Rare Dinosaur Find: Abandoned Nests with Eggshells


Many fossilized dinosaur eggs have been found, at over 200 sites around the world.

Many fossilized dinosaur eggs have been found, at over 200 sites around the world.

 

LiveScience.com 

Huge meat-eating dinosaurs that stalked a vast floodplain some 150 million years ago in what is now Portugal left behind traces of their progeny: eggshells.

Some of the eggshells, which belonged to two Jurassic-Era theropods, or a group of carnivorous dinosaurs, once harbored embryos of Torvosaurus, the largest predator of its day.

“It was the equivalent of the T. rex in the Cretaceous,” said study co-author Vasco Ribeiro, a paleontologist at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal.

Ribeiro and his colleagues aren’t sure how the eggs came to be abandoned.

Delicate finds

Because they are so delicate, dinosaur eggs are a relatively rare find. Paleontologists unearthed some of the most primitive Torovosaurus embryos ever found earlier this year, and there have been occasional dinosaur nursery finds, including a clutch of hundreds of dinosaur egg fragments found in Spain. [Image Gallery: Dinosaur Daycare]

Ribeiro and his colleagues found the eggshell fragments at two separate sites, both of which were part of the Lourinhã Formation, a geological formation known for its rich Jurassic dinosaur nest sites. During that time period, the area was a floodplain that cycled through dry seasons and monsoon rains.

The eggshells were shattered and there was no trace of the dinosaur embryos that once coiled inside. But by analyzing the size, shape and texture of the eggshells, the team was able to deduce which animals left those eggs so long ago.

The shells found at one site came from spherical eggs that were about 6 inches (15 centimeters) in diameter. They likely belonged to a Torvosaurus, a massive, bipedal dinosaur that grew up to 36 feet (11 meters) tall.

The eggs at the other site were harder to identify. But the researchers believe the eggs may have contained embryos of Lourinhanosaurus antunesi, a theropod that was about 15 feet (4.5 m) long when full-grown. When intact, the eggs from that site would have been about 5 inches (13 cm) along the long axis and 3.5 inches (9 cm) along the short axis.

Neglected or protected?

The researchers don’t know exactly how the eggs came to be abandoned.

One possibility is that the ancient carnivores laid many eggs and simply left those eggs to their own fates. Other researchers argue that these dinosaurs, like crocodiles, were attentive parents during embryonic development, guarding their clutches from predators.

Either way, once the hatchlings emerged, they were probably on their own, Ribeiro said.

“We have no evidence that mother dinosaur took food to the nest or protected the nest,” Ribeiro told LiveScience.

Ancient Carving of Roman God Found in Garbage Pit


A stone head possibly depicting a Roman god was found by Durham University archaeologists at Binchester …

A stone head possibly depicting a Roman god was found by Durham University archaeologists at Binchester …

Originally posted by:

LiveScience.com

 

An 1,800-year-old stone carving of what may be the head of a Roman god was recently found in an ancient garbage dump, British archaeologists announced today (July 3).

An undergraduate student at Durham University discovered the largely intact head during an archaeological dig at the Binchester Roman Fort, a major Roman Empire fort built around A.D. 100 in northeastern England’s County Durham.

Archaeologists involved in the dig believe that somebody probably tossed the 8-inch-long (20 centimeters) statue in the garbage when the building was abandoned in the fourth century, during the fall of the Roman Empire. [See Photos of the Stone Head & Dig Site]

The team is still not certain who the carved head is meant to represent, though they have noted its resemblance to a similar stone head discovered in 1862 inscribed with the name “Antenociticus” — a Celtic deity associated with military prayers in that particular region.

A shrine sits nearby the garbage dump, further suggesting the stone head was involved in prayer and represents a deity.

“It is probably the head of a Roman god — we can’t be sure of his name, but it does have similarities to head of Antenociticus,” David Petts, a Durham University archaeologist who was involved in the dig, said in a statement. “We may never know the true identity of this new head, but we are continuing to explore the building from which it came to help us improve our understanding of late Roman life at Binchester and [the] Roman Empire’s northern frontier in Northern England.”

The team is particularly interested in the unique local aesthetic of the head, which combines classical Roman art and regional Romano-British art. Some of the facial features also appear to be African, though this remains speculative.

“This is something we need to consider deeply,” Petts said in a statement. “If it is an image of an African, it could be extremely important, although this identification is not certain.”

