‘Mindblowing’ haul of fossils over 500m years old unearthed in China’s Hubei province

Thousands of fossils date back to huge burst in diversity of life on Earth known as Cambrian explosion

The fossils are estimated to be about 518 million years old, and are particularly unusual because the soft body tissue of many creatures, including their skin, eyes, and internal organs, have been “exquisitely” well preserved.

Palaeontologists have called the findings “mind-blowing” – especially because more than half the fossils are previously undiscovered species.

Paleontologists found thousands of fossils in rocks on the bank of the Danshui river in Hubei province in southern China, where primitive forms of jellyfish, sponges, algae, anemones, worms and arthropods with thin whip-like feelers were entombed in an ancient underwater mudslide.

The creatures are so well preserved in the fossils that the soft tissues of their bodies, including the muscles, guts, eyes, gills, mouths and other openings are all still visible. The 4,351 separate fossils excavated so far represent 101 species, 53 of them new.

The fossils, known as the Qingjiang biota.

Fossils of soft-bodied creatures like jellyfish are extremely rare

Fossils of soft-bodied creatures like jellyfish are extremely rare

More than 20,000 specimens were collected, and a total of 4,351 have been analysed so far, including worms, jellyfish, sea anemones and algae.

Scientists say they have discovered a “stunning” trove of thousands of fossils on a river bank in China.

They will become a “very important source in the study of the early origins of creatures”, one of the fieldwork leaders, Prof Xingliang Zhang from China’s Northwest University, as reported by BBC.

The discovery is particularly remarkable because “the majority of creatures are soft-bodied organisms like jellyfish and worms that normally stand no chance of becoming fossilised”, Prof Robert Gaines, a geologist who also took part in the study, said in an email to the BBC.

The creatures were rapidly buried by mudflows and sediment

The majority of fossils tend to be of hard-bodied animals, as harder substances, like bones, are less likely to rot and decompose.

Fossils discovered in the Qingjiang include animals rarely seen in the Cambrian rock record, such as comb jellies (left) and kinorhynchs (right) ( D Fu/Supplied )

The Qingjiang biota must have been “rapidly buried in sediment” due to a storm, in order for soft tissues to be so well preserved, Prof Zhang says.

Scientists are especially excited by the jellyfish and sea anemone fossils, which Prof Gaines describes as “unlike anything I have ever seen. Their sheer abundance and their diversity of forms is stunning”.

Meanwhile, Prof Allison Daley, a palaeontologist who was not part of the study but wrote an accompanying analysis in Science, told BBC’s Science in Action programme the find was one of the most significant in the last 100 years.

“It blew my mind – as a palaeontologist I never thought I’d get to witness the discovery of such an incredible site.

“For the first time we’re seeing preservation of jellyfish – [when] you think of jellyfish today, they’re so soft-bodied, so delicate, but they’re preserved unbelievably well at this site.”

The research team are now documenting the remaining specimens, and conducting more drilling in the region to find out more about the ancient local ecosystem, and the fossilisation process.

Naraoiids, a type of soft-shelled arthropod, were found at the site

Prof Zhang says he looks forward to studying “all these new species – I’m always excited when we get something new”.
The fossils are from the Cambrian period, which began 541 million years ago and saw a rapid increase in animal diversity on Earth.

Prof Gaines hopes his work will also strike a chord with modern readers.

Paleontologists digging on the banks of the Danshui river, Hubei province, China. Photograph: Dong King Fu / Science / AAAS

“Biotic diversity today is something that we take for granted, even though there are indications that extinction rates are sharply increasing.

A fossilised kinorhynch, otherwise known as a mud dragon. Photograph: The Gaurdian

“Yet most of the major animal lineages were established in a singular event in the history of life, the Cambrian explosion, the likes of which have never been seen before or after. It also reminds us of our deep kinship to all living animals.”

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Herodotus Is True, Nile shipwreck discovery proves it after 2,469 years

In the fifth century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus visited Egypt and wrote of unusual river boats on the Nile. Twenty-three lines of his Historia, the ancient world’s first great narrative history, are devoted to the intricate description of the construction of a “baris”

An artistic treatment of the discovered shipwreck. The upper half of the model illustrates the wreck as excavated. Below this, unexcavated areas are mirrored to pro­duce a complete vessel outline. Photograph: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

For centuries, scholars have argued over his account because there was no archaeological evidence that such ships ever existed. Now there is. A “fabulously preserved” wreck in the waters around the sunken port city of Thonis-Heracleion has revealed just how accurate the historian was.

