Category Archives: EUROPE

archaeologists discover almost complete 300,000-year-old elephant skeleton

Archaeologists discover almost complete 300,000-year-old elephant skeleton

300,000 years ago in Lower Saxony elephants spread around Schoningen. In recent years there were the remains of at least ten elephants at Palaeolithic sites situated on the edges of the former opencast lignite mine.

Eurasian straight-tusked elephant died by the shores of a lake in Schoningen, Lower Saxony

In cooperation with the National Saxony State Office for Heritage, archeologists at the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tubingen have collected for the first time in Schoningen an almost complete skeleton of the Eurasian straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon Antiquus).

The species has died in what had been the western shore of the lake — what exactly happened and what the biotope surrounding the area was like 300,000 years ago is now being carefully reconstructed by the team. The preliminary study will be published in Archaologie in Deutschland and will be first presented at a press conference in Schoningen on Tuesday the 19th of May.

“The former open-cast mine in Schoningen is the first-rate archive of climate change, as stated by Bjorn Thumler, Lower Saxony’s Science Minister: This must be made even clearer in the future. This is a place where we can trace how humankind went from being a companion of nature to a designer of culture.”

Head of the excavation, Jordi Serangeli, wipes sediment away from the elephant’s foot

The elephant skeleton lies on the 300,000 years old lakeshore in water-saturated sediments. Like most of the finds at Schoningen, it is extraordinarily well preserved as Jordi Serangeli, head of the excavation in Schoningen explains. “We found both 2.3-meter-long tusks, the complete lower jaw, numerous vertebrae and ribs as well as large bones belonging to three of the legs and even all five delicate hyoid bones.”

The elephant is an older female with worn teeth, as archaeozoologist, Ivo Verheijen explains. “The animal had a shoulder height of about 3.2 meters and weighed about 6.8 tonnes—it was, therefore, larger than today’s African elephant cows.”

Pictured above is a composite photograph of the find. Archaeologists suggested the elephant had died due to old age, although they didn’t rule out human hunting

It most probably died of old age and not as a result of human hunting. “Elephants often remain near and in the water when they are sick or old,” says Verheijen. “Numerous bite marks on the recovered bones show that carnivores visited the carcass.” 

However, the hominins of that time would have profited from the elephant too; the team found 30 small flint flakes and two long bones which were used as tools for knapping among the elephant bones. Barbara Rodriguez Alvarez was able to find micro flakes embedded in these two bones, which proves that the resharpening of stone artifacts took place near to the elephant remains. She also refits two small flakes, this confirms that flint knapping took place at the spot where the elephant skeleton was found.

“The Stone Age hunters probably cut meat, tendons and fat from the carcass,” says Serangeli. Elephants that die may have been a diverse and relatively common source of food and resources for Homo heidelbergensis. Serangeli says that according to current data, although the Palaeolithic hominins were accomplished hunters, there was no compelling reason for them to put themselves in danger by hunting adult elephants. Straight-tusked elephants were a part of their environment, and the hominins knew that they frequently died on the lakeshore.

Several archaeological sites in the world have yielded bones of elephants and stone artifacts, e.g. Lehringen in Lower Saxony, Bilzingsleben in Thuringia, Grobern in Saxony-Anhalt, Benot Ya’aqov in Israel, Aridos 1 and 2 as well as Torralba and Ambrona in Spain, Casal dei Pazzi in Rome, Cimitero di Atella, Poggetti Vecchi in Italy and Ebbsfleet in England. Some of these sites have been interpreted as examples of elephant hunts in the Lower or Middle Palaeolithic. 

Reconstruction of the Schöningen lakeshore as the humans discovered the carcass of the straight-tusked elephant.

“With the new find from Schoningen we do not seek to rule out that extremely dangerous elephant hunts may have taken place, but the evidence often leaves us in some doubt. To quote Charles Darwin: ‘It is not the strongest that survives, but the one who can adapt best’. According to this, the adaptability of humans was the decisive factor for their evolutionary success and not the size of their prey.”

