A 70-million-year-old dinosaur baby unearthed in China is one of the best-preserved fossils ever found

A 70-million-year-old dinosaur baby unearthed in China is one of the best-preserved fossils ever found

A 70-million-year-old dinosaur baby unearthed in China is one of the best-preserved fossils ever found

A dinosaur embryo perfectly curled up in its fossilized egg was analyzed by a team of researchers in southeastern China.

The rundown: The fossil, estimated to be between 72 and 66 million years old, belonged to an oviraptorosaur — a beaked, toothless and omnivorous theropod that existed during the Cretaceous Period of what is now Asia and North America.

Researchers published their findings in the journal Science.

The embryo was estimated to be 27 centimetres (11 inches) long from head to tail. Researchers said the dinosaur, which would have fed on plants, would be 2-3 meters (79-118 inches) long had it lived to adulthood.

The embryo was close to hatching as evidenced by its “tucking” posture, a behavior seen in modern birds. Chicks preparing to hatch tuck their heads under their right wing for stability as they crack the shell with their beak.

Modern birds are direct descendants of theropods, which are two-legged dinosaurs. Theropods include the Tyrannosaurus rex, spinosaurus and velociraptor, among others.

What the researchers are saying: Due to its complete structure, the fossil turned out to be one of the best dinosaur embryos found in history, the researchers told AFP. They called the creature “Baby Yingliang” after Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum, its current location.

Our little one has just arrived. Welcome Baby Yingliang, a gorgeous fossil dinosaur embryo preserved inside its egg! You’re looking here at a baby dinosaur, not too long before it would have hatched.

“This skeleton is not only complete from the tip of the snout to the end of its tail; it is curled in a life pose within its egg as if the animal died just yesterday,” study co-author Darla Zelenitsky, an assistant professor of paleontology at the University of Calgary, told Live Science.

Lead author Waisum Ma, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Birmingham, said dinosaur embryos happen to be some of the rarest fossils. Most non-avian embryos are also incomplete, with bones separated at the joints. “We are very excited about the discovery of ‘Baby Yingliang’ — it is preserved in a great condition and helps us answer a lot of questions about dinosaur growth and reproduction with it,” Ma said. “It is interesting to see this dinosaur embryo and a chicken embryo pose in a similar way inside the egg, which possibly indicates similar prehatching behaviours.”

The researchers said the embryo was found in Jiangxi province and acquired by Liang Liu, director of a Chinese stone company called Yingliang Group, in 2000. It was stored and forgotten until museum staff found it some 10 years later, during the construction of Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum, according to CNN.

Embryos that don’t adopt the tucking posture are more likely to die as a result of unsuccessful hatching. The team plans to study the fossil further using advanced scanning techniques, since part of its body remains covered by rock.

White Lead Identified in 2,500-Year-Old Containers in China

White Lead Identified in 2,500-Year-Old Containers in China

White Lead Identified in 2,500-Year-Old Containers in China

Chinese researchers have unearthed bronze containers with lead white residue that the ancient Chinese used for face-whitening makeup around 300 years before the ancient Greeks started making their own.

A team of researchers from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) and the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology discovered the ancient artefacts at the Liangdaicun site in the city of Hancheng in China’s Shaanxi Province.

In their study published in the open-access journal Humanities and Sciences Communications on Sept. 3, archaeologists noted that the area they excavated in the Liangdaicun site was a nobility cemetery that belonged to the Rui state of China from 770 B.C. until 476 B.C.

Scientists unearthed several valuable artefacts from the cemetery, including the tomb of an aristocrat from the Rui state and miniature bronze containers in her tomb containing synthetic lead white. Upon studying the containers and their contents, the researchers concluded that they were used for cosmetic purposes.

According to their research paper, the team studied the residue using FTIR (Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy), XRD (X-ray Powder Diffraction), SEM-EDS (Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy), radioactive and stable carbon isotope analyses.

“The results show that these residues were the earliest synthesized lead white in the world to date, which was produced by the precipitation method in solution distinct from the corrosion method practised in ancient Greece,” the scientists wrote.

Before the recent discovery, it was believed that ancient Greece was the first civilization to use synthesized lead white.

The study noted that the earliest known method to obtain lead white was through mining natural cerussite, which was recorded in southern Europe, Egypt, Iran, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley between the fifth and second millennium B.C.

Ancient Greece did not start employing a corrosion process for synthesizing lead white until the fourth century B.C. Mass production and the widespread use of lead white in cosmetics and art across Europe soon followed.

