Nov 14, 2019


Belgian archeologists discover ancient book at Egyptian burial site

Archaeologists under the direction of Harco Willems at the university of Leuven (KU Leuven) have discovered fragments of a “book” in a burial place dating from 2040 BC in Dayr al-Barsha, Egypt.

According to Campuskrant, the monthly magazine of the university, the fragments of the book are the oldest ever discovered to date.

. . .

They do not necessarily make up a story-line but have a common theme: the journey from darkness to Osiris, god of afterlife and many other things in ancient Egyptian religion.

Two curved sinuous lines run through the book. They are interpreted by some researchers as a representation of the two roads that lead the deceased to safety through the dangers of the underworld to a happy life in the afterlife.

40,000-Year-Old Eagle Talon Necklace Made By Neanderthals Discovered In Ancient Cave

A 40,000-year-old eagle talon medallion carved by Neanderthals may have been the last of its kind before spreading to other ancient human populations, new research suggests.

Consisting of a single talon taken from a Spanish Imperial Eagle, “the last necklace made by the Neanderthals” was found in Cova Foradada, an ancient Neanderthal cave on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula and at the center of early human research for more than 30 years. It is the most modern piece of its kind from the Neanderthal period, and the first to have been found in this region.

“Neanderthals used eagle talons as symbolic elements, probably as necklace pendants, from the beginnings of the mid Palaeolithic,” said study author Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo in a statement. Eagle talons are one of the oldest symbols in Europe, even older than seashells used by Homo sapiens sapiens in northern Africa. At least 23 large raptor phalanges have been found from 10 different sites – all of which add to the evidence that Neanderthals may have been more complex than we’ve previously given them credit for.

“Evidence for the symbolic behavior of Neanderthals in the use of personal ornaments is relatively scarce,” wrote the study authors in Science Advances. “Among the few ornaments documented, eagle talons, which were presumably used as pendants, are the most frequently recorded.”

How This Decade of Archaeology Changed What We Know About Human Origins

Unlike humans living today, our distant ancestors exerted a very small footprint on the planet, leaving barely anything behind to chronicle their time on Earth. With the discovery of each new skull fragment, femur, and stone tool, however, archaeologists are methodically piecing together the fractured history of our species and other hominins closely related to us.

Discoveries made over the past 10 years have added appreciably to this unfolding story, as traditional archaeological techniques have been bolstered by incredible new advances in genetics, dating technologies, artificial intelligence, and other transformative analytical tools.

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An astounding decade of discovery, to be sure. What’s particularly amazing is how many of these finds either upturned previous notions or introduced entirely new possibilities altogether. Humbling to think what the next ten years will bring.

Cradle of modern human life found in Botswana…maybe

So, where exactly did our modern ancestors come from, long before they spread to the farthest reaches of the world? Northeastern Botswana.

This region of the African nation is the answer that the journal Nature revealed Monday in a study that traced the origins of the deepest maternal lineage known to humans.

The project, conducted by a dozen scientists from three continents, claims that the mother of all modern humans living today — from New Zealand to New York — originated in this region of Africa 200,000 years ago.

“We have known for a long time that modern humans originated in Africa,” Vanessa Hayes, a geneticist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research who led the study, said at a press briefing last Thursday. “What we hadn’t known until this study was where exactly this homeland was.”

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But before booking a flight to visit this motherland of all motherlands, it’s important to know that not all anthropologists and archaeologists believe this is the cradle of life. The debate has arisen because genetics appear to indicate one thing about human history, but fossils and artifacts point to something completely different.

Curiosity Finds Mysterious Oxygen Fluctuations on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover sniffed out an unexpected seasonal variation to the oxygen on Mars, according to new research.

Curiosity has long been returning some appropriately curious results. After locating methane on the planet, studies from its spot in Gale crater found regular changes to the methane unexplainable by the environmental factors that scientists are already aware of. Now varying oxygen has joined methane in the Martian mysteries bucket.

Oxygen has shown “significant seasonal and interannual variability, suggesting an unknown atmospheric or surface process at work,” the authors write in the paper published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Mars, like Earth, is tilted on its axis of rotation. That means its northern and southern hemispheres experience seasons like Earth does, summer when the hemisphere points toward the Sun and winter when it points away from the Sun. Scientists have been using Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument to monitor the abundance of various molecules in the planet’s atmosphere and how they change with its seasons. Today, they released the result of five Earth years’ (three Mars years’) worth of data taking.

