Category Archives: FRANCE

A Cave in France Changes What We Thought We Knew About Neanderthals

A Cave in France Changes What We Thought We Knew About Neanderthals

Rings of stone found inside a French cave were probably built 176,500 years ago by Neanderthals. A study says the structures are the oldest known human constructions, possibly altering the way we think about our ancestors.

A team led by archeologist Jacques Jaubert of the University of Bordeaux, using advanced dating techniques, noted that the stalagmites used in the stone ring constructions must have been broken off the ground around 176,500 years ago.

The dating of the structures – if substantiated – would push back by tens of thousands of years the first known cave exploration by members of the human family. It would also change the widely held view that humans’ ancient cousins were incapable of complex behavior.

Earlier research had suggested the structures pre-dated the arrival of modern humans in Europe around 45,000 years ago and thus the idea that Neanderthals could have made them didn’t fit and was largely disregarded.

“Their presence at 336 meters (368 yards) from the entrance of the cave indicates that humans from this period had already mastered the underground environment, which can be considered a major step in human modernity.

A chance find

The structures – discovered by chance in 1990 after a rockslide closed the mouth of a cave at Bruniquel in southwest France – were made from hundreds of pillar-shaped mineral deposits, or stalagmites, which were up to 40 centimeters (16 inches) high.

The authors said the purpose of the oval structures – measuring 16 square meters (172 sq. feet) and 2.3 square meters – is still a matter of speculation, though they may have served some symbolic or ritual purpose.

“A plausible explanation is that this was a common meeting place for some type of ritual social behavior,” said Paola Villa, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who wasn’t involved in the study.

The Neanderthals who built them must have had a “project” to go so deep into a cave where there was no natural light, said Jaubert.

“The site provides strong evidence of the great antiquity of those elaborate structures and is an important contribution to a new understanding of the greater level of social complexities of Neanderthal societies,” Villa noted.

Who were the Neanderthals?

Neanderthals were a species or subspecies of humans that became extinct between 40,000 and 28,000 years ago. Closely related to modern humans, they left remains mainly in Eurasia, from western Europe to central, northern, and western Asia.

Neanderthals are generally classified by paleontologists as the species Homo neanderthalensis, having separated from the Homo sapiens lineage 600,000 years ago.

Several cultural assemblages have been linked to the Neanderthals in Europe. The earliest, the Mousterian stone tool culture, dates to about 300,000 years ago. Late Mousterian artifacts were found in Gorham’s Cave on the south-facing coast of Gibraltar.

In December 2013, researchers reported evidence that Neanderthals practiced burial behavior and buried their dead.

In addition, scientists reported having sequenced the entire genome of a Neanderthal for the first time. The genome was extracted from the toe bone of a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal found in a Siberian cave.

Paleolithic Art – c. 14000-year-old Bull and Cow Bison found in the Le Tuc d’Audoubert cave, Ariege, France

Museum of Artifacts: 14000 Years Old Bisons Sculpture Found in Le d’Audoubert Cave, Ariege, France

The bison stood next to each other, built from the cave walls, leaning against a small boulder in the darkness.

While they are 18 feet twenty-four inches long, they are beautifully constructed and durability is remarkable.

The bison remained alone for thousands of years in the dark French cave until it was discovered in the early 20th century.

The cave of Tuc Audoubert was discovered by the three sons of Count Henri three Bégouën on 20 July and 10 October 1912.

The artist’s hand signs are still clearly visible and the techniques used to render the face and mane details Objects like these clearly demonstrate that man used clay for artistic expression long before the actual firing of clay was discovered.

The walls of these caves also are covered with drawings of bison and other game animals, marked in carbon from the fires, as well as the earth minerals such as iron oxide and manganese, showing that these ceramic coloring materials that we still use today were known to our earliest ancestors.

The bisons’ shaggy mane and beard appear to be carved with a tool, but the jaws are traced by the sculptor’s fingernail.

