Category Archives: AUSTRALIA

600-year-old Medieval lingerie set found in an Austrian castle

600-year-old Medieval lingerie set found in an Austrian castle

It is hardly racy by today’s standards but this skimpy lingerie has certainly shocked historians. The lace and linen undergarments date back to hundreds of years before women’s underwear was thought to exist.

Foundations of history: This bra was discovered hidden in a vault at Lengberg Castle in East Tyrol and is thought to date back to the 15th century

They had lain hidden in a vault beneath the floorboards of an Austrian castle since the 15th century.

Despite their state of decay, the knickers bear more than a passing resemblance to the string bikini briefs popular today, while the bra has the fitted cups and delicate straps of its modern-day counterparts.

While it was known that medieval men wore undergarments like modern-day shorts, it was thought that women simply wore a smock or chemise.

It was thought that knickers didn’t make an appearance until the late 18th century. Bras were thought to be an even more modern invention, not appearing until around 100 years ago.

Revealing relic: A pair of knickers found in Lengberg Castle

Hilary Davidson, the fashion curator at the Museum of London, said the discovery ‘totally rewrites’ fashion history, adding: ‘Nothing like this has  ever come up before.’

She believes it is ‘entirely probable’ that something similar was worn by Britain’s medieval women.

‘These finds are a very exciting insight into the way people dressed in the Middle Ages,’ she continued.

‘It’s rare that everyday garments of any kind survive from this period, let alone underwear.’

Hidden treasure: Lengberg Castle in East Tyrol, Austria, where the amazing haul was unearthed during restoration work

The undergarments were among almost 3,000 fragments of clothing and other detritus found in Lengberg Castle in East Tyrol during recent renovations.

It is thought that they were buried when the building was extended in 1480 and that the exceptionally dry conditions stopped the fragile garments from disintegrating over the centuries.

Beatrix Nutz, of Innsbruck University, who made the find, initially faced scepticism but radiocarbon-dating tests confirmed her suspicions.

The haul included four bras and two pairs of pants. Two of the bras resemble modern counterparts but the others are described rather bluntly as ‘shirts with bags’, the August issue of the BBC History Magazine reports.

Teenage woolly mammoth with soft tissues intact found on Yamal peninsula

Teenage woolly mammoth with soft tissues intact found on Yamal peninsula

She is 42,000 years old and has come a long way for her Australian debut. First, she was recovered from the frozen mud in Siberia that was her tomb for so long. Then she was packed into a crate at a tiny museum in Russia and flown to a humidity-controlled cube at the Australian Museum.

Mammoths – Giants of the ice age

The ice age world of woolly mammoths will be brought to life in Mammoths – Giants of the Ice Age, exclusive to the Australian Museum from 17 November 2017.

Baby Lyuba, the world’s most complete and best-preserved woolly mammoth, has arrived in Sydney. She is in remarkable condition, with her skin and internal organs intact. Scientists even found her mother’s milk in her belly.

Teenage woolly mammoth with soft tissues intact found on Yamal peninsula
The 42,000-year-old baby woolly mammoth was unveiled on Friday at the Sydney Museum.

We will finally be able to see her when she is unveiled as the centerpiece of the museum’s Mammoths – Giants of the Ice Age exhibition.

Lyuba, who died at 35 days, is one of Russia’s national treasures, and the government is reluctant to let her out of its sight too often. This is only the fifth time Shemanovsky Museum has let her out, and it’s her first trip to the southern hemisphere.

The mammoth was first spotted in 2007 by Yuri Khudi, a Siberian reindeer herder, who found her as the frost thawed on a muddy bank of the Yuribey River.

When he brought a team of scientists back to recover her, she was gone; someone else had got there first. The team tracked her to a village deep within Siberia’s frozen wasteland. She was propped up on the door of a shop. The shopkeeper had reportedly bought her for two snowmobiles and a year’s worth of food from Mr. Khudi’s cousin.

Registrars and preparators from the Field Museum join the team at Australian Museum to install the exhibit.

“And while she was propped up, a dog came up and chewed off her tail and her ear. If only for that she’d be completely intact,” says Trevor Ahearn​, the Australian Museum’s creative producer.

Palaeontologist Matthew McCurry at the exhibit.

Lyuba (Lay-oo-bah) means love in Russian. The museum has chosen to surround her with models of huge, ferocious adult mammoths, much as the herd would have surrounded and protected her in life.

