Research suggests humans emerged 2.8M years ago amid major climate change event

May 18, 2017 by  
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Mystery still shrouds much of the story of our origins, but new Arizona State University (ASU) research sheds new light on why we first emerged where and when we did. Around 2.8 million years ago our genus, Homo , could have emerged in a valley in Ethiopia . It was a time of change on that Earth long ago; it appears forest landscapes altered into grassy ones where our ancient ancestors lived. Back in 2013 an ASU team discovered a jawbone with teeth at Ledi-Geraru, and the incredible find is the oldest evidence of Homo we’ve yet found and dates back around 2.8 million years. The find was 400,000 years older than other fossils we’d discovered to that point. Building on that discovery, ASU scientists hoped to answer two questions: why did humans emerge in Ethiopia’s lower Awash Valley, and why did they emerge at that point in time? Related: New ‘Hobbit’ fossils provide a glimpse into human relative Animal fossils help scientists recreate the conditions of the past – what they ate help indicate the environment in those days. Scientists discovered that the animals found with the 2.8 million-year-old Homo fed on grass, seeming to support the guesses of many in the scientific community humanity emerged as grassy environments were spreading in a period of global cooling. According to IBTimes UK, the landscape in which early humans lived would have been similar to today’s Serengeti region. Scientist Joshua Robinson said evidence had hinted at the connection between the emergence of humans and the spread of those grassy, open environments, “but, until now, we had not direct environmental data for the origins of Homo now that it’s been pushed back in time.” The 2.8 million date is also incredibly important for the fossil record. The famous Lucy fossil ( Australopithecus ), which dates to around 3.2 million years ago, was found just around 18 miles west of ASU’s 2013 discovery. But the geological sequence ended around 2.95 million years ago, until the recent findings. ASU researcher John Rowan said although Lucy’s species endured many environmental changes, it appears they didn’t last through the ancient climate change as open environments spread. The diet of early humans was still very similar to what Lucy would have consumed, however. The ASU research was published online this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution . Four ASU scientists worked on the study with one geoscientist from the University of South Florida . Via Arizona State University and IBTimes UK Images via Kaye Reed/Phys.org and Josh Robinson/Arizona State University

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Research suggests humans emerged 2.8M years ago amid major climate change event

Hundreds of ancient earthworks similar to Stonehenge found in the Amazon

February 7, 2017 by  
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For hundreds of years, the Amazon rainforest concealed over 450 massive, mysterious earthworks similar to those in Stonehenge . As a result of deforestation , researchers were able to catch a glimpse of the baffling geometrical geoglyphs in Brazil’s Acre state. The 2,000-year-old earthworks reveal a wealth of information we didn’t know before about how ancient people managed the rainforest . Many people used to think the Amazon rainforest ecosystem remained largely untouched by humans in the past, an idea challenged by the recent discovery of these huge earthworks. Led by Jennifer Watling of the University of São Paulo and the University of Exeter , a team reconstructed fire and vegetation history over 6,000 years near two of the geoglyphs, and found humans actually changed the bamboo forests heavily for millennia. They temporarily cleared areas to build the earthworks. Related: Archaeologists reveal fresh details about 4,500-year-old “New Stonehenge” As researchers didn’t find many artifacts around the earthworks, the sites probably weren’t villages, and their layout prompts researchers to think they weren’t used for defense. Instead, the ancient geoglyphs may have been utilized only once in a while for ritual gatherings. Watling cautions against excusing rampant deforestation based on this new information. Her team’s research shows while ancient people altered the rainforest, they did not employ long term, large-scale deforestation as happens today, or burn swaths of forest. Instead they employed ancient agroforestry practices and focused on economically valuable trees like palms to create what the University of Exeter describes as a prehistoric supermarket of products from the forest. Watling said, “Our evidence that Amazonian forests have been managed by indigenous peoples long before European Contact should not be cited as justification for the destructive, unsustainable land-use practiced today. It should instead serve to highlight the ingenuity of past subsistence regimes that did not lead to forest degradation, and the importance of indigenous knowledge for finding more sustainable land use alternatives.” Nine other researchers from institutions in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Canada joined Watling in the research; the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published their study online this month. Via Phys.org Images via Jenny Watling/Phys.org

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Hundreds of ancient earthworks similar to Stonehenge found in the Amazon

