How a-boat this! Huge 700-year-old shipwreck found at bottom of river Vistula

How a-boat this! Huge 700-year-old shipwreck found at bottom of river Vistula

The underwater archaeologists in Vistula River north of Warsaw, Poland, discovered a centuries-old shipwreck described as “huge and rare.”

This historical boat was the discovery by a group of submarine explorers searching in the Vistula River north of Warsaw in Poland for a whopping 37 meters long (121 foot) and 6 meters wide (20 foot) and the article in Science in Poland reveals that the boat used to carry up to “100 tons of goods.”

Funded by the Ministry of Culture and Scientific Heritage with support from the Warsaw Institute of Archaeology, and the “massive” newly discovered boat is thought to have been a transport vessel operating between the 14th and 18th centuries.

Dr. Artur Brzóska is an underwater archaeologist and head of the research project from the Association of Archaeologists Jutra, and he believes it probably “transported grain to Gdańsk.”

Poor visibility and strong water currents were among the negative environmental challenges that stopped the divers from recovering any artifacts from the sunken ship.

But Brzóska pointed out that wrecks such as these are “very rare” and until this discovery, only two wrecks were previously known in this part of the river: a 16th century and 19th-century ship.

This new boat is a so-called “berlinka,” which was an elongated, shallow, barge-type craft designed for canal transportation, and while an article like this makes it all sound so simple, finding the rare wreck took what amounted to a major scientific operation.

Sonar image of the centuries-old boat discovered in the Vistula River in Poland.

Before the researchers discovered the “huge” boat they mounted hi-tech sonar equipment around a motorboat and selected a series of test sites with a view to diving at any interesting findings on the scans.

The system was tested on the Vistula River near Warsaw`s Old Town and the project required sailing around 400 kilometers (250 miles) along parallel survey lines scanning a 13-kilometer-long (8 miles) stretch of the river, covering nearly 500 hectares in all.

The scientists first found the decomposing remains of a World War II bridge sunk near Łomianki Dolne, and the geometry of its steel structure informed Brzóska’s team that it had been built by “German sappers.”

They also found parts of another ship driven into the bottom of the river and a fragment from the vessel pulled to the surface led Brzóska to the conclusion that it too might have been a cargo boat, similar to the huge one they discovered.

Researchers about to dive at the site of the shipwreck on the Vistula River in Poland.

While the wrecks being discovered today are from the last 600 years, beneath them, deep in the silts of the riverbed, are the rotting remains of much more ancient vessels, as the Vistula basin was occupied in the 1st millennium BC by Iron Age Lusatian and Przeworsk cultures.

1st-century Roman authors called the region “Magna Germania” and in the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy described the Vistula River as the border between Germania and Sarmatia.

According to an article on Suwalszczyzna, the Vistula River used to be connected to the Dnieper River, and thence to the  Black Sea via the Augustów Canal, one of the most ancient trade routes, the Amber Road, which connected Northern Europe with Asia, Greece,  Egypt, and elsewhere.

Encyclopedia Britannica says that for hundreds of years the river was one of the main trade routes of ancient Poland and the Vistula estuary was settled by Slavs in the 7th and 8th centuries.

Moving through the canals of time, the magnificent if not ostentatious castles and fortresses that line the riverbanks all stand testimony to the wealth accumulated through the trade of salt, timber, and stone between the 10th and 13th centuries.

Shot of the Vistula River in Poland where the shipwreck was found.

In the 16th century most of the grain exported from Poland left from the city of Gdańsk, and is located at the end of the Vistula, with its Baltic seaport trade connections, it became the wealthiest, most highly developed and connected of the Polish cities. It was this thriving Polish city that Dr. Artur Brzóska believes the newly discovered massive barge transported grain too, but the team is awaiting further results before drawing this conclusion.

Anthropologists confirm the existence of specialized sheep-hunting camp in prehistoric Lebanon

Anthropologists confirm the existence of specialized sheep-hunting camp in prehistoric Lebanon

Anthropologists confirm the existence of specialized sheep-hunting camp in prehistoric Lebanon
A view of excavations in the Nachcharini Cave taken at end of the season in the summer of 1974

The presence of a hunting camp, currently situated in north-eastern Lebanon, over 10,000 years old, has been confirmed by anthropologists at the University of Toronto – one that straddles the period marking the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural settlements at the onset of the last stone age.

