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CaaC - John

Discovery & Weird News

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'Sarlacc's pit': Enormous unexplored cave accidentally discovered in Canada

Tim Wyatt         5 hrs ago

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The entrance to the cavern is roughly the size of a football pitch (Canadian Geographic/YouTube)

A vast unexplored cave which was discovered by accident in Canada may have never been seen by humans before.

Officials from Canada’s ministry of national resources stumbled across the huge cavern while conducting a caribou count by helicopter in April.

After conducting an investigation and an initial exploration of the opening, the ministry said it believes the cave was not known even to First Nations peoples who have lived in the area for millennia.

The cave sits in a pristine Alpine landscape inside a local national park in British Columbia, in Western Canada.

Experts have suggested that the cave might have been covered with snow all year round, until as recently as the 1990s, and thus lain undiscovered for thousands of years.

Rising temperatures caused by climate change could be to blame for its eventual emergence.

The cavern has not yet been named as government officials are consulting local First Nations groups, but that has not stopped it acquiring a nickname.

“The initial group that discovered it called it Sarlacc’s pit,” geologist Catherine Hickson, who was on the team which found it, told Global News.

The Sarlacc is a fictional monster which features in the Star Wars film Return of the Jedi, and lives inside a huge cave in the ground.

“It’s this vertical huge hole and you can imagine a space monster like the Sarlacc occupying this pit.

“It is huge. It is enormous. When you first see it, you just gasp because it’s just this huge hole in the ground.”

 

 

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        The Sarlacc in its pit in Return of the Jedi (Lucasfilm)

The opening itself is 100m long and 60m wide, big enough to fit an entire football pitch.

When a team tried to climb down inside the huge chamber in September, they descended 80 metres before being stopped by the flow of an underground river.

John Pollack, an archaeological surveyor who has visited the site, said it was a “nationally significant” find.

“I’ve been in some of the biggest caves in the world, and this thing has an entrance that is truly immense, and not just by Canadian standards,” he told Canadian Geographic.

“When you’re standing on the edge looking down into it, your line of sight is nearly 600 feet [183 metres].”

The exact depth of the monstrous cave is not yet known but the water which flows in a torrent at the top of the shaft is believed to flow in a river underground for more than two kilometres and emerge some 500 metres lower.

This suggests the chamber would be among the biggest caves in Canada.

The massive shaft which leads down from the surface is thought to have been carved out of the rock over many years by melting ice from nearby glaciers.

During its peak in the spring and summer, as much as 15 cubic metres per second of water could be rushing over the edge into the cave, Mr Pollack said, equivalent to two dumper trucks full every second.

The exact location of the cave has not been revealed in order to protect the undisturbed site while officials prepare for a formal exploration and survey in 2020.

But even if the public knew where to find the unspoiled marvel of nature, Mr Pollack said it is almost inaccessible. 

“This cave is truly in the middle of nowhere. It’s out there in mountainous terrain, surrounded by glaciers and at the bottom of a 45-degree avalanche slope that rises 2,000 to 2,500 feet [600-750m] above it, meaning you can’t go to it in winter. This is a wild place.”

Ms Hickson said it was inspiring to know there was still much left of the world to discover.

“Even in this day and age, when we think we know everything and we’ve explored every place, we can be surprised.”

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/sarlaccs-pit-enormous-unexplored-cave-accidentally-discovered-in-canada/ar-BBQwuLK?ocid=chromentp

 
Edited by CaaC - John

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Love it how the original group of discoverers were Star Wars fans and chose a very apt nickname for it :D 

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Mesmerising footage shows rare 'ice pancakes' phenomenon covering a river in the Scottish Highlands

Bryony Jewell For Mailonline        1 day ago

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 Dozens of the rare 'ice pancakes' were spotted on the River Helmsdale in the Strath of Kildonan, Scotland, by Daniel Norrie

Mesmerising footage shows a sea of 'ice pancakes' of all different sizes covering a river in the Scottish Highlands. 

The 'rare phenomenon' on the River Helmsdale was such a spectacle that it prompted a group of binmen to pull over and take in the unusual view. 

Binman and nature photographer Daniel Norrie, 31, took photos and video of 'ice pancakes' that are caused when pieces of ice knock together and create circular shapes. 

Daniel had been driving through Strath of Kildonan, Scotland, on Wednesday when he spotted the sight from his window while working. 

So interested by what he had seen, he asked his colleague to pull over so he could snap the beautiful river as he'd never seen anything like it before. 

Mr. Norrie, from Brora, Scotland, said: 'After we'd driven past these strange-looking things, I asked the driver if we could stop briefly so I could have a look at what they were. 

'I was just so puzzled and interested by them, then I learned they were called ice pancakes. I think they look more like prawn crackers than pancakes. 

'They varied in size - some were the size of a DVD while others were the size of a vinyl. 

'I regularly take pictures of sunrises in winter, and I've definitely taken nicer pictures before but nothing as unique as this.' 

Mr. Norrie, who regularly takes pictures of winter sunrises while on the job, admits these images are his best yet. 

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 The pancakes sit on top of the water, are all different sizes and form when the weather gets very cold

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 Mr. Norrie said he was 'puzzled and interested' by the floating discs and added that they look more like 'prawn crackers' to him

According to the Met Office, ice pancakes require very specific conditions to form and are most commonly seen in the Baltic Sea, but can also form in North America and Canada. 

The discs formed can measure anywhere between eight and 80 inches and are described as a 'unique spectacle.' 

Whilst ice pancakes look like solid discs, they are often quite slushy and easily break apart when lifted up.

On rivers, the pancakes form when foam begins to freeze and then joins together and as they are sucked into an eddy (a swirling current of water) and a circular shape is made, says the Met Office.

Mr. Norrie said: 'I went down the river bank to have a look as I had never seen these before. It was clearly ice but I couldn't figure out how the 'pancakes' had formed so I had to do some research. 

'I had no idea they were so rare, I'd never seen anything like them. As far as I've read, they're caused by foam freezing and bouncing off other bits of frozen foam.'  

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/mesmerising-footage-shows-rare-ice-pancakes-phenomenon-covering-a-river-in-the-scottish-highlands/ar-BBQFp9c?ocid=chromentp

 

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Endangered Hawaiian monk seals baffle scientists by getting eels stuck in their noses

Chelsea Ritschel        1 day ago

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The behavior of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal has researchers confused - after multiple incidents involving the creatures getting eels stuck up their noses.

In a recent photo shared on Facebook by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program (HMSRP), a Hawaiian monk seal lies against green foliage with a white-and-brown spotted eel hanging from its nostril.

“Mondays… it might not have been a good one for you but it had to be better than an eel in your nose,” the HMSRP captioned the photo.

The unlucky situation led many to raise questions on Facebook, where the photo has been shared more than 1,200 times.

But, according to the HMSRP, the incident is just the latest in a phenomenon that was first recorded in 2016 - and researchers don’t actually know why it keeps happening.

On the NOAA’s website, researchers explained that although they have been monitoring the behavior of the endangered Hawaiian monk seals for over 40 years, they are not sure why the juvenile seals have all of a sudden started getting eels stuck in their noses.

“We don’t know if this is just some strange statistical anomaly or if we will see more eels in seals in the future,” the program wrote.

However, the scientists did hypothesise possible explanations for the slippery situations.

One possible reason may be the way Hawaiian monk seals forage for food.

According to the NOAA, the seals forage by “shoving their mouth and nose into the crevasses of coral reefs, under rocks, or into the sand,” and are often looking for prey like eels - which may try to defend themselves.

The situation may also arise as a result of a meal not being properly digested - which may then be regurgitated through the nose.

“We might never know,” the researchers wrote.

Fortunately, in each instance, the eels were removed and the seals were unharmed.

Despite the successful removals, Charles Littnan, the HMSRP’s lead scientist, says he wishes the seals would stop finding themselves in the tricky situations - which he suggests may have another explanation.

“It almost does feel like one of those teenage trends that happen,” Mr. Littnan told The Washington Post. “One juvenile seal did this very stupid thing and now the others are trying to mimic it.”

“I would gently plead for them to stop,” he said - as there is the possibility that the eels could pose a health risk to the seals.

In addition to infections, the “really quite long eels” can hinder the seals’ ability to dive for food - as seals typically close their nostrils underwater.

As for the eels, they “did not make it,” according to the HMSRP.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/endangered-hawaiian-monk-seals-baffle-scientists-by-getting-eels-stuck-in-their-noses/ar-BBQEJFr?ocid=chromentp

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Untouched 4,400-year-old tomb discovered at Saqqara, Egypt

A. R. Williams      1 day ago

During Egypt’s pyramid age, a well-connected man named Wahtye died and was laid to rest in the vast royal cemetery that now occupies the desert west of modern Cairo. His colourfully decorated tomb, apparently intact, has recently come to light some 16 feet (five meters) beneath the sand at the archaeological site known as Saqqara.