The impression given is one of immense naturalistic beauty. The female bison is ready to mate, while the Bull is sniffing the air.

Both animals are supported by a central rock and are unbelievably well preserved (proving perhaps that there was never a passage connecting the Tuc d’Audoubert cave with the Trois Freres), although they have suffered some drying out, which has caused some cracks to appear across their bodies.

Also in the chamber are two other bison figures, both engraved on the ground.

Prehistorians have theorized that a small group of people (including a child) remained in the Tuc d’Audoubert cave with the sole reason of participating in certain ceremonies associated with cave art.

The remote location of the clay bison – beneath a low ceiling at the very end of the upper gallery, roughly 650 meters from the entrance, is consistent with their involvement in some type of ritualistic or shamanistic process.

The Largest Insect Ever Existed Was A Giant ‘dragonfly’ Fossil Of A Meganeuridae

The Largest Insect Ever Existed Was A Giant ‘dragonfly’  Fossil Of A Meganeuridae

Meganeura the largest Flying Insect Ever Existed, Had a Wingspan of Up to 65 Cm, from the Carboniferous period.

Its name is Meganeuropsis, and it ruled the skies before pterosaurs, birds, and bats had even evolved.

The largest known insect of all time was a predator resembling a dragonfly but was only distantly related to them. Its name is Meganeuropsis, and it ruled the skies before pterosaurs, birds, and bats had even evolved.

The Dragonfly-like Meganeuropsis was a giant insect that plied the skies from the Late Carboniferous to the Late Permian, some 317 to 247 million years ago. It had a wingspan of some 28″ with a body length of around 17.”

Most popular textbooks make mention of “giant dragonflies” that lived during the days before the dinosaurs. This is only partly true, for real dragonflies had still not evolved back then. Rather than being true dragonflies, they were the more primitive ‘griffin flies’ or Meganisopterans. Their fossil record is quite short.

They lasted from the Late Carboniferous to the Late Permian, roughly 317 to 247 million years ago.

The fossils of Meganeura were first discovered in France in the year 1880. Then, in 1885, the fossil was described and assigned its name by Charles Brongniart who was a French Paleontologist. Later in 1979, another fine fossil specimen was discovered at Bolsover in Derbyshire.

Meganisoptera is an extinct family of insects, all large and predatory and superficially like today’s odonatans, the dragonflies and damselflies. And the very largest of these was Meganeuropsis.

It is known from two species, with the type species being the immense M.permiana. Meganeuropsis permiana, as its name suggests is from the Early Permian.

There has been some controversy as to how insects of the Carboniferous period were able to grow so large.

•Oxygen levels and atmospheric density.

The way oxygen is diffused through the insect’s body via its tracheal breathing system puts an upper limit on body size, which prehistoric insects seem to have well exceeded. It was originally proposed hat Meganeura was able to fly only because the atmosphere at that time contained more oxygen than the present 20%.

•Lack of predators. 

Other explanations for the large size of meganeurids compared to living relatives are warranted. Bechly suggested that the lack of aerial vertebrate predators allowed pterygote insects to evolve to maximum sizes during the Carboniferous and Permian periods, perhaps accelerated by an evolutionary “arms race” for an increase in body size between plant-feeding Palaeodictyoptera and Meganisoptera as their predators.

•Aquatic larvae stadium. 

Another theory suggests that insects that developed in water before becoming terrestrial as adults grew bigger as a way to protect themselves against the high levels of oxygen.

Massive, 1,100-Pound Dinosaur Bone Unearthed in France

Massive, 1,100-Pound Dinosaur Bone Unearthed in France

The enormous prehistoric treasures Mother Nature continues to produce, this time in the form of a gigantic thigh bone, once belonging to a massive plant-munching sauropod that roamed the primeval swamps of what is now southwestern France.

A team of paleontologists of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris discovered the huge 6-1/2-foot-long 1,100-pound femur fossil.