The study of decades-old, collected from the Nachcharini Cave high in anti-Lebanon mountains that form the modern-day border between Lebanon and Syria, shows the site as a short-term hunting camp that served as a temporary outpost to emerging and more substantial villages elsewhere in the region, and that sheep were the primary game.

The finding confirms the hypothesis of retired U of T archeologist Bruce Schroeder, who excavated the site on several occasions beginning in 1972, but who had to discontinue his work when the Lebanese Civil War began in 1975.

“The site represents the best evidence of a special-purpose camp – not a village or settlement – in the region,” said Stephen Rhodes, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of anthropology in the Faculty of Arts & Science and lead author of a study published this week in PLOS ONE.

“The cave was a contemporary of larger settlements further south in the Jordan Valley, and is the first site of its kind to show the predominance of sheep among the animals hunted by its temporary inhabitants.”

The view of looking out of the cave in northeastern Lebanon where U of T researchers confirmed the existence of a more than 10,000-year-old hunting camp

Radiocarbon dating of animal bones recovered from the site shows that it dates to an era known as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), a period from about 10,000-8,000 BCE during which the cultivation of crops, the construction of mud-brick dwellings and other practices of domestication began to emerge. The stone tools found at the sites are mostly tiny arrowheads used for hunting.  

The new dates place the main deposits at the cave securely in the PPNA.

“Previous dates established in the 1970s were problematic and far too recent for unknown reasons, possibly due to contamination or incorrect processing,” said Rhodes, who coauthored the study with Edward Banning and Michael Chazan, both professors in U of T’s department of anthropology. 

“The results highlight the fact that people in the PPNA took advantage of a wide variety of habitats in a complex system of subsistence practices.”

It was already known that sheep hunting was practiced in this region throughout periods that preceded the PPNA, and the evidence found at Nachcharini Cave reinforces that understanding.

According to Rhodes, it consolidates our knowledge of the natural range of sheep, which pertains to a potential beginning of domestication in later years.

“We are not saying that hunters at Nachcharini were engaged in early stages of this domestication,” he said. “But the evidence of a local tradition makes this area a possible center of sheep domestication later on.”

Anglo-Saxon Abbey where Lusty King Edgar was Crowned, Found!

Anglo-Saxon Abbey where Lusty King Edgar was Crowned, Found!

The ruins of two stone buildings found during restoration work at Bath Abbey by Wessex Archeology specialist, it was discovered during renovation work at Bath Abbey, to the 8th – 10th century.

Bath Abbey Somerset, England.
The site at Bath Abbey

It is probably part of the Anglo-Saxon monastery where King Edgar was crowned as the first King of England in 973 AD.

In the excavation project Bath Abbey’s Footprint, the two foundations were uncovered underneath the street level, as part of Bath Abbey’s Footprint project.

The Wessex Archeology team revealed the apsidal (semi-circular) structures below an area where the cloisters of the 12th-century cathedral would have once stood and overlying earlier Romano-British deposits.

An internal plaster renders on the southern-most apse contained fragments of charcoal from which two samples were sent for radiocarbon dating at Queen’s University, Belfast.

The dates came back as AD 780-970 and AD 670-770, much to the delight of Wessex Archaeology Senior Project Officer Cai Mason, who said: “When you find something unusual, you have to think ‘what is the most mundane explanation for what we’ve found?’, and most of the time that will be the explanation, but sometimes that doesn’t work, which makes you wonder ‘have we found something genuinely unusual?’

“In a post-Roman context, the most likely place to find this type of structure is at the east end of an ecclesiastical building, such as a church or chapel, and given the fact that the excavated structures are surrounded by late Saxon burials, this is the most likely explanation for their use.

Excavations of the possible Anglo-Saxon abbey at Bath Abbey. 

“This, together with the late Saxon stonework and burials found at the Abbey, provides increasingly strong evidence that we have indeed found part of Bath’s lost Anglo-Saxon monastery.”

Wessex Archaeology Project Manager Bruce Eaton added: “Given that the potential date of these structures spans some 200 years there are several possible contexts for their construction.

“One possibility would be the reign of King Offa of Mercia, who acquired the monastery in AD 781 and is credited by William of Malmesbury for building the famous Church of St Peter, probably utilizing the ready supply of worked stone from the near-by collapsing Roman baths complex.

“Extensive building work within this period is further attested to by Offa’s successor Ecgfrith having the infrastructure in place to hold court at the monastery in AD 796.

“This phase of energetic building activity does fit neatly with our earliest possible date for the plasterwork, but it is certainly not our only candidate.”

