понедельник, 3 февраля 2020 г.

Greece to step up campaign for return of Parthenon Sculptures after Brexit


Greece will step up its campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from Britain and expects to win more support from European peers as Brexit sees British influence wane, the Greek culture minister said.

Greece to step up campaign for return of Parthenon Sculptures after Brexit
An original sculpture of the frieze of the Parthenon is seen partially reconstructed by plaster at
the Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum [Credit: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]
Since independence in 1832, Greece has repeatedly called for the return of the 2,500-year-old sculptures that British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from the Parthenon temple in Athens in the early 19th century, when Greece was under Ottoman Turkish rule.


The British Museum in London has refused to return the sculptures - roughly half of a 160 metre frieze, the pediment sculptures and metopes which adorned the 5th century BC monument - saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire. Greece says they were stolen.

Greece to step up campaign for return of Parthenon Sculptures after Brexit
An original metope sculpture of the Parthenon is exhibited at the Parthenon Gallery
of the Acropolis Museum [Credit: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni told Reuters that she believes the circumstances are ripe at the moment for the marbles’ return.

“It is the mentality that has changed, the fact that Britain is distancing itself from the European family, it is 200 years since the Greek revolution. I think the right conditions have been created for their permanent return,” she said.

Greece to step up campaign for return of Parthenon Sculptures after Brexit
A man visits the Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum, where original sculptures and plaster cast
copies of the frieze and pediment sculptures are exhibited [Credit: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]
Greece plans grand cultural events throughout 2021 to mark 200 years since the start of its revolt against Ottoman rule.

Britain will leave the European Union on Jan. 31.

Greece to step up campaign for return of Parthenon Sculptures after Brexit
Visitors looks at original sculptures and plaster cast copies of the frieze of the Parthenon at the
Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum [Credit: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]


Greece to step up campaign for return of Parthenon Sculptures after Brexit
Visitors looks at original sculptures and plaster cast copies of the frieze of the Parthenon at the
Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum [Credit: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]
She earlier told a conference in Athens: “As Britain distances itself from Europe and the ideas that it advocates, Greece, rebounding from the recent crisis will in coming years have the opportunity to attract attention and interest from an international audience.”

The British museum has said “the sculptures are part of everyone’s shared heritage and transcend cultural boundaries”.

Greece to step up campaign for return of Parthenon Sculptures after Brexit
People visit the Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum, where original sculptures and plaster cast copies
of the frieze and pediment sculptures are exhibited [Credit: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]
The museum also used to argue for years that Athens lacked a suitable place to preserve the marbles. Greece says that approach smacks of an antiquated and colonialist approach of displaying ‘trophies’ from expeditions overseas.


Greece stepped up its campaign for their return after opening a new museum in 2009 at the foot of the Acropolis hill, which holds the sculptures that Elgin left behind alongside plaster casts of the missing pieces. The modern glass and concrete building’s windows reflect images of the Parthenon.

Greece to step up campaign for return of Parthenon Sculptures after Brexit
Visitors take pictures of the Parthenon seen in the background, as they visit the Parthenon temple
at the Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum [Credit: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]
Mendoni said Greece would never give up the campaign for the marbles’ return, accusing Elgin of being nothing short of a vandal and thief.

“Motivated by financial gain, publicity and self promotion, Elgin deployed illegal and untoward measures to extract from Greece the Sculptures of the Parthenon and a plethora of other antiquities in a blatant act of serial theft,” she said.

Source: Reuters [January 30, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

More Lights in the night sky

310 views   34 likes   0 dislikes  

Channel: Terry's Theories  

If you guys feel the need to donate it will go towards bettering my PC so I can make better quality videos. Thank you, Terry https://www.paypal.me/Franklin1275?locale.x=en_US

We have Two sightings. The first sighting takes place in Pueblo Colorado, traveling down HWY 50. Two women see a UFO and describe it as fireworks and were in all of what they were seeing so think about that as you decide about this sighting,
Second sighting takes place somewhere in Albuquerque New Mexico we have 6 lights again four are moving in formation with one on either side.

The first source video comes from YouTube Channel Flyboisaved
Source Video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvw6IYBLNJQ

The Second source video comes from YouTube Channel KALADIN GAMING
Source Video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDnJ9UrJChg

Video length: 2:58
Category: Science & Technology
21 comments

Earth's most biodiverse ecosystems face a perfect storm


A combination of climate change, extreme weather and pressure from local human activity is causing a collapse in global biodiversity and ecosystems across the tropics, new research shows.

