Archaeologists discover 4,800-year-old fossil of a mother cradling a baby
The ancient remains of a young mother and a child locked in a 4,800-year-old embrace were discovered by archeologists.
Of 48 sets of remains discovered from tombs in Taiwan, including five children’s fossils, this makes a remarkable discovery.
The scientists were shocked to find the maternal moment, which they claim are the first evidence of human activity in central Taiwan.
Preserved for nearly 5,000 years, the skeleton found in the Taichung area shows a young mother gazing down at the baby cradled in her arms.
Researchers turned to carbon dating to determine the ages of the fossils, which they traced back to the Neolithic Age, a period within the Stone Age.
Excavation began and took a year for archaeologists to complete. But of all the remains found in the ancient graves, one pair set stood out from the rest.
‘When it was unearthed, all of the archaeologists and staff members were shocked.
‘Why? Because the mother was looking down at the baby in her hands,’ said Chu Whei-lee, a curator in the Anthropology Department at Taiwan’s National Museum of Natural Science.
According to the researchers’ measurements, the mother was just 160 cm tall, or 5 foot 2 inches. The infant in her arms is 50 cm tall – just over a foot-and-a-half.
This breathtaking discovery came as a surprise to the researchers on sight, but it isn’t the first of its kind. In the past, archaeologists have dug up remains of similar moments that have been preserved for thousands of years.
Notably, Chinese archaeologists unearthed the interlocked skeletons of a mother and child last year from an Early Bronze Age archaeological site branded the ‘Pompeii of the East’, the People’s Daily Online reported.
The mother is thought to have been trying to protect her child during a powerful earthquake that hit Qinghai province, central China, in about 2,000 BC.
Experts speculated that the site was hit by an earthquake and flooding of the Yellow River.
Photographs of the skeletal remains show the mother looking up above as she kneels on the floor, with her arms around her young child. Archaeologists say they believe her child was a boy.
Archaeologists discover fossil of ancient turtle species that never grew a shell
A fossil freshly discovered turtle, that lived 228 million years ago, illustrates how modern turtles have developed these traits. It had a beak, but while its body was Frisbee-shaped, its wide ribs hadn’t grown to form a shell-like we see in turtles today.
“This reptile was more than six feet long and with a curious body and a long tail and its anterior part became this strange beak,” says Olivier Rieppel, a paleontologist at Chicago’s Field Museum and one of the authors of a new paper in Nature. “It probably lived in shallow water and dug in the mud for food.”
The new species has been christened Eorhynchochelys Sinensis — a mouthful, but with a straightforward meaning.
Eorhynchochelys (“Ay-oh-rink-oh-keel-is”) means “dawn beak turtle” — essentially, the first turtle with a beak — while Sinensis, meaning “from China,” refers to the place where it was found by the study’s lead author, Li Chun of China’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.
Eorhynchochelys isn’t the only kind of early turtle that scientists have discovered — there is another early turtle with a partial shell but no beak.
Until now, it’s been unclear how they all fit into the reptile family tree. “The origin of turtles has been an unsolved problem in paleontology for many decades,” says Rieppel. “Now with Eorhynchochelys, how turtles evolved has become a lot clearer.”
The fact that Eorhynchochelys developed a beak before other early turtles but didn’t have a shell is evidence of mosaic evolution — the idea that traits can evolve independently from each other and at a different rate, and that not every ancestral species has the same combination of these traits.
Modern turtles have both shells and beaks, but the path evolution took to get there wasn’t a straight line. Instead, some turtle relatives got partial shells while others got beaks, and eventually, the genetic mutations that create these traits occurred in the same animal.
“This impressively large fossil is a very exciting discovery giving us another piece in the puzzle of turtle evolution,” says Nick Fraser, an author of the study from National Museums Scotland.
“It shows that early turtle evolution was not a straightforward, step-by-step accumulation of unique traits but was a much more complex series of events that we are only just beginning to unravel.”
Fine details in the skull of Eorhynchochelys solved another turtle evolution mystery.
For years, scientists weren’t sure if turtle ancestors were part of the same reptile group as modern lizards and snakes — diapsids, which early in their evolution had two holes on the sides of their skulls — or if they were anapsids that lack these openings. Eorhynchochelys’s skull shows signs that it was a diapsid.
“With Eorhynchochelys’s diapsid skull, we know that turtles are not related to the early anapsid reptiles, but are instead related to evolutionarily more advanced diapsid reptiles. This is cemented, the debate is over,” says Rieppel.
