We are delighted to announce that we will be holding an open day at our excavations at Batsworthy Cross, Knowstone, Devon.Come and discover a previously unknown settlement, including a stone-built structure, which has been providing further information as to how this part of Devon was occupied during the medieval period. Contact details and more information see right.
A new raptorial dinosaur fossil with remarkably long feathers has unveiled exciting insights into dinosaur flight, especially that of larger winged dinosaurs. An article published in Nature Communications on July 15, 2014 asserts that the fossil- discovered by an international team led by Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHN) palaeontologist Dr. Luis Chiappe- has a long feathered tail that Chiappe and co-authors believe was vital for decreasing descent speed and assuring safe landings.
The 125-million-year-old dinosaur, which has been named Changyuraptor yangi, was discovered in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China. This particular location has seen a substantial increase of discoveries in feathered dinosaurs over the last decade. The newly discovered, remarkably preserved dinosaur boasts a full set of feathers cloaking the entirety of its body, including extra-long tail feathers. “At a foot in length, the amazing tail feathers of Changyuraptor are by far the longest of any feathered dinosaur”, said Chiappe.
Analyses of the bone microstructure by University of Cape Town (South Africa) scientist, Dr, Anusuya Chinsamy, shows that the raptor was a fully grown adult, and at a whopping nine pounds, the four-foot-long Changyuraptor is the largest of all the four-winged dinosaurs. These microraptorine dinosaurs are dubbed “four-winged” because of their long feathers attached to both legs and arms and have led researchers to conclude that the four-winged dinosaurs were capable of flight. “Numerous features that we have long associated with birds in fact evolved in dinosaurs long before the first birds arrived on the scene,” said co-author Dr. Alan Turner from Stony Brook University in New York. “This includes things such as hollow bones, nesting behaviour, feathers… and possibly flight.”
However, how well these creatures used the sky as a thoroughfare has remained controversial. The new discovery explains the role the tail feathers undertook during flight control. For larger flyers, safe landings are of particular importance. “It makes sense that the largest microraptorines had especially large tail feathers- they would have needed the additional control”, added Dr. Michael Habib, a researcher from the University of Southern California and co-author of the paper.
The discovery of Changyuraptor consolidates the idea that flight preceded the origin of birds, being inherited by the latter from their dinosaurian forerunners. “The new fossil documents that dinosaur flight was not limited to very small animals but to dinosaurs of a more substantial size,” said Chiappe. “Clearly far more evidence is needed to understand the nuances of dinosaur flight, but Changyuraptor is a major leap in the right direction.”
Contributing Source: Natural History Museum Los Angeles County
Header Image Source: Wikimedia
Archaeologists have uncovered artifacts of the prehistoric Clovis culture mingled with the skeletons of two gomphotheres-an ancestor of the elephant- at an archaeological site in northwestern Mexico.
The discovery implies that the Clovis-the earliest widespread group of hunter-gatherers to reside in North America- likely hunted and ate gomphotheres. It was already known that the members of the Clovis culture were hunters of gomphothere’s cousins, mammoths and mastodons.
Although humans were known to have hunted gomphotheres in Central and Southern America, this is the first time a human-gomphothere connection has been established in North America, says archeologists Vance Holliday, who co-authored a new paper on the findings, which was published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This is the first archaeological gomphothere found in North America, and it’s the only one known,” said Holliday, a professor of anthropology and geology at the UA.
Holliday ad his colleagues from the U.S. and Mexico began their excavation of the skeletal remains of two young gomphotheres back in 2007 after ranchers alerted them that the bones had been found in northwestern Sonora, Mexico.
At the beginning of their excavation it was unclear what kind of animal they were dealing with.
“At first, just based on the size of the bone, we thought maybe it was a bison, because the extinct bison were a little bigger than our modern bison,” Holliday said.
Then, in 2008, they unearthed a jawbone with teeth, buried upside down in the dirt.
“We finally found the mandible, and that’s what told the tale,” Holliday said.
Gomphotheres were smaller than mammoths-approximately the same size as modern day elephants. At one time they were widespread in North America, but until now they appeared to have disappeared from the continent’s fossil record long before humans arrived in North America, which happened about 13,000 to 13,500 years ago, during the late Ice Age.
However, the bones that Holliday and his colleagues discovered date back 13,400 years ago, making them the last known gomphotheres in North America.
The remains of the young gomphotheres wasn’t the full extent of Holliday and his colleagues discoveries at the site, which they dubbed El Fin del Mundo- Spanish for The End of the Word- because of its remote location.
As their excavation of the bones progressed numerous Clove artifacts were also unearthed, including signature Clovis projectile points, or spear tips, as well as cutting tools and flint flakes from stone tool-making. The Clovis culture is so named for its distinctive stone tools, first discovered by archaeologists near New Mexico, in the 1930s.
Radiocarbon dating, conducted at the UA, puts the El Fin del Mundo site at approximately 13,400 years old, making it one of the two oldest known Clovis sites in North America, the other being the Aubrey Clovis site in north Texas.
The position and proximity of the Clovis weapon fragments relative to the gomphothere skeletons at the site suggests that humans actually killed the two animals there. Of the seven Clovis points found at the site, four were in place among the bones, including one with bone and teeth fragments above and below. The other three points had clearly eroded away from the bone bed and were scattered nearby.
“This is the first Clovis gomphothere, it’s the first archaeological gomphothere found in North America, it’s the first evidence that people were hunting gomphotheres in North America, and it adds another item to the Clovis menu,” Holliday said.