Earth's most biodiverse ecosystems face a perfect storm
Credit: Nick Graham
The study mapped over 100 locations where tropical forests and coral reefs have been affected by climate extremes such as hurricanes, floods, heatwaves, droughts and fires. It provides an overview of how these very diverse ecosystems are being threatened by a combination of ongoing climate changes, increasingly extreme weather and damaging local human activities.

The international team of researchers argue that only international action to decrease CO2 emissions can reverse this trend.

Lead researcher Dr Filipe Franca from the Embrapa Amazonia Oriental in Brazil and Lancaster University said: "Tropical forests and coral reefs are very important for global biodiversity, so it is extremely worrying that they are increasingly affected by both climate disturbances and human activities".

"Many local threats to tropical forests and coral reefs, such as deforestation, overfishing, and pollution, reduce the diversity and functioning of these ecosystems. This in turn can make them less able to withstand or recover from extreme weather. Our research highlights the extent of the damage which is being done to ecosystems and wildlife in the tropics by these interacting threats."


Dr Cassandra E. Benkwitt, a marine ecologist from Lancaster University, said: "Climate change is causing more intense and frequent storms and marine heatwaves. For coral reefs, such extreme events reduce live coral cover and cause long-lasting changes to both coral and fish communities, compounding local threats from poor water quality and overfishing. Although the long-term trajectory for reefs will depend on how extreme events interact with these local stressors, even relatively pristine reefs are vulnerable to both climate change and extreme weather."

Tropical forest species are also being threatened by the increasing frequency of extreme hurricanes.

Dr Guadalupe Peralta from Canterbury University in New Zealand said: "A range of post-hurricane ecological consequences have been recorded in tropical forests: the destruction of plants by these weather extremes affects the animals, birds and insects that rely on them for food and shelter."

In some regions, such as the Caribbean Islands, extreme weather events have decimated wildlife, reducing numbers by more than half.

"We are starting to see another wave of global extinctions of tropical birds as forest fragmentation reduces populations to critical levels", explained Dr Alexander Lees, from Manchester Metropolitan University.


The combination of higher temperatures with longer and more severe dry seasons has also led to the spread of unprecedented and large-scale wildfires in tropical forests.

Dr Filipe Franca said that at the end of 2015, Santarem in the Brazilian state of Para was one of the epicentres of that year's El Nino impacts. "The region experienced a severe drought and extensive forest fires, and I was very sad to see the serious consequences for forest wildlife."

The drought also affected the forests ability to recover from the fires. Dung beetles play a vital role in forest recovery by spreading seeds. The study provides novel evidence that this seed spreading activity plummeted in those forests most impacted by the dry conditions during the 2015-2016 El Nino.

Coral reefs were also critically damaged by the same El Nino, explains Professor Nick Graham from Lancaster University.

He said: "The 2015-16 coral bleaching event was the worst ever recorded, with many locations globally losing vast tracts of valuable corals. Worryingly, these global bleaching events are becoming more frequent due to the rise in ocean temperature from global warming."


The last part of the study emphasizes that urgent action and novel conservation strategies are needed to ameliorate the impacts of the multiple threats to tropical forests and coral reefs.

Dr Joice Ferreira from Embrapa Amazonia Oriental said: "To achieve successful climate-mitigation strategies, we need 'action-research' approaches that engage local people and institutions and respect the local needs and diverse socio-ecological conditions in the tropics".

The scientists caution that managing tropical ecosystems locally may not be enough if we do not tackle global climate change issues.

They stress the urgent need for all nations to act together if we really want to conserve tropical forests and coral reefs for future generations.

The research, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, was carried out by 11 scientists from 8 universities and research institutions in Brazil, United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Source: Lancaster University [January 27, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

NO UFO!!! Update to UFO or not UFO

1265 views   24 likes   2 dislikes  

Channel: Terry's Theories  

So I posted a video last week that was questionable of what exactly it was. We had comments from a demon to a 787. Yes it was a 787 so definitely not a UFO.
Source video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epa6WxEw1Xk

Video length: 2:07
Category: Science & Technology
21 comments

19th-century bee cells in a Panamanian cathedral shed light on human impact on ecosystems


Despite being "neotropical-forest-loving creatures," some orchid bees are known to tolerate habitats disturbed by human activity. However, little did the research team of Paola Galgani-Barraza (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) expect to find as many as 120 clusters of nearly two-centuries-old orchid bee nests built on the altarpiece of the Basilica Cathedral in Casco Viejo (Panama).

19th-century bee cells in a Panamanian cathedral shed light on human impact on ecosystems
Locations of nest cell aggregations of Eufriesea surinamensis within the Cathedral
in Casco Viejo, Panama [Credit: Paola Galgani-Barraza]
This happened after restoration work, completed in 2018 in preparation for the consecration of a new altar by Pope Francis, revealed the nests. Interestingly, many cells were covered with gold leaf and other golden material applied during an earlier restoration following an 1870 fire, thus aiding the reliable determination of the age of the clusters. The cells were dated to the years prior to 1871-1876.


