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Student cracks theologian's baffling religious code

28 January 2019

A divinity student from the University of St Andrews has cracked a religious code that has baffled academics for generations.

Jonny Woods has worked out how to read shorthand notes left by leading Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller.

Hundreds of pages of his sermon notes are held in archives, but until now they have been a mystery to academics.

The third-year undergraduate was able to decipher the shorthand after an academic traced a longhand equivalent.

Who was the theologian?

Andrew Fuller, who was born in Cambridgeshire in 1754, became a Baptist minister, and is best known for founding the Baptist Missionary Society.

Such was his international standing, he was offered honorary doctorates by both Yale and the College of New Jersey - now Princeton - although he turned them down.


While he wrote a number of influential works before his death in 1815, his early sermons and other documents have survived only as shorthand notes.

They remained inaccessible until Dr Steve Holmes, head of the School of Divinity at St Andrews University found one headed in longhand "Confessions of Faith, Oct. 7 1783".

He recognised this as the date of Fuller's induction into the pastorate of a church in Kettering and knew that he would have been required to give a confession of faith as part of that service.

Dr Holmes then wondered if a copy of the confession printed in a biography might help him crack the code.

After discovering that the two texts were the same, he recruited Jonny Woods through the university's undergraduate research assistant scheme to help.

'Astonishing moment'

After just a few weeks the student from Coleraine, County Londonderry, was able to translate the shorthand, using the longhand version in the same way that the Rosetta Stone was used as a crib to unlock the secret of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Dr Holmes said: "When Jonny told me he could read these documents it was an astonishing moment.

"Andrew Fuller stands as the figurehead, the 'patron saint' almost, of the church tradition of which I am a part.

"To be reading words of his that no-one had read since he preached them in 1782 - it's one of those moments you live for as an academic."

Two sermons have already been translated, and Jonny is working on more of Fuller's early work.

He said: "It is such an honour to be the first person to read Andrew Fuller's sermons and to allow people to get an insight into this incredible man and the amazing stories he has to share.

"I'm excited to continue working on the vast collection of work that he has left to us, in the hope that we can understand more about his thinking and how this developed throughout his ministry."




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Has the mystery of Alexander the Great's death been solved? A new theory claims a rare neurological disorder took his life - and left him alive but paralyzed for six days while staff prepared his body for burial

Mark Prigg


© Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It has baffled historians, but the mystery of Alexander the Great's death may finally have  been solved.

Previous theories have concluded he died from infection, alcoholism or murder.

However, a new study concluded he met his demise thanks to the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), which can leave sufferers paralyzed.

It also claims that he was not dead - just paralyzed - for six days before finally passing away. 


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited ALEXANDER, 356-323 BC, King of Macedon, from Battle of Issus between Alexander the Great and Darius III, 380-330 BC


In an article published in The Ancient History Bulletin, Dr Katherine Hall, a Senior Lecturer at the Dunedin School of Medicine and practising clinician, says previous theories around his death in 323BC have not been satisfactory as they have not explained the entire event.

'I wanted to stimulate new debate and discussion and possibly rewrite the history books by arguing Alexander's real death was six days later than previously accepted,' she said.

'His death may be the most famous case of pseudothanatos, or false diagnosis of death, ever recorded.

Along with the reported delay in decay, the 32-year-old was said to have developed a fever; abdominal pain; a progressive, symmetrical, ascending paralysis; and remained compos mentis until just before his death.

Only five barely intact accounts of his death at Babylon in 323 BCE survive to the present day.

None are from eyewitnesses and all conflict to varying degrees.

According to one account from the Roman era, Alexander died leaving his kingdom 'to the strongest' or 'most worthy' of his generals.  

In another version, he died speechless in a coma, without making any plans for succession.

'In particular, none have provided an all-encompassing answer which gives a plausible and feasible explanation for a fact recorded by one source – Alexander's body failed to show any signs of decomposition for six days after his death,' said Dr Hall. 

'The Ancient Greeks thought that this proved that Alexander was a god; this article is the first to provide a real-world answer.' 