It is thought her feet had become stuck in a muddy hole on the side of a Siberian riverbank. Before her mother could yank her out, Lyuba slipped below the surface, where the mud choked her mouth and trunk.

Mammoths lived in late Paleolithic period, which stretched from about 200,000 BC to 10,000 BC.

But the mud that killed her also contained sediments and bacteria that created an acid barrier around her body, in effect pickling her. When the river froze over, she was left perfectly preserved.

Had she lived a full mammoth life – 60 years – Lyuba would have grown to more than three meters in height and about five tonnes. To sustain that bodyweight she would have consumed up to 180 kilograms of grass and 80 liters of water a day.

Mammoths lived in the late Paleolithic period, which stretched from about 200,000 BC, the time Homo sapiens first emerged in Africa, to 10,000 BC. Mammoths were uniquely adapted for the conditions, with small ears and thick, woolly fur. They ate grass and bark and roamed across Europe, North America, and Siberia.

That makes Lyuba the first of her kind to visit our shores, and it took the Australian Museum a fair bit of what director Kim McKay terms “cultural diplomacy” to get her over here. Negotiations involved the Shemanovsky Museum and the Russian government.

Mr. Ahearn says: “One of the first things we had to do before we brought Lyuba over here was absolutely guarantee our Russian colleagues that there was no possibility of her getting seized because there is some controversy over who owns her.

“She’s a little controversial in Russia, with her association with an oil company that helped bring her into the museum. I think it’s paranoia. Russia is feeling a little bit of pressure, so I don’t know if it’s founded. There are lots of myths; it’s all very hazy.”

The prospect of mammoth cloning

Scientists have two competing theories on why mammoths became extinct about 10,000 years ago. Both have important things to tell us about the modern environment – and perhaps contain a message about why we shouldn’t be trying to bring mammoths back.

The first theory is climate change. The ending of the ice age at about 10,000 BC may have dramatically reduced the area in which these cold-environment animals could survive.

The second theory is over-hunting. Mammoths, with their tonnes of fat, would have represented an incredibly valuable food source for early humans, who developed sharp spears to hunt them. Scientists think it is possible the mammoth is the first species humanity managed to push into extinction.

Mammoth cloning has always excited the popular imagination, and the exhibition dedicates a section to the possibilities.

So far, we have sequenced about 70 percent of mammoth DNA, so the raw material is not there yet. But even if we could, we shouldn’t, says David Alquezar​, manager of the Australian Museum’s genetics lab.

“The money to do that could be better invested in species that are endangered right now, rather than focusing our efforts on a species that has been extinct for 10,000 years,” says Dr. Alquezar.

Genetic Link Between Australasians and South Americans Studied

Genetic Link Between Australasians and South Americans Studied

Science Magazine reports that researchers led by Tábita Hünemeier of the University of São Paulo have detected a genetic signal associated with early people living in South Asia, Australia, and Melanesia in additional populations in South America.

The genetic signal of Australasian ancestry in so far-flung a population sent researchers scrambling for answers. A new study reveals this genetic signal is more prevalent throughout South America than thought and suggests the people who first carried these genes into the New World got it from an ancestral Siberian population.

The finding also sheds light on those people’s migration routes to South America. “It’s a really nice piece of work,” says Jennifer Raff, an anthropological geneticist at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, who wasn’t involved in the study. It shows that the 2015 finding “wasn’t just an artefact. It really is a widespread genetic signal.”

Researchers found Australasian ancestry in Indigenous groups living across South America, including those descended from Peru’s Mochica civilization.

Anthropologists think bands of hardy hunter-gatherers left Siberia and entered the now-submerged land of Beringia, which then connected Eurasia and Alaska when sea levels were much lower than today—perhaps about 20,000 years ago.

Then, about 15,000 years or so ago, some departed Beringia and fanned out into North and South America. These early migrants made good time: By 14,800 years ago at the latest, radiocarbon dates suggest they were setting up camp in Monte Verde in southern Chile.

The 2015 DNA studies revealed Australasian ancestry in two Indigenous Amazonian groups, the Karitiana and Suruí, based on the DNA of more than 200 living and ancient people.

Many bore a signature set of genetic mutations, named the “Y signal” after the Brazilian Tupi word for “ancestor,” ypikuéra. Some scientists speculated the Y signal was already present in some of the earliest South American migrants.

Others suggested a later migration of people related to present-day Australasians could have introduced the Y signal into people already living in the Amazon.

