Saturday, 28 May 2016

Britain’s biggest ever gold nugget discovered near treasure-laden shipwreck in Wales

Vincent Thurkettle discovered a 3oz (97g) nugget off the coast of Anglesey in 2012. The gold prospector kept his find a secret for four years so he could continue to search the area for gold - only going public once he was sure there was no more.

The nugget is believed to be part of a £120million haul that went down with the Royal Charter when it was shipwrecked during a hurricane in 1859.
The Royal Charter was a steam clipper which was wrecked off the beach of Porth Alerth in Dulas Bay on the north-east coast of Anglesey on 26 October 1859. About 450 lives were lost. The Royal Charter was returning to Liverpool from Melbourne. Her complement included many gold miners, some who had struck it rich at the diggings in Australia and were carrying large sums of gold. A consignment of gold was also being carried as cargo.
The Royal Charter broke up on these rocks near Moelfre
The wreck was extensively salvaged by Victorians shortly after the disaster. The remains of Royal Charter lie close inshore in less than 5 metres of water as a series of iron bulkheads, plates and ribs which become covered and uncovered by the shifting sands from year to year.

Gold sovereigns, pistols, spectacles and other personal items have been found by scuba divers over the years
Britain's second biggest nugget was the Carnon Nugget found in Cornwall in 1808 and weighing 2.08oz (59g). The Rutherford Nugget, which was found in Scotland in 1869, comes in third at 2.04oz (57.9g).

Friday, 27 May 2016

'Aristotle's tomb' discovered by archaeologist?

A Greek archaeologist believes he may have discovered Aristotle’s tomb. Konstantinos Sismanidis excavated the birthplace of the ancient philosopher in northern Greece in the 1990s, and now thinks that a destroyed structure he came across may have been the last resting place of Aristotle.

He has no proof, but Sismanidis said the arched structure was unearthed in the ruins of Stageira, 40 miles east of Thessaloniki, and was once a public monument where Aristotle was honoured after his death. He said the location of the structure, its view, its positioning at the centre of a square marble floor, and its estimated time of construction all pointed to it having been a shrine to the philosopher.
Aristotle, who was born in 384 B.C., was a pupil of Plato in Athens and became a crucial figure in the emergence of Western philosophy. His work forms the basis of modern logic, and his metaphysics became an integral part of Christian theology.

King Philip II of Macedon engaged him as a tutor to his son Alexander.
A separate excavation in another part of northern Greece, Amphipolis, in 2014 led to the discovery of the largest ancient tomb ever found in the country.

Speculation linking the tomb to Alexander the Great set off huge media interest, but archaeologists later concluded that it had probably been built for Hephaestion.
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Saturday, 21 May 2016

500 BC Grave of Celtic Prince reveals Gold

In June 2015 French archaeologists completed excavations of an ancient burial site revealing the decorated skeleton of a Celtic prince. The tomb dating back some 2,500 years was discovered in an industrial area of Lavau, a village near Troyes, about 150km southeast of Paris.

The finding was described as "extraordinary" by experts. Buried with a two-wheeled chariot, the body is believed to be a high-ranked aristocrat from the Hallstatt culture that dominated central Europe during the Early Iron Age.

The skeleton sported ancient pieces of jewellery including a richly decorated gold torque weighing more than half a kilogram and gold bracelets.

Remains of the deceased's costume, such as shoe parts, finely worked amber beads that formed a necklace or hair decoration, and iron and coral hooks that attached to a piece of clothing were also retrieved.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Ancient Humans interbred with Neanderthals

In 1997, scientists found the first scrap of Neanderthal DNA in a fossil. Since then, they have recovered genetic material, even entire genomes, from a number of Neanderthal bones. Their investigations have yielded a surprise: Today, 1 to 2 percent of the DNA in non-African people comes from Neanderthals.

That genetic legacy is the result of interbreeding roughly 50,000 years ago between Neanderthals and the common ancestors of Europeans and Asians. Recent studies suggest that Neanderthal genes even influence human health today.

Neanderthal child
The DNA extracted in 1997 was from the original specimen of Neanderthals, found in the Neander valley near Dusseldorf, Germany. It suggested that the Neanderthal lineage is four times older than the human lineage, meaning that Neanderthals split off much earlier from the hominid line than did humans.

Humans and Neanderthals split from a common ancestor in Africa some 600,000 years ago. At some point afterward, the ancestors of Neanderthals spread to Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. Along the way, Neanderthals took on a distinctive anatomy — a stocky, powerful build — and became impressive hunters.
Now scientists have found that the genes flowed both ways. In a study published in Nature, a team of scientists reported that another instance of interbreeding left Neanderthals in Siberia with chunks of human DNA. In 2010 scientists recovered about 60 percent of a Neanderthal genome from fossils found in a Croatian cave.