This all-natural native corn is bejeweled with brilliantly colored kernels

January 15, 2017 by  
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Through his quest to reconnect to his roots, Barnes isolated several traditional strains of seeds that fell to the wayside when his ancestors traveled to what’s now Oklahoma in the 1800s . Through years of selective growing , Barnes grew corn that looks bejeweled, creating a colorful celebration of native heirloom varieties of corn. Related: Plant a Wish Restores Native Plant Habitats Around America Barnes didn’t hoard the wealth, however, sharing corn seeds with Native American tribe elders and other growers he encountered. According to SeedBroadcast , “…he was able to reintroduce specific corn types to the elders of those tribes, and this helped their people in reclaiming their cultural and spiritual identities. Their corn was, to them, literally the same as their blood line, their language, and their sense of who they were.” One such grower was Greg Schoen. The two became friends in the early ’90s , and Schoen took the rainbow corn to a new level, creating hybrids by planting the rainbow corn next to typical yellow corn. Schoen eventually passed the seeds to the non-profit organization Native Seeds/SEARCH , who now sell the seeds online . They also protect the seeds in a bank containing around 2,000 rare varieties . Native Seeds/SEARCH began during a project to design sustainable food sources with Native Americans. They continually heard that people wanted to plant the seeds their grandparents did , so the organization started to protect ” endangered traditional seeds ” and the diversity of plants present specifically in the American Southwest. The fabulous corn kernels possess an outer layer tougher than most , which means they aren’t the best for backyard corn-on-the-cob chomping, but they can be either ground for cornmeal or popped like popcorn. You can purchase a packet of the seeds for $4.95 here , and profits go right back to the organization to continue their conservation efforts. Via My Modern Met and Lost At E Minor Images via Glass Gem Corn Facebook

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This all-natural native corn is bejeweled with brilliantly colored kernels

Ancient city constructed on a coral reef remains the only one of its kind

January 1, 2017 by  
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On the island of Pohnpei, Micronesia rest the remarkable ruins of Nan Madol, the only ancient city ever constructed on top of a coral reef . Referred to as an ” engineering marvel ” by the Smithsonian and nicknamed the “Venice of the Pacific,” this series of over 90 artificial islets could have once housed around 1,000 people. Although the Saudeleur built the city around 1200 AD, it wasn’t until earlier this year Nan Madol was finally named a World Heritage Site . Nan Madol flourished sometime during the 13th to 17th centuries AD as a spiritual and political center for the Saudeleur. Little remains of the intriguing ancient civilization – no art or carvings – other than marvelous ruins atop the coral reef. Oral history says the Saudeleur came to Pohnpei as foreigners in 1100 and ended up ruling the island, with Nan Madol as their dynastic seat. The city also served as a temple for the god the nobility worshiped. Related: Lasers reveal ancient Cambodian cities hidden by jungle near Angkor Wat The Saudeleur utilized columnar basalt, a kind of volcanic rock, to build the impressive city on a foundation of coral – and as the building materials are so heavy, no one has yet figured out how they accomplished the feat. The heaviest pillars weigh around 100,000 pounds. The walls surrounding the island’s largest structure, a royal temple called Nandauwas, are 25 feet high. The enduring stability of the remains is also something of a mystery. According to the National Park Service , “The Pohnpeians, who had neither binding agents like concrete nor modern diving equipment, sank the heavy stones into the lagoon using an unknown method. The building remains and canals are stable enough that even after centuries of abandonment visitors can still tour Nan Madol by boat.” Earlier in 2016, the World Heritage Committee added Nan Madol to both the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger, underlining the need to protect the fascinating site from unchecked mangrove growth and waterway siltation. Nan Madol is Micronesia’s first World Heritage Site. Via Smithsonian.com , Metropolitan Museum of Art , and National Park Service Images via Stephanie Batzer on Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ), Stefan Krasowski on Flickr , and Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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How to keep your head during a U.S. presidential transition

December 8, 2016 by  
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Watch these four indicators, and remember four words from Ancient Rome.

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How to keep your head during a U.S. presidential transition

Why IBM sees blockchain as a breakthrough for traceability

December 8, 2016 by  
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The tech giant is behind two intriguing supply chain projects, with more to come.

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How Dow Chemical is taking on the SDGs

December 8, 2016 by  
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The chemical company formulates plans for “redefining the role of business in society.”

