Tag Archive: History


You may have seen them before—the graphs from Antarctic ice cores showing the heartbeat of “ice ages” (or glaciations). If so, you probably noted a cyclical pattern, with each glaciation lasting about 100,000 years before being abruptly interrupted by a relatively brief warm period—the interglacial. Soon, the slow freeze inexorably gripped the planet again. There’s a reason for this rhythmic pattern—cycles in Earth’s orbit that subtly alter the sunlight reaching the Earth.

But the graphs have long contained a couple head-scratching mysteries to climate scientists, though. First, why is the 100,000 year cycle dominant? There are several orbital cycles—some around 20,000 years long, another about 41,000 years long, and then the 100,000 year cycle. By itself, the 100,000 year cycle changes things the least, yet it drives the glacial heartbeat.


Glacial cycles experienced a sudden change in behavior at 400,000 years ago.

There are some good answers to that question, but then there’s the other mystery: once you look back about a million years into the past, the heartbeat changes. Instead of glacial cycles 100,000 years long, a more rapid pulse of 41,000 years becomes the norm. Something happened to change that. Here, too, there are some hypotheses, but the data to test them has been scarce.

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brain

A human skull dated to about 2,684 years ago with an “exceptionally preserved” human brain still inside of it was recently discovered in a waterlogged U.K. pit, according to a new Journal of Archaeological Sciencestudy.

The brain is the oldest known intact human brain from Europe and Asia, according to the authors, who also believe it’s one of the best-preserved ancient brains in the world.

“The early Iron Age skull belonged to a man, probably in his thirties,” lead author Sonia O’Connor told Discovery News. “Cause of death is rarely possible to determine in archaeological remains, but in this case, damage to the neck vertebrae is consistent with a hanging.”

“The head was then carefully severed from the neck using a small blade, such as a knife,” added O’Connor, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Bradford. “This was used to cut through the throat and between the vertebrae and has left a cluster of fine cut marks on the bone.”

The brain-containing skull was found at Heslington, Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom. O’Connor and her team suspect the site served a ceremonial function that persisted from the Bronze Age through the early Roman period. Many pits at the site were marked with single stakes. The remains of the man were without a body, but the scientists also found the headless body of a red deer that had been deposited into a channel.

Laser imaging, chemical analysis and other examinations revealed that the brain naturally preserved over the millennia. The scientists found no evidence for bacterial or fungal activity, and described the tissue as being “odorless…with a resilient, tofu-like texture.”

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The intricate patterns of 2,500-year-old tattoos – some from the body of a Siberian ‘princess’ preserved in the permafrost – have been revealed in Russia.

The remarkable body art includes mythological creatures and experts say the elaborate drawings were a sign of age and status for the ancient nomadic Pazyryk people, described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.

But scientist Natalia Polosmak – who discovered the remains of ice-clad ‘Princess Ukok’ high in the Altai Mountains – is also struck about how little has changed in more than two millennia.

Researchers have revealed the stunning tattoo of a Russian princess, which have been preserved for 2,500 years

Balmy tropical temperatures and frost-sensitive vegetation prevailed on the coast of Antarctica 52 million years ago, according to a study of drill cores from under the seafloor off the coast of Antarctica.

Scientists studying pollen and micro-fossils from under the seafloor near Wilkes Land have confirmed that tropical vegetation such as shown here on the Queensland coast  thrived in coastal Antarctica 52 million years ago.

Tropical vegetation, similar to what can be seen on the Queensland coast today, was growing in the area now known as Wilkes Land due south of Australia, the study has shown.

And summer temperatures in coastal Antarctica ranged between 20 and 27 degrees Celsius.

The finding, published in the science journal Nature this week, confirmed what earlier studies had indicated – that Antarctica would have been an ideal summer playground.

It also underlined the extreme contrast between modern and past climate conditions in Antarctica and the extent of global warming during periods of elevated carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

The exceptionally warm period 55 to 48 million years ago was the warmest era in the Earth’s history during the past 70 million years.

The study was undertaken by an international team, led by Goethe University and the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt, Germany. The team included micro-paleontologist Dr Ian Raine of GNS Science.

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3D has become all the rage in movies and computer games, but the technology isn’t just for entertainment. Researchers at Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts are turning it into a learning tool, too. Beginning Tuesday, they’re offering you a free 3D virtual tour of the ancient pyramids of Egypt.

It’s an animated computer rendering of the Giza Plateau, home to the famous pyramids near modern-day Cairo. Manuelian leads our tour with a device that’s a cross between a joystick and a mouse.

We start by flying over the whole complex, getting a bird’s-eye view. Then we swoop down into a courtyard to see an ancient Egyptian burial ceremony. Suddenly, with a flick of the joystick, we plunge into a long shaft that leads to a burial chamber.

For history buffs like me, it’s insanely fun. The site is live now.

A trove of newly translated texts from the ancient Middle East are revealing accounts of war, the building of pyramid like structures called ziggurats and even the people’s use of beer tabs at local taverns.

The 107 cuneiform texts, most of them previously unpublished, are from the collection of Martin Schoyen, a businessman from Norway who has a collection of antiquities.

The texts date from the dawn of written history, about 5,000 years ago, to a time about 2,400 years ago when the Achaemenid Empire (based in Persia) ruled much of the Middle East.

The team’s work appears in the newly published book “Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schoyen Collection”.

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BGU researchers have today that they have discovered deep springs on the floor of the Dead Sea, which provide fresh water to the rapidly dwindling lake. Meanwhile, a parallel study by German researchers has found new forms of life growing around the fissures in the sea floor. The Dead Sea is shrinking as the water level drops at an alarming rate — about a meter a year. Israeli and German scientists have been researching groundwater springs which discharge from the sea floor to understand the impact of this process on this unique ecosystem. While the existence of springs has been known for decades as people observed ripples on the surface, the scientists have discovered deep springs not visible from shore.

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