The dig was conducted in collaboration with Stanford University in an effort to unearth evidence from the era leading up to the fall of the Roman Empire. The team has yet to publish a report on their recent findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Follow Laura Poppick on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

 

Tomb with a View


A new virtual-reality project at the Vatican Museums allows visitors to wander through a 2,600-year-old Etruscan burial vault

Virtual reconstruction of the exterior of the Regolini-Galassi tomb, 7th century B.C. COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Virtual reconstruction of the exterior of the Regolini-Galassi tomb, 7th century B.C.
COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Originally posted on artnews.com

By

For the first time in history, visitors to the Vatican Museums are playing an Etruscan video game. That is, a pan-European team has created a walk-in, virtual-reality replica of the famous 7th-century B.C. Etruscan tomb known as the Regolini-Galassi. Located at seaside Cerveteri (ancient Caere), north of Rome, the tomb is otherwise off limits to the public.

Etruscanning 3D, as the project is known, won the top award at the international Archeovirtual exhibition in Paestum, Italy, last November. Its creators wanted to explore the possibilities of applying “new visualization techniques” to complex archeological and historical sites. Another goal was to re-create, on a scientific basis, the original context of the Regolini-Galassi tomb as it likely looked more than 2,600 years ago. Motion sensors allow visitors to wander through the site while standing in front of a three-meter-wide, high-resolution screen, and a menu lets them choose nearby artifacts to examine more closely, from Egyptian-style sarcophagi to a black ceramic inkpot to a large golden fibula, or brooch, decorated with lions.

Demonstration of Etruscanning 3-D, which allows users to virtually explore the Regolini-Galassi tomb. COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Demonstration of Etruscanning 3-D, which allows users to virtually explore the Regolini-Galassi tomb.
COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

A richly endowed, subterranean burial vault with multiple chambers, the Regolini-Galassi was discovered intact in 1836 by local priest Alessandro Regolini and retired general Vincenzo Galassi, who were excavating a hillside necropolis at Caere. At the time, the territory on the Tyrrhenian coast belonged to the papal state, which had passed Europe’s second-oldest heritage law in 1822. As a result, after two years of negotiations, the rich trove of burial objects became Vatican property.
The findings—and particularly the elegant gold items that once belonged to a princess—caused a sensation. “It was the discovery of a lost world, known until then solely through ancient literature,” says Maurizio Sannibale, director of the Gregorian Etruscan Museum, a smaller museum within the Vatican Museums.

Real-time rendering of the inner chamber of the tomb, showing the sarcophagus of an Etruscan princess and her funerary goods. COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Real-time rendering of the inner chamber of the tomb, showing the sarcophagus of an Etruscan princess and her funerary goods.
COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Virtual construction of a bronze six-headed lebes (pot) in the tomb. COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Virtual construction of a bronze six-headed lebes (pot) in the tomb.
COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

“Most unusually, experts arrived to make drawings of the objects,” Sannibale continues. “However, their descriptions were often contradictory and gave no indication of where the precious objects were found.” The designers of Etruscanning 3D attempted to remedy this omission by placing the treasures in what is thought to be their rightful places within the tomb. And through photogrammetry and computer imaging, many existing artifacts have been “digitally restored” to revive worn-out or missing details.

In addition to the Vatican Museums, the project involved the Allard Pierson Museum at the University of Amsterdam; the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden; the Gallo-Romeins Museum in Tongeren, Belgium; the National Research Council of Rome; the Belgian architecture and heritage firm Visual Dimension; and the Archeological Superintendency of Southern Etruria.
Remarkably, the new virtual-reality tour had a precursor in 1837 London. One year after the uncovering of the Regolini-Galassi tomb, three brothers named Campanari, who had been excavating at Vulci, reconstructed an Etruscan tomb for an exhibition at Pall Mall, thus spurring an English fad for collecting Etruscan objects.

Judith Harris is the author of Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery.

 

 

 

Trove of Neanderthal Bones Found in Greek Cave


trove-of-neanderthal-bones-found-

Originally posted by –

by LiveScience

A trove of Neanderthal fossils including bones of children and adults, discovered in a cave in Greece hints the area may have been a key crossroad for ancient humans, researchers say.

The timing of the fossils suggests Neanderthals and humans may have at least had the opportunity to interact, or cross paths, there, the researchers added.