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Only five barely intact accounts of his death at Babylon in 323 BCE survive to the present day

Dr Hall believes a diagnosis of GBS, contracted from a Campylobacter pylori infection (common at the time and a frequent cause for GBS), stands the test of scholarly rigour, from both Classical and medical perspectives.

Most arguments around Alexander's cause of death focus on his fever and abdominal pain. 

However, Dr Hall says the description of him remaining of sound mind receives barely any attention.

She believes he contracted an acute motor axonal neuropathy variant of GBS which produced paralysis but without confusion or unconsciousness.

His passing was further complicated by the difficulties in diagnosing death in ancient times, which relied on presence of breath rather than pulse, she says.

These difficulties, along with the type of paralysis of his body (most commonly caused by GBS) and lowered oxygen demands, would reduce the visibility of his breathing. 

A possible failure of his body's temperature autoregulation, and his pupils becoming fixed and dilated, also point to the preservation of his body not occurring because of a miracle, but because he was not dead yet.

'The elegance of the GBS diagnosis for the cause of his death is that it explains so many, otherwise diverse, elements, and renders them into a coherent whole.'


Alexander the Great is arguably one of history's most successful military commanders.

Undefeated in battle, he had carved out a vast empire stretching from Macedonia and Greece in Europe, to Persia, Egypt and even parts of northern India by the time of his death aged 32.

Only five barely intact accounts of his death at Babylon in 323 BCE survive to the present day.

None are from eyewitnesses and all conflict to varying degrees.

According to one account from the Roman era, Alexander died leaving his kingdom 'to the strongest' or 'most worthy' of his generals.  

In another version, he died speechless in a coma, without making any plans for succession.


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The long-dismissed last will and testament divulges Alexander's (pictured) plans for the future of the Greek-Persian empire he ruled

Last year it was claimed the fabled last will and testament of Alexander the Great may have finally been discovered more than 2,000 years after his death.

A London-based expert claims to have unearthed the Macedonian king's dying wishes in an ancient text that has been 'hiding in plain sight' for centuries.

The long-dismissed last will divulges Alexander's plans for the future of the Greek-Persian empire he ruled.

It also reveals his burial wishes and discloses the beneficiaries to his vast fortune and power.  

Evidence for the lost will can be found in an ancient manuscript known as the 'Alexander Romance', a book of fables covering Alexander's mythical exploits.

Likely compiled during the century after Alexander's death, the fables contain invaluable historical fragments about Alexander's campaigns in the Persian Empire.


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The fabled last will and testament of Alexander the Great, illustrated above, may have finally been discovered. A London-based expert claims to have unearthed Alexander the Great's dying wishes in an ancient text (pictured) that has been 'hiding in plain sight' for centuries

Historians have long believed that the last chapter of the Romance housed a political pamphlet that contained Alexander's will, but until now have dismissed it as a work of early fiction.

But a ten-year research project undertaken by Alexander expert David Grant suggests otherwise.

The comprehensive study concludes that the will was based upon the genuine article, though it was skewed for political effect.   




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New fossil spiders with 'glowing' eyes found in South Korea

Michael Greshko


© Photograph by Paul Antony Selden

The defining specimen of Koreamegops samsiki, a newfound species of spider that lived in what is now South Korea between 106 and 112 million years ago.

If you could time-travel to Korea 110 million years ago, you'd see an eerie spectacle if you walked out at night with a flashlight: Each sweep of your beam would make the landscape sparkle as innumerable spider eyes glinted in the dark.

In a new study in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology, a team led by Korea Polar Research Institute palaeontologist Tae-Yoon Park unveils ten fossils of tiny spiders, each less than an inch wide. The remains contain two new species and a first for palaeontology: a spider's version of night-vision goggles.

In some animals' eyeballs, a membrane called the tapetum (tuh-PEE-tuhm) sits behind the retina and reflects light back through it. If you've ever seen a cat's eyes seem to glow green at night, that's their tapeta at work. By giving the retinas a second chance to absorb light, tapeta boost the night vision of moths, cats, owls, and many other nocturnal animals. So, too, in these ancient spiders, whose silvery tapeta still shine in the fossils.