The new study, led by geneticist Tábita Hünemeier at the University of São Paulo, São Paulo, examined genetic data from 383 modern people from across South America, including dozens of newly genotyped individuals living in the Brazilian Amazon and central plateau.

The researchers worked closely with Indigenous people, and Hünemeier says they are collaborating with historians, anthropologists, and geneticists “to assure the results would be transferred in the best way to the Indigenous communities.”

For the first time, scientists identified the Y signal in groups living outside the Amazon—in the Xavánte, who live on the Brazilian plateau in the country’s centre, and in Peru’s Chotuna people, who descend from the Mochica civilization that occupied that country’s coast from about 100 C.E. to 800 C.E.

Next, the researchers used software to test different scenarios that might have led to the current DNA dispersal.

The best fit scenario involves some of the very earliest—possibly even the earliest—South American migrants carrying the Y signal with them, the researchers report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Those migrants likely followed a coastal route, Hünemeier says, then split off into the central plateau and Amazon sometime between 15,000 and 8000 years ago. “[The data] match exactly what you’d predict if that were the case,” Raff agrees.

David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University who co-authored the 2015 study identifying the Y signal, says that explanation makes sense. Still, he adds, finding Australasian ancestry in ancient coastal remains would boost his confidence in the authors’ conclusions.

Pontus Skoglund, a population geneticist at the Francis Crick Institute who was a co-author on one of the 2015 studies with Hünemeier, says he’s glad to see South American scientists building on the previous work. “I’m excited that local research groups in Brazil are picking this up. They’re doing exactly what needed to be done.”

One unanswered question is why the Y signal hasn’t turned up in any North or Central American Indigenous groups. One possibility, Hünemeier suggests, is that the Y signal-bearing migrants simply stuck to the coast and made it to South America without leaving any genetic legacy up north.

It’s also possible that groups with Y ancestry did live in North and Central America, but died out in the deadly aftermath of European colonization. “The population Y signal is a puzzle,” Meltzer says, “but this is an interesting piece to add to it.”

Was a 5-Meter-Tall Human Skeleton Unearthed in Australia?

Was a 5-Meter-Tall Human Skeleton Unearthed in Australia?

In July 2015, the World News Daily Report (WNDR) entertainment website published an article about a 5-meter-tall (approximately 16.5 feet) human skeleton that was unearthed in Australia:

The gigantic hominid specimen that measures an incredible 5.3 meters tall (17 foot and 4 inches) was discovered near the ancient ruins of the only megalithic civilization ever discovered in Australia, which makes the discovery twice as puzzling admits professor Hans Zimmer of the University of Adelaide.

“The discovery of the Uluru archaeological site last year already took us by surprise, but this new find is just jaw-dropping” he admits, visibly dumbfounded.

“Theoretically, a five-meter-tall hominid cannot exist. How did this occur? How is this possible. Although this discovery is fascinating, we are left with more questions than answers” he concedes.

Although this claim originated with a well-known entertainment website — a disclaimer on the site explains that all of its content is “entirely fictional” and satirical in nature — the above-displayed text and photographs continued to spread online by third parties.

In 2017, for instance, WNDR’s content was repackaged into a video by the YouTube page “UFOmania – The truth is out there.” A year later, the website ScienceVibe passed this content off as if it were genuine news. In June 2019, this content went viral again after it was shared by the Facebook page Historistic.

The above-displayed pictures, of course, do not actually show a 5-meter-tall skeleton. These photographs were taken in France (not Australia) in November 2012 and show an archaeologist excavating the remains of a woolly mammoth that was found at a quarry site near Paris.

A French archaeologist from the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) works to finish up the excavation of remains from a preserved woolly mammoth skeleton, nicknamed ‘Helmut’ by the excavation team and estimated to date from 125,000 to 200,000 years ago, at a quarry site in Changis-sur-Marne, East of Paris, November 8, 2012.

French archaeologists have uncovered a rare, near-complete skeleton of a mammoth in the countryside near Paris, alongside tiny fragments of flint tools suggesting the carcass may have been cut into by prehistoric hunters.

The archaeologists say that if that hypothesis is confirmed, their find would be the clearest ever evidence of interaction between mammoths and ancient cavemen in this part of Europe. 