The study’s authors say that their findings, both about how and when turtles developed shells and their status as diapsids, will change how scientists think about this branch of animals.
“I was surprised myself,” says Rieppel. “Eorhynchochelys makes the turtle family tree make sense. Until I saw this fossil, I didn’t buy some of its relatives as turtles. Now, I do.”
This study was contributed to by the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the CAS Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, National Museums Scotland, the Field Museum, and the Canadian Museum of Nature.
Ancient Viruses Buried in Tibetan Glaciers for 15,000 Years Discovered by Scientists
In the Tibetan plateau of China the Earth’s oldest glacial ice is found. It is home to a group of frozen viruses for more than 15,000 years, most of them until now unknown.
Scientists have now pointed out that viruses and have warned that more and more infections could also appear as climate change continues to melt more and more ice
Two Tibetan glacier ice cores were studied by the team and unveiling the presence of 28 previously unknown virus groups. Investigating them will be key to learn which viruses have developed in different climates over time, researchers argued in their paper on server bioRxiv.
“The microbes differed significantly across the two ice cores, presumably representing the very different climate conditions at the time of deposition that is similar to findings in other cores,” the researchers wrote, claiming the experiment will help to establish a baseline for glacier viruses.
Sampling ice cores is no easy feat. You not only have to do it in the right conditions to ensure that the ice is unaffected, but you also have to ensure that no contamination is caused.
The team created a protocol for ultraclean microbial and viral sampling, applying it to two preserved ice core samples from 1992 and 2015.
These cores were not handled in a way that prevents contamination during drilling, handling, and transportation — which means that the exterior of the ice was most likely contaminated. In order to avoid this effect, researchers only analyzed the inside of the core, which was presumed to be unaffected.
The team worked in a cold room at minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) to access the inner part of the cores, using a saw to cut 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters) of ice from the outside later.
Then, the team used ethanol to wash and melt another 0.2 inches of ice and then sterile water to wash another 0.2 inches. This allowed them to access the inner layer to do their study, having in total shaved off about 0.6 inches or 1.5 centimeters of ice of the sample.
A total of 33 groups of viruses were found in the ice cores, of which 28 were completely new to science. “The microbes differed significantly across the two ice cores,” the researchers wrote, “presumably representing the very different climate conditions at the time of deposition.”
The growing temperatures of the world because of climate change is melting glaciers across the planet, so these viral archives could soon be lost, the researchers said. But that’s not the only bad news, as the ice melt could challenge our ability to stay safe from them.
“At a minimum, [ice melt] could lead to the loss of microbial and viral archives that could be diagnostic and informative of past Earth climate regimes,” they wrote. “However, in a worst-case scenario, this ice melt could release pathogens into the environment.”
Farmer Digging a well find the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in China
When farmers Yang Zhifa found a piece of an old terracotta as he dug a well, he thought he’d stumbled on a disused kiln that could supply him with free jars. How wrong he was: it turned out to be the first warrior of the famous Chinese terracotta army.
It was in the Chinese New Year in March 1974 and was especially dry in that time, Yang’s production unit decided to dig a well to water the crops of the cooperative farm.
“At first the digging went well. The second day we hit hard red earth. The third day, my hoe dug out the neck of a terracotta statue without a head, but the opening at the bottom was about the size of a bowl,” he recalled.
“I commented to my workmate that it was probably the site of an old kiln. He advised me to dig carefully so that we’d be able to dig out any old jars and take them home for our own use.”
As they went on digging, the peasants came across the shoulders and torso of a statue. So it evidently wasn’t a kiln, they thought, but a temple. Then they realised that it was a complete body, apart from one leg that had been cut off, and the missing head. As they went on digging, they turned up bronze items. One of Yang’s colleagues teased him: “You like a nice pipe, and these things will be worth quite a bit of money. You’ll be able to swap them for tobacco.”
“It was the middle of the Cultural Revolution at the time, and everything was topsy-turvy in the villages. People had gathered round and were watching us. When the older ones saw these ‘statues of gods’ and the bronze objects we had dug up, they weren’t at all pleased. They said they were part of the local feng shui, and that digging them up would do no good either to the village or to us.” But Yang had spent six years in the army and knew something about ancient objects.