The bee species, that had once constructed the nests, was identified as the extremely secretive Eufriesea surinamensis. Females are known to build their nests distant from each other, making them very difficult to locate in the field. As a result, there is not much known about them: neither about the floral resources they collect for food, nor about the materials they use to build their nests, nor about the plants they pollinate.

19th-century bee cells in a Panamanian cathedral shed light on human impact on ecosystems
Environs of the Eufriesea surinamensis nesting site in Casco Viejo, Panama in 1875, as seen from the summit of Cerro
Ancon. A white tower of the Cathedral where bees were nesting is visible in the distant background in the centre
of the peninsula [Credit: Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum;
gift of Mitchell and Nancy Steir]
However, by analysing the preserved pollen for the first time for this species, the researchers successfully detected the presence of 48 plant species, representing 43 genera and 23 families. Hence, they concluded that late-nineteenth century Panama City was surrounded by a patchwork of tropical forests, sufficient to sustain nesting populations of what today is a forest-dwelling species of bee.


Not only did the scientists unveil important knowledge about the biology of orchid bees and the local floral diversity in the 19th century, but they also began to uncover key information about the functions of natural ecosystems and their component species, where bees play a crucial role as primary pollinators. Thus, the researchers hope to reveal how these environments are being modified by collective human behaviour, which is especially crucial with the rapidly changing environment that we witness today.

The findings are published in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

Source: Pensoft Publishers [January 27, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

‘The Panorama Rocks’ Prehistoric Rock Art Panels, Ilkley, Yorkshire, 1.2.20.

‘The Panorama Rocks’ Prehistoric Rock Art Panels, Ilkley, Yorkshire, 1.2.20.



* This article was originally published here

Meteorite chunk contains unexpected evidence of presolar grains


An unusual chunk in a meteorite may contain a surprising bit of space history, based on new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Meteorite chunk contains unexpected evidence of presolar grains
Curious Marie comes from the Allende meteorite, which fell in northern Mexico in February 1969. The white, fuzzy-looking
 features in this fragment of Allende are  calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions — some of the first solids to condense
in the solar system [Credit: The Planetary Society]
Presolar grains -- tiny bits of solid interstellar material formed before the sun was born -- are sometimes found in primitive meteorites. But a new analysis reveals evidence of presolar grains in part of a meteorite where they are not expected to be found.

"What is surprising is the fact that presolar grains are present," said Olga Pravdivtseva, research associate professor of physics in Arts & Sciences and lead author of a new paper in Nature Astronomy. "Following our current understanding of solar system formation, presolar grains could not survive in the environment where these inclusions are formed."

Curious Marie is a notable example of an "inclusion," or a chunk within a meteorite, called a calcium-aluminum-rich inclusion (CAI). These objects, some of the first to have condensed in the solar nebula, help cosmochemists define the age of the solar system. This particular chunk of meteorite -- from the collection of the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies at the Chicago Field Museum -- was in the news once before, when scientists from the University of Chicago gave it its name to honor chemist Marie Curie.


For the new work, Pravdivtseva and her co-authors, including Sachiko Amari, research professor of physics at Washington University, used noble gas isotopic signatures to show that presolar silicon carbide (SiC) grains are present in Curious Marie.

That's important because presolar grains are generally thought to be too fragile to have endured the high-temperature conditions that existed near the birth of our sun.

But not all CAIs were formed in quite the same way.

"The fact that SiC is present in refractory inclusions tells us about the environment in the solar nebula at the condensation of the first solid materials," said Pravdivtseva, who is part of Washington University's McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences. "The fact that SiC was not completely destroyed in Curious Marie can help us to understand this environment a little bit better.

"Many refractory inclusions were melted and lost all textural evidence of their condensation. But not all."

Like solving a mystery

Pravdivtseva and her collaborators used two mass spectrometers built in-house at Washington University to make their observations. The university has a long history of noble gas work and is home to one of the best-equipped noble gas laboratories in the world. Still, this work was uniquely challenging.

The researchers had 20 mg of Curious Marie to work with, which is a relatively large sample from a cosmochemistry perspective. They heated it up incrementally, increasing temperature and measuring the composition of four different noble gases released at each of 17 temperature steps.


"Experimentally, it is an elegant work," Pravdivtseva said. "And then we had a puzzle of noble gas isotopic signatures to untangle. For me, it is like solving a mystery."

Others have looked for evidence of SiC in such calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions in meteorites using noble gases before, but Pravdivtseva's team is the first to find it.