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© Getty The Egyptian Archaeological Mission working at the Sacred Animal Necropolis in

Saqqara archaeological site succeeded to uncover the tomb

This burial is “one of a kind in the last decades,” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, at a press conference that announced the discovery earlier today. "The colour is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old."

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© Getty An inside view of Saqqara excavation site after a 4,400-Year-Old Tomb belonging to Pharaohs era has been discovered in Giza, Egypt

The tomb owner served King Neferirkare, who ruled during the Old Kingdom’s fifth dynasty. In addition to the name of the deceased, hieroglyphs carved into the stone above the tomb’s door reveal his titles: royal purification priest, royal supervisor, and inspector of the sacred boat.

The grave’s rectangular gallery—measuring 33 feet (10 meters) wide north to south, 10 feet (three meters) east to west, and about ten feet tall—is covered in painted reliefs, sculptures, and inscriptions, all in remarkably good shape after so many centuries.

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Getty An inside view of Saqqara excavation site after a 4,400-Year-Old Tomb belonging to Pharaohs era has been discovered in Giza, Egypt

The reliefs depict Wahtye himself, his wife, Weret Ptah, and his mother, Merit Meen, as well as everyday scenes that include hunting, sailing, making offerings, and manufacturing goods such as pottery and funerary furniture. Large painted statues of the priest and his family fill 18 niches, while 26 smaller niches near the floor hold statues of an as yet unidentified person either standing or seated with legs crossed, as a scribe.

The team of Egyptian archaeologists working here found five shafts in the tomb. One was open and held nothing inside, but the others are sealed—a situation that offers exciting possibilities. Work on the sealed shafts could begin as early as tomorrow, according to news reports.

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© Getty A view inside a recently uncovered tomb of the Fifth Dynasty royal Priest during the reign of King Nefe Ir-Ka-Re, named 'Wahtye', at the site of the step pyramid of Saqqara

“This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb,” said Waziri, indicating his best guess for the location of finds to come. Other shafts might hold the grave goods of the deceased.

The high priest’s tomb lies along a ridge that has been only partly excavated. Even more, discoveries may turn up when digging resumes there in January. 

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/untouched-4400-year-old-tomb-discovered-at-saqqara-egypt/ar-BBR0Nod?ocid=chromentp#image=BBR0pFt|2

 

 

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What is THAT? Alien sea creature's mass of tentacles baffles locals after washing up on an Australian beach

Brett Lackey For Daily Mail Australia             7 hrs ago

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© Daily Mail A consensus seemed to be reached that the creature was, in fact, a sea anemone that had been beached and was upside down

A bizarre creature resembling an alien has washed up on a beach in Western Australia and baffled locals.

A picture of the creature was posted online by a Reddit user who said it was found on the beach in Broome, on the northern coast of WA, by his mother and girlfriend.

The image shows the creature on the sand with dozens of mottled-black tentacles surrounding what appears to be an inflated appendage.

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© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited A bizzare creature resembling an alien has washed up on a beach in Western Australia and baffled locals 

Reddit users were also baffled by the creature with some commenters speculating what it could be.

'What the heck?' said one commenter.

'Quite the creature,' another said.

Eventually, a consensus seemed to be reached that the creature was, in fact, a sea anemone that had been flipped upside down after being beached on the shore.

'The armed anemone. Also called the striped anemone,' one commenter said.

'I think you are correct,' another commenter said.

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© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Broome in Western Australia is well known for its spectacular pristine beaches (stock image) 

The armed anemone is found in the tropical waters off the coast of Western Australia and can grow up to 50cm.  

They usually have more color although Reddit users speculated that it had been bleached by the sun.  

It also has a venomous sting that can be extremely painful to humans and can take months to heal. 

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/techandscience/what-is-that-alien-sea-creatures-mass-of-tentacles-baffles-locals-after-washing-up-on-an-australian-beach/ar-BBRhOYl?ocid=chromentp

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Bloody hell, some find this.  :o

 

Pompeii horse found still wearing a harness

1 hour ago

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The remains of a horse still in its harness have been discovered at a villa outside the walls of Pompeii, in what archaeologists are hailing as a find of "rare importance".

The horse was saddled up and ready to go, possibly to help rescue Pompeians fleeing the AD79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried the town in ashes.

It was found with the remains of other horses at the Villa of the Mysteries.

The villa belonged to a Roman general or high-ranking military magistrate.

Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii and other nearby towns under millions of tonnes of volcanic debris.

Archaeologists at the luxurious Villa of Mysteries (Villa dei Misteri) overlooking the sea have already found wine presses, ovens, and extraordinary frescoes.

The latest discovery came during an excavation of a stable at the villa to the north of Pompeii, according to Massimo Osanna, the director of Pompeii's archaeological park.

The apparently well-groomed horse, along with a saddle and a harness with fragments of wooden and bronze trimmings, was found alongside two other thoroughbred horses.

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The horses had all come to a "fierce and terrible end", Mr. Osanna said, suffocated by ashes or by the boiling vapors from Vesuvius's ash cloud.

The estate was originally dug up early in the 20th Century but much of it was reburied and has since been targeted by looters.

"The whole area will be excavated and returned to the public," said Mr. Osanna.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46671050

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Prehistoric Pig-Like Creatures' Fossils Found By Tennessee Scientists

Amesheil Perez           6 hrs ago

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© Getty Images/Raul Arboleda GettyImages-92862922

Prehistoric fossils of two different species of ancient pig-like creatures called peccaries were recently unearthed.

Scientists with East Tennessee State University (ETSU) recently confirmed that they made the thrilling discovery in an area known as the Gray Fossil Site. The fossils found include a part of a  well-preserved skull   and were discovered to belong to two different species of peccaries, Prosthennops serus and Mylohyus elmorei. 

Scientists were able to determine that the remains belong to the two species due to the “well-preserved remains of their skulls,” including the “nearly complete lower jaws" of Prosthennops serus and Mylohyus elmorei.

According to the university's press release, the discovery seems to support the theory that these two species roamed the Gray Fossil Site area in prehistoric times. This is also the first time that remnants of either species have been discovered in the Appalachian region. 

The university explained that remains of the Prosthennops serus had previously been discovered in other U.S. fossil sites, but never in the Appalachian region. The other peccaries species, Mylohyus elmorei, has only been discovered in a region in central Florida that is over 900 kilometer south of the Gray Fossil Site. 

Chris Widga, the head curator at the ETSU Museum of Natural History at the Gray Fossil Site, explained that the two peccaries species once roamed there because the area was once a large pond surrounded by an abundant forest.

“Details of the peccaries’ teeth suggest they spent their lives browsing on the leaves and fruits of succulent plants, so they would have been right at home in the Gray Fossil Site ecosystem, which we know from plant fossils was rich with tasty vegetation,” Widga said in a statement. 

According to scientists, the Prosthennops serus and the Mylohyus elmorei were estimated to be the size of German shepherds, which is bigger than modern-day peccaries. And peccaries, though they may resemble pigs, are not actually members of the pig family. 

“True pigs, members of the family Suidae, are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, while peccaries belong to the family Tayassuidae and live in the Americas,” ETSU explained.

ETSU further revealed that the Gray Fossil site contains fossil-rich clays and has “an ancient ecosystem that dates back around 5 million years." Aside from the peccaries, it was also home to ancient tapirs, rhinos, alligators, mastodons and more during the prehistoric era. 

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/prehistoric-pig-like-creatures-fossils-found-by-tennessee-scientists/ar-BBRpkK0?ocid=chromentp

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Ancient stone carvings hidden for 600 years discovered on a tomb in Scottish cathedral

Josh Gabbatiss           7 hrs ago

 

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© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Stone carvings that have remained hidden for 600 years have been discovered on the tomb of a medieval bishop in Scotland.

Depictions of saint-like figures were revealed on the side facing a wall while conservationists carried out a routine inspection.

The tomb, located in Dunkeld Cathedral in Perthshire belongs to the 15th-century Scottish cleric Bishop Cardeny.

The unearthing of the stone carvings has shed new light on the history of the site, revealing the tomb has at some point been moved and built into the wall from its original free-standing location.

Colin Muir, stone conservator at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) who led the discovery, said: “The discovery of these rare, hidden carvings behind the 15th-century tomb of Bishop Cardeny is very exciting and will enrich our understanding of the history of Dunkeld Cathedral and late medieval stone carving.

“This discovery also gives fresh incentive for further research and exploration of the site, as we still don’t know when exactly the tomb was moved, or why.