“People had always said that the tomb of the Qin emperor covered an area of just over 9 hectares and that our village was about two kilometres from the mausoleum. These objects could be of historic interest. So I called some women and harnessed up three two-wheeled carts to transport them […] to the Lintong district museum several kilometres away.“
Yang wasn’t too sure what the museum would say about his find. “If they aren’t of any historic interest, I’ll throw them into the river, have a wash and go home,” he thought as he and his colleagues transported their unusual load. The experts at the museum recognised the fragments and the “statue of the god” as dating from the Qin dynasty – the third century B.C. – and that they were therefore extremely valuable.
“They paid us CNY10 (yuan) per cart, so a total of CNY30. We were really happy to get so much for having brought three carts of terracotta,” said Yang. At the time CNY10 was the equivalent of an annual salary in poor rural areas.
When they got back to the village they handed the money to their production unit, as was required under the collective system. Each one of them was awarded five points – the equivalent of half a day’s work – or 13 fen (a fen being a hundredth of a yuan) that they could use to buy food or other goods. At first, that was their entire reward.
Hour of glory
The authorities then decided to build a museum on the site of the mausoleum. The villagers – including Yang – were displaced. He received 5,000 yuan in compensation for his 167 square metres of land.
He moved to a new village, called Qinyong (meaning “Qin warriors”), six kilometres from the museum. He was given a three-room flat, similar to the ones allocated to other relocated villagers. But they were angry with him: if they had to leave their homes it was “because of him”, he explained. To get away from their hostile looks and remarks, he moved about a kilometre away.
When he thinks about it now, it didn’t really make much difference to his life. But he says that the discovery of the site and the reforms introduced by the authorities led to a rise in the standard of living and some of the villagers have been able to make money by setting up businesses.
But Yang doesn’t have a head for that sort of thing. The museum gave him job signing autographs for visitors. “At first I was earning CNY300 a month. By the time I retired it was 1,000.” Yang had his hour of glory when Bill Clinton visited the museum and asked for his autograph. The former US president isn’t the only world leader Yang met. He can’t remember all the names, but he has their photos on his wall. At the end of March 1990, Swiss photographer Daniel Schwartz, together with an assistant and a technician from Hong Kong, travelled to Lintong to.
When he stopped working at the museum, Yang found himself with practically no income. But he is philosophical about it.
“Whether it’s fair or not, I can’t do anything about it. I’m only a simple peasant,” he commented, but he is not unhappy either. “There were too many people at the museum. Sometimes I didn’t feel too well after working all day.” The museum now draws millions of visitors a year and earns some CNY480 million from them (about CHF72 million).
But few people still remember Yang. His name does not even appear on the explanatory board at the entrance to the display, which says simply that the terracotta army was discovered by local peasants. The People’s Daily wrote that “peasants don’t know anything about science. It’s impossible that they should have discovered anything,” said Yang.
“That’s life. Even if there is a lot of injustice in society, there’s no point in getting angry about it.” And as he pointed out, the discovery of the “eighth wonder of the world” may not have made him rich, but it still makes him proud.
There Are 8,000 Known Terracotta Warriors. But Archaeologists in China Just Found More Than 200 Others
At the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, nearly 200 more warriors from the ancient China Terracotta Army were unearthed.
The remains of the two chariots, 12 clay horses, bronze swords, arcades and decorative helmets on the site were also found by archeologists.
During the recent excavations of the No. 1 pit in an area covering 400 square meters (4 300 square feet), the finding, which was confirmed by the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Most of the newly-found warriors were divided into two groups. One group is carrying poles, while the other carries bows, by Shen Maosheng who led the digging.
The Terracotta Army was built around 2,200 years ago to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. The army, which consists of an estimated 8,000 soldiers, over 500 horses and 130 chariots, was assembled in three main pits near to the emperor’s mausoleum.
It was first discovered in 1974 by farmers digging in northwest China. Excavations soon revealed a huge complex with thousands of soldiers, each with individual features.
The tomb is believed to span around 38 square miles and, along with the Terracotta Army, contains a mass grave of laborers and craftsmen. The complex is believed to have taken around 30 years to build.
Archaeologists launched a new excavation at No.1 Pit in 2009. The 200 new warriors were found as part of this effort. This project aimed to better understand the military service system and equipment used by the Qin Dynasty army.
According to Xinhua, No.1 Pit contains 6,000 clay warriors and horses. It is estimated to be 750-feet long and 200-feet wide.