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How Dow Chemical is taking on the SDGs

Ancient marine fossils in the Transantarctic Mountains offer disturbing clues about climate change

September 23, 2016 by  
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Marine diatom fossils in the Transantarctic Mountains have long puzzled scientists. Researchers wondered how these fossilized algae ended up in the Antarctic mountains and many were divided between two leading theories. Now a new paper drawing on new data suggests both theories may be partially correct, with implications for sea level rise today. The diatoms are from the Pliocene Epoch, and date to around 2.6 million to 5.6 million years in the past. One theory suggested the diatoms may have found their way to mountain rocks when the East Antarctic Ice Sheet melted in a Pliocene warm period. When the ice reformed into glaciers , the glaciers brought the diatoms to the mountains. The other theory suggested the diatoms were actually buffeted into the mountains by wind. Related: Antarctic fossil hunters hit a 71-million-year-old jackpot Four scientists from Northern Illinois University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Pennsylvania State University reported ” new atmospheric modeling utilizing Pliocene climate and derived Antarctic landscapes ” to unite the theories in a paper published online this week by Nature Communications . From the new data, the scientists think the East Antarctic Ice Sheet did retreat, by 300 miles, but wind still helped with the mysterious transportation of the diatoms. As the ice melted, “diatom-rich lands” were exposed to wind, which ferried the diatoms to the mountains instead of glaciers doing the job. The paper’s lead author, Reed P. Scherer of Northern Illinois University, told Popular Science, “The rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel has now elevated the concentration to 400 parts per million , matching for the first time the levels of the warm Pliocene.” As climate change today leads to sea level rise, the fate of precarious Antarctic ice sheets becomes of greater concern. When the ice sheets melted back in the Pliocene, ocean levels could have been 75 feet higher than today’s levels – a dangerous prospect. Via Popular Science Images via Wikimedia Commons and Reed P. Scherer, Robert M. DeConto, David Pollard, and Richard B. Alley

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Ancient marine fossils in the Transantarctic Mountains offer disturbing clues about climate change

Archaeologists find 2,150-year-old Petra monument ‘hiding in plain sight’

June 10, 2016 by  
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The ancient city of Petra in Jordan is known for its fascinating ruins built into surrounding rocky cliffs, and now archaeologists have made an exciting new discovery. Using satellite images , they recently discovered a massive subterranean monument that remained hidden for years. The monument is about the length and double the width of an Olympic swimming pool . The archaeologists used satellite imagery to find the platform, which is 184 feet by 161 feet. An interior platform had columns along one end and a huge staircase. Based on pottery studies, the researchers think the platform could be at least 2,150 years old . Related: Family accidentally discovers “extraordinarily well-preserved” Roman villa in England Given the colossal size, it’s surprising no one has yet discovered the monument, but the researchers said it was difficult to get to and “hidden.”Even though the monument is close to the center of Petra – just around half a mile south, prior surveys didn’t find it. The paper the archaeologists published is titled ” Hiding in Plain Sight .” Co-author of the paper Christopher Tuttle told National Geographic, “I’m sure that over the course of two centuries of research [in Petra], someone had to know [this site] was there, but it’s never been systematically studied or written up. I’ve worked in Petra for 20 years, and I knew that something was there, but it’s certainly legitimate to call this a discovery.” Tuttle told The Guardian the platform could have been used for “some kind of massive display function.” Throughout the rest of Petra, there are several shrines and sites used for “various cultic displays or political activities.” However, one reason the new monument stands apart is because the massive staircase doesn’t face Petra’s city center. “We don’t understand what the purpose [of visible shrines], because the Nabateans didn’t leave any written documents to tell us,” Tuttle said. “But I find it interesting that such a monumental feature doesn’t have a visible relationship to the city.” As of now the researchers don’t have a plan for excavation , but they hope to work at the site at some point. Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Archaeologists find 2,150-year-old Petra monument ‘hiding in plain sight’

Homo sapiens and Neanderthals lived together 55,000 years ago

February 2, 2015 by  
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Amateur speleologists stumbled upon an ancient partial skull  that indicates Homo sapiens were living alongside Neanderthals in the Middle East. The 55,000-year-old incomplete cranium was found deep in a cave in Israel . This find fills a missing part of the story about how Homo sapiens evolved and traveled from Africa to Europe. Read the rest of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals lived together 55,000 years ago Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: ancient , archaeologists , archaeology , artifact , bones , cave , cranium , early man , fossil , homo sapiens , human , interbreeding , Israel , neanderthals , skull

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Homo sapiens and Neanderthals lived together 55,000 years ago

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