The Reverend Canon Guy Bridgewater at Bath Abbey, said: “This is a really exciting find. While we’ve always known there once was an Anglo-Saxon monastery on this site, no trace of the building remains above ground today, so it’s amazing that we now have an actual record of it and can get a real sense of it as it was.

“The excavations being carried out as part of our Footprint project are essential to make major improvements to the current Abbey church, and how we use it.

“A massive benefit has been working with Wessex Archaeology who are making important discoveries about Abbey’s 1,000-year heritage all the time.”

The Anglo-Saxon structures are among a series of exciting discoveries made by Wessex Archaeology during their excavations at Bath Abbey. In August 2018, the team uncovered a vibrantly coloured 14th century tiled floor in what would have been the nave of the medieval cathedral.

They have excavated a Mesolithic land surface below the Victorian plant room, Roman buildings which would have once stood in the heart of the town of Aquae Sulis, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery containing rare charcoal burials and the medieval cloister walk.

More recent finds have included the coffin-plate of controversial Georgian demographer Rev. Thomas Malthus and recovered painted fragments of the lost Jacobean plaster ceiling of the current Abbey church.

Waves Over Centuries Has Carved this Marble Cave into Stunning Shapes and Swirling Patterns

Waves Over Centuries Has Carved this Marble Cave into Stunning Shapes and Swirling Patterns

The Cuevas de Mármol is situated on a strong marble island on the edge of the General Correra Lake on the Patagonian Andes, an outlying glacial lake that stretches across the border between Chile and Argentina.

Dubbed as the most beautiful cave network in the world, Cuevas de Marmol (Marble Caves) is a 6,000-year-old sculpture hewn by the crashing waves of Lake General Carrera of Patagonia in Southern Chile.

Also called the Marble Cathedral, the intricate caverns are part of a peninsula made of solid marble surrounded by the glacial Lake General Carrera that spans the Chile-Argentina border.

The swirling pattern on the cave interiors is a reflection of the lake’s azure waters, which change depending on the water levels dictated by weather and season.

Visitors are enamored by the Marble Cave’s unique ability to constantly change its appearance.

In early spring, the shallow waters are turquoise and create a crystalline shimmer against the caves’ swirling walls. Come summer, the water levels increase and create a deep blue hue which gives the cave a unique unearthly shade.

The water levels are significantly affected by the freezing and melting of the surrounding glaciers. It’s also from these glaciers where the lake takes the fine silt sediments that rest on the lake bed.

To get to the caves, one must embark on a long and difficult journey starting from a flight to the Chilean capital of Santiago. Visitors must then travel 800 miles on major highways to the next big city Coyhaique, followed by a 200-mile drive on rough dirt roads towards the lake.

Located far from any road, the caves are accessible only by boat. Thirty-minute tours are operated by a local company, weather and water conditions permitting.

The best time of the year to visit the Marble Caves is roughly between September and February when the ice melts feeding the lake and the color of the water is particularly enchanting turquoise.

In terms of hours, the best time to take a boat tour is early morning to catch the right lighting for great pictures.

Finally, a boat is needed to access the caves. But though the journey is long and challenging, many agree the enchanting beauty of the caves is definitely worth the effort.

Spider-Like Creature With a Tail Was Just Found in 100 Million-Year-Old Amber

Spider-Like Creature With a Tail Was Just Found in 100 Million-Year-Old Amber

Amber mined for centuries in Myanmar for jewelry is a treasure trove for understanding the evolution of spiders and their other arachnid relatives.

This week, two independent teams describe four 100-million-year-old specimens encased in amber that look like a cross between a spider and a scorpion.

The discovery, “could help close major gaps in our understanding of spider evolution,” says Prashant Sharma, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison who was not involved in the work.

Arachnids are a group of eight-legged invertebrates that includes scorpions, ticks, and spiders. Spiders, which crawled into existence some 300 million years ago, are known for their spinnerets—modified “legs” that produce silk and control its extrusion from tiny pores called spigots.

Male spiders have also evolved another modified “leg” between their fangs and the back four pairs of legs that inserts sperm into the female.

All but the most primitive spiders have smooth backs, unlike the segmented abdomens of scorpions, which are believed to have diverged from an ancestral arachnid more than 430 million years ago.

But in 1989, researchers discovered a suspicious, spigot-bearing fossil that was 100 million years older than the earliest known spider.

By 2008, paleobiologists realized that this ancient silk producer was just a spider relative, perhaps a stepping stone to true spiders.