© Photograph by Paul Antony Selden

Before this study, all known fossils of lagonomegopids—an extinct group of spiders—had been found in amber, including this 99-million-year-old specimen. J. dalingwateri and K. samsiki are the first lagonomegopids ever found fossilized in rock.

“They're so reflective—they clearly stick out at you,” says study coauthor Paul Selden, a palaeontologist at the University of Kansas. “That was a sort of eureka moment.”


© Photograph by Paul Antony SeldenK. samsiki's right leg preserves traces of the spider's leg hairs.

The find sheds further light on the ancient behavior of spiders, some of modern Earth's most important predators by mass.

“These fossils are extraordinary, and it’s always a thrill when something of the visual system is preserved,” Nathan Morehouse, a University of Cincinnati biologist who studies spider vision, writes in an email. “More exciting to me and other vision scientists is the glimpse that the tapetum offers into the lifestyle of these ancient animals. They were likely nocturnal hunters!”

The eyes have it

Some of the newfound spiders belong to an extinct group known as the lagonomegopids, some of which loosely resembled today's jumping spiders. The new fossils are the first lagonomegopids ever found in rock—all previous fossils of the group come from amber, or fossilized tree resin. 

The landscape these spiders knew was very different from Korea today. Some 110 million years ago, the southern Korean peninsula was a shallow basin that formed as a nearby volcanic ridge expanded. Fish and bivalves thrived in the basin's lakes and rivers. Dinosaurs and pterosaurs lived nearby, judging by the teeth they left behind.

After getting washed out into a lake within this basin, the spiders' bodies ended up buried in the lake's sediments. Minerals then replaced the spiders' flesh: Even today, their legs show traces of the hairs that once covered them. The spiders laid undisturbed until several years ago, when collectors found them in two construction sites near the city of Jinju, one of which is now a parking lot.

Park's team later learned that the fossils were of many different spider types, including the two new lagonomegopid species. One of the newly described spiders, Koreamegops samsiki, is named for Samsik Lee, the Korean collector who found it. The other, Jinjumegops dalingwateri, is named for British arachnologist John Dalingwater, a mentor of Selden's who died of Parkinson's disease in 2018.

Both new species have tapeta and enlarged secondary eyes, much like today's wolf spidersand the prey-snaring spider Deinopis spinosa. While the fossil spiders' eyes would have glittered as wolf spiders' eyes do today, it's far from a given that they hunted their prey in a similar way.

“The eyes [of K. samsiki and J. dalingwateri] are more at the corners of their head rather than the front, which is a bit of a mystery,” Selden says.

Depending on how the spiders' retinas were built, their tapeta may have made their vision blurrier, Morehouse adds. Today's nocturnal spiders get around this issue by spacing out the light-sensitive parts of their retinas. It's unknown whether the ancient spiders struck a similar balance—but finding more fossils would help.

“How these fossil spiders navigated such tradeoffs will probably remain unknown unless an even better set of fossils shows up,” Morehouse writes. “I’d be excited to see what future studies uncover.”




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Ancient desert tomb reveals 50 Egyptian mummies including 12 preserved children

Chiara Giordano


© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Their identities are still unknown, but the mummification method suggests they held important or prestigious positions.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the team who made the discovery at the Tuna el-Gebel archaeological site had not found names written in hieroglyphics.

Some were decorated with “demotic handwriting” – a form of ancient Egyptian script used by ordinary people.

Pottery, papyri and colourful mummy cases were also unearthed.

Visitors, including ambassadors from several countries, gathered at the discovery site where 40 of the mummies were exhibited during the announcement ceremony.

Some of the mummies were found wrapped in linen while others were placed in stone coffins or wooden sarcophagi.

The archaeological finding was the first of 2019 and came about through a joint mission with the Research Centre for Archaeological Studies of Minya University.

Egypt has made a series of archaeological finds recently, and has been heavily promoting them to revive its tourism industry – a staple of its economy that was decimated by the chaos following the 2011 uprising.




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Newly discovered dinosaur species is a tiny, adorable raptor

Jackson Ryan


I could pinch the cheeks of this adorable new dinosaur and call it a Good Boy. Just look at it. 