A toe bone from a male Neanderthal dating back at least 50,000 years.
Neanderthals shared certain mutations with living Europeans and Asians, but not with modern Africans. They concluded that humans must have interbred with Neanderthals after leaving Africa.

Three years later the complete genome of a male Neanderthal was recovered from a toe bone dating back at least 50,000 years, which had been discovered in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. Comparing the Altai genome to modern human DNA confirmed the interbreeding.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Tiny coffin containing fetus shows ancient Egyptians valued unborn

For more than 100 years, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, has been in possession of a 44-centimetre-long ancient Egyptian coffin containing a mysterious package.

Bound in bandages and coated with black resin, the contents of the coffin were long thought to be internal organs, removed during the embalming process.
Recently, using cutting-edge imaging techniques, the museum discovered the coffin holds what was a fetus at just 16 to 18 weeks gestation, by far the youngest academically verified fetus to be found at an ancient Egyptian burial site.

The fetus was likely the result of a miscarriage. It's impossible for scientists to determine the gender. Although the cedar coffin has deteriorated, it's clear to the museum's experts that it was painstakingly carved. It's considered a perfect miniature example of a Late Period (664-525 BC) ancient Egyptian wooden coffin.

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Friday, 13 May 2016

Mystery of the missing Gods

A tumbled ruin: the Brihadeeswara temple. A stone warrior guards the doorway, half-sunk in sand. Hundreds of bats whirl overhead, shrieking at the intrusion. Exposed beams, textured by time and mold, add to the musty smell in the air. Cobwebs on prayer lamps enhance the sense of abandonment. The altar is stripped bare, like a frame without a picture: It's a temple without a god. The 1,000-year-old guardian of the temple, Shiva Nataraja, is missing from his abode.
The Lord of Cosmic Dance has travelled 9,000 km to the National Gallery of Art in Canberra, Australia. How did he get there? Ask Subhash Kapoor, 65, a New Delhi-born and New York-based antiquity dealer, considered an art connoisseur as well as one of the biggest idol smugglers in the world.

He sold the Nataraja for $5.1m 2008. Kapoor is suspected of stealing over 150 idols worth $100 million from India. "Art and antiquity theft is one of the most lucrative crimes," says IPS officer Prateep V. Philip, director general, EOW, in Chennai. "It outbids drug trafficking, arms dealing, and money laundering." The odds of recovering stolen treasures are abysmal, one in ten. But in this case, authorities managed to trace the idol
Six gods were identified in museums and private collections across the world: Canberra, New South Wales, Chicago, Ohio to Singapore. The Australian government has ordered NGA to remove the Nataraja from display.

American and Indian investigators have compiled an enormous dossier on Kapoor. Much of the material has been the product of an investigation called Operation Hidden Idol.

American authorities say Kapoor was, in volume and value, the largest antiquities smuggler in American history.
Their best evidence is an almost unimaginable 2,622 items, worth $107.6 million that was confiscated from storerooms in Manhattan and Queens, and virtually all of it contraband from India. American museums have begun returning possibly stolen artifacts to India. Museums from Hawaii to Massachusetts have handed over items bought from Kapoor’s defunct business, Art of the Past, which was on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

Another 15 American museums have been identified as holding items obtained from Kapoor
February 5, 2016. The special court in Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu falls silent. No one answers to “Subhash Chandra Kapoor”, the court officer looks at the prosecutors and police officers. They explain that he is being brought from the Puzhal prison in Chennai, his home since 2012. The court is adjourned.

In a while, a police van enters. Policemen escort a balding, fair man in his 60s, whose face is covered with a blue cotton towel. Though this was his first visit in handcuffs to Kumbakonam, Kapoor has known the temple town closely for many years. This was, after all, a major source for his colossal antique business. On March 11, US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized two more stolen Indian sculptures, dating back to the 8th and 10th centuries from auction house Christie's in New York. Though the Homeland Security Investigations seized 2,622 objects from his warehouse, only 18 idols have been mentioned in the two cases registered by the Tamil Nadu police.

Every day, Kapoor has bread, a cup of rice and five pieces of fried fish.

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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Strange and Unusual Discoveries

The Baltic Sea Anomaly is a 60-metre (200 ft) diameter circular rock-like formation on the floor of the Baltic Sea, discovered in June 2011.