“It wasn’t until we discovered this wreck that we realised Herodotus was right,” said Dr Damian Robinson, director of Oxford University’s centre for maritime archaeology, which is publishing the excavation’s findings. “What Herodotus described was what we were looking at.”

In 450 BC Herodotus witnessed the construction of a baris. He noted how the builders “cut planks two cubits long [around 100cm] and arrange them like bricks”. He added: “On the strong and long tenons [pieces of wood] they insert two-cubit planks. When they have built their ship in this way, they stretch beams over them… They obturate the seams from within with papyrus. There is one rudder, passing through a hole in the keel. The mast is of acacia and the sails of papyrus…”

The wooden hull of ship 17. Photograph: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

Robinson said that previous scholars had “made some mistakes” in struggling to interpret the text without archaeological evidence. “It’s one of those enigmatic pieces. Scholars have argued exactly what it means for as long as we’ve been thinking of boats in this scholarly way,” he said.

Bust of Herodotus of Halicarnassus (c484-425 BC) Photograph: G Nimatallah/De Agostini/Getty Images

But the excavation of what has been called Ship 17 has revealed a vast crescent-shaped hull and a previously undocumented type of construction involving thick planks assembled with tenons – just as Herodotus observed, in describing a slightly smaller vessel.

Originally measuring up to 28 metres long, it is one of the first large-scale ancient Egyptian trading boats ever to have been discovered.

The wooden hull of ship 17. Photograph: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

Robinson added: “Herodotus describes the boats as having long internal ribs. Nobody really knew what that meant… That structure’s never been seen archaeologically before. Then we discovered this form of construction on this particular boat and it absolutely is what Herodotus has been saying.” as reported by The Guardian.

The wooden hull of ship 17. Photograph: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

About 70% of the hull has survived, well-preserved in the Nile silts. Acacia planks were held together with long tenon-ribs – some almost 2m long – and fastened with pegs, creating lines of ‘internal ribs’ within the hull. It was steered using an axial rudder with two circular openings for the steering oar and a step for a mast towards the centre of the vessel.

Robinson said: “Where planks are joined together to form the hull, they are usually joined by mortice and tenon joints which fasten one plank to the next. Here we have a completely unique form of construction, which is not seen anywhere else.”

Similar rudder systems, from the Deir el-Gebrâwi reliefs, c.2325-2155 BCE. (Davies, N. de G., 1901-1902) credits : Science Alert

Alexander Belov, whose book on the wreck, Ship 17: a Baris from Thonis-Heracleion, is published this month, suggests that the wreck’s nautical architecture is so close to Herodotus’s description, it could have been made in the very shipyard that he visited. Word-by-word analysis of his text demonstrates that almost every detail corresponds “exactly to the evidence”.

Herodotus (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC) was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey). He is known for having written the book The Histories, a detailed record of his “inquiry” (ἱστορία historía) on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. He is widely considered to have been the first writer to have treated historical subjects using a method of systematic investigation—specifically, by collecting his materials and then critically arranging them into a historiographic narrative. On account of this, he is often referred to as “The Father of History”, a title first conferred on him by the first-century BC Roman orator Cicero.

Despite Herodotus’s historical significance, little is known about his personal life. His Histories primarily deals with the lives of Croesus, Cyrus, Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius, and Xerxes and the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Artemisium, Salamis, Plataea, and Mycale; however, his many cultural, ethnographical, geographical, historiographical, and other digressions form a defining and essential part of the Historiesand contain a wealth of information. Herodotus has been criticized for the fact that his book includes a large number of obvious legends and fanciful accounts. Many authors, starting with the late fifth-century BC historian Thucydides, have accused him of making up stories for entertainment. Herodotus, however, states that he is merely reporting what he has been told. A sizable portion of the information he provides has since been confirmed by historians and archaeologists.

Relief of Herodotus by Jean-Guillaume Moitte (1806), Louvre, Paris Source : Wiki
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5000-Year-Old Human Skeleton Excavated in India, Archaeologists Find New Burial Site of Harappan Civilization

Apart from human skeletons, archeologists also discovered animal remains, shell-like bangles, grinding stones, and blades from the site.