“The mass production of synthetic lead white with lower cost promoted the widespread use of white makeup in China and the Mediterranean World, which triggered a cosmetic revolution and highlighted that the pursuit of beauty stimulated the development of chemistry in human history, especially the earliest wet chemistry practice in China,” the study read.

Although the recent study claims that the use of synthesized lead white was first evident in China, it noted that ancient Greece and China had different approaches.

“The synthetic lead white found at the Liangdaicun site was several hundred years earlier than that of ancient Greece, and both regions have different synthetic approaches, indicating the independent origins and development of lead white synthesis between east and west Eurasia during the first millennium BCE,” the researchers wrote.

They also pointed out that the residue found in the aristocrat’s tomb could be much older than the actual tomb.

“Although the age of the lead carbonates does not fall exactly within the burial date of the tomb, it still reveals the synthetic origin of ancient samples because natural cerussite was observed to have a significantly larger offset,” the team wrote.

Hoard of Islamic era gold and silver coins found behind Egyptian temple

Hoard of Islamic era gold and silver coins found behind Egyptian temple

Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered a nearly 1,000-year-old cache of gold and silver coins behind a temple in Esna, a city located along the Nile River.

Hoard of Islamic era gold and silver coins found behind Egyptian temple
Archaeologists uncovered both gold and silver coins at the temple site in Esna, Egypt.

The hoard, which was discovered by a team of researchers from Egypt’s Supreme Council for Archaeology, includes coins minted throughout different parts of the Islamic era, which began in A.D. 610, when Muhammad received his first revelation, and lasted until approximately the 13th century(opens in new tab). 

Notable coins found during the excavation, which began last year, include 286 silver coins of kings and kingdoms from that era, as well as a variety of gold coins, a coin from Armenia that was minted during King Leo II’s reign in the 13th century, and bronze and brass coins from the Ottoman Empire.

Also found among the “hidden treasure” were dirhams (silver coins used across several Arab states, including today’s United Arab Emirates) minted by a variety of kings and sultans.

In addition, researchers unearthed molds and weights that were used during the minting process, according to a translated statement.

Archaeologists(opens in new tab) aren’t sure why the hoard of coins was abandoned at the temple site and hope further analyses of the cache will provide clues to the coins’ history, according to the statement.

Hercules Statue Unearthed in Northern Greece

Hercules Statue Unearthed in Northern Greece

Hercules Statue Unearthed in Northern Greece

On Friday, September 16, 2022, the excavation research was carried out by a team from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AuTH) in Philippi, with the director of the excavation Professor Natalia Poulos and collaborators Assistant Professor Anastasios Tantsis and Emeritus Professor Aristotle Menzos, was completed, the Ministry of Sport and Culture announced.

Twenty-four AuTH students (18 undergraduates, 3 postgraduates and 3 PhD candidates) participated in the excavation.

The research was funded by the regular budget of the University and the Research Committee, AUTH.

This year, the excavation continued on the eastern side of one of the main streets of the city, which at this point meets another main axis that passes further north.

The point of convergence of the two streets is formed by a widening (a square) dominated by a richly decorated building, probably a fountain.

The building had a special architectural decoration, fragments of which were uncovered.

Its decoration was completed by an impressive statue from Roman times (2nd century AD). The statue, whose size is larger than life, depicts Hercules with a youthful body.

The club, which has been found in fragments, and the lion hanging from the outstretched left hand attest to the identity of the mythological hero.

On the earl’s crest, he wears a wreath of vine leaves which is held at the back by a band whose ends end at the shoulders.

The specific statue adorned a building which, according to the excavation findings, dates to the 8th/9th century AD.

We know from the sources as well as from the archaeological data that in Constantinople statues from the classical and Roman periods adorned buildings and public spaces until the late Byzantine period.

This find demonstrates the way public spaces were decorated in the important cities of the Byzantine Empire, including Philippi.

The excavation will continue next year.

New archaeological discoveries provide insight into the Yellow River origins of the Chinese civilization

New archaeological discoveries provide insight into the Yellow River origins of the Chinese civilization

New archaeological discoveries provide insight into the Yellow River origins of the Chinese civilization
The city ruins site in Zhengzhou, Henan Province

A gold “funeral mask” dating back to more than 3,000 years ago was excavated from the tomb of an ancient noble in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China’s Henan Province, officials with China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration announced at a recent press conference.

Different from gold masks discovered at sites from the ancient Shu civilization in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the mask representing the culture of China’s Central Plains was large enough to cover a person’s entire face. This mask and other relics found in the Shang Dynasty (c.1600BC-1046BC) tomb have shed light on the burial rituals and gold culture of the Shang people.

The tomb yielded more than 200 burial objects.

