New evidence shows humans survived massive volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago

March 13, 2018 by  
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In a newly published study , scientists reveal evidence that groups of humans survived a massive volcanic eruption at the Toba caldera, a supervolcano in Sumatra. “It is possible that people moved out of terrestrial locations and into this more productive coastal zone,” study co-author Curtis Marean told Inverse . “Think of it as a refuge.” Inland wildlife, plants and fungus faced a greater disruptive impact than those located closer to the coast, a key fact that enabled savvy human communities to survive the decade-long volcanic winter and endure the centuries-long consequences of the massive volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago. The Toba eruption was so powerful that shards of tephra, the rock debris projected from a volcanic event, managed to reach as far as South Africa , nearly 5,600 miles from the Toba caldera. “Glass shards are a form of tephra that preserve a record of the chemical composition of the lava erupted during the eruption. The shapes and sizes of the shards also provide information about the nature of the eruption,” study author  Gene Smith told Inverse . “We can tell quite a bit about a volcanic eruption by studying products ejected from the volcano.” Related: Wave of earthquakes shake Yellowstone’s super-volcano The researchers observed that the global impact of the Toba eruption encouraged communities to move to coastal areas, which were less affected by the eruption. The flexibility and attentiveness of these early human communities is worth noting, as modern society may not be quite as dynamic in the face of such an event. “Hunter-gatherer economies are very resilient, but I don’t think the complex modern economies are,” said Smith. “A Toba-like event is a civilization killer for us. Perhaps our study will waken people up to the potential of volcanic catastrophe.” Via Inverse Images via Depositphotos ,  Smith et al. and  Dr. Jayne Wilkins

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New evidence shows humans survived massive volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago

Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand

March 13, 2018 by  
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Self- flying taxis could zip through the skies of New Zealand if Kitty Hawk has anything to do about it. Financed by Google co-founder Larry Page, the company has reached an agreement with the country to test the planes for an official certification process, according to The New York Times — and aim for a commercial network in three years. Kitty Hawk could beat Uber in building a network of electric self-flying taxis. They’ve found a collaborator in New Zealand; prime minister Jacinda Ardern told The New York Times, “We’ve got an ambitious target in New Zealand of being net carbon zero by 2050 …exciting projects like this are part of how we make that happen.” Related: Google co-founder Larry Page secretly invested over $100M in two flying car startups Kitty Hawk’s vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, called Cora , will have a range of around 62 miles to start . 12 independent lift fans power the taxi so it can take off and land much like a helicopter , and doesn’t require a runway. With a 36-foot wingspan, the aircraft flies between 500 and 3,000 feet above the ground at around 110 miles per hour. Two passengers can ride inside, and The New York Times said the company is developing an app enabling travelers to call a self-flying taxi. The publication said Kitty Hawk doesn’t intend to sell their VTOL planes, but rather operate the commercial network. Kitty Hawk is based in California, and a company called Zephyr Airworks is their operator in New Zealand. The project went by the code name Zee.Aero for a while, which Kitty Hawk said was the name of their Cora team during the development stage. The New York Times pointed out nearly every prediction about how fast air taxis would take to the skies has been wrong — it remains to be seen if Kitty Hawk will be able to deliver. + Kitty Hawk + Cora Via The New York Times Images via Kitty Hawk

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Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand

Neanderthals, not homo sapiens, responsible for 64,000-year-old cave art

February 23, 2018 by  
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Researchers have discovered that Neanderthals, not  homo sapiens , created a series of 64,000 year-old cave drawings in Spain . Published in the journal  Science , this study marks the first time that Neanderthals have been credited as cave painters – and it deems the works of art the oldest known cave paintings. Utilizing advanced radioactive dating, the scientists determined that paintings made in three separate caves are far older than originally thought – they were created 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in the area. The Neanderthal’s reputation as a bulkier, dumber kind of human seems to be misinformed. “It’s impossible to say that one is more clever than the other,” archaeology professor Marie Soressi told the Verge . An earlier theory speculated that Neanderthals only developed a culture after the arrival of modern humans in Europe between 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. The Neanderthal cave artwork proves that the species were creative and maintained their own culture and accompanying art. Neanderthals are also known to have used eagle claws and shells in their clothing as well as pigments to add color. Related: Incredible fossil discovery rewrites the history of human migration out of Africa Previous efforts to determine the age of cave art were complicated by dating technology limitations. The most common method works exclusively with organic matter; using uranium ‘s radioactive decay as a metric requires a great deal of material to be dated, something that is not possible in rare, delicate discoveries like early human cave art. The scientists used a new method of dating in which they scrapped off only the crust of the cave painting, samples which are then dated in a laboratory. Via The Verge Images via D.L. Hoffman, C.D. Standish, et al.