The image above is a rendering of the Gobiraptor minutus, a newly discovered species of oviraptorosaurs discovered in the Nemegt geological formation in Mongolia's Gobi desert. The site is rich with dinosaur fossils from the Late Cretaceous period around 70 million years ago, but this species appears to be distantly related to other oviraptorosaurs previously found at the site.

Oviraptorosaurs aren't quite the same as the door-opening "velociraptors" made famous by Jurassic Park. They have shortened skulls like those of a parrot and are relatively small (though one particular species grows to be about eight metres long). Oviraptorid fossils have mostly been found in Asia, though there are some records of fossils in North America and England, too.

The new find, published in PLOS ONE on Feb. 6, details the new species based on a number of skull, hip and tail bones. The delightful cherub's jaw bones are much thicker than other oviraptorids, suggesting that it may have had a particularly unique diet, feeding on seeds and ancient hard-shelled mollusks. 

Notably, the specimen discovered by the international research team is likely to be very young, based on analysis of the dinosaur's thighbone. There are several instances in paleontology where young animals have been discovered and incorrectly classified as a new species, but the researchers suggest that the characteristics of the species are unlikely to be related to its stage of life because other oviraptoroids are precocial -- they have the same characteristics early in life as they do as adults.

The research team writes that the existence of yet another oviraptorosaur in the Nemegt Formation suggests that the creatures were one of the most "diverse and successful groups of dinosaurs" in the region.

The discovery follows another remarkable paleontological finding reported in Nature's Scientific Reports on Feb. 4, which discussed a new species of dinosaur with giant spikes protruding from its neck like a menacing porcupine lizard hybrid. The Bajadasaurus pronuspinax, as its known, is definitely not as adorable as the tiny Gobiraptor though.




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Oldest Evidence of Humans Outside Africa Discovered

Rolf Quam


© Gerhard Weber, University of Vienna. A close-up view, showing details of the crown topography and dental features

New fossil finds over the past few years have been forcing anthropologists to reexamine our evolutionary path to becoming human. Now the earliest modern human fossil ever found outside the continent of Africa is pushing back the date for when our ancestors left Africa.

The fossil, an upper left jawbone with most of the teeth attached, comes from Misliya Cave in Israel and dates to 177,000-194,000 years ago. This is considerably older than any other remains from our own species, Homo sapiens, ever discovered outside of Africa, and it coincides with several other recent studies that are changing the view on our evolutionary origins and migration throughout the Old World.

African origins, then spreading from there

The earliest humans, referred to as hominins by anthropologists, lived around six to seven million years ago in Africa. These early evolutionary ancestors are recognized as belonging to the human family mainly because their bones reveal clear signs of bipedalism: They walked on two feet. It was not until around two million years ago that human ancestors first migrated out of Africa and spread throughout the Old World.

For a long time, anthropologists generally held that Homo sapiens first appeared around 200,000 years ago, in Africa. This was based on findings from genetic studies as well as fossil discoveries. Two sites in Ethiopia, Herto and Omo Kibish, have yielded early Homo sapiens fossils dated to between 160,000-195,000 years ago.

But in June of 2017, researchers dated fossils from the site of Jebel Irhoud in Morocco to around 315,000 years ago and attributed them to an early phase of Homo sapiensevolution. This unexpectedly early date pushed back the origin of our species by over 100,000 years.

Until recently, the earliest human fossils from our own species discovered outside of Africa dated to around 90,000 to 120,000 years ago. Two cave sites in Israel—Qafzeh and Skhul—have yielded numerous skeletons of early modern humans. The age of these sites would suggest that our species was restricted to Africa for as long as 200,000 years before migrating out of the continent. Other sites with Homo sapiens fossils from Asia and Europe are generally younger than the finds from the Middle East.

Now an international research team, of which I was a member, has reported finding an early modern human fossil at Misliya Cave in Israel dating as far back as 177,000-194,000 years ago. This date pushes back our species’ exodus from Africa by over 50,000 years.

High-tech analysis of ancient remains

The Misliya fossil is just part of one individual’s jawbone. To understand the significance of the find, we needed to be sure about when this individual lived and also what species they belonged to.

