that as we describe more diversity from these deposits, certainly we’re going to learn a lot more about animal evolution.”

DNA of a female hunter-gatherer, buried 7,000 years ago in Indonesia, reveals population history of SE Asia

DNA of a female hunter-gatherer, buried 7,000 years ago in Indonesia, reveals population history of SE Asia

A team of archaeological geneticists has reconstructed the genome of a female hunter-gatherer from the Indonesian archipelago, which sheds significant light on the population history of southeast Asia.

This study reports the first known human genome from Leang Panninge in Wallacea, an oceanic island in the middle of the continental shelves of Sahul and Sunda.

Although anatomically modern humans are posited to have crossed over to Australia from Asia as early as 65,000 years ago, the oldest dated Homo sapiens remains come from only 13,000 years ago.

DNA of a female hunter-gatherer, buried 7,000 years ago in Indonesia, reveals population history of SE Asia
The DNA was sequenced from the petrous bone, a small bone in the ear region of the skull.

One of the reasons is the tropical climate, which decomposes natural tissues quite quickly and is therefore not very conducive to the preservation of any remains. Previously, only two ancient human genomes, one from Laos and another from Malaysia, had been sequenced from southeast Asia.

Hunting gathering is a lifestyle that is associated with the Palaeolithic (3 million years ago to 10,000 years ago) in the archaeological record. This lifestyle was largely replaced by the adoption of agriculture and domestication of animals and plants, widely known as the Neolithic Revolution (10,000 to 8000 years ago). However, some hunter-gatherer groups have managed to survive to the present day and have been the subject of many anthropological inquiries.

Reconstruction of genetic history

The present study employed molecular markers with different modes of inheritance to examine the genetic history of the individual from Leang Panninge.

While nuclear DNA (nrDNA) is biparentally inherited i.e. approximately half coming from the mother and half from the father, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) shows uniparental inheritance i.e. it is inherited exclusively from the mother. Studies targeting more molecular markers than one enables a better reconstruction of the genetic history of a population.

The DNA was sequenced from the petrous bone, a small bone in the ear region of the skull. The petrous, in recent years, has been targeted extensively for ancient DNA for its remarkable preservation of genetic material.

Since there is a paucity of a wide number of ancient individuals, any ancient DNA study has to be compared with the known genetic history of present-day populations in the region, which, in this case, were southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and other Oceanian islands.

Who was her ancestor?

Genetic analyses reveal that the individual shares significant genetic ancestry with the present-day populations of Oceania — Australia, Papua New Guinea and other island groups.

a.Sulawesi and Wallacea. The red rectangle indicates the region shown in b. b, Leang Panninge.

Selina Carlhoff, the lead author of the study, clarified in an email: “In direct comparisons, we show that these Near Oceanian groups are more closely related to each other than to Leang Panninge…which would place Leang Panninge outside of that clade.”

The populations of Oceania and Eurasia are supposed to have diverged 58,000 years ago, and the Papuan and Australian people around 37,000 years ago, which is also when the Leang Panninge individual had branched off.

While this was going on, populations from these areas had seen multiple introductions of genetic material from the Denisovans (Denisovans are an extinct species of early hominins that ranged across Asia during the Palaeolithic).

Researchers identified another genetic ancestral lineage in the ancient genome of the individual that seems more closely related to deep Asian lineages.

“Considering the Leang Panninge individual as an admixture between a Near Oceanian- and a deep East Asian-related lineage may also explain the reduced amount of Denisovan-related ancestry compared to present-day Papuan groups,” Carlhoff added.

Given the dearth of pre-Neolithic genomes from the region, it is difficult to underpin the exact source of admixtures. It could be that this individual carries some ancestry from the first Homo sapiens inhabitants of Sulawesi around 50,000 years ago, or that a Southeast Asian group related to the present-day Andamanese people had contributed some genetic material.

Divers Just Found Four 2,200-Year-Old Roman Battering Rams Used During The Punic Wars

Divers Just Found Four 2,200-Year-Old Roman Battering Rams Used During The Punic Wars

An Ancient Roman battering ram was used to end the First Punic War.