The fact that there were numerous elephants around the Schoningen lake is proven by footprints left behind and documented approximately 100 meters from the elephant excavation site. Flavio Altamura from Sapienza University of Rome who analysed the tracks, tells us that this is the first find of its kind in Germany.

“A small herd of adults and younger animals must have passed through. The heavy animals were walking parallel to the lakeshore. Their feet sank into the mud, leaving behind circular tracks with a maximum diameter of about 60 centimeters.”

The Schoningen sites have already provided a great deal of information about plants, animals and human existence 300,000 years ago during the Reinsdorf interglacial. The climate at that time was comparable to that of today, but the landscape was much richer in wildlife.

About 20 large mammal species lived around the lake in Schoningen at that time, including not only elephants but also lions, bears, sabre-toothed cats, rhinoceroses, wild horses, deer and large bovids. “The wealth of wildlife was similar to that of modern Africa,” says Serangeli.

The discoveries in Schoningen include some of the oldest fossil finds of an auroch in Europe, of a water buffalo, and three saber-toothed cats. In Schoningen archaeologists also recovered some of the world’s oldest and best-preserved hunting weapons: ten wooden spears and at least one throwing stick.

Stone artifacts and bone tools complete the overall picture of the technology of the time. “The lakeshore sediments of Schoningen offer unique preservation and frequently provide us with detailed and important insights into the culture of Homo heidelbergensis,” says Nicholas Conard, head of the Schoningen research project.

Further detailed analyses of the environmental and climatic conditions at the time of the elephant’s death are taking place at the Technische Universitat Braunschweig, the University of Luneburg, and the University of Leiden (The Netherlands). The excavations in Schoningen are financed by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony.

Controversial Claim by Geologist: 14 million-year-old vehicle tracks

Controversial Claim by Geologist: 14 million-year-old vehicle tracks

An ancient civilization drove massive all-terrain vehicles around Earth millions of years ago – and the traces are still visible today – a Russian university scholar claimed.

Dr. Alexander Koltypin a geologist believes that mysterious groove-like markings in the Phrygian Valley of central Turkey were made by an intelligent race between 12 and 14 million years ago.

Geologist  Dr. Alexander Koltypin said: It is supposed to be the old vehicles driven on soft soil on wheels, maybe a wet surface.

Relief in basalt depicting a battle chariot, Carchemish, 9th century BC; Late Hittite style with Assyrian influence. Did such vehicles leave the tracks in the ancient Phrygia Valley?

‘Because of their weight the ruts were so deep. And later these ruts – and all the surface around – just petrified and secured all the evidence.

‘Such cases are well known to geologists, for example, the footprints of dinosaurs were ‘naturally preserved’ in a similar way.’

Dr. Koltypin, director of the Natural Science Scientific Research Centre at Moscow’s International Independent Ecological-Political University has just returned from a field trip to the site in Anatolia with three colleagues. He described the markings as ‘petrified tracking ruts in rocky tuffaceous [made from compacted volcanic ash] deposits’.

Repeated travel with vehicles eventually cut into the soft, volcanic rock in Turkey.

He said: ‘All these rocky fields were covered with the ruts left some millions of years ago….we are not talking about human beings.’

The academic said: ‘We are dealing with some kind of cars or all-terrain vehicles. The pairs of ruts are crossing each other from time to time and some ruts are deeper than the others.’

According to his observations, ‘the view of the ruts leaves no doubt that they are ancient, in some places the surface suffered from weathering, cracks are seen here’. The age of the ruts is between 12 and 14 million years old, he believes.

‘The methodology of specifying the age of volcanic rocks is very well studied and worked out,’ he said.