Contributing Source: University of Arizona
Header Image Source: WikiPedia
These accolades are well deserved as along the wall you can discover a multitude of historical sites. Hadrian’s Wall dates back 2000 years ago to the days of the emperor Hadrian, one of the Five Good Emperors to rule the empire. The wall exposes the beautiful northern landscape as well as ancient forts, ruined temples and historical towns.1 Arbeia Roman Fort
Arbeia Roman Fort is located in South Shields on the River Tyne and contains the only permanent stone-built granaries yet to be discovered in Britain.
The fort was constructed around AD160 and is a must-see because it is the only fort along Hadrian’s Wall where visitors have the opportunity to see the archaeologists at work.2 Walls End
Also known as Segedunum Walls End is located at the eastern end of the wall near the River Tyne.
Interestingly Walls End functioned as a garrison for 300 years. The fort is also home an excavated baths site and a museum. Currently it is the most excavated fort along the wall and exposes the barracks, stables and the commander’s house.3 Vindolanda
Vindolanda is located south of Hadrian’s Wall near the village Bardon Mill.
Vindolanda is famous for the Vindolanda tablets, which are described as one of the most important military discoveries in the Roman Empire. The museum also offers a fantastic insight into the garrison town, along with a fascinating insight into artifacts such as Roman helmets and other military finds.4 Chester’s Roman Fort
Chester’s Roman Fort is the best-preserved calvary fort in Britain today.
The historic city of Chester is home to the famous fort that also contains the well-preserved baths and steamroom, as well as a museum containing a vast array of roman artifacts. The fort is located near the River Tyne and boasts some of the most beautiful northern landscapes.5 Housestead’s Roman Fort
Also known as Vercovicium, Housestead’s Roman Fort is located at Housesteads, Northumberland and was originally an auxiliary fort.
Housestead’s Roman Fort is considered one of the wall’s most dramatic sites with its well-preserved fort and spectacular views of Northumberland National Park.6 Birdoswald Roman Fort
Also known as Banna, Birdoswald Roman Fort is located at the western end of Hadrian’s Wall.
Interestingly, Birdoswald Roman Fort is the only location along the wall where significant occupation in the post-Roman period has actually been proven.7 Lanercost Priory
The ruins of Lanercost Priory are located in Cumbria and what remains of the building was founded in 1166.
Due to its location close to Hadrian’s Wall the building suffered a multitude of attacks in the Anglo-Scottish wars, but has managed to remain as one of the best preserved Cumbrian monasteries.8 Brocolitia Fort
Also known as Carrawburgh, Brocolitia Fort is located in Northumberland and was originally an auxiliary fort.
During excavations the Temple of Mithras was discovered. The temple dates back to the third century.9 Heddon-on-the-Wall
Heddon-on-the-Wall is a village located near Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.
The village contains a consolidated section of the wall that is two meters thick in some parts. This village is a favourite of walkers along the wall as for many it marks the end of the journey and boasts a picturesque location.10 Corbridge Roman Fort and Town
Corbridge is a town located 2.5 miles south of Hadrian’s Wall.
The town is home to the remains of granaries, a fountain house, workshop and temples.
Header Image Source: Flickr
Reporting this week in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, the authors used a technique called shotgun metagenomics to sequence DNA from a calcified nodule in the pelvic region of a middle-aged male skeleton excavated from the settlement of Geridu in Sardinia. It is thought that Geridu was abandoned in the late 14th century. Shotgun metagenomics has the ability to allow scientists to sequence DNA without looking for a specific target.
From this particular sample, the team of researchers recovered the genome of Brucella melitensis, which causes the infection brucellosis in livestock and humans. In humans, brucellosis is typically acquired through the ingestion of unpasteurized dairy products or direct contact with infected animals. Symptoms of the infection include fevers, arthritis and swelling of the heart and liver. The disease can still be found in the Mediterranean region.
“Normally when you think of calcified material in human or animal remains you think about tuberculosis, because that’s the most common infection that leads to calcification,” says senior study author Mark Pallen, PhD, professor of microbial genomics at Warwick Medical School in Coventry, England. “We were a bit surprised to get Brucella instead.”
Following further experimentation, the research team unveiled that the DNA fragments extracted had the appearance of aged DNA-they were shorter than contemporary strands and characteristic mutations at the ends. The researchers also discovered that the medieval Brucella strain, which they called Geridu-1, was closely related to a recent Brucella strain called Etheer, which was identified in Italy in 1961, along with two other Italian strains identified in 2006 and 2007.
Pallen and others have used shotgun metagenomics previously in order to detect pathogens in contemporary and historical human material. Last summer, Pallen published a report in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the recovery of tuberculosis genomes from the lung tissue of a 215-year-old mummy from Hungary. Pallen also managed to identify Eschericia coli from stool samples during a 2011 outbreak in Germany.
Pallen’s team is currently testing the technique on a range of additional samples from different time periods and locations. These include historical material from Hungarian mummies, Egyptian mummies, a Korean mummy from the 16th or 17th century, contemporary samples from the Gambia in Africa and lung tissue from a French queen from the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled France from the 5th to the 8th centuries.
“Metagenomics stands ready to document past and present infections, shedding light on the emergence, evolution and spread of microbial pathogens,” Pallen says. “We’re cranking through all of these samples and we’re hopeful that we’re going to find new things.”
Contributing Source: American Society for Microbiology
Header Image Source: Wikimedia
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