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Neanderthals, not homo sapiens, responsible for 64,000-year-old cave art

Incredible fossil discovery rewrites the history of human migration out of Africa

January 26, 2018 by  
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Scientists have discovered the oldest known fossil of a modern human outside of Africa in Misliya Cave near Mount Carmel, Israel . The discovery reveals that modern humans left Africa at least 50,000 years earlier than previously thought. “[The fossil] provides the clearest evidence yet that our ancestors first migrated out of Africa much earlier than we previously believed,” said Binghamton University anthropology professor Rolf Quam. The fossil , which consists of an upper jawbone with several teeth still attached, is estimated to be between 175,000-200,000 years old, at least 50,000 years before humans had been thought to have first left Africa. Using microCT scans and 3D virtual models, the research team, including scientists from Tel Aviv University , Binghamton University, and the State University of New York , determined that the fossil showed signs of potential hybridization. “While all of the anatomical details in the Misliya fossil are fully consistent with modern humans, some features are also found in Neanderthals and other human groups,” said Quam , who was a study co-author. The fossil and archaeological evidence found in the cave also indicates that these early humans in historic Palestine were capable of hunting large game animals, controlling fire for their own uses, and crafting a variety of prehistoric stone tools. “It also means that modern humans were potentially meeting and interacting during a longer period of time with other archaic human groups, providing more opportunity for cultural and biological exchanges.” Related: Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs The region in which the fossil was discovered has long been seen as a major passage for human migration out of Africa as well as a home for various species of hominids, including Neanderthals . Piecing together the story of human migration beyond the African continent is essential to understanding the evolution of our species, the researchers emphasized. The latest discovery adds key information to this story, including details regarding the timing and nature of demographic changes and genetic mixing between populations and even species of early humans. With this new chapter, the story of ourselves becomes that much clearer. Via Phys.org Images via Rolf Quam and  Israel Hershkovitz/Tel Aviv University  

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Incredible fossil discovery rewrites the history of human migration out of Africa

Ice melting due to climate change in Norway reveals pre-Viking artifacts

January 25, 2018 by  
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Climate change is melting ice in high mountains, enabling archaeologists to discover artifacts once preserved in glacial ice in Scandinavia, North America, and the Alps. A team led by Lars Pilø of the Oppland City Council recently published their discoveries on artifacts, many related to reindeer hunting, in Royal Society Open Science , and Pilø wrote in a Secrets of the Ice blog post , “This is a new and fantastic archaeological record of past human activity in some of the most remote and forbidding landscapes.” Pilø said in the post, “The ice has acted like a time machine, preserving the finds through millennia like a giant prehistoric deep-freezer.” His team has conducted fieldwork in the mountains of Oppland County in Norway over more than ten years, and they’ve come up with some impressive finds. Pilø said they’ve recovered over 2,000 artifacts. Related: Archaeologist may have uncovered the second Viking settlement in North America Some of their discoveries date all the way back to 4,000 BC. They’ve uncovered arrows; remains of pack horses, sleds, and skis; and clothing from the Iron Age and Bronze Age . Ice melting is unveiling what the research paper abstract described as “a fragile record of alpine activity, especially hunting and the use of mountain passes.” In the article, the researchers share radiocarbon dates of 153 items, and they compared those dates against the timing of economic changes or environmental changes, like periods of warming or cooling. They came up with a few surprises; for example, while you’d expect cold temperatures to keep people out of the highest elevations in Norway, like in the Late Antique Little Ice Age from around 536 – 660 CE, it seems hunters kept going into the mountains. Archaeologist James Barrett of the University of Cambridge told Ars Technica , “Remarkably, though, the finds from the ice may have continued through this period, perhaps suggesting that the importance of mountain hunting (mainly for reindeer), increased to supplement failing agricultural harvests in times of low temperatures.” Nine researchers from multiple Norwegian universities, the University of Oxford, and the University of Cambridge contributed. + Glacial Archaeology, Ancient Reindeer Hunting, and Climate Change + Secrets of the Ice Via Ars Technica Images via Øystein Rønning-Andersen, Secrets of the Ice/Oppland Count Council; Johan Wildhagen, Palookaville; and secretsoftheice.com/Oppland County Council

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Ice melting due to climate change in Norway reveals pre-Viking artifacts