The ancient city ruins and three other archaeological discoveries revealed at the press conference number among the latest achievements of excavation and research into early city sites along the middle reaches of the Yellow River. All these sites date back to the early stages of Chinese civilization, according to a press release from the administration on Friday.

The city ruins site in Zhengzhou, Henan Province Photo: IC

Rare discoveries

The remains of the tomb of the Shang Dynasty noble, around 10,000 square meters in size, possessed some of the highest quality and most diverse array of burial objects among all the tombs found in the city ruins.

Among all the discoveries from the tomb, which include bronze and jade wares, the gold mask is the most striking finding. The mask is 18.3 centimetres in length, 14.5 centimetres wide and weighs around 40 grams.

Huang Fucheng, a researcher at the Zhengzhou Municipal Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, said that the size of the mask means it can basically cover the entire face of an adult.

Previously, a large number of gold items were unearthed at the famed Sanxingdui Ruins site in Sichuan Province, but gold wares are rarely found at Shang Dynasty cultural sites in the central plains, an area centred in much of today’s Henan Province and parts of the neighbouring provinces of Shanxi, Shandong and Hebei. Researchers say that these rare discoveries can help expand archaeological research into Shang Dynasty culture.

Chen Lüsheng, a renowned museologist and researcher at the National Museum of China, told the Global Times that the tomb is a significant find for research into the burial rituals and systems of the Shang Dynasty, and because it dates back to a very early period during the dynasty, it can provide new insight into the origins of Chinese civilization.

“Although this gold mask is older than those unearthed from the Sanxingdui Ruins, we still need more evidence and a larger amount of archaeological discoveries to confirm a direct connection between the Shang city ruins and the Sanxingdui Ruins,” Chen said. 

Early beginnings 

Chinese civilization and its origins, especially the study of the Xia Dynasty (c.2070BC-c.1600BC), has been one of the most important topics in Chinese archaeology.

Since 2018, the National Cultural Heritage Administration has been carrying out 11 archaeological projects focusing on tracing and researching the origin of Chinese civilization. So far, more than 200 excavations have seen significant achievements.

The projects focusing on regions along the Yellow River, commonly seen as the birthplace of Chinese civilization, are seen as the highlights of these related archaeological projects.

Besides the Shang Dynasty city ruins in Zhengzhou, archaeologists also excavated the Erlitou Ruins in Yanshi, Henan Province. Dating back to about 3,500 to 3,600 years ago, they are the largest late Xia Dynasty site discovered to date.  

Some 3 million square meters in size, the surviving ruins have revealed the remains of two palaces, a residential area, pottery and bronze workshops, as well as kilns and tombs.

The latest archaeological highlights at the site include the discovery of rammed earth walls on both sides of the roads in many parts of the city and walls dividing several areas outside the palace and workshop areas, showing that people from different classes lived in different parts of the city.

Recent excavations have also unearthed for the first time at the site the remains of pottery, more than 800 pieces of pottery decorated with red paint.

The Bicun Ruins, dating back to 3,700 years to 4,000 years ago, are located in North China’s Shanxi Province. New discoveries at the site, including a complex architecture built of stones that have some characteristics of a watchhouse, demonstrate that the site might be an important customs pass at that time.

Another ruins site in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous region covers an area of around 1.38 million square meters and has been basically confirmed that it had triple defence systems, including inner city, outer city and barbican. Researchers found two underground passages in the outer barbican of the ancient city.

The excavation works in the inner city area found a large number of remains, such as tombs, housing sites and ash pits, which provide clues for understanding the structure layout of the inner city.

The gold mask excavated from the ancient noble tomb Photo:Xinhua
The gold mask excavated from the ancient noble tomb Photo:Xinhua

Newly found Chinese artefacts illuminate the mysterious ancient kingdom

Newly found Chinese artefacts illuminate the mysterious ancient kingdom

Newly found Chinese artefacts illuminate the mysterious ancient kingdom
A bronze altar was excavated from a sacrificial pit at the Sanxingdui ruins.

A bronze altar and a dragon with a pig’s nose are among a trove of items discovered in sacrificial pits that shed new light on the buried secrets of an ancient Chinese civilization.

Archaeologists on Monday announced the “significant” series of finds at the Sanxingdui ruins in China’s southwestern Sichuan province, according to the team behind the dig and the state-run Xinhua news agency.

A team including academics from Peking University and Sichuan University found thousands of items including intricate bronze, gold and jade items, and what it called the unprecedented discovery of 10 bronzes. Experts say the finds date back 3,000 to 4,500 years.

Discovered in the late 1920s, Sanxingdui is one of the key Chinese archaeological sites. Experts think its treasures once belonged to the ancient Shu kingdom, which dates back 4,800 years and lasted 2,000 years.