‘As a geologist, I can certainly tell you that unknown antediluvian [pre-Biblical] all-terrain vehicles drove around Central Turkey some 12-to-14 million years ago.’ He claims archaeologists ‘avoid touching this matter’ because it will ‘ruin all their classic theories’.

He said: ‘I think we are seeing the signs of the civilisation which existed before the classic creation of this world.

‘Maybe the creatures of that pre-civilization were not like modern human beings. ‘

Koltypin (pictured) graduated in Soviet times from the Russian State Geological Prospecting University, later working as a mainstream scientist

He claimed the ancient ‘car tracks’ are one of a number of clues ‘which prove the existence of ancient civilizations’ but which are often ignored by mainstream scientists. There was no comprehensible system for the tracks but the distance between each pair of tracks ‘is always the same,’ he said.

The deep tracks run along the landscape, some reportedly as deep as 3 feet (1 meter).

He added that the distance very much fits that between the wheels of modern cars, but the tracks are too deep for today’s vehicles.

‘The maximum depth of a rut is about three feet (one meter). On the sides of ruts, there can be seen horizontal scratches, it looks like they were left by the ends of the axles used for ancient wheels.

‘We found many ruts with such scratches,’ he said.

Koltypin graduated from the Russian State Geological Prospecting University and completed further studies at the Institute of Oceanology at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

More recently he has written books on popular science mysteries.

The oldest submerged city: A 5000 old sunken perfectly designed city in southern Greece

The oldest submerged city: A 5000 old sunken perfectly designed city in southern Greece

There is a little village called Pavlopetri, in the Peloponnesus region of southern Greece, where a nearby ancient city dating back 5,000 years resides.

Pavlopetri – Laconia

This is however not a typical archeological site, the city is located about 4 meters underwater and is believed to be the oldest known submerged city in the world. 

The community is incredibly well built with roads, two floors with parks, temples, a cemetery, and a complex water management system including channels and water pipes. 

3D reconstruction image of the sunken city

In the center of the city, was a square or plaza measuring about 40×20 meters and most of the buildings have been found with up to 12 rooms inside. The design of this city surpasses the design of many cities today.

The city is so old that it existed in the period that the famed ancient Greek epic poem ‘Iliad’ was set in.

Research in 2009 revealed that the site extends for about 9 acres and evidence shows that it had been inhabited prior to 2800 BC.

Scientists estimate that the city was sunk in around 1000 BC due to earthquakes that shifted the land.

However, despite this and even after 5,000 years, the arrangement of the city is still clearly visible and at least 15 buildings have been found.

The city’s arrangement is so clear that the head of the archaeological team, John Henderson of the University of Nottingham, and his team, have been able to create what they believe is an extremely accurate 3D reconstruction of the city, which can be viewed in the videos below.

3D reconstruction image of the sunken city

Historians believe that the ancient city had been a center for commerce for the Minoan Civilization and the Mycenaean civilization.

Scattered all over the place there are large storage containers made from clay, statues, everyday tools, and other artifacts.

The name of the city is currently unknown as well as its exact role in the ancient world.

The featured image shows the original foundations of the city behind underneath the reconstructed pillars and walls of one of the buildings.

For the First Time in a Century, Norway Will Excavate Viking Ship Burial

For the First Time in a Century, Norway Will Excavate Viking Ship Burial

Researchers used georadar technology to locate the remains of the Viking ship

Smithsonian Mag reports that Sveinung Rotevatn, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, announced that the 65-foot Gjellestad ship will be excavated in order to protect what is left of it from being destroyed by fungus.

Archaeologists are racing against the clock to save the remains of a buried Viking ship from a ruthless foe: fungus. 

If the project is successful, the 65-foot-long (20 meters) oak vessel — called the Gjellestad ship — will become the first Viking ship to be excavated in Norway in 115 years, said Sveinung Rotevatn, the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment. 

“Norway has a very special responsibility safeguarding our Viking Age heritage,” Rotevatn told Live Science in an email. “Now, we are choosing to excavate in order to protect what remains of the find, and secure important knowledge about the Viking Age for future generations.”

