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Archeology

Dinosaur’s Last Meal Reveals Previously Unknown Lizard Species

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Last dinosaur
Photo Credit: RT

A near complete fossil of a lizard has been found inside the stomach of a Microraptor, a kind of feathered dinosaur that lived around 120 million years ago.

The lizard must have been swallowed whole shortly before the Microraptor died and was fossilised. It was swallowed head first, in the same way that many living birds and reptiles swallow prey.

The lizard turns out to be a new species and has been named Indrasaurus wangi by Jingmai O’Connor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing and her colleagues. The name refers to a Vedic legend in which the god Indra was swallowed by a dragon during a great battle.

Microraptors, first discovered two decades ago, looked very bird-like apart from their teeth but had feathers on their legs as well as their arms, and were capable of gliding and maybe even powered flight, says O’Connor. “This is an independent origin of flight separate from birds,” she says. “It flew with four wings.”

A new lizard species in the abdomen of a Microraptor

Many researchers think they were tree climbers, but O’Connor disagrees. “I think microraptor was not a tree climber but rather lived on the ground but that’s controversial,” she says. “The Jehol where they lived was a forested lake environment.”

This is the fourth microraptor fossil found with identifiable stomach contents, so we know they fed on mammals, birds, fish as well as lizards. Other studies have shown that at least some of these animals had black feathers.

The microraptor and lizard are the latest of a treasure trove of fossils to emerge from northeastern China. Here a series of volcanic eruptions between 130 and 120 million killed many animals. Some were entombed in ash at the bottom of lakes and exquisitely preserved.

Other fossil treasures from the region include fossilised stick insects whose fragile wings are still clearly visible.

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Ancient

Iron Age Warrior Shield Hailed As Most Important Find This Millennium

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Iron Age Warrior Shield Hailed as Most Important Find This Millennium
Photo Credit: Ancient Origins

Ed Whelan, Ancient Origins

Conservation experts have been able to restore a stunning shield that is 2,200 years old. The artifact belonged to a Celtic warrior who was buried in a chariot burial in the north of England. The warrior shield has been hailed as one of the most important and remarkable ancient finds this millennium.

Last year, construction workers that were building a housing development came across something unusual in the earth. They found what appeared to be a grave at the project known as ‘The Mile’ in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, England. The company behind the development, Persimmon Homes, contacted MAP Archaeological, who subsequently conducted an excavation of the site and what they found was truly amazing.

Chariot Burial

The workers had come across an Iron Age warrior’s chariot burial. The remains of the warrior were found in the chariot and two skeletons of horses were also unearthed. Paula Ware, an archaeologist with MAP, stated that “these horses were placed with their hooves on the ground and their rear legs looking as though they would leap out of the grave” according to The Yorkshire Post . A number of grave goods were also uncovered with the dead man, including a precious brooch. Interestingly as part of a funeral ritual, some young piglets had been sacrificed and placed near the deceased.

Skeletons of the horses found at the site in Pocklington ( MAP Archaeological Practice Limited )

This grave was dated to the period 320–174 BC when Celtic tribes dominated the British Isles. At the time this part of England was dominated by the Arras culture, which is noted for its unusual burials. It appears that the warrior was a member of the elite, who probably died of old age and not in battle. This burial was 20 feet (60m) away from the grave of a young male who had been speared multiple times, possibly as part of a ritual.

Rare Burial

The nature of the grave would seem to indicate a belief in the afterlife. The food and goods were deposited for the dead warrior for his existence after death in this world. This is the first chariot burial of its kind, uncovered in this part of Britain. Curiously a near-identical burial “dating to the third or fourth century BC was discovered in 2013 in Svestari in north-east Bulgaria” reports the Pocklington Post .

The remains of the warrior shield were found near the chariot burial, and were in a poor state after centuries in the earth. It clearly needed a great deal of conservation work to repair the shield. It was found face down in the chariot near the deceased and it measured 30 inches (74cm). The leather fitting and wooden handle had long since disintegrated.

The warrior shield unearthed before conservation work had been completed ( MAP Archaeological Practice Limited )
The warrior shield unearthed before conservation work had been completed ( MAP Archaeological Practice Limited )
Stunning Warrior Shield Uncovered

Now after the completion of the conservation work which was a lengthy process, the warrior shield has been revealed in all of its glory. The object is ornately designed, specifically it is typical of the “La Tène’ culture that spanned Europe from around 450–1 BC” reports The Daily Mail . It was made by a craftsperson hammering out bronze sheets from the reverse side.

