Category Archives: WORLD

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.

Ancient City found atop huge Rock in Srilanka

Ancient City found atop huge Rock in Srilanka

Sigiriya (The Lion Mountain) is often considered to be the eighth wonders of the world and an ancient stone fortress used by a king of Sri Lanka as a site to build his palace and hide from attacks by his Enemy brother.

Located in Sri Lanka’s central Matale district, the fortress is surrounded by the remains of extensive reservoirs and gardens on all sides.

The most significant feature of this geologic masterpiece is the Lion staircase leading to a palace garden on the top of the rock.

Sigiriya Rock

The Lion staircase is a complex structure, a walkway with tiles that rises from the open mouth of the beast that takes its name from and is made of brick and timber. The bricks surround ancient limestone steps. 

Named a world heritage site by UNESCO, this rock is full of archeological importance. The other primary feature that draws thousands of tourists every year is the surviving frescoes and other paintings.

The few paintings that survive are the earliest examples of a Sri Lanka school of classical realism, which was fully formed by the 5th century when the paintings at Sigiriya were produced. There are also remains of paintings in some of the caves that are nestled at the foot of the giant rock.

According to ancient texts, the entire rock fortress was built by King Kashyapa and, after his death, was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

Who Rediscovered Sigiriya?

The gardens and palace at Sigiriya were abandoned but later assumed by a Buddhist monastery which would occupy the land until the 14th century.

There are no records of the activity at Sigiriya between the 14th and 16th centuries, but by the 17th century, it was used as an outpost for the Kingdom of Kandy independent monarchy.

Western civilization re-discovered Sigiriya in 1831 when British army Major Jonathan Forbes of the 78th Highlanders discovered the bush-covered summit of Sigiriya on a horseback trip across the island.

In the 1890s archaeologist, H.C.P. Bell spent some time at Sigiriya, overseeing a small dig and research operation.

It would be another twenty years until the natural rock formation would return to the public eye; British explorer John Still’s visit to Sigiriya in 1907 sparked international discussion and renewed interest in the Sri Lanka treasure.

Full-scale archaeological work would not begin until 1982 when government-funded Cultural Triangle Project focused its attention on the ancient city.

It was during this time historians learned of Lion’s presence at the gate to Sigiriya, its head having collapsed long ago.

3000-year-old Nimrud lens could rewrite the history of science

3000-year-old Nimrud lens could rewrite the history of science

The lens of Nimrud is a rock crystal object, 3000 years old, which Sir John Layard found in 1850 at the Assyrian Nimrud Palace in modern Iraq.

The Nimrud lens is kept at the British Museum.

Since its discovery over a century ago, scientists and archaeologists have been discussing how the lens has been used as part of a telescope by one famous Italian professor who believed that the ancient Assyrians knew so much about astronomy.

The Nimrud lens (also referred to as the Layard lens), dated between 750 and 710 BC, is made of natural rock crystal and is a slightly oval in form. It was roughly ground, perhaps on a lapidary wheel. It has a focal point about 11 centimeters from the flat side and a focal length of about 12 cm.  

This would make it equivalent to a 3× magnifying glass (combined with another lens, it could achieve much greater magnification). The surface of the lens has twelve cavities that were opened during grinding, which would have contained naptha or some other fluid trapped in the raw crystal. The lens is said to be able to focus sunlight although the focus is far from perfect.  

There has been much debate over the original use of the Nimrud lens.  Some speculate that it was used as a magnifying glass, or as a burning-glass to start fires by concentrating sunlight, while others have proposed that the lens was part of a telescope. 

However, if we are to believe the British Museum’s description, the Nimrud lens “would have been of little or no practical use”, and while they acknowledge that “this piece of rock crystal has been carefully ground and polished, and undoubtedly has optical properties”, they reach the unusual conclusion that the optical properties were “probably accidental”.  

I wonder if the British Museum also maintains that the hundreds of other carefully crafted and polished lenses found throughout the ancient world were also “accidental”?