"It was beautiful when all noble gases pointed to the same source of the anomalies -- SiC," she said.

"Not only do we see SiC in the fine-grained CAIs, we see a population of small grains that formed at special conditions," Pravdivtseva said. "This finding forces us to revise how we see the conditions in the early solar nebula."

Author: Talia Ogliore | Source: Washington University in St. Louis [January 28, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

‘Pancake Rock’ Prehistoric Rock Art, Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire, 1.2.20.

‘Pancake Rock’ Prehistoric Rock Art, Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire, 1.2.20.



* This article was originally published here

Digging into the Mojave desert's history


Across the dry, scrubby hills of the Mojave Desert, a group of Johns Hopkins scientists and students spent three weeks this month working to understand millions of years of Earth's history. Evidence of ancient ice ages, remnants of geochemical events that disturbed prehistoric oceans, and fossils of the oldest living organisms on the planet are compressed in the strata of exposed rocks—nature's record-keepers.

Digging into the Mojave desert's history
Credit: Dave Schmelick/Johns Hopkins University
"The mountains surrounding us, they may not look particularly unusual or spectacular, but they record some of the most unusual periods in Earth's history," says Emmy Smith, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "Surrounding us there's hundreds of millions of years of recorded time."

Led by Smith, undergraduate students in the Geological Field Studies in California Intersession class have been on a mission to survey and map land just east of Death Valley in Shoshone, California. Rough reconnaissance maps exist of the remote wilderness area, Smith says, but the goal of the Intersession course was to characterize and catalog the geological units of the region in order to build a detailed digital topographic map, which will be assembled during a companion class Smith will teach in the spring.


"[Using this data], we could produce a new geologic map that's more detailed than what's in the published literature," Smith says. "There's the potential to make discoveries and to do research as part of this class."

The class was co-led by Kirby Runyon, a planetary geologist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Runyon says the geologic mapping fieldwork the students performed in the Mojave is strikingly similar to work performed by scientists in a vastly different setting: the surface of the moon.

Digging into the Mojave desert's history
Senior Mackenzie Mills records note in her field notebook
[Credit: Patrick Ridgely/Johns Hopkins University]
"The United States is gearing up to send astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972, and we're asking questions about what they'll do when they get there," says Runyon, who received an APL Parsons Teaching Fellowship to support his teaching endeavors at the university. "One of the obvious options is lunar field geology, which will allow us to piece together the history of the moon, and by extension the Earth."

To simulate the experience of astronauts conducting fieldwork on the moon, Runyon and Smith organized a trip to the nearby Cima volcanic field, which Runyon says is an earthly analogue to the surface of the moon. There, the students took part in a simulated moonwalk and were tasked with performing their fieldwork under the same constraints as an astronaut in space.


"Normally in field geology, you're mapping by hand or on an iPad, but astronauts in bulky space suits can't do that," Runyon says. "In this exercise, the students were really learning how to get an overall geology of a place and to collect specific samples that will tell the story of a region once they're tested in a laboratory."

Like Smith, Runyon believes the insights gained from field geology research are capable of revealing hidden histories of planetary bodies—and informing scientists' understanding of our own planet.

"A geologic map is sort of like a map you'd see at a mall, with stores not only laid out spatially but also by category. Colored labels indicate restaurants, menswear stores, womenswear stores, services, and so on," Runyon says. "By noting rock units and their spatial relationships, you can infer the timing of different events and, in turn, understand the environment of the region at that time. The geologist's job is to understand those spatial relationships and to forensically piece together natural history."


For students, the experience of fieldwork reinforces the principles they've learned in the classroom and gives them the opportunity to see the real-world application of geology research in person. Mackenzie Mills, an earth and planetary sciences major whose research focuses on the surfaces of planets in the outer solar system, saw the course as an opportunity to apply her growing expertise to more terrestrial projects.

"When I'm looking at planetary surfaces, I'm looking at remote images on a computer and doing a lot of coding," Mills says. "Field geology is way more hands-on. You're up close with these rocks, and it's a puzzle you have to figure out by going through and hiking. It's just meshing my interests together in a new way."


Mills and her map teammates, senior Cecelia Howard and first-year student Ling Jin, even made a new discovery. Located in the Johnnie oolite bed, which is made up of small spheres of rock called ooids that are encased in calcium carbonate, the team discovered a rock unit that was much larger than expected and not previously described by scientists. The unit was officially christened Johnnie Rampage, after the team's name—Rampaging Kittens or Rampaging Boy Scouts, depending on how the team is feeling at a given time, Howard says.

"We're not walking on trails here—the students are just crawling all over the mountains and deciding their own traverse for the day," Smith says. "And it's a challenge. It's a physical and mental challenge for all of us. All the students have risen to that challenge, so it's been fun to watch."