The Daily Mail further states, that it has a design of “mollusk shells in a series of three-legged, triskelion-like whorls around the central raised boss”. Researchers have been amazed by the shield and its artwork. According to The Yorkshire Post , it has been called “the most important British Celtic art object of the millennium” and has been compared to the famous Wandsworth shield boss, which is on display at the British Museum . The conserved shield has a unique scalloped border, which is like nothing else found from Iron Age Europe.

Archaeologists unearthing the warrior shield together with the remains of the man ( MAP Archaeological Practice Limited )
Archaeologists unearthing the warrior shield together with the remains of the man ( MAP Archaeological Practice Limited )
Battle Worn Shield

The shield was not just an ornament, but it appears to have been used in battle, which is evidenced by a sword slash on it. The received wisdom was that such items were not used in battle. However, Ware stated that “our investigation challenges this with the evidence of a puncture wound in the shield typical of a sword” according to The Daily Mail . It also appears that the object was repaired and may have even been used in several battles.

Excavations at the site in Pocklington are now completed. There are hopes that the treasure trove of objects will be put on display at a local museum. The full findings of the excavation are expected to be published in book form in 2020. Research is expected to continue on the artifacts found in the chariot grave, and they could provide more insights about Iron Age Britain.

Top image: The stunning conserved warrior shield found at the site in Pocklington.         

This article (Iron Age Warrior Shield Hailed as Most Important Find This Millennium) was originally published at Ancient Origins and is re-posted here under Creative Commons.

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Ancient

Giant Viking Ship Discovered Under Farm In Norway Was A One-Way Voyage To Valhalla

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Photo Credit: The Washington Post

There was no greater honour for a Viking than to die in battle, beginning a journey from the flat Earth up toward Valhalla, where an eternal feast awaited. “They can have a fight and party every day,” Knut Paasche, a period archaeologist said, “and then the next day, do it again.”

But they needed a vessel to get there. Chieftains and kings, laid to rest in long ships with swords and jewels, were buried in earthen mounds signifying their stature, Paasche said.

The larger the ship and mound, the more important the burial.

Archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar found a big mound carved into a western Norwegian island — along with the remains of a “huge” ship as long as 55 feet, Paasche told The Washington Post, in a discovery that may tell new tales about how the ships evolved to become fearsome and agile vessels more than 1,000 years ago.

The discovery on the Edoy island, announced Nov. 22 by the Institute for Cultural Heritage Research — where Paasche is an archaeologist and researcher — was part luck.

Archaeologists partnered with the Smola municipality, and the counties of More and Romsdal, to conduct research in the area already known for its rich historical setting, including Viking battles.

Researchers had finished for the day in September, the institute said, but decided to make a quick pass in a farmer’s field near a Medieval church.

The geo-radar vehicle rumbled over the soil, revealing the husk of a ship set inside a burial mound that was once 60 feet in diameter, Paasche said, but has been destroyed by centuries of plows tearing through the dirt.

It is unknown how much of the ship remains before excavation begins. Researchers can pinpoint the ship’s backbone, the 42-foot keel, along with hints of planking, Paasche said, but it is unclear whether the occupant was buried with any riches or weapons.

Wood from a buried ship found last year was rotted away, leaving only black detritus, he said. Another ship found in England also had no wood, though an outline of nails helped identify it, Paasche said, so he hopes for more nails or other finds.

Anything helps, he said, to understand an era with few immaculate artifacts as large as a vessel.

There are only three well-preserved Viking ships in Norway,” Paasche said, which are all housed in a museum in Oslo. “And we need more.”

Edoy and the surrounding region were well traversed in the Merovingian dynasty, which preceded the Vikings, Paasche said, and Viking chieftains later enriched themselves by levying taxes on those traveling the network of fjords.

Many battles were fought in the area, he said, including some waged by Harald I Fairhair, the Viking who unified Norway as its first king in the ninth century.

The ship may belong to the Viking era, which ran from about 800 to 1000, or even earlier in the Frankish Merovingian period in Europe, Paasche said.

Typically, 26 rowers would power a large Viking ship through wind-blasted fjords, but the sails would unfurl on the sea, he said.

That innovative dual design helped Vikings roar into England, quickly attacking soldiers and settlements before jetting off, leaving their enemies startled and confused.

They made ships that no one else could cope with for 200 years,” Paasche said. But lost in the imagery of a marauding Viking is a history of far-reaching trade and skilled fishing, he said.

The Edoy find was remarkably similar to another buried ship’s discovery last year near Halden, south of the capital, which produced a similar signature.