The First Punic War, fought between Ancient Rome and Carthage for supremacy over the western Mediterranean, began in 264 B.C. It was the most prolonged naval conflict in antiquity. For 23 years on the seas from Sicily to North Africa, warships clashed with their battering rams — four of which have just been found.

Each of these colossal artefacts was made of bronze and weighed 450 pounds. Formerly fitted to the bows of Roman warships, they tore into the enemy vessels of Carthage at the Battle of the Aegates on March 10, 241 B.C. The fight was so brutal that it ended the First Punic War in a single day.

After thousands of years on the seafloor, these ancient weapons of war were finally retrieved from wrecks off the coast of Sicily, where the battle took place.

The retrieval effort was conducted by the U.S. RPM Nautical Foundation and Sicily’s Marine Archaeology Unit, and the find has shed new light on the wars of antiquity.

Historical accounts indicate Ancient Rome sank up to 50 Carthaginian ships with these rams, which held three enormous blades that ripped into the wooden hulls of enemy ships.

The three blades on each side were used to tear through enemy hulls.

That feat of engineering was one of the main reasons for Rome’s emerging victorious from the war.

The newly-retrieved Roman rams all bore inscriptions from judges that affirmed these weapons were made in accordance with the high Roman engineering standards.

Carthaginian battering rams, meanwhile, commonly held inscriptions dedicated to Baal, a deity worshipped for its control of the weather, suggesting they put their faith in gods instead of builders. Valeria Livigni of the Marine Archaeology Unit confirmed that the Carthaginian rams were “less well made than the Roman rams.”

That wasn’t the only revelation, however. Now, previous beliefs about Rome’s naval strategies have been challenged. While accounts have long indicated that both parties had about 200 ships, with Rome sinking 50 enemy vessels and capturing 70 while losing only 30 ships, their attacks are now being reassessed.

“We believed that ships tried to ram each other broadside,” said David Ruff of the RPM. “But many of the rams we have discovered are damaged, suggesting they went head to head. Either way, these were very violent collisions.”

The site of the Battle of Aegates was only identified in 2010.

Historians believe that Romans would toss both their masts and anchors overboard during an approach and row their now lighter vessels into a Carthaginian ship. Their enemies, meanwhile, commanded far heavier ships with payloads meant to be offloaded at the Mediterranean ports of Drepena and Lilybaeum.

The site of the Battle of Aegates was only identified in 2010 when a fisherman spotted a battering ram below his boat and notified Italian archaeologist Sebastiano Tusa. Earlier this summer, divers discovered three merchant vessels that held more than 200 ceramic jars, with some still containing traces of wine.

The Battle of the Aegates was first recorded by Greek historians Polybius and Diodorus. It began as a fight over the control of Sicily. With Rome encroaching on the town of Drepana, Carthage took to the seas to defend itself under the command of Hannibal’s son Hanno against Roman forces led by Praetor Quintus Valerius Falto.

The battering rams weigh 450 pounds each and the blades are two feet long.

While Rome lost a few dozen ships and saw 50 more damaged, their maneuverability allowed for more complex approaches than their enemy.

Colliding into Carthaginian ships with lighter vessels and greater speeds saw Hanno’s weighty fleet suffer immense losses before it could pick up reinforcements from shore.

The Roman warships easily encircled their slower enemies before ramming right into their hulls, casting the Carthaginian sailors into the seas and watching their vessels sink.

The sheer slaughter saw any remaining Carthaginian ships flee home. Hanno was crucified for his disastrous loss in battle.

Carthage sued for peace and signed the Treaty of Lutatius, which forced them to give up Sicily and pay enormous reparations. And although the First Punic War was over, there were still two more to come, and the battle for the dominance of the Mediterranean wouldn’t end for almost another 100 years.

Remarkably, it was only a few months ago that divers uncovered an Ancient Greek military vessel nearby. While this latest diving team uncovered Ancient Roman warships, it seems the Mediterranean has a lot left to offer historians — and is sure to broaden our understanding of ancient naval warfare for years to come.

Mysterious stone balls made 5,500 years ago were discovered on the island’s ancient tomb

Mysterious stone balls made 5,500 years ago were discovered on the island’s ancient tomb

Mysterious stone balls made 5,500 years ago were discovered on the island's ancient tomb
One of the polished stone balls was found in a Neolithic tomb on Tresness in the Orkney Islands. Hundreds of such balls have been found but no one knows what they were used for.