To start with, the stone tools associated with the fossil, of a type known as the Early Middle Paleolithic, indicated a considerable antiquity for the specimen. Similar tool kits from other sites in the Middle East generally date to older than 160,000 years ago. To establish the jawbone’s age more precisely, several independent dating techniques were applied to the fossil itself as well as the stone tools and sediments at the site. The results came back with ages that ranged between 177,000 and 194,000 years ago.

To diagnose which species the Misliya fossil might represent, we studied the original fossil using both traditional anthropological approaches as well as the latest technological advances. We micro-CT scanned and made 3-D virtual models of the specimen to visualize the internal structures of the teeth and quantify their shapes more precisely. The results of these analyses demonstrated very clearly that the Misliya fossil is a member of our own species.

All of the anatomical features in the Misliya fossil are consistent with it being a modern human, just like us. There is nothing in the fossil that would rule it out as a Homo sapiens. And some features in the Misliya fossil’s anterior teeth seem only to occur in Homo sapiens.

Our study found these teeth lack several features that are found in earlier human species, including the Neanderthals. One of these characteristics is a thickening of the tooth crown along the edges on the inside surface of the incisor and canine. Anthropologists call this trait shoveling. We see shoveling on the teeth of previous species of hominins from before modern humans evolved. But we didn’t see it in the teeth from Misliya, supporting the idea that this jaw is from a Homo sapiens individual. Today some modern human populations actually do have shoveling on their teeth, while others do not; but in the fossil record, the only species that does not show shoveling is Homo sapiens.

Another trait we looked for is a small cusp at the base of the tooth crown on the inside surface of the incisor and canine. This feature is commonly seen in Neanderthals, but is absent in the Misliya fossil.

It’s the absence of these two dental features in the Misliya fossil, together with information from the other teeth and the jawbone itself, that tells us it came from a Homo sapiens.

Fitting more pieces into the puzzle

The findings at Misliya coincide with a recent genetic study that offered tantalizing evidence for the influx of genetic material into the Neanderthal gene pool from Africa. The researchers relied on ancient mitochondrial DNA extracted from a Neanderthal femur (leg bone) discovered in Germany. The African species involved was not clear, but the older dates for the earliest Homo sapiens fossils at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco make it clear that modern humans were already present in Africa at this time. These genetic results suggest the possibility of an earlier modern human migration out of Africa—at least as far back as 220,000 years ago and probably earlier.

While the Misliya fossil is younger than this, it provides the first fossil evidence confirming that modern humans left Africa considerably earlier than previously believed. This series of recent studies and discoveries from disparate sources are providing new insights into our own origins and dispersal around the globe.





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Jesus Christ 'was GREEK and not Jewish': Amazon Prime documentary claims ancient philosopher Apollonius of Tyan who preached and performed miracles was actually the Son of God


© KONTROLAB/LightRocket via Getty Images Mosaics depicting Jesus Christ in the Cathedral of Monreale, Naples

Jesus was in fact a Greek philosopher who lived at the same time and was thought to restore life to the dead, according to a new documentary. 

Descriptions of Jesus' life and the miracles he performed in the New Testament may have been mistaken for Preacher Apollonius of Tyan.    

There are striking physical similarities between the two and there is more evidence that Apollonius existed. 

The Amazon documentary, Bible Conspiracies, suggests that Jesus might actually be Apollonius. 



© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Jesus Christ was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader born in Jerusalem in 4BC


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited An explosive documentary tells the story of Greek religious preacher Apollonius of Tyan (pictured in a drawing) who was said to have resembled Jesus Christ

The documentary does not dispute that Jesus existed as a historical figure, however, it claims that the person described in the New Testament as the 'son of God', who performed miracles and died on the cross, may have been based on Apollonius - not Jesus.

Apollonius of Tyan was born the 3rd or 4th year BC in Central Anatolia.

Both Jesus and Apollonius were preachers and supposedly performed miracles in the first century AD. They are both depicted as having long beards.

The series explains how Apollonius rose to prominence by performing miracles and amassing followers - in a similar way to Jesus. 