Scientists are still working to understand how this vast army was created. Last year, researchers led by Marcos Martinon-Torres, from the Department of Archaeology at the U.K.’s University of Cambridge, announced that the weapons at the site had been remarkably well-preserved because of the natural conditions in the pits where they were buried. Previously, it had been suggested that they had been coated in some sort of advanced, anti-rust technology.
“In some ways the Terracotta Army feels like an extraordinary playground for archaeologists: It is large, complex, well-preserved, meticulously excavated and great fun,” he told Newsweek at the time. “It raises countless questions that demand tailor-made collaborative approaches and keep all of us amused.”
While the Qin Dynasty lasted just 15 years, it was the first time China was ruled as a unified country. As well as the Terracotta Army, Emperor Qin Shi Huang was also responsible for the construction of the Great Wall of China.
The Ancient Remains of 5,000-Year-Old ‘Giants’ Discovered in China
In China, archeologists discovered a 5,000-year-old graveyard where ‘ Giants ‘ were buried. Skeletal remains suggest that they were almost a foot taller than anybody else who lived at the time.
Mystery surrounds a recent excavation performed by Chinese archaeologists in eastern parts of the country as they have uncovered the remains of ‘Giants’ that lived in the area some 5000 years ago. Their bone structure shows they were unusually tall and strong report experts.
Archeologists found the remains of unusually ‘ tall ‘ and strong people in Eastern China according to the latest reports from the Chinese news agencies…
According to reports from the People’s Daily Online, the men discovered in the graves measured from around five foot 11 inches to six foot three inches which would have been considered extremely tall 5,000 years ago.
“This is just based on the bone structure. If he was a living person, his height would certainly exceed 1.9 meters,” said Fang Hui, head of Shandong University’s school of history and culture.
For twelve months have Chinese experts been excavating the remains of more than 100 houses, 200 graves and around 20 sacrificial pits located in the Jiaojia village in Zhangqiu District, Jinan City, the capital of Shandong? The ancient relics excavated by archaeologists belong to a late Neolithic Civilization located near the lower reaches of the Yellow River.
“Already agricultural at that time, people had diverse and rich food resources and thus their physique changed,” added Hui.
People in the area most likely lived off agriculture and raising pigs as remains of pig bones were found in some of the tombs.
Archaeologists believe that the skeletons of larger height belong to men of a higher status in the village. Their height is believed to have been related to their status since taller and stronger men could acquire better food, report the People’s Daily Online.
Furthermore, it is believed that people who inhabited the region around Shandong were among the tallest in China, something backed up by official statistics.
According to reports, in 2015, the average height of men 18 years old in Shandong averaged 5.75 feet compared to the national average of 5.64.
Curiously, Confucius, a native to the region was said to be about 1.9 meters tall, or 6.2 feet.
In addition to the unusually tall skeletons, experts also discovered that people in the region lived incredibly comfortable lives and their houses were exceptionally well built, with separate kitchens and bedrooms according to archaeologists. One of the archaeologists—Wang Fen, head of the Jiaojia excavation team—said that they also discovered remains of colorful pottery and jade artifacts as well as ruins of ditches and clay embankments.
Furthermore, experts believe the region was a political, economic and cultural center 5,000 years ago.
Wang Yongbo of the Shandong Provincial Institute of Archeology believes the Jiaojia ruins fill a cultural blank 4,500 to 5,000 years ago in the lower reaches of the Yellow River.
Among the graves, archaeologists found that some of the skeletons show clear signs of damage to the head and leg bones. The damage is believed to have been caused due to struggles related to power among high-ranking individuals.
Li Boqian, an archaeologist with Peking University said: “Excavations showed Jiaojia in a transition phase, but proved the existence of ancient states 5,000 years ago in the basin of lower Yellow River.”
Currently, experts are looking to expand the excavation site and more interesting discoveries are expected to be made. The archaeological area of the Jiaojia site has been enlarged from an initial 240,000 square meters to 1 sq km. currently, only 2,000 square meters have been excavated reports the People’s Daily Online.
“Further study and excavation of the site are of great value to our understanding of the origin of culture in east China,” said Zhou Xiaobo, deputy head of the Shandong provincial bureau of cultural heritage.
Divers found a perfectly preserved ancient Chinese underwater city
A maze of white temples, memorial arches, paved roads, and houses… hidden 130 feet underwater: this is China’s real-life Atlantis.
Incredible images show an incredible sunken city hidden in the depths of Qiandao Lake in China. Divers discovered a jaw-dropping labyrinth of adorned temples, memorial arches and dragon carvings, deep in the tranquil waters.