“This discovery also hints that there may still be other obscured areas of detail preserved within the walls behind the tomb.”

As further conservation works get underway to protect the fabric of the tomb, Mr. Muir said he hoped this investigation would reveal secrets.

“At this stage, we don’t know what, if anything, remains – but it will be fascinating to find out,” he said.

Following the discovery of the carvings a second, more in-depth assessment was recently carried out using cutting-edge 3D photogrammetric technology.

A detailed 3D model was created by obtaining multiple images using cameras and mirrors, enabling a closer look at the carvings.

The site of the cathedral has long been an important ecclesiastical centre, with relics of St Columba brought to Dunkeld from Iona by King Kenneth McAlpin in 849.

The tomb was built in 1420 to house Cardeny, who was the cathedral’s longest-serving bishop and was elected to his position in 1399 by Pope Benedict VIII.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/ancient-stone-carvings-hidden-for-600-years-discovered-on-tomb-in-scottish-cathedral/ar-BBRtet4

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The Time the Church Put a Pope's Corpse on Trial

Bess Lovejoy      1 day ago

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© iStock.com/Phooey The Time the Church Put a Pope's Corpse on Trial

Plenty of odd things have been put on trial—animals, statues, a washerwoman's vat—but there's only one occasion in history that a dead body has gone before a papal court. The Cadaver Synod (Synodus Horrenda in Latin) has been called "one of the grisliest events in papal history," which, given the intrigues of the medieval church, is saying something.

The cadaver in question belonged to Pope Formosus, who suffered a series of dramatic reversals in both life and death. Born probably in Rome around 816, he was appointed the bishop of the Italian city of Porto in 864 by Pope St. Nicholas I, who then sent him on a missionary expedition to Bulgaria. That went so well the King of Bulgaria wanted Formosus to lead an autonomous church there, but the request was denied by the then-current pope, John VIII, who thought Formosus was getting a little too big for his britches.

Nevertheless, Formosus remained a respected figure who played important roles in the church in France and Italy for decades—at least until he irritated John VIII enough to get excommunicated in 872. A later pope restored Formosus, and in 891 Formosus became pope himself. His five-year reign was relatively lengthy by the standards of the day, and it ended only when he died of a stroke in 896.

But in death, Formosus became famous for an even more dramatic reversal than any he had suffered in life. Yet another pope whom he'd annoyed, Stephen VI, had his nine-months-rotten corpse exhumed, dressed in papal vestments, perched on a throne, and forced to answer for his "crimes." Unsurprisingly, his answers weren't very convincing.

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© Provided by The Week Publications Pope Formosus

A complete understanding of the events that precipitated the Cadaver Synod involves following the politics of the papacy, Holy Roman Emperors, and Western European aristocrats for several decades. But as Laura Jeffries distills it in Great Events in Religion, "Essentially, Formosus encountered such a fearsome posthumous reprisal because he chose the losing side in one of many struggles for political control after fall of the Carolingian dynasty in the 9th century." In other words, the cadaverous pope's crimes weren't so much spiritual as political, and emerged in the chaotic period that followed the death of Charlemagne—the first Holy Roman Emperor—in 814.

There were two main issues: First, Stephen VI belonged to the house of Spoleto, a powerful Roman family Formosus had angered in 894 after asking a Frankish king, Arnulf, to invade Italy. At the time, Guido of Spoleto (also known as Guy III) was the Holy Roman Emperor, but he was seen as an aggressive ruler who had little respect for the rights and privileges of the Holy See. The invasion was a failure, but it still smarted, and the Spoleto family never forgot the challenge to their precarious authority.

The second factor, according to Elizabeth Harper at Atlas Obscura, may have actually been more important. Although he was very much dead, poor, decomposing Formosus posed a challenge to Stephen VI's legitimacy. Ironically, that was because Stephen VI could be accused of some of the same crimes Formosus was charged with. These "crimes" amounted to being a bishop in two jurisdictions at once—both in Porto and the diocese of Rome, the latter a role that comes with the papacy—as well as openly aspiring to the papacy. By Stephen VI's logic, the double bishopric, a violation of canon law, invalidated Formosus's whole papacy, including all his acts and appointments.

That invalidation was handy, since as Harper explains, "Formosus had made Stephen bishop, and Stephen had become bishop of Rome … while he still held that post. But if Formosus could be found guilty of that same crime (being a simultaneous bishop of two places), his actions would be null and Stephen wouldn't have been a bishop when he was elected pope. Stephen also might have been completely insane.”

In any event, Formosus's body was exhumed from its burial place at Saint Peter's Basilica, dressed in papal robes, and seated for trial at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. There's no transcript of the trial, but Jeffries notes that by several accounts, "Stephen screamed and raved throughout the proceedings while a young deacon was forced to stand by and answer questions on behalf of the corpse." Partway through, an earthquake shook the building, presumably adding to the ominous vibe—although no one seems to have taken it as a sign to stop.

The assembled ecclesiastical authorities (whose gatherings are called a synod) found Formosus guilty on all counts. Since they couldn't kill him, he was stripped of his papal vestments and had the three fingers of his right hand that he'd used for consecration during his life severed. His body was buried in a common grave, but exhumed once again not long afterwards and thrown in the Tiber River.

However, Stephen IV suffered his own reversal, too. The outraged populace imprisoned him after the trial, and soon after that, some of Formosus's supporters strangled him to death in his cell.

Formosus's body didn't stay in the river long: Under the next few popes, it was pulled from the river, redressed in sacred robes, and reburied at St. Peter's Basilica. (It took a few popes to accomplish because they had the life expectancy of mayflies at that point.)

The period that followed was one of the most corrupt and tumultuous in the church's history, with rival factions jockeying for power and annulling one another's work if not outright killing each other. But there was one bright spot: In 898, Pope John IX wisely forbade the trial of any dead pope—or any dead person at all—in the future. Thus the Cadaver Synod would remain a unique, and uniquely terrible, event in history.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/the-time-the-church-put-a-popes-corpse-on-trial/ar-BBRtDfo?ocid=chrome

 

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'Pirate ship' hand grenade discovered near the 17th-century wreck site

James Rogers          4 hrs ago

A gunpowder-filled hand grenade from the wreck of a former pirate ship has washed ashore on a remote U.K. beach.

Local historian and author Robert Felce told Fox News that he found the hand grenade in late November at Dollar Cove on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula. Felce also found a similar grenade at the same site on the Cornwall's southern coast in May 2017.

“I don’t use a metal detector – I use sight,” he explained. “I have become accustomed to what a lot of these things look like.”

The heavily-encrusted grenades are from the wreck of the Schiedam, a former pirate ship that was being used to transport cargo by the Royal Navy. LiveScience reports that the Schiedam, which was originally a Dutch merchant ship, was taken by Barbary Pirates in 1683, and was subsequently seized by the Royal Navy.

The ship ran aground in 1684 while transporting military material back to the U.K. from the Moroccan city of Tangiers.

“It was a time when Great Britain had interests in Tangiers,” said Felce, noting that the costly British garrison was evacuated from the city 1684. “They formed a flotilla, loaded up the flotilla and made a discreet departure,” he added.

After sailing through the Bay of Biscay, the flotilla ran into a storm that pushed the Schiedam off course. The ship eventually ran aground off the Lizard Peninsula.

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© Robert Felce The grenade packed with gunpowder. The artifact's metal casing can clearly be seen.

“There were no fatalities on board, which was highly unusual,” Felce told Fox News. “The only fatalities were horses.”

“Because it was a government-owned ship by this time, they wanted to get as much of the cargo off, because it was ordnance,” he added. “They had to draw on companies [of soldiers] from [the neighboring county of] Devon. These people salvaged as much as they could.”

The wreck of the Schiedam remained undiscovered for centuries until it was spotted in 1971 by a diver in Gunwalloe Church Cove. The ill-fated ship continues to reveal its secrets, with the remains of some of the Schiedam’s cannon’s recently spotted on the seabed by divers.

The hand grenades found by Felce have broken away from the concretions that form when iron objects corrode in water, causing a reaction that forms sand and other nearby items into a dense layer around them.

Felce is confident that more fascinating artifacts from the wreck will appear on local beaches. “I am absolutely certain that there will be other items come ashore,” he said.

The most southerly point of the British mainland, the stunning Lizard Peninsula was once known as the “graveyard of ships” thanks to its treacherous coastline. The peninsula is home to multiple shipwrecks.

“There are still remains of other vessels out there,” said Felce.