The British Museum finished by saying that: “There is no evidence that the Assyrians used lenses, either for magnification or for making fire, and it is much more likely that this is a piece of inlay, perhaps for furniture.” However, many disagree with this claim.

Sir John Layard suggested that Assyrian craftsmen used the lens as a magnifying glass to make intricate and minuscule engravings, such as those that have been found on seals and on clay tablets using a wedge-shaped script. But experts on Assyrian archaeology are unconvinced. They say that the lens is of such low quality that it would have been a poor aid to vision.

An example of the minuscule text engraved on clay tablets

Another hypothesis is that the lens was used as a burning-glass to start a fire. Burning-glasses were known in the ancient world. Aristophanes refers to “the beautiful, transparent stone with which they light fires” in his play The Clouds (424 BC). Pliny the Elder (23-79AD) describes how glass balls filled with water could set clothes on fire when placed in line with the sun. However, there is no clear evidence to support the theory that this was the purpose for which the Nimrud lens was created.

Italian scientist Giovanni Pettinato of the University of Rome has proposed that the lens was used by the ancient Assyrians as part of a telescope.  According to conventional perspectives, the telescope was invented by Dutch spectacle maker, Hans Lippershey in 1608 AD, and Galileo was the first to point it to the sky and use it to study the cosmos. But even Galileo himself noted that the ‘ancients’ were aware of telescopes.

While lenses were around before the Nimrud lens, Pettinato believes this was one of the first to be used in a telescope.  The earliest lenses identified date back around 4,500 years ago to the 4 th and 5 th Dynasties of Ancient Egypt (e.g., the superb `Le Scribe Accroupi’ and `the Kai’ in the Louvre), where it appears they were used as schematic eye structures (iris/pupil inserts) associated with funerary statues.

Latter examples have been found in Knossos dated to around 3,500-years-old.  In total, there are several hundred reported lenses now on record from around the ancient world, so it appears that the ancients knew a lot more about lenses than some, like the British Museum, give them credit for. 

One of the reasons Pettinato believed that the Assyrians used the Nimrud lens as part of a telescope is that some of their knowledge about astronomy seems impossible to have acquired without a telescope. 

For example, the ancient Assyrians saw the planet Saturn as a god surrounded by a ring of serpents, which Pettinato suggests was their interpretation of Saturn’s rings as seen through a telescope.

However, other experts say that serpents occur frequently in Assyrian mythology, and note that there is no mention of a telescope in any of the many surviving Assyrian astronomical writings.

Whatever its purpose, as an ornament, as a magnifying lens, a burning glass, or part of a telescope, the Nimrud lens certainly appears to be more than an “accident”.  But exactly how it was used, we may never know.

What is the mysterious handbag seen in Ancient Carvings Across Cultures carried by the Gods

What is the mysterious handbag seen in Ancient Carvings Across Cultures carried by the Gods

Many pieces of art found on cave walls dating back to the end of the Ice Age have resembled what is known today as a handbag or purse.

The design persisted in ruins of ancient Turkish temples, Maori decorations of New Zealand, and crafts made by the Olmecs of Central America.

Earliest Discovery

The ruins of Göbekli Tepe, dating back to about 11,000 BC are one of the earliest discoveries of the handbag.

But what the temple used for remains a mystery. Göbekli Tepe, a most ancient and Oldest temple complex. Many archaeologists suggest that the sanctuary held religious sacrifices, due to the butchered animal bones collected.

The walls and pillars throughout the temple are embellished with intricate carvings of animals, gods, mythical creatures, and three handbags.

Could the mysterious handbag really represent the cosmos? Assyrian relief carving from Nimrud, 883–859 B.C.

An Answer Written in the Stars

The handbag is described to “typically feature a rounded handle-like top and a rectangular bottom and may include varying degrees of additional details of texture or pattern”.

Whether the images stand-alone or in the hand of a god or goddess-like creature, there are several theories out there to the meaning of this reoccurring object.

Pillar 43 from Gobekli Tepe in Turkey shows three ‘handbag’ carvings along the top.

