Chinese Paleontologists discovered a 170-million-year-old flower
Chinese paleontologists discovered fossils of an ancient plant dating back approximately 170 million years.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology recently announced the discovery of the earliest angiosperm known in Northwest China through the reexamination of fossil specimens.
The study was jointly worked on by the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou University, Ningxia Geological Museum, and Northwest University. The findings of this study were recently published in Life, an international biological journal.
The fossil flower buds are oval, 17 millimeters in length, and 9 millimeters wide, on a 15-millimeter-long stalk. There is a larch-like structure at the bottom, which is covered with flower petals, the researchers said.
The researcher in charge of the study said that flowers and fruits are part of the angiosperm family. Angiosperms are the most evolved, diverse, widely distributed, and adaptable group of plants today. There are 300,000 species of extant angiosperms around the world.
The research team reexamined a Jurassic plant fossil from about 170 million years ago in the Northwest of China. The plant was previously thought to be a gymnosperm, named as Drepanolepis formosa Zhang, 1998.
In the latest study, the team used micro-CT technology to scan the fossil and found that the interior contained inverted ovules, which is a key feature for determining angiosperms.
The latest study found that an inverted ovule with two integuments is enclosed in each carpel or fruit, which is a key feature for determining angiosperms, and they named the fossil plant a Qingganninginfructus formosa.
The fossil plant is the earliest evidence of angiosperms in Northwest China. Its discovery indicates that angiosperms appeared and spread widely as early as 170 million years ago, during the Middle Jurassic, and reached a certain level of prosperity.
Paleonursery offers a detailed glimpse at life 518 million years ago
Fossilized specimens of thousands of undersea animals buried under a sedimentary avalanche 518 million years ago have been found near Kunming, China, many of which are of new species.
Paleontologists who found the fossil trove believe they’ve unearthed a Cambrian-era ‘paleonursery,’ according to their report in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, with more than half of the specimens juveniles.
The Haiyan lagerstätte—from the German for storage place,’ it refers to a sedimentary deposit with exceptionally well-preserved fossils—contains approximately 2,800 specimens from at least 118 species, including predecessors to modern-day insects, worms, crabs, jellyfish, sponges, and trilobites.
There were also specimens with preserved eggs, larvae, and appendages intact and the inner soft tissues still visible.
Of the species found, 17 were previously unknown species.
“It’s just amazing to see all these juveniles in the fossil record,” said Julien Kimmig, collections manager at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery, Penn State. “Juvenile fossils are something we hardly see, especially from soft-bodied invertebrates.”
The Cambrian Period, which lasted 541 million to 485 million years ago, witnessed unprecedented climatic and biological changes, including the Cambrian explosion—the planet’s fastest and most extensive diversity of life in history.
There is a comprehensive fossil record from that time period when life existed solely in the water, but little of it depicts juvenile animals.
According to the researchers, each sediment layer in the lagerstätte represents a distinct ‘burial event,’ and while more recent strata have yielded some results, none equal the richness of the lowest level. It is unknown what triggered the burial event that wiped out the specimens at that level.
According to the team, it might have been caused by a fast change in oxygen levels or a storm that caused thick sludge to ‘wash down a hill and bury everything in its path.’
It may have killed them, but it preserved them so well that they are exposing bodily parts never seen before, including entire three-dimensional eyes.
According to the researchers, scientists may utilize CT scanning on these 3D characteristics to rebuild the fossils and extract even more information from the remains.
Scientists will be able to use this collection to study how these ancient animals developed from the larval to the adult stage.
“We’ll see how different body parts grew over time, which is something we currently do not know for most of these groups,” Julien Kimmig said. “And these fossils will give us more information on their relationships to modern animals. We will see if how these animals develop today is similar to how they developed 500 million years ago, or if something has changed throughout time.”
The fossils will also allow researchers to analyze how animals acted 500 million years ago, when the planet was somewhat warmer than it is today, and use it as a proxy for where the world is heading in terms of animal behavior in a warmer climate.
“In this deposit, we found the ancestors to most modern animals, both marine and terrestrial,” Julien Kimmig said. “If the Haiyan Lagerstätte is actually a paleonursery, it means that this type of animal behavior has not changed much in 518 million years.”