The ship is buried at a well-known Viking archaeological site at Gjellestad, near Halden, a town in southeastern Norway. But scientists discovered the vessel only recently, in the fall of 2018, by using radar scans that can detect structures underground. The scans revealed not only the ship but also the Viking cemetery where it was ritually buried.

The team determined that the Gjellestad ship was built between the end of the eighth century and the beginning of the 10th century.

The vessel was likely made for traveling long distances at sea, said Sigrid Mannsåker Gundersen, an archaeologist with the Viken County Council. 

At the time, archaeologists were hesitant to excavate the ship, because buried wet wood can be damaged when exposed to the open air, Live Science previously reported. After a test excavation in 2019, however, archaeologists learned that they would have to dig up the ship soon or lose it to decay.

The narrow trench they excavated showed that the ship was very decomposed. “Only the imprints of the planks — or ‘strakes’ — were left, together with the iron nails,” Mannsåker Gundersen told Live Science in an email. “The only part that was still solid wood was the keel.”

But even the keel is in bad shape; an analysis showed it is infected with fungus and very brittle, likely from periods of drought.

“To rescue whatever wood is left before it is too late, and to gain as much information about the ship and the grave as possible, it is important to excavate now,” Mannsåker Gundersen said.

Archaeologists hope to find some preserved wood, “but even if there are only smaller amounts of organic material left, the excavation will provide valuable information about the ship and the grave,” Mannsåker Gundersen said. “A lot can be made out of imprints, objects, and different analyses of the soils and materials left.”

A radar device attached to this vehicle helped archaeologists discover the buried Viking ship.

The excavation is scheduled to start in June, barring any complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The process will begin with archaeologists stripping off the topsoil and then sieving that dirt, just in case it holds any archaeological treasures that were ploughed by farmers over the centuries.

Then, the team will set up a tent to protect the ship’s remains and begin removing the earth that filled the ship after its burial.

At the same time, the archaeologists will document every layer of the remaining wood and take 3D scans of it, said Christian Løchsen Rødsrud, an archaeologist at the Museum of Cultural History in Norway.

Some of the ship’s remains will be visible only as imprints in the ground; these will also be 3D-scanned, Løchsen Rødsrud told Live Science in an email.

“The wooden remains of the ship will have to be kept wet during excavation.” Later, the remaining wooden objects and ship parts will be preserved with polyethylene glycol — a substance that can give rotten wood solidity and strength, he added. 

It’s likely that the ship was made both for sailing and rowing, “although we still don’t know for certain if it had a mast,” Mannsåker Gundersen said. “This is one of the questions we hope will be answered during the excavation this year.”

Hillfort revealed to be the largest Pictish site ever discovered in Scotland

Hillfort revealed to be the largest Pictish site ever discovered in Scotland

The fort, overlooking the small village of Rhynie, is believed to be one of the largest ancient settlements ever discovered in Scotland.

Researchers think that as many as 4,000 people may have lived in more than 800 huts on the Tap O’Noth in the fifth to sixth centuries.

However, the settlement may date back as far as the third century, which would make it Pictish in origin.

Researchers excavating around a construction at the Tap o’ Noth site.

The Aberdeenshire settlement may, in fact, date back as far as the third century, meaning it is likely to be Pictish in origin.

The Picts were a collection of Celtic-speaking communities who lived in the east and north of Scotland during the Late British Iron Age and Early Medieval periods.

The "Craw Stane", a Pictish symbol stone depicting a salmon and an unknown animal, with Tap o’ Noth in background.
The “Craw Stane”, a Pictish symbol stone depicting a salmon and an unknown animal, with Tap o’ Noth in background.

It was previously thought that settlements of that size did not appear until about the 12th century.

At its height, it may have rivalled the largest known post-Roman settlements in Europe.

Archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen used radiocarbon dating to establish timeframes.