Neanderthals are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, apparently even occasionally interbreeding with our ancestors. Neanderthals entered Europe before modern humans did, and may have lasted there until about 35,000 years ago, although recent findings have called this date into question.

PHOTOS: Faces of Our Ancestors

To learn more about the history of ancient humans, scientists have recently focused on Greece.

“Greece lies directly on the most likely route of dispersals of early modern humans and earlier hominins into Europe from Africa via the Near East,” paleoanthropologist Katerina Harvati at the University of Tübingen in Germany told LiveScience. “It also lies at the heart of one of the three Mediterranean peninsulae of Europe, which acted as refugia for plant and animal species, including human populations, during glacial times — that is, areas where species and populations were able to survive during the worst climatic deteriorations.”

“Until recently, very little was known about deep prehistory in Greece, chiefly because the archaeological research focus in the country has been on classical and other more recent periods,” Harvati added.

Harvati and colleagues from Greece and France analyzed remains from a site known as Kalamakia, a cave stretching about 65 feet (20 meters) deep into limestone cliffs on the western coast of the Mani Peninsula on the mainland of Greece. They excavated the cave over the course of 13 years. (Amazing Caves: Photos Reveal Earth’s Innards)

The archaeological deposits of the cave date back to between about 39,000 and 100,000 years ago to the Middle Paleolithic period. During the height of the ice age, the area still possessed a mild climate and supported a wide range of wildlife, including deer, wild boar, rabbits, elephants, weasels, foxes, wolves, leopards, bears, falcons, toads, vipers and tortoises.

NEWS: Neanderthals Lacked Social Skills

In the cave, the researchers found tools such as scrapers made of flint, quartz and seashells. The stone tools were all shaped, or knapped, in a way typical of Neanderthal artifacts.

neanderthal childNow, the scientists reveal they discovered 14 specimens of child and adult human remains in the cave, including teeth, a small fragment of skull, a vertebra, and leg and foot bones with bite and gnaw marks on them. The teeth strongly appear to be Neanderthal, and judging by marks on the teeth, the ancient people apparently had a diet of meat and diverse plants.

“Kalamakia, together with the single human tooth from the nearby cave site of Lakonis, are the first Neanderthal remains to be identified from Greece,” Harvati said. The discoveries are “confirmation of a thriving and long-standing Neanderthal population in the region.”

These findings suggest “the fossil record from Greece potentially holds answers about the earliest dispersal of modern humans and earlier hominins into Europe, about possible late survival of Neanderthals and about one of the first instances where the two might have had the opportunity to interact,” Harvati said.

In the future, Harvati and her colleagues will conduct new fieldwork in other areas in Greece to address mysteries such as potential coexistence and interactions between Neanderthals and modern humans, the spread of modern and extinct humans into Europe and possible seafaring capabilities of ancient humans.

“We look forward to exciting discoveries in the coming years,” Harvati said.

The scientists detailed their findings online March 13 in the Journal of Human Evolution.

‘Gate to Hell’ found in Turkey


gate to hell digital reconstruction

Originally Posted by:

By Rossella Lorenzi – Discovery News

 

A “gate to hell” has emerged from ruins in southwestern Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced.

Known as Pluto’s Gate — Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin — the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.

Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors.

“This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death,” the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC — about 24 AD) wrote.

“I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell,” he added.

Announced this month at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, Turkey, the finding was made by a team led by Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento.

D’Andria has conducted extensive archaeological research at the World Heritage Site of Hierapolis. Two years ago he claimed to discover there the tomb of Saint Philip, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.

Founded around 190 B.C. by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum (197 B.C.-159 B.C.), Hierapolis was given over to Rome in 133 B.C.

ANALYSIS: Tomb of Jesus’ Apostle Found In Turkey?

The Hellenistic city grew into a flourishing Roman city, with temples, a theater and popular sacred hot springs, believed to have healing properties.

“We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale’ springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave,” D’Andria told Discovery News.

Featuring a vast array of abandoned broken ruins, possibly the result of earthquakes, the site revealed more ruins once it was excavated. The archaeologists found Ionic semi columns and, on top of them, an inscription with a dedication to the deities of the underworld — Pluto and Kore.

D’Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave — all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources.

“People could watch the sacred rites from these steps, but they could not get to the area near the opening. Only the priests could stand in front of the portal,” D’Andria said.