Egyptians discover three 1,000-year-old sunken ships full of treasure

November 27, 2017 by  
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Egyptian officials revealed last week that archaeologists located three sunken ships off the country’s northern coast in Alexandria, Egypt’s Abu Qir Bay. The wrecks, determined to be of Roman origin , were discovered filled with ancient artifacts dating back at least 1,000 years. Included in the excavated bounty were gold coins issued during the reign of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus Caesar Octavian (Julius Caesar was his great-uncle), as well as pottery, and a “royal head of crystal.” As MSN writes, the Ministry of Antiquities’ Underwater Archaeology Department and the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology have been working since September to locate and disentomb the ship’s contents from the sunken city of Heraclion. Heraclion sits beneath the bay and is believed to be one of the world’s most archaeologically rich sites. In fact, the team of archaeologists is in the process of locating a fourth sunken ship in the bay. Related: Scientists just discovered evidence of a hidden chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza The finds are a boon for Egypt, which has been in a state of political unrest since the uprisings of 2011. Looters have used mass protests as a cover to both steal and defile artifacts, including those housed in the Egyptian Museum near Tahrir Square. As such, Egypt’s antiquity authorities are sharing their new finds with gusto across global channels, including Facebook. Via MSN Images via the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities Facebook page

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Egyptians discover three 1,000-year-old sunken ships full of treasure

Japan mulls pouring 1 million metric tons of radioactive Fukushima water into Pacific Ocean

November 27, 2017 by  
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Fukushima cleanup continues over six years after the 2011 disaster – and the country hasn’t yet decided what to do with one million metric tons of radioactive water currently stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 900 big tanks. Some nuclear experts advising the government have said the water should be slowly released into the Pacific Ocean . But local fishermen are afraid consumers won’t purchase fish caught in the region if that happens – and their industry is still struggling to rebuild after the tsunami. Multiple tests have shown most kinds of fish caught near Fukushima are safe to consume. But diners are still hesitant to eat it, and fishermen fear if radioactive water is released, people won’t buy the fish at all. But the radioactive water isn’t really that safe in the tanks – if another tsunami or major earthquake hit, all that water could spill. Related: Fukushima radiation levels at highest since 2011 disaster The water has been treated, and all radioactive elements but tritium have been removed. Experts say tritium is safe in small quantities, but if disaster should strike again, the spill of water would likely be uncontrolled. And the amount of radioactive water at Fukushima increases daily by 150 metric tons. Cooling water must be pumped into the reactors to prevent them from overheating, and that water picks up radioactivity. It then seeps out of damaged containment chambers and collects in the basements, where it mixes with groundwater that comes in via reactor building cracks. 210 metric tons of this water can be treated and reused as cooling water. But 150 metric tons is put in tanks. Other nuclear plants have been allowed to release radioactive tritium water, according to The Independent . But the process can take years. Last year, a government panel recommended Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which owns the Fukushima plant, dilute the water to around 50 times and release around 400 metric tons into the sea every day – that process would likely take nearly a decade. Other people have said Tepco should wait to release the radioactive water until 2023, when half the tritium present when disaster struck will have naturally disappeared. Via The Independent Images via IAEA Imagebank on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Japan mulls pouring 1 million metric tons of radioactive Fukushima water into Pacific Ocean

Villagers in Peru stumble across what may be an ancient Inca city

October 17, 2017 by  
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Locals in the southern rainforest of Peru may have stumbled across an Inca city while grazing cattle. The Provincial Municipality of La Convención shared images of the site, close to the National Sanctuary of Megantoni. In a space around two hectares big, residents found houses, walls, passageways, platforms, and streets that could date all the way back to the Inca civilization . Villagers told local authorities of their find – which occurred on September 9 – and returned with officials to take another look at what could be an old Inca citadel that had been covered by vegetation. La Convención mayor Wilfredo Alagon said he would report the find to the Decentralized Culture Directorate of Cusco (DDCC), and monument management body head Jorge Yabar Zamalloa told the Andina news agency they have sent an archaeologist to the site to put together a technical report. Related: 2,000-year-old pre-Aztec ancient palace complex found in Mexico Structures made with stone can be glimpsed in the photographs, which have been presented as evidence for the city, according to Andina. There’s no firm date attached to the archaeological remains as of yet – although the Inca civilization flourished between 1,425 C.E. and 1,532 C.E. in South America, according to the non-profit organization Ancient History Encyclopedia . The Inca civilization often utilized stone in buildings. In a 2014 article , Ancient History Encyclopedia writer Mark Cartwright said, “Inca architecture includes some of the most finely worked stone structures from any ancient civilization…it typically incorporated the natural landscape yet at the same time managed to dominate it to create an often spectacular blend of geometrical and natural forms.” Alagon said they’ll take measures to protect these remains, according to Archaeology. Via Archaeology , Provincial Municipality of La Convención , and Andina Images via Provincial Municipality of La Convención