The most straightforward explanation is that of the cosmos. The semi-circle of the handbag, the straps, represents the hemisphere of the sky, while the square shape represents the earth.

According to Scranton, “In ancient cultures from Africa to India to China, the figure of a circle was associated symbolically with concepts of spirituality or non-materiality, while that of a square was often associated with concepts of the Earth and of materiality”. Therefore the image is seen to represent the unification of both earth and sky, the tangible and intangible elements.

Other Findings

The handbag continues to appear across the globe. It shows up in two stone reliefs, one made by the Assyrians of ancient Iraq sometime between 880-859 BC and the other made by the Olmecs of ancient Mesoamerica sometime between 1200 – 400 BC.

Olmec Monument 19, from La Venta, Tabasco, shows a man holding the handbag in his hand

Then in New Zealand in an image of a hero who rose to the home of the gods and came back to earth “carrying three baskets of wisdom.” Finally, in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the handbag-like image is seen frequently serving as a home for the gods and goddesses, similar to the Native American tepee.

The theme of the handbag appears to be a cosmological symbol that is often overlooked by the general public that means much more than what meets the eye.

Oldest Preserved Spider Web dates back to Dinosaurs

Oldest Preserved Spider Web dates back to Dinosaurs

The oldest known spider web in the world has been discovered on a beach in the English city of Sussex, caught inside an ancient amber chunk

 Baltic amber.

In December scientists found the rare amber fossil and have now confirmed that it contains remains of spider silk woven by an ancestor of modern spider weaving spiders some 140 million years ago.

The researchers discovered that ancient silk threads share many common features in modern spider webs, including droplets of sticky glue that are used for holding the web together and catching the prey after cutting the amber into thin sections and examining every piece under the powered microscope.

According to paleobiologist Martin Brasier of Oxford University, the gooey droplets suggest that spiders were starting to spin webs that were better adapted for catching flying insects.

“Interestingly, huge radiation took place in flying insects and bark beetles about 140-130 million years ago,” Brasier wrote in an email to Wired.com. “So we may be seeing a co-evolution of spiders and insects here.”

The new discovery is the first example of an amber fossil from the early Cretaceous period when dinosaurs like spinosaurus and psittocosaurs roamed the Earth.

“Silk is a relatively delicate material and it is rarely preserved in the fossil record, except when entombed in amber,” Brasier and colleagues wrote about the discovery in the upcoming December issue of the Journal of the Geological Society. 

The researchers think pieces of organic material, including the spider silk, became embalmed during a severe wildfire when amber resins seeped out from the charred bark of coniferous trees and were eventually swept away by flooding.

In addition to ancient spider silk, the amber chunk contains well-preserved soil microbes, including the oldest known examples of actinobacteria, a common type of bacteria that plays a major role in soil formation.

Bones of 13th-century saint found hidden inside the small silver coffin

Bones of 13th-century saint found hidden inside the small silver coffin

The bones of a Polish saint that have been lost for centuries have been re-discovered by chance during restoration work in a Christian basilica in Silesia.

Conservators were working on the tomb of St. Jadwiga in Trzebnica, Lower Silesia, in southern Poland when they made the chance discovery. While the tomb of the saint is well-known, her remains had been lost long ago. They were working on her stone tomb, which dates to the 17th century after a small fissure appeared on the sarcophagus.

The art conservators were working to prevent the crack from getting worse when they noticed something unusual about one of the stone slabs. Dorota Wandrychowska, an art conservator, told The First News, “When we lifted the slab we saw that charcoal mixed with plaster had been poured into a cavity, which was very strange. So, we thought we had to check it out”.

The bones of St. Jadwiga were found by chance during conservation work at the church in Silesia.

What they found was amazing. They found a tiny silver casket.

According to The First News website, the casket has “a lead tablet with an inscription confirming that the relics are those of the 13 th century saint”. The find was a complete shock to the team of conservators and the local clergy. It was assumed that the saint’s bones were somewhere in the church.