The Universe Might Be a Giant Loop

Everything we think we know about the shape of the universe could be wrong. Instead of being flat like a bedsheet, our universe may be curved, like a massive, inflated balloon, according to a new study.

That's the upshot of a new paper published today (Nov. 4) in the journal Nature Astronomy, which looks at data from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the faint echo of the Big Bang. But not everyone is convinced; the new findings, based on data released in 2018, contradict both years of conventional wisdom and another recent study based on that same CMB data set.

If the universe is curved, according to the new paper, it curves gently. That slow bending isn't important for moving around our lives, or solar system, or even our galaxy. But travel beyond all of that, outside our galactic neighborhood, far into the deep blackness, and eventually — moving in a straight line — you'll loop around and end up right back where you started. Cosmologists call this idea the "closed universe." It's been around for a while, but it doesn't fit with existing theories of how the universe works. So it's been largely rejected in favor of a "flat universe" that extends without boundary in every direction and doesn't loop around on itself. Now, an anomaly in data from the best-ever measurement of the CMB offers solid (but not absolutely conclusive) evidence that the universe is closed after all, according to the authors: University of Manchester cosmologist Eleonora Di Valentino, Sapienza University of Rome cosmologist Alessandro Melchiorri and Johns Hopkins University cosmologist Joseph Silk.

NASA's Voyager Missions Were Amazing. Now Scientists Want a True Interstellar Probe

Humanity should consider building an interstellar probe to see our neighborhood from an outside point of view, argued several scientists at a recent conference.

NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are the only machines that people have sent beyond our solar system. These 42-year-old spacecraft are still functioning well enough to send us information from interstellar space, and many of their insights have been surprising, according to Stamatios (Tom) Krimigis, the principal investigator of the low-energy charged particle experiment that is still working on both spacecraft.

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A new interstellar mission would also represent a profound shift in the view of our solar system as a singular entity, because we would view the planets and sun from outside our sun's influence — as a passing alien might see our neighborhood. Insights we would gain include how the sun interacts with the gas and dust between stars, and how other stars interact with it as well, Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber, director at the Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics of the University of Kiel in Germany, said during the panel.

I'm A Celebrity's Andrew Maxwell held at gunpoint by military in Area 51

The 44-year-old Irish comedian, who has been working on the TV series Conspiracy Road Trip back in 2012, was stopped by military guards when he led a group of UFO fanatics into the secretive wasteland out in the Nevada desert.

In the episode, Andrew and his companions take pictures of themselves grinning as they pose next to the boundary sign that marks the start of Area 51.

"To me it seemed like an ordinary military facility. But my companions were convinced this was he gateway to the extraterrestrials," Andrew told the camera.

. . .

"But after knocking on the guard house door, we found ourselves lying on the ground, with gun barrels pointed at our heads."

Risks of cannabis use for mental health treatment outweigh benefits

The use of cannabis medicines to treat people with depression, anxiety, psychosis or other mental health issues cannot be justified because there is little evidence that they work or are safe, according to a major new study.

A review of evidence from trials conducted over nearly 40 years, published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, concludes that the risks outweigh the benefits. And yet, say the authors, they are being given to people with mental health problems in Australia, the US and Canada, and demand is likely to grow.

Prof Louisa Degenhardt of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW Sydney, Australia, lead author of the study, said the findings had important implications in countries where medical use was allowed.

“There is a notable absence of high-quality evidence to properly assess the effectiveness and safety of medicinal cannabinoids compared with placebo, and until evidence from randomised controlled trials is available, clinical guidelines cannot be drawn up around their use in mental health disorders,” she said.

Pope declares the Vatican Secret Archive not secret

Pope Francis has declared that the Vatican Secret Archive isn’t so secret after all.

Francis on Monday officially changed the name of the Holy See archive to remove what he said were the “negative” connotations of having “secret” in its name.

From now on, the vast trove of documents, manuscripts and papyrus of popes past will be officially known as the “Vatican Apostolic Archive.”

In a new law, Francis noted that the archive has long been open to scholars, and that he himself has decreed that the archives of World War II-era Pope Pius XII — accused by some of not speaking out enough about the Holocaust — would be open to researchers ahead of schedule on March 2, 2020.

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