Other Cornish shipwrecks have been garnering attention in recent years. Last year, for example, divers in the U.K. uncovered amazing artifacts from a treasure-laden ship that sank off the coast of Cornwall in the late 17th century. Described as one of Britain’s richest wrecks, the merchant ship President was carrying a cargo of diamonds and pearls from India when she sank during a storm in February 1684.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/pirate-ship-hand-grenade-discovered-near-17th-century-wreck-site/ar-BBRK4aH?li=BBoPWjQ

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Edinburgh scientists discover a mammoth secret in ivory DNA

By Kenneth Macdonald & Marc Ellison

BBC Scotland

8 hours ago

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Scientists based at Edinburgh Zoo are cooperating to create a genetics laboratory in Cambodia to fight the illegal ivory trade.

While trying to save elephants, they have found ivory from another animal that is now extinct.

In the WildGenes laboratory of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Dr. Alex Ball is drilling what sounds like a giant tooth.

Which is in effect what it is: an ornately carved elephant tusk.

The lab is working with three partners in a project funded by the UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Together they are building Cambodia's scientific capacity to preserve its wildlife and combat the ivory trade which passes through it.

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Dr. Ball's team has helped establish the first conservation genetics laboratory in Cambodia.

The country lies on an important route for smuggling ivory from Africa and Asia. Which continent the tusks have been stolen from can have legal implications.

"Elephants are being decimated in their thousands across Africa," Dr. Ball says.

"One of the key things about Cambodia is that we have hardly any information about the ivory trade."

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DNA from tusks is unlocking those secrets.

"We can basically break down that dentine and calcium and get those cells out the ivory - and then identify the individual that grew that tusk," he added.

The WildGenes laboratory is the only zoo-based animal genetics lab in the UK and one of only a handful in Europe.

The head of conservation and science at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Dr. Helen Senn, says it plays an important role

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She continued: "Often endangered species are quite genetically unusual and unique and they haven't been worked on before.

"They're not interesting to medicine or agricultural science.

"So we have to develop novel methods to - for example - study pygmy hippos or scimitar-horned oryx."

But in the work on Cambodian ivory samples, the researchers have uncovered something even more exotic: DNA from woolly mammoths.

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Mammoths are not covered by international agreements on endangered species for the unfortunate but unavoidable reason that they have already been extinct for around 10,000 years.

It is relatively easy to spot the difference between an elephant and mammoth tusks.

But once the ivory has been carved into trinkets it is far harder.

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"To our surprise, within a tropical country like Cambodia, we found mammoth samples within the ivory trinkets that are being sold," says Dr Ball.

"So this has basically come from the Arctic tundra, dug out the ground.

"And the shop owners are calling it elephant ivory but we've found out it's actually mammoth."

A charity made up an 'ivory brand', and not everyone is happy

Legal EU ivory sales 'condemn elephants'

Cambodia has between 250 and 500 wild Asian elephants of its own. It is difficult to assess how well or otherwise they are is faring - or even how big the population is - as they tend to stay deep within the jungle.

DNA sampling can provide an insight here too, although drilling tusks is not an option on live elephants.

Instead, the conservationists have to seek out faecal samples - DNA from elephant dung identifies individual elephants and so builds a picture of the total population.

African elephants are classed as vulnerable, the Asian species is endangered.

The trade in their ivory goes hand in hand with smuggling other illegal products like rhino horn and pangolin scales.

That is why the partners are developing more genetic tools to help Cambodia identify other kinds of contraband before it is too late.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-46649010

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43 minutes ago, CaaC - John said:

_104909739_cambodia2.jpg

Cambodia customs officials seized a record-breaking haul of Africa ivory this month

Saw that in the local news. Over three tons of ivory were seized in the port, in a storage container sent from Mozambique and shipped through Vietnam... Not the first time it's happened here either. So sad.

sl_ivory_161218_17.jpg?itok=zoxGB9QG&tim

 

I wonder how did they get their hands on mammoth tusks though??? I mean they normally come from Siberia...

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4 minutes ago, CaaC - John said:

A lot to do with the ice-age and when all the continents were joined together where animals could wander all over the continents.

49251696_10156977776797855_6868937756223

http://idahoptv.org/sciencetrek/topics/mammoth/facts.cfm

Yeah I was just wondering how are tusks of woolly mammoth found in a shipment from Africa!

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7 minutes ago, nudge said:

Yeah I was just wondering how are tusks of woolly mammoth found in a shipment from Africa!

DNA, imagine if they bought back samples from Mars (rocks etc) and if, and I mean IF they discovered DNA of Mammoth's, Sabre-Toothed Tigers etc? I think the movie industry would go into meltdown mode!!    xD

 

"It is relatively easy to spot the difference between an elephant and mammoth tusks.

But once the ivory has been carved into trinkets it is far harder.

"To our surprise, within a tropical country like Cambodia, we found mammoth samples within the ivory trinkets that are being sold," says Dr. Ball.

"So this has basically come from the Arctic tundra, dug out the ground.

"And the shop owners are calling it elephant ivory but we've found out it's actually mammoth."

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1 minute ago, CaaC - John said:

DNA, imagine if they bought back samples from Mars (rocks etc) and if, and I mean IF they discovered DNA of Mammoth's, Sabre-Toothed Tigers etc? I think the movie industry would go into meltdown mode!!    xD

 

"It is relatively easy to spot the difference between an elephant and mammoth tusks.

But once the ivory has been carved into trinkets it is far harder.

"To our surprise, within a tropical country like Cambodia, we found mammoth samples within the ivory trinkets that are being sold," says Dr. Ball.

"So this has basically come from the Arctic tundra, dug out the ground.

"And the shop owners are calling it elephant ivory but we've found out it's actually mammoth."

Ah ok I misread that; so they found the DNA of Woolly Mammoth in the trinkets already being sold in the country, not in that shipment from Africa xD 

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Has the mystery of Napoleon's lost gold been solved? Historian says treasure hunters have spent 200 years looking in the wrong place - and his loot is hidden in his hometown

Ross Ibbetson For Mailonline  

A Russian historian claims to have solved the 200-year-old mystery of where Napoleon's troops hid 80 tonnes of gold on their retreat from Moscow in 1812.

Viacheslav Ryzhkov claims the French Emperor ordered decoys to be sent to a fictional burial site 40 miles from the actual location.

Ryzhkov says the famed 'Napoleon Lake', Semlevo, in the Smolensk region was a fraud, while the real loot was carted off to Lake Bolshaya Rutavech near his hometown of Rudnya.

It was Napoleon himself who accompanied the real bounty and ordered decoy convoys to be sent towards Lake Semlevo to distract Alexander I's forces. 

The historian told the Rabochy Put newspaper he believes unfounded rumours were deliberately disseminated by Napoleon's men to hide the true location of the treasure close to the Belorussian border. 

The French Emperor had the treasure brought close to the historian's hometown of Rudnya where it was thrown into Lake Bolshaya Rutavech, the Russian paper reports.

The historian claims Napoleon had some of the treasure melted into ingots before it was packed off on 400 wagons accompanied by 500 cavalry and 250 members of Napoleon's elite Old Guard.

Ryzhkov told Rabochy Put that the Emperor himself went with the treasure to oversee its complicated burial. 

A platform was built out into the centre of the lake and the bounty was buried at the bottom of the water.

Ryzhkov claims that due to the elaborate way in which the loot was hidden advanced technology and experts will be needed to salvage the gold.

He also said that studies of the water in the 1980s noted a high concentration of silver particles.

The myth of the stolen treasure dates back to the Grand Armée's embarrassing retreat from Moscow when they were said to have carried off gold and jewels from the city.

The story goes that during their retreat through bitter December cold the Russian troops decided to bury the load.

According to a member of Napoleon's staff, Philippe-Paul de Ségur, the loot was hidden in Lake Semlevo in the Smolensk region in western Russia.

Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott added further fuel to the rumour when he mentioned the treasure in his 1825 biography, 'The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte.'

Historians and archaeologists have scoured the area of Lake Semlevo ever since and the legend has been bolstered by huge troves of weapons and ammunition that have been uncovered around the lake.

The Russian paper reported that the Soviet's made extensive efforts to retrieve the treasure in the 1960s and 1970s to no avail.

But according to the Moskovskij Komsomolets paper, Vladimir Poryvaev who has hunted the treasure for years says Ryzhkov's story is absurd.

He cited the idea of 400 wagons as particularly outlandish, saying this 'secret' convoy would have stretched for miles.