Archaeologists in Gujarat, India have discovered a massive burial site around 360 kilometers from Dholavira in the Kutch district which they believe dates back to the Harappan Civilization.

5000-year-old skeleton found at burial site (Photo Credits: YouTube grab)

According to a Times of India report, the burial site has over 250 graves and 26 of them have already been excavated. The site, which is 300m x 300m in size, also had a human skeleton, estimated to be around 5,000 years old.

Harappan civilization experts and archaeologist said the burial site is rectangular in shape and estimated to be 4600-5200 years old.

Representative Image, Harappan Excavation Site

Interestingly, the researchers found the mode of burial to be non-uniform. Instances of primary burial and secondary burial (when the remains of the primary burial are exhumed and moved to another grave) were found. The remains of those who were possibly cremated were also found in a few graves.

Artefacts that were unearthed from an early Harappan site in Kutch. Credits: The Hindu

All the burial sites found in Gujarat till date are either circular or semi-circular. We are trying to establish the significance of this rectangular shape,” Suresh Bhandari, head of Department of Archeology, Kutch University, told the newspaper.

“The skeleton has been taken to Kerala University for determining its age, possible reason for death and knowing its gender,” Bhandari added.

Artefacts that were unearthed from an early Harappan site in Kutch. Credits : The Hindu

Kutch University and Kerala University performed the excavation in a joint effort near Khatia village of Lakhpat taluka.

Faculty members of both the universities said the rectangular burial site had sound wall rocks in the east-west direction and the biggest grave is around 6.6 meters wide.

Apart from human skeletons, animal remains, shell-like bangles, grinding stones, and blades were also discovered from the site.

The artifacts will now be studied by experts to find out the rituals and social deeds that existed in the Harappan culture.

“Studies of the potteries, as well as rock blocks, will enhance our knowledge about the different techniques employed and the raw material used to make them,” said Bhandari.

Grinding stones, blades made of rock with sharp edges, bangles were also found from this site. They also found pottery vessels near the grave.

All the material that has been found here will be sent in different laboratories across the country to find out more about the history and culture of the people living during the Harappan period.

Lending credence to the trade network that could have existed during the early phase of the Harappan civilisation from 3300 BCE to 2600 BCE, the researchers claimed that the mud pots bore similarities with those that were unearthed from other Harappan sites in Kot Diji, Amri and Nal in Pakistan, Nagwada, Santhali, Moti Pipli and Ranod in North Gujarat, and Surkotada and Dhaneti in Kutch.

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All you need to know about Winged Victory of Samothrace, Great Sphinx of Tanis and Venus De Milo at Louvre Museum, Paris

It’s no secret that the Louvre has one of the world’s most stunning collections of art.

In addition to the Mona Lisa and an entire Michelangelo Gallery, the major museum also excels in antiquities, with gems that include a Great Sphinx, the Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Winged Victory of Samothrace

Though this marble masterpieceremains one of history’s most famous sculptures, many people may not be aware of its history—including its ancient roots, 19th-century discovery, and soaring influence on modern and contemporary art.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Photo: muratart’ via Shutterstock)

Origin and History

The exact origins of the Winged Victory of Samothrace are not known. However, archaeologists and art historians have extensively studied the sculpture in order to estimate its age, intention, and subject matter.

According to the Louvre, the piece was likely crafted by the people of Rhodes, a Greek island, in the early second century BCE. This places its creation at the heart of the Hellenistic period (323 BCE-31 CE). This ancient art movement is particularly renowned for its expressive sculptures of mythological subjects in motion—an approach embodied by the Winged Victory.

The 18-foot sculpture depicts Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. As wet and wind-blown drapery clings to her body, the winged figure triumphantly steps toward the front of a ship, leading historians to conclude that it was created to commemorate a successful sea battle.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Photo: muratart’ via Shutterstock)

The statue was one of many marble pieces that adorned the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, an ancient temple complex on the island of Samothrace. This seaside shrine was dedicated to the Mystery religion, or secret cult, of the Great Mother.

Given both the prevalence of naval battles during this time and its close proximity to the Aegean’s widely-used maritime routes, the shrine featured several sea-inspired monuments. These included dedicated columns, important ships, and, of course, the Winged Victory, which was placed in a rock niche (possibly a grotto) that overlooked the shrine’s theatre.