Two polished stone balls shaped about 5,500 years ago — linked to a mysterious practice almost unique to Neolithic Britain — have been discovered in an ancient tomb on the island of Sanday, in the Orkney Islands north of mainland Scotland.

Hundreds of similar stone balls, each about the size of a baseball, have been found at Neolithic sites mainly in Scotland and the Orkney Islands, but also in England, Ireland and Norway, Live Science previously reported.

Some are ornately carved — such as the famous Towie ball discovered in northeast Scotland in 1860 — but others are studded with projections or smoothly polished.

Early researchers suggested that the balls were used as weapons, and so they were sometimes called “mace heads” as a result. Another idea is that rope could have been wound around the lobes carved into some of the balls to throw them.

Archaeologists Reveal Medieval Saint’s Hut on Scottish Island
Archaeologists have found evidence that the remains of a hut on the island of Iona date to the late sixth century A.D., the exact period when Saint Columba lived and worked at the site. Credit: University of Glasgow.

But most archaeologists now think the stone balls were made mainly for artistic purposes, perhaps to signify a person’s status in their community or to commemorate an important phase of their lives, said archaeologist Vicki Cummings of the University of Central Lancashire in England, who led the excavations of the tomb on Sanday.

The two stone balls found at the tomb near the beach at Tresness on Sanday — one made of black stone and the other of lighter-coloured limestone — are very early examples of such objects and were smoothly polished, rather than being carved like the Towie ball. Carving balls tended to happen later in the Neolithic period, she said, while polishing balls was generally an earlier practice.

The two polished balls “are much simpler, but they are still beautiful objects,” Cummings told Live Science. “They would have taken quite a long time to make because it is quite time-consuming to polish a stone … You’ve got to sit there with some sand and some water and a stone, and basically put the work in.”

Neolithic tomb

The tomb was built about 5,500 years ago when the coast was much further away. It’s now in danger of being damaged by a storm.

This is one of the few times that stone balls have been found in their true archaeological context, Cummings said, which could shed light on the purpose of the mysterious objects. Each of the balls was found in the corners of two different compartments used to inter human remains in the burial chamber of the tomb, while other objects — especially pieces of pottery — were found along the compartment walls.

“Probably what was happening was that people were putting little slabs down and putting pots on top of these slabs,” Cummings said. “They really seemed to be interested in the walls and the corners.”

Inside the tomb, archeologists also found a deposit of cremated human bones near the entrances of two of the five compartments in the burial chamber, as well as several “scale knives,” which were made by breaking beach pebbles into flakes that had a sharp edge.

“You can use it as a really good butchery tool — and we found tons of those in the [tomb], which is really surprising. And that begs the question of what they [the makers] were up to,” Cummings said.

People may have used knives to separate the flesh from the bones of the dead. “It might suggest they were manipulating the human remains that were placed in the chamber — there are many traditions and lots of examples of that,” she said.

Ancient islands

The Orkney Islands are beyond the very northernmost tip of mainland Scotland. They are dotted with archaeological sites, including a UNESCO World Heritage Site, called the Heart of Neolithic Orkney around the Ness of Brodgar complex and the Neolithic village at Skara Brae, which suggests the islands were well-populated about 5,000 years ago. 

“The Orkney Islands might seem remote when you look at a map, but when you come here you see they are incredibly rich agricultural land that’s very easy to work,” Cummings said. “I think Neolithic people got here and were really successful — they found an environment that they just thrived in.”

The excavations on Sanday have been a joint effort between the University of Central Lancashire team, led by Cummings, and archaeologists from the National Museums Scotland led by Hugo Anderson-Whymark. The ancient tomb is near the coast and is vulnerable to being disturbed by a storm at sea, so the researchers are trying to find out as much as possible before the site is damaged, Cummings said.

The tomb and a Neolithic settlement they’ve excavated about a mile (1.6 kilometres) away would have been farther from the coast about 5,500 years ago, and the landscape would have had more trees than it does now, she said.