Xianfeng Yang, a paleobiologist at Yunnan University, China, led a team of Chinese researchers that collected the fossils at the research site. Additional contributors to this study include Dayou Zhai and Yu Liu, Yunnan University; and Shanchi Peng, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, and the Key Research Program of the Institute of Geology & Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Archaeologists uncovered a ‘golden tomb’ during excavations in Armenia
A team of archaeologists made up of Polish and Armenian scientists has discovered a “golden tomb” containing two skeletons in Metsamor, Armenia.
The team discovered the remains of three gold necklaces while excavating the grave of two people, most likely a couple (a man and a woman). The tomb dates back to Ramesses II’s rule over Egypt.
Metsamor is one of the most studied archaeological monuments of V-I century BC in the Armenian Highland, and throughout the Ancient Near East. It includes the Bronze-Iron Age settlement (citadel, city districts, and celestial observation platform) as well as the cemetery.
The land area exceeds 200 hectares. The site is located in the Ararat plain, about 35 kilometers west of Yerevan, in the Taronik administrative district.
The ancient site of Metsamor is the place where the oldest known gold jewelry in the territory of Armenia was found.
Discovery was a cist grave, meaning that the two skeletons were found in chambers dug in the ground and lined with large stones. Researchers also found the remains of a wooden burial bed.
“Their death is a mystery to us, we do not know the cause, but everything indicates that they died at the same time, because there are no traces of tomb reopening,” said the head of the research project, Professor Krzysztof Jakubiak from the Faculty of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw.
The bones, according to archaeologists, were well preserved. Both skeletons had slightly crouched legs. According to preliminary estimates, the couple died between the ages of 30 and 40.
Professor Krzysztof Jakubiak believes that this is a unique find because the very richly equipped grave has not been robbed.
Archaeologists discovered over a hundred beads and gold pendants inside the tomb. Some of them look like Celtic crosses. There were also a large number of carnelian pendants.
“All these elements probably made up three necklaces,” said Professor Jakubiak.
A dozen or so complete ceramic vessels and a unique faience flask were also found in the grave. The flask had not been made in the area. It was brought from the Syrian-Mesopotamian borderland, according to the researchers.
Archaeologists do not know who lived in Metsamor at that time (in the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE). The people who inhabited the large, fortified settlement there were not literate, so they left no texts. This makes identifying them difficult for scientists.
Jakubiak said: “But it was a very large settlement. Even fortifications made of huge stone blocks have survived to our times, encircling the so-called citadel on the hill. At the end of the 2nd millennium BCE, there was no other settlement in the region that could be compared in terms of importance and size.”
Early Pearling Town Discovered on Persian Gulf Island
Archaeologists said Monday they have found the oldest pearling town in the Persian Gulf on an island off one of the northern sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates.
Artifacts found in this town on Siniyah Island in Umm al-Quwain, likely once home to thousands of people and hundreds of homes, date as far back as the region’s pre-Islamic history in the late 6th century.
While older pearling towns have been mentioned in historical texts, this represents the first time archaeologists say they have physically found one from this ancient era across the nations of the Persian Gulf.
“This is the oldest example of that kind of very specifically Khaleeji pearling town,” said Timothy Power, an associate professor of archaeology at the United Arab Emirates University, using a word that means “Gulf” in Arabic. “It’s the spiritual ancestor of towns like Dubai.”
The pearling town sits on Siniyah Island, which shields the Khor al-Beida marshlands in Umm al-Quwain, an emirate some 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Dubai along the coast of the Persian Gulf.
The island, whose name means “flashing lights” likely due to the effect of the white-hot sun overhead, already has seen archaeologists discover an ancient Christian monastery dating back as many as 1,400 years.
The town sits directly south of that monastery on one of the curling fingers of the island and stretches across some 12 hectares (143,500 square yards). There, archaeologists found a variety of homes made of beach rock and lime mortar, ranging from cramped quarters to more sprawling homes with courtyards, suggesting a social stratification, Power said.
The site also bears signs of year-round habitation, unlike other pearling operations run in seasonal spots in the region.
“The houses are crammed in there, cheek by jowl,” he added. “The key thing there is permanence. People are living there all year around.”
In the homes, archaeologists have discovered loose pearls and diving weights, which the free divers used to quickly drop down to the seabed while relying only on their held breath.