The institute also used ground-penetrating radar to uncover a 65-foot Viking ship amid several other burial mounds. The ship is believed to be the biggest Viking-Age ship ever buried.

I think we could talk about a hundred-year find,” archaeologist Jan Bill, curator of Viking ships at Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History, told National Geographic at the time.

Paasche marveled at finding two buried ships in Norway within a year, excited at the prospect of discovering more about the Viking age.

Vikings were terrified of sailing off the edge of the world, Paasche explained, believing a large god of a snake was there to eat them whole. And yet, they threshed their oars toward new worlds.

How could they dare to go westward?” he asked.

2019 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

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Ancient

The Big Egyptian Sphinx Cover Up: Hidden Chambers, An Unexcavated Mound And Endless Denial

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Photo Credit: Ancient Origins

In 1935, Egypt was still the main draw for archaeologists digging for answers. It was hardly more than a decade since the British Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen on November 4, 1922, that had lain nearly undisturbed for over 3,000 years. Yet that is another amazing story still to be investigated. However, right now, our attention is focused on the latest attempt to hide the real ancient history of an unknown civilization that left us with great wonders both above and below the sands of the Giza Plateau.

The moment Howard Carter opens the tomb of Tutankhamun ( public domain )
The moment Howard Carter opens the tomb of Tutankhamun ( public domain )
Ancient Lost City Unearthed In Egypt

The first news of a ‘Secret City’ hit the World Press in the first week of March 1935.  By July of that year, much more had been found and the Sunday Express ran an article by Edward Armytage who had just returned to England from Egypt where he had watched the excavation of an ancient Egyptian city that was then thought to date back 4000 years.

The unearthing of a lost city in Egypt was reported in many papers in 1935, including this report in the Sunday Express on 7 July, 1935 (public domain)
The unearthing of a lost city in Egypt was reported in many papers in 1935, including this report in the Sunday Express on 7 July, 1935 (public domain)
Media Silence

…….then came silence, as if every living Egyptologist had lost all interest in this wonderful underground metropolis. All their articles during the ensuing years were cantered on tombs of queens and shafts that had sunk deep into the ground to burial tombs some time during the 24 th Dynasty, which was as late as 732BC to 716BC. It is very odd that such an immense discovery of a whole underground city dating back at least 4,000 years was ignored completely in favour of a late period Dynasty that almost passed without notice.

Denial Of Previous Discoveries

That was some eighty years ago and today we have come up against a similar ‘rose granite block wall’, in the person of the former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, Zahi Hawass, who held that position until Egypt’s revolution in 2011 that toppled Hosni Mubarak—and also ended Hawass’ controversial reign as the supreme chief of all Egypt’s antiquities. However, he still has his ‘finger in the pie’ so to speak. Much has been written about the Egyptian ‘Indiana Jones’ who presents a big smile at one moment but red-raged faced the next when any unwelcome question is posed to him. This side of his character is well documented in Robert Bauval and Ahmed Osman’s book “Breaking the Mirror of Heaven”.

However, such a temperament doesn’t duly explain why Zahi Hawass has so publicly announced that there is nothing at all below the Sphinx, neither any tunnel nor a single chamber, when there have many photos of him entering descending shafts from the head of the Sphinx and another at the far rear of the Lion Body. Are we supposed to forget completely what we have seen several times in the past and accept such denials without question?

Zawi Hawass examining a chamber at the rear of the sphinx ( YouTube screenshot / Bright Insight )
Zawi Hawass examining a chamber at the rear of the sphinx ( YouTube screenshot / Bright Insight )
Statements Contradict Photographic Evidence

Apparently, he brushed off such enquiries of hidden tunnels under the Giza Plateau and chambers under the Sphinx by saying that it wasn’t possible to look deeper, as the chambers were either blocked or full of water. That may well be the case, though we can see from one of the photos showing a rear downward shaft from the side of the Sphinx that the floor far below is quite dry.  

We do know that Hawass had climbed down ladders from the rear entrance of the Sphinx, into a deep chamber on a middle layer and then even further down to a bottom chamber which apparently contained a very large sarcophagus and that was filled with water, as these scenes are all in a documentary film made by Fox. It is hard to imagine how he could possibly think that he could later deny all that he had earlier accomplished.  

Zawi Hawass descending down a shaft towards a chamber filled with water that contained a large sarcophagus. Credit: Fox
Zawi Hawass descending down a shaft towards a chamber filled with water that contained a large sarcophagus. Credit: Fox
A Hole IN THE Sphinx’s Head

Around 1798, Vivant Denon etched an image of the sphinx, although he hadn’t copied it that well. However, he no doubt knew that there was a hole on the top of its head as he had drawn an image of a man being pulled out.