Experts consider this 140 million-year-old beefy bone to be a major discovery, and it was found at the fertile paleontological dig site of Angeac-Charente in France. During intense excavation activities.

Uncovered resting in a thick layer of clay, scientists discovered bones from the mammoth creature’s pelvis as well. 

Sauropods were plant-eating dinosaurs with small heads, long slender necks, stump-like feet, and elongated tails that are considered some of the biggest land animals to ever stride upon the Earth.

These quadrupedal herbivores flourished during the Late Jurassic period and were the true kings of the prehistoric age, sometimes growing to a length of up to 130-feet long from nose to tail.

The expert team’s awesome French specimen was particularly well-preserved for a fossil of its size and long ago helped support the 50-60 ton weight of this gentle giant.

“We can see the insertions of muscles and tendons, and scars,” Ronan Allain, a paleontologist at the National History Museum of Paris, told Le Parisien newspaper. “This is rare for big pieces which tend to collapse in on themselves and fragment.”

The bone was discovered nestled in a thick layer of clay. Other bones from the animal’s pelvis were also unearthed.

“This femur is huge! And in an exceptional state of conservation. It’s very moving,” says Jean-François Tournepiche, curator at the Museum of Angouleme (Charente).

“This sauropod bone, 2 m high, was found at Angeac-Charente in a 140-million-year-old marsh lost in the Cognac vineyards and now considered one of the largest dinosaur sites in the world.”

Since 2010, more than 70 scientists from around the world gather each summer to search the soil for dino remains in this productive hunting ground.

So far over 7,500 vertebrate bones representing 45 different species have been unburied and identified, including the first sauropodium femur, plants, footprints, stegosaurs, and even a herd of ostrich dinosaurs.

Remains of missing World War II pilot from Benson identified in France

Remains of missing World War II pilot from Benson identified in France

The traces of a Western Minnesota pilot of World War II who was killed 75 years ago during the D-Day have been identified.

On Wednesday, the Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency announced the remains of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William J. McGowan, 23, of Benson, was identified on May 13.

Remains of missing World War II pilot from Benson identified in France
U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William J. McGowan is shown in an undated photo from the World War II era. Killed in a plane crash in France during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, his remains have been identified.

McGowan will be buried July 26 at the Normandy American Cemetery in France.

McGowan was a 391st Fighter Squadron member, 366th Fighter Group, 9th United States Air Force. Air force. On the day of the D day, when the P47 Thunderbolt crashed on a mission near the city of Saint-Lô, France, he was killed June 6, 1944.

In 1947, based on information from a French citizen, the American Graves Registration Command investigated a crash site near the village of Moon-sur-Elle that was possibly associated with McGowan’s loss.

An investigator traveled to the site and learned from witnesses that the aircraft burned for more than a full day after impact and it had been embedded deeply into the ground.

A Defense Department team removed wreckage from the impact crater but failed to locate McGowan’s remains. As a result, on Dec. 23, 1947, his remains were declared nonrecoverable.

In 2010, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Agency traveled to Moon-sur-Elle to interview witnesses and survey the crash site. During the survey, the team found numerous pieces of aircraft debris and recommended the site for excavation.

In July and August 2018, excavation of the site led to possible remains, which were sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.

Dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence, were used to identify McGowan’s remains.

McGowan’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Normandy American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Colleville-Sur-Mer, France.

A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently, there are 72,639 service members still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable.

Tests Suggest Ancient Romans Imported Wood from France

Tests Suggest Ancient Romans Imported Wood from France

The blocks of trees that went over a thousand meters from the French woods, where they grew, were buried at the foundations of an ancient Roman villa, a journey that probably involved floating along rivers and being transported across the sea.

Such new findings demonstrate how long-haul trade has helped build the Roman Empire.

Although the Roman Empire is now famous for monuments like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, for the most part, the ancient Romans largely built their empire using timber.

Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma, Italy

The distinction in Latin between firewood (lignum) and construction timber (material) suggests the critical role timber had for the ancient Romans — timber was so important that the ancient Romans considered it as signifying matter or substance in the modern English sense of the word “material,” said study lead author Mauro Bernabei, a dendrochronologist (he studies tree rings) at Italy’s National Research Council’s Institute for BioEconomy.

The demand for wood for construction, shipbuilding, and fire led to the rapid depletion of the woodlands surrounding Rome and in much of the Apennine Mountains running up the length of Italy.

As such, Rome grew to rely on wood from abroad, but researchers have been unable to find many timber samples from the area that have survived the intervening millennia. “The finding of wood in archaeological excavations in Rome, and in Italy in general, is very, very rare,” Bernabei said.

However, scientists investigated 24 unusually well-preserved oak timber planks excavated from 2014 to 2016 during the construction of an underground railway line in central Rome.

These boards had been part of the foundations of a lavishly decorated portico that was part of a vast, wealthy patrician villa, they said.

The planks survived because they came from waterlogged earth. Wood is best preserved in conditions where destructive fungi do not grow well, such as when the wood is kept either very dry or, conversely, completely immersed in water, Bernabei explained. “The area where the samples were found was completely submerged by the wet mud of the Tiber River,” he said.

The researchers focused on growth rings in the planks. If you cut into the trunk of a tree, you can see that it is divided into rings that each represent a tree’s growth in a given year.

The researchers found that four of the planks came from trees that were more than 250 years old when they were cut down.

Growth rings reflect the environmental conditions a tree experiences over time in an area, so one can pinpoint where wood comes from by looking for trees with matching growth ring patterns.

The researchers measured the widths of the tree rings for each of their planks with an accuracy of 0.01 millimeters, and by comparing the planks with records of Mediterranean and central European oak growth rings, they found their planks likely came from the Jura mountains in northeastern France, more than 1,055 miles (1,700 kilometers) away from where they ultimately ended up.

“This is the first evidence of long-distance timber trading in the Roman Empire,” said Paolo Cherubini, a dendrochronologist and forest ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, who did not participate in this study.

The scientists also found that some of the planks included sapwood, the part of living wood where sap flows. By comparing the rings within the sapwood with rings from trees with known histories, they could determine that the trees the planks came from were probably felled between A.D. 40 and 60.

These findings shed new light on the “huge, impressive logistic machine” the ancient Romans were capable of, Bernabei said. “Just think — planks, around 4 meters long, were transported across Europe just to be placed underground in the foundations” of this portico, he said.

Given the length of the planks and the great distances they traveled, the researchers suggested that ancient Romans or those they traded with likely floated the timber down the Saône and Rhône rivers to what is now the city of Lyon in present-day France. It was then likely transported on ships across the Mediterranean Sea and then up the Tiber River to Rome.

“This research opens up a new view of the wooden material found in archaeological excavations,” Bernabei said. “The timber found in other important sites — Pompeii, Herculaneum — may be of foreign origin.”

France Returns to Senegal an 18th-Century Saber That It Looted During the Colonial Period

France Returns to Senegal an 18th-Century Saber That It Looted During the Colonial Period

As a symbolic gesture of France’s commitment in its dedication to restoring African cultural heritage, French Prime Minister Edouard Philip handed the historic sword to the President of Senegal Macky Sall.

Omar Saïdou Tall, a leading Muslim religious leader in the 19th century who fought French colonialists in the 1850s in a region of West Africa that is now Senegal.

Decades later, French troops seized its possessions including the sword.

Omar Saïdou Tall’s sword was seized by French troops

The act followed one year after a report by the French president Emmanuel Macron was published that recommends the return of African artifacts in French museums.

There are about 90,000 Sub-Saharan artifacts in French public collections, many of them looted or acquired during the colonial era. Senegal gained independence from France in 1960.

France has yet to make good on Macron’s pledges: nothing has as yet been definitively returned, and a promised conference on the subject has yet to materialise.

Permanent repatriations will also require a change in French law, which deems museum collections to be “inalienable.”