Discovery of the Sculpture

French diplomat and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseauunearthed the Winged Victory in April of 1863. While he reassembled 23 blocks that compose the ship, he sent the figure back to Paris just as he found it: in three pieces.

The base, torso, legs, and left wing eventually reached the Louvre, where they were reassembled in the Carytid Room of classical antiquities. The museum also added a plaster wing to the sculpture—an addition that remains today—but did not opt to recreate the head or arms.

However, nearly 90 years after Champoiseau discovered the fragmented figure, archaeologists from Austria uncovered missing pieces, including Nike’s right hand. Unfortunately, the hand had no way of being reattached to the sculpture, as the figure remained armless. Still, its unearthing was extremely important, as the unclasped hand disproved an early theory that the figure had originally been grasping an object.

“It has been suggested that the Victory held a trumpet, a wreath, or a fillet in her right hand,” The Louvre explains. “However, the hand found in Samothrace in 1950 had an open palm and two outstretched fingers, suggesting that she was not holding anything and was simply holding her hand up in a gesture of greeting.”

Today, the fragmented hand can be viewed at the top of the Louvre’s Daru Staircase, where the Winged Victory has been on display since 1883.

Hellenistic Realism

Like other Hellenistic sculptures, the Winged Victory is admired for its naturalistic anatomy and, consequently, its realistic depiction of movement.

To suggest a body in motion, the artist positioned Nike in an asymmetrical stance. Known as contrapposto(“counterpose”), this pose implies movement through the use of realistic weight distribution and an S-shaped body.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Photo: muratart’ via Shutterstock)

Other famous sculptures that demonstrate this classical approach to conveying the human body are The Walking Man by Rodin and Michelangelo’s David.

Another element that helps suggest movement is the billowing fabric draped across the figure’s body. As Nike dramatically steps forward, the seemingly translucent garment twists around her waist and wraps around her legs.

According to the Louvre, this “highly theatrical presentation—combined with the goddess’s monumentality, wide wingspan, and the vigor of her forward-thrusting body—reinforces the reality of the scene”


Today, the Winged Victory of Samothrace remains one of the most celebrated sculptures on earth. Since making its debut at the Louvre in the 19th century, it has inspired countless artists. Surrealist Salvador Dalí directly appropriated this sculpture for his Double Nike de Samothrace (1973), and Futurist Umberto Boccioni employed the figure’s iconic stance for his Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913).

The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Photo: The October Sky)

While these modern interpretations undoubtedly capture the spirit of the piece, no other Winged Victory can captivate audiences as triumphantly as the original treasure

Great Sphinx of Tanis

The sphinx is a fabulous creature with the body of a lion and the head of a king. This one was successively inscribed with the names of the pharaohs Ammenemes II (12th Dynasty, 1929-1895 BC), Merneptah (19th Dynasty, 1212-02 BC) and Shoshenq I (22nd Dynasty, 945-24 BC). According to archaeologists, certain details suggest that this sphinx dates to an earlier period – the Old Kingdom (c. 2600 BC).


This is one of the largest sphinxes outside of Egypt. It was found in 1825 among the ruins of the Temple of Amun at Tanis (the capital of Egypt during the 21st and 22nd dynasties). This impressive stone sculpture with its precise details and polished surfaces is a work of admirable craftsmanship. The recumbent lion, with tense body and outstretched claws, gives the impression of being ready to leap. The shen hieroglyph sculpted on the plinth under each paw evokes a cartouche, confirming the royal nature of the monument.

Great Sphinx of Tanis, Louvre Museum,Paris


The legible inscriptions are all “usurpations”, i.e. traces of subsequent modifications to the monument. The names of Merneptah (19th Dynasty) and Sheshonq (22nd Dynasty) are legible. The original texts (traces of which are still visible in places) were deliberately erased and replaced. It is therefore impossible to date this statue with certainty, especially as the face does not resemble any known, well-documented royal portrait. In view of this uncertainty, Egyptologists are divided: some date the sphinx to the 12th Dynasty, others to the 6th or even the 4th.

Great Sphinx of Tanis, Louvre Museum,Paris


The Greek word “sphinx”, commonly used to refer to the Egyptian statues representing a lion with a human head, was not the original term. The appropriate Egyptian appellation for a statue or image of this kind was shesep-ankh (“living image”). The creature was a symbolic representation of the close relationship between the sun god (the lion’s body) and the king (the human head), and was the “living image of the king”, demonstrating his strength and his close association with Ra.
The sphinx was always positioned either as (recumbent) guardian and protector of places where gods appeared – such as the horizon, and temple entrances – or as (upright) defender of Egypt against hostile forces, whom he trampled underfoot.