Vivant Denon’s sketch of the sphinx in 1798 depicts a man being pulled out of a hole in the sphinx’s head (public domain)
Vivant Denon’s sketch of the sphinx in 1798 depicts a man being pulled out of a hole in the sphinx’s head (public domain)

A sketch can hardly be used as proof, but in the 1920’s an aerial photo of the sphinx taken from a hot air balloon showed that there is such an opening on the top of its head.

1920s aerial photo shows a hole in the sphinx’s head (Public domain)
1920s aerial photo shows a hole in the sphinx’s head (Public domain)
The Enigma Of The Sphinx’s Head

It seems quite clear from the totally different construction materials and color of the Sphinx head, which we believe is not rock, but some type of man-made substance compared to its limestone and eroded body, that the head and face of the Sphinx must have been changed from its original shape long after the monument was first carved. There is hardly any erosion to the head compared to its body.           

The sides of the headdress are quite smooth and we only need glance at the mythical creature to spot the lighter color of the body compared to the darkness of the head.

According to Tony Bushby in his “The Secret in The Bible” a badly fragmented Sumerian cylinder tells a tale that could easily be taken as having happened at Giza and involving a beast that had a lion head with a tunnel entrance hidden by sand. Everything now points to the Sphinx body having been sculpted out of natural stone when there was frequent heavy rainfall and that takes us back to about the same time that Robert Bauval and Robert Schoch have calculated for the construction of the Orion’s Belt Pyramids, i.e. circa 10,450BC.

The head of the sphinx appears to be made from different material to the rest of the body, and does not show the same level of erosion as the rest of the body ( CC by SA ).
The head of the sphinx appears to be made from different material to the rest of the body, and does not show the same level of erosion as the rest of the body ( CC by SA ).
Two Sphinxes?

There have been sketches of the Giza (the word Gisa in Ancient Egyptian means ‘Hewn Stone’) complex from as far back as 1665 and some do show two heads peering out of the sands, one usually having female features.

The Great Sphinx of Giza in Olfert Dapper, Description de l'Afrique (1665)- note the depiction of two sphinxes (public domain)
The Great Sphinx of Giza in Olfert Dapper, Description de l’Afrique (1665)- note the depiction of two sphinxes (public domain)

It was an ancient Egyptian practice to inscribe two lions, which they called Akerw, next to their doorways for heavenly protection and that would lead us directly to a mound near the sphinx, which Gerry has identified and measured. Could this mound contain the buried body of a second sphinx?

One would have thought that this mysterious, large, covered shape so close to the sphinx would have been greeted with great enthusiasm by the Egyptian authorities, yet Hawass and Mark Lehner didn’t want to listen to his theory, according to a reliable source.

Giza Plateau with proposed buried second sphinx mound encircled. ( Travel Around the World)
Giza Plateau with proposed buried second sphinx mound encircled. ( Travel Around the World)

Gerry had contacted someone in a renowned institute in Cairo that had equipment that could detect objects under the sand. That person applied for a permit to the then Supreme Council of Antiquities to investigate the mound, but they didn’t respond. Apparently, no one else was granted a license to investigate the specific area of the mound where we believe a Second Sphinx could be unearthed. No doubt they had a reason for it!

Why The Denial?

Why would those two Egyptologists be so alarmed by the suggestion that there was something that had been missed for centuries? Is it possible that they don’t want to reveal something beneath that mound? It isn’t reasonable that anyone should have so much objection to any kind of probe or even a simple aerial photograph being taken, which might lead to the discovery of yet another amazing wonder of the world and a wonder that would draw many more thousands of tourists to Egypt. They won’t even admit to ever having examined the mystery mound themselves, and surely had this been done they would be the first to say so.

A few years ago, Zahi Hawass met the Foreign Press Association in Cairo to vent his frustration with a group of pseudo-scientists whose personal attack, through television and other media, had escalated to the point where it had become threatening. Apparently, he was worried that a NBC interview would support and publicize their ideas, which he suggests were purely for personal gain.

He apparently said in a statement:

“I want to talk about things that do not make any sense,”

His gesture expressed his increased frustration with what he commonly classified as “pyramidiots” – those with views greatly at variance with the established scientific community.

“They are saying secret excavations…are going on around the Sphinx and are not being revealed. This is definitely not so.”