Although the tomb was investigated in the 1980s, only superficial excavations were made that didn’t reveal its old age. During the latest excavations, which took about four years to conclude, the researchers applied the latest archaeological techniques to the tomb, including making a three-dimensional photogrammetric model of it, Cummings said.

The archaeologists will now conduct analyses of the data gathered during the excavations, she said, which hopefully will provide even more information about the Neolithic people of the islands.

“Truly Heartbreaking”: Osage Nation Decries Sale of Cave Containing Native American Art

“Truly Heartbreaking”: Osage Nation Decries Sale of Cave Containing Native American Art

An anonymous bidder has purchased Picture Cave, a Missouri cave system filled with 1,000-year-old Native American artwork, for $2.2 million. Held by St. Louis–based Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers, the sale went forward despite the Osage Nation’s efforts to block it, reports Jim Salter for the Associated Press (AP).

The Missouri cave featuring artwork from the Osage Nation dating back more than 1,000 years.

In a statement quoted by the AP, the Osage Nation—which had hoped to “protect and preserve” the site—described the auction as “truly heartbreaking.”

“Our ancestors lived in this area for 1,300 years,” the statement reads. “This was our land. We have hundreds of thousands of our ancestors buried throughout Missouri and Illinois, including Picture Cave.”

Selkirk’s website describes the two-cave system, located about 60 miles west of St. Louis, as the “most important rock art site in North America.” Between 800 and 1100 C.E., the auction house adds, people, used the caves for sacred rituals, astronomical studies and the transmission of oral tradition. 

“It was a collective commune of a very significant space and there is only speculation on the number of Indigenous peoples that used the space for many, many, many different reasons, mostly communication,” Selkirk Executive Director Bryan Laughlin tells Fox 2 Now’s Monica Ryan.

Husband-and-wife scholarly team Carol Diaz-Granados and James Duncan, who have spent 20 years researching the cave, opposed the sale. Diaz-Granados is an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, while Duncan is the former director of the Missouri State Museum and a scholar of Osage oral history.

“Auctioning off a sacred American Indian site truly sends the wrong message,” Diaz-Granados tells the AP. “It’s like auctioning off the Sistine Chapel.”

The art appears to depict supernatural beings, including a figure known as Birdman or Morning Star.
Some of the Picture Cave rock art is almost childish, as if it was sketched out by a child yesterday, has uncorrected C-14 date of AD 1000 +/- 100, Diaz-Granados et al. 2015.
An ancient almost black and white rock art example at Picture Cave, Missouri.

The scholar adds that the cave’s art, made largely with charred botanical materials, is more intricate than many other examples of ancient artwork.

“[Y]ou get actual clothing details, headdress details, feathers, weapons,” she says. “It’s truly amazing.”

Diaz-Granados tells St. Louis Public Radio’s Sarah Fenske that state archaeologists who first visited the cave decades ago thought the pictures were modern graffiti because of their high level of detail. But a chemical analysis showed that they dated back about 1,000 years. Duncan adds that the drawings hold clear cultural significance.

“The artists who put them on the wall did it with a great deal of ritual, and I’m sure there were prayers, singing—and these images are alive,” he says. “And the interesting thing about them as far as artists are concerned is the tremendous amount of detail and the quality of portraiture of the faces. Most of them are people—humans—but they’re not of this world; they’re supernatural.”

The artwork may represent an early achievement of the Mississippian culture, which spread across much of what’s now the southeastern and midwestern United States between about 800 and 1600 C.E., writes Kaitlyn Alanis for the Kansas City Star.

During this period, people in the region increasingly based their economies on the cultivation of corn and other crops, leading to the creation of large towns typically surrounded by smaller villages. 

Per Encyclopedia Britannica, Mississippian people adopted town plans centred on a plaza containing a temple and pyramidal or oval earth mounds. These designs were similar to patterns adopted more than 1,000 years prior in parts of Mexico and Guatemala. 

Among the most prominent surviving Mississippian sites are the Cahokia Mounds earthworks, which are situated just outside of St. Louis in Illinois. The city flourished from 950 to 1350 C.E. and was home to as many as 20,000 residents at its height. In 2008, Duncan told the Columbia Missourian’s Michael Gibney that the Picture Cave artists probably had ties to Cahokia. He argued that some of the drawings depict supernatural figures, including the hero known as Birdman or Morning Star, who was known to have been important in Mississippian culture.