The town predates the rise of Islam across the Arabian Peninsula, making its residents likely Christians. Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was born around 570 and died in 632 after conquering Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia.
Umm al-Quwain’s Department of Tourism and Archaeology, UAE University, the Italian Archaeological Mission in the emirate and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University all took part in the excavation. Umm al-Quwain, the least-populated emirate in the UAE, plans to build a visitor’s center at the site.
Today, the area near the marshland is more known for the low-cost liquor store at the emirate’s Barracuda Beach Resort. In recent months, authorities have demolished a hulking, Soviet-era cargo plane linked to a Russian gunrunner known as the “Merchant of Death” as it builds a bridge to Siniyah Island for a $675 million real estate development.
Authorities hope that development, as well as other building, will grow the emirate’s economy.
However, even this ancient site bears lessons for the Emirates.
The story of pearling, which rapidly collapsed after World War I with the introduction of artificial pearls and the Great Depression, holds particular importance in the history of the UAE — particularly as it faces a looming reckoning with another extractive industry. While crude oil sales built the country after its formation in 1971, the Emirates will have to confront its fossil fuel legacy and potentially plan for a carbon-neutral future as it hosts the United Nations COP28 climate talks later this year.
Those searching the site found a dumpsite nearby filled with the detritus of discarded oyster shells. People walking across the island can feel those remains crunching under their feet in areas as well.
“You only find one pearl in every 10,000 oyster shells. You have to find and discard thousands and thousands of oyster shells to find one,” Power said. ”The waste, the industrial waste of the pearling industry, was colossal. You’re dealing with millions, millions of oyster shells discarded.”
House remains dating back 5,500 yrs found in China’s Shanxi
Archaeologists have unearthed the foundations of two houses dating back 5,500 years in north China’s Shanxi Province.
The house foundations were found at an archaeological site in Xinghuacun Township in Fenyang City and traced back to the middle period of the Yangshao culture, according to the provincial institute of cultural relics and archaeology.
The Yangshao culture, dating back 5,000 to 7,000 years, was a Neolithic culture that originated along the middle reaches of the Yellow River.
The two house foundations, both halfway underground, were found in varying sizes. The larger site covers about 39 square meters, and the smaller one covers around 30 square meters.
Fragments of various artifacts, including millstone, sharp-bottomed bottles, and painted pottery pots, were unearthed at the larger site. In addition, the smaller site shows signs of burning.
“The discovery of two house foundations is of great significance to the study of the structure, layout, construction technology, and function of houses in the middle period of the Yangshao culture,” said Wang Pujun, the director of the archaeological project.
Genomic study of ancient humans sheds light on human evolution on the Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau, the highest and largest plateau above sea level, is one of the harshest environments settled by humans. It has a cold and arid environment and its elevation often surpasses 4000 meters above sea level (masl).
The plateau covers a wide expanse of Asia—approximately 2.5 million square kilometers—and is home to over 7 million people, primarily belonging to the Tibetan and Sherpa ethnic groups.
However, our understanding of their origins and history on the plateau is patchy. Despite a rich archaeological context spanning the plateau, sampling of DNA from ancient humans has been limited to a thin slice of the southwestern plateau in the Himalayas.
Now, a study published in Science Advances led by Prof. Fu Qiaomei from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has filled this gap by sequencing the genomes of 89 ancient humans dating back to 5100 BP from 29 archaeological sites spanning the Tibetan Plateau.
The researchers found that ancient humans living across the plateau share a single origin, deriving from a northern East Asian population that admixed with a deeply diverged, yet unsampled, human population.
“This pattern is found in populations since 5100 years ago, prior to the arrival of domesticated crops on the plateau,” said Prof. Fu. She noted that the introduction of northern East Asian ancestry to plateau populations occurred before barley and wheat were introduced and was not associated with migrating wheat/barley agriculturalists.
A deeper comparison across the plateau reveals distinct genetic patterns prior to 2500 BP, indicating that three very different Tibetan populations occupied the northeastern, southern/central, and southern/southwestern regions of the plateau, with previously sampled plateau populations belonging only to the latter group.