Today’s ceremony is, therefore “not strictly speaking restitution,” the French government said in a statement.

The sword, whose leather handle is trimmed with a base shaped like a bird’s beak, has already been on display in Senegal’s new Museum of Black Civilisations as a loan from the Musée de L’armée in Paris.

Nonetheless, Sall welcomed the return as “historic,” saying it signals “a new chapter in French-Senegalese relations.”

Why There Are Six Million Skeletons Stuffed Into The Tunnels Beneath Paris

Why There Are Six Million Skeletons Stuffed Into The Tunnels Beneath Paris

One of his mysterious entrances into the French capital Paris should you be closely looking for. But if you trip over it, it shows a dark and dank and narrow tunnel underground world with a fascinating history.

The bones of 6 million people known as the French Empire of the Dead a reality brought to life in the recent CNN movie-lie underneath the City of Light where 12 million people are living there.

The Paris catacombs are a 200-mile network of old caves, tunnels, and quarries – and much of it is filled with the skulls and bones of the dead.

Much of the catacombs are out of bounds to the public, making it illegal to explore unsupervised. But nevertheless, it is a powerful draw for a hardcore group of explorers with a thirst for adventure.

A tourist-friendly, the legal entrance can be found off Place Denfert-Rochereau in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, near the Montparnasse district.

Here, visitors from all over the world can descend into the city’s dark and dank bowels for a whistle-stop tour of a small section of the catacombs.

One visitor told CNN: ‘I think people are fascinated with death. They don’t know what it’s about and you see all these bones stacked up, and the people that have come before us, and it’s fascinating. We’re trying to find our past and it’s crazy and gruesome and fun all at the same time.’

Why There Are Six Million Skeletons Stuffed Into The Tunnels Beneath Paris
The macabre mosaics lining the walls of the underground network are the remains of 6million former Parisians

The well-worn trail might be enough to satisfy the tourists, but other Parisians like to go further – and deeper – to explore the network. The name given to the group of explorers who go into the cave network illegally and unsupervised is Cataphiles.

The top-secret groups go deep underground, using hidden entrances all over the city. And they sometimes stay for days at a time, equipped with headlamps and home-made maps.

Street names are etched into the walls to help explorers navigate their way around the underground version of the city and some groups have even been known to throw parties in the tunnels or drink wine.

For catacomb devotees, the silence experienced deep in tunnels cannot be replicated anywhere else.

Urban explorer Loic Antoine-Gambeaud told CNN: ‘I think it’s in the collective imagination. Everybody knows that there is something below Paris; that something goes on that’s mysterious. But I don’t think many people have even an idea of what the underground is like.’

Empire of the dead: While much of the 200-mile network is out of bounds, a small section is open to tourists

Those caught exploring unauthorized sections of the network could end up out of pocket. Police tasked with patrolling the tunnels have the power to hand out fines of 60 euros to anyone caught illegally roaming the network.

A by-product of the early development of Paris, the catacombs were subterranean quarries which were established as limestone was extracted deep underground to build the city above.

However, a number of streets collapsed as the quarries weakened parts of the city’s foundations. Repairs and reinforcements were made and the network went through several transformations throughout history.

However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the catacombs became known as the Empire of the Dead when they became the solution to overcrowding in the city’s cemeteries.

The number of dead bodies buried in Paris’s cemeteries and beneath its churches was so great that they began breaking through the walls of people’s cellars and causing serious health concerns.

So the human remains were transferred to the underground quarries in the early 1780s. There are now more than 6million people underground.

Space was the perfect solution to ease overcrowding in cemeteries but it presented disadvantages elsewhere. It is the reason there are few tall buildings in Paris; large foundations cannot be built because the catacombs are directly under the city’s streets.

The tunnels also played their part in the Second World War. Parisian members of the French Resistance used the winding tunnels and German soldiers also set up an underground bunker in the catacombs, just below the 6th arrondissement.