Researchers put it into the group Uraraneida, which was thought to have thrived between 400 million and 250 million years ago. That left unanswered many questions about when spinnerets and other spider traits first evolved.

Then, several years ago, amber fossil dealers independently approached two paleobiologists at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology in China with what looked like 5-millimeter-long Uraraneida encased in amber.

One of them, Wang Bo, pulled together a team to look at his two specimens, which they eventually named Chimerachne yingi (“chimera spider” in Latin). The other paleobiologist, Huang Diying, assembled a second team that examined a different pair of these fossils.

The two groups say they didn’t know about each other until after they submitted their results to the same journal. But, despite some differences, “they draw the same conclusion—that fossil uraraneids, as this group is called, are the closest extinct relatives of spiders,” says Greg Edgecombe, a paleobiologist at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved with the work.

Amber preserved in exquisite detail these 100-million-year-old close relatives to spiders.

One group’s specimens give a really clear view of the top of this organism and the other, a great look at the underside, spinnerets and all, Huang and his colleagues report today in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

“The degree of preservation is exquisite, and the fossils’ anatomy is easy to interpret,” Sharma says. The presence of the spinnerets, he adds, means they must have originated “very early” in arachnid evolution. The male specimens also have the special appendages for inserting sperm into the female.

Yet they also have a segmented abdomen and a long tail, like a whip scorpion’s whip, Wang and his colleagues report today in the same journal. “These things appear to be essentially spiders with tails!” says Jason Bond, an evolutionary biologist at Auburn University in Alabama who was not involved with the work.

This means that early arachnids had a mix of all these traits, which were selectively lost in their descendants, giving rise to the array of arachnids seen today.

And what is even more amazing, says Bond, is that the amber is only 100 million years old. So these spider relatives hunted side by side with spiders for 200 million years.

Archaeologists discover fossil of ancient turtle species that never grew a shell

Archaeologists discover fossil of ancient turtle species that never grew a shell

A fossil freshly discovered turtle, that lived 228 million years ago, illustrates how modern turtles have developed these traits. It had a beak, but while its body was Frisbee-shaped, its wide ribs hadn’t grown to form a shell-like we see in turtles today.

“This reptile was more than six feet long and with a curious body and a long tail and its anterior part became this strange beak,” says Olivier Rieppel, a paleontologist at Chicago’s Field Museum and one of the authors of a new paper in Nature. “It probably lived in shallow water and dug in the mud for food.”

The new species has been christened Eorhynchochelys Sinensis — a mouthful, but with a straightforward meaning.

Eorhynchochelys (“Ay-oh-rink-oh-keel-is”) means “dawn beak turtle” — essentially, the first turtle with a beak — while Sinensis, meaning “from China,” refers to the place where it was found by the study’s lead author, Li Chun of China’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.

Eorhynchochelys isn’t the only kind of early turtle that scientists have discovered — there is another early turtle with a partial shell but no beak.

Until now, it’s been unclear how they all fit into the reptile family tree. “The origin of turtles has been an unsolved problem in paleontology for many decades,” says Rieppel. “Now with Eorhynchochelys, how turtles evolved has become a lot clearer.”

The fact that Eorhynchochelys developed a beak before other early turtles but didn’t have a shell is evidence of mosaic evolution — the idea that traits can evolve independently from each other and at a different rate, and that not every ancestral species has the same combination of these traits.

Modern turtles have both shells and beaks, but the path evolution took to get there wasn’t a straight line. Instead, some turtle relatives got partial shells while others got beaks, and eventually, the genetic mutations that create these traits occurred in the same animal.

“This impressively large fossil is a very exciting discovery giving us another piece in the puzzle of turtle evolution,” says Nick Fraser, an author of the study from National Museums Scotland.

“It shows that early turtle evolution was not a straightforward, step-by-step accumulation of unique traits but was a much more complex series of events that we are only just beginning to unravel.”

Fine details in the skull of Eorhynchochelys solved another turtle evolution mystery.

For years, scientists weren’t sure if turtle ancestors were part of the same reptile group as modern lizards and snakes — diapsids, which early in their evolution had two holes on the sides of their skulls — or if they were anapsids that lack these openings. Eorhynchochelys’s skull shows signs that it was a diapsid.

“With Eorhynchochelys’s diapsid skull, we know that turtles are not related to the early anapsid reptiles, but are instead related to evolutionarily more advanced diapsid reptiles. This is cemented, the debate is over,” says Rieppel.