Christiane Ziegler, Les Statues égyptiennes de l’Ancien Empire, 1997, Réunion des musées nationaux p. 39
G. Andreu, M.-H Ruthscowskaya, L’Egypte ancienne au Louvre, 1997, Hachette, pp. 52 à 54
Nadine Cherpion, “En reconsidérant le grand sphinx du Louvre (A 23)”, in Revue d’égyptologie, 1991, t. 42, pp. 25 à 41
Jean Leclant, Le Temps des pyramides, 1978, Gallimard, coll. “L’univers des formes”, t. 1, p. 213
Jacques Vandier, Manuel d’archéologie égyptienne, 1958, Picard, t. 3, p. 56

Information Via Louvre Museum

Ancient Ruins of Tanis, Egypt

Venus De Milo

As one of art history’s most significant sculptures, the Venus de Milo continues to captivate audiences today. Located in the Louvre Museum, the marble masterpiece is celebrated for its Hellenistic artistry, renowned for its beauty, and famous for its absent arms.

Like many other treasured antiquities, the story behind the statue was entirely unknown when it was unearthed in the 19th century. Today, however, archaeologists and art historians have managed to piece together a narrative that explores and explains its possible provenance—though the sculpted goddess remains shrouded in mystery.

What is the Venus de Milo?

Known also as the Aphrodite of Milos, the Venus de Milo is a marble sculpture that was likely created by Alexandros of Antioch during the late 2nd century BC. It features a nearly nude, larger-than-life (6 feet, 8 inches tall) female figure posed in a classical S-curve.

Her body is composed of two blocks of marble as well as “several parts [that] were sculpted separately (bust, legs, left arm and foot),” according to the Louvre. Furthermore, the sculpture was likely colorfully painted and adorned with jewelry, though no pigment or metal remain on the marble today.

Due to her nudity and the sinuous shape of her body, the figure is widely believed to be Venus, the goddess of love. However, she may also represent Amphitrite—the goddess of the sea—who held special significance on the island where the work of art was found.


‘Aphrodite Anadyomene’ (before 79) Photo: Stephen Haynes via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)
Poseidon and Amphitrite’ (50-79) Photo: Stefano Bolognini via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain
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The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro : 2500BCE

The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro is what generations of besotted archaeologists have named a 10.8 centimeter (4.25 inch) tall copper-bronze statuette found in the ruins of Mohenjo Daro. That city is one of the most important sites of the Indus Civilization, or more accurately, the Harappan Civilization (2600-1900 BC) of Pakistan and northwestern India.

The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro at National Museum, Delhi

The Dancing Girl figurine was sculpted using the lost wax (cire perdue) process, which involves making a mold and pouring molten metal into it.

Mohenjo-Daro Archeological Site

Made about 2500 BC, the statuette was found in the remains of a small house in the southwestern quarter of Mohenjo Daro by Indian archaeologist D. R. Sahni [1879-1939] during his 1926-1927 field season at the site.

The figurine is a naturalistic free-standing sculpture of a nude woman, with small breasts, narrow hips, long legs and arms, and a short torso; her genitals are explicit. She wears a stack of 25 bangles on her left arm. She has very long legs and arms compared to her torso; her head is tilted slightly backward and her left leg is bent at the knee.

On her right arm are four bangles, two at the wrist, two above the elbow; that arm is bent at the elbow, with her hand on her hip. She wears a necklace with three large pendants, and her hair is in a loose bun, twisted in a spiral fashion and pinned in place at the back of her head. Some scholars suggest that the Dancing Girl statuette is a portrait of a real woman.

Although there have been literally thousands of figurines recovered from Harappan sites, including over 2,500 at Harappa alone, the vast majority of figurines are terracotta, made from fired clay. Only a handful of Harappan figurines are carved from stone (such as the famous priest-king figure) or, like the dancing lady, of lost-wax copper bronze.

Figurines are an elaborate class of representational artifact found in many ancient and modern human societies. Human and animal figurines can give insight into concepts of sex, gender, sexuality and other aspects of social identity. That insight is important for us today because many ancient societies left no decipherable written language. Although the Harappans had a written language, no modern scholar has been able to decipher the Indus Script to date.