Author: Saralyn Cruickshank | Source: Johns Hopkins University [January 28, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

Astronomers witness the dragging of space-time in stellar cosmic dance

The white dwarf-pulsar binary system PSR J1141-6545 discovered by the CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope. Credit: Mark Myers, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav)

After almost 20 years of patient monitoring, an international team of astronomers have witnessed the very fabric of space-time being dragged around a rapidly-rotating exotic star known as a white dwarf. The effect is a consequence of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and the result was published today in the prestigious journal, Science.

When massive stars are born, they often are created in pairs, and at the end of their lives they leave behind super-dense cores in the form of a white dwarf, neutron star or black hole. Neutron stars emit regular clock-like pulses that enable astronomers to map their orbits to outstanding precision.

Dr Ramesh Bhat from the Curtin University node of ICRAR has been involved in this study since 2005. “This is an exotic stellar pair in which a tiny, super dense neutron star the size of Perth orbits another compact Earth-sized white dwarf star five times a day; both have masses about the same as our own Sun. It took 20 years of patient monitoring and careful scrutiny of data to figure out what is going on.”

Swinburne University’s Professor Matthew Bailes and his team began to map the orbit in a series of intensive observing campaigns at CSIRO’s Parkes 64-metre radio telescope. Over the course of two decades it became evident that the stars’ motion required Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to explain their complex dance. Lead author Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy’s (MPIfR) Vivek Venkatraman Krishnan (VVK) took up the challenge of untangling the many intertwined Einsteinian effects at play in this naturally-occurring gravitational laboratory during his PhD at Swinburne University of Technology.

VVK explains, “At first the stellar pair appeared to exhibit many of the classic effects that Einstein’s theory predicted. We then noticed a gradual change in the orientation of the plane of the orbit”. MPIfR’s Dr Paulo Freire postulated that this might be, at least in-part, due to the so-called “frame-dragging” that all matter is subject to in the presence of a rotating body as predicted by the Austrian mathematicians Lense and Thirring in 1918.

“In a stellar pair, the first star to collapse is often rapidly rotating due to subsequent mass transfer from its companion”, explains Danish theorist Professor Thomas Tauris (Aarhus University). Tauris’s simulations helped quantify the magnitude of the white dwarf’s spin. “In this system the entire orbit is being dragged around by the white dwarf’s spin, which is misaligned with the orbit”.

“One of the first confirmations of frame-dragging used four gyroscopes in a satellite in orbit around the Earth, but in our system the effects are 100 million times stronger”, explains MPIfR’s Dr Norbert Wex.

ICRAR’s Dr Ramesh Bhat says that the effect makes the pulsar’s orbit tumble in space. “It provides yet another stunning confirmation of Einstein’s theory, which continues to shine in brilliance even after a century of its formulation. I find it truly fascinating.”

The result is especially pleasing for team members Bailes, Willem van Straten (Auckland University of Tech) and Ramesh Bhat (ICRAR-Curtin) who have been trekking out to the Parkes 64m telescope since the early 2000s, patiently mapping the orbit with the ultimate aim of studying Einstein’s Universe. “This makes all the late nights and early mornings worthwhile,” said Bhat.

The white dwarf-pulsar binary system PSR J1141-6545 discovered by the CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope. The pulsar orbits its white dwarf companion every 4.8 hours. The white dwarf’s rapid rotation drags space-time around it, causing the entire orbit to change its orientation.





Publication:





Contacts:

Tania Ewing – OzGrav/Swinburne University of Technology
Ph: +61 408 378 422
Email: taniaewing@taniaewing.com

Pete Wheeler — Media Contact, ICRAR
Ph: +61 423 982 018
Email: Pete.Wheeler@icrar.org




* This article was originally published here

‘Twelve Apostles’ Prehistoric Stone Circle, Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire , 1.2.20.

‘Twelve Apostles’ Prehistoric Stone Circle, Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire , 1.2.20.



* This article was originally published here

Hungry for hutia? Human taste for Bahamas 'most peaceable rodent' shaped its diversity


The Bahamian hutia, a large Caribbean rodent with a blissed-out disposition, presents a curious case study in how human food preferences can drive biodiversity, sometimes shaping it over 1,000 years.