According to the archaeologist, there was a sort of touristic organization at the site. Small birds were given to pilgrims to test the deadly effects of the cave, while hallucinated priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto.

The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.

“We could see the cave’s lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes,” D’Andria said.

Only the eunuchs of Cybele, an ancient fertility goddess, were able to enter the hell gate without any apparent damage.

“They hold their breath as much as they can,” Strabo wrote, adding that their immunity could have been due to their “menomation,” “divine providence” or “certain physical powers that are antidotes against the vapor.”

According to D’Andria, the site was a famous destination for rites of incubation. Pilgrims took the waters in the pool near the temple, slept not too far from the cave and received visions and prophecies, in a sort of oracle of Delphi effect. Indeed, the fumes coming from the depths of Hierapoli’s phreatic groundwater produced hallucinations.

“This is an exceptional discovery as it confirms and clarifies the information we have from the ancient literary and historic sources,” Alister Filippini, a researcher in Roman history at the Universities of Palermo, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, told Discovery News.

Fully functional until the 4th century AD, and occasionally visited during the following two centuries, the site represented “an important pilgrimage destination for the last pagan intellectuals of the Late Antiquity,” Filippini said.

During the 6th century AD, the Plutonium was obliterated by the Christians. Earthquakes may have then completed the destruction.

D’Andria and his team are now working on the digital reconstruction of the site.

Ancient Egyptian Sundial Discovered at Valley of the Kings


Originally posted by –

By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor | LiveScience.com

LiveScience.com - A sundial dating to the 13th century B.C. and considered one of the oldest Egyptian sundials, was discovered in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, the burial place of rulers from Egypt's New Kingdom period (around 1550 B.C. to 1070 B.C.).

LiveScience.com – A sundial dating to the 13th century B.C. and considered one of the oldest Egyptian sundials, was discovered in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the burial place of rulers from Egypt’s New Kingdom period (around 1550 B.C. to 1070 B.C.).

A sundial discovered outside a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings may be the world’s oldest ancient Egyptian sundials, say scientists.

Dating to the 19th dynasty, or the 13th century B.C., the sundial was found on the floor of a workman’s hut, in the Valley of the Kings, the burial place of rulers from Egypt’s New Kingdom period (around 1550 B.C. to 1070 B.C.).

“The significance of this piece is that it is roughly one thousand years older than what was generally accepted as time when this type of time measuring device was used,” said researcher Susanne Bickel, of the University of Basel in Switzerland. Past sundial discoveries date to the Greco-Roman period, which lasted from about 332 B.C. to A.D. 395.

The sundial is made of a flattened piece of limestone, called an ostracon, with a black semicircle divided into 12 sections drawn on top. Small dots in the middle of each of the 12 sections, which are about 15 degrees apart, likely served to give more precise times.

A dent in the center of the ostracon likely marks where a metal or wooden bolt was inserted to cast a shadow and reveal the time of day. [See Images of the Sundial and Egyptian Burials]

“The piece was found with other ostraca (limestone chips) on which small inscriptions, workmen’s sketches, and the illustration of a deity were written or painted in black ink,” Bickel told LiveScience in an email.

Bickel and her colleagues aren’t sure for what purpose the workmen would’ve used the sundial, though they suggest it may have represented the sun god’s journey through the underworld.

“One hypothesis would be to see this measuring device in parallel to the illustrated texts that were inscribed on the walls of the pharaohs’ tombs and where the representation of the night and the journey of the sun god through the netherworld is divided into the individual hours of the night,” Bickel wrote. “The sundial might have been used to visualize the length of the hours.”

The device may have also been used to measure work hours. “I wondered whether it could have served to regulate the workmen’s working time, to set the break at a certain time, for example,” she said. However, Bickel noted, a half-hour wouldn’t mean much to these people.

In the same area, Bickel and her colleagues have made several amazing discoveries, including a tomb with two burials, one from Egypt’s 18th dynasty and the other from the 22nd dynasty, which was brought into the tomb some time after the pillaging of the first burial. A wooden coffin linked to the secondary burial contained the mummy of a chantress of Amun called Nehmes-Bastet. The scientists are not sure who would’ve been buried in the original tomb, though they found remains of a mummy without linen bandages on the floor of the structure. “This badly broken mummy is probably the original first owner of the tomb,” write the researchers on their website.

Bickel and her colleagues have been working in the area since 2008 and plan to continue over the next couple of years, she said.