Science News

  • Scientists identify contents of ancient Maya drug containers
    on January 15, 2021 at 4:03 pm

    Scientists have identified the presence of a non-tobacco plant in ancient Maya drug containers for the first time. The researchers detected Mexican marigold (Tagetes lucida) in residues taken from 14 miniature Maya ceramic vessels. The vessels also contain chemical traces present in two types of dried and cured tobacco.

  • Spectacular fossil discovery: 150 million-year-old shark was one of the largest of its time
    on January 14, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    A team led by Sebastian Stumpf from the University of Vienna describes an well-preserved skeleton of the ancient shark Asteracanthus. This rare fossil find comes from the famous Solnhofen limestones in Bavaria, which was formed in a tropical-subtropical lagoon landscape during the Late Jurassic, about 150 million years ago. The almost complete skeleton shows that Asteracanthus was two-and-a-half meters long, which makes this ancient shark one of the largest of its time.

  • Fossils' soft tissues helping to solve puzzle that vexed Darwin
    on January 12, 2021 at 4:01 pm

    Remarkably well-preserved fossils are helping scientists unravel a mystery about the origins of early animals that puzzled Charles Darwin.

  • Evidence for a massive paleo-tsunami at ancient Tel Dor
    on December 23, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Underwater excavation, borehole drilling, and modelling suggests a massive paleo-tsunami struck near the ancient settlement of Tel Dor between 9,910 to 9,290 years ago, according to a new study.

  • Ancient DNA sheds light on the peopling of the Mariana Islands
    on December 22, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Compared to the first peopling of Polynesia, the settlement of the Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific, which happened around 3,500 years ago, has received little attention. Researchers have now obtained answers to long debated questions regarding the origin of the first colonizers of the Marianas and their relationship to the people who initially settled in Polynesia.

  • The aroma of distant worlds
    on December 21, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    Asian spices such as turmeric and fruits like the banana had already reached the Mediterranean more than 3000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought. A team of researchers has shown that even in the Bronze Age, long-distance trade in food was already connecting distant societies.

  • Discovery of 66 new Roman Army sites shows more clues about one of the empire
    on December 21, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    The discovery of dozens of new Roman Army sites thanks to remote sensing technology has revealed more about one of the empire's most infamous conflicts.

  • A non-destructive method for analyzing Ancient Egyptian embalming materials
    on December 16, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    Ancient Egyptian mummies have many tales to tell, but unlocking their secrets without destroying delicate remains is challenging. Now, researchers have found a non-destructive way to analyze bitumen -- the compound that gives mummies their dark color -- in Ancient Egyptian embalming materials. The method provides clues to the bitumen's geographic origin and, in one experiment, revealed that a mummy in a French museum could have been partially restored, likely by collectors.

  • Mummified baboons shine new light on the lost land of Punt
    on December 15, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    Ancient Punt was a major trading partner of Egyptians for at least 1,100 years. It was an important source of luxury goods, including incense, gold, and living baboons. Located somewhere in the southern Red Sea region in either Africa or Arabia, scholars have debated its geographic location for more than 150 years. A new study tracing the geographic origins of Egyptian mummified baboons provides new insight into Punt's location, demonstrating the tremendous nautical range of early Egyptian […]

  • Under wraps: X-rays reveal 1,900-year-old mummy's secrets
    on December 10, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    Researchers used powerful X-rays to see the preserved remains of an ancient Egyptian girl without disturbing the linen wrappings. The results of those tests point to a new way to study mummified specimens.

  • Ancient migration was choice, not chance
    on December 3, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    The degree of intentionality behind ancient ocean migrations, such as that to the Ryukyu Islands between Taiwan and mainland Japan, has been widely debated. Researchers used satellite-tracked buoys to simulate ancient wayward drifters and found that the vast majority failed to make the contested crossing. They concluded that Paleolithic people 35,000-30,000 years ago must therefore have made the journey not by chance but by choice.

  • Cluster of Alaskan islands could be single, interconnected giant volcano
    on December 3, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    A small group of volcanic islands in Alaska's Aleutian chain might be part of a single, undiscovered giant volcano, say scientists. If the researchers' suspicions are correct, the newfound volcanic caldera would belong to the same category of volcanoes as the Yellowstone Caldera and other volcanoes that have had super-eruptions with severe global consequences.

  • African trade routes sketched out by mediaeval beads
    on December 3, 2020 at 12:28 am

    The chemical composition of glass beads and their morphological characteristics can reveal where they come from. Archaeologists analyzed glass beads found at rural sites in Mali and Senegal from between the 7th and 13th centuries AD. The scientists demonstrate that the glass they are made of probably came from Egypt, the Levantine coast and the Middle East. The results show that international trade linking Africa to Europe and Asia during was connected with local and regional trade.

  • Secrets of the 'lost crops' revealed where bison roam
    on November 24, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    Blame it on the bison. If not for the wooly, boulder-sized beasts that once roamed North America in vast herds, ancient people might have looked past the little barley that grew under those thundering hooves. But the people soon came to rely on little barley and other small-seeded native plants as staple food.

  • New light on polar explorer's last hours
    on November 24, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Chemical analyzes of a black spot in a diary shed new light on the destiny and tragic death of legendary Inuit polar expedition member Jørgen Brønlund in Northeast Greenland in 1907.

  • Science reveals secrets of a mummy's portrait
    on November 21, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    How much information can you get from a speck of purple pigment, no bigger than the diameter of a hair, plucked from an Egyptian portrait that's nearly 2,000 years old? Plenty, according to a new study. Analysis of that speck can teach us about how the pigment was made, what it's made of - and maybe even a little about the people who made it.