A recent survey of the use of copper-based metals used in Indus civilization sites (Hoffman and Miller 2014) found that most of the classic Harappan aged objects made of copper-bronze are vessels (jars, pots, bowls, dishes, pans, scale pans) formed from sheet copper; tools (blades from sheet copper; chisels, pointed tools, axes and adzes) manufactured by casting; and ornaments (bangles, rings, beads, and decorative-headed pins) by casting. Hoffman and Miller found that copper mirrors, figurines, tablets, and tokens are relatively rare compared to these other artifact types. There are many more stone and ceramic tablets than those made of copper-based bronze.

The Harappans made their bronze artifacts using a variety of blends, alloys of copper with tin and arsenic, and varying lesser amounts of zinc, lead, sulfur, iron, and nickel.

Adding zinc to copper makes an object brass rather than bronze, and some of the earliest brasses on our planet were created by the Harappans. Researchers Park and Shinde (2014) suggest that the variety of blends used in different products was the result of fabrication requirements and the fact that pre-alloyed and pure copper was traded into the Harappan cities rather than produced there.

The lost wax method used by Harappan metallurgists involved first carving the object out of wax, then covering it in wet clay. Once the clay was dried, holes were bored into the mold and the mold was heated, melting the wax. The empty mold was then filled with a melted mixture of copper and tin. After that cooled, the mold was broken, revealing the copper-bronze object.
Most of the images of women from Harappan-period sites are from hand-modeled terracotta, and they are primarily curvaceous mother goddesses.
The ethnicity of the woman depicted in the figure has been a somewhat controversial subject over the years since the figurine was discovered. Several scholars such as ECL During Casper have suggested that the lady looks African. Recent evidence for Bronze Age trade contact with Africa has been found at Chanhu-Dara, another Harappan Bronze Age site, in the form of pearl millet, which was domesticated in Africa about 5,000 years ago. There is also at least one burial of an African woman at Chanhu-Dara, and it is not impossible that the Dancing Girl was a portrait of a woman from Africa.

However, the figurine’s hairdressing is a style worn by Indian women today and in the past, and her armful of bangles is similar to a style worn by contemporary Kutchi Rabari tribal women.

British Archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, one of many scholars besotted by the statuette, recognized her as a woman from the Baluchi region.

Second bronze statuette of a girl c.2500 BC, now displayed at Karachi Museum, Pakistan.
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Pando, One of the world’s oldest and most massive living organisms: Since 78,000 BCE

In the Fishlake National Forest in Utah, a giant has lived quietly for the past 80,000 years.

The Trembling Giant, or Pando, is an enormous grove of quaking aspens that take the “forest as a single organism” metaphor and makes it literal: the grove really is a single organism. Each of the approximately 47,000 or so trees in the grove is genetically identical and all the trees share a single root system. While many trees spread through flowering and sexual reproduction, quaking aspens usually reproduce asexually, by sprouting new trees from the expansive lateral root of the parent. The individual trees aren’t individuals but stems of a massive single clone, and this clone is truly massive. “Pando” is a Latin word that translates to “I spread.”

Spanning 107 acres and weighing 6,615 tons, Pando was once thought to be the world’s largest organism (now usurped by thousand-acre fungal mats in Oregon), and is almost certainly the most massive. In terms of other superlatives, the more optimistic estimates of Pando’s age have it as over one million years old, which would easily make it one of the world’s oldest living organisms. Some of the trees in the forest are over 130 years old.

Unfortunately, the future of the giant appears grim. According to Paul Rogers, an ecologist at Utah State University, the Trembling Giant is in danger. While the mature stems of Pando routinely die from the eternal problems of pests and drought, the regenerative roots of the organism that are responsible for Pando’s resilience are under attack as well. Rogers reported a marked absence of juvenile and young stems to replace the older trunks, blaming overgrazing by deer and elk. Without new growth to replace the old, the Trembling Giant is vulnerable to a catastrophic sudden withering and shrinking.

The quaking aspen is named for its leaves, which stir easily in even a gentle breeze and produce a fluttering sound with only the slightest provocation. The effect of this in Pando–multiplied over the tens of thousands of trees and hundreds of acres–can be unnerving, giving a real sense of life to the ancient, dying, trembling giant. One of the most popular seasons to visit Pando is fall when the leaves turn bright yellow.