The rock likely formed in connection with glacial and postglacial processes. Glaciers often have rocks embedded in them. At the end of the Ice Age, when glaciers across Northern Europe melted, the rocks inside them dropped to the Earth's surface, leaving rocky deposits all over the place. These are sometimes called glacial erratics or balancing rocks.
Kepler-78b is a planet that should not exist. This scorching lava world circles its star every eight and a half hours at a space of less than one million miles – among the tightest known orbits. Based on present theories of planet formation, it could not have formed so close to its star, nor could it have proceeded there.
The ancient burial site “El Cementerio,” near the Mexican village of Onavas was disturbed in 1999. Villagers unearthed 25 skulls, 13 of which did not look entirely human.

Experts theorize that the deformity of the skulls were intentionally produced through the ritual of head flattening, otherwise called cranial deformation, in which the skull is compressed between two wooden boards from childhood.

Otzi the Iceman. In 1991, a group of hikers were trekking in the mountains of Austria when they came across an awful sight: a frozen body was buried in the ice at their feet. That body belonged to a 5,300 year old man.

By studying the body, scientists have been able to discover some surprisingly specific facts. When he was alive, he had parasites in his intestines, was lactose intolerant, and had been sick three times in the past six months. His death seems to have been caused by an arrow wound to his back.

In 2012 Australian scientists unveiled the biggest-ever graveyard of an ancient rhino-sized mega-wombat called diprotodon.

Diprotodon, the largest marsupial ever to roam the earth, weighing up to 2.8 tonnes, lived between two million and 50,000 years ago and died out around the time indigenous tribes first appeared.
Pachacamac is an archaeological site 40 km southeast of Lima, Peru in the Valley of the LurĂ­n River. Most of the common buildings and temples were built c. 800-1450 CE, shortly before the arrival and conquest by the Inca Empire.

The adult dead in the newfound tomb were found in the fetal position and were surrounded by a ring of baby skeletons.
Road crew workers working on a road from Weymouth, Dorset to the lsle of Portland came across a mass grave of fifty-four skeletons and fifty-one heads of Scandinavian men who were executed sometime between A.D. 910 and 1030.

Archaeologists determined it was likely the grave of the Jomsvikings, who terrorized the coast of England around 1000. An execution of the Jomsvikings captured in the Battle of Horundarfjord occurred in A.D. 986.
A super massive dinosaur has earned the name “Dreadnoughtus schrani” (Dreadnoughtus means “fears nothing”). The titan was 26m (85ft) long and weighed 65 tons, as much as 12 African Elephants.
Coke is said to have been created under the influence of cocaine in the summer of 1886. The pharmacist who created the ubiquitous soda, John Pemberton, expounded on the Coca leaf’s status as a panacea for everything from depression to morphine addiction.

Containing both coca leaf extracts and kola nuts, Pemberton’s bookkeeper offered the name “Coca-Cola”, and thus the red and white icon was born.
The Trachte brothers discovered a famous Norman Rockwell painting hidden behind a false wall in their deceased father's Vermont, home. The painting, entitled "Breaking Home Ties," netted $15.4 million at Sotheby's.

The unfinished painting of Jesus and Mary had long been in the family of US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Martin Kober. The painting had hung in the Kober home but was knocked off the wall by a stray tennis ball 27 years ago, so it was wrapped up and put behind the couch.

Evidence points to the painting having been done by Michelangelo for his friend Vittoria Colonna around 1545. The painting later belonged to a German baroness who left it to a lady-in-waiting, who was the sister-in-law of Mr Kober's great-grandfather. It arrived in America in 1883.

Now in a bank vault, the painting is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions
The Lycurgus Cup is a 4th-century Roman glass cage cup made of a dichroic glass, which shows a different colour depending on whether or not light is passing through it; red when lit from behind and green when lit from in front. It is the only complete Roman glass object made from this type of glass.

The dichroic effect is achieved by making the glass with tiny proportions of nanoparticles of gold and silver "dispersed" in colloidal form throughout the glass material. The exact process used remains unclear. The early history of the cup is unknown. Lionel de Rothschild owned it by 1862. In 1958 Victor, Lord Rothschild sold it to the British Museum.
Five-year-old Emelia Fawbert was helping her dad at an excavation when she found a vertebra bigger than her head. Although the excavation turned up a couple of other bones, Emelia’s was by far the best. It once belonged to a giant rhinoceros that roamed the Gloucestershire area of England about 50,000 years ago.
Sacsayhuaman is a citadel on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. The stones used in the construction are among the largest used in any building in prehispanic America. They display a precision of fitting that is unmatched in the Americas. The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between many of them.