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Villagers in Peru stumble across what may be an ancient Inca city

2,000-year-old pre-Aztec ancient palace complex found in Mexico

March 29, 2017 by  
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There’s so much we don’t know about ancient civilizations , but the discovery of a 30,031-square-foot palace complex in Mexico may yield some hints. Two American Museum of Natural History anthropologists recently reported the impressive palace built at a time before the Aztecs. They say the El Palenque palace complex is the oldest known in the Oaxaca Valley. The colossal palace compound, announced by Elsa M. Redmond and Charles Spencer in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America article recently published online , backs up a picture slowly emerging of ancient civilizations in Mexico. Before the Aztecs, organized states developed in Mesoamerica – but Spencer and Redmond said determining the oldest states is a major anthropology research problem. Royal palaces in particular help signify a state. Related: Archaeologists just discovered an ancient unknown city in Greece According to Phys.org, most researchers in this field think the ancient civilization in Oaxaca was one of the earliest states to exist in Mesoamerica, and Redmond and Spencer believe their discovery supports that theory. The anthropologists dated the palace complex between 300 and 100 BC, making it somewhere around 2,100 to 2,300 years old. They think it could be one of the Oaxaca Valley’s oldest multi-functional palaces. The two say the complex is well preserved, and is similar to Mesoamerican palaces historically documented. The ruler and his family had living quarters there, but the complex also included a dining area, business offices, place for sacrifices, and a staircase. Its massive size indicates the ruler could employ a lot of manpower. The palace also offers a few insights into ancient architecture : the researchers said construction techniques used by the builders hint the complex was designed beforehand and then built in one organized, large-scale undertaking. There’s a cistern for gathering rainwater in the residential area, and a drain carved into stone to deliver fresh water and get rid of waste. Via Phys.org Images via Elsa M. Redmond and Charles Spencer

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2,000-year-old pre-Aztec ancient palace complex found in Mexico

Early warning signs that foretell imminent societal collapse – new study

September 1, 2016 by  
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A research paper published earlier this summer has scientists around the world in a frenzy, as it claims that archaeological information can be used to determine when a civilization is approaching collapse . Researchers from the University of Maryland and University College London joined forces to examine 2,378 archaeological sites from nine regions of Neolithic Europe, a period that began approximately 9,000 years ago when the introduction of agricultural technologies spurred rapid population growth. The team collated evidence, backed up by known events in history, that signals when an ecosystem shifted into societal instability. In effect, the researchers believe that, in hindsight, they can spot the markers that signal the turning point for nearly every civilization during that time period. Through their investigation of thousands of archaeological sites , the research team believes that they have identified consistent early warnings signs (EWSs) that mark the point when an ecosystem begins to experience a decline in resilience, which they refer to as a “regime shift.” From a scientific standpoint, it’s unlikely that any study has accomplished this in the past. “This study is the first to find early warning signals of demographic regime shift among human populations,” the authors wrote in the paper’s abstract. “The results suggest that archaeological information can potentially be used to monitor social and ecological vulnerability in human societies at large spatial and temporal scales.” Related: Archaeologists reveal fresh details about 4,500-year-old “New Stonehenge” The team used computer modeling to help validate their methods, and reduce or eliminate the possibility that the EWS patterns in question were introduced by other means, such as sampling biases, atmospheric effects, radiocarbon calibration error, and taphonomic processes . The researchers focused on two main signals to evaluate the progressive decline of past ecosystems: critical slowing down (CSD) and flickering. “CSD describes a general increase in the time it takes a system to recover from external shocks such as population loss due to disease, warfare, or crop failure,” the team wrote. “Flickering describes increasing directional bias in a system’s response rate to such perturbations, such as a society stuck in a socio-ecological trap where strong reinforcing behavior and a lack of innovation prevents adaptation. Here, flickering would suggest increasing recovery time from population decline events relative to growth events before major collapse.” By developing a better understanding of the trajectory that led to the decline of past civilizations, researchers hope to gain tools to help scientists evaluate our present circumstances. After all, as the saying goes, those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The study was published this June in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Via DailyMail Images via Wikipedia ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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