Posts Tagged ‘Prehistoric’

Prehistoric bugs from 230 million years ago found in amber

August 27, 2012

Scientists find oldest occurrence of arthropods preserved in amber 











These photomicrographs are of the two new species of ancient gall mites in 230-million-year-old amber droplets from northeastern Italy, taken at 1000x magnification. The gall mites were named (left) Triasacarus fedelei and (right) Ampezzoa triassica. Credit: University of Göttingen/A. Schmidt

(—An international team of scientists has discovered the oldest record of arthropods—invertebrate animals that include insects, arachnids, and crustaceans—preserved in amber. The specimens, one fly and two mites found in millimeter-scale droplets of amber from northeastern Italy, are about 100 million years older than any other amber arthropod ever collected. The group’s findings, which are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pave the way for a better evolutionary understanding of the most diverse group of organisms in the world.

Amber is an extremely valuable tool for paleontologists because it preserves specimens with microscopic fidelity, allowing uniquely accurate estimates of the amount of evolutionary change over millions of years,” said corresponding author David Grimaldi, a curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology and a world authority on amber and fossil arthropods.

Globules of fossilized resin are typically called amber. Amber ranges in age from the Carboniferous (about 340 million years ago) to about 40,000 years ago, and has been produced by myriad plants, from tree ferns to flowering trees, but predominantly by conifers. Even though arthropods are more than 400 million years old, until now, the oldest record of the animals in amber dates to about 130 million years. The newly discovered arthropods break that mold with an age of 230 million years. They are the first arthropods to be found in amber from the Triassic Period.

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Early Human Ancestor, Australopithecus Sediba, Fossils Discovered in Rock

July 13, 2012

ScienceDaily — Scientists from the Wits Institute for Human Evolution based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg have just announced the discovery of a large rock containing significant parts of a skeleton of an early human ancestor. The skeleton is believed to be the remains of ‘Karabo’, the type skeleton of Australopithecus sediba, discovered at the Malapa Site in the Cradle of Humankind in 2009.

This is the tooth of a hominid embedded in a rock containing significant parts of a skeleton of an early human ancestor. The skeleton is believed to be the remains of “Karabo”, the type skeleton of Australopithecus sediba, discovered at the Malapa Site in the Cradle of Humankind in 2009. (Credit: University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)

Professor Lee Berger, a Reader in Palaeoanthropology and the Public Understanding of Science at the Wits Institute for Human Evolution, will make the announcement at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in Shanghai, China on 13 July 2012.

“We have discovered parts of a jaw and critical aspects of the body including what appear to be a complete femur (thigh bone), ribs, vertebrae and other important limb elements, some never before seen in such completeness in the human fossil record,” says Berger. “This discovery will almost certainly make Karabo the most complete early human ancestor skeleton ever discovered. We are obviously quite excited as it appears that we now have some of the most critical and complete remains of the skeleton, albeit encased in solid rock. It’s a big day for us as a team and for our field as a whole.”

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Prehistoric goddess figurine found at the bosnian pyramids,Visoko!

October 11, 2011 1 comment

Sep 30, 2011

Neolithic artifacts have been discovered, this month, in several areas of the Visoko valley by locals tilling their fields. In addition to artifacts such as pottery fragments and lithic tools, a prehistoric goddess figurine has been unearthed from Visoko’s fertile soils.

According to Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, in Old Europe the pregnant Vegetation Goddess represented the annual cycle of germination, growth, and harvest. She wrote that ancient agriculturalists understood the parallel between grain seeds growing in the fields and new life growing in the womb. Representation of this parallel is found in many Old European cultures, including the Butmir culture, which existed in Europe between the 6th and 3rd millenium BC.

The pregnant vegetation goddess, popularly known as the earth goddess, or “Mother Earth”, was one of the most-represented female figures in Old European art. Hundreds of pregnant goddess figurines, commonly known as Venus figurines, have been unearthed in European excavations sites dating back to the Neolithic age. 

Old European cultures generally connected the pregnant goddess with food, especially grain and bread. Archaeologists often find pregnant goddess figurines near bread ovens. Farmers throughout prehsitory and history understood cyclical (seasonal) time, and they took advantage of annual cycles with planting and harvest activities, which became rituals.

During her lifetime, Marija Gimbutas identified a diverse and complex range of Neolithic female divinities, including Bird Goddess, Mistress of Animals, Snake Goddess, Deer Mother, Bear Mother, Birth-giver, Nurse, Pregnant Earth Goddess or Earth Mother, and many other female deities. Gimbutas thereby challenged the hypothesis of one “Great Mother” deity for the European Neolithic period.

Gimbutas also identified a rich array of Neolithic male deities, such as the ithyphallic Snake God (a proto-Hermes), a bull- or goat-masked proto-Dionysos, Sorrowful God, a dying and rising Vegetation God, proto-Asklepios, Master of Animals or Forest God, and others.

Gimbutas also deciphered the sacred Old European writing system and the meaning of each of these ideograms is most fully (and beautifully) presented in her book, The Language of the Goddess (1989). Gimbutas postulated that these ideograms were created to symbolise the life energy of nature and of humanity, and that combinations of them could be used to express “sonatas of becoming.”

Pregnant goddess figurines were created from many different raw materials, each possessing unique physical qualities that were likely selected for their different attributes of availability, workability, and/or surface appearance. These figurines have been made from ivory, serpentine, schist, limestone, hematite, lignite, calcite, steatite, fired clay, bone and antler. While they have been the subject of scholarly attention for more than a century, a detailed understanding of the techniques used to create them is still lacking.

Although today those female statuettes are called by most archaeologists “Venus figurines,” based on the assumption that they represent a standard of female beauty, Gimbutas explains that their function was more important than that of a Venus. These functions were the giving of life, the bringing of death, and the bringing of regeneration. According to Gimbutas, the large breasts and buttocks can be associated with the idea of regeneration and abundance.

Tilling the Earth, and Visoko’s Archaeological Heritage

The central part of the access ramp of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, ploughed up by the land owner.

Unfortunately, modern farming is destroying dozens of precious archaeological sites in Bosnia every year, most of these sites dating back to Neolithic or Medieval times. Paradoxically, however, farming, which releases artifacts to the modern world, has been a vital force in developing archaeological knowledge. Modern non-intrusive farming practices should be applied in order to preserve Visoko’s historic landscapes. Modern farmers are the direct successors to the generations who worked and lived on the land before them. This valuable legacy is something local people should try to understand, cherish, and protect, for themselves and for future generations.

But managing archaeological sites on cultivated land presents a particular challenge, since regular cultivation – or even a single instance of unusually deep ploughing – can damage hidden artifacts or remains. Hopefully farmers will begin to play a positive role in ensuring that the access ramp of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, as well as other archaeological sites in and around Visoko, are passed down unscathed to future generations.

Photo: Pottery fragment decorated in a green glazePhoto: Pottery fragment.

 Photo: Human bone unearthed during soil tillage.

 Neolithic pottery unearthed by farmers at hill Gradac, Visoko, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Photo: Neolithic vessel handle; Butmir culture.Photo: Neolithic vessel handle with decorations.Photo: Neolithic vessel handle shows typical decoration.