Documentary sources indicate that the saint was buried in the basilica in the 13 th century. The First News, quotes Father Piotr Filas, from the nearby abbey of Trzebnica stating “We knew that the saint’s bones were somewhere in the vicinity as they were laid there in 1679 when her tomb was built”.

It is believed that the inscription panel, which is written in Latin, was laid on the casket in 1764. Report Web reports Father Filas as saying that “we believe that nobody has taken a look at the bones since that date”.

The inscription panel that was laid on top of the casket bore the date 1764, suggesting St. Jadwiga’s bones hadn’t been seen since that time.

It appears that for reasons unknown possibly because of the political instability in Poland at the time, that St. Jadwiga’s casket was forgotten. The discovery is very important in Poland which is overwhelmingly Catholic and where there are high levels of religious observance.

St. Jadwiga, sometimes referred to as St. Hedwig is a very significant figure in the history of Christianity in Poland. She was born in Bavaria, in southern Germany and entered into an arranged marriage with Henry I the Bearded, one of the first Piast rulers of Silesia.

St. Jadwiga while she was queen.

Jadwiga was the mother of Duke Henry the Pious. She was a great patron of the clergy and encouraged many German monks and nuns to settle in the dukedom.

Jadwiga was very pious and she was much loved for her charitable work, especially her care for the sick. Like many other Christian saints, she practiced mortifications of the flesh and she frequently wore no shoes.

When her husband told her confessor to tell her to wear shoes, she obeyed. However, she wore her shoes around her neck and continued to walk around barefoot.

When her husband died in 1238, she retired to a convent in Trzebnica but briefly left it to end conflict among her feuding children. One of her sons was killed fighting the Mongols.

Many miracles are attributed to the saint and according to Report Web “Jadwiga became a saint on March 26, 1267, when Pope Clement VI performed her canonization”. Today she is regarded as the patron saint of Silesia and one of the most popular saints in all of Poland.

The rediscovery of the saint’s remains is seen as highly significant to the faithful. Report Web quotes Father Filas as saying that “I think it is a sign for us that she can be a patron for our modern times”.

Many Catholics may view the discovery as a sign that the saint is protecting them in a very troubling time. There are some suggestions already being put forward regarding the eventual fate of the remains.

5000-Year-Old Papua New Guinea Artifacts Rewrite Neolithic History

5000-Year-Old Papua New Guinea Artifacts Rewrite Neolithic History

Previously found at ancient Asian and European sites, Now for the first time in New Guinea, the signs of a cultural shift in toolmaking and the lifestyle of farmers found.  

Excavations at New Guinea’s Waim site began in 2016 after local residents discovered these stone artifacts. The finds included mortars, pestles, carved faces, and club heads.

Archaeological Dig at a highland site called Waim produced relics of a cultural transition to village life, which played out on the remote island north of Australia around 5,050 to 4,200 years ago.

Archaeologist Ben Shaw of the University of New South Wales in Sydney and colleagues report the findings March 25 in Science Advances.

Dr. Ben Shaw and some locals examine a few of the Papua New Guinea artifacts unearthed at the Waim dig site in the northern highlands.

Agriculture on New Guinea originated in the island’s highlands an estimated 8,000 to 4,000 years ago. But corresponding cultural changes, such as living in villages and making elaborate ritual and symbolic objects, have often been assumed to have emerged only when Lapita farmers from Southeast Asia reached New Guinea around 3,000 years ago.

In Asia and Europe, those cultural changes mark the beginning of the Neolithic period. The new finds suggest that a Neolithic period also independently developed in New Guinea.

Key finds at Waim consist of a piece of a carved human or animal face that probably had a symbolic meaning and two stone pestles bearing traces of yam, fruit and nut starches.

Other discoveries include a stone cutting or chopping tool, a pigment-stained stone with deep incisions that may have been used to apply coloring to plant fibers and an iron-rich rock fragment that was likely struck with other stones to create sparks for igniting fires.

Farming’s rise on New Guinea apparently inspired long-distance, seagoing trade, the scientists say.

Chemical analysis of an unearthed chunk of obsidian — displaying marks created when someone hammered off sharp flakes — indicates it was imported from an island located at least 800 kilometers away.