'He became a disciple of Pythagoras renouncing flesh, wine and women. He wore no shoes and let his hair and beard grow long,' the documentary reveals. 

It continues: 'He soon became a reformer and fixed his abode in the Temple of Aesculapius'. 


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The 2016 series revealed: 'There is, in fact, a man who can be found in text outside of the Bible after the church failed to eradicate him from history'


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Amazon Prime's 'Bible Conspiracies' has probably made the wildest claim about the Bible: a Greek man named Apollonius may have been the true face behind the New Testament (depicted in a drawing of a medallion coin)

Apollonius rose to prominence by amassing religious followers as he preached and performed miracles. 

'Eventually Apollonius became a wise sage himself and his own notoriety grew.


© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The 2016 documentary claims that Apollonius may have been the son of God: he was born around the same time as Jesus Christ, and preached the same things

'Aurelian the Roman Emperor vowed to erect temples and statues to his honour. Was there ever anything among men more holy?

'He reportedly restored life to the dead and spoke of things beyond the human reach. And, unlike Jesus, there is evidence to prove that Apollonius actually existed.'   

The explosive claims go against more traditional views of Apollonius that believe him to have been no more than a philosopher. 

Reactions to the documentary have not been kind. 

'Does not live up to its name - doesn't reveal any Bible 'conspiracies' only tries to cast doubt on the Bible with no historical evidence or interviews with trustworthy experts, just pure conjecture.

'Too bad because there is a lot of fascinating things revealed by the Bible. I skimmed ahead and lost interest and felt mislead and couldn't finish but it all look pretty lame,' wrote one viewer.

'The writers of this film not only have NO actual Biblical knowledge, they quote many myths that have been not only been disproved, but are laughed at in theological circles. In this video, there are no experts, no theologians, only many rhetorical lies that are often spewed by evolutionist and atheist,' said another.   

It was a view shared by another viewer: 'Heavily Biased Opinion Piece...Not an objective analysis at all. A hodge-podge of Truths, Half-Truths, Fallacies and Unfounded Conjecture. 

'Do not waste your time here, there are far better research documentaries on this particular subject out there.' 






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He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy! 

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Just in time for Valentine's Day: Newly discovered dinosaur had a heart-shaped tail

Doyle Rice


There have been dinosaurs with feathers, "baby dragon" ones and even dinos that looked like ducks. Now, just in time for Valentine's Day, scientists say they've discovered a dinosaur that had a heart-shaped tail.

Not just a novelty act, this new dinosaur – which scientist say wears its “heart” on its tail – provides new clues as to how ecosystems evolved in Africa, a new study suggests.

The new dinosaur is "a unique species and provides new insights into sauropod evolution," the study said.

Sauropods were the largest land animals in Earth's history. Other well-known sauropods include Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus.

This dinosaur was given the scientific name of Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia, which derives from the Swahili words meaning "beast of the Mtuka" and "heart of the tail," referring respectively to the location it was found and to the heart-shaped part of its tail vertebrae.


© Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.

Lead authors of the study are Eric Gorscak of Midwestern University in Illinois and Patrick O'Connor of Ohio University.

The find shows a more complex picture of dinosaur evolution on Earth. O'Connor said that “each new discovery adds a bit more detail to the picture of what ecosystems on continental Africa were like during the Cretaceous."  The Cretaceous spans from 145 million years ago to 66 million years ago.

Fossils of the creature's skeleton were discovered in southwestern Tanzania, high in a cliff wall overlooking the seasonally dry Mtuka riverbed.

The new dinosaur is yet another member of the large, long-necked titanosaur sauropods. 

Titanosaurs were the most widespread group of sauropods, which reached their peak in the Late Cretaceous after all other sauropod groups vanished. However, scientists say their early evolution is poorly understood because of a lack of fossils in places other than South America.

"Although titanosaurs became one of the most successful dinosaur groups before the infamous mass extinction capping the Age of Dinosaurs, their early evolutionary history remains obscure, and Mnyamawamtuka helps tell those beginnings, especially for their African side of the story," Gorscak said.