The cave system and 43 acres of surrounding land were sold by a St. Louis family that had owned them since 1953. The sellers mainly used the land for hunting. In addition to its cultural significance, the cave system is home to endangered Indiana bats.

Laughlin tells the AP that the auction house vetted potential buyers. He believes the new owner will continue to protect the site, pointing out that, as a human burial site, the location is protected under state law. It’s also fairly inaccessible to would-be intruders.

“You can’t take a vehicle and just drive up to the cave,” Laughlin says. “You have to actually trek through the woods to higher ground.” Only then can visitors squeeze through the 3- by 3-foot cave opening.

Archaeologists were amazed by Peru’s ‘mind-blowing’ ancient solar calendar built into the desert

Archaeologists were amazed by Peru’s ‘mind-blowing’ ancient solar calendar built into the desert

At 2,300 years old, the Chankillo observatory has been described as one of the oldest of its kind in the world — and the oldest in the Americas. It is a construction of 13 stone towers built atop a hill and was once used as a calendar. Only this summer was Chankillo designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

An ancient Peruvian civilisation built it around two millennia before the ascent of another well-known and now famous sun cult — the Incas. It is believed that they completed it at some point between 250 BC and 200 BC.

According to recent studies of Chankillo, the ancient peoples who used it would have reaped remarkably accurate astronomical observations, also doubling up its use as a temple and administration block. The vertebrae-like structures have been called the ‘Thirteen Towers’ — these are what the ancient astronomers used as an artificial horizon.

Archaeologists were amazed by Peru's 'mind-blowing' ancient solar calendar built into the desert
Researchers only figured out what the site was once used for in 2007
Chakillo: The towers appear like vertebrae from above

By determining the Sun’s position, the civilisation could accurately predict upcoming solstices and equinoxes, and determine the date with a precision of one to two days.

BBC Science Focus magazine noted: “It’s thought that this knowledge would help them plan seasonal harvests, as well as hold religious events.”

Brian Cox visited Chakillo during his docuseries, ‘Wonders of the Universe.

In a clip from the show titled, ‘Mind-blowing Ancient Solar Calendar’, he wandered across the ancient timekeeping piece and noted how the fortified temple’s walls, “were once painted a brilliant white, covered with painted figures”.

Mr Cox explained that “all but the smallest fragments of the decorations are gone”, leaving researchers in the present-day almost clueless about who made up this ancient civilisation.

For decades, researchers were equally clueless about Chankillo’s purpose.

It wasn’t until 2007 that a study published in the journal Science proposed that the sequence of towers “marked the summer and winter solstices” and that Chankillo “was in part a solar observatory”.

Peruvian archaeologist Ivan Ghezzi, who co-authored the study with a British colleague, Clive Ruggles, told AFP the towers were erected “with great precision,” and were placed to mark different positions of the Sun “and therefore mark exact dates.”

Ancient civilisation: The peoples had fortified the calendar

The structure essentially works like a giant clock, marking the passage of time over the span of a year.

In September, the Sun would rise somewhere between the fifth and sixth towers. By December 21, it creeps up between the last of the towers at daybreak.

Mr Ghezzi said: “Chankillo is a masterpiece of ancient Peruvians.

“A masterpiece of architecture, a masterpiece of technology and astronomy.

“It is the cradle of astronomy in America.”

And as it was also likely a place of Sun worship, the sites to the east and west of the towers feature the remains of objects used for ritual sacrifices.

The observatory and its ceremonial appendages were protected by fortress walls made of stone, mud and tree trunks, a site spanning an astonishing 5,000 hectares — yet just one per cent of it is believed to have been studied. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, excavations at ancient sites in Peru were abandoned, leading to many raids by black market traders.

While Chankillo was left untouched, nearby farmers expanded their pasturelands on the site’s border. It is hoped that the UNESCO World Heritage status will help to protect it from threats in the future while helping to sustain those struggling farmers.

Netherlands: They rebuild the face of the first Dutch Neanderthal

Netherlands: They rebuild the face of the first Dutch Neanderthal

You can now gaze into the crinkly eyes of “Krijn,” a young Neanderthal man who had a tumour growing on his skull when he died up to 70,000 years ago.