The study’s authors say that their findings, both about how and when turtles developed shells and their status as diapsids, will change how scientists think about this branch of animals.

“I was surprised myself,” says Rieppel. “Eorhynchochelys makes the turtle family tree make sense. Until I saw this fossil, I didn’t buy some of its relatives as turtles. Now, I do.”

This study was contributed to by the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the CAS Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, National Museums Scotland, the Field Museum, and the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Archaeologists discover a crude ancient weapon that could kill a man with a single blow

Archaeologists discover a crude ancient weapon that could kill a man with a single blow

When many months ago, in England, an old wooden club was yanked from its watery grave in the River Thames in England, archaeologists didn’t quite know what to make of it.

The blunt tool, which is supposed to happen between 3530 and 3340 BC, does not look so good, it doesn’t really look all that impressive, but those studying it still wanted to get an idea of how it might have been used.

After making a full-sized replica for testing, it’s been determined that the unassuming tool could actually dispatch a human in short order and perhaps even with a single strike.

In a new research paper published in the journal Antiquity, scientists investigating the weapon and its origins took the extraordinary step of carving a replica for testing.

The original, which has begun to fall apart over its several thousands of years of life, is being preserved, but its stand-in demonstrated just how devastating it might have been.

The “Thames Beater,” as the weapon has been nicknamed, is modest in appearance. It consists of a thick wooden “blade” tapers down to a narrow handle with a hefty pommel on the very end. But its simple construction believes how much trauma it could cause.

Using the replica, the researchers asked a 30-year-old male volunteer to wield it in order to test its effectiveness in combat. The man was asked to bash a test dummy built of a realistic military ballistic material, complete with a faux human skull.

The “fight” proved to the archaeologists that the club would have been capable of shattering a human skull with a single hit and that the weapon could have been used in multiple different ways.

A ranged attack, with a full swing from the end of the handle, would have been useful when the target was greater than arms’ length away, while a two-handed bash using the beefy pommel may have been used when an enemy was much closer.

After testing its effectiveness, the scientists further compared the injuries the test dummy sustained with actual human skulls found in graveyards from the same time period.

They reported finding at least one with a skull fracture that looked nearly identical.

They further concluded that it’s likely the individual died as a result of a run-in with the Thames Beater or another similar blunt weapon.

Fossil hunter finds 185M-year-old ‘golden snitch’ with ancient sea creature inside

Fossil hunter finds 185M-year-old ‘golden snitch’ with ancient sea creature inside

Fossils shaped like Quidditchball are only a few of the many discoveries made by amateur archeologist Aaron Smith.

On the cliffs of Whitby, Yorkshire, the medical student found various fossil items from the Jurassic period. Perhaps the most spectacular is a 185 million-year-old fossil encased by what looks like a ‘golden canon’ ball.

It is technically a rock that is coated in iron pyrite, also known as ‘fools gold’, and if you shine this material, just like Smith did, then it turns shiny and gold.

The phenomenal piece of history is thought to be 185 million-years-old and was found on Sandsend Beach. Mr. Smith, 23, is a seasoned fossil collector and continues to go and explore the seaside in hope of finding similar treasures.

He said: “In order to find fossils, pretty much anywhere in the world, you just need to put in a lot of dedication!

Smith cut the sphere open to reveal the prehistoric insides
The fossils inside are of cleviceras

“The majority of the time there is nothing really to be found but every now and again, if you’re lucky enough, and something has appeared due to a storm, for example, then you might find a rock with a fossil inside it.

“When you find a fossil, then the long intricate process begins of carefully removing the stone to expose the fossil, this can take hundreds of hours in many cases.

“It’s very exciting discovering the fossils. It makes it all worthwhile after spending months of searching.”

Aaron Smith enjoys fossil hunting in his free time

When the medical student opened up one of his freshly shined pieces of iron pyrite he found spiral-shaped cleviceras fossils. Cleviceras is an extinct type of cephalopod creature. The best-known cephalopods today are probably squids and octopuses.

The golden-snitch-like spheres with a limestone core are actually common along the Yorkshire coastline and can be found amongst the stones and shales.

Mr. Smith has previously posted a video of the golden-snitch fossil online and captioned it: “Here’s a video of us opening one of our huge Cannon Ball fossils.

“The limestone nodule is coated in Iron Pyrite, meaning we can polish it to become Golden, seen in our previous videos.

“It still impresses me that these 185 Million-Year-Old fossils are along our beautiful Yorkshire Coastline waiting to be found.”

All In One Magazine