Poryvaev also mocks the idea asking what scuba gear Napoleon's men had for their complex underwater burial at the the bottom of an icy lake in the middle of winter.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/has-the-mystery-of-napoleons-lost-gold-been-solved-historian-says-treasure-hunters-have-spent-200-years-looking-in-the-wrong-place-and-his-loot-is-hidden-in-his-home-town/ar-BBRNhiV

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1 hour ago, CaaC - John said:

Has the mystery of Napoleon's lost gold been solved? Historian says treasure hunters have spent 200 years looking in the wrong place - and his loot is hidden in his hometown

Ross Ibbetson For Mailonline  

A Russian historian claims to have solved the 200-year-old mystery of where Napoleon's troops hid 80 tonnes of gold on their retreat from Moscow in 1812.

Viacheslav Ryzhkov claims the French Emperor ordered decoys to be sent to a fictional burial site 40 miles from the actual location.

Ryzhkov says the famed 'Napoleon Lake', Semlevo, in the Smolensk region was a fraud, while the real loot was carted off to Lake Bolshaya Rutavech near his hometown of Rudnya.

It was Napoleon himself who accompanied the real bounty and ordered decoy convoys to be sent towards Lake Semlevo to distract Alexander I's forces. 

 

  Reveal hidden contents

 

The historian told the Rabochy Put newspaper he believes unfounded rumours were deliberately disseminated by Napoleon's men to hide the true location of the treasure close to the Belorussian border. 

The French Emperor had the treasure brought close to the historian's hometown of Rudnya where it was thrown into Lake Bolshaya Rutavech, the Russian paper reports.

The historian claims Napoleon had some of the treasure melted into ingots before it was packed off on 400 wagons accompanied by 500 cavalry and 250 members of Napoleon's elite Old Guard.

Ryzhkov told Rabochy Put that the Emperor himself went with the treasure to oversee its complicated burial. 

A platform was built out into the centre of the lake and the bounty was buried at the bottom of the water.

Ryzhkov claims that due to the elaborate way in which the loot was hidden advanced technology and experts will be needed to salvage the gold.

He also said that studies of the water in the 1980s noted a high concentration of silver particles.

The myth of the stolen treasure dates back to the Grand Armée's embarrassing retreat from Moscow when they were said to have carried off gold and jewels from the city.

The story goes that during their retreat through bitter December cold the Russian troops decided to bury the load.

According to a member of Napoleon's staff, Philippe-Paul de Ségur, the loot was hidden in Lake Semlevo in the Smolensk region in western Russia.

Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott added further fuel to the rumour when he mentioned the treasure in his 1825 biography, 'The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte.'

Historians and archaeologists have scoured the area of Lake Semlevo ever since and the legend has been bolstered by huge troves of weapons and ammunition that have been uncovered around the lake.

The Russian paper reported that the Soviet's made extensive efforts to retrieve the treasure in the 1960s and 1970s to no avail.

But according to the Moskovskij Komsomolets paper, Vladimir Poryvaev who has hunted the treasure for years says Ryzhkov's story is absurd.

He cited the idea of 400 wagons as particularly outlandish, saying this 'secret' convoy would have stretched for miles.

Poryvaev also mocks the idea asking what scuba gear Napoleon's men had for their complex underwater burial at the the bottom of an icy lake in the middle of winter.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/has-the-mystery-of-napoleons-lost-gold-been-solved-historian-says-treasure-hunters-have-spent-200-years-looking-in-the-wrong-place-and-his-loot-is-hidden-in-his-home-town/ar-BBRNhiV

Wouldn't mind finding that, haha...

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Incredible 'sea monster' skull revealed in 3D

By Helen Briggs

BBC News

7 January 2019

49614668_10156986556752855_3991133050258

Some 200 million years ago in what is now Warwickshire, a dolphin-like reptile died and sank to the bottom of the sea.

The creature's burial preserved its skull in stunning detail - enabling scientists to digitally reconstruct it.

The fossil, unveiled in the journal PeerJ, gives a unique insight into the life of an ichthyosaur.

The ferocious creature would have fed upon fish, squid and likely others of its kind.

Its bones were found in a farmer's field more than 60 years ago, but their significance has only just come to light.

Remarkably, the skull is three-dimensionally preserved and contains bones that are rarely exposed.

"It's taken more than half a century for this ichthyosaur to be studied and described, but it has been worth the wait," said palaeontologist Dean Lomax of the University of Manchester.

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Thanks to data collected from CT scans, researchers Nigel Larkin and Laura Porro were able to digitally reconstruct the entire skull in 3D.

"CT scanning allows us to look inside fossils - in this case, we could see long canals within the skull bones that originally contained blood vessels and nerves," said Dr Porro.

The ichthyosaur was originally identified as a common species, but after studying it in more detail, scientists identified it as a rare ichthyosaur called Protoichthyosaurus prostaxalis.

There have been previous studies of large marine reptile skulls that have been reconstructed but they are incomplete.

"We were also able to digitally edit the original skull, ie move bones around and manipulate them so that they are in life position," said Dean Lomax.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46762410

 

 

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Blue tooth reveals unknown female artist from medieval times

By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent

8 hours ago

49656231_10156990389427855_4525613774303

The weird habit of licking the end of a paintbrush has revealed new evidence about the life of an artist more than 900 years after her death.

Scientists found tiny blue paint flecks had accumulated on the teeth of a medieval German nun.

The particles of the rare lapis lazuli pigment likely collected as she touched the end of her brush with her tongue.

The researchers say it shows women were more involved in the illumination of sacred texts than previously thought.

The team had initially been initially been investigating health and diets in the Middle Ages. They set out to examine the bones of corpses at a medieval monastery in Dalheim, Germany.

The scientists analysed dental calculus - essentially dental plaque that has become fossilised on your teeth during your lifetime.

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When they examined the teeth of one subject, called B78, it ultimately revealed far more than what she had eaten.

According to radiocarbon dating, the woman had lived between 997 and 1162AD and was between 45-60 years old when she died. According to the authors, the woman was average in almost every aspect - except for what was stuck to her teeth.

When the researchers dissolved samples of her dental calculus, they couldn't believe their eyes. Hundreds of tiny blue particles became visible.

"Dental calculus is really cool, it is the only part of your body that fossilises while you are still alive," senior author Dr Christina Warriner, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told BBC News.

"During this process it incorporates all sorts of debris from your life, so bits of food become trapped, it ends up being a bit of a time capsule of your life."

"We found starch granules and pollen but what we also saw was this bright, bright blue - and not just one or two little flecks of mineral, but hundreds of them. We had never seen that before."

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It took some major scientific sleuthing to work out what the particles were made of.

Eventually, the scientists realised they were dealing with lapis lazuli, a rare and valuable pigment, that originated from a mountain in Afghanistan.

The lapis would be ground into a powder and mixed to make ultramarine - a vivid blue, so expensive that artists like Michelangelo weren't able to afford it.

It was used in Medieval Europe to decorate only the most valuable religious manuscripts.

So how did this rarest of artistic materials end up in the teeth of a rural German religious woman?

"Based on the distribution of the pigment in her mouth, we concluded that the most likely scenario was that she was herself painting with the pigment and licking the end of the brush while painting," says co-first author Monica Tromp, also from the Max Planck Institute in Jena.

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The researchers say that only scribes and painters of exceptional skill would have been entrusted with the use of this highly prized pigment.

The discovery indicates that women were playing a far more significant role in the writing and illustration of manuscripts at this time than has previously been recognised.

While there were women's monasteries in this period, it had been believed that less than 1% of books could be attributed to them before the 12th century.

Often women didn't sign their names to books as a sign of humility, but the authors also believe there was a strong male bias at the time, and women were essentially rendered invisible. The authors say that their findings are helping to set the record straight.

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"She lived at Dalheim, you can still see the ruins of the women's community, but there is no art, no books, just a fragment of a comb, there's only a handful of references in texts," said Dr Warriner.

"It was written out of history, but now we've discovered another place that women were engaged in artistic production that we had no idea about."

The researchers are keen to develop the technique, believing that many other artists who worked with a variety of mineral pigments from the period could be identified.

"I think this would be an incredible opportunity to give identity back to these people, we have lost all individuality from them."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46783610

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Hunting methods of prehistoric dogs uncovered

 

49813262_10156995217867855_8438201570755

Scientists have found new information on how prehistoric dogs hunted 40 million years ago - by analysing the skulls of lions, wolves and hyenas.

Experts in Scotland and Austria found that the first species of dog, known as Hesperocyon gregarius, pounced on its prey in the same way that species such as foxes and coyotes do today.

They also discovered that the largest dog species hunted in a similar way.

The Epicyon haydeni could grow to the size of a grizzly bear.

It lived from 16 million to seven million years ago.

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The study focused on the hunting methods used by prehistoric members of a group of mammals known as carnivorans, which includes modern-day foxes, wolves, cougars and leopards.

Scientists at the universities of Edinburgh and Vienna used computerised scans of fossils and modern animals to create digital models of the inner ears of 36 types of carnivoran, including six extinct species.