Judy Skog of the National Science Foundation said "this new dinosaur gives us important information about African fauna during a time of evolutionary change. It’s also timely information about an animal with heart-shaped tail bones during this week of Valentine’s Day.”




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Pompeii dig uncovers well-preserved Narcissus fresco

Ajay Nair, news reporter


© Associated Press The fresco portrays mythological hunter Narcissus

The find was made in the atrium of a house along with another fresco depicting a sensual scene between the Roman god Jupiter disguised as a swan and Spartan queen Leda.

The Italian site's general director Massimo Osanna said the myth of Narcissus, mirroring himself in the water, was a "recurring theme for Pompeii".

"The appearance is languid, a feature which comes back in all of those characters who have something in common with the Gods' world or with beauty," he said.

"Endymion [a mythological king] is in the same pose, for example, it's a very topical theme."

Archaeologist Alfonsina Russo said the "beauty of the rooms" prompted officials to carry on making further discoveries so that the house could one day - at least partially - be open to the public.

The team working on the site also found a dozen glass containers, eight terracotta vases and a bronze funnel under a staircase.

Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD after a volcanic eruption killed more than 2,000 people and is still one of the most-visited archaeological sites in the world.

The latest discoveries come after an inscription found on a house in the ruins of Pompeii last year suggested the city was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in October 79 AD - two months later than originally believed.

Archaeologists also uncovered the remains of a horse that died in the eruption nearly 2,000 years ago.




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'Mysterious’ new frog species discovered in a roadside puddle

Colin Drury


A new species of frog has been discovered – in a roadside puddle.

Researchers found the new genus in stagnant rainwater in the Western Ghats, a mountain range in southern India famed for its biodiversity.

Sonali Garg, a PhD student at Delhi University, and her supervisor SD Biju have named the new species Mysticellus – a Latin term alluding to the creature's diminutive size and mysterious nature.

Ms Garg first came across tadpoles of the frog — which has a marble-patterned underside — during routine field surveys in the region's Wayanad district in 2013. After further search, she finally found large groups of around 200 adults in 2015.

"This frog went unnoticed until now probably because it appears for less than four days for breeding activities and lives a secretive lifestyle for the rest of the year."

She called on the site to be preserved to save the new discovery from immediate extinction threats.

“Indian amphibians face various extinction threats, especially due to habitat loss and degradation,” she said. “The only known population of the new genus is found in a wayside area disturbed with vehicular movement, plantation activities and human settlements.

"Since little is known about the habitat requirements and the distribution range of the new frog, the specific site needs to be preserved ."

It is not the first such astonishing find to be made in the Western Ghats. In 2016, a tree-dwelling frog, previously thought to have been extinct for a century, was discovered alive and well in the region.




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The gateway to hell? Hundreds of anti-witch marks found in Midlands cave

Mark Brown Arts correspondent


© Creswell Heritage Trust/Historic England Some of the apotropaic marks believed to protect against witches at Creswell Crags in the East Midlands.

If there is a gateway to hell, a portal from the underworld used by demons and witches to wreak their evil havoc on humanity, then it could be in a small east Midlands cave handy for both the M1 and A60.

Heritage experts have revealed what is thought to be the biggest concentration of apotropaic marks, or symbols to ward off evil or misfortune, ever found in the UK.

The markings, at Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border, include hundreds of letters, symbols and patterns carved, at a time when belief in witchcraft was widespread. The scale and variety of the marks made on the limestone walls and ceiling of a cave which has at its centre a deep, dark, hole, is unprecedented.

Believed to protect against witches and curses, the marks were discovered by chance at the site, which is also home to the only ice age art ever discovered in the UK.

Paul Baker, the director of Creswell Heritage Trust, said the marks had been in plain sight. They had known they were there. “But we told people it was Victorian graffiti,” he said. “We had no idea. Can you imagine how stupid we felt?”

The trust was alerted to the marks last year by Hayley Clark and Ed Waters. The two keen-eyed cavers thought there were perhaps two or three markings; it soon became clear there were dozens and then on further investigation up to a thousand. And counting. “They are everywhere,” said Baker. “How scared were they?”