The other photograph shows the same woolly mammoth skeleton. That picture was taken by Denis Gliksman of the Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (INRAP) and is available on the French website Sciences et Avenir with the following caption (loosely translated via Google):

 HELMUTH. Les ossements d’un squelette entier de mammouth adulte ont été découverts en juillet dernier sur le chantier de fouille d’un site gallo-romain. L’animal aurait vécu entre 200.000 et 50.000 ans avant notre ère. Il s’agit du quatrième spécimen trouvé en France en un siècle et demi.

HELMUTH. The bones of an entire adult mammoth skeleton were discovered last July at the excavation site of a Gallo-Roman site. The animal would have lived between 200,000 and 50,000 years before our era. This is the fourth specimen found in France in a century and a half.

These images do not show a 5-meter-tall human skeleton that was unearthed in Australia.

These images actually show an approximately 150,000-year-old woolly mammoth skeleton nicknamed “Helmut” that was discovered near Paris in 2012. 

This is hardly the first time that images supposedly showing “giant human skeletons” have gone viral online. We’ve previously written about several of these so-called “discoveries.” To date, we’ve yet to come across any genuine photographs of an actual skeleton belonging to a real ancient giant human. 

Chocolate uncovered by National Library 120 years past expiry date still almost good enough to eat

Chocolate uncovered by National Library 120 years past expiry date still almost good enough to eat

One of the world’s oldest boxes of chocolates, dating back 120 years to the Boer War, was discovered by conservators at the National Library of Australia. At the bottom of a box of personal papers from the estate of Australian bush poet Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson, the souvenir chocolate tin was discovered.

Remarkably, after more than a century, the chocolates were not only unmolested but still seemed almost good enough to eat. There were also traces of old straw packing and silver foil wrapping on the chocolate bar, marked into six fingers.

The discovery astonished staff in the Library’s conservation lab, who weren’t expecting to find Banjo’s sweets hidden amongst a career’s worth of poetry, diaries, and newspaper clippings.

Buckingham Palace commissioned the chocolates out of Queen Victoria’s private purse.

“There was quite an interesting smell when they were unwrapped,” National Library of Australia (NLA) conservator Jennifer Todd said.

“[It was] an old tin of chocolates, belonging to Banjo, with the chocolates still wrapped in the box.”

Chocolate uncovered by National Library 120 years past expiry date still almost good enough to eat
The century-old Cadbury logo is still pressed into the chocolate.

Chocolates fit for a Queen

There was no explanation provided about why Banjo Paterson had the chocolates, or — critically — why he hadn’t eaten them. But a little research unearthed some answers about the tin. It was commissioned by none other than Queen Victoria herself, to provide comfort to Boer War troops at the turn of a new century.

The tin was adorned with the royal visage, inscribed with the phrases “South Africa, 1900” and “I wish you a happy New Year, Victoria RI.”

And although intended for troops, the commemorative chocolate tins became hot items of trade at the front, as Canadian soldier Private C Jackson wrote home in December 1899.

“I have just received a box of chocolate, Her Majesty’s present to the South African soldiers … there is such a demand for them by the officers and everybody else, as mementos,” he wrote.

“In fact, I have been offered five pounds for mine, and at the Cape, as much as 10 pounds is being paid.” Banjo Paterson had shipped out to South Africa in October 1899, as a war correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, returning to Australia nearly a year later.

It’s speculated Paterson bought the chocolate tin from serving troops and, like many of the soldiers, sent it home to preserve it from the South African heat.

Chocolate company was at loggerheads with Queen Victoria

There is another twist to the tale of Banjo Paterson’s chocolates — they were particularly controversial. Cadbury UK told the ABC the initial 1899 request from Buckingham Palace was for “70,000 to 80,000-pound tins of cocoa … to be paid for out of [Queen Victoria’s] private purse” for the troops in South Africa.

The chocolates were found among possessions of Banjo Paterson.

According to an internal memo from Cadbury Brothers, “the cocoa must be made into a paste and sweetened ready for use under the rough and ready conditions of camp life — the tins to be specially made and decorated.”

But the owners of Cadbury were pacifists, and initially wanted nothing to do with supplying their products to the Boer war. The order was subsequently amended from tins of cocoa to chocolate blocks — and Cadbury at first refused to stamp its name on either the tin or the chocolate inside.

Ultimately the Palace won the diplomatic tug-of-war with Cadbury, as the Queen insisted that her troops know it was “good quality” British chocolate. Good enough, it seems, to last more than a century with only minor decay.