Hungry for hutia? Human taste for Bahamas 'most peaceable rodent' shaped its diversity
Geocapromys ingrahami, the Bahamian hutia, flourished on the islands for millennia, but today, only one population
of remains. Ancient DNA reveals a human side to the hutia's story: Indigenous people moved hutias
to new islands, exploiting them for food and shaping their diversity and distribution
[Credit: Kristen Grace/Florida Museum]
The hutia, which resembles a bristly beanbag, flourished in the Bahamas for millennia, the islands' only native terrestrial mammal. Today, only one population of Geocapromys ingrahami remains, divided among the scrubland and limestone cliffs of three small cays, and the species is considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Humans have played a prominent and paradoxical role in the hutia's boom-to-bust story, according to a new study led by Florida Museum of Natural History researchers.

Hutias were a savory source of red meat for the Lucayans, the islands' earliest inhabitants, who arrived around AD 800-1000. Now, ancient DNA and radiocarbon dating suggest the Lucayans transported hutias from the Great Bahama Bank - where hutias landed during the last ice age, likely after rafting from Cuba - to Bahamian islands hutias had not inhabited previously, exploiting them as food. The findings illuminate how humans historically and actively shaped hutia diversity and distribution.


"We're a funny, picky species with food," said Michelle LeFebvre, Florida Museum assistant curator of South Florida archaeology and ethnography. "Our preference for what we eat has probably had a much bigger impact on global biodiversity over time than we appreciate, and hutias provide one example of that."

Under Lucayan care, hutia populations thrived. But when Europeans landed in the Bahamas, they introduced new predators, such as cats, and competitors like rats and mice. Development subsequently degraded hutia habitat, and the species may have vanished if conservationists had not moved hutias to protected areas.

"We have not stopped messing with hutias over the past 1,000 years. We can't help ourselves," said the study's lead author Jessica Oswald, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum and the University of Nevada-Reno. "For better or worse, Bahamian hutias are only alive today because of humans. We moved them to tiny islands where they're protected, and probably the only way they are going to survive is if they live on cays devoid of people."

Hungry for hutia? Human taste for Bahamas 'most peaceable rodent' shaped its diversity
These hutia bones were excavated from an ancient trash heap on the Turks and Caicos Islands, evidence that early
inhabitants ate the rodents. A previous study found that certain hutia populations ate crops, suggesting
 indigenous people may have managed them [Credit: Kristen Grace/Florida Museum]
Oswald and David Steadman, Florida Museum curator of ornithology, often found hutia fossils in the roosts of now-extinct giant owls on Great Bahama Bank, but hutias were notably absent from pre-human fossil sites on Bahamian islands beyond that bank. Meanwhile, LeFebvre was studying hutia bones excavated from ancient Lucayan trash heaps and found evidence that certain hutia populations were eating crops, such as corn.

The researchers began comparing notes and decided to investigate the patterns they were uncovering by conducting the first ancient DNA study of the Bahamian hutia.

"We knew we had a question to chase," LeFebvre said. "And then it turned out that there was a major human footprint."


Traces of human influence in hutia DNA

While G. ingrahami is the only hutia in the Bahamas, Cuba is the historical and modern center of hutia diversity and home to 10 of the 13 species living today. More than half of known hutia species have gone extinct over the past 12,000 years, but the group once boasted a range of habitats and sizes, from a 440-pound heavyweight in the Lesser Antilles to a pygmy-sized species found on Cuba.

Their temperaments also vary. Observing G. ingrahami, biologist Garrett Clough described it as a "most peaceable rodent" - but not all hutia species are mellow.

"On Cuba, there's one species people treat as a pet and other species that could scratch your eyes out," LeFebvre said.

The researchers' findings supported previous evidence that the Bahamian hutia's closest living relative is G. brownii, a vulnerable species on Jamaica. But they hypothesize the Bahamian hutia is a descendant of a Cuban species that reached the Bahamas about 10,000 years ago when low sea levels closed the distance between the islands to about 12 miles.

Hungry for hutia? Human taste for Bahamas 'most peaceable rodent' shaped its diversity
Researchers often found hutia bones, sometimes by the thousands, in the ancient roosts of the now-extinct
 owl Tyto pollens, a fearsome predator that stood more than 3 feet tall
[Credit: Kristen Grace/Florida Museum]
"Because so many hutias have recently gone extinct, we will need more ancient DNA from extinct species to test this hypothesis," Oswald said.

Radiocarbon-dated fossils showed that hutias lived on the Great Bahama Bank before humans arrived - but none of the fossils outside of the bank were older than about AD 1300-1400, several centuries after human settlement. The researchers also found a striking genetic similarity between a population on Eleuthera, an island on the Great Bahama Bank, and a population on Abaco, part of the Little Bahama Bank. The two banks never connected, even when sea levels were at their lowest, suggesting people had ferried hutias across the channel.

"We would expect those two populations to be genetically distinct because they're isolated, but instead, they look like they're from the same population," Oswald said. "You're unravelling a mystery with DNA from fossils and trying to figure out 'whodunnit.' That's what makes this so fun."