Experts found that the size of three bony canals in the inner ear, the organ that controls balance and hearing, changed over millions of years as animals adopted different hunting styles.

Faster predators, such as cheetahs, lions and wolves, developed large ear canals that enabled them to keep their head and vision stable while chasing prey at speed, the team said.

According to the research, the inner ear structure indicates whether a species descended from dog-like animals or animals resembling cats.

A distinctive angle between two parts of the inner ear is much larger in dog-like animals, the team found.

The study is based on research carried out by Edinburgh PhD student Julia Schwab during studies in Vienna.

Ms Schwab, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, said: "For me, the inner ear is the most interesting organ in the body, as it offers amazing insights into ancient animals and how they lived.

"The first dog and the largest-ever dog are such fascinating specimens to study, as nothing like them exists in the world today."

The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-46836776

 

 

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German WW1 submarine emerges off French coast

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49761460_10156995254852855_2803375628554

The wreck of a World War One German submarine is gradually resurfacing on a beach in northern France after decades of being buried in the sand.

Shifting sand off Wissant, near Calais, is exposing the remains of the UC-61 which was stranded there in July 1917.

The crew flooded the vessel and abandoned it and by the 1930s the submarine had largely been buried.

It is now becoming a tourist attraction again, although the local mayor warns it may only be a fleeting visit.

Since December, two sections of the submarine have been visible at low tide about 330ft (100m) from the dunes.

"The wreck is visible briefly every two to three years, depending on the tides and the wind that leads to sand movements, but a good gust of wind and the wreck will disappear again," said Mayor of Wissant Bernard Bracq.

However, local tour guide Vincent Schmitt believes the winds and tides could lead to even more of the UC-61 being exposed.

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"All the residents of Wissant knew there was a submarine here, but the wreck is mostly silted and therefore invisible," he said.

"Pieces reappear from time to time, but this is the first time we discover so much."

German submarines, known as U-boats, targeted Allied shipping during World War One, sinking hundreds of vessels.

Historians say the UC-61 was credited with sinking at least 11 ships, either by laying mines or by firing torpedoes.

On its last journey, the submarine had left Zeebrugge in Belgium and was heading to Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Havre to lay mines when it ran aground.

The 26 crewmen surrendered to French authorities.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46846988

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Archaeologists find Rome-era tombs in Egypt's Western Desert

BBSh0k8.img?h=450&w=799&m=6&q=60&o=f&l=f

© The Associated Press This undated handout photo from the Egyptian Antiquities Authority, shows colorful funeral paintings in an ancient tomb dating back to the Roman period, at the Dakhla Oasis in the Western Desert, Egypt. The Antiquities Ministry said Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 that the excavations took place in the Beir Al-Shaghala archaeological site. Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says the tombs were built in mud-brick with different architectural styles. (Egyptian Antiquities Authority via AP)

CAIRO — Egypt says archaeologists have uncovered two ancient tombs dating back to the Roman period in the country's Western Desert.

The Antiquities Ministry says Tuesday the excavations took place in the Beir Al-Shaghala archaeological site in the Dakhla Oasis.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says the tombs were built in mud-brick with different architectural styles.

He says archaeologists uncovered ancient human remains and pottery fragments inside the tombs. They also found colorful funeral paintings on the walls of both tombs.

In recent years, Egypt has heavily promoted new archaeological finds to international media and diplomats in the hope of attracting more visitors to the country. The vital tourism sector has suffered from the years of political turmoil since the 2011 uprising.

BBSgQKN.img?h=450&w=799&m=6&q=60&o=f&l=f

© The Associated Press This undated handout photo from the Egyptian Antiquities Authority, shows colorful funeral paintings in an ancient tomb dating back to the Roman period, at the Dakhla Oasis in the Western Desert, Egypt. The Antiquities Ministry said Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 that the excavations uncovered two ancient tombs in the Beir Al-Shaghala archaeological site. Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says the tombs were built in mud-brick with different architectural styles. (Egyptian Antiquities Authority via AP)

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/archaeologists-find-rome-era-tombs-in-egypts-western-desert/ar-BBSjoaV

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Archaeologists may have found the world’s oldest clove in Sri Lanka

Maria Thomas     20 hrs ago

BBSjlkU.img?h=450&w=799&m=6&q=60&o=f&l=f

The history of the spice trade conjures up exotic images of caravans plying the Silk Road in storied antiquity, as well as warfare between European powers vying for control of what, pound for pound, were among the most valuable commodities in the known world.

One of the most valuable of the spices was clove—the versatile immature bud of the evergreen clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum) which is native to the Maluku Islands or the Moluccas in the Indonesian Archipelago. Prized for its flavour and aroma, and also for its medicinal qualities, clove quickly became important for its use as a breath freshener, perfume, and food flavouring.

We believe we might have found the oldest clove in the world at an excavation in Sri Lanka, from an ancient port which dates back to around 200BC. This port, Mantai, was one of the most important ports of medieval Sri Lanka and drew trade from across the ancient world. Not only that, but we also found evidence for black pepper (Piper nigrum), another high-value, low-bulk product of the ancient spice trade.

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These cloves found at Mantai in Sri Lanka are believed to be 1,000 years old.

Ancient history

Western knowledge of Sri Lanka dates back to at least 77AD, when the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote about the island as Taprobane in his famous Natural History. This is the earliest existing text which mentions Sri Lanka, however, Pliny states that the ancient Greeks (and Alexander the Great) had long known about it.

Sri Lanka, wrote Pliny, “is more productive of gold and pearls of great size than even India,” as well as having “elephants … larger, and better adapted for warfare than those of India.” Fruits were abundant and the people had more wealth than the Romans—as well as living to 100 years old. No wonder then, that ancient Sri Lanka drew trade ships not only from the Roman world, but also from Arabia, India, and China.

Decades of archaeological exploration has sought to uncover evidence for the rich kingdoms of ancient Sri Lanka. Mantai (also written as Manthai and known as Manthottam/Manthota), on the northern tip of the island, was one of the port settlements of the Anuradhapura Kingdom (377BC to 1017AD) and has been recently radiocarbon dated to between about 200BCE and 1400AD.

Today, the site is barely visible from the ground—but it is still an important location with Thirukketheesvaram temple sitting in the centre of the ancient settlement. From the air, the defensive ditch and banks of ancient Mantai can be seen covered in trees, as can the area where the defences were cut away to build the modern road.

The site was excavated in the 1980s—during three seasons of excavation an amazing array of artefacts were uncovered, including semiprecious stone beads and ceramics from India, Arabia, the Mediterranean, and China. But in 1983 Sri Lanka’s civil war broke out, bringing an end to archaeological exploration in the Northern Province, as well as many other areas of the island. Unfortunately, many of the records related to this archaeological work became lost or were destroyed, including detailed stratigraphic information of how the layers of soil excavated related to one another, which would have been used to identify how and when the site developed, prospered, and came to an end.

Mantai revisited

In 2009-2010, after the end of the civil war, a multinational team of researchers went back to Mantai and began new excavations. Work was jointly carried out by the Sri Lankan Department of Archaeology, SEALINKS, and the UCL Institute of Archaeology. This project aimed to collect as much evidence from these excavations as possible, including fully quantified and systematically collected archaeobotanical (preserved plant) remains. The plants remains recovered include some of the most exciting finds from the site. Crucially, these include what were incredibly valuable spices at the time when they were deposited at the site: black pepper and cloves.

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Scenes from an excavation.

Only a handful of cloves have previously been recovered from archaeological sites, including these from France, for example—other archaeological evidence for cloves, such as pollen from cess pits in the Netherlands, only dates from 1500AD onwards—and there are no examples from south Asia.

Earlier finds of clove have been reported from Syria—but these have since largely been discredited as misidentifications. The clove from Mantai was found in a context dating to 900-1100AD, making this not only the oldest clove in Asia—but we think the oldest in the world.

We also found eight grains of black pepper at Mantai, plus a further nine badly preserved grains that we think are probably black pepper too. The earliest are dated to around 600AD, the time when international maritime trade became increasingly large and well established across Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Spice wars

Clove was one of the rarest and most expensive spices in the Roman and Medieval worlds. It was not grown in Sri Lanka, but came from the Maluku Islands of South-East Asia (some 7,000km away by sea) for trade onwards to Europe, China, or one of the other many regions that traded with Mantai.

Black pepper was also traded along these routes, and was most likely grown and harvested in the Western Ghats of India. Although less rare and valuable than clove, it was still known as “black gold” on account of its value in the Early Modern Period from 1500AD to about 1800AD.