Zahi Hawass is not only a great showman and probably the most knowledgeable man in the world about ancient Egypt, he has also achieved a lot to promote tourism for his country. However, he appears to have an agenda, and that is to keep in place the conventional understanding of ancient Egyptian history, no matter how many new findings contradict what is currently believed to be true.

Top image: Vivant Denon’s sketch of the sphinx in 1798 depicts a man being pulled out of a hole in the sphinx’s head (public domain)

By Malcolm Hutton & Gerry Cannon, co-authors of the forthcoming book “The Giza Plateau Secrets and a Second Sphinx Revealed”. Read more about the second sphinx and Gerry ‘s quest for the Ark of the Covenant at: www.gerrysarkquest.com

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Ancient

Over 140 New Nazca Lines Have Been Discovered, And We Finally Have Clues To Their Use

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Scientists have discovered over 140 new geoglyphs known as Nazca lines: a mysterious, ancient cluster of giant figures etched long ago into the desert terrain of southern Peru.

These massive, sprawling representations of humans, animals, and objects date back in some cases 2,500 years, and are so large, many of them can only be identified from the air.

Now archaeologists from Japan’s Yamagata University report that a long-term research effort conducted since 2004 has uncovered 143 previously unknown Nazca geoglyphs – with one carved figure, which had eluded human detection, being discovered by artificial intelligence.

Humanoid geoglyph, approx. 10 metres long. (Yamagata University)
Humanoid geoglyph, approx. 10 metres long. (Yamagata University)

In all, the newly identified geoglyphs are thought to have been created between at least 100 BCE and 300 CE. While the purpose of these large motifs drawn by the ancient Nazca culture remains debated, we do at least know how they were constructed.

All of these figures were created by removing the black stones that cover the land, thereby exposing the white sand beneath,” the research team explains.

Previous hypotheses have suggested the Nazca society shaped the giant geoglyphs – some measuring hundreds of metres long – to be seen by deities in the sky, or that they may serve astronomical purposes.

Two-headed snake geoglyph, approx. 30 metres long. (Yamagata University)
Two-headed snake geoglyph, approx. 30 metres long. (Yamagata University)

In the new research, led by anthropologist and archaeologist Masato Sakai, the team analysed high-resolution satellite imagery of the Nazca region, as well as conducting fieldwork, and identified two main types of geoglyphs.

The oldest carvings (100 BCE to 100 CE), called Type B, tend to be less than 50 metres (165 feet) in length, while the slightly later effigies (100 CE to 300 CE), called Type A, span more than 50 metres, with the largest geoglyph discovered by the team measuring over 100 metres (330 feet).

The researchers think the larger Type A geoglyphs, often shaped like animals, were ritual places where people held ceremonies that involved the destruction of various pottery vessels.

Bird geoglyph, approx. 100 metres long. (Yamagata University)
Bird geoglyph, approx. 100 metres long. (Yamagata University)

By contrast, the smaller Type B motifs, were located along paths, and may have acted as way posts to orientate travellers – possibly towards a larger Type A ritual space where people would congregate.

Some of these Type B designs are really quite tiny, with the smallest of the new discoveries measuring under 5 metres (16 feet) – something that makes discovering the often faint lines a difficult task, especially when coupled with the enormous expanse of the Nazca desert region.

To that end, in a recent experimental collaboration with researchers from IBM that began in 2018, the team used a deep learning AI developed by the company, running on a geospatial analytics system called the IBM PAIRS Geoscope.

The learning network – the IBM Watson Machine Learning Accelerator (WMLA) – sifted through huge volumes of drone and satellite imagery, to see if it could spot any hidden markings bearing a relation to the Nazca lines.

The system found a match: the faded outline of a small Type B humanoid-like figure, standing on two feet.

While the symbolic meaning of this strange and ancient character is not yet clear, the researchers point out that geoglyph was situated near a path, so it may have been one of the hypothesised waypost markers.

Humanoid geoglyph discovered by IBM AI, approx. 4 metres long. (Yamagata University)
Humanoid geoglyph discovered by IBM AI, approx. 4 metres long. (Yamagata University)

In any case, it’s a striking, poetic kind of accomplishment: an almost unfathomably advanced thinking system created by modern humans enables the discovery of a yet unfathomable symbolic system created by ancient ones.

All told, the remarkable mystery of the Nazca lines is still far from being solved, but now that the Yamagata team and IBM have said they will continue working together to locate more of these ancient geoglyphs in the future, who knows just what – or whom – we’ll find next?

A summary of the ongoing research is available at the Yamagata University website.

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