Judging by the distribution of the buildings, they are likely to have been built and occupied at a similar time.

Many are positioned alongside trackways or clustered together in groups, the University of Aberdeen said.

Drone surveys showed one hut that was notably larger, suggesting a hierarchy.

The site is near Rhynie in Aberdeenshire

Professor Gordon Noble, who led the research, said the discovery was “truly mind-blowing”, adding that it “shakes the narrative of this whole time period”.

He continued: “The size of the upper and lower forts together are around 16.75 hectares and one phase at least dates from the fifth to sixth centuries AD.

“This makes it bigger than anything we know from early medieval Britain.

“The previous biggest known fort in early medieval Scotland is Burghead at around five and a half hectares, and in England, famous post-Roman sites such as Cadbury Castle is seven hectares and Tintagel around five hectares.”

He said the site was “verging on urban in scale and in a Pictish context we have nothing else that compares to this”.

Armchair archaeologists are discovering ancient historic sites during the lockdown

Armchair archaeologists are discovering ancient historic sites during the lockdown

Volunteer archaeologists working from home are revealing hitherto uncharted prehistoric burial mounds,  Roman roads, and medieval farms, using LiDAR technology. This just goes to show what can be achieved working from home during a pandemic, history in the making. Businesses and companies have all had to make changes during this time, meaning that software has been updated and implemented across the board, including updating communication areas for workers to have access to, meaning that shares in software such as Slack (Slack Aktie kaufen) have gone up for the benefit of home workers.

A probable Iron Age or Roman enclosed settlement (red arrows) and associated field system (blue arrows) revealed by LiDAR data but hidden today beneath woodland.

An innovative project is underway integrating scientific research with the power of the public. Led by Dr. Smart and Dr. João Fonte from the University of Exeter, and working closely with Cornwall and Devon Historic Environment Record, citizens were called on to search databases of aerial images while on coronavirus lockdown and they revealed “roads, burial mounds, and settlements – all while working from home,” according to a report in the Heritagedaily.

These topographical images of the Tamar valley, that highlight hidden features and with historic maps of the area, have been cross-referenced by amateur archaeologists. Lead researchers Dr. Chris Smart also said that they “draw the archeological map of the South West’ to get a clearer understanding of the history of the regions over thousands of years.

A section of a probable Roman road. The road’s ‘agger’ – the raised metalled surface – shows as a straight pale line (red arrows). A line of quarry pits show as black spots (blue arrows) possibly used to gather material for the road

The sites were not released because of the possibility that treasure hunters could enter the sites prior to being properly given access, but they are all in the Tamar Valley. The team found parts of two Roman roads with about 30 large, prehistoric or Roman settlement enclosures, about 20 prehistoric burial mounds, as well as the remains of hundreds of medieval farms, field systems, and quarries. 

Those leading the project believe they will make many more discoveries in the coming weeks as more images are reviewed – potentially hundreds of new sites. The team, led by Dr. Smart from the University of Exeter, are analyzing images from technology used to create detailed topographical maps by the Environment Agency.

Modern vegetation and buildings can be removed from the data, allowing archaeologists to look at the shape of the land surface to find the remains of archaeological earthworks.  

‘The South West arguably has the most comprehensive LiDAR data yet available in the UK and we are using this to map as much of the historic environment as possible,’ said Dr. Smart. They are focusing on the Tamar Valley but are also looking at the land around Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, Plymouth, and Barnstaple – an area covering 1,500 sq miles. 

The information has helped researchers to realize the region was much more densely populated during the Iron Age than previously thought.  They haven’t been selective in the images they have asked volunteers to look at either, so to find so many from a relatively random record is even more exciting. The research is adding to an evolving database of all known heritage in the South West of England and includes everything from lost field boundaries to prehistoric enclosures and everything in between. 

‘Ordinarily, we would now be out in the field surveying archaeological sites with groups of volunteers, or preparing for our community excavations, but this is all now on hold,’ said Smart. 