Some of the Papua New Guinea artifacts – formally manufactured stone carvings and pestles from Waim.

A Culture Rich Enough to Rival the Greatest in Europe or Asia

These new discoveries are evidence of an ancient island culture, which had developed sophisticated craftsmanship with a range of tools and crafts, that according to the paper had developed “of its own accord in New Guinea.”

Dr. Shaw says that while it has for a long time been argued that social complexity “didn’t come with agriculture in New Guinea,” his new research has identified similar cultural archaeology, evidencing great developments, as is found in Europe and Asia.

The team of researchers is planning to conduct additional excavations around New Guinea to try and find more evidence about the cultural practices that emerged during the transition to agriculture, and maybe even more artifacts pertaining to their complex culture.

300 Million Year Old Enigmatic Ancient Wheel Found Deep In Mine?

300 Million Year Old Enigmatic Ancient Wheel Found Deep In Mine?

The rare find was made in the Ukrainian town of Donetsk, down a coal mine. As it could not be safely or successfully cut out due to the nature of the sandstone in which it was embedded, the mysterious artifact looking much like an ancient wheel remains in situ down the mine. 

While drilling the coal coking stratum J3 ‘ Sukhodolsky ‘ from the surface at a depth of 900 meters (2952,76 feet), workers were surprised to find what appears to be the imprint of a wheel above them in the sandstone roof of the tunnel that they had just excavated.

Fortunately, Deputy Chief V.V. Kruzhilin took photographs of the rare imprint and exchanged them with Mine Chief foreman S. Kasatkin, who brought news of the find to light.

Coal mine after D.F. Melnykov. Lysychansk, Luhansk oblast, Ukraine.

After further investigating this site and carefully examining the imprint at close hand, we are left with only the photographs as evidence of their existence (there was more than one imprint) and the word of a group of Ukrainian miners.

Discovering the Wheel

Without being able to definitively date the strata in which the fossilized wheel print was found, it has been noted that the Rostov region surrounding Donetsk is situated upon Carboniferous rock aged between 360-300 million years ago, and the widely distributed coking coals have derived from the middle to late Carboniferous; suggesting a possible age of the imprint at around 300 million years old.

This would mean that an actual wheel became stuck millions of years ago and dissolved over time due to a process called diagenesis, where sediments are lithified into sedimentary rocks, as is common with fossil remains.

A miner below a wheel imprint in the mine.

The following is an extract from a letter written by S. Kasatkin (translated from Ukrainian) in reference to his testimony of having been witness to the anomalous wheel imprint discovered by his team of miners.

‘This finding is not a PR action, we as a team of engineers and workers asked the mine director to invite scientists for a detailed examination of the object, but the director, following the instructions of the then owner of the mine, prohibited such talks and instead only ordered to accelerate work on passing through this section of lava and on fast ‘charging’ of the section with mining equipment.

Owing to that, this artifact and the smaller one found during further work came to be in a tunnel blockage and could not be taken out and studied. It is good that there were people, who in spite of the director’s prohibition, photographed this artifact.

I have connections with the people who first discovered these imprints and also with those who photographed them. We have more than a dozen witnesses. As you understand, the admission in the mine is strictly limited (it is dangerous on sudden emissions) and to obtain such permission is rather difficult.

The ‘wheel’ was printed on the sandstone of the roof. Guys (drifters) tried to ‘cut-away’ the find with pick hammers and to take it out to the surface, but sandstone was so strong (firm) that, having been afraid to damage a print, they have left it in place. 

At present, the mine is closed and access to the ‘object’ is impossible – the equipment is dismantled and the given layers are already flooded.’

The wheel.

With only this written testimony and that of the other witnesses, the photographs remain the only proof of this anomalous imprint, but it must be deemed worthy of a mention despite any difficulties verifying the details beyond that which you have read. For, if the photographic evidence is indeed legitimate, then one must question how a man-made wheel became embedded in such ancient strata when according to scientific orthodoxy man had not even evolved yet.