Crowdfunded conservation

The chocolate tin — and newspaper clippings from Banjo Paterson’s time as a war correspondent — were held by the author himself until his death in 1941, then passed down through generations of his family before being acquired by the NLA last year. Now the Library has embarked on the ambitious task of conserving and digitizing the collection to share with the world.

And, befitting “The Banjo’s” popular appeal, financing for the project had come through crowdfunding. NLA Director-General Marie-Louise Ayres said the library easily raised the $150,000 to catalogue and preserve the collection.

“Every year we ask every member of the public if they’d like to contribute to a project,” Dr. Ayres said.

“The Banjo Paterson papers is such an iconic collection we were sure that when we went out to the public and asked them for help they’d give it — and they did.”

Other treasures being conserved from the Banjo Paterson collection include an early version of “Waltzing Matilda” and a large silver gelatin portrait later reproduced on the Australian $10 note.

Unfortunately, the photograph had suffered tearing and water damage hanging in the family home — and was certainly in worse shape than Banjo’s chocolates. The Banjo Paterson collection will be available for viewing online once the project is completed.

For now, though, the chocolates will stay at the National Library of Australia, stored securely in a cool, dry place.

A 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site Was Just Deliberately Destroyed in Australia

A 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site Was Just Deliberately Destroyed in Australia

The mining company was permitted to blow Juukan Gorge Cave, which provided traditional owners with a 4000-year old genetic link. An extension of an iron ore mine destroyed a sacred site in Western Australia which has been continuously inhabited for 46,000 years and provides a 4,000-year-old genetic link to traditional owners today.

One of the oldest in the western Pilbara region, the cave-in Juukan Gorge in the Hammersley Ranges, about 60km from Mt Tom Price, is the only inland site in Australia to display evidence of sustained human occupancy since the last Ice Age. It, along with another sacred site, was blasted.

Under WA’s obsolete Aboriginal heritage rules, which were drafted in 1972 to benefit mining supporters, mining firm Rio Tinto obtained ministerial permission to destroy or damage the site in 2013.

A 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site Was Just Deliberately Destroyed in Australia
This cave in the Juukan Gorge, dubbed Juukan 2, was destroyed in a mining blast on Sunday. Consent was given through outdated Aboriginal heritage laws drafted in 1972. Photograph: The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation.

One year after consent was granted, an archaeological dig intended to salvage whatever could be saved discovered the site was more than twice as old as previously thought and rich in artefacts, including sacred objects.

Most precious was a 4,000-year-old length of plaited human hair, woven together from strands from the heads of several different people, which DNA testing revealed were the direct ancestors of Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura traditional owners living today.

But the outdated Aboriginal Heritage Act does not allow for a consent to be renegotiated on the basis of new information. So despite regular meetings with Rio Tinto, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation were unable to stop the blast from going ahead.

“It’s one of the most sacred sites in the Pilbara region … we wanted to have that area protected,” PKKP director Burchell Hayes told Guardian Australia.

Burchell Hayes says his people are devastated the lessons from the site can never be passed onto future generations.

“It is precious to have something like that plaited hair, found on our country, and then have further testing link it back to the Kurrama people. It’s something to be proud of, but it’s also sad. Its resting place for 4,000 years is no longer there.”

Hayes said the site had been used as a campsite by Kurrama moving through the area, including in the memory of some elders.

“We want to do the same, we want to show the next generation,” he said. “Now, if this site has been destroyed, then we can tell them stories but we can’t show them photographs or take them out there to stand at the rock shelter and say: this is where your ancestors lived, starting 46,000 years ago.”

Rio Tinto was given permission to blast Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 under Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

The Aboriginal Heritage Act has been up for review, in some form, since 2012. Draft legislation put forward by the former Liberal government in 2014 was rejected after even a National party MP argued it was unfair to traditional owners and did not allow for adequate consultation.

Rewriting the act was listed as a priority for Labor before their election win in 2017, and last month WA’s Aboriginal affairs minister Ben Wyatt pushed back the final consultation on his draft bill until later this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new legislation will provide options to appeal or amend agreements to allow for the destruction of heritage sites, Wyatt said. He wasn’t aware of the risk to the Juukan site, or its destruction.

“It will provide for agreements between traditional owners and proponents to include a process to consider new information that may come to light, and allow the parties to be able to amend the agreements by mutual consent,” he said. “The legislation will also provide options for appeal should either party not be compliant with the agreement.”