Different population dynamics can be observed in these three regions. Northeastern populations younger than 4700 BP show an influx of additional northern East Asian ancestry in lower elevation regions (~3000 masl) such as the Gonghe Basin. However, this influx is not observed in higher elevation populations (~4000 masl) dating to 2800 BP just 500 km away.
An extended network of humans also lived along the Yarlung Tsangpo River, with a shared ancestry found in southern/southwestern populations dating to 3400 BP, western populations from Ngari Prefecture dating to 2300 BP, and southeastern populations from Nyingchi Prefecture dating to 2000 BP. The extended impact of these populations shows the important role this river valley played in Tibetan history.
“Between these two groups, central populations prior to 2500 BP share ancestry that differed from those further north and south. However, sampling of central populations after 1600 BP show that they share a closer genetic relationship to southern/southwestern populations. These patterns capture a dynamism in human populations on the plateau,” said Melinda Yang, assistant professor at the University of Richmond and a previous postdoc at IVPP.
“While ancient plateau populations show primarily East Asian ancestry, Central Asian influences can be found in some ancient plateau populations,” said Wang Hongru, professor at the Agricultural Genomics Institute in Shenzhen and a previous postdoc at IVPP. “Western populations show partial Central Asian ancestry as early as 2300 BP, and an individual dating to 1500 BP from the southwestern plateau additionally shows ancestry associated with Central Asian populations.”
Present-day Tibetans and Sherpas show heavy influence from lowland East Asian populations, with differing levels of gene flow correlating with longitude. This pattern is not observed across populations of older time transects, including those dating from 1200–800 BP, indicating that lowland East Asian gene flow was largely a product of very recent human migration.
Previous research has shown that present-day plateau populations possess high frequencies of an endothelial Pas domain protein 1 (EPAS1) variant that is adaptive for living at high altitudes and likely originated from a past admixture event with the archaic humans known as Denisovans.
“Humans from this study show archaic ancestry typical of lowland East Asians, but the oldest individual dating to 5100 BP is homozygous for the adaptive variant,” said Prof. Fu. “Thus, the arrival of this variant occurred prior to 5100 BP in the ancestral population that contributed to all plateau populations.”
Through their broad spatiotemporal survey of ancient human DNA from the Tibetan Plateau, Prof. Fu and her team have revealed a Tibetan lineage that dates back to at least 5100 years ago on the Tibetan Plateau. The ancestral population diversified rapidly, such that three regional groups show unique historical patterns that began to merge after 2500 BP.
“This is the largest study of ancient genetics on the Tibetan Plateau to date,” said Lu Hongliang, a professor at Sichuan University. The new evidence in this study on the formation of unique components in the ancient populations from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is highly reliant on collaboration between multiple archaeological teams and geneticists. Prof. Lu notes that “Analyzing ancient DNA allows us to go beyond the study of cultural interaction using only archaeological evidence, and to put forward new ideas for archaeological research on the plateau.”
Future sampling is still needed, as the origin of the unsampled, deeply diverged ancestry found in all plateau populations is still unaccounted for. In addition, when and where the adaptive EPAS1 allele first entered the ancestral Tibetan population is still unknown.
But this study is a step in the right direction. “These genomes reveal a deep and diversified history of humans on the plateau,” said Prof. Fu. “With these findings, we have a much better understanding of an important part of human history in Asia.”
A secret stash of tsar’s gold worth billions was found in an old rail tunnel near Lake Baikal
Royal discovery made after 99-year-old code is broken by Siberian mathematics genius.
The former tunnel and at an undisclosed location in the Irkutsk region is today under the protection of the Russian national guard after the sensational discovery exactly a century after Tsar Nicholas II was deposed.
Rail carriages packed with gold bullion bearing the Romanov insignia along with ‘other treasures’ – in the possession of anti-Bolshevik forces as they retreated from the Red Army after the Russian Revolution – were hidden in 1918, according to sources quoted by multiple Russian news agencies.
At least one ‘crown once worn by the last Russian emperor’ is in the collection, it was reported early today.
Unlike last year’s claim of Nazi gold hidden in Poland, today’s report is ‘genuine and verified by competent state organs’ under direct Kremlin orders, said a source close to the discovery.
A formal statement is due around noon in Moscow on Saturday when the first pictures of the gold will be revealed to the world’s media.