The new finds mostly come from what archaeologists call sacrificial pits 7 and 8, the highlight being a bronze box with a tortoise-shaped lid containing jade artefacts, including dragon heads. Traces of silk fabric were found surrounding the box.

A bronze box with jade artefacts inside was among the finds in a sacrificial pit.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that the vessel is one of its kind, given its distinctive shape, fine craftsmanship and ingenious design.

Although we do not know what this vessel was used for, we can assume that ancient people treasured it,” said Li Haichao, a professor at Sichuan University who is in charge of the excavation at pit 7, according to Xinhua.

The role of the pits and their use is contested. One academic, Chen Shen, argued in a 2002 book: “Some belief the pits to be a kind of burial, but without human skeletons; the body might have been reduced to ash as a result of a ritual burning ceremony.”

Burned fragments of ivory were found in one pit and the presence of ash, possibly the remnants of tree and plant matter used as fuel, has led archaeologists to speculate that boxes were placed in the pits to be burned.

In-pit 8, archaeologists found yet more elaborate bronze work, including heads with gold masks, an altar and a dragon with a pig’s nose.

A curious three-part sculpture features a snake with a human head with protruding eyes, tusks and horns. The top part of the head resembles an ancient trumpet-shaped wine vessel.

Ran Honglin, from the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, said some elements of the sculpture were typical of the Shu kingdom, while others were seen in items from the Zhou dynasty.

“These three factors are now blended into one artefact, which demonstrates that Sanxingdui is an important part of Chinese civilization,” he told Xinhua.

“More cultural relics unearthed at Sanxingdui have also been seen in other locales in China, giving evidence of the early exchange and integration of Chinese civilization,” Honglin added.

A bronze head was excavated from a sacrificial pit at Sanxingdui.

“The sculptures are very complex and imaginative, reflecting the fairy world imagined by people at that time, and they demonstrate the diversity and richness of Chinese civilization,” Zhao Hao, an associate professor at Peking University who led the excavation of pit 8, told Xinhua.

The institute said some 13,000 items have already been found at Sanxingdui since excavations began in the 1980s.

The 12-square-mile site was accidentally discovered in the late 1920s by a farmer in Sichuan province who was repairing a sewage ditch. It is considered one of the most important Chinese archaeological finds and one of the world’s greatest discoveries of the 20th century.

Members of China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration have been working at the site in Guanghan city, in southwest China’s Sichuan province.

The finds paint a vivid picture of life in ancient China. Small sacrificial pits and the sacrificed remains of cattle and boars were found alongside reeds, bamboo and soybeans.

Most historians and archaeologists previously thought the birthplace of Chinese civilization was the Yellow River Basin in China’s north. But Sanxingdui’s discovery, and its excavation in the 1980s, challenged those assumptions.

The new finds are expected to be displayed at an exhibition at Sanxingdui Museum, near the city of Guanghan, in 2023.

Mystery has surrounded the fate of the societies that created the artefacts found at Sanxingdui. Evidence shows that at some point, they left the area and moved to the ancient city of Jinsha, near the modern city of Chengdu. Some scholars believe the move was caused by an earthquake 3,000 years ago.

Late Bronze Age Tomb Opened in Israel

Late Bronze Age Tomb Opened in Israel

Late Bronze Age Tomb Opened in Israel
Some of the intact pottery was found by archaeologists at the cave at Palmahim, southern Israel.

An intact ancient burial cave – a rarity in and of itself – has been discovered on the southern Israeli coast, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Sunday.

A tractor moved a rock during construction for a new park by Kibbutz Palmahim and thusly Dror Czitron, an inspector for the Nature and Parks Authority, became the first to gaze on the grave for over 3,300 years.

Literally, the first: the grave had not been robbed, confirms Eli Yannai, an expert on the Bronze Age at the IAA. However, the second may have been the first robber after all these centuries: there are indications that after the cave’s discovery, somebody did go in, mucked about and stole some items, though leaving most, the IAA says. It is investigating with vigor, it adds.

Anyway, among the grave goods the latter-day thief left behind, meant to serve the deceased in the afterlife, archaeologists found intact pottery and bronze vessels, exactly as they had been put into the tomb in the 13th century B.C.E.: amphorae and bowls of various types and forms, cooking vessels and oil lamps. They also found tiny vessels that had held small amounts of precious substances, which apparently hailed from Tyre, Sidon and other ports in Lebanon.

The 13th-century B.C.E. burial cave was discovered at Palmahim, southern Israel.