From the 16th century, Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) was colonised by various European powers, from the Portuguese (1500s-1600s) to the Dutch (1600s-late 1700s) to the British (late 1700s-1948). They were all drawn by the island’s profitable trade in spices—although the British turned the fledgling coffee industry there into an incredibly lucrative tea trade which is still important to the island’s economy to this day.

But, whether or not the cloves we unearthed at Mantai turn out to be the oldest in existence, the presence of the spice at this 2,000-year-old site is solid evidence of the ancient spice trade that existed long before these wars of conquest.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/archaeologists-may-have-found-the-world’s-oldest-clove-in-sri-lanka/ar-BBSjA2t?ocid=chromentp

 

 

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St Andrews find may be the oldest surviving wall chart of a periodic table

Nicola Davis

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© PA The chart appears to have been printed a few years after the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev published his method of showing the relationships between the elements in 1869.

A crumbling roll of canvas-backed paper discovered underneath a lecture theatre in Scotland may be the world’s oldest surviving periodic table chart, experts have said.

The chart was found during a clean-out at the University of St Andrews in 2014 and appears to date from 1885 – 16 years after the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev published his method of showing the relationships between the elements in 1869.

Prof David O’Hagan, the head of organic chemistry at St Andrews, said the periodic table quickly became “an iconic and useful tool for chemists”. The fragile chart discovered in the clear-out was special, he told the Guardian. “If you [go] to universities and classrooms that teach chemistry there is always a periodic table hanging up, and this seems to be the earliest example of a display periodic table.” 

While the chart would have been used to educate scientists, it looks rather different to the table most will be familiar with today. Written in German, it only contains 71 entries, although some elements crop up twice, including relative atomic masses for elements predicted to exist but not yet discovered – such as hafnium, which was discovered in 1923. “That has been the power of the table,” said O’Hagan.

The chart seems similar to Mendeleev’s revised table of 1871, said O’Hagan. “There are some errors and changes here in [the relative atomic masses] but essentially this table has held pretty strong and been added to.” There are 118 elements in the modern periodic table.

While today’s table is based on a detailed knowledge of the atomic structure of the elements, those in the chart are sorted into columns, or groups, based on their chemical reactions with oxygen or hydrogen, O’Hagan said. “These elements were grouped on their chemistry, not on their atomic structure.”

The noble gases, such as radon and argon, are absent, he said, “because they weren’t reactive so they weren’t noticed”.

Researchers at Sat Andrews said they had been able to trace the origins of the chart, which was printed in Vienna by Verlag v Lenoir & Forster, Wien­. An entry in the financial records showed it was bought in 1888 by Thomas Purdie, a chemistry professor who had studied in Germany. He paid three German goldmarks, the equivalent of about £17.30 today.

Since its discovery the chart has undergone conservation, and is now part of the university’s special collection. “It was flaking quite badly,” said O’Hagan.

To mark 150 years since the publication of Mendeleev’s seminal work, the UN has declared 2019 the “international year of the periodic table”.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/st-andrews-find-may-be-oldest-surviving-wall-chart-of-periodic-table/ar-BBSnCg3

 

 

 

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After 600 years, night watchman still keeps vigil over Lausanne

Fabrice COFFRINI

Every evening, the night watchman clambers to the top of the Lausanne cathedral bell tower and gets to work: he shouts out the time each hour, keeping a six-century-old tradition alive.

The night watchman, one of the last in Europe, no longer alerts this Swiss city to fires, but he does help residents to keep track of the time.

"This is the watchman! The bell has tolled 10. The bell has tolled 10."

On a cold night in December, Marco Carrara, who takes on the job on the permanent watchman's days off, repeats the message hourly, only changing the number of chimes that have rung.

Cupping his hands around his mouth, he allows his voice to carry across the rooftops, just as his predecessors have done every evening since 1405.

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© Provided by AFP "This is the watchman! The bell has tolled 10. The bell has tolled 10," he cries out, hourly, changing the number of chimes

All year round, from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am, the night watchman, wearing a big black hat and carrying a lantern, steps out to the bell tower railing to serve as a living clock for the people of this picturesque city on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Changing times 

The night watchman used to play a far more vital role.

Back when fire constituted a permanent threat to medieval towns and cities built in wood, he was an essential part of a network of watchmen, most of whom patrolled the streets.

From his perch, the cathedral watchman was tasked with sounding the alarm at the first whiff of smoke.

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© Provided by AFP Marco Carrara steps in as night watchman when the permanent incumbent is off. They work from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am year-round

Across Europe, there were "thousands, if not tens of thousands" of watchmen protecting urban spaces from fire, said Renato Haeusler, who holds the permanent watchman position in Lausanne.

But as technology advanced, the once ubiquitous position became largely obsolete and the watchmen all but disappeared across the continent.

Today, Lausanne is one of just seven European towns or cities to have maintained the tradition of a year-round watchman, alongside Annaberg, Celle and Noerdlingen in Germany, Ripon in Britain, Krakow in Poland and Ystad in Sweden.

In Lausanne, the watchman used to be entrusted with manually ringing the bell on the hour, but in 1950, the task fell to automation.

'Making history come alive' 

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© Provided by AFP In days gone by when buildings were made out of wood, the watchman's role was more vital as he would sound the alarm in the event of fire

Haeusler acknowledged to AFP that his position no longer served a true practical purpose. 

But "the city is very attached to maintaining this tradition," stressed the 60-year-old, who served as replacement watchman for 14 years before taking on the permanent position in 2002.

David Payot, a member of Lausanne's municipal council, agreed.

"This is a way of making history come alive," he told AFP.

In the early 1960s, an announcement that the night watchman's hours would be reduced -- he used to call out the time from 9:00 pm until dawn -- was interpreted by many as a precursor to scrapping the post altogether.

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© Provided by AFP Lausanne is one of just seven European towns or cities to have maintained the tradition of a year-round watchman

The city was flooded with letters demanding that it maintain the job, Payot said.

Haeusler meanwhile says he likes the "out-of-sync" nature of his work -- a profession serving little purpose at a time when today's reality demands that everything be "profitable and efficient."

'Nobility' 

Haeusler climbs the 153 worn stone steps to the top of the bell tower to announce the time about four evenings a week, for a salary he says is "well below" the going rate for night time work.

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© Provided by AFP Renato Haeusler, 60, is the permanent night watchman in Lausanne and works about four evenings a week

But he has a second job too, lighting events and soirees in the region using wax candles. He sometimes spends his hours as a watchman dipping a wick into hot wax to make the candles.

On the evenings that he doesn't work, a replacement steps in.

"The evenings can be quiet and quite lonely," Carrara told AFP during one of his shifts last month.

Although sometimes they can be more animated, he said, such as when "Lausanne residents, people from the region, and even tourists have the possibility to visit the watchman."

"We are both at the heart of the city and outside of it," he said, adding that he had been drawn to the "nobility of this task", which runs "counter to utilitarianism".

Between 600 and 700 people visit the tower during the evening watch each year, according to Haeusler.

'Our roots' 

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© Provided by AFP The night watchman climbs the 153 worn stone steps to the top of the bell tower to announce the time

From his viewpoint more than 40 metres (131 feet) above the city, the watchman can observe it change with the seasons.

"In the summer, it is magnificent. Swifts nest in the upper walkway. They are there in the evening, flying around," Haeusler said.

He said he felt privileged to be "the last link in a chain of men (doing this job) dating back to the 15th century."

The watchman's permanent presence provides a kind of landmark for the residents of the city, he said.

"In a completely chaotic world, I think that it is reassuring to have activities continue for a very long time, becoming traditions, and allowing us to rediscover a few of our roots."

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/after-600-years-night-watchman-still-keeps-vigil-over-lausanne/ar-BBSpzXJ

 

 

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Antony and Cleopatra's long lost tomb FOUND and is set to be uncovered

Bradley Jolly  7 hrs ago

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© Getty Images/National Geographic The historians are sure they have located the burial site, around 18 miles from Alexandria

The long-lost tomb of Mark Antony and Cleopatra will be "uncovered soon," historians in Egypt say.

Archaeologists believe they have identified the hidden location of the crypt in which they say the leaders are buried together.

"The long-lost tomb of Antony and Cleopatra will be eventually uncovered.

"The burial site has been finally estimated to be in the region of Taposiris Magna, 30km (18 miles) away from Alexandria," Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass said.

The 71-year-old, who has vast experience in archaeology, added: "I hope to find the tomb of Antony and Cleopatra soon. I do believe that they are buried in the same tomb.

"We are so close to discover the accurate location of the tomb; we are on the right way.

"We know where exactly we have to dig."

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© Credits: Getty Images/National Geographic

Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt.

According to popular belief, she and Mark Antony committed suicide in August 30 BC when she was 39 by allowing an asp to bite them.