In 2001, an amateur palaeontologist found a piece of Krijn’s skull while sifting through sediments collected from the bottom of the North Sea, off the coast of the Netherlands.

Now, paleo-anthropological artists have used that hunk of the skull to create a lifelike bust of Krijn, including the bulge above his right eyebrow where the tumour sat. 

“Luckily, it’s a very distinctive piece,” Adrue Kennis, a paleoanthropological artist with Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions, said of the skull specimen in a translated video created by the National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) in the Netherlands, which is showing Krijn’s bust in a new exhibit.

When Krijn was alive, between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago, he lived in Doggerland, a vast swath of land between the United Kingdom and continental Europe, which is now submerged beneath the North Sea.

A 2009 study in the Journal of Human Evolution revealed a few details about Krijn: The young man was highly carnivorous, but his body didn’t show any evidence of seafood in his diet, according to an analysis of the isotopes, or element variants, of carbon and nitrogen found in his skull.

Moreover, a lesion above Krijn’s eyebrow indicated that he had a tumour known as an intradiploic epidermoid cyst.

These cysts are uncommon, slow-growing lesions that are usually benign, especially when they’re small, as Krijn’s is, the 2009 study found. The conduction is associated with a slew of symptoms.

It’s possible that Krijn experienced pain and swelling, headaches, dizziness, convulsions, visual problems or seizures, or maybe he was lucky and didn’t have any symptoms, the authors of the 2009 study wrote. That was the first time such a tumour had been documented in Neanderthal remains, they noted.

The Neanderthal skull specimen was found in sediment from the North Sea.
A facial reconstruction of the Neanderthal who lived in Doggerland between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago.

Despite Krijn’s diagnosis, his new bust depicts him with an infectiously happy smile. The Kennis brothers recreated the Neanderthal’s features by relying not only on the skull specimen but also other Neanderthal skulls, as well as previous data on the Neanderthal eye, hair and skin colour.

The new bust is the latest from their studio, which includes other early human recreations, including one of Ötzi the Iceman mummy, who lived about 5,300 years ago in the Alps.

Krijn may be smiling for another reason; he’s the first fossil hominin dating to the Pleistocene epoch (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) found under seawater and the first recorded Neanderthal in the Netherlands, according to the 2009 study.

A menagerie of animals, including mammoths, lions, woolly rhinoceroses, reindeer and horses used to live on the Doggerland steppe, but it was very cold, meaning that Krijn likely had a challenging life, according to an RMO statement.

In addition to Krijn’s remains, scientists sifting through the North Sea sediments found several middle Paleolithic artefacts, including small hand axes and pointed stones known as Levallois flakes.

The RMO exhibit “Doggerland: Lost World in the North Sea,” which includes Krijn’s bust, is open to the public through Oct. 31. 

Anglo-Saxon Silver Brooch Recovered in England

Anglo-Saxon Silver Brooch Recovered in England

A metal detectorist who found a rare early-medieval silver brooch has said it was his most “incredible” find ever. The Trewhiddle-style brooch found on farmland at Cheddar in Somerset features detailed interlace decorations with animals thought to be peacocks.

Detectorist Iain Sansome said it was “incredible” to think the treasure used as a symbol of wealth and high status was last held 1,000 years ago.

Somerset Council hopes to keep it in the county once it has been valued.

Mr Sansome added in all of his years of metal detecting this find was “in a different league”.

“When I first saw the brooch I wasn’t exactly sure what it was but I knew it was something special,” he said.

“The fact that the last person to handle it was probably someone of extreme importance and high status over 1,000 years ago is just incredible.”

The South West Heritage Trust conducted a follow-up investigation at the find site but no further significant discoveries were made.

Dr Maria Kneafsey from the Portable Antiquities Scheme said early medieval examples of the brooches were “rare”.

“The fact that no further significant objects were found suggests that the brooch was lost or discarded into the water, rather than deliberately buried,” she said.

The disc brooch dates back to between 800 and 900AD was declared as treasure at an inquest held at Taunton Coroner’s Court in August.

Iain Sansome said the find was “incredible”

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