© Historic England/PA Members of the Subterranea Britannica group check out the witches’ marks at Creswell Crags.

There is no public access to the cave but the trust is considering a multi-media presentation for visitors.

Up close the walls are a remarkable frenzy of marks. Everywhere you point a torch there are overlapping Vs, a reference to Mary, virgin of virgins. There are also PMs, as in Pace Maria, and crossed Is, referring to Jesus on a cross, and odd-shaped As.

Alison Fearn, a Leicester university expert on protective marks, recalled first shuffling on her backside in to the cave and realising what she was looking at. “I think I said a very naughty word.”

The letters and symbols were Christian but should not be looked at in that context, she said. From the 16th century to the early 19th century, when people made witches marks, there may have been a lack of association with religion, such as today when people might cross fingers or say “oh god”. She said: “It just becomes a protective symbol. It was a mark you always made to protect yourself.”




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There's a secret room behind Mount Rushmore that's inaccessible to tourists

Mount Rushmore has a hidden room that's closed to the public. Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor behind the monument, was worried that over time his work would lose significance.


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Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru



© Provided by AFP The discovery was made on the Mata Indio dig site in the northern Lambayeque region

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

The discovery was made on the Mata Indio dig site in the northern Lambayeque region, archaeologist Luis Chero told state news agency Andina.

Archaeologists believe the tomb belonged to a noble Inca based on the presence of "spondylus," a type of sea shell always present in the graves of important figures from the Incan period, which lasted from the 12th to the 16th centuries.


© Provided by AFP The tomb had been broken into multiple times, possibly in search of treasure

The tomb had been broken into multiple times, possibly in search of treasure. But despite evidence of looting, archaeologists recovered items including vases.

The tomb also had unique architecture including hollows for the placement of idols.

Chero said the findings "demonstrate the majesty and importance of this site," located 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of the capital Lima, and 2,000 kilometers from Cusco -- capital of the Inca empire which stretched from southern Colombia to central Chile.




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Ancient Egypt: Teenage Girl's Remains Found by Pyramid

Katherine Hignett

Archaeologists have uncovered the ancient remains of a girl, two animal heads and three ceramic vessels near a roughly 4,600 year-old pyramid in Egypt, the country’sMinistry of Antiquities reported.

Scientists believe the skeleton belonged to a girl aged around 13, but they aren’t sure exactly when she was buried at the site. The pyramid itself—the Meidum pyramid—originally dates back to the third dynasty of Egypt (2686–2613 B.C.E)..

The girl’s skeleton was discovered curled up in a squatting position in a cemetery at the Meidum site. Her exact age remains unknown. The animal skulls—likely bulls—and the small pottery vessels were found elsewhere in the cemetery, and are thought to be funerary offerings.

Located near the ancient city of Memphis, the Meidum site features a pyramid, a mortuary temple and a raised track leading to another temple near the River Nile.

Scholars think the pyramid’s construction began at the end of the third dynasty at the command of King Huni, before it was finally completed by Snefru—the first king of the fourth dynasty (2613–2498 B.C.E).

Initially built as a stepped pyramid, Meidum was eventually converted into a true pyramid with the help of limestone from the ancient Tora quarry, Encylopaedia Britannica reports.

The Old Kingdom, which spanned from 2613 to 2181 B.C.E, is sometimes called the Age of the Pyramids. Egypt’s most famous pyramids—such as the Great Pyramid of Giza and its neighbor, the Pyramid of Khafre—were constructed during this period.

Although these ancient pyramids are grand, some historians believe they indicate vast inequality was present in Egypt at the time, with resources diverted to the gravesites of kings. Few archaeological sites from the time remain outside of the Memphite pyramid area.

The young girl’s remains are the latest in a series of significant ancient Egyptian finds. Over the last few months, the Ministry of Antiquities has announced discoveries including the discovery of eight mummies in brightly-painted sarcophagi, the skeleton of a pregnant woman buried with beads and pottery and some 800 tombs hidden in a gravesite between two pyramids

The Egyptian government has been keen to attract tourists after visitor numbers fell in the wake of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and subsequent political unrest.




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