‘I knew there would be enthusiasm within our volunteer group to continue working during lockdown – one even suggested temporarily rebranding our project “Lockdown Landscapes”,’ he said.

‘I don’t think they realized how many new discoveries they would make.’

New archaeological sites are often found by chance, through digs before new development, so it is unusual to find so many in one go. Dr Smart said there is a large gap in the historical map of the South West, as there isn’t as much development there as in other parts of the country – so these chance discoveries don’t happen as often.  Most of the finds so far have been Iron Age enclosed settlements but they have found dozens of sites dating back to prehistory and as late as the Medieval era. 

One regular project volunteer, Fran Sperring, said: ‘Searching for previously unknown archaeological sites – and helping to identify places for possible future study – has been not only gratifying but engrossing.

‘Although it’s a fairly steep learning curve for me – being a relative novice to the subject – I’m enjoying every minute. Archaeology from the warm, dry comfort of your living room – what could be better?’

Dr. Smart is working closely with his University of Exeter colleague Dr. João Fonte, a specialist in LiDAR data manipulation and interpretation.

A probable Iron Age or Roman enclosed settlement, defined by a bank and ditch (red arrows). The remnants of the bank shows as a pale line on the LiDAR data, and the ditch as a darker line 

‘Remote sensing is a very powerful tool for archaeological prospection,’ said Fonte.

‘Whilst I normally work in Northwest Iberia, I’m really happy to collaborate in this project and share my expertise for the benefit of Devon and Cornwall’s wonderful landscapes,’ he added.  The team is also working with Cornwall and Devon Historic Environment Record teams to find a way to integrate all of this new information into their databases. It’s hoped the work can then be rolled out over more of the South West of England. When the worst of the pandemic is over the team intends to undertake geophysical surveys at a number of the newly-identified sites as part of the Understanding Landscapes project.

Dr. Smart said ‘It’s hard for us not to be able to carry out the work we had planned this summer – including an excavation at Calstock Roman fort.

‘Hopefully, this is only a temporary blip and we will be back out in the countryside with volunteers as soon as it is safe to do so.’

There is a wider benefit to using the LiDAR mapping data though. Dr. Smart hopes to be able to create a wider-reaching citizen science project that will help map more of the region’s history and create a rich record for the future. He said they were able to make use of existing maps created from a number of aerial surveys and satellite data.  These maps are generated by the Environment Agency for the purpose of flood monitoring, but Dr. Smart said the detail is also perfect for spotting historical sites.

Norway’s melting ice is revealing priceless ancient artifacts

Norway’s melting ice is revealing priceless ancient artifacts

“The moment these artifacts melt out of the ice, they’re immediately vulnerable to the elements,” says James H, in an interview with national geographic.

Ancient artifacts preserved in snow and ice over thousands of years in Norway’s mountains are emerging at an unprecedented rate, and archaeologists are scrambling to collect them all before it’s too late, according to national geographic

Because ice patches in the past have contracted and expanded due to temperature shifts, many of the objects recovered have likely one time or another been exposed and then buried by snow and ice.

An iron arrowhead, possibly dating back a millennium or more, emerging from an ice patch in the mountains of Norway.

The bronze arrowheads of 1500 years ago, the Tunic of the Iron Age, and even the remains of a wooden ski complete with leather binding left behind sometime in the year 700. Some of the oldest objects were dropped more than 6,000 years ago.

With low-winter precipitation and warmer summers the alpine ice dramatically reducing the alpine ice that acts as a time capsule for lost treasures.

“The ice is a time machine,” Lars Pilö, an archaeologist who works for the Oppland County council told Archaeology in 2013. “When you’re really lucky, the artifacts are exposed for the first time since they were lost.”

A ski with leather binding recovered from an ice patch in the Norwegian mountains. Analysis later determined that the artifact dates back to the year 700.