But some claim she was in murdered and say discovering her body will help provide evidence to prove it.

Mark Antony, or Marcus Antonius, was a Roman politician and general.  

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© Credits: Getty Images/National Geographic

He was assigned Rome's eastern provinces, including the client kingdom of Egypt, then ruled by Cleopatra.

It comes days after an ancient royal hall dating back to the era of Ramses II was previously discovered near to the identified Cleopatra site.

It was unearthed below soft-brick buildings and commercial residential areas.

The hall was used to hold royal celebrations such as the Jubilee feast.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/antony-and-cleopatras-long-lost-tomb-found-and-is-set-to-be-uncovered/ar-BBSyJVQ

 

 

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Matthew Flinders' grave discovered after 200 years near London station

Esther Addley

Some said he was buried under platform 4; others suggested platform 12 or 15. When a statue of Captain Matthew Flinders was installed at Euston in 2014, the only regret of those who had campaigned for a memorial to the explorer – who led the first circumnavigation of Australia – was that his final resting place, understood to be somewhere near the London rail station, was unlikely ever to be known.

Five years later, that mystery has been solved by archaeologists working on the new HS2 rail link. The remains of the British navigator – buried over 200 years ago – have now been discovered in a graveyard being excavated to make way for the high-speed line between London and Birmingham.

Only a small proportion of the 40,000 bodies being exhumed from St James’s cemetery, behind the station, have been identified so far, making the discovery of Flinders’ remains earlier this month a “needle in a haystack” find, according to HS2’s lead archaeologist, Helen Wass.

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© PA Archaeologists remove the breastplate of Captain Matthew Flinders during work on London’s HS2 high-speed rail project at Euston. Photograph: HS2 Ltd/PA

While some of those buried in the cemetery had tin nameplates on their coffins, many of these have not survived. But when Flinders died in July 1814, aged 40, the plate on his coffin was made of lead, meaning it was still legible.

“All the records showed that he was buried there, but actually finding someone with a breastplate confirming their name is really amazing,” said Wass. “It is so exciting.” The find is more remarkable because when Flinders’ sister-in-law visited the cemetery in 1852, the location of his grave was already lost.

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© PA The breastplate of Matthew Flinders, the explorer who led the first circumnavigation of Australia and is credited with giving the country its name. Photograph: HS2 Ltd/PA

As the first person to circumnavigate the continent and the explorer who popularised its name, Flinders is a figure of national importance in Australia, where a mountain range, two national parks, a university in Adelaide and one of the main streets of Melbourne, among many other things, are named after him.

As such, said the country’s high commissioner to the UK, George Brandis, the discovery of his remains is “a matter of great importance to Australia”.

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© PA The find is more remarkable because when Matthew Flinders’ sister-in-law visited the cemetery in 1852, the location of his grave was already lost. Photograph: HS2 Ltd/PA

In his native Britain, however, he has been largely forgotten, despite a biography that could almost compete with Robinson Crusoe, the novel that first inspired him as a child to go to sea.

Born in Lincolnshire in 1774 to a family of surgeons, Flinders joined a navy ship aged 16 and a year later was sailing with the notorious Captain William Bligh, formerly of the Bounty, who taught him navigation and chart making. By 24 he had charted Tasmania and been the first to prove it was an island.

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© Getty Images The grave and body of British explorer Captain Matthew Flinders, the first person to circumnavigate Australia, have been discovered after 200 years near London’s Euston station.

Five years later Flinders had circumnavigated the entire continent and charted much of its coastline, accompanied by his beloved cat Trim and an Aboriginal man called Bungaree – notably the first person ever to be described as an “Australian”.

Forced to dock in Mauritius on his way home in 1803, Flinders was arrested by the French, with whom Britain was by now at war, and held on the island for seven years. Trim, his companion in captivity, disappeared the following year, likely stolen and eaten by a hungry slave; years later Flinders was still mourning “the best and most illustrious of his race”. In many of the statues of Flinders in Australia – and at Euston – he is accompanied by the faithful Trim.

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© PA Archaeologists working on the HS2 project in St James’s burial ground in London, where they discovered the remains of Matthew Flinders. Photograph: HS2 Ltd/PA

Rebekah Higgitt, a historian of science at the University of Kent, said that like Captain James Cook and Bligh, Flinders was one of “the great explorer-surveyor-commanders” of the intense period of navigational advances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As well as being a talented navigator, she said, he was clearly an impressive character in other ways.

“He wants to go to sea, and the way to do that is to get to grips with mathematics and trigonometry, which he does really, really well. I think he must also have had quite a lot of charm, as he is promoted and supported by people quickly.”

Along with many of the other skeletons excavated from the St James’s site, Flinders’ remains will now be examined by osteoarchaeologists. They will be looking for lessons as to how his life at sea affected his health. With excavations due to continuing until late next year, Wass hopes the site has more secrets to reveal.

“We are going to be able to tell so many stories about the life of London … we will look across the spread of the burial ground, the rich, poor and everything in between, so we can try to tell as holistic a story as possible about who is buried there.”

Once they have been examined, the bodies will all be reburied in a site yet to be confirmed.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/matthew-flinders-grave-discovered-after-200-years-near-london-station/ar-BBSHx7X?li=AAnZ9Ug

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Antarctic Weddell expedition targets Shackleton's lost ship

By Jonathan AmosBBC Science Correspondent

25 January 2019

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A scientific expedition in the Antarctic is set to depart its current location to go in search of Sir Ernest Shackleton's lost ship.

The team has been investigating the Larsen C Ice Shelf and the continent's biggest iceberg,  known as A68.

And this puts it just a few hundred km from the last recorded position of the famous British explorer's vessel, the Endurance.

The polar steam-yacht was crushed in sea-ice and sank in November 1915.

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Shackleton's extraordinary escape from this loss, saving his crew, means there is considerable interest in finding the wreck.

Endurance should be resting on the ocean floor, some 3,000m down.

The Weddell Sea Expedition 2019 team wants to grab the chance of making the discovery, using robotic submersibles.

But the group will have a tough job reaching the location, concedes chief scientist Prof Julian Dowdeswell.

"We've got a journey of several hundred km from where we are now through really heavy and quite difficult sea-ice," he told BBC Radio 4's Inside Science programme this week.

"We shall do our best to get there with the excellent ice-breaker that we have, but in any given year it will be very difficult to judge whether you will be able to penetrate the sea-ice."

The team has a very good idea of where the Endurance should be.

Shackleton's skipper on the vessel, Frank Worsley, was a highly skilled navigator, and used a sextant and chronometer to calculate the sinking's co-ordinates - 68°39'30.0" South and 52°26'30.0" West.

The ship is almost certainly within a few nautical miles of this point.

If Prof Dowdeswell's ice-breaker, the SA Agulhas II, can get reasonably close - it will be game-on.

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The American geophysical survey company Ocean Infinity is part of the Weddell Sea Expedition group. It has a Kongsberg Hugin autonomous underwater vehicle that it will deploy to map a 20km by 20km grid square on the ocean floor.

If it succeeds in locating the Endurance, a remotely operated vehicle will then be sent down to photograph the wreck site.

The organisms that normally consume sunken wooden ships do not thrive in the cold waters of the Antarctic, so there is optimism that Endurance's timbers are well preserved. That said, crushing forces had done quite a bit of damage to the vessel before she slipped below the floes.

"I think that if we locate the Endurance, the greater likelihood will be that her hull is semi-upright and still in a semi-coherent state," commented marine archaeologist Mensun Bound.

"However, on the evidence of the only deep-water wooden wreck I have been privileged to study, I must concede that there is every possibility that she could have been wrenched wide open by impact (with the seafloor), thus exposing her contents like a box of chocolates," he wrote on his expedition blog.

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Luck has been with the Weddell cruise so far.

Attempts to get to Larsen C in recent years by other expeditions were thwarted by the sea-ice conditions, but the SA Agulhas II has made the most of favourable circumstances to reach Larsen and complete an extensive range of studies.

The ice shelf is the fourth largest such structure in the Antarctic.

It is an amalgam of glacier fronts that have flowed off land and lifted up to form a floating platform.

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Similar shelves to the north have collapsed in past decades and researchers want to understand the current status and likely future prospects of Larsen C. Was the calving from the shelf of the monster berg A68 in July 2017 just part of a natural cycle, or an indication that changes are coming?

To gain the necessary insights, the submersible technology has been investigating the mixing of waters under the ice shelf.

"We're also measuring the salinity and temperature of the ocean because if warmer waters get beneath the ice shelf - that can cause it to thin and collapse," said Prof Dowdeswell, who is also the director of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, UK.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47000896

 

 

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