Located one mile southwest of Fish Lake on SR-25. Doctor Creek Recreation Site is a US National Forest Service Campground located within Pando, if you want to spend a night inside a giant, ancient organism.

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7000 BCE : Archaeologists trace earliest domestic pigs in China

With a diet made up by bread and milk, Lyu Peng, a Chinese archaeologist studying at Harvard University, was craving pork dishes from his hometown as the Year of the Pig in China’s lunar calendar approached.

“Twice-cooked pork, fish-flavored pork and spareribs in brown sauce – just the names make my mouth water,” said Lyu, an associate research fellow from the Institute of Archaeology (IA) under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Archaeological discoveries and studies have shown that China was one of the earliest places in the world to domesticate pigs about 9,000 years ago, Lyu said.

His opinion was echoed by Yuan Jing, an IA specialist in animal archaeology.

“Our research confirms that pig bones excavated from the Jiahu relic site in Wuyang County, central China’s Henan Province, date back 9,000 years and belong to domestic pigs,” said Yuan.

Foreign scholars have found remains of domestic pigs from around the same period at many sites in southeast Turkey.

“The domestic pigs in China’s Jiahu relic site had a similar age to those in Turkey, which were among the oldest domestic pigs in the world,” said Yuan.

Unlike cattle, sheep, goats, horses and chickens, which were introduced to China, pigs were bred from wild boars, said Yuan.

“The pigs in Jiahu already had some clear features of domestic pigs, indicating they had been domesticated for some time. But we still lack archaeological findings prior to 9,000 years ago. We don’t know yet when and where the ancients started to raise pigs, and we are looking forward to more discoveries,” Yuan said.

The adult wild boars were strong and ferocious, so they would have been difficult to be tamed, and this must have started when they were young. The ancients might have caught very young wild boars and raised them as pets at first, Yuan speculated.

Pigs grow fast and breed quickly, making them more efficient to farm than other livestock. They have a more varied diet and can consume human scraps. All these were favorable factors in domesticating pigs, Yuan said.

“The taming, raising and breeding of pigs was one of the great accomplishments of ancient China, and provided a steady meat source to strengthen the human body and expand the human population,” said Yuan.

The remains of a 4,000-year-old pig found at the Chinese archaeological site of Taosi. The descendants of this domestic pig are now found all over the world. Credit: Image courtesy of Jing Yuan

The domestication of pigs also drove the development of civilization and social progress, he said.

Lyu said the consumption of pork in China varied in different regions, according to archaeological findings.

In central China, pigs remained the major meat source even after cattle and sheep were introduced about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. In northwest China, sheep replaced pigs to become the major meat source about 4,000 years ago. But in south China, the ancients enjoyed plentiful food resources, and pig farming was at a low level, Lyu said.

Pigs also played an important role in ancient Chinese culture.

Archaeologists have discovered the ancients of Jiahu used the lower jaws of pigs as funeral objects some 9,000 years ago.

Pig heads and lower jaws have been found in funeral and sacrificial activities in many relic sites of prehistoric China.

Even today, pigs are still sacrificial offerings in folk customs in many places across China.

Jade pendants, named Jade Pig Dragons, combining the characteristics of a pig head and a snake body, have been unearthed at relic sites from the Hongshan culture, dating back some 6,000 years, in northeastern China.

The character for “pig” was found in inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty about 3,600 years ago.

In the Chinese literary classic “Journey to the West,” Bajie, one of the main characters, is supposedly incarnated through the spirit of a pig.

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Oldest Tulu inscription found in Mangaluru Veeranarayana Swamy Temple : Belongs to 1159 CE

A Tulu inscription, dating back to the 12th century and said to be the oldest discovered till date, has been found at the Sri Veeranarayana Swamy Temple in Kulashekhara village of Mangaluru, Karnataka, India

The 14 line, 2- ft. tall inscription was discovered on the left side of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in the village, which is believed to have been named after Alupa king, Kulashekhara.

Prof T Murugeshi of the history and archaeology department of the MSRS College- Shirva and his students have concluded after studying the inscription that it dates back to the 12th century as it mentions the year 1159 AD and talks about “Kule (Sekhare) Lokontamanta,” which is the exact Tulu translation of “Samasta Loka Vikyata Kulashekhara,” the Kannada title of king Kulaskhera.