Unlike glaciers, which tend to crush and grind objects as they move down a mountain, the majority of artifacts coming out of Norway are being recovered from ice patches.

These isolated non-moving accumulations of ice and snow are significant to the archeological record because of their extreme stability, with many containing layers of seasonal snowpack dating back thousands of years.

Sections of ice in the Juvfonne snow patch in Jotunheimen, Norway, are an astounding 7,600 years old, according to a 2017 study.

An Iron Age tunic recovered from the Lendbreen ice patch in August 2011.

Despite their remote setting and scarce visits from modern-day humans, ice patches for thousands of years were veritable hot spots for ancient hunters.

In the summer, reindeer herds often crowd together on the islands of snow and ice to escape pesky, biting botflies, which have a strong aversion to the cooler temperatures. In the past, hunters would follow, losing or forgetting precious equipment along the way that was later buried and preserved in the winter snows.

Some items, such as the 1,600-year-old knife shown in the video below, look as if they were lost only a few decades ago.

A small iron knife with a birchwood handle was found just below the pass area at Lendbreen. It has been radiocarbon-dated to the 11th century.

Because ice patches in the past have contracted and expanded due to temperature shifts, many of the objects recovered have likely one time or another been exposed and then reburied by snow and ice. They also have a tendency to be carried by meltwater. As explained on the Secrets of the Ice Facebook page, the 2,600-year-old arrows shown in the image below were washed downslope far from the place they were originally lost.

Arrows discovered in the scree of an ice patch were later determined to date back to 600 B.C.

Some of the most exciting finds are those objects found emerging from the surface of the ice, a sign that they have previously been untouched by melting, according to researchers from the Oppland County Council. These artifacts are generally exceptionally preserved, with organic materials such as leather and fabric still present. It’s also an indication of the severity of anthropogenic global warming, with certain ice patches in Norway estimated to have retreated to levels last seen during the Stone Age.

“It’s very impressive when you can say this melting ice is 5,000 years old, and this is the only moment in the last 7,000 years that the ice has been retreating,” Albert Hafner, an archaeologist at the University of Bernsays Hafner, told Archaeology. “Ice is the most emotional way to show climate change.”

The preserved remains of a 3400-year-old hide shoe discovered on an ice patch in 2006. Over the last 30 years, some 2,000 artifacts have been recovered from Norway’s melting ice fields.

Unfortunately for archaeologists, the rate of ice loss coupled with the extremely small annual windows of opportunity to scour the alpine patches, means some newly exposed items will break down and disappear before anyone has a chance to study them.

“This material is like the library of Alexandria. It is incredibly valuable and it’s on fire now,” George Hambrecht, an anthropologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, told New Scientist.

Right now you might be thinking, “I want to help find and preserve these incredible artifacts!,” and we agree, it sounds like quite the adventure to take a romp into the Norwegian wilderness and possibly stumble upon a well-preserved Viking Sword (see below). The reality, however, is that field work can sometimes be laborious and uncomfortable, with every day at the mercy of Mother Nature’s fickle moods.

That said, the Oppland County Council did accept volunteers last spring and it’s possible, especially with so many finds emerging from the ice each year, that others may be called upon to assist.

“We may not find much (or we could strike the jackpot, who knows),” Lars Pilø wrote last April in the Secrets blog. “It all depends on the melting conditions, and they develop over the summer and during fieldwork. If we are unlucky, the scenery and the team spirit make up for the lack of finds.”

A Viking sword discovered in 2017 and dating back to c. AD 850-950.

Ancient Bones Found in Bulgarian Cave Are Oldest Evidence of Modern Humans in Europe

Ancient Bones Found in Bulgarian Cave Are Oldest Evidence of Modern Humans in Europe

According to new research, modern humans have overlapped with Neanderthals in Europe longer than previously thought. Remains of Homo sapiens found in a Bulgarian cave are roughly 44,000 to 46,000 years old, making them the oldest directly dated remains of modern humans in Europe, reports Bruce Bower for Science News.