The ancient city, which is hidden 130 feet underwater, was once Shi Cheng – the centre of politics and economics in the eastern province of Zhejiang.
But despite it’s beauty, the city was deliberately flooded by the Chinese government in 1959 to make way for a new hydroelectric power station.
The historical metropolis, built over 1,300 years ago, was slowly filled with water until it was completely submerged by the turquoise-blue mass now referred to as Qiandao Lake.
The city, which is now dubbed “Lion City” because it is tucked between the Five Lion Mountains, then lay forgotten for 53 years in the man-made lake.
But since being rediscovered in almost perfect condition, it has resurfaced as an underwater adventure park for tourists. Depending on where on the lake bottom it is, the city is between 85 and 131 feet underwater.
Qiu Feng, a local official in charge of tourism, introduced the idea of using Shi Cheng as a destination for diving clubs.
The first voyage was one of discovery, and Qui said: “We were lucky. As soon as we dived into the lake, we found the outside wall of the town and even picked up a brick to prove it.”
It was later discovered that the entire town was intact, including wooden beams and stairs. Now the city has attracted interest from archaeologists and a film crew has been on site to record the preservation of the lost ruins.
April-October is the recommended months to visit, as there is warmer weather at the lake and hopefully warmer water below the thermocline.
The colder air temperatures in Nov-March can make it uncomfortable for divers to do three dives in a day, particularly those diving in wetsuits. Depending on the time of year, the water temperature can range from 7-16c.
Although it is breathtaking, it’s important to remember the differences between the conditions encountered here vs. clear ocean water. All divers are required to do an initial 25ft dive in the lagoon, to ensure they are safe to continue.
Visibility at the surface is about 5ft at best, dropping down to a mere 6 inches in some places at the bottom of the lagoon. But this isn’t the only bizarre sunken city which has been uncovered after years of neglect.
10 tons of copper coins unearthed in 2,000 years old ancient tomb
Archaeologists have unearthed more than two million copper coins from an ancient complex of tombs in the Xinjian District of China.
The 2,000-year-old money, which bears Chinese symbols, characters, and a square hole in the centre, was found at a dig site in the city of Nanchang.
The value of the coins is said to be around £104,000 ($157,340) and experts believe the main tomb is that of Liu He – the grandson of Emperor Wu, the greatest ruler of Han Dynasty.
The dynasty ruled between 206 BC and 25 AD.
Experts hope the discovery – which also includes 10,000 other gold, bronze and iron items, chimes, bamboo slips, and tomb figurines – may now shed more light on the life of nobility from ancient times.
The find follows a five-year excavation process on the site which houses eight tombs and a chariot burial site.
It covers (430,550 sq ft (40,000 square metres) with walls that stretch for almost 9,690 ft (900 metres) and experts believe Liu’s wife is buried in one of the tombs, RT reported.
Xin Lixiang of the China National Museum said the next step is to look within the tomb for items that will give a clearer idea of the occupant.
‘There may be a royal seal and jade clothes that will suggest the status and identity of the tomb’s occupant,’ he said.
Chinese people started using coins as currency around 1,200 BC, where instead of trading small farming implements and knives, they would melt them down into small round objects and then turn them back into knives and farm implements when needed.
It meant early coins were known as ‘knife money’ or ‘tool money’, and as people began to rely on them more for commerce they were replaced by copper coins which were of very low value and often had holes in the middle.
The hole meant the coins could be strung together to create larger denominations, with typically around 1,000 coins on a single string being worth one tael of pure silver.
At face value, they would be valued at around £104,060 ($157,340), but because of their age and history are believed to be worth far more.
A single coin can, in fact, sell for thousands of pounds, although at the time copper coins had a very low value. The Western Han was regarded as the first unified and powerful empire in Chinese history.
While there are many theories behind the fall of the Western Han Dynasty, recent research suggests human interaction with the environment played a central role in its demise.
A census taken by China in 2 AD suggests the area struck by the massive 14-17 AD flood was very heavily populated, with an average of 122 people per square kilometre, or approximately 9.5 million people living directly in the flood’s path.
By AD 20-21, the devastated region had become the centre of a rebellion that would end the Western Han Dynasty’s five-century reign of power.
Along with the tonnes of coins found were also chimes, bamboo slips, and tomb figurines, all of which accompanied deceased nobles of the past when they were buried underground.
The items discovered have promised to help fill in more gaps as historians try to complete the puzzle of ancient Chinese burial customs.