Yes, the archaeologists also found the gear of hostilities: arrowheads and spear tips made of bronze, which seem to have been associated with an organic material that did not survive the trauma of time.

“It’s the find of a lifetime,” says Yannai. “It’s like a set from ‘Indiana Jones’ – a cave with vessels on the floor that haven’t been touched for 3,300 years. The period is Late Bronze Age – exactly the time of the notorious pharaoh, Ramesses II … The cave provides a full picture of burial traditions in the Late Bronze Age.”

Ramesses II is credited with expanding ancient Egypt’s sway as far as modern Syria to the northeast and Sudan to the south. In other words, the burial cave dates to a time when ancient Egypt ruled the land that is today Israel.

The burial chamber had been carved into the bedrock in the form of a square, with a pillar supporting its ceiling. In contrast to (slightly earlier) burials found in the vicinity of Israel’s southern coast, it seems to have served a family or clan, Yannai says.

Other graves, albeit from the 14th century B.C.E., not the 13th, each served to inter one body. However, not much more about the bodies can be said: in contrast to the grave site itself, their preservation is poor, precluding the possibility of DNA extraction and analysis.

Palmahim Beach in southern Israel.

That said, Yannai believes it reasonable to assume that they were local people living on the coast, who – based on some of the grave goods – had a brisk trading relationship with Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria.

However, what settlement they may have been associated with, we do not know. “It may have been lost to the sea over time,” Yannai says. All along the coast, people were sailing out from makeshift “pirate” ports – notably at the mouth of the Soreq River where it pours, or trickles these days, into the Mediterranean Sea.

Some of the intact pottery discovered at Palmahim.

It is plausible that smaller traders would seek to avoid using the port services of the big cities, Jaffa and Ashkelon, which were the fief of the big merchants and would gouge them on fees, he explains. So possibly, the denizens of this untouched burial cave were “pirates” of that sort, or at least had possessions from them to take to the afterlife.

Some of the bodies had been laid on their back; some seem to have supplanted earlier bodies, which were moved, he adds. In any case, it seems the cave was used over generations.

Palmahim Beach, southern Israel.

As said, the identity and affiliations of the deceased remain a mystery for the time being. But there is the hope of being able to analyze the organic residue in the vessels, Yannai says, which could shed light on at least one enigma: what they liked to eat.

Amphorae at the burial cave.
Amphorae at the burial cave.

19th-Century Coal Chute Uncovered in Nova Scotia

19th-Century Coal Chute Uncovered in Nova Scotia

19th-Century Coal Chute Uncovered in Nova Scotia
Construction crews working on the Cogswell Interchange project in Halifax have uncovered a coal chute from the 1800s used for storing heating fuel.

When digging began on the Cogswell Interchange project near downtown Halifax, some unique discoveries were bound to be found. The British established the Town of Halifax in 1749 and that history resurfaces from time to time. Recent excavations to add a new detour road in the area revealed a small part of daily colonial life.

“It was discovered at the time of us finding an old building foundation made of brick and stone,” said Donna Davis, project manager with the Cogswell District project. 

“Basically it is a cavity that was used to store coal, so it’s called a coal chute or coal port.”

Davis said coal chutes were common in the 1800s to provide heating fuel and it’s believed coal was dumped into the chute through a grate at road level.

“We don’t know if the building would have been residential, commercial or industrial,” said Davis. “There were a mix of buildings in that area and our archeologist is continuing to find out more about the structure and what its origins might have been.”

An archeologist working with the Cogswell Interchange project is researching the history of the site where the coal chute was discovered. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

It’s believed the coal chute would have been built in the mid- to late-1800s.

Davis said there are old maps that show the area near the Halifax waterfront was populated with numerous industrial and commercial structures in that era and some residential properties, too.

The work on the Cogswell Interchange is still in its infancy as the expected completion date is still four years away. Davis said there will likely be more interesting discoveries to come.

More underground discoveries are expected to be made before the Cogswell Interchange project is completed in 2026.

“When we come across something like that, construction stops and we have the archeologist come in to tell us what we’ve uncovered and to tell us how to proceed,” said Davis. “In most cases, we have to properly catalog what it is that we’ve found.”

Davis said a number of old, large brick storm sewer tunnels have also been discovered. 

A new construction project app will be rolled out this fall where pictures and information on the discoveries will be shared with the public.

The proposed redevelopments for the Cogswell District will include more green space.

The Cogswell Interchange was built in the late 1960s to early 1970s and officially opened in 1972. 

Much of the interchange is being demolished to make way for a new Cogswell District neighbourhood, connecting Halifax’s downtown and waterfront with the north end. It will convert the existing road infrastructure into a mixed-use neighbourhood.

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