Nicola Davis for the Guardian reports that Neanderthals had been stumpy, cold-adapted hominins living across Europe and as far east as Siberia until about 40 000 years ago.

Neanderthal remains to live on in modern human DNA, indicating that our species and theirs met and interbred, but how long the two groups overlapped is unclear.

Excavations at the Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria uncovered ancient human bones along with stone tools, animal bones, bone tools, and pendants.

Other human remains previously discovered in the United Kingdom and Italy have been dated to between 41,000 and 45,000 years ago, but their ages were measured indirectly, relying on the fossils’ archaeological and geological surroundings rather than the specimens themselves, reported Jonathon Amos for BBC News in 2011.

The direct dating of these newly unearthed remains from the Bacho Kiro Cave in northern Bulgaria comes from two sources: radiocarbon dating and DNA extracted from a tooth and six shards of bone identified as belonging to H. sapiens.

Both methods dated the remains to around 44,000 to 46,000 years ago, the researchers report in two papers published in the journals Nature Ecology & Evolution and Nature.

“Our work in Bacho Kiro shows there is a time overlap of maybe 8,000 years between the arrival of the first wave of modern humans in eastern Europe and the final extinction of Neanderthals in the far west of Europe,” Jean-Jacques Hublin, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute and co-author of the research, tells the Guardian.

The new estimate adds as much as 5,000 years of biological, cultural, and behavioral interaction between the species compared to the chronology suggested by other researchers, he tells the Guardian.

Hublin and his colleagues began their new excavation at the Bacho Kiro Cave in 2015. The site was first excavated by archaeologists in 1938 and then again in the 1970s.  The new dig turned up animal bones, tools made of stone and bone, beads and pendants, and, of course, a handful of ancient human remains.

The team had some 1,200 fragments of bones and teeth, but only a single molar could be visually identified as having come from a modern human. To figure out which species all the other fragments belonged to, the researchers extracted proteins from each specimen.

The protein’s structure can be used to tell species apart. This massive screening process yielded six additional chunks of human remains. Genetic evidence also corroborated the identities of six out of the seven fossils.

“In my view, this is the oldest and strongest published evidence for a very early upper paleolithic presence of Homo sapiens in Europe, several millennia before the Neanderthals disappeared,” Chris Stringer, an expert in human origins from London’s Natural History Museum, tells the Guardian.

In 2019, Stringer was part of a team that reported an incomplete skull found in Greece may have belonged to a modern human that lived some 210,000 years ago. However, both the age and species assigned to the skull have been disputed.

Initial Upper Paleolithic artifacts, including blades and a sandstone bead, from the Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria.

The tools and ornaments found alongside modern humans remain at Bacho Kiro, such as pendants made of cave bear teeth, closely resemble artifacts from Neanderthal sites in western Europe dated several thousand years later, Hublin tells Science News.

The similarities provide “evidence that pioneer groups of Homo sapiens brought new behaviors into Europe and interacted with local Neandertals,” Hublin adds.

Stringer tells the Guardian that he has doubts about whether subsequent Neanderthal jewelry and tools were influenced as a result of interactions with early modern humans. In an interview with Science News, Stringer cites Neanderthal jewelry made out of eagle talons from roughly 130,000 years ago.

The new findings highlight the mystery of why Neanderthals disappeared when they did, if, as these new findings suggest, they coexisted with modern humans for millennia. If they were able to persist side by side for so long, what finally drove Neanderthals to extinction?

According to Richard Klein, a paleoanthropologist at Stanford University who was not involved in the research, who spoke with Tom Metcalfe of NBC News, “that’s the ultimate question.”

Stringer tells the Guardian that there simply may not have been enough of these early modern human pioneers in Europe to establish and sustain a significant presence, adding that an unstable climate could have also kept them at bay.