A genetic split between hutias in the northern Bahamas and those south of Long Island is a puzzle the researchers intend to explore further.

"Did some kind of human selection impact that? Could other hutias have been introduced or made it over from Cuba?" LeFebvre said. "Genetics sets you on the path to answer those kinds of questions."

Taking the long view of hutia conservation

The Bahamian hutia was believed to be extinct before Clough traveled to East Plana Cay, a small strip of uninhabited land, in 1966. The hutias he observed there were thought to be the last remaining examples of indigenous G. ingrahami. This study suggests, however, that hutias may have been introduced to the cay by the Lucayans, LeFebvre said.

While the Bahamian hutia is a survivor, its existence is also delicate, susceptible to hurricanes, disease, invasive species and landscape changes. Its conservation needs place its future in the hands of humans.

Hungry for hutia? Human taste for Bahamas 'most peaceable rodent' shaped its diversity
To help boost the species’ chance of survival, conservationists transplanted some of the last remaining hutias
from East Plana Cay to Warderick Wells Cay and Little Wax Cay. This skeleton is from an individual
from the Little Wax Cay population [Credit: Kristen Grace/Florida Museum]
But the value in studies like this one is the millennia-long view it offers conservation decision-makers, LeFebvre said.

"Considering truly long-term anthropogenic influences on biodiversity is a crucial step to building and planning conservation efforts," she said.

For Oswald, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist who is an expert in ancient DNA analysis, the project offered a unique opportunity to collaborate with archaeologists.

"The combination of these fields is powerful. Michelle had evidence that humans were transporting hutias, and then we used data from an evolutionary field to help answer these questions. It speaks to what you can do when you bring together different fields."

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

Source: Florida Museum of Natural History [January 28, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

The ‘Stoupe Brow’ Neolithic Decorated Burial Cairn Slab (Cast), The Whitby Museum and...

The ‘Stoupe Brow’ Neolithic Decorated Burial Cairn Slab (Cast), The Whitby Museum and Gallery, Whitby, North Yorkshire, 2.2.20.

A chance moorland fire in 2003 revealed a wealth of ancient artefacts and sites on the North Yorkshire Moors. The 'Stoupe Brow’ slabs are reminiscent of Irish Prehistoric Passage Grave art.



* This article was originally published here

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption


Two faience objects imitating the shells of the sea mollusks triton and nautilus were among the most outstanding objects found during the continued excavations of the 'House of Benches', southwest of 'Xeste 3', in the prehistoric site of Akrotiri on Santorini (Thera), the Ministry of Culture said in a press release.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
The interior of the building referred to as the "House of Benches'
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]
Akrotiri was buried under the lava and ash of the volcano that erupted around 1500 BC, when half the island of Thera sank in the sea and left it the crescent shape familiar to tens of thousands of tourists visiting the popular island today.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Vases lying in situ Area 1 of the "House of Benches'
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]


The Bronze Age site, protected under an extensive eco-friendly cover, has over the decades of its excavation revealed two-storey houses with advanced plumbing systems, finely painted frescoes, furniture and precious metals.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Two large bronze double axes were among the items found in Area 1 of the "House of Benches'
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]
The fact that no bodies have been found suggests that the residents abandoned the site before the eruption, warned perhaps by earthquakes.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Beads made from animal horns from one or more necklaces were also found in
Area 1 of the "House of Benches' [Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]
In Area 1 of the 'House of Benches', excavators also found two ritual large double axes from very thin bronze sheets, and other objects of metal, all of which may have been attached to wood. Particularly noteworthy is a faience triton-shaped fragment inscribed in ink with signs of the Linear A script.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Triton- and nautilus-shaped fragments [Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]


Loose levels of sand with tiny shells, some pebbles and earth above the floor in Area 1 of the 'House of Benches' may be deposits from a tsunami preceding the volcano's eruption, according to geologist G. Vougioukalakis.
Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Octagonal shield-shaped crystal with red thread residues in the suspension hole
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]
In Area 2, around the south and west sides of a deposit of animal horns, the sockets of at least six wooden piles were discovered, in which gypsum was injected to form casts. The excavations show that the piles created a kind of grate upon which the horns had been placed. At the base of the grate, mixed with the horns, were stone tools and other utensils.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Rosettes found in the fill at the end of the door openings of Area 1
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]
Here the excavators also found forty-fines small vessels, upon which were found textile residues and charred fruits. The dating of some vessels to the Late Cycladic IA period confirms that the building was in use and functioning until the final destruction of the city.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Deposit of animal horns and the sockets of at least six wooden piles in Area 2 
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]