The first consignments will be moved to the Russian Central Bank within hours. The treasure has been claimed already by the Russian state in a closed-door court case beginning at 00.01 on Saturday in Irkutsk under tight security.
The stash ‘more than compensates for the cost of sanctions imposed by Western governments’, said an informed insider early today.
The location of the gold was discovered after a secret code giving the coordinates of the location in the Irkutsk region – originally found deep in the Stalin era – was cracked by a 21-year-old mathematics protege who studies in Tomsk.
The document was seized from a Kolchak aide in 1919 and has lain for years in a Russian national archive in Moscow.
Over the decades, experts have failed to understand the bizarre instructions written in Russian, French, and English.
‘It was simple once I understood the importance of the numbers 1 and 4 and their complex interrelationship,’ said the student in an interview with TASS news agency.
The mathematics genius, who has not been named because he is also a ‘hacking maestro’ suspected by the FBI of involvement in penetrating Hillary Clinton’s emails, took less than one hour to crack the decades-old formula designed to inform royalists the location of the treasure.
Since the defeat of Admiral Alexander Kolchak, leader of the White Russian forces, there has been speculation about the tsar’s gold, and where it was stashed.
In the months leading up to July 1918, when abdicated ruler Nicholas II and his family were shot on Lenin’s orders, it is estimated that 73% of the world’s largest gold reserves were held in Kazan, a city on the Volga River, before most was shifted further east into Siberia.
It had been moved here for security reasons during the First World War.
Grainy pictures from the vaults of a Kazan bank highlight that gold and other precious metals of untold value were held here. It is known that huge stocks of gold were removed to Omsk in Siberia by train on 13 October 1918.
One month later Kolchak was proclaimed Supreme Ruler of the country and Omsk was briefly the capital city of anti-Bolshevik Russia.
One theory is that as the gold was transported east from Omsk and some of the suspected 1,600 tons of royal bullion sank into Lake Baikal near Cape Polovinny after a train accident.
Mini-submarines scored Lake Baikal in 2010 for a cargo of gold that was reported to have fallen from a derailed train into the lake.
Separate claims suggested gold was carried towards Imperial China by troops loyal to Kolchak across frozen Baikal in the winter of 1919-20.
Other claims suggested gold was buried in the Krasnoyarsk region.
Mini-submarines scored Lake Baikal in 2010 for a cargo of gold that was reported to have fallen from a derailed train into the lake. Pictures: Channel 1 TV, The Siberian Times
In 1928, a New York court was told that the gold was elsewhere – buried in woods near Kazan.
There have been claims the value of tsarist gold could be as much as $80 billion.
Provisional estimates from the site in the Irkutsk region suggest the stash is worth a little less than $30 billion.
In Medieval burial ground, a rare embroidered Deisis depicting Jesus Christ was discovered
Russian archaeologists have uncovered a rare embroidered Deisis depicting Jesus Christ in a medieval burial ground.
46 graves have been dug up during excavations; one of them contained a woman who was buried with an embroidered Deisis depicting Jesus Christ and John the Baptist and was between the ages of 16 and 25.
The discovery was made during the construction of the Moscow-Kazan highway, where archaeologists found an 8.6-acre medieval settlement and an associated Christian cemetery.
The iconography of Jesus Christ known as Deesis, which can be translated from Greek as “prayer” or “intercession,” is one of the most potent and prevalent images in Orthodox religious art.
The composition of the Deisis unites the three most important figures of Christianity. A tripartite icon of the Eastern Orthodox Church showing Christ usually enthroned between the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist.
The fabric is 12.1 cm long by 5.5 cm wide and is composed of two parts joined by a vertical seam made of a woven gold ribbon with a braided pattern.
The fabric’s lining did not survive, but a microscopic examination revealed birch bark remnants and needle punctures along the lower and upper edges.
In the center of the fabric is a frontal image of Jesus Christ making a blessing gesture, and to the right of him is John the Baptist praying. A second figure, probably Mary, was once on the left, but it has since disappeared, according to the inspection.
The archaeologists believe the embroidered fabric was once a dark silk samite headdress.
Similar examples include the embroidered crosses and faces of saints discovered in the Karoshsky burial ground in the Yaroslavl region, as well as the Ivorovsky necropolis near Staritsa that features an image of Michael the Archangel wielding a spear.