In its submission to the legislative review, Rio Tinto said it was broadly supportive of the proposed reform but that consent orders granted under the current system should be carried over, and that rights of appeal should be fixed, not broad or subject to extensions, lest it “prolong approvals or appeals processes at a critical point in the project.”

A spokesman from Rio Tinto said the company had a relationship with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people dating back three decades, “and we have been working together in relation to the Juukan area over the past 17 years”.

“Rio Tinto has worked constructively together with the PKKP People on a range of heritage matters and has, where practicable, modified its operations to avoid heritage impacts and to protect places of cultural significance to the group,” the company said.

The mining company signed a native title agreement with the traditional owners in 2011, four years before their native title claim received formal assent by the federal court. They facilitated the salvage dig in 2014, which uncovered the true age of the site.

Archaeologist Dr Michael Slack, who led that dig, said it was a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. An earlier 1-metre test dig, conducted in 2008, dated the site at about 20,000 years old, but the salvage expedition uncovered a “very significant site” with more than 7,000 artefacts collected, including grid stones that were 40,000 years old, thousands of bones from middens which showed changes in fauna as the climate changed, and sacred objects.

The flat floor of the cave allowed for a significant depth of soil and sand to build up, creating a layer almost two metres deep in parts. Most archaeological digs in the Pilbara hit the rock at 30cm.

Indigenous rock art in the Spear Valley region shows a turtle carved into a rock.

Most significantly, the archaeological records did not disappear during the last Ice Age. Most inland archaeological sites in Australia show that people moved away during the Ice Age between 23,000 and 19,000 years ago, as the country dried up and water sources dried up. Archaeological evidence from Juukan Gorge suggests it was occupied throughout.

“It was the sort of site you do not get very often, you could have worked there for years,” he said. “How significantly does something have to be, to be valued by wider society?” he said.

Baby lyuba, the worlds most complete and Best-Preserved Woolly Mammoth

Baby lyuba, the worlds most complete and Best-Preserved Woolly Mammoth

She is 42,000 years old and has come a long way for her Australian debut. First, she was recovered from the frozen mud in Siberia that was her tomb for so long. Then she was packed into a crate at a tiny museum in Russia and flown to a humidity-controlled cube at the Australian Museum.

Mammoths – Giants of the ice age

The ice age world of woolly mammoths will be brought to life in Mammoths – Giants of the Ice Age, exclusive to the Australian Museum from 17 November 2017.

Baby Lyuba, the world’s most complete and best-preserved woolly mammoth, has arrived in Sydney. She is in remarkable condition, with her skin and internal organs intact. Scientists even found her mother’s milk in her belly.

The 42,000-year-old baby woolly mammoth was unveiled on Friday at the Sydney Museum

We will finally be able to see her when she is unveiled as the centrepiece of the museum’s Mammoths – Giants of the Ice Age exhibition.

Lyuba, who died at 35 days, is one of Russia’s national treasures, and the government is reluctant to let her out of its sight too often. This is only the fifth time Shemanovsky Museum has let her out, and it’s her first trip to the southern hemisphere.

The mammoth was first spotted in 2007 by Yuri Khudi, a Siberian reindeer herder, who found her as the frost thawed on a muddy bank of the Yuribey River. When he brought a team of scientists back to recover her, she was gone; someone else had got there first.

The 42,000-year old carcass was discovered by a reindeer herder

The team tracked her to a village deep within Siberia’s frozen wasteland. She was propped up on the door of a shop. The shop keeper had reportedly bought her for two snowmobiles and a year’s worth of food from Mr Khudi’s cousin.

“And while she was propped up, a dog came up and chewed off her tail and her ear. If only for that she’d be completely intact,” says Trevor Ahearn​, the Australian Museum’s creative producer.

Lyuba (Lay-oo-bah) means love in Russian. The museum has chosen to surround her with models of huge, ferocious adult mammoths, much as the herd would have surrounded and protected her in life.

It is thought her feet had become stuck in a muddy hole on the side of a Siberian riverbank. Before her mother could yank her out, Lyuba slipped below the surface, where the mud choked her mouth and trunk.

But the mud that killed her also contained sediments and bacteria that created an acid barrier around her body, in effect pickling her. When the river froze over, she was left perfectly preserved.