Excavators, led by professor Christos Doumas, found a box containing a marble Early Cycladic female figurine of the Spedos type, retaining the torso only and cushioned within another wooden box. The interior walls of one box are painted in bright red colour, the ministry said.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Clay boxes, Early Cycladic figurine and ceramic mortar lying to the west of the animal horn deposit
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]
The same area yielded fragments of stone utensils and seashells, as well as two sets of small Early Cycladic vessels, one in a group of 16 arranged around a wooden object, and another of 131 small vases found in a shallow hole made on the floor.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Fragments of stone tools and cluster of small Proto-Cycladic vases found under crumbling
floor slabs in southwestern part of Area 2 [Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]
Similar ceramics were found elsewhere on the site and their number and fairly crude workmanship show they may have been used for some ritual. At the same 'House of Benches', as the building has been named, excavators in 1999 had found a gold ibex figurine inside a clay box, next to a pile of animal horns.

Evidence of tsunami destruction found at Akrotiri before Thera eruption
Cluster of 16 Proto-Cycladic vases placed around a wooden object in the southwestern part of Area 2
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]
"It's obvious that the ongoing research of the 'House of Benches' in the southern limit of the prehistoric city of Akrotiri, next to 'Xeste 3' - the important public bilding with the rich wall paintings - is expected to reveal a great store of data that will give a boost to interpreting key questions about prehistoric Aegean society," the ministry concluded.

The excavation is under the supervision of the Cycladic Islands Ephorate of Antiquities and is funded by Kaspersky company.

Source: Greek Ministry of Culture via Athens-Macedonian News Agency [January 30, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

Hot pots helped ancient Siberian hunters survive the Ice Age


A new study shows that ancient Siberian hunters created heat resistant pots so that they could cook hot meals - surviving the harshest seasons of the ice age by extracting nutritious bone grease and marrow from meat.

Hot pots helped ancient Siberian hunters survive the Ice Age
Shards of pottery from a cooking pot used by Siberian hunters
[Credit: Yanshina Oksana]
The research - which was undertaken at the University of York - also suggests there was no single point of origin for the world's oldest pottery.

Academics extracted and analysed ancient fats and lipids that had been preserved in pieces of ancient pottery - found at a number of sites on the Amur River in Russia - whose dates ranged between 16,000 and 12,000 years ago.

Professor Oliver Craig, Director of the BioArch Lab at the University of York, where the analysis was conducted, said: "This study illustrates the exciting potential of new methods in archaeological science: we can extract and interpret the remains of meals that were cooked in pots over 16,000 years ago.


"It is interesting that pottery emerges during these very cold periods, and not during the comparatively warmer interstadials when forest resources, such as game and nuts, were more available."

Why these pots were first invented in the final stages of the last Ice Age has long been a mystery, as well as the kinds of food that were being prepared in them.

Researchers also examined pottery found from the Osipovka culture also on the Amur River. Analysis proved that pottery from there had been used to process fish, most likely migratory salmon, which offered local hunters an alternative food source during periods of major climatic fluctuation. An identical scenario was identified by the same research group in neighbouring islands of Japan.

Hot pots helped ancient Siberian hunters survive the Ice Age
Prof Oliver Craig sampling pottery
[Credit: Carl Heron]
The new study demonstrates that the world's oldest clay cooking pots were being made in very different ways in different parts of Northeast Asia, indicating a "parallel" process of innovation, where separate groups that had no contact with each other started to move towards similar kinds of technological solutions in order to survive.

Lead author, Dr Shinya Shoda, of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Nara, Japan said: "We are very pleased with these latest results because they close a major gap in our understanding of why the world's oldest pottery was invented in different parts of Northeast Asia in the Late Glacial Period, and also the contrasting ways in which it was being used by these ancient hunter-gatherers.

"There are some striking parallels with the way in which early pottery was used in Japan, but also some important differences that we had not expected. This leaves many new questions that we will follow up with future research."


Professor Peter Jordan, senior author of the study at the Arctic Centre and Groningen Institute of Archaeology, University of Groningen, the Netherlands said: "The insights are particularly interesting because they suggest that there was no single "origin point" for the world's oldest pottery. We are starting to understand that very different pottery traditions were emerging around the same time but in different places, and that the pots were being used to process very different sets of resources.

"This appears to be a process of "parallel innovation" during a period of major climatic uncertainty, with separate communities facing common threats and reaching similar technological solutions."

The last Ice Age reached its deepest point between 26,000 to 20,000 years ago, forcing humans to abandon northern regions, including large parts of Siberia. From around 19,000 years ago, temperatures slowly started to warm again, encouraging small bands of hunters to move back into these vast empty landscapes.

The paper is published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

Source: University of York [January 31, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

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