The professor, who was guided by Mr Vignaraj of the Sri Dharmasthala Samskruthi Samshodhana Samsthe in reading the inscription, says it reveals that 12 villages came under the jurisdiction of the temple at the time.

“The inscription is very important for the information it provides about the Alupa dynasty. The first inscription found of Kulakshekara dates back to 1162. But now with this inscription we know that he was in power by 1159,” he adds.

Although Tulu inscriptions have been found in Kasargod and Udupi districts, this is the first to be found in Dakshina Kannada district. While the inscriptions discovered in other places do not have proper dates, the Mangaluru temple inscription is specific in its dating, he points out.

“It may be the oldest Tulu inscription discovered till date and can be called the Halmidi inscription of Tulu (Halmidi inscription is the first Kannada inscription),” he adds.

The inscription begins with an invocation of lord Hari, a Vaishnavite god, who is still worshipped as Sri Veeranarayana Swamy temple in Kulashekara. It is dated in Solar year and is the first Tulu dated inscription so far discovered.

“The inscription mentions that the god belongs to 12 villages as ‘pitru-devata.’ Janardhana was generally treated as the bestower of salvation on the departed souls. Interestingly, the image of Veeranarayana of Kulashekhara also holds a ball-like thing in his right hand, which is called as Pinda,” the professor said.

Pure Tulu words have been used in it. So, it becomes the earliest record of Tulu language so far found, he said.

“It has definitely provided a solid base for the language and script and supports the demand of the Tuluvas for inclusion of Tulu in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution,” he said.

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Ancient artifact ‘Nefertem’ retrieved from Australia

The Egyptian embassy in Australia has received the last of four pieces of an ancient relief that had been smuggled out of Egypt in the 1990s.

Shanan Abdel-Gawad, supervisor-general of the Antiquities Repatriation Department at the antiquities ministry, said that the relief had been on the Interpol Red Notice since 1995 when the Ministry of Antiquities discovered its disappearance.

Abdel-Gawad says that the relief was initially discovered in four parts during excavations carried out by an Italian mission in El-Assasif necropolis on Luxor’s West Bank between 1976 and 1988.

Credits : Egypt Ministry of Antiquities

In 1995, he explains, the ministry discovered its disappearance while carrying out an inventory at Al-Gorna’s antiquities storehouse.

Three of the relief’s pieces were repatriated from Switzerland in 2017, and the fourth was found at Macquarie Museum in Australia.

Abdel-Gawad said that the relief will be restored and put on display for the first time at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir.

The relief is carved of stone and belonged to a top official called Seshen Nefertum.

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2,000-year-old shipyard discovered in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

An ancient Roman-Ptolemaic maintenance workshop which was used to repair ships during this era was discovered in Til Abu Sefi, North Sinai, the Ministry of Antiquities announced on Tuesday this week.

This undated photo released by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities shows an ancient workshop to build and repair ships, dating back to the Ptolemaic era in the country’s Sinai) Peninsula.(Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities via AP

The workshop was found to be built of bricks. The archaeological site used to be a well-known Roman city called Abu-Sila.

This undated photo released by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, shows the ancient workshop discovered in the Sinai Peninsula. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities via AP)

Moustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, stated that the workshop included several shipyards to build and maintain vessels. The biggest shipyard was located eastern the workshop. The biggest shipyard’s two walls were unearthed with a six-metre width shipyard. The aisle where the ships were used to be dragged inside to be repaired was found 25 metres long.

The shipyard dates back to the Ptolemaic era between 332 B.C. and 30 B.C. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Nadia Khedr, head of the Central Department of Sea Antiquities, added that most of the gear bricks the workshop was built of, were ripped off their original place to be used else wise. Khedr explained that this happened ages after the Roman era, when the residents found that the marina was no longer used due to the drying of the River Nile at that era.

She added that remains of decayed wood sticks were also found, and the mission did not detect whether they belong to an ancient vessel or they were used in the maintenance process.

Bronze and steel nails were also unearthed in different sizes and shapes, which are believed to be used in repairing giant ships.

The discoveries come in the second season of the excavation mission. Among the discoveries, there were also remains of some types of fish known to live only in the Nile as it used to pass by the site at the time. Moreover, pottery pots were also found at the archaeological site, some of them were detected to be made in Egypt and others were found to be exported.

Ancient nails discovered at the site in Northern Sinai. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
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