  • Geoscientists discover Ancestral Puebloans survived from ice melt in New Mexico lava tubes
    on November 18, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    New study explains how Ancestral Puebloans survived devastating droughts by traveling deep into the caves of New Mexico to melt ancient ice as a water resource.

  • The unique hydraulics in the Barbegal water mills, the world's first industrial plant
    on November 13, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    The Barbegal watermills in southern France are a unique complex dating back to the 2nd century AD. The construction with 16 waterwheels is, as far as is known, the first attempt in Europe to build a machine complex on an industrial scale. A team of scientists has now gained new knowledge about the construction and principle of the water supply to the mills in Barbegal.

  • Indian fossils support new hypothesis for origin of hoofed mammals
    on November 7, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    New research describes a fossil family that illuminates the origin of perissodactyls - the group of mammals that includes horses, rhinos, and tapirs. It provides insights on the controversial question of where these hoofed animals evolved, concluding that they arose in or near present day India.

  • Population dynamics and the rise of empires in Inner Asia
    on November 5, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    Researchers seek to understand the genetic, sociopolitical and cultural changes surrounding the formation of the eastern Eurasian Steppe's historic empires. The study analyzes genome-wide data for 214 ancient individuals spanning 6,000 years and discusses the genetic and cultural changes that preceded the rise of the Xiongnu and Mongol nomadic pastoralist empires.

  • Population dynamics and the rise of empires in Inner Asia
    on November 5, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Researchers sought to understand the genetic, sociopolitical and cultural changes surrounding the formation of the eastern Eurasian Steppe's historic empires. The study analyzed genome-wide data for 214 ancient individuals spanning 6,000 years and discussed the genetic and cultural changes that preceded the rise of the Xiongnu and Mongol nomadic pastoralist empires.

  • New research traces the origins of trench fever
    on November 5, 2020 at 12:47 am

    Trench fever was first clinically described in World War 1 when it sickened nearly 500,000 soldiers. New DNA evidence proves the disease predates that time period by thousands of years.

  • Sea-level rise will have complex consequences
    on November 4, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Rising sea levels will affect coasts and human societies in complex and unpredictable ways, according to a new study that examined 12,000 years in which a large island became a cluster of smaller ones.

  • Bronze Age travel routes revealed using pioneering research method
    on November 4, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Archaeologists have reconstructed the ancient seasonal migration routes of Bronze Age herders in Xinjiang, north-western China. Their research was the result of innovative methodology. To determine snow cover and vegetation cycles, crucial to the survival of Bronze Age people and their flocks, they examined both satellite imagery and archaeological evidence, as well as interviewing modern-day herders.

  • Resilience in the face of climate change: Archaeological investigations reveal human adaptability...
    on October 29, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    An examination of two documented periods of climate change in the greater Middle East, between approximately 4,500 and 3,000 years ago, reveals local evidence of resilience and even of a flourishing ancient society despite the changes in climate seen in the larger region. The study demonstrates that human responses to climate change vary at the local level, and highlights how challenge and collapse in some areas were matched by resilience and opportunities elsewhere.

  • Study of ancient dog DNA traces canine diversity to the Ice Age
    on October 29, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    A global study of ancient dog DNA presents evidence that there were different types of dogs more than 11,000 years ago in the period immediately following the Ice Age.

  • Denisovan DNA in the genome of early East Asians
    on October 29, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    Researchers analyzed the genome of the oldest human fossil found in Mongolia to date and show that the 34,000-year-old woman inherited around 25 percent of her DNA from western Eurasians, demonstrating that people moved across the Eurasian continent shortly after it had first been settled by the ancestors of present-day populations. This individual and a 40,000-year-old individual from China also carried DNA from Denisovans, an extinct form of hominins that inhabited Asia before modern humans […]

  • Bison engravings in Spanish caves reveal a common art culture across ancient Europe
    on October 28, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    Recently discovered rock art from caves in Northern Spain represents an artistic cultural style common across ancient Europe, but previously unknown from the Iberian Peninsula, according to a new study.

  • Inks containing lead were likely used as drier on ancient Egyptian papyri
    on October 26, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    Analyzing 12 ancient Egyptian papyri fragments with X-ray microscopy, researchers were surprised to find previously unknown lead compounds in both red and black inks and suggest they were used for their drying properties rather than as a pigment. A similar lead-based 'drying technique' has also been documented in 15th century European painting, and the discovery of it in Egyptian papyri calls for a reassessment of ancient lead-based pigments.

  • Ancient Maya built sophisticated water filters
    on October 22, 2020 at 7:17 pm

    Ancient Maya in the once-bustling city of Tikal built sophisticated water filters using natural materials they imported from miles away, according to new research. A multidisciplinary team of anthropologists, geographers and biologists identified quartz and zeolite, a crystalline compound consisting of silicon and aluminum, that created a natural molecular sieve. Both minerals are used in modern water filtration.

  • Turbulent era sparked leap in human behavior, adaptability 320,000 years ago
    on October 21, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    The first analysis of a sedimentary drill core representing 1 million years of environmental history in the East African Rift Valley shows that at the same time early humans were abandoning old tools in favor of more sophisticated technology and broadening their trade, their landscape was experiencing frequent fluctuations in vegetation and water supply that made resources less reliably available. The findings suggest that instability in their landscape was a key driver of human adaptability.

  • Bronze Age herders were less mobile than previously thought
    on October 21, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Bronze Age pastoralists in what is now southern Russia apparently covered shorter distances than previously thought. It is believed that the Indo-European languages may have originated from this region, and these findings raise new questions about how technical and agricultural innovations spread to Europe.

  • New evidence found of the ritual significance of a classic Maya sweat bath in Guatemala
    on October 20, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    An unusual offering in an abandoned and unique-looking Maya sweat bath revealed new evidence of the role it played in the community.

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