Had she lived a full mammoth life – 60 years – Lyuba would have grown to more than three metres in height and about five tonnes. To sustain that bodyweight she would have consumed up to 180 kilograms of grass and 80 litres of water a day. Mammoths lived in the late Paleolithic period, which stretched from about 200,000 BC, the time Homo sapiens first emerged in Africa, to 10,000 BC.

Mammoths were uniquely adapted for the conditions, with small ears and thick, woolly fur. They ate grass and bark and roamed across Europe, North America and Siberia.

That makes Lyuba the first of her kind to visit our shores, and it took the Australian Museum a fair bit of what director Kim McKay terms “cultural diplomacy” to get her over here. Negotiations involved the Shemanovsky Museum and the Russian government.

Mr Ahearn says: “One of the first things we had to do before we brought Lyuba over here was absolutely guarantee our Russian colleagues that there was no possibility of her getting seized because there is some controversy over who owns her.

“She’s a little controversial in Russia, with her association with an oil company that helped bring her into the museum. I think it’s paranoia. Russia is feeling a little bit of pressure, so I don’t know if it’s founded. There are lots of myths; it’s all very hazy.”

The prospect of mammoth cloning

Scientists have two competing theories on why mammoths became extinct about 10,000 years ago. Both have important things to tell us about the modern environment – and perhaps contain a message about why we shouldn’t be trying to bring mammoths back.

The first theory is climate change. The ending of the ice age about 10,000 BC may have dramatically reduced the area in which these cold-environment animals could survive.

The second theory is over-hunting. Mammoths, with their tonnes of fat, would have represented an incredibly valuable food source for early humans, who developed sharp spears to hunt them. Scientists think it is possible the mammoth is the first species humanity managed to push into extinction.

Mammoth cloning has always excited the popular imagination, and the exhibition dedicates a section to the possibilities. So far, we have sequenced about 70 per cent of mammoth DNA, so the raw material is not there yet. But even if we could, we shouldn’t, says David Alquezar​, manager of the Australian Museum’s genetics lab.

“The money to do that could be better invested in species that are endangered right now, rather than focusing our efforts on a species that has been extinct for 10,000 years,” says Dr Alquezar.

7,000 years old Australian Aboriginal Sites Discovered Underwater

7,000 years old Australian Aboriginal Sites Discovered Underwater

According to a report released July 1 , 2020, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jonathan Benjamin of Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia and colleagues, ancient submerged Aboriginal archaeological sites await underwater rediscovery off the coast of Australia.

Sea levels were about 80 metres lower than today when humans first settled in Australia as early as 65,000 years ago. As the global atmosphere cooled, sea levels fluctuated but continued to fall.

As the world plunged into the last ice age, which peaked around 20,000 years ago, sea levels dropped to 130 metres lower than they are now.

Between 18,000 and 8,000 years ago the world warmed up. Melting ice sheets caused sea levels to rise. Tasmania was cut off from the mainland around 11,000 years ago. New Guinea separated from Australia around 8,000 years ago.

The sea-level rise flooded 2.12 million square kilometres of land on the continental shelf surrounding Australia. Thousands of generations of people would have lived out their lives on these landscapes now underwater.

In this study, Benjamin and colleagues report the results of several field campaigns between 2017-2019 during which they applied a series of techniques for locating and investigating submerged archaeological sites, including aerial and underwater remote sensing technologies as well as a direct investigation by divers.

Site location in northwest Australia, left, and the Dampier Archipelago, right.

They investigated two sites off the Murujuga coastline of northwest Australia.

In Cape Bruguieres Channel, divers identified 269 artefacts dating to at least 7,000 years old, and a single artefact was identified in a freshwater spring in Flying Foam Passage, dated to at least 8,500 years old. These are the first confirmed underwater archaeological sites found on Australia’s continental shelf.

A selection of stone artefacts found on the seabed.
A stone tool associated with a freshwater spring, now 14m underwater.

These findings demonstrate the utility of these exploratory techniques for locating submerged archaeological sites.

The authors hope that these techniques can be expanded upon in the future for systematic recovery and investigation of ancient Aboriginal cultural artefacts.

They further urge that future exploration will rely not only on careful and safe scientific procedures but also on legislation to protect and manage Aboriginal cultural heritage along the Australian coastline.

Benjamin says, “Managing, investigating and understanding the archaeology of the Australian continental shelf in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional owners and custodians is one of the last frontiers in Australian archaeology.” He adds, “Our results represent the first step in a journey of discovery to explore the potential of archaeology on the continental shelves which can fill a major gap in the human history of the continent.”